Agincourt thank-you sceptre to go on display

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Next Sunday will mark St. Crispin’s day and the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, the near-miraculous victory of Henry V of England over the French Nobility. I’ll have a post on it then but for now, that original ‘Band of Brothers’ knew they had done something special and commemorated it accordingly. Like this:

For the first time in 600 years, a sceptre King Henry V gave to the City of London in gratitude for its support in the Hundred Years’ War will go on public display. The City of London helped finance the Battle of Agincourt, loaning Henry 10,000 marks (about three million pounds in today’s money). After Henry’s forces won so decisive a victory against the flower of French chivalry arrayed in much greater numbers against them on October 25th, 1415, the king had the sceptre made and presented it to the city as a thank you gift.

Made by the finest craftsmen — including French ones — of the age, the sceptre is 17 inches long and made out of two spiral-carved stems of rock crystal with ribbons of inlaid gold. At the top of the sceptre is a gold crown topped with fleurs-de-lis and crosses and decorated with gemstones from around the world: red spinels from Afghanistan, sapphires from Ceylon, pearls from the Arabian gulf. Inside the crown is the king’s coat of arms painted on parchment. The sceptre was made between 1415 and February of 1421 when it appears in a painting of the coronation of Catherine of Valois, wife of Henry V.

Source: The History Blog » Blog Archive » Agincourt thank-you sceptre to go on display (More pictures too!)

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Edith Cavell: Nurse, Patriot, and Martyr

Memorial to Cavell outside Norwich Cathedral

Memorial to Cavell outside Norwich Cathedral

A hundred years ago, today, Nurse Edith Cavell was executed by the Germans. She was convicted of helping British and French soldiers escape back to their forces. There was in truth no doubt of her guilt. She forthrightly admitted it. She had been nursing both Allied and German soldiers equally.

Her execution rather shocked the world, the United States, still in 1915, the Great Neutral, had tried to save her from execution, but the Germans were adamant. Looking back, it’s rather hard not to feel some sympathy with them; it doesn’t make much sense, at least to us today, to let a woman go for something one would execute a man for. But the world of 2015 is not the world of 1915, and it shocked the world. It was helped to be shocked by the efforts of Wellington House, the British propaganda unit, but it had a basis in what our people believed. Here is a bit more from Wikipedia:

In November 1914, after the German occupation of Brussels, Cavell began sheltering British soldiers and funnelling them out of occupied Belgium to the neutral Netherlands. Wounded British and French soldiers and Belgian and French civilians of military age were hidden from the Germans and provided with false papers by Prince Reginald de Croy at his château of Bellignies near Mons. From there, they were conducted by various guides to the houses of Cavell, Louis Séverin and others in Brussels, and furnished by them with money to reach the Dutch frontier and with guides obtained through Philippe Baucq.This placed Cavell in violation of German military law. German authorities became increasingly suspicious of the nurse’s actions, which were backed up by her outspokenness.

She was arrested on 3 August 1915 and charged with harbouring Allied soldiers. She had been betrayed by Gaston Quien, who was later convicted by a French court as a collaborator. She was held in Saint-Gilles prison for 10 weeks, the last two in solitary confinement. She made three depositions to the German police (on 8, 18 and 22 August), admitting that she had been instrumental in conveying about 60 British and 15 French soldiers and about 100 French and Belgians of military age to the frontier and had sheltered most of them in her house.

In her court-martial she was prosecuted for aiding British and French soldiers, in addition to young Belgian men, to cross the border and eventually enter Britain. She admitted her guilt when she signed a statement the day before the trial. Cavell declared that the soldiers she had helped escape thanked her in writing when arriving safely in Britain. This admission confirmed that Cavell had helped the soldiers navigate the Dutch frontier, but it also established that she helped them escape to a country at war with Germany.

The penalty according to German military law was death.

All that said, she became a great heroine for the British, and yes, the Americans as well, not to mention the French and Belgians. Again from Wikipedia:

Cavell’s remains were returned to Britain after the war. As the ship bearing the coffin arrived in Dover, a full peal of Grandsire Triples (5040 Changes, Parker’s Twelve-Part) was rung on the bells of the parish church. The peal was notable: “Rung with the bells deeply muffled with the exception of the Tenor which was open at back stroke, in token of respect to Nurse Cavell, whose body arrived at Dover during the ringing and rested in the town till the following morning. The ringers of 1-2-3-4-5-6 are ex-soldiers, F. Elliot having been eight months Prisoner of War in Germany.” Deep (or full) muffling is normally only used for the deaths of sovereigns. After an overnight pause in the parish church the body was conveyed to London and a state funeral was held at Westminster Abbey. On 19 May 1919, her body was reburied at the east side of Norwich Cathedral; a graveside service is still held each October. The railway van known as the Cavell Van that conveyed her remains from Dover to London is kept as a memorial on the Kent and East Sussex Railway and is usually open to view at Bodiam railway station.

