Agincourt 603

Happy 603rd Agincourt Anniversary and St. Crispins’ Day! It’s once again time for my yearly medieval history lecture about why you should care as much about Henry V as I do.

Other notable events today:

  • 164th anniversary of the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War which was immortalized by Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s poem ‘Charge of the Light Brigade.’  If you haven’t read the poem the basic takeaway is: there are somethings bigger than yourself.
  • 154th anniversary of the Battle of Marais de Cygnes one of three battles fought in Kansas to end Price’s Raids, a series of Confederate offensives spurred by Major Gen. Sterling Price to re-establish Confederate control in the Mississippi Valley prior to the 1864 Presidental Election.
  • 3rd Year Anniversary of the Misery Meet.  For those who know, you know.  For those who don’t just imagine 25km, trench foot, a false sense of security upon arriving at a bothy that wasn’t your bothy, and walking all the way around a sea loch with your bothy in sights.

But, anyway.  I’m not going to bore you with the specifics of Agincourt… you can read the Wikipedia article for that.  In fact, I’m not really even going to write a new post because basically this post doesn’t really change year to year.  Don’t tell the Uni, but, I’m going to self-plagiarize some quotes still relevant stuff from I wrote in 2016.  So please excuse 19-year-old Kennedy, but I still think she’s pretty clever and has a lot to say.

Today is St. Crispin’s day aka the 601st anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt.

But, Kennedy! That happened soooooo long ago!! Why should we care?!?!

Glad you asked.

I believe that part of the reason a lot of people find history boring is because they cannot place themselves in ‘the world’ in which is happened.  It becomes disconnected, people lose interest, the actions of the past are forgotten.  But, by creating a relationship between the past and the present, history becomes accessible and in a lot of ways, lives again.  Keeping history alive requires people to continue this dialogue keeping it relevant and relatable.

Picture this: You’ve been walking for days.  You’re tired.  You’re hungry.  You’re sick.  You’re on the run from a group of powerful people who want you dead – a group that outnumbers you six to one.  But amidst all off this – the guy in charge is trudging right along side you.  He’s tired too.  He’s starving too.  He’s sick too.  The people who want you dead want him dead ten times over.  But, that doesn’t matter because you swore to each other to get to the end of this.  Neither of you intend to break that promise.

Those are the circumstances that faced Henry’s army at the dawn of October 25, 1415.

His army numbered just under 6,000, with 4,000 being peasant bowmen.  The other 2,000 were a mix of knights and men-at-arms.  They had been on a frantic retreat for nearly two weeks, attempting to make their way back to the Channel.  In a last ditch effort, they established camp at the top of a muddy hill.  They braced themselves at the break of dawn, expecting the worse to come from the amassed group of heavily armoured French knights, numbering nearly 36,000, waiting below.  Had Henry wanted, he could have slipped away in the night, retreated to England, and saved his own skin.

Instead, Henry stayed with his starving army, made up of peasant bowmen, because he had made them a promise.  He doesn’t even take the night to rest.  Disguised as one of them, he speaks to his troops earnestly and honestly wishing to hear their views of the upcoming battle.

Then at the break of dawn, he gave his infamous speech, later immortalized by Shakespeare, about loyalty and honesty.  Addressing his men as ‘his band of brothers’ and making a vow to fight and if necessary die beside them.  And he kept his promise.  French eyewitness accounts write of Henry fighting in the front lines.  Just to make sure you caught that, that’s the French praising the leadership and bravery of their enemy.

Against all odds, Henry won the day.  He lost 112 men.  The French casualties numbered over 12,000.

It’s not the medieval warfare that makes this story relatable but its spirit of loyalty and leadership.  Against all odds, Henry refused to give up and in the end his faith in his men and their faith in him won the day.

For us today, the historical spirit of Agincourt lives on each moment we push ourselves just that bit farther.  It’s relevant again each time we remain loyal to our friends treating them with respect and honesty.  But, the most important lesson for Agincourt is how we should treat those we work with and who work for us with that same loyalty and honesty.

