St. Crispin’s Day and the Original Band of Brothers

Today is St. Crispin’s day — actually , Crispin and Crispian — a day made famous by William Shakespeare’s play Henry V and the “band of brothers” speech that countless students have memorized in school (see Kenneth Branagh’s version above).

Though the battle of Agincourt is nothing to celebrate the fictionalized version of it created by Shakespeare in Henry V has a number of Catholic touches.

  • In the play, Henry tries to establish with the Archbishop of Canterbury that this is a just war.
  • The troops go to confession before their battle.
  • Henry had Non Nobis and Te Deum sung for the dead.

But the best part, of course, is that it he tied it all to a  Catholic feast day.

The text endearingly expects that England will always be the kind of country that celebrates these two martyrs.

The stories of martyrs Crispin and Crispian, shoemaker brothers who refused to back down from Maximian Herculeus in 286 and were tortured and then thrown into the river tied to millstones — is part of the real “band of brothers” who will always be remembered for their heroism: the martyrs.

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.