James Gairdner.

Three fifteenth-century chronicles, with historical memoranda by John Stowe, the antiquary, and contemporary notes of occurrences written by him in the reign of Queen Elizabeth online

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Online LibraryJames GairdnerThree fifteenth-century chronicles, with historical memoranda by John Stowe, the antiquary, and contemporary notes of occurrences written by him in the reign of Queen Elizabeth → online text (page 1 of 20)
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The Council of the Camden Society desire it to be nnder-
stood that they are not answerable for any opinions or obserya-
tions that may appear in the Society's publications ; the Editors
of the several works being alone responsible for the same.


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 lY. ;
and, having found some unedited matter relating to those reio^ns 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 Citizeti
of London, which appeared in 1876. 1 have, however, steadily
kept in view the fulfilment of my original promise to the Society ;
and the result is tlaat 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 above referred to, includes an unpublished chronicle of the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.

But I must now speak of this MS. more particularly, as it
furnishes the greater part of the materials of this work.

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 fittings
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

The contents of the volumes are various in character. The
handwritings are partly 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 leaving been cut by the
bmder ; yet it is clear that he wrote the memoranda inside the cover
afier the book was bound.

The Short Chronicle, though it looks like one, is really three
short chronicles written or transcribed consecutively by the same
pen. The first is a very brief abridgment of the well-known


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 mediaeval 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
addition here made, through transcribers' errors and otherwise, to
the list of mythical kings in Geoffrey of jMonmouth. Thus we have
" Gynder" instead of " Guiderus," " Grandobodian" instead of " Gor-
bonian," "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

Immediately following the abridged *' Brute " we have a copy of
Lydgate's verses on the Kings of England, showing some slight
variations from the text printed in the " Collections of a London

After which comes one of the regular city chronicles, beginning
■with the keepers and bailiffs of London in the time of Kichard 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 else-
where 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 practically 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. Yet 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
historical 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
reigns of Henry VI. and Edward IV., at least from the time of
Jack Cade's rebellion to the year of Edward's marriage with Eliza-
beth 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; » 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.^ 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

" Fortnightly Ri'vierv, New Series, xlvi. 448. I was able, however, afterwards to
cite the positive testimony of this chronicle in the Introduction to the first volume
of the Paston Letters, p. Iv.

'' "And the Kinge came to the Blacke Hethe with his lordys. They hirynge of
this jomey anone the lordis meyne went togeder and said, but the kjTige wolde do
excnssyon on suche traytors as were named, else they wolde turne to the captejTi of
Kent." (p. 67.)


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 responsibility them-

Little need be said about minute details, such as the disputed
question whether Cardinal Kemp went along with Bishop Wayn-
flete to the interview with Cade at Southwark after the battle on
London Bridge. This is the statement in Hall's Chronicle, but as
Fabyan, an 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.

" And forthe withe went the Chaunseler to the capteyne and sessed him and yaye
him a chartur and his men another, and so [they] withdrowe hem homward."

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 Sheriflf 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 : —

" And so the xiij day of Jule John Cade was take in Kentt."

But the Tudor corrector had certainly obtained more perfect

information on the subject, and altered the passage thus : —

" And so one Alexandre Iden, a squyre of Kent, toke hym in a garden yn Sowth-
sex, the xiij day of Jule."

In fact there seems little doubt that even if Iden was at this time
really Sheriff of Kent (which is scarcely probable, all things con-
sidered, within a fortnight after the murder of Sheriff Crowmer'*)

" William Wyrcestre, after mentioning the retreat of the rebels to Rochester, says
only, " Et super hoc puslea eodem anno Alexander Iden factus est in oiBcio yice-


he pursued the traitor a considerable distance into the neiglibouring

The English Chronicle, edited for the Camden Society by Mr.
Davies, says distinctly that Cade was pursued into " the wood
country beside LcAves; " and Gregory states that he was captured in
the Weald of Sussex." But Avithout 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

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.

In the 33rd year of Henry VI. we meet with the following piece

of information : —

"And this ycre the Kynge of Scottys with the rede face layde sege to Berwyke
bothc by water and londe. But he was dryve thensse, and all his ordenaunce and
vitayle that was on the watir syde lefte behynde 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." '^ But I find no mention

of this siege of Berwick in any other old chronicle, except this

Lambeth MS. It is however confirmed by some minutes in the

Privy Council Proceedings.'^

* Collections of a London Citizen, 194.

^ The question whether the capture took place in Kent or Sussex is very fully
discussed in Furley's History of the Weald of Kent, ii. 386-396; where the author,
notwithstanding his original prepossession in favour of Kent, decides that it must
have been in Sussex.

•= Lesley's Eist. of Scotland, 11.

^ Nicolas's Privy Council Proceedings, vi. 248-9.


In the 34th year also we meet with a new fact, viz. the arrest of
an alderman and mercer of London named Cauntelowe, 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.'' He is men-
tioned 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.'^

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.'^ But some addition has recently been made to our know-
ledge of the matter by the publication of Gregory'' s Chronicle ^ and
the Calendar of Venetian State Papers.^ 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

* Heame's Fragment at the end of Sprott, 292. Fabyan, 654.

^ Stevenson's Wars of the English in France, i. 446, 502.

' Vol. i. p. 387 (new ed.) ^ Collections of a London Citizen, 199.

« Vol. i. Nos. 331, 339.


from visiting the port of London. Nevertheless, if our chronicle
be right, some of the Lombards, at least, must have returned to the
city ; lor 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 l.'Uh day of April." This is another addition to our knowledge
of the times. There were 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 mayoraltv
'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 afford 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 alono-
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 jNISS. here edited are more or less important.
And though this chronicle, perhaps, of all the three contains the
CAMD. soc. c


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 transcripts
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 suffi-
ciently 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 Duke 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 has 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 arc 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 (it to
print. Thus in 1562 we have an account of a certain Lady Gary
(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
Fetter Lane.* 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 jMargrave of Baden and his wife to escape in disguise from
their creditors.'' No wonder, when the host of unpaid tradesmen,
the butcher, baker, tailor, and such like, who endeavoured 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 fear of Smithfield fires, undoubtedly gave a strong stimulus
to that party whose object was to break entirely with the past, and
destroy as far as possible the jurisdiction, rites, ceremonies, vest-
ments, 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 infliction 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
^ pp. 121-2. b p. 136.


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.** 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 wonder 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 orders 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 injunctions 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 for-
bidden 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 sufier any Komish superstitions to enter. At the risk of
a considerable tumult he carried his point, the surpliced clergy
wisely giving way and remaining outside.'^

One of the principal agitators among the clergy was a Scotchman
who was accustomed to preach twice a day at St. ]\Iagnus', and
» pp. 128, 133. b pp. 135^ 136.


who ministered the sacrament in a gown or cloak. On Palm

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Online LibraryJames GairdnerThree fifteenth-century chronicles, with historical memoranda by John Stowe, the antiquary, and contemporary notes of occurrences written by him in the reign of Queen Elizabeth → online text (page 1 of 20)