The Historical Collections of A Citizen of London in the Fifteenth Century. Originally published by Camden Society, London, 1876.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
Among the MSS. now in the Egerton Collection in the British Museum is a small folio volume, numbered 1995 in that collection, which was purchased in 1865 at the sale of the books of the late Earl of Charlemont. The contents are varied, consisting of poems, statistics, scraps of various kinds, a rhyming chronicle and a prose chronicle; but, with the exception of a very few idle scribblings of more modern date in the margins and fly-leaves, the handwriting throughout is of the fifteenth century, and the whole appears to be the work of one scribe only. The volume consists altogether of 223 leaves of paper; but the prose chronicle at the end is imperfect, and one or two leaves have probably been lost.
Originally the MS. seems to have formed two volumes, which are now bound together in one. The sheets in each separate quire of paper are distinguished by signatures at the bottom, "a 1," "a 2," &c., and a new set of signatures begin at folio 110 with Lydgate's verses on the Kings of England. Not a single leaf appears to be missing to make up a quire except at the very end.
1. An English version of the poem called "The Seven Sages of
Herkenyth lordynges, curteys and hende,
Howe thys gentylle geste shall ende.
Sum tyme there was an Emperoure
That ladde hys lyfe with moche honowre.
Hys name was Dioclician.
It is clear from this table of contents that the MS. is a commonplace book, into which the writer has transcribed a number of things that interested him. But with regard to the Chronicle at the end the appearance of the MS. seems to favour the supposition that the latter part at least is an original composition, not transcribed from any other MS.; so that if we could only determine the author we should probably be justified in assuming that the whole book was in his handwriting; for the heaviness of the hand, the irregularity of the spelling, and the gross transcriber's errors that abound in some parts, indicate a writer who was not well trained in regular clerical labour. Yet in this latter part of the work, from the middle, or at least from the close, of Henry the Sixth's reign onwards, though clerical and grammatical errors are abundant enough, there is no evidence of that special kind of blundering which marks the work of a copyist, and which is very frequent in the earlier pages—nonsense made by the omission of lines or the misreading of words, confusion of the original punctuation, and misapprehension of the author's meaning. In this part the errors are rather like those of a hasty careless writer, who composed with pen in hand, omitting sometimes a word or part of a word in his haste, but leaving the sense of what he meant to write sufficiently obvious.
The different treatises and scraps contained in the book seem to have been entered in the order in which they stand, the handwriting exhibiting just such a gradual change from the beginning to the end of the volume as naturally takes place in the character of any man's writing in the course of several years; and it is probable that the first treatise, "The Seven Sages of Rome," was transcribed when the penman was rather a young man. It is certainly far more carefully written than the latter contents of the volume.
But who was this penman and chronicler? In a modern note written on a fly-leaf at the end of the book it is said that the author of the Chronicle was one Gregory Skinner (meaning William Gregory of the Skinners' Company) who was Mayor of London in 1451, the thirtieth year of Henry VI. And when we turn to the Chronicle itself the fact seems to be pretty well borne out by what the author himself says in the record of that year. For the words he uses are as follows:
And that year came a legate from the Pope of Rome with great pardon, for that pardon was the greatest pardon that ever come to England from the Conquest unto this time of my year being mayor of London.
When it is considered that "Gregory Skinner, Mayor of London Anno xxx" stands at the end of this paragraph, the inference appears to be sufficiently obvious that he was the author of the Chronicle, and, therefore, that the whole contents of the volume are in his handwriting. This opinion, indeed, seemed to me to rest upon so sure a basis that I had no hesitation in calling the narrative "Gregory's Chronicle," with which title I have printed it in this volume. But at the last moment, while seeking for materials for Gregory's life, I was fortunate, or unfortunate, enough to discover evidence the most conclusive that he died a year or two before our Chronicle comes to an end; for his will, which I have printed at the end of this Introduction, was proved on the 23rd January, 1466 (or, according to the modern computation, 1467), while the Chronicle is continued in the same hand to the ninth year of Edward IV. (1469). It is quite clear, therefore, that, if William Gregory wrote the part relating to his own mayoralty, he could not have been the author of the whole Chronicle or the writer of the MS.
I must own that the effect of this discovery was at first to make me doubt whether the name of "Gregory's Chronicle" was not altogether a misnomer; for it was not, after all, quite clear that even the passage in which his authorship seems to be asserted was really his composition. It was open to dispute that the expression, "this time of my year being mayor," did not necessarily mean the time of which the passage in question treated, but the time at which it was written. And it was even conceivable that the real writer and the year of his mayoralty were originally disclosed at the end of the work, which is now lost. But on the whole it seemed to me more probable that this was really Gregory's Chronicle, transcribed and continued by another hand; and on careful examination of the text I found various evidences that tended to confirm me in this opinion.
In the first place—though the fact might suggest an opposite inference—it was a little remarkable that in this thirtieth year not only the name of Gregory himself as mayor but also those of the two sheriffs are entered in a manner quite unusual in this narrative. Only the surnames without the Christian name of any one of the civic officers at first stood at the head of this mayor's year, although in the case of Gregory himself the omission has been supplied in a later hand. Not a single other instance occurs in the whole Chronicle in which the Christian names of all three civic officers have been omitted; for, though there are cases in which the sheriffs are mentioned only by their surnames, it is never so with the mayor.
Now it is true the omission of a man's own Christian name does not look much like a sign of authorship, for it is a thing that could hardly have been occasioned by modesty, and if owing to ignorance the argument, of course, tells conclusively the other way. But there is a third cause, slovenliness, to which it may more reasonably be attributed; and the fact that in this instance surnames only were jotted down both of the mayor and his two sheriffs agrees very well with the supposition that the labours of office had interfered with the work of continuing the Chronicle, and that the writer had left it off just at that point, with a very brief memorandum of what was done in the year of his own mayoralty. Gregory's Chronicle may then have been transcribed by another hand, which continued the work to the year 1469 or later.
And this hypothesis seems rather to be confirmed by another fact, viz., that whereas the record of the years immediately preceding is remarkably full and accurate, especially for the twenty-eighth year, the year of Cade's rebellion, it is quite otherwise just after the thirtieth year is passed. The record of the five or six years immediately following, though it was a time of great political excitement and witnessed the beginning of the Wars of the Roses, is singularly jejune, especially as regards great public events, and the chronology is vitiated by the entire omission of one year from the annals. So remarkable a change in the character of the narrative—from fulness to emptiness and from accuracy to inaccuracy—is perhaps the best reason for supposing that the Chronicle as far as the thirtieth year was really the work of Gregory. For it seems as if just after that year the work must have been laid aside, and that it was taken up—presumably by a different hand—several years later.
