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The Hundred Years War in Literature, 1337-1600
 1843844281, 9781843844280

Table of contents :
Illustrations vi
Abbreviations and conventions vii
Timeline x
Introduction 1
1. 'When the world woxe old, it woxe warre olde': History, etymology and national identity, 1066–1337 9
2. 'To destroy and ruin the whole English nation and language': The chronicles of the Hundred Years War 51
3. 'God gyue you quadenramp!': Mimetic language in the war poetry of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries 100
4. 'The brightnesse of braue and glorious words': Language and war in the sixteenth century 164
5. 'Talk not of France, sith thou hast lost it all': The Hundred Years War on the stage in the 1590s 206
Conclusion 251
Bibliography 255
Acknowledgements 283
Index 287

Citation preview

THE HUNDRED YEARS WAR IN LITERATURE 1337–1600

THE HUNDRED YEARS WAR IN LITERATURE 1337–1600

Joanna Bellis

D. S. BREWER

© Joanna Bellis 2016 All Rights Reserved. Except as permitted under current legislation no part of this work may be photocopied, stored in a retrieval system, published, performed in public, adapted, broadcast, transmitted, recorded or reproduced in any form or by any means, without the prior permission of the copyright owner The right of Joanna Bellis to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 First published 2016 D. S. Brewer, Cambridge

ISBN 978 1 84384 428 0 D. S. Brewer is an imprint of Boydell & Brewer Ltd PO Box 9, Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 3DF, UK and of Boydell & Brewer Inc. 668 Mount Hope Ave, Rochester, NY 14620–2731, USA website: www.boydellandbrewer.com

A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library The publisher has no responsibility for the continued existence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this book, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate This publication is printed on acid-free paper Designed and typeset in Adobe Garamond Pro by XL Publishing Services, Exmouth

Contents

Illustrations Abbreviations and conventions Timeline Introduction 1 ‘When the world woxe old, it woxe warre olde’: History, etymology and national identity, 1066–1337 2 ‘To destroy and ruin the whole English nation and language’: The chronicles of the Hundred Years War 3 ‘God gyue you quadenramp!’ Mimetic language in the war poetry of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries 4 ‘The brightnesse of braue and glorious words’: Language and war in the sixteenth century 5 ‘Talk not of France, sith thou hast lost it all’: The Hundred Years War on the stage in the 1590s Conclusion Bibliography Acknowledgements Index

vi vii x 1 9 51

100 164 206 251 255 283 287

Illustrations

1 Rubric from the end of the Brut account of the siege of Rouen. © British Library Board, MS Egerton 650, fol. 111r 2 The Mockery of the Flemings, the end of the Brut chronicle in Lambeth MS 6. © The Trustees of Lambeth Palace Library 3 The initial rubric and opening of John Lydgate’s Title and Pedigree of Henry VI. © British Library Board, MS Harley 7333, fol. 31r 4 Genealogy from the Shrewsbury Book, showing the royal lines of England and France converging on Henry VI. © British Library Board, MS Royal 15.E.vi fol. 3r 5 ‘The Progenie of Geffrey Chaucer’, frontispiece to Thomas Speght’s The Workes of our Auntient and Learned English Poet, Geffrey Chaucer (1598). Reproduced by kind permission of the syndics of Cambridge University Library, Syn.3.60.2

58 117 143 145

186

Abbreviations and conventions

The following abbreviations are used to refer to frequently cited works, editions, series or repositories: Abbreuiacion ANTS Arrivall BL Brut Chronicles of London CUL EETS OS/ES English Chronicle FQ Gregory Historical Collections Historical Poems KJV MED NIMEV

John Capgrave, Abbreuiacion of Chronicles, ed. Peter J. Lucas , EETS ES285 (Oxford, 1983). Anglo-Norman Texts Society. The Historie of the Arrivall of King Edward IV, AD 1471, ed. John Bruce, in Three Chronicles of the Reign of Edward IV, ed. Keith Dockray, (Gloucester, 1988), pp. 131–86. British Library. The Brut, or the Chronicles of England, 2 vols, ed. Friedrich W. D. Brie, EETS OS 131, 136 (London, 1906, 1908). Chronicles of London, ed. C. L. Kingsford (Oxford, 1905; repr. 1977). Cambridge University Library. Early English Text Society (Original/Extra Series). An English Chronicle 1377–1461, ed. William Marx (Woodbridge, 2003) Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Qveene, in Variorum (see details below). Gregory’s Chronicle, in Historical Collections (see details below). The Historical Collections of a Citizen of London in the Fifteenth Century, ed. James Gairdner, Camden Society (London, 1876). Historical Poems of the XIVth and XVth Centuries, ed. R. H. Robbins (New York, 1959). The King James Version of the Bible. Middle English Dictionary, cited from stable URL: www. quod.lib.umich.edu/m/med New Index of Middle English Verse, ed. Julia Boffey and A. S. G. Edwards (London, 2005). NIMEV numbers are given, where they exist, for all the Middle English verse cited.

viii  

ABBREVIATIONS AND CONVENTIONS

OED PMLA Polychronicon

Rebellion TEAMS UL Variorum Warkworth

Oxford English Dictionary, cited from stable URL: www.oed.com Publications of the Modern Language Association. Ranulf Higden and John Trevisa, Polychronicon Ranulphi Higden Monachi Cestrensis; Together with the English Translation of John of Trevisa and of an Unknown Writer of the Fifteenth Century, ed. Churchill Babington and Joseph Rawson Lumby, 9 vols (London, 1865–86; repr. 1964–75). Chronicle of the Rebellion in Lincolnshire, 1470, ed. John Gough Nichols, in Three Chronicles of the Reign of Edward IV, ed. Keith Dockray (Gloucester, 1988), pp. 103–30. The Consortium for the Teaching of the Middle Ages. University Library. The Works of Edmund Spenser: A Variorum Edition, ed. Ray Heffner, Edwin Greenlaw, Charles Grosvenor Osgood and Frederick Morgan Padelford, 11 vols (Baltimore, 1932–57). John Warkworth, A Chronicle of the First Thirteen Years of the Reign of King Edward the Fourth, ed. James Orchard Halliwell, in Three Chronicles of the Reign of Edward IV, ed. Keith Dockray, (Gloucester, 1988), pp. 1–101.

Citations from Chaucer and Shakespeare’s works are made from the Riverside editions: Geoffrey Chaucer, The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson et al., 3rd edn (Oxford, 2008) William Shakespeare, The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans and J. J. M. Tobin, 2nd edn (Boston, 1997) Spenser’s works are cited from the Variorum edition. Play titles are abbreviated as follows: AYLI E3 FV H4I H5 H6I H6II H6III Ham. LLL KJ R2 Wood.

As You Like It Edward III The Famous Victories of Henry V Henry IV Part I Henry V Henry VI Part I Henry VI Part II Henry VI Part III Hamlet Love’s Labour’s Lost King John Richard II Thomas of Woodstock



ABBREVIATIONS AND CONVENTIONS  

ix

References to the prose Brut cite the version or continuation from Lister Matheson’s classification in The Prose Brut: The Development of a Middle English Chronicle (Tempe, AZ, 1998), as indicated below: CV-1333 Common Version to 1333 CV-1377 Common Version to 1377 CV-1419 Common Version beyond 1419 CV-1419-A Common Version to 1419, Group A CV-1419-B Common Version to 1419, Subgroup B PV-1436-A Peculiar Version to 1436, Group A CV-1461 Common Version to 1461 PV-1479/82 Peculiar Version to 1479/82 CV-JP (A/B/C) Common Version containing John Page’s poem on the Siege of Rouen (Group A, B or C) Translations are given for the French and Latin sources cited. Translations or glosses are not given for the Middle English, except in cases where the language is early or difficult. All translations are my own except where otherwise indicated.

Timeline of the Hundred Years War and its aftermath

This timeline provides an overview of the conflict that dominated two centuries of French and English foreign policy, as the historical events themselves are not narrated in detail elsewhere in this book. It is indebted to two excellent short guides to the Hundred Years War: Anne Curry, The Hundred Years War, 1337–1453 (Basingstoke, 2003) and Christopher Allmand, The Hundred Years War: England and France at War c. 1300–c. 1450 (Cambridge, 1989, rev. edn., 2001). 1295 1327 1328 1329 1337 1339 1340

1341 1346 1347 1350 1355 1356 1358 1359 1360

Alliance between Edward I and Philippe IV ends the Anglo-French wars of the thirteenth century. Accession of Edward III (House of Plantagenet) to the throne of England. Accession of Philippe VI (House of Valois) to the throne of France, following the death of Charles IV (House of Capet). Edward III pays homage to Philippe for his ancestral holdings in Gascony and Aquitaine. Philippe declares Edward’s French lands confiscate. Edward invades the Cambrésis. Edward quarters the English royal arms with the French fleurs-de-lys and lays claim openly to the French crown; the first Anglo-Flemish alliance is made. Edward is victorious at the sea-battle of Sluys and the siege of Tournai. First campaign of the war in Brittany begins. The English win the major battle of Crécy, at which John of Bohemia is killed. Calais surrenders to Edward after a protracted siege. Jean II succeeds Philippe VI as King of France. The Black Prince begins his chévauchées in Languedoc and Gascony. The Battle of Poitiers marks a second major English victory; Jean II is taken prisoner. Revolt of the Jacquerie (peasantry) throws much of northern France into chaos. The failed siege of Rheims, at which Chaucer is taken prisoner and ransomed. Treaty of Brétigny marks the end of the first phase of the war.



1362 1364 1367

TIMELINE  

xi

Statute of Pleading bans the use of French in the courts. Jean II dies in captivity in England; he is succeeded by his son Charles V. The Black Prince is victorious in the Battle of Nájera, the most significant conflict of his Spanish campaign. 1369 Charles V declares Edward’s lands in France confiscate, and under Bertrand du Guesclin the French recover all their losses except Gascony and Calais. 1372 An English fleet attempting to regain lost territories is defeated off La Rochelle. 1376 Edward Prince of Wales (the Black Prince) dies aged forty-five. 1377 Edward III dies and is succeeded by his ten-year-old grandson, Richard II. 1380 Charles V dies and is succeeded by his eleven-year-old son, Charles VI. 1381 Peasants’ Revolt in England. 1389 Truce at Leulinghen is agreed, then extended in 1396. 1400 Richard II is deposed and succeeded by Henry IV (House of Lancaster). 1413 Henry V succeeds his father Henry IV as king of England. 1414 The Papal Council of Constance meets, and subsequently declares England a ‘nation’. 1415 Henry V begins new phase of the war by capturing Harfleur and securing unexpected victory at Agincourt. 1417 Henry V begins his systematic invasion of Normandy. 1419 The city of Rouen falls to the English after a protracted siege. Jean, Duke of Burgundy (John the Fearless) is assassinated by the Dauphin (the future Charles VII) at Montereau. In response, his son, Philippe of Burgundy (Philip the Good), ends the long alliance with France by forming the Anglo-Burgundian alliance with Henry V. 1420 The Treaty of Troyes makes Henry V heir apparent to the throne of France, and he solemnises his marriage to Katherine of Valois (daughter of Charles VI). 1421 Disastrous defeat of the English by Franco-Scottish forces at the Battle of Baugé; the Duke of Clarence is killed. 1422 Henry V dies prematurely at Vincennes, probably from dysentery, and is succeeded by his nine-month-old son Henry VI, under the regency of the Duke of Bedford. Charles VI dies and is succeeded by his son Charles VII. 1423–24 The English secure their ascendancy with victories at Cravant and Verneuil. 1424 English forces capture Maine and begin their campaign along the Loire. 1429 Under the leadership of Jeanne d’Arc, the French raise the siege at Orléans and defeat the English at Patay. Charles VII is crowned at Rheims. 1431 Henry VI is crowned king of France in Paris. Jeanne d’Arc is captured, tried by the English and burned in Rouen. 1435 Philippe of Burgundy reneges on his alliance with England at the Congress of Arras.

xii   1436

TIMELINE

Paris and the pays de Caux are retaken by French forces, but an attempt to retake Calais is prevented by the Duke of Gloucester’s arrival with reinforcements. 1444 Truce is temporarily agreed in the Treaty of Tours. 1445 Henry VI marries Margaret of Anjou, seceding Maine and Anjou to Charles. 1449 The English capture Fougères; the French retake large parts of Normandy, including Rouen, where John Talbot is taken hostage. 1450–51 French victory at Formigny; Gascony falls to the French. 1453 The defeat at Castillon in Aquitaine marks the traditional end of the Hundred Years War. 1455 The first Battle of St Albans marks the beginning of the Wars of the Roses in England. 1461 Henry VI flees to Scotland after the Battle of Towton; Edward IV is crowned. Louis XI succeeds to the throne of France following the death of his father Charles VII. 1470 Warwick ‘the kingmaker’ temporarily restores Henry VI to the throne. 1471 The Battle of Tewkesbury marks a significant Yorkist victory and the reinstatement of Edward IV. Henry VI dies in the Tower of London. 1483 Edward IV dies and is succeeded by his son Edward V, before the disappearance of the princes in the Tower. Richard III becomes king. Charles VIII succeeds to the throne of France following the death of his father Louis XI. 1485 Richard III is killed at the Battle of Bosworth and Henry VII (House of Tudor, grandson of Katherine of Valois by Owen Tudor) becomes king. 1498 Louis XII inherits the throne of France on the death of his cousin Charles VIII. 1513 Henry VIII stages his invasion of France in imitation of Henry V, winning the Battle of the Spurs and taking Tournai and Thérouanne. 1515 François I succeeds his cousin and father-in-law Louis XII as king of France. 1520 François I and Henry VIII meet at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. 1558 Calais, the last English holding in France, is captured by the Duke of Guise. 1579 The controversial marriage is proposed between Elizabeth I and the Duke of Anjou and Alençon. 1591 The Earl of Essex assists the Protestant Henri IV in the failed siege of Rouen.

Introduction

In France I tooke the Standard from the King, And gained the flower of Gallia in my crest: … Our word of courage all the world hath heard, Saint George for England, and Saint George for me.1

This declaration is made by a character known only as ‘the Englishman’, in a throng of mercenaries (including a Frenchman and a Spaniard) who offer their services to the Prince of Cyprus in Thomas Kyd’s Soliman and Perseda (c. 1592), a play that foregrounded the conjunction between language and war that is the axis of this book. By the 1590s, the heyday decade of the history play, the representation of war in words had become a commonplace, because three centuries of conflict and its chronicling had made it so. This scene constructs its boastful and bellicose nationalism though the metaphor of language: the ‘word of courage’. When the exiled protagonist Basilisco joins the throng, he lays his hand on his sword and asserts, with the same metaphor, ‘I fight not with my tongue; this is my oratrix’ (1.3.69, p. 170): the punning wordplay of the word literally embedded within the sword expands into a larger collapse of the two, in the playhouse in which verbal violence inevitably overtakes and replaces physical violence. Invited to make a brave to match those of the assembled mercenaries (‘whats the word that glories your Countrey?’), Basilisco replies, ‘I haue no word, because no countrey’ (1.3.78, 111, pp. 170–1). ‘The word’ is the medium through which war is not only performed but configured, and its ready metaphor. This book explores the ways in which England’s wars with France, which dominated the international affairs of the two countries for two centuries, shaped the emerging and contradictory articulations of national language and linguistic nationalism. The Hundred Years War overshadowed political and social experience from 1337 to 1453 (arguably until 1558), and fundamentally characterised articulations of national and linguistic identity, from fourteenth-century concerns over ‘strange Inglis’ to sixteenth-century mantras against ‘strange and inkhorne tearmes’. This book begins with contemporary fourteenth- and fifteenth-century writers who

1

Thomas Kyd, Soliman and Perseda, in The Works of Thomas Kyd, ed. Frederick S. Boas (Oxford, 1901), 1.3.19–20, 234, pp. 168–9.

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narrated the events of the conflict in their own times (although they did not initially conceive it as the century-long engagement that it was retrospectively construed to have been), and ends with the sixteenth-century writers for whom those events were their immediate history. As first Lancastrian and subsequently Tudor dynasts strayed further and further from Plantagenet legitimacy, the connections they forged (and forced) with Plantagenet history, particularly victorious military history, became more and more precious. Increasingly, the medieval past was mythically implicated in a political legend of royal legitimation. The Hundred Years War became, itself, a narrative: retold over successive centuries, overlaid with new political motivations and valences. This book’s central argument, as Kyd’s play exemplifies, is that in medieval and early modern war literature, words and war developed an intense mutual identification. The English language was conceived as foundationally shaped by (because born out of ) French conflict, which had had a seismic impact in 1066 and was an everpresent reality once more from 1337. This originary identification was keenly felt by contemporaries who wrote accounts of the Hundred Years War, but it did not die with them: it remained a key ideological matrix for sixteenth-century constructions of history, national language and cultural identity. A wider contribution of this book is therefore to assert an axis of ideological continuity for periods still habitually described (because institutionally compartmentalised) as discrete. The ways in which the Hundred Years War shaped the narration of England’s military encounters with new peoples in new theatres long after its own terminus is an important, untold history, largely because medievalists are slow to look much beyond 1453 and early modernists even slower to look back to it. But sixteenth-century writers envisaged themselves living the legacy of medieval history: their debates about linguistic national identity, so central to Elizabethan ‘self-fashioning’, were born in the Hundred Years War. This endeavour consciously follows efforts by James Simpson, Helen Cooper and Daniel Wakelin (among others) to deconstruct the periodisation that has emphasised the break and not the continuity between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries,2 interrogating some of the genealogies and analogies that connected them. Old orthodoxies have held that nationalism was a modern, or at the earliest, an early modern phenomenon, and that only in the so-called ‘Renaissance’ were theories of language articulated in nationalistic terms. Even in fairly recent scholarship it is common to read that ‘not until the Renaissance’ was there ‘a new recognition that the past was genuinely different from the present’; or to hear descriptions of ‘the emergence of English literature’ in the sixteenth century.3 Simpson attacks ‘the disabling logic of periodization’ that ‘criticism still repeats’, particularly the way in

2

3

See James Simpson, The Oxford English Literary History, vol. II: 1350–1547: Reform and Cultural Revolution (Oxford, 2004); Helen Cooper, Shakespeare and the Medieval World (London, 2010); Daniel Wakelin, Humanism, Reading and English Literature, 1430–1530 (Oxford, 2007). Phyllis Rackin, Stages of History: Shakespeare’s English Chronicles (London, 1990), p. 9; Sean Keilen, Vulgar Eloquence: On the Renaissance Invention of English Literature (New Haven, CT, 2006), p. 2.



INTRODUCTION  

3

which ‘periodic thinking has organized and constrained memory’;4 Nicholas Watson holds that ‘The relations between these developments and the literary culture of late medieval England that formed their backdrop are intricate but also underexplored, mostly thanks to institutional imperatives that make the year 1500 a seemingly unbridgeable divide’. ‘For all their relevance to the history of the English vernacular’, he continues, ‘no clear account of these relationships is possible until more work is done.’5 This book seeks to do some of that work, demonstrating that medieval theories of political language, forged in the Hundred Years War, had a direct bearing on how and why sixteenth-century writers talked about language in the ways that they did. The sixteenth century’s origins became more significant, more crystallised, as they became more remote: it was in the last, retrospective moments of the Tudor dynasty that its narrators reached back to their medieval past. However, this book’s attempt to bridge the medieval/Renaissance divide is not just another call for the dismantling of the fences, nor an experiment in how the two ‘periods’ look if treated as one; but an exploration of periodisation itself as a historical phenomenon. How did medieval and early modern people carve up their times? What were the axes that divided ‘past’ from ‘present’ for writers of history in the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries? Taking the long view across three centuries means that England’s other military frontiers (Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Spain, America) are not considered: this book is about the Hundred Years War and its political narrative, not about language and war per se. Nor does it consider literature written in the context but not on the subject of the Hundred Years War: the Anglo-French poetic sparring matches between Deschamps, Machaut, de Graunson and Chaucer, for instance, as well as the major war epics (Chaucer’s Troilus and The Knight’s Tale, Lydgate’s Troy Book and Siege of Thebes) have been amply addressed elsewhere.6 This book is neither a literary history nor a survey, but a specific argument about the ways in which the political and literary culture of this conflict set about its ironic task of self-apology. There is currently no book that does this, charting the long, political narrative of the Hundred Years War in English literature from its fourteenth- and fifteenth-century contemporaries to the sixteenth-century authors for whom it was immediate and formative history, although there are several important precursors to this study.

4 5

6

Simpson, Reform and Cultural Revolution, pp. 44, 3. Nicholas Watson, ‘The Politics of Middle English Writing’, in The Idea of the Vernacular: An Anthology of Middle English Literary Theory, 1280–1520, ed. Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, Nicholas Watson, Andrew Taylor and Ruth Evans (Exeter, 1999), pp. 331–52 (351). For Anglo-French exchange, see Charles Muscatine, Chaucer and the French Tradition: A Study in Style and Meaning (Berkeley, CA, 1957) and Elizaveta Strakhov, Politics in Translation: Lyric Form and the Francophone Self in Late Medieval Europe (forthcoming); for Lydgate and Chaucer criticism, see Catherine Nall, Reading and War in Fifteenth-Century England from Lydgate to Malory (Cambridge, 2012); Scott-Morgan Straker, ‘Deference and Difference: Lydgate, Chaucer and the Siege of Thebes’, Review of English Studies, ns 52, 205 (2001), 1–21; and Andrew Lynch, ‘“The stroke of dethys violence”: Manhood and Melancholy in John Lydgate’s Troy and Thebes’, in Representing War and Violence in Later Medieval Europe, ed. Joanna Bellis and Laura Slater (Cambridge, forthcoming).

4   

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One is V. J. Scattergood’s (now vintage) Politics and Poetry in the Fifteenth Century: a landmark, but which, as a survey of political poetry, does not dig very deeply into what made Hundred Years War literature distinctive as a corpus.7 More specific and more recent is Denise N. Baker’s collection Inscribing the Hundred Years’ War in French and English Cultures, a comparative study of representations of the conflict in English and French up to the present day, which helpfully foregrounds the interdisciplinary ‘reciprocity’ of its subject, ‘the ways in which … history influences literature and … literature intervenes in history’.8 The most significant antecedent to this book is Ardis Butterfield’s The Familiar Enemy: Chaucer, Language and Nation in the Hundred Years War, whose foundational influence is acknowledged throughout, with gratitude.9 Magnificent and compelling as The Familiar Enemy is, however, this book seeks to put pressure on, or offer alternative interpretations to, some of its conclusions. Constructions of English linguistic and political identity in a French-saturated, highly historically self-aware culture, especially at the height of the Hundred Years War, were not always the apolitical non-events that Butterfield implies, in her justified rebuttal of simplistic and over-interpreted assertions of lingustic identity as always and only political, and her reassertion of the polyvalent identities of multilingual England that made it too diverse and supple to allow for such fraught or antagonistic conceptualisations. Her focus on the retrospective falsity of modern politico-linguistic ideas surrounding the ‘rise of English’ occludes some of the very real tensions and paradoxes of what claims for English linguistic identity, albeit within a complex and often contradictory matrix of interactions, might mean. This issue was immensely fraught, with a number of competing issues at stake, and this study seeks to recover one context in which friction and linguistic antagonism, however paradoxically, posturingly, clumsily and propagandistically, pertained. Less directly but no less profoundly, several important critical movements inform and underpin this study. First, recent work on England’s multilingualism by Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, Elizabeth M. Tyler and others, from the coining and debating of the phrase ‘the French of England’ and its ramifications, to the exploration of vernacularity as a political/social idea, has had a profound influence on understanding of the social and political constructions of language in the multilingual Middle Ages.10 Second, reappraisals of medieval nationalism and its linguistic repertoire, particularly by Andrea Ruddick, Lesley Johnson and Kathy Lavezzo (among others), have done a great deal to nuance the way we think about concepts/constructions of

7 8 9 10

V. J. Scattergood, Politics and Poetry in the Fifteenth Century (London, 1971). Denise N. Baker, ed. Inscribing the Hundred Years’ War in French and English Cultures (Albany, NY, 2000), p. 3. Ardis Butterfield, The Familiar Enemy: Chaucer, Language and Nation in the Hundred Years War (Oxford, 2009). See Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, Carolyn Collette, Maryanne Kowaleski, Linne Mooney, Ad Putter and David Trotter, eds. Language and Culture in Medieval Britain: The French of England, c. 1100–c. 1500 (York, 2009); Elisabeth Salter and Helen Wicker, eds. Vernacularity in England and Wales, c. 1300–1550 (Turnhout, 2011); Elizabeth M. Tyler, ed. Conceptualizing Multilingualism in England, c. 800–c. 1250 (Turnhout, 2011).



INTRODUCTION  

5

nation, community, language and ideology in a pre-modern culture.11 Last, and in tandem with this, medieval history-writing has received a welcome upsurge of critical attention to its form, language, ideology and strategy.12 Ruth Morse’s concept of ‘the historian’s right of invention’ has been instrumental in recalibrating the way that historians and critics have approached historical writing as ‘text’, not just as ‘source’: interested not just in reliability (for instance) but in the constructions and postures and rhetoric of reliability.13 This distinction (the degree of remove implied by the understanding of historiography’s ‘constructions and postures’) is profound, and crucial to the way this study approaches its material. Historians were writers: they shaped and manipulated and created the society and the events that they chronicled; they did not passively record or reflect them. Debts to these critics and the ways of reading that they have modelled are evident throughout.14 The primary texts treated here are situated at various points along the spectrum that notionally separates literature from history – and taking down the fences that traditionally and methodologically still divide literary from historical studies is as important to this endeavour as imaginatively dismantling those that carve up chronological periods. Chronicles, correspondence, parliament rolls, letters, poetry, polemic, tracts, treatises and plays are considered side by side, as different but comparable media in which the legend of the Hundred Years War was written. The methodology is flexible according to the sources: the quantitative analysis of the political lexis of medieval chronicles in Chapter 2 makes a different kind of case from the sustained close readings of polemical poems in Chapter 3, for instance. Often the texts under consideration have received very little prior attention, and a further aim is to demonstrate the greater critical interest that they merit. The book is organised and connected by a series of threads, signalled by the chapters’ subheadings: etymology and nationhood; rhetoric of ‘linguistic invasion’; attitudes to loanwords; theories of history-writing; Chaucer as a contradictory figurehead. The resulting structure could be called kaleidoscopic: while the chapters proceed chronologically, these threads are woven throughout. Chapter 1 establishes the literary and linguistic background of the Hundred 11

12

13 14

Andrea Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture in the Fourteenth Century (Cambridge, 2013); Simon Forde, Lesley Johnson and Alan V. Murray, eds, Concepts of National Identity in the Middle Ages (Leeds, 1995); Kathy Lavezzo, ed. Imagining a Medieval English Nation (Minneapolis, 2004). Ruth Morse, Truth and Convention in the Middle Ages: Rhetoric, Representation and Reality (Cambridge, 1991); Gabrielle M. Spiegel, The Past as Text: The Theory and Practice of Medieval Historiography (Baltimore, 1997; repr. 1999); Laura Ashe, Fiction and History in England, 1066–1200 (Cambridge, 2007). Morse, Truth and Convention, p. 89. I am also greatly in the debt of the historians of the Hundred Years War, in particular Jonathan Sumption, Anne Curry and Christopher Allmand, who are cited throughout. However, this book does not devote time to detailing the conflict or engaging with debates surrounding its causes and effects. Familiarity with events of the Hundred Years War (the battles, sieges, truces, etc) is assumed, but for further reading see Jonathan Sumption, The Hundred Years War, 4 vols (London, 1990, 1999, 2009, 2015); Anne Curry, The Hundred Years War, 2nd edn (Basingstoke, 2003); and C. T. Allmand, The Hundred Years War: England and France at War c. 1300–c. 1450, rev. edn (Cambridge, 2001). See also the Timeline at pp. x–xii.

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Years War: medieval historiography and its special investment in etymology, and the trilingual context of post-Conquest England. It explores the ways that 1066 (much like the Hundred Years War itself in later times) garnered a snowballing mythology in which it was represented as an ‘overwriting’, a specific act of linguistic violence. This connection between language and conquest was fundamental for English historiography, which sustained a peculiar investment in etymology: the eponymous foundation legend of the ubiquitous Brut legend hinged on the link between language and land. Its opening cast Britain as a second Eden, upon which Brutus, the original nomothete, inscribed his name. But the paradox for insular historians was that this inscription, which conferred upon the island its illustrious national identity through language, had been serially reinscribed by the multiple conquests to which it had been subject, none more fundamental than the Norman. In this context, the threat of enemy vocabulary became evident: French words represented, by their very presence in the language, the spoils (and the spoliation) of conquest. Second, this chapter establishes the linguistic background to the analysis that follows, sketching the relationship between the languages in the centuries between the Conquest and the renewed hostilities. The rest of the book is structured as a diptych, comprising two medieval and two early modern chapters. Chapter 2 considers the ways in which contemporary narrators of the Hundred Years War (kings, politicians, chroniclers) portrayed it deliberately as a linguistic front. It begins with the paradoxes of the war, showing how the same conflict that galvanised a bellicose sense of ‘Englishness’ and promoted the vernacular as a pugnaciously ‘national’ language, simultaneously underscored the extent to which French was already and fundamentally embedded in English. Just as problematic was the fact that the justice of the English king’s claim to the French throne rested on him being a closer heir to the Capetian dynasty than his Valois cousins: rested, in fact, on his Frenchness. These ironies underpinned (and undermined) every articulation of precarious and pugnacious English nationalism. Twice, the claim made before Parliament that the French king wanted to destroy the English language was made in French, just as the 1362 Statute of Pleading banned the use of French from the courts because (with superb and self-defeating irony) it was ‘trop desconue’.15 The conflict was founded on and justified by the Frenchness of ‘English’, and just as the war galvanised a xenophobic impulse towards defining a monolithic national identity, it exposed the crucial fallacy upon which that was predicated. Finally, this chapter reveals the stylistic lexis of antagonism that was developed in the contemporary chronicles of the conflict. Chapter 3 turns to political poetry: the jingoistic ballads and carols incorporated into chronicles, the problematic internationalism of Chaucer, the official propaganda of Lydgate, the ethically troubled eyewitness narrative of John Page. It discusses how these war poets, with their different agendas and allegiances, explored the mutual investment of language and war. The political vocabulary that grew out of the chronicle tradition was put to flamboyantly jingoistic use in their texts. This

15

William Elliott, Alexander Luders, Thomas Edlyne Tomlins, John Raithby and John Caley, eds. The Statutes of the Realm, 11 vols (London, 1963), vol. I, pp. 375–6.



INTRODUCTION  

7

chapter brings to light several texts that have received very little scholarly attention, largely because they have partaken of the general reputation for slight literary merit with which the chronicles have been tarred. Among these, Page’s The Siege of Rouen is a true neglected gem, a rich and complex meditation on the ethical dilemma of being an eyewitness. Chapter 4 moves into the sixteenth century, arguing that the linguistic debates of the Inkhorn Controversy grew out of the immediate political background that had made language a battleground, and that the nationalism so often touted as characteristically ‘Elizabethan’ plucked its metaphors right out of the Hundred Years War. In fact, the Hundred Years War had never conceptually ended for the Tudors. Henry VIII modelled his French campaign in 1513 on Henry V’s a century before; Mary did not lose Calais until 1558, and Elizabeth perpetually came under pressure to regain it, calling its loss ‘a matter of continual grief to this realm’. This chapter reprises a number of earlier threads, exploring the sixteenth-century version of the Norman myth, the new force that the Inkhorn Controversy injected into the idea of the Conquest as an act of linguistic violence, the ongoing problematic centrality of Chaucer to the myth of robust, national language. It places the next generation of historiographers in their literary and political context, showing how sixteenth-century chronicles inherited their sources’ self-consciousness about ‘writing history’. The final chapter considers the Hundred Years War as it occupied the stage in the 1590s: the history play phenomenon that flourished and disappeared in the twilight of the Tudarchy. Shakespeare’s soldiers were more often than not also keen linguistic theorists, and this chapter analyses both how Shakespeare put the Inkhorn Controversy back in the mouths of the combatants in the conflict in which it was born (two out of three of his uses of ‘inkhorn’ appear in the context of the wars with France); and how his staging of the chronicles expanded and challenged the historiographical genre’s characteristic self-reflexivity when put on the stage. This chapter focuses on the plays that staged the Hundred Years War specfically: Edward III, Henry VI Parts I, II and III, Henry V and The Famous Victories of Henry V; ending with Thomas of Woodstock and Richard II, which show the canker at the illegitimate heart of the English monarchy to be the loss of France. But its larger argument is to do with the theatrical mimesis itself as an extension (and inheritance) of the linguistic one: the play should offer a mimesis that transcends language, yet Shakespeare continually asserted the aporia of his all-creative house of words. His histories established the triangulation of history, language and theatre, three forms of imperfect mimesis. The unfaithfulness exposed in the theatrical conceit is mirrored in the illegitimacy that is the history plays’ governing theme: not just the illegitimacy of the Lancastrian royals, playing at being kings; but that of the player-kings and the fallen, counterfeit language they speak. Shakespeare’s wars are also (and only) ‘words, words, words’, in the final analysis. The book has two wider, concomitant aims. The first, to straddle the divide between contemporary medieval narrations and sixteenth-century mediations of the conflict, has already been discussed. The second is to bring back into view some neglected medieval texts. One of the consequences of the striking absence of a systematic literary history of the Hundred Years War is that much of its most interesting literary output has sunk from view. This book gives sustained attention for

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the first time to the little-studied corpus of late medieval war literature, comprising several texts that have received hardly any scholarly attention, but are rich and sophisticated in their writing of war. Often dismissed as jingoistic, their complex political manoeuvrings, paradoxical ideologies and virtuosic linguistic agendas have gone largely uncommented upon; however, they have an indispensable place in the canon of medieval literature.

1 ‘When the world woxe old, it woxe warre old’ History, etymology and national identity, 1066–1337 Antique age yet in the infancie Of time, did liue then like an innocent, In simple truth and blamelesse chastitie, … But when the world woxe old, it woxe warre old (Whereof it hight).1

These lines express nostalgia for a golden world long lost, a microcosm of the poem from which they come. Moreover, they express it with a trope redolent of that older world: the medieval form of the truth-conferring etymology. Spenser’s new world is, in this formulation, an old one: a warre-old (echoing its likely early modern bisyllabic pronunciation). Warre is glossed ‘worse’ by E. K. in The Shepheardes Calender, in a line that expresses the same trope (‘They sayne the world is much war then it wont’), so superficially this passage evokes the familiar idea of the world getting worse as it gets older, falling further from the golden age when it lived ‘like an innocent’. However, warre was an unusual spelling for worse by 1590, part of Spenser’s archaising style:2 the more likely, immediate interpretation for early modern readers of The Faerie Queene (especially if they did not have their Shepheardes Calender with its glossary to hand) was its more obvious pun on war, the clear example of the ‘new’ world’s loss of innocence, as well as the thing singled out for removal with the advent of the true ‘new world’: ‘they shall turn their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into sickles: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they be exercised any more to war’.3 Spenser’s war-old worolde captures in one, doubleedged word the ideological interception of language, history and war, which is the heart of this study. The world of the 1590s was indeed war-old. The conflict that rumbled on fitfully throughout the later Middle Ages is loosely called the Hundred Years War, although its origins lay long before 1337, and it did not finally end until 1558, with the loss 1 2

3

FQ IV.viii.30–1, p. 101. E. K.’s gloss is to September, line 108: ‘Warre) worse’. The archaising style is described in his gloss to l.10: ‘an vnusuall speache, but much vsurped of Lidgate, and sometime of Chaucer.’ Edmund Spenser, The Shepheardes Calender, in Variorum, vol. VII: The Minor Poems (I) (1943), pp. 1–120 (87, 92–3). Isaiah 2:4, cited from the Douai-Rheims Bible (www.drbo.org, accessed November 2015).

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of Calais. For writers in this period, language was born of conflict. ‘English’ was an idiom whose very words were spoils of war, etymologically testifying to the ways in which they had been authored by ancient French conquest. Writing in it could not be a statement of robust national identity, without concomitantly being an acknowledgement of the extent to which it was not only inherently vulnerable but already breached. The topic of language and national identity in medieval England is both an anciently contentious and a newly burgeoning one. As already stated, it has been the subject of several landmark recent studies, most notably Butterfield’s The Familiar Enemy and Wogan-Browne and colleagues’ Language and Culture in Medieval Britain.4 These have reconfigured the entrenched paradigms of earlier scholarship, polarised between assertions of the total dominance of Anglo-French and defences of robust, resurgent English.5 Butterfield and Wogan-Browne collapse this binary, insisting on the necessity of conceptualising the languages of the insular world not as entities in opposition, nor even as discrete or ‘mutually exclusive’ categories,6 but as points on a linguistic spectrum whose blurry intersections in the middle are as important as their distinct identities at either end. Wogan-Browne proposes ‘a complex linguistic story’ in which a large number of social and cultural processes ‘continue to be hugely various and often francophone’, choosing the phrase ‘the French of England’7 partly because it ‘links two nationalizing terms in what would once have been regarded as a perverse coupling’.8 Butterfield goes further, maintaining that ‘“English” could be defined precisely as a form of French’: ‘English’ is not … a single concept that works merely in polarity with French; it contains and is contained by French in a subtle, constantly changing, and occasionally antagonistic process of accommodation.9

English and French were overlapping categories, not ‘separate entities’, and scholarship increasingly stresses the importance of shedding isolationist constructions of language (and the assumptions about national identity that accompany them), in favour of the plural and intersecting nature of both. These correctives are important, and have reconfigured work on England’s multilingualism in hugely meaningful ways. However, in emphasising the longstanding mutual embeddedness of the insular vernaculars (the Englishness of French, the Frenchness of English), criticism has swept more hastily over the frictions, ironies 4

5 6 7

8 9

Butterfield, Familiar Enemy; Wogan-Browne et al., eds, Language and Culture; see also Tim William Machan, Language Anxiety: Conflict and Change in the History of English (Oxford, 2008); Deanne Williams, The French Fetish from Chaucer to Shakespeare (Cambridge, 2004). See Wogan-Browne’s characterisation of the older model, in ‘General Introduction’, in Wogan-Browne et al., Language and Culture, pp. 1–13 (1–2). Ibid., p. 3. This locution has been criticised, just as ‘Anglo-Norman’ has been recognised as unsatisfactory. Butterfield remarks on the assumption that ‘the French of England’ is ‘a single language’, and the dangers of taking ‘an insular approach’ rather than seeing the continental picture (Familiar Enemy, pp. 14, 56–7). Wogan-Browne, ‘General Introduction’, pp. 4–5, 9–10. Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, p. 99.



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1066–1337    11

and ideological posturing of that relationship. It was a closeness born in the first instance from conquest, and sustained in the context of continual (if intermittent) war. Instead, however, Wogan-Browne maintains that ‘without denying the existence of appeals to national feeling (which certainly do occur on particular occasions) … it seems we need a new post-national vocabulary’.10 The problem with this call to post-nationalism lies partially in its immensely appealing anachronism, and no doubt there is a Scylla and Charybdis course to be plotted in recovering the multilingualism of medieval England in its full complexity and paradox, which will demand impossible skill. As Elizabeth M. Tyler writes, scholars in the last twenty years have become keenly aware of how nineteenth-­century nationalism, with its dangerous confusion of a community of speakers of one language with the nation-state and the equally dangerous expectation that the nation-state should have one language, was formative for the study of medieval literatures and languages … Basic facts … were overlooked, ignored, or even suppressed because they did not fit the narratives of nationalizing literary history. This inheritance lives on into the twenty-first century in institutional structures which separate the study of modern languages into separate departments which in turn create literary canons defined by language – Beowulf to Chaucer – rather than any actual medieval intertextualities which may cross both language and modern national boundaries.11

In dismantling the ideological constructions of previous generations, however, the danger is that we simply replace them with our own. Tyler cautions against the cachet that multilingualism (and its cousin multiculturalism) possesses for modern critics, asserting ‘the necessity of interrogating our own investment in medieval multilingualism and its relationship to modern politics’.12 The danger is that in (correctly) reacting against the nationalising narratives of previous centuries, we remake the Middle Ages in the ‘post-national’ image of what we wish them to have been (or what we might wish ourselves to be): a truly heteroglot community, unafflicted by the ideology of nationalism and its ugly legacies of war, prejudice and discrimination; a place of linguistic plurality and fluidity in which ‘national language’ was as unimaginable as ‘nation state’. This is a fantasy, and perhaps one as guilty of making medieval society serve modern political endgames (although far more forgivable ones) as the nationalising Whig narratives it shouts down. We need to look unblinkingly at the darker underbelly of medieval multilingualism and nationalism, to recover the ways in which multilingualism was ‘a symbol not of diversity but of conflict’,13 and to acknowledge, as Nicole Guenther Discenza argues, that ‘consideration of multilingualism must take into account resistance to multilingualism’.14 Part of the problem is that criticism has historically privileged the linguistic situation ahead of the ideological context in which it was framed, despite (or because 10 11 12 13 14

Wogan-Browne, ‘General Introduction’, p. 9. Elizabeth M. Tyler, ‘Introduction: England and Multilingualism: Medieval and Modern’ in Conceptualizing Multilingualism in England, pp. 1–13 (7–8). Ibid., p. 3. Ibid., p. 3. Nicole Guenther Discenza, ‘Writing the Mother Tongue in the Shadow of Babel’, in Conceptualizing Multilingualism in England, pp. 33–55 (33).

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of ) the frequent, perplexing moments of contradiction between the two. As Watson argues, ‘English could … be claimed as the language of the nation, a powerful patriotic bond uniting commons, aristocracy and crown against enemies from abroad’. But the key fact is that this ‘claim’ was exactly (and no more than) that, and that that is precisely what makes it interesting. Behind it lay a fraught and tangled web of anxieties about linguistic and national identity, neither of which could be straightforwardly constructed in this most paradoxical of conflicts, when ‘Middle English writing was and went on being much preoccupied with its own legitimacy’.15 The linguistic relationship needs to be read, I suggest, in counterpoint to the political and polemical relationship. It was precisely because French was so embedded that it was singled out by narrators of conflict, whose bold, propagandistic and largely failed project was to reconfigure the language of the king, the court, the law and high-style literature as, once again, the language of the enemy. We should not be abandoning wholesale the idea of national vocabulary, as Wogan-Browne advocates, but rather embracing the fullness of its subtleties and duplicities, its politicking and posturing. This is made difficult by the fact that, although the ‘triumph of English’ narrative has been squarely squashed, medieval nationalism as a subject of critical enquiry has not yet entirely shed its tinge of embarrassment, its need for apology. The contribution of this book is decidedly not to assert that the pugnacious statements of English linguistic robustness (or the anxious statements about French linguistic hostility) reflected with any reality the complex set of intersections and exchanges between the two vernaculars in their entwined identities and functions. Ideas about language and national identity developed in the context of war were, importantly, in tension with the culture behind and around them. But instead of dismissing the belligerent aspects of linguistic engagement, this study interrogates them against the background of simultaneous closeness and friction, friendship and enmity. It takes the work of Butterfield, Wogan-Browne, Tyler, Baker and others as its starting-­point. It does not return to ‘anglocentric’ notions of discontinuity, nor does it have any affinity with tired arguments about the triumph of English.16 It reaffirms the longterm centrality of French in medieval England, yet shines a spotlight on some of the ironies entailed by that reality. Importantly, it examines the political context of the Hundred Years War more closely than previous studies, probing the gaping paradoxes of that conflict for its narrators, who perceived their own fractured language as its corollary. In so doing, the book limits its definition of the corpus of Hundred Years War literature to literature directly about the conflict, in preference over more canonical material. Many of the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century accounts are little known, and one of this book’s main contributions is to introduce the sophistication of this neglected corpus. Another is to demonstrate how central and problematic to these war writers was the ‘idea of the vernacular’. The so-called ‘resurgence’ of English in 15 16

Watson, ‘The Politics of Middle English Writing’, pp. 339, 331. Wogan-Browne, ‘General Introduction’, p. 1. For the outdated ‘triumph of English’ criticism, see Basil Cottle, The Triumph of English, 1350–1400 (London, 1969), and Richard Foster Jones, The Triumph of the English Language: A Survey of Opinions Concerning the Vernacular from the Introduction of Printing to the Restoration (Stanford, CA, 1953).



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the fourteenth century was very far from being a ‘triumph’; it was full of anxiety as well as assertion, and this double cocktail of pugnacity and insecurity was the the reason narrators of the Hundred Years War made their language such an actively partisan part of it. In talking about linguistic or national ‘identity’, I am careful to avoid, in Duncan Hardy’s words, the ‘fashionable tendency to read identity into all sources and situations’, assuming ‘that this reified category was a universal and authentic phenomenon at both individual and collective levels’. As Hardy argues, ‘This danger is not automatically averted by qualifications about the fluidity, multiplicity, or instability of the identities in question; such disclaimers simply rob identity of its analytical purchase by making it ambiguous to the point of meaninglessness.’17 My use of ‘identity’ understands it simply as a social/political construction: an imaginative image projected upon a larger community by a smaller one, an ideological fantasy of unity built around a simplified fiction. I am interested in the agents of propaganda, their strategies and motives, and not their propaganda’s accuracy or success: in Hardy’s words, the ‘rhetorical appeals to linguistic and ethnic solidarities framed in opposition to Franco­phone groups’ for their own sake, without the corollary assumption that they ‘reflect a social, still less a racial, division along linguistic lines in early fourteenth-­century England’.18 This chapter begins by demonstrating how invested the English historiographical tradition was in theories of language, specifically the etymological historical truth-claim on which it rested. It examines the way in which the Conquest was retrospectively imagined as an ‘overwriting’, an act of linguistic violence. It then addresses the intersection of French and English from 1066 to 1337, reviewing the debates surrounding the mutual intersection of the languages, from the perspectives of literary studies and (briefly) historical linguistics. Finally, it considers the peculiar, paradoxical nature of linguistic nationalism on the eve of the Hundred Years War.

‘Writing history’ in the Middle Ages (part one) From its inception, English historiography was predicated on language, and specifically on etymology (which is why Spenser’s archaising form was so apposite). The claim on which Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae, arguably the originary text of British historiography, hinged, was that Denique Brutus de nomine suo insulam Britoniam appellat sociosque suos Britones. Uolebat enim ex deriuatione nominis memoriam habere perpetuam. Brutus then called the island Britain from his own name, and his companions he called Britons. His intention was that his memory should be perpetuated by the derivation of his name.19 17 18 19

Duncan Hardy, ‘The Hundred Years War and the “Creation” of National Identity and the Written English Vernacular: A Reassessment’, Marginalia 17 (2013), 18–31 (20). Ibid., p. 22. Geoffrey of Monmouth, The Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth, I: Bern,

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This emblematic moment set the precedent for those that followed, as Locrinus, Albanactus and Kamber named Logres, Albany and Kambria (England, Scotland and Wales), Corineus named Cornwall, Ebrauc York, Coel Colchester, Leil Carlisle, Leir Leicester, and so on. The place-name, christened after the history-maker, served as a reminder in perpetuity of the moment of foundation. Geoffrey used geographical etymologies as the pegs on which to hang the tapestry of an illustrious history. These vestiges of greatness functioned also as the guarantors of greatness, the Trojan names inscribed on the British landscape testifying to the Trojan blood in British veins. This concept of history was by nature profoundly written: the textuality engrained in (and engraved on) the landscape underpinned the historical truth-claim, as the island became its own source text. These beginnings set the pattern for the genre for a long time to come: as Turville-Petre comments, ‘Geoffrey of Monmouth’s account of Brutus is the text that underpinned nationalist polemics of the early fourteenth century’.20 Throughout the Middle Ages, and even up to Milton’s History of Britain, historiography cultivated this interest in linguistic history. It was impossible to write a history of the Britons without Brutus, and the etymological legacy he stamped simultaneously upon language and land. However, crafting a national legend that rested on etymology was a delicate enterprise. Not only had Geoffrey silently rewritten his immediate source for the Brutus legend, Nennius’s Historia Brittonum – which titled its protagonist Bruti exosi (Brutus the hateful) because of the accidental patricide that led to his exile21 – he also had bigger opponents to contend with. Isidore of Seville’s Etymologiae, sometimes called the encyclopaedia of the medieval world,22 made proof-by-etymology a paradigmatic hermeneutic form, and established de facto the intrinsically coeval nature of languages and nations: ‘nations arose from languages, and not languages from nations’ (ex linguis gentes, non ex gentibus linguae exortae sunt).23 Yet when it came to Britain, its derivation was damning:

20

21

22 23

Burgerbibliothek, MS.568, ed. Neil Wright (Cambridge, 2001), 21, pp. 13–14; The History of the Kings of Britain, trans. Lewis Thorpe (London, 1966), p. 72. The importance of ‘the English name’ as a trope in official rhetoric is discussed in Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, p. 169. Thorlac Turville-Petre, ‘Afterword: The Brutus Prologue to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’, in Imagining a Medieval English Nation, ed. Kathy Lavezzo (Minneapolis, 2004), pp. 340–6 (342). Nennius, British History and The Welsh Annals, ed. and trans. John Morris (London, 1980), pp. 60, 19. For further discussion of these themes, see Joanna Bellis ‘Mapping the National Narrative: Place-Name Etymology in Laʒamon’s Brut and Its Sources’, in Reading Laʒamon’s Brut: Approaches and Explorations, ed. Rosamund Allen, Jane Roberts and Carole Weinberg (Amsterdam and New York, 2013), pp. 321–42, where some of this material first appeared. E. R. Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages (London, 1953), pp. 49–67. Isidore of Seville, The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, trans. Steven. A. Barney, W. J. Lewis, J. A. Beach and Oliver Berghof (Cambridge, 2006), p. 192; Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae: Book IX, ed. Marc Reydellet (Paris, 1984), IX.i.14.



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Brittones quidam latine nominatos suspicantur eo quod bruti sint, gens intra Oceanum interfuso mari quasi extra orbem posita. De quibus Virgilius: ‘Toto diuisos orbe Brittannos.’ Some suspect that the Britons were so named in Latin because they are brutes. Their nation is situated within the Ocean, with the sea flowing between us and them, as if they were outside our orbit. Concerning them, Vergil (Ecl. 1.66): ‘The Britons, separated from the whole world’.24

Worse still, Isidore cited Virgil to attest the remoteness and alterity of the island of Britain, whose legend of Trojan exiles becoming nation-founders was the pattern for Geoffrey’s. Exactly where classical and patristic authorities provided the paradigm for a noble British aetiology, they forestalled and contradicted it. The problem was even more acute for sixteenth-century historians, who had Cicero’s voice to add to the chorus, who commiserated that his brother should be posted to such a barbaric outpost of the empire as Britain.25 Not only was English historiography inextricably embedded in language, then, but it had to suppress the paradox inhering in that embeddedness. It rested on the claim that the Britons were not ‘brutes’, but Trojans: but that claim was itself at loggerheads with both classical legend and patristic authority. There was an inherent pugnacity to the etymological truth-claim that became the signature of insular historiography. Even more fundamental, however, was the problem that the textual landscape of Britain had already been rewritten, and forcibly. The Trojan place-names had been erased from the landscape not by time and decay, but by programmatic and violent renaming. Historians blamed the conquerors for what they called a linguistic invasion, which made the Galfridian model of legible historical etymology all but impossible. The chronicler Laʒamon described with particular acerbity the Normans’ renaming of Troia Nova, Brutus’s capital: Seoððen comen Sæxisce men; & Lundene heo cleopeden. þe nome ileste longe; inne þisse londe. Seoððen comen Normans; mid heore nið-craften. and nemneden heo Lundres; þeos leodes heo amærden; Swa is al þis lond iuaren; for uncuðe leoden; þeo þis londe hæbbeð bi-wunnen; and ef[t] beoð idriuen hennene. And eft hit bi-ʒetten oðeræ; þe uncuðe weoren. & falden þene ælden nomen; æfter heore wille. of gode þe burʒen; & wenden heore nomen. swa þat nis her burh nan; in þissere Bruttene. þat habbe hire nome æld; þe me arst hire on-stalde. Then came Saxon men, and ‘London’ they called it: the name lasted long in all this land; then came the Normans, with their nasty malice, and named it ‘Lundres’ (those living here they harmed). So has all this land fared, with aliens landing who have

24 25

Etymologiae, ed. Reydellet, IX.101–2, 95, p. 101; The Etymologies, trans. Barney et al., p. 198. Cicero, Epistulae ad Familiares, ed. D. R. Shackleton Bailey, 2 vols (Cambridge, 1977), vol. I: 27.1, 28.1, 31.3, 32.1, 33.1, 38.1, pp. 89–100.

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conquered this land and in their turn been driven away, and others again would gain it, who were foreign people, and would refashion the old names according to their whim of the good old boroughs, and change their names around, so that there’s not one borough, in this land of Britain, which still has the same old name which it first was established with.26

English history should have been perfectly legible from the text of its landscape: instead it was vandalised, overwritten and scarred by the ‘nið-craften’ of conquerors, leaving a topolinguistic record barely intelligible to faithful historians. History was in principle embedded in language, but the language of Britain was fragmented and scattered, only to be imperfectly pieced together by the etymological shards that remained. This idea of a broken but vestigially significant language was (of course) an older and much larger one, tracing back at least to Augustine, who reasoned that the language of Eden had been perfectly significant (and it is no coincidence that the Edenic description of Britain opens Geoffrey’s Historia). With the confusio at Babel, the apposite relation between res and verba had been broken; but Augustine maintained that language was not rendered completely arbitrary: rather, like pieces of a broken mirror, which retained their essential reflective property although the image they offered was fragmented and distorted, so words were confused and scattered signs, but signs nonetheless.27 In this semiotic interpretation, words not only preserved a universal code for identifying the object they signified; they also preserved some grain, however broken and distorted, of that object itself. Augustinian semiotics had significant ramifications for national history-writing: Gabrielle Spiegel argues that the writing of history was conceived with a ‘mimetic identity of … narrative to the events it recounted’.28 Interest in significant language continued to characterise the historiographical genre throughout the Middle Ages, and gained a new intensity in the sixteenth century with the rediscovery of Plato’s Cratylus.29 The elision of the narratives of England and Eden by the insular historiographers invested etymology with a more absolute representational efficacy, however, than was warranted by Augustine, who had argued for relational, not referential semantics: nec ideo consenserunt in eas homines quia iam valebant ad significationem, sed ideo valent quia consenserunt in eas. people did not agree to use them because they were already meaningful; rather they became meaningful because people agreed to use them.30

26

27 28 29

30

Laʒamon, Brut, ed. G. L. Brook and R. F. Leslie, 2 vols (Oxford, 1963), vol. I, lines 3545– 55, p. 186 (Caligula text; punctuation modernised); trans. Rosamund Allen, Lawman: Brut (London, 1992), p. 92. See Augustine, De Doctrina Christiana, ed. and trans. R. P. H. Green (Oxford, 1995), pp. 12–15. Spiegel, The Past as Text, p. 100. See Brian Marshall Duvick and Harold Tarrant, eds, Proclus: On Plato Cratylus (London, 2007); Judith Anderson, Words that Matter: Linguistic Perception in Renaissance English (Stanford, CA, 1996), pp. 9–11. Augustine, De Doctrina, pp. 100–1.



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For Augustine, signification was meaningful because of collective usage, not essential referentiality; but the place-names in insular historiography were very different. Geoffrey’s Brutus was a new Adamic nomothete. The names he inscribed upon the island were not mutable and open to the pressures of linguistic change; they had to be intrinsically, sacredly, connected to it. They did not describe national identity; they conveyed it. Language had to be inalienable not arbitrary, signifiers pre-lapsarian not random, if they were to continue to testify to a glorious pre-history that could only be pieced together through fallen etymology. To prevent names from becoming antique, illegible and irrelevant, from failing to represent a living verbal contract and to confer truth upon the events they commemorated, their signification had to become fixed, irrevocable and total. In this context, the rhetorical threat of invasive ‘overwriting’ becomes evident. In post-Conquest insular historiography, foreign words could live on to embody, by their very presence in the language, the reality of conquest. In this discourse, a partisan insular subset of Augustinian semiotics, the ‘natural’ connection between word and object was conceptualised as having been permanently severed by the conquests to which Britain had been subject: Roman, Saxon and (most pertinently) Norman loanwords testified to that vitiation. A nation scarred by conquest was debarred forever from referential semantics, as the first parents were cast out of paradise. Yet etymology, as much as it was evidence for the fragmented history of English, was the only means of recovering its originary purity. This was a particular, political appropriation of a much larger discourse surrounding ‘natural’ linguistic signification, whose most sophisticated exponents were Augustine’s De Doctrina and De Magistro and Plato’s Cratylus. The topic was one of huge theological and philosophical import, and post-Conquest insular historiography was but one small and not particularly sophisticated context, among a great many others, for explaining and treating it. It is not the contribution that this context made to the much broader medieval debate that is pertinent, although the political exacerbation of this instantiation is interesting: rather, the fact that that debate became so fundamental, and so political, in the narration of British history. Insular historiography developed with an intense and ironic self-awareness: of the ways in which its claim for an illustrious foundation was undercut by the very authorities that it relied upon; of the fact that it was predicated on the innate and essential signification of language, and yet that that significance had been overwritten and scarred by war. French was at the heart of English identity, culturally and linguistically, from 1066 until at least the fifteenth century; but the Hundred Years War made England’s heteroglossia politically embarrassing. The conflict forced an acknowledgement of the contradictions that constituted national identity, a recognition that ‘English’ was the site of an already manifested linguistic invasion. Every assertion of ‘Englishness’ was made in a language that was a testament to its own conquest. Spenser’s etymological conjunction of ‘warre old’ is the more apt, because conflict had authored England. His sense of loss concerning the ‘antique stories’, the ‘famous moniment’ that ‘Time … hath quite defaste’,31 came at the end

31

FQ, IV.ii.32–33, p. 25.

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of a long tradition of lament that the history of Britain was one of vestiges and fragments, which located both the loss, and the potential for its recovery, in the island’s broken language.32 However, as Butterfield remarks, the Hundred Years War was ‘not a war of nationstates where the boundaries of aggression are clearly marked’, but rather ‘feudal and familial’: Sharing a language and a literature crucially confuses a clear sense of distinction between English and French. The world and work of words from the period is thickly coloured by histories of meaning, speaking, and writing that are both English and French, by a use of French that is English as well as French, that is homely and foreign … war is not merely the cause of Anglo-French separation but the symptom of its fundamental likeness.33

The profound irony of Anglo-French history is that this fundamental likeness was itself, in turn, a legacy of conflict. If English and French were overlapping categories, it was because of war and conquest. If by 1337 they were cousins, it was because in 1066 they had been enemies (just as they were enemies in 1066 because they were cousins). This ancient interlocking of enmity and affinity underpinned the fraught cross-Channel relationship throughout centuries of conflict. Butterfield is right to draw attention to the likeness, but it is must be held in equal view with the unlikeness. This irony is at the heart of the Anglo-French axis, just as it is the heart of the hybrid identity of English itself. The importance attached by medieval historiographers to etymology and its fragile, facilitating connection to history and nationality, was not specific to the insular tradition: every European country had a Trojan foundation legend.34 But in England it had a peculiar poignancy, because the connection between language and land had been singularly and forcibly overwritten by its neighbour and serial enemy. The next section explores the historiography of that overwriting: the way in which the Conquest was mythologised by successive generations of chroniclers, enshrining the precious and precarious connection between etymology, language and land.

The Norman myth (part one): medieval fictions of Conquest The mythology of the Norman ‘overwriting’ escalated with each succeeding century, as the Conquest became the abiding symbol of French aggression, and the French permeation of the language came to be represented as the trophy of its efficacy. The escalating tradition of the ‘Norman yoke’ went hand in hand with the meme of linguistic invasion, which was increasingly a part of English historiography from the 32

33 34

For further discussion of historiography and brokenness, see Andrew Escobedo, Nationalism and Historical Loss in Renaissance England: Foxe, Dee, Spenser, Milton (Ithaca, NY, 2004); Richard Helgerson, Forms of Nationhood: The Elizabethan Writing of England (Chicago, 1992). Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, pp. xx, xxi–1. See Richard Waswo, The Founding Legend of Western Civilisation: From Virgil to Vietnam (Hanover, NH, and London, 1997).



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late thirteenth century, and came to form the crucial pre-narrative to the Hundred Years War. More recent scholarship has seen the Conquest as a regime-change characterised by assimilation just as much as by subjugation. William acceded claiming to be the chosen heir of Edward the Confessor; he was proclaimed king in French and English, and his subjects were asked in both languages if they would accept him as such. Although undoubtedly a rupture (by 1090 there was only one English bishop in England), the Conquest was also characterised by intermarriage and cultural accommodation. Several of the English saints struck off the calendar were reinstated and celebrated in Anglo-Norman hagiography.35 There was no master-plan to eliminate English; in fact, William tried to learn it.36 Moreover, as Susan Crane writes, ‘the drive to unite the conquerors’ history to England’s and to provide them with an illustrious past in England is strong in Anglo-Norman literature’.37 The Anglo-Norman Brut unsurprisingly assimilated the Normans into its dynastic narrative without acrimony, and the Middle English Brut, following its source, described William as ‘a worþi king’ who ‘ʒaf to Englisshemen largly’ (generously) and ‘gouerned him wel and wisely’.38 Henry of Huntingdon alleged that the Normans conquered England ‘justly, according to the law of nations’.39 These are statements written by (and for) the victors; but they provide an important counterpoint to the reactionary accounts of later narrators. Rodney Hilton notes that in early post-Conquest documents, the grievances of the conquered English ‘do not articulate hostility to the lords on ethnic grounds. Consciousness of the “Norman yoke” was a tradition yet to be invented.’40 This is not to say that the effects of the Conquest were not indubitably profound. Laura Ashe calls it a ‘deep trauma’ that ‘split the country’s past from its present’; Helen Cooper describes English as ‘a palimpsest of successive conquests’.41 Nonetheless, it was probably not as devastating as it was later depicted. It is because R. W. Chambers believed the hyperbole of his sources that he concluded that ‘English nationality and the English language … were nearly destroyed’.42 35 36 37

38 39 40 41 42

See Dom David Knowles and Christopher N. L. Brooke, eds and trans., The Monastic Constitutions of Lanfranc (Oxford, 2002), p. xxxvii. See Orderic Vitalis, The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, ed. Marjorie Chibnall, 6 vols (Oxford, 1980), vol. II, p. 257. Susan Crane, ‘Anglo-Norman Cultures in England, 1066–1460’, in The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature, ed. David Wallace (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 35–60 (40); see also Rosalind Field, ‘Romance as History; History as Romance’, in Romance in Medieval England, ed. Maldwyn Mills, Jennifer Fellows and Carole M. Meale (Cambridge, 1991), pp. 163–73. Brut, vol. I, pp. 136–7 (CV-1333). All references to the Middle English prose Brut henceforth are to this edition, vol. II (unless otherwise indicated). Henry of Huntingdon, The Chronicle of Henry of Huntingdon, ed. and trans. Thomas Forester (London, 1853), p. 183. Rodney Hilton, ‘Were the English English?’ in Patriotism: The Making and Unmaking of British National Identity, ed. Raphael Samuel, 3 vols (London, 1989), vol. I, pp. 39–43 (40) Ashe, Fiction and History in England, pp. 34, 5; Cooper, Shakespeare and the Medieval World, p. 35. R. W. Chambers, On the Continuity of English Prose from Alfred to More, ed. E. V. Hitchcock and R. W. Chambers (London, 1932), p. lxxxii.

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In fact, the mythology of the Conquest accelerated in momentum as the Middle Ages progressed, especially after 1337 when war with France became again a quotidian reality. This mythology (in Tim William Machan’s words) projected ‘linguistic propaganda born of contemporary circumstances onto the events of the post-­Conquest period’.43 Spiegel argues that the interests of medieval historiographers ‘lay not in recuperating an account of “what actually happened”, but in the legitimation of their propagandistic and political goals … address[ing] contemporary political life via a displacement to the past’.44 Exactly this kind of interested, partisan displacement is apparent in the evolution of the narration of the events of 1066 on the eve and in the early throes of the Hundred Years War. The Conquest became, in political reconstructions, a motif of oppression and near-eradication of English identity. In his controversial account of the articulation of ‘Englishness’ in the period leading up to the Hundred Years War, Turville-Petre held that ‘writing history is fundamental to the establishment of national identity. In particular, writing a history of England in English expresses a validating conjunction between nation and language.’45 This conjunction, however, was not an automatic one: it had to be fought for, which is why so much of the historiographic vitriol about the Conquest returned to the meme of linguistic invasion. Turville-Petre’s description of an increasing ‘conviction that national sentiment is most properly expressed in English’46 confronted the problem that ‘English’ was not a holistic entity. Rather, it was a desired but unattainable symbol of national unity, as well as a source of anxiety, since it was impossible to write in English without (at some level) writing in French. In this sense, etymology was history; and to write with that conviction was consciously to choose an idiom that was not passive but active in the events it related, not arbitrary but profoundly apposite. Turville-Petre argued that ‘the Norman Yoke provides the English chroniclers with their clearest and most direct application of historical processes to contemporary conditions’. It offered ‘a distorted image of late medieval society’, ‘prompted by … polemic’, which was ‘self-evidently specious’.47 Nonetheless, this alternative historiography took off in the twelfth century. William of Malmesbury (c. 1120) wrote that ‘no Englishman today is an earl, a bishop, or an abbot: new faces everywhere enjoy England’s riches … nor is there any hope of ending this miserable state of affairs’.48 The late twelfth-century Marian hagiographer, Adgar, stated in his twenty-second legend,

43 44

45 46 47 48

Tim William Machan, English in the Middle Ages (Oxford, 2003), p. 83. Gabrielle M. Spiegel, ‘Theory into Practice: Reading Medieval Chronicles’, in The Medieval Chronicle: Proceedings of the 1st International Conference on the Medieval Chronicle, Driegenberg/Utrecht, 13–16 July 1996, ed. Erik Kooper (Amsterdam and Atlanta, 1999), pp. 1–12 (2). Thorlac Turville-Petre, England the Nation: Language, Literature, and National Identity, 1290– 1340 (Oxford, 1996; repr. 2002), p. 71. Ibid., p. 22. Ibid., p. 97. William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum Anglorum, ed. and trans. R. A. B. Mynors, R. M. Thomson and M. Winterbottom, 2 vols (Oxford, 1998–9), vol. I, p. 415.



HISTORY, ETYMOLOGY, NATIONAL IDENTITY,

Li reis amat mult ses Normanz; Les Engleis enueia as chans, As perilz e a la folie. Guaires ne li fud de lur uie.

1066–1337    21

The king greatly loved his Normans; but the English vexed him as though they were dogs, in their folly, and to their danger. He thought next to nothing of their lives.49

Early in the thirteenth century, Laʒamon described the Normans as ‘uncuðe leoden’ (unnatural people), the dominance of their language as ‘nið-craften’ (malicious practice) and ‘ane unþewe’ (an immoral act). His lament ‘þat nis her burh nan, in þissere Bruttene, / þat habbe hire nome æld’ (there is now no town in this land of Britain that still possesses its original name) expressed his favourite complaint, that the conquerors ‘falden þene ælden nomen, æfter heore wille’ (changed the old names as they wished).50 He represented conquest as a specific act of linguistic vandalism, an overwriting of the precious and precarious textual landscape that encoded British history. Such romanticised reconstructions became more exaggerated as the events became more distant. In the early fourteenth century, the Metrical Chronicle (historically attributed to Robert of Gloucester, although this is debated)51 inveighed against the fact that ‘þe englisse folc vor noʒt to grounde com / Vor a fals king þat nadde no riʒt to the kinedom’ (the English people have been dragged down to the ground, on account of a false king, who had no right to the kingdom). It described in evocative terms how ‘þus was in normannes hond þat lond ibroʒt iwis, / Þat anaunter ʒif euermo keueringe þerof is’ (thus the land was brought into the hand of the Normans, that it is unlikely that it will ever again be recovered),52 and numbered among the enduring strictures of the Conquest, the tyranny of language: þe normans ne couþe speke þo   bote hor owe speche, & speke french as hii dude atom   & hor children dude also teche. So þat heiemen of þis lond   þat of hor blod come, Holdeþ alle þulke speche   þat hii of hom nome. Vor bote a man conne frenss   me telþ of him lute, Ac lowe men holdeþ to engliss   to hor owe speche ʒute. The Normans could not then speak anything but their own language; and they spoke French as they had done at home, and taught it to their children. Therefore the noblemen of this land that are descended from them retain that same speech that they inherited from them. For unless a man knows French, people set little store by him. But low-born men hold on to English, to their own speech, still.53

The Metrical Chronicle created the misleading impression of the two languages as socially distinct and mutually unintelligible. Two whole centuries after 1066, it 49 50 51

52 53

Carl Ludwig Neuhaus, ed., Adgar’s Marianlegenden nach der Londoner Handschrift Egerton 612 zum Ersten Mal Vollständig, Altfranzösische Bibliothek (Heilbronn, 1886), pp. 136–7. Laʒamon, Brut, ed. Brook and Leslie, I, lines 3547–9, 1337, 3552, pp. 186, 68, 186. John Stow was in fact the first to credit Robert with the text’s composition; for questions surrounding authorship, see Anne Hudson, ‘Robert of Gloucester and the Antiquaries, 1550– 1800’, Notes and Queries, 214 (1969), 441. Robert of Gloucester, The Metrical Chronicle of Robert of Gloucester, ed. William Aldis Wright, 2 vols (London, 1887), vol. II, lines 74945, 7487–99, p. 541. Ibid., vol. II, lines 7538–43, pp. 543–4.

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projected an image of the conquerors as an unassimilated, unwelcome group, and the English as a racial subset living amongst invaders: ‘þat folc of normandie / Þat among vs wonieþ ʒvt, & ssulleþ euere mo’ (that people from Normandy, who still and always will dwell amongst us).54 This is a posture, not reflecting the acculturation and assimilation of the historical reality, but the aggrieved polemic of the historiographical one. The contemporary chronicler Thomas Castleford took the topos further, writing of the Conqueror, ‘fra Englisse blode Englande he refte’ (he cleft the land of England from English blood), and lamenting that Alle þe Englissemen, þe soʒ to spelle, Þat forth wiʒin Englande walde duelle, Trauaile þai salle, so þam nede stode, On oþer mennes soile to win þar fode.

All the Englishmen, to tell the truth, Who wished to go on living in England, Had to labour – for they needed to – On other men’s lands, to earn their food.

He depicted the dominance of French in the legal system as a deliberate ploy to condemn the English in a language they could not understand: Þe domes to saie in Frankisse toung, Þe folk to deme, baʒ aelde and yong, Fore þe bondes of Englisse linage Salde noght witte, bi þe langage, How þai þam dampnede.

To give the verdicts in French, To judge the people, both old and young, So that the serfs, from English descent, Should not know, because of the language, How they were condemned.55

Likewise, the South English Legendary declared (with a daring contemporaneity) that England had passed Into vnecouþe mannes honde   þat no riʒht ne hadden þar-to; And neuer-eft [it] ne cam a-ʒein   to riʒhte Eyres none – Vnkuynde Eyres ʒeot huy beothþ   ore kingues echone. Into the hands of unnatural men who had no right to it, and never afterwards was it returned to the rightful heirs; our kings are even now unnatural heirs, each one.56

Another passage often quoted in this context is Robert Mannyng’s assertion that with the arrival of the Normans, ‘our fredom þat day for euer toke þe leue’ (our freedom vanished forever, from that day on). Particularly interesting for the purposes of this argument is Mannyng’s deliberate identification of the Conquest with the conflict with France of his own time (Edward I’s wars of 1295–9):

54 55

56

Ibid., vol. I, lines 54–5, p. 5. Thomas Castleford, Castleford’s Chronicle or The Boke of the Brut, ed. Caroline D. Eckhardt, 2 vols (Oxford, 1996), vol. II, Book X, lines 31931–4, 31945–9, p. 863. For more on Castleford, see Caroline D. Eckhardt, ‘The Manuscripts of Castleford's Chronicle: Its History and its Scribes’, in The Prose Brut and Other Late Medieval Chronicles: Books Have Their Histories. Essays in Honour of Lister M. Matheson, ed. Jaclyn Rajsic, Erik Kooper and Dominique Hoche (York, forthcoming 2016), pp. 199–217. Carl Horstmann, ed. ‘St Wolston’, in The Early South English Legendary or Lives of Saints (London, 1887), lines 88–90, p. 73.



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Siþen he & his haf had þe lond in heritage þat þe Inglis haf so lad þat þei lyue in seruage. He sette þe Inglis to be thralle þat or was so fre …     For alle þis þraldam þat now on Inglond es. Þorgh Normanʒ it cam, bondage & destres, & if þei now powere had of vs, wite ʒe wele streiter we suld be lad bi þe tend dele. Since he and his successors have held the land as an inheritance, they have ruled the English in such a way that they are in servitude. He set the English to be slaves, who before were so free … For all this slavery that is now in England, it came through the Normans, both bondage and misery; and if they were now to have power over us, understand well that we should be governed ten times more stringently.57

It has been maintained that ‘one of Mannyng’s themes is the oppression under which the “true” English are still said to labor almost three hundred years after the Norman Conquest’,58 that writers ‘such as Robert of Gloucester, Robert Mannyng and Thomas of Castleford, deliberately used the English language to make a point about its relationship with authentic English identity’, and that their ‘choice of language reinforced the purpose of their history-writing, which was the glorification of the English people and their history, despite their current humiliating subjection to Norman rule’.59 Joyce Coleman argues instead for a revisionist reading, claiming that Mannyng was ‘largely neutral toward the Normans’, closely following his source (Langtoft’s Chronicle) in depicting William as ‘Edward the Confessor’s rightful heir’, and his ‘rule through Conquest’ as divine punishment on the English for ‘Harold’s falseness and their own ungodliness’. This offers a corrective to the romantic characterisation of Mannyng as ‘a working-class hero who championed straightforward English’.60 He, like the Brut chroniclers, was working from an Anglo-Norman source and for gentry patrons; and he was far from uncomplicatedly partaking in the escalating revisionary zeal with which others were rewriting the Conquest. However, importantly, it was not Mannyng’s depiction of 1066 that has the real invective energy, but his association of that event with the conflict with France in his own day. It is unknown exactly when Mannyng was writing, although it is likely to have been between 1327 and 1338, when tensions with France were rumbling. As Coleman summarises, Mannyng’s position is that ‘The “seruage” under which the English now live came from the first Norman Conquest. A second Norman Conquest would impose even harsher duties on the English – a category that now apparently includes their former conquerors.’61 57 58 59 60 61

Robert Mannyng, The Chronicle, ed. Idelle Sullens (New York, 1996), Part II, lines 1762, 139–41, 6317–20, pp. 533, 490, 644–5. Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, Nicholas Watson, Andrew Taylor and Ruth Evans, eds. The Idea of the Vernacular: An Anthology of Middle English Literary Theory, 1280–1520 (Exeter, 1999), p. 19. Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, p. 157; see also Hardy, ‘The Hundred Years War and the “Creation” of National Identity’, p. 22. Joyce Coleman, ‘Strange Rhyme: Prosody and Nationhood in Robert Mannyng’s Story of England’, Speculum 78.4 (2003), 1214–38 (1216, 1228, 1229, 1216). Ibid., p. 1229.

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The irony at the heart of this hybrid ‘category’ is one that would go on to plague historians of the Hundred Years War, as they toyed with the problematic definition of the word ‘Norman’. The rhetoric of linguistic invasion, and even of a second Conquest, returned powerfully with the renewal of the conflict with France. The subtleties of Mannyng’s delineation of ‘us and them’ were closed off by more polemic invocations written in the heat of the early days of the conflict in the 1340s (discussed in the next chapter); but, even for politic Mannyng, the Conquest was gaining an invigorated, embittered usefulness when applied to the French wars of the late thirteenth and then the early fourteenth century. Something that these statements all shared was an invocation of the imagined category of ‘the English’. As Ruddick writes: Whether in Lawrence Minot’s repeated references to ‘oure Inglis’, Peter Langtoft’s frequent use of the term nos Englays in his accounts of the Anglo-Scottish conflict, or Walter of Guisborough’s comments on the dangers faced by Anglici nostri after the English defeat at Stirling Bridge in 1297, the shared assumption of these writers was that the English people were an identifiable, coherent group to which they themselves belonged.62

It did not seem to matter that in practice this exclusive category was practically meaningless: in all three languages of medieval England, its diverse and heterogeneous inhabitants were being imaginatively rallied under this fictional banner, as they were around the equally constucted idea of England itself as ‘a clearly defined territorial entity, which, for all its contradictions and ambiguities, represented a potent idea in both official rhetoric and literary sources’.63 As war with France first reappeared on the horizon and then became a permanent fixture on the political landscape, historiography deliberately revisited its depiction of the Conquest, and applied its metaphors of linguistic invasion to the present. A late thirteenth-century genealogical roll of the English royal dynasties (BL MS Royal 14.B.vi) provides a visual example of the systematic application of the Conquest to Edward III’s wars. The roll begins with the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy, integrating the Norman ancestry of the Conqueror within the English succession. As Olivier de Laborderie argues, the prominence of the Norman origin proved a delicate issue for the genealogist, whose pictorial form could not but underline the crisis of usurpation at the heart of the dynastic diagram.64 A fourteenth-century continuator confronted the problem overtly when he extended the genealogy to include a series of pen portraits of Edward I’s descendants, to Edward III. Unambiguously 62 63 64

Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, p. 100. Ibid., pp. 97–8. Olivier de Laborderie, ‘La mémoire des origines normandes des rois d’Angleterre dans les généalogies en rouleau des XIIIe et XIVe siècles’, in La Normandie et l’Angleterre au Moyen Âge, ed. Pierre Bouzet and Véronique Gazeau (Caen, 2003), pp. 211–31 (212). For further discussion, see Scot McKendrick, John Lowden and Kathleen Doyle, eds, Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination (London, 2011), pp. 3447; and Olivier de Laborderie, ‘A New Pattern for English History: The First Genealogical Rolls of the Kings of England’, in Broken Lines: Genealogical Literature in Britain and France, ed. Raluca L. Radulescu and Edward D. Kennedy (Turnhout, 2008), pp. 45–61.



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supporting Edward III’s claim to the French throne, he noted that the Plantagenets should not have called themselves Edward I, II and III, but rather Edward IV, V and VI, following Edward the Elder, Edward the Martyr and Edward the Confessor, and tracing their right to rule not from the Norman usurpers but from the Anglo-Saxon line they had supplanted. The continuator remarked that ‘conquest par force ne done james droit’ (conquest by force never gives the right [to rule]), and that he who ‘se fit apeler Edward le tierz après le conquest, c’est a dire après William Bastard’ (had himself called Edward III after the Conquest, that is to say after William the Bastard) was in danger of making ‘li et tuz ses successours’ (himself and all his successors) appear ‘possessours de male foy et entrusours’ (possessors in bad faith, and usurpers).65 For this historian (‘plus royaliste que le roi’),66 being an ‘English’ king meant undoing and redressing the French Conquest at the epicentre of English history by force. One way or another, historiography was finding ‘means of interpreting the discontinuities of English history in a way that offered the English people a sense of continuity and collective destiny’, rewriting England’s violent past in a way that directly justified its violent ambitions in the present.67 This was an accelerating propagandistic trajectory, and the text that rewrote the Conquest with the most acerbity was (predictably) the furthest removed from the event, written in the heat of the Hundred Years War: the fifteenth-century forgery that purported to be an eleventh-century monastic chronicle, the pseudo-Ingulf chronicle, or The Chronicle of the Abbey of Crowland.68 It alleged, So inveterately did the Normans at this period detest the English, that whatever the amount of their merits might be, they were excluded from all dignities; and foreigners, who were far less fitted, be they of any other nation whatever under heaven, would have been gladly chosen instead of them. The very language even they abhorred with such intensity, that the laws of the land and the statutes of the English kings were treated of in the Latin tongue; and even in the very schools, the rudiments of grammar were imparted to the children in French and not in English.69

This was probably the most virulent statement that was made about the deliberate ‘overwriting’ of the Conquest; and appropriately enough, it belonged to a forged 65 66

67 68 69

BL MS Royal 14.B.vi; cited from Laborderie, ‘La mémoire des origines normandes’, p. 215. Cited from Olivier de Laborderie, ‘The First Manuals of English History: Two Late 13th-­ Century Genealogical Rolls of the Kings of England in the Royal Collection’, paper given at the Royal Manuscripts conference at the British Library, 12–13 December 2011. Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, p. 180. See Thorlac Turville-Petre, ‘Politics and Poetry in the Early Fourteenth Century: The Case of Robert Mannyng’s Chronicle’, Review of English Studies 39 (1988), 1–28 (4). Henry Thomas Riley, ed., Ingulph’s Chronicle of the Abbey of Croyland with the Continuations by Peter of Blois and Anonymous Writers, 2 vols (London, 1854), vol. I, p. 142. For criticism of this text, see Francis Palgrave, ‘Chronicle of the Abbey of Croyland’, Quarterly Review 34 (1826), 289–98. For the arguments for fabrication and date, see Antonia Gransden, Historical Writing in England, 2 vols (London, 1996), vol. II: c. 1307 to the Early Sixteenth Century, pp. 400, 490–2. Alfred Hiatt discusses the pseudo-Ingulf chronicle in The Making of Medieval Forgeries (London and Toronto, 2004), pp. 36–69, calling it ‘one of the most successful late medieval English fabrications’, whose exposure had considerable ramifications for historians since it had been a widely influential source.

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rewriting of the eleventh century. The idea of French aggression not just against England but against English, was put to frequent political use leading up to and during the Hundred Years War. It connected conflict with France in the fourteenth century directly with Conquest in the eleventh, and foregrounded linguistic antagonism as a vital part of both. This tradition of rewriting of history by the (self-defined) losers was motivated in large part by the need to justify their present-day status as invaders. It intensified with succeeding centuries, as the insular literati associated themselves casuistically with their ‘English’ ancestors, and their Norman ancestors with their French enemies. It adroitly cast English aggression against France as a redressing of the originary French invasion of England, deftly transforming present-day victims into historical aggressors. As Adrian Hastings writes, ‘the guise of an imagined threat or grievance’ is a powerful catalyst of a nationalistic impetus;70 and this is precisely the function that the reinvoking of the Conquest served in the fourteenth century. As Turville-Petre writes, ‘the theme of the Norman Yoke … depended on a racial divide that had no basis in reality’: these authors were ‘deliberately misrepresenting the situation in the interests of strengthening their image of an English identity that excluded the Norman’.71 Allowing these assertions about Englishness to be seen in their quick-stepping complexity makes possible a much richer understanding of the agenda that undergirded them. ‘Englishness’ was an elusive concept for medieval insular historians; it involved disentangling (expeditiously and speciously) the weave of diverse threads that constituted the much more complex and diverse reality. An example of this is the Brut’s description of the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322, which records that þe grete lordes of Engeland were nouʒt alle of o nacioun, but were mellede wiþ oþere nacions, þat is forto seyn, somme Britons, somme Saxones, somme Danois, somme Peghtes, somme Frenchemen, somme Normans, somme Spaignardes, somme Romayns, some Henaudes, some Flemyngus, and of oþere diuerse naciouns, þe whiche nacions acorded nouʒt to the kynde bloode of Engeland. And if þe grete Lordes of Engeland had bene onelich wedded to Englisshe peple, þan shulde pees haue bene, and reste amones ham, wiþouten eny envy.72

The chronicler stated categorically that these ‘oþere diuerse naciouns’ are not of the ‘kynde bloode of Engeland’; and regretted the royal marriages that yoked them to it. The writer’s definition of ‘nacioun’ was narrow and exclusive; but although ‘the kynde bloode of Engeland’ apparently excluded the ‘Frenchemen’ and the ‘Normans’, this whole passage was translated from the Anglo-Norman. ‘That this idea is first given voice in French’ is hugely significant:73 it demonstrates the ironic extent to which the French of England was thoroughly English, on the one hand;

70 71 72 73

Adrian Hastings, The Construction of Nationhood: Ethnicity, Religion and Nationalism (Cambridge, 1997), p. 4. Turville-Petre, ‘Afterword: the Brutus Prologue’, p. 341. Brut, I, p. 220. Turville-Petre, England the Nation, p. 17.



