Three Fifteenth-Century Chronicles With Historical Memoranda By John Stowe. Originally published by Camden Society, London, 1880.
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Some years ago, while engaged on my edition of the Paston Letters, I was anxious to examine as far as possible every original source of information for the reigns of Henry VI. and Edward IV.; and, having found some unedited matter relating to those reigns in two MSS. in the Lambeth Library, I recommended them to the Council of the Camden Society for publication. My proposal was at once agreed to; but in the meantime, a more interesting MS. having presented itself relating to the same period, the work was kept back to make way for The Historical Collections of a Citizen of London, which appeared in 1876. I have, however, steadily kept in view the fulfilment of my original promise to the Society; and the result is that I have been led to do somewhat more than I originally contemplated. For it will be seen that the present volume, besides containing contributions from the two Lambeth MSS. above referred to, includes an unpublished chronicle of the same period, from a MS. in the College of Arms. Moreover, I had scarcely begun to examine the work seriously, when I found that it was quite impossible to omit the bulk of John Stowe's Memoranda in the Lambeth MS. 306; and, although they extend to a much later period, these also have been inserted.
MS. 306 in the Lambeth Library is a stout folio volume in an ancient ornamental binding, now very much worm-eaten. The back has been renewed; but the two wooden boards covered with stamped leather preserve their original appearance. The clasps, however, which once held them together, are gone, the brass nails alone remaining in the one cover, and part of the ornamental fitttings on which they clasped still existing in the other. The design on each cover consists of lozenge-shaped compartments filled with foliated ornaments and a framework parallel with the edges, in which the Beaufort portcullis, a branch of oak with acorns, a crowned lion and a dragon, are discernible. It is quite evidently a Tudor binding.
The contents of the volumes are various in character. The handwritings are party of the fifteenth and partly of the sixteenth century. The short Chronicle printed in this volume stands at the beginning. It was probably penned in the reign of Edward IV not long after the date to which it comes down. Marginal notes, however, have been added to the text in a hand of Henry VIII.'s time, and the text itself is occasionally corrected with additions and insertions in the same hand. Where these corrections are important they will be found noted in footnotes in this volume. The same writing also can be traced in a number of other articles throughout the volume, chiefly of the nature of medical receipts, and in some notes on the inside of the cover, which refer to the dates of events as late as the middle of the reign of Henry VIII. It must have been during the time of this penman that the MS. was bound; for several of his marginal notes in the chronicle are mutilated, owing to the edges of the paper having been cut by the binder; yet it is clear that he wrote the memoranda inside the cover after the book was bound.
The Short Chronicle, though it looks like one, is really three short chronicles written or transcribed consecutiverly by the same pen. The first is a very brief abridgment of the well-know Chronicle of the Brute, beginning the history of Albion with the fabled Albina, and ending in the first year of Henry IV. This composition, it is almost needless to say, is absolutely destitute of historical value; but as "the Brute "itself has never yet been edited, and is consequently inaccessible to all but students of black letter and readers of mediæval MSS., this epitome of what was once the most popular history of England may not be without interest. One point which may strike the reader as curious, and which might even be worth a little investigation, if any one could afford to spend some time in the comparison of various MSS., is the considerable additior. here made, through transcribers' errors and otherwise, to the list of mythical kings in Geoffrey of Monmouth. Thus we have "Gynder " instead of "Guiderus," "Grandobodian" instead of "Gorbonian," "Hesydere" for "Elidurus," "Higamus" for "Vigenius," and a number of other aliases which are certainly quite as legitimate names as their prototypes for utterly unreal personages. The most curious transformation perhaps is that of Aurelius Ambrosius into Aurylambos.
After which comes one of the regular city chronicles, beginning with the keepers and bailiffs of London in the time of Richard I., and a register of mayors and sheriffs from the first institution of the mayoralty in the time of King John. It is in this composition, and of course in the latter part of it only, that the real historical value of the work consists; for down to the reign of Henry V. the record of each mayor's year is a very bald one, and contains nothing that is not found elsewhere. The catalogue of civic officers itself however may possibly be of some slight value; for amid the many corruptions of names given more correctly elsewhere appear to be some genuiue aliases, such as the name of Richard Soperlane, sheriff in the 27th year of Edward I., who is commonly known as Richard de Refham.
Opposite the name of each mayor are given in the margin, as shown during the reign of King John at pages 32 and 33, the year of our Lord corresponding to his year of office, and a Roman numeral in the case of mayors who had served more than once, indicating whether it was for the first, second, third, or what later time he was then mayor; but, as these numbers are added by a different hand, and are moreover practially useless and often very inaccurate, I have not thought it necessary to give more than a specimen of them at the beginning.
