7 Ways Henry the V was a Christian King

King Henry the VThe Mirror of a Christian King

Was Henry the V a “Christian King?” William Shakespeare, in his play Henry V, seems to say “yes!”.

There is a famous line in the play which calls Henry “the mirror of all Christian kings.”What does Shakespeare tell us about his ideals of kingship through Henry V? Let’s look at some examples:

He is valiant. We began to see this in Henry IV Part One, when Henry is wounded, he keeps fighting. In Henry V, he courageously leads his men, both at Harfleur and Agincourt. He sends away the French herald who has come to arrange ransom in advance, telling the herald that he would rather die than be captured and ransomed.

He is just. Henry wants to be sure that his claim to the French throne—and therefore the war he is raging—is just, asking for the sincere advice of the bishop of Canterbury in a long conversation (Henry V, 1.2). Later, during the campaign, his old tavern companion, Bardolph is caught stealing. The king upholds the sentence of hanging, and then declares that “we give express charge that…there be nothing compelled from the villages, nothing taken but paid for, none of the French upbraided or abused in disdainful language…” (Henry V, 3.6)

He is merciful. Though he uses strong threats when addressing the besieged Harfleur, he tells his aide to be merciful to them when they surrender. He does not prosecute the man who challenged him unknowingly to fight.

He is honor-driven. In the famous “St. Crispin’s Day Speech,” when his cousin wishes they had with them more of the men they left in England, Henry replies “…I would not lose so great an honor as one man more, methinks, would share with me, for the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!” (4.3) How different from another of Shakespeare’s characters, the inimitable Falstaff! Falstaff disdains honor as a mere word that can do nothing to help the soldier who died in its name. (Henry IV, Part I, 5.1). Henry, on the other hand, cares not whether or not he dies so long as he has honor.

Non Nobis

Non nobis Domine, non nobis,
sed nomini tuo da gloriam

Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us,
but to Your name give glory.

He is humble. More so than one would typically expect of royalty—and certainly more so than his cocky French enemies! He sees the king as another man with an extra load of responsibility, not as a god among men. After the battle, he refuses to take glory for the incredible victory, or to let his men do so. Instead, he orders that the Non Nobis and Te Deum be sung. When he engages in a different kind of campaign, the campaign to woo a princess’ heart, he is self-deprecating about his ability to woo either with words (“I am glad thou canst speak no better English, [Kate,] for if thou couldst, thou wouldst think I had sold my farm to buy my crown.”) or with good looks (“If thou canst love a fellow…whose face is not worth sunburning, that never looks in his glass for love of anything he sees there…”)(Henry V 5.2).

He is devout. His piety is not simply put on for the show—in his most intimate moments, it is what shapes him. Before the Battle of Agincourt, he muses alone and then prays a heartfelt prayer for help and forgiveness for his father’s sin. In the opening scene of the play, the Bishop of Ely calls Henry “a true love of the holy Church” (Henry V 1.1)

He is crowned. The crux of his development as a character lies in taking up the royal crown and scepter. If “the mission makes the man, ” by extension, there is a sense in which the crown makes the man. A crown is a symbol of responsibility. It is a mission and covenant. It is a great privilege, but one that can be misused.

King Richard II, the shallow and unjust king whom Henry V’s father deposed, took this mission and the concept of divine right in the wrong sense and perverted it, using his position for license. Henry V understood this mission and divine right (hence his guilt over his father’s murder of Richard) in a much truer sense than Richard.

Crowned King Henry the VThe crown, he realizes, is not a tool that he can use; rather it represents a higher authority that will turn him into a tool to serve others. He must decrease in order for his people to increase. In fact, perhaps a better description of this relationship would be “divine covenant.” By taking up the crown, Henry has sacrificed his own desires, put away “the old man,” and become a new creation of sorts. Henry discusses some of these sacrifices in his pre-battle musings on the nature of ceremony, saying that the peasant little knows “What watch the king keeps to maintain the peace, whose hours the peasant best advantages” (Henry V 4.1)

It is not inappropriate to say that coming into the kingship required a kind of conversion on Henry’s part. This is where Richard II failed. Richard was under the same set of covenantal obligations as Henry V, but rejected those obligations. As a result, he was pruned from the tree of royalty, cut off from the kingly covenant. This does not excuse Henry V’s father, Henry IV, from the responsibility of having done the deposing, but it does help us understand Henry V in contrast to his predecessors. Called to the kingship, he has become something greater and nobler than himself.

