The Wars of the Roses

[Henry VI] [Edward IV]

The reading this week is chapters 1-3 of Lacey Baldwin Smith, This Realm of England: 1399 to 1688, and these documents.

The documents that follow include examples of early-modern English, and you may well find the spelling and syntax hard to follow. Don't worry if you can't understand every word, the aim is get the flavor of how the English wrote then.
Tip: Try saying a word out loud if you can't understand it - early-modern writers did not follow dictionaries - they spelt phonetically.

Document I

Jack Cade's Proclamation of Grievances, 1450

These be the points, cause and mischiefs of gathering and assembling of us, the king's liege men of Kent, the 4th day of June the year of our Lord 1450, the reign of our sovereign lord the king 29th, which we trust to Almighty God to remedy, with the help and the grace of God and of our sovereign lord the king, and the poor commons of England, and else we shall die therefore: We, considering that the king our sovereign lord, by the insatiable, covetous, malicious persons that daily and nightly are about his highness, and daily inform him that good is evil and evil is good:

Item. They say that our sovereign is above his laws to his pleasure, and he may make it and break it as he pleases, without any distinction. The contrary is true, or else he should not have sworn to keep it.

Item. They say that the commons of England would first destroy the king's friends and afterward himself, and then bring the Duke of York to be king so that by their false means and lies they may make him to hate and destroy his friends, and cherish his false traitors. They call themselves his friends, and if there were no more reason in the world to know, he may know they be not his friends by their covetousness.

Item. They say that it were great reproof to the king to take again what he has given, so that they will not suffer him to have his own good, nor land, nor forfeiture, nor any other good but they ask it from him, or else they take bribes of others to get it for him.

Item. It is to be remedied that the false traitors will suffer no man to come into the king's presence for no cause without bribes where none ought to be had. Any man might have his coming to him to ask him grace or judgment in such case as the king may give.

Item. They say that whom the king wills shall be traitor, and whom he wills shall be not, and that appears hitherto, for if any of the traitors about him would malign against any person, high or low, they would find false many that should die a traitor for to have his lands and his goods, but they will suffer the king neither to pay his debts withal, nor pay for his victuals nor be the richer of one penny.

Item. The law serves of nought else in these days but for to do wrong, for nothing is spread almost but false matters by color of the law for reward, dread and favor and so no remedy is had in the Court of Equity in any way.

Item. We say our sovereign lord may understand that his false council has lost his law, his merchandise is lost, his common people is destroyed, the sea is lost, France is lost, the king himself is so set that he may not pay for his meat nor drink, and he owes more than ever any King of England ought, for daily his traitors about him where anything should come to him by his laws, anon they take it from him.

Item. They ask gentlemen's goods and lands in Kent and call them rioters, and traitors and the king's enemies, but they shall be found the king's true liege men and best friends with the help of Jesus, to whom we cry day and night with many thousand more that God of His grace and righteousness shall take vengeance and destroy the false governors of his realm that has brought us to naught and into much sorrow and misery.

Item. We will that all men know we blame not all the lords, nor all those that are about the king's person, nor all gentlemen nor yeomen, nor all men of law, nor all bishops, nor all priests, but all such as may be found guilty by just and true inquiry and by the law.

Item. We will that it be known we will not rob, nor plunder, nor steal, but that these defaults be amended, and then we will go home; wherefore we exhort all the king's true liege men to help us, to support us, for whatsoever he be that will not that these defaults be amended, he his falser than a Jew or Saracen.

Item. His true commons desire that he will remove from him all the false progeny and affinity of the Duke of Suffolk and to take about his noble person his true blood of his royal realm, that is to say, the high and mighty prince the Duke of York, exiled from our sovereign lord's person by the noising of the false traitor, the Duke of Suffolk, and his affinity. Also to take about his person the mighty prince, the Duke of Exeter, the Duke of Buckingham, the Duke of Norfolk, and his true earls and barons of his land, and he shall be the richest king Christian.