Moreover, in the part which we suppose to be Gregory's, viz. from the nineteenth to the thirtieth year of Henry VI., a minute examination reveals some errors which may have been very well due to the transcriber. In the twenty-third year it is stated that the King made forty-six Knights of the Bath on Thursday the 26th day of May. This is wrong according to the calendar of the year, and the error is evidently due to a misreading of the numeral "xxvij." as "xxvj." Again, the twenty-sixth year of the reign is altogether omitted—not even the names of the mayor and sheriffs for that year are given. Yet the chronology is not vitiated by this omission as in the case of a similar blunder in the later part. It is an omission pure and simple, and the general account of the events is such as could only have been written by a well-informed contemporary. There is however a piece of erroneous information in the twenty-seventh year, which I think may be best accounted for by supposing a sentence or two to have been omitted by a careless transcriber. It is as follows:—
That same year was a treaty of truce taken with the Scots by Master Adam Moleyns for four years, that time he being ambassador into Scotland, and after Privy Seal, and then y-made bishop of Chichester, and within short time after put to death.
The 27th year of Henry VI. extended from the 1st September 1448 to the 31st August 1449. Adam de Moleyns, Bishop of Chichester, was put to death in January 1450, so that the above paragraph might very well have been written not many months after the conclusion of the truce referred to. But unfortunately the truce was not made for anything like a period of four years; it was in fact only for six weeks, from the 10th August to the 20th September 1449. (fn. 1) Adam de Moleyns does not seem to have been ambassador in Scotland, for the negociations took place at Winchester; and most certainly it was not "after that" that he was made Privy Seal and Bishop of Winchester, for he had enjoyed the latter dignity since the year 1445, and the former from the year 1444. I do not see any perfect explanation of this maze of errors; but, if (as is quite possible) Adam de Moleyns was ambassador to Scotland on a former occasion, we may suppose that a line or two may have been omitted by the transcriber just before the words "for four years." If the errors be not due to some such cause as this, the passage must be an ignorant interpolation of later date written from a confused recollection of the facts. There are no other inaccuracies comparable to these in the part we attribute to Gregory.
Of the fourteen separate articles contained in the MS., almost every one except the Chronicle is to be met with elsewhere, and, the three last alone being of a historical character, they only are printed in this volume. Of the others there is little need to say anything except as to No. 11, which is a list of the parish churches and monasteries in the City of London. A similar list is printed in Fabyan's Chronicle (pp. 295–8, Ellis's edition), and another in Arnold's Chronicle, (pp. 75–77). But these lists do not correspond, the churches being named in each in a different order, and even with different totals as to number. Thus the whole number of parish churches in London (within the city) is according to Fabyan 113, according to Arnold 118, and according to our MS. 115. But the total number of churches and monasteries in and about London, including the suburbs and also Southwark and Westminster, is given in our MS. as 153. Besides the mere names and number of the churches, however, special descriptions are given of the character of one or two of the monastic foundations, which are so curious that we transcribe them here:
Pappy Chyrche in the Walle be twyne Algate and Bevysse Markes. And hyt ys a grete fraternyte of prestys and of othyr seqular men. And there ben founde of almys certayne prestys, bothe blynde and lame, that be empotent; and they have day masse and xiiij d. a weke, barber and launder, and one to dresse and provyde for hyr mete and drynke.
Bartholomewe ys Spetylle. Hyt ys a place of grete comforte to pore men as for hyr loggyng, and yn specyalle unto yong wymmen that have mysse done that ben whythe chylde. There they ben delyveryde, and unto the tyme of puryfycacyon they have mete and drynke of the placys coste, and fulle honestely gydyd and kepte. And in ys moche as the place maye they kepe hyr conselle and hyr worschyppe. God graunte that they doo so hyr owne worschippe that have a-fendyde. Amen.
A chyrche of Owre Lady that ys namyde Bedlem. (fn. 2) And yn that place ben founde many men that ben fallyn owte of hyr wytte. And fulle honestely they ben kepte in that place; and sum ben restoryde unto hyr wytte and helthe a-gayne. And sum ben a-bydyng there yn for evyr, for they ben falle soo moche owte of hem selfe that hyt ys uncurerabylle unto man. And unto that place ys grauntyde moche pardon, more thenne they of the place knowe.
Seynt Marye Spetylle. A poore pryery, and a parysche chyrche in the same. And that pryory kepythe ospytalyte for pore men. And sum susters yn the same place to kepe the beddys for pore men that come to that place.
Mary Overaye. Hyt ys a pryory of Mary Magdalene; in the same— (fn. 3) Chanyns.
Thomas Spetylle. (fn. 4) And that same place ys and (sic) ospytalyte for pore men and wymmen. And that nobyl marchaunt, Rycharde Whytyngdon, made a newe chamby[r] with viij beddys for yong weme[n] that hadde done a-mysse in truste of a good mendement. And he commaundyd that alle the thyngys that ben don in that chambyr shulde be kepte secrete with owte forthe, yn payne of lesynge of hyr levynge; for he wolde not shame no yonge women in noo wyse, for hyt myght be cause of hyr lettyng of hyr maryage, &c.
Some of the facts contained in these extracts seem to be quite unknown; and they go far to correct certain popular misappre hensions touching the useless unpractical character of monastic institutions before the Reformation swept them all away. The charities of the middle ages were perhaps not more redundant or more misapplied than those of our own day, and many of them were eminently beneficial. There were hospitals for the sick and infirm, lying-in hospitals, asylums for the aged, the impotent, and the insane. Bedlam existed then, and was devoted to the same purposes as at present. And, whatever may have been the system of treatment adopted for the patients, it appears that some were cured; and the charity of the age extended a large indulgence to all who were so afflicted.
The poem on the Siege of Rouen has already been printed from
other MSS., but not in a complete form. It was first brought to
light by the Rev. J. J. Conybeare, who in the twenty-first volume
of The Archælogia printed it from an imperfect copy in the
Bodleian MS. No. 124. The conclusion of the poem, which was
wanting in this MS., was afterwards supplied by Sir Frederic
Madden from two MSS. in the Harleian Collection (Nos. 2256 and
753), and was printed by him in the twenty-second volume of the
same publication. But never till now has the poem been published
as a whole, so as to be easily read through or consulted in one
volume. Moreover the text contained in the Egerton MS., from
which we now print it, differs a good deal here and there in
phraseology from that of the other MSS.; and though, perhaps, on
the whole, a trifle less polished, being, it appears, taken from a
first draft of the poem, it is on this very account all the more
interesting, as the relation of an eye-witness written while the impression on his mind was still recent and vivid. At the end, too,
the author gives his name, which is suppressed in other copies of
the poem, with an excuse for the ruggedness of his rhymes, which
apparently he afterwards improved, as he says he intended to do:
With owtyn fabylle or fage,
Thys procesce made John Page
Alle in raffe and not in ryme,
By cause of space he hadde no tyme.
But whenne thys werre ys at an ende,
And he have lyffe and space he wyll hit amende.
It thus appears that the poem was written during the continuance
of the war, very shortly after the events which it relates. As an
account of the siege of Rouen by Henry the Fifth it certainly stands
unrivalled. No other contemporary writer states the facts with so
much clearness, precision, minuteness, and graphic power. Yet the
language is simple and unpretentious, the author only seeking to
impart his own knowledge of the facts in the plainest possible
Lystenythe unto me a lytylle space,
And I shalle telle you howe hyt was.
And the better telle I may,
For at that sege with the Kyng I lay,
And thereto I toke a vyse
Lyke as my wytt wolde suffyce.