Valerie FoucachonValerie grew up in France where her father Francis Foucachon was a church planter with Mission to the World. She studied under Wes Callihan in high school through Schola Classical Tutorials, and then attended Logos School where she graduated Summa Cum Laude. She is currently a Senior at New Saint Andrews College, and an official Latin Nerd. She shows her love for the classics by quoting from the Aeneid at random times (in Latin of course). 

The Chrysler Motor Company and Classical Art

The Benefits of a Classical Education for…Car Design?

We can see the influences of ancient classical art all around us, from the symmetrical lines of early 19th century architecture and the imposing columns on government buildings, to the classically inspired clothing of Jane Austen’s day.

But have you ever heard of a classically-inspired car? I certainly hadn’t! However, while doing work for a project, I came across this 1929 Chrysler car advertisement:
Chrysler: Tracing from the origins of classic art
















Yes, in the 1920s, Chrysler decided to look forward by looking back to the classical age for inspiration in the design of their elegant new Coupe. In this and its related ad, we find references to the Parthenon, Egyptian lotus leaf, and “wave border.” Rather than start from scratch with designers’ ideas, Chrysler, in good twentieth century spirit, has applied a “scientific” approach to finding the best aesthetic ideals from the “canons of ancient classic art.” And this is not an isolated case! Other car ads from this era reflect the same classical references, though some come across as comically contrived and forced.

But men in togas and ancient stone temples hardly seem to fit with the relatively-recent development of the automobile. Were the car marketers simply trying to make any possible appeal to an intellectually elite audience? Or cultivate a more rooted image ethos in the fast-growing market? Or was there something more widespread going on?

The clue lies in the popular artistic developments of the 1920s and 30s, the Art Deco movement. We can often pick out Art Deco by its iconic combinations of clean-cut lines, swirled curves and jagged straight lines that influenced architecture, interior design, and fashion after World War One. Car design rhetoric reflected the influences on the art of the time. Art Deco represented a bold new step away from the florid and busy Art Nouveau of earlier decades, yet “symbolically referenced ancient civilizations.” It seems that automobile customers were so aware of Art Deco’s classical connections that even the Vestal Virgins helped make some car sales!

Watch Chrysler trace the early history of man as it pertains to the development of the car, from a day when engineers were classically educated!

Next Week’s Friday Foray: What the Well-Dressed Roman-About-Town is Wearing

Valerie FoucachonValerie grew up in France where her father Francis Foucachon was a church planter with Mission to the World. She studied under Wes Callihan in high school through Schola Classical Tutorials, and then attended Logos School where she graduated Summa Cum Laude. She is currently a Senior at New Saint Andrews College, and an official Latin Nerd. She shows her love for the classics by quoting from the Aeneid at random times (in Latin of course). 

How do Credits and Transcripts work with Old Western Culture? | Webcast

Credits and Transcripts for HomeschoolersI’ve received several questions from parents about how to record Old Western Culture on a transcript, and how much credit it’s worth in terms of completeing high school.

I created a 10 min webcast to answer these questions. I hope this helps you, and don’t hesitate to post a question or comment below, or be emailing info@romanroadsmedia.com.


– A blank high school transcript. Download: Word (RTF)  or PDF
– Completed example transcript: PDF


Old Western Culture is an integrated humanities, double credit high school course. Those credits most often fit into the “Social Studies” category. Depending on the unit, Old Western History can be “de-integrated” for the purpose of fulfilling specific transcript requirements. It can fill requirements for Ancient Literature, Ancient History, Medieval History, Medieval Literatures, Early Modern History, British Literature, Poetry, Theology/Doctrine, Philosophy, Art History, and English and Writing (see video).