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and on the other, how much that very fact problematised every single articulation of ‘English for Englishmen’. If Derek Pearsall is correct, that a ‘people must have a common language before they can be fully conscious of themselves as a nation: it is the enabling condition of nationhood’,74 then this period, leading up to and in the early throes of the Hundred Years War, was an axial moment, when English was posited as a national language long before it could actually function as one. It both was and was not a ‘common language’, overshadowed and underpinned by the French that was its superior, its rival and, fundamentally, its mirror. The fantasy of English functioning as a ‘national language’ was enmeshed in a complexity that the jingoistic simplicity of pugnacious assertion could but poorly disguise, but that did not deter propagandists from having a go. The outbreak of the conflict coincided exactly with anxious (and proportionally aggressive) articulations about the ‘English’ identity of English, and the ‘national’ identity of ‘nacioun’. The backdrop to the Hundred Years War’s politicisation is given by the next section. ‘National Language’ was always a fantasy, a construction and a fiction not a reality, but one that drove and fuelled political ideologies even as it exposed their paradox. The simultaneous independence and interdependence of French and English, mutually porous yet maintaining the illusion of distinct identities, is the faultline along which practice and ideology fractured.

Linguistic background: French influence on Middle English Unquestionably, Anglo-Norman was a ‘thoroughly English’ vernacular very quickly, capable of ‘express[ing] national sentiment throughout the fourteenth century’, even in contexts where ‘nationality and language were considered synonymous’ and ‘the use of the English language was treated as an identifying mark of Englishness’ (such as the Parliament Rolls discussed in the next chapter).75 Nonetheless, the effects of the Conquest on the relationships between the languages of England remains a question on which, after a century of contention, there remains little consensus: the debate is exhaustive and (in many ways) exhausted. This discussion does not detail the arguments in depth or offer new evidence on either side; rather, it situates the Hundred Years War in its cultural/linguistic context, establishing the extent to which English was saturated with French by 1337, and examining the ideological edge of that saturation. For reasons sometimes nationalistic, sometimes reacting against nationalism, scholarship on this question has been divided. Criticism is only relatively recently appreciating the nuances of the multiple roles played and postures enacted by the two languages over the course of their longstanding adjacence and interpenetration; and what is particularly interesting is the clear debt, in its own interested and polarised reconstructions, to the interested and polarised constructions of its sources. Just 74

75

Derek Pearsall, ‘The Idea of Englishness in the Fifteenth Century’, in Nation, Court and Culture: New Essays on Fifteenth-Century English Poetry, ed. Helen Cooney (Dublin, 2001), pp. 15–27 (27). Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, pp. 163, 166.

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as insular writers of the later Middle Ages rewrote the narrative of the Conquest to bring it in line with contemporary politics, so have critics ever since. For instance, in 1754 David Hume held that ‘William had even entertained the difficult project of totally abolishing the English language’,76 persuaded by the fabrications of the chronicle of pseudo-Ingulf (discussed above), not until 1826 demonstrated to be a fifteenth-century forgery not an eleventh-century original. This version of events was popularised by Walter Scott, who, in the opening chapter of Ivanhoe (1819), declared that Four generations had not sufficed to blend the hostile blood of the Normans and Anglo-Saxons, or to unite, by a common language and mutual interests, two hostile races, one of which still felt the elation of triumph, while the other groaned under all the consequences of defeat.77

Both saw Edward III’s declaration of war with France, almost three centuries later, as a direct attempt to redress the injuries of the Conquest: Scott romantically imagined that the recollection of what they had formerly been, and to what they were now reduced, continued, down to the reign of Edward the Third, to keep open the wounds which the Conquest had inflicted, and to maintain a line of separation betwixt the descendants of the victor Normans and the vanquished Saxons.78

In their emphases on the conquerors’ alleged attempts at total linguistic abolition, the emotive invective of the French conflict of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was surely rearing its head: Hume and Scott were (unwittingly, perhaps?) the Gloucester and Castleford of their generations. This romantic exaggeration, itself inherited from the later Middle Ages, was in turn inherited by criticism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Edward Freeman (1876) held that ‘the tongue of the Norman conquerors … utterly displaced the national tongue’.79 He called ‘the abiding corruption of the language’ ‘the one result of the Norman Conquest which has been purely evil’, lamenting that ‘the tongue which we brought with us from the elder England … has become for ever the spoil of the enemy’.80 Again, this reflects thirteenth- and fourteenth-century constructions (conducive to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century reconstructions), not the reality; but it neatly illustrates for just how long the depiction of ‘linguistic conquest’ went on gathering momentum. The early twentieth-century critical consensus was therefore one of French hegemony, both among Anglo-Normanists defending the purview of their discipline, and from anachronistially incensed cultural historians. In the first category 76 77 78 79 80

David Hume, The History of England by Hume and Smollett, 3 vols (London, 1850), vol. I: The Invasion of Julius Caesar to the End of the Reign of James II, p. 59. Walter Scott, Ivanhoe, ed. Graham Tulloch (Edinburgh, 1998), p. 00. Ibid., p. 00. Edward Augustus Freeman, The History of the Norman Conquest of England, Its Causes and its Results, 6 vols (Oxford, 1867–79), vol. V: The Effects of the Norman Conquest, pp. 355, 360. Ibid., pp. 366–7.



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was Johan Vising (1923), who argued for ‘the complete dominance of the AngloNorman language during the second half of the twelfth and most of the thirteenth century in nearly all conditions of life, and of its penetration even into the lower strata of society’.81 Following him were Mary Dominica Legge, who stated that ‘the revival of English must have seemed … fantastic’,82 Helen Suggett, who held that ‘the French used in England was … a true vernacular whose roots had penetrated deeply into all classes of English society who could read and write’,83 and John Orr, who argued for a ‘state of almost complete bilingualism, to put it at its lowest’.84 The most extreme articulation of the dominance of Anglo-Norman was that of CharlesJames Bailey and Karl Maroldt (1977), who maintained that Middle English was a creole of Norman French (defining the term simplistically as ‘mixing which is substantial enough to result in a new system’).85 This last view has had sufficient scorn poured upon it not to need further refutation: William Rothwell called the hypothesis ‘absurd’,86 Sarah Grey Thomason and Terrence Kaufman ‘outrageous’, saying ‘we specifically deny that French has had a disruptive influence on English in the sense of having promoted simplification or denaturing’.87 However, the backlash was equally and oppositely recalcitrant, straying into greater error than that which it rebutted: R. M. Wilson claimed, incredibly, that ‘French always remained a foreign language in this country’.88 In an article that Legge called ‘a heresy’89 George Woodbine alleged that there was ‘no dependable evidence to show, or imply, that French superseded, or even replaced, English, either as a written or a spoken language, during the time of the Norman kings’.90 J. A. W. Bennett and G. V. Smithers suggested that ‘Many of the changes often attributed to William’s victory would have occurred in any case as the Norman orbit widened’, and that ‘the date of the Norman Conquest may have no essential bearing on the

81 82

83

84 85 86 87 88 89

90

Johan Vising, Anglo-Norman Language and Literature (London, 1923), p. 18. Mary Dominica Legge, ‘The French Language and the English Cloister’, in Medieval Studies Presented to Rose Graham, ed. Veronica Ruffer and A. J. Taylor (Oxford, 1950), pp. 146–62 (152); see also Mildred Katharine Pope, From Latin to Modern French with Especial Consideration of Anglo-Norman: Phonology and Morphology, rev. edn (Manchester, 1961), pp. 420–1; Denys Hay, ‘History and Historians in France and England during the Fifteenth Century’, Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 35 (1962), 111–27 (113). Helen Suggett, ‘The Use of French in the Later Middle Ages’, in Essays in Medieval History: Selected from the Transactions of the Royal Historical Society on the Occasion of Its Centenary, ed. R. W. Southern (London, 1968), pp. 213–39 (235). John Orr, The Impact of French upon English, The Taylorian Lecture (Oxford, 1948), p. 5. Charles-James Bailey and Karl Maroldt, ‘The French Lineage of English’, in Langues en contact – pidgins – créoles, ed. Jürgen M. Meisel (Tübingen, 1977), pp. 21–52 (27–34). William Rothwell, ‘Arrivals and Departures: The Adoption of French Terminology into Middle English’, English Studies 79:2 (1998), 144–65 (158). Sarah Grey Thomason and Terrence Kaufman, Language Contact, Creolization, and Genetic Linguistics (Berkeley, CA, 1991), pp. 307, 313. R. M. Wilson, Early Middle English Literature, 3rd edn (London, 1968), pp. 9–11. Mary Dominica Legge, ‘Anglo-Norman as a Spoken Language’, in Anglo-Norman Studies II: Proceedings of the Battle Conference 1979, ed. R. Allen Brown (Woodbridge, 1980), pp. 108–17 (108). G. E. Woodbine, ‘The Language of the English Law’, Speculum 18 (1943), 395–436 (403, 410).

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emergence of “Middle” English’.91 This argument is perhaps not without some truth, ventured as it was from the perspective of linguistic evolution: language does change ‘on its own’ by particular mechanisms, and we need not always seek external (let alone political) pressures. However, injured nationalistic pride was also making itself felt, and reactionary scholarship trespassed into compensatory hyperbole. Thomason and Kaufman’s rebuttal of Bailey and Maroldt offered (as late as 1991) its own series of egregiously reductive overstatements: ‘There were never many speakers of French in England’; ‘[no] large proportion of native English learned French between 1066 and 1250’; ‘the linguistic consequences for English do not seem to have amounted to anything other than normal borrowing … in a situation of occasional bilingualism.’92 The key point is that both of these perspectives are constructions. Interpretations have been characterised by an investment in their own cultural moment; and if the critical polarisation was motivated by the controversies of its own times, it was enabled by the failure to recognise the interested nature of the literary evidence, equally invested in its cultural moment. This becomes apparent when comparing the ‘evidence’ collected on either side of the debate, which demonstrates from how early the two languages, in practice involved in a long process of a profound intersection, were being conceptualised exclusively and divisively. For example, Vising cited Denis Piramus’s twelfth-century Vie de Saint Edmond: Translaté l’ai desqu’a la fin E de l’engleis e del latin, Qu’en franceis le poent entendre Li grant, li maien e li mendre.

I have translated it to the end, Out of both English and Latin, Because the great, the middle and the lowly Can all understand it in French.93

In addition he cited the twelfth-century Purgatoire de Saint Patrice, whose author stated his intention ‘de latin la dei estrere / E pur lais en romans fere’ (to translate it out of Latin by hand and to put it into French for lay people);94 Hue de Rotelande’s claim (c. 1180) that ‘[jeo] voil dire en romanz … si entendrunt e clerc et lai’ (I wish to tell this in French … so that both clerks and lay-people will understand);95 Henri d’Arci’s asseveration that the thirteenth-century Vitas Patrum was written ‘Nient pur les clers mes pur la laie gent, / Que par le rumanz le entendent uniement’ (not for clerks, but for lay people, who will only be able to understand it in French);96 91

92 93 94 95 96

J. A. W. Bennett and G. V. Smithers, Early Middle English Verse and Prose, ed. Norman Davis, 2nd rev. edn (Oxford, 1982), pp. xi–xxii. See also Ian Short, ‘Bilingualism in Anglo-Norman England’, Romance Philology 33 (1980), 467–79. Thomason and Kaufman, Language Contact, pp. 308, 265. Denis Piramus, La vie Seint Edmund le rei: poème anglo-normand du xiie siècle, ed. Hilding Kjellman (Geneva, 1974), lines 3267–70, p. 126. Johan Vising, ed. Le purgatoire de Saint Patrice des Manuscrits Harléien 273 et Fonds Français 2198 (Göteborg, 1914), pp. 1–87 (lines 7–10, p. 19). Hue de Rotelande, Ipomedon: poème de Hue de Rotelande (fin du XIIe siècle), ed. A. J. Holden (Paris, 1979), lines 28–32, p. 63. Henri d’Arci, Henri d’Arci’s Vitas Patrum: A Thirteenth-Century Anglo-Norman Rimed Translation of the Verba Seniorum, ed. Basilides Andrew O’Connor (Washington, DC, 1949), lines 8–9, p. 1.



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and Pierre d’Abernon of Fetcham’s late thirteenth-century statement, that ‘Mes de plesurs est desiré / que fust en franceis translaté / ke lais entendable pot estre’ (many people desired that it should be translated into French, so that lay-people would be able to understand it).97 Taking these at face value, it would be possible to think that from the eleventh century to the late thirteenth, Anglo-Norman was the nearuniversal vernacular, intelligible to lai as well as clerc, a distinction that has broadly (and imprecisely) been interpreted as synonymous with social class. On closer analysis this is far from straightforward: M. T. Clanchy argues that statements by poets writing in French that their work is expressed in that language so that everyone ‘great and small’ … can understand … do not mean that all classes know French; rather, they are typical of the explanations which authors of French works had to make to justify not writing in Latin.98

More importantly, authors’ prologues were advertising talk. They were motivated by the impulse to promote the texts they prefaced to ‘Li grant, li maien e li mendre’: they were claiming universality of audience as much for their texts as for the language in which they were written, conjuring the geist of universal accessibility and popularity in a clever bid for the real thing. This is clear when contrasting the easily mustered arsenal of equivalent authorial statements that alleged that English was the only language intelligible to ‘clerk and lay’. The author of the Vie de Seint Clément, as early as 1200, asserted that ‘vilains … puint de rumanz apris n’aient’ (serfs … have not picked up a jot of French);99 the thirteenth-century romance Richard Coer de Lyon alleged that ‘Lewede menne cunne French non / Among an hondryd unnethis on’ (Unlearned men do not know any French: / Among a hundred, scarcely one).100 The fourteenth-century Speculum vitae made the same point, claiming that the only language ‘Þat can ilk man vnderstande’ is English (‘nouthir … Latyn ne Frankische’), and promising ‘No latyn wil I speke no wast, / But Inglische, þat men vses mast’, because ‘lered and lawed, alde and yhunge, / Alle vnderstandes Inglische tunge’.101 The author of Cursor mundi (c. 1300) was more strident, asserting that his poem       ys translate Until [into] Ingeles tonge to rede For the love of Englis lede [people], Englis lede of Engelande The commune [common people] for til understande.

He complained of how often he hears ‘French rimes’ read, and demanded, Pierre d’Abernon of Fetcham, La Vie Seint Richard, ed. D. W. Russell (London, 1995), lines 513, p. 38. 98 M. T. Clanchy, From Memory to Written Record: England 1066–1307, 2nd edn (Oxford, 1993), p. 203. 99 Daron Burrows, ed., La vie de Seint Clement, 3 vols, ANTS 64–65 (London, 2007) I, lines 38–42, p. 2. 100 Cited in Vising, Anglo-Norman Language, p. 20. 101 Ralph Hanna, ed. Speculum Vitae: A Reading Text, 2 vols (Oxford, 2008), vol. I, lines 6380, pp. 67. 97

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Quat ys worth for him nane can What value are they to those who can’t   understand them? Of Engeland nacioun Within the English nation Ys Englis man thar-in commoun, English men are the most common; The speche that man with sone may spede The language which you will have most   success with Mast tharwit to speke ware nede. Should be the one you speak.102

Not even a century after Piramus’s claim that French was the language of ‘li grant, li mien e li mendre’, here is exactly the same boast for English; and this alone throws suspicion on the attempt to read either as a trustworthy comment on the realities of linguistic practice. The fact that these quotations provide such equal and opposite counterparts for one another demonstrates the extent to which linguistic identity was manipulative and manipulated, a tool for inclusion and exclusion, a way of deceptively delineating cultural identity as though it were national identity, and drawing up battle lines from the outset. Moreover, unlike the Speculum vitae, which, as Watson argues, ‘addresses an audience that potentially includes everyone in England … including French speakers, who speak English too’, Cursor mundi deliberately ‘excludes French speakers’.103 Its apology for English is aggressively and specifically competitive: Selden was for any chaunce Hardly ever, for any reason, Englis tong praysed in Fraunce! Has the English language been praised in France! Gif we ilkane thaire langage If we treat their language in the same way, Me think then we do nane outrage. It seems to me we’re not doing anything   unreasonable. To lewet and Englis men I tel I address myself to common, English people, Who can understand what I say. That understandes quat I spel.104

The choice to write in English was not, in this instance, motivated by the advertising criterion of addressing the widest possible audience, but the political one of excluding and vilifying one section of it. The rejection of ‘thaire langage’ was a deliberate demonisation of French: since in France they think so little of English, the reasoning goes, let ‘Englis men’ treat French with similar disdain. Despite the final couplet’s disingenuous emphasis on comprehension, this rejection of French is made on the grounds of self-conscious cultural and political identification with the ‘lewet … Englis’, and decidedly not on those of intelligibility. It has very little to do with what the ‘lewet … Englis’ can understand, and everything to do with redefining ‘us’ against ‘them’ and ‘thaire langage’. Similarly, some decades later, it was a matter of pride for Mannyng to boast that his chronicle was written ‘not for þe lerid bot for þe lewed … þat þe Latyn no Frankys con’;105 and the numerous other instances of this lerid/lewed topos (the descendent 102 Prologue

to Cursor mundi, lines 74–8, 79, 82–6, in Wogan-Browne et al., Idea of the Vernacular, p. 270. 103 Watson, ‘The Politics of Middle English Writing’, p. 337. 104 Prologue to Cursor mundi, lines 87–92, in Wogan-Browne et al., Idea of the Vernacular, p. 270. 105 Mannyng, Chronicle, Part I, lines 6, 8, p. 91.



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of the clerc/lai binary, perhaps) betray the cultural agenda behind the posture of linguistic segregation. The author of Of Arthour and of Merlin described language as the property of every English national, in a perverse homonymic coupling: ‘Freynsche vse þis gentil man / Ac euerich Inglische Inglische can’ (High-born gentlemen use French, but every Englishman knows English).106 Again, this was not a statement about linguistic competence; rather, it yoked together language and land in a crude attempt to consolidate national identity and national language, the awkward couplet of ‘Inglische Inglische’ refuting, by sheer assertion, the paradox that it was rather wide of the truth. Langland was not lying when he wrote that ‘naught oon among an hundred that an auctor kan construwe, / Ne rede a lettre in any langage but in Latyn or in Englissh’,107 but writers had specific reasons for matching in English the claims made for French, and Clanchy’s scepticism holds as true for these examples as their French counterparts. Ruth Evans goes further, arguing that ‘Middle English prologues … act as prefaces to an essentially militaristic enterprise of conquering, perhaps of the conquering of intellectual spaces and social narratives’.108 It was a pugnacious, frequently war-time ethos that underpinned these constructions, and all these authors’ statements ‘need to be read as official versions of a far more complex actual situation’. ‘The myth of an inevitable “triumph of English” told in linguistic histories … is unworkable’ precisely because ‘it reads these explanations too literally’. As Watson goes on to point out, the insistence of the Cursor mundi poet ‘that French is a foreign tongue’ serves a particular, specious ‘agenda’: the ‘fiction’ of ‘a single community devoid of differences of dialect, social status, or gender’, represented by the ‘Englis lede’.109 This agenda was often socially motivated as well. The two languages co-existed ‘as essentially sociolects’110 (witness the proverb ‘Jacke would be a gentleman, if he could speake any French’,111 and Langland’s Coveitise, who ‘lerned nevere rede on boke’ and ‘kan no Frenssh, in feith, but of the fertheste ende of Northfolk’).112 Although the conjuration of ‘national language’ was invoked in service of this demotic linguistic ideology, ‘the unequal relationship of English and French’ remained primarily ‘a social issue’,113 until the politicians of the Hundred Years War started insisting on the 106 O.

D. Macrae-Gibson, ed. Of Arthour and of Merlin (London, 1973), lines 23–4, p. 3. Langland, The Vision of Piers Plowman: A Critical Edition of the B-text, ed. A. V. C. Schmidt (London, 1978), Passus XV, lines 373–4, p. 189. 108 Ruth Evans, ‘An Afterword on the Prologue’, in Wogan-Browne et al., Idea of the Vernacular, pp. 371–8 (376). 109 Watson, ‘The Politics of Middle English Writing’, pp. 333, 334–5. 110 Tim William Machan, ‘French, English, and the Late Medieval Linguistic Repertoire’, in Wogan-Browne et al., Language and Culture, pp. 363–72 (367). 111 Bartlett Jere Whiting and Helen Wescott Whiting, eds, Proverbs, Sentences and Proverbial Phrases from English Writings Mainly Before 1500 (Cambridge, MA, 1968), J9, p. 308. The first half of this proverb (‘Jack would be a gentleman’) often appears alone, or with a different suffix (such as ‘that late was a grome’, in Skelton’s Comely Coystrowne, c. 1500). It is first cited with the ‘if he could speake frenche’ ending in Heywood, c. 1549; see also its use in William Camden, Remains Concerning Britain, ed. R. D. Dunn (Toronto, 1984), p. 31. 112 Piers Plowman, Passus V, lines 234–5, p. 50. 113 Wogan-Browne et al., Idea of the Vernacular, p. 4. 107 William

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connection between the French of England and the French of the enemy, at which point the pugnacious rhetoric of linguistic separatism came into its own. To interpret this rhetoric properly, we need to credit its posturing cleverness rather than extrapolate wider conclusions. Pearsall cautions rightly that these remarks ‘are evidence only of fragmentary, sporadic, regional responses to particular circumstances, not a wave of English nationalism sweeping the country’;114 and Butterfield urges, ‘we no longer need to privilege “English” moments in our literary history, or at least we can re-examine the kinds of pressure that have been placed on such moments’.115 The methodology that has privileged isolated statements needs to be re-examined, as well as the weight of interpretation placed on them: they tell us a great deal about specific authorial strategies and political ideologies, but little about linguistic or cultural realities. And this is really what makes them interesting: they pull against the grain, resisting the reality of linguistic porosity and clinging doggedly to the illusion of separate identities and communities connoted by the separate labels of English and French, indicating a political/ideological agenda that was at odds with the social/ cultural reality. Understanding the place of this kind of rhetoric as an eddy against the tide is a crucial part of my argument. Most importantly, we need to recognise that authors were simultaneously making the same claim for both languages: that English and French had a purchase on the ‘Englis lede’, and that these counterpoised examples indicate an exchange of the same, exclusive linguistic topos, across both languages, addressing the same audiences. It is telling that each ostensibly persuasive nugget of evidence has its counterweight. Against the Nun of Barking’s apology for her ‘faus franceis … d’Angleterre’ (false French … of England),116 Walter Map’s Gallicum Merleburge (Marlborough French)117 and Chaucer’s Prioress’s French of ‘Stratford atte Bowe’,118 all of which superficially indicate a state of dominant francophony pertaining well into the fourteenth century, one could set Orderic Vitalis’s experience at St Évroul, where ‘Linguam ut Ioseph in Ægipto quam non noueram audiui’ (Like Joseph in Egypt, I heard a language I did not understand);119 or William of Canterbury’s account of Helewisia, wife of Hue de Moreville (one of the murderers of Thomas Becket), who tricked her suitor into attempting to assassinate her husband, only to betray him, shouting ‘Huge de Morevile, ware, ware, ware, Lithulf heth his swerd adrage!’,120 suggesting that as early as 1170 the aristocracy was anglophone.121 The situation was 114 Pearsall,

‘The Idea of Englishness’, p. 17. Familiar Enemy, p. 318. 116 Nun of Barking, La vie d’Edouard le Confesseur, poème anglo-normand du XIIe siècle, ed. Östen Södergaard (Uppsala, 1948), lines 7–8, p. 109. 117 Walter Map, De nugis curialium: Courtiers’ Trifles, ed. and trans. M. R. James, rev. C. N. L. Brooke and R. A. B. Mynors (Oxford, 1983), pp. 496–7. 118 Geoffrey Chaucer, ‘The General Prologue’, lines 125–6, in The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry Dean Benson et al., 3rd edn (Oxford, 2008), p. 25. 119 Orderic Vitalis, Ecclesiastical History, vol. VI, pp. 554–5. 120 William of Canterbury, ‘Vita Sancti Thomæ’, in Materials for the History of Thomas Becket, ed. James Craigie Robertson, 7 vols (London, 1875; repr. 1965), vol. I, p. 128. 121 See R. M. Wilson, ‘English and French in England 1100–1300’, History 28 (1943), 37–60 (53). 115 Butterfield,



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clearly not a tussle between languages that remained mutually impervious, but one of profound and mutual intersection, in which the tussle was for its interpretation. The non-literary evidence also pulls in contrary directions. On the one hand, Edward I ‘had letters from the Pope translated into French so that they might be read to the whole army’.122 Work on the distribution of French names confirms this high degree of assimilation: Clanchy has shown that in Winchester in 1066, 29 per cent of property-owners had non-English names, rising to 62 per cent by 1110 and 82 per cent by 1207;123 in Canterbury the rates were comparable. Cecily Clark finds ‘a French element … in the nicknames of humbler people, not only in the great cosmopolitan cities like Winchester, Canterbury and London, but also … in the villages of West Norfolk’: picot (pick-axe), roussel (red), blundel (blond), blanchard (white), cokin (rogue), cheverel (kid), basset (short-legged) and pinel (pinetree) appear as baptismal names before the Domesday Inquest.124 On the other hand, as early as the late twelfth century Richard of Devizes wrote of a Frenchmen who was advised to settle in Winchester because French was never spoken in any of the northern cities.125 Walter of Bibbesworth’s Tretiz de Langage, composed for Dyonise de Mountechesni in the mid-thirteenth century, offered instruction in the ‘franceis noun pas si commun’ (French that is not so well known) rather than ‘franceis ki chescun seit dire’ (French which everybody knows),126 but the nature of its instruction led Rothwell to argue that it shows in fact that ‘the English nobility were thinking in English rather than in French long before the end of the thirteenth century’.127 Indeed, he holds that by the early thirteenth century, ‘French is no more a vernacular than is Latin’.128 The growing reputation of Oxford meant that the typical clerkly sojourn in Paris was becoming a thing of the past, and in fact Henry II banned it in 1167. At several points during the fourteenth century, Oxford’s Aularian statutes, as well as those of many of its colleges, had to prohibit its members from conversing in anything other than Latin or French.129

Legge suggests that Helewisia’s real aim was to show Lithulf that she had betrayed him, and therefore although it demonstrates that the Normans knew English, it says nothing about the language Helewisia and Hue spoke between themselves: ‘Anglo-Norman as a Spoken Language’, p. 111. 122 Wilson, ‘English and French’, p. 44. 123 M. T. Clanchy, England and Its Rulers, 1066–1272, 2nd edn (Oxford, 1998), p. 34. 124 Cecily Clark, ‘Thoughts on the French Connections of Middle-English Nicknames’, Nomina 2 (1978), 38–44 (389). David Postles alleges that ‘au cours de XIIIe siècle … les noms français vont commencer à s’étendre chez les paysans’: ‘Noms de personnes en langue française dans l’Angleterre du moyen âge’, Le moyen âge: revue d’histoire et de philologie 101 (1995), 7–21 (8). 125 Wilson, ‘English and French’, pp. 54–5. 126 Walter de Bibbesworth, Le Tretiz, ed. William Rothwell, ANTS Plain Text Series 6 (London, 1990), Prologue, lines 86, 82, p. 5. 127 William Rothwell, ‘The Teaching of French in Medieval England’, Modern Language Review 63 (1968), 37–46 (44). 128 William Rothwell, ‘The Role of French in Thirteenth-Century England’, Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 58 (1976), 445–66 (447). 129 Strickland Gibson, ed. Statuta Antiqua Universitatis Oxoniensis (Oxford, 1931), p. 171; Statutes of the Colleges of Oxford, 3 vols (Oxford, 1853), vol. I, p. 8; see also Alan B. Cobban, English University Life in the Middle Ages (London, 1999), p. 44.

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Trevisa’s emendation of the Polycronicon is frequently cited in this pedagogical context, documenting the apparent abandonment of French in the grammar schools. Trevisa followed Higden’s description of what grammar school practice had been up to the 1340s: gentil men children beeþ i-tauʒt to speke Frensche from þe tyme þat þey beeþ i-rokked in here cradel, and … vplondisshe men wil likne hym self to gentil men, and fondeþ wiþ greet besynesse for to speke Frensce.

But, forty years on, he updated his source: Þis manere was moche i-vsed to for firste deth [before the first plague epidemic] and is siþþe sumdel i-chaunged; for Iohn Cornwaile, a maister of grammer, chaunged þe lore in gramer scole and construccioun of Frensce into Englische; … in alle the gramere scoles of Engelond, children leveth Frensche and construeth and lerneth an Englische … children of gramer scole conneth na more Frensche than can hir lift heele.130

On the surface, this appears to indicate a shift in the mid-fourteenth century, not just in the teaching but in the knowledge of French. However, as Butterfield notes, ‘it is implausible that Trevisa could know, in any specific factual sense, what “alle the gramere scoles of Engelond” were teaching’. Moreover, he depicted a society in which ‘Not just the gentle classes but “vplondisshe men” are alike saturating their children with French’.131 The fourteenth century has often, with hindsight, been claimed as a turning point in the fortunes of the insular vernaculars. The plague epidemics of 1348–49 served to ‘increase the economic importance of the laboring class and with it the importance of the English language which they spoke’.132 Nicholas Orme argues that the acceleration of English took place at such ‘an enormous rate’ in the reigns of Edward III and Richard II that it rivalled French ‘as a medium of documents and literature, and displaced French from most of the places where it had been spoken’.133 However, even if it was a time when English began to compete with French in new ways (although the translators’ prologues suggest that this was a deliberate topos that belonged to a much earlier tradition), it was by no means an ‘efflorescence’, after which ‘Anglo-Norman becomes orphaned and ossified’, enduring increasingly only as a ‘relic’, while ‘English triumphs’. In fact, claiming the fourteenth century as such a ‘moment’ perpetuates the tendency towards totalising narratives and quests for ‘moments’ that this argument seeks to resist.134 England never had a tradition of vernacular hermeneutics in the way that France had in Nicole Oresme, or Italy in Dante. The Valois ‘cultivation of the national language’ had no parallel in England;135 130 Polychronicon,

vol. II (ed. Churchill Babington), pp. 159–61. Familiar Enemy, pp. 325–6. 132 Albert C. Baugh and Thomas Cable, A History of the English Language, 5th edn (London, 2002), p. 143. 133 Nicholas Orme, Medieval Schools: From Roman Britain to Renaissance England (New Haven, CT, 2006), p. 75. 134 Wogan-Browne, ‘General Introduction’, in Language and Culture, pp. 1–2. 135 Alastair Minnis, Translations of Authority in Medieval English Literature: Valuing the Vernacular (Cambridge 2009), p. 3. 131 Butterfield,



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not until well after the end of the sixteenth century (beyond the purview of this book) had English shed its inferiority complex as a poor relation beside its European cousins. The evidence points in multiple directions precisely because the reality it attests was not uniform or static, but plural. Not only is the evidence polysemous, but (crucially) it is not innocent. Writers crafted and manipulated linguistic identities, and nowhere more so than in the notorious area of national identity and its articulation. Scholars are increasingly appreciating this mixed picture, allowing for the simultaneously harmonious and occasionally fractious relationship between the cohabiting and mutually porous insular vernaculars. What emerges clearly from this debate is that what was being claimed about the relationship between the languages did not by any means correspond to their actual relationship: linguistic identity was political, shifting, local, performative and above all manipulated, interpreted, spun. One reason why this question has so exercised scholars for so long lies in Rothwell’s diagnosis of the fundamental association of language with nationality that still attaches to the study of trilingual medieval England: it has been customary for languages to be considered as separate entities and for lexical borrowing from one to another to be regarded as a largely external or even peripheral phenomenon. This view, however, has its roots in the modern equation of language with nationality: once we go back to the medieval period, this equation has nothing like the same force as in the post-medieval world, and the whole question of lexical borrowing in the Middle Ages has to be tackled in a multilingual context.136

To understand the dynamics of ‘Inglische Inglische’ in their full complexity, we need to grasp that that couplet was not a de facto pairing: language did not belong to ‘nation’, especially not in the uncomplicated way so often assumed by anglophone monoglots. If ‘Inglische’ was being claimed as a national language, it was because that formulation was fraught, posturing, difficult; far from intuitive or obvious. It served an aspirational political agenda; it did not describe a cultural reality. Not only was English the underdog among England’s vernaculars, the whole idea of language as a demarcation of nationality was nascent, and it was in the context of the Hundred Years War that writers were attempting, in paradoxical and sometimes downright contradictory ways, to activate it. The nub of the issue, as D. A. Trotter articulates it, is that ‘neither the historical nor the socio-linguistic evidence suggests that Anglo-French may be treated as though it was a “foreign” element in medieval England’; in fact ‘this convenient separation of languages may owe more to modern ideologies of linguistic development than to contemporary perceptions of linguistic reality’.137 However, the misconception is not completely attributable to ‘modern ideologies’ but, pertinently, to medieval constructions; and, as with Wogan-Browne’s wholesale rejection of the relevance of ‘national vocabulary’, there is a temptation to throw out the baby with 136 William

Rothwell, ‘Lexical Borrowing in a Medieval Context’, Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 63 (1980), 118–43 (143). 137 D. A. Trotter, ‘The Anglo-French Lexis of Ancrene Wisse: A Re-evaluation’, in A Companion to Ancrene Wisse, ed. Yoko Wada (Cambridge, 2003), pp. 83–102 (84–5).

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the dirty bath-water. It was in this mixed and muddied context, in which multiple groups and languages had a purchase on the identities connoted by the labels of ‘English’ and ‘French’, that the association of language and nationality was being more stringently formulated, precisely because the languages and the identities they imperfectly encoded were so blended that they imperilled national identity, rather than articulating it. Pearsall called ‘common language’ the ‘enabling condition of nationhood’; but the problem for medieval language theorists, especially those chronicling the war with France, was that the English vernacular was a testimony not to impervious national unity, but to infiltration and breach. This poses the question of whether it is even possible to disentangle the reality of the linguistic intersection, the contingent independence and interdependence between the languages from 1066 to 1337, from its manipulated (contemporary and subsequent) representations. If the binary construction of English and French was a fiction, how completely had the two languages in reality been collapsed? Is it possible to talk about ‘loanwords’ and ‘borrowing’ when the linguistic matrix was one of such large-scale assimilation? While the languages of medieval England were frequently framed as though they were discrete categories, their overlap was so profound that under any thoughtful analysis this separation breaks down. Medieval propagandists were alternately desirous of disentangling the threads that made up the weave of the English vernacular, asserting its holistic identity and integrity as ‘Inglische’ (in opposition to ‘Freynsche’), and painfully aware of the untenability of that construction. Linguists’ attempts to quantify the influence of Norman French on Middle English have a long history, dating from Otto Jesperson’s statistical work on the New English Dictionary in 1905 (and following him Albert C. Baugh on the complete NED in 1935, and Xavier Dekeyser on the MED in 1986).138 Their surveys broadly suggested that ‘borrowing’ (to use a bad term for want of a better) accelerated steadily, reaching its peak (roughly) in the late fourteenth century. However, this kind of quantitative research has fundamental methodological problems. As Dekeyser comments, the fourteenth-century peak may simply be attributable to the massive debt the dictionaries owed to Chaucer. Underpinning this objection is the bigger one articulated by Christiane Dalton-Puffer: ‘it is only natural that a greater number of loans should be first attested during the later period: a larger amount of text simply contains more words, and thus also more loanwords.’139 Moreover, dictionary evidence can attest (at best) only the first recorded instance of a word, revealing nothing about its prior oral currency or its frequency in texts that have not survived. But the most fundamental underlying assumption is that the concept of ‘borrowing’ is an appropriate one. Carolyn Collette notes that ‘Although modern

138 Otto Jesperson, Growth and Structure of the English Language, 9th edn (Oxford, 1948), pp. 86–7;

Albert C. Baugh, ‘The Chronology of French Loan-Words in English’, Modern Language Notes 50 (1935), 90–3; Xavier Dekeyser, ‘Romance Loans in Middle English: A Re-Assessment’, in Linguistics across Historical and Geographical Boundaries: In Honour of Jacek Fisiak on the Occasion of His Fiftieth Birthday, ed. Dieter Kastovsky, A. J. Szwedek and Barbara Płoczińska, 2 vols (Berlin, 1986), vol. II: Descriptive, Contrastive and Applied Linguistics, pp. 253–66. 139 Christiane Dalton-Puffer, The French Influence on Middle English Morphology: A Corpus-Based Study of Derivation (Berlin, 1996), p. 11.



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linguists often focus on this apparently intense appropriation’ (the large-scale borrowing of the fourteenth century), ‘it seems to have gone unremarked by either English or French writers at the time’. Pertinently, she comments: ‘what is now marked as inter-linguistic borrowing could well be understood as a normal function of vernaculars, which were inherently unstable because they were responsive to changing circumstances, constantly adding and dropping vocabulary.’140 A better conceptualisation would be that English and French grew closer and closer together the longer they coexisted, like circles in a Venn diagram gradually increasing the area of their overlap. The terminology not of influence but of confluence characterises the most perceptive scholarship: Rothwell describes ‘the relationship of Anglo-French with Middle English’ as ‘one of merger, not of borrowing’;141 Trotter urges that ‘traditional concepts of separate and separable languages must be revised’, and claims that ‘English and Anglo-French co-existed in close proximity, influenced one another incessantly, and ultimately merged’.142 A model of merger rather than of borrowing is supported by the concomitant influence of English on insular French. Some Anglo-Norman verbs were shaped by the anglophone habit of making verbs from nouns: liter (to bed), ponter (to bridge), piler (to strengthen), placer prest (to get ready).143 There are words whose origin is either in doubt, or duplicate: rich owes something to both Old English ric and French riche; main has been influenced both by mægen and magne; nephew could derive either from nefu or neveu; some ‘loanwords’ may in fact have been coinages.144 Then there are idiomatic calques, suggesting coalescing habits of expression: N. F. Blake describes how ælces cynnes, which passed into Middle English as al kynne, came under the influence of manière de and changed into alle kind of.145 Orr lists ‘behind-hand’ (arriere-main), ‘to let go’ (laisser aller), ‘to drink to’ (boire à), ‘hot-foot’ (chaud pié), ‘to give place to’ (donner lieu à), ‘to send for’ (mander pour), ‘to take heart’ (prendre cuer) and ‘to think twice about’ (penser deux foiz à), among many others, as idioms passed seamlessly between languages.146 Other underlying assumptions continue to inhibit understanding of the complexity of the linguistic relationship, such as the frequently rehearsed theory that French words registered prestige. Since Walter Scott’s characterisation of the Normans leaving the sheep, cows, pigs and deer to be tended by the English serfs, but not much of the mutton, beef, pork or venison to be eaten by them, there has been 140 Carolyn

Collette, ‘Aristotle, Translation and the Mean: Shaping the Vernacular in Late Medieval Anglo-French Culture’, in Wogan-Browne et al., Language and Culture, pp. 373–85 (374). 141 William Rothwell, ‘The Missing Link in English Etymology: Anglo-French’, Medium Ævum 60 (1991), 173–96 (174). 142 Trotter, ‘Anglo-French Lexis’, pp. 83, 85. 143 See William Rothwell, ‘The Trilingual England of Geoffrey Chaucer’, Studies in the Age of Chaucer: The Yearbook of the New Chaucer Society 16 (1994), 45–67 (60); and Ian Short, ‘Patrons and Polyglots: French Literature in Twelfth-Century England’, Anglo-Norman Studies XIV: Proceedings of the Battle Conference 1991, ed. Marjorie Chibnall (Woodbridge, 1992), pp. 229–49 (242), on the vernacular syntax of Medieval Latin. 144 See Jesperson, Growth, pp. 102–3. 145 N. F. Blake, The English Language in Medieval Literature (London, 1979), p. 53. 146 Orr, Impact of French, pp. 16–18.

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a general consensus that ‘borrowed’ words, reflecting their aristocratic root, functioned as an elite register.147 Einar Haugen canonised this example in his definition of ‘borrowing’, which claimed that words are often borrowed because they are felt to be prestigious or just novel. This is especially true if the speakers feel inferior to the speakers of the other language, as the English did when they were ruled by the Norman French.148

This is a view to which linguists, such as Jeremy Smith, still often subscribe: ‘Although there is good evidence that the Norman aristocracy learnt English fairly quickly after the Conquest … nevertheless French remained the language of prestige and sophistication during the Middle Ages.’149 To some extent this assessment is fair, as the pairs of synonyms that preserve their hierarchic difference in register suggest: feed and nourish, build and construct, folk and people, deep and profound, lonely and solitary, hearty and cordial, darling and favourite, friendship and amity, love and charity. No doubt the phenomenon of elite closure, whereby ‘educated bilinguals’ made their speech ‘different from that of the masses’,150 was operative. Practitioners in milieux protected by the mystique of an elite language often liked to keep it that way: as John Earl Joseph argues, it is in the interest of the powerful and prestigious to develop means of keeping their language difficult of attainment. The cultural institutions of writing and education have served towards this end for a far greater portion of history than they have served the opposite, democratic purpose.151

Like Latin, French (especially the specialised or coterie French of the law or the court) remained a closed system to those without the opportunity to acquire it, as Trevisa’s ‘vplondisshe men’ seeking ‘wiþ greet besynesse for to speke Frensce’ indicate; and no doubt, as Smith speculates, aspirational ‘English-speakers developed the habit of studding their language with French-derived vocabulary in order to signal their prestige’.152 The law in particular was an echelon guarded by an elite language. Douglas Kibbee comments that ‘suspicion of the French language as a language of deception was at least in part due to the average man’s (even the average nobleman’s) 147 Wamba,

the jester in Ivanhoe, catalogues these pairs; although Scott took them from John Wallis’s Grammaticae linguae anglicanae (Oxford, 1653). Dickens also cites them in ‘Saxon English’, Household Words 18:433 (10 July 1858). However, Rothwell points out that ‘the Normans ate lamb, swan, duck and hare “in English” … English hare and French leveret go together just as English swan and French cygnet’: ‘Anglo-French Lexical Contacts, Old and New’, Modern Language Review 74 (1979), 287–96 (294). 148 Einar Haugen, ‘Borrowing’, in International Encyclopaedia of Linguistics, ed. W. Bright (New York, 1992), vol. I, p. 199. 149 Jeremy Smith, An Historical Study of English: Function, Form and Change (London and New York, 1996), p. 21. 150 Carol Myers-Scotton, Duelling Languages: Grammatical Structure in Codeswitching (Oxford, 1993), p. 178. 151 John Earl Joseph, Eloquence and Power: The Rise of Language Standards and Standard Languages (London, 1987), p. 43. 152 Smith, An Historical Study of English, p. 127.



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lack of comprehension of Law French’.153 When, eventually, legal proceedings were undertaken and documented in English, it was an English suffused with untranslatable technical terms that were imported wholesale, ‘an English in which every cardinal word was of French origin’.154 However, this model perpetuates the idea that English and French normatively co-existed in a stratified, and by implication a semi-independent, relationship of exchange, rather than a dependent and transformative relationship of mutual embeddedness. There are elements of truth in the prestige theory, but it tells only half the story. French could and did function as an exalted discourse, yet its function was far more expansive and less uniform than that. Neither a theory of prestige nor one of deficiency (French words selectively filling semantic gaps) fits the influence of Norman French on English, which, as Rothwell’s observations on ‘the French coverlet and quilt on the English bed … the French page in the English book, the French pen in the English well’ demonstrate, was a ‘thorough blending of two cultures’.155 That the exchange was far from unidirectional is clear from the fact that even the evidence of Law French pulls in opposite directions. If on the one hand, Castleford could condemn the incomprehensible ‘domes’ given ‘in Frankisse toung’, on the other, a sixteenth-century practititioner could comment, ‘it seemeth that almost there is no language more far from the true French, then the french of our lawes’.156 The famous example of macaronic legal French from the 1631 Salisbury assizes is a case in point, recording how the judge ‘fuit assault per prisoner la condemne pur felony que puis son condemnation ject un brickbat a le dit justice que narrowly mist’ [was assaulted by a prisoner condemned there for a felony, who after his sentence threw a brick at the said judge, which narrowly missed].157 Such macaronic texts offer unique insights into the dynamics that operated at the linguistic watershed. They are often cited as instances of a breakdown of competence, as in the example of George Dunbar, Earl of March, who wrote to Henry IV: ‘mervaile yhe nocht that I write my lettres in Englishe, fore that ys mare clere to myne understandyng than Latyne or Fraunche’.158 Yet frequently they illustrate the ways in which blended-yet-distinct linguistic identities could be cleverly manipulated and virtuosically mastered, as the boundary between the languages was explored as a site of both collapse and crystallisation. A letter written by Rosa Mountfort on the back of a deed from the early years of Richard II’s reign is a case in point, moving effortlessly between the stylistics of formal address and greeting (‘Tresentere cosyn & tresbonement ame, ieo vous saluce’ [Most sincere cousin and most kind friend, I greet you] to those of request and urgency (‘dere cosyn, þenk 153 Douglas

A. Kibbee, For to Speke Frenche Trewely: The French Language in England, 1000–1600, Its Status, Description, and Instruction (Amsterdam, PA, 1991), p. 40. 154 Frederick Pollock and Frederic William Maitland, The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I, ed. S. F. C. Milsom, 2nd edn (Cambridge, 1968), p. 85. 155 Rothwell, ‘Anglo-French Lexical Contacts’, p. 294. 156 G. de la Mothe, The French Alphabet (London, 1639), p. 106. 157 Cited in Kibbee, For to Speke Frenche, p. 96. 158 F. C. Hingeston, ed., Royal and Historical Letters during the Reign of Henry IV, 2 vols (London, 1860), vol. I, p. 24.

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on þis enterdyche [interdict]; make ʒe coste & I shal wel quite [reimburse]’).159 The claim of being written ‘en hast’ is emotively performed by the switches into direct English imperative; yet it is perfectly poised against the courteous, formal French salutations. Although it has been cited as indicative of the disintegration of French competency, it gives the letter more credit to read it as a self-aware and skilful negotiation and manipulation of the porosity of bilingual registers. Another letter sent ‘en hast’, from Richard Kingston, Dean of Windsor, to Henry IV in 1403, has similarly been claimed as illustrating the epistolary style breaking down under pressure, but is more persuasively interpreted as a consummate exercise in stylistic gymanstics than a case of incompetence. Likewise it switches between the formal and gravid epistolary style (‘Tresexcellent, trespuissant, et tresredoute Seignour’ [Most excellent, powerful and renowned lord]), and the pressing immediacy of the events of the Welsh rebellion it relates (‘War fore, for Goddesake, thinketh on ʒour beste Frende, God’, and ‘leveth nought that ʒe ne come for no man that may counsaille ʒowe the contrarie’).160 Its ‘elite and literate status’ is clear, as Wogan-Browne observes, and ‘its linguistic switching is not driven by lack of resource … in … linguistic competence’. At the same time, it is too ‘pragmatic’ to be considered ‘an example of macaronic art’; instead, ‘the switching’ must be “expressive”’.161 Such readings cast Kingston and Mountfort as different kinds of correspondent from Dunbar. Their code-switching was not because French was not ‘clere to myne understandyng’ but an acrobatic and emotive manipulation of register. Macaronic correspondence illustrates the paradoxical interdependence and independence of the languages, demonstrating how essentially fuseable English and French had become, and yet simultaneously the skilful ways in which their still-separate connotative functions were being exploited. More exploitative still was the virtuosic linguistic porosity of the intricate macaronic poems that retained their rhymes and metre across alternating lines in three languages, as in a stanza from De amico ad amicam: Ma tresduce et tresamé Nyght and day for love of the    Suspiro. Soyez permenant et leal, Love me so that I it fele    Requiro.162

My very sweet and very beloved I sigh Be permanent/faithful and loyal I ask

As Ad Putter writes, ‘what is special and artful’ about this poet’s ‘use of English’, is that he ‘never attempts to make English do the work of French. On the contrary, each vernacular language performs a very different task’. Where the French is polysyllabic, deferential (vous), and abstract (praising the virtues of permanence and 159 R.

W. Chambers, Marjorie Daunt, and Magdalene Marie Weale, eds, A Book of London English, 1384–1425 (London, 1931), p. 280. 160 Hingeston, Royal and Historical Letters, I, pp. 157–9. 161 Wogan-Browne, Language and Culture, p. 7. 162 See Ad Putter, ‘The French of English Letters: Two Trilingual Verse Epistles in Context’, in Wogan-Browne et al., Language and Culture, pp. 397–408 (406).



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fidelity), the English is monosyllabic, informal (thou) and physical (‘Love me so that I it fele’). Putter calls the poem ‘a play not just of three languages but of three registers: by virtue of the poet’s deliberate art, the English is “natural”, the French sublimated, while the Latin performs a third form of elaboration’. This kind of macaronic writing represents ‘a stylization that leaves us with a purified flavour of each language and an idealised impression of their interrelationships’.163 Putter’s analysis exemplifies a way of recognising the distilled and deliberate characterisations of the languages that were possible in the service of rhetorical effects, without returning to redundant stereotypical assertions that English somehow ‘is’ plain/natural/homely, or French ‘by nature’ sophisticated/elegant/refined. These letters and poems demonstrate that the fusion of English and French could be a function of bilingualism at its most competent or at its most rudimentary, or, more subtly, an artful casting of the one as the other. They illustrate the self-consciousness with which linguistic porosity was not just recognised but exploited. The languages were neither discrete, separate entities; nor were they truly one. These texts are sites of both intersection and divergence, confluence and lack of fluency. The terminology of ‘loanwords’ and ‘borrowing’, then, needs to be careful and contextual if it is not to be redundant: the assumptions normally inhering in (and brought to) it are inappropriate to such an intense and longstanding situation of linguistic adjacence. Rothwell cautions that it is ‘highly dangerous to assert that medieval Englishmen always knew exactly which words in Middle English were French … and that they used their Middle English in function of that knowledge’.164 The boundaries between English, French and (as De amico demonstrates) Latin, in this longstanding trilingual culture, were often barely perceptible. This is exemplified by the glosses to Latin texts, cited by Tony Hunt, in which the terms anglice, romanice and normannice are wrongly applied.165 However, if it would be a mistake to assume that speakers were always (or correctly) etymologically self-aware, it would be a greater one to assume that the sheer extent of the linguistic merger made them unaware of, or desensitised to, it. The phenomenon of lexical intersection may often have ‘gone unremarked’, but it was far from going unnoticed. Hunt’s glosses indicate that people sought to differentiate the linguistic strands, just as they illustrate the difficulty they encountered in doing so. Similarly we could cite Higden’s description of the tendency of English speakers to frenchify (francigenare) their speech, which he calls a corruption (nativae linguae corruptio),166 and the way macaronic texts exploited the point of merger 163 Ibid.,

pp. 406–7, 408. Rothwell, ‘The Anglo-French Element in the Vulgar Register of Late Middle English’, Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 97 (1996), 423–36 (425). 165 Tony Hunt, ‘Vernacular Glosses in Medieval Manuscripts’, Cultura Neolatina 39 (1979), 9–37. 166 Polychronicon, vol. II, pp. 158–60; discussed by Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, p. 160: ‘Higden made clear his disapproval of the “corrupt language (corrupta lingua)” of the English, which he claimed had been distorted by “mixing first with the Danes, then with the Normans”, so that it resembled “bellowing and gibberish”.’ See also Rolf Berndt, ‘The Period of the Final Decline of French in Medieval England (Fourteenth and Early Fifteenth Centuries)’, Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik 20 (1972), 341–69 (348). 164 William

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as the point of rhetorical differentiation. ‘Borrowing’ remains a relevant concept ultimately (and only) because it was a medieval one. In nuancing the interpretation of the linguistic situation we do not need to pretend that writers of the period were not conscious of and highly interested in the nature of linguistic intersection: some, as Christopher Cannon argues, ‘used internationalism as a mode of cultural advancement, to make … [English] out of Latin and French’; others were more circumspect, and (as the next chapter will discuss) more sceptical.167 In the final analysis, recognising the conscious self-definition motivating these posturing constructions of linguistic identity enables us to appreciate the complex, paradoxical political culture that framed them. One particular paradoxical political culture is, of course, the narrower focus of this study. By the 1340s, when Higden was composing the Polycronicon, French was once more the language of the enemy, and was starting to be politically proclaimed as such. W. M. Ormrod comments on Edward III’s government’s consistent evocation and promotion of the counter-intuitive idea that ‘language [was] the primary marker of “national” identity’. He emphasises the ironic force of this image ‘to construct the war … in terms of … the defense of the realm of England from the ever-ready threat of French invasion’: this was a ‘symbolic rejection of the enemy language’, as well as ‘an emotional affirmation of the imagined linguistic unity of the realm’.168 The degree to which French was embedded in English heightened the fact that language was the lived metaphor of invasion, not because of the linguistic reality, but because historiographers had persistently made it such. The hybrid nature of their vernacular served as a constant reminder of the impossibility of claiming a binary national/linguistic identity, even as the burgeoning, belligerent sense of nationalism attempted (again, eddies against the cultural tide) to manufacture one. In works that narrated the conflict, the Frenchness of English started to be isolated and scrutinised, even as, and precisely because, it was integral and ubiquitous. But the picture is also more complex than Ormrod allows: the Hundred Years War did catalyse the articulation of anxiety (performative, playful and provocative, as much as felt or genuine) about the purity and vulnerability of language, and a re-evaluation of how much English had already been subject to a linguistic conquest. But the vernacular could never testify to ‘imagined linguistic unity’ when it was itself a site of contested hybrid identity. Anxiety over the crux of ‘Inglische Inglische’ reached its peak in the Hundred Years War, which is not to say that its advent made English writers suddenly or newly anxious about French loanwords (as though they were even recognised as a stable category). There was never a coherent attitude, let alone a consensus; and the ironies and inconsistencies with which medieval writers did and did not care about ‘French English’ reflected the deeply conflicted context in which French was both ‘English’ and ‘enemy’. But the fact that it made some of them so, some of the time; that their anxiety was put to political and propagandistic ends; and that it directly informed the language controversies and debates of the 167 Christopher

Cannon, The Making of Chaucer’s English: A Study of Words (Cambridge, 1998), p. 70. 168 W. M. Ormrod, ‘The Use of English: Language, Law and Political Culture in Fourteenth-­ Century England’, Speculum 78 (2003), 750–87 (780–1).



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proceeding century, is the ironic and complex trajectory this book seeks to trace. The renewed hostility with France galvanised a nationalism that defined itself against Frenchness, yet was contingent upon it. It drew attention to the fact that the English language was constituted by conflict, and that to narrate the war with France was always to enact it.

Rethinking language and nationalism in the Hundred Years War It is remarkable that, in the critical debates about language and nation in medieval England, the Hundred Years War often figures only marginally. Isolated comments, such as ‘it is impossible to forget that French was the language of an enemy country, and the Hundred Years War is probably to be reckoned with as one of the causes contributing to the disuse of French’,169 are often the only acknowledgement of its significance. Blake notes, for instance, that ‘The Hundred Years War may have inspired a feeling of nationalism among the English with a consequent increase in the use of the English language’, but maintains that ‘there was no real sense of Englishness within the language’.170 Part of this marginalisation is due to appropriate critical resistance towards what Hardy calls ‘old national teleologies’, which assumed a causal relationship between the Hundred Years War and ‘the employment of the written English vernacular’. This assumption has been rebutted many times: as Hardy states, ‘The vernacular texts produced between 1337 and 1453 by no means unequivocally support this hypothesis; important bodies of evidence either do not relate to it, or even contradict it outright’.171 Rather, the evidence suggests that the Hundred Years War had little impact on the actual situation of longstanding multilingualism: ‘the conflict actually militated against the discursive valorisation of English in war-related contexts, especially after 1415’, as is discussed at length in Chapter 3, and there remains a ‘large disconnect’ between ‘the popular metanarrative which links manifestations of the vernacular to an emerging sense of nationhood catalysed by war and the contextually contingent detail of the sources which it purports to encompass’.172 As Ruddick writes, whatever its status in other times and places, the emotional connection between the English language and English national identity was a weak one … Writers continued to use French and Latin to express national sentiment throughout the fourteenth century and the English language was often used as much for pragmatic as for ideological reasons.173

But it is for precisely that reason that differentiating and analysing the impact that its propagandists sought to have from the cultural reality that pertained, is so 169 Baugh

and Cable, History, p. 142; see also Hilton, ‘Were the English English?’, p. 41. English Language, pp. 15, 48. 171 Hardy, ‘The Hundred Years War and the “Creation” of National Identity’, p. 20. 172 Ibid., pp. 25, 30. 173 Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, p. 181. 170 Blake,

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interesting. Often, wary of courting association with ‘old national teleologies’, critics have shied away from this subject altogether, and the linguistic strategies of the Hundred Years War polemicists have been ignored, swept aside by mere assertions of their ineffectiveness, and summarily dismissed for their perceived unsophistication. Ruddick describes how the taint of Whig teleological history has made even scholarship of medieval nationalism something of a taboo.174 Not all critics share this blind spot, of course, and there have been tentative rehabilitations of the ideological strategies of the warmongers: Ellen C. Caldwell asserts that ‘It is difficult to overestimate the importance of the Hundred Years’ War in England’s conception of itself as a nation’.175 And to call it a blind spot may be an injustice: often the chariness that characterises critical reluctance stems from a justifiable desire to be more couched and careful. Nonetheless, as Butterfield remarks, the conflict that dominated the politics of two centuries ‘constitutes the strangely undiscussed epicentre of the relationship between English and French writers in this period’.176 This is partly because most debate surrounding the dynamic linguistic situation concentrates on the generations immediately following the Conquest, whereas the century that saw the outbreak of open hostilities is usually dismissed as the one that saw the French of England becoming, in Berndt’s words, ‘more and more of an ordinary foreign language mastered to a varying degree by steadily decreasing numbers of persons’.177 But French in England could never be either an ordinary or a foreign language, and it was the Hundred Years War that proved the key political context for the ideological reimagining of language and nation. Even as it was increasingly being redefined as an external, enemy language, its permeation of English and its foothold (depicted as a stranglehold) in every civil and cultural institution were an irony that could not go unaddressed. In a further irony, the war itself was a major factor contributing to the prevalence and vogue of French, even as it simultaneously provided the political impetus for its excoriation and rejection: the military successes of the 1340s to 1360s and then the 1410s brought ‘a glittering array of French aristocrats’ as prisoners to the English court, and with them ‘an even more powerful and deeply pervasive sense of French cultural prestige’. John M. Bowers suggests that ‘Probably not since the reign of Henry III was francophilia, not to mention francophonia, so rampant in and around the English court’ as during the early reign of Edward III. Yet side by side with this cultural reality was a political climate of friction: in ‘popular … discourse’ as well as in the ‘propaganda machinery’, ‘contempt for French was pervasive’.178 The difference that the Hundred Years War made was not to the actual but to the 174 Ibid.,

p. 7. C. Caldwell, ‘The Hundred Years War and National Identity’, in Baker, Inscribing the Hundred Years’ War, pp. 237–65 (245). 176 Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, pp. xix–xx. 177 Berndt, ‘Period of the Final Decline’, p. 357. 178 John M. Bowers, ‘Chaucer after Retters: The Wartime Origins of English Literature’, in Baker, Inscribing the Hundred Years’ War, pp. 91–125 (92–3). 175 Ellen



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ideological status of French in England. Equally, the importance of the Statute of Pleading in 1362 (one of the ‘established list of examples’ in the triumph-of-English canon),179 was not its failure to have any effect,180 but the aggressive ideology it trumpeted. It was a political gesture, deliberately reframing French as a ‘foreign’ language, because such a move was so far from intuitive. It is no coincidence, as R. F. Yeager argues, that the statute followed hard on the heels of the Treaty of Brétigny in 1360: ‘notions of “realm” and “people” which clearly associate the boundaries of spoken English with the reach of English power’ are powerfully implicit in its phraseology.181 Moreover, combative linguistic mimesis was crucially not only inter- but intra-lingual: robust assertions of linguistic nationalism had to acknowledge that the vernacular was already penetrated, suffused with enemy lexemes, whose etymological fall-out had (according to the chroniclers, at any rate) been the superscription of the native lexical landscape of English. The awareness that French had permanently invaded English shaped the narration of the Hundred Years War and enabled aggressive xenophobia to be conveniently disguised as, and fuelled by, the righteous indignation of a self-defined injured party. Critics who have commented on the Lancastrian promotion of English have claimed, for instance, that ‘only in the fifteenth century did English come to be seen as the national tongue, an expression of national identity’.182 But the possibilities of language-propaganda were being probed much earlier: Ormrod specifically links ‘Edward III’s and Henry V’s usages of English’, connecting the earlier king’s pieces of symbolic legislation (including the Statute of Pleading) with ‘the later, better-known and more dynamic promotion of the vernacular by the government of Henry V’.183 The ironies were sharper in the fourteenth century, although the propaganda that controlled and suppressed them was more programmatic in the fifteenth. But at no point was their jingoism a simple one; their bellicose lambasting grew out of the awareness that that ‘enemy’ was, literally, within. Before further chapters develop this, the argument needs to take account of the historic (and historically controversial) claim that nationalism, and particularly linguistic nationalism, was a phenomenon that post-dated the Middle Ages. It has been some decades since Benedict Anderson claimed that ‘in Western Europe the eighteenth century marks … the dawn of the age of nationalism’,184 asserting that 179 Ormrod,

‘The Use of English’, p. 750. the early eighteenth century, Roger North could still say that ‘the Law is scarce expressible properly in English; and, when it is done, it must be Françoise, or very uncouth’: A Discourse on the Study of Laws (London, 1824), p. 13. However, Ormrod argues that the conventional interpretation of the statute as ‘a redundant piece of legislation blithely ignored by a legal profession determined to maintain arcane practice and resist the demystification of its processes’ (‘The Use of English’, p. 772) needs to be nuanced. He holds that the statute was not just symbolic, but that the use of English in the law courts was more significant that has been recognised (pp. 770–3). 181 R. F. Yeager, ‘Politics and the French Language in England during the Hundred Years’ War: The Case of John Gower’, in Baker, Inscribing the Hundred Years’ War, pp. 127–57 (136). 182 Crane, ‘Anglo-Norman Cultures’, pp. 55. 183 Ormrod, ‘The Use of English’, pp. 787, 781. 184 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, rev. edn (London, 1991), p. 11. 180 In

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the Middle Ages boasted neither the economic nor the ideological sophistication to facilitate its fully fledged development. There have been many efforts subsequently devoted to back-dating the phenomenon, and ‘historians of medieval Europe have been vociferous in recent decades in insisting that the concept of the nation had genuine political and cultural meaning in the pre-modern period’.185 Some of these efforts have been highly problematic, assuming a continuous trajectory in the developing articulation of nationhood, rather than admitting that it was expressed in isolated and contextually specific pockets: Turville-Petre maintained, for example, that ‘the similarities between medieval and modern expressions of national identity … are fundamental, and the differences … are peripheral’, predicating his argument on the dangerous assertion of ‘the triumphant emergence of English as the language of the national culture’.186 Likewise, Hastings claimed a steady trajectory for English nationalism, which ‘was detectable already … by the end of the tenth century’, and which ‘grew fairly steadily in the strength of its national consciousness through the later twelfth and thirteenth centuries, but emerged still more vociferously with its vernacular literary renaissance and the pressures of the Hundred Years War’.187 This linear progress narrative is yet more thorny than the ‘nationhood’ trajectory, and Hastings admits that his arguments ‘may seem an expression less of historical enquiry than of English nationalism itself ’.188 The problem, as Butterfield expresses it, is that ‘many of us are looking for the moment when nation can be claimed’, and championing ‘isolated instances of nationalist invective or self-description that then act for us as signs of a larger national impulse’; but this ‘is often a deeply retrospective exercise’, and a much more compelling interpretation is to allow each ‘moment’ to speak for and to itself, rather than seeking to align them all in a globalising narrative.189 Such reactionary, cautionary impulses have, by the same measure, made medi­ evalists reluctant to acknowledge genuine nationalism in their period at all. Reacting against a Whig narrative of triumphalism or a quest for the originary moment, they have emphasised its absence: Pearsall holds that there was ‘no steadily growing sense of national feeling’ in the medieval period, and that ‘the real history of nationhood … begin[s] in the sixteenth century, and is plausibly associated with the Reformation, the separation of England from Catholic Europe’.190 Butterfield, cautioning against the too-ready desire to ‘defy modernist insistence that the nation is a concept 185 Ruddick,

English Identity and Political Culture, p. 2. See also Lesley Johnson, ‘Imagining Communities: Medieval and Modern’, in Forde, Johnson and Murray, Concepts of National Identity in the Middle Ages, pp. 1–20; David Matthews, Writing to the King: Nation, Kingship and Literature in England 1250–1350 (Cambridge, 2010); Lavezzo, Imagining a Medieval English Nation. 186 Turville-Petre, England the Nation, pp. v, vii. 187 Hastings, Construction of Nationhood, p. 5. 188 Ibid., p. 5. 189 Ardis Butterfield, ‘National Histories’, in Cultural Reformations: Medieval and Renaissance in Literary History, ed. Brian Cummings and James Simpson, 2 vols (Oxford, 2010), vol. II, pp. 33–55 (38). 190 Pearsall, ‘The Idea of Englishness’, pp. 15–16. For the case for sixteenth-century nationalism, see Liah Greenfeld, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity (Cambridge, MA, 1992), p. 14.



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born in the Enlightenment’, seeks to ‘unravel’ pre- from post-modern understandings of ‘nation’, and argues that it becomes much ‘less assertively clear as a concept’ if we refuse to read it retrospectively.191 Machan, discussing the linguistic aspect, comments: English … sustained … few of the sociolinguistic implications of modern nationalism … beginning only in the early modern period to exhibit the political self-consciousness and linguistic rationalization that enables sociolinguistic appeals to the population at large or meaningful uses of language in political programmes of reform.192

Ultimately even Hastings allowed that ‘the greatest intensity of its nationalist experience … must undoubtedly be located in and after the late sixteenth century’, although he conceded that ‘English nationalism of a sort was present already in the fourteenth century in the long wars with France’.193 These long wars with France, however, are the moot point. The Hundred Years War is strangely placed in Hastings’s schema: he sees it as a distraction from the imagining of community in England, because the monarchy ‘was bewitched again and again by the mirage of ruling France and it clung to the use of the French language’.194 This formulation reveals the paradoxes that this conflict generated, and still generates: did it consolidate Anglo-French identity or divide it? Push the two cultures and languages closer together or thrust them apart? The answer must be both, in the contradictory political struggle that this book explores, and it takes as its starting point Ruddick’s mantra that ‘national identity in the middle ages needs to be investigated on its own terms, rather than trying to shoehorn medieval concepts of nationhood into modernist definitions’.195 The Hundred Years War did indeed stimulate a manifestation of medieval nationalism, but it was very different kind of nationalism from that once posited by ‘triumphalist’ narratives: one predicated not on triumph, but fear; not on unity, but fragmentation; not on pugnacious confidence, but inferiority and anxiety. It was no grassroots swelling of popular feeling but a calculated, politically premeditated and propagandistic impetus, both ‘slow and inconsistent’ in its navigation of the deep ironies of the cultural and linguistic reality that it addressed.196 In his reappraisal of England the Nation, Turville-Petre pertinently commented, In times of fear and discontent nationalism is able to provide reassurance to a society anxious about its identity and cohesion. The concept of nationalism waits in the wings ready to be called forward, to assume whatever shape serves the moment, representing what the audience wants to see even as they know that many elements of the performance are fraudulent. Nationalism always deals in half-truths, distorting and suppressing, and it is evident that many writers of the early fourteenth century

191 Butterfield,

Familiar Enemy, pp. xxviii–xxix. English in the Middle Ages, pp. 92–3. 193 Hastings, Construction of Nationhood, p. 5. 194 Ibid., p. 48. 195 Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, p. 10. 196 Yeager, ‘Politics and the French Language in England’, p. 137. 192 Machan,

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were aware of this as they struggled to construct a concept of nationhood from irreconcilable materials.197

The Hundred Years War was crucial in the impetus and shape of medieval nationalism, as the crucible in which the powerful syzygy of language and war was forged. But the nationalism that it engendered was exactly of this anxious, posturing, fraudulent kind. It was constructed within and problematised by the culture in which it had to be articulated. The ‘nationalism of a sort’ detectable among narrators of the conflict is complicated precisely because of the profound paradoxes in national identity that they had to hedge and dodge. This book does not contend that ardent, recognisable, national feeling was ever universally or even widely felt during the Hundred Years War (although arguably there were short-lived moments – after the capture of Jean II at Poitiers, after Agincourt, after Gloucester’s successful defence of Calais in 1436 – when perhaps it was); nor does it seek to claim the Hundred Years War as any kind of ‘originary moment’ initiating the dawn of a cultural or ideological movement. This is not the point: for the most part, national feeling had to be instilled and engendered, stirred up at specific points for specific reasons; and it is precisely this local political engineering that is so interesting. Instead of a ‘post-national vocabulary’, what is needed is a new vocabulary of a different and more subtle kind: not the wholesale abandonment of the concept of medieval nationalism but its more thoughtful deconstruction. Certainly, the ‘community’ was being ‘imagined’, to use Anderson’s terms, but not necessarily collectively, nor always idealistically; but deliberately, cynically, pragmatically, manipulatively, politically and (fitfully) successfully, occasionally galvanising the popular fervour that it aspired to, more often stoking and projecting it. The ‘isolated instances of nationalist invective’ assume their full significance when considered in counterpoint to the culture they addressed, rather than when taken to represent a dubious ‘larger national impulse’. The nationalism of the Hundred Years War was not a surge of popular vernacular patriotism, but a calculated, self-conscious political effort on the part of those attempting to define ‘us’ against ‘them’, chronicling a conflict that simultaneously made such a division ideologically necessary, and showed it to be impossibly and unsustainably flawed. The narration of the Hundred Years War was all about forcing that fraught, posturing, unintuitive and contradictory conjunction between England and English.

197 Turville-Petre,

‘Afterword: The Brutus Prologue’, p. 341.

2 ‘To destroy and ruin the whole English nation and language’ The chronicles of the Hundred Years War The discussion begins with the English chronicles of the Hundred Years War: the Brut, Gregory’s Chronicle, Hardyng’s Chronicle, John Capgrave’s Abbreuiacion of Cronicles, Robert Bale’s Chronicle and the London annals.1 Most have not been edited for over a century, and have suffered from verdicts such as Friedrich W. D. Brie’s of the Brut, that, ‘as literature, the Chronicle is as worthless … as a mediæval Chronicle possibly can be’.2 Arguably, however, as Gransden notes, ‘the rise of the vernacular chronicle’ was ‘the most remarkable historiographical development in the fifteenth century’. ‘At no time since the Anglo-Saxon period had the vernacular

1

2

This chapter makes an argument about language-consciousness in the English vernacular chronicles, and therefore does not consider the French writers of the Hundred Years War (Enguerrand de Monstrelet, Jean le Bel, Jean de Venette, Michel Pintoin, Christine de Pizan, Alain Chartier, Eustache Deschamps, Guillaume de Machaut and Oton de Graunson), nor Latin works such as the Gesta Henrici Quinti. For further reading, see Craig Taylor, Chivalry and the Ideals of Knighthood in France during the Hundred Years War (Cambridge, 2013), Richard W. Kaeuper, War, Justice and Public Order: England and France in the Later Middle Ages (Oxford, 1988), and Stephanie Downes, ‘“A Frenche booke called the Pistill of Othea”: Christine de Pizan’s French in England’, in Wogan-Browne et al., Language and Culture, pp. 457–68. Anglo-French writers like Froissart, the author of The Vows of the Heron and the Chandos Herald are not considered in detail for the same reason, although I have written on the last at greater length elsewhere: Joanna Bellis, ‘“I was enforced to become an eyed witnes”: Documenting War in Medieval and Early Modern Literature’, in Emotions and War: Medieval to Romantic Literature, ed. Stephanie Downes, Andrew Lynch and Katrina O’Loughlin (Basingstoke and New York, 2015), pp. 133–51. For further discussion, see Richard Barber, The Life and Campaigns of the Black Prince: From Contemporary Letters, Diaries, and Chronicles, including Chandos Herald’s Life of the Black Prince (Woodbridge, 1997), Norris J. Lacy, ‘Warmongering in Verse: Les voeux du Heron’, and Patricia DeMarco, ‘Inscribing the Body with Meaning: Chivalric Culture and the Norms of Violence in The Vows of the Heron’, in Baker, Inscribing the Hundred Years’ War, pp. 17–25, 27–53. Brut, I, pp. ix–x. Scholarship has rebutted this opinion: see Gransden, Historical Writing in England, vol. II, pp. 220–48; Mary Rose McLaren, London Chronicles of the Fifteenth Century: A Revolution in English Writing (Cambridge, 2002); Lister M. Matheson, The Prose Brut: The Development of a Middle English Chronicle (Tempe, AZ, 1998); but the discrepancy between the Brut’s medieval importance and the modern critical attention it receives remains large.

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chronicle achieved such importance.’3 The situation was different in France, where the Grandes Chroniques were officially compiled by the monks of Saint-Denis from the thirteenth century. But in England, the surge in the production and popularity of historiography in English in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was a cultural and linguistic phenomenon: England may not have boasted an ‘“official” history-­ writing project, in the manner of the French monarchy’s Grandes chroniques’, but ‘this did not mean that English kings failed to recognise the value of history and historiography. Chronicle writers … were not unaware of the possibilities of history for creating a sense of a shared national past.’4 The manuscript situation, in fact, suggests quite the opposite. William Marx and Raluca Radulescu write, The evidence of the manuscripts – not only the numbers that survive but also the ways in which they were used – argues that the prose Brut was central to medieval English culture. At the same time, it is ironic that the prose Brut … holds the distinction of being, until recently, the most seriously neglected of the texts produced in medieval England.5

The Brut survives in nearly two hundred manuscripts, more than any other Middle English text apart from the Wycliffite Bible, as well as in over twenty versions and continuations.6 Lister Matheson comments, ‘The amount of time and labor that went into the production of such a sheer number of manuscripts – let alone the probably greater number that have failed to survive – must have made the Brut omnipresent for those engaged or interested in the book trade in the fifteenth century’.7 Tamar Drukker speculates, ‘It is probable that anyone in England in the fifteenth century who owned more than a single volume, had a copy of the prose Brut’.8 Add to that the numerous other chronicles circulating in the fifteenth century, and the genre looks more prominent still. The majority of private libraries as well as all the official repositories would have contained a chronicle,. They were read by hundreds, not just by a significant few: many manuscripts indicate a middle-class ownership, indicating that chronicles formed an important part of the aspirational bibliophile’s collection; but at the other end of the spectrum, chronicles were dedicated to and made ceremonial presents for kings.9 Kings knew how to make use of them, too: ‘the use of the chronicle record was a deliberate governmental strategy, hence the

3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Gransden, Historical Writing in England, vol. II, p. 220. Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, p. 167. William Marx and Raluca Radulescu, eds, Readers and Writers of the Prose Brut (Lampeter, 2006), p. xiii. For details, see Matheson, Prose Brut, pp. xxi–xxxvi. Ibid., p. 9. Tamar Drukker, ‘I Read Therefore I Write: Readers’ Marginalia in Some Brut Manuscripts’, in Marx and Radulescu, Readers and Writers of the Prose Brut, pp. 97–130 (97). Cambridge, Trinity College MS O.9.1 contains a copy of a London mercantile indenture, and London, Lambeth Palace MS 259 contains shields with a merchant’s mark. On the other hand, Hardyng’s chronicle was composed for Henry VI, and then revised and presented to Edward IV in 1464 (see Matheson, Prose Brut, pp. 13–14, 20–1).



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reproduction of official documents in so many chronicles from the time.’ Ruddick continues, This use of monastic annals as repositories of the official perspective, contained within the authoritative medium of written history, suggests a symbiotic relationship between the government and the chroniclers, in which each depended on the other to reinforce the authority of their version of events. It also implies an expectation, at least on the part of the government, that the viewpoint of chroniclers and the government would coincide … This use of English chronicles by the government might even be considered, albeit on a far smaller scale than the French Grandes chroniques project, an attempt to create an ‘official’ national history.10

This chapter contends that the Brut, and English chronicles of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries more widely, constituted a more important and sophisticated genre than has generally been recognised (as scholarship is increasingly articulating). Far from being derivative or ‘worthless’, as their early critical reputation and subsequent neglect suggest, they were ambitious and self-aware. In fact, some of the characteristics that have invited such dismissive critical appraisals, such as their formulaic style, reveal unusual and deliberate textual strategies, uniquely generated by the circumstances of their composition and continuation. The Brut and the London Chronicles (‘a uniquely fifteenth-century genre distinguished by its mercantile, London-based readership, as well as fairly Yorkist sympathies’) embodied different ways of writing history: one national and semi-legendary, the other municipal and secular; one narrative, one annalistic; one interested in ‘myths of national origin’ and ‘a long-ago beginning’, the other ‘the civic history of the present and future’; one ‘the triumphs of the city’ and the other ‘the grand story of England within the world’.11 Kathleen Tonry calls these differences ‘frustrated diachronic logics’ and ‘a pattern of tensions’,12 but despite them, the London Chronicles and the Brut had significant overlaps in content, codicological habitus, form, format, ideology and language. In its analysis of fourteenth- and fifteenth-century chronicles as a corpus, this chapter furthers the arguments of the first, regarding the self-importance of medieval historiography not just in narrating but in constructing national identity in national language. It traces the outworkings of the etymological methodology fostered by the genre, arguing that the renewed French conflict prompted in its narrators a peculiar consciousness of the relationship of language to history, and a politically motivated sensitivity to the metaphor of linguistic invasion.

10 11 12

Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, p. 173. Kathleen Tonry, ‘Reading History in Caxton’s Polycronicon’, Journal of English and Germanic Philology 111:2 (2012), 169–98 (190–1). Ibid., p. 191.

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‘Writing history’ (part two): the ‘continuall memorie’ of the chronicle In 1424 the mayor and aldermen of London wrote to the Duke of Bedford, praising his campaign in France as a ‘cronicable and victoriouse esploit’.13 The moment was uncertain: the crest of Henry V’s wave of victory had crashed abruptly with his death in 1422; but Bedford had, for the moment, kept hold of France. This doublet expresses the hesitancy of being written at a watershed before event became history: Henry V was dead, but his legacy was unfixed. Interestingly, it casts the record as equally important as the event itself. Being ‘cronicable’ in the future is equivalent to being ‘victoriouse’ in the present: how one will be remembered supersedes what one was. In this simple phrase, the chronicle emerges as the imagined codex of history, which will survive it, and in which it will survive. Richard Grafton’s preface to his 1543 continuation of Hardyng’s Chronicle offers more insight into the significance and gravity chronicles habitually claimed for themselves. Grafton was looking backwards at medieval historiography, and his apologia set out his conception of what it meant to ‘write history’: By Chronycles we knowe thynges auncient, The succession of tymes, and menne, The state of policies, with their regiment, Howe long eche partie hath ruled, and when And what were all their procedynges then. Chronicles make reporte of matiers dooen And passed many thousand yeres gooen … Chronicles dooe recorde and testifye, Euen from the worldes first beginninges, And dooe kepe in continuall memorie, The course and processe of all maner thinges; The liues and maners of princes and kynges, Aswell Gentiles and Iudaicall, Aswell iuste and godly as tyrannicall. What persones to their prince and countree Haue been louing, true and obedient, And, at all times of necessitee, Haue serued the same with good entent, And constauntly therin haue their liues spent, In Chronicles are regestred feithfully, To their immortal honoure and glorye. Contrary wyse, who to their souereins, Or to their countrees haue been wicked traitours, Or, by collusion and crafty traines, Haue rebelled against their gouernours, Or the same to helpe haue been slacke proctours, 13

Chambers et al., Book of London English, p. 88.



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Are sembleably sette oute by name, To their endelesse infamy, reproche, and shame. These thinges, and others a thousande mo, Wherby realmes haue decaied or growen, Chaunged in processe, and altered to and fro, Fruitefull and expedient to bee knowen, Are in chronicles so plainly showen, That thinges antique to vs bee as apparent As yf at their doinges we had been present.14

Grafton’s apology for chronicling established a paradigm in which writers were the real history-makers. Chronicles ‘kepe in continuall memorie’ because literary testimony is more than a witness to history; it is history: the means by which events survive for generations that follow. Textual testimony, in this formulation, can make ‘thinges antique to vs bee as apparent / As yf at their doinges we had been present’. People live and die, but chronicles offer them ‘immortal honoure’ or ‘endelesse infamy’. It is the literary record that creates and sustains history; but by the same token, literary representation is at best an imitation of a dead reality. It is always only ‘as if ’ we had been there, only ‘sembleably’ set out. However ‘feithfully’ the chronicler writes, his mediation betrays and replaces its original in the act of memorialisation. Grafton’s eulogy to chronicling tacitly acknowledged that writing history effaced even as it preserved it. Grafton’s terminology has strong resonances with (or debts to) a statement made by Caxton in his prologue to the Polychronicon (1482): whiche worde historye may be descryved thus Historye is a perpetuel conservatryce of thoos thynges that have be doone before this presente tyme and also an contydyan wytnesse of beinfayttes of malefaytes grete Actes and tryumphal vyctoryes of all maner peple.15

As Tonry points out, ‘This definition strikingly characterizes history as itself caught in a rather curious termporal position – as both a “perpetual conservatryce” of past events, as well as a “contynual wytnesse” to the present.’16 Grafton and Caxton both came at the tail-end of a long tradition, in which the hermeneutic lock in which written history held its phantom original had been explored and exploited. Self-consciousness about chronicling was the signature of the genre: Hardyng (like his fifteenth-century predecessors) regularly included asides such as, ‘as chronycles dyd tell’, ‘as the chronicle can openly discriue’, ‘as

14

15 16

John Hardyng, The Chronicle of Iohn Hardyng, ed. Henry Ellis (London, 1812), pp. 7–8. For further discussion of Grafton and historiographical self-representation, see Joanna Bellis, ‘Rymes Sette for a Remembraunce: Memorialization and Mimetic Language in the War Poetry of the Late Middle Ages’, Review of English Studies 64:264 (2013), 183–207. William Caxton, Polychronicon (Prologue), in Caxton’s Own Prose, ed. N. F. Blake (London, 1973), p. 130. Tonry, ‘Reading History in Caxton’s Polycronicon’, p. 184.

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I finde write in the chronicler’.17 This habit of textual deference was more than a gesture to auctoritas; it endowed the idea of chronicling with an innate authority, behind which was couched a subtle self-referentiality. Grafton’s ostensible deference belies an awareness that the historian creates, rather than witnesses, history. As the author invokes his source, it is to himself as the author of the present, the wielder of textual authority, that he draws attention; as Grafton defers to the ‘continuall memorie’ he ushers in his own manipulation of it. To make the past ‘as apparent … as yf … we had been present’ is not to reconstruct, but to construct it. History is dead, and what takes its place is a conjuration of the historian’s pen. In Grafton’s slippery phraseology, ‘memorie’ suggests that the past is only accessible in relation to the present, and ‘continuall’ reinforces this dialogic emphasis: does history belong to the remembered or the rememberer? Memorialisation conjures a malleable longevity as much as it posits a stable past; it forces apart the transient historical moment and its transcription. Historiography perpetually upholds the pretence of being representative, when it is the opposite. Moreover, as the previous chapter argued, medieval historiographers situated themselves consciously on this watershed between event and narration, on the cusp between deed and word. They conceived their accounts not as the memorial to history, but its theatre; not as the means of history, but its end. Grafton’s historiography is poised on this cusp, but he was writing at a moment when historiography was changing. The partisan, mimetic and participatory impulse of the fourteenthand fifteenth-century chronicle was giving way to the objective, compendious, observationalist discourse of the antiquarians of the next century. Grafton’s disquisition was written in a context in which historical and textual authority were being relocated, by authors who collated and corrected their sources, treating history at one remove as the subject of intellectual enquiry rather than the arm of political activism. Grafton was writing an older kind of history, whose authority was immediate and performative. Medieval chronicles were unlike other texts, and unlike their sixteenth-century antecedents, in being authored not singly but collectively, as continuators of each generation added their own chapters. Tonry describes how From its first appearance the Polychronicon invited continuations: Higden revised and extended his own original compilation, adding material to 1348; Trevisa added a continuation to 1360; and six fifteenth-century manuscripts attest to additional continuations … This forward and necessarily open-ended trajectory reveals the present as the ever-moving goal of the Polychronicon; it is a text that courts updates, extensions, additional material; that invites its readers to become its writers; and that takes on the burden of bringing the past ever forward.18

This conceptualisation of a fundamental unfinishedness, and an anticipated plural authorship, was deeply embedded in the chronicle form. Chronicles derived their authority from their shared and communal origin, and their anonymity conceptually facilitated this collaborative generic identity. For example, when the account of 17 18

Hardyng, Chronicle, pp. 342, 348, 392; see also pp. 319, 321, 324, 333, 376. Tonry, ‘Reading History in Caxton’s Polychronicon’, p. 176.