In the Calendar of saints (Church of England) the day appointed for the commemoration of Edith Cavell is 12 October. This is a memorial in her honour rather than formal canonisation.

Following Cavell’s death, many memorials were created around the world to remember her. One of the first was unveiled on 12 October 1918 by Queen Alexandra on the grounds of Norwich Cathedral, during the opening of a home for nurses which also bore her name.

Source for both is Wikipedia

Yesterday’s evensong at Norwich cathedral commemorated the centenary of her death. You can listen here.

http://bbc.in/1KRo2lG

Last week Haydn’s Missa in Angustiis, was performed in Norwich along with David Mitchell’ Cavell Mass.

This seems proper to me since it commemorates a woman who did her duty to her God, and her country, took responsibility for it and willingly (and bravely) paid the price of that duty. We should all attempt to do as well.

{UPDATE} I didn’t think to look there earlier but East Anglian Film Archive has film of the funeral in Norwich. It is excellent and can be found here.Funeral of Nurse Edith Cavell

Remembrance Sunday

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Tower of London

[Many of you who read here, have become friends of ours, and so we like to tell you a bit when things happen our lives. This is one of those notes, Neo.]

This is my partner Jessica’s birthday, although we will unable to wish it to her today, let us remember the good times we have shared with her, and wish her a happy one and many more, better ones.

I have heard from her. She is recovering although it is a slow process, and she is both weak and weary. We will not see her here until at least Eastertide, I think, and perhaps not then. If you missed the story she went to the doctor for what she thought was sinusitis on 8 September and emailed me from the hospital parking lot that the doctor thought he saw another problem. Her last words to me were, “wish me luck-I need it.” Let that be a lesson to you, don’t ask me for luck. That problem turned out to be cancer, and very aggressive one at that. After two surgeries, on the first Friday in October, she received the received the last rites of her church. Those of us who love her were very close to despair, although we all put our trust in God. Nor were we disappointed, that Sunday she awoke from her coma without pain and without cancer.

But one doesn’t go through such an ordeal without re-evaluating your life, and that is part of what she is doing now. And I freely admit that I am praying (perhaps selfishly) that she will choose to return to us. That is in her hands, and God’s. Judging by how many of you are still reading her articles here, every day, many of you join with me in that prayer.

One doesn’t go through watching a dear friend, whom one loves, go though such an ordeal without effect either. I have spent most of the last two months worrying about and praying for her, and have rather shamefully neglected you. I won’t say I’m sorry, because I’m not. Jessica is the most wonderful and caring friend I’ve ever had, and the thought of losing her devastated me, and more than a few times 2 Samuel 18:33 was in my heart and prayers.

I’m going to begin trying to post again, although I’ll make no promises, it will be a day-to-day thing. And I’m going to do something that 3 months ago, I would never had considered. I am going to ask you to pray for Jessica, and for those who love her as well.

MERCIFUL God, and heavenly Father, who hast taught us in thy holy Word that thou dost not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men; Look with pity, we beseech thee, upon the sorrows of thy servant for whom our prayers are offered. Remember her, O Lord, in mercy; endue her soul with patience; comfort her with a sense of thy goodness; lift up thy countenance upon her, and give her peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

ALMIGHTY God, who hast promised to hear the petitions of those who ask in thy Son’s Name; We beseech thee mercifully to incline thine ears to us who have now made our prayers and supplications unto thee; and grant that those things which we have faithfully asked according to thy will, may effectually be obtained, to the relief of our necessity, and to the setting forth of thy glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer


In all the English speaking world, except the United States, today is Remembrance Sunday, which is more connected than you might think to the first part of this post. Jessica’s ex-husband was a serving army officer, in fact, he was in Afghanistan when I met her. And while we will celebrate those of ours on Tuesday who survived to return to us, they will commemorate those who did not.