Some people at this point may wonder: Henry was king of England, what did he actually owe to a group of peasants?

A lot of people would probably say he owed them nothing.   He’s their king, their boss.  He can do what he wants.  I would argue the opposite.  He is their boss and that makes him even more accountable for his actions and his leadership.  Good leaders lead by example – they are shoulder to shoulder with their people not hiding behind them.  They have to be the one to accept the responsibility.   If you expect respect, you first have to give your own.

You could say good leaders devote their lives to the protection of their followers.  They make personal sacrifices for the good of those they represent.  They do not, like a certain Republican presidential nominee [now President], disrespect based on religion, gender, or ethnicity, blatantly lie, or refuse to be held accountable for their actions.

Good leaders, good people, value every person no matter their rank or role in society.

Henry didn’t discriminate between the peasants and the nobility in his army.  This is evidenced by how the English kept their casualty records.  The 112 includes everyone from the lowest peasant bowmen to Henry’s uncle, the Duke of York.  The French list of 12,000 only includes nobility, excluding the countless others without rank.

Henry handled his army with unprecedented social equity basing rank and prestige on personal achievement not patronage or social status.

To put this in a civilian perspective, as long you work hard, remain loyal and honest, no matter your social status you will receive equal treatment and respect.

My father stresses this sense of loyalty and honesty a lot.  (He’s a US Marine and a General in the Air Force so no guesses as to why he made those two things so important.)  He was actually the person who first showed me the St. Crispin’s Day speech.

My mother also lives by this same code of leadership.  There have been dozen of times I’ve returned home late to find my mom still working.  Even though she’s a vice president of a decent sized company, she always tells me the same thing, ‘If someone who works for me is working, so am I.’

So in that small way – that’s how I’ve kept the history of Agincourt alive and relevant.  It’s not the original physical context. I’m not a medieval longbowmen.  Hell, I’m not even English.  But it’s not a stretch to say I’ve kept it in the original thematic context with some extra influence from my parents.

Dold, K. Y. 2016. ‘Agincourt 601’ Ad Caledonia. Available at: https://adcaledonia.com/2016/10/25/agincourt-601/ (accessed 24 October 2018).

I think 19-year-old Kennedy summed it all up pretty nicely, if at times going on a few side tangents.

This post was written prior to the 2016 Election and as we near the 2018 Election (in just 13 Days)… just think about how you promote leadership in your own life.  I’ve learned a lot about leadership in my ‘short and naïve 21 years.’

And sure, 1415 wasn’t some social liberated wonderland.  But, those themes of loyalty, honesty, and respect and the phrase ‘band of brothers’ translates pretty closely to ‘we the people.’ (And yes, I mean all the people… not just the people who look/act like you.)

Just think about these things when you’re out bopping about.  What have you done to help those around you?  Are you expecting the same from them as you expect from yourself?  Are you setting a good example? There’s a reason Henry V is still talked about 603 years later.

But, when you do something for the right reasons you don’t expect praise.  You do it because it’s the right thing to do.

Agincourt 601

Happy St. Crispin’s Day!  I’m half-way through first semester.

So far I’ve submitted two essays – one for Modern Scottish History and one for Osteology.

Backing up to last Friday, I had my first Osteology lab.  We had to articulate a set of replica bones.  This was to get us ready for our next lab… where we will be handed a box of fragmented Medieval remains and have to place them in the anatomically correct position.

And I know, I know… articulating human remains at 9 AM on a Friday sounds really morbid … but it’s core to understanding who we are as people.  Our bones can’t tell us everything but they are one of the few records that cannot lie.

