The chilly coronation of Henry V

Today in History: 9th April 1413 

Kenneth Branagh as Henry V

Right now, in the UK, the weather is all that anyone seems able to talk about.

“It’s snowing!” people keep telling me, like I don’t have eyes, shaking their heads incredulously. “In April. It’s April!” My Facebook newsfeed is populated with pictures of limp, grey snowmen and effusions of how cold people are and how they can’t believe it’s snowing in April. In April!

On this day – 9th April – in 1413, it was far worse than a bit of sleet. The entire country was blanketed with snow drifts that buried the livestock (much like we’ve lately seen on the TV ad nauseum – those poor little lambs!) and even some unfortunate people.

Regardless of the inclement weather, it was decided that this Passion Sunday was going to be the grand coronation of the young Henry V, who had become king upon the death of his father, Henry IV, the month before. Henry’s relatively short procession from the Tower of London to Westminster Abbey was slow, as the attendants had to regularly stop to shake snow from the silken canopy they were holding over their new king’s head.

The common people didn’t quite know what to make of it. The blizzards were so bad – and so unseasonable – that surely there had to be some divine or occult message behind them? Was God showing his disapproval of this new sovereign? Not at all, Henry’s supporters claimed – the snow was a sign of favour. Its whiteness symbolised Henry’s purity, its softness his mercy.

As it happened, Henry’s coronation went off without a hitch and his reign is one of the most celebrated of English history, mainly due to his military successes in France (Agincourt being the prime example) and his ‘glamorous, rock-star’ death at the early age of 35 whilst on campaign.

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