That his information was not only minute, but on the whole exceedingly accurate, we have little reason to doubt. Yet it abounds in details which are met with nowhere else; for although, as remarked by Sir Frederic Madden, the chronicler Hall appears to have been acquainted with this poem, even he made but slender use of it, and scarcely any modern historian has hitherto made use of it at all. Hereafter we may presume it will not be so neglected.
The siege and capture of Rouen were the crowning events of Henry the Fifth's second invasion of France. His first expedition against that country was signalised by the splendid victory of Agincourt; but no territorial advantage accrued from it. The English only saved themselves from being cut to pieces or crushed by overwhelming numbers. In his second invasion the case was different. Town after town in Normandy opened its gates or was taken by assault in the summer of 1417; and in the course of the following year almost the whole duchy was in the hands of the English. Rouen, the capital, however, still held out; for here the enemy had gathered all their strength, and were prepared to make the most obstinate resistance.
The following is a brief outline of the narrative contained in the poem. After the capture of Pont de l'Arche, which opened to the invaders a passage over the Seine (for hitherto their conquests had been all on the western side of that river), the King despatched his uncle, the Duke of Exeter, to Rouen to summon the city to surrender, which it scornfully refused to do (p. 2). The Duke then returned to the King at Pont de l'Arche, and those in command of the city preparing for an attack destroyed the suburbs (fn. 5) (p. 3). The fortifications of the city are then described, with the further preparations for defence (pp. 4–6). The king came before it on Friday before Lammas day, the 29th July, 1418 (p. 6). The positions taken up by his lords and captains are related (pp. 6–10). The Earl of Warwick after taking Domfront was sent to Caudebec, which surrendered conditionally, agreeing to do as Rouen did, and allowing the English meanwhile free passage up the Seine (p. 10). Warwick then joins the besiegers, as also does the King's brother Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, coming from the siege of Cherbourg (p. 11). It is then reported that the French King and the Burgundians are coming to relieve the city, and Henry prepares for them (pp. 12, 13). The captains within are named and described (pp. 13, 14). The King orders a ditch to be made round the town (p. 15). Renewed tidings of the coming of the Burgundians cause the citizens to ring the bells with delight, but it turns out to be a false rumour (p. 16). The King, however, endeavours to profit by it, and adopts a stratagem to induce the citizens to come out and attack him (p. 17).
The writer goes on to tell of the failure of provisions within the
city, the extraordinary prices given for horseflesh, dogs, cats, rats,
and mice, besides more ordinary food, such as eggs and apples
(p. 18); and he draws a fearful picture of the sufferings of the
They dyde faster every day
Thenn men myght them in erthe lay.
There as was pryde in ray before
Thenn was hyt put in sorowe fulle soore.
Thereas was mete, drynke, and songe,
Then was sorowe and hunger stronge.
Yf the chylde schulde be dede,
The modyr wolde not gyf hyt bredde,
Ne nought wolde parte hyt a scheve
Thoughe sche wyste to save hys lyve;
Ne the chylde the modyr gyffe;
Every on caste hym for to leve
As longe as they myght laste.
Love and kyndenys bothe were paste.
Alle kyndenys love was besyde,
That the chylde schulde fro the modyr hyde,
To ete mete that shulde hyt not see,
And ete hyt alle in prevytè.
But hungyr passyd kynde and love, &c. (p.19.)
In the end it was found necessary to drive the poorer inhabitants
outside the city, where they remained in the ditches dependent for
food on the charity of the besiegers, and some died of cold (p. 20).
On Christmas day the King as an act of charity sent heralds to the
city, offering food to all who were in want of it, either within the
city or without, and safe-conduct to come and receive it. Those
within affected to despise the offer, and would scarcely allow two
priests and three men to come and relieve those outside (p. 21).
But on New Year's eve, as "hunger breaketh the stone wall," the
citizens proposed to treat (p. 22); for which purpose they conferred
with Sir Gilbert Umfraville (pp. 23–25). Umfraville carried their
message on New Year's day morning to the King, who consented
that twelve of the citizens should wait on him next day (pp. 26, 27);
and on the next day accordingly twelve delegates from the city
waited on Henry at St. Hilary's Gate (p. 28). Their interview
with the King is then described (pp. 29–32), and the King's lofty
and unmoved demeanour is particularly reported (p. 30). Next
day tents are pitched for a conference (p. 33), and the author is led
to contrast the splendour of heralds and pursuivants with the misery
of the poor people who had been put out of the city and had
scarcely clothes on their backs to protect them from the weather,
which was at that time very rainy. Still more dreadful was the
case of others:
There men myght se grete pyttè,
A chylde of ij yere or iij.
Go aboute to begge hyt brede.
Fadyr and modyr bothe were dede.
Undyr sum the watyr stode;
Yet lay they cryyng aftyr foode.
And sum storvyn unto the dethe,
And sum stoppyde of ther brethe,
Sum crokyd in the kneys,
And sum alle so lene as any treys;
And wemmen holdyn in hyr armys
Dede chyldryn in hyr barmys,
And the chyldryn sokyng in ther pappe
With yn a dede woman lappe. (p. 35.)
The conference was unsatisfactory, as the demands of the English greatly exceeded what was offered on behalf of the city; and at the end of a fortnight negociations were about to be broken off (p. 36). The city delegates, however, prayed that the truce might be continued for one night; and the clamour of the citizens compelled them again to treat (pp. 36–39). In four days more they came to terms, and it was agreed that the city should be surrendered in eight days if no rescue came in the interval (p. 40). On Thursday the 19th January the keys of the city were delivered up (p. 41), and the poem concludes with an account of the King's entry into the city and the process of taking possession (pp. 42–45).
Of the three other MSS. of this poem above referred to not one supplies a complete and satisfactory text. In the Bodleian MS. the latter part is wanting; while, on the other hand, in the two Harleian MSS. it is the latter part alone that has been preserved to us in its original form. Both these MSS. are copies of the wellknown English chronicle called The Brute, which used to be attributed to Caxton, because printed by him in 1480, with a continuation to the accession of Edward IV. Neither the printed copy nor almost any other MS. of the Chronicle contains this poem, but in these two Harleian MSS., and also in a MS. mentioned by Sir F. Madden as being then in the library of T. W. Coke, Esq. at Holkham, the poem is incorporated in the narrative, the earlier part of it being translated into prose, sometimes with very little verbal alteration, while the latter part is preserved in its original form as metre.
As the text of the Bodleian and the two Harleian MSS. has already been printed, I have not thought it necessary to note the varieties of reading, except where the variations are material or where the reading of another MS. seemed preferable to that of the Egerton. In the footnotes I refer to the Bodleian MS. as B., the Egerton as E., the Harleian MS. 2256 as H., and the Harleian MS. 753 as H 2.
The Verses on the Kings of England which follow occur in several MSS. They are commonly, I doubt not justly, attributed to Lydgate. A copy in Ashmole MS. 59 is in the handwriting of Shirley, the transcriber of Chaucer, and must have been written as I am informed about 1456. The poem, however, was added to by other hands after it was composed. A further stanza relating to Edward IV. (which I have printed in a footnote at p. 54) is contained in MS. Harl. 2251, a volume full of Lydgate's poetry. The poem was printed in 1530 by Wynkyn de Worde with additions continuing it to the reign of Henry VIII., but this tract is exceedingty rare. A copy occurs in the Public Library at Cambridge, bound up along with Stephen Hawes's "Joyful Meditation on the Coronation of Henry VIII."