In fact, archaeologists have been able to identify skeletons of English longbowmen from enlarged muscle attachments on their bow-arms from the repetitive drawing of the bowstring.  When compared with the fragmented bows found from the Mary Rose (a sunken Tudor ship) with estimated draw weight nearing 200 pounds they were able to create a better picture of the immense strength required to be a longbowman.  Especially for the Medieval period when there weren’t a ton of written sources or gym selfies floating around, archaeologists can gain real insight into the everyday life of a bowman, who for the most part were members of the peasant classes, by looking at their bones.

I mention this because today is St. Crispin’s day aka the 601st anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt – a very decisive victory for Henry V in the Hundred Years War.  Henry V, like a lot of English kings, heavily employed longbowmen against the heavy French chargers.

But, Kennedy! That happened soooooo long ago!! Why should we care?!?!

Glad you asked.

I believe that part of the reason a lot of people find history boring is because they cannot place themselves in ‘the world’ in which is happened.  It becomes disconnected, people lose interest, the actions of the past are forgotten.  But, by creating a relationship between the past and the present, history becomes accessible and in a lot of ways, lives again.  Keeping history alive requires people to continue this dialogue keeping it relevant and relatable.

The public heavily outnumber the academic community, so if we want to work on our projects (and get funding) we have to give the public a reason to care.  Which is a little sad, because personally, I don’t really understand why people don’t find the stories of where they came from/who they are/why they are compelling … but oh well.

Anyway, Agincourt.  It started when I first read Henry V when I was 13, then turned into a research project my sophomore year of high school, and later a Kansas State History Day documentary my senior year.  Truthfully, now, six years later, it’s a bit of an obsession.  But, the reason the story is so compelling is because of the circumstances surrounding it and how those translate today.

Picture this: You’ve been walking for days.  You’re tired.  You’re hungry.  You’re sick.  You’re on the run from a group of powerful people who want you dead – a group that outnumbers you six to one.  But amidst all off this – the guy in charge is trudging right along side you.  He’s tired too.  He’s starving too.  He’s sick too.  The people who want you dead want him dead ten times over.  But, that doesn’t matter because you swore to each other to get to the end of this.  Neither of you intend to break that promise.

Those are the circumstances that faced Henry’s army at the dawn of October 25, 1415.

His army numbered just under 6,000, with 4,000 being peasant bowmen.  The other 2,000 were a mix of knights and men-at-arms.  They had been on a frantic retreat for nearly two weeks, attempting to make their way back to the Channel.  In a last ditch effort, they established camp at the top of a muddy hill.  They braced themselves at the break of dawn, expecting the worse to come from the amassed group of heavily armoured French knights, numbering nearly 36,000, waiting below.  Had Henry wanted, he could have slipped away in the night, retreated to England, and saved his own skin.

Instead, Henry stayed with his starving army, made up of peasant bowmen, because he had made them a promise.  He doesn’t even take the night to rest.  Disguised as one of them, he speaks to his troops earnestly and honestly wishing to hear their views of the upcoming battle.

Then at the break of dawn, he gave his infamous speech, later immortalized by Shakespeare, about loyalty and honesty.  Addressing his men as his brothers and making a vow to fight and if necessary die beside them.  And he kept his promise.  French eyewitness accounts write of Henry fighting in the front lines.  Just to make sure you caught that, that’s the French praising the leadership and bravery of their enemy.

Against all odds, Henry won the day.  He lost 112 men.  The French casualties numbered over 12,000.

It’s not the medieval warfare that makes this story relatable but its spirit of loyalty and leadership.  Against all odds, Henry refused to give up and in the end his faith in his men and their faith in him won the day.

For us today, the historical spirit of Agincourt lives on each moment we push ourselves just that bit farther.  It’s relevant again each time we remain loyal to our friends treating them with respect and honesty.  But, the most important lesson for Agincourt is how we should treat those we work with and who work for us with that same loyalty and honesty.

Some people at this point may wonder: Henry was king of England, what did he actually owe to a group of peasants?