It does not appear that this chronicle has ever been referred to as a source of historical information. Yer the MS.seems at one time to have belonged to Stowe the Chronicler, who has made copious memoranda on the blank leaves of the volume. There are also pencilled notes in some places in a hand of the time of James I. or Charles I., showing that it had attracted the attention of at least one antiquary in that age of historical research. But beyond this we have no evidence that it has been consulted by any one, and even Stowe has not made such use of it in his Chronicle that we can distinctly say he derived his information on any point from this one particular source. In fact it seems rather as if he had found little in it that he could make use of save what was common to this and other chronicles, and therefore neglected to refer to it.
Such might very well have been the impression even of a great histocrical collector in those days, whose aim was rather to obtain a complete outline of English history than to fill in details and illustrative matter. Nevertheless the latter part of this chronicle has all the value of an original and independent authority for the regins of Henry VI. and Edward IV., at least from the time of Jack Cade's rebellion to the year of Edward's marriage with Elizabeth Woodville, in which it comes to an end. And on careful examination it will be found that this chronicle contains facts of some importance that have been passed over by other writers, to some of which I have already called attention in other publications. For one thing, this chronicle states positively as a fact a thing which is not set forth in any of our histories, and which I myself maintained several years ago only as a matter of inference, viz. that Cade's pardon was invalidated in consequence of the discovery that his real name was not Mortimer; (fn. 1) so that it would seem his pretence of high birth was generally believed in till after the insurrection in London had been appeased. There is certainly something marvellous in the fact that he was able to maintain false pretensions so long—especially when we consider the formidable dimensions of the movement in which he took the lead. It was not only that all the gentry of Kent followed his standard, but even the King's own followers told him plainly, that, unless execution were done upon the traitors who were so unpopular, they too would desert to the captain. (fn. 2) The misgovernment that provoked the insurrection was, in fact, generally felt to justify pretty strong measures by way of remonstrance. But, this being so, the wonder is all the greater that the remonstrants should have put themselves under the leadership of a man whose true character was so ill known to them. That there must have been collusion on the part of some of the Kentish gentry seems past a doubt. By setting up a pretender they avoided incurring the highest reponsibility themselves.
Little need be said about minute details, such as the disputed question whether Cardinal Kemp went along with Bishop Waynflete to the interview with Cade at Southwark after the battle on London Bridge. This is the statement in Hall's Chronicle, but as Fabyan, and earlier authority, states that the cardinal, being then Lord Chancellor, sent pardons under the great seal to Cade and his followers, it seemed doubtful whether Hall was not here in error. Our chronicle, however, confirms Hall's statement.
It has also been a point of controversy among local antiquaries whether Cade was captured in Sussex or in Kent. Of course Iden's jurisdiction as Sheriff of Kent did not extend into Sussex; and this fact may have led to a general impression that he was taken in Kent. Thus in the text of our chronicle it was originally written:—
In fact there seems little doubt that even if Iden was at this time really Sheriff of Kent (which is scarcely probable, all things considered, within a fortnight after the murder of Sheriff Crowmer (fn. 3)) he pursued the traitor a considerable distance into the neighbouring county.
The English Chronicle, edited for the Camden Society by Mr. Davies, says distinctly that Cade was pursued into "the wood country beside Lewes; " and Gregory states that he was captured in the Wealed of Sussex. (fn. 4) But without going quite so far south as Lewes local traditions and other evidences seem to show that he was apprehended in a garden at Heathfield, in the very middle of the county. (fn. 5)
It is important to observe that the alteration in the text here made by the Tudor corrector is in exact agreement with Fabyan's Chronicle, and very likely Fabyan was the authority he relied on. Nevertheless the exact date of Cade's capture, which Fabyan did not know, is supplied even by the original text of our chronicle, and is preserved by the corrector.
"And this yere the Kynge of Scottys with the rede face layde sege to Berwyke bothe by water and londe. But he was dryve thensse, and all his ordenaunce and vitayle that was on the watir syde lefte byhunde them."