As to the Chronicle, we have already seen that it was in all probability partly written by William Gregory, who was Mayor of London in 1451–52, the 30th year of Henry VI; but that his authorship does not extend to the conclusion of the work, and probably does not go beyond the year of his mayoralty. It seems hardly necessary to add that the earlier part of the work is not more his composition than the last part; for all who have the least familiarity with mediæval chronicles know quite well how one writer transcribed the works of others, only adding to them at the end some original information of the facts of his own day. But William Gregory, though not the only author of this Chronicle, is the only one whose name is known to us; and the very little that is known even about him may here be briefly stated.
He was the son of Roger Gregory of Mildenhall in Suffolk, and though I find nothing else about his family it appears that he was entitled to bear arms, which are described as: "Party per pale, argent and azure, two lions rampant guardant endorsed, counterchanged." Of the date of his birth there is no precise evidence; but as he was a widower, who had been three times married and had at least eleven grandchildren when he made his will in 1465, fourteen months before his death, it could hardly have been later than about the year 1410. Indeed we may with great probability carry it still further back and suppose him to have been born before the close of the fourteenth century. He was, as we have already mentioned, a member of the Skinners' Company; but at what date he became so we have no means of knowing, as the records of that Company do not extend so far back. He served the office of sheriff in 1436 and was elected mayor in 1451. At the time he made his will he was living in the parish of St. Mary Aldermary, where he directs that he should be buried; but if Stowe be correct he was actually buried in the church of St. Anne Aldersgate. In that church, too, according to Stowe, he founded a chantry, and there are MSS. at the Guildhall which say that he endowed this chantry with 19l. 17s. 4d. per annum out of all his lands. No monument of him, however, existed in the church even in Stowe's day, (fn. 6) and among the many benefactions in his will the name of St. Anne's church Aldersgate is not even once mentioned. To the church of St. Mary Aldermary there is a bequest of 16l. 13s. 4d. in aid of the "church work," that the parishioners might pray for his soul; and there is another to Master Duffeld, "one of the chauntry priests of Aldermary church aforesaid," for the like purpose.
At the time he made his will he had two married daughters, of whom one named Margaret was the wife of John Croke, and had a family of five sons and two daughters. The second, Cecily, was the wife of Robert Mildenhall, and had two daughters. The will also mentions a William Gregory, who is perhaps a son of the testator, but is not so designated, who has a wife Mary and a son and daughter.
For other points of interest we must refer the reader to the will itself, which is very curious in many ways. The very large bequests for the good of the testator's soul, the charitable legacies to the poor in hospital and elsewhere, the sums left for the relief of prisoners and for the repair "of the foulest ways about London," may create some little surprise that greater provision is not made for the testator's own relations. But they were probably in good circumstances and did not need his generosity; for he makes his son-in-law John Croke his executor, which certainly implies that there was no coolness between them, and the way in which he provides for servants and dependents forbids us to suppose that he was insensible to any natural claim upon him.
The Chronicle is one of those city chronicles of which we have several examples, the best known being that of Robert Fabyan. Events, sometimes only of civic importance, and sometimes such as affected the whole kingdom, are in these compositions recorded in the form of annals, the names of the mayor and sheriffs of London in each year being prefixed to the record of that year. The Chronicle of London, printed by Sir Harris Nicolas in 1827, bears a considerable resemblance to that of Gregory. Both begin at the same date, the first year of Richard I., and are evidently derived from a common source down to the time of Richard II. There are, however, considerable variations, our Chronicle being less full in some places and more in others; but the Chronicle printed by Nicolas is itself derived from two different MSS., which exhibit some variations among themselves; and in the account of the last years of Richard II. one of these (the Cottonian MS. Julius B i. which I have referred to in footnotes as J.) corresponds much more closely with our Chronicle than the other (Harleian, No. 565, which I have referred to as H.) Another city chronicle which corresponds still more closely with ours is contained in the Cottonian MS. Vitellius A. xvi., which I have cited in footnotes occasionally as V. It is evidently derived from a common source until the 19th year of Henry VI., after which the text is a good deal like that of Fabyan.
The variations between these different MSS. are occasionally instructive. We can see in some cases how facts were exaggerated, not only in the telling but even in the transcription, as time went on. Thus in the fifth year of Edward III. our Chronicle mentions the defeat of 40,000 Scots by a handful of 2,000 Englishmen; but in the Chronicle of London printed by Nicolas from MSS. H. and J. the number of the Scots is given at 12,000 only.
In the present Chronicle, as also in J. and V., a number of capitulations for the surrender of places in France during the wars of Henry V. and at the beginning of Henry VI.'s reign have been inserted in the narrative. In these the transcriber's errors are so numerous and so gross in our MS., that it would have been utterly impossible in very many places even to conjecture the true reading of the text if there had been no better transcript. But as the original treaties are enrolled in the Norman Rolls, and have for the most part been printed by Rymer from that source, I have been able to give the right readings in the text, pointing out the extraordinary blunders of the MS. in footnotes. As examples of unintelligent and inaccurate copying they would certainly be very hard to match.
It is in all probability from the nineteenth year of Henry VI. that William Gregory's part in the Chronicle begins. At that date, as we have already said, the similar chronicle in the Vitellius MS. begins to differ from ours, and to follow a source to which Fabyan is largely indebted. It is probable, I think, that the whole of the preceding part in which the Vitellius MS. and ours correspond, was derived from an older chronicle, which terminated in the eighteenth year, and that from the nineteenth year to the thirtieth William Gregory took up the pen and made a continuation. We cannot say much for it as an example of literary art or style in composition; nor is there much that he records that is even of great importance from its novelty until we reach the twenty-eighth year. But his account of Cade's rebellion in that year is certainly of no small value.
Our author agrees with Fabyan in saying that the leader in this rising was originally chosen by the people; but, being so chosen, he adds that this captain "compassed all the gentles to arise with him." The people in some part of Kent had found a leader for themselves; and he proved to be a man of such remarkable energy and tact that he soon got all the country gentlemen of Kent to go along with him. They formed a regular encampment on Blackheath, or, in the words of our authority, "made a field dyked and staked well about, as it had been in the land of war." This showed real military capacity, "save only they kept [no?] order amongst them (for as good was Jack Robyn as John at the Noke, for all were as high as pig's feet) unto the time that they should commun and speak with such states and messengers that were sent unto them: then they put all their power unto the man that named him captain of all their host." This remark seems to make the movement a degree more intelligible. The man chosen as leader—whatever may have been then known about him—possessed little or no influence with the squires and yeomen, who only wished to combine with their fellow countrymen in setting forth their grievances to the King. But when the time for joint action came his power and skill as a military leader was so manifest that all readily submitted to him. Yet even this submission might only have been momentary, for the multitude seems to have had no intention of taking the offensive. When the King, after sending to know the cause of the rising, was answered by the captain that it was "to destroy traitors being about him, with other divers points," another message was immediately sent by the King and his lords, and proclamation was everywhere made, that loyal men should immediately quit the field. "And upon the night after," says our chronicler, "they were all voided and a-go."
