Jacob Rees-Mogg: St Crispin’s Day resignation letter explained, Battle of Agincourt and Shakespeare connection
The MP chose to date his resignation letter to the Prime Minister in the most Rees-Mogg way possible
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As new Prime MinisterRishi Sunakgot to work reshuffling his Cabinet, appointing and dismissing ministers as he saw fit to reshape the government in his own image, a number of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss allies made their feelings known by resigning.
One of those ministers was Jacob Rees-Mogg, who quit as business secretary after conceding he would not get a job in Sunak’s Cabinet despite rowing back on a previous claim that the new Prime Minister is a “socialist”.
It’s common practice for ministers and other members of government’s resignation letters to the Prime Minister to be made public through official channels and social media. But Rees-Mogg’s parting shots were not posted to the MP for North East Somerset’s Twitter account.
No great surprises there. But the handwritten statement did catch the eye of many, who spotted the particularly antiquated way Rees-Mogg had chosen to date his correspondence.
Here is everything you need to know.
How did Jacob Rees-Mogg date his resignation letter?
Of course, dating letters and official correspondence is common practice, and we’ve seen government ministers stick to established date formats when tending their resignations in the past few weeks.
But Rees-Mogg took a slightly different approach. Instead of going with the much more standard “25th October 2022”, he decided to head his letter with the ‘date’ of “St. Crispin’s Day”.
The move seemed somewhat in keeping with Rees-Mogg parliamentary caricature, and old-fashioned gentlemen out of touch with modern Britain, living in the past like some kind of exaggerated Beano villain. Surely “bellend” trending on social media a few hours later was simply a coincidence?!
Rees-Mogg’s letter didn’t just include an unusual dating style, but was also handwritten, in stark contrast to the typed resignation letters released on Twitter by other MPs.
In fact, Rees-Mogg’s handwriting is so difficult to read that the Scottish newspaper The National headlined an article: “We bet you can’t read Jacob Rees-Mogg’s handwritten resignation letter.”
What is St. Crispin’s Day?
For the average Brit, this very well may be the first time St. Crispin’s Day has come into your life. So what exactly is it?
St. Crispin’s Day, also known as the Feast of Saint Crispin, is celebrated on 25 October each year and honours the Christian saints Crispin and Crispinian.
Many notable battles have occurred on that day throughout history, notably the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, which was immortalised in Shakespeare’s Henry V in the St Crispin’s Day speech.
But why did Rees-Mogg choose to go with this somewhat archaic date for his resignation letter? Firstly, it may have been to reflect the role from which he was resigning - Secretary of State for Business.
Crispin and Crispinian are the patron saints of cobblers, glove makers, lace makers, lace workers, leather workers, saddle makers, saddlers, shoemakers, tanners, and weavers, and so he may have chosen to reference the twins to reflect his ‘support’ of small business and trades.
Secondly, the twin saints were martyrs for their cause. Born to a noble Roman family, they fled persecution for their beliefs, settling in the Soissons commune in northern France, where they preached Christianity to the Gauls while producing shoes by night.
They earned enough money from their trade to both feed themselves and help the poor, but their success enraged the governor of Belgic Gaul, Rictus Varus, who had them tortured and thrown into the river with millstones around their necks in the year 286.
Rees-Mogg couldn’t possibly have been comparing his resignation to the martyrdom of the two saints, could he? Perhaps he was suggesting that he too earned successes enough to help the needy, but was persecuted for his self-made victories...
In the last few weeks in politics, stranger things have happened.