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the siege of Rouen broke off in the middle of the Brut in BL MS Egerton 650 (fol. 111r), the copyist wrote in red ink as though it were a capitulum rubric (Figure 1): Here is no more of the sege of Rone and þat is be cause we wanted þe trewe copy þereof bot who so euer ow[n]ys þis boke may wryte it oute in þe henderend of þis boke or in þe forþ end of it whene he gettes þe trew copy Where it is wryttyn wryte in þeis iii voyde lyne where it may be foundyn.19

The scribe emphasised the ubiquitous nature of collectively authored history, inviting the reader to take the pen from his hands.20 History, this rubric suggests, is preserved in codices that, as they pass from reader to reader, pass from author to author. It was imagined as live, public and immediate, not static or antiquarian. Chronicles were living, changing texts, actively constructing and not just passively recording the events of their times. They were the ideological repository of royal fame: being ‘cronicable’ was an attribute that was sought after and fretted over, as the mayor and aldermen’s letter, so rooted in its moment yet so conscious of its unknowable future, indicates. They were simultaneously live and current, permanent and ancient; and their authors were fully possessed of their own power, their immediacy and longevity, the collective nature of their voice. The London chroniclers were ‘writing at the centre of affairs and in close touch with the city government’, Gransden observes. They were ‘extremely well-informed’ and ‘much of their information rested on the evidence of eyewitnesses’. ‘Graphic accounts of campaigns in France’ in particular were ‘derived from soldiers and others questioned by the chroniclers. The citizens were in close communication with the English army abroad, because London merchants provided victuals and Londoners served as soldiers.’21 These were authors well aware of their control over the ‘continuall memorie’, over the process of translation of deed into word, of past into present; and their preoccupation with the nature of their memorialisation became an increasingly acute aspect of historiographical self-awareness. Chroniclers were their own evangelists, both in the grand theoretical claims they made for their texts, and in the minutiae of their narration, whose subject was not just the events they related but relation itself. ‘One of the most explicit discussions of the English vernacular’ occurred in a historiographical context: the Dialogue between the Lord and the Clerk with which Trevisa prefaced his Polycronicon.22 The clerk put forward several straw-man objections to an English translation of the chronicle, including the fact that ‘Hit nedith not that alle siche know the cronicles’. But 19

20

21 22

For discussion of the full implications of this rubric, see Joanna Bellis, ‘“We wanted þe trewe copy þereof ”: John Page’s The Siege of Rouen, Text and Transmission’, Medium Ævum 83:2 (2014), 210–33. McLaren claims this rubric is ‘The clearest piece of evidence we have to support workshop production of chronicles’, pointing out the plural first-person pronoun, the anticipation of a continuator and the fact that following this, the prose continues in the same hand but the text is that of a London chronicle: London Chronicles, p. 46; see also Gransden, Historical Writing in England, vol. II, p. 228. Gransden, Historical Writing in England, vol. II, pp. 235–6. Ruth Evans, Andrew Taylor, Nicholas Watson and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, ‘The Notion of Vernacular Theory’, in Wogan-Browne et al., Idea of the Vernacular, pp. 314–30 (323).

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Figure 1 Rubric from the end of the Brut account of the siege of Rouen. © British Library Board, MS Egerton 650, fol. 111r.



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‘Speke not to straitliche of thing that nedeth’, the lord rebukes him; for although in the strict categories of things that are existentially necessary (‘hit nedith that God be’), and things that are practically necessary (‘mete and drinke … for kepyng and sustynaunce of lyf ’), of course ‘no man nedith to knowe the cronicles’. But there is a third category, the lord avers, ‘of thing that nedith’ and of ‘al that is profitable’, and foremost in this category (in fact, the only thing mentioned) is the need that ‘alle men’ have ‘to knowe the cronicles’.23 Chronicles were in no doubt about their own cultural centrality. Furthermore, an example that demonstrates the genre’s preoccupation with the centrality of language in fashioning history is one Brut continuator’s account of some alleged abortive Danish incursions that were intercepted in the North Sea in June 1366. The continuation (the Peculiar Version to 1436) records how the captured sailors turned homwardes aʒen levyng behind hem in her ynnes, pryvyly ywriten, in scrowes and on walles, Ʒet shull Danos þes Wanes. Then happed þere an Englissh writer & wrote aʒens þe Danes in þis manere wyse: Her shull Danes fett banes.24

In this strange vignette (which may well be apocryphal)25 it is the writers of history, even of graffiti on the walls of public houses, who have the final edit. In reinscribing these pugnacious inscriptions, the chronicler constructed a narrative of a narrative; and in microcosm this incident represents what the Brut, with its cycling continuations upon continuations, had itself become. The first riposte might be glossed ‘Yet shall the Danes bring these [people] down/cause them to decrease’, reading wanes as a conjugation of wanen (MED v.1d: ‘to cause (a herd, a people) to decrease in number, bring to nought’. Alternatively, if we prefer the reading given by the Latin source, ‘Yuet schulle Danes waste thies wanes’, two further interpretations become possible: either ‘Yet shall the Danes return and destroy these dwellings’, reading wanes as a variant spelling of wones (MED n.2, 1a: ‘A building or structure for human residence, a house, dwelling, an abode’); or ‘Yet shall the Danes diminish [by implication: revenge, requite] this humiliation/misery/tribulation’ (reading wanes as MED n.2a: ‘a woeful or miserable state, misfortune, adversity; also, an undesirable thing, an affliction, a tribulation; also, destruction’). The reply is more straightforward: Here shall the Danes find [their] destruction. The Danish threat is literally erased by the English retort, recapitulating and repudiating it; and yet preserving it in a sort of palimpsest, especially with its symmetrical and rhyming couplet response. 23 24

25

Trevisa, ‘Dialogue between the Lord and the Clerk’, in Wogan-Browne et al., Idea of the Vernacular, lines 49, 50, 51–2, 55–6, 57, 58, pp. 1323. Brut, p. 317; PV-1436-A. For more on the Peculiar Version to 1436, see William Marx, ‘Peculiar Versions of the Middle English Prose Brut and Textual Archaeology, in The Prose Brut and Other Late Medieval Chronicles: Books Have Their Histories. Essays in Honour of Lister M. Matheson, ed. Jaclyn Rajsic, Erik Kooper and Dominique Hoche (York, forthcoming 2016), pp. 94–104. The Brut and the Chronica Johannis de Reading are the only sources to record this event (see Chronica Johannis de Reading et Anonymi Cantuariensis 1346–1367, ed. James Tait (Manchester, 1914), p. 171), and no modern historian’s account of the Hundred Years War mentions it, to my knowledge.

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This exchange (whether or not it ever happened) is a self-conscious act of history-­ writing, a knowing indulgence of the textuality of history. The physical expunging of the first message by the second was matched by the two witnesses to PV-1436: the scribe of BL MS Harley 53 (fol. 144r) inscribed this passage like a rubric, in large, underlined and decorated text; and the scribe of Lambeth Palace MS 6 (fol. 225v) decorated the ascender of the y of ‘Yet’ with two pen-portraits, facing in opposite directions with angry expressions, presumably an illustration of the English and Danish antagonists. This narrative of successive inscriptions of the pugnacious text by its (putative) original authors and their subsequent chroniclers suggests that the implications of this philosophy of history-writing were not only conceptual but also material: the durability of the physical book was what enabled it to be the immortaliser of the past, as relic or monument.26 Alfred Hiatt draws a distinction between the genres of historical and political writing in the Middle Ages: Evidently, medieval political writing existed, as did a sense of the political, but it is not clear that it was recognised by medieval authors or readers as a distinct literary genre. (There is, for example, no equivalent to the term ‘historia’ to describe a work of politcal commentary or theory.)27

He asserts important ‘asymmetries’ between the category of the historical (a ‘diverse corpus extending generically across many different forms of writing, and in its temporal scope from creation to the present’) and the political (‘at once more focused on contemporary or near-contemporary matters, but also, in many of its articulations, deeply interested in exemplarity’).28 What is important to note, however, are the ways in which the weighty, didactic and ancient claims that historical writing was making for itself, with all the self-awareness and baggage that historia brought with it, were piggybacked by political writers serving more immediate and less lofty, partisan agendas. Medieval English historiography, although often dismissed as derivative, marginal and unsophisticated, had a clear and ambitious sense of its own ideological importance, in which its ancient linguistic agenda remained key.

The paradoxes of the Hundred Years War Contemporary narrators of the Hundred Years War were so sensitive to the idea of representing history partly because the conflict was beset by two fundamental ironies for which they were obliged to account. The first was language. When the city of Caen fell to Edward III’s army in the summer of 1346, one of the early victories of the first campaign (1337–60), a 26

27 28

For fuller discussion of this incident, its reliability, and its presentation in the chronicle tradition, see Joanna Bellis, ‘An Anglo-Danish Naval Encounter, and its Footprint in Two Fourteenth-­Century Chronicles’ (in preparation). Alfred Hiatt, ‘Historical and Political Verse’, in A Companion to Fifteenth-Century English Poetry, ed. Julia Boffey and A. S. G. Edwards (Cambridge, 2013), pp. 157–69 (157). Ibid, p. 157.



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document was discovered among the spoils, which had been drawn up in 1339 by Philippe VI and the Duke of Normandy, detailing a proposal for a second Conquest of England. Over fifty Norman lords undertook to cross the Channel with 4,000 men at arms and 40,000 foot soldiers, expecting to subdue England in twelve weeks. The plan was never put into execution, and it is doubtful how seriously either party ever took it;29 yet when the discovery was disclosed to Parliament in September that year, it was received as a credible threat. The Parliament Rolls added a new dimension not mentioned in the Ordinance itself, calling it une ordenance faite par le dit adversaire, et ascuns grantz de France et de Normandie, a destruire et anientier tote la nacion et la lange Engleys. an ordinance … made by the said enemy and some of the great men of France and Normandy, to destroy and ruin the whole English nation and language.30

The Ordinance of Normandy did not itself articulate specific hostility towards the English language: there is no reason why it would.31 Machan remarks, ‘Not only did Francophones not in fact scheme to replace English, as English chroniclers and politicians would claim; they seem to have given very little thought to English at all, beyond using the incompetence of Anglophones speaking French as the matter for insults.’32 The threat of linguistic spoliation was deliberately added as a rallying cry to English mobilisation. And it had its desired effect: as Andrea Ruddick writes, ‘this dramatic revelation was a valuable, if unsubtle, means of persuading parliament to loosen its purse-strings once more. It proved successful; the next day, the Commons granted Edward a further two fifteenths, “in aid of him and of the final completion of his war”.’33 However, this was not a novel piece of rhetoric in 1346: it ‘feature[d] intermittently in government documents throughout the rest of the fourteenth century, woven in and out of official rhetoric’, and ‘also infused the chronicle-writing, poetry and broader political discourse of late medieval England’.34 The image of specific French linguistic hostility was first employed in a letter Edward III’s grandfather had written to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1295, in light of the Franco-Scottish alliance concluded the previous year: 29 30

31 32 33 34

See Jonathon Sumption, The Hundred Years War, 2 vols (London, 1990), vol. I: Trial by Battle, p. 261. Chris Given-Wilson, gen. ed., The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England 1275–1504, 16 vols (Woodbridge, 2005), vol. IV: Edward III, 1327–1348 (ed. Seymour Phillips and Mark Ormrod), p. 390. The ordinance is discussed by Williams, The French Fetish, pp. 18–19: ‘Even as the French king was hatching plans to destroy and annihilate a nascent coexistence between English language and English national identity, the supremacy of French culture was being preserved by the language in which late medieval England conducted its official business.’ However, Williams is incorrect that the French harboured real aggression against English; the irony is rather that it was the English who invented this imagined linguistic hostility. Given-Wilson, Parliament Rolls, vol. IV, pp. 390–3; see also D. Secousse, ed., Ordonnances de roys de France de la troisième race, 21 vols (Paris, 1741), vol. VI, pp. 549–51. Machan, ‘French, English, and the Late Medieval Linguistic Repertoire’, pp. 366–7. Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, p. 1. Ibid., pp. 1–2.

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linguam Anglicam, si conceptæ iniquitatis proposito detestabili potestas correspondeat (quod Deus avertat) omnino de terra delere proponit. he proposes entirely to wipe out the English language in the land, should his power equal the detestable intention of his proposed wickedness (which God forbid!)35

Discussing this example, Ruddick posits that ‘lingua was understood as a collective noun’, referring ‘not just to a language but also to a people as a whole’. If this is right, ‘the threat implied the destruction of not just the English language but also of the English people … The same idea seems to have been at work behind some uses of the equivalent French word lange/launge in official contexts.’36 It was a metonymic pairing that would crop up again on behalf of the young Richard II by the Bishop of Hereford in 1382, echoing the phrasing of 1346: Si Dieux n’y mette sa main de grace, et les enhabitantes se peinent pur leur defendre, ceste roiaume est sur le point d’estre conquiz, qe Dieu ne veullie, et mys en subjeccione de ses enemys; et par tant la lange et nacione Engleys estre outrement destruit. If God does not bestow his grace on the land and the inhabitants do not strive to defend themselves, this kingdom will be on the verge of being conquered, which God forbid, and made subject to its enemies; and as a consequence, the language and nation of England will be completely destroyed.37

Ruddick traces how these ‘threats to the English tongue became a more regular feature of government rhetoric, a trend that continued into the reign of Richard II’, and were particularly concentrated at ‘particular national crises, such as war with France in 1295 and in the mid-1340s’.38 One last example will suffice: a muster order to the mayor and sheriffs of London, September 1386: Order … to all dukes, earls, barons and other lords of the realm with all their retinue … to draw to him at the said city with all possible speed with the utmost force they may … as the king has particular information that Charles his adversary of France and his allies, gathering together with great power of armed men, are making dispositions with all speed to invade the realm, and to destroy the English tongue.39

There was never any real danger of a repeat Norman Conquest; nor, even had there been, would the French have been likely to entertain the absurd project of abolishing the English vernacular, the difficulty of which would surely only have equalled its pointlessness. In reality, as Helen Wicker writes, ‘interaction between English and other languages’ took the form of ‘complex cultural processes instead of binaristic confrontations’.40 But these political addresses framed language interaction 35

36 37 38 39 40

Thomas Rymer and Robert Sanderson, eds, Fœdera: conventiones, litteræ et cujuscunque generia acta publica, 4 vols (London, 1816–69), vol. I.ii: Edward I, 1272–1307, p. 827; trans. Neil Wright, in private correspondence. Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, pp. 161–3. Given-Wilson, Parliament Rolls, vol. VI: Richard II, 1377–1384 (ed. Geoffrey Martin), p. 282. Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, p. 163. W. H. B. Bird and G. J. Morris, eds, Calendar of the Close Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office (Richard II), 6 vols (London, 1921), vol. III: 1385–1389, pp. 261–2. Salter and Wicker, Vernacularity in England and Wales, p. 3.



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in binary and confrontational terms, and this projection of French linguistic hostility was remarkable not only for its bare-faced scaremongering, but its sustained and programmatic linguistic agenda that pushed so doggedly against the cultural tide. Of course, there were moments when England did, briefly, feel the heat of French retaliation. Capgrave describes the French raids on the south coast, recording how in 1338 ‘Southamptoun was brent be þe galeyes of þe kyng of Frauns’, and ‘þe Frenschmen took þe Ilde of Man’.41 John Barnie comments that in 1385–86, when it was publicised that Charles VI, with the support of Flanders and Brittany, was planning an attack on England, there was widespread panic in the London area as news reached England of Charles VI’s massive build-up of ships and men at Sluys … with the expiration of the truce in 1386 the fears of the previous year returned, and in London there was something like mass hysteria.42

Bowers describes how ‘Londoners were thrown into such a panic that they desperately prepared for a siege by pulling down the houses nearest the city walls’.43 The muster order of 1386 shows that it was politic to make the most of these moments when England was genuinely under threat, and Ruddick maintains that they did constitute a ‘very real threat of invasion’;44 but in reality they were local and shortlived. Most of the time citizens had more to fear from idle English soldiers than occupied French ones. Nonetheless, it was politically useful to keep insisting on the possibility of French aggression, and stoking the idea that its particular object was the English language. These allegations of linguistic hostility (reprising the Crowland forger’s assertion that the Normans ‘abhorred’ the ‘very language’) deliberately associated the French in the late fourteenth century with the Normans in the late eleventh, eliding present aggressors with former conquerors to depict a dubiously just, territorial skirmish as a defence of the realm (and the language) against its ancient and perennial menace. Perhaps it was not for nothing that the French are repeatedly described by the chroniclers as ‘the Normandys’.45 41 42 43 44 45



Abbreuiacion, pp. 159, 182. John Barnie, War in Medieval Society: Social Values and the Hundred Years War, 1337–99 (London, 1974), p. 43. Bowers, ‘Chaucer after Retters’, p. 107. Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, p. 196. See Gregory, pp. 82, 148, 189. This point is speculative, since the large part of the conflict took place in Normandy, and in many instances the designation ‘Norman’ simply indicates fourteenth-­century Normans (not eleventh-century ones). However, a few clear instances suggest that the term could be used historically and politically; see chapter three, pp. 106 and 155. There is debate over whether or not William Gregory, mayor of London 1451–52, wrote the chronicle preserved in BL MS Egerton 1995. The entry for 1451–52 refers to ‘my yere, beyng Mayre of London’ (Historical Collections, p. 197); but the chronicle in its entirety cannot have been Gregory’s, since it extends to 1470 and he died in 1467. Previous scholars proposed a continuator from 1454–60 (J. A. F. Thomson, ‘The Continuation of “Gregory’s Chronicle” – a Possible Author?’ British Musuem Quarterly 36 (1971–72), 92–7); but modern criticism doubts Gregory’s authorship of the extant chronicle altogether (Gransden, Historical Writing in England, vol. II, pp. 230–1; McLaren, London Chronicles, pp. 29–33). The question of authorship is not germane, and for simplicity I use Gregory as a placeholder.

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As Pearsall holds, ‘Englishness had always been constructed’ negatively, ‘out of opposition to Frenchness’, which ‘had been the whetstone of English national sentiment from Norman times and … was always capable of being reinvoked’.46 The reinvoking of the Conquest in the fourteenth century was schematic (accelerating the historiographical tradition of rewriting the Conquest traced in Chapter 1). Three centuries on, its cultural consequences were still being performatively played out: the irony that, at least twice, the allegation that French might eradicate English was made in French served to underscore the extent to which it was visibly being realised, in a Parlement urged to come to the defence of a vernacular that it was not speaking. The ‘memory’ (or rather, the vivid tradition of imaginative reconstruction) of linguistic wounds inflicted by the first Conquest made the threat of a second a powerful piece of rhetoric. English history had always been predicated on language, and the legibility of the truth-conferring etymology was exactly what was menaced by the image of linguistic invasion. And the threat that French invasion might literally overwrite English itself was not necessarily idle; the presence of so many ‘Norman’ words in the English language attested that it was already happening. However, as Julia Boffey asserts, French retained its ‘unique courtly cachet’ and ‘customary hegemony’ deep into the fifteenth century:47 in Ruddick’s words, ‘AngloFrench rivalry was expressed as much by mimesis as by polar opposition, particularly at an elite level’.48 This is so fundamental that it almost goes without saying. It had been spoken in England for almost three centuries by 1337. It was the mother tongue of every English king until Henry IV, each of whom married a Frenchspeaking queen. It continued as a language of high-style poetry, long after English had begun to compete with it (witness Gower’s Cinkante Balades and Mirour de l’Omme). There was a profound discrepancy between the way that French, when vilified as the enemy language, was politically and polemically rejected; and the way that it continued unabated and untroubled to occupy its central place in society, bureaucracy, court and culture. Williams comments, ‘Even as Edward III fought wars against France, and mandated the use of English in the public sphere in resistance to France’s (alleged) plans for a second Norman Conquest, he continued to preside at court in French’.49 The irony was not only the Frenchness of English, but the Englishness of French. Precisely because of the huge cultural debt owed to French and its continual centrality (practically and conceptually), propagandists had to react violently and hyperbolically against it in their attempt to present the war in binary terms. It was necessary to foreground it as the language of the enemy, precisely because it was a tenacious, powerful, familiar vernacular at home.

46 47 48 49

Pearsall, ‘The Idea of Englishness’, p. 20. Julia Boffey, Manuscripts of English Courtly Love Lyrics in the Later Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1985), p. 138. Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, p. 19. Williams, The French Fetish, p. 18.



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The best example is that when French was banned from the courts, it was banned (with supreme irony) in French.50 Ormrod calls the Statute of Pleading a ‘symbolic rejection of the enemy language and emotional affirmation of the imagined linguistic unity of the realm’.51 Although Law French had become an insular idiolect mocked by continental speakers, it was tarred with the same brush that tarred all forms of French, in these blunt, officially sponsored, clumsy rejections of ‘enemy’ language.52 For instance, in 1404 the English ambassadors complained to the Duchess of Burgundy about her use of French in correspondence, requesting that she write in Latin because French was as unfamiliar to them as Hebrew.53 The claim was hyperbolic: of course they could speak French. They were (after all) ambassadors. What it indicates is a changing political/polemical attitude, in which the French of England was being opportunistically recast as the patois of the enemy. Similarly, Froissart narrated how, when Edward III paid homage to Philippe VI in 1329, the standard of French among the nobles who accompanied him was so poor that

50 51 52

53

Elliott et al., Statutes of the Realm, vol. I, pp. 375–6; Pearsall, ‘The Idea of Englishness’, pp. 22, 15. Ormrod, ‘The Use of English’, p. 781. For comparison of Edward III and Henry V’s promotion of English, see Ormrod, ‘The Use of English’ and John H. Fisher, ‘A Language Policy for Lancastrian England’, PMLA 107 (1992), 1168–80. Pearsall claims that Henry V ‘perceived the role that the English language and an elite-status English poetry could play in the rhetoric of nationhood’ and exploited it, pointing out that while Henry V wrote to the mayor and aldermen of London in English, he wrote to his brothers in formal epistolary French (‘The Idea of Englishness’, pp. 16–18). No doubt, as Ruddick writes, ‘there was during the later fourteenth century a gradual increase in the use of English – as opposed to French and Latin – in public life, a development sometimes presented as a patriotic reaction to war with France. This increase is particularly noticeable in legal and parliamentary contexts, although not on the scale that would later be seen under Henry V.’ However, ‘The advance of the English language into public life in the later fourteenth century can also be over-stated, in view of the continued use of French and Latin as languages of written record well into the fifteenth century. Even the so-called “Lancastrian language policy” of the fifteenth century was limited in scope, with the scale of Henry V’s promotion of a standardised “Chancery English” a matter for debate’ (English Identity and Political Culture, pp. 156, 165). The extent to which the Lancastrian promotion of English constituted a ‘language policy’ has been much exaggerated. In his nuanced dismantling of Fisher’s hypothesis, Gwilym Dodd shows that although the signet letters made an abrupt shift to English, in the vast majority of bureaucratic documentation the change was much more uneven and gradual: ‘We are not dealing with a wholesale, comprehensive shift towards English’, and we need to rethink to what extent ‘the crown consciously and proactively promoted the use of written English’ as an explicit ‘political … agenda’: Gwilym Dodd, ‘The Spread of English in the Records of Central Government, 1400–1430’, in Salter and Wicker, Vernacularity in England and Wales, pp. 225–66 (228, 235). Jeremy J. Smith also calls into question Fisher’s claim that the emergence of the so-called ‘Chancery Standard’ was ‘part of a royal initiative in language-planning’: see Jeremy J. Smith, ‘John Gower and London English’, in A Companion to Gower, ed. Siân Echard (Cambridge, 2004), pp. 61–72 (65); see also M. Benskin, ‘Some New Perspectives on the Origins of Standard Written English’, in Dialect and Standard Languages in the English, Dutch, German and Norwegian Language Areas, ed. J. A. van Leuvensteijn and J. B. Berns (Amsterdam, 1992), pp. 71–105. Hingeston, Royal and Historical Letters, vol. I, pp. 357–8.

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à tout ce que les encline à faire ce que il n’entendent point bien tous les termes dou langage de France. in everything that they inclined to do, they did not understand at all well the words of the language of France.54

To a large extent this incomprehension must have been performative, in the tense context of homage paid on the eve of war. The declaration of war necessitated the reimagination of French. It galvanised a propagandistic tradition in which French words were conceived not as enriching the language, but invading it; a tradition looking backwards to the Conquest that had overwritten English, and requiring the rewriting of English history and linguistic culture to meet the moment. To justify England’s territorial ambitions, it was advantageous to reconstruct aggression as invasion, through the ever-ready metaphor of linguistic conflict. The second irony besetting narrators of the conflict was political. Chronicles articulated a vigorous xenophobia that depicted France as the perennial enemy of England; yet the justification for war hinged on the fact that the English king was the most legitimate claimant to the French throne. For Edward III, maternal grandson of the last Capetian monarch, this was at least defensible (setting aside the technicalities of the Salic law). However, with the Lancastrian renewal of hostilities, the casus belli was not only at many removes from its original claimant, it was being prosecuted by the usurper of his heir. If Edward III’s cause had had any justice, it could only dubiously transfer to Henry V, who, apart from having very little Capetian blood in his veins, had (inherited) the blood of Richard II on his hands. As Clifford S. L. Davies points out, ‘the disparity between the historic claim to the French throne by Edward III in the right of his mother, and the realities of the English dynastic situation since 1399’ was something of a conspicuous howler, especially because ‘Whatever may be argued about the succession to the English throne, the rightful claimant to France on the Edwardian principle was Edmund Mortimer’.55 The deposition in 1399 ‘vitiated the blood connection that had been Edward’s and Richard’s strongest argument’, leaving the Lancastrians on distinctly shaky ground. The claim to France hinged on an even more dubious claim to England.56 The Hundred Years War, then, was beset by paradox: those who articulated a robust English nationalism were faced with the fact that for the conflict to have any justification, the king of England must be French. These contradictory royal postures were apparent in ways in which Edward III and his prisoner, Jean II, described each other simultaneously as ‘nostre tres chier et ame frere’ (our very dear and beloved brother) and ‘adversarius noster’ (our enemy). Butterfield comments that the two kings ‘lived these profound contradictions in a language that was elastic enough to accommodate them even if it showed subtle signs, at times, of breaking under its 54 55

56

Jean Froissart, Chroniques de J. Froissart, ed. Siméon Luce, 16 vols (Paris, 1869), vol. I.ii, p. 306. This passage is a variant of the third version, unique to the Rome MS (Reg. lat. 869). Clifford S. L. Davies, ‘Henry VIII and Henry V: The Wars in France’, in The End of the Middle Ages? England in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries, ed. John L. Watts (Stroud, 1998), pp. 235–62 (256). Yeager, ‘Politics and the French Language in England’, p. 151.



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own politesse’.57 In practice, the Anglo-French wars were ‘a contest for rights and possessions rather than a clash of “nations” which reinforced English identity and linguistic self-confidence’: and they were ‘not primarily conceptualised in relation to Englishness (and an opposing Frenchness), but to the legal cause of a dynasty’.58 ‘Englishness’ (language and identity) was a convenient and artificial discourse drilled into the service of an internecine and territorial skirmish. The costly and protracted conflict was in sore need of the rhetoric of a grand and noble cause, and in linguistic hostility it found one, albeit one riddled with contradiction and absurdity. For the Lancastrian second generation, the Hundred Years War and its rhetoric of national unity had an even greater fiction to buttress: for Henry V, busying giddy minds with foreign quarrels forced his apologists to occlude his father’s usurpation, even as they included him in a narrative of war that began with Edward III: to present the heir of the disinheritor of Richard II as the symbolic inheritor of the Black Prince’s legend in France. These incompatibilities could not but make themselves felt: the Brut records several times how Henry V ‘put out al the Frensshe pepill … and stuff[ed] þe toun with Englisshemen’;59 yet it has to acknowledge that the French (by the same argument) are also the king’s ‘liege pepull’.60 Just as it galvanised a robust xenophobia, the conflict drew painful attention to the ironies that underpinned it: the Frenchness of English history, the French saturation of English. Edward III had to issue another statute in 1340, asserting that England ‘ne devoit estre en subjeccion, nen obeissaunce’ (must never be in subjection or obedience) to France, for the reason that ‘ascuns gentz entendent que par resoun que le Roialme de France est devolut a nous come droit … nostre Roialme Dengleterre seroit mys en subjeccion du Roi & du Roialme de France’ (several people have heard that because the realm of France has devolved to us as a right … our realm of England should be put under subjection to the king and kingdom of France).61 Even England’s aggression was tinged with the abiding fear of domination and subjugation. The conceptualisation of linguistic aggression, the metaphor of the hostilities, was intensely complicated. Writers were aware that the very words in which they chronicled the conflict were borrowed from the enemy, and that the king whom they championed was more French than his foes. Even as using the vernacular made a sabre-rattling, robust statement about the unity of territory and language, it testified to the breach of that unity. Writing in a genre to which language and etymology had been crucial from its inception, historians were rehearsing a war that had already happened in language; and consequently they made their own language mimetic, self-consciously and politically performative. They were sensitive to the fact that the words they used could be historical events in their own right, ontologically implicated in the depiction of the current and ancient French conflict that had shaped them in the first place. Fourteenth- and fifteenth-century historiography inherited 57 58 59 60 61

See Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, pp. 178–9. Hardy, ‘The Hundred Years War and the “Creation” of National Identity’, p. 26. Brut, p. 554, PV-1436-A (see also pp. 377, 383–5, 397); English Chronicle, pp. 44, 47. Brut, p. 439, CV-1419. Elliott et al., Statutes of the Realm, vol. I, p. 292.

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the conviction of that of the twelfth, that etymology is history. To write in that belief was to turn language from an arbitrary, passive medium, to an active, apposite mimesis.

‘Strange Inglis’ and ‘fals French’: the terms of linguistic nationalism Political statements made about the French threat to English imagined the meeting-­ place of the two as a linguistic front. The binary axis of this posited relationship artificially configured the languages holistically and discretely; but at the same time, writers were articulating the more disturbing reality that English was not a holistic entity, but an infringed, hybrid and fragmented one. Here I consider the complex ways in which fourteenth-century writing, with its political and cultural currents pulling in opposite directions, characterised the cohabiting vernaculars, beginning with the hostile reactions against the register of ‘strange Inglis’, a linguistic category that was conceived as ambivalently familiar and unfamiliar, at once homely and étrange. Robert Mannyng asserted in the prologue to his chronicle that there was only one tongue that ‘can eche man vnderstonde, þat is born in Ingelande’. Yet when he elaborated on the nature of the vernacular that he championed, its allegedly robust, monoglot identity proved elusive: Als þai haf wryten & sayd haf I alle in myn Inglis layd [relayed] in symple speche as I couth [was able] þat is lightest [easiest] in mannes mouth. I mad noght for no disours [storytellers], ne for no seggers [narrators/singers], no harpours, bot for þe luf of symple men þat strange Inglis can not ken [understand]. ffor many it ere [hear] that strange Inglis in ryme wate [know] neuer what it is … If it were made in ryme couwee [tail rhyme], or in strangere [foreign] or enterlace [embellished/ornate], þat rede Inglis it ere inowe þat couthe not haf coppled a kowe; þat outhere in couwee or in baston [a verse/stanza form, possibly alliterative], som suld haf ben fordon, [confounded] so þat fele [many] men þat it herde suld not witte howe þat it ferde [went].62

In this well-known passage, ‘strange Inglis’ is something that ‘symple men … can not ken’, something unfamiliar, foreign, embellished and frenchified in ‘ryme couwee’. Rhiannon Purdie suggests that Mannyng ‘meant “strange” chiefly in the senses of

62

Mannyng, Chronicle, Part I, lines 71–80, 85–92, pp. 92–3.



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“difficult” and “unfamiliar”’,63 although the primary sense of the word at this point was ‘foreign, alien’.64 Coleman defines it dually as ‘foreign’ and ‘obscure, recondite’ (no doubt conceptually overlapping categories); but Butterfield insists that the bias of citation weighs in favour of the linguistic definition: ‘“strange Inglis” means foreign English’.65 However we define it, ‘Inglis’ does not emerge as a stable, impermeable entity, but a vulnerable and porous one. It is not simply writing in English that counts (again giving the lie to Mannyng’s initial conjuration of a simple, universal vernacular) but the composite nature of that English. The stylised, polished, register of ‘strange Inglis’ stands opposed to that of ‘symple’ English, which is the lowest common denominator: speech ‘þat is lightest in mannes mouth’. As Coleman points out, this antipathy between strange and light ‘had some currency’: she compares it to Richard Rolle’s asseveration that ‘I seke na straunge Ynglis, bot lyghtest and comonest’.66 There was a burgeoning rhetorical vocabulary of light, simple, and lewed, as opposed to strange and quaint: ‘a rich supporting lexis’ that signified not inter- but, as argued in chapter 1, intra-lingual difference.67 This was framed as an issue of class, a ‘pragmatic’ rather than a ‘nationalistic’ choice: an idiom self-professedly ‘comprehensible to his less educated readers’ that to some extent was clearly advertising talk.68 As Watson cautions, interpreting Mannyng as ‘portraying Middle English as an underdog, fighting a war of resistance against a powerful enemy, badly oversimplifies the issue’.69 However, Coleman’s analysis of the ‘prosody passage’ offers a nuanced picture of the motivations behind Mannyng’s linguistic stratifications. She rejects the idea of Mannyng as ‘rising from the lowest ranks of society to empower his Saxon fellows with a sense of linguistic and political identity’, and posits him as a writer with a large amount of admiration, and no small capacity, for sophisticated prosody. ‘Mannyng wants to help the “lewed,” not perplex them’, she maintains; however, ‘strangeness draws him on’. Constrained, she argues, by the wishes of patrons who were ‘strongly in favor of lightness and simplicity’, she suggests that Mannyng chose ‘to eschew strange English – not because it carries any suspect political overtones but out of practical necessity’. Mannyng himself, as is apparent from his accomplished technical vocabulary, his mastery of couwee (II, lines 6827–52), and his general fascination with ‘quante Inglis’ (I, line 109), ‘likes strangeness’.70 63

64 65 66

67 68 69 70

Rhiannon Purdie, Anglicising Romance: Tail-Rhyme and Genre in Medieval English Literature (Cambridge, 2008), p. 3. This passage is also discussed by Elizabeth Dearnley, ‘“On Englysshe tunge out of Frankys’: Translation and “Tourning” in Robert Mannyng’s Handlyng Synne’, Marginalia, 4 (2006), no page numbers as it is an online journal; see www.merg.soc.srcf.net/ journal/06cambridge/dearnley.php. This is the sense of the earliest citations of the OED, from Gloucester and Mannyng’s chronicles. Coleman, ‘Strange Rhyme’, p. 1217; Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, p. 336. Coleman, ‘Strange Rhyme’, p. 1217; see Richard Rolle, prologue to the Psalter and Commentary, in English Writings of Richard Rolle, ed. Hope Emily Allen (Oxford, 1931; repr. Gloucester, 1988), p. 7; Wogan-Browne et al., Idea of the Vernacular, line 62, p. 246. Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, p. 337. Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, p. 164. Watson, ‘The Politics of Middle English Writing’, p. 335. Coleman, ‘Strange Rhyme’, pp. 1215, 1218, 1224.

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This reading captures the political and cultural contradictions of this historical/ cultural trend: a simultaneous admiration for and resistance to the decorous, ornamented, ‘French’ strata of English. Mannyng’s fascination for strangeness juxtaposed against his patrons’ command for ‘lyght lange’ (I, line 125) indicates an anxiety surrounding a register perceived as not properly, demotically, English. Butterfield endorses this reading, interpreting Mannyng’s reference to strange, ‘although it may seem to apply to “Inglis”’ as ‘in fact a somewhat contorted reference to French’, and arguing that ‘this opposition between “simple” and “strange”’ should be read as ‘aligning itself explicitly with an English-French issue’.71 A few decades later, in the preface to his Testament of Love, written shortly before his execution in 1388, Thomas Usk expressed a similar opprobrium for ‘straunge langage’: The understondyng of Englysshmen wol not stretche to the privy [secretive] termes in Frenche whatsoever we bosten of straunge langage. Let then clerkes endyten [compose] in Latyn, for they have the propertie of science [skill/knowledge] and the knowynge in that facultie; and lette Frenchmen in their Frenche also endyten their queynt [polished/crafty/ingenious] termes, for it is kyndely [natural] to their mouthes; and let us shewe our fantasyes [ideas/imaginations] in suche wordes as we lerneden of our dames tonge.72

Like Mannyng’s, Usk’s ‘straunge langage’ was characterised by being unintelligible to ‘Englysshmen’. His assertion that French, ‘the domineering other tongue against which he is measuring himself ’,73 is ‘kyndely’ to French mouths, suggests that its natural property is fundamentally national (as opposed to Latin, which is functional: for ‘clerkes’). Moreover, the characterisation of French as ‘privy’ suggests not only that it excludes English listeners, but that is intrinsically covert and secretive. ‘Queynt’ (another word belonging to this associative lexicon, used by Mannyng at I, line 109) reinforces this, with its sense of ‘crafty, wily, sly’; and elsewhere in the Testament, it figures particularly poisonously. The Prologue criticises those who with eeres openly sprad so moche swalowen the delyciousnesse of jestes and of ryme by queynt knyttyng coloures [interconnecting properties] that of the goodnesse or of the badnesse of the sentence [meaning] take they lytel hede or els none.74

Straunge is a loaded word, implying something alien and treacherous: Usk even personifies it, lamenting that, ‘caytisned [imprisoned] fro frendshippe and acquauntaunce, and forsaken of al’, ‘Straunge hath by waye of intrucyoun [usurpation/ invasion] made his home there me shulde be’.75

71 72 73 74 75

Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, p, 336. Thomas Usk, Testament of Love, ed. R. A. Shoaf (Kalamazoo, MI, 1998), Prologue lines 22–7, pp. 48–9. Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, p. 339. Usk, Testament, Prologue lines 1–3, p. 47. Ibid., Bk 1, ch. 1, p. 56. See also Marion Turner, Chaucerian Conflict: Languages of Antagonism in Late Fourteenth-Century London (Oxford, 2007), p. 107.



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However, in his mobilisation of the ‘oppositions between French and English’,76 it is not really ‘Frenchmen’ who concern Usk: we should avoid the facile conclusion that he is ‘straightforwardly championing English over French’. Rather, he is anxious about English speakers who ‘bosten of straunge langage’, in his attempt ‘to find an articulate role for English in this subaltern position’.77 The register he is describing is still English, but an English stuffed with borrowed terms; an English that its speaker may well boast in, as it elevates the tenor of his speech above the understanding of his peers, yet that ultimately betrays its foreignness and its treachery. It is ‘valence and tone’ that concern him, not language; and in this we see another instance of Mannyng’s simultaneous fascination with and rejection of the ‘strange’.78 Usk’s care over his own register reflects his contorted socio-national schematisation: for the clerk, propertie and science (technical terms in logic and law); for the Frenchman, queynt and straunge (relatively late borrowings at c. 1300); for ‘the understondyng of Englysshmen’, shewe and lerneden (from Old English sceawian and leornian). He practises the etymological dictum he preaches, apart from once: his exhortation ‘let us shewe our fantasyes in suche wordes as we lerneden of our dames tonge’. This passage is one of the earliest instances of the idiom mother tongue (a phrase Mannyng was also fond of, prefacing his chronicle with the inscription ‘transumpta per Robertum in materna lingua’, translated by Robert in his mother tongue).79 Yet Usk’s word was, crucially, not ‘mother’: in a passage that asks its readers to select their words carefully, he describes the maternal language of English speakers as their dame. Perhaps it is a deliberate irony, a demonstration of the fallacy of seeking a virginal language; more likely, dame was sufficiently assimilated by 1388 that Usk did not even think of it as a ‘straunge’ word. Either way, his etymological slippage demonstrates a fundamental truth, which exemplifies the very thing that he is anxious about: that the ‘dames tonge’ was itself already ‘straunge’. Machan argues that ‘as England’s relations with France continued to deteriorate, French was … foregrounded and interpreted as a sign of that country’s insidious intentions’.80 However, alongside this process, attempts to identify a true English within English reveal that the vernacular was not (by any means) conceptualised as chaste or unsullied. Even as they pugnaciously championed the mother tongue, writers were uneasy about exactly where its boundaries lay. The true subtlety of these linguistic characterisations lies in what they reveal about the perceived porosity of language. Robust and jingoistic statements were certainly made, especially in political contexts, which conjured English and French as distinct, embattled, mutually exclusive entities; yet central to that metaphor was the powerful, latent, but thoroughly understood reality of linguistic intersection, which could only be interpreted (in this political discourse) as linguistic invasion. Mannyng and Usk’s characterisation

76 77 78 79

80

Wogan-Browne et al., Idea of the Vernacular, pp. 28–9. Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, pp. 339, 340. Evans et al., ‘The Notion of Vernacular Theory’, p. 327. Robert Mannyng, The Story of England by Robert Manning of Brunne, AD 1338, ed. Frederick J. Furnivall, 2 vols (London, 1887), vol. I, p. 1. For more on this phrase in Latin and English, see Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, pp. 341–4. Machan, English in the Middle Ages, p. 82.

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of ‘queynt’, ‘privy’ and ‘straunge’ language should therefore be read as constituting a repertoire of vocabulary in orbit around a central political concept, and partaking of the wider tradition of linguistic antagonism in the fourteenth century. The way in which they (along with Rolle and others) cultivated a shared lexicon indicates the extent to which these ideas were not just theoretical, but linguistically practised, accretively garnering a set of repeated lexemes, collocations and with them connotations. Work is increasingly being done on this idea of ideological lexis, as scholars are detecting political idiolects and the uses to which they were put in the literature of these turbulent centuries. Smith notes the importance of recognising linguistic matrices at work in textual communities, suggesting that ‘Chaucer and his contemporaries, including his scribes, formed a linguistic community; and to understand a poet’s use of language it is necessary to understand the linguistic milieu within which he worked’.81 Such linguistic milieux are being pinpointed with increasingly exactness: Marion Turner holds that ‘texts of the 1380s betray an insistent anxiety about the power and effects of linguistic conflict’, arguing that ‘Discursive conflict cannot be separated from social and political conflict’.82 She traces how the phrase prive ne apert makes its way from Richard II’s 1387 proclamation against dissenting speech, to the Mercers’ petition against Nicholas Brembre, to Chaucer’s House of Fame (and unsurprisingly it also finds its way into the chronicles).83 Similarly, Megan G. Leitch shows how a lexis of treachery developed across the literature of the Wars of the Roses,84 and Wicker demonstrates how civil war prompted a spike in the crime of ‘treasonable language’: ‘In the period 1440–1453, at least eighteen indictments for treasonable language were brought before the King’s Bench’, and ‘“Treason by words” was established as an offence by the Great Statute of Treasons in 1352.’ Of course, ‘As a concept, treasonable language was essentially artificial’ and ‘as much about the politics of language as national political affairs’.85 But the contrivance and expedience of this category did not mitigate the fact that texts written in the capital, in the aftermath of major political events, were particularly sensitive to the heightened ‘linguistic conflict’ that was the motif of their times. They absorbed not just the ideology but the phraseology of the proclamations and statutes foregrounding antagonistic language, exploiting the ‘distinctive … way that it employed this vocabulary and the meanings that it developed’. Furthermore, one theme leant itself to this distinctive political language more than others: the ‘issue which runs through the majority of indictments made for treasonable language, was the loss of English territory in France’.86

81 82 83 84 85 86

J. J. Smith, ed., The English of Chaucer and His Contemporaries: Essays by M. L. Samuels and J. J. Smith (Aberdeen, 1988), p. 4. Turner, Chaucerian Conflict, pp. 8, 12. Ibid., pp. 9–20. See Gregory, p. 155; Chronicles of London, p. 87. Megan G. Leitch, ‘Speaking (of ) Treason in Malory’s Morte Darthur’, Arthurian Literature 27 (2010), 103–34. Helen Wicker, ‘The Politics of Vernacular Speech: Cases of Treasonable Language, c. 1440– 1453’, in Salter and Wicker, Vernacularity in England and Wales, pp. 171–97 (171–4). Ibid., pp. 196–7.



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This is particularly true of the chronicles, because of the high-profile, ostentatious ways in which language was being publicly reimagined by their kings and politicians, from the Statute of Pleading to the parliamentary statements about French plots to eradicate English. London chroniclers were ‘writing at the centre of affairs’.87 Many were working within the machinery of bureaucracy as scribes of official and legal documents as well as literary/historical texts, and a close examination of their vocabulary indicates their investment in these same discourses: an interpenetration of style and vocabulary, as well as political agenda. It is in the middle of narrating the Black Prince’s capture of Guînes, for example, that one Brut chronicler, using Usk’s idiom, describes the Statute of Pleading: ‘hit was ordeyned in þe parlement, þat men of lawe … fro þat tyme forth shold plede in her moder tonge’.88 To turn, then, from ‘strange Inglis’ to its flipside, ‘fals French’. In Chris Given-­ Wilson’s words, ‘War was the major preoccupation of English chroniclers during the later middle ages’,89 and a greater part of their efforts was devoted to the depiction of their enemies. The overwhelming characteristic that emerged in the portrayal of the French, in accounts of the Hundred Years War, was that of doubleness. Capgrave wrote, ‘Al þis somyr men supposed þat þe emperoure schuld a sette pes betwix Inglond and Frauns, but þe Frensch kyng and his councelle was euyr founde dobil.’90 Where the English were portrayed as plain-spoken, the French were deceptive and casuistical, repeatedly described with phrases such as ‘fraude and deceyte’, ‘trecherously & falsly’, ‘traytosely and vnmanly’, ‘fraude or male engyne’; and it is noticeable that this doubleness is often both a verbal trait (a crime of not keeping their word) and a stylistic habit (in these characteristic hendiadic pairings).91 They were depicted as brazen in their challenges yet cowardly in their execution; they made promises they did not keep and arranged negotiations they did not attend. Before Crécy, the Brut states that ‘Philip of Valeys … al-þouʒ he were faste by with a stronge oste, he wolde nouʒt come no ner, but brek al þe briggys … & him self fledde … wiþ al þe haste þat he myʒte’.92 Similarly, when Jean II heard ‘of þe Kyngez comeing of Engelond, he wente awey wiþ his men & his cariage, cowardly & schamfully fleynge’.93 In diplomatic as well as military encounters, the French were characterised by absenteeism: The Dolfyns enbassatores … comen to þe Kyng … and after many tretise had, thus it was appoynted: þat a certeyn day set, þe Dolfyn shuld come to þe toune of Dreux, and Kyng Henry to Aueraunchis, and þere chese a mene place betwene both assent, where they myghte peasbely tret of þe peas … at which day þe Kyng come; but þe Dolfyn com not.94

87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94

Gransden, Historical Writing in England, vol. II, pp. 235–6. Brut, p. 315; CV-1377. Chris Given-Wilson, Chronicles: The Writing of History in Medieval England (London, 2004), p. 186. Abbreuiacion, p. 247. Brut, pp. 304–5, 332, CV-1377; pp. 561–2, PV-1436-A. Brut, p. 298; CV-1377. Brut, p. 306; CV-1377. Brut, pp. 559–60; PV-1436-A.

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They were portrayed as eager to make terms and quick to break them; they fled in the face of the English armies and prevaricated to the face of English diplomats. When an agreement was reached, it was swiftly broken: ‘it was sone disquat, for þe grete highnesse, pride, and couetyse of þe Frenssh party’.95 ‘Fraude & deceyte of the Frensshmen’ becomes a repeated formula.96 The force of these stereotypes is felt in the way that the terms French and English functioned as signifiers of allegiance almost more than nationality, synonymous with enemy and ally. After 1435 when Philippe le Bon, Duke of Burgundy, broke his alliance with Henry V, he was described as having ‘become Englissh’ and then ‘retourned Frensh’.97 Capgrave describes John of Gaunt’s military successes in Guienne in the 1370s as having ‘made the lande Englyshe both vp & doune’, adding that after the ‘duk of Lancastir, cam out of Gyan into Ynglond … all þe cuntré turned Frensch’.98 It is a function of the paradoxes of this conflict that the black-and-white aesthetic between English and French effectively demonstrates how flimsy and reversible are the categories it divides, when persons and principalities can so instantaneously become English or return French; yet it also shows the necessity for maintaining such a speciously sharp ideological division, when the actual distinctions were far from being so clear. Another instance is a Brut continuation that contrasts Edward III and Philippe VI with an identical phraseology: Philip, þe last day of Iuyll, sent to King Edward word þat he wold ʒeue him playn bataill … And whan Kynge Edward herd þat, wiþout eny long taryng or grete avisement, he accepted gladly þe day & hour of bataill þat Philip had assigned. And whan the Kyng of Fraunce herd þat, wiþout eny long taryng or grete auysement, þe next nyght after he set hys tentys afyre, and vanyssed & went awey þens cowardly.99

In this parallelism, the two kings are each other’s perfect foil. Edward epitomises valour in the face of cowardice, openness in the face of deceit: Englishness, in the person of its figurehead, is defined as the negative relief of Frenchness, in the person of its figurehead. Sometimes this binary could be visually marked: BL MS Harley 53, a high-quality Brut manuscript with an elaborate royal genealogy on its opening folios, underlined proper names throughout in red ink (similar to the style of the Winchester Malory). In the descriptions of Edward III’s battles, this habit makes the words Edward and Phelippe, England and France bounce off the page (fols 137v ff.), literally underlining the depiction of conflict. However, the distinct identities of the two kings are also collapsed in this parataxis, which depicts them identically even as it emphasises their opposition. The chronicles strove to depict the French as ontologically and essentially opposed to the English, because the driving force behind their programmatic nationalism was the redefining of something fundamental and integral as something foreign and 95 96 97 98 99

Brut, p. 467; CV- 1419. Brut, pp. 304–5; CV- 1377. Brut, pp. 491, 503; CV-1461. Abbreuiacion, p. 179; Hardyng, p. 327. Brut, p. 300; CV-1377.



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alterior. Hand in hand with this went the depiction of French itself (with the same sleight of hand as the Statute of Pleading) as unintelligible to English ears. In one Brut continuation, Joan of Arc is called ‘the wicche of Fraunce that was callid th[e] “Pusshell”’.100 After Crécy, another reports that ‘it was said among his oune mewe “Nostre beal retreit,” that is to say, “Oure faire withdraweth hym”’;101 in another, the French complain ‘“No som to mors”: we be ded & ouerthrouhe’.102 Providing translations for these simple clauses is surely a needless posture (akin to the ambassadors’ ludicrous protests of their ignorance of French); but it is one that posits French as something that soldiers hear abroad, rather than something that civilians hear, write and read at home. Jingoistic, essentialist distillations of nationality went hand in hand with exclusive claims about language, the spuriousness of both buttressed only by the muscularity of their assertion. Part of the force of this polemic, as it moved into the fifteenth century, came from the need to assert that England was an equal player on the European stage, with the concomitant anxiety engendered by the fact that French was the lingua franca of Europe, the dominant language of diplomacy, whereas English remained the barbarous tongue of an insular backwater. The Council of Constance of 1414–18, which (against French opposition) gave England a vote among the five nations afforded that privilege, was important in stoking this quest for parity. One account describes how, be assent of alle nacions, it was ordeyned in this counsel, þat Englond sholde be callid an nacion, and be counted on of þe v nacions þat owen obedience to þe Pope of Rome, þe whiche befor þat tyme was vnder þe nacion of Ducheland [Germany].103

This new status of being ‘callid an nacion’, coinciding with the peak of Henry V’s conquest of Normandy, came at a time of great significance. Capgrave made much of Henry V’s refusal to kiss the feet of the Emperor Sigismund: Ther was gret wondir of þe emperoures men why þe kyng of Ynglond kissid not his feet, and it was answerd be Englichmen þat her kyng was anoynted, and had power ouyr lif and membris, þerfor he schuld not do so mech subjeccioun as he þat is not anoynted; ‘eke, for he is a insulane [islander], þerfor he doth no subjeccion onto no man.’104

Sigismund was politically important as an ally and a dispassionate international observer, who respected Henry as an equal, corroborated the treachery of the French and ratified the justice of his wars. Nonetheless, Henry’s refusal to ‘do subjeccioun’ to him enacts the newly granted independence of the English ‘nacion’. The reasons given for his refusal in this passage are importantly plural: the narrative maintains that as anointed king, Henry should not do homage to an equal; but the words put into the mouths of the witnesses assert that as an insulane he is subject to no one. The 100 Brut,

p. 439; CV-1419. p. 542; PV-1436-A. 102 Brut, p. 597; PV-1479/82. 103 English Chronicle, p. 46. 104 Abbreuiacion, p. 161. 101 Brut,

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chronicler holds that as king of England he is no one’s vassal; but the ‘Englischmen’ assert that his ‘insularity’ is the only necessary, defiant, justification of his sovereignty. Neither the MED nor the OED give earlier citations for insulane, and the only other citation given has to wait until 1585.105 The word is extant once in Anglo-Norman, in Langtoft’s Chronicle, in the context of English sovereignty over Scotland.106 Insulane was a rare word in both languages, and it is possible that Capgrave was coining it in English, making it stand for a representation of defiant, independent Englishness that saw itself specifically as insular, isolationist and sovereign. The rarity of the word, coupled with the fact that it supplies its own definition (‘þerfor he doth no subjeccion onto no man’), suggests that Capgrave was self-consciously finding a ‘new’ vocabulary for a ‘new’ moment of national self-consciousness. The timing of the Council of Constance foregrounded the issue of ‘nacion’ for England, at a point when it was already harnessing that concept to propagandistic efforts of self-projection. Lesley Johnson describes ‘movements which seek to mobilise national self-consciousness … and use the rhetoric of national identity to attempt to create the impression of a national body’:107 this is not nationalism as a fully fledged, popular movement, but a cultivated, top-down one. The fact that the Hundred Years War was not accompanied by a grassroots swell of patriotic fervour only heightened the impetus to manufacture one. Pearsall held that ‘there was no steadily growing sense of national feeling’ in England (with the exception of two windows from 1290–1340 and 1410–20) until the Reformation, and this study does not contend otherwise.108 The nationalism of the Hundred Years War was prescriptive and programmatic, and it is the more interesting for it; my arguments do not rely on, or use the term nationalism to imply, anything beyond the propagandistic, local, galvanising efforts of communities of writers and politicians at specific points and for specific purposes. As T. B. James and J. Simons argue, the war was ‘fought not only on land and sea, but also on paper’, suggesting that ‘literature with such a strong emphasis on national politics and values, should probably be seen as prescribing rather than describing appropriate ways of thinking’; and even, conversely, that ‘explicitly propagandist pieces indicate a perceived need to stimulate a national impetus which was not being adequately maintained’.109 The patriotism of the literature of the Hundred Years War was proactive and pre-emptive; and only when we appreciate its premeditated, artificial nature can we also appreciate its self-consciousness and subtlety. This was a xenophobia that was deliberately crafted and carefully articulated. It navigated ancient ironies about the domestic identity of the French that it rebranded as the language of the enemy; ironies that were as historically fundamental as they were politically immediate. And 105 The

word appears in one other fifteenth-century text, where it is a proper name, Donald Insulane, and a collective noun, ‘Insulanis’: Hector Boece, The Mar Lodge Translation of the History of Scotland, ed. George Watson (Edinburgh, 1946), pp. 22, 284, 308–11. 106 See entry for insulane in The Anglo-Norman Dictionary, at www.anglo-norman.net/ (accessed November 2015). 107 Johnson, ‘Imagining Communities’, p. 14. 108 Pearsall, ‘The Idea of Englishness’, pp. 15–16. 109 Laurence Minot, The Poems of Laurence Minot 1333–1352, ed. T. B. James and John Simons (Exeter, 1989), pp. 18, 85.



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it was forced to come to terms with the fact that the English language in which expressions of nationalism were formulated was itself a site of French conquest, a mirror and a mimesis of war. However, we also need to reckon with Ruddick’s argument that ‘No relationship between a government and its subjects is ever entirely one-sided, and it is a truism that the most effective propaganda reinforces beliefs already held by its audience’:110 these ideas, for all that they were programmatic and propagandistic, had traction and appeal in the literature and culture in which they circulated, and one part of their footprint is what this chapter seeks to uncover. Language became the metaphor and the theatre for the theme of French doubleness in the Hundred Years War. English had been literally doubled by linguistic conquest, and this facilitated the recognition of the ironic doubleness at the heart of the conflict also. Although the agenda of the chroniclers was often brazen and simplistic, their self-consciousness about the importance and power of their genre was acute. The very fact of being chroniclers made them take the long view, looking to French conflict past for grist for the mill of French conflict present and future. The final contention of this chapter is that, to lesser and greater degrees, the chroniclers of the Hundred Years War made their language function mimetically, as a performative parallel front, as they documented the war.

‘Fraude & deceyte of þe Frensshmen’: the chronicles’ lexis of war The rest of this chapter considers the chronicles of the Hundred Years War in detail, showing how they cultivated a vocabulary of French enmity, underpinned by the political posturing that repurposed the metaphor of linguistic invasion and (in a vigorous attempt to row against the cultural tide) vilified the French of England as the aggressive language of the ancient and present enemy. It follows the arguments made, in a historical context, by Ruddick, that the notion of ‘political culture’ is helpful … as an analytical tool that English medieval historians have recently begun to exploit. Political culture can be defined as the conventions, values and assumptions that inform and condition political activity (both consciously and unconsciously) … not just institutions, but also informal power structures, and political culture, as revealed in political discourse and its patterns of vocabulary and thought.111

Ruddick’s work on official rhetoric has been groundbreaking in its reconfiguration of the terminology that accreted around and cemented the articulation of powerful political concepts, but this chapter takes it further, seeking to trace some of the ripple effects of that central rhetoric in the culture that spoke for and to it, especially the historical literature that narrated its own times. This argument rests on style, and is therefore necessarily, to some extent, subjective: even were it possible to recover

110 Ruddick, 111 Ibid.,

English Identity and Political Culture, p. 36. pp. 21–2.

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the original connotational context of these texts, it is unclear that they meant the same thing to every reader, or for that matter to every writer. What the argument seeks to trace is a generic and stylistic tendency, articulated with varying degrees of intensity and with different levels of skill, but discernible across the corpus, to enact the metaphor of linguistic invasion. Essential to this is a number of not uncontroversial assumptions: first, that the chronicles were sophisticated, capable of the subtleties of style and ideology found in more overtly literary writing, and not crude, autopilot texts; second, that their formulaic and repetitive lexicon does not indicate an unthinking or derivative idiom but a deliberate, common idiolect; third, that it is possible to read content into form and form into content in a way that allows us to make productive observations about the use of language as both theme and metaphor, subject and style. On the first of these points, scholarship has done much to redeem the chronicles’ reputation. McLaren calls them ‘carefully constructed documents’, ‘attempting to establish a literary voice which meets a very specific need in fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century London’. Moreover she identifies ‘the emergence of a conscious written style’ in which ‘words and phrases become loaded with significance and ultimately become shorthand terms for a range of qualities and responses’.112 Similarly Patterson, discussing the Brut, holds that ‘we must attend to the language by which national identities were being constructed during the Hundred Years War’.113 Such statements signal an increasing awareness that there is more to the chronicles, and particularly to their style, than has traditionally been allowed. Patterson observes that ‘the word “false” rings like a chime’, and McLaren finds particular significance in the repeated opposition of false and worthy, in depictions of war.114 However, neither looks for a broader significant idiom beyond this, and as yet there has been no systematic analysis of the operation of this generic ‘voice which meets a very specific need’, although its existence is frequently remarked. The following discussion adumbrates one aspect of it: the calumniation of Frenchness, in French words, in an enactment of the metaphor of linguistic conflict. On the second point, what emerges clearly from reading the chronicles as a group is the extent to which they shared a vocabulary. The circumstances of their composition were unique among medieval texts: while some were composed from start to finish by a single author, most had no clearly defined ending, and were written collectively, as successive continuators and redactors copied, edited and added to the record of earlier ones. This sense of collective, even public, authorship, shaped the way chroniclers envisaged their genre (illustrated by the invitation by the scribe of BL MS Egerton 650). The circumstances of their composition facilitated the development of an accretive style. The editors of John Benet’s Chronicle comment, for instance, that ‘the coincidence of the events recorded and occasional similarities of phraseology suggests that there was a common fund of information, oral or 112 McLaren,

London Chronicles, pp. 91–2, 95. Patterson, ‘Making Identities in Fifteenth-Century England: Henry V and John Lydgate’, in New Historical Literary Study: Essays on Reproducing Texts, Representing History, ed. Jeffrey N. Cox and Larry J. Reynolds (Princeton, NJ, 1993), pp. 69–107 (81). 114 Ibid., p. 79; McLaren, London Chronicles, p. 95. 113 Lee



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literary, on which annalists living in London could draw’.115 This common fund, I suggest, not only extended to content, but profoundly shaped modes and habits of expression. The Common Version of the Brut extended only to 1333; thereafter, various continuations carried the narrative forward, and the ‘process of accretion’ that had always characterised its composition continued.116 Furthermore, ‘The close connection between the civic chronicles of London and the Brut began early’, as the former inherited and imitated the stylistic habits of the latter.117 The cross-pollination worked in both directions, as later Brut recensions were frequently ‘derived from the London ones’; and in some manuscripts (such as BL MS Egerton 650, University of Chicago MS 254 and Trinity College Cambridge MS O.9.1), Brut and London chronicle accounts merged.118 This context of collective composition generated a generic idiolect that was deployed consciously and xenophobically in depictions of the conflict. Sometimes the effect was acute, sometimes subtle; some authors deliberately constructed a pejorative register, others responded to it or reproduced it with greater or lesser self-awareness. Not every chronicler was necessarily fully aware of what he was doing in reproducing verbal echoes and phrasal resonances that within a wider generic context were calibrating certain words in an accretive, distinct pejoration; many were using words not for a specific effect, but because they were familiar furniture within the chronicle style. There is the general trend; there are individual moments when it was pointedly applied, as well as others where it did not pertain. Some words and phrases that appeared deliberately and antagonistically in some contexts were used either neutrally or positively, playfully or ironically, in others. The impulse was neither uniform nor consistent; no doubt it was often subconscious. But cumulatively, a distinct, replicated vocabulary emerges: the terminology of ‘linguistic conflict’, depicting the French in the calumniated ‘queynt’ and ‘strange’ lexicon of French English. This argument is contextualised within the genre and specific moment of Hundred Years War chronicles. Of course, not all loanwords attracted this pejoration: as Norman Davis remarks, this kind of argument requires ‘not only the bare fact of etymology but the associations and status of every word, and whether specific applications of it would seem to contemporary hearers in any way out of the ordinary’.119 The audience and circumstances of the chronicles affected the way in which they were read: some were official accounts sponsored by royal patronage, and their vocabulary was naturally more aureate; some were city annals kept by mayors, for whom the wars with France were less important than local concerns. As the next chapter’s treatment of aureation in poetic texts explores in greater depth, this is not

115 John

Benet, John Benet’s Chronicle for the Years 1400 to 1462, ed. G. L. Harriss and M. A. Harriss (London, 1972), pp. 151–234 (163). 116 For a description of the Brut continuations, see Matheson, Prose Brut, pp. 67–348; and Gransden, Historical Writing in England, vol.. II, p. 223. 117 Matheson, Prose Brut, pp. 6, 17. 118 Gransden, Historical Writing in England, vol. II, p. 221; see also pp. 226–9. 119 Norman Davis, ‘Chaucer and Fourteenth-Century English’, in Geoffrey Chaucer: The Writer and His Background, ed. D. S. Brewer (London, 1974), pp. 58–84 (73).

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a claim that ‘frenchified’ aureation functioned globally in this political, pejorative way: far from it. These texts represent instead a distinctive eddy against the main tide, in which the aureate style remained uncomplicatedly a marker of prestige and cultural cachet, and this fact was arguably one of the principal motivators for the cultivation of this local counter-effect in the chronicles. There are also fundamental methodological questions demanded by this analysis. Could the repeated lexicon have been accidental not emphatic, driven by the demands of style, the processes of collocation and cliché? Instead of being a politically motivated choice, could the stylised diction not owe more to echoes of Law or diplomatic French, to the formulae of parliamentary, bureaucratic, administrative language? It was highly likely, as has been claimed above, that many chroniclers were professional scribes also working in legal, civil and bureaucratic milieux, and the formulaic language of those institutions would have shaped their habits of expression: we know that chronicles and ‘many literary texts … emanated from and circulated among the very segments of society that were responsible for the production and consumption of most government documents’; it is unsurprising to find blending of vocabulary and theme between the two. Ruddick goes on to claim that ‘The influence of official rhetoric on the language of chroniclers and poets can certainly be detected’. Nor, as she remarks, ‘was the distinction between chronicles and official documents absolute’.120 In fact, many chroniclers included direct copies of official documents in their texts. In addition, the stock phrases of official rhetoric often spilled over into their own writing. This suggests that, at the very least, the conventions of government rhetoric were an idiom with which many chroniclers felt comfortable. It may also suggest that official language overlapped with, even influenced, the way in which writers thought about politics.121

Many words in the pejorative chronicle diction derived from Law French, which, although held up since Castleford and up to the Statute of Pleading as a symbol of linguistic oppression, was a fundamentally native, not a foreign, language. Legal words carried a specific set of connotations that did not (necessarily) collocate with ‘strange Inglische’, in the sense of a suspect foreign linguistic subset; and the fact that Law French was occasionally deliberately associated with the Norman oppression perhaps indicates that it was not usually perceived to be anything more than a professional patois. Palpably not all French was equal, despite propagandistic efforts to tar it with the same brush. Early borrowings were totally assimilated, while later ones continued to be pronounced in a distinctive manner. As demonstrated in Chapter 1, the boundaries between the languages were not always perceptible; and while that very fact prompted many anxious statements about French English, indicating that writers were troubled by that category in principle, it also precludes any definitive statements that certain words universally or predictably fell into it. By definition, arguing

120 Ruddick, 121 Ibid.,

English Identity and Political Culture, pp. 36, 99, 38. p. 208.



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that French and English were fundamentally intercepted to the point of merger problematises any claims about French words in English, when neither category was stable. To venture this argument without admitting these caveats would be disingenuous. As linguists Susan Fitzmaurice and Jeremy Smith maintain, for all that ‘Historical linguistics is an empirical discipline (i.e. it depends on the analysis of data)’, the notion ‘data’ is not unproblematic: we have to be continually awake to the facts not only that ‘Data from the past therefore come down to us only partially, needing careful assessment’, but also that ‘linguistic form relates to sociocultural function’, and ‘texts are witnesses that require interrogation’, rather than oracles of cultural realities.122 Perhaps the most important obstacle of those listed above is the third one: the relationship this argument posits between form and content. Is it methodologically sound to read the annalistic and repetitive style of the chronicles as an intentional stylistic habitus? Is there a danger in so doing, as Ruddick grapples with, ‘of simply finding what one is looking for’?123 Observing their shared and stylised diction is one thing, as is arguing for its self-conscious perpetuation; but it is a step further to suggest that it was deliberately performative. If this reading is persuasive, it will attribute more literary and political agency to the chronicles than has customarily been admitted. It will also revisit the old and intractable theoretical chestnut of intentionality. Is this reading simply that: a way of reading these texts, rather than a deliberate, shared authorial strategy? This argument hopes to tread a line between the two, based on the particular circumstances of the Brut’s composition. Not every author used the politicised register intentionally, I suggest; some inherited it unconsciously. But some of them did so self-consciously and aggressively, at least some of the time, and their impulse remains recoverable and important. These are points that cannot be ‘proved’, but they remain worth making, as they help us understand the subtle ways in which vocabularies of prejudice could be built, little by little, connotation by connotation, until they became a way of talking and a way of thinking, both deliberately and semi-unconsciously. Moreover, I am in good company making them: work on medieval rhetoric is increasingly defending the complexity and formality with which form and content were constructed contingently. Scott D. Troyan cautions against reading medieval texts in a way that ‘divorces content from style’ or ‘focuses our attentions on what is said, rather than how it is said’.124 The claims of this chapter are predicated on the belief that style is fundamental to content, in a period and particularly in a genre that was obsessed with language and etymology, the mode and not just the message. Larry Scanlon and James Simpson have lamented that the ‘often-derided cultivation of such an

122 Susan

Fitzmaurice and Jeremy Smith, ‘Evidence for the History of English’, in The Oxford Handbook of the History of English, ed. Terttu Nevalainen and Elizabeth Cross Traugott (Oxford, 2012), pp. 19–37 (19–20). 123 Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, p. 49. 124 Scott D. Troyan, ‘Unwritten between the Lines: The Unspoken History of Rhetoric’, in Medieval Rhetoric: A Casebook, ed. Scott D. Troyan (New York, 2004), pp. 217–46 (222).

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“aureate” style awaits historicization’:125 the subject of their enquiry was John Lydgate (discussed more fully in the next chapter), but the wider point, that critical attempts at the historicisation of lexical and stylistic habits remain sketchy at best, is something this discussion goes some way towards remedying. The specific type of local language for which I am arguing has already been theoretically posited by J. G. A. Pocock: The historian’s reconstitution of the context that makes the text, as action and event, intelligible now becomes a matter of reconstituting the languages in which certain illocutions – those defined as existing for the purposes of political thought – were carried out … ‘Languages’ such as these are not of course ‘languages’ in the same sense as Latin or English, but specialized idioms … ‘vocabularies’ … or ‘rhetorics’ … ‘institutional languages’.126

This kind of institutional vocabulary is not unusual: it is a commonplace that words have different meanings depending on the company they keep, and the context in which they are employed. Scholars are increasingly attending to the existence of political vocabularies in earlier periods. Jenni Nuttall, discussing Paul Chilton’s statement that ‘Politics is very largely the use of language’, insists that ‘This is as true for England in the later Middle Ages as it is for the twenty-first-century world of spin-doctors and sound bites’. Using Pocock’s methodology of distinguishing ‘linguistic and textual matrices’ that surround moments of political upheaval, she argues for a ‘late medieval political discourse’ of ‘specialized idioms’, in an attempt ‘to reconfigure the linguistic and political environment’ in which the event on which she focuses, the deposition of Richard II, was accommodated by Lancastrian writers.127 Discussing the Hundred Years War, Yeager argues similarly that ‘Times of tumult, of war and social unrest … enforce disclosure of the politics of language,’ and no linguistic decisions made in these ‘political climates’ were ‘casual’.128 Ruddick demonstrates how ‘the linguistic and intellectual systems revealed in political vocabulary do not stand apart from social and historical reality, but rather form part of that reality’, changing how we understand ‘the relationship between language, ideas and actions in the political sphere’. She sets out to recover how ‘the manner’ in which chroniclers expressed their political support was itself ‘shaped by governmental formulae’.129 This discussion argues for a traceable, specialised vocabulary in the chronicles of the Hundred Years War, made more pointed because it consisted of an arsenal of ‘strange’ words that were ripe for being recast as ‘enemy’words. The accretive way in 125 Larry

Scanlon and James Simpson, eds, John Lydgate: Poetry, Culture and Lancastrian England (Notre Dame, IN, 2006), p. 8. 126 J. G. A. Pocock, ‘Texts as Events: Reflections on the History of Political Thought’, in Politics of Discourse: The Literature and History of Seventeenth-Century England, ed. Kevin Sharpe and Steven N. Zwicker (London, 1987), pp. 21–33 (26–7). 127 Jenni Nuttall, The Creation of Lancastrian Kingship: Literature, Language and Politics in Late Medieval England (Cambridge, 2007), pp. 1, 3, 4; citing Paul Chilton, Analysing Political Discouse: Theory and Practice (London, 2004), p. 14. 128 Yeager, ‘Politics and the French Language in England’, pp. 128–9, 133. 129 Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, pp. 31, 210.



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which the chronicles were composed lent itself to developing such a narrowed and stylised generic idiom: it may not even have been because these words were conspicuously or even noticeably French, but because of their pedigree within other politicised or legal discourses, that they were singled out. But either way, they became constituents of a vocabulary of enmity, not always consciously deployed and no doubt unconsciously and habitually repeated; but discernibly perpetuating the idea that the war had linguistic frontiers. The locus of the chronicles’ lexical pejoration was narrowly defined. It grew out of a political atmosphere in which language had already been singled out as a metaphor for conflict, and it intensified over time as continuators repeated the habits of their sources. Reading across the whole genre retrospectively, it emerged as a vocabulary of enmity which (although not necessarily consciously perpetuated by every contributor) crystallised into a warmongering linguistic mimesis. I am not the first to remark on the existence of a vocabulary of French pejoration in English chronicles: Thea Summerfield comments on ‘The use of French in negative portrayals’ in the Metrical Chronicle, tallying with its complaints about vnkunde language. She observes the ‘negative connotation’ of William Rufus’s description of his servant as belamy (dear friend: ‘a way of addressing inferiors held in comtempt’), and ordering him to Fi a debles (go to the devil: characterising the king as ‘violent and forceful’). ‘The use of French’, she argues, ‘enhances the contrast between the high social position of the king and the low level of his morality, integity and common sense.’ Similarly, in the Chronicle’s depiction of the empress Maude, the phrase si haut si bas (so high, so low) ‘adds scorn and a malicious delight in her defeat’. Summerfield maintains that this is not ‘a desire to underline “Englishness” through a preferred, English vocabulary. Words of French origin are used throughout without authorial comment’, and ‘in those places where a perceived sense of oppression of ethnic and linguistic Englishness is expressed … the terminology of discontent is decidedly francophone’. Nonetheless, there is a ‘recognition of French as a negatively marked language’.130 This example of an English chronicle of the early fourteenth century using French as a pejorative diction sets an important precedent for my argument about the genre in the fifteenth century. One final piece of context is the enduring fascination with and investment in language, and specifically in etymology, that always had and continued to characterise medieval historiography. This generic tendency, above all, justifies the relevance of reading these texts in these terms. The title of Brut was itself a significant name, and it cannot be over-emphasised how deeply this etymological habit of thought was engrained in the chronicle tradition. For example, the author of Warkworth’s Chronicle paused in his account of the natural augurs of Edward IV’s early reign to recount how Womere watere ranne hugely, with suche abundaunce of watere, that nevyr manne sawe it renne so moche afore this tyme. Womere is callede the woo watere: for 130 Thea

Summerfield, ‘“Fi a debles, quath the King”: Language Mixing in England’s Vernacular Historical Narratives, c. 1290–c. 1340’, in Wogan-Browne et al., Language and Culture, pp. 68–80 (73–6).

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Englyschmen, whenne thei dyd fyrst inhabyde this lond … knewe wele it was a tokene of derthe, or of pestylence, or of grete batayle; wherefor thei callede it Womere; (for we as in Englysche tonge woo, and mere is called watere, whiche signyfieth woo-watere).131

This analysis of the constituent elements of his words is indicative of an attitude characteristic of the genre, which approached language on a minute level as a transcript of historical and national events and places. Warkworth is not unusual: Hardyng writes of Lionel of Antwerp, some saye his boones were brought home and buried at Clare in Essex; but in trouth of Clare he had his name and honoure of duke of Clarence, for Clare is called Clarencia in Latyne, and also Clarence in Frenche.132

Chroniclers inherited the Galfridian method that treated language as profoundly and intrinsically apposite, pregnant with hermeneutic potential. They understood their lexical furniture to have been constructed by historical events, from Brutus’s landing till the present, and the dismantling of words was the way to reach the kernel of history and truth within them. It is no surprise that historiography’s invective tradition of Norman ‘overwriting’ should intensify and accelerate when war with France was again a reality. The remainder of this discussion offers an overview of the specialised lexis of the chronicles of the Hundred Years War, arguing that in this political, public genre, language was used actively and mimetically to perform the conflict it narrated. Among the words that stand out in this contextual chronicle pejoration are accord, affinity, assent, cavillatioun, confederen, conjecten, disquatten, double, enditen, entente, enterprise, fraud, imaginen, malengyne, occupien, parcial, procuren, purpos, purveien and sotil. With the exceptions of accord, entente and double, these are late borrowings, whose first citation is after 1300 (often much later): words that were probably still pronounced as ‘strange Inglis’. Some (accord, conjecten, enditen, fraud, malengyne, procuren, purveien) were legal. There is not space to discuss them all; this analysis concentrates on those whose primary definitions in the MED are semantically neutral (as opposed to those already collocating with duplicity, cowardice and treachery), to show how their function in these accounts is specifically coloured towards Frenchness and doubleness. The MED gives almost exclusively positive meanings, for example, for the word enterprise: ‘a warlike expedition or adventure; deed of arms or combat; an attack or assault; an undertaking, labor, task; bold or enterprising spirit; valor’. (It can refer to diabolical temptation, but this is later and rarer.) It comes originally from entreprendre, ‘to take in hand’, and is first attested in English around 1430; in all likelihood it retained its distinctive pronunciation. It was repeatedly employed by 131 Warkworth,

pp. 45–6. The theme of augurs and omens is a key concern for this text: see Alexander L. Kaufman, ‘“And Many Oþer Diuerse Tokens…”: Portents and Wonders in “Warkworth’s Chronicle”’, in The Prose Brut and Other Late Medieval Chronicles: Books Have Their Histories. Essays in Honour of Lister M. Matheson, ed. Jaclyn Rajsic, Erik Kooper and Dominique Hoche (York, forthcoming 2016), pp. 49–63. 132 Hardyng, Chronicle, p. 333.



