England this week is to celebrate the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, one of its greatest-ever battlefield victories, when king Henry V’s longbow archers routed the French nobility.
The battle on Oct. 25, 1415, saw a heavily outnumbered English army inflict a catastrophic defeat on the enemy that altered the course of the Hundred Years’ War.
Anniversary dinners, commemorative services, Shakespeare performances, exhibitions, conferences and archery tournaments are marking the anniversary.
“By defeating the French, Henry V united the English. He was the last great warrior king of the Middle Ages,” said Andrew Gimson, author of Grimson’s Kings and Queens: Brief Lives of the Forty Monarchs since 1066.
Henry was 28 at the time of the battle, two years into his nine-year reign.
He is buried in London at Westminster Abbey, which is to hold a service marking the anniversary on Thursday, six centuries from the day when news of the victory reached the city.
The abbey holds his “funerary achievements” — the personal items carried at Henry’s funeral, namely his sword, shield, saddle and helmet.
Henry’s sword is to be paraded through the abbey once again on Thursday and placed on the altar.
Agincourt was immortalized in William Shakespeare’s 1599 play Henry V, whose stirring battle speeches still resound and feature in popular lexicon, including: “Once more unto the breach, dear friends”; “we happy few, we band of brothers”; and “Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George.’”
The Royal Shakespeare Company is staging the play at its base in the bard’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon, with Alex Hassell in the title role.
The City of London, the British capital’s financial hub, is keen to recall its part in bankrolling the expedition.
It is putting on show the rarely-seen Crystal Sceptre, the 43cm-long mace given to the city by Henry to mark his gratitude.
It is only removed from the Guildhall vaults for coronations and the ceremonial swearing-in of City of London mayors, who silently place their hands on it.
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