November 23rd – On this day in 1415 took place Henry V’s triumphal return to London after his famous victory over the French at the Battle of Agincourt on October 25th. An anonymous author wrote the following eye-witness account:
“[T]he citizens went out to meet the king at the brow of Blackheath, … the mayor and … aldermen in scarlet, and the … lesser citizens in red cloaks with red-and-white party-coloured hoods, to the number of about 20000 … . And when the king came through the midst of them … and the citizens had given glory and honour to God, and congratulations to the king … the citizens rode before him towards the city, and the king followed … .
When they arrived at the … bridge … there placed on the top of the tower was an enormous figure, with … the keys of the city hanging from a staff in his … hand … .
… And when they reached the … aqueduct in Cornhill they found the tower hidden under a scarlet cloth stretched in the form of a tent, on spears hidden under the cloth. Surrounding … were the arms of St George, St Edward, St Edmund and of England, … inset with this pious legend: ‘Since the king hopes in the Lord and in the mercy of the highest, he shall not be moved’. Under a covering was a band of venerable white-haired prophets, … who released, when the king came by, sparrows and other small birds in great cloud as a … thanksgiving to God for the victory He had given …, while [they] sang in a sweet voice … [a] psalm … .
Then they went on to the tower of the conduit at the entrance to Cheapside which was decked with an awning of green … and erected to resemble a building.
… And when they came to the [Eleanor] cross in Cheapside … it was hidden by a beautiful castle of wood … .
… And when they came to the tower the conduit at the exit to Cheapside towards St Paul’s, … above the tower was stretched a canopy sky-blue in colour … and the top … was adorned by an archangel in shining gold … . Below … was a figure of majesty represented by a sun darting out flashing rays … .
… Such was the dense throng of people in Cheapside … that a bigger or more impressive crowd had never gathered before in London.
But the king himself went along, amidst … the citizens, dressed in a purple robe, not with a haughty look and a pompous train … but with a serious countenance and a reverend pace accompanied by only a few of his most faithful servants; following him, guarded by knights, were the captured dukes, counts and the marshal. From his silent face and … sober pace it could be inferred that the king … was giving thanks and glory to God alone and not to man. And when he had visited the sanctuary of SS Peter and Paul, he rode away to his palace of Westminster, escorted by his citizens”.