From Agincourt to Croydon?

By - Friday 20th November, 2015

We few, we happy few, we band of… Croydonians? Sean Creighton dares to dream

Michael Jones’ book on Agincourt. Image used with permission.

In September 2015, Croydon councillor and GLA representative Steve O’Connell invited a French journalist to have a meal with him and drink a toast to the English victory at the battle of Agincourt. He was responding to the journalist’s disparaging remarks about Croydon during September’s rugby world cup, when the team was based here but didn’t, if reports are to be believed, have the most enjoyable of stays. O’Connell, however, warmly endorsed the choice of Croydon for the French rugby team’s training camp.

“I know that it is the national pastime of both our countries to be rude about each other”, he said, “but your remarks are beyond the pale. Your insults move me to defend the honour of London’s finest borough. I would ask that you rethink your unkind remarks and I offer a guided tour around town culminating in a Croydon curry. We could make it a double celebration: of England’s irresistible charge to the final, and also a glass raised to October’s 600th anniversary of Agincourt. Just a thought”.

Croydon has a resident Agincourt expert

That Croydon curry had a lot of reconciling to do, for the history of relations between the two countries is long and generally acrimonious. O’Connell of course spoke partially in jest, but on the 600th anniversary of a battle which is lodged deep in the nation’s psyche, (mainly because of the Shakespeare play, Henry V, and the wartime morale boosting film with Lawrence Olivier in the starring role) he got me thinking. I began to wonder whether there are any connections between Croydon and that long-ago battlefield.

There’s another reason for my curiosity; I have a personal link. I am descended on my mother’s side from Jean II Le Maingre, also called Boucicaut (1366 — 1421), the Marshal of France, who is mentioned in Henry V. Captured at Agincourt, as a noble he was spared from Henry order to massacre prisoners.

I also know that Croydon has a resident Agincourt expert. The historian and author Michael Jones has lived in the borough since 1997 and although best known for his work on twentieth century battlefields, is a medievalist by training. In a return to longbows and horse-mounted warfare, he’s written again on medieval topics in recent times: on the discovery of the body of Richard III under the car park in Leicester and on Agincourt itself.

So I contacted Mike to ask him: is there a Croydonian connection to Agincourt? Could the army have marched through the Croydon area to reach the South Coast? How many Croydonian soldiers were there taking part in the campaign and the battle?

Sadly, there’s no real Croydon connection to Agincourt

Mike let me down gently.

“There is no real Croydon connection to Agincourt”, he said. “The army mustered at Southampton, and we have no identifiable links with any of the soldiers, who were usually mustered by retinue under their local lord.” It’s not all bad news: Mike tells me that my ancestor Marshal Boucicaut “is extremely interesting. He was the original commander of the French army, before higher-ranking French aristocrats took over, and drew up a battle plan, rediscovered in the archives, which would have given the English a lot of trouble if it had been followed. I talk about this, and Boucicaut in general, in my new book”.

So I’m left taking pride in my own connections. Here’s hoping that Steve O’Connell’s curry helped to smooth over feelings bruised on the rugby field and played Croydon’s part in maintaining the Entente Cordiale.

Sean Creighton

Sean Creighton

A former employee of and freelance project worker with community and voluntary organisations, Sean is active with Croydon Assembly and with the Planning and Transport Committee of the Love Norbury group of residents associations. He is Chair of the Norbury Community Land Trust. He is a historian of Croydon and South-West London, British black society, social action and the labour movement. He coordinates the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History networks. He runs blog sites covering Croydon, Norbury and history events, issues and news. He runs a small scale publishing imprint called History & Social Action Publications. He gives talks on a range of history topics and leads history walks.

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  • Robert Ward

    Personally I prefer Crecy.

    • Stephen Giles