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The Agincourt Carol

[ Roud V29347 ; Ballad Index MEL51 ; trad.]

This song celebrates the victory of King Henry V over the French at Agincourt in 1415 which gave England for the first time the upper hand in the War of Hundred Years. Henry V had neither “good life” nor “good ending”; and his early death in 1422 and the subsequent defeat in France started the War of the Roses.

The Young Tradition sang The Agincourt Carol in 1968 on their last LP, Galleries. They were accompanied by The Early Music Consort and Dolly Collins. Heather Wood noted:

King Henry V was so appalled by the cost in lives of the victory of Agincourt that he forbade it to be made the subject of song, but the author of this carol was spared because of the quality of his verse. Well, it’s a nice story. This song was something of an endurance test for the musicians who played it straight through without a break. David Munrow, on shawm, practically collapsed afterwards.

Canterbury Fair sang The Agincourt Song on their eponymous 1977 album Canterbury Fair. They noted:

After his great victory over the French at Agincourt in 1415, Henry V forbade any songs to be made of his victory—the victory was God’s. Thus it would appear that to overcome the royal command, whoever created the song hat the sense to include in the text of the burden, “Deo gratias”—“Thanks be to god”. In the different versions of the carol, the burden may change, but “Deo gratias” is always there. The quotation preceding the song is Shakespeare’s, though we couldn’t ask him if he minded our using it.

A version of the song appeared in Erik Routley’s The English Carol (Herbert Jenkins Ltd, 1958).

Regal Slip sang the Agincourt Carol in 1981 on their Dingle’s album Bandstand. They noted:

An anonymous account of the triumphant return of Henry V in 1415 after the Battle of Agincourt.

The Silly Sisters (June Tabor and Maddy Prior) recorded verses 1 and 6 of the Agincourt Carol in 1988 for their second album, No More to the Dance.

Sue Brown and Lorraine Irwing sang the Agincourt Carol in 1997 on their WildGoose CD Call & Cry. They noted:

It’s said that Henry V was so horrified by the loss of life at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 that he forbade any songs to be written about his victory.

Ewan MacColl used the Agincourt Carol as basis for his song Bring the Summer Home.


The Young Tradition sing The Agincourt Carol

Owre kynge went forth to Normandy,
With grace and myyt of chivalry;
The God for hym wrouyt marvelously,
Wherefore Englonde may calle, and cry

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Deo gratias
Deo gratias
Anglia redde pro victoria.

He sette a sege, the sothe for to say,
To Harflue toune with ryal aray;
That toune he wan, and made a fray,
That Fraunce shall rywe tyl domes day.

Then went owre kynge, with alle his oste,
Thorowe Fraunce for all the Frenshe boste;
He spared ’for’ drede of leste, ne most,
Tyl he come to Agincourt coste.

Than for sothe that knyyt comely
In Agincourt feld he fauyt manly
Thorow grace of God most myyty
He had bothe the felde, and the victory

Ther dukys, and erlys, lorde and barone,
Were take, and slayne, and that wel sone,
And some were ledde in to Lundone
With joye, and merthe, and grete renone

Noe gratious God he save owre kynge,
His peple, and all his wel wyllynge,
Gef him gode lyfe, and gode endynge,
That we with merth mowe savely syng

Regala Slip sing Agincourt Carol

Deo gratias Anglia,
Redde pro victoria.

Our King went forth to Normandy,
With grace and might of chivalry.
There God for him wrought marv’lously,
Wherefore England may call and cry.

He set a siege sooth for to say
To Harfleur town with royal array.
That town he won and made affray,
That France shall rue til Doomesday.

Then went our King with all his host
Through France for all the French did boast.
He spared neither least nor most,
’Til he came to Agincourt coast.

Then forsooth that comely Knight
In Agincourt field did manly fight.
Through grace of God most mighty,
He had both field and victory.

There dukes and earls lord and baron
Were taken slain and that well soon.
And some were led into London
With joy and mirth and great renown.

Now gracious God he save our King,
His people and all his good willing.
Give him good life and good ending,
That we with mirth may safely sing.

Deo gratias Anglia,
Redde pro victoria.