King James II. of Scotland, as we are informed by Lesley, "was called James withe the firye face, be ressoun of ane bread reid spott quhilk he had upon ane of his cheikis." (fn. 6) But I find no mention of this siege of Berwick in any other old chornicle, except this Lambeth MS. It is however confirmed by some minutes in the Privy Council Proceedings. (fn. 7)
In the 34th year also we meet with a new fact, viz. the arrest of an alderman and mercer of London named Cautelowe, who was summoned before the King's Council and imprisoned, as an accessory in the attack on the houses of the Italian merchants. This is, doubtless, the William Cantelowe who afterwards captured Henry VI. in a wood, and brought him to King Edward. (fn. 8) He is mentioned in various accounts before this date as having dealings with the Crown, at one time as conveying money over sea for bringing Queen Margaret to England, at another time for supplying the Castle of Cherbourg with gunpowder when it was in the hands of the English. (fn. 9)
The outrage in which Cantelowe was accused of taking part was one of those occasional outbursts of jealousy and dislike towards foreigners which are met with at intervals in the early annals of London. The circumstances of the case are related by Fabyan, and the execution of two of the rioters is alluded to in the Paston Letters. (fn. 10) But some addition has recently been made to our knowledge of the matter by the publication of Greygory's Chronicle (fn. 11) and the Calendar of Venetian State Papers. (fn. 12) The formidable character of the outbreak may be judged from the fact that the Italian merchants were compelled to quit London, and take up their abode at Winchester and Southampton. Their withdrawal in all probability produced a sensible effect upon the commerce of the city; for they made a bye-law among themselves, that no individual merchant of Northern Italy should henceforth go to London and trade there. This ordinance the signory of Venice ratified by a decree of the Senate, and prohibited, under a heavy fine, all Venetian vessels from visiting the port of London. Nevertheless, if our chronicle be right, some of the Lombards, at least, must have returned to the city; for next year another affray between them and the mercers is recorded, which led to the arrest of eight and twenty mercers' men, who were first committed to Windsor Castle, and afterwards brought to the King's presence. But it may perhaps be doubted whether this is is not a misdated account of the same riot copied from some other source.
After this, in the 37th year, we have "A great fray between the city of London and men of court, which were driven with the archers of the city from the Standard in Fleet Street to their Inns, the 13th day of April." This is another addition to our knowledge of the times. There was plenty of "frays" going on elsewhere from time to time, and even the city chroniclers forgot to tell us of this one. It is remarkable that Alderman Tayllour was summoned to Windsor to answer for it, along with some others who were implicated, and that they remained in prison till Hewlyn was mayor, when they were released at his intercession. The mayoralty of Hewlyn began in 1459, about the same time as the parliament of Coventry, in which the Yorkists were attainted. But, after a sweeping Act against great political opponents, the Court could well affored to relax its severity against a handful of citizens, whom it had already detained long in prison.
It is impossible to dwell on minute points of information supplied by this chronicle, the significance of which could only be made apparent in an elaborate history of the period. But, taken along with the other contents of this volume, it certainly adds somewhat to the meagre outline of events given by William of Worcester and Fabyan, especially in the first four years of Edward IV.—a period in which all the three MSS. here edited are more or less important. And though this chronicle, perhaps, of all the three contains the least amount of positively new matter, it may be sufficient to refer to what it says of the arrest of Henry VI. by the Earl of Warwick at Islington, to show its value as an independent authority.
A few words, perhaps, may suffice as to the other historical matter printed from the same MS. as the chronicle. Articles ranging in date from the siege of Calais by Edward III. to the middle of the reign of Queen Elizabeth certainly seem a little out of place in a volume intended mainly to illustrate fifteenth-century history. But the account of the retinues at the siege of Calais appeared not to have been printed before, and, as Stowe's memoranda and transcirpts were important even for the period to which I had proposed to limit this publication, it would have been unpardonable to suppress those relating to his own time, which are the most interesting of them all.
It is quite unnecessary to expatiate on the value of these materials. The first, which is styled a proclamation made by Jack Cade, but which seems rather the declaration put forth by his followers of the causes of their revolt, is a thing of which the importance is sufficiently obvious. Yet it has never been printed at full length even by Stowe himself, though he has cited in his Chronicle another version, or perhaps another manifesto, in which some of the articles are nearly the same. The satirical dirge which follows upon Jack Napes (or the Duck of Suffolk) is also better known in another and shorter version. The account of the christening of Prince Arthur has not, I think, been published before, though another description of the same ceremony is printed in Leland's Collectanea.
These and other matters had the laborious historian carefully transcribed from older MSS. But in addition to this he had added in his own hand memoranda of occurrences which happened in his own time and mostly within his own experience. Of these a good number are recorded in his Chronicle or Book of Annals nearly in the same words; but with them are mixed up many other matters, which, either as being of less public importance or perhaps in some cases not altogether safe to comment upon, he did not think fit to print. Thus in 1562 we have an account of a certain Lady Cary (a relation of Queen Elizabeth herself, though who she was precisely I have not been able to discover) being imprisoned along with other ladies in the Fleet for allowing a priest to say mass at her house in Feeter Lane. (fn. 13) This was evidently a matter on which it would not have been politic to comment, and nothing about it is found in the printed Annals. An equal silence is preserved about the attempt of the Margrave of Baden and his wife to escape in disguise from their creditors. (fn. 14) No wonder, when the host of unpaid tradesmen, the butcher, baker, tailor, and such like, who endeavoured to to prevent their escape, were ordered to the Fleet and the Marshalsea for their pains, that John Stowe did not see it to be his duty to record the circumstance in print!
