Part IX

The Croyland Chronicle: Part IX
The Third Continuation of the History of Croyland Abbey: July, 1485 – April, 1486 with Notes.

Rumours at length increasing daily that those who were in arms against the king were hastening to make a descent upon England, and the king being in doubt at what port they intended to effect a landing, (as certain information thereon could be gained from none of his spies), he betook himself to the north, shortly before the feast of Pentecost; leaving lord Lovel, his chamberlain, near Southampton, there to refit his fleet with all possible speed, that he might keep a strict watch upon all the harbours in those parts; that so, if the enemy should attempt to effect a landing there, he might unite all the forces in the neighbourhood, and not lose the opportunity of attacking them.

A great amount of provisions and money was wasted there in consequence of this uncalled-for policy * * * * the king being put to such great expense from the circumstance of his being deceived by a quibble on the name of that harbour, which had been mentioned by many as the place of their intended descent. For some say that there is a harbour in the neighbourhood of Southampton, called Milford, just as there is in Wales; and there being some persons endowed, as it were, with a spirit of prophecy, these predicted, that those men would land at the harbour of Milford, and were in the habit of looking for the fulfilment of their prophecies to that effect, not at the most famous place, but most commonly at the other one which bore the same name. And then besides, the king, at this period, seemed especially to devote his attention to strengthening the southern parts of his kingdom. But was all in vain; for, on the first day of August the enemy landed with a fair wind, and without opposition, at the most celebrated harbour, Milford Haven, near Pembroke.

On hearing of their arrival, the king rejoiced, or at least seemed to rejoice, writing to his adherents in every quarter that now the long wished-for day had arrived, for him to triumph with ease over so contemptible a faction, and thenceforth benefit his subjects with the blessings of uninterrupted tranquility. In the meantime, in manifold letters, he despatched orders of the greatest severity, commanding that no men, of the number of those at least who had been born to the inheritance of any property in the kingdom, should shun taking part in the approaching warfare; threatening that whoever should be found in any part of the kingdom after the victory should be been gained, to have omitted appearing in his presence on the field, was to expect no other fate than the loss of all his goods and possessions, as well as his life.

A little before the landing of these persons, Thomas Stanley, seneschal of the king’s household, had received permission to go into Lancashire, his native country, to visit his home and family, from whom he had been long separated. Still however, he was permitted to stay there on no other condition than that of sending his eldest son, George lord Strange, to the king at Nottingham; which he accordingly did.

The king’s opponents, as already stated, having landed at Milford in Wales, made their way through rugged and indirect tracts in the northern part of the province; where William Stanley, brother of the said lord seneschal, as lord chamberlain of North Wales, was holding the sole command. Upon this, the king sent word to the said lord Stanley, requesting him, without the least delay, to present himself before him at Nottingham. For the king was afraid lest that, as it really turned out, the mother of the said earl of Richmond, whom the lord [Thomas] Staley had married, might induce her husband to go over to the party of her son. On this, with wonderful * * * * he made an excuse that he was suffering from an attack of the sweating sickness, and could not possibly come. His son, however, who had secretly prepared to desert the king, was detected by stratagem and taken prisoner; upon which, he discovered a conspiracy which had been entered into by himself and his uncle, Sir William Stanley before-mentioned, and Sir John Savage, to go over to the side of the earl of Richmond; while at the same time, he implored the king’s mercy, and promised that his father would with all speed arrive to the king’s assistance. In addition to this, he sent word to his father by letter, of the danger to which he was exposed, and, at the same time, expressed his own wish that he would give the assistance before-mentioned.

In the meantime the said two knights being publicly proclaimed at Coventry and elsewhere traitors against the king, and the enemy hastening on and directing his steps night and day to meet the king, it became necessary to move the army, though its numbers were not yet fully made up, from Nottingham, and come to Leicester. Here was found a number of warriors ready to fight on the king’s side, greater than had ever been seen (1) before in England collected together in behalf of one person. On the Lord’s day before the feast of Bartholomew the Apostle, the king proceeded on his way, amid the greatest pomp, and wearing the crown on his head; being attended by John Howard, duke of Norfolk, Henry Percy, earl of Northumberland and other mighty lords, knights, and esquires, together with a countless multitude of the common people. On departing from the town of Leicester, he was informed by scouts where the enemy most probably intended to remain the following night; upon which, he encamped near the abbey of Mirival, at a distance of about eight miles from that town.