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the chroniclers to describe French offensives, characterised by malice or underhand practice. ‘Þe Frenshe men had enterprised to have stolen Caleys’, wrote one continuator; the Earl of Warwick narrowly escaped the ‘evyl enterprise’ of the enemy; and Joan of Arc ‘take vpon hir many gret enterpryses, in so myche þat þei had A byleve to haue recouered al þer losses by hir’.133 Specifically, it designated gains won through cunning and cowardice, and was glossed with adjectives such as stolen and euyl. Elsewhere it is not usually attested pejoratively, but its usage within this specific lexical tradition imbues it with xenophobic connotations. A similar effect can be observed for the words accord, assent and affinity. Accord, although it described a truce or an agreement, frequently appeared in this discourse to predispose it to failure. Negotiations that were ‘to-sqwat & left of ’ because of the ‘fraude and deceyte of þe Frensshmen’ were introduced by the phrase: hit was acorded, graunted and swore bytwene þe King of Fraunce & the King of Engelond, þat he shulle haue aʒen al his landez and lordshipps … wiche had bene with-drawe & wrongfully occuped.134

Elsewhere, the Dauphin and Duke of Burgundy alleged, after days of unsuccessful negotiations, that ‘they myght not accorde with the Engelisshe party’;135 and when it was ‘accordit … [and] a certeyn day set’ for the peace negotiations, ‘þe Kyng come; but þe Dolfyn com not: wherfore þe pees was broke as for that tyme’.136 In Stow’s chronicle, when ‘a corde [was] made be twene Kyng Edward and the Frensshe kynge, so that he shulde have Normandy, Gascoyne, and Gyane in pees’, King Jean ‘did myche harme in Gascoyne, and distroyed all the contre’.137 The irony of accord is that it means the opposite of its etymology (‘to be of one heart’). To add insult to injury, ‘the Dolfyn and the Duyke of Burgoyn were accordet, and made att one for the deth of the Duyk of Burgoyns fader, þat was slayn att Muttereux by þe same Dolfyn’.138 Capgrave described ‘what perel schuld falle if þe antipope and þe kyng were þus acorded’ to ‘chalenge þe dominion of Ynglond’.139 Alliances between England’s enemies were frequently portrayed as confederacies by this word, while accords between England and France were characterised by suspicion, fickleness and brevity. Assent, likewise, defined by the MED as ‘consent, approval, formal endorsement; mutual agreement … a meeting agreed upon’, frequently described something more akin to conspiracy. Trevisa asserted how ‘by sodeyn fraude of Fraunce, and by assent of þe pope, þese covenantes were i-putte of and undo’.140 An English Chronicle, 1377– 1461 described how the Duke of Suffolk and

133 Brut,

pp. 504, 526, 501; CV-1461. pp. 304–5; CV-1377. 135 Brut, p. 424; CV-1419. 136 Brut, p. 560; PV-1436-A. 137 James Gairdner, ed. Three Fifteenth-Century Chronicles with Historical Memoranda by John Stowe (London, 1880), p. 23. 138 Brut, p. 572; CV-1419-A. 139 Abbreuiacion, p. 200. 140 Polychronicon, vol. VIII, p. 348. 134 Brut,

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oþer [o]f his assente had made delyueraunce of Angeo and Mayn withoute assent of þis lond vnto þe kyng of Cecile þe quenez fader, and also aliened and sold þe duchie of Normandie to þe king of Fraunce.141

The assent of Suffolk to the Anjou match was pitted against the assent of the English people to the detriment of the English nation. The repeated phrase ‘oþer of his assente’ turns this elsewhere innocuous word into something sinister and treasonous. The same chronicler wrote that Suffolk, Lord Say ‘and oþer of ther assente hadde longe tyme ymagyned and conspired’ against the Duke of Gloucester.142 The MED recognises that to be at assent may be to be ‘associated … in sentiment, purpose, or activity (such as an offense or crime)’ or that to ben of assent is to ‘be an associate or accomplice’; but in the chronicles this meaning was decidedly stronger and narrower: assent is almost synonymous with conspire. The same is true of affinity, borrowed, like assent, around 1300. The MED definitions are (a) relationship by marriage, (b) kinship of any kind, (c) association, fellowship, companionship, alliance, (d) connection or interacting relationship between parts of the body (or between body and soul). As a collective noun it refers to (a) persons related by marriage, (b) blood relatives, (c) companions, associates, and only lastly, ‘confederates’. If the chronicles alone were consulted, however, the weighting of these definitions would look completely different. The chronicle for 1437–61, found in the commonplace book attributed to Robert Bale,143 records that ‘the Quene, the prince, the Dukes of Excestre and Somerset … wer sett of affinite and purposed as was reported and seid to have doon greet myschief and hurtes’.144 An anonymous chronicler wrote of Margaret of Anjou that ‘the quene with suche of her affynyte rewled the reame as her lyked’;145 another that ‘the Duke of Somersett, and the Erle of Northehomberlond … and other lordes of ther affynite … came in that entent for to fight with the Duke of Yorke’.146 Affinity connoted hostile alliance, faction rather than unity. The clearest example comes from the Brut, in which Salisbury, Exeter, Surrey and Gloucester ‘and oþer moo of theyre Affynyte, were accordit to make a mummyng vnto þe said Kyng Henry … in which mummyng þei purpaset to sle hym’.147 In these closely related texts, these words were used repeatedly, narrowly and xenophobically to depict duplicity, threat and hostility. This is not to say that they were exclusively pejoratively freighted and never used neutrally; the English Chronicle 1377–1461 described the wedding of Henry V and Katherine as ‘thafinite and wedlocke’,148 and Gregory’s Chronicle introduced each 141 English

Chronicle, p. 70. Chronicle, p. 65. 143 A number of London chronicles are preserved in commonplace books, and Gransden considers it ‘likely that the compilers of the common-place books were also the authors of the chronicles in them’, although the evidence for the attribution to Robert Bale is slim: Historical Writing in England, vol. II, pp. 232–3. 144 Robert Bale, Bale’s Chronicle, in Six Town Chronicles of England, ed. Ralph Flenley (Oxford, 1911), pp. 114–53 (152). 145 English Chronicle, p. 78. 146 Gairdner, Three Fifteenth-Century Chronicles, p. 71. 147 Brut, p. 546; PV-1436-A. See also Gairdner, Three Fifteenth-Century Chronicles, p. 28. 148 English Chronicle, p. 54. 142 English



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article of the Treaty of Troyes by which Henry V solemnised his conquest of France with the phrase ‘it was accorded’. It was a standard formula for the rehearsal of each article of the treaty, which the chronicler treated as the culmination of Henry’s conquest of France, and summarily described as the ‘acorde and pes’: in this case the formulaic style derived not from a narrowing generic lexicon, but from its use of the treaty document as its source.149 This is unsurprising: this argument does not pretend to describe a phenomenon that was consistently executed or universally pertinent, but an impulse that was patchy, sporadic and non-uniform. What this example does illustrate, however, is the close relationship between the chronicles and other political texts, and the extent to which the chronicle vocabulary derived heavily from already politicised discourses. Another word in this ambivalent diction is imagine. The OED suggests that from the early thirteenth century until c. 1340, its meaning was broadly ‘assume, suppose, form a mental image of, represent to oneself, invent, make up, consider, examine’. However, from c. 1340 it records another meaning, ‘to plot, scheme’, and it is with this political, conspiratorial aspect that the word was almost exclusively used in the chronicles. It represented a thought crime, an unspoken act of treason: Suffolk ‘and oþer of ther assente … hadde longe tyme ymagyned and conspired’ against Gloucester. The Duke of Somerset was described as ‘stiryng the kyng daily and maliciously ageyns the forseyde Duke of York and erles, coniectyng and ymaginyng how he myght dystroy theym’;150 and a Breton Londoner was said to have ‘malicously ymagined and laboured to ordeyn and make all things for werr to þe distruccion of þe said duke of yorke’.151 An anonymous chronicle recorded how ‘Sir John Oldecastell with many oþer lordes and heritikes had emagened the distruccion of the kynge and of Hole Chirch’.152 Capgrave related how ‘Robert Ver … be sotil ymaginacion he þoute for to distroye þe duke of Gloucetir’, and ‘Michael de la Pool … began to reproue þe grete rebellion of the duke and þe sotil ymaginacions ageyn þe kyngis seruauntis’.153 A Brut continuator called Eleanor Cobham’s witchcraft ‘fals werkys and tresoun þat they ymagened and wroght’, and her clerk was said to have guided them ‘by the deuels crafte and ymaginacion’.154 A memorandum added to John Stowe’s chronicle recorded that ‘the trewe comyns desyryth the punyshement upon the fals traytours, the which counterfeted and imagenyd the dethe of the kynge’.155 Undoubtedly these usages traced back to the the Statute of Treasons in 1351, which stated that anyone would be guilty of treason who ‘fait compasser ou ymaginer la mort nostre Seigneur le Roi’ (compassed or imagined the death of our lord the king),156 and this lexical genealogy offers another insight into the extent to which the political language of parliamentary statements and proclamations filtered into the 149 Gregory,

pp. 121–5, 138. Chronicle, p. 77. 151 Bale’s Chronicle, p. 149. 152 Gairdner, Three Fifteenth-Century Chronicles, p. 54. 153 Abbreuiacion, pp. 192, 193–4. 154 Brut, p. 478; CV-1419. 155 Gairdner, Three Fifteenth-Century Chronicles, p. 97. 156 Elliott et al., Statutes of the Realm, vol. I, p. 320. See also James Simpson, ‘The Rule of Medieval Imagination’, in Images, Idolatry and Iconoclasm in Late Medieval England: Textuality and 150 English

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literary language of the chronicles. Many of the examples above associated this word with domestic treason; but the chronicles exaggerated and extended its usage to enemy hostility. The people of Rouen were said to have ruined the area surrounding the city with many othir dispitefull and cruell ordynauncis that thei coude deuyse and ordeyne, with alle the ymaginacionys, congettis and sleythis, rounde aboute the cite, ayens the Kyngis hoste.157

Here ymaginacion collocates with conjecte (a device or plot, not cited until 1374), and sleythis (craft, cunning, deceit) in a context of deliberate coinquination. The preponderance of this word in cases of treasonable speech is observed by Wicker, who comments on ‘The stress placed upon curbing the “imagination” of seditious speakers’.158 The repeated characterisation of French doubleness attributes to foreign enemies the conduct of domestic traitors (conspiracy, cowardice, duplicity), following political orthodoxy in depicting the French as traitors stubbornly resisting their rightful king. The overlap between the terminology of treachery at home and enmity abroad indicates the extent to which the chronicles were ‘on message’; and more specifically, the ideological slippage between treason (that most poisonous and dangerous of allegations), and war, and that familiar if disingenuous association between Law French as the language of treachery and French as the language of enmity. Similarly, the words purpose and entente figured with heavily pejorative connotations that feature only marginally in their dictionary entries, and this narrowing semantic range collocated simultaneously with both treachery and enmity.159 When the French attempt to retake Calais failed, one Brut continuator wrote, ‘then the Frensshe men vnderstood wele þat they were aspiet, and sawe wele þey couth not brynge theire entent nor purpos about’.160 The failed French expedition was presented as a covert plot, not a battle, and this sense was captured in the statement that it was a purpos and an entent: something stealthy, cunning and cowardly. Elsewhere it was similar: Philip of Valeys, Kyng of Fraunce, cast & purposed trecherously & wiþ fraude, to put awey þe sege.161 Philip Valois, Kyng of Fraunce, purpaset hym with some fraude to putte hym fro þe seege.162

the Visual Image, ed. Jeremy Dimmick, Nicolette Zeeman and James Simpson (Oxford, 2002), pp. 4–24 (17). 157 Brut, pp. 394–5; CV-1419. 158 Wicker, ‘The Politics of Vernacular Speech’, p. 175. 159 For the valences of ‘entent’ in translators’ prologues, see Evans et al., ‘The Notion of Vernacular Theory’, pp. 327–9. 160 Brut, p. 573; PV-1436-A. 161 Brut, p. 300; CV- 1377. 162 Brut, p. 544; PV-1436-A.



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Kynge Phylyppe of Fraunce come doune the xxvij day of Juylle whythe a grete hoste, and purposyd for to have remevyd the sege.163

Capgrave wrote that ‘þe Kyng of Frauns purpos [was] lettid’ when his ambition to recover Calais was foiled; and the ‘accord’ that was ‘purposed and graunted’ between the French and English at Westminster where both parties ‘mad hir othis’ was swiftly followed by the report that ‘þe Frenschmen broke þe pees and ouirridin þe kyngis londes in Pounte … putting all þe cause upon Englischmen’.164 The suspicious depiction of intention, as something unseen, premeditated and threatening, makes purpose function similarly to imagine. Again, these words were not used exclusively in this way: Capgrave described how ‘þe kyng purposed him into Frauns, com tydinges of þe conspiracioun of Frauns and Normannye’, and Parliament ‘purposed what is best to doo ageyn þe rebellion of Frauns’.165 In some contexts, the word was innocuous, underscoring its specialised function when densely collocated with the ideas of conspiracy and threat. In descriptions of the enemy, it belonged to a vivid, suspicious register of linguistic conflict. Another word with a double edge was procuren. Capgrave wrote, ‘Many enbassiatouris were sent to Frauns to procure pees, but it availed not. Than were the Frenschmen in þis lond in gret despite.’166 Interestingly, the MED gives ‘to make peace’ as one of the meanings of procure, and none of its other definitions is especially negative. Yet the citations tell a different story. In The Northern Homily Cycle it appeared as ‘þou þis tresone procurd has’; in The Parson’s Tale, ‘a man synneth, as by temptacioun, and if hym self procure thilke temptacioun’; and in the South English Legendary the bishops came to ‘procuri seint thomas al þat vuel þat heo miʒten do’. To procure peace cannot have been semantically neutral, when in so many examples procure anticipated conspiracy, hostility and destruction. Earlier in his chronicle, Capgrave described the ‘sly man’ Godwyn, Duke of Kent as having ‘procured sotily þe deth’ of his king, and Richard II, characterised by ‘pryuy malice’, as having ‘procured ful sotilly … certeyn peticiones’.167 Procure was originally a legal word, but its semantic field was widened and polluted. Purvey functioned similarly: Capgrave wrote that ‘for al þat same tyme þe Frenschmen purueyed hem for to fite with Englischmen’.168 The MED gives the principal senses of (a) to foresee, (b) to make preparation, (c) to provide for the supply of a necessity, and (d) to muster or assemble; yet Capgrave’s sentence suggested more than simply preparation for battle: a positive desire for and pursuit of conflict; a natural enmity. He invested in the derogated French word his xenophobic derogation of French character. Another word belonging to this discursive context is subtle, again suggesting the threat of the unspoken malice. It was by ‘sotil ymaginacion’ that Michael de la Pole

163 Gregory,

p. 82. pp. 190, 172, 176. 165 Ibid., pp. 162, 176. 166 Ibid., p. 150. 167 Ibid., pp. 99–100, 207, 209. 168 Ibid., p. 179. 164 Abbreuiacion,

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and Robert Ver plotted against the king’s life in the Abbreuiacion; and in the Brut, the treacherous Geoffrey de Charny, in order to have ‘his purpos of the castell’, allowed the conspirators to enter ‘pryuely and stelyngly’, ‘sotelly and preuely’.169 Bale recorded that ‘the Scots of sotell ymaginacion rosen agein’, and asserted that the taxes and levies to pay for the war were exacted ‘be sotell and straunge meanes’.170 Another chronicler called Jack Cade ‘a sotell man’ and ‘capteyn of myschieffe’ who ‘pretendynge the state of a lorde … wasse he noʒt but a lurdeyne’.171 It is this word that characterises the French royalty and ambassadors: The kyng, þat men schuld knowe wel þat he was redy to haue pes with þe kyng of Frauns, saylid ouyr þe se with þe emperour to Caleys. There aspied þe emperour þat þe proferes on þe French side were but fraude and sotilté, þerfor he left hem as þei were.172 Þe Frensshe men breken þe pees & þe trewes … & taken & helden castls & tounes, & bere þe Englisshe men on hond falsly & sotilly.173

Subtle had connotations not only of sophistry and cleverness, but of deviousness and deceit. The context of enemy hostility and treachery polluted a word which resurfaced as a ‘strange’ one when explicitly associated with the French threat. Perhaps it was because of their legal connotations of subversion and treason, and the accelerating characterisation of Law French itself as a vehicle of obfuscation and deceit, that certain saliently French loanwords became monikers of treachery: threatening but invisible, powerful yet silent. Froissart recorded how, in the negotiations of 1393, the English insisted that the articles be submitted in writing in order that they might have time to peruse them at leisure, fearing that the French might, under the cover of ‘mots soubtils et couvers et … double entendement’ (subtle and secret words and … double meanings) introduce clauses ‘à leur prouffit et avantage’ (to their own profit and advantage). The nobles, in possession of the French articles, ‘examinoient, et excrutinoient, et demandoient … comment ils l’entendoient’ (examined, and scrutinised, and demanded … what they meant).174 This anecdote epitomises the fear of French words: slippery, disingenuous, smooth, duplicitous. It may have been the lingua franca of Europe, the language of culture and prestige, but in these texts it was narrowly calibrated as the enemy of English, from within and without. Individual instances, as well as the shared lexical set, demonstrate chroniclers toying with the possibility of an alienated, derogated diction: ‘strange Inglis’ and the politicised, stylistic purposes to which it might be put. Hardyng, for example, stressed that Philippe Valois ‘kyng of Fraunce was by intrusery’,175 a hapax legomenon according to the dictionaries. Hardyng reached for (or coined) the most 169 Brut,

p. 302; CV-1377. Chronicle, pp. 123, 126. 171 English Chronicle, pp. 68–70. 172 Abbreuiacion, p. 248. 173 Brut, p. 321; CV-1377. 174 Jean Froissart, Oeuvres de Froissart, ed. Kervyn de Lettenhove, 25 vols (Brussels, 1871), vol. XV, pp. 114–15; discussed in Barnie, War in Medieval Society, pp. 99–100. 175 Hardyng, Chronicle, p. 327. 170 Bale’s



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unfamiliar word he could find, in order not simply to state that Philippe was a usurper, but to make the reader feel his usurpation as she/he paused at the recondite word. He not only chose a loanword, but frenchified it with the suffix –ery, drawing the parallel between political and linguistic usurpation, and making the word not only semantically but mimetically appropriate. Hardyng presumably could have said, like Capgrave in his rededication of his chronicle to Edward IV, that Henry IV ‘entered be intrusion’; or like Usk, that ‘Straunge hath by waye of intrucyoun made his home there me shulde be’.176 But he chose (literally) to estrange the word a step further. No doubt the choice of morphology was motivated by the constraints of his rhyme royal, hunting for a rhyme with Cressy and victorye. But his lexeme nonetheless jumps off the page as flamboyant and unusual; like Capgrave’s insulane, it is a word with a linguistic point to make, not just semantic but stylistically mimetic. In the memoranda added to his chronicle, Stow likewise turned to abstruse and ‘strange’ vocabulary to describe acts of malice and deception, with even greater bombast than his fifteenth-century predecessors: the kynge owre sovereyn lorde, by the insaciable covetows malicious pompes, and fals and of nowght browght up certeyn persones, and dayly and nyghtly is abowt his hynesse, and dayly enforme hym that good is evyll and evyll is good.177

Stow’s aureate language clearly did not suggest eloquence or prestige, but enmity and doubleness: a style whose duplicitous edge turned good into evil and evil into good, just as Usk’s ‘queynt’, ‘straunge langage’, back in 1388, functioned to compound ‘goodnesse’ and ‘badnesse’. Another moment of self-conscious nationalistic linguistic wordplay was the Brut’s description of Edward III’s wars: King Edward he wente ouere into Brytaigne & Gascoigne … forto avenge hym of many wrongez & harmes to hym done be Philip of Valeys, Kyng of Fraunce, aʒens þe treues byfore-hand grauntyd; þe whiche trewes he fasly and ownetreuly, by cawelaciones, loste and disqwatt.178

The juxtaposition of treues and ownetreuly was a punning rendering of Philippe’s renewal of hostilities as a crime in language, an untrue rejection of the ‘treues’ (truce/ truth), figured by an unnatural turning of the words against one another. Exactly the same phrase was used by the chronicler of BL MS Julius Bii, who recorded how ‘the fforseyd Dolphyn and his complices, ffalsly and vntrewly … mordrid the fforseyde Duk’ (of Burgundy).179 In the Brut, it raised the reader’s sensitivity to the wordgames just as it added to Philippe’s calumnies the charge of cawelaciones, ‘the practice of making trivial or insincere objections or presenting captious, evasive or spurious arguments; cavilling, quibbling, sophistry, fraud’ (MED). The same word is used in a different continuation, which recorded the truce that

176 Abbreuiacion,

p. 9. Three Fifteenth-Century Chronicles, p. 94. 178 Brut, p. 297, CV-1377. 179 Chronicles of London, p. 73. 177 Gairdner,

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Philippe of Valois ‘falsly and vntrewly brake by cauelacioun’.180 Cavillacioun was an unusual borrowing not cited until the 1390s; it was flamboyant and onomatopoeic. Philippe’s specious chicanery was depicted by a word that was itself theatrical, casuistical, alien. Disquatten was another performative word, first attested c. 1380 and extant in only one other place outside the chronicles: a Wyclifite sermon, which (glossing Genesis 3:15) says ‘a woman shal disquatte his heed’. Guided by these two witnesses, the MED and OED define its primary sense as one of physical violence: ‘to smash’, ‘to break asunder’. The violation it connotes in the Brut heightened and sensitised its doublet, ‘loste’, depicting the breaking of the truce as a physical act of aggression. Elsewhere it functioned similarly: ‘þoruʒ fraude & deceyte of þe Frensshmen … þe forsaid couenauntes were to-sqwat & left of ’.181 As has been suggested already, treachery and Frenchness shared the same idiolect in these texts: a contextually pejorative diction appropriate to the enemies of England, whether traitors or Frenchmen. The chronicler of BL MS Cotton Cleopatra C.iv made the connection explicit in the remark, ‘hit was hyʒ falsnesse and treson unto owre lord þat þe frensshmen mente’. He castigated Burgundy for having ‘ffalsyd his feith’, and ‘the ffrenche party’ for having ‘caste a trayn with grete treson’.182 A similar instance of collocating treason and Frenchness occurs in An English Chronicle 1377–1461, a revision and continuation of the Brut together with the Latin Eulogium Continuation (formerly known as Davies’s Chronicle): And then were graunted trues – medled with treson – and abstinence of werre betvene Engelande and Fraunce for terme of xviij monethes. But what treson was wroght vndur the trues yt appered sone afterwarde be alienacion of Angeo and Mayn, and wilfulle lesynge of Normandy.183

The theme of deception wrought under the veneer of the ‘trues’ (punning on true and truce once again), was further endorsed by the alliteration of trues and treson. ‘Wilfulle lesynge’ functioned as a plain-speaking gloss of the legal term alienacion, and conveyed a more emotional interpretation of the action and its perpetrators. Moreover, this chronicler enjoyed contrasting plain-spoken English with elaborate frenchification: ‘Yt was openly knowen þat the Frenshe party wasse cause þat þe peas was not ended atte þat tyme … the Frenshemen were not fully desposed to enclyne to þe peas as then.’184 The sarcasm of ‘not fully desposed to enclyne’ in contrast with ‘openly knowen’ is pointed, and the culpability of the enemy made apparent in the deceptive language that not only describes them, but does so in their own estranged words. Not universally, but noticeably within this genre, French words were being recast as ‘intrusery’: the language of the enemy. The theme of doubleness allowed the development of a bombastic, pejorative diction in these incipient and pugnacious formulations of linguistic nationalism, smearing treachery as intrinsically ‘strange’ and French, and French as intrinsically treacherous. 180 Brut,

p. 537, PV-1436-A. pp. 304–5, CV-1377. 182 Chronicles of London, pp. 125, 139. 183 English Chronicle, p. 65. 184 English Chronicle, p. 54; cf. Brut, p. 561; PV-1436-A. 181 Brut,



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A final aspect of the performative linguistic conflict of these texts was their use of doubletting, or semi-bilingual, imperfectly synonymic hendiadys. Linguists have suggested that the origins of the symmetrical doubletting characteristic of Middle English rhetoric may have been a bilingual culture in which, ‘using a French word side by side with its native synonym’, the latter would serve ‘more or less openly as a translation for the former’. Some examples (e.g. ‘unnaturally and unkynelly’) correspond to this paradigm. However, the bilingual usefulness of hendiadys for glossing an unfamiliar word surely did not serve for long, and in the later period, ‘the reader was evidently expected to be equally familiar with them both, and the writer used them to heighten or strengthen the effect of his style’.185 By the fourteenth century, doublets must have been purely stylistic; some had become official sentences, such as the formulaic ‘trusty and welbeloued’, and ‘hoteth and comaundeth’ in Henry V’s letters and proclamations.186 Blake holds that doublets were a stylistic device used to create verbosity or various rhythmical effects, and their frequent use suggests that the meaning of a word was less important than its sound and ability to be paired, for there can be no doubt that the constant use of doublets does weaken the significance inherent in the individual parts … Words kept a certain company and were most meaningful within that company.187

This assumption, that doubletting weakened its individual elements, brings us back to the issues surrounding formulaic language. Is it fair to assume that formulae always weaken expression, like a dead metaphor; or does this critical antipathy towards repetitive stylistics owe more to our modern privileging of originality and novelty of style, our rejection of anything derivative? Words may well have been ‘most meaningful within that company’ in a positive sense: the repetition of formulaic turns of phrase engrained their cadence and cemented their meaning; perhaps it even enlarged their emotive impact rather than curtailing it. Certainly, in some cases, doublets were used not to dull but to sharpen one another. To a readership alert to a text’s politicisation of language, the contrast between a ‘strange’ and a familiar pairing could throw each element into mutual relief. Doublets frequently ask to be read in contrast, and not as a semantic synthesis. Hendiadys is habitual in the chronicles, with standard formulations of feaute and homage, wrongefully and vnriʒtfully, traytosely and vnmanly, fraude and deceyte, iniuries and wronges, sorrow and losse, tribulacion and mischief, cast and purposed, shent and spilt, tretyng and spekyng, wonne and gotoun, doutet and dred. However, these chroniclers sometimes used doublets to explore the doubleness that was their greater theme: to contrast bilingual synonyms in a way that foregrounded their etymological antonymity. The description of Edward III ‘doyng & trauaillyng in Fraunce’ played with the bilingualism of war;188 likewise, there was a symmetry in Trevisa’s observation that ‘it was acorded and i-swore bytwene þe kynges of Engelond and

185 Jesperson,

Growth, pp. 89–90. et al., Book of London English, pp. 65–7, 71. 187 Blake, English Language, p. 99. 188 Brut, p. 294; CV-1377. 186 Chambers

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of Fraunce’:189 the words translate each other, but, given the undertones of deceit and insincerity that resonated around acorded, perhaps there is a suggestion that they are distinct, and not equivalent, and that while the king of England swore, the king of France merely acorded, and later rescinded. The reglossing of the alliance in this paradiastole indicates the different motives with which each party made it. Semantically, the doublet is a pair of synonyms; but in timbre, the words are more like antonyms. In one sense they are commensurate, but in another they are pitted against one another. The English word evinces a harmony between word and deed precisely because the English are true to their ‘word’; with the French, superficial meaning and actual meaning are in conflict. Another example is a Brut continuator’s description of how ‘þe Duke of York abteyned & had þe victorie of þat Iorney’.190 As Gregory’s Chronicle states, ‘retenowys of fensabylle men’ were ‘a gay and gloryus syght if hit hadde ben in Fraunce, but not in Ingelonde, for hyt … causyd aftyr many mannys dethe’.191 A battle won on English soil was not a straightforward victory, even for a Yorkist chronicler. Coupling the unwieldy abteyned to the workaday had, especially when day is rendered iorney, tainted York’s victory with a ‘strange’ ambivalence. Sometimes the hendiadys was more of an epanorthosis (self-correction/replacement), as in the various renderings of ‘loste and disqwatt’, or one continuator’s observation that ‘English men neuer gat ne preuailed in Fraunce’,192 in which the coupling of a standard English term with an elaborate French one draws attention to their unhappy syzygy. Not in many cases, but noticeably in a few, doubletting was used to mirror the doubleness at the ideological centre of the wordplay. This discussion has sketched the political language of the chronicles of the Hundred Years War. In the final analysis its arguments are putative: there is no way of recovering the original connotational context of these texts to their readers, just as there is no way of measuring the intentionality of their authors. It may well be that this generic idiolect grew up unthinkingly, derived from political documents, legal discourse and the rhetoric of statutes, and narrowing naturally as scribes repeatedly continued and reworked the same exemplars, habitually perpetuating their linguistic habits. The moments that appear to exhibit salient and self-conscious wordplay may not bespeak the intentional construction of a pejorative diction; and they are matched by others in which the same words appear with no apparent pejorative intention. However, I prefer – at least as an interpretative experiment – to give the chroniclers more credit. They clearly conceptualised their genre as possessing huge cultural significance: they were aware of its exceptional popularity and large audience, in the present and for posterity; and they operated within a political culture that was increasingly articulating a programmatic and xenophobic attitude towards ‘strange Inglis’. The final piece of evidence offered in this incomplete jigsaw is the legacy of this pejorative diction for the chronicles of the later fifteenth century: the enduring 189 Polychronicon,

vol. VIII, p. 347. p. 522; CV-1461. 191 Gregory, p. 196. 192 Brut, p. 500; CV-1461. 190 Brut,



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linguistic association of Frenchness and treachery in the narration of the Wars of the Roses.

Frenchness as a lexical tradition in the Wars of the Roses The ways in which Frenchness started to operate as a lexical tradition within the chronicle tradition of the later fifteenth century offers a fascinating insight into the longevity of the genre’s stylistic memory. If it had been ideologically useful in an international conflict to present foreign enemies as domestic traitors (buttressing the English king’s claim to be the rightful sovereign of France and smearing French character with the same sleight of hand), even more hay was to be made later in the century with the opposite manoeuvre, appropriating to a messy civil war the clear-cut rhetoric of a foreign one. In a number of Yorkist accounts, as a result of the lexical and ideological collapsing of the categories of enmity and treachery, the Wars of the Roses were presented as though they were wars with France (and vice versa). Gregory’s Chronicle recorded that Quene Margarete com owt of Frauns with lij schyppys, with Freynysche men and sum Engelysche men in the schyppys. And they londyd in Northe Humberlonde … And there sche toke the castelle of Anwyke and put hyt fulle of Fraynyschemen.193

This wass the mirror-image of the descriptions of Edward III and Henry V stuffing their conquered French cities full of Englishmen, and deliberately so. It invoked and inverted the familiar topos in order to cast the Lancastrians as French sympathisers effectively staging an invasion of England. From then on it abbreviated them simply as ‘the Fraynysche men’: Syr Raffe Percy by fals colysyon and treson he lete the Fraynysche men take the castelle of Bamborowe … Syr Raffe Graye, by fals treson … delyveryde the castelle to the Lorde Hungerforde and unto the Fraynysche men accompanyd whythe hym … Quene Margarete whythe alle hir consayle, and Syr Perys de Brasey whythe the Fraynysche men, fledde a-wey by water.194

The fact that, as Scattergood comments, ‘The Yorkists were more keen on attempting to recover the English possessions in France than Henry VI’s Lancastrians’ made the Hundred Years War useful political capital for the partisan London chroniclers, especially because ‘The French, in fact, usually supported the Lancastrians. Charles VII’s sympathies naturally lay with his niece.’195 In these Wars of the Roses chronicles, the shame of civil war was made synonymous with the shame of French invasion; and Margaret of Anjou, scapegoated as ‘the French queen’, was ‘blamed for the loss of Normandy … Aquitaine and … [the] expulsion of the English from France’.196

193 Gregory,

p. 218. p. 220. 195 Scattergood, Politics and Poetry, p. 104. 196 Caldwell, ‘The Hundred Years War and National Identity’, p. 256. 194 Gregory,

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Having recast the Lancastrians as the French, led by Henry’s unpopular French queen, the habit of using French words to characterise the enemy was transposed from accounts of the actual French wars, of which these later chronicles were often continuations. Bale’s chronicle cited the intention of Edward IV to arreste the malice and surrecion entended be the Quene, the prince, the Dukes of Excestre and Somerset … which wer sett of affinite and purposed as was reported and seid to have doon greet myschief and hurtes.197

The ambivalent aureate diction of this passage was piled high, from surrecion to entended, affinite and purposed. Another example comes from Warkworth’s Chronicle, describing the relationship between Warwick and Edward IV: ‘after that rose grete discencyone evere more and more betwene the Kyng and hym … And yett thei were acorded diverse tymes: but thei nevere loffyd togedere aftere.’198 The powerful antonymic distinction between the superficially synonymic French acorded and the English loffyd could not be greater. The acorde is politic and guarded, necessary for the changing fortunes of civil war, but lacking the genuine integrity of loffyd. The next time it is used, it is in the dubious context of Henry VI’s return from France: ‘it was apoyntede and acordede that Kynge Herry schuld rejoyse the kyngdome of Engelonde agayne, and regne as he dyd before … wiche was done be alle Kynge of Fraunce counselle.’199 The acerbic irony of the king’s return to ‘rejoyse the kyngdome of Engelonde’, all by the ‘Kynge of Fraunce counselle’, gives a flavour of the pointed sarcasm that underpins this diction. In The Chronicle of the Rebellion of Lincolnshire and The Historie of the Arrivall of King Edward IV, official Yorkist propagandist accounts of the civil wars written soon afterwards by people closely attached to the royal retinue, there is a visible debt to the older tradition of contextually pejorative diction. In The Chronicle, Edward IV quotes the Statute of Treasons verbatim as he extends a pardon to all those who ‘unnaturally and unkynelly, withoute cause or occacion … falsly compassed, conspired and ymagened the final destruccion of his most roiall personne’. With a disingenuous naïvety, the kyng is said not to understand ‘suche doublenesse, but trust ‘that they ment truly as thay shewed’; and when the ‘fals conspiraciouns and concelementes’ of Warwick and Clarence are revealed, the guileless Yorkist king is described as ‘not undrestonding these fals dissimilacions’.200 The theme of dissimulation recurs in this short text: ‘the said duc and erle dissimiled falsly with the king’; ‘the saide duc dissimiled right untruly with the king’; ‘falsly and subtylly dissimiled with his highenes’, ‘whereby theire unnaturelle and fals double treason apperethe’.201 Edward is portrayed as oblivious to the silent threat, innocent of the doubleness in his faction, and the words that silently embody it. This is a lexical subtext that the chronicler repeatedly revisited, in his representation of ‘the grete seduccion, and the verrey subversion of the king and common wele … 197 Bale’s

Chronicle, pp. 151–2. pp. 25–6. 199 Ibid., pp. 31–2. 200 Rebellion, pp. 107, 108–9, 111. 201 Ibid., pp. 109–11. 198 Warkworth,



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the most abhominable treason’, the ‘finalle distruccion of his rialle person, and the subversion of alle the land, and the common wele’.202 The Arrivall shared this contagious lexical associativity, referring to ‘the subtyle compassynge of th’Erle of Warwike’ to ‘entend, conspire, and procure the distruction’ of the king, with ‘yvell and malicious purpos’.203 The Lancastrians were described as ‘purposynge to execute theyr greate rancowr and malice agayn the citie of London’. The same lexical set recurs again and again, alongside the subtle reminder that ‘Qwene Margaret, hir sonne Edward, callyd Prince of Wales … had gon into Fraunce to fet them into Englond’.204 The fact that the threat of treason was persistently expressed in a diction borrowed from French, long after the wars with France had ended, suggests that the triangulation of treason, enmity and (Law/ foreign) French was a powerful and enduring one. Although the civil wars of the later fifteenth century effectively sounded the death knell for any serious attempts to regain territories in France, the Hundred Years War ‘continued to exercise the popular imagination throughout the fifteenth and into the sixteenth centuries. Edward IV’s failure to mount an effective campaign in France in the late 1460s was a factor in his temporary deposition in 1470.’205 The generic memory of these pejorative, political words led to their persistent function as a resonant diction, whether French, Lancastrian, or a conflation of the two.

William Caxton’s nouveau English This chapter has offered an overview of a cultivated stylistic idiom in accounts of the Hundred Years War, proposing that it is possible to read in them a politically motivated, collectively reinforced, generic idiolect. The reality must have been more nuanced, subtle and variable than a post hoc attempt to reconstruct the political language of a lost historical moment can hope to recover; but this analysis has demonstrated at least the validity of seeking to uncover such ‘specialized idioms’ that characterised ‘the text, as action and event’ within particular political moments. A postscript to this discussion is what happened to the chronicles’ specialised lexis when the longstanding cycle of continuation and redaction gave way to a new culture and a new technology for chronicling (a theme revisited at greater length in Chapter 4). Chronicles continued to exercise cultural dominance in the age of print, as Tonry reminds us: ‘Between June of 1480 and October of 1482, Caxton printed four editions of three chronicle texts, a flurry of historical production at the beginning of his Westminster career.’ She goes on to critique the ways in which ‘Print has perennially been cast as that which enables a material wrenching away from the medieval past’, the critical reflex to ‘invite print to determine and even constitute the moment of transition’: Caxton’s interest in history sprang from a deeply 202 Ibid.,

p. 112. pp. 155–6. 204 Ibid., pp. 181, 168. 205 David Grummitt, The Calais Garrison: War and Military Service in England, 1436–1558 (Woodbridge, 2008), p. 187. 203 Arrivall,

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conservative, traditionalist impulse to use his new technology to reach back to older forms. ‘The link between print and the processes of historiographical rupture’ was a ‘story told by the agents of the Reformation’, not by the early printers themselves.206 Nonetheless, when Caxton, an expatriate who had spent most of his life in France and Burgundy, came to print Trevisa’s Polycronicon in 1482, he could say that he had ‘somwhat … chaunged the rude and old Englyssh, that is to wete certayn wordes which in these dayes be neither usyd ne understanden’.207 An examination of what exactly this constituted reveals, with pointed irony, that modernisation meant frenchification: Caxton altered hiʒteres to embelysshers, wyfe to marie, lore to doctryne, deleþ to departe, buxom to obedient, i-cast to disposed, as me troweþ to as men suppose, schrewednesse to ylle disposicioun, mynde to remembraunce, outakyn tyn to reserued, awrekeþ to auenge, chepinge to markettis, behote to promise, biddeþ many bedes to sayen many prayers. On the occasions when he used a doublet to retain the original word, the wheel came full circle: instead of the English term glossing the French, the borrowed word explicated the archaism: wem became ‘hurtynge or wemme’; a payed, ‘paid and content’; kynde, ‘nature and kynde’, worschippe, ‘worship and reuerence’.208 With the abandonment of any real ambition to regain territories in France, the politicisation of French loanwords lost its immediate relevance: the dominant social valences of French as a language of continentalism, of education and standing, of haute couture, largely returned. Caxton, the internationalist, could cast aside ‘rude and old Englyssh’ in favour of the frenchified diction that Trevisa and others had used so ambivalently and ‘strangely’. In the decade that would come to be seen as one of profound transition, with its new dynasty and its new technology, Caxton smoothed over the fissures in English, and remade it as a language of eloquence, internationalism and harmony. This is one of several ways in which, in Tonry’s words, ‘Caxton’s printed edition embraces its own belatedness. In arriving so self-consciously late to the past it recounts, the printed Polychronicon underscores the gap between the present and the recent recorded past.’209 Sixteenth-century chronicles, discussed in more depth in Chapter 4, were a very different entity from their medieval ancestors; and ‘by the end of the century, it is hard to see where the vigorous early Lancastrian promotion of English … has got to’.210 The impulse towards isolating particular French loanwords was a phenomenon local to a particular time and a particular genre, English accounts of the Hundred Years War; and even there, it was executed with varying degrees of intentionality. Nonetheless, some of those who were consciously writing the history of ‘their nation’ in ‘their language’ were alert to and anxious about the ironic identities of both. They understood language in general, and historiography in particular, as a platform not just for the narration but for the creation and promulgation of national identities. While the specific lexical pejoration of the chronicles may have been short-lived, overwritten by the modernisation of a new century, the legacy of the Hundred 206 Tonry,

‘Reading History in Caxton’s Polycronicon’, pp. 171, 198. Polychronicon (Epilogue after Book VII), in Caxton’s Own Prose, ed. Blake, p. 132. 208 See Babington’s table in Polychronicon, vol. I, pp. lxiv–lxvi. 209 Tonry, ‘Reading History in Caxton’s Polycronicon’, p. 180. 210 Pearsall, ‘The Idea of Englishness’, p. 26. 207 Caxton,



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Years War for the language debates of that century was enormous. Caxton may have remade ‘strange’ English as modern English, but the problem of linguistic identity had not gone away; in fact it was in the century that he heralded that it resurfaced with the most vehemence. The conjunction between language and war, with which this study began, was the immediate background to the language debates of the sixteenth century, which grew out of and responded to the ways in which writers of the immediate past had framed their (complicated) national identity in their (compromised) national tongue.

3 ‘God gyue you quadenramp!’ Mimetic language in the war poetry of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries In the previous chapter I argued that the chroniclers of the Hundred Years War, responding to the ways in which kings and politicians singled out language as an ideological object of aggression, made their language into a mimetic front: a metacommentary, enacting and performing the conflict they described. But it is in the poetry of the conflict that this linguistic foregrounding is most acute. It employed the same performative lexis that was the stylistic habitus of the chronicles (into which it was often incorporated), and the salience of the phenomenon in the poetry furnishes a strong corroborating argument for its function within the historiographical genre more widely. Chronicles were the receptacle in which medieval political verse was preserved; in fact, the frequency of its inclusion bespeaks a generic penchant for seeking out contemporary poetry, either to furnish sources for new continuations or simply to incorporate wholesale. Boffey and Edwards, in their article ‘Middle English Verse in Chronicles’, conclude that poetry was often ‘incorporated randomly with no real suggestion that it possesses any distinct identity as verse’ (especially apparent ‘from the difficulties that its recovery can often pose when it is embedded without differentiation into larger prose works’).1 This osmotic relationship between the two forms is apparent in many places: Lydgate’s The Kings of England referred to chronicle historiography nine times in fifteen stanzas (‘þus seith the Cronycleer’, ‘þe cronycle ye may reede’);2 in one manuscript the poem was subtitled ‘Cronycles of alle Kyngys of Englonde’.3 The carol Enforce we us, which narrates how Henry V ‘frightened all France … At Agincourt’, likewise added the remark ‘the chronicle you read’.4 1

2

3 4

Julia Boffey and A. S. G. Edwards, ‘Middle English Verse in Chronicles’, in New Perspectives in Middle English Texts: A Festschrift for R. A. Waldron, ed. Susan Powell and Jeremy J. Smith (Cambridge, 2000), pp. 119–28 (128). John Lydgate, The Minor Poems of John Lydgate, ed. Henry Noble MacCracken, 2 vols (Oxford, 1934), vol. II: Secular Poems, lines 14, 42, pp. 710–11; NIMEV 882. References to Lydgate henceforth are to this edition. BL MS Egerton 1995 (Historical Collections, pp. 47–54); see also BL MS Lansdowne 210, fols 14v–42v. Anne Curry, The Battle of Agincourt: Sources and Interpretations (Woodbridge, 2000), p. 285 (NIMEV 4229.5).



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Nearly all of the poems discussed in this chapter are preserved in chronicles, and often the overlap between them is seamless: the scribe of BL MS Cotton Cleopatra C.iv used the poetic Battle of Agincourt as the source for his prose, but became increasingly tired of paraphrasing and started to copy the verse verbatim, before giving up the pretence and lineating it.5 Similarly, John Page’s Siege of Rouen, ten of whose fourteen witnesses are Brut manuscripts, was formatted in five as though it were prose;6 as were the political poems of Bodleian MS Digby 102, including The Follies of the Duke of Burgundy and God Save King Henry V.7 There was no watershed between prose and poetic historiography: the two belonged side by side, and indeed frequently merged. The two forms of historiography were mutually embedded, ideologically and materially. The distinction imposed by treating them in separate chapters does not reflect the manuscript context, in which authors and compilers saw them as part of the same genre, and more often the same text. However, the contention of this chapter is that Hundred Years War poetry amplified and concentrated the chroniclers’ interest in the performativity of language in the enterprise of writing war. Pondering why political and occasional verse apparently exploded in popularity during the fifteenth century, Hiatt suggests that the poetic form ‘enabled the deployment of a range of literary models to a greater extent than prose’, and ‘offered opportunities for generic mixing in ways that prose did not’; but most importantly, ‘the attraction of verse must have lain in no small part in its potency. Poetry allowed authors to impress and persuade, to commemorate and excoriate, to lament and to declaim in ways more flexible, and often more compelling, than prose.’8 Hundred Years War poetry is a rich, little-studied and diverse body of material, encompassing jingoistic ballads, official propaganda and troubled eyewitness narratives; and this chapter constitutes one of few analyses of it as a corpus.9 It argues that the mimetic relationship between event and narration became tauter in these self-conscious political poems, which pondered more intensely than the chronicles what it meant to ‘write history’. For all that their authors cast them as soldiers’ songs or popular carols (and no doubt some of them were), these texts did not so much reflect as create and manipulate public opinion. Their interrogation of the coterminous relationship between language and war resulted in a poetic foregrounding of language that was active, aggressive and mimetic. This concept of foregrounding is borrowed from Jan Mukařovský and the Prague School, summarised by John Earl Joseph: Literature begins at the moment of consciousness of language as a vehicle that can be manipulated to produce qualitative effects … language ceases to be an impartial means for conveying messages and becomes a message itself … Foregrounding usually occurs 5 6 7 8 9

Ibid., pp. 287–92. BL MSS Harley 266 and 753, Holkham Hall MS 670, Lambeth Palace Library MS 331, University of Illinois MS 116. Historical Poems, pp. 39–53. Hiatt, ‘Historical and Political Verse’, pp. 167–8. The fullest accounts are: C. L. Kingsford, English Historical Literature in the Fifteenth Century (Oxford, 1913); Scattergood, Politics and Poetry, pp. 35–106; Curry, Battle of Agincourt, p. 285.

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with its greatest intensity in poetry, ‘to the extent of pushing communication to the background as the object of expression … in order to place in the foreground the act of expression’.10

Reading the lexical and stylistic qualities of texts often dismissed as simplistic or derivative instead of deliberate and ‘manipulated’, reveals the self-consciousness of their holistic strategies. As the previous chapter insisted, medieval historiography had a fundamental investment in the fusion of content and form, a function of its ideological commitment to the connection between language and meaning. In its origins and methodology, it was predicated on etymology, which made it profoundly conscious of the connection between style and substance. Troyan’s caution to heed ‘how it is said’ (the ‘act of expression’) as much as ‘what is said’ (the ‘object of expression’) pertains just as forcibly in this context; not least because, along with the chronicles, Hundred Years War poetry has often been dismissed as unsophisticated triumphalist jingoism. One aim of this discussion is to demonstrate that, while the charge of jingoism is often merited, the apparently concomitant charge of unsophistication is not. The foregrounding described by Joseph and Mukařovský is exactly what is apparent in these war poems. Kings and politicians had singled out language as the emotively vulnerable symbol of English identity under siege, recasting English ambition and aggression as French threat in their mobilisation of an old image of linguistic invasion, and chroniclers followed suit. The poetry of the conflict took the mimetic possibilities of war language further, exploring the embeddedness of French and English in a way that did indeed ‘foreground the act of expression’, not so much to push the ‘object of expression’ to the background, but to fuse the two, and to turn passive narration into active performance. Often this was virtuosic and crowing: Boffey and Edwards highlight how verse was used ‘to underscore … ethnic antipathies’, and invested with ‘a deeper ethnic and political significance’.11 But for some war poets the act of narrating conflict was ethically troubled and troubling, and their resistance to mimetic language exposed the dilemma behind literary language tout court. This discussion interrogates the deeper political investment that is apparent in the poetry of the chronicle tradition: the ways that poets heightened the chroniclers’ mimetic and stylistic foregrounding of language. It moves broadly chronologically, beginning with popular (or pseudo-popular) jingoistic ballads and carols: Laurence Minot’s sequence on Edward III’s wars, fourteenth-century Latin abuse poetry and fifteenth-century ballads; before turning to the ‘official’ poetry of the conflict, considering the questionable status of Chaucer as a ‘Hundred Years War poet’, the equally questionable role of Lydgate as a Lancastrian propagandist; and finally John Page’s eyewitness narrative of Henry V’s siege of Rouen.

10

11

Joseph, Eloquence and Power, p. 76; Jan Mukařovský, ‘Standard Language and Poetic Language’, in A Prague School Reader on Esthetics, Literary Structure, and Style, ed. Paul L. Garvin (Washington, DC, 1964), pp. 17–30 (19). Boffey and Edwards, ‘Middle English Verse in Chronicles’, p. 123.



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Laurence Minot’s pugnacious poetics The earliest known Hundred Years War poet was Laurence Minot. It was the opinion of his first editor, Joseph Ritson, in 1795, that he was ‘equal, if not superior, to any English poet before the sixteenth, or even, with very few exceptions, before the seventeenth, century’. A century later, Joseph Hall proclaimed in similarly rapturous vein that Minot was ‘the first to speak in the name of the English nation just awakened to a consciousness of its unity and strength’.12 These accolades are amusing now that Minot has sunk into unfashionable obscurity: David Matthews observes his ‘nationalism in full-throated cry’ which has made him ‘possibly the most maligned poet of the fourteenth century’.13 Turville-Petre criticises his ‘single tone and … single, crude message’ as ‘the voice of hatred’; Pearsall finds him ‘violent, abusive, narrowly prejudiced, with a repellant glee’; Michael Prestwich, Jonathan Sumption and David Wallace join the chorus in rejecting his poetry as offensive and unsophisticated bombast.14 About the poet, there is little to know. Records locate gentry families of the name Minot in Yorkshire and in Norfolk;15 Laurence Mynotz purchased land in Crécy Forest in 1320, and Loreng de Minguot’s overdue fees for the same land were remitted by Edward III in 1331.16 If these references are to the same man, a picture could be painted of someone who was in France shortly before the outbreak of war, owned lands there, was connected to Edward III’s court and to some measure enjoyed royal favour. However, this is conjectural: as Ruddick writes, we have no clear indication of the original fourteenth-century context of Minot’s poems; indeed, opinion varies over his identity and audience, with suggestions including a vagrant bard following Edward III’s army, a court poet working for a patron, or a northern member of the lesser gentry writing for a more mixed audience.17

Edwards has suggested that the poems were not all by the same individual, but represent the efforts of a scribe or compiler with a special interest in Edward III’s battles.18 While there is arguably enough stylistic and thematic similarity, despite the differences in form, to allow a case to be made for a single author, this is not 12

13 14

15 16 17 18

Laurence Minot, Poems on Interesting Events in the Reign of King Edward III by Laurence Minot, ed. Joseph Ritson (London, 1795), p. xiv; The Poems of Laurence Minot, ed. Joseph Hall (Oxford, 1887), p. xiii. Matthews, Writing to the King, pp. 152, 11. Thorlac Turville-Petre, ‘Political Lyrics’, in A Companion to the Middle English Lyric, ed. Thomas G. Duncan (Cambridge, 2005), pp. 171–88 (182, 185); Derek Pearsall, Old English and Middle English Poetry, ed. R. A. Foakes (London, 1977), p. 122; Michael Prestwich, Plantagenet England 1225–1360 (Oxford, 2005), p. 563; Sumption, The Hundred Years War, vol. I, p. 132; David Wallace, Premodern Places: Calais to Surinam, Chaucer to Aphra Behn (Oxford, 2004), p. 48. See introduction to The Poems of Laurence Minot 1333–1352, ed. Richard H. Osberg (Kalamazoo, MI, 1996) for a discussion of locality. References to Minot henceforth are to this edition. See Samuel Moore, ‘Lawrence Minot’, Modern Language Notes 35 (1920), 78–81. Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, p. 214. A. S. G. Edwards, ‘The Authorship of the Poems of Laurence Minot: A Reconsideration’, Florilegium 23:1 (2006), 145–53.

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crucial for my argument. Minot is named as author (or authorial persona) in two poems, and for simplicity I use his name as a placeholder for the eleven traditionally ascribed to him, and sought out by the compiler of BL MS Cotton Galba E.ix to hang together as a sequence. This manuscript, the unique witness to the poems, is a miscellany containing Ywain and Gawain, The Prick of Conscience, the Gospel of Nicodemus, alongside shorter pieces including The Siege of Calais (c. 1436), roughly added to the final flyleaf by a later hand. The compilation is early fifteenth-century, but the poems were written in the mid-fourteenth, not long after the events they commemorated. They are swaggering, nationalistic panegyrics, directed against Edward III’s enemies the French and the Scots,19 narrating specific battles and military encounters. Ruddick sees in them ‘a firm grasp of the royal case’ and suggests that they might constitute evidence for a ‘wider reception of official rhetoric’. She argues that ‘the basic linguistic and conceptual framework of government rhetoric’ was the template for much of Minot’s material, and comments that ‘the government seems to have promoted’ its rhetoric ‘with considerable success’. This does not make Minot a paid-up mouthpiece for the state: ‘the deployment of government stock phrases or their near equivalents in various official and literary contexts need not imply an uncritical absorption of these perspectives, even by the writers who used them’, although it does indicate a wide ‘transmission of the messages of official rhetoric into other literary genres’ and ‘a significant degree of personal acquiescence in governmental perspectives’.20 While the agenda of Minot’s poems was brazen, their composition was subtle: they were as much concerned with what it meant to write war, as they were with war itself. This analysis explores the ways in which they subscribed to and promoted a propagandistic message, but also manipulated the performative potential of war poetry to embed that message cleverly within its own form. For example, the fifth poem (on the sea-battle of Sluys in 1340) begins: Lithes and the batail I sal bigyn Of Inglisch men & Normandes in the Swyn Minot with mowth had menid [intended] to make suth sawes and sad [true and sober sayings] for sum mens sake; The wordes of sir Edward makes me to wake; wald he salue [greet] us sone mi sorow suld slake [abate]. War mi sorow slaked, sune wald I sing, when God will sir Edward sal us bute [remedy] bring. (V: Sluys, 1–6, NIMEV 2189)

19

20

This discussion focuses on Minot’s anti-French and anti-Flemish polemic, but for further treatment of his equally venomous anti-Scottish vitriol, see Andrew Galloway, ‘The Borderlands of Satire: Linked, Opposed and Exchanged Political Poetry during the Scottish and English Wars of the Early Fourteenth Century’, in The Anglo-Scottish Border and the Shaping of Identity, 1300–1600, ed. Mark P. Bruce and Katherine H. Terrell (Basingstoke, 2012), pp. 15–31 (24). Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, pp. 213–14 (see also 19–20, 39–41, 100).



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The imperative ‘lithes’ (listen) is reminiscent of the opening of many a romance, and two of its editors compare the sequence to ‘a short romance, divided into fitts’.21 In fact, Minot went out of his way to present his poems as mini-romances, beginning his seventh ‘Men may rede in romance right’ and introducing his eighth with the rubric ‘How Edward als the romance sais / held his sege bifor Calais’ (VII:1; VIII:1). Minot postured as a storyteller, drawing attention as much to the act of narrating as to the event narrated. Narration is the real subject of this poem, as Edward’s wars are portrayed as events in language. Words and war are brought into conjunction by the circular aetiological narrative: the poet is moved to ‘make’ because of the king’s ‘wordes’, and attends the ‘bute’ that the king will achieve before he can ‘sing’. Simultaneously, the opening line claims to herald not an account of the battle, but the battle itself: ‘lithes and the batail I sal bigyn’. The poem recreates the event it enshrines, as it metonymically transposes the battle into linguistic metaphors. Word and deed, record and event, language and war, bleed into each other in this osmotic, linguistic engagement. Similarly, the seventh poem (the siege of Caen and battle of Crécy) structurally interlaces ‘making’ with making war: Merlin said thus with his mowth: Out of the north into the sowth suld cum a bare [boar] over the se that suld mak many man to fle … and in France he suld bigin to mak tham wrath [vexed] that er tharein. Untill [unto] the se his taile reche sale [shall] all folk of France to mekill bale [much woe]. Thus have I mater for to make [compose] for a nobill prince sake. Help me, God, my wit es thin; now Laurence Minot will bigin. (VII: Crécy and Caen, 7–10, 13–20, NIMEV 2149)

The image of the boar harrying France comes from the Prophecies of Merlin, on which Of the Six Kings, the text that appears two leaves earlier in the manuscript, is based. It creates a chain of cause and effect from poetic prophecy to war to poetic fulfilment. The language used of king and poet is perfectly paralleled in the alternation of ‘make’ and ‘bigin’, a trajectory that culminates in the most self-conscious moment of writing war: ‘thus have I mater for to make’. The verbs of poetry and war are identical, their correspondence and symmetry seamless. This is in contrast to Minot’s depiction of the fatuous words of the enemy. In the first poem (the battle of Halidon Hill), he writes of the French ships promised to assist the Scots:

21

Minot, Poems, ed. James and Simons, p. 13.

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For all thaire fare [vaunting] thai durst noght fight, for dedes dint [death’s blow] had thai slike dout [such fear]; of Scotland had thai never sight ay whils [although] thai war of wordes stout … Philip Valays wordes wroght and said he suld thaire enmys sla [kill], bot all thaire wordes was for noght – thai mun be met if thai war ma [more numerous]. (I: Halidon Hill, 25–28, 45–48, NIMEV 3801)

Where the ‘word’ of Edward had the power to ‘salve’, Philippe’s ‘wordes’ are empty, his stout boasts mocked by their risible failure to materialise. Two equal and opposite models of linguistic representation are at work: for the English, word translates deed mimetically and actively; for the enemy, language represents absence, not action. The ironic use of maken hammers this point home: the sneer ‘Ma manasinges [threats] yit have thai maked’ (the French, too, are poets: makars) leads to the inevitable rhymes ‘the pride es slaked’ and ‘sum of tham es levid all naked’ (49, 53, 55). Where English ‘wordes’ are equivalent to actions, effecting what they threaten, French ‘wordes’ are apparently devoid of correlation with deeds. As Matthews comments, ‘the words become performative of abuse, not simply descriptive of it’.22 Minot was as interested in developing an idiom that was partisan and mimetic, as he was in simply recording the details of the battles. His poetry was reflexively concerned with its own identity as war poetry; and on a minute level, he made his language physically involved in portraying the conflict. ‘Fals flemynges’ and ‘fals french’ are stock epithets in the chronicles, which appear in various guises in Minot: ‘the fals folk of Normundy’, ‘Normandes, that fals were and fell’ (VII:72; V:23).23 But these poems expand these tags into a sustained, phonetic arsenal that maligns the French, used in repeated contrast with an alliteration on b that celebrates the English. A few examples will illustrate this plosive-fricative bombardment in practice: Sir Philip was funden a file [coward]; he fled and faght not in that place.

(VIII: Calais, 47–48, NIMEV 585)

the flowres that faire war   er fallen [before they fell] in Fraunce. The floures er now fallen   that fers [fierce] war and fell [cruel]; a bare [boar] with his bataille   has done them to dwell. (IX: Neville’s Cross 6–8, NIMEV 3117) to batail er thai baldly big [bravely strong] with brade [broad] ax and with bowes bent.

22 23

David Matthews, ‘Laurence Minot, Edward III, and Nationalism’, Viator 38:1 (2007), 269–88 (278). See Chapter 2, note 44 for discussion of the designation ‘Norman’.



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With bent bowes thai war ful bolde for to fell of the Frankisch men … and folk for ferd [fear] war faste fleand [fleeing].

107

(VII: Crécy and Caen, 83–6, 90)

for treson of the Franche men that fals war and fell … a bore es boun yow to biker [prepared to fight] that wele dare habyde. Wele dar he habide [stay], bataile to bede [offer]. (XI: Guînes, 24, 35–3, NIMEV 3899)

The contrast between the plosive and the fricative enacts an audible contrast between the nations they characterise, as nature, language and nationality mesh together in this xenophobic portrayal. Minot is not unique in using alliteration in this way: the anonymous fifteenth-century Battle of Agincourt poem does something similar, relating that ‘Off ffrensshe folk in þat afray [military engagement] / Thre dukes were dede, with doleful dent [grievous blow]’; and describing the fate of ‘þe fals flemynges … ffor alle here fals flateryng fare’: ‘Bot many of hem her hert-blode / Vnblythly [unhappily] bledden vpon þat bent [field].’24 But Minot makes it a sustained and deliberate linguistic battery across several poems. The cleverest instance is the fifth: The bost of the Normandes broght thai ful law. Thaire bost was abated [checked] and thaire mekil [great] pride; fer might thai noght fle bot thare bud [commanded] tham bide [stay]. The gude Erle of Glowceter, God mote him glade [may God bring him joy], broght many boldmen with bowes ful brade; to biker [fight] with the Normandes baldely [bravely] thai bade and in middes the flode did tham to wade. (V: Sluys, 50–6)

The first line declares that the Normans’ boast has been humbled, but the second enacts it, as the plosive-initial words surround and silence the fricatives: ‘fer might thai noght fle’ gives way to ‘bot thare bud tham bide’. It is no surprise that the English ‘broght many boldmen with bowes ful brade’ and ‘to biker with the Normandes baldely thai bade’: Minot figures the English victory audibly with mimetic, aggressive alliteration. Scratching beneath the surface of Minot’s poetic practice reveals an artful piece of foregrounding: a deliberate, subtle fusion of style and substance; a co-opting of form in service of content. His conception of poetry was ambitiously mimetic, implicated and embodied. Alliteration often goes unremarked within alliterative poetry, and medievalists are rightly chary of associating it with ‘Englishness’, avoiding seeing the Alliterative Revival as ‘a battle between native and alien elements’; or

24

Historical Poems, lines 37–8, 57–9, 61–2, p. 77; BL MS Cotton Cleopatra C.iv, fols 24v–26v. The poem is also included in Curry, Battle of Agincourt, pp. 288–92, modernised from Chronicles of London, pp. 120–2. This poem was formerly attributed to Lydgate, although this is doubtful (Curry, Battle of Agincourt, 287–8).

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assuming that ‘the movement embodied … national or anti-French feeling’.25 I do not resurrect such claims: there is nothing intrinsically nationalistic about Minot’s alliteration; rather, it reveals a deeply clever and self-conscious practice, part of a wider invective strategy, exploiting not qualities ‘inherent’ to the alliterative style but the causes in whose service it could be cleverly deployed. Minot was not articulating ‘a shared and demonstrable attitude of the mid-fourteenth century, a Zeitgeist revealing the growing perception of national identity’; rather, he was ‘performing’ and ‘constructing’ it.26 His strategies for writing war demonstrated a conception of ‘making’ that was active and involved. Far from being a neutral vehicle, his diction was weighted with phonic, as well as semantic, significance. This was poetry of war, in every sense.

Anglo-French flyting in Latin Nor was such performative linguistic conflict limited to English,27 as is apparent in two fourteenth-century Latin poems written contemporaneously with Minot, An Invective Against France and the Dispute between the Englishman and the Frenchman, preserved together in BL MS Cotton Titus A.xx (fols 81r–85v, 101r–v), and probably both monastic in provenance. They have been discussed by Rigg, Ruddick, Hastings, James and Simons, Richard Firth Green and myself at greater length elsewhere, but nonetheless they are not particularly well known.28 The Invective takes the form of a long and grandiloquent diatribe against the French, rehearsing the arguments for the English claim in an insulting, dense and 25

26 27

28

Derek Pearsall, ‘The Origins of the Alliterative Revival’, in The Alliterative Tradition in the Fourteenth Century, ed. Bernard S. Levy and Paul Szarmach (Kent, OH, 1981), pp. 1–24 (2); Pearsall, ‘The Alliterative Revival: Origins and Social Backgrounds’, in Middle English Alliterative Poetry and Its Literary Background: Seven Essays, ed. David A. Lawton (Cambridge, 1982), pp. 34–53 (45). Chambers asserted, for instance, that the Old English poetic style was ‘kept alive by oral tradition through nine generations … till it suddenly came forth, correct, vigorous and bearing with it a whole tide of national feeling’ (On the Continuity, p. lxvii). Matthews, Writing to the King, p. 153; Matthews, ‘Laurence Minot, Edward III, and Nationalism’, p. 286. I use ‘performative’ in J. L. Austin’s sense: ‘Performative Utterances’, in Philosophical Papers, ed. J. O. Urmson and G. J. Warnock (London, 1970), pp. 233–52. I understand notions of performativity and foregrounding to be overlapping: Austin’s ideas about the ways in which performative utterances enact what they describe complement Mukařovský’s about how poetry foregrounds language as meaning, not just its vehicle. The Invective also appears in Bodleian MSS Bodley 851 (fols 116r–18r) and Rawlinson B.214 (fols 122r–5v). For criticism, see A. G. Rigg, ‘Propaganda of the Hundred Years War: Poems on the Battles of Crécy and Durham (1346): A Critical Edition’, Traditio 54 (1999), 169–211 and A History of Anglo-Latin Literature, 1066–1422 (Cambridge, 1992, repr. 2006), pp. 308–9; Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, pp. 140, 148, 163, 212–13; Hastings, Construction of Nationhood, p. 49; Minot, Poems, ed. James and Simons, pp. 84–99; Richard Firth Green, ‘Further Evidence for Chaucer’s Representation of the Pardoner as a Womanizer’, Medium Ævum 71:2 (2002), 307–9. I have discussed these texts at greater length in Joanna Bellis, ‘Propaganda or Parody? Latin Abuse Poetry from the Hundred Years War’, in Crossing Borders in the Insular Middle Ages, ed. Aisling Byrne and Victoria Flood (Turnhout, forthcoming).



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highly allusive register, and concluding with a crowing narration of the battle of Crécy (which led Rigg to title the poem simply ‘Crécy’). The ‘Dispute’ takes the form of a flytyng, a slanging match divided into two halves spoken by a ventriloquised Frenchman and Englishman, each lambasting the respective archetypal characteristics of the other in the neutral lingua franca of Latin. These poems owe debts to both the Goliardic tradition of playful, intellectual, display-poetry, and the vernacular tradition of flyting; they were composed and enjoyed in a monastic context, and ‘their circulation was likely to have been restricted to a learned, and probably, but not necessarily, clerical audience. This hardly makes the Invective evidence of popular nationalism, as some literary historians have claimed.’ Interesting in the light of the previous chapter is Ruddick’s following suggestion that the ‘arguments and language [of the Invective] closely mirror official sources’, sometimes employing ‘argument[s] lifted straight from government documents’.29 These were satirical poems spoofing nationalism in hyperbolic and virtuosic fashion, yet they were also political poems with serious points to make. The Invective begins with flamboyant ostentation: Francia, feminea, pharisea, vigoris ydea, Linxea, viperea, vulpina, lupina, Medea, Callida sirena, crudelis, acerba, superba. France, [effeminate, divided, a mere shadow of strength], lynx-like, viperish, foxy, wolfish, a Medea, cunning, a siren, cruel, bitter, haughty.30

The poet rehearsed the standard stereotypes of Frenchness (deceit, cowardice, effeminacy) in a metadiction that was as much about its own indulgent and hyperbolic language as its vituperative subject. The ‘Dispute’, likewise, performed the national character assassination familiar from invective poetry in this ‘tradition of French linguistic perfidy’:31 the Frenchman is accused of being softly spoken, cupidinous and lascivious. The foregrounding of language, as theme as well as medium, is particularly salient: the poet explored how far the archetypal and parodic characteristics of English and French could be crystallised and satirised in Latin. The flytyng format means that the defiance of one antagonist is parried by the riposte of the other, in couplets that respond to one another across the sections. The Frenchman begins, Anglia, fæx hominum, pudor orbis, et ultima rerum, Res rea plus aliis, quid facis esse reum? Qua pice verborum premis æra, quo mihi telo

29 30

31

Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, pp. 212–13. Rigg, ‘Propaganda of the Hundred Years War’, p. 177; trans. James and Simons, Poems of Laurence Minot, p. 86 (emended: see explanation for emendations in note 32, p. 110). Rigg pondered semi-seriously whether the author might ‘be Lawrence Minot … writing in Latin’ (p. 175), or someone like him in style and agenda; this is certainly what Minot writing in Latin would look like. He dubbed the author of the Invective, along with two further poems Durham and Cantica leticie, the ‘Anonymous of Calais’. Machan, ‘French, English, and the Late Medieval Linguistic Repertoire’, p. 371.

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Insurg[a]s, vel quod fulm[a]n ab ore jacis? Mentem sermo capit, sordes a pectore ling[ua], Contrahit et virus mentis ab ore fluit. England, [dregs of mankind], shame of the world, [the last/least of things, a thing more guilty than others, why do you make me out to be a villain?] With what language, foul as pitch, do you assail the air? What thunderbolt do you launch from your mouth? Your speech takes over your thoughts and licks filth from your heart. It clots and the venom of your thoughts flows from your mouth.32

What is particularly interesting, in contrast to the Invective, is that the Frenchman singles out English language as polluting English character: ‘your speech takes over your thoughts.’ English emerges as a filthy, clotting, poisonous and tar-like oral discharge, welling up from the heart and overflowing into speech, in a humoural metaphor that casts language as a bodily substance out of balance (anticipating both the connection between language and breast milk, and the metaphor of language as ink, as discussed in the next chapter). He anticipates a counter-attack, and sure enough he gets as good as he gave: Scire velim quare me Gallicus urget in arma, Cum qua præsumas, Gallice, fronte loqui. Quæ veniunt a fronte min[e], quo murmure pectus Involvis, quid agunt mitibus ora suis? Parce viris, societ mulierem lis mulieri … Si linguam mollit pulsum, ne forte palatum Obstrepat, et mulier fatur in ore viri … Si quia f[e]mineos castravit Gallica Gallos, Gallinæ, Galle, nomen et omen habe … Cum Gallus talis maculet mentem contagio Galli; Gallice præstat enim parcere, parce loqui. I should like to know why the Frenchman presses me to fight and what effrontery prompts you to speak, Frenchman? What threats rumble in your chest? What are your lips up to with their smooth utterance? Leave men alone: let woman strive with woman … If your tongue softens its force so that your palate does not sound too loud then it is a woman talking through a man’s lips … [If it is because France has castrated all its womanly Frenchmen, Frenchman, have both the name and reputation of a hen …] Since such French depravity stains the soul of the Frenchman – Frenchman silence is best. Shut up!33

Unsurprisingly, it is the Englishman’s caricatures that have the last word, punning on emasculation and shame. The Englishman does not serve up a comparable metaphor to his antagonist’s speech-as-black-bile image, but he does recapitulate

32

33

Thomas Wright, ed., Political Poems and Songs Relating to English History, 2 vols (London, 1861), vol. I, pp. 91–2; trans. James and Simons, Poems of Laurence Minot, p. 97. Wright’s transcription is inaccurate and James and Simons’s translation, based on it, is faulty: emendations are shown in brackets. Wright, Political Songs, vol. I, p. 93; Minot, Poems, ed. James and Simons, pp. 98–9.



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the connection between language and filth: the Frenchman’s ‘stained soul’ is alleged to be best concealed by silence, the removal of language, which is what the final, triumphant parce loqui achieves.34 Moreover, far more than the Frenchman, the Englishman’s linguistic performance acts out its verbal dominance and nationalistic subjugation. Translation cannot recreate the climactic crescendo of ‘Gallica, Gallos, Gallinae, Galle’ punning on Gallia, (France), gallus (cockerel) and gallina (hen); or the internal rhyme of nomen et omen habe (perhaps echoing the proverb nomen est omen, which became a byword for the intrinsic connection between word and meaning, and here connotes the connection between name and nature).35 The Englishman’s puns are designed to make it etymologically self-evident that Gallia is as emasculated and ridiculous as a gallus. This poem is a linguistic flourish, exploring virtuosically and abusively the ways in which language was intrinsically invested in conflict. These poems enacted their linguistic conflict on neutral territory. Both sides lambasted the speech of the other in a language that belonged to neither, and the operation of Latin as a kind of satirical arbiter crystallised the archetypal distillations of the sparring linguistic antagonists. The Hundred Years War is not mentioned, but it is the tangible background for the national/linguistic pantomime. If Minot’s poems manifested a partisan interest in making language onomatopoeic and mimetic in the verbal performance of conflict, these Anglo-Latin poems explored the possibilities of ventriloquising language conflict, personifying English and French as the antagonists. Their form (self-conscious, virtuosic, playful, parodic) made this aspect particularly acute, but the performative personification of linguistic antagonism was an experiment that popular poetry was regularly attempting.

Linguistic memorialisation in fifteenth-century ballads and carols The war poetry of the second phase of the Hundred Years War, written during the events of Henry V’s 1415–20 campaigns and their aftermath, the slow erosion of English territory in France in the 1430s–1450s, explicitly made its textual sites into mimetic battlegrounds. The vicissitudes that the century’s early decades witnessed

34

35

Firth Green suggested that Cotton Titus A.xx might have the order wrong, and that the Frenchman’s speech should come second: ‘the Frenchman’s speech makes rather more sense as a rebuttal of the Englishman’s points than (as it is there presented) as the stimulus for them’: ‘Further Evidence for Chaucer’s Representation of the Pardoner as a Womanizer’, p. 307. However, this suggestion (appealing as it might be to read the flyting as a pure parody of both sides, even of jingoism itself ) does not stand up to scrutiny: the Englishman’s riposte is designed to respond with a dialogic symmetry to the Frenchman’s arguments, and it is considerably more virtuosic in its verbal battery. As Ruddick writes, ‘English authorship of this poem … is suggested by the fact that the overall balance is decidedly in favour of the Englishman, who serves up a damning indictment of the French’: English Identity and Political Culture, p. 140. See Sylvia Adamson’s discussion of this proverb, in ‘The Literary Language’, in The Cambridge History of the English Language, ed. Roger Lass, 6 vols (Cambridge, 1999), III: 1476–1776, pp. 539–653 (612, 651).

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in the turbulent resumption of hostilities after the long, stagnant truce, prompted an outpouring of political verse: as Hiatt comments, ‘the significant constitutional turmoil of the century contributed, if not to the construction of new genres, then to an increase in the number of occasional poems. Particularly notable was the rise of an antagonistic literature, in which prominent individuals became targets for intense criticism.’ Occasional poetry (immediate poetic commemorations of ‘royal entries, coronations, battles, sieges, deaths of great men and the occasional woman – often from the recent past, and often with a decided slant’) was in fact ‘One of the biggest growth areas of fifteenth-century verse’.36 This discussion considers some of the most clever and vituperative of the occasional ballads prompted by particular events in the French wars, in the first decades of the fifteenth century. The idea that the war was one of language pervaded its literature, as it did its politics: for contemporary poets, making language a battleground was the natural out-working of the conception of the profound writtenness of history. Words were both trophies and scars: testaments to former conquests, talismans of present victories, and what (literally) dictated the transformation of event into history. Just as the chronicles exhibited a self-aware fascination with the idea of chronicling, poets (and rubricators and compilers) were absorbed by the idea of poetic memorialisation. The Scorn of the Duke of Burgundy began five of its stanzas with the injunction ‘Remembre the, Phelippe’; The Follies of the Duke of Burgundy was subtitled ‘A remembraunce of LII folyes’ (Bodleian MS Digby 102, fol. 115r);37 Lydgate called his Title and Pedigree of Henry VI ‘a remembraunce’, repeatedly stating his intention ‘to put his title in remembraunce’.38 There was a perpetual recursion to the words ‘remember’ and ‘remembrance’ in fifteenth-century war ballads: a topos that stood for the self-aware process of ‘writing’ history, with all that it entailed about the translation from deed into word, and the hermeneutic control exercised over the ‘continuall memorie’ of history by its narrators.39 Here, the focus is the popular ballads and carols that clustered around the key events of the second campaign under Henry V and the regency of the Duke of Bedford: the battle of Agincourt (1415), the defection of Burgundy at the Congress of Arras (1435), the siege of Calais (1436). The provenance of these texts has a certain liminality: some of them were genuinely popular; others were written speculatively by poets exploiting the mood of the moment and proleptically claiming a pseudo-popular identity; others were officially commissioned, stoking and manipulating the zeitgeist rather than reflecting it. These poems were every bit as politically current and engaged as the chronicles in which they were embedded: Scattergood recalls the act passed in 1402 prohibiting the composition or dissemination of political prophecies, commenting that ‘verse was thought to be a highly effective mode of propaganda’, and ‘political verses were important enough to be commissioned 36 37 38 39

Hiatt, ‘Historical and Political Verse’, pp. 158, 161. Historical Poems, pp. 86–7, 50. All poems in this section are cited from Historical Poems unless otherwise indicated. Lydgate, Minor Poems, line 35, pp. 613–14. For further discussion of the word ‘remembrance’ in this corpus, see Bellis, ‘Rymes Sette for a Remembraunce’, where material on the Calais poems first appeared.



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and important enough to be suppressed’.40 Like the chronicles, political verse ‘drew specifically on the language of royal proclamations and other texts’, mirroring ‘official rhetoric’, and ‘chroniclers’ information was derived from public proclamations’.41 These were texts minutely attuned to the political vocabulary of their times, and its dominant metaphor of linguistic conflict was bombastically exploited. To begin with the literature stimulated by that most iconic event, the battle of Agincourt. The eulogistic tradition surrounding Henry V is remarkable: as Gransden notes, ‘No other medieval king of England was honoured with such an abundance of literature. There was virtually no tradition of royal biography in England.’42 A large number of carols survives on this theme: Enforce we us, The rose of Ryse, Exultavit cor, Princeps serenissime and most famously the Agincourt Carol (together with its music).43 This foregrounds the idea of performing its subject in vaunting language:     Deo gracias anglia,     redde pro victoria. Owre kynge went forth to normandy, with grace & myʒt of chyualry; ther god for hym wrouʒt mervelusly, wherfore Englonde may calle & cry,     Deo gracias!

[England, give thanks to God for victory!]

(1–5, p. 91; NIMEV 2716)

The burden performs what the verse narrates: England may cry Deo gracias; the singers are crying it at that moment. National celebration is enacted at the same time as it is narrated whenever this carol is performed, in the sense that its burden quotes itself, and stages a metaperformance of the patriotic act that is its subject. It is a song about singing, just as Minot’s verses were poems about poetry, and the theme of most chroniclers was (ultimately) chronicling. The last lines make this metaperformance explicit, as it enjoins its readers/hearers/singers, ‘þat we with merth mowe sauely synge, Deo gracias!’ (25–6, p. 92). Moreover, the presentation of the conflict as a speech act – or more precisely an act of silencing – is interrogated by the third stanza: Than went our kynge with alle his oste Thorwe fraunce, for alle þe frenshe boste; he spared no drede of lest ne moste, Tyl he come to agincourt coste,     Deo gracias!

(10–14, p. 91)

Victory and deceit are figured as speech and silence: the silencing of the French boast becomes the English one (as with Minot’s boast that ‘The bost of the Normandes broght thai ful law’). The poet repurposes real aggression as linguistic aggression 40 41 42 43

Scattergood, Politics and Poetry, pp. 22, 27. Grummitt, The Calais Garrison, p. 33; Gransden, Historical Writing in England, vol. II, p. 237. Gransden, Historical Writing in England, vol. II, p. 196. See Curry, Battle of Agincourt, p. 282; and R. L. Greene, ed., ‘Section XIV: Carols’, in A Manual of the Writings in Middle English 1050–1500, ed. Albert E. Hartung (New Haven, CT, 1980), vol. VI, pp. 1743–52.

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(‘boasting’), enabling the carol to become performative. It transfers the theatre of action from the battlefield to the song, and in so doing it transforms what the song does: remembrance becomes re-enactment. Another carol on the 1415 campaign is John Audelay’s Recollection of Henry V (c. 1429), or as he titled it, De rege nostro henrico sexto (On our King Henry VI). Little is known about the Shropshire priest, other than what can be gleaned from his fiftyfive poems, preserved uniquely in Bodleian MS Douce 302.44 They are monitory and penitential, lamenting the poet’s blindness and deafness, which he perceived as a divine punishment; all except this carol, his only secular work. The metaphor that underpinned Audelay’s carol was the game of tennis, enabling him to oscillate between playfulness and deadly seriousness. On the one hand, it was ‘fore loue of mayd kateryn’ that ‘in fraunce he wroʒt turment & tene [injury]’; on the other, the tennis match he plays in France is an ‘outrage’ that leaves their king ‘agast’ (9–10, 25, 29, p. 109; NIMEV 822). The story of the Dauphin’s tennis balls ‘probably originated in misunderstood court gossip, but it proved attractive to the popular imagination and was often retold and embellished’.45 In Audelay’s text, the tennis metaphor was simultaneously playful and menacing: Þen was he wyse in wars with-all, & taʒt franchemen to plai at þe ball; With tenes hold he ferd ham hall [frightened them all];     To castelles & setis [cities] þei floyn away.

(13–16, p. 109)

The progression from saying (‘his loue, hee sayd, hit schuld not ben’) to playing (‘& send him ballis, him with to plai’) to assaying (‘to harflete a sege he layd anon / & cast a bal vn-to þe toun’) in this sinister tennis match is ruthless. Moreover, the rules of this game are linguistic: tenes was the cry of ‘hold!’, the server’s call to his opponent, often used derisively. The etymology of the game is presumed to come from tenir, although by 1350 it was known as la paulme in France; tenes was the Florentine name, used in England from the mid-fourteenth century. Audelay’s compressed bilingual hendiadys, ‘tenes hold’, calls to mind the sparring taunts of tennis players, turning the ‘outrage’ of Harfleur into a game of words. He echoes the sinister tennis jokes of the Brut, which related how Henry ‘lette make tenysballis for the Dolfyn … [þat] were harde & grete gune-stonys, for þe Dolfyn to play with-alle’.46 Henry’s war is by turns a tennis match, a courteous quest, a piteous outrage; Henry V is a lover knight, a practical joker, a fiend; this ‘recollection’ postures as a romance, a eulogy, a joke and a threat. Next to Agincourt, the failed Franco-Flemish attempt to recapture Calais in 1436 was the event that produced the greatest outpouring of political verse. Grummitt 44

45 46

See John Audelay, John the Blind Audelay, Poems and Carols (Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Douce 302), ed. Susanna Fein (Kalamazoo, MI, 2009); Michael Bennett, ‘John Audelay: Some New Evidence on His Life and Works’, Chaucer Review 16 (1981–82), 344–55; Scattergood, Politics and Poetry, p. 73. Scattergood, Politics and Poetry, p. 51. Brut. p. 375; CV-1419-A.



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notes not only how Calais had come principally to be imagined as a ‘towne of were’, but how important was its imagined Englishness, its status as part of ‘this Reame’. The siege in 1436 ‘saw a national response unprecedented during the latter years of the Hundred Years War’.47 The corpus of Calais verses comprises The Siege of Calais, The Mockery of the Flemings, the Ballade in Despyte of the Flemynges, the Scorn of the Duke of Burgundy, The Follies of the Duke of Burgundy and the longer poem The Libelle of Englyshe Polycye, which stresses the importance of ‘keeping the sea’.48 Together, these related ‘the incident and English attitudes to it very fully’, and belonged to ‘a propaganda offensive’ that was launched at the Duke of Burgundy in England after his defection at the Congress of Arras.49 These poems have received a reasonable amount of attention from historians such as Doig and Grummitt, and were included in Scattergood’s survey; but they have not received much literary critical consideration.50 Despite their brazen agenda, they are clever and self-conscious texts, which reveal much not only about the idea of linguistic conflict, but also the complex relationship between poem, chronicle and chivalric romance; fiction, history and propaganda. The Mockery of the Flemings is preserved on the final folios of Lambeth Palace MS 6, a luxurious Brut manuscript, written mostly in red and lavishly illuminated. Its version of the Brut (also in BL MS Harley 53, categorised together with Lambeth MS 6 as PV-1436-A) is the longest and best account of the siege of Calais in English, and has been regarded by some as the work of an eyewitness.51 Doig calls the poem preserved at the end of it ‘the most vituperative of all the extant poems’, comparing its ‘jingoistic fervour’ with Minot.52 What is particularly interesting about this poetic rehearsal of the siege, however, is that its invective was not pitched at the present moment so much as it was directed towards the future record. It framed its narrative as an injunction to ‘remember’, an explicit invitation to historicise. All but the first and last of its eight stanzas begin with the imperative to remember: ‘Remembres how ye laide seege’, ‘Remembre ye of Brugges’, ‘Remembres ye of Gaunt’, ‘Remembres now ye fflemynges, vpon youre own shame’ (21, 35, 41, 55, pp. 84–5; NIMEV 4056.8). The mise-en-page emphasises this pattern: the first initial of each ‘remembre’ is 47 48 49

50

51 52

Grummitt, The Calais Garrison, pp. 20, 10, 31–6; he contends that the flurry of Calais poems ‘enjoyed a wide circulation’ (33). It is likely that much more poetry on the Siege of Calais has not survived, such as the lost ‘The Crye of Caleys’: see Scattergood, Politics and Poetry, pp. 29–30. Ibid., p. 86; J. A. Doig, ‘Propaganda, Public Opinion and the Siege of Calais in 1436’, in Crown, Government and the People in the Fifteenth Century, ed. Rowena E. Archer (Stroud, 1995), pp. 79–106 (80). The Libelle is the exception to this, discussed in detail by S. I. Sobecki, ‘Bureaucratic Verse: William Lyndwood, the Privy Seal and the Form of The Libelle of Englyshe Polycye’, New Medieval Literatures, 12 (2010), 251–88. See Kingsford, English Historical Literature, pp. 124–5; and J. A. Doig, ‘A New Source for the Siege of Calais in 1436’, English Historical Review 110:436 (1995). Doig, ‘Propaganda, Public Opinion and the siege of Calais in 1436’, p. 98. It would be tempting to think that Minot was known to later poets, especially since his sequence includes an account of the first siege of Calais (1346). The manuscript that contains Minot’s poems (BL MS Cotton Galba E.ix) also contains a rough copy of The Siege of Calais, scribbled onto the final flyleaf by a later reader, so clearly one reader/scribe made the connection.

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illuminated alternately in blue and red, in a visible mnemonic of contempt (Figure 2). Unlike verse that was osmotically embedded into the chronicle narrative, The Mockery was reserved until the very end, singled out by its compiler and touted as a sample of the vox populi. The poem is the last thing in the manuscript, and is introduced by the words: ‘Wherfore amonges Englisshmen were made many rymes of þe Flemmynges; among the whych, one is here sette for a remembraunce, that saith on this wise …’ After the poem, the compiler comments: Such & many oþir rymes were made amonges englisshmen, aftir the fflemynges werre thus shamfully fled frome Calies & þe picardis from Guisnes fledd & gon þeire way for drede & fere of þe comyng of the duyk of Gloucestre which by þat tyme was redy at London with his power & armee to com to þe rescows of Caleis & to shippe at Sandwich wher as lay redy in þe hauen iij.C sailes to abyde his comyng.53

This rubric is the chronicle’s last word, and by drawing attention to the ‘rymes’, it ended not with a record of the event, but a record of the record: it claimed to enshrine the passing moment for posterity. The chronicler bookended the poem with asseverations of its popular provenance and its typicality: its status as a ‘ryme’ made simply ‘amonges englisshmen’ possessed it with a public, collective identity. Despite its evident ambition and sophistication, its anonymity enabled it to be posited as unmediated, universal literature, unauthored and all the more authoritative. G. E. Morris holds that the verses incorporated into chronicles seldom represent ‘a true soldiers’ song’: they are more often ‘learned adaptations’ than ‘accurate reproductions of popular verses’.54 It is unlikely that any of the poetry discussed so far was truly popular, although it might have wished to be: Ruddick is sceptical about the plausibility of ‘posit[ing] a large audience for poets such as Minot, still less for the lengthier, more learned Latin poetry on political and military themes’, although she allows that ‘other fragments, such as the battlefield jibes recorded in certain chronicles, suggest a more popular origin for some poetry’, and that ‘Poetry may, therefore, turn out in some cases to be one of the best surviving guides of genuinely “popular” national sentiment’.55 These poems presumably had individual authors or redactors, perhaps the compilers of the chronicles in which they appear; rather than collective origins, it is far more likely that they courted the image of popularity than that they genuinely enjoyed it. But just as the anonymity of the Brut meant that it was thought of as collectively, even nationally, authored, so the anonymity of these poems enabled them to speak collectively and performatively for the nation. Whether or not The Mockery ever began life as a popular ‘ryme’, it certainly ended it as a highly contrived piece of artistry. The poem and its bookends are a deliberate piece of artifice, ending the chronicle by foregrounding the idea of chronicling. The Brut’s account of the failed siege of 1436 made much of the Flemings’ ‘proude and

53 54 55

Brut, pp. 582–4; CV-1461. G. E. Morris, ‘Soldiers’ Songs of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries’ (unpublished master’s thesis, University of Sheffield, 1947), pp. 1, 116–17. Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, pp. 39–41.



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Figure 2 The Mockery of the Flemings, the end of the Brut chronicle in Lambeth MS 6. © The Trustees of Lambeth Palace Library. The first full page of the poem, showing the illuminated letters of the command to ‘Remember’, at the beginning of each stanza (fol. 257r).

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hawteyn … scornefull wordes’;56 and to a much greater extent, it was this linguistic confrontation that interested the poet. His tone was dripping with crowing sarcasm: Ye laid vpon þ’englisshmen so myghtily with your handes, Til of you iij hundrid lay strechid on the sandes … This was þe first wurship [honour] of Caleys that ye wan.