The insurrection, seemingly, was almost at an end. The King rode armed through London at the head of his lords, who mustered their followers at Clerkenwell to the number of 10,000 men. Unhappily a small body, detached from this force, went in pursuit of the captain under Sir Humphrey and William Stafford. They were defeated at Sevenoaks, and their leaders slain. The King and his lords were seized with a panic. They separated and withdrew into the country, leaving London open to the insurgents, who entered the city on the 3rd July. Here, according to our chronicler, and also two days before at Blackheath, although they professed to be under the same captain as before, they really had a new one who went by the same name. This is quite a novel piece of information, and whether true or not is exceedingly curious as bearing upon the history of the movement. Evidently, the original leader was not well-known, and the facts were not well-known. Apparently it was conceived by some that the first captain had been killed at Sevenoaks, and that the fact had been concealed, another man being artfully put in his place. If so, then, a further question arises whether the name Mortimer assumed by Cade was not the real name of the first leader in the movement. It is quite clear that Cade's assumption of that name passed unchallenged till after the rebellion was over, for under the name of Mortimer he actually received a pardon, which was invalidated when it was found he had no right to it. (fn. 7) The only circumstance which renders improbable this substitution of one captain for another is the total absence of corroborative testimony to the fact. But this, it must be owned, throws serious doubt upon it. (fn. 8)
There is little else deserving of special comment in the portion of the chronicle which we believe to have been written by Gregory. But as being, to all appearance, a strictly contemporary record of the times, it will undoubtedly merit the careful attention of future historians in other matters besides those we have pointed out. Immediately after the year of Gregory's mayoralty appear those evidences to which we have already alluded of a later hand having continued the record of events some years after the events were passed. The mayor and sheriffs for the thirty-second year of Henry VI. are omitted, and the later years of the reign are each made a year too early. (fn. 9) The first battle of St. Albans, the battle of Bloreheath, and the encampment of the Yorkists at Ludlow in 1459, are all, owing to this cause, misdated. Moreover, a matter of no less consequence than the first illness of Henry VI. at Clarendon in 1453 is only mentioned retrospectively after the battle of St. Albans in 1455. It is clear that during the remainder of Henry VI.'s reign, or at least till the last year of it, the continuator does not chronicle the facts so immediately after their occurrence as Gregory did before he was mayor.
The great events of the period, too, are but slightly mentioned for the most part, and a good deal of space is devoted to occurrences of no great political interest. In the thirty-third (which ought to be the thirty-fourth) year the principal subject of the narrative is an extraordinary and very barbarous case of single combat between two men, one of whom had accused the other falsely, the conditions of the fight—degrading as they were—being apparently prescribed by some old law or custom applicable to such cases.
In the thirty-fifth (thirty-sixth) year an incident is recorded showing the high importance attached to the pulpit in those days. During Lent, the Court being then at Coventry, an order was made that no preacher, however highly qualified, should preach before the King without first showing his sermon to an official, whom the author does not name, but indicates by the letters A. B. C. Political allusions in sermons seem to have been much more common than agreeable to royalty, and A. B. C. instructed each preacher what passages he should leave out on pain of going as he came, without meat, drink, or reward. But a certain Master William Ive, bachelor of Divinity, came up from Wykeham's College at Winchester to preach before the King, and, after showing his sermon to the official, not only disobeyed the instruction to omit certain passages, but declared from the pulpit before the King that it was A. B. C. who had made the sermons previously preached before him, and not the preachers themselves; for they, he said, had allowed their purpose to be turned upside down, and "had made lovedays as Judas made with a kiss with Christ." Ive's reward for this boldness was simply a thankless ride of 160 miles—to Court and back again. (fn. 10)
The account of the battle of Bloreheath, (fn. 11) besides being out of place, is a little confused, so that it would be hard to understand from the writer's slipshod grammar, if we had no other authority to go by, that it was a Yorkist victory at all. Nor is the story quite consistent with that contained in other sources, for it is said the battle lasted from one till five in the afternoon, whereas according to Hall it began early in the morning. The disparity in numbers between the two parties was, moreover, extreme; for Salisbury had but 500 men against 5,000 on the Queen's side, "a great wonder," says our author, "that ever they (Salisbury's force) might stand the great multitude not fearing, the King being within ten miles and the Queen within five miles at the Castle of Eccleshall." It is not safe of course to rely on the strict accuracy of these numbers, which differ considerably from those in other authorities, but it is hard to say what authority is more trustworthy. According to the Act of Attainder against the Yorkists (which, however, in all probability magnified their numbers to mitigate the disgrace of a Lancastrian defeat) the Earl had 5,000 men with him. This estimate is even exceeded in the English Chronicle edited by Mr. Davies for the Camden Society in 1856, where it is said that he had 7,000 well arrayed men. On the other hand Lord Audeley's force is stated by Hall to have amounted to 10,000, and the number of the slain to 2,400. Under any cireumstances it seems clear that Salisbury fought obstinately against great odds, and though victorious just saved himself from being surrounded. Indeed, our author says that he would have been taken if after the day was over an Austin friar had not kept firing guns all night to cover his retreat.
At pp. 208–210 likewise is a hitherto unknown account of Queen Margaret's adventures after the battle of Northampton; how she was robbed by a servant of her own in whom she had placed confidence,—how she at last reached Harlech Castle in Wales with no more than four attendants,—how, after being relieved and comforted there, she removed privily for fear of capture and joined the Earl of Pembroke,—and how she was in continual danger of being betrayed by counterfeit tokens sent to her as if they had come from the King her husband. But the messengers who brought those tokens, being of the King's or the Prince's household, and sometimes of her own, gave her warning not to trust to any but a special token agreed to privately between herself and the King just before the battle of Northampton. Margaret accordingly stood on her guard, and, sending messages to the Duke of Somerset and others, arranged to meet with her supporters at Hull, which was planned with so great secrecy that 15,000 men were assembled before the Yorkists had taken the alarm. When the news came to London the Duke of York himself set out to meet them. The result was the battle of Wakefield. All this has been hitherto quite unknown.