The chief men of the opposing army were the following: — in the first place, Henry earl of Richmond, whom they called their king, Henry the Seventh; John Vere, earl of Oxford, John lord Wells, of Wells, uncle to king Henry the Seventh, Thomas lord Stanley and William his brother, Edward Wydville, brother of queen Elizabeth, a most valiant knight, John Cheyne, John Savage, Robert Willoughby, William Berkeley, James Blunt, Thomas Arundel, Richard Edgcumbe, Edward Poynings, Richard Guilford, and many others of knightly rank, who had been distinguished before these troubles, as well as at the commencement of the present war. Of the ecclesiastical orders, there were present, for the purpose of giving their advice, the following persons, who had similarly suffered banishiment — the venerable father, Peter, bishop of Exeter, the flower of the knighthood of his country, Master Robert Morton, clerk of the Rolls of the Chancery, Christopher Urswyk, and Richard Fox, of whom one was afterwards appointed to the office of Almoner, and the other to that of Secretary, together with many others.

At day-break on the Monday following there were no chaplains present to perform Divine service on behalf of king Richard, nor any breakfast prepared to refresh the flagging spirits of the king; besides which, as it generally stated, in the morning he declared that during the night he had seen dreadful visions, and had imagined himself surrounded by a multitude of dæmons. He consequently presented a countenance which, always attenuated, was on this occasion more livid and ghastly than usual, and asserted that the issue of this day’s battle, to whichever side the victory might be granted, would prove the utter destruction of the kingdom of England. He also declared that it was his intention, if he should prove the conqueror, to crush all the supporters of the oppostie faction; while, at the same time, he predicted that his adversary would do the same towards well-wishers to his own party, in case the victory should fall to his lot. At length, the prince and knights on the opposite now advancing at a moderate pace against the royal army, the king gave orders that the lord Strange before-mentioned should be instantly beheaded. The persons, however, to whom this duty was entrusted, seeing that the issue was doubtful in the extreme, and that matters of more importance than the destruction of one individual were about to be decided, delayed the performance of this cruel order of the king, and, leaving the man to his own disposal, returned to the thickest of the fight.

A battle of the greatest severity now ensuing between the two sides, the earl of Richmond, together with his knights, made straight for king Richard; while the earl of Oxford, who was next in rank to him in the whole army and a most valiant soldier, drew up his forces, consisting of a large body of French and English troops, opposite the wing in which the duke of Norfolk had taken his position. In the part where the earl of Northumberland was posted, with a large and well-provided body of troops, there was no opposition made, as not a blow was given or received during the battle. At length a glorious victory was granted by heaven to the said earl of Richmond, now sole king, together with the crown, of exceeding value, which king Richard had previously worn on his head. For while fighting, and not in the act of flight, the said king Richard was pierced with numerous deadly wounds, and fell in the field like a brave and most valiant prince; upon which, the duke of Norfolk (2), before-mentioned, Sir Richard Ratclyffe, Sir Robert Brackenbury, keeper of the Tower of London, John Kendall, secretary, Sir Robert Percy, controller of the king’s household, and Walter Devereux, lord Ferrers, as well as many others, chiefly from the north, in whom king Richard put the greatest condifence, took flight without engaging; and there was left no part of the opposing army of sufficient importance or ability for the glorious conqueror Henry the Seventh to engage, and so add to his experience in battle.