On the religious condition of the times these memoranda of Stowe reflect very considerable light, and cannot fail to be read with interest in connection with the controversies of our own day. The accession of Queen Elizabeth, while it relieved the Protestants from the feat of Smithfield fires, undoubtedly gave a strong stimulus to that party whose object was to break entirely with the past, and destory as far as possible the jurisdiction, rites, ceremonies, vestments, and every other external means by which reverence for the Church and faith in her doctrines had hitherto been maintained. Archdeacon Cole, preaching before the Lord Mayor, aldermen, sheriffs, and crafts of the city, could not congratulate the citizens on the cessation of the plague without attributing the inflication to the superstitious religion of Rome, which he said was so much in favour. He denounced it as a false religion, worse, he said, than that of the Turk, and even than that of the Devil. At another time he gracefully likened priests to apes, as being both bald alike, only the priests were bald before, and the apes behind. (fn. 15) When such flowers of rhetoric as these, which Stowe with quiet satire records under the title "Points of Divinity," could proceed from a dignitary of the Church, who can wounder that the feeling of the common people found still more forcible expression? Clergy and laity were alike rabid with party spirit. In vain had the Queen herself issued injunctions for the decent observance of divine worship. Her order were very generally disregarded. The London clergy were accordingly summoned to a conference at Lambeth on Tuesday, the 26th March, 1566, where they were admonished to obey, on pain of suspension from their cures; and more complete instruction was given them as to their duties by the publication of the Archbishop's celebrated "Advertisements" in the following week; but even this had very little effect. Several of the clergy flatly disobeyed both injuctions and advertisements. In the greater number of parishes parochial duty was left to the sextons; but in others the clergy themselves did service in the forbidden gowns and cloaks, and preached violently against the order taken by the Queen in Council, not forbearing to censure the bishops for yielding their consent to it. The vicar of St. Giles's, Cripplegate, went so far as to stop a funeral entering his church, because six clergymen accompanied it wearing the legal surplices. The Queen, he said, had given him the benefice for life, and he would not suffer any Romish superstitions to enter. At the risk of a considerable tumult he carried his point, the surpliced clergy wisely giving way and remaining outside. (fn. 16)
One of the principal agitators among the clergy was a Scotchman who was accustomed to preach twice a day at St. Magnus', and who ministered the sacrament in a grown or cloak. On Palm Sunday he preached a violent sermon at All Hallows the Less in Thames Street, where the incumbent, who had complied with the injuctions, sat listening to him with a sarcastic smile quite visible upon his features. The result was, that, after the sermon, some of the congregation addressed a remonstrance to the incumbent, which began in argument and ended in a scuffle between the opposite sides. The general excitement on these subjects was increased by a host of pamphlets which were scattered freely about the streets, and many of which were, according to the ideas of that age, nothing less than seditious libels. Between Easter and Whitsuntide, however, the Scotchman seems to have been converted—by what influences we are not told. On Whit Monday he found his conscience allowed him to do duty in a surplice at St. Margaret Pattens in Rood Lane. But, unfortunately for him, his audience liked his former preaching better than his later practice, and his appearance caused a regular riot inside the church, especially among the women, who threw stones at him, and pulled him out of the puplit, tearing his surplice and scratching his gace in their violence. (fn. 17)
Two others of the London clergy, who were prominent in their opposition to the injunctions, were Philpot and Gough, each holding a plurality of cures, some of which appear to have been within the diocese of Winchester. Robert Horne, Bishop of that see, summoned them to a conference at Winchester, in which the subject was to be discussed for one-and-twenty days. As they passed over London Bridge into Southwark, they were accompanied by two or three hundred women, laden with bags and bottles "to banquent at their departing.' Whether this was an open-air entertainment the author does not say; but it was not the only form in which the crowd displayed their enthusiastic liberality. Presents of gold, silver, spice, sugar, and other things were made in abundance, and ther travellers were everywhere exhorted to stand fast in the doctrine they had taught, touching the important subject of caps and surplices. (fn. 18)
On the other hand, the Bishop of London himself, on coming to St. Margaret's church in Old Fish Street, was hooted at by the congregation, and especially by the women, because he wore the cornered cap belonging to his dignity. A cry of "Ware horns!" rose up, with other opporbrious language. The episcopal dignity had certainly fallen into strange disrepute, at all events in the city of London, when such a scene was possible. Nor was it easy to inflict appropriate punishment on the offenders. One woman indeed was taken on of the following Saturday and placed upon two ladders "like a cucking stool," for the space of a whole hour; but, like Defoe in a later age, she only rejoiced in her punishment, and was encouraged by the spectators to glory in having been thought worthy to suffer persecution for the sake, as they declared, of righteousness and truth in protesting against superstition. (fn. 18)
I leave the reader to examine for himself the notice of the original Puritans and Brownists, which completes the religious picture of the times, (fn. 19) the minute accounts of the mortality from the plague, (fn. 20) the description of the tournament at the marriage of Lord Ambrose Dudley, (fn. 21) the meeting between the Queen and Leicester in 1566, (fn. 22) the proclamation for the sale of the houses on the site destined for Sir Thomas Gresham's Exchange, (fn. 23) and other matters of the like character; all of which possess much interest for the historical reader.