Item. Where we move and pray that some true justice with certain true lords and knights may be sent into Kent for to inquire of all such traitors and bribers, and that the justice may do upon our sovereign lord direct his letters patent to all the people there universal openly to be read and cried, that it is our sovereign lord's will and prayer of all his people truly to inquire of every man's government and of defaults that reign, neither for love, favor, dread, nor hate, and that due judgment shall be forthwith and thereupon.

Document II

History of the Arrival of Edward IV

Historie of the Arrivall of Edward IV, in England and the Finall Recouerye of His Kingdomes from Henry VI. A.D. M.CCCC.LXXI. [1471]

Here is it to be remembred, that, from the tyme of Tewkesbery fielde, where Edward, called Prince, was slayne, thanne, and sonne aftar wer taken,, and slayne at the Kyngs will, all the noblemen that came from beyond the see with the sayde Edward, called Prince, and othar also theyr parte-takers, as many as were eny might or puisaunce. Qwene Margaret, hirselfe, taken, and browght to the Kynge; and, in every party of England, where any commotion was begonne for Kynge Henry's party, anone they were rebuked, so that it appered to every mann at eye the sayde partie was extincte and repressed for evar, without any mannar hope of agayne quikkening; utterly despaired of any maner of hoope or releve. The certaintie of all whiche came to the knowledge of the sayd Henry, late called Kyng, being in the Tower of London; not havynge, afore that, knowledge of the saide matars, he toke it so great dispite, ire, indingnation, that, of pure displeasure, and melencoly, he dyed the xxiij.[23rd] day of the monithe of May. Whom the Kynge dyd to be browght to the friers prechars at London, and there, his funerall service donne, to be caried, by watar, to an Abbey upon Thamys syd, xvj [16] myles from London, called Chartsey, and there honorably enteryd.

The Kynge, incontinent aftar his comynge to London, taried but one daye, and went with his hole army, aftar his sayd traytors into Kent, them to represse, in caas they were in any place assembled, and for to let them to assemble by any comocion to be made amongs them, wher unto they, heretoforne, have often tymes bene accustomyd to doo. But, trwethe it was, that they were disperbled as afore; but the sayd bastard of Faucomberge, with great nombar of mariners, and many othar mischevows men, called his sowldiours, or men of were, went streyght to Sandwyche, and there kept the towne with strengthe, and many great and small shipps, abowt xl and vij, in the haven, all undar his rule. And, as sone as they undarstode the Kynge and his hoste aprochid nere unto them, the sayd bastard sent unto hym suche meanes as best he cowthe, humbly to sew for his grace and pardon, and them of his feloshipe, and, by appoyntement, willed there to be delyveryd to the Kyngs behove all his shipps, and became his trwe liegemen, with as streight promiyse of trew legiaunce as cowthe be devised for them to be made, whiche, aftar delyberation taken in that parte, for certayn great consyderations, was grauntyd. Wherefore the Kynge sent his brothar Richard, Duke of Gloucestar, to receyve them in his name, and all the shipps; as he so dyd the xxvj.[26th] day of the same monithe; the Kynge that tyme beinge at Cantorbery.

And thus, with the helpe of Almighty God, the moaste glorious Virgin Mary his mothar, and of Seint George, and of [all] the Saynts of heven, was begon, finished, and termined, the reentrie and perfecte recover of the iuste title and right of owr sayd soveraygne Lord Kynge Edward the Fowrthe, to his realme and crowne of England, within the space of xj wekes; in the whiche season, moienaunt the helpe and grace of Allmyghty God, by his wysdome, and polyqwe, he escaped and passyd many great perills, and daungars, and dificulties, wherin he had bene; and, by his full noble and knyghtly cowrage, hathe optayned two right-great, crwell, and mortall batayles; put to flight and discomfeture dyvars great assembles of his rebells, and riotows persons, in many partyes of his land; the whiche, thwoghe all they were also rygorously and maliciously disposed, as they myght be, they were, netheles, so affrayde of the verey asswryd courage and manhod that restethe in the person of our seyd sovereigne lord, that they were, anon, as confused. Whereby it apperithe, and faythfully is belevyd, that with the helpe of Almyghty God, whiche from his begynning hitharto hathe not fayled hym, in short tyme he shall appeas his subgetes thrwghe all his royalme; that peace and tranquilitie shall growe and multiplye in the same, from day to day, to the honour and lovynge of Almyghty God, the encrease of his singuler and famows renoume, and to the great ioye and consolation of his frinds, alies, and well-willers, and to all his people, and to the great confusion of all his enemys, and evyll wyllars.

