25th October is St Crispen’s Day – the feast day of the Christian saints Crispin and Crispinian- twins who were martyred c. AD 286.
It was on this Saturday in 1415 that the English defeated the French at Agincourt. Shakespeare’s ‘Henry V’ helps us visualise it – but is that really a true description of the event?
Jean de Wavrin, a bastard son of Robert, Count of Wavrin was born around 1398 and provides us with a contemporary story of the battle. He made his military debut as a young squire on the English side at the battle of Agincourt. He took part in numerous later military expeditions for the Burgundians, and their English allies until 1435, when he married a wealthy widow from Lille, and was legitimised by the Duke of Burgundy. As Lord of Le Forestel, he performed numerous official duties for successive dukes, including embassies to the Pope and the English court. Following the battle of Agincourt he wrote:
“When the King of England saw that he was master of the field and had got the better of his enemies he humbly thanked the Giver of victory, and he had good cause, for of his people there died on the spot only about sixteen hundred men of all ranks, among whom was the Duke of York, his great uncle, about whom he was very sorry. Then the King collected on that place some of those most intimate with him, and inquired the name of a castle which he perceived to be the nearest; and they said ‘Agincourt’. ‘It is right then,’ said he, ‘that this, our victory, should forever bear the name of Agincourt, for every battle ought to be named after the fortress nearest to the place where it was fought.”