The reader has now before him everything that is of a distinctly historical character in the Lambeth Volume No. 306. That volume, however, also contains, as will be seen by the catalogue, a quantity of poetry, medical receipts, and scraps of various kinds, which do not, generally speaking, greatly repay perusal. I have, however, printed two little scraps at the end of this preface (Note A) which are not altogether uninteresting as curiosities.
The " Brief Notes," which form the second portion of this volume, are derived from a MS. (No. 448 in the Lambeth Library) which seems to have been penned within the monastery of Ely. It is a small quarto volume, containing 153 leaves, of which the greater part are parchment; but the last 37 and some in the middle are of paper. The earlier portion is the history of the monastery and of the bishops of Ely printed by Wharton in his Anglia Sacra, pp. 593—674. It extends from the days of the founder, Queen Etheldreda the Virgin, to the episcopate of Morton, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury and Cardinal, who succeeded to this see in the year 1478. This history is written on parchment as far as folio 77, and is continued for 22 pages further upon paper, the continuation being evidently a portion of the draft from which the whole was copied. This is shown by the fact that on the top line of folio 78 the first four words of a sentence are cancelled, being contained in the last line of the vellum leaf immediately preceding. The handwriting on the paper leaves is different from that of the portion written on vellum, but both are evidently of the same period, the close of the fifteenth century. The work, however, is continued by a sixteenth-century pen, from the episcopate of Alcock, Morton's successor, to that of Thirlby.
After this follow 25 leaves of parchment, filled with matter relating to the statutes and benefactors of the monastery, all in fifteenth-century handwriting, and containing much that is of considerable interest to the student of monastic usages. In the middle of this portion, however, are a few leaves which had been left blank, and which have been filled up by a later scribe with the genealogy of Robert Steward, the last Prior and first Dean of Ely, who died in 1557. This genealogy has also been printed by Wharton, pp. 686–8.
From folio 117 to the end is again paper, filled with writing of the fifteenth century; and it is from this portion alone that our extracts are taken. The contents, however, are very miscellaneous, being partly jottings and extracts from various sources, in which the only point of real interest is an account of the great fire at Bury St. Edmund's in 1140, and partly an exceedingly rough and careless, but still contemporary, register of current events. The entries here have not even been written in consecutively as the events occurred, but later occurrances precede earlier ones, although the date of the year is invariably given at the head of the paragraph. Evidently this part of the volume was a mere memorandum book, filled up irregularly at intervals, and intended merely to aid in the compilation of some more polished chronicle. Even the dates given prior to the year 1450 are very inaccurate; indeed a good number of the occurrences in that year are referred to the year 1449. But in point of fact these brief notes are, with one exception, of little or no consequence before the year 1459, and most of the preceding entries are probably derived from some other source. An exception, however, ought certainly to be made as to the paragraph relating to the Parliament at Bury in 1446–7, and the suspected murder of the Duke of Gloucester. The strong impression produced by that event is shown by all the historical evidences of the period; and it is all the more interesting to read what appears to have been a first impression produced when the news was fresh, in a monastery not thirty miles distant from the scene of its occurrence.
This paragraph moreover contains circumstantial information not found elsewhere. Whatever the facts may have been, Suffolk professed to apprehend danger to the King from the machinations of his uncle, and caused him to be protected by a very strong guard (about 60,000 men and villeins, says our MS.) at every town in which he stopped on his way to the Parliament. The writer however altogether discredits the danger, and tells us that Duke Humphrey came up from Wales in obedience to the King's command without a thought or suspicion of evil in his mind, merely hoping to obtain the King's favour for Dame Eleanor his wife, who had been for some time imprisoned. The writer's incredulity as to the conspiracy was doubtless shared by the majority of the people, as it is by most of the writers of this period; but it seems strange that, such being the case, the strong bodyguard is not even noticed by any other writer.