Here endethe the arryvaile of Kynge Edward the Fowrthe. Out of Mastar Flyghtwods boke, Recordar of London.

For the entire text, see The Richard III society (American branch) site. It contains other interesting material.

Document III

The Croyland Chronicle Continuations


When both armies had now become so extremely fatigued with the labour of marching and thirst that they could proceed no further, they joined battle near the town of Tewkesbury. After the result had long remained doubtful, king Edward at last gained a glorious victory. Upon this occasion, there were slain on the queen's side, either in the field or after the battle, by the avenging hands of certain persons, prince Edward, the only son of king Henry, the duke of Somerset, the earl of Devon, and all and every the other lords above-mentioned. Queen Margaret also was taken prisoner and preserved in safety, in order that she might be carried to London, there to appear before the king's triumphal car; which was accordingly done.

But, while these things were going on, and while king Edward, graced with this twofold victory, would seem, in the judgment of all, most undeniably to have proved the justice of his cause, the fury of many of the malignants was not averted, and especially in Kent; for the hands of these people were still extended [against the king]. Some men of this description, being instigated by certain of the remains of the earl of Warwick's mercenaries, mariners, and pirates from Calais, met Thomas, the Bastard of Falconbridge; reached London from the most distant parts of the country. Here having surveyed all the inlets and outlets of the city, they studied with all their energies how they might possibly subject this most opulent city to their ravages. For this purpose, they brought up ships, which they had prepared for the purpose, almost into the very port, in order that, putting on board the whole of their spoil, they might obtain subsistence by means therof in other quarters. With this object, many of them collected together upon London Bridge, and many others on the oppostie side of the city at the gate which bears the name of 'Bishopsgate'; where they made most furious assaults, and laid waste everything with fire and sword, in order, by some means or other, to effect an entrance. The vestiges of their misdeeds are even yet to be seen upon the said bridge, as they burned all the houses which lay between the draw-bridge, and the outer gate, that looks towards the High Street of Southwark, and which had been built at a vast expense.

God, however, being unwilling that a city so renowned, and the capital of the whole kingdom of England, should be delivered into the hands of such wretches, to be plundered by them, gave to the Londoners stout hearts, which prompted them to offer resistance on the day of the battle. This they were especially aided in doing by a sudden and unexpected sally, which was made by Antony, earl Rivers, from the Tower of London. Falling, at the head of his horsemen, upon the rear of the enemy while they were making furious assaults upon the gate above-mentioned, he afforded the Londoners an opportunity of opening the city gates and engaging hand to hand with the foe; upon which they namfully slew or put to flight each and every of them. Then might you have seen all the remnants of this band of robbers hastening with all speed to their ships and other hiding-places.

These abandoned men being thus routed and put to flight, both citizens, guests, and strangers, were greatly rejoiced therat, as well as all other persons who had taken refuge in the place for the sake of additional safety during the ravages of this tempest. All these events took place in the month of May, shortly before the feast of the Assumption of our Lord.

On the vigil of this feast, king Edward entered London in state for the third time, with a retinue far greater than any of his former armies, and with standards unfurled and borne before him and the nobles of his army. Upon this occasion many were struck with surprise and astonishment, seeing there was now no enemy left for him to encounter. This prudent prince, however, fully understanding the fickle disposition of the people of Kent, had come to the resolution that he would not disarm until he had visited those ravagers with condign punishment for their misdeeds at their own doors. For this purpose, he proceeded into Kent with his horse in hostile form; having done which, he returned, a most renowned conqueror and mighty monarch; whose praises resounded far and wide throughout the land, for having achieved such great exploits, with such wondrous expedtion and in so short a space of time.

