25 Oct 20 St Crispin’s Day! Two early Christian brothers, Crispin and Crispinian, were martyred for their faith in Gaul (France) by the local Roman governor (Rictiovarus) somewhere around 286AD. At the time, Roman Emperor Diocletian in particular, well aware of Rome’s decline under his watch, was anxious to revive the Empire’s previous glory by restoring ecumenical veneration of the former pantheon of Roman gods. This annoying “Christian” faith did not fit in! Many early Christians thus suffered martyrdom during the “Diocletiantic Persecution,” under Emperors Diocletian, Maximian, Galerius, and Constantine, between 275AD and 313AD (ending with the “Edict of Milan,” under Constantine) . Emperor Nero had also arranged for the martyrdom of Christians, probably including New Testament authors Peter and Paul, much earlier in 65-68AD. After Nero’s death, Christians suffered sporadic persecution throughout the Empire, but it was officially revived in earnest under Diocletian, as noted! The Crispin brothers came from a prominent Roman family, but after their conversion to Christianity, fled to Gaul (France) to escape persecution. There, they supported themselves by making and repairing shoes. Hence, they have become the “patron saints” of shoemakers, and 25 October has been, since medieval times, celebrated as “The Shoemakers’ Holiday,” when shoemakers close their shops in commemoration. This tradition continues to this day in the UK and in France! The entire story of the Crispins’ stoic Christian faith and personal sacrifice, or for that matter that they ever even existed, may be all myth. In fact, the official “Feast day of St Crispin,” traditionally celebrated on the 25th of October, was removed from the Roman Catholic Church’s Universal Liturgical Calendar by the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), due to dubious origins of its historical record. Yet, St Crispin’s Day was generally observed throughout Christendom for many centuries. It is largely forgotten today. In fact, it would likely be completely forgotten, where it not for William Shakespear! In 1600AD in England, Shakespear wrote a play entitled “Henry V,” designed to remind his countrymen of the importance of Henry V’s reign (1413AD-1422AD), and particularly the significance of the “Battle of Agincourt” (25 Oct 1415AD) where Henry came very close to re-uniting England and France, which had been joined together in 1066AD, but subsequently separated since 1300AD by the “One Hundred Years War” On the eve of battle, we see King Henry delivering to his troops his stirring “Band of Brothers Address,” which has inspired Operators, including me, ever since! I often recite it to my students! As the scene opens, Henry’s cousin, Westmoreland, is lamenting that their host is small, compared with the French army that surrounds them, and he openly wishes that more of his countrymen had stepped forth to serve. Henry replies: “What’s he who wishes so? My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin! If we are marked to die, then we are enough to do our country loss, and if to live, the fewer men, the greater share of honor. God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more! By Jove, I am not covetous for gold, nor care I who doth feed upon my cost. It yearns me not if men my garments wear. Such outward things dwell not in my desires. But, if it be a sin to covet honor, then I am the most offending soul alive! No, faith, my coz, wish not one more man from England: God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honor as one man more, methinks, would share from me For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more! Rather this very night proclaim it, Westmoreland, throughout my host: Any man who has no stomach for this fight, let him depart now! His passport shall be made, and crowns for convoy put into his purse We would not die in that man’s company, who fears his fellowship to die with us! This day is called ‘The Feast of St Crispin.’ Who outlives this day, and comes safe home will stand a tip-toe when the day is named, And rouse him at the name of Crispin. Who shall live this day and see old age, will yearly on the Vigil Feast to his neighbors say “Tomorrow is Saint Crispin’s Day’ Then, he will he strip his sleeve and show his scars and say to them, ‘These wounds I had on St Crispin’s day.’ Old men forget, but he’ll remember what feats we did that day! Then shall our names, familiar in his mouth as household words: Henry the King, Bedford, Exeter, Warwick, Talbot, Salisbury, and Gloucester, be in their flowing cups freshly remembered. And this story shall every good man teach his son, and Crispin shall never go by, from this day to the end of the world, but in it we shall be remembered:
We few, we happy few, we Band of Brothers; For he today who sheds his blood with mine shall be my brother, be he never so vile that this day shall gentle his condition And on that day, those men who are at this moment a-bed in England shall think themselves accursed they were not here with us, and shall count their manhood cheap while any speak who fought with us upon St Crispin’s day All is ready, if our minds be so. You know your places, Gentlemen. God be with us all!” Happy St Crispin’s day, 25 Oct in the Year of our Lord 2020AD, to all who were “there with us,” and a moment of silence for those among our brothers who never returned! /John