THIS week marks the 600th anniversary of the battle of Agincourt, for which Monmouth’s most famous son, Henry V is best remembered.
Henry V was born in Monmouth in 1387 to Henry Bolingbroke and Mary de Bohun. Brought up at Courtfield Manor, near Goodrich, he learned to read and write and was prepared for life as a soldier from a young age. He was only 12 years old when he went with King Richard II to fight in Ireland, where he was knighted by the king.
Henry of Monmouth became Prince of Wales, becoming a seasoned soldier fighting alongside his father, Henry IV. He would play a key part in bringing about the downfall of Owain Glyndwr, commanding the royal forces against the Welsh rebels.
Monmouth was a part of Glyndwr’s bid for power at the beginning of the 15th century, when the Welsh, having suffered a defeat near Grosmont, pursued the English forces after a battle at Craig y Dorth, between Penclawdd and Monmouth, chasing them relentlessly to the gates of Monmouth town.
By the time that Harry succeeded his father to the throne in 1413, he was a veteran and respected soldier. Glyndwr had been defeated and the feared Gwent longbows were now a crucial part of Henry’s force. At Agincourt, the Gwent archers brought Henry a great victory.
Believing he had a genuine right for the French crown through his great, great grandmother, Henry set sail for France in August 1415.
It was the most famous victory of the middle ages. On 25th October 1415, despite being outnumbered, out-classed and out-manoeuvred, Henry V’s band of brothers defied all the odds to inflict a crushing defeat on the assembled might of French army. It was a defining moment in English
Henry and his 6,000 men marched 260 miles in less than 20 days, facing a massive French army.
Henry positioned his forces carefully, and the French faced losses of between seven and ten thousand, compared to Henry’s five hundred. Sir William Thomas of Raglan took a large team of archers to the battle, pinning the French to their horses. He returned home safely, but his friends David Gam and Roger Vaughn didn’t as, seeing the king’s life in peril, they placed themselves between him and an attacking foe – being knighted by the king as they lay dying on the battlefield.
On the day itself, the 600th anniversary of Agincourt, Dr Juliet Barker, popular historian and author of one of the most well read and celebrated books on the battle, will discuss how and why it happened, reveal the personal stories of some of those involved and demonstrate how, above all else, this momentous battle was a personal victory for Monmouth’s most famous son, Henry V.
Monmouth Museum is delighted to be able to bring Juliet to Monmouth on this significant day, and copies of the new edition of her book on the battle will also be available. Tickets are £5 and are available from Monmouth Museum. For more information telephone 01600 710630.
The Blake Theatre, Monmouth is screening a production of Shakespeare’s Henry V live from Stratford-Upon-Avon on Wednesday 21st October, the same week as the anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt.
Tickets for the screening are £12-13 and the performance starts at 7pm. For more information call 01600 719401 or visit blaketheatre.org
The Unicorn Singers’ contribution to this year’s Agincourt Anniversary celebrations looks set to be one of the most authentic to date, with a medieval feast for the ears.
Through their reconstruction of a 600-year-old thanksgiving service that Henry V himself would recognise, the singers hope to connect us with the distant world of medieval Britain. Henry V surrounded his court with many a great composer of the age and was apparently no mean musician himself.
The singers have tracked down music associated with Henry and Agincourt and have constructed a service of Compline such as Henry might have experienced at first hand after the battle of Agincourt in 1415. For those who wish to attend this rather special event, a feast of music fit for a king awaits!
On the musical menu will be not only the famous Agincourt Carol but also John Dunstable’s remarkable Veni Creator Spiritus, performed at the victory celebrations. There will also be several motets by the other great composers of the day to honour the Virgin, a cult figure in the eyes and prayers of medieval worshippers.
Anyone interested is invited to come and savour this unique occasion and forgotten sound world at 6pm at St Mary’s Priory Church, Monmouth, on St Crispin’s Day, Sunday 25th October, the date of the battle itself.