Though this battle peace was obtained for the entire kingdom, and the body of the said king Richard being found among the dead * * * * Many other insults were also heaped upon it, and, not exactly in accordance with the laws of humanity, a halter being thrown round the neck, it was carried to Leicester; while the new king also proceeded to that place, graced with the crown which he so gloriously won. While these events were taking place, many nobles and others were taken prisoners; and in especial, Henry, earl of Northumberland, and Thomas Howard, earl of Surrey, the eldest son of the before-named duke of Norfolk. There was also taken prisoner William Catesby, who occupied a distinguished place among all the advisers of the late king, and whose head was cut off at Leicester, as a last reward for his excellent offices. Two gentlemen, also, of the western parts of the kingdom, father and son, known by the name of Brecher, who, after the battle, had fallen into the hands of the conquerors, were hanged. As it was never heard, nor yet stated in writing or by word of mouth, that any other persons, after the termination of the warfare, were visited with similar punishments, but that, on the contrary, the new prince had shewn clemency to all, he began to receive the praises of all, as though he had been an angel sent down from heaven, through whom God had deigned to visit His people, and to deliver it from the evils which it had hitherto, beyond measure, been afflicted.

And thus concluding this history, which we promised to set forth down to the death of the said king Richard, so far as a truthful recital of the facts suggested itself to our mind, without knowingly intermingling therewith any untruthfulness, hatred, or favour whatsoever. We began this description, chiefly, for the purpose of aiding the pious and praiseworthy ignorance (3) manifested by the Prior of this place, who compiled the preceding portion, and who, though extremely well versed in Divine matters, was sometimes most reasonably mistaken in those of a secular nature.

We accordingly made a beginning at the battle which it was feared was about to take place at Ludlow, in the marches of Wales, between king Henry the Sixth and the duke of York, in the year of our Lord, 1459, and have brought the narrative down to this battle, which was fought near Mirival, and which took place on the twenty-second day of the month of August, in the year of our Lord, 1485; thus comprising a space of twenty-six years. These events thus taking place, it appears from the Chronicles, that a similar death of a king of England, slain in a pitched battle in his own kingdom, has never been heard of since the time of king Harold; who was an usurper, and was conquered in battle by William the Conqueror, who came over from Normandy, and from whom these men are descended. On taking into consideration the signs and badges of the conqueror and the conquered in our day, as well as those of the children of king Edward, whose cause in especial was avenged in this battle, and the events which happened to the three kings who have bourne the name of Richard, since the Conquest of England, a certain poet composed these lines:

The fate of our three Richards in their deaths
Was much alike; though otherwise their lot
Was most dissimilar. Each of these kings
Died without issue, cut off by a death
Sudden and cruel. But the First acquir’d
The greatest glory. In the Holy Land
He fought; and thence returning safe, he fell,
Pierc’d by an arrow in a foreign clime.
Reft of this throne, and many a month immur’d
Within a dungeon’s walls, the Second chose
Rather to die than forfeit his fair name.
Edward’s vast hoards of wealth consum’d, the Third
Was not content therewith, but must destroy
His brother’s progeny, and then proscribe
Their partisans. Two years had he usurp’d
The throne, when, meeting these, he lost his life
And ill-gain’d crown, upon the battle-field.
The year one thousand, hundreds four, and five
To eighty added, when of August came
The twice eleventh day, the Boar’s tusks quail’d;
And, to avenge the White, the Red Rose bloom’d.

At the beginning of the new reign, the sweating sickness, of which we have previously made mention, prevailed to a great extent; and Lambert, abbat of Croyland, being attacked by it, departed this life on the fourteenth day of October, as already stated. He was succeeded in the dignity of abbat by Edmund Thorpe, formerly prior of the same place, a Bachelor of Divinity, who was elected on the feast of Saint Theodore, being the * * * day of the month of November, in the year of our Lord, 1485.

At the commencement of his holding office, he prudently recalled to mind the disturbances which his predecessors had had to endure from their ungrateful, proud, and almost indomitable neighbours; upon which, he omitted no exertions on his part, to take care and have all matters settled and adjusted in every respect. For there were three principal questions which still remained unsettled; the first, as to the Precinct of Croyland, as to which, extreme opposition was offered by the men of Multon and Weston. The second, relative to the boundaries, the demesne rights, and the manner of commonage and pasturage in Goggisland, was at issue between the tenants of the monastery and the people of Depyng; while the third was with reference to the marsh of Alderland, which seemed to have been brought to a very imperfect, though expensive conclusion, by the arbitration previously mentioned.