Wes Callihan LIVE? Yes please! (And a special offer)

Wes Callihan reading John of Damascus during Hill AbbeyWes Callihan, the author of the Old Western Culture curriculum, has been offering live classes through Schola Classical Tutorials since 1997. In addition to “Great Books I-IV” (corresponding to Old Western Culture years 1-4: The Greeks, The Romans, Christendom, and Early Moderns), Wes Callihan also teaches Homeric Greek, Rhetoric, Church History, and Astronomy.

A pioneer of the modern Classical education movement and a teacher of teachers, a live class with Wes Callihan is not something to be missed! He is known for his ability to bring the essence of the Great Books that shaped the Western world into story form, and create an environment of community and camaraderie among his student, who can live-chat questions during his lectures. As a generation of Schola graduates now demonstrate, the end result are students who leave his classes with the love of learning and the kernel of curiosity planted in their hearts and minds.


Schola Classical TutorialsAs a special promotion running SEPTEMBER 1st – 7th, receive 1 unit from The Greeks  FREE with any NEW course sign-up from Schola Classical Tutorials ($56 value)! Once you’ve signed up at the Schola website, send an email to info@romanroadsmedia.com with your unit of choice from The Greeks and we’ll send you the DVD set!

Enjoy Wes Callihan live AND have his teaching in DVD form!

In what way is Old Western Culture a “Christian Approach” to the Great Books?

crossOld Western Culture is a distinctly Christian course. The creators of the course believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, the Providence of God working in history, and that all truth is God’s truth wherever it may be found.

A Christian worldview is not “taught” as an afterthought, but assumed throughout and thoroughly integrated in the approach to the material. Below are two small excerpts from the course which demonstrate how this works itself out in Old Western Culture.


Platonic Heresies and the Church (excerpt from The Philosophers).

The Bitterness of Achilles (excerpt from The Epics).

Does Old Western Culture present the perspective of a specific denomination?

Wes Callihan, the author, makes this statement:

I teach explicitly as a Christian and in the light of the historic, universal Christian faith. In nearly every class I make connections to that faith and to the radically
redemptive character of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of His Resurrection and of the church’s mission for individuals and nations. I affirm three things as most important:

  1. the Nicene Creed as a faithful summary of the Christian faith,
  2. the gospel as declared in John 3:16, Romans 10:9-13, and I Corinthians 15:1-4, and
  3. the absolute necessity of Christian unity and love in the bond of peace as expressed in Galatians 5:22-23 and throughout I John.

I am largely in agreement with the major Reformational Protestant confessions, especially the Westminster Confession of Faith and the 39 Articles of the Church of England, but am deeply appreciative of and often sympathetic to the historic Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.

None of this is required of students – the only spiritual requirements are a good attitude and a willingness to learn – but it should be expected that the teaching will clearly, explicitly, and regularly reflect a historical and classical Christian perspective.

If Old Western Culture is a Christian course, why does it include Pagan literature?

More on why you should study Pagan literature:
– Q&A with Wes Callihan: Why Should we Study Pagan Authors? (10 min video)
– Course Excerpt from The Philosophers: St. Paul alludes to Socrates (2:44 min video)

Why Readers, Scientifically, Are The Best People To Fall In Love With

Reading is romanticI recently read an article about why readers, scientifically speaking, are the best people to fall in love with. I agree! I married a woman who loves to read, and loves to learn! She read all the right books while growing up! (Incidentally, she took Wes Callihan’s Great Books courses online in high school).

The article points to several benefits that reading will bring a reader. It enables them to speak to someone in a meaningful way. It allows a person to understand other people; it teaches the art of empathy. And it gives wisdom that years of actual experience could never give.

Because reading is something that molds you and adds to your character. Each triumph, lesson and pivotal moment of the protagonist becomes your own.
Every ache, pain and harsh truth becomes yours to bear. You’ve traveled with authors and experienced the pain, sorrow and anguish they suffered while writing through it. You’ve lived a thousand lives and come back to learn from each of them.

This is very similar to what Wes Callihan says when he encouraged the reading of imaginative literature, which he called “bootcamp for life.”

Stories are Bootcamp for Life

So read often, read good books, and read varied books!

If you want to be guided through the reading of the greatest books, check out Old Western Culture!