In her post The Thin Red Line she reminded us of the other victim’s of war, saying this:

But there’s bound to be a divide between civilians and the military in times of peace when you have a professional army. Although the analogy with Monks might raise an eyebrow or two, there is a parallel (no, not that one).  Soldiers live a life apart. They are trained to do things which ordinary people don’t do, and probably don’t want to do. There has to be a high level of commitment, and at times the dedication to duty means that a soldier puts everything else to one side. Although no soldier’s wife worth her salt would dream of saying so, we all wait in terror for the knock on the door or the telephone call from the CO. Every time we kiss and wave good-bye, we know that for at least one of us, it is the final good-bye. And if your marriage doesn’t come to that honorable end, well the stress and strains on your man and marriage may make it come to another sort of end. The price soldiers pay to serve us all is huge.  But they also serve, who only stand and wait – and love.

Like Memorial Day it was instituted to remember those brave men who died in the service of their country, and like Veteran’s Day it is on 11 November, because it was instituted to commemorate the end of the Great War, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, in 1918. It’s also Feast day of St. Martin of Tours, the patron saint of soldiers. Like a distinguished British historian told me once, “It’s always the war to end all wars, until the next one.” I’m very afraid he was right.

But it is very proper for us as Americans to remember our cousins who died in the wars of the twentieth century, they fought at our side for the same ideals. Please join me in remembering their sacrifice.

It should also be remembered that on 17 October 1921, General Pershing presented, pursuant to a special act of Congress, the US Medal of Honor, in the name of the people of the United States, to the Unknown British Warrior in Westminster Abbey, the only time it has been awarded to a non-American in a foreign service.

Remember them

1066, and America

English: Harold Godwinson falls at Hastings. H...

English: Harold Godwinson falls at Hastings. Harold was struck in the eye with an arrow (left), slain by a mounted Norman knight (right) or both. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You know that I like to commemorate events in history, and October is a rich month for that. I’ve often said that American history is a niece of British, especially English history. This month is a prime example of why. The other day was the 948th anniversary of the battle of Hastings. The Norman Conquest is one of the pivots of our (and perhaps world) history. Don’t think so? Let’s look at it, but first a short history of it.

In January St. Edward the Confessor, the last King of England of the House of Wessex, which we spoke of yesterday with regard to Alfred the Great, died, and eventually was borne in state to the new Westminster Abbey (which he built) where he was buried. Incidentally his feast day is 13 October.

The succession was a disputed one, it settled out as having three claimants, Harold Godwinson,  The nobles of the realm offered him the crown, although he had a pretty weak claim to it, being the brother-in-law of King Cnut

Amongst the other claimants, King Swegn Estrithson, of Denmark and Edgar Aetheling (Atheling actually means throneworthy) and he was of the House of Wessex, the Grandson of Edmund Ironside, he was also a minor. Neither of these seem to have been considered at all.

But there was also King Harold Hardrada of Norway acting on behalf of Tostig, Earl of Northumbria, and King Harold’s brother. Tostig has always seemed to me to be a very troublesome younger brother, and it looks like Harold thought so too. But this was a serious claim.

Then there was William, Duke of Normandy, whose claim was based on a promise made ears before by Edward, and backed by the Pope.

And so, Harold was crowned at Westminster by Archbishop Stigand of Canterbury and Archbishop Ealdred of York. I also note that Halley’s comet was visiting that year, all seemed to think it a bad omen for Harold and a good one for William.

To contest this matter, William had to convince his nobles to help, and not demand, which he did, and got the support of the Pope as well. William was a planner and took his time with his preparations, which worked to his benefit.

And so, in May, Tostig made his first, abortive try to invade England, which caused Harold to call out the Fyrd, which was peasants who were required to serve at his pleasure, and he kept them out, waiting for William.

Meanwhile, William was preparing including calling his magnates to help him dedicate his wife Mathilda’s new abbey of St Etienne, in Caen, on 18 June 1066, and get his people to support him.

On 20 September Tostig and Harold  sailed up the Ouse river and fought Earls Edwin and Morcar at Fulford outside York. The Earls were defeated and badly and took no further part. Following this Harold came up with a scratch force consisting mostly of his own Housecarls and thegns, He then marched 180 miles in four days calling out shire levies as he went. He offered Tostig his earldom back if he would change sides, and when he didn’t the forces met at Stamford Bridge on 25 September.

Both Hardrada and Tosig were killed in the battle beneath the Raven banner but, it was a hard battle and the King’s force were beat up and tired.

At this point William landed probably at Pevensey from his 700 ships. And then he proceeded to burn and pillage to force Harold to come south and fight him. Which worked, Harold raced his forces back south down the Roman road called Ermine Street and on 14 October they met in battle, at where else, the place now called Battle. It’s an interesting battle, and the linked article gives a reasonable description but the short form is: William won and Harold died. You may have heard of Battle Abbey, it marks the site.

