David Bruce: THE FAMOUS VICTORIES OF HENRY V: A Retelling — Scenes 13-16

— Scene 13 —

Some French soldiers were talking together. They were practicing their English, which was poor.

“Come with me,Jack Drummer,” the first French soldier said, “and all of you come with me, and me will tell you what me will do. Me will tro [throw] one chance on the dice about who shall have the King of England and his Lords.”

“Come here, Jack Drummer,” the second French soldier said, “and tro [throw] your chance on the dice, and lay down your drum.”

The French drummer walked over to them and said, “Oh, the splendid clothing that the Englishmans hay broth [have brought] over! I will tell you what me ha’ [have] done, me have provided a hundred trunks, and all to put the fine ’parel [apparel, clothing] of the Englishmans in.”

“What do you mean by ‘trunk,’ eh?” the first French soldier asked.

“A shest [chest], man, a hundred shests,” the second French soldier said.

“Ah, oui! [Ah, yes!] Ah, oui! Ah,oui!” the first French soldier said. “Me will tell you what, me ha’ [have] put five shildren [children] out of my house, and all too little to put the fine apparel of the Englishmans in.”

He meant that although his home was big enough to house five children, it was too small to house all the splendid English clothing he expected to win as his spoils in the battle.

“Oh, the splendid apparel that we shall have soon,” the French drummer said. “But come, and you shall see what me will tro at the King’s Drummer and Fife.”

Apparently, the dice game was a fortune-telling game. The French soldier would name some Englishmen and then throw the dice. A lucky throw of the dice meant that he would kill or take prisoner the Englishmen and thereby win their clothing.

The French drummer threw the dice and said, “Ha, me ha’ no good luck! Tro you. [It’s your turn to throw the dice.]”

“Indeed, me will tro at the Earl of Northumberland and my Lord of Willoughby, with his great horse, snorting, farting — oh, a splendid horse!” the third French soldier said.

He threw the dice.

The first soldier said, “By our Lady [the Virgin Mary], you ha’ reasonable [reasonably] good luck.”

Historically, at this time no Earl of Northumberlandexisted. The year was 1415. The first Earl of Northumberland was executed in 1408 after rebelling against King Henry IV. Not until 1416 was a new Earl of Northumberland named. (Nevertheless, in Chapter 14, King Henry V mentions the Earl of Northumberland.)

The first soldier said, “Now I will tro at the King himself.”

He threw the dice and said, “Ha, me have no good luck.”

Since this was a fortune-telling game, and he could not win the English King’s apparel, the game was forecasting an English victory.

A French Captain arrived and said, “What’s going on? What are you doing here, so far from the camp?”

He was not happy that they were so far from the protection of the French camp.

“Shall me tell our Captain what we have done here?” the second French soldier asked.

“Ah, oui,” the French drummer said. “Ah, oui.”

As the French Captain turned his attention to the second French soldier, the drummer and one soldier sneaked away, happy to escape the Captain’s displeasure.

“I will tell you what we have done,” the second French soldier said. “We have been troing our shance [throwing our chance] on the dice, but none can win the King.”

“I believe it,” the French Captain said.“Why, he is left behind for me to capture, and I have set three or four chair-makers a-work [to work] to make a new disguised chair [newly devised chariot] to set that womanly King of England in, so that all the people may laugh and scoff at him.”

The Romans held triumphal processions when victorious Roman generals returned to Rome. The general rode in a chariot, and his important captives were paraded before the citizens and mocked. The chariot that the French Captain had commissioned would be used to convey the captured English King to Paris.

“Oh, splendid Captain!” the second soldier said.

“I am glad, and yet I feel a kind of pity, to see the poor English King,” the French Captain said. “Why, whoever saw a more flourishing army in France in one day than is here now?

“Are not here all the peers [hereditary nobles] of France?

“Are not here the Normans with their fiery handguns and launching curtle-axes [piercing cutlasses]?

“Are not here the Barbarians with their bard [armored] horses and launching [piercing] spears?

“Are not here the Pickards with their crossbows and piercing darts [light spears]?

“Are not here the Hainuyers with their cutting glaives [halberds] and sharp carbuncles [pointed spike in the center of their shields]?

“Are not here the lance-knights of Burgundy?

“And on the other side, are not here a sight of poor English scabby rascals? Why, take an Englishman out of his warm bed and away from his stale drink for only one month and, alas, what will become of him? But give the Frenchman a radish root and he will live with its effects all the days of his life.”

Radishes were thought to promote sexual virility.

The French Captain exited.

“Oh, the splendid apparel that we shall get from the Englishmans!” the second French soldier said.

The French soldiers exited.

— Scene 14 —

King Henry V talked with his Lords.

“Come, my Lords and fellows of arms, what company is there of the Frenchmen?” he asked.

“If it please your majesty,” the Earl of Oxford replied, “our Captains have counted them, and, as near as they can judge, the French army has about sixty thousand horsemen and forty thousand footmen.”

“The French have sixty thousand horsemen, and we have only two thousand,” King Henry V said. “They have forty thousand footmen, and we have twelve thousand. They are a hundred thousand, and we are fourteen thousand: ten to one.

“My Lords and loving countrymen, though we are few and they are many, fear not. Your reason for fighting is good, and God will defend you. Pluck up your hearts, for on this day we shall either have a valiant victory or an honorable death.

“Now, my Lords, I order that my uncle the Duke of York have the vanguard in the battle.

“I will have the Earl of Derby, the Earl of Oxford, the Earl of Kent, the Earl of Nottingham, and the Earl of Huntington beside the army, so that they may come fresh upon them.