Germanic Jesus | Peter Leithart

The following article was written by Peter J Leithart as a guest post for Roman Roads Media. 

Germanic Jesus

A Roman mosaic which is said to be the head of Christ

A Roman mosaic which is said to be the head of Christ

The Germanic presence in Northern Europe posed a significant challenge to Christian missionaries, writers, and poets, which are well described by Peter Brown at the end of his Rise of Western Christendom.

On the one hand, there was the intellectual difficulty. Christianity originally arose within the Greco-Roman sphere, and even though it was Jewish, the Judaism in which Jesus and Paul operated was nestled within the Roman Empire, and had been flavored by compromise and  conflicts with various Gentile powers since the Babylonian exile. Sorting through how Christian faith related to Greek and Roman culture was tricky, but there was at least biblical warrant for seeing the Roman empire as the providential context for the Messiah’s coming and the rise of the church (Daniel 2, 7, eg).

But the empire weakened and “barbarians” invaded, the Germans posed a new problem: How did the Germanic peoples fit into a Christian account of history? Some Christian writers argued that the Lord had raised up the Germanic tribes to discipline a degenerate empire, Christian only in name. Once the Northern tribes converted, though, how were Christians to make sense of the Germanic past? The church fathers had viewed Greco-Roman culture, for all its paganism and flaws, as a preparatio evangelii, a preparation for the gospel. Was Germanic civilization the same?

9th century depiction of Christ as a heroic warrior (Stuttgart Psalter, fol. 23, illustration of Psalm 91:13)

9th century depiction of Christ as a heroic warrior (Stuttgart Psalter, fol. 23, illustration of Psalm 91:13)

There was also a political dimension to this problem. As Brown points out, northern European kings who promoted Christianity and protected the church depended on genealogy for their legitimacy. Their pagan ancestors gave them legitimacy in the Christian present. They couldn’t simply discard their pagan past without undermining their basis of power. Further, the pagan past, expressed in oral legends and poems – though very little was written – provided a “rule book” for the Germanic aristocracy, embodying the ethos of the ruling class, which was shaped by these poems and sagas and legends as ancient Greeks were educated by Homer.

As Brown puts it,

“They knew very well what it was to be noble. They grew up in an overwhelmingly oral culture which was awash with stories and maxims. These told them how to behave as noble men and noble women. To be noble was to stand out. It was to live well and to be seen by others to live well. It was to foster with gusto the memory of a past which lay on the edge of the Christian present. This was a past which was always a little larger than life. It was a past where human glory, human tragedy, and the working out of human obligations were so much more vivid and so much more clear-cut, so much more brimming over with magnificent lack of measure, than was the grey, Christian present. To be noble was to toast one’s companions with great drinking-horns that carried as much liquor as a present-day bottle of Moselle; to engage in high talk and loud laughter; to listen to the ancient sound of the harpist.”

Germanic rulers had a vested interest in preserving ancient stories and legends. Charlemagne, for instance, saw himself as “Roman,” yet according to his biographer Einhard he had “the unwritten laws of all the tribes that came under his rule to be compiled and reduced to writing. He also directed that the age-old, non-Latin poems in which were celebrated the warlike deeds of the kings of ancient times should be written out and preserved.”

They preserved not only legends about the exploits of ancient kings and warriors but myths about the wars and loves of pagan gods. Brown writes that the gods ” were seen as part of a glorious past. The past still gave a charge to the present. Hence the gods remained. Solemn figures even in their decline, they were like an ancient dynasty which had once ruled the earth until forced to abdicate in favor of the Christ of modern times. Without a touch of the gods ‘in the blood,’ as it were, modern kings could not be great. And if they could not be great, they could not act as effective defenders of the Church.”