I would pass over in silence the fact that at this period king Henry was found dead in the Tower of London; may God spare and grant time for repentance to the person, whoever he was, who thus dared lay sacrilegious hands upon the Lord's annointed! Hence it is that he who prepetrated this has justly earned the title of tyrant, while he who thus suffered had gained that of a glorious Martyr. The body was exhibited for days in St. Paul's church in London, and was carried thence by the river Thames to the conventual church of the monks at Chertsey, in the diocese of Winchester, fifteen miles from the city; a kind of barge having been solemnly prepared for the purpose, provided with lighted torches. How great his deserts were, by reason of his innocence of life, his love of God and of the Church, his patience in adversity, and his other remarkable virtues, is abundantly testified by the miracles which God has wrought in favour of those who have, with devout hearts, implored his intercession.

For more of the Chronicle, see The Richard III society site

Document IV

The History of King Richard III

The descripcion of Richard the thirde, written by Sir Thomas More c. 1513.

Richarde the third sonne, of whom we nowe entreate, was in witte and courage egall with either of them, in bodye and prowesse farre vnder them bot, little of stature, ill fetured of limmes, croke backed, his left shoulder much higher then his right, hard fauoured of visage, and suche as is in states called warlye, in other menne otherwise, he was malicious, wrathfull, enuious, and from afore his birth, euer frowarde. It is for trouth reported, that the Duches his mother had so muche a doe in her travaile, that shee coulde not bee deliuered of hym uncutte: and that hee came into the worlde with the feete forwarde, as menne bee borne outwarde, and (as the fame runneth) also not vntothed, whither menne of hatred reporte aboue the trouthe, or elles that nature chaunged her course in hys beginninge, whiche in the course of his lyfe many thinges vnnaturallye committed. None euill captaine was hee in the warre, as to whiche his disposicion was more metely then for peace. Sundrye victories hadde hee, and sommetime ouerthrowes, but neuer in defaulte as for his owne parsone, either of hardinesse or polytike order, free was he called of dyspence, and sommewhat aboue hys power liberall, with large giftes hee get him vnstedfaste frendshippe, for whiche hee was fain to pil and spoyle in other places, and get him stedfast hatred. Hee was close and secrete, a deepe dissimuler, lowlye, of counteynaunce, arrogant of heart, outwardly coumpinable where he inwardely hated, not letting to kisse whome hee thoughte to kyll: dispitious and cruell, not for euill will alway, but after for ambicion, and either for the suretie or encrease of his estate. Frende and foo was muche what indifferent, where his advauntage grew, he spared no man deathe, whose life withstoode his purpose. He slewe with his owne handes king Henry the sixt, being prisoner in the Tower, as menne The death of king Henry the sixt constantly saye, and that without commaundemente or knoweledge of the king, whiche woulde vndoubtedly yf he had entended that thinge, haue appointed that boocherly office, to some other than his owne borne brother. Somme wise menne also weene, that his drifte couertly conuayde, lacked not in helping furth his brother of Clarence to his death: whiche hee resisted openly, howbeit somewhat (as menne demed) more faintly then he that wer hartely minded to his welth. And they that thus deme, think that he long time in king Edwardes life, forethought to be king in case that that king his brother (whose life hee looked that euil dyete shoulde shorten) shoulde happen to decease (as in dede he did) while his children wer yonge. And thei deme, that for thys intente he was gladde of his brothers death that Duke of Clarence, whose life must nedes haue hindered hym so entendynge, whither the same Duke of Clarence had he kepte him true to his Nephew the yonge king, or enterprised to be kyng himselfe. But of al this pointe, is there no certaintie, & whoso diuineth vppon coniectures, maye as wel shote to farre as to short. How beit this haue I by credible informacion learned, that the selfe nighte in whiche kynge Edwarde died, one Mystlebrooke longe ere mornynge, came in greate haste to the house of one Pottyer dwellyng in reddecrosse strete without crepulgate: and when he was with hastye rappyng quickly letten in, hee shewed vnto Pottyer that kynge Edwarde was departed. By my trouthe manne quod Pottier then wyll my mayster the Duke of Gloucester bee kynge. What cause hee hadde soo to thynke harde it is to saye, whyther hee being toward him, anye thynge knewe that hee suche thynge purposed, or otherwyse had anye inkelynge thereof: for hee was not likelye to speake it of noughte.

For the full text, see Renascence editions

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