“And I myself with the Duke of Bedford, the Duke of Clarence, and the Duke of Gloucester will be in the midst of the battle.

“Furthermore, I order that my Lord of Willoughby and the Earl of Northumberland with their troops of horsemen be continually running like wings on both sides of the army, with the Earl of Northumberland on the left wing.

“And I order that every archer provide himself with a stake from a tree and sharpen it at both ends and, at the first encounter of the horsemen, plant their stakes down into the ground before them so that the enemy may gore themselves upon them, and then after planting the stakes our archers will recoil back and shoot wholly altogether and so defeat the enemy.”

“If it please your majesty,” the Earl of Oxford said. “I will take that in my charge, if your grace be therewith content.”

“With all my heart,” King Henry V said, “my good Earl of Oxford, and go and do this quickly.”

“I thank your highness,” the Earl of Oxford said.

He exited.

“Well, my Lords,” King Henry V said, “our battalions are ordered and will be ready, and the French are making bonfires and are at their banquets. But let them look out and beware, for I mean to set upon them.”

A trumpet sounded.

“Listen,” King Henry V said, “here comes another French message.”

A French herald arrived and said, “King of England, my Lord High Constable and others of my Lords, considering the poor estate of you and your poor countrymen, send me to know what you will give for your ransom. Perhaps you may agree to a better and cheaper ransom now than when you are conquered.”

“So your High Constable sends to know what I will give for my ransom?” King Henry V said. “Now, trust me, herald, I will give not as much as a cask of tennis balls. No, not as much as one worthless tennis ball. My body shall lie dead in the field to feed crows rather than England shall ever pay one penny of ransom for my body.”

 The French herald said, “That is a Kingly resolution.”

“No, herald,” King Henry V said, “it is a Kingly resolution andthe resolution of a King. Here, take this for your pains.”

King Henry V gave the French herald some money.

The French herald exited.

“But wait, my Lords,” King Henry V said. “What time is it?”

The Lords replied, “Six o’clock in the morning.”

“Then it is a good time, no doubt, because all England is praying for us,” King Henry V said. “My Lords, I think you look cheerfully upon me, so then with one voice and like true English hearts, throw up your caps with me and for England cry ‘Saint George!’ — and may God and Saint George help us!”

They threw their caps in the air and cried, “Saint George!”

Saint George is the patron saint of England.

— Scene 15 —

The French soldiers cried, “Saint Denis! Saint Denis! Mountjoy! Saint Denis!”

Saint Denis is the patron saint of France.

Mountjoy is a hill near Jerusalem that was thought to be the place where religious pilgrims got their first sight of the holy city.

The battle took place, and many soldiers — most of them French — died.

On 25 October 1415 the English army, although vastly outnumbered, won a great victory in the Battle of Agincourt.

— Scene 16 —

King Henry V talked with his Lords.

“Come, my Lords, come,” King Henry V said. “By this time our swords are almost drunk with French blood. But, my Lords, which of you can tell me how many of our soldiers have been slain in the battle?”

“If it please your majesty,” the Earl of Oxford said, “there are slain of the French army over ten thousand, twenty-six hundred of which are Princes and nobles bearing banners. Besides, all the nobility of France has been taken prisoners.

“Of your majesty’s army are slain none except the good Duke of York and not above twenty-five or twenty-six common soldiers.”

“For the good Duke of York, my uncle, I am heartily sorry and greatly lament his misfortune,” King Henry V said, “yet the honorable victory that the Lord God has given us makes me much rejoice.”

A trumpet sounded.

“But wait, here comes another French message,” King Henry V said.

A French herald arrived, knelt, and said, “May God preserve the life of the most mighty conqueror, the honorable King of England.”

“Now, herald, I think the world has changed for you now,” King Henry V said. “I am sure it is a great disgrace for a French herald to kneel to the King of England.”

While delivering previous messages, the French herald had not knelt.

“What is your message?” King Henry V asked.

“My Lord and master, the conquered King of France sends you long health along with his hearty greetings,” the French herald replied.

“Herald, his greetings are welcome,” King Henry V said, “but I thank God for my health. Well, herald, speak on.”

“He has sent me to desire your majesty to give him permission to go to the battlefield to view and identify his poor countrymen, so that they may all be honorably buried,” the herald said.

“Herald, why does your Lord and master send to me to ask for permission to bury the dead?” King Henry V said. “Let him bury them, in God’s name. But I ask you, herald, where is the Lord High Constable and those who would have had my ransom?”

“If it please your majesty,” the French herald said, “the Lord High Constable was slain in the battle.”

“Why, you may see that you will make yourselves sure before the victory be won,” King Henry V said. “You French were much too confident of victory before the battle began. But, herald, what castle is this so close to our camp?”

“If it please your majesty,” the French herald said, “it is called the Castle of Agincourt.”

“Well, then, my Lords of England, for the more honor of our Englishmen,” King Henry V said, “I declare that this battle be forever called the Battle of Agincourt.”

“If it please your majesty,” the French herald said, “I have a further message to deliver to your majesty.”

“Whatis that, herald?” King Henry V asked. “Speak on.”

“If it please your majesty,” the French herald said, “my Lord and master desires to meet and parley with your majesty.”

“I agree to do so with a good will, as long as some of my nobles view the place of the parley, for fear of treachery and treason,” King Henry V said.

“Your grace need not fear that,” the French herald said.

“Well, tell him then that I will come,” King Henry V said.

The French herald exited.

“Now, my Lords,” King Henry V said, “I will go onto the battlefield myself to view my countrymen and to have them honorably buried, for the French King shall never surpass me in courtesy and chivalric conduct while I am Harry, King of England. Come on, my Lords.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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