March 16th – Who is King Henry V and Why is He on Trial?

Updated: March 18th

Mock Trial: Judgment at Agincourt at the Sidney Harman Hall in DC:
Presided by Supreme Court Justice Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The most high and Honorable King Henry shall soon be tried for crimes of war by:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, presiding
Justice Samuel Alito
Chief Judge Paul Michel
Judge Janice Rogers Brown
Judge Merrick Garland
Judge Brett Kavanaugh
Judge David Tatel

So who is King Henry the Fifth?
If you went to the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton Va. for the Fall Season of 2009, you might have caught their excellent version of Henry IV part 1, which introduced us to young Prince Hal (Henry). Hal is the son of King Henry IV, and the kings main disappointment in life. Hal, who is next in line to be king, is a selfish fun-loving rouge, hanging around with the lowest class of thieves, robbers and other common folks. But Hal has a plan, it appears there’s not a move or action in his life for which he has not calculated. And soon in Henry IV Part 1 Hal lets us in on his thoughts:

So, when this loose behavior I throw off
And pay the debt I never promised,
By how much better than my word I am,
By so much shall I falsify men’s hopes;
And like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation, glittering o’er my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.
I’ll so offend, to make offence a skill;
Redeeming time when men think least I will
. – Prince Henry

The lower he sinks in the eyes of men, the higher and more majestically will he appear, as he soars to greatness, and overcomes the baseness of his supposed nature. At the end of this play, Prince Henry  proves his metal, performs great deeds, and achieves redemption in the eyes of his father.

Where the play Henry IV introduces us to Prince Henry (Hal), the play Henry V is about Prince Henry who is now the King. And as King, his advisers have discovered, and shown the king, that he has a legitimate claim to rule all of France. After a display of these proofs King Henry makes a decision to embark from England and take France by storm, though the odds be overwhelming.

So by ship Henry and his army are very soon on the shores of France, and the battles commence. King Henry shows himself to be a very heroic and just commander. Showing great mercies to his surrendered enemy’s at Harfleur, and demanding that his troops while in France show all due respect to the French citizenry. Informing his troops NOTHING shall be taken that is not paid for on pain of death.

So King Henry cuts a path through France, following and respecting the rule of war giving mercy when he can. Until Agincourt.

King Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt, by John Gilbert

The Kings men are battered and tired, the odds are 5 men to 1 against them, and one of Henry’s men comes in and tells a tale of friendship and death that brings tears to Henry’s eyes. Then an alarm sounds, and Henry, most likely feeling Victory or Defeat hanging by a thread gives the order:

But, hark! what new alarum is this same?
The French have reinforced their scatter’d men:
Then every soldier kill his prisoners:
Give the word through. –
King Henry

And here is the point, “Then every soldier kill his prisoners”. Was Henry wrong to give this order? Even if overwhelmed himself, did he have the right to kill those combatants that have surrendered themselves to his mercy?

That is the question that this court has been convened to answer

Mock Trial: Judgment at Agincourt

Tuesday, March 16, 2010
5:30 p.m. Dinner
7:30 p.m. Argument

Update: March 18 – The results of the trial are in, click here


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