Great confusion exists in some parts of the narrative; in one place the writer actually speaks of Pomfret Castle being near Southwark (p. 154). The battle of Northampton is dated 1459, instead of 1460 (p. 153), and in the account of the circumstances which led to it the name of Northampton seems to be introduced prematurely where Ludlow was the place that is really referred to. (fn. 24) These and a variety of other errors show the carelessness with which these notes of occurrences were drawn up. (fn. 25)
But, while inaccuracies such as these might seem to detract from the value of the record, its importance as an original source of information on many points cannot be overlooked. The news of the battle of Hedgley Moor has evidently been taken down when it was quite fresh, prefaced by the words, "These tidings hath my lord of Lincoln, and the same be come to Stamford" (p. 156). Again, the exploits of Earl Douglas in 1462, of which no other account has been preserved to us are introduced in like manner, with the words, "These been the tidings sent out of Scotland" (p. 159). In may be added that the sieges in Northumberland in 1462 (p. 159) are described in the present tense, as if they were still going on, and the account of them is concluded by the statement, "Rex tenet Natale suum apud Dorham" (the King is keeping his Christmas at Durham). Even the errors as to matters of fact in some cases are such as could only have been made at the time; as, for example, in the list of those killed at Towton (p. 160), which includes not only Queen Margaret and her son, but at least seven noblemen besides, (fn. 26) who certainly survived that day, and some of whom lived after it for twenty years or more.
Inaccuracies of this kind are instructive, for in the present case they testify to the exaggerated impression produced by a great victory. Even what may be called the offical report, written just after the battle by King Edward himself, wrongly enumerated among the slain Lords Willoughby and Scales, while it spoke with rather less certainty of the death of Northumberland, who certainly was one of them; and mentioned truly that King Henry and Margaret with their son, the Dukes of Somerset and Exeter, and Lord Roos, had escaped to Scotland. (fn. 27) But the report which first reached the monastery of Ely confounded those who had fled with those who had fallen in battle, and added two more noblemen besides to the appalling list. Almost anything must have seemed credible as to the fatal results of a conflict after which it was positively stated that 28,000 corpses had been numbered upon the field by heralds. (fn. 28)
There can be no doubt, therefore, whether its statements be accurate or the reverse, that this Ms. contains the first intelligence of a number of occurrences as they were reported in the monastery of Ely in the beginning of Edward the Fourth's reign. And after the fullest allowance made for error these brief notes certainly make a considerable addition to what was already known of that obscure and turbulent period. Here we have not only the account of several actions fought and sieges laid, but of Lancastrian conspiracies detected, and of the foreign alliances by which it was believed the defeated party would be enabled to invade England at several points at once (p. 158). The account of the discovery of the conspiracy of the Earl of Oxford in 1461–2 (pp. 162–3) is also new and not altogether unimportant. Nor must we pass by in silence the long catalogue at p. 157 of the noblemen and knights who accompanied King Edward to the borders of Scotland in December 1462. But on these things, as on the minute fragments if information in the Short English Chronicle, it is quite impossible to enlarge in a Preface like this, and we must be content with having thus briefly indicated the sort of material which this MS. contains.
Before finally taking leave of it, however, it may be interesting to give here an extract from the earlier part of the volume relative to an earthquake in the year 1488. On the back of folio 166 occurs the following note:—
Anno Domini M°CCCC°lxxxmoviij°, in festo Sancti Thome Martiris erat terre motus magnus per quarternium unius hore ante horam duodecimam in nocte, ex quo plures audientes et sensientes erant exterriti; qui duravit per spacium unius (fn. 29) Ave Maria.
The third source from which the contents of this volume are derived is the MS. numbered 5 in the Arundel Collection in the College of Arms. It is a great parchment folio still preserved in the old wooden covers, and, as mentioned in the catalogue, "on the right hand one is a curious tablet, covering a piece of parchment, with the titles of the contents written by the original scribe." Nothing seems to be known of the history of this volume beyond the fact that it once belonged to Fox the Martyrologist and afterwards became the property of Lord William Howard of Naworth—a collector whose historical and religious views being totally opposed to those of his predecessor, he has left a note in one place accusing Fox, but it must be said most untruly, of interpolating a passage in the text concerning the death of King John.
The contents are, first, what is called a Scala Mundi, or tabular chronology of universal history, with dates extending down to the year 1619, the events however being only filled in to the year 1469. Second, a double history of Popes and Emperors on opposite pages, the former carried down as far as the year 1334, and the latter to the period of the Guelph and Ghilbelline factions. And third, a "Compilacio de Gestis Britonum et Anglorum," continued to the year 1471. It is the concluding portion of this last work that alone has any value for the historian, because there is no doubt that for the reign of Edward IV. at least it is a strictly contemporary record. As such it has been already cited by Mr. Halliwell Phillipps, who quoted some extracts from it in his Appendix to Warkworth's Chronicle—the first work ever published by this Society. (fn. 30) But the whole narrative for the reign of Edward IV. is full of interest, and, as it is difficult to say at what point the work begins to be an original composition, I have given a complete transcript from the beginning of Henry VI.'s reign.
