‘Cry “God for Harry, England, and Saint George!”‘ booms the titular character of Shakespeare’s Henry V. Shakespeare’s history play is a chest-thumping, patriotic romp that tells the story of King Henry V of England’s triumph over the French at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, and the king continues to appeal to patriotic Englishmen today. Henry V was the son of Henry IV, a noble who removed his nephew, Richard II, from the throne of England. The former’s military talent was key to his father keeping his disputed throne, ably putting down the Glyndŵr and Percy uprisings and winning plaudits.
Henry’s 1413 coronation was accompanied by a heavy snowstorm, and opinion was split on how to interpret this omen. Fortunately, it turned out to be a positive one, for Henry’s diplomacy brought peace to England. Most famously, Henry’s campaigns against France during the Hundred Years’ War saw him marry the daughter of the King of France and named heir to his throne, seemingly ending the bloody conflict in England’s favour, in 1420. The aforementioned Battle of Agincourt was a real highlight, and the date is never forgotten by English schoolchildren. Unfortunately, Henry died in 1422, and the conflict resumed.
Perhaps the only thing Henry had in common with King John was how he died. Not everyone in France was happy for an Englishman (and one who had killed so many Frenchmen, to boot) to be crowned king, and in 1422 Henry had to put down an uprising in northern France. He contracted dysentery at the Siege of Meaux, and died a few months later in great pain and, probably, embarrassment. In a final irony, the French King, Charles VI, died only a few months later, which would have made Henry King of France and England. Bad luck, mate.