A lot of people would probably say he owed them nothing.   He’s their king, their boss.  He can do what he wants.  I would argue the opposite.  He is their boss and that makes him even more accountable for his actions and his leadership.  Good leaders lead by example – they are shoulder to shoulder with their people not hiding behind them.  They have to be the one to accept the responsibility.   If you expect respect, you first have to give your own.

You could say good leaders devote their lives to the protection of their followers.  They make personal sacrifices for the good of those they represent.  They do not, like a certain Republican presidential nominee, disrespect based on religion, gender, or ethnicity, blatantly lie, or refuse to be held accountable for their actions.

Good leaders, good people, value every person no matter their rank or role in society.

Henry didn’t discriminate between the peasants and the nobility in his army.  This is evidenced by how the English kept their casualty records.  The 112 includes everyone from the lowest peasant bowmen to Henry’s uncle, the Duke of York.  The French list of 12,000 only includes nobility, excluding the countless others without rank.

Henry handled his army with unprecedented social equity basing rank and prestige on personal achievement not patronage or social status.

To put this in a civilian perspective, as long you work hard, remain loyal and honest, no matter your social status you will receive equal treatment and respect.

My father stressed this sense of loyalty and honesty a lot while I was growing up.  (He’s a US Marine and a General in the Air Force so no guesses as to why he made those two things so important.)  He was actually the person who first showed me the St. Crispin’s Day speech.  It was during a particularly hard time in Middle School, the speech really resonated with that 13 year old version of myself.

My mother also lives by this same code of leadership.  There have been dozen of times I’ve returned home late to find my mom still working.  Even though she’s a vice president of a decent sized company, she always tells me the same thing, ‘If someone who works for me is working, so am I.’

My parents are pretty cool and I’m not just saying this because they’re reading this. (Hi Mom!)

So in that small way – that’s how I’ve kept the history of Agincourt alive and relevant.  It’s not the original physical context. I’m not a medieval longbowmen.  Hell, I’m not even English.  But it’s not a stretch to say I’ve kept it in the original thematic context with some extra influence from my parents.

I’ve got a long way before I’m at any of their levels of leadership but I think I’m on the right track.

We Few, We Happy Few

Sunday was the 600th Year Anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt.

Researching the battle has now been a 5+ year personal project (read: borderline obsession) that started with reading the St. Crispin’s Day Speech in 8th grade, to my huge 20 page research paper on the socio-economic effect of the English Longbowmen sophomore year in AP European History, and recently my State qualifying Kansas History Day documentary about the Leadership and Legacy of Henry V.

The time I have spend working with this topic has really shaped my studies and honestly could be pinpointed as the origins of my interest in medieval history.  There is just something about the legacy of the battle and the people surrounding it that speaks volumes about personal loyalty and self-sacrifice.  I think those ideas are so easily transferable to modern day and are valued just as much now as they were in 1415.

Okay hold onto that Agincourt idea, it’ll be back…

This weekend I went backpacking with the Mountaineering Club.  This weekend was different from the other meets in more than one way as well.  For starters it was the Mystery Meet, so I had no idea where I would be going.  Secondly, this meet was a full pack weekend meaning that we carried everything with us and camped in different spots on Friday and Saturday night.

The bus left at 6 PM and we started the journey north – I could tell that much.  We passed through Glasgow, and then headed up toward Inverness… and even more north to Assynt (one of the most northern parts of Scotland).

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 9.34.09 PM

The bus arrived in Assynt around midnight, but we had 4-5km to go before we reached the campground for the night.  Bundling up and putting the rain covers over our rucksacks, the group of us (around 50 people) set off into the dark Scottish wilderness. (If this update is sounding cheesy already just wait)

It started to rain and the wind howled as we scrambled up the hills of the trail to reach a good spot to camp.  We stopped around 2 AM and had to pitch our tents in the rain.  Everyone was careful not to pitch to far into the mud or, god-forbid, a puddle.  The next morning… it was still raining.  We also didn’t have proper bathrooms.

camp1

The group waited for the rain to at least calm down a bit before setting off.  We had a long day ahead over 20km to the bothy, a sort of croft house that is free to camp in and usually has a fire.