The burden of the first question already mentioned, fell wholly and entirely upon the shoulders of Lambert, who, as we previously stated, presided over the monastery for a short time only. For the malice of the people in those parts increased to such a degree, that at one time they terrified the whole monastery by their dreadful threats, at another by their ferocious deeds; and when, at last, they were sensible that they could not in that way escape the snares consequent upon breaking the peace of the realm, confiding, as it were, in the goodness of their cause, they presumptuously laid a complaint against the monastery before the king’s council.

They accordingly procured a visitation of their district by William Hussey and Guy Fairfax, knights, and justices in eyre; and in their presence alleged recongnizances and acquitances, in the names of the prior of Spalding and others of the chief men of Multon, of right of common in the said Precinct, made by fine to the abbat and convent of Croyland: as being a circumstance which seemed to presuppose right of common of such a nature, that the lords before-mentioned had not the power of releasing it to the prejudice of their tenants. The judges, with considerable shrewdness, saw what an extraordinary degree of caution and moderation was necessary in dealing with such a clamorous multitude; and, upon finding the trifling character of the allegations made by these men, and seeing that they had never held possession of the pretended right of common, dismissed the principal complaint, and gave a decree with reference to such evils as seemed to be imminent, such as the too large body of water which ran from the higher elevation of the Precinct to the lower grounds of Hoyland; and thus did they appease these men for the time, and sent each of them to his own home, without inflicting any injury upon the rights of the monastery.

To these results, which had been obtained as a final settlement of the matter in the time of abbat Lambert, Edmund, who succeeded him, to his great praise, added the resources of good policy; for, by many singular marks of attention, he obtained favour and support for the place from the principal inhabitants of Multon, a family highly ennobled and of gentle blood, known by the name of Welby, and to whom the people of these parts were not in the habit of offering opposition.

The second question was the one which concerned the people of Depyng. Although these people, with a sort of innate frenzy, are always struggling to preserve their boundaries, still, what with the patience displayed by the said abbat Edmund and his monks, and the prudent counsel of the most illustrious mother of our lord the king, to whom the manor of Depyng is well known to belong, the question has hitherto received such treatment, that, through God’s protection, the monastery seems likely neither to lose its rights nor to incur the resentment of those more powerful persons, with whom it cannot place itself upon an equality.

As to the third, which has always been found to be the most important and the most knotty question of all, it so came under the management of this abbat Edmund, that it seems as though he had been found worthy by Him without whose aid (4) we can do nothing. For the sum of the arbitration before-mentioned was as follows; in the first place, both parties submitting themselves to the judgment of the said lord archbishop under a penalty of one thousand pounds, among other things he imposed this burden on the monastery of Croyland: that the abbat and community thereof should pay an annual sum of ten pounds to the said monastery of Brugh, until lands of the said value should have been purchased at the proper expense of the said abbat and community, and delivered to the proper hands of the monastery of Burgh St. Peter, or until, at the like expense, the church of Brynkhurst or Eston in the county of Leicester, which is in the partronage of the said monastery of Burgh St. Peter, should have been appropriated by or united to the said monastery. An option of this nature being accordingly given by the award, of following the one course or the other, the before-named Edmund, by the advice and consent of the members of the chapter, determined by every possible means to follow the second course, and make an appropriation of the said church of Brynkhurst to the perpetual use of the monastery of Burgh; which, however, could not be done, in contravention of the statutes of the realm, unelss the royal licence should be first had and obtained. So cautiously, however, and so diligently did he, through the medium of his friends, employ all possible labour, energy, and outlay, that at length he ws found deserving to gain the end desired. For he obtained letters patent of the king granting a licence to that effect, and directed to the convent and abbat of Burgh; an account of which, and the whole of the process thence ensuing, will perhaps be written at greater length by some other person hereafter in its proper place (5): as it is the usage with those who write history to be silent upon the actions of living persons, lest a description of their vices should prove productive of odium, and a recital of their virtures be imputed to the writers as so much adulation.