Our author also mentions a battle or skirmish that took place at Dunstable (fn. 12) the day before the second battle of St. Albans, regarding which other authorities are silent, except that there is a slight allusion to it in William Worcester, who says that Edward Poynings (he probably means Robert) and 200 foot were slain there. But, according to the Chronicle before us, the action seems to have been of an insignificant character. A few raw levies raised in the King's name to oppose Queen Margaret and her northern army were commanded by a butcher of Dunstable, and were, as might be expected, easily discomfited; on which, as our chronicler was informed, the butcher hung himself, either for shame at the loss of his men or for the loss of his goods. The incident, however, is curious as an illustration of what other writers tell us about the general fear of outrage and plunder that prevailed in the south on the approach of Margaret and her northern forces. (fn. 13)
Of the second battle of St. Albans itself we have also some new particulars. The King's army, or in other words the Yorkists, who at this time had the King in their keeping, had already pitched their camp and fortified it, awaiting the Queen's coming, when, hearing that she was still nine miles off, they unfortunately gave up their position and occupied a new one. They were well prepared with artillery and apparatus—engines that would discharge both pellets of lead and arrows an ell long, with six feathers, "with a great mighty head of iron on the other end," or cast wildfire among the enemy. They had also nets, and pavyses or large shields with apertures to shoot through, and other curious contrivances interesting to the military antiquary. But before guns and engines could be got into working order the Queen's army had come to close quarters and they were busy fighting. They thus laboured under disadvantages from the very beginning; although Whethamstede intimates that they would have won the battle had their endurance equalled their valour at the outset. (fn. 14)
There is comparatively little new information about the battle of Towton and the beginning of Edward IV.'s reign. But in the third year there is a very striking account of the easy confidence with which Edward received the Duke of Somerset into favour after he had surrendered and sworn allegiance to him at Durham. "The King," we are told, "made full much of him; insomuch that he lodged with the King in his own bed many nights, and sometimes rode a-hunting behind the King, the King having about him not passing six horse at the most, and yet three were the Duke's men of Somerset. The King loved him well, but the Duke thought treason under fair cheer and words, as it appeared. And for a great love the King made a great justs at Westminster, that he should see some manner sport of chivalry after his great labour and heaviness. And with great instance the King made him to take harness upon him, and rode in the place, but he would never cope with no man, and no man might not cope with him, till the King prayed him to be merry and sent him a token, and then he ran full justly and merrily, and his helm was a sorry hat of straw. And then every man marked him well." (fn. 15)
The King afterwards going into the north, "to understand the disposition of the people," took the Duke of Somerset with him and 200 of his men, "well horsed and harnessed," as a royal body guard. It was like putting a lamb into the guard of wolves, our author thinks, "but Almighty God was the shepherd." The people of Northampton were indignant at the favour shown to a traitor, and would have slain him, but that the King sent him away secretly to a castle of his own for surety, and sent his men to Newcastle to keep the town, their wages fully paid. (fn. 16) Somerset repaid his benefactor next year by coming secretly out of Wales and endeavouring to betray Newcastle into the hands of Henry VI. The King, however, appointed Lord Scrope of Bolton to keep the town, and the Duke did not succeed. He was taken and beheaded, as is well known, after the battle of Hexham; but it has not been known till now how deep was the perfidy thus deservedly punished. The Scots who had been the chief occasion of trouble (especially as France had made a truce with England some months previously (fn. 17) ) had made overtures for peace about Easter 1464, and Commissioners had been appointed on the part of both kingdoms, who were to meet at York. Warwick's brother, Lord Montague, as Warden of the Marches, was commissioned to conduct the Scotch Commissioners from the Borders. But while riding northwards for this purpose the Duke of Somerset lay in wait for him near Newcastle, accompanied by the equally treacherous Sir Ralph Percy (fn. 18) and Sir Humphrey Nevill. Montague, however, who had fortunately received timely warning, took another way to Newcastle, and proceeded to Norham, when Somerset again endeavoured to intercept him accompanied by Lord Hungerford and all the principal Lancastrians. They were however thoroughly defeated at Hedgley Moor, and Montague accomplished his mission. The Scottish and English Commissioners met and a fifteen years' peace was concluded. "An the Scots be true," adds our Chronicler, showing by the remark that he writes while the treaty was still a subject of conversation—"An the Scots be true it must needs continue so long; but it is hard for to trust unto them, for they be ever found full of guile and deceit." (fn. 19)
Then follows a notice of the battle of Hexham, and a list of the Lancastrians who were beheaded by Montague's orders after the battle, both at Hexham and at Newcastle, Middleham, and York. Immediately afterwards occurred the capture of Sir William Tailboys in a coalpit near Newcastle (fn. 20) with 3,000 marks in money which he was endeavouring to convey to Henry VI. (fn. 21) This also is quite a new piece of information. Tailboys, from all that we know of his former life, seems to have been a very unscrupulous partizan of the Duke of Suffolk in the times before Jack Cade's rebellion. On one occasion he had attempted to murder Lord Cromwell, one of the King's councillors, even at the door of the Star Chamber, and Suffolk was accused of protecting him unfairly against certain writs of appeal brought by various widows for the death of their husbands. (fn. 22)
The romantic marriage of Edward IV. is next related; but here our author adds little to what we already know except as to the circumstances of its avowal. He is ill-informed indeed as to the exact time when it was first made known, which he says was on All Hallows' day (1 November), whereas William Worcester says it was on Michaelmas day (29 September); and there is evidence to show that William Worcester is right. (fn. 23) There can be no doubt, however, that the circumstances of the disclosure were as stated in our Chronicle. The marriage, in fact, could no longer be con cealed, for the council was assembled with the King at Reading, where "the lords moved him in God's name to be wedded and to live under the law of God and Church, and they would send into some strange land to inquire a Queen of good birth according to his dignity. And then our sovereign might no longer hide his marriage." In fact, as we know very well from other sources, Edward's marriage with Bona of Savoy had been mooted for some time before, and the Earl, although he did not actually go, had been expected in France, where he was to have been sent to negociate it. (fn. 24)
Edward's marriage took place secretly at Grafton in Northamptonshire on the 1st May, 1464. He had left London not long before, and it may be presumed with a retinue capable of doing him some service in war; for it had been his intention soon after Easter to go and besiege Bamborough, which was again in Henry VI.'s possession along with Dunstanborough and Alnwick by the treachery of Sir Ralph Percy and Sir Ralph Grey. (fn. 25) He reached Stony Stratford on the 30th April, and meanwhile, on the 25th, in the furthest corner of Northumberland, Montague had overthrown his enemies for him at Hedgley Moor. The work had still to be completed by the battle of Hexham on the 14th May; but Edward had probably heard that the Lancastrians had received a decisive overthrow by the time that he stole off from Stony Stratford early in the morning of May day. got married, and returned. Surely never before or since did a King get married under similar circumstances!