Let me just say now that it was way over 20km to the bothy.

It wasn’t a super mountainy hike but between the distance and the weather it was a doozy.  The wind was crazy and then it started hailing.  It even snowed a bit.  I fell in a bog up to my waist and soaked through my boots.  There were many moments when I was questioning why I was there.

i was so thrilled when the hail started lol

i was so thrilled when the hail started lol

But, the landscape.  We saw the biggest waterfall in Britain and as always the views from the top make everything worth it.  Especially in Scotland, there is just something about the landscapes that make them seem so untouched.  It was honestly as if anything from a wooly mammoth to a Jacobite soldier could have turned up and I wouldn’t have even been phased.

lake1

view1

Between the near death experiences, I really did enjoy being out of Edinburgh for the weekend and having time just to think and enjoy being outside.  All the stress of essay writing really just fades away and now that I’m back I feel like I can get back to work.  And I’m slowly becoming a camping expert, when I come home you all better be ready to go camping!

Everything hurt but it was bearable until we reached the first bothy.  I saw a bothy in the distance and thought it was the one that we were stopping at the for the night – I got excited and ran.  It was around 6.30 PM. I was tired, hungry, and the sun was setting.

Then I learned this was not our bothy.

Then I learned that we still had 6-7km to our bothy.

Our bothy was over the mountian.

Our bothy was on the other side of the sea loch.

I cried.

This was the moment when I only saw two options, either I was going to make it to the bothy or die here.

This was also the nerdiest moment of the night.  I realized that it was St. Crispin’s Eve and that Sunday would be October 25, the 600th year anniversary of Agincourt.  As much as I study Agincourt, I never will be able to experience exactly what happened.  Saturday came close.

I was tired, worn out from 20km already.  I was covered in mud with all my gear on my back.  It was all the factors that faced Henry’s army.

So we started off – up the hill.  The sun set and then it was dark.  I stepped in more bogs, but my feet were so cold I did not really even feel it.  We lost the trail (multiple times) – I fell in another hole.

It was dark by the time we saw the first glimpse of the Glenhu Bothy – a small light across the sea loch.  I was so tired and the trail had basically turned into a river.  My feet were on total autopilot and I really just wanted to eat something and sleep.

We made it to the bothy around midnight and I have never in my life been happier to see an old croft house.

I made dinner on the floor with my Tranger and it was the best canned soup I have ever had in my life.  My boats were soaked so I put them next to the fire, they started steaming almost instantly.

After dinner came the bothy party.

So picture this, 50 exhausted uni students crowded into and old Scottish croft house with plenty of alcohol… and have I mentioned that people brought fireworks?  It was great time. There was a warm fire and I drank a toast of Strongbow to Henry V while reciting some of the speech (St. Crispin’s eve after all).  Everyone joined in with some festive songs and enjoyed the evening after nearly dying that day.  The party died down to a dull roar of the same songs and the fire slowly went out to embers when I turned in for the night.  I was beyond sore but glad that I made it.

sea

The bothy!!

The bothy!!

The next morning no one got up.

I got up slowly.

We spend the morning at the bothy making breakfast and enjoying the sea loch, some people even went for a swim.  I can’t even imagine how cold it must have been.  We packed up for the hike to Kylesku and the bus around noon, it was a fun easy hike on a proper trail.  We had to cross a long car bridge and it was raining and windy.  I thought I was going to fall off the bridge.  Makes a good story now.

view

The bus picked us up around 4 PM and it was a 6.5 hour drive back to Edinburgh.

I know the original plan for Agincourt Weekend was to make it to France, but honestly trekking through mud, hail, rain, snow with some really great people and then celebrating our victory in an old Scottish croft house around a warm fire was just as good – if not better.