(15–16, 20, p. 84)

The brazenness of the attempt on the city and its miserable execution are the objects of the poem’s contempt, scorning the Flemings’ risible ambition to ‘be conquerouris’, and calling the besiegers ‘lyons of Cotteswold’ (i.e. sheep) (2, 8, p. 84). In the last two stanzas, the poet redirected his acerbity from the Flemings’ actions to their nature. These stanzas hinge on the etymological collapse of the words fflemmyng and flemed: Remembres now ye fflemmynges, vpon youre own shame, When ye laide seege to Caleis ye wer right full to blame, ffor more of reputacioun ben englisshmen þen ye, And comen of more gentill [high-born] blode of olde antiquite; ffor flemmynges com of flemmed [exiled] men ye shal wel vndirstand, ffor fflemed men & banshid men enhabit first youre land. Thus proue I þat fflemmynges is but a flemed man, And fflaunders of flemmynges the name first began; And þerfore ye fflemmynges, þat fflemmynges ben named, To compare with englisshmen ye aught to be ashamed. Ye be nothing elles worth but gret wordes to camp [fight], Sette ye stille & bith in pees, God gyue you quadenramp [misfortune]!

(55–66, p. 85)

The last twelve lines adopt a Galfridian logic of national etymology in which the history and identity of the land are mutually testified by its name. Flemen comes from Old English flemian, meaning ‘to expel or banish’, current in Middle English; and on this false, conflated etymology with the word fleming, the diatribe staked its case. It would suggest a peculiar myopia on the part of the author to imagine that he did not know that flemen and fleming were unrelated words; rather, he deliberately collapsed them in a semantic contest in which the English homophone triumphed. The irony of the fact that it was the banishment (fleming) of Brutus that caused the foundation of Britain in the first place is simply glossed over in the specious and triumphant conclusion ‘Thus proue I þat fflemmynges is but a flemed man’. The Brut tradition was suffused with proof by etymology, the belief that it unlocked the realities occluded by (although vestigially embodied within) words. Moreover, as Scattergood notes, ‘fifteenth-century nationalism’ was characterised by ‘the interest which many writers felt in the origins and past of the English nation’.57 Not unlike Isidore of Seville’s derivation of the British as brutes, this poet condemns Flemish national character by concocting an ignominious origin-narrative for why they are called Flemings in the first place. Language becomes a text in its own right 56 57

Brut, p. 572; PV-1436-A. Scattergood, Politics and Poetry, p. 44.



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in this methodology: the conflict between England and its enemy is represented as a struggle for dominance between English and Flemish words, which the poet, as encoder of the linguistic memorial, manipulates to his own ends. In the linguistic antagonism of this poem, England and Flanders vie for referentiality in a mimesis of the struggle for Calais. The semantic victory is predicated on the assumption that etymology will, like a scent-trail, return to the original meaning; but when language becomes a mimesis of war, semantics are determined not by truth but by victory. Just as the Brut used the similarity of Britain and Brutus to justify an illustrious legendary history, the poem that footnotes this Brut serves the opposite turn for the Flemings, providing them with a humiliating etymological foundation legend. This poem takes an imperialist approach to language: English, the linguistic victor, becomes the final referent, to which Flemish is subjugated and from which its words are slavishly derived. This is aggressive and conquering language, a linguistic warfare in which to name is to conquer. The final word of accusation completes the poem with a triumphant sally. The climactic assertion is that the Flemish ‘be nothing elles worth but gret wordes to camp’. This rebuke to the lack of correlation between words and referents prepares for the usurpation of another Flemish word for the final flourish. The flamboyant retort ‘God gyue you quadenramp!’ culminates in a hapax legomenon. It means ‘misfortune’, and although related to Old English cweden (filth, wickedness), it comes primarily from Flemish quaad (bad, wicked), current in fifteenth-century London and found in Chaucer’s Cook’s Tale, where it is acknowledged as a Flemish interloper: ‘“sooth pley, quaad pley,” as the Flemyng seith’, the Cook remarks.58 Butterfield suggests that this proverb ‘gives a strong impression of how much the Flemish were an accepted daily presence’; but ‘the little phrase “as the Fleming seith” quietly marks the edge of that acceptance’.59 On the other hand, Chaucer used the word elsewhere without comment.60 Quade was on the edge of being English, and in this poem, where it is isolated not assimilated, quadenramp expresses this double status. The poet has already made etymology a battleground: his last word asserts that since the Flemings fight with ‘gret wordes’, he will turn one of their own against them. Intelligible as English, yet thrust back at the Flemish as an unwelcome intrusion, it is both virtuosic and xenophobic, a lexically flourished rejection of the enemy lexeme. The Mockery exemplifies the ugly culture of xenophobia that was current at many points, ‘witness the readiness with which anti-alien rhetoric was employed in parliamentary petitions and the frequent inability or unwillingness of local officials to recognise the distinction between alien friends and alien enemies … particularly … in wartime’.61 Steven Justice comments on the linguistic dimension of the racial violence that prompted the massacre of the Flemish merchants in London in 1381 58 59

60 61

‘The Cook’s Prologue’, line 4357, Riverside Chaucer, p. 85. Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, p. 218. For the phenomenon of ‘lading language’, the macaronic speech used between traders in cosmopolitan London, see Smith, ‘John Gower and London English’ p. 64. The Shipman’s Tale, line 438, Riverside Chaucer, p. 208. Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, p. 131.

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(mentioned in The Nun’s Priest’s Tale).62 He reads the xenophobic attacks as part of the rebels’ ‘sense of exclusion from authority – especially linguistic exclusion’, citing their burning of learned documents and banning of the teaching of Latin grammar.63 The Flemish weavers enjoyed many privileges resented by native craftsmen.64 However, there was a specific reason they found themselves a target, a detail given by the chronicle in BL MS Cotton Julius B.ii: ‘many fflemynges loste here heedes at that tyme, and namely they that koude nat say Breede and Chese, But Case and Brode.’65 Discussing this perverse shibboleth test, Justice suggests that the rebels ‘sensed their exploitation in part through the symbolism of linguistic difference, and saw the Flemish – like men of law, government officials, and clerks – as figures of domination distinguished by a language the English artisan or rural worker could not understand’. He suggests that the attacks should be described ‘not as xenophobic, but as xenoglottophobic’.66 Racial hostility intensified following this massacre, and Flemish merchants found themselves regularly victimised between 1381 and 1436 (tensions had been brewing for some time beforehand, judging by a petitions to the Commons from 1377 demanding the explusion of aliens).67 Doig describes how ‘In 1425 serious outbreaks of violence occurred and anti-Flemish bills were distributed round the city; in 1435–6 the crown’s propaganda offensive against Burgundy no doubt prompted a similar reaction.’ He calls this ‘Anti-Flemish feeling’ ‘a perennial threat to the numerous foreign merchants inhabiting London’.68 Scattergood comments on the ‘various reprisals [that] were organized against Flemish merchants’ in the aftermath of the events of 1435–36.69 Shortly after Burgundy’s defection, Henry VI issued a proclamation to all the Flemings in England, inviting them to renew their oaths of allegiance; 1,800 of them did so, of whom 400 were Londoners; but nonetheless, By 21 July [1436], when the siege was in full swing, emotions had reached such a pitch in London that the city government had to issue a proclamation forbidding the molestation of Flemish merchants and other foreigners who had taken the oath in April.70

These racial tensions, like the Cook’s subtle characterisation of Flemish speech, 62

63 64

65 66 67 68 69 70

Steven Justice, Writing and Rebellion: England in 1381 (Berkeley, CA, 1994), p. 71; The Nun’s Priest’s Tale, lines 3394–7, Riverside Chaucer, p. 260: ‘Jakke Strawe and his meynee / Ne made nevere shoutes half so shrille / Whan that they wolden any Flemyng kille, / As thilke day was maad upon the fox.’ For discussion of this passage, see Derek Pearsall, ‘Chaucer and Englishness’, Proceedings of the British Academy 101 (1999), 79–99 (80–6). Justice, Writing and Rebellion, p. 71. See Eve Salisbury, ‘Violence and the Sacred City: London, Gower, and the Rising of 1381’, in ‘A Great Effusion of Blood’? Interpreting Medieval Violence, ed. Mark D. Meyerson, Daniel Thiery and Oren Falk (Toronto, 2004), pp. 79–97 (88–9); Rodney Hilton, Bond Men Made Free: Medieval Peasant Movements and the English Rising of 1381 (London, 1977), pp. 195–8. Chronicles of London, p. 15. Justice, Writing and Rebellion, pp. 72–3. See Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, p. 159. Doig, ‘Propaganda, Public Opinion and the Siege of Calais in 1436’, p. 92. Scattergood, Politics and Poetry, p. 83. Doig, ‘Propaganda, Public Opinion and the Siege of Calais in 1436’, pp. 94–6.



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suggest a context of linguistic friction with the Flemings in London in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries that informs The Mockery’s investment in linguistic invective. The Flemings represented a liminal group: neither French nor English, alternately allies and enemies. The defection of Burgundy in 1435 was a turning point, on which the high pitch of this xenophobic emotion pivoted. Calais was kept in 1436 through a combination of poor Burgundian preparation and the fact that a spy reported the plans for a siege to the English six months in advance, giving them time to mobilise a massive relief effort;71 but the rupture of the Anglo-­ Burgundian alliance marked the beginning of the end for Henry VI’s fortunes in France. Linguistic antagonism was a perennial undercurrent in the narration of the events of the Hundred Years War; but it is especially interesting to see it directed not vaguely at the French but specifically and aggressively at the Flemings. Some writers simply tarred the two with the same brush, in the universal category of ‘fals French’ and ‘fals Flemynges’ mentioned above (see p. 106); but in The Mockery, specific Flemish words were singled out for linguistic combat. As the example of quade suggests, they could hover around the edges of linguistic assimilation, and yet be recognisably deployed in a polemicised, alienated diction in a text that was written to attack and demonise their speakers. Another poem composed ‘in despyte of þe Flemynges’, again on the subject of the rupture of the alliance at Arras and the siege of Calais, is preserved on the final folio of Lambeth Palace MS 84; and it too is conspicuously self-conscious about the ways in which it ‘remembers’ the conflict in mimetic, aggressive language. It is commonly titled the Ballade in Despyte of the Flemynges, and was formerly attributed to Lydgate.72 Doig opines that it ‘shows signs of official sponsorship, and it may have been distributed in bill form’.73 Like The Mockery, its framing rubrics construct a hermeneutic schema that offers an intratextual reading of poem and chronicle. It is prefixed with the words ‘in despyte of þe fflemynges an Englysshe man made thys englyshe yn Baladdys’. These words are squeezed onto the final page of the chronicle (fol. 201r), running over into the margins at the bottom of the ruled area, so that the poem alone occupies the final page (fol. 201v), similar to how Lambeth 6 introduces The Mockery on its final leaves. However, the descriptive preface is an odd one: not, ‘this ballad in English’, but ‘thys englyshe yn Baladdys’. Its Englishness is cast as its identity; the ‘baladdys’ only its form. The rubric’s foregrounding is borne out by the poem itself. It is tightly composed, its five stanzas all ending on the word ‘malygne’, and its rhyme scheme sustaining the same rhymes across the stanzas. The poet had a peculiar interest in French 71 72

73

See Doig, ‘A New Source for the Siege of Calais in 1436’, pp. 404–5; and Grummitt, The Calais Garrison. MacCracken was the first to attribute this poem to Lydgate, including it in his Minor Poems; and some scholars credit his attribution (Doig, ‘A New Source for the Siege of Calais in 1436’, p. 407; Scattergood, Politics and Poetry, p. 85). However, the evidence is very shaky: a perceived similarity in style, and the fact that Lydgate was commissioned to write Hundred Years War poetry. As Curry notes, ‘Lydgate has been credited with a very large amount of writing which cannot all be by him’, including The Battle of Agincourt in BL MS Cotton Cleopatra C.iv (Battle of Agincourt, p. 287), and the attribution is speculative. Doig, ‘Propaganda, Public Opinion and the Siege of Calais in 1436’, p. 99.

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loanwords, with a poisonous aureate register reminiscent of the chronicles, exemplified by the first stanza: Off stryvys new, & fraudulent falsnesse, Whoso lyst [wishes] to seek out þe chef occasioun [cause], Late hym resorte, & his wey dresse [direct his route] Into Flaundrys, streyght to the Blak Lyoun,74 Whiche hathe compassed, be fals collusioun [subterfuge], Lyk in his standard [banner], as betyn [decorated] is the signe [emblem], That meved [stirred] his countre of presumpcioun [impertinence], Ageyn Ingelond frowardly [wilfully] to malygne [attack].75

The –ioun and –igne rhymes demanded a proliferation of romance lexemes: collusioun, corrupcioun, tresoun, decepcioun, presumpcioun and foysoun; and together they constructed a lexical set calumniating Burgundian character in frenchified terms: Thou madist an oothe, be gret avisynesse [deliberation], Vpon the sacrament at Amyas in that toun, Ay to be trewe, voyde of dobylnesse. But vndyr the courteyne [cloak] of fals collusioun [covert plot], Thou gat at Araas an absolucioun [pardon annulling an oath], Thy feyned feythe vp falsly to resygne, Causyng Flaundrys, to ther confusioun, Ageyn Ingelond prowdly to maly[n]gne.

(22–9, p. 600)

The contrast between the blunt ‘thou madist an oothe’ and the manner of its making, ‘be gret avisynesse’, is pointed: an oath qualified by avisynesse inevitably finds an absolucioun to wriggle out of. Of course, this register is highly contextual: the same aureate vocabulary would have had a totally different effect in a courtly love balade from here in an invective poem. An archive of evidence could be amassed to show that aureation was by no means always, or even often, read in a pejorative or political way: far more frequently it functioned within ‘a general elevated tone’ that readers ‘would applaud’.76 The ‘grete playsyr’ that Caxton derived from the ‘fayr and honest termes and wordes in Frenshe’ that he found in his source, Le Liure des Eneydes, led him to praise it ‘as wel for the eloquence as the historyes’: a clear endorsement of the social cachet that French commanded even at the very end of the fifteenth century.77 The stylised aureation of writers like John Metham and Lydgate (whose particular employment of it as a language of political harmony post-1420 is discussed in detail below) indicates that, preponderantly, it figured as a register of elevation, a signature literary 74 75 76 77

A reference to the Vlaamse Leeuw, or the Black Lion of Flanders (which appeared on its flag), here satirised as the name of a public house. Cited from Brut, lines 1–8, p. 600, PV-1479/82; NIMEV 2657; orthographical corrections made from the manuscript. Blake, English Language, pp. 49, 51, 48. Caxton, Prologue to Eneydes (c. 1490), in Caxton’s Own Prose, p. 79.



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mode that exalted poet and subject. Moreover, Scanlon and Simpson outline an alternative political motivation for this rarified aureate diction, arguing that ‘Lollard use of the vernacular, in plain style, for biblical translation and theological discussion was judged dangerous by the Lancastrian Church. Apparently in response to this conjuncture, Lydgate developed an ornate, highly mannered rhetorical mode for religious, especially Marian, verse.’ They conclude with the plea, quoted in the previous chapter, that ‘his “aureate” style awaits historicization’.78 A more historicised interpretation of the polyvalent political and social functions of this stylistic register would be a welcome contribution to work on vernacular rhetoric, but this analysis seeks to highlight the multiplicity and complexity of the overlapping ways in which this rhetorical discourse was configured. However, what is clear is that aureation did not always or exclusively function in this elevated way. It was not uniform; it could be political or apolitical, depending on its deployment. The way in which Caxton continued his Eneydes prologue is telling in the qualms, as well as the attractions, that he voiced concerning the ‘Frenshe’ register in English: ‘I delybered and concluded to translate it into Englysshe’, he explained, but not without some hesitation, for whan I sawe the fayr and straunge termes therin, I doubted that it sholde not please some gentylmen whiche late blamed me sayeng that in my translacyons I had overcuryous termes whiche coude not be understande of comyn peple and desired me to use olde and homely terms in my translacyons.79

Other texts reinforce these glimpses of the alternative registers that aureation could encode. Williams discusses the francophone presentation of Herod in the Mystery Cycles as a way of representing tyranny, grandiloquence and bombast;80 and the figure of Mercy in the play Mankind was ridiculed by New Gyse as an oversophisticated confessor precisely for his ‘Englysch Laten’ (denomynacyon, communycacyon).81 Aureation could be deployed ironically and parodically as well as in celebration; it could be lauded as eloquent or smeared as ‘strange’. It could be used knowingly and sarcastically for various purposes, not all of them anti-French, motivated by religious and social politics as well as foreign policy; but contemporary chronicles and the political poetry they incorporated allow us an alternative glimpse into the pugnacious interpretative possibilities that this stylistic habit also permitted in the context of war. The author of this poem played into the familiar xenophobic archetype of Gallicana duplicitas (the phrase coined by Henry V),82 and the next stanza continues: The pees purposyd at Araas in soothnesse [good faith], Whan our embassatourys, of hool [sincere] affeccioun, Cam goodly thedyr, dyd ther bysinesse, To haue concluded a parfyt vnyoun [permanent truce] 78 79 80 81 82

Scanlon and Simpson, eds, John Lydgate, p. 8. Caxton, Prologue to Eneydes, in Caxton’s Own Prose, p. 79. Williams, The French Fetish, pp. 50–86 (77, 83). Mankind, ed. Kathleen M. Ashley and Gerald NeCastro (Kalamazoo, MI, 2010), lines 122–4. See Derek Pearsall, ‘Crowned King: War and Peace in 1415’, in The Lancastrian Court: Proceedings of the 2001 Harlaxton Symposium, ed. Jenny Stratford (Donington, 2003), pp. 163–72.

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Twyxt to reavmus [kingdoms], for ful conclusioun, Thou shewyng there a face ful benyg[n]e [mild], Vndyr a veyle of fals decepcioun, Record of Flaundrys, whiche falsly dothe malygne.

(25–32, pp. 600–1)

The image of the ‘face ful benygne’ that is a ‘veyle of fals decepcioun’ is mirrored linguistically: the line becomes onomatopoeic, the superficial meaning of ‘benygne’ (mild, gracious, generous) contrasting so markedly with the ‘decepcioun’ that it veils and the ‘maligned’ register of which it partakes. The character-assassination of the Burgundian ambassadors crescendoes in the collected French words, collocating with falsehood and deception. This poem uses the different registers in English not only to signify national difference, but to vilify national character. Furthermore, it is preoccupied with its status as a textual, quasi-legal, memorial. The second stanza begins ‘fyrst to remembre, the deede beryth wytnesse’, and it professes to offer a ‘record of Flaundrys’. Commemoration of the past is a guise for manipulation of the future memory: a memory minutely and mimetically controlled through language. These political balladeers’ combative language was triumphant and salient. They did not think of themselves as writing in a neutral register, but in one that was aiding and abetting the conflict at its heart. The made their texts the site of the skirmish, not the commentary on it. They foregrounded their language as a performative mimesis of conflict, and an apposite one, because French conflict had been literally written into English through conquest. As is apparent from these two poems, some of the most intense invective was reserved for the Burgundians, who switched their allegiance back to the Dauphin when it became apparent that Henry might succeed in the unlikely ambition that had never been more than a pipe-dream and a bargaining chip for his predecessors. The Follies of the Duke of Burgundy and the Scorn of the Duke of Burgundy, two more poems belonging to the Calais-group, castigated Burgundy for reneging on his alliance with England.83 The Follies (subtitled ‘a remembraunce’) begins, Loke how fflaundres doþ fare wiþ his folyhede [foolishness]! Durste no man dygge after trouþe wiþ no manere toles. To wynne wrongly wele [gain good fortune wrongly], wod þey gan wede [become insane], But werkis of wys men were cast vnder stoles [disregarded]. Glosers [sycophants, flatterers] counseled lordis for to take mede [bribes, rewards], To maken hem riche, and here lordis pore foles. Whan þe souerayns were set here sogettis to drede [to fear their subjects],

83

Robbins dates The Follies to 1419, suggesting that it relates to Jean sans Peur, assassinated by the Dauphin at Montereau in that year; Scattergood concurred that it was ‘a critical and moralizing review of the career of John the Fearless’ (Politics and Poetry, p. 69). However, R. H. Nicholson (‘Poetry and Politics: “A Remembraunce of lii Folyes” in Context’, Viator 41:2 (2010), 375–410) has suggested that it dates instead from seventeen years later and belongs to the group of verses written in scorn of his son, Philippe le Bon. This view is much more persuasive; it would place The Follies in the same group of verses with the Scorn, The Mockery, the Ballade in Despyte of the Flemynges and The Siege of Calais.



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Þe glosers skulked away, for shame of here sooles.

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(1–8, p. 50; NIMEV 1939)

This theme of ‘glossing’ recurs throughout this text. To ‘Truste al in gloser charmes’ is listed as one of the follies to be avoided (51, p. 51), and the poet asks, ‘When god for þat gylt smyt / What glosere can þat wounde saue?’ (97–8, p. 53) The folly and faithlessness attributed to Burgundy are epitomised in this recurring word, gloss, which stands for the discrepancy between word and deed, the promise and its effect, as well as the crimes of sycophancy and flattery: the sundry ‘follies’ catalogued by the poem are summed up in the single folly of culpable language. The MED defines glosen first as ‘to comment on interpret, explain, paraphrase’, second as ‘to obscure the truth (of a matter), falsify (a statement), gloze over’, and then third, ‘to use fair words, talk smoothly or courteously; speak with blandishment, flattery or deceit’. The vilification of this word intensified in the sixteenth century with the Protestants’ venomous rejection of ‘false glosses’;84 but long before then it was acquiring a tainted semantic conspectus, its neutral meanings accompanied and coloured by the alternative possibilities suggesting dishonest deception and sophistry. ‘Glossing’ is the source of myriad other follies of which Burgundy was allegedly guilty. His crime was a linguistic one: that he did not ‘dygge after trouþe’ but was satisfied with ‘gloser charmes’, the same archetype of slippery enemy speech so prominent in the chronicles. The second poem on Burgundy’s reversion, the Scorn of the Duke of Burgundy, similarly cast itself as a linguistic memorial. It survives in two manuscripts, one a major anthology of Lydgate also containing The Siege of Calais (English College, Rome, MS 1306). Doig suggests that this poem, too, ‘may also have been officially sponsored’.85 It consists of fourteen eight-line stanzas, each beginning with the words ‘Remembre the, Phelippe’ and ending in the phrase ‘thyn owne falsnesse causeth al thy myschance’ (or variations thereon). The poem sustains a dichotomy between integrity and duplicity: Philippe is the ‘fonder of new falshede’, accused in every stanza of ‘falsnes’ or ‘falshede’. His status is described in terms of pretence rather than reality: ‘Whiche of al burgoigne … / Thou clepist thiself duk’; ‘By assent of Charles that calleth hymself kyng / Of the reame of france’ (4–5, 19–20, pp. 86–7; NIMEV 3682). He is accused of having absented himself from Henry’s court with ‘feyned contenance’, and having ‘shewedest thyself assoilled by a cardinal … / which was withoute power papall’ (54, 60–1, p. 88). This is in contrast to the honesty and veracity that characterise ‘henre the vte, of veray gentilnesse’, who has been ‘euer gentil and trew’; and the injunction to Philippe with which the poem ends, to ‘be trew of promesse’ (10, 42, 110, pp. 869). A second set of opposites is the ‘grete vnkyndenesse’ ‘shewedist’ by ‘Thou moste vnkynde prince that euer man knew’; compared with Henry V’s action when ‘Withoute thy desert he was to the kynde’ (15, 47, 11, pp. 86–7). Truth and falsehood, natural and unnatural (or perhaps in this context, ungrateful), reality and feigning, are embodied by the repeated symmetrical lexis 84 85

See the preface to William Tyndale, Tyndale’s New Testament, ed. David Daniell (New Haven, CT, and London, 1989). Doig, ‘Propaganda, Public Opinion and the Siege of Calais in 1436’, p. 100.

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that contrasts the English and Burgundians. This is accompanied by the same pejorative diction that is so familiar from the chronicles, accusing Philippe of ‘Imagenyng alway cruell sotilte’, of a treasonous ‘purpos’ in the besieging of Calais (55, 92, 104, pp. 889). In all of these poems, what was at issue was not only the setting down of a permanent, poetic record of the events, but the conception of language as inextricably implicated in conflict, and therefore actively and mimetically involved in its portrayal. They differed in their response to this theme, but collectively, their preoccupation with the idea of poetic remembrance, and its outworkings in mimetic, performative language, was profound. Thus far this chapter has considered poetry that could loosely be called popular: ballads that had a demotic origin, enjoyed a certain degree of popularity or (more often) deliberately courted that identity. There are hints that The Mockery and the Scorn may have been commissioned, and I have suggested that it is more productive to think of all of these texts as pre-emptive and programmatic, self-consciously attempting to engender the patriotic fervour they described, rather than reflecting any genuine surge of such feeling. The second half of the discussion turns to poets working closer to the corridors of power: instead of the anonymous carols, anonymised invectives and the pseudo-anonymous sequence of Minot, the names of the authors discussed in the following sections are not only known but celebrated: Chaucer, the symbol of national eloquence (an identity he partly courted and partly resisted); Lydgate, the spokesperson for the regency regime; and lastly the littleknown John Page, the eyewitness. The poems considered up to this point shared straightforwardly polemical and xenophobic aims; we now turn to those for whom writing war was more complex: to Chaucer, both English and internationalist; to Chaucerians, navigating his reputation as the pinnacle of vernacular eloquence; to official propagandists of the Final Peace, translating war into marriage; and finally to an ethically troubled eyewitness, struggling with the responsibilities of poetic memorialisation and mimetic language at all.

The problem of Chaucer (part one) Chaucer has been the elephant in the room so far in this study: his career entirely overlapped with Edward III’s campaigns in France; indeed, he fought in them, before being captured and ransomed at Réthel, twenty miles north-east of Rheims, in 1360. By definition, he was a ‘Hundred Years War poet’; yet his almost complete silence on that subject is surprising. Moreover, he has a longstanding and highly contentious association with vernacularity, especially in its more robust and pugnacious characterisations. This began early and has dogged his legacy ever since. Here I explore the complexity of Chaucer’s association with ‘Englishness’, as ancient as it is arguable. I consider the enduring ideological importance not just of his ‘vernacularity’, but its peculiar quality, exploring the acrobatic ways in which ‘strange’ was made ‘eloquent’ in the process of his canonisation. In the early fifteenth century, Chaucer was enjoying the first wave of his celebrity as the ‘Father of English literature’. Very soon after his death he was heralded as the



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spokesman for national eloquence: the poet who had done for (and to) English what the great continental writers had done for the European vernaculars. The posthumous reappropriation of Chaucer by propagandists, seeking to co-opt the ‘greatest’ English poet in the cause of the ‘greatest’ English king, indicates the long shadow he cast over the poetic tradition; and the mileage to be made from politicising it. Imitations of the Chaucerian springtime opening are common in political verses, for example, capitalising on the cultural status of The Canterbury Tales: the second stanza of the carol For Victory in France (c. 1492, written in the context of Henry VII’s siege of Boulogne-sur-mer), reads Thys apryll schowyres, wyche are ful swet, Hathe bownd thys rosse not ʒet ful blown [blossomed]; In france he woll hys levys schote – [put out his leaves] his ryʒth to conquer, hys henmyes [enemies] to knowe.

(5–8, p. 96; NIMEV 306.5]

Similarly, The Siege of Calais repurposed a Chaucerian opening topos to a political theme, asserting that the ‘fresshe floures that April made’ herald the time ‘to profit and worshippe wynne / In armes’ (4, 10–11, p. 78). The Canterbury Tales was politically recontextualised by these lyrics as ‘the world’s best garden’, in which the Lancastrian rose put forth its shoots. Springtime openings were conventional long before Chaucer, of course, but his April ‘shoures soote’ became a meme in English poetry, co-opted by poets wresting that literary symbol for more aggressive agendas. However, it was for his language more than for any other quality that Chaucer was celebrated (and appropriated) by the next generation of his eulogists; but the eloquence that they lauded was complicated. If political discourse had cultivated a suspicion and ambivalence surrounding ‘strange Inglis’, a calumniation of aureation in a warmongering context, the spokesperson for vernacular literature and symbol of English eloquence was simultaneously being applauded for perfecting precisely the idiom that in political discourse was being derogated and deplored. Fifteenth-century accolades for Chaucer’s language abound: Hoccleve famously lamented that with Chaucer’s death, ‘the honour of Englissh tonge is deed’. His elegiac apostrophe called Chaucer the ‘flour of eloquence’ and the ‘Mirour [example] of fructuous entendement [fertile/prolific import]’, praising his ‘ornat endytyng / That is to al this land enlumynyng’, and garlanding him with the plaudit, ‘The firste fyndere of our fair langage’.86 Lydgate also praised ‘My mayster Chaucer’ as ‘the ffyrste in any age / That amendede our langage’, singling out ‘al hys rethorykes swete’.87 To this catalogue of praise we might add George Ashby, who quoted Hoccleve in his own accolades to Chaucer in the Active Policy of a Prince, composed for his pupil Edward Prince of Wales between 1463 and 1475: 86 87

Thomas Hoccleve, The Regiment of Princes, ed. Charles R. Blyth (Kalamazoo, MI, 1999), lines 1959–74, 2084–6, 4978, pp. 95–6, 100, 185; NIMEV 2229. John Lydgate, The Pilgrimage of the Life of Man, ed. F. J. Furnivall (London, 1905), lines 19755, 19775–6 and 19774, p. 527. See also John Lydgate, The Siege of Thebes, ed. Robert R. Edwards (Kalamazoo, MI, 2001), Prologue, lines 47–56; and John Lydgate, Troy Book: Selections, ed. Robert R. Edwards (Kalamazoo, MI, 1998), lines 4697–4709.

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Maisters Gower, Chaucer & Lydgate, Primier poetes of this nacion, Embelysshing oure englisshe tendure algate [in all respects immature/callow], Firste finders to oure consolacion Off fresshe, douce [sweet] englisshe and formacion [creation] Of newe balades, not vsed before, By whome we all may haue lernyng and lore [instruction].88

William Dunbar extemporised on the same theme in The Golden Targe: O reverend Chaucere, rose of rethoris all (As in oure tong ane flour imperiall) That raise in Britane evir, quho redis rycht, Thou beris of makaris [poets] the tryumph riall, Thy fresch anamalit [enamelled] termes celicall [heavenly] This mater coud [cold] illumynit have full brycht. Was thou nocht of oure Inglisch all the lycht, Surmounting [exceeding] eviry tong terrestriall Alls fer as Mayes morow dois mydnycht?89

To add a few more voices to the chorus, Caxton praised Chaucer as the ‘worshipful fader and first foundeur and enbelissher of ornate eloquence’, to be lauded for ‘making the sayd langage ornate and fayr’;90 in his Prolgue to The Canterbury Tales he opined that ‘for his ornate wrytyng in our tongue [Chaucer] maye wel have the name of a laureate poete’, because ‘he by his labour enbelysshyd, ornated and made faire our Englisshe’ in his ‘beauteous volumes and aournate writynges’.91 James I dedicated The Kingis Quair to ‘Gowere and Chaucere, that on the steppis satt / Of rethorike’, as ‘poetes laureate’ for their ‘eloquence ornate’;92 and BL MS Harley 78 (fol. 80r) ascribed the Complaint Unto Pity to ‘Geffrey Chaucier þe aureat poete þat euer was fonde in oure vulgare’.93 All these eulogies praised Chaucer for the specific quality of his language: he was the ‘flour of eloquence’, distinguished by ‘fructuous entendement’, ‘ornat endytyng that is to al þis land enlumynyng’, ‘fresshe, douce englisshe’, ‘fresch anamalit termes celicall’. In sum, Chaucer’s achievement (according to these assessments) lay in ‘embelysshing oure englisshe’. Words such as enlumynyng and illumynit, embellishing and endyting, recur: this was praise in kind, couched in the same ‘anamalit termes’ 88

89 90 91 92 93

George Ashby, George Ashby’s Poems, ed. Mary Bateson (London, 1899), lines 1–7, p. 13; NIMEV 2130. For further discussion of Ashby, especially arguments for dating the Archive Policy, see Robert J. Meyer-Lee, Poets and Power from Chaucer to Wyatt (Cambridge, 2007), pp. 151–3. J. A. Tasioulas, ed., The Makars: The Poems of Henryson, Dunbar and Douglas (Edinburgh, 1999), lines 253–1, p. 529. Caxton, Epilogue to Boethius (c. 1478), in Caxton’s Own Prose, p. 59. Caxton, Prologue to The Canterbury Tales (c. 1484), in Caxton’s Own Prose, p. 61. James I of Scotland, The Kingis Quair and Other Prison Poems, ed. Linne R. Mooney and Mary-Jo Arn (Kalamazoo, MI, 2005), lines 1374–7. See Seth Lerer, Chaucer and His Readers: Imagining the Author in Late-Medieval England (Princeton, NJ, 1993), p. 46.



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that it applauded in its master. If this was Chaucer’s English, then the English that he fathered was of a distinct pedigree. Chaucer’s reputation as the vernacular master was complicated by the fact that when his eulogists praised him, it was for his frenchified diction, which they called the pinnacle of English literary achievement. Yet he was also politically necessary in the construction of Englishness; and specifically, as the repurposed springtime openings indicate, of pugnacious Englishness. It was not for nothing that Dunbar chose that most English of emblems, the rose, to signify Chaucer: this was not just the love-symbol from the garden of the Romaunt of the Rose; it was the conquering red rose from the Lancastrian garden: ‘ane flour imperiall’, ‘surmounting eviry tong’; a symbol not just of courtly ‘rethoris’ but linguistic antagonism. There was a tension between the aureation that Chaucerians claimed had enlarged and embellished the capacity of English, and the enduring political idea of loanwords as the spoils of war (and it is ironic that endite, meaning high-style poetic composition, in a different context came straight from Law French: to be ‘endited of treason’ was a stock chronicle phrase). A further contradiction of the Hundred Years War, then, was that the symbol of English literature wrote in an idiom that was universally heralded as eloquent and national, because aureate and frenchified. This paradox, underpinning and problematising Chaucer’s fame, would surface most acutely in the Inkhorn Controversy, and the particular dilemma that Chaucer posed for the ‘plain English’ campaign of the sixteenth century is discussed in detail in the next chapter; but the controversial cocktail was simmering from the fifteenth century.94 Seth Lerer, discussing this eulogistic tradition, argues that ‘Aureation is a golden language from a golden world … Together with its sonically resonating wordpair, laureation, it becomes one of the key terms in the critical terminology of the century.’95 Chaucer was swiftly crowned the patriarch of English national poetry; yet his English was a weave of borrowed threads. He was no innovator in his enlumynyng and embellishing: it was the stylised idiom and the signature courtly mode of a poetry that had only recently been in ‘English’ at all. As Christopher Cannon has argued, the aureate style was Chaucer’s most traditional rather than his most distinctive mode.96 Part of the problem with the ubiquitous accolade of ‘Father of English’ is that it pulled, like so much political rhetoric in this period, in competing and contradictory directions. On the one hand, Chaucer’s greatness (allegedly) lay in that he chose to write in English; on the other, it lay in the rarefied character of that English, which had been transformed, essentially, into French. Whilst acknowledging that ‘Chaucer’s decision to write largely (perhaps exclusively) in English evidently had major repercussions for him as a writer and for

94

95 96

For further discussion and more examples of this tension, see Joanna Bellis, ‘“Fresch anamalit termes”: The Contradictory Celebrity of Chaucer’s Aureation’, in Chaucer and Fame: Reputation and Reception, ed. Catherine Nall and Isabel Davis (Cambridge, 2015), pp. 143–63, where some of this material first appeared. Lerer, Chaucer and His Readers, p. 24. For reconsideration of Lydgate’s status as a Chaucerian disciple, see Mary Flannery, John Lydgate and the Poetics of Fame (Cambridge, 2012). Cannon, Making of Chaucer’s English, p. 65.

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literary history’, Butterfield isolates ‘the powerfulness, not only of the later perspective, but also of its retrospective force’.97 To discover how Chaucer looks if we dissociate him from the progress-narrative of English literary culture is complex, not least because it was activated so early. In fact, as Pearsall asserts, ‘the idea of Englishness was not important in Chaucer’s writing’, but was ‘largely something that has been foisted upon him at later times’. He insists that ‘Of national feeling or a sense of national identity … I find little or nothing in Chaucer’; and ‘this idealisation of Chaucer as the poet of Englishness has little or no basis in his poetry’.98 More recent criticism has emphasised that pugnacious Englishess was something foisted upon, and not found in, Chaucer. Watson holds that ‘What made Chaucer so important to English literary history may have had less to do with any belief he had in himself as the founder of a self-conscious vernacular poetic tradition than with his invention as a founding figure’.99 There is a ‘determinism’ at work in which Chaucer was made the originary point for a narrative about Englishness and national literature that he did not start: as Bowers argues, ‘The manufacture of a Chaucerian tradition, first by these Lancastrians promoters and then now by modern literary historians, has been sustained by a myth of origins that is itself demonstrably arbitrary and contrived.’100 This determinism began early; in fact, it began immediately. It is neither a Renaissance nor a Victorian Chaucer that we encounter in this depiction (although both of those periods embraced and expanded the imperial symbolism of the ‘Father of English’);101 it is a medieval one. Several critics have considered it likely that Chaucer wrote his earliest poems in French;102 but Bennett suggests that the change of fortunes in France in the 1360s made for ‘a change of mood’ in that decade, and that it was during these years that Chaucer, ‘seemingly made a decisive commitment to English’.103 Although in the cultural/political reversals of this period, French returned to vogue in the court of Richard II before it fell out of favour again with the Lancastrians,104 Chaucer’s reputation came to rest very quickly on being a poet of ‘oure englisshe’. And, as demonstrated by the ‘Chaucerian’ war poetry, he was rapidly co-opted into an aggressive and exclusive idea of vernacularity not his own. Locating Chaucer’s ideas about his ‘englisshe’ is therefore a fraught enterprise, and a well-furrowed field. The dominant critical trends read Chaucer as cosmopolitan and European, not nationalistic or bloody-mindedly English, unmoved and Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, pp. 9–10. Pearsall, ‘The Idea of Englishness’, pp. 15–16; Pearsall, ‘Chaucer and Englishness’, pp. 90, 86. 99 Watson, ‘The Politics of Middle English Writing’, p. 347. 100 Bowers, ‘Chaucer after Retters’, p. 112. 101 For nineteenth-century constructions of Chaucer, see Pearsall, ‘Chaucer and Englishness’, p. 945. 102 Derek Pearsall, The Life of Geoffrey Chaucer: A Critical Biography (Oxford, 1992), pp. 63–73; Michael Bennett, ‘France in England: Anglo-French Culture in the Reign of Edward III’, in Wogan-Browne et al., Language and Culture, pp. 320–33 (pp. 330–3); A. Cole, ‘Chaucer’s English Lesson’, Speculum 77 (2002), 1128–67 (1128); introduction to Riverside Chaucer, p. xiv. For the poems of ‘Ch’ as candidates for Chaucer’s juvenilia, see James Wimsatt, Chaucer and the Poems of ‘Ch’ in University of Pennsylvania MS French 15 (Cambridge, 1982). 103 Bennett, ‘France in England’, p. 332. 104 See Turville-Petre, ‘Afterword: The Brutus Prologue’, p. 341; see also Watson, ‘The Politics of Middle English Writing’, p. 333. 97 98



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uninterested in crude polemic and competing with the continental vernacular poets on their own terms, even writing ‘a kind of French’. This is not the only interpretation, however: Bowers provocatively suggests that, if we accept the hypothesis that the youthful Chaucer did not write exclusively in English, ‘his efforts put him in direct competition with … Machaut, Deschamps, Granson – whose native language was the enemy’s language’, and ‘for Chaucer to have continued writing in French would have meant reproducing the practices of the dominant culture in the very act of assaulting it’. He ponders whether ‘The disappearance of his early French lyrics may represent more than the vicissitudes of poetic survival … Possibly Chaucer himself destroyed these early poems, or treated them with such neglect that they fell into oblivion.’ This is a step further than most critics would venture, and Bowers’s argument that Chaucer’s experience as a prisoner of war, a ‘psychic trauma’ that explains not only his ‘reluctance to glorify warfare’ but his refusal to pay homage to the French mode of courtly poetry and instead to write in his humble vernacular, is a deliberately tendentious one. He sees the post-1360 Chaucer as arguably complicit with the ‘antagonisms of the Hundred Years War’ that rendered ‘England’s cultural dependence upon France less and less acceptable’, and reads his ‘early works as a translator and adaptor of French sources … as legible acts of textual aggression’, finding ‘determined Englishness’ and ‘aggressive Englishness’ at work in The Book of the Duchess and The Canterbury Tales respectively, and reading his ‘contest with his French contemporaries’ in the light of ‘the politics of Anglo-French warfare’. His conclusion ventures that, in writing in English, Chaucer ‘fashioned his entire career as a creative assault upon the French poetic tradition in concert with the nation’s military hostilities’.105 I do not subscribe to this provocatively over-determined, pugnacious Chaucer, and Bowers himself is being playful in positing this alternative construction; but I do want to put some pressure on the uncontroversial, ‘cosmopolitan’ Chaucer. The examples discussed below are familiar, but they provide the discursive framework within which to think about Chaucer’s place in the corpus of Hundred Years War poetry, and the discourses of linguistic antagonism that it generated. Chaucer is often to be found apologising for the expressive incapacity of his vernacular: the black knight laments that he ‘lakketh both Englysshe and wit’; the Legend of Good Women narrator’s panegyric to the daisy complains ‘Allas, that I ne had Englyssh, ryme or prose, / Suffisant this flour to preyse aryght!’106 Of course, these apologies are not all they seem. The prologue to the Treatise on the Astrolabe contains Chaucer’s most explicit statements on his vernacular, written apparently ‘under ful light [easy] reules and naked wordes in Englissh’, and repeatedly reassuring poor Latin-less ‘Lowys’ that it will adumbrate its scientific subject ‘in my lighte Englissh’.107 This last phrase is reminiscent of Mannyng, Rolle and Usk, partaking of their schematic vocabularies for linguistic substrata (and Cole emphasises the

105 Bowers,

‘Chaucer after Retters’, pp. 96–8, 112, 102, 108. Book of the Duchess, lines 897–8, Riverside Chaucer, p. 341; The Legend of Good Women, F Prologue, lines 66–7, Riverside Chaucer, p. 590. 107 Treatise on the Astrolabe, Prologue, lines 1, 5–6, 50–1, Riverside Chaucer, p. 662. 106 The

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importance of contextualising the Astrolabe within the ‘circulation of terms and ideas within proximate Middle English communities’).108 However, the modesty topos of writing ‘lighte Englissh’ for ‘my litel sone’ was not simply a self-abasing apology for the rudeness of the language; it was also a self-promoting apology (in another sense) for its potential. Even in the terms in which he excused his ‘rude endityng’ and ‘superfluite of wordes’, there are echoes of a more ambitious prosody.109 Chaucer promised that he would set forth ‘as trewe conclusions touching this mater, and not oonly as trewe but as many and as subtile conclusiouns, as ben shewid in Latyn in eny commune tretys of the Astrelabie’. Moreover, ‘these trewe conclusions in Englissh’ would suffice as well to Lowys in English as ‘to these noble clerkes Grekes these same conclusions in Grek; and to Arabiens in Arabik, and to Jewes in Ebrew, and to Latyn folk in Latyn’.110 Chaucer was positioning himself at the end of an illustrious and inevitable trajectory of translation: he quietly ‘occludes the European vernaculars’ as he places English immediately after Greek, Hebrew and Latin.111 However, to come at the end of the translatio studii was also to come at the bottom of it: ‘I n’am but a lewd compilator of the labour of olde astrologiens, and have it translatid in myn Englissh oonly for thy doctrine’.112 Humility and competitiveness jostled side by side in this attempt to put English on the cultural map; and to do so was not only a cultural and scholarly enterprise, but explicitly a political one: the prologue concludes with the prayer, ‘God save the king, that is lord of this langage’.113 As Cole comments, the Prologue is all about ‘vernacularity and its politics’.114 The Complaint of Venus is frequently quoted in this context, for its similarly competitive affectation of a modesty topos. Chaucer compared English specifically with the European vernaculars, simultaneously deferring to and competing with them: For elde [age], that in my spirit dulleth me, Hath of endytyng [composing poetry] al the subtilte [skill] Wel nygh bereft out of my remembraunce, And eke to me it ys a gret penaunce [hardship] Syth rym in Englissh hath such skarsete, To folowe word by word the curiosite [cleverness] Of Graunson, flour of hem that make [compose] in Fraunce.115

Neither his skill nor his medium, Chaucer averred, could compare to those of Oton de Graunson, the Savoyard poet whose five ballads, brought to England when he entered John of Gaunt’s service in 1374, were Chaucer’s source.116 But this mock 108 Cole,

‘Chaucer’s English Lesson’, p. 1164. on the Astrolabe, Prologue, lines 43–4, Riverside Chaucer, p. 662. 110 Ibid., lines 51, 28, 51–5, 28–33, p. 662. 111 Cole, ‘Chaucer’s English Lesson’, pp. 1135, 1138. 112 Treatise on the Astrolabe, Prologue, lines 61–4, Riverside Chaucer, p. 662. 113 Ibid., lines 56–7, p. 662. 114 Cole, ‘Chaucer’s English Lesson’, p. 1136. 115 The Complaint of Venus, lines 76–82, Riverside Chaucer, p. 649. 116 For further discussion of Chaucer and Graunson, see Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, pp. 185–7, 109 Treatise



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humility served, once more, to draw attention to the accomplishment of both. There was hardly a ‘skarsete’ of ‘rym in Englissh’, when the rhymes are sustained across all of the ballads, and one case (-aunce) across all three. His English was competing with Graunson’s French on its own terms: as Butterfield observes, ‘The complaint that English rhymes are scarce is whimsical’ when ‘Chaucer, by using only two rhyme sounds in the whole stanza performs a much more difficult (and characteristically French) feat than either he or Graunson attempts in the ballades themselves’. The image of a poet ‘in awe of French “curiosite”’ and ‘more aware than ever of English’s inadequacies as a vernacular’ is specious and artful.117 For both Chaucer and his acolytes, ‘“anxiety” … is also a trope, a controlled rhetorical attitude’; part of the double dependence on and resistance to classical and European masters that characterised the translatio; simultaneously a homage to and a displacement of authority.118 Bowers, similarly, comments on Chaucer’s ‘refusal to acknowledge Machaut as his principal source’ for The Book of the Duchess, alongside his conspicuous absence ‘amid the showy name-dropping of his later works’, arguing for Chaucer’s early attitude towards Machaut (like his later one towards Boccaccio) as one that ‘signals his resistance to the hermeneutic activity which granted authority to the object of translation’. Though Chaucer was ‘Never sardonic with anti-French passion’, nevertheless, according to Bowers, a recalcitrance and obstructionism in the way in which Chaucer handles his French sources can be detected.119 The sparring homage to Graunson (the ‘flour’ of France) forms an interesting comparison to Chaucer’s encomium to another European poet, the terms of which supplied the pattern for how he himself would be celebrated as the ‘rose’ of English. The Clerk began his tale by explaining how it was ‘Lerned at Padowe of a worthy clerk’: Fraunceys Petrak, the lauriat poete, Highte this clerk, whos rethorike sweete Enlumyned al Ytaille of poetrie.

He observed in particular that ‘with heigh stile he enditeth’,120 and the particular praise for ‘endytyng’ that characterises both tributes, to Graunson and Petrarch, carries an accompanying lexis that is recognisable as (identical to) that which later Chaucerians would praise in Chaucer himself: ‘rethorike sweet’, ‘enlumyned’, ‘subtilte’, ‘curiosite’; and, of course, it is a lexis that overlaps, subtly yet pertinently

241, 252–4; H. Phillips, ‘The Complaint of Venus: Chaucer and de Graunson’, in The Medieval Translator, ed. R. Ellis and R. Evans (Exeter, 1994), pp. 86–103; J. Scattergood, ‘Chaucer’s Complaint of Venus and the “Curiosite” of Graunson’, Essays in Criticism 44 (1994), 171–89; Wogan-Browne et al., Idea of the Vernacular, pp. 26–7. 117 Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, p. 254; see also Butterfield, ‘National Histories’, pp. 42–3; and Butterfield, ‘France’, in Chaucer: Contemporary Approaches, ed. Susanna Fein and David Raybin (Philadelphia, 2010), pp. 25–46. 118 Wogan-Browne et al., Idea of the Vernacular, pp. 27, 10; see also Evans et al., ‘The Notion of Vernacular Theory’, pp. 316–21. 119 Bowers, ‘Chaucer after Retters’, p. 97. 120 ‘The Clerk’s Prologue’, lines 27, 31–3, 41, Riverside Chaucer, p. 137.

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(and this is the key argument), with that which the chroniclers were using antagonistically and politically. ‘Strange Inglis’ and ‘douce englisshe’ appear, in fact, to be exactly the same thing, described from different sides of the political debate: the one pugnacious and pejorative, the other cultural and vogue. Both had an equal, if paradoxical, purchase on the discourse of ‘oure Inglisch’ that was becoming an increasingly frequent political evocation.121 In one characterisation, this national language was ‘symple’ and polemically demotic, rejecting enemy and elite registers alike; in another, it was elevated, elegant, intellectual and European, embracing the ‘douce’, and by making sweet rhetoric English, making English rhetoric sweet. Chaucer’s construction of his vernacular was (predictably) humble and ambitious, modest and competitive, internationalist and pugnacious. His language acknowledged its lowliness yet competed with the magisterial vernaculars on their own terms. Chaucer’s ‘englisshe’, then, was simultaneously deferential and aggressive; frequently passive-aggressive through coy postures of deference. Its aureation exhibited none of the chronicles’ pejoration or the contextual smear of ‘strangeness’. But, as Butterfield argues, ‘The absence of linguistic jingoism in Chaucer’ stemmed not from ‘comfortable security in English’s internationalism’ but from a consciousness of its ‘humble status’ of which Chaucer was ‘all too aware’. The latter decades of the fourteenth century were a time at which ‘writers from each side and across the Channel began to cast themselves as sharing close, yet fraught literary friendships, in which the experience of antagonism or an anxiety about linguistic identity was never far from the surface’.122 Chaucer was not asserting ‘an independent national identity’ but enabling ‘England to take its place among those more advanced nations of Europe – France and Italy – that already had an illustrious vernacular. English is part of Chaucer’s European project.’123 However, all of this took place within the context of a war that was polemically galvanising linguistic antagonism, and in which Chaucer fought. The important point, in Turville-Petre’s words, is that ‘No English writer from the early fourteenth century could represent himself as a national poet’,124 as Chaucer did in his homages not just to Graunson, but more ambitiously to ‘Virgile, Ovide, Omer, Lucan and Stace’ (not forgetting the snubbed Boccaccio).125 The difference between the mid-1380s and the late 1330s, when Mannyng was writing, was a half-century not just of conflict, but of propagandistic reshaping of ideas of political vernacularity. Chaucer’s sparring engagements with French were indeed part of a cosmopolitan cultural and linguistic exchange; but he was crafting a poetic vocation that was competitively informed, and indeed made possible, by the conflict that was its immediate backdrop. This brings us back to the intriguing near-complete absence of that conflict from Chaucer’s writing. If he was playfully and thoughtfully engaged with the linguistic/ 121 See

Scattergood on ‘oure Englande’ and ‘oure Englysshe men’, Politics and Poetry, p. 42. Familiar Enemy, pp. 274, 185. 123 Pearsall, ‘Chaucer and Englishness’, p. 90. 124 Turville-Petre, England the Nation, p. 216. 125 Troilus and Criseyde, line 1792, Riverside Chaucer, p. 584. 122 Butterfield,



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political/cultural debates of his times (which the evidence discussed above indubitably indicates that he was), why did the most significant political context of his life, the Hundred Years War, receive so little attention? Even admitting Catherine Nall’s timely corrective that ‘we have perhaps failed to recognise just how far … canonical texts were shaped – in structure, language and meaning – by the military-inflected reading culture of the period’, we have to search hard in Chaucer to find the conflict that represented the dominant political events of his oeuvre.126 It is rare to hear Chaucer described as a ‘war poet’, although at least in some sense that is what he was. He served briefly under Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence, in September 1359; before he was taken prisoner at the failed siege of Rheims in January 1360, and ransomed by Edward III for £16, ‘the going rate for a valettus’.127 He returned to France later that year for the ratification of the treaty of Brétigny; and thereafter travelled widely in France and Flanders. One way or another, Edward III’s long wars dominated his early career, from the celebrated triumphs of the 1340s and 1350s to the change of fortune in the 1360s and 1370s. It is not quite true to say that Chaucer was totally silent on the subject of the Hundred Years War. Butterfield detects echoes of Jean II’s situtation as prisoner of Edward III in The Knight’s Tale, which she calls a ‘war poem’; she goes on to observe that its ‘unforgettable images of destruction’, ‘Chaucer can only have seen in or off the coast of France, wrought by Edward’s soldiers’; and speculates that behind Arcite’s lavish funeral lies the remembrance of Jean II’s.128 Occasionally, the conflict receives a specific mention: the Knight served in the farther fields of Alexandria, Prussia, Lithuania, Granada, Algeciras and Turkey, but his son the Squire, ‘portrayed in the very springtime of his chivalry’,129     hadde been somtyme in chyvachie In Flaundres, in Artoys, and Pycardie, And born hym weel.130

These, as the Riverside modestly notes, are places ‘where English armies fought’. In fact the top corner of France and Burgundy encompassed several places whose names had become synonymous with combat in the 1340s–1360s: Calais, Crécy, Tournai; alongside several more yet to achieve their notoriety: Harfleur, Arras, Rouen. Although chyvachie could refer simply to a cavalry expedition or a mounted raid, in the context of ‘Flaundres … Artoys, and Pycardie’ it could not fail to bring to mind the notorious chévauchées that were used with such devastating effect in the Black Prince’s campaigns of 1355 and 1356. The Squire’s service in France must have been not dissimilar from Chaucer’s own. He too was barely ‘twenty yeer of age’ in 1360 (83, p. 24), on his short spree of active service; he too was a king’s ‘esquier’ 126 Nall,

Reading and War, p. 10. Life of Geoffrey Chaucer, p. 40. For Edward III’s contribution to Chaucer’s ransom, see Lee Patterson, Chaucer and the Subject of History (London, 1991), p. 33; for Chaucer’s service and capture, see Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, pp. 173–4. 128 Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, pp. 182, 183–4, 185. 129 Pearsall, Life of Geoffrey Chaucer, p. 45. 130 ‘The General Prologue’, lines 85–7, Riverside Chaucer, p. 24. 127 Pearsall,

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(p. xiv); and, of course, he too ‘koude … wel endite’ (95, p. 25). The identification between the young Chaucer and the Squire is momentary and playful, but it shows how the events of the conflict in France, and Chaucer’s own place in them, were not far in the background. Moreover, and most interesting in the context of performative language, there are moments when the laureate style, which came to be the signature of his eloquence, functioned in a more barbed and ambivalent way. Diomede, courting Criseyde in Book IV of Troilus, remarks, And but if Calkas lede us with ambages – That is to seyn, with double wordes slye, Swiche as men clepen a word with two visages – Ye shal wel knowen that I naught ne lie.131

It is interesting that when Chaucer, in search of a ‘double word’ in the context of treachery in the context of war, settled on ambages: a word that in Anglo-Norman meant ‘circumvention, circumlocution, avoidance’, and ‘in contemporary French … meant “circuitous or deceitful speech”’,132 recorded in English for the first time in this passage (and not reappearing until 1527). It is a word that literally had ‘two visages’, embodying in its own recondite unfamiliarity the ‘intentional ambiguity’ (MED) that it signified; and Chaucer’s gloss of it in the next line as a as a ‘double word … slye’ underlined the two-faced signification on which he was playing, in Diomede’s fickle use of it to assert, appropriately enough, that ‘I naught ne lie’. Its timbre and its meaning merged, as its literal sense of deceit and sophistry was reinforced powerfully by its own strangeness. This was a performative, onomatopoeic lexical moment, functioning like the ‘double wordes’ that chroniclers were employing in their vivid register of ‘strange’, enemy language. In the background of Chaucer’s playful engagements with French, perhaps, was the ancient conflict that complicated (and was complicated by) the close and combative linguistic relationships that could not but be its metaphor, and the habits of writing that it had cultivated. Chaucer was a London bureaucrat, heavily embroiled in the political activity of his time: it is impossible that he would not have been as aware as the London chroniclers of the political debates about language, though he did not share their pugnacious agenda. That he understood and exploited the possibilities afforded by the political substrata of his vernacular is apparent in a final passage, in which he discussed lexical differentiation explicitly. ‘The word moot nede accorde with the

131 Troilus

and Criseyde, IV, lines 897–900, Riverside Chaucer, p. 572. Burnley, The Language of Chaucer (Basingstoke, 1989), p. 137. This word is discussed by Rothwell (‘Arrivals and Departures’, pp. 161–2), who shows how, contrary to the claims of ‘Middle English specialists and dictionaries’ that it was ‘introduced by Chaucer from French or Italian’, it was in fact ‘in use in Anglo-French from the late twelfth century, nearly two hundred years before it is attested in Continental French’, and it ‘had been part of the AngloLatin lexicon for even longer’.

132 David



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dede’, asserted the Manciple (wryly quoting Plato as he declared himself ‘a boystous [unlearned] man’).133 He gives the example, Ther nys no difference, trewely, Bitwixe a wyf that is of heigh degree, If of hir body dishonest she bee, And a povre wenche, oother than this – If it so be they werke bothe amys [behave immodestly] – But that the gentile [noblewoman], in estaat above, She shal be cleped [called] his lady, as in love; And for that oother is a povre womman, She shal be cleped his wenche or his lemman [lover].134

Once more the Manciple avers ‘I am a man noght textueel’, and returns to his bird fable; but he has made an important point:135 social stratification is innate in language. The difference between a ‘wenche’ and a ‘lady’, a ‘theef ’ and a ‘tiraunt’, is only significant because it is conventional: language is far from innocent; it is implicated in enforcing the status quo. ‘The wise Plato’ may have laid down the principle that ‘The word moot cosyn be to the werkyng’, but this is the ideal; in reality the gap between ‘word’ and ‘werkyng’ is as wide as the gap between rich and poor, enemy and ally, French and English.136 Chaucer may not have been particularly interested in using the politicised diction of the conflict to the bald polemical ends of its more jingoistic commentators, but he was fully aware of its possibilities, conversant with its discourse, and perhaps (like his Manciple) critical of its operation.137 Chaucer was a complex symbol, co-opted by jingoists and eulogists in their mutually incompatible definitions of what should characterise the language of the father of English: a poet who so quickly received the laureate garland and was retrospectively hailed as having not just spoken for the nation, but inaugurated the new national language. His fifteenth-century fame was ‘part [of ] a political programme of national legitimation’ that he himself did not espouse, at least not in its obstinate or entrenched form. He was not particularly interested in the doctrine of ‘Inglische Inglische’, although he employed (and enjoyed) the pugnacious edge of linguistic sparring, the possibilities and paradoxes of the moment of intense cultural closeness and friction in which he found himself.138 Next, this discussion moves to a Chaucerian who really did speak for the ‘nation’, commissioned from the hub of the official machine: a poet for whom the paradoxes of the conflict were not playful opportunities for coy literary one-up-manship, but propagandistic nightmares.

133 The

Manciple’s Tale, lines 211, 208, Riverside Chaucer, pp. 284–5. lines 212–20. 135 Ibid., lines 223–5, 227, 230, 235, p. 285. 136 Ibid., lines 207, 210, p. 284. 137 For fuller discussion of Chaucer’s uses of this Platonic proverb, see Megan Murton, ‘Chaucer’s Ethical Poetic in the Canterbury Tales’, in Chaucer’s Poetry: Words, Authority, and Ethics, ed. Clíodhna Carney and Frances McCormack (Dublin, 2013), pp. 48–60. 138 Pearsall, ‘Chaucer and Englishness’, pp. 93, 91. 134 Ibid.,

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John Lydgate memorialising the political present after 1420 Lancastrian court poets who enjoyed what has been called an unofficial laureate status139 had a more problematic engagement with the discourses of language and conflict than either their illustrious predecessor, most of whose career spanned the ‘fallow years’ after the Treaty of Brétigny, or their successors, the jingoistic balladeers writing in the shadow of Henry V’s legacy.140 They inherited a poetic diction ennobled by borrowed eloquence and adorned in foreign glory, yet they were writing at a political moment when frenchification was ambivalent, culturally in vogue but politically maligned; and under a regime whose cultivation of vernacularity was programmatic, and whose propaganda machine unprecedently well oiled. Lydgate, commissioned to write political poetry about the events of the 1420s, found himself hedged between the Chaucerian school of laureate eloquence, on the one hand, and the aggressive linguistic hostility of the patriotic tradition on the other. It has become usual to talk of the Lancastrian poets, especially Lydgate and Hoccleve, as fundamentally compromised by their allegiance to a usurping dynasty. Paul Strohm writes, ‘Unable to close itself to history, Lancastrian poetry reluctantly accepts the task of disavowing what it knows and cannot say about usurpation, tyranny and terror’;141 and ‘Would-be Lancastrian ideologues replicated … the suppressions, contortions, and reworkings endemic to the Lancastrian propaganda endeavor. But the resulting, aspirationally complicitous, text was never to be free of the absent pressure of banished events, and particularly “the” event of sovereignty’s illicit and violent origin.’142 This analysis often goes too far: the crisis underpinning the dynasty that court poets were employed to eulogise did not hold them in a hermeneutic vice that made what they could not say more vital than what they did; nor was Lydgate the strait-jacketed or servile propagandist he has been painted. Pearsall allows, ‘there is not readily available a flexible enough language to describe how poems on sensitive political subjects come into existence’, with the resulting ‘tendency to simplify matters by attributing them either to the operation of state power or … subversive agency’.143 The small revolution currently taking place in Lydgate studies is resisting and reformulating this view of Lydgate as Lancastrian acolyte: Scott-Morgan Straker takes issue ‘with critics who explicitly label Lydgate a propagandist’, asserting that ‘The standard view of Lydgate’s subservient Lancastrianism is simply false’. Instead, he aligns his writings with a kind of ‘Public poetry, [that] with its devotion to the common weal and its mandate to offer advice to princes’ enabled ‘Lydgate to balance the roles of loyal subject and political critic’.144 Likewise, Nall refuses to ‘construct 139 See

Scattergood, Politics and Poetry, p. 73. Paul Strohm, ‘Hoccleve, Lydgate and the Lancastrian Court’, in The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature, ed. D. Wallace (Cambridge, 2000), pp. 640–61. 141 Ibid., ‘Hoccleve, Lydgate’, pp. 656–61. 142 Paul Strohm, England’s Empty Throne: Usurpation and the Language of Legitimation 1399–1422 (New Haven, CT, 1998), pp. 196–7. 143 Pearsall, ‘Crowned King’, p. 168. 144 Scott-Morgan Straker, ‘Propaganda, Intentionality and the Lancastrian Lydgate’, in Scanlon and Simpson, eds, John Lydgate, pp. 98–128 (98, 121–2). 140 See



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Lydgate or his poetry as pro- or anti-war or Lancastrian’, but rather demonstrates the degree to which he was ‘in dialogue with contemporary debate surrounding the making of war’, resisting ‘overly schematic’ attempts ‘to determine how far Lydgate was complicit with the agendas of his patron, Henry V’ or ‘with the ideologies and strategies of the “Lancastrians”’.145 Joanna Martin reads Lydgate’s occasional and political poems as ‘reveal[ing] Lydgate to be a more complex poet in his attitudes to power and to advice-giving than conventional accounts of him as “poet-­ propagandist” … for the Lancastrian regime suggest’.146 These revisionist voices in Lydgate studies are timely. But they beg the re-­examination of the extent, therefore, to which ‘the absent pressure of banished events’ was subtly felt. Lydgate’s commissioned poetry was compromised, just as it was necessitated, by the legitimacy crisis; and the linguistic and ideological contortions that his poetry had to perform in the attempt to smooth its problematic politics away partook of the same tradition of ‘remembering’ (i.e. rewriting) that characterised the poetry of the Hundred Years War more widely. Moreover, his capacity as mouthpiece for the new monarchy (however much he performed that role critically, not slavishly) meant that the paradoxes of the war sharpened into recalcitrant contradictions, and poetic memorialisation became a self-aware exercise in a more acute way. Lydgate’s attempts to accommodate Lancastrian illegitimacy involved supremely complicating the French cause. He could not simultaneously espouse the discourses of the Lancastrians as the natural kings of England and therefore France, and the French as the natural enemies of England; especially when in 1420, against all likelihood, the title of King of France became (fleetingly) a reality not a soundbyte. Trumpeting the Lancastrian cause involved addressing the paradox at the heart of the conflict, which most war poets had simply ignored: that the casus belli relied on the Frenchness of the English king. Henry V himself promoted both discourses and simply glossed over their incompatibilities. Nall claims that ‘Henry’s willingness to settle disputes peacefully, his preference for peace over war, was constantly reiterated throughout the rest of his reign’, in a flagrantly doctored interpretation of his aggressive foreign policy.147 His ‘decisive moves in the promotion of English’, from his encouragement of the Brewers’ Company’s decision to keep its records in English in 1422, to the instructions he gave the ambassadors at Constance, to his commissioning of the Troy Book, have been frequently explored, although they constitute propagandistically motivated political gestures rather than anything approaching ‘a language policy’.148 Lydgate’s translation has been seen as ‘paralleling Henry’s intended reconquest of France’ in 145 Nall,

Reading and War, pp. 9, 75–6. Martin, ‘John Lydgate’s Shorter Secular Poems’, in A Companion to Fifteenth-Century English Poetry, ed. Julia Boffey and A. S. G. Edwards (Cambridge, 2013), pp. 87–98 (94). 147 Nall, Reading and War, p. 89. 148 See Fisher, ‘A Language Policy for Lancastrian England’; Pearsall, ‘The Idea of Englishness’, pp. 17–19; Ormrod, ‘The Use of English’. However, I see these moves as partaking of the same fitful impulse that characterised most Hundred Years War propaganda (i.e. top-down, skin-deep and intermittent), agreeing with Dodd that ‘the case has yet to be made that the conversion records to the English language was policy’: ‘The Spread of English’, p. 264. 146 Joanna

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the way that he ‘aggressively reshapes his source’ (Guido delle Colonne’s Historia destructionis Troiae, 1287);149 and Hardy has even located in the Troy Book ‘a nationalistic manifesto in support of Henry V’s cross-channel expeditions’.150 This simplistic reading has been fluently rebuffed by Andrew Lynch, who argues that Lydgate’s text is a much more polyvalent weave of multiple discourses about patriotism and war, counsel, poetry and prudence.151 Certainly, there was a tangible competitiveness in the way that Lydgate described his royal commission: ‘of Troye in Englysche to translate … / Lyche as the Latyn maketh mencioun’, so that the ‘noble story’ might be ‘openly … knowe / In oure tonge’, and ‘ywriten as wel in oure langage / As in Latyn and in Frensche it is’.152 As Scanlon and Simpson comment, to some extent undoubtedly the Troy Book ‘and other secular works fulfilled a Lancastrian project of promoting an English vernacular tradition of high literary status that could stand beside a long French … tradition’.153 On the other hand, although John Finlayson regards Henry’s commision as ‘clearly, in the broad sense, politically directed’, he maintains that ‘there are too many passages which can be seen as critical of Henry’s wars in France, and even of the death of Richard II’ to adduce a straightforwardly or slavishly political agenda in Lydgate’s ‘tragi-heroic conception’.154 Henry V, no doubt, recognised the extent to which vernacular culture could be harnessed to stimulate and energise a politically expedient sense of national identity. Ormrod calls him ‘the first king seemingly to have appreciated the authenticity and intimacy that could be implied by framing missives to his subjects in the vernacular’, and sees his systematic promotion of English as building on Edward III’s ‘symbolic statements on the use of English during the later fourteenth century’.155 Concomitant with this effort went the king’s attempts to vilify and demonise his enemies. In 1415 he had caused to be transcribed and sealed a whole record of the negotiations between himself and the great princes of France since March 1413, to show how the French had evaded his just demands and broken their promises at every point, and how it was their own doing if he now had to raise against them the banner of war.

This record was sent to the Council of Constance and the Emperor Sigismund, ‘so that the world might know of the duplicity of the French’; and it is this document that coined the iconic phrase Gallicana duplicitas.156 149 Evans

et al., ‘The Notion of Vernacular Theory’, p. 320. ‘The Hundred Years War and the “Creation” of National Identity’, p. 24. 151 See Andrew Lynch, ‘“The stroke of dethys violence”: Manhood and Melancholy in John Lydgate’s Troy and Thebes’, in Bellis and Slater, eds, Representing War and Violence in Later Medieval Europe (forthcoming). 152 Lydgate, Prologue to the Troy Book, lines 85, 87, 91–2, 93–4, in Idea of the Vernacular, p. 45. See also Lydgate, Troy Book: Selections, ed. Edwards. 153 Scanlon and Simpson, eds, John Lydgate, p. 8. 154 John Finlayson, ‘Guido de Columnis’ Historia Destructionis Troiae, the Gest Hystorial of the Destruction of Troy and Lydgate’s Troy Book: Translation and the Design of History’, Anglia 113:2 (1995), 141–62 (158). 155 Ormrod, ‘The Use of English’, pp. 786, 752. 156 Pearsall, ‘Crowned King’, p. 163. 150 Hardy,



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So far so good, from 1413 until 1420; but in the Treaty of Troyes Henry sought to join the French royal family, not to oust it. He made himself a Valois prince more smoothly (though no less forcibly) than his father had made himself a Plantagenet one: the treaty, as recorded in the London chronicles, announced his intention to take ‘Charlis and Isabelle … for owre fadyr and modyr’,157 and it was the first document since 1258 to be systematically distributed, in English translation, to the sheriffs of every province.158 As Pearsall puts it, ‘the idea of the Englishness of the English language as an embodiment of the English nation … was no longer relevant, after 1421, to the dual monarchy, in which both languages were equally official’. Paradoxically, victory ‘deprived the English of the traditional means of asserting national identity’, for the fabulously ironic reason that, after 1420, ‘the French were English’.159 This was a serious ideological obstacle to the propaganda that, for almost a century, had been asserting (in the face of a contradictory cultural reality) the fundamental difference and intrinsic enmity of France. The ways in which the Treaty of Troyes represented a complete (if short-lived) ideological reversal of all that had led up to it, as well as what came directly after it (e.g. the Calais poems discussed above), is a topic that has received only a small amount of critical attention. Henry wanted to have his cake and eat it: to justify his wars and unite his subjects in a spirit of vernacular nationalism, then to smooth over the fissures once invasion gave way to conquest: to hold onto both images of France, as enemy and as spouse. Both discourses were fuelled by the royal propagandist effort, but they were more difficult to hold in tension for its poets, especially when the sublimated paradox (that the conflict that engendered such nationalist alterity was predicated on the essential affinity of France and England) could not be sublimated any more. The Treaty of Troyes, which solemnised the nuptials of Katherine of Valois and Henry V and made him heir-apparent, precipitated some speedy spin-doctoring of the franco­phobic propaganda that had been the modus operandi up to that point. Poetic apologists for the union wrote at the behest of the dynasts who, when war, not peace, was their theme, had commissioned poetry that sang a very different tune. The change of direction in 1420 was tangible: French conflict had become so comfortable a theme for so long that unity, even in the form of conquest, was unsettling. To be at war with France had become a staple ingredient of English national identity: For many Englishmen, the Treaty of Troyes represented a dubious victory; in the parliament which met in December 1420, the commons expressed a particular concern about the position of England once the treaty was ratified. A number of petitions reflected apprehension lest England should be subordinated to the realm of France; one petition demanded re-enactment of the statute of 1340 which declared that the realm of England should never be in subjection to the crown of France.160

157 Gregory,

p. 129. Ormrod, ‘The Use of English’, p. 786. 159 Pearsall, ‘The Idea of Englishness’, pp. 20–1. 160 James A. Doig, ‘Propaganda and Truth in Henry V’s Royal Progress in 1421’, Nottingham Medieval Studies 40 (1996), 167–79 (167). 158 See

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The treaty was the apex, a short-lived moment when English kings were kings of France, in more than title. Yet war with France was less a source of insecurity than peace proved to be. The propaganda accompanying Henry V’s progress through London in 1415 suggests that French conflict was still too integral to English identity for the idea of unity to be palatable: an effigy of a giant armed with a battle-axe was erected on London Bridge, inscribed with the motto ‘a gyaunt that was full grym of syght, / To teche the Frensshemen curtesye’.161 The war with France, that had long outlasted living memory, had become an end in itself; and the idea that it might finally have achieved its aims was, paradoxically, a disturbing one: as Hardy writes, ‘the Lancastrian project seems to have attenuated any sense of Englishness predicated on linguistic separation from a French “other”’, and support for the Treaty of Troyes ‘needed to be cultivated’.162 Aggression and coercion were still the currency of political relations, even when the very pageant that produced them was in celebration of those relations (ostensibly) becoming marital instead of martial. Lancastrian poetry was obliged to emphasise the opposite narrative from the one that had pertained for a century: union in place of enmity. Lydgate’s official poetry was therefore a reversal of most Hundred Years War propaganda, having to cast itself as its culmination. It is the supreme paradox that the same memorialisation topos of the conflict’s apologists, ironing out the ironies in their emphasis on entrenched aggression and mimetic, textual warfare, was used by Lydgate to transform alterity into affinity and war into marriage. Lydgate’s Title and Pedigree of King Henry VI, commissioned by the Earl of Warwick in 1426, was a translation of a French text by the royal notary Lawrence Calot, itself commissioned by the Duke of Bedford in 1423 after the accession of the infant Henry VI to the double throne in 1422.163 To at least one compiler, the poem counted as a ‘remembrance’: the rubric in BL MS Harley 7333, fol. 31r, introduces it with the words (Figure 3): Here begynneth a remembraunce of a pee deugre [pedigree] how that the kyng of Englond, Henry the sext, is truly borne heir vnto the Corone of Fraunce by lynyall successioun.

The purpose of this ‘remembraunce’ was again to re-member: but this time, not to make readers revisit but revise their responses to the problem of the ‘Corone of Fraunce’. Calot’s poem and Lydgate’s translation were designed to be accompanied by a pictorial genealogy, to which they both frequently refer.164 Figure 4 (from the Shrewsbury Book, presented by Warwick’s son-in-law John Talbot to Margaret of

161 Desmond

Seward, Henry V as Warlord (London, 1987; repr., 2001), p. 85. ‘The Hundred Years War and the “Creation” of National Identity’, pp. 27–8. 163 For further context, see Scattergood, Politics and Poetry, pp. 71–5; Anne Curry, ‘The “Coronation Expedition” and Henry VI’s Court in France, 1430–1432’, in Stratford, ed., The Lancastrian Court, pp. 29–52. 164 For discussion of the genealogy and Lydgate’s other ‘pictorial poems’, see B. J. H. Rowe, ‘Henry VI’s Claim to France in Picture and Poem’, The Library: The Transactions of the Bibliographical Society 13 (1932), 77–88 (82); Scattergood, Politics and Poetry, pp. 73–5. 162 Hardy,



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Figure 3 The initial rubric and opening of John Lydgate’s Title and Pedigree of Henry VI. © British Library Board, MS Harley 7333, fol. 31r.

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Anjou for her wedding),165 is thought to be a copy of the original illustration, which was hung in Notre Dame in Paris and major churches in Normandy.166 Andrew Taylor discusses the paradox of Talbot’s self-presentation in this book, alternately as a French courtier and a ‘stalwart Englishman’, aggressively asserting ‘control over French cultural heritage and the French language’:167 Talbot’s inscription tells Margaret that his anthology of romances and treatises will keep her from forgetting her French at the English court, asserting at once its francophony and its anglophony.168 The genealogy that forms one half of the manuscript’s elaborate two-page frontispiece, thought to be the same diagrammatic ‘pedigree’ to which Lydgate refers, perfectly depicts the Lancastrian myth: the dynastic successions of England and France appear as parallel ribbons, starting with St Louis and St Edward and converging symmetrically on Henry VI, with angels placing the crowns of both nations on his head. It glosses over Bolingbroke’s usurpation (Richard II and Henry IV conveniently and harmoniously cohabit a medallion, as do the Black Prince and John of Gaunt), and not only makes the English royal line look unbroken, but illustrates the uniting of the two kingdoms as a conclusion effected by heaven. Hardy compares this ‘genealogical poster’ to the ‘Iconographic representations of the dual monarchy in the form of mingled leopards and fleurs-de-lis and two side-by-side crowns [that] were applied to some of the coins minted in Lancastrian France (some of which would inevitably have reached England through cross-Channel trade)’.169 The pageantry that was devised to welcome Henry VI back to London after his coronation in Paris made use of a similar genealogical tableau: ‘At the Cross in Cheap, the king encountered two trees which bore the arms of England and France, and the pedigree of Henry going back to Edward the Confessor and St Louis.’170 Whether or not he was involved in the use of the pedigree in this pageant, Lydgate’s

165 For

the Shrewsbury Book, see: J. W. McKenna, ‘Henry VI of England and the Dual Monarchy: Aspects of Royal Political Propaganda, 1422–1432’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 28 (1965), 145–62; Catherine Reynolds, ‘The Shrewsbury Book, British Library Royal MS. 15.E.VI’, in Medieval Art, Architecture, and Archeology at Rouen, ed. J. Stratford (Tring, 1993), pp. 109–16; and Craig Taylor, ‘The Shrewsbury Book (BL MS Royal 15 E.vi) and Chivalric Writing in Late Medieval England’, in Collections in Context: The Organization of Knowledge and Community in Europe (14th–17th Centuries), ed. Karen Fresco and Anne D. Hedeman (Columbus, OH, 2011), pp. 139–67, 169–91, 193–223. 166 The manuscript was likely to have been made in Rouen, where Talbot was constable. Another manuscript contains a similar genealogical diagram, roughly sketched in ink: CUL Ll.v.20 (fols 33v–34r); for comparison, see also BL MS Additional 39236 (fol. 147v). Marigold Anne Norbye discusses how French genealogical propaganda served the opposite turn for the Plantagenets, cutting them out of the Capetian line, or referring to Edward III simply as he who ‘voult estre roy’: see ‘Genealogies and Dynastic Awareness in the Hundred Years War’, Journal of Medieval History vol. 33, issue 3 (2007), 297–319. 167 Andrew Taylor, ‘“The French Self-Presentation of an English Mastiff”: John Talbot’s Book of Chivalry’, in Wogan-Browne et al., Language and Culture, pp. 444–56 (445, 456). 168 ‘Et lorsque parlerez anglois / Que vous n’oubliez le françois’, fol. 2v. Reynolds reads this as ‘evidence for his nationalistic awareness of the vernacular’: ‘The Shrewsbury Book’, p. 111. 169 Hardy, ‘The Hundred Years War and the “Creation” of National Identity’, p. 29. 170 Doig, ‘Propaganda, Public Opinion and the Siege of Calais in 1436’, p. 88.



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Figure 4 Genealogy from the Shrewsbury Book, showing the royal lines of England and France converging on Henry VI. © British Library Board, MS Royal 15.E.vi fol. 3r.

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reliance on this visual sister text in his poem, which Simpson calls ‘the most explicitly apologetic piece’ of his career,171 is pronounced: A rightfull heir, I dare hit wel endite, As þis figure vnto euery wight [person] Shewyng in ordre descendyng lyne right, To forein blode þat it not ne chaunge, The crowne to put it in non hondis straunge [foreign], But it conveied [delivered] þere [where] it shuld be. Verily, liche as ye may se, The pee-degre doth hit specifie, The figure, lo, of the genelagye … An heir of peas by iust [rightful] successioun, This ffigure [diagram] makith clere demonstracioun, Ageins which noman may maligne [cavil, raise false objections], But that he stondith in þe veray ligne, As ye may se, as descendid is Of the stok and blode of Seint Lowys; Of which we aught of equite & right In oure hertis to be glad and light, That we may se with euery circumstaunce Direct the lyne of Englond & of Fraunce. (Minor Poems, 117–25, 128–37, pp. 616–17, NIMEV 3808)

Lydgate’s message was the same one that had always underpinned the claim to France; the paradox was that he had now to justify it to dubious English hearts. Hardy’s discussion of The Title and Pedigree claims that ‘because this was about the ambitions of a dynasty, there is no attempt … to relate the choice of English to the subject matter, and discursive articulations of Englishness and a sense of nationhood are nowhere to be found’.172 However, this assumes a harmoniousness not borne out by the text, more nervous than its superficial confidence would have us believe. Lydgate’s key point is that the infant Henry is the ‘rightfull heir’: he is neither ‘forein blode’, nor has the crown been put in ‘hondis straunge’ because:     this Herry in þe eight degre Is to Seint Lowys sone & very heir; To put awey all doute & dispair, God hath for vs so graciously provided, To make al oon that first was devided, That this Herry stonding in the lyne, Thurgh Goddis hond & purviaunce [forsight, providence] devyne, Is iustly borne, to voide al variaunce [disagreement], For to be kyng of Engelond & of Fraunce.

(140–7, p. 617)

The emphasis on putting away ‘doute & dispair’, voiding ‘variaunce’ and the loaded phrase above, ‘we aught … to be glad’, signals that Henry’s French claim was far 171 Simpson, 172 Hardy,

Reform and Cultural Revolution, p. 56. ‘The Hundred Years War and the “Creation” of National Identity’, p. 27.



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from a de facto source of rejoicing for English readers. This is confirmed by the opening of the prologue: Trouble hertis to sette in quyete, And make folkys their language [grumbling] for to lette [abandon], Which disputen in their opynyons Touching the ligne of two regions, The right, I mene, of Inglond and of Fraunce, To put awey all maner [of ] variaunce [dispute], Holy the doute and þe ambyguyte, To sette the ligne where hit shuld[e] be.

(1–8, pp. 613–14)

Linne Mooney argues that ‘as Calot’s poem persuaded the French that Henry was their rightful king, this poem reassured the English that he was their rightful king’.173 However, the prologue is not written in an attitude of reassurance: rather, Lydgate corrects an anglocentric patriotism that would privilege the Englishness of Henry VI above the dual monarchy, or claim the Treaty of Troyes as a victory rather than a marriage. Those concerned that the peace would lead to too close an association with France would not have been consoled by the equivalence-relation of the English and French dynasties in the pictorial genealogy. Lydgate’s prevailing agenda was not ‘trouble hertis to sette in quyete’, but ‘to make al oon that first was devided’, smoothing over the inevitable ‘variaunce’ entailed by the Lancastrian paradox. In calling the poem a ‘remembraunce’, the rubricator placed it in the tradition of poetic war ballads; yet it expressed the opposite agenda. Lydgate, of course, called his poem a mere ‘translacioun’ and averred that ‘Of rethoryk have [I] no maner floure … Liche his writyng my stiel to direct’ (68–9, p. 615). However, as Straker argues, the poem is too studiously self-aware to be called propaganda in the reductive sense: Lydgate ‘shows his propagandistic utterance to have been wholly instigated by interested parties’. In this reading, the poem emerges as ‘a piece of integrative propaganda embedded within a framework that exposes its propagandistic origin but that makes no propagandistic claim of its own’.174 The implications of this last claim, that the performed passivity of Lydgate’s humble authorial posture absolves it of simplistic propagandistic agency and imbues it instead with self-aware and acutely critical force, enabling it to wash its hands of its responsibilities, are arguable. However, certainly the translation of Calot into English rebuffed the pugnacious rhetoric of Hundred Years War poetry that had made aureation an object of scorn. It was stuffed with aureate diction, in the signature style of a Chaucerian eulogist (the OED cites Lydgate as the earliest English user of the word ‘pedigree’). His frenchified register reflected the smooth yet intensely problematic connotations of his theme: his rhetoric represented as linguistic marriage what had figured as linguistic invasion. The words purviaunce and variaunce, demonstracioun and successioun 173 Linne

R. Mooney, ‘Lydgate’s Kings of England and Another Verse Chronicle of the Kings’, Viator 20 (1989), 255–89 (258). 174 Straker, ‘Propaganda, Intentionality and the Lancastrian Lydgate’, pp. 118–19.