Meanwhile Warwick and his brother Montague, all unconscious of what Edward was about (else their zeal in his service would have cooled, as it did some time afterwards), were busy completing the overthrow of the Lancastrians. After the battle of Hexham they besieged successfully the three Northern castles. Alnwick first surrendered and then Dunstanborough. (fn. 26) But Bamborough held out till July, and was only won by assault with artillery. (fn. 27) It was kept by the traitor Sir Ralph Grey, who doubtless knew that he had no mercy to expect. He was taken and brought prisoner to the King at Pomfret, from which place he was conveyed to Doncaster, "and there his head was smit off and sent to London, and it was set upon London Bridge." (fn. 28)
It was just after this that, to meet his heavy expenses, Edward enhanced the value of the old coinage and issued new coins of inferior gold containing more alloy. New groats of silver were also issued and ordered to pass current at fourpence; but they, too, were of inferior metal to the old groats. The result was what must inevitably have taken place according to the ill-understood laws of political economy. People did not like to receive the new coinage. The new angels and nobles of gold were difficult to pass, and a man might go through a whole street or parish before he could get them changed. Silver too rose in price to three shillings an ounce or more. Moreover at the beginning of the change "men grudged passing sore, for they could not reckon that gold so quickly as they did the old gold." (fn. 29)
Then came the coronation of Edward's Queen; on which occasion among a number of other gentlemen five aldermen of London were made knights, whose names are given. "It is a great worship unto all the city" remarks our chronicler. (fn. 30)
What is said of the capture of Henry VI. in Lancashire is interesting, and helps, perhaps, to supply a missing link in the story of the unhappy King's adventures. Many historians have written as if he had been taken soon after the battle of Hexham; but it is now well known that the date of his capture was about a year later, and it has been supposed that he lay concealed in the North of England. If, however, our author was well informed he had again found a refuge in Scotland, for it was in coming out of Scotland that he was discovered at Furness Fells in Lancashire. (fn. 31)
The security given to Edward's throne by the capture of Henry VI. was reflected in the honour paid him by foreign princes. In the seventh year of his reign he received embassies from France, Spain, Scotland, Burgundy, Brittany, the King of Naples, and the court of Ferrara; while there also came from the Pope a legate, and from the Emperor the patriarch of Antioch. The papal legate is not mentioned either in Baronius or in Fabyan's Chronicle, and who he was we are not told, though his coming must have excited no small interest at the time. It seems that he was a good scholar—"the best Latin man that came into England many years;" that he was lodged "at a great place of a Lombard's" at St. Bartholomew's the Less, where he kept a good household, his men being very orderly; but that he declined to accept the hospitality of any of the English nobility, except that on one occasion after great entreaty he became the guest of the Archbishop of York at the More in Hertfordshire. The cause of his coming no man could learn with any certainty. It may have been due simply to the Pope's anxiety to understand the state of parties in England. (fn. 32)
In the eighth year, our author writes, "were many men appeached of treason both of the city and of other towns. Of the city, Thomas Coke, knight and alderman, and John Plummer, knight and alderman, but the King gave them both pardon. And a man of the Lord Wenlock's, John Hawkins was his name, was hanged at Tyburn and beheaded for treason." The circumstances here so slightly alluded to are more perfectly known from other sources, but have never yet been fully recounted. Lancastrian plots were certainly thickening against King Edward, who though easily lulled into false security became fitfully cruel and tyrannical when impressed with a sense of danger. More than one messenger was intercepted with letters to or from Queen Margaret, (fn. 33) and many whose loyalty had been hitherto unsuspected were implicated in charges of treason. Among these was Lord Wenlock's servant, Hawkins, who accused not only Sir Thomas Coke but also his own master; and as we know that Lord Wenlock afterwards joined the Earl of Warwick against Edward there was probably more foundation for the latter accusation than the former. As to Sir Thomas Coke, Hawkins had but asked him for a loan of 1,000 marks, which he refused to give, finding that the money was intended for the use of Margaret of Anjou. He was, however, arrested on the accusation of Hawkins; but at the request of the Lady Margaret, the King's sister, he was admitted to bail. After that Princess's departure beyond sea he was again arrested and sent to the Tower, his goods were seized by Lord Rivers, Treasurer of England, and his wife placed in the custody of the Mayor of London. After lying some time in the Tower he was tried at Guildhall and acquitted, his offence being found to be mere misprision in the concealment of an application made to him by Edward's enemies. (fn. 34) Nevertheless he was transferred to the Bread Street Counter and afterwards to the King's Bench Prison, in Southwark, from which he was only released on payment of a fine to the King of 8,000l. But even so he was not quite out of his trouble, for a new demand was made upon him by virtue of an old abuse, called Aurum Reginœ, that for every 1,000l. he had paid the King he should give the Queen 1,000 marks besides. With this, too, he was obliged to comply, and he suffered no further inconvenience; but he found on going back to his country house in Essex that both house and park had been plundered of everything valuable by the servants of Lord Rivers and the under treasurer Sir John Fogge, for which it was in vain to expect any compensation. (fn. 35)
The cruelty and injustice of these proceedings require no comment. But when it is considered that they were directed against an innocent man, whom the law officers of the Crown had used every effort to convict, even by means the most unjustifiable,—when it is considered also that Chief Justice Markham for having directed Coke's acquittal was actually deprived of his office, (fn. 36) we have a picture of tyranny and injustice rarely equalled in the history of this country. It is difficult even to imagine the poor excuse that the court seriously suspected that there had been a miscarriage of justice, for Sir Thomas was exonerated from the charge by his accuser himself in a manner that should have left no doubt of his innocence. The case was alluded to a few years afterwards by Fortescue in his treatise on the Laws of England, addressed to the son of Henry VI. in the following manner:
Do you not remember, my Prince, a criminal, who, when upon the rack, impeached of treason a certain noble knight, a man of worth and loyalty, and declared that they were both concerned together in the same conspiracy; and being taken down from the rack he still persisted in the accusation, lest he should again be put to the question? Nevertheless, being so much hurt and reduced by the severity of the punishment that he was brought almost to the point of death, after he had the viaticum and sacraments administered to him, he then confessed, and took a very solemn oath upon it by the body of Christ, and as he was now, as he imagined, just going to expire, he affirmed that the said worthy knight was innocent and clear of everything he had laid to his charge. He added that the tortures he was put to were so intolerable, that, rather than suffer them over again, he would accuse the same person of the same crimes,—nay, his own father,—though when he said this he was in the bitterness of death, when all hopes of recovery were over. Neither did he at last escape that ignominious death, for he was hanged; and at the time and place of his execution he acquitted the said knight of the crimes wherewith he had, not long before, charged him. (fn. 37)
It is scarcely necessary to point out every touch of new light in matters which are already well known, such as the Princess Margaret's marriage to Charles of Burgundy, and the hiding of Jasper Earl of Pembroke in Wales. But the misconduct of some gentlemen in the Princess's suite in Flanders, and a disturbance which they created at Southwark after their return, from the ill will they bore to the Flemings, are facts which have been hitherto unknown. The luxury of the court of Charles the Bold seems to have destroyed the discipline of the English, while at the same the Burgundian court found it necessary to put some limit to its expensive hospitality. After a certain day the English were told that every man should live at the expense of his own master. Prices rose and accommodation was scanty, from the great concourse of people. The Chronicler himself seems to have been among those who went over with the Princess, for he writes as if from personal experience: "Meat and drink was dear enough, as though it had been in the land of war, for a shoulder of mutton was sold for 12d.; and as for bedding, Lyard my horse had more ease than had some good yeomen; for my horse stood in the house and the yeomen sometimes lay without in the street, for less than 4d. a man should not have a bed a night. Lo, how soon they could play the niggards!" (fn. 38)
The narrative comes to a close (or perhaps is abruptly terminated by the loss of a leaf or two) in the middle of the ninth year of Edward IV., so that there is nothing more of political interest to claim the reader's attention. But it is right to say a few words on some subjects of minor interest which we thought it right to pass by at the time in order to avoid interruption. Every one interested in civic history will be grateful to our chronicler for the account of the blunder committed at the serjeants' feast in 1464, where the Earl of Worcester was given precedence over the Mayor of London, and of the way in which the mayor vindicated his own dignity and the honour of the city by at once retiring with "the substance of his brethern the aldermen" to his own place, where he had a banquet "set and served all so soon as any man could devise, both of cygnet and of other delicates enow, that all the house marvelled how well all thing was done in so short a time." The officers of the feast, deeply ashamed of the mishap, tried to make amends in a fashion not uncommon in those days, by sending to the mayor a present of "meat, bread, wine, and many divers subtleties," intended to form a banquet in itself. But when the messengers arrived they found quite as sumptuous a banquet actually laid upon the table, and the person who was to have made the presentation felt ashamed of the task imposed upon him. He, however, acquitted himself gracefully, and was dismissed with a reward. So "the worship of the city," as our chronicler proudly remarks, "was kept and not lost for him. And I trust that never it shall, by the grace of God." (fn. 39)
To the religious history of the times we have some interesting contributions. The first is an incident referred to by Foxe the Martyrologist, in his "Acts and Monuments," who seems to have derived his information from this Chronicle. In 1465 the chronic rivalry between the religious orders and the priesthood broke out into violent disputations and schism. A Carmelite friar of London, by name Sir Harry Parker, son of a skinner in Fleet Street, preached at Paul's Cross on the old, well-worn theme of an endowed clergy. It was an old well-worn theme even then, though it has lasted so long that it does not seem to be exhausted even in our own days; but Parker, whatever may be said of his taste and judgment, con trived to invest it with some novelty of treatment. He attacked a beneficed clergy as a great abuse, and declared it was wrong for priests to have any temporal livelihood at all, implying that ministers of religion ought to live, like friars, entirely on the alms of the people. In confirmation of this view, he maintained that not one of the Twelve Apostles nor Christ himself had any private property whatever, but all things in common; and he further went so far as to say that our Lord was a beggar, and had nothing but what was given him in alms.