Monk copying a manuscript

Monk copying a manuscript

In one of the deepest ironies of Western culture, Christian clergymen and monks were responsible for writing down, often for the first time, the pagan legends and sagas and epics of Northern Europe. Brown puts the point dramatically: “there is not a word which was written about northern paganism that did not pass through the pens of Christian monks and clergymen. Apart from the writers of runes . . . the clergy remained the only literate class in northern Europe. And yet it was the clergy who went out of their way to consign to writing – and so have made available to us – all that we know of the pre-Christian narratives, the poetry, and the laws of Ireland, England, Scandinavia, and Germany.” Brown argues that “those who wrote down the legends and poetry of the pre-Christian past in Ireland, Anglo-Saxon England, and Iceland were not grudging recorders, catching in written words the last vestiges of a pagan mythology doomed to extinction by the coming of the Christian church. The situation was not like that at all. Rather, Christian monks and clergymen should be seen as the last great myth-makers of northern Europe. They transformed a living pagan past, so as to use it in their own, Christian present.”

In this way, the legends and epics of heroic northern Europe became part of the heritage of Christendom. Given the power of the “cult of the classics” in the modern world, we often forget that from the eighth and ninth centuries at least, the culture of Christian Europe drew on Jewish and Christian sources, but was also inspired by Greek, Roman, and Germanic paganism.

Figure carved on the Frankish grave stele of Niederdollendorf (7th century), known as the earliest material witness of Christian presence in the German Rhineland; the figure is presumably a depiction of Christ as a heroic warrior wielding a lance, with a halo or crown of rays emanating from his head

Figure carved on the Frankish grave stele of Niederdollendorf (7th century), known as the earliest material witness of Christian presence in the German Rhineland; the figure is presumably a depiction of Christ as a heroic warrior wielding a lance.

Entering Christendom Germanic culture was considerably modified, as of course was Greco-Roman culture. The portrait of the hero in Beowulf, for instance, is quite other than the image of the heroic warrior in the Greek and Roman epics. Northern Europe also formed a new kind of hero, the saint, shaped by the cult of the saints that challenged the brutal power of heroic warriors.

Beowulf is the most subtle example of the tension between pagan past and Christian present. It is far from the only example, and some lesser-known works have more evangelistic aims. One of these is the remarkable ninth-century Saxon poem, Heiland, “The Savior,” a series of songs that retell the story of Jesus that is translated for the Germanic warrior culture. Jesus is called a “Chieftain” and the disciples are depicted as his earls and warriors. The feasts are Saxon, with ring givers and apple wine, and an angel warns John the Baptist not to drink hard cider all his life. Heaven is “God’s meadow,” and Jesus’ teaching is described as “runes” and his teaching on prayer is described in terms of teaching a new “spell.”

In song 58, during Jesus’ arrest, Peter intervenes to protect him. As one commentator points out, he acts like one of the Nordic warriors called “berserkers” who were transformed by their battle rage into a superhuman incarnation of battle lust. Peter cannot contain his rage and is so angry he cannot speak, and the description is a typical epic battle description with vivid wounds and lots of blood.

Gǣð ā Wyrd swā hīo scel! Fate goes ever as it must. ~ Beowulf~

Gǣð ā Wyrd swā hīo scel! Fate goes ever as it must. -Beowulf

Like Beowulf, Heiland refers occasionally to fate or “wyrd,” the force that determines when a man is going to die. This pagan concept is synthesized with an emphasis on the sovereignty and creativity of God, so that wyrd is transformed into something like natural law: God initiates everything, puts new processes to work, but then they develop according to an immanent power that God has infused into them. Talking about John the Baptist, the poet says that the “power of God. . . .was felt” and Elizabeth became pregnant, but then “the woman awaited the workings of wyrd,” that is, the day of birth.

In his treatment of fate, we can see what the poet is doing. Even as he’s “heroizing” Jesus, he is Christianizing heroism. Within the apparent germanization of the gospel, the poem aims at an evangelization of the Saxons. The Germanic warrior code is all here: Fate (wyrd) has a prominent place, death is certain but the timing is impossible to know. Yet Jesus overcomes fate, as He lays down His life in the way and at the time He chooses, and then overcomes death itself in His resurrection.

In the poem, mortality is linked to blindness, especially blindness about fate and the future. When he heals a blind man in Jericho, it is described as a triumph over fate. Christ cures the blindness that is inherent in the human condition, and this makes him the greatest of all heroes, as He fulfills the hopes and aspirations of Saxon warrior culture. Unlike John’s birth, Jesus’ birth is described without reference to fate at all. Jesus does all things by his own power because He has unique power over all things.