Whoever the compiler was, he certainly lived in the days of Henry VI. and Edward IV. Yet for the most part, if not the whole, of Henry VI.'s reign his narrative is of very little value. So slender is his record of events that the first battle of St. Alban's is altogether omitted, though there is a retrospective allusion to it in connection with the pacification of 1457-8 (p. 168). The disgrace of Bishop Pecock in the same year is related with a good deal of the usual theological bitterness (pp. 167-8). But there is really nothing in this Chronicle that cannot be found elsewhere before the year 1460, and little even in that year, though the circumstances connected with the battle of Northampton and the Duke of York's claim to the crown are recorded somewhat more fully than previous events. An abstract of the Duke of York's claim in parliament is quoted in English (p. 170), and it is clear the writer has much sympathy both with him and with his son.
Just after Edward the Fourth was proclaimed King in London, we find that his title was set forth in a sermon at Paul's Cross by George Nevill, Bishop of Exeter, the Earl of Warwick's brother. When the sermon was finished, King Edward rode through the streets to Westminster in a great procession of lords spiritual and temporal, and sat down in the royal seat (sedes regalis) in Westminster Hall, as if taking formal possession of the throne. (fn. 31) This intelligence is very remarkable, and suggests at once the question how far Richard III. intended to use the case as a precedent when Dr. Shaw preached in behalf of his title from the same pulpit. That Richard hoped to be made King (or make himself so) by acclamation like his brother is the belief that has always been accepted; and it is remarkable that, though Dr. Shaw's sermon was a failure, and Richard took no steps that day to secure possession of the throne, he actually did on the day of his accession, which was only four days later, take his seat in the marble chair in Westminster Hall, the sedes regalis mentioned by our chronicler.
This Sedes regalis, or marble chair of royalty, was apparently the King's Bench, from which the court derives its name; (fn. 32) and it is interesting to find, a little further on (p. 175), that it was not a mere antiquated tradition in Edward the Fourth's days that kings might administer justice in person; for we are told that Edward himself in 1462, sitting in the King's Bench (in bancho suo regali) at Westminster, heard a particular cause tried before him, his Chancellor and Justices assisting him with their advice.
Of the military and naval movements at the commencement of Edward IV.'s reign this is perhaps the clearest contemporary account that we possess; Worcester's narrative, though rather more minute, being defective in some places, and particularly in the year 1463, where a leaf of the original MS. is lost. (fn. 33) From what we read in the present Chronicle that does not appear to have been a very eventful year; but the tone of the writer's comments upon it is noteworthy. He takes note of the assembly and prorogation of parliament, and observes that he is not aware that it had redressed any evils or initiated any reforms during its seven weeks' sitting. He makes no mention of what was apparently the only business transacted—the vote of 37,000l. for the defence of the kingdom. (fn. 34) But this was a matter that only afftected the laity, and evidently the writer was a churchman. The taxation of the laity was a mere trifle to what was extorted at the same time from the clergy, and on this subject our author writes feelingly. The Convocation of Canterbury granted the king the sum of one mark, or thirteen shillings and four pence, on every ten marks clerical income; "at which," he says, "many were aggrieved and complained, both because they were poor and because moneys so extorted from the clergy rarely or never lead to any good result, but rather to the confusion and disgrace of those who use them. For after the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary King Edward mustered a great army and prepared to subdue his adversaries by land and sea. I know not, however, what good he did in that expedition. And the Earl of Worcester with his ship and sailors, lurking as it were by the shores and havens of the sea and consuming their provisions, returned empty without doing anything. O unhappy result, shame and confusion!"
The King's necessities about the same time, or shortly afterwards, led him to enhance the value of the coinage and seize upon the revenues of the two Colleges founded by his predecessor at Cambridge and Eton, the latter of which he had some thought of suppressing altogether by the aid of a papal bull. Happily he was persuaded to abandon this intention; but the endowments of both Colleges were reduced and a large portion went to meet the King's requirements. (fn. 35)
It is evident that the cause of Henry VI. was at this time by no means desperate, and might even have triumphed without the unexpected aid which it afterwards received from the Earl of Warwick. For the civil war was by no means so intermittent and spasmodic an affair as the meagre contemporary notices might well lead us to imagine. Through the early part of King Edward's reign it was quite continuous, and we now learn for the first time that in 1464 the Lancastrians obtained possession of the castles of Norham and Skipton in Craven. The news took Edward by surprise while he was feasting with his lords in London, and presently he proceeded to the North to resist the enemy. But his going seemed to produce very little result, and after a good deal of time had been wasted Edward's Chancellor, George Nevill Bishop of Exeter, the brother of Warwick and Lord Montague, took his journey also to the North for the relief of the latter lord, who had to sustain the brunt of the conflict. But on the 2nd May, we are told, a decisive battle was fought by Montague, in which the Lancastrian party were defeated, the Duke of Somerset and others put to flight, and Sir Ralph Percy Slain. (fn. 36)
So the facts are related, but I am bound to state that the narrative in this place does not seem quite so accurate as elsewhere. From the dates of King Edward's privy seals it appears that he remained in or near London till the end of April. He was at the Tower on the 26th of that month, and this must have been about the time when the news came of the capture of Norham and Skipton Castles. On the 29th April we find him at St. Alban's, and by the 2nd May he had reached Northampton, so that by that date, when the decisive battle above alluded to is said to have been fought, the King certainly had not lost much time. He contrived to waste a little, as we know quite well, the day before, when he secretly stole away from Stony stratford and got married to Elizabeth Woodville at Grafton. But as he rejoined his company the same day, and no one knew of the affair for some months after, it cannot be said that even this was a great delay, so far. It was after the decisive battle had been fought, and no doubt becasue it had been fought and won, that Edward mainfestly slackened speed on his progress northwards. He stayed at Leicester from the 8th to the 13th May, was at Nottingham on the 15th, had reached Pomfret by the 14th June, and Doncaster by the 23rd, and seems to have advanced no further. In July we find him again at Leicester, and in August we trace his movements southwards by Stamford and Fotheringay to Woodstock, which he reached on the 24th. The only material waste of time, therefore, that we can detect on the King's part, was after the danger was practically at an end.
