This day, October the 25th, is Saint Crispin’s Day – or, rather, the feast of Saint Crispin and Crispianus, for let us not forget that there were two brothers put to death during the reign of Diocletian in the middle of the third century, circa 285, during the same persecution that took Saint Lawrence and Pope Sixtus II and untold others.
Crispin and Crispianus had fled from Rome to Gaul – modern France – preaching to the pagans and converting many, supporting themselves by making shoes (hence, they are patrons of cobblers and leathermakers) before being denounced to the pagan governor, tortured, and beheaded.
Saint Crispin’s Day is also, of course, when the battle of Agincourt was fought in 1415, when the English, led by Henry V, beat a vastly superior French army (the Brits would eventually go on to lose the so-called ‘Hundred Years War’, with the French finally claiming victory, and reclaiming their nation, under the inspiration of Joan of Arc).
But Agincourt lives on in English memory, and is immortalized by Shakespeare in his play on the King, with the stirring speech he gave his soldiers prior to battle, the ‘Band of Brothers’ exhortation, and here be Kenneth Branagh in his rendition:
(As a day of famous battles, October 25th is also the anniversary of the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War (1854), with the ill-fated ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’, itself commemorated by Alfred Lord Tennyson is his eponymous poem).
And, finally, in the usus antiquior, fittingly enough, we celebrate the feast of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales (moved to May 4th in the new calendar), commemorating those specifically named forty – and many, many more – who perished in defending the Catholic Faith against its dissolution under Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and their Protestant successors, who looted the Church – dissolving the monasteries and stealing their lands and wealth – and usurped her authority (or, rather, Christ’s authority) in claiming themselves ‘heads of the Church of England’.
Henry V would not have recognized such an England, and until that merrie and noble land and people return to the Faith, I fear, she shall continue her downward slide. But, oh, what glory there would be would be in such a return! Never mind defeating the French, we would defeat the very hordes of hell!
Saints Crispin, Crispianus and all the holy Martyrs of England and Wales, orate pro nobis! +