And so for the last time (so far) in history was England conquered by an outside force.

BBC – History – British History in depth: 1066.


But why does this matter? Well, England at the time was in no way a democracy but it wasn’t exactly feudal either. It was sort of an amalgam of the old northern European tribal structure with the feudal sytem. You’ll recall from Beowulf that certain men were considered eligible for the throne of the Geats, and Atheling is an obvious link to the concept. In addition the first charter of the rights of freeman had been issued by King Alfred the Great. In this we can see the first dim outlines of our freedom.

This was shattered by the Conquest, because Normandy had become almost completely feudal, and those Normans replaced almost completely the native Anglo/ Saxon/ Danish nobility. And so the language of the ruling class became French, which it would be for centuries. That echoes down to us, we raise cows but eat beef is one famous example. Another is contained in Kiplings poem which Jess wrote about, called ‘The Wrath of the Awakened Saxon”.

And never doubt that attitude has come down to us all, it’s part of the common heritage of the English speaking peoples, British, American, Canadian, Australian and all the rest. That’s our heritage, that and the rule of law, better expressed as “the rule through and under the law” which signifies that our governments, however constituted, are as subject to the law as we are. There is no more ‘Presentment of Englishry’ which deprived the English of their civil rights in there own land.

This is the heritage that gave us Henry II’s charter, ans Magna Charta, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution.

Nearly a thousand years ago that heritage was nearly killed, and tyrants have been (and still are) trying to kill it, and sometime we gain but sometimes we lose, but

The Dream of Freemen still lives within us

Veteran’s Day/Remembrance Day

Theodore Roosevelt Jr.'s grave marker at the A...

Image via Wikipedia

Today, we here in America celebrate the survival of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coast guardsmen, who have fought our wars. It is a noble day and has been since the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month 93 years ago. It is a time to remember the sacrifices made and honor the men and women who made them.

It is our veterans day because we celebrate the lives of those killed on Memorial Day which goes back to that most horrid of American Wars, the Civil War. On both days is heard in the land the song written by Union Colonel Daniel Butterfield during the Seven Days Battle in Virginia.

But we should remember more than that.

In the rest of the English speaking world this is Remembrance Day. It is the day when all over the English speaking world the men and women who have given their lives for freedom and their country are remembered. We should also note that on this day in 1921 a British or Commonwealth soldier, known only to God, was presented, by General Pershing with the Medal of Honor, in Westminster Abbey.

We remember the British Tommies who have so ably supported us over the years.

Men such as this:

Iraq, 2004:Serving in the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment, Johnson Beharry was the first living recipient of the Victoria Cross in almost 30 years – the highest military decoration for valour.His story of remarkable bravery includes twice saving members of his unit from ambushes in Iraq. During the second incident he sustained severe head injuries.

On 1 May 2004, Beharry was driving a Warrior Tracked Armoured Vehicle called to assist an ambushed foot patrol. His vehicle was hit by multiple rocket propelled grenades, resulting in the loss of radio communications.

The platoon commander, the vehicle’s gunner and a number of other soldiers in the vehicle were injured. His periscope optics damaged, Private Beharry had to open his hatch to steer his vehicle, exposing his face and head to small arms fire.

Beharry drove the crippled Warrior through the ambush, taking his own crew and leading five other Warriors to safety. He then extracted his wounded comrades from the vehicle, all the time exposed to further enemy fire. He was cited on this occasion for ‘valour of the highest order’.

Then, back on duty on 11 June 2004, Beharry was driving the lead Warrior of his platoon through Al Amarah when his vehicle was ambushed again.

A rocket propelled grenade hit the vehicle six inches from Beharry’s head, causing serious shrapnel injuries to his face and brain. Other rockets then hit the vehicle, incapacitating his commander and injuring several of the crew.

Despite his life threatening injuries, Beharry retained control of his vehicle and drove it out of the ambush area before losing consciousness. He needed brain surgery for his head injuries – and he was still recovering in March 2005 when he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

and the Canadians, those great warriors of the north.

and certainly the Australians who even stayed with us in Vietnam.

There is a hymn that is associated with the day, especially in Canada and the UK, this is it, this video is from Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral, note the dipping of the dockside cranes as the cortege passes.

There are many dead over the last century in defense of freedom and all deserve to be remembered. And for the most part they are, in our hearts and in our minds.

Has it been worth it? The citizen of Ypres, Belgium seem to think so. Every night at 8:00pm since their liberation in 1918, except during the German occupation in World War II, they have executed this ceremony,

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.John 15:13

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