Such a reflection delivered from the most famous of London pulpits shocked and staggered people not a little. But on the following Sunday Dr. William Ive, the Master of Whittington's College, replied to the friar, "and proved that Christ was poor and kept no great treasure, but as for begging he utterly denied it, and by Holy Scripture proved it so that men understood the friar erred sore against Holy Church." The friars, on the other hand, were eager to defend the doctrine, and set up Dr. Thomas Halden to answer Dr. Ive. He again was replied to on the following Sunday by Dr. Storey, parson of All Hallows the More, who three years later was made Bishop of Carlisle. Storey seems to have been moderate in his tone, as one who was anxious to pacify the controversy; but the friars set up bills on every church door impugning what he said, and their provincial, Dr. John Milverton, attacked the beneficed clergy more bitterly than his subordinates had done before. The dispute caused also divisions among the laity, some of whom were offended at the friars and withdrew their alms from them, while others refused the customary offerings to their curates, saying that they had no right to anything except mere alms.
The question was discussed in many places. Dr. Ive lectured upon it at the Cathedral School of St. Paul's, of which he was master, as well as of Whittington College. Among the friars themselves, a great disputation was held between Dr. Halden and a grey friar at the White Friars in Fleet Street. But the grey friar went so far that he was cited by Dr. Alcock, Commissary to the Dean of St. Martin's-le-Grand, to appear before the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth. The friar refused to obey the citation, as his order were exempt from episcopal jurisdiction except in cases of heresy. But the commissary cited him for heresy, and the whole order in vain endeavoured to assert their privileges. Dr. Halden and the provincial were cited but refused to appear, and were excommunicated for contumacy, and the young friar, Harry Parker, who began the controversy, was then committed to prison, but revoked what he had said and abjured the heresy. Yet even his recantation did not prevent others from doing as he had done; for a black friar soon after preached nearly the same doctrine over again, and was compelled to recant in the same manner. Meanwhile the excommunicated provincial had gone to Rome, and some expected still that he would come back in triumph; for he had got a friar at Rome to write a treatise on the Begging of Christ, copies of which were multiplied and sold in many places. But when the matter was brought under the Pope's cognisance, the whole process being sent to him from England, he altogether confirmed what was done, found the provincial guilty in nine more points of heresy, and locked him fast in the Castle of St. Angelo. (fn. 40)
In the seventh year we have an account of the burning of a relapsed heretic named William Barlow, who with his wife had before abjured his errors. It is singular that this man's case has quite escaped the notice of Foxe, although, as we have already remarked, the Martyrologist seems to have been indebted to our Chronicle for information on another subject. Barlow denied Transubstantiation and the authority of priests to hear confession. For his reply to Master Hugh Damelet, parson of St. Peter's, Corn hill, who attempted to reconvert him at the stake, we must be content to refer the reader to the Chronicle itself. (fn. 41)
About the same time we are told that many of the London churches were robbed of the boxes containing the Sacrament; but this was not, as was at first supposed, the doing of a company of heretics. It was simply a set of men who had turned thieves from extreme poverty, and who mistook copper boxes for silver gilt. They made a full confession before execution and died penitent. But the most remarkable point is the statement attributed to one of them, a locksmith, who made the instruments with which they picked the locks, that being at church on several occasions after his crime to hear mass he had been quite unable to see the host at its elevation; but after his confession in Newgate he saw it quite plainly. If this was the genuine statement of the culprit himself, it is a very remarkable instance of the effect of a burdened conscience on the imagination and the senses. (fn. 42)
Finally, we have a curious ordinance, partly directed against one form of Sunday labour, but chiefly against the absurd fashion of wearing shoes with long pikes at the toes, a piece of vanity which the highest authority in the Church thought it necessary to visit with ecclesiastical censure. The Pope issued a bull that no cordwainer should make any pikes more than two inches long or sell shoes on Sunday, or even fit a shoe upon a man's foot on Sunday, on pain of excommunication. Neither was the cordwainer to attend fairs on a Sunday under the same penalty; for not only were fairs held on that day, but the cordwainer's services, it must be supposed, were required at the fairs to adjust the dandy's chaussure, just as much as, in a later age, the barber's aid was necessary to dress his wig. The papal bull was approved by the King's council and confirmed by Act of Parliament; and proclamation was consequently made at Paul's Cross that it should be put in execution. Yet, with all this weight of authority against a silly fashion, the dandy world had its own ideas upon the subject, and some men ventured to say they would wear long pikes in spite of the Pope, for the Pope's curse would not kill a fly. The cordwainers, too, had a vested interest in the extravagance, though some of their own body had been instrumental in getting the Pope's interference. They obtained privy seals and protections from the King to exempt them from the operation of the law, which soon became a dead letter; and those who had applied to the Pope to restrain their practices were subjected to much trouble and persecution. (fn. 43)
In editing this volume it has been my general aim to preserve the text as nearly as possible as it stands in the MS., with merely such amendments in the matter of punctuation and division into paragraphs as might serve to make it more easily intelligible. The spelling of the original scribe has been strictly adhered to, except that the contractions have been extended, and where the letter i has been used for j, v for u, or vice versâ, the modern usage has been followed. Also to prevent the reader being perplexed by the frequent instances of a word which is now invariably treated as one word being divided into its two component parts, as "be syde" for "beside," or the positive separation by the scribe of one word into two, as in "Arche Byschop," a hyphen has been generally substituted for the blank space between the syllables in the original MS.
The only other liberty which has been taken with the text is where unintelligible readings have been corrected by comparison with other MSS.; and in these cases the fact has been always stated in the footnotes.