Again, the decisive battle in which Sir Ralph Percy was slain was, it is well known, the battle of Hedgley Moor; but it appears by the concurrent evidence of Gregory's Chronicle and the Rolls of Parliament to have been fought, not on the 2nd May, but on St. Mark's Day, the 25th April, (fn. 37) so here seems to be another inaccuracy. These however are exceptions. The account of the executions after the battle of Hexham corresponds with that in Gregory's Chronicle (Coll. of a London Citizen, 224—6), and must have been derived from a common source, but the Latin text seems to be the more accurate.
From the year 1464 to the close of this Chronicle in 1471 there is comparatively little recorded that is not to be found elsewhere; but the narrative, slender as it is, ought certainly not to be overlooked by any one who proposes to study the history of the period from original sources.
12. And yf thou may in any wyse,
Make the chartyr on warantyse,
To thyn heyres and assygnes all so.
Thys shall a wyse purchasser doo;
And in tenne yere if ye wyse be.
Ye shall a geyne youre sylver see.
Moyses, xiij fote & viij ynches & di.
Cryste, vj fote & iij ynches.
Our Lady, vj fote & viij ynches.
Crystoferus, xvij fote & viij ynches.
Kyng Alysaunder, iiij fote & v ynches.
Colbronde, xvij fote & ij ynches & di.
Syr Gy, x fote iij ynches & di.
Seynt Thomas of Caunterbery, vij fote save a ynche.
Long Mores, a man of Yrelonde borne, and servaunt to Kyng Edward the iiijth, vj fote & x ynches & di.
"At the upper end of Westminster Hall is a marble 'stone' (sic) [perhaps table or bench], of nineteen feet in length and three feet in breadth, and a marble chair, where the Kings of England formerly sat at their coronation dinners: and at other solemn times the Lord Chancellors, but now not to be seen, being built over by the Courts of King's Bench and Chancery" (p. 240). "It is to be wished that when the purposed alterations of these places shall commence, every lover of our monarchical antiquities will interest himself in the preservation of these venerable relics, since the same barbarous insensibility that buried them alive will scruple as little to profane or destroy them when disclosed.
"When this communication was delivered in writing by Mr. Smith to Mr. Groves, Clerk of the Works of the Old Palace of Westminster, that gentleman gave immediate orders for an investigation of the fact. But it appears that the search was made close to the southern wall, and that he was completely disappointed. It is highly probable that the chair and table [he has here, I fancy, fallen into the mistake of confusing the architectural expression a 'basement table,' which really means a stone bench attached to a wall, with the ordinary idea of a table!] were placed at a distance from the wall. so that had the examination taken place at about 15 feet from the wall these relics might have been discovered. Is not the title of Court of 'King's Bench' derived from this identical marble bench? because it is well known that our early kings sat in parliament in Westminster Hall."
This is very interesting, but to my mind it proves most distinctly that the throne and bench had been destroyed before Mr. Groves made his search. I think that the two facts taken together—1. That this feature is sometimes called a "bench," and sometimes a "table," and 2ndly, that we always find these thrones and benches in combination attached to the wall—go a very long way to prove that "the marble seat and bench in Westminster Hall were attached to the south wall of the building." That they must have been destroyed before Mr. Groves made his search is, I think, certain, because had they existed they must have been discovered when the interior of the hall was restored by Sir Robert Smirke for George the Fourth's coronation; but Brayley, who relates most exactly the discoveries in St. Stephen's Chapel, says nothing whatever about them, and I have no doubt, myself, that they were destroyed in 1680, when a doorway was cut through the south end of the Hall; in fact, if, as I suppose, the throne was attached to the wall, this doorway would have exactly occupied its place.