Influenced by this consideration, the writer before-mentioned determined to end his labours with the death of king Richard; only adding the fact that, after the victory of the said king Henry the Seventh, and the ceremonies of his anointing an coronation, on the last day but one of the following month, by the hand of the most reverend father, Thomas, cardinal archbishop of Canterbury, and in due conformity with the ancient custom, the marriage was celebrated, which from the first had been hoped for, between him and the lady Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of king Edward the Fourth. This was duly solemnized, at the instance and urgent entreaty of all three of the estates of the realm, in the presence of the Church, on the eighteenth day of the month of January, in the year of our Lord, according to the computation of the Roman Church, 1486; a dispensation having been first obtained from the Apostolic See on the account of the fourth degree of consanguinity, within which the king and queen were related to each other. And although, by these means, peace was graciously restored, still, the rage of some of the malignants was not averted, but, immediately after Easter, a sedition was set on foot by these ingrates in the North, whence every evil takes rise; and this, even although the king was staying in those parts. Taking note of this, he who has written this narrative, has added to the preceeding history, for the inspection of posterity, a few lines of exhortation on peace and long-suffering, to the following effect:

“Thou who dost read these changes in the fate
Of mighty men, must needs despise the frail
And unsubstantial glories of this world.
Why should its fleeting pomps and short-liv’d pride
Enthral thy mind? Full many a king has fall’n,
Who to another had disdain’d to bow
His head. Emerging from the palace doors,
Others have enter’d at the postern gate;
Eager for rule, and for their private ends,
Ready the common weal to sacrifice.
Nor age, nor blood, nor valour in the field
Shall now ensure a king his rights. Let those
Who come hereafter be upon their guard,
And know that o’er a populace they rule,
Fickle and fond of novelty–“

In the same composition, the Poet also alludes to the failure after such vast preparations made by king Edward for the expedition to France; the like of which will never bee seen again–

“Gaul hath escap’d our vengeance, and we ourselves
Have pierc’d our vitals with our own good swords.
Now this, now that side of conquering, this realm
Hath been the prey of factions. But since God
Hath now united them, and made but one
Of these two factions, let us be content.
A better fortune will ensue, if we
Receive these timely blessings of the Lord
With grateful hearts. But, if the blood-stain’d sword
Should still remain suspended, and great Jove
Cease not to hurl his lightenings, then must we
Bear our misfortunes with a patient mind.”

I shall now subjoin some lines written in praise of this monastery, which begin as follows:

“How sweet to be one of a brotherhood
Where envy is unknown. Such praise alone
Our Croyland claims, and as her own demands.
Here concord ever reigns, all strife afar;
Here do we recognize the grateful rights
Of hospitality; and every guest
Is amply cater’d for, and without charge.
This to her praise we tell, for we ourselves
Have witness’d it; and how within her fane
Devoutness hath subdued the minds of men.
The humble heart, the look sincere and frank,
The foot unfalt’ring, and the voice attun’d
To praise of the eternal God, and find here
A holy refuge. May their pious life
Meet its reward in heav’n; and, while for you
I breathe a brother’s prayer, my every good
I recommend to yours — well may they fare,
Who wish for you the same. In Christ, Farewell.”

This was done and completed at Croyland, in the year of our Lord, one thousand four hundred and eighty-six, in the space of ten days: the last of which was the last day of the month of April in the said year.

Notes on Part IX

  1. This is not the fact. It is supposed that at most not more than 18,000 men engaged on both sides at the battle of Bosworth.
  2. On the contrary, the duke of Norfolk was the only leader of eminence who gave his entire support to Richard in this battle.
  3. On secular matters.
  4. This may be the meaning of this passage, but it is evidently imperfect.
  5. Can be found in the Fourth Continuation of the History of Croyland Abbey.