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function very differently here from in the Ballade in Despyte of Flemynges (once also attributed to him): they are assimilated in a discourse of linguistic harmony, not antagonistically isolated in an invective attack. It is not only ‘thurgh Goddis hond’, but through its paralingual gloss, ‘purviaunce devyne’, that providence effected this marriage of kingdoms and languages; and perhaps there is a subtle ulterior sense behind Lydgate’s stated intention to ‘make folkys their language for to lette’. Language figures as a hostile concept, something which stirs and promotes division. It is a metaphor from Babel, a linguistic multiplication that increases unrest and disunity; and in this depiction the dual monarchy figured a return to a linguistically unified national whole. Lydgate’s language was as studiously polished as the visual genealogy it accompanied. He incorporated the most ‘strange’ and wonderful words without any hint that they were ever problematic, since his poem remained (perhaps a gesture to the late king’s language campaign), ‘a playn translacioun / In Englissh tong’ (285–6, p. 621). His aureation mimetically enacted the smoothing out of ‘variaunce’ that, like the Treaty of Troyes itself, imposed a discourse of pacific unity (‘to make al oon’) upon a ‘devided’ reality. Another of Lydgate’s coronation poems, King Henry VI’s Triumphal Entry into London, similarly foregrounds its splendid, royal diction. Straker admits this poem as ‘unambiguously propagandistic’, although he maintains that its propaganda served ‘the city of London’, and was ‘not … Lancastrian propaganda, in the sense of justifying the king’s actions or legitimacy or asserting the reality of his power’; Martin likewise, although acknowledging that at its ‘simplest … The Title and Pedigree of Henry VI … seek[s] to legitimise the still relatively young Lancastrian dynasty’, allows the text to reveal ‘Lydgate’s view of the public role of the poet as commentator and advisor to those in power’.175 London is ‘Citee of Citees, off noblesse precelling [pre-eminent, surpassing]’, whose royal welcome surmounts comparison with ‘alle the surplusage [excess]’ attending the triumphant home-coming of Caesar (511, 518, p. 648; NIMEV 3799). This aureation is as ornate as it gets; yet there is no hint of the alienated diction of ‘strange’ English; this is language as ornament, a smooth and beautiful surface without fissures. Likewise the Roundel for the Coronation of Henry VI, found in the same manuscript as the Title and Pedigree, used aureation to the same politically euphonious effect. In the first stanza all the rhymes are drawn from France, French symbols or French words: Reioice, ye reames of Englond & of Fraunce, A braunche þat sprang oute of the floure-de-lys, Blode of Seint Edward and Seint Lowys, God hath this day sent in gouernaunce.

(1–4, p. 622; NIMEV 2804)

The peace is a union of dynasties, nations and languages: a perfect marriage. Where war poets used this register as violently mimetic linguistic antithesis, this peace-poet made it enact the perfect synthesis between English and French. 175 Ibid.,

p. 119; Martin, ‘John Lydgate’s Shorter Secular Poems’, p. 94.



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Having said thus much for Lydgate’s assimilative poetic politics, however, there is slightly more to his memorialisations of English history. The commissioned poems espousing official dual monarchy themes are not the place to look; but in his Kings of England there are hints of a different version of English history. Only hints, for the poem ends on the orthodoxy that Henry VI was ‘borne to were ij crownys in Englonde and in Fraunce’. However, the narrative is problematised by the opening stanza, which asserts that the Conqueror was ‘Maad kyng bi conquest of Brutis Albion’ (109, p. 713). Nicholas Perkins calls Brutys Albyon ‘the “Lancastrian” phrase’ made famous by Chaucer in his Complaint to his Purse,176 in which he apostrophised Henry IV with the words, O conquerour of Brutes Albyon, Which that by lyne and free eleccion Been verray kyng.177

This accolade explored, obliquely yet pertinently, the crisis of Lancastrian legitimacy. Henry IV is called the ‘verray kynge’, but by ‘eleccion’ as well as ‘lyne’, as this uneasy doublet attempts to navigate the usurpation. Furthermore, like Lydgate’s William, he is the ‘conqueror’ of Brutus’ Albion, which no ‘verray’ kyng should be. It is not impossible that Lydgate had these lines in mind when writing the Kings of England. He tacitly acknowledged that the most English of identities, Brutis Albion, was but a compressed description of the primary act of conquest by which one nomothete (Brutus) ousted another (Albina). In starting with the Galfridian foundation myth, he foregrounded the idea that no king of England was innocent of conquest: all were either the original usurpers, or their usurpers. Ultimately Lydgate was, in Perkins’s formulation, ‘at least as seriously interested in literary inheritance and legitimacy’ as he was in shoring up Lancastrian orthodoxies; and he did so by exploring ‘the longevity and impregnability of the historical record’ and the ‘idea of poetry as a vehicle for truth’.178 These qualms did not destabilise the poem: Henry V is still ‘of knyhthoode Lodesterre’ (92, p. 6). However, they did make it pause over the ironies inhering in linear and heroic narratives of history. Mooney claims that the popularity of the Kings of England, which endured into the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as succeeding monarchs caused their own stanzas to be written in, made the poem ‘not only a prototype but a paragon of English political propaganda’.179 However, while kings are the subjects of the stanzas, history is the subject of the poem: a history that ultimately defeated the innocence of any cause, and confounded the irony of any narrow formulation of national identity.

176 Nicholas

Perkins, ‘Representing Advice in Lydgate’, in Stratford, ed., The Lancastrian Court, pp. 173–91 (176). 177 Complaint to his Purse, lines 22–4, Riverside Chaucer, p. 656. 178 Perkins, ‘Representing Advice’, p. 188. 179 Mooney, ‘Lydgate’s “Kings”’, p. 263.

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John Page and the dilemmas of eyewitnessing Perkins’s two priorities, ‘literary inheritance’ and ‘a vehicle for truth’, capture the complicated aspirations and contradictions of Hundred Years War poetry. The inconsistencies of the conflict, ignored by the jingoists, became anxious cruxes for more thoughtful narrators. In particular, the way in which triumphalist writers aestheticised (and anaesthetised) the war is the opposite of how one eyewitness poet, John Page, agonised over the responsibilities and duplicities of writing history. For Page, the aims of literariness and truth were contradistinct and mutually problematic. His patriotism co-existed with his appalled compassion for the victims of war, and his desire to depict the siege within the nostalgic mode of contemporary siege romance was at loggerheads with his compunction to tell it like it was. His poem shared none of the robust and crowing nationalism of the ballads, or the staged propagandism of the official panegyrics. The Siege of Rouen is complete in two manuscripts and incomplete in twelve more.180 Ten are Brut chronicles, where it supplied the account of Henry V’s siege of Rouen in 1418–19, and in five of these it was written as prose, with virgules or punctus sometimes marking the line breaks the only indication that it was a separate text from the chronicle. The poem has been edited a number of times, largely in obsolete editions difficult of access; it is cited here from my 2015 critical edition.181 It received some critical attention in the early nineteenth century; but apart from a couple of recent articles and some brief mentions, it has been all but forgotten.182

180 BL

MS Egerton 1995 and Oxford, Balliol College 354, both commonplace books, the first containing various miscellaneous verses and short pieces, Lydgate’s Kings and Gregory; the second (belonging to the merchant Richard Hill) containing a large quantity of short verses, ballads and historical pieces, also including a chronicle. The other manuscripts are: Cambridge, Trinity College O.9.1 (Brut); CUL Hh.6.9 (Brut); Chicago UL 254 (Brut); Holkham Hall, Norfolk, Earl of Leicester 670 (Brut); Illinois UL 116 (Brut); London, BL, Cotton Galba E.viii (Brut), Harley 266 (Brut), Harley 753 (Brut), Harley 2256 (Brut), Additional 27879 (the Percy folio); London, Lambeth Palace Library 331 (Brut); Oxford, Bodleian Library, eMus. 124 (also containing Mandeville’s Travels). 181 John Page’s The Siege of Rouen, ed. Joanna Bellis (Heidelberg, 2015). 182 The previous editions are: J. J. Conybeare, ‘Poem Entitled the Siege of Rouen’, Archaeologia: Miscellaneous Tracts Relating to Antiquity 21 (1827), 43–78; F. Madden, ‘Old English Poem on the Siege of Rouen’, Archaeologia: Miscellaneous Tracts Relating to Antiquity 22 (1829), 350–98; John W. Hales and F. J. Furnivall, ed. Bishop Percy’s Folio Manuscript: Ballads and Romances 3 vols (London, 1867–68), vol III, pp. 533–41; Historical Collections (pp. 146); Brut, vol.. II, pp. 405–22; and John Page’s Siege of Rouen, ed. Herbert Huscher (Leipzig, 1927); The significant criticism consists of: Scattergood, Politics and Poetry, pp. 60–9; Gransden, Historical Writing in England, vol. II, p. 224; Richard Hillman, Shakespeare, Marlowe and the Politics of France (Basingstoke, 2002), pp. 171, 225; Tamar S. Drukker, ‘An Eye-Witness Account or Literary Historicism? John Page’s Siege of Rouen’, Leeds Studies in English 36 (2005), 251–73; Hiatt, ‘Historical and Political Verse’, pp. 161–8; Craig Taylor, ‘Henry V, Flower of Chivalry’, in Henry V: New Interpretations, ed. Gwilym Dodd (York, 2013), pp. 217–47; Joanna Bellis, ‘“The Reader myghte lamente”: The Sieges of Calais (1346) and Rouen (1418) in Chronicle, Poem and Play’, in War and Literature, ed. Laura Ashe and Ian Patterson (Cambridge, 2014), pp. 84–106; Bellis, ‘“We wanted þe trewe copy þereof ”’’; Bellis, ‘“I was enforced to become an eyed witnes”’; Joanna Bellis, ‘Art’s Ambiguous Object: John Page’s Siege of Rouen, a Siege



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Page himself has left few traces in the records. Tamar Drukker was of the opinion that ‘we can be almost certain that he was not a combatant’;183 however, several John Pages are listed as expedited to France in 1417 by the Soldier in Later Medieval England database, of which two served under captains who were stationed at Rouen (Sir Philip Leche and John Lord Roos).184 Another possibility is that he was a minor member of the royal household. The most likely theory is that he was a royal field chaplain, possibly the same man who went on to be prior of Barnwell, Cambridgeshire.185 It is possible that the poet’s claim to eyewitness status was disingenuous: perhaps ‘John Page’ was a persona, or the name of the redactor or compiler of the text, not someone who was present. Hiatt comments that although his pathetic depiction of the siege ‘may carry an all-too-genuine thrill of historical authenticity’, it also ‘owe[s] much to Page’s literary models, including perhaps Minot’s poem on Edward III’s siege of Calais’; and David R. Parker expresses doubt as to whether the poet himself was at Rouen, although he thinks it likely that he had personal experience of ‘the ravages of war’.186 In my opinion such scepticism is unnecessary: although there was certainly prestige to be milked from claiming eyewitness status, Page’s sustained insistence on it throughout the poem would make the posture (if it were a posture) remarkably disingenuous. The path of least intellectual resistance is to accept that there was a John Page present a Rouen, in some capacity. His poem is ambitious about its status as an eyewitness account of the most impressive siege in Henry’s 1417 campaign. It begins with the asseveration: Oftyn tymys we talke of trauayle [exploits], Of saute [assault], sege, and of grete batayle, Bothe in romans and in ryme: What hathe ben done before thys tyme. But y wylle telle you nowe present (Vnto my tale yf ye wylle tent [be attentive]): Howe the V. Harry oure lege, With hys ryalte [splendour] he sette a sege Byfore Rone, that ryche cytte, And endyd hyt at hys owne volunte [volition]. A more solempne sege was neuyr sette Romance of the Hundred Years War?’ in Insular Romance: Contexts and Traditions, ed. Ken Rooney (forthcoming). 183 Drukker, ‘Eye-Witness Account’, p. 257. 184 The Soldier in Later Medieval England project, coordinated by Adrian Bell and Anne Curry, is hosted at www.medievalsoldier.org (accessed November 2015). 185 For full consideration of the candidates for authorship, see Bellis, ed. John Page’s The Siege of Rouen, pp. xxiv–xxx, and Joanna Bellis, ‘Page, John (fl. 1418–1422) poet’, in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, at www.oxforddnb.com/ (accessed November 2015). To my suggestions there might be added ‘John Page, a draper’ whom Wicker cites as a witness in a case of treasonable language in the late fourteenth century: ‘According to John Page, besides misleading the king, the treachery of these corrupt counsellors was also apparent in their efforts to cheat the people’: ‘The Politics of Vernacular Speech’, pp. 186–7. 186 Hiatt, ‘Historical and Political Verse’, p. 161; David R. Parker, The Commonplace Book in Tudor London: An Examination of the BL MSS Egerton 1995, Harley 2252, Lansdowne 762, and Oxford Balliol College MS 354 (Lanham, MD, 1998), p. 30.

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Syn Jerusalem and Troy [were gette] … And the better telle I may, For at that sege with the kyng I lay.187

Page compared the siege he witnessed to the exemplary sieges of classical and biblical history, representing ‘Henry V’s campaign as a symbolic moment in history, and his own verse as stemming from a tradition associated with the great eyewitness narratives that underlie western civilisation and chronicling’.188 Scattergood emphasises how Page presents his story as ‘comparable to the legends of the past’, asserting that ‘consciously or unconsciously, Page regarded his poem as a romance, a modern story of heroism and chivalry’.189 However, although the invocations of Troy and Jerusalem did aggrandise his account, these legendary sieges served as much as a point of contrast as of alignment, precisely because they belonged to the ambivalent category of ‘romans and … ryme’, from which Page dissociated himself. He cannot have straightforwardly regarded his poem as a romance, when he was so eager to define his text in opposition to the genre. Instead, he promised to ‘telle you nowe present’ the events as he saw them; the account he offers (or so he averred) will be the truer because ‘at that sege … I lay’. Unlike other poems narrating contemporary engagements of the conflict (such as the self-satisfied and exuberant rehearsal in The Mockery of the siege of Calais), Page was, from the outset, uncomfortable with the literariness of his account. Rouen was more immediate and more meaningful than Troy or Jerusalem, although they lent it grandeur: the twin pressures of ‘poetry as a vehicle for truth’ and the ‘literary inheritance’ collide, and Page concluded by denying the literariness his initial comparisons co-opted: Withowtyn fabylle or fage [fable or deceit], Thys procesce [narrative] made John Page: Alle in raffe [alliterative doggerel] and not in ryme, Bycause of space he hadde no tyme. But whenne this werre ys at an ende, And he haue lyffe and space, he wylle hyt amende.

(1313–18, p. 33)

As Scattergood maintains, ‘The extant poem is presumably his revised version based on the notes he made at the siege’, not something put together hastily in the heat of the engagement.190 This posture is a carefully constructed fabric of transparency, disavowing the literary mode in order to define itself instead as pure, unpolished reportage. The hypermetric final line deliberately looks dashed off, the consequence of having ‘hadde no tyme’, its metaconstruction almost too convincing. The assertion that the verse is ‘alle in raffe and not in ryme’ is also beguiling: ‘raffe’ is a pejorative 187 Bellis,

ed. John Page’s The Siege of Rouen, lines 5–16, 21–2, p. 3; NIMEV 979. References henceforth are to this edition. 188 Drukker, ‘Eye-Witness Account’, p. 255. 189 Scattergood, Politics and Poetry, p. 66. 190 Ibid., p. 60. For discussion of whether the poem was redrafted as promised, see Bellis, ‘“We wanted þe trewe copy þereof ””



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term for alliterative doggerel, of the kind disparaged by Chaucer’s Parson.191 Had he had more time, Page asserted, he would have polished and embellished; yet that very act would have been a betrayal, a fictionalisation. In direct contrast to the abusive punning of the ballads and the polished aureation of Lydgate’s propaganda, Page saw poetic memorialisation as at odds with truth. He disavowed ‘ryme’ in order to be free of ‘fabylle or fage’ (deceit/trickery/ flattery), but with a coyness that betrayed its ineluctable literariness even as it denied it. Like Minot, Page deliberately echoed the romance style: he used the oral imperative ‘lystenythe’ twice in the first twenty lines, together with the promise to ‘telle’ the story of Rouen like a minstrel (9, p. 3); he ended with a request for the prayers of ‘They that haue hyrde thys redynge’ (1319, p. 33): conventional formulae that begin and end countless romances. The romance tradition had a significant influence on Hundred Years War poetry; as Hiatt comments, ‘a great deal of historical and some political writing took place within the über-genre of romance’.192 This is apparent not only in Minot’s romance imagery and vocabulary, but in the presentation in The Siege of Calais of ‘ser Iohn Radclyf ’ as a commander ‘That loued worshipp and dred repref [reproach]’, terms redolent of Malory; and the catalogue of the heroic actions of the commanders ‘wondere fers all in þat fight’ in The Battle of Agincourt.193 Grummitt stresses ‘the central importance of war in the making of political reputations in the fifteenth century’, and Curry emphasises the fact that ‘The celebration of the deeds of arms of individually named lords is symptomatic of a ballad form, and also reveals how chivalric heroes were also popular heroes’.194 These were archetypal romantic depictions, so much so that the celebration of ‘aristocratic prowess’ in The Siege of Calais led Hiatt to ponder whether it (and texts like it) ‘may be the products of noble households … writ[ing] history from the perspective of a particular faction’.195 Page’s poem indulged the same modal vocabulary and shared (to some extent) the ideals of this romantic corpus of battle-poems. The phrase ‘Moche worschyppe there he wanne’ (or similar formulations) appears seventeen times, describing the exploits of Henry V and his commanders.196 Presumably it was this stylised mode that led Gransden to describe Page’s tone as one ‘of triumphant patriotism’;197 certainly it led Hiatt to comment that The Siege of Rouen ‘ostensibly celebrates the monarch’s martial prowess with the same verve’ as the ‘adulatory poems’ such as The Agincourt Carol.198 But it is far from that: unique among the poetic historians of his period, Page probed the ethics of writing war, of rendering a siege such as Rouen, a war of attrition whose victims were weak and defenceless, as a heroic triumph. These paradoxes 191 The

Parson’s Prologue, lines 42–3, Riverside Chaucer, p. 287. ‘Historical and Political Verse’, p. 158. 193 Historical Poems, lines 55–6, p. 79; line 18, p. 76. 194 Grummitt, The Calais Garrison, p. 35; Curry, Battle of Agincourt, p. 289. 195 Hiatt, ‘Historical and Political Verse’, p. 162. 196 Lines 161, 171, 180, 209, 215, 220, 224, 228, 232, 238, 246, 279, 291, 300, 327, 329, 402. For further discussion of Page and romance, see Bellis, ‘Art’s Ambiguous Object’. 197 Gransden, Historical Writing in England, II, p. 224. 198 Hiatt, ‘Historical and Political Verse’, p. 161. 192 Hiatt,

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were the faultlines of his poem: he employed literary affectation in order to eschew it; he invoked the romance tradition only to reject it; he placed the discourses of patriotism and horror side by side while acknowledging their incompatibility. His ‘remembrance’ of history was full of ambivalence. Henry V’s siege of Rouen was arguably the most appalling encounter of the conflict. As the city was starved into subjection, the poorer citizens were ejected by the abler-bodied defenders, and, not allowed to pass through the besiegers’ lines, were forced to remain in the ditch around the walls for several winter months, where they slowly died of hunger, sickness and exposure, and were left unburied. The English army witnessed this spectacle, a daily reminder of the human cost of victory, for several months, until Rouen finally surrendered in January 1419. The ‘kindness’ of the king in feeding the bouches inutiles (as they were known) once, on Christmas Day, which appears to a modern eye the cruel stunt of a tactician, prompted them, in Page’s ventriloquism, to ‘[curse] hyr owne nacyon’ and remark, ‘of tendyr hertys ben Englysche men’ (556, 588, pp. 15–16).199 Other acts of Henry’s ‘kindness’ were clearly too unpalatable even for Page: he was silent about the king’s mercy in allowing babies born in the ditch to be hoisted in baskets over the city walls to be baptised, before being returned in the same fashion to the ditch to starve with their mothers. Page’s characterisation of his king, however, was unhesitant. Henry V was a magnanimous and pious victor, and the citizens of Rouen duplicitous negotiators who refused his reasonable terms: I wylle yow telle a cyrsyde deede, How [wykydly] they wrought there, [Or that] oure kynge com hem byfore

(62–4, p. 4)

These portrayals were buttressed at several points by moments of ventriloquism. After they have met with Henry, the Rouennais negotiators remark,    ‘He ys, at oure avyse [in our estimation], Of alle erthely pryncys the pryce … And he ys marcyfulle in myght, And askysse nothynge but hys ryght.

(935–6, 945–6, pp. 24–5)

They praise ‘hys persone in propyrte’, ‘hys fetowrys and his bevte’, his ‘depe dyscrecyon’ and his ‘passyng pryncehode’ (939–43, p. 24), concluding ‘Howe shulde he but wyn honowre? / Howe shulde he be but a conquerowre?’ (949–50, p. 25) In an even more agile manoeuvre, the English aggressors are depicted as the victims. Henry is praised for his patience, Thoughe they had [so ofte hym meu]yd [exasperated], And so gretely hym greuyd, 199 See

Scattergood, Politics and Poetry, p. 68; and Gransden’s discussion of the Brut chroniclers’ paraphrases of this ventriloquism: Historical Writing in England, vol. II, p. 224.



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And put hym vnto so grete a coste, And of hys men so many loste.

155

(731–4, p. 20)

The poem abounds with Page’s praises for his sovereign which, although formulaic, are unquestionably genuine. Henry emerges, in Hiatt’s words, ‘as a pious if unbending assailant, tightening the screws on the wretched Rouennois [sic] more in sorrow than anger’.200 However, patriotic though he certainly was, ‘John Page’s Nationalism’201 was more nuanced, troubled and complex than that of any other fifteenth-century war poet, and than his critics have allowed. There are moments when the inconsistencies of his king’s war must surface. When the Rouennais discover the name of the king’s emissary (Sir Gilbert Umfraville), They thonkyd God, and sayde þat whyle, ‘Of Normandy the olde blode Shalle helpe, that we may haue a[n] ende goode, Bytwyxte [vs] and thys worthy kynge!’

(626–9, p. 17)

The French citizens remind the English aristocracy that they are themselves Normans by blood; and yet, when the city is subdued, the binary lines of national identity are aggressively reasserted: And [he] that was a Norman borne, And Englysche man wolde not be sworne, Presener he shulde be vs tylle, Oure kynge hym to ponysche at hys wylle;

(1173–6, p. 30)

Page simultaneously upheld the Lancastrian orthodoxy, and created a space for it to be questioned. His was not a subversive poem, nor was its patriotism insincere or disingenuous; but neither was it naïve to the realities of experience in which trite, simplistic or untrue nationalistic orthodoxies had to be maintained. He was unabashed by his patriotism; but equally unabashed by the ways in which it was supremely complicated, not least by his sheer compassion. He diminished neither his idealised depiction of the king, nor his realistic confrontation of the horrors committed in his name. Much time is given, for instance, to describing conditions inside the city: They e[te] doggys, they ete cattys; They ete mysse, horse and rattys … They dyde faster euery day Thenn men myght them in erthe lay … Loue and kyndenys bothe were paste. Ne the chylde the modyr gyffe: 200 Hiatt,

‘Historical and Political Verse’, p. 161. Politics and Poetry, p. 67.

201 Scattergood,

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Euery on caste hym forto leve. Alle kyndenys [and] loue was besyde, That the chylde schulde fro the modyr hyde [His] mete, that [she] shulde hyt not see, And ete hyt alle in preutye. But hunger passyd [outstripped] kynde [nature] and loue: By that pepylle welle ye may prove. (475–6, 507–8, 518–26, pp. 14–15)

And the people in the ditch are portrayed yet more pathetically:     sum crokyd in the kneys, And sum alle so lene as any treys; And wemmen holdyn in hyr armys, Dede chyldryn, in hyr barmys [bosoms]; And the chyldryn sokyng [o]n the pappe [breast] Withyn a dede woman[s] lappe. There men myght fynde and see full[e] ryfe Bytwyne .ij. dede, on lyynge on lyue [alive], And he not wetyng [aware] of there dethe, Soo preuely [quietly] they yelde vppe hyr brethe. Withowtyn calle or cry, As they hadde slepte, soo dyd they dy.

(1005–16, p. 26)

The adjacence of these discourses leaves the poem intrinsically dichotomised. It would be anachronistic to paint Page as a proto-pacifist outraged at the atrocities committed in his king’s name. Hiatt voices the dilemma posed by several critics when he asks, is this ‘Genuine detail or pathos? … The poem naturally loads the dice in favour of Henry, but Page’s celebration of militarism and rightful sovereignty (the citizens of Rouen are clearly in the wrong in refusing to submit to the English Crown) carries the seeds for their critique.’202 However, if it is impossible to ignore Page the patriot, it is equally impossible to ignore Page the witness, whose vivid and raw compassion was completely unlike any other poetic historian of his time. Comparing the ‘pauylyons in hir araye’, the ‘Kyngys, herrowdys [heralds] and pursefauntys [attendants]’ and ‘cotys of armys’ that were ‘solas [comfort] to sene’, with the ‘pore pepylle’ with ‘nought as moche as a clowte [scrap of cloth], / But the clothys [o]n there backe’ (975–82, 991–3, pp. 25–6), he concludes, Thys syght was bothe ioye and chere; Of sorowe and payne the othyr were … Thes were the syghtys of dyfferauns: That one of ioye, and þat othyr of penaunce, As helle and heuyn ben partyd ato: That one of welle, and þat othyr of wo.

202 Hiatt,

‘Historical and Political Verse,’ p. 162.

(989–90, 1017–20, pp. 26)



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His choice not to adumbrate the juxtaposition of these ‘syghtys’, but to allow them quietly to interpret one another, explored the tensions of a war that was both just and awful; and ultimately resisted representation in his unenvisigeable image, the ‘syght’ that defied imagination just as much as the visualisation of heaven and hell in the same plane. Page held together the ‘syghtys of dyfferauns’: indeed, he thrust them together. After the triumphant final entry into Rouen, he stops to tell ‘of the folke that were thereyn’ who ‘were but bonys and bare skyn’, and who ‘dyde faster then cartys myght cary [them] away’ (1235–6, 1248, pp. 31); but then he swiftly announced, ‘Off them y wylle no more spelle, / But of Exceter I wylle you telle’ (1251–2, p. 32). The same happens earlier: ‘Nowe of the pepylle l[at] we be, / And of oure tretys talke we’ (1233–4, p. 31). Page compelled his reader to hold side by side these discourses as he switched between them in a moment, not permitting either to foreclose the other. Interestingly, the only two marginal notes to this text in Egerton 1995, probably by the scribe, reflect these priorities of patriotism and realism: the first, referring to the duplicity of the French, is ‘nota de malicia eorum’ (note of their wickedness); the second, ‘nota of the hunger in that cytte’ (fols 88r, 95r). Page’s juxtaposition posed the question raised by his opening comparision with romance: he brushed aside those who ‘talke of … saute, sege and of grete batayle’ (5–6, p. 3) in his imperative ‘Lystenythe vnto me a lytylle space, / And I shalle telle you howe hyt was’ (19–20, p. 3). However, his invitation initiated a complex examination of what exactly constituted historical truth, ‘howe hyt was’. The question of whether truth had to be ‘unpackaged’ to be properly true, free from the embellishments and exaggerations of ‘romans and … ryme’, was given the lie by his beguilingly self-aware simplicity topos. His contorted attempts to navigate the ironies of his claims for his text (patriotic and appalled, poetic and plain) result in a new, bifurcated and perhaps ultimately self-defeating language of war, which brings us back to the key theme of this chapter. Language is vitally important to the poem, as Drukker observes: Most of the second half of the poem is comprised of direct speech … Page offers a description of a war of words exchanged between the French and the English, not a description of actual fighting, ending around the negotiation table rather than in the battlefield. Henry’s victory, therefore, does not depend on his military superiority, but emerges from some other kind of higher position, which is expressed in language … The city … is … almost a second tower of Babel.203

Page’s military encounters are over in a line or two, but the negotiations go on for pages. Their characterisation of the casuistical French chimes with that familiar from the Brut: ‘We askyd moche and they proferd smalle’; ‘The tretys then they breke in haste’ (1037, 1041, p. 27). The act of speaking itself receives a peculiar attentiveness: ‘They inclynyd with meke speche’ (811, p. 21); the king ‘wolde hyre them speke with mouthe / And he bade them speke alle hyr wylle’ (820–1, p. 22).

203 Drukker,

‘Eye-Witness Account’, pp. 257–8, 267.

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But what is striking is the extent to which the link between the themes of speech and narration, talking and ‘my talkynge’, remained taut: The poore pepylle alle aboute On the ryche they made a shoute, [And sayde]: ‘Ye fals tale tellers, And also men quellers [murderers]!

(1065–8, p. 27)

The rhyme and parataxis of these lines throw the two condemnatory relations into equivalence: the leaders of Rouen are ‘men quellers’ because they are ‘tale tellers’; murderers on account of their false language. The superficial sense is that their prevaricating unwillingness to settle the terms of surrender has cost many more starving citizens their lives; but the connotations of this slur within the poem, the wider conspectus attending the accusation of being a ‘tale teller’, are profound. They tap into a fabric of metaphors that connect literariness with mendacity; and the echoes of ‘fabylle or fage’, ‘romans and ryme’ in the aspersions implicit in the label ‘tale-tellers’ are not accidental. Page was himself a self-confessed tale-teller: he began with the promise to ‘telle you nowe present / (Vnto my tale yf ye wylle tent)’ (9–10, p. 3), and he repeated it periodically throughout: ‘Nowe to my tale and ye wylle hede’ (61, p. 4); ‘Nowe to my tale and ye wylle tende’ (1157, p. 29). This image of culpable literariness plagues his poem, which he envisaged as an authored document, a ‘procesce made [by] John Page’ (1314, p. 33), for which he was answerable. Furthermore, the only other time ‘fage’ is used (apart from in Page’s denial of having written ‘fabylle or fage’) is by the king, castigating the rebellious citizens: ‘He sayde, “Rone ys myn herrytage: / I wylle hit haue withowtyn fage”’ (911–12, p. 24). Fage is a rare word, first recorded c. 1380. The fact that Page’s two uses of it were so similar (‘Withowtyn fabylle or fage’, and ‘withowtyn fage’) gives it a particular phrasal resonance, connecting his identification of his own culpable role as a poet with the deceitful and murderous tale-telling of the iniquitous Rouennais burghers. This lexical fabric of collocation casts literary composition as an ethically tainted activity. If, within the Brut tradition, certain lexemes were developing an accretive collocational pejoration, within Page’s poem the repeated resonances of tale and fage turned in on themselves; if, within the Brut, the agenda underpinning this narrowed discourse was the calumniation of French character, for Page, the impulse cannabalised itself, calumniating the act of literary composition itself. His self-defeating and self-condemning posture as a purely historical narrator was a model of what it meant to enact impossibly contradictory narratives, in this conflict of paradoxes. The Siege of Rouen is a truly heteroglossic poem: Page rejected and employed the same discourses (romance vs. reportage, triumphalism vs. compassion) precisely because he narrated ‘syghtys of differauns’. He required his readers not to blink at, but to confront, the ironies of war and of war poetry. His language was dichotomised because his theme was joy and penance, well and woe, heaven and hell. One of the most ambiguous statements of the poem is his contemplation of the people in the ditch:



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There ne was noo man, I vndyrstonde, That sawe that, but hys herte wolde chaunge; And he consyderyd that syght, He wolde be pensyffe [troubled, contemplative] and nothyng lyght. There myght men lerne alle there lyue, What was agayne ryght forto stryue.

159

(1021–6, p. 26)

Straightforwardly, this is a rebuke to the stubborn citizens, justly punished for their refusal to submit to their rightful king; but it is hard not to hear the ambivalent undertones of a troubled soldier, questioning whether the war he fought in, which had lasted for over eighty years by 1419, had been more than a monstrous, bloody, territorial skirmish. Page’s poem is unique among Hundred Years War literature for the honesty with which it problematised its own patriotism. It could, ungenerously, be called a failed text, if its valiant attempt to embrace the diametric opposition of the incompatible discourses of chivalric jingoism and appalled compassion deserves such a judgemental verdict. The extent to which it stood apart from the tradition to which it belonged, sharing but critiquing and troubing its memes and traits, offers a valuable insight into what happened to the linguistic pugnacity of the genre when placed in more conscientious hands.

Hundred Years War poetry in the sixteenth century With the exception of Lydgate’s Kings of England, which enjoyed an enduring high-profile popularity among successive dynasts, it is all but impossible to trace the legacy of the war poetry this chapter has examined. The chronicle tradition remained dominant; but the poems subsumed within it, for the most part, got left behind. Most were marginal, if not ephemeral: squeezed onto white space, included arbitrarily in miscellanies and commonplace books, scribbled onto flyleaves. Rarely recopied and never printed, these were texts that lived and died with their particular historical moment, and their legacy for later readers (if they had them) is impossible to recover. However, this is perhaps not the whole story for The Siege of Rouen. The traces that Page’s poem left in the sixteenth century, after Caxton’s printing of a different recension of the Brut as his Chronicles of England cut short its (direct) incorporation within the chronicle tradition, are tantalising.204 That it found a sixteenth-century readership is clear from a number of pieces of evidence. First, the second manuscript in which the complete poem is preserved: Oxford, Balliol College 354,205 the 204 For

discussion of the indirect influence of Page’s narrative on the sixteenth-century chroniclers Hall and Holinshed, see Bellis, ‘“The Reader myghte lamente”’. 205 The manuscript has been digitised at http://image.ox.ac.uk/show?collection=balliol&manuscript=ms354 (accessed November 2015). For further discussion, see Alexandra Gillespie, ‘Balliol MS 354: Histories of the Book at the End of the Middle Ages’, Poetica 60: Special Issue: The History of the Book in Fifteenth-Century Britain, ed. A. S. G. Edwards and Toshiyuki

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much-celebrated commonplace book of Richard Hill, the London merchant active c. 1520–30. Nestled in its assortment of carols, poetry, treatises, recipes, puzzles, card tricks, courtesy books and a London chronicle, is The Siege of Rouen,206 a remarkable inclusion, not just because it is the only surviving manuscript apart from Egerton 1995 to contain the poem in its entirety, but also because its text cannot have been derived from Egerton 1995. It is much closer to the text of the Brut manuscripts, although in those only the second half of the poem was preserved, due to the compilers’ assimilative impulse to incorporate it seamlessly within their prose narrative, which means that its distinctive opening, as well as the crucial lines that identify the poet, are lost.207 Even more remarkable is the appearance of several fragments of the poem, disordered and discontinuous, on the final leaves of the Percy Folio, the seventeenth-century medieval miscellany rescued from the hearth of Sir Humphrey Pitt by Bishop Thomas Percy. These two manuscripts give us glimpses of the afterlife of this medieval war poem, the most rich and surprising narrative to have come out of the tradition of writing the Hundred Years War in England, which clearly travelled widely (although all but untraceably) among the libraries and readers of subsequent centuries. A second piece of evidence is the influence it had on The Battle of Egyngecourte, and the Great Sege of Rone, a ballad printed by John Skot c. 1536, and the text that appropriately brings this synoptic consideration of Hundred Years War poetry to a close, being a fairly fitting redaction of the genre as a whole. The poem is a rapid rehearsal of the key events of Henry V’s Normandy campaign (Harfleur, Agincourt, Rouen), totalling just twelve pages, and it belonged firmly to the jingoistic ballad tradition spawned in the Hundred Years War. What motivated its anonymous author in the early decades of the sixteenth century to pen what is so recognisably, and so anachronistically, a Hundred Years War poem, sharing all the robust and romping pugnacity of the texts composed contemporaneously with the events they narrated, remains imponderable; but that fact alone makes this text perhaps most qualified for the term ‘remembrance’. Many aspects of this poem’s brisk summation of Henry’s French wars are entirely familiar. It began by apostrophising    Henry the fyfthe noble man of warre Thy dedes may neuer forgoten be Of knyghthod thou were the very lodestarre208

Takamiya (2003), 47–63; Parker, The Commonplace Book in Tudor London; W. P. Hills, ‘Richard Hill of Hillend’, Notes and Queries 177 (1939), 452–6; Gransden, Historical Writing in England, vol. II, p. 232. 206 Cathy Shrank, ‘Hill, Richard (fl. 1508–1536)’, in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online at www.oxforddnb.com/ (accessed November 2015). Many of the short poems were edited by Roman Dyboski, in Songs, Carols and Other Miscellaneous Poems, from the Balliol MS 354, Richard Hill’s Commonplace-Book (London, 1907). 207 For full discussion of the manuscript context and evidence for authorship and transmission, see Bellis, ‘“We wanted þe trewe copy þereof ”’. 208 Anon., The Battle of Egyngecourte, and the Great Sege of Rone (London, 1536[?]), sig. A.ir.



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(perhaps with a hint towards Lydgate’s Kings of England, which called ‘The fifte Herry, of knyhthode Lodesterre’).209 It detailed with sarcastic relish reminiscent of Audelay’s carol the jest of the tennis balls: the king declares ‘The Dolphyne angre I trust I shall / And suche a tenys ball I shall hym sende / That shall bere downe the hye rofe of his hall’, asserting that his guns ‘shall playe with Harfflete / game at tennys as I wene’.210 The ball and court puns that fifteenth-century narrators found so amusing reappear in even more laboured renditions: Some hard tennys balles I haue hyther brought Of marble and yren made full rounde I swere by Iesu that me dere bought They shall bete the walles to the grounde Than sayd the greate gunne Holde felowes we go to game Thanked be Mary and Iesu her sone They dyde the frenchemen moche shame Fyftene afore sayd London tho Her balles full fayre she gan out throwe Thyrty sayd þe seconde gun I wyll wyn & I may There as the wall was moost sure They bare it downe without nay211

There is a familiar relish in this ventriloquism of the guns, driving home with grim glee the dark humour of this sordid tennis match. Moreover, as the sick and diminished English army makes its way to Calais (and to immortal victory, as the reader knows only too well), the tennis joke became an even more extended metaphor, as the French declare that it is they who really have ‘the balls’: The duke of Burbone answeryd sone And swere by god & by saynt Denys We wyll play them euerychone These lordes of Englande at the tenys.212

It is possible to see the process, in this poem’s distillation, of the familiar elements of the Agincourt legend crystallising into myth: the king asks the time of day and is told that it ‘is nye pryme’, at which he declares that ‘All the relygyouse of Englande in this tyme / Ora pro nobis for vs they synge’. After the battle is won, the soldiers sing Laus Deo. The only significant departure is that, in this sanitised version, Henry does not kill his prisoners, but takes them to Westminster to be ransomed.213 Up to the account of Agincourt, the poem reads straightforwardly as a heroic romp, in the familiar tradition of so much fifteenth-century war poetry.

209 Historical

Poems, 92, p. 6. of Egyngecourte, sig. A.iv. 211 Ibid., sig. A.iiir. 212 Ibid., sig. A.vv. 213 Ibid., sig. A.vr. 210 Battle

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However, when the poet turns to the ‘Great Sege of Rone’, to which he devotes only eighteen lines, the tone changes instantly: Thus of this matter I make an ende To theffecte of the batayll haue I gone For in this boke I cannot comprehende The greatest batayll of all called þe sege of Rome [sic] For that sege lasted .iii. yere and more And there a rat was at .xl. pens. For in the Cytye the people hongered sore Women and chyldren for faute of mete were lore And some for payne bare bones were gnawynge That at her brestes had .ii. chyldren soukynge Of the sege of Rone it to wryte were pytye It is a thynge so lamentable Yet euery hye feest, our kynge of his charytye Gaue them meate to theyr bodyes comfortable And at the laste, the towne wanne without fable Thus of all as now I make an ende To the blysse of heuen god our soules sende.    Thus endeth ye batayll of Egyngcourt.214

The contrast between the jubilant bombast with which Harfleur and Agincourt were narrated and this pensive reflection on the devastation of ‘greatest batayll of all’ is immediate and jarring. The extent to which the poem suddenly becomes reminiscent of Page’s elegy for ‘folke that were thereyn’ who ‘were but bonys and bare skyn’ is arresting. It is tempting to hear echoes, in the image of the ‘Women and chyldren’, ‘gnawynge’ on the bones and ‘soukynge’ at the breast, of the piteous and hideous mother-and-child image to which Page repeatedly returned, first in his disturbing meditation on the corrosive effects of starvation on the strongest bonds in human nature (‘Yf the chylde schulde be dede, / The modyr wolde not gyf hyt bredde … Ne the chylde the modyr gyffe / Euery on caste hym forto leve’; 513–14, 519–20, pp. 14–15); then in his series of wretched mother-and-child vignettes (‘That hyt was pytte ham to see: / Wemme[n] come knelyng on hyr kne, / With hyr chyldryn in hyr armys’; 539–541, p. 15); and finally, in his twisting of the tender madonna-and-child image into a pietà: And wemmen holdyn in hyr armys, Dede chyldryn, in hyr barmys; And the chyldryn sokyng [o]n the pappe Withyn a dede woman[s] lappe.

(1007–10, p. 26)

It is this image of the skeletal ‘chyldren soukynge’ at the withered breast that returns powerfully in the sixteenth-century redaction. Similar to the way in which the ‘Battle’ poet ameliorated Henry’s killing of the prisoners, he extended Henry’s 214 Ibid.,

sig. A.viv.



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kindness in feeding the people beyond just Christmas Day to ‘euery hye feest’; yet the harrowing image of the people who ‘hongered sore’, even in this heavily edited version, is a startling one. Most compelling, perhaps, is the way in which the poet stated that he ‘cannot comprehende / The greatest batayll of all called þe sege of Rome’ (sic), indicating a sudden change of mode, a pensiveness and contemplation that invites comparison with Page’s claim that ‘There ne was noo man, I vndyrstonde, / That sawe that, but hys herte wolde chaunge’ (1021–2, p. 26). Finally, in the closing statement that ‘at the laste, the towne wanne without fable’, there is an echo of the way in which Page ended his poem so ambiguously with his denial of ‘fabylle or fage’.215 The Battle of Egyngecourte, and the Great Sege of Rone is a very different kind of poem from The Siege of Rouen: it is neater, easier – the selected highlights of a glittering royal career. However, the stark contrast between its depiction of Rouen and that of Harfleur/Agincourt suggests that Page’s anguished narrative was significantly in the wings of this strangely protean text. It need not have been directly: Page’s poem was vestigially present in paraphrase within Caxton’s Chronicles, as the CV-1419 version of the Brut had relied heavily upon it as a source, and through Caxton it indirectly influenced later sixteenth-century chronicles; nor is it impossible that the sixteenth-century poet had access to the poem itself, perhaps through a CV-JP:A/B Brut manuscript that contained the second half. Wherever the anonymous ‘Battle’ poet found it, Page’s dark narrative stood tangibly behind this text. The Hundred Years War continued to be the subject of popular poetry in the sixteenth century, for reasons explored fully in the following chapters. Its contemporary accounts were sought out and redacted by sixteenth-century readers; and it is fitting that, alongside the rollicking tradition that was Agincourt, Rouen’s grim narrative held its place. The poetry of the Hundred Years War was diverse in genre, purpose, style and attitude; but it is possible to talk about it as a corpus united by an overriding theme, expressed in different ways: the political, aesthetic and ethical idea of representing war. Jingoistic propagandists made their texts mimetic sites in which to perform the conflict that had shaped them; official spokesmen poetically enacted the opposite narrative of smoothing out ‘variaunce’ with eloquence. Finally, there was the eyewitness, struggling with the ethics of poetic mimesis at all. In all of these texts, national language was being constructed (and deconstructed) in an ideological mimesis of historical praxis. The Hundred Years War made its poets conscious that the paradoxes that underlay the conflict were literally written into the language in which they narrated it. The next chapter questions why the conflict continued to enjoy such a currency when mediated to address the concerns of a new dynasty and a new age, exploring how the Hundred Years War narrators’ habit of drawing language into the heart of the contention had a direct effect on the linguistic furore of the following century.

215 Historical

Collections, p. 45.

4 ‘The brightnesse of braue and glorious words’ Language and war in the sixteenth century This book began with the sixteenth century’s most proficient ‘medievalist’, whose etymological meditation on the ‘war-old’ worolde gave Chapter 1 its epigraph. Spenser’s interest not only in the memes (allegory, etymology) but in the style and language of the older world are familiar. In his prefatory epistle to The Shepheardes Calender, the mysterious E. K. apologised for the ‘auncient’, ‘ragged and rusticall’ style of its author’s language experiment: as in most exquisite pictures they vse to blaze and portraict not onely the daintie lineaments of beautye, but also rounde about it to shadow the rude thickets and craggy clifts … for oftimes we fynde ourselues, I knowe not how, singularly delighted with the shewe of such naturall rudenesse, and take great pleasure in that disorderly order. Euen so doe those rough and harsh termes enlumine and make more clearly to appeare the brightnesse of braue and glorious words.1

The apology was ostensibly a humble one, but its defence of the barbarity of vernacularity rested on a coy co-opting of classical eloquence: ‘for if my memory fayle not’, E. K. asserted, ‘Tullie in that booke, wherein he endeuoureth to set forth the paterne of a perfect Oratour, sayth that ofttimes an auncient worde maketh the style seeme graue, and as it were reuerend.’ Having the classical rhetorician vouch for rude and rugged English was playfully ironic: E. K. ventriloquised the spokesman of eloquence defending an idiom that defined itself in opposition to it. As Andrew Zurcher comments, ‘E. K.’s pre-emptive strike’ defended ‘Spenser’s own archaisms with solid principles of classical rhetoric’, not only ‘justified on the grounds of decorum, but … even … a kind of imitatio.’2 The ‘naturall’ rudenesse’ that could ‘enlumine’ (that familiar Chaucerian compliment, see p. 128) the ‘braue & glorious words’ has a ruddy lustre that, although its blazons may not ‘blaze’ with classical brilliance, nonethelesss somehow outshines its ‘brightnesse’. Chaucer takes on Cicero in this orchestrated debate, as Spenser, the humanist-medievalist, pondered how the old world met the new. Even from this brief portrait, the extent to which the same questions and oppositions dogged the anxious quest for ‘naturall’ English eloquence, 1 2

Spenser, The Shepheardes Calender, p. 8. Andrew Zurcher, Spenser’s Legal Language: Law and Poetry in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2007), p. 32.



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over a hundred years after the supposed end of the Hundred Years War, becomes clear: ‘auncient’ or borrowed; ‘rough and harsh’ or ‘enlumine[d]’ and ‘glorious’. The afterlife of the Hundred Years War in the sixteenth century is a topic that is rarely considered: much work has been done on the history play phenomenon of the 1590s, although considerations of its medieval originals are not often interested in more than source-hunting. Some attention has been paid to the Tudor imitations and uses of Henry V’s legacy.3 But very little has been written on ways in which the metaphors and pugnacious linguistic habits of thinking, honed over the course of the long wars, shaped the linguistic controversies that exploded shortly afterwards. This owes much to the traditional boundaries that continue, in practice, to divide the medieval from the early modern: most scholarship comes either from the perspective of medievalists looking forwards (such as Butterfield, whose consideration of ‘French English’ in the sixteenth century forms only the postscript to The Familar Enemy), or early modernists looking backwards; neither of whom has the deeper investment in or commitment to the other period to explore the connections in their fullness. However, Caldwell is right to recognise ‘the temptation [that] has persisted to use this war to write “analogue history” of one’s own time’, at its most acute in the conflict’s immediate aftermath in the sixteenth century.4 This chapter situates the Inkhorn Controversy in its historical context, demonstrating both the longevity of the ideological force of the arguments of the Hundred Years War, and how the language debates of the sixteenth century, in many ways so new, had their roots deep in England’s politicised linguistic history. Spenser famously demanded, in a letter to Gabriel Harvey of 1580, ‘why … may not we, as else the Greekes, haue the kingdome of oure owne Language?’5 His question exemplified the latent nationalism, anxiety and pugnacity embedded in the humanist endeavour to refine and perfect English eloquence. The sixteenth century was the period when interest in national language exploded. The Inkhorn Controversy’s enduring concern with etymology and nationality marked a decided acceleration from the linguistic agendas of the fifteenth century. The importance of this movement in shaping the peculiar quality of Elizabethan nationalism has been widely remarked upon: Patricia Palmer calls ‘the triumph of English’ that ‘most Elizabethan of concepts’, maintaining that ‘Early modern nationalism both housed and was sustained by linguistic chauvinism’.6 Cathy Shrank states that, for the sixteenth century, ‘Language is not solely a means of defining a nation: it is a means of creating one’.7 However, the correlation might be better framed as cause: the sixteenth century’s linguistic nationalism grew out of the wars of its medieval past. The bridge between the contemporary narration of the Hundred Years War, and its imaginative force

3 4 5 6 7

See Davies, ‘Henry VIII and Henry V: The Wars in France’. Caldwell, ‘The Hundred Years War and National Identity’, p. 237. G. Gregory Smith, ed., Elizabethan Critical Essays, 2 vols (Oxford, 1904), vol. I, p. 99. See Helgerson, Forms of Nationhood (introduction); Butterfield, ‘National Histories’, p. 31. Patricia Palmer, Language and Conquest in Early Modern Ireland: English Renaissance Literature and Elizabethan Imperial Expansion (Cambridge, 2001), pp. 1, 19. Cathy Shrank, Writing the Nation in Reformation England, 1530–1580 (Oxford, 2004), p. 17.

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on the Elizabethan stage a century and a half later, is the focus of this chapter. History and language contained one another’s story, this book has maintained, in a metonymic and complex relation. The enduring importance of the Anglo-French axis that had defined cultural and political experience since 1066 crystallised in the sixteenth century, its memorialisation becoming keener as it faded into history. This chapter charts the legacy of the French conflict that had become an omnipresent part of English experience, especially the ideas about national linguistic identity that it bequeathed to the next generation of historians and language theorists. It demonstrates that the sixteenth-century language debates, unique in their longevity, acerbity and ubiquity, grew out of the violent linguistic crucible of the Hundred Years War. It was that conflict, which foregrounded language as a symbol of both vulnerability and aggression, which underpinned the agonistic interrogation of what language was and what it was for in the humanist engagement with the classical languages in the next century.

The sixteenth century’s ‘kingdom of language’: a new world? The sixteenth century was transformational, and in emphasising its debts to the Middle Ages we should not forget its ruptures with them. Its technological revolutions changed the nature of reading and the nature of war; its monarchs performed their royalty in a more total way perhaps than ever before; its religious upheavals undermined habits of thought that had pertained, more or less, for generations. Nonetheless, the extent to which the world changed has been exaggerated. The ‘Renaissance’ inherited as much as it made new, and (crucially) these processes were two sides of the same coin. It was precisely because of the monumental changes the century witnessed that its origins became more precious as they became more remote. Medieval history had a renewed relevance, rather than an increasing obsolescence, as sixteenth-century writers pondered the distance travelled. This is evident in the uses to which Tudor monarchs put the Hundred Years War. Effectively it was long over before their ascendancy, but nonetheless the young Henry VIII, when he invaded France in 1513 (encouraged by Julius II’s bull in 1512 that officially recognised the English claim), did so in an exact imitation of Henry V’s campaign a century before, even staging his confrontation with John Colet as a deliberate echo of Henry V’s encounter with Vincent Ferrer (the preacher who, having excoriatingly condemned Henry’s war, famously emerged from his interview convinced of the king’s piety and justice).8 The careers of Edward III, the Black

8

For Henry VIII’s French campaign and its medieval models, see Davies, ‘Henry VIII and Henry V: The Wars in France’; see also Clifford Davies, ‘“Roy de France et roy d’Angleterre”: The English Claims to France, 1453–1558’, Publications du Centre Européen d’Études Bourguignonnes (XIVe–XVIe siècles) 35 (1995), 123–32; Charles Giry-Deloison, ‘A Diplomatic Revolution? Anglo-French Relations and the Treaties of 1527’, in Henry VIII: A European Court in England, ed. David Starkey (London, 1991), pp. 77–86; Charles Giry-Deloison, ‘Une alliance contre nature? La paix franco-angloise du 1525–1544’, in François 1er et Henry VIII: deux princes de la Renaissance (1515–1547), ed. Charles Giry-Deloison (Lille and London, 1995), pp. 53–62.



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Prince and Henry V received a renewed enthusiasm during this period: the translation of Froissart by John Bourchier, Lord Berners (deputy of Calais), printed by Pynson in 1523–25, was a product of this stimulus. Grummitt calls it ‘the success of the early Tudors … to harness these chivalric longings in the service of the crown’.9 Moreover, Henry VIII’s renewed military activity in France prompted the composition of several texts that deliberately revived and reinvigorated the arguments of the Hundred Years War. One was the anonymous A Declaration of the Trew and Dewe Title of Henry VIII, completed some point before 1513 as a response to the Valois tract Pour ce que plusieurs (la loy salicque), c. 1464–65.10 Although A Declaration was prepared for Henry VIII, Craig Taylor thinks it unlikely that he ever read it.11 It was probably the work of someone soliciting personal preferment, rather than an official or commissioned text. It survives in two autograph manuscripts, one rough draft and one presentation copy. Taylor dates the handwriting to the 1480s–1490s, suggesting that the author may have been middle-aged by the time he wrote it:12 perhaps to him the ignominious fizzling out of the Hundred Years War did not seem so distant as to his younger readers. A conclusion found in the draft but not the presentation copy stated that the text was ‘not made to move or sterre the king my soverayn lord to invade the reame of Ffraunce therin to move or make werre’, but ‘oonly to enduce his grace to take knowledge not oonly of his right … but also of the subtil and cautellous [deceptive] imaginacions of his ennemys the Ffrenshmen’. Presuming that the final copy was made after 1512, this intention was rendered redundant by Henry having already invaded France.13 A Declaration responded point by point to Pour ce que plusieurs, with a repetitive linguistic repertoire colourfully redolent of the fifteenth-century chronicles. It castigated the ‘false, dampnable and diabolik fayned surmyses, objectives, alleggementes and demonstrances conteyned in the said Frenssh pamplet’, along with the ‘great, crafty, subtil and mischevous cautelles [stratagems/contrivances] & entendementes [plots] of the Ffrensshmen purposyng and entendyng to oppresse, disturb and deforce their voisins [neighbours] and disherite them of their londes’.14 Continuing the chronicle tradition, it singled out the language as the particular locus of the enemy’s evil intentions, stating that they use eloquent and dissimeled [dissembling] demonstraunce of wordes to fals purpos, hiding their fowle poison and intoxicat myndes wunder glose by the same, under color of trust to deceyve every other region. Ffor those Ffrensshmen never make or agree to leage, treatie or peas with eny prince but they wul have a subtil and a crafty and deceyvable sterting hole [loophole] to take and leve at the pleasur, & that so craftely

9 10

11 12 13 14

Grummitt, The Calais Garrison, p. 189. Edited together by Craig Taylor, Debating the Hundred Years War: Pour ce que plusieurs (la loy salicque) and A Declaration of the Trew and Dewe Title of Henry VIII (Cambridge, 2006), pp. 32–3. Ibid., p. 48. Ibid., p. 34. Ibid., pp. 269–70. Ibid., pp. 268–9.

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conveyed that they alwey have coloures of justification though it be never for false, as is notoirly declared in all histories and cronikes.15

This distrust of the ‘dissimeled demonstraunce of wordes’ is precisely the stylistic tenor of the ‘histories and croniques of antiquite’ that A Declaration cites.16 The author’s incensed reaction to Pour ce que plusieurs indicates that to him, at least, the Hundred Years War remained a live issue, even before the king actively made it so; and that the ‘the histories and croniques of antiquite’ vividly informed the politics of his present day. Another text from these years, The Gardyners Passetaunce Touchyng the Outrage of Fraunce, emanated from the centre of the propaganda machine, undergoing two print-runs by the royal printer Richard Pynson in 1512, and bearing the royal arms and the Tudor rose on its frontispiece.17 It was a short, bald treatise in defence of Henry’s wars, a redaction of James Whytstons’s lengthier and dryer De iusticia et sanctitate belli per Iulium pontificem secundum, most likely by the Westminster monk Thomas Gardyner (although Alexander Barclay was suggested by its editors).18 It represented the conflict as an allegorical confrontation between the symbolic national flowers, the fragrant rose and the stinking lily; rehearsing the ‘craft, sufferaunce and subtilitie’ with which ‘the lilye … Hathe uppon all princes usurped’, with ‘dampnable ambicion’ that ‘must nedely be extermyned’.19 It accused the French kings of ‘enterprises abhominable’ and ‘crafty dissymblyng’, in an acid register again reminiscent of the chronicles.20 It ended by inciting ‘the red Rose, our joye, our daliaunce’ to ‘chastyse the insolence and orgule [presumption/pride] of Fraunce’.21 Where A Declaration professed not to incite Henry to make war, the Gardyners Passetaunce has no hesitation about doing just that: Nowe is the tyme prophicied, now is the verray season That the red Rose shuld were the crowne of Fraunce … But God by his justice nowe guydyng the balaunce And saynt George assistynge our valiant Englysshemen, Fraunce shall have a fall – our Lorde saye Amen.22

Henry VIII’s wars are not usually considered as an ideological continuation of the Hundred Years War; but contemporary writers cast them as exactly that. All the Tudors styled themselves rulers of France, and quartered the royal arms with the fleur-de-lys. The Hundred Years War had a prolonged usefulness, and it was still fitfully prosecuted (or at least conceptualised as being so) right up to 1558, when 15 16 17 18

19 20 21 22

Ibid., p. 269. Ibid., p. 156. See Lotte Hellinga, William Caxton and Early Printing in England (London, 2010), p. 118. The suggestion of Thomas Gardyner was first made by Julia Boffey and M. W. T. Payne in ‘The Gardyner’s Passetaunce, the Flowers of England, and Thomas Gardyner, Monk of Westminster’ (forthcoming). For Barclay, see Anon, The Gardyners Passetaunce Touchyng the Outrage of Fraunce, ed. Franklin B. Williams, notes by Howard N. Norton (London, 1985), p. 20. The Gardyners Passetaunce, lines 22–8, p. 28. Ibid., lines 136, 147, p. 32. Ibid., lines 193–4, p. 34. Ibid., lines 208–9, 212–14, p. 34.



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Calais, the last bastion of English sovereignty, fell to the Duke of Guise. Grummitt calls this loss ‘a tremendous blow to the national pride and morale of mid-Tudor England’; a ‘disaster’ received with ‘despair’.23 Protestants interpreted it as a divine judgement on the apostate queen: the Marian exile Bartholomew Traheron, in A Warning to Englande to Repente and to Tvrn to God from Idolatrie and Poperie by the Terrible Exemple of Calece, called the queen ‘a bold blasphemer’, declaring that she had ‘studied these 4. yeres to betraie the o’ Englande in to the handes of a straunger’.24 Mary herself (allegedly) said that the word ‘Calais’ would be perpetually engraved on her heart; and Elizabeth bitterly felt her sister’s loss, wishing that she might ‘have this our Calais returned to us’, and calling it ‘a matter of continual grief to this realm’.25 The conflict with France, which determined so much about the nature of English nationalism, became the benchmark by which the Tudor dynasty measured itself.26 ‘The desire to refashion the past [is] particularly pressing at moments of change’, suggests Shrank,27 and the same reasons for which the turn of the fifteenth century was a watershed, account for why the medieval past became such a prevalent metaphor. A prime example of this is the only other book apart from The Shepheardes Calender that Hugh Singleton printed in 1579, a text whose virulent application of medieval history to the political present offended the queen so much that its author lost his right hand:28 John Stubbes’s The Discoverie of a Gaping Gulf Whereinto England is Like to be Swallowed by Another French Match, the boldest of the tracts written against the proposed match with the Duke of Alençon. The titular phrase, ‘Another French Match’, announced its methodology of medievalism from the outset, and large swathes were devoted to rehearsing ‘the auncient hurts that Englande haue receiued through royall intermariages with that nation’ which ‘haue alwayes endamaged England’.29 Stubbes’s examples were many, since every king from Henry III to Henry VI (with the sole exception of Henry IV) married a Frenchwoman. His antipathy was couched in a familiar xenophobic terminology: he distrusted ‘euery lisping word and crouching curtesie’, the ‘braue words the false flattering frenchmen’ used upon ‘fond credulous Englishmen’.30 He warned ‘how vainely they gape at french promises, with losse of theyr Englishe possessions’ and lamented, ‘it wold not be long before theyr tongues would make theyr harts ake’, concluding ‘there was neuer yet any trust or truth in the word or promises of the French’.31

23 24 25 26

27 28 29 30 31

Grummitt, The Calais Garrison, pp. 3, 165, 176. Bartholomew Traheron, A Warning to Englande to Repente and to Tvrn to God from Idolatrie and Poperie by the Terrible Exemple of Calece (Wesel[?], 1558), sigs.A5r, A4r. Cited respectively in Grummitt, The Calais Garrison, p. 165; and in Richard Rex, The Tudors (Stroud, 2003), p. 196. For discussion of different reactions to the fall of Calais, see David Grummitt, ‘Three Narratives of the Fall of Calais in 1558: Explaining Defeat in Tudor England’, in Bellis and Slater, eds, Representing War and Violence in Later Medieval Europe. Shrank, Writing the Nation, pp. 2–3. Ibid., p. 222. John Stubbes, The Discoverie of a Gaping Gulf Whereinto England is Like to be Swallowed by Another French Marriage (London, 1579), sig. C.4r. Ibid., sig. C.6r, D.3r. Ibid., sig. D.4r, C.5r,

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Language remained the primary object of suspicion and aggression in Stubbes’s treatise. The French were ‘the old serpent in shape of a man, whos sting is in his mouth, and who doth his endeuor to seduce our Eue, that shee and we may lose this Englishe Paradise’.32 For Stubbes, the antipathy of ‘the true and naturall old English nation’ towards the Alençon match stemmed from the fact that England had ‘neuer esteemed nor loued the French’: indeed, ‘Out of thys inbred hatred it came, that Frenchemen aboue other aliens beare thys addition in some of our auncient chronicles, Charters, and statuts to be the auncient ennemies of England’.33 Medieval history was the single source of Stubbes’s conjuration of English identity: ‘smooth wordes’ and ‘french falshood’ recapitulated the caricature from the ‘auncient chronicles’ which, as imagined codices of a faithful past, retained a symbolic authority.34 Stubbes’s text emphasised that the ways in which the sixteenth century was a new world served to reinforce the ways in which the old world still functioned as its ledger. By the later sixteenth century, France was not only the old territorial enemy, but a new religious menace; but this is a fact that Stubbes depicted as simply the latest in a continuous history of French enmity: These tymes haue new falshodes, which we must encounter by new foreseeing wisedomes. New diseases haue taght phisitians to find new medicines: and sith fals frenchmen wyll doe that which theyr forefathers would neuer doe, let honest Englishmen suspect that which theyr auncesters could neuer misdeeme. Especially in those matters, wher popery comes betwene as the motif, and the french ben the instruments.35

Instead of imagining England’s Catholic past as anterior, something from which Protestant England had broken away, Stubbes portrayed insular religious history as continuous, ingeniously presenting Catholicism as the novelty, the latest innovation in a saga of French deception. The Hundred Years War enabled Stubbes casuistically to rewrite the Reformation as continuity, not break. Precisely because the world was, in many ways, so new, the old world had a peculiar claim on its innate identity, the more resonant because it was just coming to be thought of as an old world. Spenser and Stubbes represented two different kinds of political medievalism, one orientated towards language and the other history. The Inkhorn Controversy cannot be considered in isolation as a sixteenth-century phenomenon, its insecurities about English prompted only by humanist encounters with the classical languages. As E. K.’s simultaneous winks to Cicero and Chaucer indicate, it was part of a dialogue with the immediate, as well as the ancient, past. Linguistic insecurity in relation to Greek and Latin had its roots in much older and deeper insecurities about French; and the metaphor of linguistic dominance in England’s own imperial contexts, Ireland and the New World, had its roots in its victory (short-lived but enduring in reputation) over France. Margaret Ferguson describes ‘imperial nationalism as a matrix’ in her discussion 32 33 34 35

Ibid., sig. A.2r. Ibid., sig. C.2r. Ibid., sig. A.3r, B.4.r, C.2r. Ibid., sig. E.6v–E.7r.



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of mother tongues;36 and her triangulation of England’s newer colonial contexts in relation to its oldest reveals how the one furnished the ideological apparatus for the others. Likewise, considering England’s colonial past, Sean Keilen argues that the Romans could not be thought of as civilisers without concomitantly being recognised as conquerors, and that this dual image of cultural victory and cultural subjugation underpinned every act of humanist deference to Latin over English.37 But if this was felt with regard to Latin, it was much keener with regard to French. Precisely this metaphor had anciently characterised medieval depictions of French tyrannical civility. It was because English identity was so constituted by conquest (Roman, Saxon, Norman) that eloquence was ideologically inseparable from invasion. The pugnacious inferiority articulated in response to Latin was an extension of the ancient reaction to French, which was being articulated with accelerating acerbity throughout the century.

The Norman myth (part two): early modern fictions of Conquest In the first quarter of the sixteenth century, the civil war that had spelled the ignominious end of ambitions in France was just beginning to feel as though it was over. The rebellions of Lambert Simnel (1487) and Perkin Warbeck (1495–97) must have made the new dynasty initially seem as unstable as its predecessors: just another volatile, short-lived oligarchy. By 1500, Henry Tudor was laying to rest the bloody throes of the fifteenth century; but the confidence that had marked the era of foreign, rather than civil, wars, had been knocked. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the early century was characterised by laments about the rudeness and barbarity of English.38 The narrator of John Skelton’s ‘Phyllyp Sparowe’ (c. 1509) complained Our naturall tong is rude, And hard to be enneude [brightened, ornamented, coloured] With pullyshed termes lusty; Our language is so rusty, So cankered [ulcerated, full of cancers] and so full Of frowardes, [corruptions, harms] and so dull, That if I wolde apply To wryte ornatly, I wot not where to fynd Termes to serve my mynde.39

36 37 38

39

Margaret W. Ferguson, Dido’s Daughters: Literacy, Gender, and Empire in Early Modern England and France (London and Chicago, 2003), p. 125. Keilen, Vulgar Eloquence, pp. 2–4. For synopses of the language debates, see Veré Rubel, Poetic Diction in the English Renaissance: From Skelton through Spenser (New York, 1966); Geoffrey Hughes, A History of English Words (Oxford, 2000); Foster Jones, The Triumph of the English Language. John Skelton, John Skelton: The Complete English Poems, ed. John Scattergood (New Haven, CT, 1983) lines 774–83, p. 91.

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Assertions that English was incapable of eloquent expression went hand in hand with its unfavourable comparison with the romance languages of Europe. The Carthusian physician Andrew Borde, writing from Montpellier in the early 1540s, held that ‘The speche of Englande is a base speche to other noble speches, as Italion Castylion and Frenche’.40 The feeling that England had come late to the European Renaissance, compounded by the many claims by both classical and contemporary European authors that the British Isles were a barbaric outpost, intensified this sense of inferiority.41 Insecurity about English led many to conclude that the best way to enrich it was to borrow, following in the footsteps of the French language theorists.42 In his 1549 Déffense et illustration de la langue françoyse, Joachim du Bellay had rousingly urged his countrymen to treat Greek and Latin as ripe for the plundering: marchez couraigeusement vers cete superbe cité Romaine: et des serves depouilles d’elle (comme vous avez fait plus d’une fois) ornez vos temples et autelz … Donnez en cete Grece menteresse, et y semez encor’ un coup la fameuse nation des Gallogrecz. Pillez moy sans conscience les sacrez thesors de ce temple Delphique … Vous souvienne de votre ancienne Marseille, secondes Athenes, et de vostre Hercule Gallique, tirant les peuples apres luy par leurs oreilles avecques une chesne attachée à sa langue. march courageously on that proud Roman city and from her captured spoils (as you have done more than once) adorn your temples and altars … Attack that lying Greece and sow there once again the famous nation of Gallo-Greeks. Pillage without scruple the sacred treasures of that Delphic temple … Remember your ancient Marseilles, the second Athens, and your Gallic Hercules, who drew the nations after him by their ears with a chain attached to his tongue.43

Du Bellay and the Pléiade had a significant influence on English ideas about national language; but across the Channel, contemporary apologists lacked the confidence to share his victorious metaphor. French had enjoyed pan-European supremacy as the supranational lingua franca of diplomacy for most of the Middle Ages; English could make no such boast. For English, the metaphor of words as plunder was reversed: du Bellay claimed the right to borrow from Greek and Latin into French as pillaging their ‘sacrez thesors’; but medieval writers had formulated this relation in the opposite way. French (and Latin) words in English had been seen as the evidence of its subjection and spoliation. Instead of being the spoils of victory, English was depicted as having been spoiled. To borrow was not an unequivocal sign of victory: it was a slur of slavish subjection. The shame that attached to borrowing prompted a 40 41

42 43

Andrew Borde, The Fyrst Boke of the Introduction of Knowledge, ed. James Hogg (Salzburg, 1979), p. 11. For more on Borde, see Shrank, Writing the Nation, pp. 27–64. See Keilen, Vulgar Eloquence, pp. 15–16; and Shrank, Writing the Nation, p. 14: ‘the sculptor Benvenuto Cellini’ (for instance) ‘refused Henry VIII’s invitation to work in England on the grounds that he could not bear to live among such people’. For Spenser and the Pléiade, see Zurcher, Spenser’s Legal Language, pp. 29–31. Joachim du Bellay, ‘La deffence et illustration de la langue françoyse’, in Joachim du Bellay: ‘The Regrets’, with ‘The Antiquities of Rome,’ Three Latin Elegies, and ‘The Defense and Enrichment of the French Language: A Bilingual Edition, ed. and trans. Richard Helgerson (Philadelphia, 2006), pp. 317–417 (412–13).



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return to the medieval fictions of the Conquest, as sixteenth-century writers restated the myth of French linguistic ravishment in increasingly violent terms, to excuse what they perceived as their vernacular’s colonial barbarism. Chapter 1 demonstrated how the story of the Norman Conquest was rewritten with accretive exaggerations of its cruelty with each succeeding century after 1066, culminating in the Crowland forger’s claim that the Conqueror personally despised the English language with an intensity that led to its near extermination. The sixteenth century continued this trajectory, with accelerating hostility: in Holinshed’s Chronicles (1577/87), the Normans were presented with a deliberate policy of linguistic domination;44 George Puttenham (1589) accused the conqueror of having ‘brought into this realm much alteration both of our language and laws, and therewithal a certain martial barbarousness, whereby the study of all good learning was so much decayed’;45 John Davies (c. 1612) called this language enforcement ‘a marke and badge of conquest’.46 It was the innovation of the sixteenth century, however, to present the enforcement of language as not just a consequence but a criterion for efficacious conquest,47 and to defend the paucity of English on the grounds that it had suffered this at the hands of Norman French. The pedagogue Richard Mulcaster (1582) demanded what peple can be sure of his own tung anie long while? … if the state where it is vsed, do chance to be ouerthrown, and a master tung comming in as conqueror, command both the people, and the peples speche to?

His simile for the dynamics of linguistic contact (the ‘master tung’ entering ‘as conqueror’) was deeply agonistic: languages co-existed as enforcers of alterity and oppression. He lamented that ‘our tung semeth to haue two heds, the one homeborn, the other a stranger’, a depiction of English rendered monstrous by the violence done to it.48 In this context, if English was barbarous, it was the fault of the conquerors; and the way to restore it to exalted eloquence was by anything but perpetuating the slavish borrowing that was the badge of their overlordship. The idea of ‘linguistic invasion’ had characterised medieval fictions of the Conquest; but this image of a ‘master tung’ made the locus of Norman violence primarily linguistic. It was language itself, anthropomorphised in Mulcaster’s formulation, that exercised the will to power and the privilege of ‘command’. Holinshed’s Irish Chronicle took this further. Criticising the Old English in 44

45 46 47 48

See Annabel Patterson, Reading Holinshed’s Chronicles (Chicago, 1994), p. 106. See also The Holinshed Project, stable URL: www.english-ox.ac.uk/holinshed (accessed November 2015). For more on elegiac representations of Conquest, see Escobedo, Nationalism and Historical Loss, and Helgerson, Forms of Nationhood. George Puttenham, The Art of English Poesy, ed. Frank Whigham and Wayne A. Rebhorn (Ithaca, NY, 2007), p. 147. John Davies, A Discovery of the True Causes Why Ireland Was Never Entirely Subdued, ed. John Barry (Shannon, 1969), p. 127. For the Irish context, see Palmer, Language and Conquest, pp. 8–39. Richard Mulcaster, The First Part of the Elementarie which Entreateth Chefelie of the Right Writing of our English Tung (London, 1582; repr. Menston, 1970), sig. K.iir, p. 75; sig. V.iv, p. 153.

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Ireland (the descendants of the original settlers who stayed on after the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169–71) for allowing their speech to be reduced to a ‘mingle mangle or gallamaulfrey’ and suffering ‘the enemies language, as it were a tettarre, or ringwoorme, to herborow it selfe within the iawes of Englishe conquerors’, they concluded, a conquest draweth, or at the least wyse ought to drawe to it, three things; to witte, law, apparayle, and language. For where the countrey is subdued, there the inhabitants ought to be ruled by the same law that the conqueror is gouerned, to weare the same fashion of attyre, wherewith the victour is vested, & speake the same language, that the vanquisher parleth.49

It is ironic that on one hand the Chronicle praised the Anglo-Saxons for their (apparent) resistance to an aggressive linguistic tyranny, and on the other advocated the imposition of exactly the same model of linguistic tyranny on England’s own conquests; but it was an irony characteristic of the paradoxical pugnacity of English nationalism, to want to shake off the Norman yoke by imitating the Normans. The function of the conquerors as a contradictory example (despised as inimical linguistic tyrants; admired as the model for successful linguistic tyranny), was integral to the juxtaposition of colonial contexts, past and present, that occurs so frequently in this literature. The description of borrowing as rendering the language a ‘mingle mangle’ was not unique to Holinshed: it chimed like a bell throughout the writings of the Inkhorn Controversy. Focusing primarily on Puttenham’s castigation of the rhetorical figure of soraismus as a ‘mingle mangle’ in the Art of English Poesy, Jenny Mann writes, the ‘mingle mangle’ and its synonyms are often used by sixteenth-century language reformers to condemn the English vernacular as a whole, which was widely perceived to have supplemented its vocabulary with too many borrowed words. In this era, the phrase ‘mingle mangle’ signifies … the internal alienation produced by a vernacular that has absorbed too many ‘strange’ words and become disturbingly foreign to itself. The figure soraismus thus evokes what was then understood to be one of the core problems of the English language: its linguistic impurity resulting from an ongoing susceptibility to foreign contamination.50

The mingle-mangle was ‘the exemplary form of of barbarous speech’, condemned by Puttenham as the ‘foulest vice in language’. The kind of language it represented was one of post-colonial/post-lapsarian loss of national identity: fallen from purity, a language that had lost its pedigree and become a mongrel; permeable and polluted, attesting the violence done to it in the scars of residual words. Well-meaning but näive rhetoricians, ironically aiming ‘to improve on the language’s natural state through the importation of classical rhetorical figures into the vernacular’ had in fact rendered ‘English unnatural to its own speakers … The art of rhetoric is thus’ 49 50

Raphael Holinshed and Richard Stanihurst, Holinshed’s Irish Chronicle, ed. Liam Miller and Eileen E. Power (Dublin, 1979), pp. 14, 16, 15–16. Jenny C. Mann, Outlaw Rhetoric: Figuring Vernacular Eloquence in Shakespeare’s England (Ithaca, NY, and London, 2012), p. 000.



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(as Mann argues) ‘both a means of improvement and an agent of contamination and confusion’. The paradox for pursuers of English eloquence was that ‘in order to achieve an artful vernacular, English writers must supplement their vernacular with foreign terms, and yet this importation of “stranger” words mangles English speech, rendering it, once again, barbarous’. The irony was ultimately that ‘the borrowing of foreign words enriches the English vernacular while also alienating that vernacular from itself.’51 It seems remarkable, as Mann observes, that ‘the mingled vernacular language could ever be successfully posited as having a “natural” connection to the English people and the English land’; but in fact this paradoxical construction enabled pre-Conquest English to be retrospectively mourned.52 William Camden (1605) applied the same ‘three things, which implie a full conquest, viz. the alteration of lawes, language, and attire’ to the conquest of England, lamenting, ‘great verily was the glory of our tongue before the Norman Conquest in this, that the olde English could expresse most aptly, all the conceiptes of the minde in their owne tongue without borrowing from any’. He rejected the ‘alteration and innovation in our tongue’ that ‘hath beene brought in by entrance of Strangers, as Danes, Normans, and others which have swarmed hither’, singling out the invidious practise of the Normans, who as a monument of their Conquest, would have yoaked the English under their tongue, as they did under their command … for the space of three hundred yeares, untill King Edward the third enlarged them from that bondage.53

The politicised rhetoric of ‘swarming’ and ‘bondage’ extended to the practice Camden criticised in his own day, to ‘affect noveltie in speech’, to ‘forge new phrases … [by] presumptuous and farre fetching of words’, suggesting that such flirtation with enemy languages was the failing of Edward the Confessor, whose subjects ‘misliked nothing more … than that he was Frenchified, & accounted the desire of a forraine language, then to be a foretoken of the bringing in of forraine power, which indeede happened’.54 To borrow, in this framework, was to invite a recapitulation of the subjugation of English, a double ignominy since the conquered speakers (apparently) strove so valiantly to preserve it. A neglected gem in this tradition of re-imagining of the Conquest is the antiquarian and Anglo-Saxonist William de Lisle, who, in his translation of Ælfric (1623), took a step further the suggestion that Old English had been pure and unsullied, and likened it to the Adamic language. He railed against the ‘Normanizing’ of Chaucer, and the dereliction that English underwent through ‘continuall warres, inuasion and vastation’;55 yet he proffered an alternative history: For as at the Saxon Inuasion many of the Britons, so at the Norman many of the Saxons fled into Scotland, preseruing in that Realme vnconquered, as the line Royall, 51 52 53 54 55

Ibid., pp. 177, 174, 179, 180. Ibid., p. 181. Camden, Remains, pp. 23, 27, 29, 31. Ibid., pp. 30–1. William de Lisle, A Saxon Treatise Concerning the Old and New Testament (London, 1623), sig. C.3r, B.4r.

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so also the language … Thankes be to God that he that conquered the Land could not so conquer the Language; … This proues also that our Saxon Auncestors … had a very significant and composable tongue; and that they did not, as men doe now adaies, for a glory of short continuance, name the places of their conquest after themselues … but euen according to natures selfe, as Adam gaue names in Paradise.56

This attempt to prove that, but for the crimes of the Normans, Old English would have preserved an Edenic purity, culminated in a ventriloquism of Alfred as a second Adam, lamenting the fall of speech: I perceiue there the nation which once I gouerned, which hath also many kings, both before and after a Norman interruption, descended of my bloud, to make so small account of our writings and language; to forget the meaning of our names, and the names of places by vs conquered; … Were these all giuen at random, without meaning, without reason; it mattered not to remember, or forget them; to keepe or lose them. But as the first man did in the first language giue euery thing name according to the nature: so haue wee done in ours: that, whoso vnderstands the one, shall easily discouer the other … That my English in England, neede to be Englished; and my translation translated; while few now, and shortly perhaps none, shall be able to doe it? What negligence, what ingratitude is this? … Suffer not the renowne of our Nation to be buried in the obliuion of our language.57

This was one of the most strident declarations of the period about the superiority and significancy of English. If few were sufficiently bold to claim English as the Adamic language, Dante had ventured it for Italian, and others for German and Dutch. Umberto Eco cites Goropius Becanus (1569), who declared that the Dutch, as descendents of Japheth, had not been present at Babel and had therefore been spared in the confusion, as well as the Swedish counterclaim of Andreas Kempe, in whose play Die Sprachen des Paradises (1688) God spoke Swedish, Adam Dutch, and the serpent French.58 It was a bold move, but not an unprecedented one, to liken pre-Conquest English to pre-lapsarian speech. By contrast, in the dramatic tradition in England, the ‘diabolic’ quality of French had always been present: Lucifer’s frenchified vocabulary in the York cycle led Williams to call the Fall ‘a French lesson’. The Wakefield cycle cast Herod as a French-speaker, simultaneously designating his royalty and associating francophony with tyranny. Williams contrasts his ‘violent thuggery’ with his ‘courtly self-­projection’, interpreting his final outburst in Herod the Great (‘I can no more Franch’) as an ‘acknowledgment that his political power, performed through the speaking of French, has just reached its limits’.59 The European dramatic tradition, and especially the English cycle plays, was making great hay out of the spiritual hierarchy of languages. 56 57 58 59

Ibid., sig. D.1r, F.1v–F.2r. Ibid., sig. F.3v–F.4v. Umberto Eco, The Search for the Perfect Language, trans. James Fentress (Oxford, 1994), pp. 95–103. ‘Herod the Great’, from the Wakefield Cycle, line 513, in Medieval Drama. ed. David Bevington (Boston, 1975), p. 453; see Williams, The French Fetish, pp. 50–86 (77, 83).



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But these spiritual semantics were more than playful: Tyndale (1528) claimed in deadly earnest that ‘the properties of the Hebrew tongue agreeth a thousand times more with the English than with the Latin. The manner of speaking is both one.’60 Taking this philosophy to its natural conclusion, John Cheke’s translation of Matthew’s gospel (c. 1550) famously eschewed all borrowed vocabulary, choosing hundreder over ‘centurion’, frosent for ‘apostle’, biwordes for ‘parables’ and gainrising for ‘resurrection’. He glossed ekklesia with the phrase, ‘We folowing þe greek calle þis house, as þe north doth yet moor truli sound it, þe kurk, and we moor corruptli and frenchlike, þe church’.61 The idea that English could challenge the Romance languages for intuitive perspicacity was, tentatively but sincerely, gaining ground. In this sixteenth-century chapter of the Norman myth, the fall of English in 1066 mirrored, in little space, the fall of speech: if English was barbarous, it was the fault of French. Hand in hand with humanist deference to the classical and European languages went the old conjunction of language and war. The image of the Conquest as the rape of English, whose bastard progeny was its mangled vocabulary, remained powerfully emotive. If anything, its articulation in the Renaissance was the more poignant because the cessation of hostilities with France demanded the restatement of the Norman myth in virulent terms by those who sought to apply it (rather counter-intuitively) to their own times. This idea of an English ravished by French, its enslavement excusing its barbarity, allowed Old English to be imagined as an original, pure speech, whose recovery would do much more for the eloquence of the vernacular than would the servile colonial habit of borrowing. Camden argued, for example, that Old English words were innately more significant than loanwords: The holy service of God, which the Latines called Religion … they called most significantly Ean-fastnes, as the one and onely assurance of fast anker-holde of our soules health … The Scribes they could call in their proper signification, as Booke-men … That which we call the Parlament of the French Parler to speake, they called a Witten-mot, as the meeting and assembly of wise men. The certain and inward knowledge of that which is in our minde, be it good or bad, which in the Latine word we call Conscience, they called Inwit, as that which they did inwardly wit and wote, that is, know certainly … A Porter, which wee have received from the French, they could in their own word as significatively call a Dore-ward.62

This cast native idioms as an intrinsically meaningful set of signifiers, because they drew upon a natural and intuitive word-stock, whereas borrowed lexemes were severed from the clarity of etymological descent except to the perspicacious. This was the philosophy adopted by many anti-inkhorn theorists, from biblical scholars to antiquarians, grammarians, rhetoricians and pedagogues.63 The clergy­man 60 61

62 63

William Tyndale, The Obedience of a Christian Man, ed. David Daniell (London, 2000), p. 19. John Cheke, The Gospel According to St. Matthew and Part of the First Chapter of the Gospel According to St. Mark Translated into English from the Greek with Original Notes, ed. James Goodwin (London, 1843), p. 67. Camden, Remains, pp. 28–9. For attempts to reconstruct a referential language, see Richard Waswo, Language and Meaning in the Renaissance (Princeton, NJ, 1987); and Anderson, Words that Matter.

