Agincourt by Anne Curry - review by Mary Wellesley

Mary Wellesley

Henry the Myth

Agincourt

By

Oxford University Press 272pp £18.99 order from our bookshop
 

The Battle of Agincourt has given its name to a ship, a racehorse, a locomotive and several towns in pioneer societies. Today, when you stick two fingers up at someone, it’s supposedly a cultural relic of Agincourt. Yet as a generator of myths, the battle more often than not appears to be sticking two fingers up at historical accuracy. Agincourt was the first military engagement of an unprovoked attack on France by Henry V, who thought the country ‘rightfully’ his and who saw a foreign war as one way to unify support for him at home. The son of a usurper, his kingship was in need of legitimacy. Even as he set off, some of his barons were plotting to depose him. But by the time Charles Dickens came to write his Child’s History of England, Agincourt was known as a much more heroic undertaking. Dickens describes how ‘on the English side, among the little force, there was a good proportion of men who were not gentlemen

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