Today in History: Oct. 25

From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered—
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England, now a-bed,
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here;
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon St. Crispin’s day.
—William Shakespeare, Henry V

The Battle of Agincourt took place on this date in 1415 in northern France. King Henry V of England and his badly outnumbered English forces defeated the far-larger French army, with the result that Henry became heir to the French throne.

Modern historians estimate that the French outnumbered the English by a 4:3 ratio; some argue that the ratio was closer to 6:1. The English pioneered the use of the longbow in battle, a tool that proved decisive; Henry himself fought in hand-to-hand combat.

By Shakespeare’s time, in 1599, Henry was something of an English superhero.

Today is the anniversary of the day in 287 A.D. that two Christians, Crispin and Crispinian, were martyred in France, which is why Shakespeare had his Henry dedicate the impending battle to St. Crispin. Here is that speech delivered by Sir Kenneth Branagh (photo at top) in his 1989 film version of Henry V:

* * * *
Geoffrey Chaucer died on this date in 1400. There are about 2000 words that made their first appearance in Chaucer’s works that we still use, 616 years later: annoyance, consideration, conspiracy, exaltation, execute, fart, femininity, funeral, scissors, thick and thin …

* * * *
Forrest Tucker died 30 years ago today. Bill Graham died 25 years ago today.

* * * *
Pablo Picasso was born on this date in 1881. Minnie Pearl was born on this date in 1912. John Berryman was born in 1914 on this date. Billy Barty was born on this date in 1924.

* * * *
Marion Ross is 88 today. Anne Tyler is 75. Helen Reddy is 75. James Carville is 72 today. Coach Dan Gable is 68. Katy Perry is 32 today.

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