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and grammarian Ralph Lever set about proving that ‘the art of reason’ (the title of his 1573 treatise) could be as well expressed in English as in Latin, and to that end reinvented rhetorical/grammatical terminology in a pseudo-Saxon idiolect: ‘reason’ became witcraft and ‘prologue’ forspeach, in a catalogue of other grammatical terms such as inholder, inbeer, backsette, naysay, saywhat, ouershew, storehouse, for which (with superb irony) he had to append an explanatory table. To English he ascribed an innate transparency, calling it ‘a language, whereby we do expresse by voyce or writing, all deuises that we conceyue in our mynde: and do by this means let men looke into our heartes’. He demanded, whether it were better to borrowe termes of some other toung … and by a litle chaunge of pronouncing, to seeke to make them Englishe wordes, which are none in deede: or else of simple vsual wordes, to make compounded termes, whose seuerall partes considered alone, are familiar and knowne to all english men?

He concluded that ‘inckhorne termes doe chaunge and corrupt … making a mingle mangle of their natiue speache, and not obseruing the propertie thereof ’. A man asked to consider the word backset, he alleged, would ‘eyther conceiue the meaning of oure wordes by himselfe, or else soon learne them’; but when presented with predicate, ‘he shall neither understand them by himselfe, nor keepe them in remembraunce when he is taught theyr signification of others, bicause the worde can make no helpe’.64 Lever did not appropriate Adamic purity to English, but he wanted to enable it to operate referentially and independently within its own self-contained lexicographical system. He held that borrowed words could not have the same natural connotative affiliations that would make them ready explicators of their own sense: only the home-grown word-stock possessed sufficient clarity that through it, men may ‘looke into our heartes’. Borrowings, far from enriching, diminished the possibilities for an intuitive, enclosed and ‘natural’ semantic system. They remained oblique: unable to chart themselves on the linguistic map, they rendered it unnavigable. Slowly learnt, swiftly forgotten, they existed in a semantic vacuum: shadows without substance, wraiths without referents, only shallowly significant. ‘The worde can make no helpe’ was one of the pithiest statements about the alienated status of loanwords made in the period. This counterclaim, that loanwords impoverished where they should enrich, underpinned many discussions of inkhorn terms. John Hart (like Mulcaster, an advocate of spelling reform)65 allowed that ‘such as are learned in the names of things, by termes of other languages than their mother tongue’ may find it ‘sufficient for them to vse the same names they haue learned, though understanding of the etymology’. However, this concession granted, he maintained that for most anglophones ‘straunge termes’ had the opposite effect, bereaving the language of its natural semantic apparatus, when ‘their owne mother speach might muche better

64 65

Ralph Lever, The Art of Reason (London, 1573; repr. Menston, 1973), sig. *iiiir, **vir–viir. For the spelling reform movement, see D. G. Scragg, A History of English Spelling (Manchester, 1974).



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expresse the qualitie of the thing (from the mother and nurse) to their succession’. Hart acknowledged that latinity ‘beautifieth an Orators tale’ but maintained that ‘it hindereth the vnlearned from vnderstanding’.66 Likewise, the translator Peter Betham stated that ‘all translatours ought to vse the vsuall termes of our englysshe tounge’, criticising ‘suche men as do vnaduisedly desyre other tong termes’ and ‘woulde be taken (to my iudgement) as authours of our woordes, therby to enlarge our language (whyche rather they do make poore and barrayne) … wyth theyr newe borowed ynkehorne termes’.67 Betham implied that a word thus coined was unnaturally born: it would parasitically suck the meaning out of English rather than conferring any upon it. To seek to be an author of words was to impair, not enrich, the language that should be their begetter: to disrupt (and corrupt) the balance of the natural system. The antiquarian Richard Carew, whose essay The Excellencie of the English Tongue was printed in Camden’s Remains, argued for the innate significance of English with a supreme and solipsistic confidence, unusual even in these debates: for expressing our passions, our interjections are very apt and forcible. As finding ourselves somewhat agreeved, we crie Ah, if more deepely Oh, when we pittie Alas, when we bemoane, Alacke, neither of them so effeminate as the Italian Deh or the French Helas: in detestation wee say Phy, as if therewithall we should spit. In attention Haa, in calling Whowpe, in hallowing Wahabowe, all which (in my eare) seeme to be derived from the very natures of those severall affectations. Grow from hence to the composition of words, and therein our language hath a peculiar grace, a like significancie … for example in Moldwarp wee expresse the nature of that beast. In handkercher the thing and his use … In Wisedome and Doomes-day, so many sentences as words.68

Blissfully unperturbed by the arbitrariness with which he invested not just English words but the implausible category of ‘English’ non-verbal interjections and sounds with referential significance (apart from the brief admission of subjectivity, ‘in my eare’), he claimed homonymity as an attribute unique to English: ‘so significant are our words that amongst them sundry single ones, serve to expresse divers things’.69 He alleged that English phonemes (blithely confident about the tenability of such a category) were ‘derived from the very natures’ of things, not just semantically superior within their native collocational environment.70 Of all the writers of the Inkhorn Controversy, Carew came closest to du Bellay

66 67 68 69 70

John Hart, A Methode or Comfortable Beginning for all the Vnlearned (London, 1570), sig. A.iiir. Peter Betham, The Preceptes of Warre (London, 1544), sig. A.viv. Richard Carew, ‘The Excellencie of the English Tongue’, in Camden’s Remains, pp. 37–44 (38). Ibid., p. 39. Carew was not unique in discussing this category of non-verbal interjections, although his exuberance on the topic is unusual: Donatus had included the category in his classification of the parts of speech in the Ars Minor, the basis for the many elaborations of early modern commentators. For more on Donatus, rhetoric and the sixteenth-century schoolroom, see Joel B. Altman, The Tudor Play of Mind: Rhetorical Inquiry and the Development of Elizabethan Drama (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 1978).

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in rehabilitating the metaphor of plunder, of imagining English as aggressor not victim. His belief in the homegrown signification of English extended to suggesting that foreign lexenes could be rehomed within the native word-stock. He acknowledged that some think ‘such patching maketh Littletons hotchpot of our tongue, and in effect brings the same rather to a Babellish confusion, than any one entire language’, but suggested that ‘we should take up by retaile as well their tearmes as their fashions’ because we employ the borrowed ware so farre to our advantage that we raise a profit of new words from the same stocke, which yet in their owne countrey are not merchantable … we graffe upon French words those buds, to which that soile affoordeth no growth.71

In this formulation, English had not only survived the curse of Babel; it was capable of reversing it. Borrowings, far from polluting, could be recontextualised within a triumphantly significant language without compromising its purity, to flourish where they had (apparently) been barren. If some saw English primarily as the victim of linguistic aggression, Carew relished the possibilities of it being the perpetrator. He alleged that English should ‘make our good of our late Spanish enemie, and feare as little the hurt of his tongue as the dint of his sword’.72 In this context, as Wolfgang G. Müller puts it, ‘vocabulary-building becom[es] an aspect of nation-building’.73 The Norman Conquest remained important in the sixteenth century because its myth enabled the inferiority of English to be excused, and the justification was French conflict. It made it possible to claim that pre-Conquest English had possessed an innate significance and semantic referentiality, and that only by repudiating enemy influence could lexical purity be restored. In so doing, it foregrounded the importance of the history of conflict within the humanist/intellectual debates about language. It made the long wars with France impossible to forget: linguistic antagonism became an integral part of English identity. This syzygy of violence and language became triangulated, as argued above, in its repercussions between England’s old and new colonial contexts. Patricia Palmer comments on the colonists’ understanding of ‘the role of the sword in advancing the policies of the word’, citing Samuel Daniel’s admission that it was to their violence that Greek and Latin owed their supremacy: ‘they may thanke their sword that made their tongues so famous and vniuersall as they are’.74 A graphic example is Camden’s approving citation of the practice of the emigrant Armorican Britons who, ‘jealous of their native language’ cut out their wives’ tongues, ‘lest their children should corrupt their language with 71 72 73

74

Carew, ‘The Excellencie’, pp. 41–2. Ibid., pp. 40–1. Wolfgang G. Müller, ‘Directions for English: Thomas Wilson’s Art of Rhetoric, George Puttenham’s Art of English Poesy, and the Search for Vernacular Eloquence’, in The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature, 1485–1603, ed. Michael Pincombe and Cathy Shrank (Oxford, 2009), pp. 307–22 (309). See also Richard Helgerson, ‘Barbarous Tongues: The Ideology of Poetic Form in Renaissance England’, in The Historical Renaissance: New Essays on Tudor and Stuart Literature and Culture, ed. Heather Dubrow and Richard Strier (Chicago, 1988), pp. 273–92. Palmer, Language and Conquest, p. 122; Samuel Daniel, Samuel Daniel: A Defence of Ryme and Thomas Campion: Observations in the Art of English Poesie, ed. G. B. Harrison (Edinburgh, 1966), p. 14.



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their mothers tongues’.75 Even those who advocated borrowing from classical tongues did so with the imagery of aggression. Whether as the conquered or the conqueror, the linguistic debates of the sixteenth century cemented the mutual dependence of the discourses of language and war. Just as linguistic propagation and expansion were imagined as essentially martial, language itself was concomitantly argued to be innately national. Spenser maintained that the Hiberno-English practice of fostering English children to Irish wetnurses was a ‘moste daungerous infeccion’, because ‘the Childe that suckethe the milke of the nurse muste of necessitye learne his firste speache of her’, and thoughe he afterwardes be taughte Englishe yeat the smacke of the firste will allwaies abide with him and not onelye of the speche but allsoe of the manners and Condicions … the wordes are the Image of the minde So as they procedinge from the minde the minde must be nedes affected with the wordes So that the speache being Irishe the harte muste nedes be Irishe for out of the abundance of the harte the tonge speakethe.76

The question of whether language conditioned character was a step further than the language debates had trodden before. The medieval chroniclers invested in French loanwords the invidiousness they vilified in French character, but did not turn the formulation on its head and suggest that the perfidy of the language had infected the people. Spenser broached the chicken-and-egg possibilities of language theory: whether the character of language was conferred by or on its speakers. That Irish was (for Spenser) by nature barbarous, instilling its savagery in the impressionable, unformed minds of English infants, conveyed a moral hierarchy in which eloquence and civility, rudeness and barbarism, were coterminous and seminal. Linguistic and ethical identity were conceived as organically constitutive: corrupt national character (whether Irish savagery or French duplicity) both polluted and was polluted by the language in which it expressed itself. Spenser appropriated Luke 6.45 (‘for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh’) to assert with alarming literalness that the heart corrupted by a degenerate nationality would naturally speak a wicked language. This form of linguistic xenophobia was a new (although inevitable) aspect in the hierarchies of tongues, and of course it applied to the oldest of linguistic relationships. The soldier Barnabe Riche (1581) delineated England’s relation to its continental neighbours, ‘the French hath ever been our enemies by nature, the Scots by custom, the Spaniards for religion’, with the implication that whereas other nations were antagonistic to England by circumstance, only France was so ‘by nature’.77 The image of national character imparted in breast-milk was one that Stubbes applied directly to the French, making the maternal metaphor national in his catalogue of reasons why a French match would be pernicious:

75 76 77

Camden, Remains, p. 32. Edmund Spenser, A View of the Present State of Ireland, in Variorum, vol. X: Spenser’s Prose Works (1949), p. 119. Barnabe Riche, Barnabe Riche His Farewell to Military Profession, ed. Donald Beecher (Ottawa, 1992), p. 133.

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a senceles and careles forreiner, cannot haue the naturall and brotherlike bowels of tender loue towardes this people which is required in a gouerner, & which is by birth bredd & drawen out from the teates of a mans owne mother country.78

The contemporary narrators of the Hundred Years War had started to use their language aggressively and mimetically; the difference made by later language theorists was to assert that language was apposite, and not just mimetic: that it was implicated not only in expressing and reflecting national character but in constituting it. Where the medieval paradigm was to grieve over the spoliation of the etymologically referential language they imagined Brutus’s Britain to have possessed, the early modern addition to the spiralling trajectory of the Conquest, was to elide the pre-Conquest with the pre-lapsarian, and to allege that by recovering the purity of Old English words, they could restore to English the sanctity of a truly intuitive system. This was a linguistic experiment; but it was also the continuation of a historical and cultural narrative, explicitly embedded in conflict and conquest. This analysis of early modern reprises of the medieval narrative continues the story of how the ‘Father of English’ proved once more a vexatious thorn in the side of Renaissance linguistic nationalism.

The problem of Chaucer (part two) The image of Old English as a pure language that fell from grace with the Conquest was problematised once more by the ‘Father of English’. Chaucer connected Elizabethan English to Old English: he was the medieval example who stood against the barbarity of the age, invested in English the ennobling genius of poetry, rescued it from French tyranny and even fought in the Hundred Years War. He was a fixed point on the map, from the highs of Brutus’s etymological beginnings and the native referentiality of the Saxon language, to the lows of the Conquest. Restoration and rebirth began with the ‘Father of English’. In Chapter 3 I discussed how Chaucer’s fifteenth-century fame hinged on his aureation: upon ‘embelysshing oure englisshe with fresch anamalit termes’. This had been problematic enough during the Hundred Years War, but aureation had had a political utility and a cultural vogue in the fifteenth century, which made the celebration of Chaucer’s French-English expedient. A century later, the slur of inkhorn diction made aureation problematic in a different way. It is one of the ironies of Chaucer’s fame that the sixteenth century celebrated him for reasons that were the polar opposite of those of the fifteenth: his legacy changed from ‘enlumynyng … oure faire langage’ to being the ‘well of English vndefyled’, as Spenser called him, in his efforts to ‘reuiue’ his ‘labours lost’ in completing The Squire’s Tale.79 The change in Chaucer’s linguistic fame between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was supremely paradoxical: E. K. unblinkingly cited ‘his scholler Lidgate’ 78 79

Stubbes, Discoverie, sig. B.8v. FQ, IV.ii.32–3, p. 25. For a deeper examination of the volte face in Chaucer’s fame, see Bellis, ‘“Fresch anamalit termes”’, where some of this material first appeared.



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for Chaucer’s aureate accolade ‘the Loadestarre of our Language’, whilst simultaneously applauding the language of ‘this our new Poete’ (i.e. Spenser) for its simple plainness, in terms that he lifted straight out of Chaucer: ‘Vncovth vnkist’.80 De Lisle, at least, acknowledged this paradox, and tried to excuse Chaucer’s English on the grounds that Tully himself scarce vnderstood the latine that Latins spoke: nor wee Chaucers English; nor hee, that was spoken before the conquest. If he did, hee would neuer haue borrowed so many words from abroad, hauing enough and better at home.81

Chaucer and Cicero were regularly rhetorically juxtaposed in these accommodations of the contradictory discourses of medievalism and humanism. Yet such a defence could not explain away the fact that it was for his ‘ornat’ and ‘anamalit’ language that the first generation of Chaucer’s eulogists had applauded him. Two orthodoxies jostled alongside one another in the attempt to rehabilitate Chaucer into the doctrine of pure originary English (and to do so was imperative). He was alternately the first bard – the last speaker of a pure and uncorrupted vernacular – and the cosmopolitan ennobler of English, who inherited a barbarous tongue and raised it from its lexical poverty by arraying it in borrowed grandeur. Initially, the sixteenth century followed the fifteenth in praising Chaucer as the dawn-star who brought the language out of darkness. Pynson printed Caxton’s preface to The Canterbury Tales (1526), which praised its author for ‘eschewyng prolixyte’ (Chaucer’s own neologism, if the dictionaries are to be believed),82 and even for his ‘crafty and sugred eloquence’, remarking that ‘for his ornat writynge in oure tonge [he] may well haue the name of a laureate poete’, because ‘by his labour [he] enbelysshed, ornated & made fayre our englysshe’.83 Later writers followed suit, praising Chaucer’s eloquence while apologising for its obsolescence: the translator William Webbe (1586) called Chaucer ‘the God of English Poets … Though the manner of hys stile may seeme blunt & course to many fine English eares at these dayes’.84 Thomas Nashe (1589) wrote that ‘Chaucer, Lydgate, Gower, with such like … liued vnder the tyranny of ignorance’, yet observed that ‘these three haue vaunted their meeters with as much admiration in English as 80

81 82 83

84

Spenser, Shepheardes Calender, p. 1, quoting ‘Unknowe, unkist, and lost that is unsought’: Troilus and Criseyde, Book I, line 809, Riverside Chaucer, pp. 484, 1029. Unknowe unkist was proverbial (Whiting and Whiting, Proverbs, U5), although not attested before Chaucer. De Lisle, Saxon Treatise, sig. C.3r. Prolixitee appears in The House of Fame, line 856; Troilus and Criseyde, Book 2, line 1564; The Squire’s Tale, line 405 (Riverside Chaucer pp. 358, 510, 174). Geoffrey Chaucer, The boke of Canterbury Tales, dilygently and truely corrected an[d] newly printed (London, 1526), sig. A.1v, ‘The proheme of the printer’; Caxton, Prologue to The Canterbury Tales (c. 1484), in Caxton’s Own Prose, pp. 61–2. See discussion on p. 128. Caxton may well have been quoting Lydgate, who praised The Canterbury Tales as a ‘rehersaile of his sugrid mouth’ and as ‘crafty writynge’: Siege of Thebes, ed Edwards, Prologue, lines 51–2 and 57. See further discussion in Straker, ‘Deference and Difference’. Dunbar similarly praised ‘Gower and Ludgate laureate’ for their ‘sugurit lippis and tongis aureate’ [‘The Golden Tonge’, in The Makers, lines 262–3, p. 529]. ‘Crafty’ and ‘sugrid’ do not appear to have been pejorative terms here. William Webbe, ‘A Discourse of English Poetrie’, in Ancient Critical Essays upon English Poets and Poesy, ed. Joseph Haslewood, 2 vols (London, 1815), vol. II, pp. 23–95 (33).

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euer the proudest Ariosto did his verse in Italian’.85 In the same year Puttenham included Chaucer, Lydgate and Gower among ‘those of the first age’ in his literary hall of fame, yet called their language obsolete.86 Chaucer remained the symbol of ancient purity, despite the gaping irony (which de Lisle tried to iron out) that his English was packed with loanwords. Fairly early, however, and often without acknowledgement of the irony, he began to be celebrated because his language was (apparently) exactly the opposite of ‘enbelysshed, ornated’. In the epistle to his The Preceptes of War (1544), Betham commented, I doo well knowe that one tounge is interlaced with an other. But … I take them beste Englysshe men, which folowe Chaucer, and other olde wryters … whan they endevoure to brynge agayne to his own clennes our Englysshe tounge, & playnelye to speake wyth our owne termes, as our others dyd before us.87

Six years later, Richard Sherry rebutted the allegation that ‘oure language for the barbarousnes and lacke of eloquence hathe bene complayned of ’, rejecting ‘any defaut in the toungue it selfe’, but blaming its users, who have been slack in ‘searchyng out the elegance and proper speaches that be ful many … [in] the most excellent monumentes of our auncient forewriters, Gower, Chawcer, and Lydgate’.88 Chaucer’s place in the canon was non-negotiable: he could not possibly be excluded because of his proto-inkhorn diction; instead he was fallaciously hailed as having spoken ‘playnely … wyth our owne termes’. The most insistent defender of Chaucer’s reputation as a speaker of pure, plain English was the Irish poet, translator and historian Richard Stanihurst, who, in his continuation of Holinshed, asserted that the Old English in Ireland had preserved ‘the dregs of the olde auncient Chaucer English’ without allowing it to be polluted by Irish.89 Discussing the residents of the English part of Ireland, in the De rebus Hibernia gestis (1584), written during his exile in Europe, he commented Quamuis uero a noua hac, & nimis peregrina magniloquentia, ex gentium exterarum linguis furacissime collecta, longius absunt: tamen incorruptam Anglicæ linguæ vetustatem seruant, illam nimirum, quam Chauncerus uetus ac nobilis Poeta, & Anglorum sine dubio Homerus, in suis scriptis vsurpauit: qui ita Anglice magis crederes esse Anglicam. Nihil in illius libris lectori occurret, quod sputatilicam, (hoc enim verbum iam olim, nec sine causa, ille Romanus risit) nouitatem redoleat: ex alienis linguis verba non mutuatur, quemadmodum solent ætate nostra, illi verborum opifices, qui Anglice vel tum maxime colloqui se putant, cum etiam minime Anglice dicant. Although truly for a long time they were absent from this new and excessively foreign magniloquence, gathered most thievishly from the languages of foreign peoples, yet 85 86 87 88 89

Thomas Nashe, Preface to R. Greene’s ‘Menaphon’, in The Works of Thomas Nashe, ed. Ronald B. McKerrow, 5 vols (Oxford, 1958), vol. III, pp. 300–25 (322). Puttenham, Art of English Poesy, p. 148. Betham, Preceptes, sig. A.viir. (Some critics have emended ‘others’ to ‘fathers’.) Richard Sherry, A Critical Edition of Richard Sherry’s A Treatise of Schemes and Tropes, ed. H. W. Hildebrandt (London, 1958), sig. A.2v–A.3r. Holinshed and Stanihurst, Holinshed’s Irish Chronicle, p. 14.



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they preserve the unpolluted form of the English language, which indisputably the ancient and noble poet Chaucer, without doubt the Homer of the English, employed in his writings: he whom in this manner would be speaking more Englishly than you would believe it even to be English. Nothing catches the reader’s attention in his books that whiffs of a despicable novelty (for once, that famous Roman laughed, not without reason, at this word): he does not borrow words from foreign languages, in the manner that they are accustomed to do in our age, those artisans of words who then believe themselves to speak most, when in fact they speak least, Englishly.90

Stanihurst maintained that the Old English preserved their mother tongue pure, free from the magniloquentia of contemporary England’s English. But when he elaborated on what constituted this pure Chaucerian, his argument became contorted: Chaucer was not only the Homerus Anglorum (a classical exemplar), but his English was so English that it was almost unrecognisable as English. This superlative praise placed the paragon of English so far beyond the grasp of most speakers of English that it mystified the national epitome it exemplified. Stanihurst’s use of his classical precedent, ‘that famous Roman’ (Cicero meet Chaucer, once again) who laughed at the word sputatilicam (the second of Stanihurst’s Latin inkhorns after magniloquentia), further developed the irony. Sputatilicam, meaning ‘despicable’ or ‘spittable’, was a word quoted by Cicero in the Brutus to mock Sisenna, a lawyer who quasi emendator sermonis usitati cum esse vellet (professed/[wished] to be a reformer/ [corrector] of current usage) with inusitatis verbis (strange and unheard-of words). The pun on trying to reform usage (usitati) with the unusable (inusitatis) prepared the introduction of sputatilica as a particularly absurd coining that elicited a maxim[um] risu[m] (a great laugh) because the hearer believed recte loqui … esse inusitate loqui (correct speech to be unfamiliar speech/[literally, to speak correctly to be to speak strangely]).91 The ‘famous Roman’ (Cicero) was invoked by Stanihurst to declare inkhorn terms in English risible. It was a sophisticated sleight of hand by which he depicted the master of Latin eloquence forestalling and deriding attempts to adopt that eloquence in English, and applied Cicero’s scorn for absurd neologising to the borrowing of words ex alienis linguis. Greek, Latin and English – Homer, Cicero and Chaucer – were brought into a poetic trinity: Chaucer stood amid the giants, not because he imitated or borrowed from them, but because (apparently) he did not. This reimagination of Chaucer’s English was necessary because of the contradiction that he was simultaneously the figurehead of trenchant poetic nationalism, and famous for his borrowing. Fifteenth-century celebrations of Chaucerian aureation had skirted round the issue; but for sixteenth-century claims that the ‘Father of English’ spoke ‘plain English’ to hold any water, they had to confront it. Chaucer 90

91

Richard Stanihurst, De rebus in Hibernia gestis (London, 1584), p. 28. I am grateful for the generous help of Venetia Bridges and Neil Wright in putting together this translation. Colm Lennon has published a translation in Richard Stanihurst the Dubliner 1547–1618 (Blackrock, Co. Dublin, 1981), but he was working from a different version of the De rebus from that cited here. Marcus Tullius Cicero, Brutus, Orator, ed. G. L. Hendrickson and H. M. Hubbell (London, 1952), 75:259–61, pp. 224–5.

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Figure 5 ‘The Progenie of Geffrey Chaucer’, frontispiece to Thomas Speght’s The Workes of our Auntient and Learned English Poet, Geffrey Chaucer (1598). Reproduced by kind permission of the syndics of Cambridge University Library, Syn.3.60.2.



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was both a pinnacle and an obstacle. His symbolic importance was such that Speght’s 1598 edition of his works (the first time that the title Opera had been applied to any English poet)92 had as its frontispiece an elaborate genealogy in which Chaucer was depicted at the centre of the Lancastrian-Tudor family tree (Figure 5), designed, as Cooper comments, ‘to portray Chaucer not only as the father of English poetry, but as the father of the English nation’.93 The significance of Chaucer was as a symbol not only of the greatness of the language, but of the intactness of English history, in which a glorious dynasty had at last emerged secure after centuries of subjugation and war, and of which its language was the trophy. It was not easy to superimpose such a harmonious narrative onto either the English language or English history, but it was important to sixteenth-century nationalists to attempt it. English was portrayed alternately as vulnerable (penetrated by enemy words, the pernicious scars of the conquerors’ subjugation, and by misguided strainings after artificial eloquence by rhetoricians); and as triumphant (its intact Saxon word-stock capable of restoring its former vigour and significance). Anxiety about French loanwords did not die with the loss of France: metaphors inherited from the Hundred Years War were integral to the Inkhorn Controversy. The linguistic furore was infused not only by metaphors derived from, but by the metaphor of, the Hundred Years War.

The Inkhorn Controversy and its metaphors of war The Inkhorn Controversy was as much about the old questions of linguistic antagonism towards French as it was about new encounters with Greek and Latin. There has been little discussion of the French Wars as its context, however: the standard (excellent) accounts of Rubel, Waswo and Foster Jones (cited above) are written from an early modernist perspective, emphasising the newness of these language debates; and medievalists have not generally pursued the cultural importance of the Hundred Years War after the customary date of its end in 1453, and certainly not seen its controversies as sowing the seeds for later ones. However, as Butterfield comments, the linguistic furore was very often ‘articulated, not as a contest between English and Latin (or Greek), but between English and French’; and Machan adds that ‘late medieval and early modern English needed to account for French … in ways that France never needed to account for English’.94 The idiom of the language debates was soaked in the metaphors of war, and specifically of the war that was so anciently (and currently) fundamental to fraught constructions of linguistic and national identity. The debates did not take place in a contextual vacuum, in which language and history were conceptualised independently: language contained history, and history was the matrix in which 92 93 94

See Cooper, Shakespeare and the Medieval World, p. 205. Helen Cooper, ‘Edmund Spenser and the Passing of Tudor Literature’, in Pincombe and Shrank, eds, The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature, pp. 749–66 (761). Butterfield, ‘National Histories’, p. 48; Machan, ‘French, English, and the Late Medieval Linguistic Repertoire’, p. 370.

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linguistic relations were formulated. Waswo coined the phrase, ‘The Renaissance discovery of history as linguistic change’,95 and his simile suggests just how overlapping the categories were. The vocabulary of language theory was so embedded in the ideology of conflict that it became difficult to talk even of the classical languages without the tensions resurfacing. The clearest indication that underpinning the debate were older qualms and postures about linguistic invasion was the recurring suspicion articulated not just towards ‘straunge’ or inkhorn terms, but specifically towards ‘French English’. William Turner’s prefatory epistle to Robert Hutten’s 1548 translation of the Margarita Theologica praised it because It hath not so many newe french englyshe blossomes as many bookes haue … This translatour hath applied hym selfe as much as he can to find out þe moste playn & vsed wordes þat be in england … Some now a dayes more sekyng their owne glorye then the profyte of the readers: write so frenche Englishe and so latine that no man except he be both a latine man, and a french man and also an englyshe man: shalbe able to vnderstande their writinge.96

Turner was typical of those who rejected inkhorn terms as ‘french English’. Hart, two decades later, objected to inkhorn English because our Predecessours [were] contented for infinit other wordes … to kepe them in their mother tongue, as good reason was, except they would haue chaunged the whole Englishe Saxon language, to the French tongue, or nere unto it.97

The association of French with borrowing per se was a powerful one: it is no surprise to find the motifs of fourteenth-century language debates resurfacing, in the emphasis on the ‘straunge’, and the meme of the ‘mother tongue’. Anti-inkhorn writers cast the project of making English copious as a betrayal of the need to keep it pure. If the Anglo-Saxons (so the argument went), under the duress of invasion, occupation and an aggressive Norman linguistic agenda, had resisted the tyranny of French, should English speakers now, at the peak of Tudor England’s ascendancy, voluntarily subject their language to the same master? It was a casuistical collapse of history and language to make a rhetorical point, but it demonstrated the endurance of the idea of French as a menacing ‘master tung’, the model for thinking about linguistic politics long after French had ceased to be a military threat. Thomas Wilson’s Art of Rhetoric (1560), perhaps the best-known manual on the subject, overtly associated ‘strange inkhorn terms’ with those who seek so far for outlandish English that they forget altogether their mother’s language. And I dare swear this, if some of their mothers were alive, they were not able to tell what they say, and yet these fine English clerks will say they speak in their mother tongue, if a man should charge them for counterfeiting the king’s English. Some

95 96 97

Waswo, Language and Meaning, p. 284. Robert Hutten, ‘The Sum of Diuinite Drawen Owt of the Holy Scripture’, in Margarita Theologica, ed. Johann Spangenberg (London, 1548), sig. A.iiv–A.iiir. Hart, Methode, sig. A.iiiv.



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far-journeyed gentlemen at their return home, like as they love to go in foreign apparel so they will powder their talk with overseas language. He that cometh lately out of France will talk French English and never blush at the matter.98

This explicit rejection of ‘French English’ was arguably a continuation of the anxiety over ‘Inglische Inglische’, discussed in Chapters 1 and 2. Butterfield comments, ‘This wonderful oxymoron “French English” … keeps cropping up with a regularity that suggests it expresses a more intrinsic condition of English than … writer[s] care to admit’.99 The idea that borrowing would cause the mother tongue to be forgotten, to the extent that mothers would no longer be able to understand their children, is an extreme acceleration of the loss of connection with ‘predecessours’ that Hart regretted. ‘French English’ represented voluntary conquest, a willing subordination to the old enemy without blushing. Wilson depicted a self-defeating conquest that was cultural, not combative. English was not a stable entity that could be taken for granted; it had to be actively defended, even against its own. Metaphors of conquest and plunder came naturally to this controversay. Grammatical and pedagogical treatises frequently yoked together words and war in playful but significant ways. William Haywarde’s 1569 translation of Andrew Guarna’s Bellum grammaticale: A Discourse of Great War and Dissention between Two Worthy Princes, the Noune and the Uerbe, was a case in point. Translated ‘oute of the french tong’, it offered ‘a most perfect shew of horrible and bitter contentions in the most fertile region and countrey of Grammer, by variance that grew betwixte two high and mightie Princes, possessors of the same, the Noune and the Verbe’.100 These two contend ‘for the chiefe place in Oration’ in their ‘Grammer warre’, each marshalling rhetorical and philosophical arguments for their supremacy. The Noun asserts, for instance, that ‘God is a Noune and not a Verbe: wherfore … by the Noune were all things made, yea, Oration it self was made of God, and so the Noune’, concluding roundly that ‘neyther may any thing else, be greater than the Noune’.101 However, this ‘pleasaunt … Allegorie’ of linguistic warfare represents a more serious connection between words and war. The treatise was ostensibly offered for the vtilitie of our english children beginning to studie the latine tongue, who reading this pleasaunt fight in their owne tong (as the French in theirs) might learne by waye of mirth and merrie pastime, the principal pointes of the Romayne Grammer.102

But it was more than just a language-learning guide, as the next sentence shows: ‘Finally the same might serue for an exempler aswell historicall for the instruction and guide of martiall affaires.’ The affinity Haywarde emphasised between the ‘science Thomas Wilson, The Art of Rhetoric, ed. Peter E. Medine (University Park, PA, 1994), p. 188. For ‘Mother tongues’, see Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, pp. 390–1; Ferguson, Dido’s Daughters. 99 Butterfield, ‘National Histories’, p. 47. 100 Andrew Guarna, Bellum grammaticale: A Discourse of Great War and Dissention between Two Worthy Princes, the Noune and the Uerbe, trans. William Haywarde (London, 1569), sig. A.vr. See also Anon., A Plaine Pathwaie to the French Tongue: Very Profitable for Merchants (London, 1580). 101 Ibid., sig. B.vir, C.iv. 102 Ibid., sig. B.iir, 98

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litteraire, and militaire, that is to say, the arte of Grammer, yea the graundmother of al arts and sciences, and the arte militaire of deduced warres’, was profound.103 Similarly, John Eliot’s 1593 handbook on learning French began with the question, ‘Messires, what newes from Fraunce, can you tell? Still warres, warres.’ He was referring to the French civil wars of the 1590s, but it is notable that the first sentence of a language treatise should be about war: alongside Guarna’s handbook, this looks like a pattern. Eliot’s preface was a satire of the blurry intersection of ‘French English’. He claimed to have dezinkhornisistibulated a fantasticall Rapsody of dialogisme … I haue put my pen to paper: if I haue bene busie, labourd, sweat, dropt, studied, deuised, sought, bought, borrowed, turnd, translated, mined, fined, refined, enterlined, glosed, composed, and taken intollerable toile to shewe an easie entrance and introduction to my deare countrimen, in your curious and courtesan French tongue.104

The copia of this description parodied its own ‘dezinkhornisistibulation’, in the climactic superabundance of the synonymia: ‘mined, fined, refined, enterlined, glosed, composed’. The conclusion, that French is a ‘courtesan’ tongue, trading her linguistic favours, made the linguistic game sordidly sexual. Language interpenetration was never neutral; languages were always anthropomorphised as combatants, as lovers, or as that horrible combination of the two, rapist and victim. Metaphors of war and rape are detectable echoes, even in this playful treatise. Just as the medieval chronicles narrating the war with France generated a shared stylistic idiolect, so these language debates, written within the span of a few decades and read by the same small coterie circles, developed an overlapping, accretive vocabulary. The proliferation of the terms denizen and enfranchise to personify borrowed words bears out this association.105 Cheke’s famous letter to the courtier Thomas Hoby (1561) asserted that ‘our own tung shold be written cleane and pure, unmixt and unmangeled with borowing of other tunges’; but made the concession that being unperfight … let her borow with suche bashfulnes, that it mai appeer, that if either the mould of our own tung could serve us to fascion a woord of our own, or if the old denisoned wordes could content and ease this neede, we wold not boldely venture of unknowen wordes.106

The scholar Thomas Elyot, singled out for his discretion in introducing inkhorn terms judiciously, employed the term positively, although he was among a minority in doing so. Describing his coining of maturitie, he wrote in 1531, ‘whiche worde though it be strange and darke, yet … [it] shall be as facile to vnderstande as the other wordes late comen out of Italy and Fraunce, and made deinzins amonge 103 Ibid.,

sig. B.ivr–v, B.iir–v. Eliot, Ortho-epia gallica: Eliots Frvits for the French (London, 1593; repr. Menston, 1968), sig. A.3r, A.3.v–A.4r. 105 For enfranchise in Shakespeare, see Keir Elam, Shakespeare’s Universe of Discourse: LanguageGames in the Comedies (Cambridge, 1984), p. 31. 106 Baldassare Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier, trans. Thomas Hoby, ed. Virginia Cox (London, 1994), p. 10. 104 John



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vs’.107 Much more common was the context of hostility, as when the Daniel (1602) marvelled at the strange presumption of some men that dare so audaciously aduenture to introduce any whatsoeuer forraine wordes, be they neuer so strange; and of themselues it were, without a Parliament, without any consent, or allowance, establish them as Freedenizens in our language.

The boldness he castigated in those who took it upon themselves to invent inkhorn terms depicted them as spies smuggled in, like Hengist’s Saxons, with their incomprehensible sæxes sharpened. He condemned ‘our affectation, wherein we alwayes bewray our selues to be both vnkinde, and vnnaturall to our owne natiue language, in disguising or forging strange or vnvsuall wordes’, when ‘our owne accustomed phrase, set in the due place, would expresse vs more familiarly and to better delight than all this idle affectation of antiquitie, or noueltie can euer doe’.108 Other examples of the pejorative operation of this word are numerous. Camden discussed ‘enfranchising and endenizing strange words’ in the context of the ‘alteration and innovation in our tongue … brought in by entrance of Strangers’.109 Stanihurst argued that when Irish was first ‘free dennized in the English pale: this canker tooke such deepe roote, as the body that before was whole and sounde, was by little and little festred, and in maner wholy putrified’.110 Shrank suggests that ‘the territorial terms in which the Cheke circle call loanwords “denisons”, or threaten to “banish” them, highlight … the risk they posed to national identity’.111 Denizen did not, in this period, have an intrinsically derogatory function: the OED’s first definition is simply ‘a person who dwells within a country’. However, it did have a long history. ‘Denization was not a formal process in the earlier fourteenth century’, writes Ruddick, although ‘letters of denization … emerged from the reign of Richard II onwards’. The process of making denization official and regulated was one that ‘Even while it affirmed the legal rights of denizens … underlined the distinction between the denizen and the native-born’: ‘the privileges attached to denizenship were not completely consistent or secure, even after they became more standardised, for the intermediate status of denizens created confusion’.112 Ruddick’s analysis concludes that denization enshrined foreignness even as it offered some measure of naturalisation: ‘Neither subjecthood not denization could make an Englishman of an alien’, and ‘foreignness stood as a significant descriptive fact about a person in English society and brought with it disadvantageous political and economic consequences, even before more generic discrimination against foreigners became enshrined in English law in the fifteenth century.’ She observes that, ultimately, ‘Even when particular alien groups enjoyed a limited

107 Thomas

Elyot, The Book Named the Governor (London, 1531; repr. Menston, 1970), sig. L.4v. Defence, pp. 44–5. 109 Camden, Remains, p. 29. 110 Holinshed and Stanihurst, Holinshed’s Irish Chronicle, p. 14. 111 Shrank, Writing the Nation, p. 191. 112 Ruddick, English Identity and Political Culture, p. 105. 108 Daniel,

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degree of royal protection (usually to the financial advantage of the crown), there appears to have been a broad distrust of foreigners in English political society’.113 In this context, denizen acquired the specific connotation of an unwelcome sojourner, as though each habilitated foreign lexeme was an instrument of foreign occupation. The return to currency of ‘strange Inglis’ in its new guise of ‘strange inkhorn terms’ was significant. In both the fourteenth- and sixteenth-century iterations of this discourse, words began onomatopoeically to inhabit the anthropomorphic identity of ‘Strangers’, foreigners freely roaming the language as it stood metonymically for the land. The writer most concerned by ‘enfranchising and endenizing’ was Mulcaster. He drew the distinction between ‘naturall’ words and ‘denisons’, between ‘mere English’ and ‘in corporate strangers’, in a way that persistently contrasted articifiality and naturalness. Discussing the ‘manie strangers … which be alltogether enfranchised’, he maintained that foren Enfranchisments … will bewraie themselues … the simple wordes bringing their hole furniture in composition, as, ouerseing, vndoing, whereupon, eueriewhere. And the foreners euer appealing to their originall grounds, euen when theie be most fashioned to the English ear, as originall, to originalis, enfranchisment, chastisment, to their own cuntries.114

Mulcaster’s argument was not far away from the grammarians who believed in the superior significancy of Germanic lexemes: he suggested (like Lever) that someone ignorant of the word should be equipped to decode it by means of the ‘hole furniture in [its] composition’. The word enfranchisment functioned both as the descriptor of the lexical ‘foreners’, and an instance of one; not attested until 1419, it probably qualified as an enfranchised word. Its adjacence to ‘chastisment’ in Mulcaster’s formulation is intriguing: was he positing an etymological relation (‘as originall to originalis’), or juxtaposing the two to allow the proximity and similarity to pollute the semantic differentiation, so that ‘enfranchise’ loses its positive connotations of ‘set free’ and acquires those of ‘chastise’ (which, by 1533, had the military overtones of chastising enemies in battle, and appears with this meaning in Holinshed)? Mulcaster’s own definition enhanced these overtones, making the word mean the very opposite of ‘set free’: ‘I call enfranchisment, by which verie name the words that ar so enfranchised, become bond to the rules of our writing … as the stranger denisons be to the lawes of our cuntrie.’115 In this context, ‘enfranchisments’ are ‘bond’ within the language as hostages. In the metaphor of plunder, instead of being the proof that English has been conquered, loanwords are the spoils that show English to be the conqueror of other languages; yet, like the prisoners at Agincourt, they remain problematic: evidence of English victory, yet a threat to English victory, ultimately needing to be excised. Whether or not Mulcaster had in mind Holinshed’s triadic criteria for conquest in associating law and language, or perhaps just the frequently quoted fact that the Normans used 113 Ibid.,

p. 130. Elementarie, sig. O.iv–O.iir, Q.iiir, S.iiv, pp. 106–7, 125, 139. 115 Ibid., sig. V.iir-v, pp. 154–5. 114 Mulcaster,



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their incomprehensible laws to subdue and exclude their anglophone subjects, he inverted the usual paradigm in his assertion that, however many denizened words there were, they were all bound by English ‘laws’, just as immigrants themselves would be. He felt the pressure of the sheer quantity of loanwords (‘I do not affect anie extraordinarie forenism, yet how manie foreners am I constrained to vse? … it were foren from the matter, to seke examples of foren words’)116 and was eager to ensure at least that they were loyal and not mutinous subjects in their new linguistic country. This brief analysis of the cross-pollinating terminology of the Inkhorn Controversy demonstrates the ways in which linguistic contact, intellectual or cultural, was always agonistic: the Nietzschean ‘master tung’ was never far away. None of the other available metaphors for describing linguistic contact (such as trade, or flirtation) had the affective potential of war. It was the original point of departure, and its image was habitually appropriated. At any (arguably every) point of linguistic contact, there was evaluation, stratification and the threat of domination. The debate could not free itself of its martial origins; nor did it want to, as the assertion of the interdependence of linguistic and national identity was these linguistic theorists’ aim.

‘Writing history’ (part three): ‘plain English’ soldiery and the early modern chronicle This chapter has recapitulated several earlier themes (the snowballing Norman myth, the problem of Chaucer, the politicisation of certain loanwords, the development of generic idiolects) in setting forth the ongoing conjunction between language and war. The sixteenth-century historiographers Raphael Holinshed, Edward Hall, Robert Fabyan and John Stow were a key piece of this jigsaw, as the conduit through which most readers encountered medieval history. They drew extensively on their medieval predecessors, whose works remained readily available: the Brut went through thirteen editions between 1489 and 1528, under Caxton’s heading The Chronicles of England, and had ‘an important post-medieval afterlife’: ‘Both print and manuscript versions were circulated well into the seventeenth century’.117 Elizabeth J. Bryan, in her discussion of early modern readers’ annotations to the Brut, comments on its ‘continued appeal for readers well into the age of print’. The Brut had a ‘continuing life … as a well-read history in the second half of the sixteenth century, a period of intense lay scrutiny of the genre of “national” history’, and ‘in the thick of all the social change of that century, the Brut narrative continued to function seemingly inescapably as a public vocabulary for discussion of

116 Ibid.,

sig. V.iiir, p. 156. and Radulescu, eds, Readers and Writers of the Prose Brut, p. xvi; Christy Desmet, ‘Afterlives of the Prose Brut in Early Modern Chronicle and Literature’, in Marx and Radulescu, eds, Readers and Writers of the Prose Brut, pp. 227–46 (246). For sixteenth-century chronicles and their medieval sources, see May McKisack, Medieval History in the Tudor Age (Oxford, 1971); Matheson, Prose Brut, pp. 8, 23–6.

117 Marx

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nationalism’.118 Directly as well as indirectly, through its influence on later chronicles, the Brut remained the bedrock of post-medieval history-writing. However, although descended directly from medieval antecedents, sixteenth-­ century vernacular chronicles were a wholly different type of historiography. Where medieval chronicles were conceptualised as anonymous and collective texts, owned and added to by many hands, sixteenth-century chronicles were authored by named individuals. They had endings, as well as beginnings. They were printed as finished texts, not anticipating continuation. They came with prefaces and indexes, as well as capitulum headings and tables of contents. This process began with Caxton, who added to his Polychronicon ‘a thick series of additional paratexts, among them a lengthy prologue, an epilogue, the first English printed index, and finally the Liber Ultimus … Caxton’s longest original compilation … the eighth and final book of the Polychronicon’. In this, of course, Caxton was ‘following long-established historiographical methods that understood the work of the historian as one of embellishing, adding to, and compiling older historical materials’. But he was also fundamentally reconfiguring the forms history took, as Tonry goes on to argue: ‘To use the Brut material as Caxton has revised it – that is, with an alphabetical index and with only numerical instead of summary headings – is to assume a different model of history reading as well as a rather different type of reader.’119 The conception of the genre of history became increasingly antiquarian, academic and synoptic, rather than necessarily partisan or politically engaged. Sixteenth-century historians were frequently sneering about their medieval forebears: Nashe disdained the ‘poor Latinless authors’, the ‘lay chorographers that write of nothing but the mayors and sheriffs and the dear year, and the great frost’.120 Nonetheless, despite its recalibrations, in its revamped form the chronicle remained ‘the Ur-genre of national self-representation’, as Helgerson argues.121 Despite the differences, the debts to the medieval tradition continued to underpin the Renaissance genre, not least in its habitual tendency, amplified from its sources, towards self-commentary, foregrounding and showcasing what it meant to write history. Edward Hall’s claim (1550) that ‘Fame triumpheth vpon death, and renoune vpon Obliuion, and all by reson of writyng and historie’ was a self-reflexive statement of a kind that became a staple of the chronicle genre in this century; yet it reflected a concern with memorialisation inherited from the sources it rested upon.122 118 Elizabeth

J. Bryan, ‘Dialoguing Hands in MS Hatton 50: Reformation Readers of the Middle English Prose Brut’, in Marx and Radulescu, eds, Readers and Writers of the Prose Brut, pp. 131–56 (131, 154, 156). For further discussion of early modern interest in the Brut, see Neil Weijer, ‘Re-printing or Remaking? The Early Printed Editions of The Chronicles of England’, in The Prose Brut and Other Late Medieval Chronicles: Books Have Their Histories. Essays in Honour of Lister M. Matheson, ed. Jaclyn Rajsic, Erik Kooper and Dominique Hoche (York, forthcoming 2016), pp. 125–48. 119 Tonry, ‘Reading History in Caxton’s Polychronicon’, pp. 175, 189. 120 Thomas Nashe, Pierce Penilesse his Svpplication to the Divell, in Works of Thomas Nashe, vol. I, p. 149–245 (212–13); see Gransden, Historical Writing in England, vol. II, p. 241. 121 Helgerson, Forms of Nationhood, pp. 11–12. 122 Edward Hall, The Vnyon of the Twoo Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York (London, 1550; repr. Menston, 1970), sig. A.iir (epistle). See Scott Lucas, ‘Hall’s Chronicle and the



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The conceptual importance attached to the historiographical genre within the writings of the Inkhorn Controversy is also rarely noted, because critics have not usually been interested in the debate’s historical roots or generic affiliations; yet it was present from the beginning. The translator Peter Ashton (1546), the first recorded user of the term ‘inkhorn’, employed it to contrast appropriate and inappropriate diction for historiography, alleging his intention not so muche to regarde and loke for picked termes and straunge englishe wordes, (whiche in deed be not here) as for the playne settinge forthe of the sentence and right declaration of the history. For truly, throwghe out al this simple and rude translation, I studyed rather to vse the most plain and famylier english speche, then … inkhorne terms, (as they call them) whiche the common people, for lacke of latin, do not vnderstande.123

There was a prejudice behind the terms playne, right, simple, rude, in contrast to the artificiality of picked and (of course) straunge. Just as denizen and enfranchise developed a local collocational resonance, so did the trope of ‘plain words’ being appropriate to history. This claim was made ubiquitously by the writers of self-styled ‘histories’. Arthur Goldyng (1563), a prolific translator, prefaced Thabridgment of the Histories of Trogus Pompeius with the request that ‘my rude translation voyd of ornate termes and eloquent indityng, may (as it were) in his playne and homely English cote, be as well accepted of the fauorable reader as when it were richely clad in Romayn vesture’.124 Camden, with the same historian’s trope of professing plainness, refuted the charge of barbarity he anticipated from ‘the minion refiners of English’, asserting that in his Remains he wrote ‘neither … State-English, Court-English, nor Secretarie-English’, but ‘the fourth kind, which is plaine English’.125 Similarly Thomas Harman (1566) asserted in his collection of vagabond anecdotes and colloquial dictionary, I wryte in playne termes … I neuer was acquaynted with the Muses. I neuer tasted of Helycon. But accordinge to my playne order, I haue set forth this worke, simply and truly with such vsuall wordes and termes, as is amonge vs well knowne and frequented.126

The phrases ‘plaine English’ and ‘playne termes/wordes’ developed a manipulatively homely wholesomeness in this anti-inkhorn rhetoric, in which they represented an honesty and simplicity that (supposedly) corresponded with authorial integrity (as opposed to the abstruse and ostentatious borrowed terms associated with duplicity). This discourse was favoured by historians, and also, conspicuously, by soldiers:127 Mirror for Magistrates: History and the Tragic Pattern’, in Pincombe and Shrank, eds, The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature, pp. 356–71. 123 Paolo Giovio, A Shorte Treatise upon the Turkes Chronicles, trans. Peter Ashton (London, 1546), prefatory epistle (unfoliated). 124 Marcus Junianus Justinus, Thabridgment of the Histories of Trogus Pompeius, trans. Arthur Goldyng (London, 1564), ‘To the Reader’ (unfoliated). 125 Camden, Remains, p. 36. 126 Thomas Harman, A Caveat or Warning for Common Cursetors (London, 1573), sig. A.iiiiv–B.ir. 127 For discussion of the explosion of military autobiography in this period, see Matthew

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Thomas Churchyarde, friend of Riche and a key figure at the 1558 siege of Guînes, deplored that ‘there was neuer more curiositie of woordes, nor lesse constancie in deedes … so that the plaine meanyng is ouermatched with the connyng conueiance of muffled mischeef ’; and he praised writers who ‘set downe in plaine words the worthines of plaine people’, because ‘A true Historie is called the Mistresse of life’.128 The heightened consciousness towards politicised registers was deeply invested in the scrutiny of what constituted appropriate language for writing history. Waswo locates ‘changing attitudes toward language’ in the ‘Renaissance obsession with time’, arguing that in language … humanist philologists had discovered time as history’. In turn, ‘it was history … that made it possible to liberate and dignify the vernaculars … And it was history that finally cast down what it had raised up: the new faith in the enduring power of spoken language’.129 The process of writing history made its authors acutely aware that just as history had created language, so language controlled the ‘continuall memorie’ of history, to return to Grafton’s words, containing and contained by it. British historiography stood or fell on the etymological pedigree of its truth-conferring name: it had always been narrated not only in language, but through it, predicated on it. This explains not only why the medieval chroniclers paid such close attention to their words, but why historiography came under particular scrutiny in the linguistic debates of the sixteenth century. However, as alleged above, historiography had become a very different genre between the civic, public, political chronicles of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and the authoritative, antiquarian tomes of the sixteenth. The nature of the enterprise had changed, and so had its language. Instead of the barbed anti-French lexis of their predecessors, the early modern chroniclers wrote in an expansive, eloquent style. They lost the immediate relevance of the lexical set that had developed in the narration of the Hundred Years War: they exchanged invested partisan narration for unbiased, synoptic commentary (Polydore Vergil’s scepticism about the Brutus legend was a case in point).130 They were keen to inform their readers that they had studied French sources as well as English ones, and judged both equally: Hall made it explicit that ‘I haue compiled and gathered (and not made) out of diuerse writers, as well forayn as Englishe, this simple treatise’;131 Stow mentioned that ‘the French Chronicles very honestly records’ their country’s obstinate resistance to Henry V’s claim;132 Fabyan, who spliced English and French history together in his Chronicles of Englande & of Fraunce, took an even more objective perspective. Comparing the accounts of Crécy in both languages, he observed

Woodcock, ‘Tudor Soldier-Authors and the Art of Military Autobiography’, in Bellis and Slater, eds, Representing War and Violence in Later Medieval Europe. 128 Thomas Churchyard, A Generall Rehearsal of Warres (London, 1579), sig. *.iiv–iiir; Churchyard, The Worthines of Wales (London, 1587), sig. A.3v. 129 Waswo, Language and Meaning, p. 59. 130 See Denis Hay, Polydore Vergil: Renaissance Historian and Man of Letters (Oxford, 1952), pp. 110–36, 157–62. 131 Hall, Vnyon, sig. A.iiv (epistle). 132 John Stow, The Abridgement of the English Chronicle (London, 1618), sig. K.iir, p. 131.



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Here ye shal vnderstand, that the authours and wryters fauoured theyr owne nacion. For Englysh wryters saye: that the Frenche kyng fled, and brake the bridges as he went … And the French booke sayeth, that king Edwarde fled, & woulde not abide battaile.133

He allowed for prejudicial recording, giving the biases of his sources equal weight: ‘after the Englishe writers the Frenche men bare the wyte. And after the French auctors, the Englishe are put in the blame’,134 the hendiadic balancing of ‘wyte’ and ‘blame’ serving to underscore, with a finessed etymological scrupulousness, the supranational fairness of his own collated account. The different aspirations of the new generation indicated the new priorities of the genre: even as dogmatic linguistic nationalists were insisting that history should be written ‘plain’, that it should retain its congenital commitment to mimetic stylistics and the invested political agenda they embodied, chroniclers were articulating a different ambition. Instead of serving political ideologies, they were critiquing them (or so they claimed); instead of replicating old agendas, they were examining them. However, the idea that the historian could be above his subject, surveying opinions rather than creating them, was a disturbing one. The category of style was the point of most significant departure from the medieval tradition, and in turn it received the most pointed criticism. One of the most notable contrasts between medieval and early modern chronicles was language. To some extent, the lexical set honed by the fifteenth-century narrators is still perceptible. Hall talked of the the ‘false promises of the flatteryng French men’, their ‘craftie conueighed purpose’ and their ‘bostyng enterprise’.135 Holinshed described how Joan of Arc ‘pursued … manie bold enterprises to our great displeasure’, and the bishop of Winchester ‘purposed and disposed him to set hand on the kings person’, later protesting that he ‘neuer imagined, ne purposed anie thing’.136 The words that had chimed with special resonance throughout the medieval chronicles still appeared, but their polemical purpose was obscured: Hall called Henry V’s siege of Harfleur ‘an intended purpose and warrely enterprise’, using with apparent obliviousness words that had been highly politicised against the French enemy.137 But most of all, this diction lost its pointedness because of the globally euphuistic, aureate style the chronicles adopted, replacing partisan nationalism with eloquent intellectualism. A few examples of Hall’s style will suffice. His prologue declared his intention to narrate What mischief hath insurged in realmes by intestive deuision, what depopulacion hath ensued in countries by ciuil discencion, what detestable murder hath bene committed be seperate faccions, and what calamitee hath ensued in famous regions by domesticall 133 Robert

Fabyan, The Chronicle of Fabian, whiche he nameth the Concordaunce of Histories (London, 1559), sig. H.iiiir–v, pp. 221–2 (second part). 134 Ibid., sig. Yy.vr, p. 259. 135 Hall, Vnyon, A.viv, A.iiv, B.iiv (Henry VI). 136 Raphael Holinshed et al., Holinshed’s Chronicles of England Scotland and Ireland, cited from The Holinshed Project, 1587 text, stable URL: www.english-ox.ac.uk/holinshed (accessed November 2015). 137 Hall, Vnyon, sig. C.iv (Henry V).

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discord & vnnatural controuersy … what execrable plagues this famous region hath suffered by the deuision and discension of the renoumed houses of Lancastre and Yorke, my witte cannot comprehende, nor my toung declare, nor my penne fully set furth.138

His pen did not seem to have too much difficulty, however. Henry V’s counsellors offer to ‘enucleate and open to you certain articles’; the king makes many a ‘shorte and pithy Oracion’; and is lamented in proper magniloquence as a ‘blasing comete’ whom ‘No Emperour in magnanimitie euer … excelled. No potentate was more piteous nor Lorde more bounteous.’139 These are inkhorn terms of the most rare and exquisite, and it was Hall’s linguistic excesses that received the scholar and royal tutor Roger Ascham’s acerbic condemnation: As if a wise man would take Halles Cronicle, where moch good matter is quite marde with Indenture Englishe, and firste change, strange and inkhorne tearmes into proper, and commonlie vsed wordes: next, specially to wede out that, that is superfluous and idle, not onelie where wordes be vainlie heaped one vpon an other, but also where many sentences, of one meaning, be so clowted vp together as though M. Hall had bene, not writing the storie of England, but varying a sentence in a Hiching schole: surelie a wise learned man, by this way of Epitome, in cutting away wordes and sentences, and diminishing nothing at all of the matter, should leaue to mens vse, a storie, halfe as moche as it was in quantitie, but twise as good as it was, both for pleasure and also commoditie.140

The label ‘Indenture Englishe’ suggests that Ascham’s criticism was not only because Hall’s diction was ‘strange and inkhorne’, eliding the aureate/eloquent with the legal, and rendering a rhetoric about as comprehensible as courtroom franglais: Ascham touched on something more fundamental. There were many flamboyantly inkhorn texts he could have chosen to lampoon; yet he chose a chronicle. Chronicles, especially in soaring prefaces like Grafton’s, were glorified as the means by which England might know itself. Language that carried the weight of a nation’s historical identity had to be appropriately national itself, especially when every word not only partook in the historical narrative, but performed it. Ascham’s opposition of ‘good matter’ to inappropriate lexical prolixity in this context suggests that his motivation was precisely because, in its ‘vainlie heaped’ words, Hall was not appropriately ‘writing the storie of England’. Perhaps it was because of the exalted status accorded to historiography that inkhorn terms employed there were perceived as especially invidious, and that historians were particularly anxious to declare their language ‘plain’. There was no limit, apparently, to the virtue and veracity the genre could boast. According to Abraham Fleming, who produced the second edition of Holinshed in 1587, ‘Chronicles approch next in truth to the sacred and inviolable scripture’, and ‘next unto the holie scripture, chronicles doo carie credit’. The foremost scholar of sixteenth-century 138 Ibid.,

sig. A.ir (Henry IV). sig. Aviv–B.ir, D.vv, H.viiv (Henry V). 140 Roger Ascham, The Scholemaster (London, 1570), sig. N.iiir–v, p. 44. 139 Ibid.,



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chronicles, Annabel Patterson, argues strongly for this moral association between scripture and history: ‘Bale saw the reconstruction of English historiography as a project parallel to the dissemination of the Scriptures in English’, she asserts, and ‘Both vernacular Bibles and national histories were essential to the Protestant educational mission that began with Wycliffe’. Patterson sees this as one respect in which early modern chronicles owed most to their medieval antecedents: ‘spiritual and political consciousness-raising were to go hand in hand. The seeds of “Holinshed’s” Chronicles were, then, sown as early as the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.’141 In similar vein, if with less evangelical fervour, Ashton held that ‘all thinges mete and necessarie’ were set forth in ‘Chronicles & histories … as a man beholding him selfe in a glasse’; and Goldyng called chroniclers ‘guydes, instructours, and maisters of oure lyfe’.142 Riche opined that ‘in bookes and histories are actually expressed, the beautie of vertue, and the lothsomnes of vice’;143 and his exalted view of history reserved special scorn for those who abused it: May we speake a little of Historiographers, their office is as well to record faults, as worthie Acts; their pennes haue not spared to describe the times and ages past, and no prince hath escaped … But our Hystorians in this age that cannot flatter, cannot thriue. I must accuse them of palpable offence, who in relating their histories, should tie themselues to exact truth. But some of them haue so powldred their writings with such varietie of discourse, as he is but a single-soald reader, that cannot perceiue they haue flattered, (I will not say fittoned.) Looke but into our English Chronicles, and see what descriptions they haue made of Pettigrees, not so much to set downe a truth, as they haue done to please greatnesse.144

Ostensibly Riche was rebuking flattery, but it is not impossible that he had in mind Wilson’s portrait of mincing courtiers who ‘powder their talk with overseas language’, in his scorn of those who have ‘so powldred their writings’. His scorn for their ‘varietie of discourse’ implied a rejection not just of the act of flattery but its expression among historiographers, who should be committed to ‘exact truth’. In defence of his own prose, Riche wrote, Some wil finde fault with my homely maner of inditing, and will saye, This is no good sense, or this is no true English … Wherefore I would these superficial heades would take this for mine answere, that what I haue written, it hath not bene to prooue my selfe artificiall or eloquent, but to shewe things more needfull, which I haue noted by experience … Such is the delicacie of our readers at this time, that there are none may be alowed of to write, but such as haue bene trained at schoole with Pallas, or at the lest haue bene fostered vp with the Muses … No marueill then good reader, although I want such sugered sape, wherewith to sauce my sense.145

141 Cited

in Patterson, Reading Holinshed’s Chronicles, pp. vii–ix. trans. Ashton, Shorte Treatise, prefatory epistle (unfoliated); Goldyng, Thabridgment, ‘To the Reader’ (unfoliated). 143 Barnabe Riche, Allarme to England (London, 1578), sig. E.ir. 144 Barnabe Riche, Faultes Faults and Nothing Else but Faultes (London, 1606), sig. L.2v, p. 38. 145 Riche, Allarme, sig. *.iiir–v. 142 Giovio,

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This contrast of artificiality with truth, and classical eloquence with plain and homely language, placed inkhorn terms in a preconceived moral matrix. If history possessed a near-scriptural authority, it followed that the language of history should be transparent; and historians who deviated from this obligation received the strictest censure. Alongside the changing nature of historiography, at once much more self-conscious of itself as a genre that shaped the past, and at times oblivious to what it had itself been in that past, was the abiding sense that history should be written plain, because history and language were (in some tortuously paradoxical sense that lay buried deep in the historiographical past) indivisible. The vogue for euphuism meant that most of the contextually pejorative loanwords in the medieval chronicles were rehabilitated unblinkingly, within the general trend towards a more aureate style that accompanied the change in direction of the chronicle genre. However, while most of the words that characterised the pejorative diction of the medieval chronicles lost their contextual relevance, others went in the opposite direction, and a postscript to this discussion is the way in which their negative collocation stuck. This was the case with imagine, defined positively by the MED for the fifteenth century (‘to form a mental picture of something not present’), and in Langland’s Ymaginatif representing ‘the soul’s image-making power, the vis imaginativa of the scholastics’.146 But it had narrowed sufficiently by the seventeenth century that in the King James Bible it referred almost exclusively to rebellious, sinful, treasonous plotting. Contemplating mankind in Genesis 6.5, God saw ‘that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil’; Psalm 2.1 demanded ‘why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?’; and in the Magnificat, Mary rejoiced that ‘he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts’ (Luke 1.51). A search of the KJV for imagine (and its cognates) reveals thirty-six occurrences, only three of which are positive or neutral.147 Likewise, for Tyndale, ‘the idolatry of his own imagination’ is the swiftest inviter of ‘the wrath of God’.148 As noted in Chapter 2, the Statute of Treasons played a large part in the political pejoration of this word; but the statute itself belonged to a wider context of its linguistic politicisation in the Hundred Years War, which effected a lasting smear of its meaning. The case of imagine indicates the extent to which words, on a minute level, as well as language on a macrocosmic, ideological level, continued to be embedded in history, and to crystallise and characterise the historical moments that they were embedded in.

146 Mary

Carruthers, ‘Imaginatif, Memoria and ‘the Need for Critical Theory’ in Piers Plowman Studies’, Yearbook of Langland Studies 9 (1995), 103–20 (103). 147 Imagination: Genesis 6.5, 8.21; Deuteronomy 29.19, 31.21; 1 Chronicles 28.9, 29.18; Psalm 6.18; Jeremiah 3.17, 7.24, 9.14, 11.8, 13.10, 16.12, 18.12, 23.17; Lamentations 3.60, 3.61; Luke 1.51; Romans 1.21; 2 Corinthians 10.5. Imagine: Genesis 11.6; Job 6.26, 21.27; Psalm 2.1, 10.2, 21.11, 38.12, 62.3, 140.2; Proverbs 12.20; Hosea 7.15; Nahum 1.9, 1.11; Zechariah 7.10, 8.14, Acts 4.25. KJV cited from Bible Gateway, at www.biblegateway.com (accessed November 2015). 148 Tyndale, Obedience, p. 145.



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The darker side of words, matter and mimesis This chapter has considered the legacy of the Hundred Years War for the language debates of the subsequent century, largely from the perspective of the various political agendas served by the long-lived metaphor of linguistic nationalism. However, underpinning these issues was a larger, darker crisis of language and meaning that early modern philosophers were tentatively articulating: the unravelling of the etymological truth-claim on which the foundational connection between language and history, and all the structures built upon it, rested. At various points this discussion has broached the wider context of the theological and philosophical language debates of which the specifically politicised, historicised instantiations argued for here, in insular historiography, were just a subset, although it has not had time to do them justice. Finally, this chapter briefly considers the more fundamental blow dealt by the language debates to the axis of history, etymology and national identity, the triangulation that had undergirded medieval historiography from its inception. Beneath all the controversies surrounding national language was Ascham’s famous division between words and things: ‘Ye know not, what hurt ye do to learning, that care not for wordes, but for matter.’149 This distinction was often quoted in the context of assertions that language should preserve the etymological harmony between word and referent. Camden’s self-description was based on it: ‘While I runne on in this course of English tongue, rather respecting matter then words, I forget that I may be charged by the minion refiners of English.’150 Wilson, in his condemnation of excessive eloquence, demanded Doth wit rest in strange words, or else standeth it in wholesome matter and apt declaring of a man’s mind? Do we not speak because we would have others to understand us, or is not the tongue given for this end, that one might know what another meaneth?151

The bipartite equation of eloquence with meaninglessness and plainness with matter also had a socio-political edge: ‘in ynkehorne terms, and borrwed spechis, as exagerat, diuulged, dispensed, comprehensioun, expend, concorde, infarce, expecte, intimate … yow speke not to the common people’, wrote a Puritan pamphleteer in 1566.152 The idyllically conceived English nation and her simple, faithful speech became a motif in the Protestant ideal of the democratisation of linguistic access to truth. The intrinsic correspondence between words and matter, although fraught and contested, was never usually questioned. However, Ascham’s differentiation was more complex than allowed by the agenda of ‘plain English’; the distinction between words and matter more nebulous and doubtful than a political reductivism of it could accommodate. Although his criticism of Hall had rested on the same value-distinction between ‘good matter’ and ‘Indenture Englishe’, his famous aphorism about the ‘hurt ye do to learning’

149 Ascham,

Scholemaster, sig. O.iv, p. 46. Remains, pp. 35–6. 151 Wilson, Art of Rhetoric, p. 190. 152 Anon., An Answere for the Tyme (Rouen, 1566), p. 11. 150 Camden,

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expressed the distinction in the opposite terms, criticising those who ‘care not for wordes, but for matter’ (my emphasis). Clearly, words also mattered: making ‘a devorse betwixt the tong and the hart’ was a dangerous thing. Ascham’s differentiation initiated a powerful and disturbing process of thought about the nature of the ‘devorse’ he warned against. What were words, if they were not anchored in physical realities? Did they have a ‘matter’ of their own? Francis Bacon responded directly to Ascham in The Advancement of Learning, again reversing the distinction: Here, therefore, is the first distemper of learning, when men study words and not matter … for words are but the images of matter; and except they have life of reason and invention, to fall in love with them is all one as to fall in love with a picture.

He went on to detail ‘the false appearances that are imposed on us by words’, warning that although we think we govern our words … yet certain it is that words, as a Tartar’s bow, do shoot back upon the understanding of the wisest, and mightily entangle and pervert the judgment.153

Bacon’s was a more sinister understanding of language, ‘divorcing’ it from matter in a more profound and permanent way. As Waswo argues, linguistic theorists of the sixteenth century talked about language as though it were referential: as though words in some essential, ontological capacity were connected to the matter they signified. However, to pull aside the decorative veil of rhetoric entailed looking at ‘meaning as separate from and prior to the words that “clothe” it’; and ‘Rhetoric never quite recovers’.154 When language entered this solipsistic spiral of doubt and distrust, and speakers became fearful of the means by which they might articulate that fear, what was left was more than a collapse of the essentialist view of language replaced with a conventionalist one: it was a fatalist one. The fall of speech was not only from referential to relational semantics, wherein language lost its divinely ordained apposition but retained its basic function to designate. In this new schema, language had fallen further, so that it no longer merely failed to designate, but positively deceived. And in this context, mimesis no longer meant a simple, usually polemical, performative imitation of matter by words, as I have argued that it did hitherto in representations of the Hundred Years War; instead, the possibilities of language, in its entirety, as an inherently duplicitous and potentially arbitrary mimesis, loomed as a much more unsettling prospect. The Inkhorn Controversy started this process, with the suggestion that some words might be more meaningful than others, some languages closer to a pre-lapsarian intactness than others. The metaphors of Eden and of Babel were accompanied by a mental apparatus that forced the nationalist/linguistic narrative to conform to the salvation-narrative of fall (conquest) and redemption (reconquest). Few 153 Francis

Bacon, The Advancement of Learning, ed. G. W. Kitchin (London, 1973), pp. 24–5, 134. 154 Waswo, Language and Meaning, p. 35.



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writers questioned the possibility of apposite language per se. However, the few that did asked some of the most thoughtful and disturbing questions about language, nationality and war, those three ancient mutual metaphors. They questioned the very possibility of apposite language in an Augustinian sense, interrogating whether it could do otherwise than ‘entangle and pervert’ matter, let alone express the enormities of war, that most inexpressible of all human experiences. Daniel, one of the most thoughtful of the inkhorn theorists, applied a Baconian suspicion of words to criticise the optimistic political characterisation of ‘plain English’. He began his Defence of Ryme with the statement ‘now I see, when there is opposition made to all things in the world by wordes, wee must nowe at length likewise fall to contend for words themselues; and make a question, whether they be right or not’.155 Daniel’s doubts about what it might mean to ‘contend for words’ were extensive. He pondered, Seeing it is matter than satisfies the iudiciall, appeare it in what habite it will, all these pretended proportions of words, howsoever placed, can be but words, and peradventure serue but to embroyle our vnderstanding, whilst seeking to please our eare, we inthrall our iudgement … affecting sound to be vnsound.156

His doubt extended beyond language to what it purported to incarnate, the vacuum between the signifier and the signified even in that most sacred of genres, which Grafton and Riche had blithely claimed to be full of pure matter and exact truth: An Historie … is but a Mappe of men, and dooth no otherwise acquaint vs with the true Substance of Circumstances, than a superficiall Card dooth the Sea-man with a Coast neuer seene, which alwayes prooues other to the eye than the imagination forecast it … And our passion and beliefe is so apt to leade vs beyond truth, that vnlesse we try them by the iust compasse of humanities, and as they were men, we shall cast their figures in the ayre when we should make their models vpon Earth. It is not the contexture of words, but the effect of Action that giues glory to the times.157

Doubting language and history to be other than representative and represented opened the possibility that the whole project of patriotic identification invested in them was deceived, and deceitful. If history was no more than a fraudulent map, and words nothing more than ‘pretended proportions’, their claim to embody and vivify a tangible national identity crumbled. This doubt was something Daniel was uneasy with, but could not efface. He asserted bravely that deeds were their own interpreters: that they, not ‘the contexture of words’, were what gave glory to the times. However, in this formulation he could no longer uphold the myth of historical immortality. In the debate between Musophilus and Philocosmus in Musophilus (1599), the voice of patriotism and certainty eventually triumphed; but the doubt and fear expressed along the way were not easily quieted. Philocosmus asked,

155 Daniel,

Defence, p. 3. p. 13. 157 Ibid., pp. 24–5. 156 Ibid.,

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And what art thou the better, thus to leaue A multitude of words to small effect, Which other times may scorne, and so deceiue Thy promis’d name, of what thou dost expect? … A poore light gaine, to recompence their toyle, That thought to get Eternitie the while.158

Musophilus retorted valiantly that poetic immortality is possible, because Chaucer ‘yet liues, and yet shall’. He asserted that       the words thou scornest now May liue, the speaking picture of the minde, The extract of the soule, that laboured how To leaue the Image of herself behinde.159

However, the linguistic ‘image’ left behind was a spectral one:       Oh blessed Letters … By you, we doe conferre with who are gone, And the dead-liuing vnto Councell call: By you, th’vnborne shall haue communion Of what we feele, and what doth vs befall.160

In Daniel’s attempt to reassert his confidence in the kind of immortality that language and history could offer, the old kind of language in which ‘Fame triumpheth upon deathe, and renoune upon Obliuion’, he conjured only the eerie picture of poetry as a séance between the living and the dead; the present as a mortuary in which unborn generations moved among the bones. Even Chaucer could not claim immortality:161 instead of embodying truth and life, language and history were the metonyms of meaninglessness and mortality. In their insistence upon the duplicity and vacuity of inkhorn terms, sixteenth-century writers faced a literally unspeakable abyss in the idea of apposite language itself. And most of them shied away from it. But some did not: and in his moments of bleak honesty, Barnabe Riche was one of the most thoughtful and disturbing thinkers on this subject that the century produced. For the most part his writings defended the necessity of war, and confidently expounded the possibility of national language, with the optimism necessary to hold the two together as mutually reinforcing identifiers. However, towards the end of his troubled career and following his Farewell to Militarie Profession, he wrote (1604): Nothing waxeth young in this world but warre, neyther hath arte euer sought out a subiect more ambiguous, for with the Camelion it changeth according to the obiect,

158 Samuel

Daniel, Samuel Daniel’s Musophilus: Containing a General Defense of All Learning, ed. Raymond Himelick (West Lafayette, IN, 1965), lines 50–3, 72–3, pp. 64–5. 159 Ibid., lines 177–80, p. 67. 160 Ibid., lines 189, 191–4, p. 67. 161 See Lerer’s chapter ‘At Chaucer’s Tomb’, in Chaucer and His Readers, pp. 147–75.



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and like an impossible infinit in nature, carrieth his euents beyond the reache of coniecture.162

Perhaps Riche had in mind Spenser’s etymology that ‘when the world woxe old, it woxe warre old / (Whereof it hight)’.163 The only young thing in his war-old worolde was war itself, which had not only scarred the world, but named it. The intricacies of this passage, especially if we permit its implicit engagement with Spenser, are fascinating: as the ‘old world’ (the present world, the warre-old, in which ‘Nothing waxeth young … but warre’) grew further and further from the true ‘old world’ (‘Antique age … in the infancie / Of time’, living ‘like an innocent’),164 it grew more and more tarnished. The unspoiled newness of the ‘Antique’ is contrasted with the weary, soiled decrepitude of the ‘new’, the present that ‘waxeth young’ in its perpetually renewing and protean violence. The youthfulness of the older world and agedness of the new one are held in a counter-intuitive paradox of innocence and experience, to which Riche then added a further, more frightening temporal dimension. This passage broached the idea that war was unrepresentable: ‘infinit’, ‘ambiguous’, ‘beyond the reach of conjecture’. As the world grew simultaneously young and old (it ‘woxe old’ in years but ‘wax[ed] young’ in violence, in the ‘impossible’ and ‘ambiguous’ ways that Riche described), war itself was waxing ‘infinit’. War could not but be the natural metaphor for language in this period. England had been at war for so long, and English a site of linguistic contention for so long, that the concepts had become contingent. Yet this contingency, taken to its logical end, was fatal to the idea of living or significant language. The doubters of every century were the eyewitnesses, for whom language and history were not a memorial but a tomb. John Page could not reconcile the two ‘syghtys of dyfferauns’; neither could Riche find words for art’s most ambiguous subject. This failure of translating deed into word finally closed the door on the possibility of apposite language. The desire for language to be holistic, its significative capacities infinite, had been tested, and broken. The next chapter considers this darker sense of linguistic mimesis in the context of Shakespeare’s worlds of words: how bringing English history to the stage forced him to confront the aporia at the heart of representation, the imperfect commensurability between language and history.

162 Barnabe

Riche, A Souldiers Wishe to Britons Welfare (London, 1604), sig. B.2v, p. 4. IV.viii.31, p. 101. 164 FQ, IV.viii, 30–1, p. 101. 163 FQ,

5 ‘Talk not of France, sith thou hast lost it all’ The Hundred Years War on the stage in the 1590s Therefore, you clown, abandon – which is in the vulgar leave – the society – which in the boorish is company – of this female – which in the common is woman; which together is, abandon the society of this female, or, clown, thou perishest; or to thy better understanding, diest; or (to wit) I will kill thee, make thee away, translate thy life into death, thy liberty into bondage. I will deal in poison with thee, or in bastinado, or in steel; I will bandy with thee in fiction, I will o’errun thee with [policy]; I will kill thee a hundred and fifty ways: therefore tremble and depart.1

Touchstone’s verbal battery of William in As You Like It rests upon pugnacious hierarchies of synonymia. His tirade is both threat and execution: a lexical copiousness that overruns his addressee, whose ‘better understanding’ is bamboozled by his accelerating rhetoric. In the multiplied image of ‘poison … bastinado … steel’, the real weapons are the words that signify them. The threat is that Touchstone will translate William to death, not that he will actually harm him. ‘Poison’ and ‘bastinado’ are not needed when words enact their effect. Instead of representing realities through language, Touchstone’s inverted dramaturgy transposes realities into words. ‘I will bandy with thee in fiction’ is not just equivalent to ‘I will kill thee’: it replaces it. Signifier and signified are elided: language becomes the site of violence, as the real violence fades into metaphor, a shadowy guarantor of the verbal signifier. Touchstone’s rhetoric was not an abstracted exercise in synonymity: it was a practical instance of how the linguistic registers of English functioned hierarchically and combatively. The process of linguistic mimesis had been an object of scrutiny for chroniclers, poets and language theorists, for whom it had been a more straightforward idea of a verbal imitation, performance or embodiment of an event; but it was especially, indeed endemically, so for dramatists, visible in their terminology of shadow and substance to describe the actor and the original.2 Early modern dramaturgy was steeped in the philosophy of representation, and there was a distinct and serious bifurcation in whether its practitioners understood total theatrical mimesis 1 2

William Shakespeare, As You Like It, 5.1.47–57, in The Riverside Shakespeare, ed. G. Blakemore Evans and J. J. M. Tobin (Boston, 1997). For the shadow/substance metaphor, see Anthony Gash, ‘Shakespeare’s Comedies of Shadow and Substance: Word and Image in Henry IV and Twelfth Night’, Word and Image 4:3/4 (1988), 626–39.



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optimistically, in the idealistic sense of the world of representational possibility encompassed within the playhouse’s walls, or cynically and destructively. Sidney’s Defence of Poetry had argued that literary mimesis offered not a mirror of nature but a golden world of forms: ‘things better than this sorry world can provide’.3 But this perfected ideal of what literature could achieve was problematic for the history play, whose story was that of the sorry world. The gap between mimesis and praxis was a sore point for dramatic historiographers, especially Shakespeare, who consciously inherited the conviction, from their chronicling predecessors, that although they protested themselves history’s curators, they were knowingly its authors. Henry V was entitled ‘The Cronicle History of Henry the fift’ in the three quartos: putting the chronicles on the stage was self-consciously the final chapter in the writing of medieval history.4 But, in keeping with the self-scrutinising nature of that genre, it was a paradoxical one. The theatre, for some, purported to offer a mimesis that transcended language; yet Shakespeare asserted instead the aporia of its ineluctable prism. His history was just as much one of ‘words, words, words’ as the chronicles’, although for him it did not mean staging the performative merger of words and war, but the final incommensurability of word and referent, the duplicity and doubleness that had always been the canker at the heart of the historiographical enterprise. The conceptual framework of this book has rested on its argument for mimetic language: specifically, that the long conflict with France fostered a self-conscious politicisation of language in its literature, a pugnacious and often propagandistic translation of deed into word, in its own representation. In Shakespeare’s history plays, the concept of mimesis became wider and more self-reflexive; plays were mimeses, in a more fundamental way than either chronicles or historical poetry (although they too understood themselves to be profoundly mimetic). In this last chapter in the narration of the Hundred Years War – its theatrical retelling in the 1590s – the idea of mimesis became more global and more difficult. If medieval accounts asserted the mimetic elision of words and war, in their attempts not just passively to narrate but pugnaciously to enact their subject, Shakespeare’s histories went a step further. On the one hand they were able literally to enact the conflict. But on the other, that enactment performed its own bankruptcy. The history plays were one of the the first places where Shakespeare explored not the theatre’s capacity to elide word and deed in the act of historical representation, but the rift that it ultimately thrust between them. The concept of mimesis in this chapter, then, is importantly divergent, although descended, from that of previous chapters. In the strictest sense, ‘mimesis’ has been used to refer to narration’s linguistic imitation of its subject, from the medieval chroniclers’ poisonous lexicon to the political poets’ pugnacious prosody. I have argued that words were used as weapons, or, less fancifully, practical tools in the job 3 4

See discussion of Sidney’s Defence of Poetry in A. D. Nuttall, Why Does Tragedy Give Pleasure? (Oxford, 1996; repr. 2001), pp. 15–29 (25). For quarto title pages and the Folio’s schema, see Alexander Leggatt, ‘The Death of John Talbot’, in Shakespeare’s English Histories: A Quest for Form and Genre, ed. John W. Velz (Binghamton, NY, 1996), pp. 11–30 (11).

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of active representation. But in the theatre mimesis was deeper: all language, on the stage, is mimetic; all acts are performative. The stage returns to the bigger questions attending this theme: the wider and more troubled philosophy of signs and signifiers, the relation of the world of words to the world of objects, and the imperfect commensurability of the two. The expansion this chapter charts in the implications of the word ‘mimesis’ is not a sleight of hand: Shakespeare did find in the theme of writing history the mirror of the playhouse, and his ‘history plays’ reflect both elements of their name. But the use of mimesis in this chapter does imply, and trace, a shift away from the straightforward translation of deed into word, and towards a more self-defeating exposure of the fallacy of representation tout court. This breakdown has been anticipated in various ways in the previous chapters, but the contention here is that it was in the history plays of the 1590s that it found its fullest realisation. In this chapter I consider the final part of the narrative of ‘writing the Hundred Years War’ from 1337 to 1600: the way in which the conflict was put on the stage in the dying years of the last medieval dynasty.

‘Writing history’ (part four): ‘There is no immortalitie … like vnto Playes’ Writing history has been a constant theme of this book, from the ambitious etymological truth-claim that underpinned the medieval chronicle tradition, to the vaunting claims for the genre made by their sixteenth-century descendants. The high stakes of historiography were inherited by dramatic historians in complex ways. Some represented the history play, with indomitable optimism, as a translation out of language into a more faithful mimesis. In a much-quoted passage, Thomas Nashe, writing in defence of playing in 1592, cited an early performance of Henry VI Part I, with a new take on the chronicle self-aggrandisement manoeuvre: what if I prooue Playes to be no extreame; but a rare exercise of vertue? First, for the subiect of them (for the most part) it is borrowed out of our English Chronicles, wherein our forefathers valiant acts (that have line long buried in rustie brasse and worme-eaten bookes) are reuiued, and they themselues raised from the Graue of Obliuion, and brought to pleade their aged Honours in open presence … How would it have ioyed the braue Talbot (the terror of the French) to thinke that after he had lyne two hundred yeares in his Tombe, hee should triumphe againe on the Stage, and haue his bones new embalmed with the teares of ten thousand spectators at the least (at seuerall times) who, in the Tragedian that represents his person, imagine they behold him fresh bleeding … There is no immortalitie can be giuen a man on earth like vnto Playes.5

5

Nashe, Pierce Penilesse, pp. 212–13. For Nashe on Talbot’s death, see Brian Walsh, ‘“Unkind Division”: The Double Absence of Performing History in 1 Henry VI’, Shakespeare Quarterly 55:2 (2004), 119–47 (119, 139–42).