The poet contextualizes the sermon on the mount to the Saxon warrior ethic. While it makes the sermon as palatable to warriors as possible, it also challenges their way of life at a fundamental level. Love for enemies and the prohibition of vengeance, after all, strike at the foundations of the warrior culture.

St. Boniface, cutting down the "Woden tree"

St. Boniface, cutting down the “Woden tree”

The poem contains several allusions to Boniface’s felling of the tree of Woden. Words for “felling” trees are used, but instead of trees, pagans are cut down, and the axe is the word of Jesus. Christ is presented as a power greater than Woden. The Spirit-dove on His shoulder rivals and replaces the raven on the shoulder of Woden. Jesus is a teller of secrets and revealer of runes. He walks on water and comes from heaven, like Thor.

Heiland is, in short, not only a example of the synthesis of Germanic-Christian culture, but illustrates some of the ways the church filled the wineskins of pagan heroic culture with the wine of the gospel, until paganism burst open and something new was born.

Peter LeithartDr. Peter Leithart received an A.B. in English and History from Hillsdale College in 1981, and a Master of Arts in Religion and a Master of Theology from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia in 1986 and 1987. In 1998 he received his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge in England. He has served in two pastorates: He was pastor of Reformed Heritage Presbyterian Church (now Trinity Presbyterian Church), Birmingham, Alabama from 1989 to 1995, and was founding pastor of Trinity Reformed Church, Moscow, Idaho, and served on the pastoral staff at Trinity from 2003-2013.. From 1998 and 2013 he taught theology and literature at New St. Andrews College, Moscow, Idaho, where he continues to teach as an adjunct Senior Fellow. He now serves as President of Trinity House. He and his wife, Noel, have ten children and five grandchildren. He currently blogs at First Things

History: A Moral Requirement


The study of history is a moral requirement for Christians. 
Think of the Israelites who were required to remember the past. 
Think of Paul in the NT: ‘These things were written for our instruction.’

– Wesley Callihan, Porch of our Fathers

History: A Moral Obligation

John Adams to his son: Read Thucydides

Thucydides by William Smith, AM

Thucydides, translated by William Smith, A.M.

John Adams wrote to his son, John Quincy Adams, soon after the Declaration of Independence, exhorting him to read Thucydides as a way to be best prepared for the days ahead of him as a leader. Here is the full letter:

My dear Son,

As the War in which your Country is engaged will probably hereafter attract your Attention, more than it does at this Time, and as the future Circumstances of your Country, may require other Wars, as well as Councils and Negotiations, similar to those which are now in Agitation, I wish to turn your Thoughts early to such Studies, as will afford you the most solid Instruction and Improvement for the Part which may be allotted you to act on the Stage of Life.
There is no History, perhaps, better adapted to this usefull Purpose than that of Thucidides, an Author, of whom I hope you will make yourself perfect Master, in original Language, which is Greek, the most perfect of all human Languages. In order to understand him fully in his own Tongue, you must however take Advantage, of every Help you can procure and particularly of Translations of him into your own Mother Tongue.
You will find in your Fathers Library, the Works of Mr. Hobbes, in which among a great deal of mischievous Philosophy, you will find a learned and exact Translation of Thucidides, which will be usefull to you.
But there is another Translation of him, much more elegant, intituled “The History of the Peloponnesian War, translated from the Greek of Thucidides in two Volumes Quarto, by William Smith A.M. Rector of the Parish of the holy Trinity in Chester, and Chaplain to the Right Honourable the Earl of Derby.”
If you preserve this Letter, it may hereafter remind you, to procure the Book.
You will find it full of Instruction to the Orator, the Statesman, the General, as well as to the Historian and the Philosopher. You may find Something of the Peloponnesian War, in Rollin.
I am with much Affection your Father,
John Adams

The translation of Thucydides mentioned is available as a scanned document from Google Books! You can see and read it HERE.

Wes Callihan guides students through Thucydides’ great work, “History of the Pelloponnesian War,” the same book mentioned above, in The Histories unit of Old Western Culture.