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Nashe saw theatre as rescuing history from ‘the Graue of Obliuion’, bestowing on it a power that ‘worme-eaten bookes’ could not: the opposite of Hall’s claim that ‘Fame triumpheth vpon death, and renoune vpon Obliuion, and all by reson of writyng and historie’.6 For Hall, the chronicle was immortal; for Nashe, it was ‘worme-eaten’. He imagined Talbot (the English commander and commissioner of the Shrewsbury Book, and the hero of Henry VI Part I), as rejoicing post mortem that his legend was not consigned to musty codices but revived in live performance. History plays were suspended between these contradictory claims to immortality: they brought the forgotten moment to life only to watch it die. They offered neither an escape from the aporia of representation nor a golden world. They inherited the tradition that invested historical language with the pressure of total representation of a past otherwise consigned to oblivion; but their immortalising language was ultimately mimetic only in the way that Touchstone’s was, translating deed into word and not word into deed; and as such it was self-annihilating. As Rackin writes, ‘the word “history” is ambiguous, referring equally to the signifying text and what the text signifies, to the present record and to the absent, and in fact dead, life the text attempts to resurrect’.7 Dramatic history was ostensibly able, unlike the chronicle, to present a breathing, speaking Talbot to ‘triumphe againe on the Stage’. It appeared to promise to ‘raise the dead, inspire the living … expose the deceits of fortune, and illuminate the ways of providence’; yet it proved more a sepulchre than a monument, and the repetitive, resurrective performance of history represented only a ‘circling around a lost and irrecoverable center’.8 The bifurcated opinion as to whether the mimesis of the playhouse offers a living world of faith and possibility, or a bankrupted and self-aware performance of an absence, is not only a sixteenth-century one. Many modern critics have followed Nashe in applauding the theatrical mimesis as a life-giving one: David Scott Kastan holds that where ‘the chronicles are able merely to record historical events selectively; the drama is able to attempt a mimesis of the process … of history itself ’.9 However, such optimism atrophies in the history plays themselves. Shakespeare’s Talbot does indeed claim his immortality in the face of death: Two Talbots, winged, through lither sky, In thy despite shall scape mortality.

(H6I: 4.7.21–2)

But La Pucelle acidly reminds us that neither Icarus nor Daedalus escaped mortality: Here’s a silly stately style indeed! … Him that thou magnifi’st with all these titles Stinking and fly-blown lies here at our feet.

6 7 8 9

(H6I: 4.7.72, 75–6)

Hall, Vnyon, sig. Aiir (epistle). Rackin, Stages of History, p. 33. Ibid., pp. 3, x. David Scott Kastan, Shakespeare and the Shapes of Time (London and Basingstoke, 1982), p. 3.

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It is strange to think that Nashe could have witnessed this scene and come out praising its immortalising power. If audiences were able to encounter Talbot living and breathing, only moments later they had to ‘behold him fresh bleeding’.10 Despite its triumphalism, Nashe’s language leaked this macabre subtext: if Talbot was resurrected by the theatre, it was only to be ‘new embalmed’. Nashe’s words situated Talbot’s death ‘in a paradoxical movement between absence and presence, loss and recovery’, and represented historical theatre as occupying ‘an ambiguous position between being a thing of the past and one contained in the performative present’.11 Nashe’s assertion that ‘There is no immortalitie can be giuen a man on earth like vnto Playes’ posited a strange kind of immortalisation, which, more like revenance than resurrection (like Daniel’s imagined post mortem communion at the tomb of Chaucer), resided in an endless cycling and recycling of life and death. Shakespeare stretched the life-giving power of literary mimesis to breaking point in his histories, and it broke. Nowhere was the metatheatrical undermining of theatrical representation keener than in his early plays’ interrogation of the duplicitous mimesis of language – representation the more deceptive because it was persuasive, and history the more obliviated because the actor answered to the name of Talbot. Theatrical representation was the place where history and language collided, rather than coalescing: the history plays, which might be expected to have the most accountability to an external reality, were the most concerned with the mimetic effacement of it that the theatrical mimesis effected. This chapter discusses Shakespeare’s systematic dramatisation of the Hundred Years War. It begins with the earliest history plays, Edward III and the first tetralogy, exploring the destructive conjunction they evinced between war and words. It then considers his final and most ‘glorious’ history play, Henry V, alongside its precursor The Famous Victories, arguing that in ending the second tetralogy with the death of the king with whose funeral the first tetralogy began,12 Shakespeare made linear history cyclical and foregrounded its strange and conspicuous artificiality. Finally it turns to Richard II, alongside Thomas of Woodstock, plays which staged the collapse of sacral royal speech, observing for the first time the way in which the loss of France figures as the source of the illegitimacy, conventionality and counterfeit theatricality that destroys England’s last legitimate king. Shakespeare’s fatalistic explorations of mimesis went far beyond his history plays, although in that instantiation they answered the long and paradoxical narrative tradition of writing medieval history that preceded them. Nonetheless, the histories formed only part of Shakespeare’s interest in this topic (from Juliet’s ‘what’s in

10

11 12

For Talbot’s death scene, see Leggatt, ‘The Death of John Talbot’, pp. 12–13; Ronald Knowles, Shakespeare’s Arguments with History (Basingstoke, 2002), p. 26; Robert C. Jones, These Valiant Dead: Renewing the Past in Shakespeare’s Histories (Iowa City, 1991), p. 8. Walsh, ‘Unkind Division’, pp. 140–3. The funeral of the ‘ever-living man of memory’ (H6I: 4.3.51) is key moment of superstructural bracketing, beginning Henry VI Part I and ending Henry V. See David Riggs, Shakespeare’s Heroical Histories: ‘Henry VI’ and Its Literary Tradition (Cambridge, MA, 1971), p. 98; Jones, These Valiant Dead, pp. 1–3; Leggatt, ‘The Death of John Talbot’, p. 19.



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a name?’ to Hamlet’s ‘words, words, words’), the pertinence of which is not forgotten, although it cannot be addressed here in its fullness. The theme of linguistic mimesis has a longstanding and fine critical pedigree, most notably Joel Fineman’s treatment in Shakespeare’s Perjured Eye, which argues that ‘there is a kind of structural pathos built into th[e] opposition’ between the ‘two large themes [that] govern Shakespeare’s sonnet sequence’ and by extension his playhouse: vision and language. Language proves to be ‘both like and unlike’ vision, as it ‘re-presents what vision presents, and yet this repetition produces something different from that which it repeats, for the truth of language is that, compared to vision, it is false’. Ultimately, ‘Representation carries with it its regretting difference from that which it presents, provoking a desire for that which, as representation, it necessarily absents’. As Rackin argued for the ‘dead’ mimesis of the history plays, so Fineman holds for the sonnets: Representation, stressing and registering itself as representation, calls up and evokes as something absent the truthful presentation it confesses it truly is not … The ‘re-’ of representation effects the loss of presentation; it is responsible for that loss because representation is … achieved over the dead body of the presentation it repeats.13

This chapter does not have space to do justice to the wider operation of this concept in Shakespeare’s corpus: its focus is the way that his histories, particularly those that deal with the Hundred Years War, inherited and critiqued the debates and practices that were born in that conflict. In so doing, it illustrates the very real ways in which that conflict proved the crucible for the ideologies of writing English history. However, the Hundred Years War was but one specific context, and the concerns of Shakespeare’s histories overlapped profoundly with the wider world of ideas surrounding language and meaning with which they engaged. Nor was the histories’ damning verdict on the theatrical mimesis the only one afforded by his plays; the miraculous optimism that his romances seem to reward, in the resurrections of Hermione or Thaisa, arguably bespeaks a very different philosophy of theatre in his final plays from that in his first. Before this discussion leaves Touchstone’s language-world, it discusses a play in which the interrogation of linguistic mimesis was Shakespeare’s major theme: Love’s Labour’s Lost.

Love’s Labour’s Lost: ‘maggot ostentation’ in Shakespeare’s house of words The language games that come at the continual expense of any action may make Love’s Labour’s Lost appear a strange bedfellow for the histories. However, they were written at exactly the same point in Shakespeare’s early career (1590–92), and they constitute his response to the fierce linguistic furore of his century. Rivalled only by Love’s Labour’s Lost, the Henry VI plays contain the most formal rhetoric of any of

13

Joel Fineman, Shakespeare’s Perjured Eye: The Invention of Poetic Subjectivity in the Sonnets (Berkeley, CA, and London, 1986), pp. 15, 24, 207.

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Shakespeare’s corpus (for which they were mocked by Jonson and Greene).14 It was no accident that two out of three of Shakespeare’s uses of the word ‘inkhorn’ were in the first tetralogy, nor that Love’s Labour’s Lost was a parodic dramatisation of the Inkhorn Controversy.15 Moreover, the seeds of linguistic doubt sown in Love’s Labour’s Lost illuminate the tension between language and history in the first tetralogy. Often described by critics as existing in a holiday-world of language, the play keeps at bay until its final act the history that is threatening to break into and destroy it, offering a perfect microcosm of the fatal antipathy that (I suggest) Shakespeare set up between historical event and linguistic representation. Love’s Labour’s Lost furnishes a productive counterpart to the histories because it is their opposite: instead of a history play, it is a language play, and it appears enclosed and solipsistic precisely because it foregrounds the fundamental antithesis between language and history. Joel B. Altman discusses how the rhetorical habits of argument and expression taught and imbibed in the grammar schools profoundly shaped Elizabethan drama, especially comedy, asking ‘what happens when academic exercises become public entertainments, as in the case of dramatized debates?’, and venturing a ‘view of comedy as “an image of human reasoning and its outcome,” and of comic scenes as mimetic debates, wily proofs, schemes and suasions – all suggesting that within the bustle of a comic action lay specific problems to be examined and resolved by the human wit’.16 Likewise, Lynn Enterline argues for the inherently ‘theatrical nature of the very rhetorical tradition’ in her discussion of the ways in which habits of personification – from advanced lessons in the techniques of prosopopoeia to other exercises in grammar and translation – permeated school training in rhetorical skill at every level of instruction … Even early lessons in translation, conducted in the silence of written exercise, gave boys a proto-dramatic part to play in dialogues with peers, parents, or masters.17

In Love’s Labour’s Lost, the clowns Armado and Costard present in relief what the courtiers Navarre, Berowne, Longaville and Dumaine reveal more seriously: the lack of correspondence between word and referent. Armado is mocked as ‘peremptory’, ‘majestical’, ‘thrasonical’, ‘peregrinate’, someone who ‘draweth out the thread of his verbosity finer than the staple of his argument’ (LLL: 5.1.9–14). Moth and Costard 14

15

16 17

Ben Jonson commented on the ‘few foot-and-half-foot words’ with which York and Lancaster’s wars were portrayed (Every Man in His Humour, Prologue, 10, in The Complete Plays of Ben Jonson, ed. G. A. Wilkes (Oxford, 1981), vol. I, p. 183). Robert Greene called Shakespeare ‘an vpstart Crow, beautified with our feathers … with his Tyger’s hart wrapt in a Players hyde’: Greenes Groats-Worth of Witte (London, 1592), sig. F1v. For the formal rhetoric of the first tetralogy, see Janis Lull, ‘Plantagenets, Lancastrians, Yorkists and Tudors’, in The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare’s History Plays, ed. Michael Hattaway (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 89–105. See Sylvia Adamson, ‘The Grand Style’, in Reading Shakespeare’s Dramatic Language: A Guide, ed. Sylvia Adamson, Lynette Hunter, Lynne Magnusson, Ann Thompson, and Katie Wales (London, 2001), pp. 31–50; Catherine M. S. Alexander, ed., Shakespeare and Language (Cambridge, 2004), pp. 18–43; Elam, Shakespeare’s Universe of Discourse. Altman, Tudor Play of Mind, pp. 4, 9. Lynn Enterline, Shakespeare’s Schoolroom: Rhetoric, Discipline, Emotion (Philadelphia, 2012), pp. 7–8.



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joke, ‘they have been at a great feast of languages and stolen the scraps’, and their coining, honorificabilitudinitatibus (LLL: 5.1.36–7, 41) rivalled Eliot’s dezinkhornisistibulated as the finest parodic inkhorn term the century produced. However, these circles of overblown language are concentric: the core of the play is the broken word of the king, the rift between word and object out of which the meaningless verbiage tumbles. Berowne’s annulment of the courtiers’ oath (the word that should be equivalent with its promise, the guarantor that should undergird the faithfulness of language) comes at a cost. This act of linguistic abuse leaves the comedic ending deferred and unfulfilled, ‘too long for a play’ (LLL: 5.2.878). Moreover, the collapse of Navarre’s house of words reveals that there is a world outside. Love’s Labour’s Lost is the opposite of a history play also because it is a play in which history is a continual destructive pressure, kept at bay but never by much. From the wars that jar the flirtation of 2.1 to the death that silences it in 5.2, language and history are at loggerheads. The abrupt death of the king punctures the linguistic membrane of the enclosed world, as history invades language, and destroys it: MARCADE:       The King, your father – PRINCESS: Dead, for my life! MARCADE:          Even so; my tale is told.

(LLL: 5.2.718–20)

This event (arguably the only real event in the play) is told almost entirely in monosyllables. Marcade’s response encodes the linguistic futility of the newly broken world: his ‘tale is told’ without any words. History is the wordless object that, ultimately, the play cannot represent. The intrusion of history (in a coffin) causes the whimsical edifice of language to collapse around it, admitting not only that there are things beyond its representational capacity, but that everything is beyond it. The Princess’s exclamation ‘for my life’ (meaning simply ‘I’m sure’) functions in halfhearted oxymoronic opposition to ‘dead’; but it is mostly a rhetorical moment that shows rhetoric to have failed. It is a grief-stricken cry, rather than a clever word-play; to notice the latter is to observe its redundancy. The end of Love’s Labour’s Lost confounds Touchstone’s ethic of translation, and parallels the absolute failure of words to immortalise Talbot. Navarre attempts to comfort the Princess, but her incomprehension of his eloquent consolation reinforces the message that the holiday is over. After all the ornamentation comes the soldier’s proof: ‘honest plain words best pierce the ear of grief ’ (LLL: 5.2.753). Berowne is forced to confront the festering decay of his beautiful words, in a recantation described by S. S. Hussey as ‘the contrast between (French) three-piled velvet and English kersey’:18 Taffata phrases, silken terms precise, Three-pil’d hyperboles, spruce affection, Figures pedantical – these summer flies Have blown me full of maggot ostentation.

18

(LLL: 5.2.406–9)

S. S. Hussey, The Literary Language of Shakespeare (London and New York, 1992), p. 53.

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‘Maggot ostentation’ is this play’s rotten core. Love’s Labour’s Lost shows language and history to be incompatible: theatricality is exposed, like language, as a lacuna and not an index of meaning; a place of persuasive fallacies not realities. Keir Elam maintains that ‘Navarre’s belief in a world-conquering textuality is the hope that the dramatist, at his most optimistic, invests in his art’.19 However, in none of his plays, least of all this one, was Shakespeare such an optimist. He created solipsistic worlds of words, the most ineluctable of which was the history play, because it was most conscious of its bankrupted responsibility to its external object. Hillman’s assessment is truer: ‘the basic property of language is infinitely to defer the meaning it purports to confer’.20 This chapter questions why the same doubts that pervaded the linguistic mimesis attended the theatrical one. Jaques’s statement that ‘all the world’s a stage’ (AYLI: 2.7.139) (more troubling in context, the reality-bending world of linguistic mutability that is the Forest of Arden, than its frequent excerption allows) articulates a fundamental contention of Shakespeare’s early work: that the theatre is a world of words in which we have access always and only to the representation, not the object; the mimesis without the praxis. Without it, history is lost; yet representation itself is loss. Last scene of all is mere oblivion.

Nature and its mirror: the history play phenomenon of the 1590s Before turning to the history plays, I explore the historical moment that produced them. In their brief heyday, the most important dramatists of the period collaboratively brought the history of England from John to Elizabeth to the London playhouses. Nicholas Grene estimates that of ‘150 plays dealing with the history of England in the period 1562 to 1642, nearly 80 are dated in the one decade of the 1590s’.21 After 1600, the composition of history plays all but stopped. Heywood carried on, concluding with England’s Elizabeth in 1631, but this was the swan-song of the form. The 1590s were a short-lived moment of intense historicity, bound up in the self-scrutiny of Tudor England’s last hour. The 1590s was a decade characterised by retrospection:22 the triumphant jingoism of 1588 quickly gave way to the anxieties of plague, domestic rebellion, foreign threats and the unmentionable yet unbanishable question of succession. The crisis provoked by Elizabeth’s childless senescence provoked an appetite for historical nostalgia, an anxious recollection of what England had been before the Tudors, and what it might be after them. The end of the dynasty was conceptually the end of the Middle Ages, since the Tudors had in so many ways styled themselves as the last and greatest of medieval monarchs. It was a decade of self-reflection for a nation on the cusp of 19 20 21 22

Elam, Shakespeare’s Universe of Discourse, p. 166. See also Anne Barton, ‘Shakespeare and the Limits of Language’, Shakespeare Survey 24 (1971), 19–30. Hillman, Shakespeare, Marlowe and the Politics of France, p. 11. Nicholas Grene, Shakespeare’s Serial History Plays (Cambridge, 2002), p. 7. See Peter Clark, ed., The European Crisis of the 1590s: Essays in Comparative History (London, 1985).



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redefinition; and a decade in which the history play flourished and then vanished.23 Medieval history was particularly freighted for the Tudors because of their programmatic use of it to craft their own image, from Henry VII’s Arthuriana, to Henry VIII’s imitation of Henry V, to Elizabeth’s Joan-of-Arc stance at Tilbury.24 Spenser’s resurrection of so much Brut material for The Faerie Queene partook of this Tudor programme of self-presentation. Retrospection and appropriation were the currency of self-promotion, and the events that led to the establishment of the Tudarchy dominated the historical stage: Marlowe dramatised Edward II, Shakespeare King John, but most history plays staged the immediate past, the events of 1337–1485. Moreover, it was the wars of the Middle Ages that primarily connected the Tudors with England’s past and promised the blueprint for a victorious future: Edward III, for instance, conspicuously depicted the sea-battle of Sluys (1340) as though it were the Armada (E3: 3.1.623.2.78).25 When Normandy was once more the theatre of English military effort, echoes of a significant past were audible when England’s champion (Essex) again laid siege to Rouen, a town that was not only the site of one of Henry V’s famous victories, but the resting-place of the heart of the Lionheart, and also of the bones of Talbot, whose own siege of Rouen (1449), hot off the press and fresh in the playhouses in 1591–2, was being played almost simultaneously with Essex’s (1591).26 Nick de Somogyi’s study of Shakespeare’s ‘theatre of war’ emphasises not only the dominance of the history play between 1585 and 1604, but also its particular investment in war, which disappeared with ‘the accession of the Peacemaker James I’. For the Elizabethans (as Raleigh put it) ‘The ordinary Theme and Argument of History is War’.27 The utility of the Hundred Years War as a Tudor metaphor is apparent in the writings of another dramatist, George Whetstone, who, in The Honovrable Repvtation of a Sovldier (1586), forced the parallels between England’s historic French wars and its contemporary Spanish ones:

23

24

25 26 27

On the other hand, Grene suggests that the phenomenon may not owe so much to the currents of the time: ‘the fashion for history plays may have arisen as much in response to the market dynamics of the theatre as to the political atmosphere of England in the aftermath of the Armada’ (Shakespeare’s Serial History Plays, p. 9). For the strategic medievalisms of Henry VII, see Gordon Kipling, ed., The Receyt of the Ladie Kateryne (Oxford, 1990); for Henry VIII modelling his French expedition on Henry V’s, see Davies, ‘Henry VIII and Henry V’, and Steven Gunn, ‘The French Wars of Henry VIII’, in The Origins of War in Early Modern Europe, ed. Jeremy Black (Edinburgh, 1987), pp. 28–51; for Elizabeth’s performance at Tilbury, see Garrett Mattingly, The Defeat of the Spanish Armada (London, 1959; repr. 2000), pp. 290–7; Jonathan Bate, Soul of the Age: The Life, Mind and World of William Shakespeare (London, 2008), pp. 241–4. See Giorgio Melchiori’s introduction to William Shakespeare, King Edward III (Cambridge, 1998), p. 5. For ‘the topicality of the city of Rouen for Elizabethans’ and its status as ‘a symbolic prize’ for Essex, see Hillman, Shakespeare, Marlowe and the Politics of France, pp. 114–18 (117, 114). Nick de Somogyi, Shakespeare’s Theatre of War (Aldershot, 1998), p. 6. For the history play phenomenon, see Benjamin Griffin, Playing the Past: Approaches to English Historical Drama 1385–1600 (Cambridge, 2001); as well as Grene, Shakespeare’s Serial History Plays, and Rackin, Stages of History.

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   Set Speares in rest, renew your auncient fame: Rush on the Pikes, the Cannon do not shen,    Your Ancestors, with passage through the same, This Prouerbe raisde, among the French, their foes,    Vous es si fier, que vn Anglois. Thou art as fierce, as is an Englishman,    The French still say; and proofe the same did teach: Turn you the french into Castillian,    It hath a grace in such a loftie speach: Your cause is good, and Englishmen you are,    Your foes be men, euen as the french men weare.28

Whetstone’s plea was not only to imagine Spain as the ancient French enemy, but specifically to turn ‘French into Castillian’: a request for translation, locating war in language, and explicitly galvanising English nationalism in the late 1580s from English victories in the 1340s and 1410s. Given that ‘foreign aggression … was for most Elizabethans the lesser danger of the time’,29 it is notable that wars and rumours of wars dominated the 1590s. Charles Gibbon’s A Watch-Worde for Warre (1596) claimed to be ‘Published by reason of the disperced rumors amongst vs, and the suspected comming of the Spanyard against vs’.30 In Gibbon’s account, God had made the Spaniard to be as a prick & thorne to Englishmen, insomuch as we shall neuer bee so assured of peace, but wee may alwaies liue in suspition of warre: and therefore thys treatise of warre cannot be friuolous.31

What Gibbon’s treatise demonstrates, like Whetstone’s, is not only the simmering threat of war throughout the decade but its enduring connection to language. Gibbon began his first chapter (entitled simply Warre) where all good histories should begin – with an etymology: The Latine word Bellum, is so called (saith Cicero) of Belluis, cruell, beast-like or sauage; some suppose it commeth of Bellona, whom the Poets fayned to be the Goddesse of Warre, whose felicity was in the effusion of bloode. The Etymologie of the worde dooth not much differ from the nature of the subiect.32

This favourite medieval epistemological form was central to Gibbon’s enterprise. Words and war sustained their intense connection, rooted in the originary truthclaim precious to medieval historiographers and Renaissance linguistic theorists alike. Just as Whetstone forced the historic parallel between England’s wars then 28 29 30 31 32

George Whetstone, The Honovrable Repvtation of a Sovldier (Leyden, 1586), sig. C4r, p. 23. Don M. Ricks, Shakespeare’s Emergent Form: A Study of the Structures of the Henry VI Plays (Logan, UT, 1968), p. 15. See also Grene, Shakespeare’s Serial History Plays, p. 65. Charles Gibbon, A Watch-Worde for Warre: Not So Newe as Necessary (Cambridge, 1596), title page/epistle ‘To the Reader’. Ibid., sig. A.3v. Ibid., sig. B.1r.



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and now, so Gibbon showed the medieval connection between words and war still to be vital. Alongside these deliberate alignments of Elizabeth’s Spanish wars with her predecessors’ French ones, the 1590s were recapitulating the themes of medieval history in more troubling, unsolicited ways. Essex’s siege of Rouen was not the triumph of 1418, nor even the valiant defeat of 1449; he was recalled a few weeks after his arrival, bereaved of his hopes by Henri IV’s decision to abandon his English allies’ coastal interests and engage the Duke of Parma inland.33 The ‘drastic decline in English fortunes in France’ in 1591–2 must, as Hillman argues, have made ‘the notion of reincarnating the heroic Talbots sputter with futility’.34 If the vicissitudes of history were the theme of the playhouse, they were also the flavour of the times: at the other end of the decade, the same champion fell spectacularly from grace, causing his queen to pluck her own doppelgänger from the playhouse. When in 1601, following the Essex rebellion, Elizabeth purportedly said to William Lambarde, ‘I am Richard II. Know ye not that?’ she was acknowledging the historical mirrors that were being made in the court politics of her late years.35 On the eve of the Essex rebellion, members of the faction had paid the Lord Chamberlain’s Men ‘40s. more than their ordinary’ to play the ‘old’ and ‘long out of use’ Richard II. Cecil made much of this performance, accusing Essex of plotting a second deposition: ‘making this time seem like that of Richard II, to be reframed by him as by Henry IV’.36 Shakespeare’s play was deliberately associated with John Haywarde’s The Firste Parte of the Life and Raigne of King Henry IIII, whose inflammatory dedicatory epistle to Essex had prompted the burning of all copies in 1599, and the three Elizabethan quartos of Richard II that survive all omit the sensitive deposition scene, not rehabilitated until the safety of 1608.37 The medieval history that had been the currency of Tudor self-fashioning came back uninvited to haunt it. The queen, entering her seventh decade, was far from embodying the glory of her public image; rather, she embodied the breach between appearance and reality, shadow and substance. In 1599, the future James I compared a king to ‘one set on stage, whose smallest actions and gestures, all the people do gazingly behold’.38 The theatre, the metaphor for royalty, was the ideological place of collision between past and present, between mimesis and its object. 33

34 35 36 37

38

For England’s involvement in the French Wars of Religion, see Lisa Ferraro Parmelee, Good Newes from Fraunce: French Anti-League Propaganda in Late Elizabethan Drama (Rochester, NY, 1996), pp. 18–19. Hillman, Shakespeare, Marlowe and the Politics of France, pp. 115–16. John Nichols, The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth, 3 vols (London, 1823), vol. III, p. 552. See Mary Anne Everett Green, ed., Calendar of the State Papers: Domestic Series of the Reign of Elizabeth 1598–1601 (London, 1869), pp. 578, 555. Traditional opinion held that this was the result of censorship, but Jonathan Bate argues that it was a later addition: Soul of the Age, p. 257. Jason Scott-Warren has uncovered new material that sheds light on this question: ‘Was Elizabeth I Richard II? The Authenticity of Lambarde’s “Conversation”’, Review of English Studies 64:264 (2013), 208–30. Basilikon Doron (1616), cited in Jonathan Dollimore, ‘Shakespeare, Cultural Materialism and the New Historicism’, in Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism, ed. Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield (Manchester, 1995), pp. 2–17 (8).

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The resonances the 1590s found in its recent history were made more pointed by events across the Channel: ‘The threat of war with France was by no means a romantic memory lodged in the mythological victory of Agincourt’ in the 1590s, ‘but a present concern’.39 When Mary Queen of Scots quartered her arms with those of England, it was an insulting reversal of Edward III’s action that had inaugurated the Hundred Years War in 1340.40 Sixteenth-century stereotypes of Frenchness retained all their medieval potency: Nashe asserted that ‘The Frenchman (not altered from his owne nature) is wholly compact of deceiuable Courtship’;41 and Henry Suhamy describes the ‘quality of just being French’ as comprising the same ‘inconstancy, garrulity, vainglory, unreliability’ that had characterised it in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, concluding that ‘the French only have to give new proofs of their old ways’.42 The proposed Alençon match of 1579 had prompted its most infamous critic, John Stubbes, into a rehearsal of medieval history; and in the 1590s, when England was again at war in France, many writers chose to raise once more the unhappy ghost of 1579. The reason for stoking the old vitriol was the possibility of a Pax Ceciliana: the fear that Elizabeth, on the advice of Cecil, might try appeasing the Catholic League in order to diminish the ever-ascendant power of Spain. It was important that France should retain the potency of its identity as England’s old enemy, and provoke the same xenophobic antipathy as in previous centuries. Mother Hubberd’s Tale (1591), which Spenser claimed was no more than ‘my idle labours … long sithens composed in the raw conceipt of my youth’, was ostensibly a biting critique of the French ambassador Jean de Simier (whom Elizabeth called her ‘ape’, simius) and the Duke of Alençon (the fox) in 1579; but it overlaid its satire onto the 1590s, superimposing the marriage crisis of 1579 onto the Pax Ceciliana and conflating the two decades, in order to inject into the cautious Anglo-French politics of the 1590s some of the vitriol of the previous decade.43 In a comparable manoeuvre, the collaborative play Sir Thomas More (c. 1591–93) sympathetically staged the race riots of 1517, using the past to stoke the anti-French fervour of its own moment.44 In his encomium to history plays, Nashe (probably referring to the final scene in The Famous Victories of Henry V), revelled in ‘what a glorious thing it is to have Henry the Fifth represented on the stage, leading the French king prisoner, and forcing both him and the Dauphin to swear fealty’.45 Like Whetstone, by literally translating the Hundred Years War into an Anglo-Spanish context writers took pains not to allow France to lose the force of its old symbolism.

39 40 41 42 43 44 45

Butterfield, ‘National Histories’, p. 53. Rex, The Tudors, p. 179. Nashe, Pierce Penilesse, p. 177. Henry Suhamy, ‘Shakespeare and the French’, Shakespeare Yearbook 5 (1994), 5–23 (5). Edmund Spenser, Prosopopoia, or Mother Hubberds Tale, in Variorum, vol. VIII: The Minor Poems (II) (1947), pp. 103–40 (105). Anthony Munday, Henry Chettle, Thomas Dekker, Thomas Heywood and William Shakespeare, Sir Thomas More, ed. Vittorio Gabrieli and Giorgio Melchiori (Manchester, 1990). Nashe, Pierce Penilesse, p. 213; see also Peter Corbin and Douglas Sedge, eds, The Oldcastle Controversy: Sir John Oldcastle, Part I and the Famous Victories of Henry V (Manchester, 1991), p. 24.



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One reason for this was that the France of 1589–93 was momentarily a mirror of the hope of the Hundred Years War, before Henri IV’s conversion and assassination finally smashed it. For a brief moment, Henri was England’s darling, when it looked as though a Protestant might actually sit on the throne of France. As Lord Burghley marvelled in 1589, ‘The state of the world is marveleossly changed when we trew englishmen have cause for our own quietnes, to wish good succes to a french Kyng’.46 As Williams argues, the French Wars of Religion briefly ‘transformed an English ambition into a Protestant cause’. But Henri’s conversion forced the recognition of the irreversible religious difference and the irrecoverability of the past: ‘By the end of the sixteenth century, the dream of military conquest in France had evaporated.’47 France was an ‘alienated heritage’ for the Tudors, the lost and longed-for object of English expansion, which every member of that dynasty fantasised about repossessing. Hillman argues that ‘London theatre audiences were immersed with particular intensity in the discourses of French affairs throughout the last decade of the sixteenth century’.48 The Hundred Years War had always been intermittent and prolonged, and the Tudor monarchs gave the same fitful impression as their Lancastrian predecessors that they might, at several points, renew it. Tudor writers envisaged themselves living the legacy of medieval history, and the conflict dramatised by the chronicle plays was by no means imagined as having ended conclusively in 1453 with the loss of Bordeaux, or even in 1558 with the loss of Calais. But the 1590s was a decade of endings: the Wars of Religion showed the cultural and religious breach to be far wider than the thin strip of water. It spelled the final end, in many ways, of the Hundred Years War. It also saw the end of the old regime: fifteen privy councillors, including Walsingham, died between 1588 and 1596, followed by Cecil in 1598, Essex in 1601 and the queen herself in 1603.49 In bringing medieval history to the stage in the brief genre-experiment that was the history play phenomenon, its dramatists were exploring how the mimeses Tudor England had made for itself were reflecting it in unforeseen and unwelcome ways. The Hundred Years War does not (of course) explain everything, neither about the retrospectivism of the final decade of the Tudarchy nor why the particular flavour of its nationalism should have been so distinctively medievalising. One danger of this longue-durée argument is that it may appear sweeping, in the over-arching narrative it seeks to trace between 1337 and 1600. But the long wars with France did, I contend, set in motion a particular literary response in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries; which in turn left a specific legacy for the linguistic controversies, the nationalism and the literature of the sixteenth century.

46

47 48 49

The Talbot Papers, Lambeth Palace Library, London, reel 5 (vol. I) (East Ardsley, 1984), 11r, cited by Joanna Craigwood, ‘Diplomatic Metonymy and Antithesis in 3 Henry VI’, Review of English Studies 65:272 (2014), 812–30. Williams, The French Fetish, p. 217. Hillman, Shakespeare, Marlowe and the Politics of France, pp. 13, 2. See R. B. Outhwaite, ‘Dearth, the English Crown and the “Crisis of the 1590s”’, in The European Crisis of the 1590s: Essays in Comparative History, ed. Peter Clark (London, 1985), pp. 23–43.

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Shakespeare’s histories: the word in the sword50 First, a number of preliminaries. I use the term ‘Shakespeare’ as a placeholder in the case of texts produced collaboratively, following Frank Kermode’s axiom that ‘what we mean, or ought to mean, by “Shakespeare” is not some semidivine, inerrant individual but the corpus of plays we agree to call by his name’.51 Questions surrounding authorship are not addressed, since they have been comprehensively tackled elsewhere and are not germane to my argument.52 Second, in tracing the narration of the Hundred Years War from fourteenth-­ century chronicles to sixteenth-century dramatisation, I do not claim that Shakespeare was directly familiar with medieval sources: I am drawing a line of analogy rather than genealogy. Neither Geoffrey Bullough nor Robert Miola concludes that Shakespeare had access to the medieval chronicles other than through Holinshed, Hall and Stow, and I have not found evidence to suggest otherwise.53 However, it is not surprising to find him amplifying their ideas of mimetic historical language. Historiography lent itself to self-scrutiny. History plays were not only the inheritors of the chronicle tradition, but its enactors: the theatre was more public than the chronicle, and more self-aware of the problematic nature of its representation. Third, although this discussion is limited to Shakespearean history plays (broadly defined), it hopes to give a wide berth to the bardolatrous criticism that treats Shakespeare as his own referent. Though he was remarkable in having had a hand in the composition of the complete cycle from Edward III to Henry VII, his plays belonged to a wider 1590s impulse, and his tetralogic oeuvre was itself part of a larger one. Tillyard’s conception of Shakespeare’s histories as ‘a single integrated vision of English history’, playing out the curse that fell upon the English dynasty with Richard II’s deposition and was only lifted with the Tudor accession, has much to answer for in the unity and singularity of purpose it attributes to the ‘Shakespearean’ presentation of history, and criticism is still dominated by responses to and refutations of this hypothesis.54 Pertinently, in the light of Tillyard, the expectations that attend the term ‘tetralogy’ need to be nuanced: it is misleading if it implies that the nine-part 50 51 52

53

54

I am indebted to Palmer for this phrase (Language and Conquest, pp. 122–3). Frank Kermode, Shakespeare’s Language (London, 2000), p. 129. For authorship, see Stanley Wells, Gary Taylor, William Montgomery and John Jowett, William Shakespeare: A Textual Companion (New York and London, 1997); Gary Taylor, ‘Shakespeare and Others: The Authorship of Henry the Sixth, Part One’, Medieval and Renaissance Drama in England 7 (1995), 145–205; Grene, Shakespeare’s Serial History Plays, pp. 12–24; Ricks, Shakespeare’s Emergent Form, pp. 37–8; Riggs, Shakespeare’s Heroical Histories, pp. 93–5. The older, classic study is Peter Alexander, Shakespeare’s Henry VI and Richard III (Cambridge, 1929). Geoffrey Bullough, ed., Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, 8 vols (London, 1957– 75), vol. III: Earlier English History Plays (1960) and vol. IV: Later English History Plays (1962); Robert Miola, Shakespeare’s Reading (Oxford, 2000). For Shakespeare’s manipulation of his chronicle sources, see Ricks, Shakespeare’s Emergent Form, p. 98; and Robert Adgar Law, ‘The Chronicles and the Three Parts of Henry VI’, University of Texas Studies in English 33 (1954), 13–32. Grene, Shakespeare’s Serial History Plays, p. 4; see E. M. W. Tillyard, Shakespeare’s History Plays (London, 1969); see also David L. Frey, The First Tetralogy: Shakespeare’s Scrutiny of the Tudor



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sequence was designed as such. Shakespeare did not begin with a superstructure: his choice to start with Henry VI was unlikely to have been as self-conscious as the decision to end with his father. Ricks argues that ‘it is difficult to imagine … the audience … thinking in terms of tetralogies, or even more sophisticated, double tetralogies’,55 and Grene calls the second tetralogy an ‘incremental’ rather than a ‘master’ series.56 However, as the cycle took shape, Shakespeare pondered the potential of making history circular: moments of conscious echo became extra-­temporal comments about the experience of performative history. The inverted order of composition (the first tetralogy dramatised the events of 1420–85, the second those of 1380–1420) made Shakespeare’s histories intertextual, bringing an over-arching self-awareness to the mimetic fallacy and turning history into prophecy. However, this self-awareness was not preconceived; it evolved over the course of the decade, as the three-part sequence became a nine-part one, its fortuitously inverted composition conducive to the theatrically apposite suggestion of circular history. The reversed chronology raises a deeper question, however: why did Shakespeare, in the early 1590s, start with Henry VI? Caldwell comments, At a moment when feeling over home territory and anxiety over the threat of invasion were running high and before he chose to represent Henry V … Shakespeare staged the death of heroism, the loss of Normandy, the popular rebellion of Jack Cade, and the … War of the Roses. Few critics have managed, to any remarkable degree, to establish why.57

That question is one I address in this chapter, pondering what happened not only to the arc of the historical narrative, but to its themes of nationalism and glory, ignominy and humiliation, when its trenchant linearity was rendered cannabalistically cyclical. This analysis offers two arguments, one over-arching and the other local. The second interrogates what Shakespeare’s staging of the Hundred Years War did to the medieval idea of mimetic language. But the first concerns the ways in which the linguistic mimesis itself functioned as a mimesis of the theatre’s representation of history, and the looping tetralogic narrative replaced the linear historical one. When Shakespeare’s Alençon remembers that ‘Froissard, a countryman of ours, records / England all Olivers and Rolands bred / During the time Edward the Third did reign’ (H6I: 1.2.29–31), it is more than a reference to Froissart’s chronicle: it is a reference to Edward III (itself heavily reliant on Berners’s Froissart), in which audiences had witnessed the events he recalls.58 This intertextuality is reinforced when, in Henry V, King Charles remembers ‘our too much memorable shame / When Cressy

55 56 57 58

Myth, a Dramatic Exploration of Divine Providence (The Hague and Paris, 1976), p. 1; Edward I. Berry, Patterns of Decay: Shakespeare’s Early Histories (Charlottesville, VA, 1975), pp. ix, 11. Ricks, Shakespeare’s Emergent Form, p. 32; see also Grene, Shakespeare’s Serial History Plays, pp. 24–30. Grene, Shakespeare’s Serial History Plays, p. 24. Caldwell, ‘The Hundred Years War and National Identity’, p. 252. For theatrical remembrance, see Hillman, Shakespeare, Marlowe and the Politics of France, pp. 8–9; Jones, These Valiant Dead, pp. 127–8; Robert Metcalf Smith, Froissart and the English Chronicle Play (New York, 1915).

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battle fatally was struck’ (H5: 2.4.53–4). The plays are aptly called ‘chronicle plays’ not only because of their content, but because the tetralogy form functioned as a self-­referencing, self-enclosed chronicle. Ben Jonson’s Fitzdottrell, when called ‘cunning i’the chronicle’, explains ‘I confesse I ha’t from the play-books’,59 and perhaps he spoke for many who knew their history not from chronicles but from the stage. These moments did more than make the historical lens panoramic: they drew attention to the playhouse as a self-­ referential world, aware of its hermeneutic power over history. Simultaneously, they drew attention to the essential writtenness of history. Chronicles exhibited a fascination with translation from deed into word, and this relation became more taut because the theatrical mimesis was total. The hermeneutic lock was felt and seen, as walking, breathing characters declared themselves ciphers, shadows and empty words. Love’s Labour’s Lost foregrounded the fact that its theatrical world was created by and predicated on linguistic mimesis, but the same paradox pertained (and was more pressing for) the histories, whose subject was not fiction but (according to Riche) ‘exact truth’. Edward III and Henry VI, Parts I, II and III The discussion begins with the early history plays. Edward III (written c. 1590, printed 1596) was the first history play Shakespeare had a hand in. It is somewhat neglected, by the metric of Shakespeare studies: criticism has historically focused on establishing the extent of its collaborative authorship and hunting for ‘Shakespearean’ passages, although some critics have broadened the discussion.60 Likewise, there has been comparatively little criticism of the first tetralogy: it suffers from its reputation as the less accomplished younger sibling of the second, and scholarship not devoted to the vexed question of authorship is often still written in the shadow of Tillyard. Nonetheless, the first tetralogy has gained important critical traction,61

59 60

61

Ben Jonson, The Devil Is an Ass, 2.4.12–13, in The Complete Plays of Ben Jonson, ed. G. A. Wilkes (Oxford, 1982), vol. IV, p. 163. For date, see Melchiori’s introduction, pp. 3–9; and Karl P. Wentersdorf, ‘The Date of Edward III’, Shakespeare Quarterly 16 (1965), 227–31. For authorship and performance, see M. W. A. Smith, ‘The Authorship of The Raigne of King Edward the Third’, Literary and Linguistic Computing, 6 (1991), 166–75; Robert Metcalf Smith, ‘Edward III (a Study of the Authorship of the Drama in the Light of a New Source)’, Journal of English and Germanic Philology 10 (1911), 90–104; and MacD. P. Jackson, ‘Edward III, Shakespeare, and Pembroke’s Men’, Notes and Queries 210 (1965), 329–31. For quantitative linguistic analysis, see Inna Koskenniemi, ‘Themes and Imagery in Edward III’, Neophilologische Mitteilungen 65 (1964), 446–80; and Alfred Hart, ‘The Vocabulary of Edward III’, in Shakespeare and the Homilies and Other Pieces of Research into the Elizabethan Drama (Melbourne, 1934), pp. 219–41. For thematic discussion, see Larry S. Champion, ‘“Answere in this perillous time”: Ideological Ambivalence in The Raigne of King Edward III and the English Chronicle Plays’, English Studies 69:2 (1988), 117–29. For history as a dramatic theme, see Rackin, Stages of History; Scott Kastan, Shakespeare and the Shapes of Time; and John Blanpied, Time and the Artist in Shakespeare’s English Histories (Newark, DE, 1983). For the idea of degenerative tragedy, see J. P. Brockbank, ‘The Frame of Disorder: Henry VI’, in Shakespeare’s Histories: An Anthology of Modern Criticism, ed. William A. Armstrong (Harmondsworth, 1972), pp. 92–122; Riggs, Shakespeare’s Heroical Histories,



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and the most pertinent previous study is Walsh’s, who reads it as centrally concerned with ‘the very concept of playing the past’. His argument that ‘Henry VI, Part I proposes that to perform history in the Elizabethan popular theatre is not to render the past more accessible but to stage a confrontation with the past’s elusiveness’, is supported and amplified by this discussion.62 However, what Walsh is unable to do within the confines of an article is to consider the ways in which both the macrocosmic metatheatrical structure and the microcosmic mimetic language mutually informed the theme of performing history, situating the early histories within the longer historiographical tradition and the wider debate surrounding ‘writing history’ cultivated by the Inkhorn Controversy. This is what I aim to do, beginning with the triumphant mimetic language with which Edward’s conquests and Talbot’s defence of them were enacted, before turning to the ways in which the loss of France figures the loss of linguistic mimesis in Henry VI Parts II and III. Edward III’s metatheatrical agenda of connecting past and present manifests itself repeatedly: early in the opening scene, the Black Prince declares, ‘we do commence / A famous war’ (E3: 1.1.1456), with a temporal sleight of hand that draws attention, through the anachronism, to the theatricality of history. It must be the actor and not the character who makes this statement, commenting on a later significance that (in character) he could not know. This performative self-awareness is apparent in the way that the the play consistently portrays history in textual metaphors: the prince remarks of Audley’s scars, ‘stratagems forepast with iron pens / Are texted in thine honorable face’ (E3: 4.4.129–30). The king praises ‘the fiery vigor of thy words’ (E3: 1.1.44); and the Black Prince exclaims, ‘Defiance, Frenchman! we rebound it back / Even to the bottom of thy master’s throat’ (E3: 1.1.89–90), and makes good his verbiage on the battlefield: Look not for cross invectives at our hands, Or railing execrations of despite. Let creeping serpents, [hid] in hollow banks, Sting with their tongues, we have remorseless swords, And they shall plead for us and our affairs …    All the remorseless poison of thy throat Is scandalous and most notorious lies.

(E3: 3.3.97–101, 102–3)

This emblematic presence of the word in the sword (as it was in Soliman and Perseda) is a lexical image that recurs. Before Poitiers, the surrounded and outnumbered prince is still asserting ‘tell the King / My tongue is made of steel’ (E3: 4.4.81–2).

62

p. 100; Berry, Patterns of Decay; Ricks, Shakespeare’s Emergent Form; Walsh, ‘Unkind Division’, p. 128. For language, see Lull, ‘Plantagenets, Lancastrians, Yorkists and Tudors’; for collaborative authorship, see Taylor, ‘Shakespeare and Others’. For the shadow/substance metaphor, see Joanna Craigwood, ‘The Poetics of Embassy: Literature and Diplomacy in Early Modern England 1580–1630’ (unpublished PhD thesis, University of Cambridge, 2011). Walsh, ‘Unkind Division’, pp. 122, 120.

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He insists upon the word mastering the stage-world, and will not allow either his adversary or the audience to forget that it is an edifice of language. Moreover, it is a language that is metatheatrical as much as it is metatextual, as Edward calls the French king a ‘counterfeit’, or player (E3: 3.3.83). Long before the Lancastrian canker, illegitimacy is the image of the theatre. The French king is an actor claiming an unlawful crown; yet he is also a counterfeit just by being an actor. The lack of correspondence between the usurper and the king mirrors the deeper discrepancy between history and the history play. Each claims to be the original, yet each effaces and replaces that original in the ‘act’ of representation. Henry VI Part I (c. 1591) likewise describes war in linguistic metaphors, marking etymological battle lines and drawing attention to the word in the sword. Shakespeare’s soldiers tend to be keen linguistic theorists, exemplified in an exchange between the Dauphin and Sir William Lucy after the defeat at the siege of Bordeaux: CHARLES: LUCY:



On what submissive message art thou sent? Submission, Dolphin? ’tis a mere French word; We English warriors wot not what it means.

(H6I: 4.7.53–5)

Lucy rejects not only the Dauphin’s premise, but his word. The concept of submission is embodied by its signifying lexeme, which he remarkably and speciously declares to be meaningless in English. He reverts to archaism and alliteration in his repudiation, a staunch defiance expressed in exaggerated poetics and lexis. Other encounters with French words in Part I have a similar flavour. After the death of Salisbury, Talbot promises, Puzel or puzzel, Dolphin or dogfish, Your hearts I’ll stamp out with my horse’s heels, And make a quagmire of your mingled brains.

(H6I: 1.4.107–9)

As Grene points out, the ‘historical Talbot’ would have ‘spoken French quite as fluently as English, but it suits Shakespeare to make his character a monoglot Englishman whose perceived ignorance of the words “pucelle” and “dauphin” is the mark of his plainspeaking superiority’.63 The anglicisation of these antitheses debases the French titles. Talbot’s bowdlerisation insinuates both ‘puzzle’ (prostitute) and ‘pizzle’ (penis), instead of ‘pucelle’ (virgin); ‘dogfish’ was a cheap, low-quality fish, compared with ‘dolphin’, the highest. The multiplicity of these imperfect, insulting transliterations is deliberate: another moment of militant division thrust between English and French, whose proper meeting-place is alleged to be under Talbot’s horse’s heels. The language of the French themselves is presented as familiarly slippery. It is with ‘fair persuasions mix’d with sug’red words’ that Joan ‘will entice the Duke of Burgundy’: the Dauphin urges her, ‘Speak, Pucelle, and enchant him with thy words’ (H6I: 3.3.18–19, 40). Burgundy declares that her ‘haughty words’ have ‘batt’red me 63

Grene, Shakespeare’s Serial History Plays, p. 68.



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like roaring cannon-shot’ (H6I: 3.3.78–9). Yet Joan’s words do not just bewitch courtiers and summon demons; they invoke tetralogic memories of the very words with which Burgundy will (or did, according to the chronology of events rather than composition) plead with Henry V at the end of his eponymous play. Joan begs him to ‘look on fertile France’ and her ‘most unnatural wounds’ (H6I: 3.3.44, 50); so the younger Burgundy, in the later play, will plead in the same terms, for ‘fertile France’ against ‘unnatural’ devastation (H5: 5.2.37, 62). The character of Burgundy across the two tetralogies is anchored by these totemic phrases, which he hears first from Joan, and then (counter-intuitively) hears Joan repeat back to him.64 ‘Sugared words’ haunt, and structure, the first tetralogy: Henry VI little knows that he too is repeating the conjurations of the French witch when he warns Suffolk, ‘Hide not thy poison with such sug’red words’ (H6II: 3.2.45). The language that Joan seeded in Part I initiates a sequence of deliberate echoes, which signal moments of self-conscious cyclicity. This is an intertextuality made metatextual by the inverted order of composition: it is at these points that it makes sense to talk about tetralogy, when characters quote others whom historically they precede, and step momentarily (like the Black Prince-actor) outside the historical continuum to comment upon it. They rewrite the linearity of history as circularity, (re)created by language. In Part II, mimetic language gains momentum when the war moves to English soil. The treasonous Suffolk is characterised by his predilection for a sugary lexis. His linguistic authority is French, just as his adulterous loyalty is not to his sovereign but to his sovereign’s wife. When he meets his murderer and learns that his name is Walter, fulfilling the prophecy that he would die at the hands of someone of that name, he exclaims, Yet let not this make thee be bloody-minded; Thy name is Gualtier, being rightly sounded.

(H6II: 4.1.36–7)

Suffolk attempts to escape the prophecy that he would die by ‘water’ (a punning homophone for Walter) by expunging the homophone through translation. In a reversal of the way in which Henry V will translate his French princess into an English queen by calling her ‘Kate’, Suffolk attempts to rewrite his destiny by translating his murderer into French by calling him ‘Gualtier’. The inspiration for this moment probably came from the chronicles: Fabyan mentions ‘a knyght called syr Galtyer or walter de Magny’ who was an emissary of the Flemings,65 whose translatable identity (‘Galtyer or walter’) presumably reflected his ambassadorial role. However, Suffolk’s desired translation is ineffectual: his addressee replies, ‘Gualtier or Walter, which it is, I care not’ (H6II: 4.1.38). Resistance to translation is characteristic of the English

64

65

It is interesting to note the trajectory of ‘sugred eloquence’ from when Caxton, Lydgate, Dunbar and Pynson praised it in Chaucer and in each other, to Shakespeare’s indictment of it in Joan: see discussion on p. 183. Robert Fabyan, Fabyans Cronycle Newly Prynted (London, 1533), sig. QQir–v, p. LXCIr–v; see also Stow, Abridgement, J.8.viiiv, p. 128, K.2.iiv, p. 132, where he is called both ‘Walter Manny’ and ‘Gualter Many’.

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in France; and Walter bluntly rejects the idea that his identities are divisible, that Suffolk may rewrite his destiny in a different language. In contrast to Suffolk, other characters are defined by their staunchly anti-French lexis. The quintessential gentrified farmer Iden, ‘a poor esquire of Kent, that loves his king’ (H6II: 5.1.75), speaks in compounds such as ‘steadfast-gazing’ (H6II: 4.10.45). The doggedly devoted Gloucester speaks in what Kermode calls ‘simple, outmoded alliteration’, and ‘old-style affectedness’:66 he calls his king ‘my liefest liege’, shackling French courtly obeisance to an Old English retainer’s loyalty (H6II: 3.1.164). His alliterative diction is pronounced, here and in Part I when he rails at Winchester, Presumptuous priest, this place commands my patience … Thy lewd, pestiferous, and dissentious pranks, As very infants prattle of thy pride.

(H6I: 3.1.8, 15–16)

Such plosive flyting is characteristic of Winchester and Gloucester’s feud: Gloucester’s ‘Peel’d priest’ is matched by Winchester’s ‘thou most usurping proditor, / And not Protector’ (H6I: 1.3.30–2). Winchester’s pun destabilises Gloucester’s archaic rhetoric, insinuating the instability of language in which the concepts of regent and traitor can be phonetically so familiar as proditor (traitor) and protector. Gloucester is loyal, and his lexis reflects his allegiance; but he is surrounded by characters whose linguistic identities are less transparent and more manipulable. He is out-alliterated by Winchester, and out-Englished by a consummately fluent Frenchwoman. Margaret places herself in direct competition with Gloucester, demanding Is all thy comfort shut in Gloucester’s tomb? Why then, Dame [Margaret] was ne’er thy joy.

(H6II: 3.2.78–9)

Her lexicon is explicitly competitive: Henry is ‘mine alder-liefest sovereign’ (H6II: 1.1.28): alder is an arcane genitive prefix, meaning ‘dearest of all’, a form not found elsewhere in Shakespeare, although a common sixteenth-century epithet more generally. Henry unwittingly joins in on anglicising Margaret’s speech, declaring himself enraptured by her ‘words yclad with wisdom’s majesty’ (H6II: 1.1.33), archaically prefixing his register with a Spenserian touch (y for the Old English past participle prefix ge), which one editor reads as a ‘response to Margaret’s “alderliefest”’.67 Parts I and II begin to stage a segregation along lexical lines, a war of words that is mimetic in the same way as it was in the chronicles. However, with the loss of France, the robust pugnacity of English rhetoric cannot hold. Hearing of Suffolk’s backhanded matrimonial arrangement, Warwick exclaims WARWICK: And are the cities that I got with wounds

Deliver’d up again with peaceful words? Mort Dieu! …

66 67

Kermode, Shakespeare’s Language, p. 36. William Shakespeare, King Henry VI Part II, ed. Ronald Knowles (London, 1999), p. 151.



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SALISBURY: Then let’s make haste away, and look unto the main. WARWICK: Unto the main? O father, Maine is lost!

That Maine which by main force Warwick did win, And would have kept so long as breath did last!

(H6II: 1.1.121–3, 208–11)

His indignation at the all-too-easy equivalence of words and war leads him, punningly, into the realisation that hard-won Maine has become just a word, ‘main’; just as his French oath, ‘Mort Dieu’, is a meaningless expression of exasperation rather than anything akin to a prayer. The ‘main force’ of his main forte is rendered, through the bilingual pun, into mere words: an oath as insubstantial as the King of Navarre’s in Love’s Labour’s Lost. With the loss of France, the signifier has lost its signified: France, it transpires, operated as the guarantor of English meaning, the security given for English oaths. Warwick’s realisation that language cannot conjure initiates the gradual replacement of physical violence with its linguistic metaphor, as the absent referent derails the claim to referentiality. As Walsh comments, this ‘language of loss’ is one of the ‘organizing principles’ of the plot’s steady process of undoing.68 In Part I, in contrast, when France was still to be fought for, the vocabulary of warfare was clean. The distinction between words and deeds was binary: Bedford, hearing of Burgundy’s defection, declared ‘let no words, but deeds, revenge this treason!’; Gloucester asserted to Winchester, ‘I will not answer thee with words, but blows’ (H6I: 3.2.48; 1.3.69). However, this distinction collapses when the war moves to English soil. The sons of York, while they are united in their father’s cause, initially employ the same binary words/blows rhetoric: QUEEN: YORK: EDWARD: RICHARD:

His sons, he says, shall give their words for him. Will you not, sons? Ay, noble father, if our words will serve. And if words will not, then our weapons shall.

(H6II: 5.1.137–40)

The Lancastrians respond in kind: CLIFFORD: I will not bandy with thee word for word,

But buckler with thee blows, twice two for one.

(H6III: 1.4.49–50)

However, starting with Margaret’s sugary speech, Parts II and III expose mimetic language (as Love’s Labour’s Lost did) to be at the rotten core of the saga. The rhetoric of blows and deeds breaks down, revealing the binary to be a theatrical phantasm; and perhaps (as in Love’s Labour’s Lost), it is because ‘the nexus between word and deed … the oath, the vow, the pledge’, which functioned as ‘the guarantee of meaningfulness in the correlation between utterance and action’, no longer stands.69 Relating the death of his father, Richard begins, 68 69

Walsh, ‘Unkind Division’, p. 126. Knowles, Shakespeare’s Arguments with History, p. 19.

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       if we should recompt Our baleful news, and at each word’s deliverance Stab poniards in our flesh till all were told, The words would add more anguish than the wounds. O valiant lord, the Duke of York is slain!

(H6III: 2.1.96–100)

The most powerful articulation of this idea that words are deadlier than wounds is by the cycle’s eponymous king, who, listening to his murderer relate the death of his son, pleads, Ah, kill me with thy weapon, not with words! My breast can better brook thy dagger’s point Than can my ears that tragic history.

(H6III: 5.6.26–8)

Richard’s chronicling turns out to be more lethal than his knife. King Henry is killed with words; and his own last words make sure that the audience knows the difference. This is not history, it is ‘tragic history’, fictionalised playhouse history, subject to the mortal, and not the immortalising, power of language. Henry’s last words are the more powerful because they are some of the few he has been allowed to utter since the beginning of Part III. The erosion of the royal right to language goes hand in hand with the loss of France. It begins when Henry allows himself to admit, ‘I know not what to say, my title’s weak’ (H6III: 1.1.134). The ontological kingship and its sacred semantics are things he has knowingly usurped. Instead he acknowledges himself an imperfect signifier, an actor, a shadow. The relation of legitimacy and language, usurpation and performance, will be discussed in greater detail below: but where Henry V forged his royal language by conquest, his son tries to avail himself of it without prosecuting its corresponding action – to enjoy the benefits of mimetic language without the praxis. France is the lacuna at the heart of the king’s language, and the reason for his silencing. Twenty lines earlier, Henry had tried to plead his father’s right: ‘I am the son of Henry the Fift, / Who made the Dolphin and the French to stoop’ (H6III: 1.1.107–8); but he was silenced by Warwick, who had already observed (in the equivalent scene in Part II) that the loss of France means the loss of language: ‘Talk not of France, sith thou hast lost it all’ (H6III: 1.1.110). Henry’s boast is only effective in France, the absent presence that saps his words of their referentiality. To talk of France, having lost it, renders sacral royal speech bankrupt. The process of royal silencing escalates throughout Part III. The Lancastrian legitimacy crisis and the conquest of France were two sides of the same coin: ‘No king of England, if not king of France!’ (H5: 2.2.194). Gradually the Lancastrians close ranks and silence the cipher-king, firstly privately, KING: QUEEN:

Then openly:

Stay, gentle Margaret, and hear me speak. Thou hast spoke too much already; get thee gone.

(H6III: 1.1.257–8)



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KING: Have done with words, my lords, and hear me speak. QUEEN: Defy them then, or else hold close thy lips. KING: I prithee give no limits to my tongue,

I am a king, and privileg’d to speak.

CLIFFORD: My liege, the wound that bred this meeting here

Cannot be cur’d by words; therefore, be still.

(H6III: 2.2.117–22)

Henry’s claim to privileged speech is an embodied irony. The lie is not only the usurpation; it is the theatricality which is the image of illegitimacy. The actor-king playing the usurper-king draws attention to the fallacy at the heart of both Tudor history and theatrical history. There is one final aspect to the first tetralogy’s exploration of linguistic mimesis. As mentioned above, two out of three instances of the word inkhorn in Shakespeare’s corpus occur in the Henry VI plays.70 In Chapter 4 I suggested that the nationalistic anti-eloquence rhetoric of the Inkhorn Controversy was fuelled by the scarcely-ended wars with France, and that the lingering linguistic aggression of the Hundred Years War, stoked at times of expedience, enabled the emotional indignation against borrowed words to masquerade as nationalistic indignation. Shakespeare’s use of inkhorn in staging the conflict with France was a reanimation of this imagery, making the linguistic controversy explicitly about England’s history. The first instance is when Gloucester’s servingman asserts,    ere that we will suffer such a prince, So kind a father of the commonweal, To be disgraced by an inkhorn mate, We and our wives and children all will fight, And have our bodies slaught’red by thy foes.

(H6I: 3.1.97–101)

The phrase ‘inkhorn Mate’ is glossed as ‘a low-status scribe’, a slight at Winchester’s status as a mere cleric. Yet the French context is significant: England is vulnerable from within and without, the king is a child, his nobles factious and ambitious. The rivalry between Gloucester and Winchester, no less than that between Somerset and York, is a faultline along which the fragile unity will fracture. Inkhorn epitomises conflict within the camp rather than outside it. The linguistic warfare between Gloucester and Winchester is interior to English, just as inkhorn words were the interior enemy: inkhorn is linguistic civil war. The second instance makes the image of linguistic aggression more overt. It occurs during Cade’s rebellion, when Cade passes sentence on the Clerk of Chartham who ‘can write and read and cast accompt’ (H6II: 4.2.85–6): ‘Away with him, I say! Hang him with his pen and inkhorn about his neck’ (H6II: 4.2.109–10) However, when the wrath of the mob falls on Lord Saye, it is for more than just literacy:

70

The third is Dogberry’s: ‘bid him bring his pen and inkhorn to the jail’ (Much Ado About Nothing, 3.5.58).

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BUTCHER: We’ll have the Lord Say’s head for selling the dukedom of Maine. CADE: And good reason; for thereby is England main’d and fain to go to with a

staff, but that my puissance holds it up. Fellow kings, I tell you that Lord Say hath gelded the commonwealth, and made it an eunuch; and more than that, he can speak French, and therefore he is a traitor. STAFFORD: O gross and miserable ignorance! CADE: Nay, answer if you can. The Frenchmen are our enemies. Go to then, I ask but this: can he that speaks with the tongue of an enemy be a good counsellor, or no? (H6II: 4.2.160–72)

Cade represents his uprising as a revolution against eloquence: the clerk’s physical inkhorn symbolises his criminal letteredness. However, the battle between the elite and the proletariat is depicted as a battle between English and French. The objection to French is still on appropriated political, not social, grounds, ‘the tongue of an enemy’, not just the patois of the privileged. As Caldwell argues, this is not a moment of ‘demonizing of the lower classes’ but rather ‘a negotiated representation of la guerre de Cent ans on the English home front’, as ‘anxieties about losing [France] helped disguise domestic economic depression’: after all, ‘anti-Gallic sentiment … played well’.71 Under Cade’s regime, language incriminates, and francophony makes a Frenchman. The repercussions of this vignette extend beyond the rebellion: Cade’s echo of Warwick’s pun on ‘Maine’ suggests that the cracks that appeared in 1.1 are the same now inverting the social order in 4.2. The linguistic fissures widen to show French still at the heart of English conflict. Punning on ‘Maine’ is a leitmotif like ‘sugared words’ and ‘fertile France’: its repetition gestures beyond itself to the superstructure of play and cycle. The historical mimesis becomes linguistically solipsistic: the theatre of war is not the place where history, like an organic being, is revived and preserved, but where, like a revenant, it is recreated. Henry V and The Famous Victories Shakespeare began, c. 1590–92, by staging the beginning and the end of the Hundred Years War, Edward III’s victories and Henry VI’s losses; but he ended with the high-point in between. Henry V (c. 1599) was his most famous dramatisation of the Hundred Years War. Arguably, it was also the play that interrogated most explicitly the fallible enterprise of theatrical mimesis, giving history a ‘chorus’ that perpetually comments not only on the unfolding action but the incapacity of the playhouse to represent it. Traditional investigations of Shakespeare’s vision of theatricality have seized upon statements (like Jaques’s famous aphorism ‘all the world’s a stage’) that seem to assert the likeness and contiguity between theatre and life, the Globe and the globe, in idealistic praise of the holistic mimesis that the playhouse ostensibly holds out. Admiration is usually directed at its ‘perfect’ distillation of human experience, its

71

Caldwell, ‘The Hundred Years War and National Identity’, p. 253.



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lifelikeness; as with Kastan’s belief in the the history plays’ ability to depict ‘history itself ’. However, this was not (I suggest) Shakespeare’s belief; at least not in his early plays. Hamlet’s maxim that ‘the purpose of playing … is, to hold as ’twere the mirror up to nature’ (Ham.: 3.2.17–19) has been quoted too often out of context as though it were his creator’s vision-statement. In fact it suggests a much more subtle relationship between the mirror and nature: Hamlet shows in relief what the Chorus of Henry V insists upon throughout. For Hamlet, unable to translate his interior self into actions without the galvanising power of theatricality (his own and others’), the statement is intrinsically deceptive. ‘I have that within which passes show’, he maintains (Ham.: 1.2.85). His soliloquy on the Pyrrhus-speech articulates a very different view of theatre: one that offers only ‘a fiction’, ‘a dream’ (Ham.: 2.2.552) while Hamlet, the living original of the actor’s emotion, ‘can say nothing’, or rather, ‘must like a whore unpack my heart with words’ (Ham.: 2.2.569, 585). In his conceit, language becomes a bawd: the true likeness he seeks in the mirror of nature is exposed as ‘words, words, words’ (Ham.: 2.2.192). This mirror holds up not a true copy, but an inversion, a distortion, an opposite (as all reflections are). Hamlet’s theatre is a prism of infinite reflections of an absent object. Ultimately the rest, the inaccessible reality, is silence.72 This undermining of the theatrical is exactly what the Chorus makes structurally integral to Henry V. It is not usually numbered among the plays that stage a play within a play, but the Chorus makes the action persistently function in this inset way.73 Agincourt is a ‘brawl ridiculous’ disgraced by ‘four or five most vile and ragged foils’ (H5: 4.0.50–1). The ‘flat unraised spirits’ are but ‘ciphers’ and ‘crooked figure[s]’ attesting something they cannot show; it is ‘your thoughts that now must deck our kings’ (H5: Prologue, 9, 15, 17, 28). This metaphor of the ‘crooked figure’ and the ‘cipher’ (the figure of zero) objectifies the absence at the heart of mimesis: the play is reduced merely to the graph of 0, the quantity of nothing. Yet it is also the ‘wooden O’, the cipher’s (and the theatre’s) literal shape (H5: Prologue, 13). The strangeness of this annulment within its own apology is acknowledged in the closing request, ‘admit me Chorus to this history’ (H5: Prologue, 32), which interrogates what kind of ‘history’ needs a ‘Chorus’. It transposes the self-awareness that Grafton used to celebrate the immortality that language bestowed upon history, but does the opposite: it asserts that history is dead. Only ciphers remain, ‘turning th’accomplishment of many years / Into an hour-glass’ (H5: Prologue, 301). The Chorus is not always read as debunking dramatic historiography; sometimes its presence is read as a celebration of it. However, as Walsh comments, the persistent interruptions of this metatheatrical commentator constitute an ‘exposure of the theater’s representational inadequacy’, crystallising ‘the tension between the desire 72

73

See J. Svartvik and A.-B. Stenström, ‘Words, Words, Words: The Rest is Silence?’ in Papers on Language and Literature: Presented to Alvar Ellegård and Erik Frykman, ed. Sven Bäckman and Göran Kjellmer (Göteborg, 1985), pp. 342–53. For the play-within-a-play in the context of the histories (especially the metaphor of the ‘player king’) see David Bergeron, ‘The Play-within-the-Play in 3 Henry VI’, Tennessee Studies in Literature 22 (1977), 37–45.

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to act out the past and the difficulty – even, perhaps, the absurdity – of doing so’.74 The circling around metaphors of textuality, chronicling, word and deed, shadow and substance, that characterised the first tetralogy, takes full, metadramatic form in the final sally of the second. The Chorus’s epilogue most fully explores its role as perverse chronicler, mediator between and commentator upon past and present: Thus far, with rough and all-unable pen, Our bending author hath pursu’d the story, In little room confining mighty men, Mangling by starts the full course of their glory. Small time; but in that small most greatly lived This star of England. Fortune made his sword; By which the world’s best garden he achieved, And of it left his son imperial lord. Henry the Sixt, in infant bands crowned King Of France and England, did this king succeed; Whose state so many had the managing, That they lost France, and made his England bleed;    Which oft our stage hath shown; and for their sake    In your fair minds let this acceptance take.

(H5: Epilogue, 1–14)

The epilogue is of course a sonnet, and also the first mention (in any of the history plays) of an ‘author’, who stands as interlocutor between history and its audience. The sway the ‘all-unable pen’ wields over the ‘story’ is at last acknowledged. The ‘small time’ during which the theatrical hourglass has watched the rise and fall of ‘this star of England’ is mirrored in the very few lines in which the epilogue dissolves his achievements. This draws into a tight circle the cycle that began and now ends with the death of this king, formalising the moments that have made the second tetralogy a recapitulation of the first. Temporal linearity becomes a loop, with this reference to a future that, in the playhouse, has already happened. Walsh writes, ‘Henry V ends by reminding audiences of what’s to come, and 1 Henry VI begins by reminding audiences of what’s already happened’.75 However, it is also the opposite way round: the future has already happened, and is being anticipated by the past. It would be impossible for an audience in 1599 to watch this last of the history plays without being aware of the transience of its famous victories, as ‘oft our stage hath shown’. Shakespeare’s stage did not lend immortality to history, as Nashe enthused. The Chorus adopts the role of the chronicle prologue, but instead of asserting the ‘continuall memorie’, he initiates its erosion. Part I began by asserting that Henry V was ‘too famous to live long’ (H6I: 1.1.6); the final lines of Henry V confer exactly that mortality upon its eponymous king. However, this play, the cycle’s final and in many ways most cynical curtain call, is also its most triumphant. It stages not the loss of France but its conquest; not 74 75

Walsh, ‘Unkind Division’, p. 123. Ibid., p. 124.



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the erosion of the king’s language, but its vindication: ‘Despite the apologies that precede Henry V, a play is indeed put on. The play’s existence in the face of the Chorus’s comments affirms that the desire to play with history is stronger than the problems such playing entails.’76 The note of triumphalism after the steady progression of decay is arresting. One reason is that behind Henry V stood an earlier play, The Famous Victories of Henry V, which staged Hal’s career from renegade prince to conquering hero, sustaining a ‘mood of uncomplicated jingoism’ throughout.77 The Famous Victories survives in a single, faulty quarto printed by Thomas Creede in 1598, although it was probably played from the early 1590s (demonstrated by Nashe’s reference to it in Pierce Pennilesse in 1592). Its editors remark that ‘although Shakespeare may not have known Famous Victories in the version published by Creede in 1598, he was at least familiar with the play that lies behind this text’, shown by ‘the overall structuring … as well as numerous details’.78 However, although the consonances are many, the dissonances are profound; and they illustrate the ways in which ‘The Cronicle History of Henry the fift’ was querying that identity. In Shakespeare’s engagement with English history at its most glorious (and the Elizabethan history play at its most jubilant), he probes the deception at its heart. The end of his second tetralogy returned deliberately to the beginning of the first, not only to remind the audience that the national epic they had just witnessed took place within a cycle of disintegration, but also to expose the ‘bending author’ behind the ‘story’. The chroniclers had offered eternal fame, and the playhouse had been hailed as the place that made this permanence a vivid and living one. Shakespeare’s reversed sequence instead offered a solipsistic spiral in which the glory was inevitably undercut by the defeat and humiliation. The last of Shakespeare’s Elizabethan histories took as its subject the theatrical representation of history, not history itself, perhaps the reason the characterisation of its protagonist appears so bifurcated.79 James Calderwood, whose work on the second tetralogy is the most significant precursor to this discussion, defines ‘metadrama’ as the situation in which ‘the playwright subjects the nature and materials of his art to radical scrutiny’, adding that the playhouse does not use language ‘as a means of representation, a window onto subject matter, but … as an object of

76 77

78 79

Ibid., p. 123. Corbin and Sedge, The Oldcastle Controversy, p. 24. For authorship and status as source, see Annabel Patterson, ‘The Two Versions of Henry V’, Renaissance Drama n.s.19 (1988), 29–62; Philip Brockbank, ‘Shakespeare: His Histories, English and Roman’, in English Drama to 1710, ed. C. Ricks (London, 1971), pp. 141–81 (168). FV, p. 21. Henry’s ‘dualism’ has received much attention: see Knowles, Shakespeare’s Arguments with History, pp. 3, 88; Jones, These Valiant Dead, p. 128; Sara Munson Deats, ‘Henry V at War: Christian King or Model Machiavel’, in War and Words: Horror and Heroism in the Literature of Warfare, ed. Sara Munson Deats, Lagretta Tallent Lenker and Merry G. Perry (Lanham, MD, 2004), pp. 83–102. This split perspective is something the play seems explicitly to court: Caldwell argues that it ‘has the potential for military heroics and chauvinistic razzing of a traditional enemy, as well as for a dark and skeptical, even cynical reading of those very attitudes’: ‘The Hundred Years War and National Identity’, p. 251.

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representation’.80 Historical writing had for three centuries (and more) been in the habit of self-scrutiny, its conspicuous foregrounding making exactly that distinction; this made the history play simultaneously and paradoxically the place where theatre was at its most metadramatic, and where it had most responsibility to a true external object: where the rift at the heart of the mimesis was widest. Henry V foregrounded this rift. The play is unique in the sheer amount of French it contains, and its engagement with the French language subjected the idea of translation, both literally and as metadramatic metaphor, to sustained scrutiny. Commenting on the irony that the French court is dramatised speaking entirely in English, Calderwood observes, ‘The first words spoken by the French king are “Thus comes the English with full power upon us” [H5: 2.4.1] … by the all-compelling grace of an English playwright King Charles is unwittingly gifted with his enemies’ speech.’81 This would be a cavilling observation (surely the playhouse demands such a ventriloquism?) were it not that there is a scene entirely in French, strategically placed to dramatise the conflict between languages. Although the French are logistically obliged to speak English, they draw conspicuous attention to that obligation as part of the enforced linguistic mimesis of theatre: the French king’s synecdoche refers as much to the English language as to the English forces. Calderwood continues, At the end of the play we have a grand spousal of persons and nations … but of course behind the rituals of international harmony is poised the mailed fist of English nationalism. By the same token, the linguistic version of divine order would be a marrying language that brings French and English under the same verbal roof, a unifying Esperanto presided over by God, best maker of all marriages. But there is no such language at the end of Henry V, and in its absence the King’s English will serve. Indeed, it has served all along … In dramatizing this fact by means of the language lesson … Shakespeare underscores a larger fact: that he has compelled the French to speak Harry’s English throughout.82

Both Henry V and The Famous Victories staged parodic linguistic conflict against this intransigent backdrop. In The Famous Victories, language figures early on as euphemism for both sex and violence. The prince seeks out ‘the old tavern in Eastcheap’ because ‘there is a pretty wench that can – talk well, for I delight as much in their tongues as any part about them’ (FV: II.74–6). John Cobbler calls Harry ‘a toward young prince; for, if he meet any by the highway, he will not let to – talk with him. I dare not call him thief, but sure he is one of these taking fellows’ (FV: II.10–12). ‘Talking’ proves an even more important theme in this play when the action moves from Eastcheap to France: SOLDIER: What are you, my masters? BOTH: Why, we be Englishmen. SOLDIER: Are you Englishmen? Then change your language, for the King’s tents are set a-fire, and all they that speak English will be killed. [Exit SOLDIER] 80 81 82

James L. Calderwood, Metadrama in Shakespeare’s Henriad: Richard II to Henry V (Berkeley, CA, 1979), pp. 1, 3. Ibid., p. 165. Ibid., pp. 164–7.



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What shall we do, Robin? ‘Faith, I’ll shift, for I can speak broken French. ’Faith, so can I. Let’s hear how thou canst speak. Comedevales, monsieur? That’s well. (FV: XVI.6–14)

The ‘broken French’ of these English clowns is exploited in comic scenes in which they variously take and are taken prisoner. Despite their proficiency with Comedevales – a corruption of comment allez-vous? (FV: XVI.13, XIX.4) – Derick is left joking ‘we have not a French word to cast at a dog by the way’, concluding, ‘If it be thy fortune to be hanged, be hanged in thy own language!’ (FV: XIX.50–1, 33–4). There is a grim irony in these buffoonish Anglo-French encounters, and the way in which they expose the (barely concealed) linguistic violence behind the royal negotiations. Scene XVIII begins with Henry declaring pacifically, Now, my good brother of France, my coming into this land was not to shed blood, but for the right of my country; which, if you deny, I am content peaceably to leave my siege and to depart out of your land. (FV: XVIII.1–4)

But this is undercut by the line that preceding it, at the end of Scene XVII: Derick’s exuberant declaration ‘I will away to kill more Frenchmen’ (FV: XVII.19). The polite linguistic agenda is belied by the rigid military one. The escapades of Derick, Robin and John anticipate the comic ‘broken French’ of Pistol: ‘Owy, cuppele gorge, permafoy’ he threatens his prisoner (H5: 4.4.37). He misunderstands ‘ayez pitié de moi!’ (have mercy on me) as an offer of coins, demanding ‘Moy shall not serve, I will have forty moys’ (H5: 4.4.12–13). Ever penurious, to the complaint ‘Est-il impossible d’échapper la force de ton bras?’ (Is it impossible to escape the force of your arm?), he retorts ‘Brass, cur? / Thou damned and luxurious mountain goat, / Offer’st me brass?’ (H5: 4.4.14–20). As Butterfield comments, ‘Pistol’s misunderstandings and mispronouncings touch on comically raw places in the Anglo-French linguistic relationship’. His ‘mongrel Anglo-French jargon’ constitutes a ‘barbarously hybrid response’, rendering risible the prisoner’s pleas for his life.83 Significantly, this ‘broken French’ in the mouths of the violent English abroad, in both Henry V and The Famous Victories, anticipates the ‘broken English’ that is the subject of the equally poised sincerity and mockery of the final scene.84 When Katherine solicits Alice to teach her English, there is already the hint of the linguistic enforcement that Calderwood describes: KATHERINE: Alice, tu as été en Angleterre, et tu bien parles le langage. [Alice, you have

been in England, and you speak the language well.]

83 84

Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, pp. 384, 383–4. ‘Broken French’/’broken English’ is of course not the only linguistic axis this play foregrounds. Equally interesting and thematically important are the cameos given to Welsh, Irish and Scottish English, in the the prominence of Fluellen, MacMorris and Jamy, which there is not space to treat here.

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ALICE: Un peu, madame. [A little, madam] KATHERINE: Je te prie, m’enseignez; il faut que j’apprenne à parler. [I pray you, teach

me; I will need to learn to speak it.]

(H5: 3.4.1–5)

Very rapidly, the English in her mouth becomes ‘mauvais, corruptible, gros, et impudique’ (horrible, corrupted, ungainly and shameful). However, she is forced to dirty her mouth with it. She is Henry’s ‘capital demand’ (H5: 5.2.96), and the wooing scene, for all its playfulness, brings to a climax the function of language as a metonym for conquest. Katherine’s reply to Henry’s request that she become his language tutor exposes his language for what it is: KING:      Fair Katherine, and most fair,

Will you vouchsafe to teach a soldier terms, Such as will enter at a lady’s ear, And plead his love-suit to her gentle heart? KATHERINE: Your Majesty shall mock at me, I cannot speak your England. (H5: 5.2.98–102)

Her metonymic protest (like her father’s ‘Thus comes the English with full power upon us’) demonstrates the equivalence of language and land that underpins Henry’s courtship and his war. She knows she is his victor’s prize: her ‘mock’ crowns his boast to her brother, to ‘mock castles down’, and make ‘many a thousand widows … this his mock mock out of their dear husbands’ (H5: 1.2.284–6). Henry’s coy reply confirms it, translating her own identity into the very un-French ‘Kate’: O fair Katherine, if you will love me soundly with your French heart, I will be glad to hear you confess it brokenly with your English tongue. Do you like me, Kate? (H5: 5.2.104–7)

The only terms on which he will gladly hear her broken English are ‘if you will love me soundly with your French heart’. The conditionality written into the request confronts questions that have been simmering throughout. Can French hearts be expressed in English tongues? Can the languages be mapped onto one another, or do these hinterlands between translation signify uncrossable linguistic and national borders? Henry knows he has no access to her ‘French heart’ other than through her broken English tongue, but in his theatre of love and war, the tongue is all that matters. The linguistic domination goes further with the pun that Katherine (apparently) cannot follow: KATHERINE: Pardonnez-moi, I cannot tell wat is ‘like me’. KING: An angel is like you Kate, and you are like an angel.

(H5: 2.109–110)

Henry purposely mistakes the phrase ‘like me’, taking the opportunity to make a flattering comparison that estranges the tongue further from the heart. He denies her a straight answer to a straight question as he demotes her from an equal conversational partner to a cliché, from a woman to an angel, pivoting away from ‘do you



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like’ (about subjectivity and authority) to ‘are you like’ (about objectivity and disempowerment). Butterfield suggests that behind Henry’s pun lies the oldest of English puns, Gregory’s elision of angli and angeli. Katherine ‘must speak English, she must become an English pun, and this is expressed in an instance of English eloquence that shows English in its oldest foreign characterization’.85 The macaronic pun functions as the kernel of honesty, the core of absence lodged between the two languages, the one thing that defies Henry’s militant translation-­ conquest. In response, Katherine’s own pun passes almost unnoticed: KATHERINE: Que dit-il? Que je suis semblable à les anges? …

KING: ALICE:

O bon Dieu! les langues des hommes sont pleines des tromperies. [What did he say? That I am like an angel? O good God! the tongues of men are full of deceptions.] What says she, fair one? That the tongues of men are full of deceits? Oui, dat de tongues of de mans is be full of deceits: dat is de Princess. (H5: 5.2.111, 115–20)

Henry interprets it as a comment about the language of flirtation, but it is really about the language of entrapment. Her suitor’s words, full of ‘tromperies’, imperfectly gloss (and gloss over) her complaint. Perhaps her reference to these deceitful angels with their golden ‘trompes’ is the more subtle. Henry’s response seizes the linguistic reins again, refusing to acknowledge that Katherine’s pun on langues (languages/tongues) is perhaps the only one that does translate. But Henry will not allow her to allow the linguistic boundaries to shift, and asserts, The Princess is the better Englishwoman. I’faith, Kate, my wooing is fit for thy understanding. I am glad thou canst speak no better English. (H5: 5.2.121–3)

Henry uses Alice, the interpreter, as a pretext for deniability: a pretence that he can speak much less French than he can, and an opportunity to shore up the national and linguistic borders, to reinscribe ‘Kate’ as English and make her part of conquest (linguistic overwriting) and not marriage (linguistic assimilation). His wooing is indeed fit for her understanding, in that she undercuts his every attempt to dress up the political trophyism as the happy union that should end a comedy. He prefers her silence to her perspicacity, and her next remark, ‘Is it possible dat I sould love de ennemie of France?’ (H5: 5.2.169–70) forces him explicitly to elide the languages of love and war, which he has been strongly implying: KING: No, it is not possible that you should love the enemy of France, Kate;

but in loving me, you should love the friend of France; for I love France so well that I will not part with a village of it; I will have it all mine. And Kate, when France is mine and I am yours, then yours is France and you are mine. KATHERINE: I cannot tell wat is dat. (H5: 5.2.171–6) 85

Butterfield, Familiar Enemy, p. 386; see also Butterfield, ‘National Histories’, p. 51.

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Courtship has edged too close to conquest, and the sinister image of possession starts to sour his love-language: I will tell thee in French, which I am sure will hang upon my tongue like a new-married wife about her husband’s neck, hardly to be shook off … It is as easy for me, Kate, to conquer the kingdom as to speak so much more French. (H5: 5.2.178–81, 184–6)

The prince who could drink with any tinker in his own language (H4I: 2.4.18–19) cannot speak to his own wife in hers, as Scott Kastan observes.86 Henry speaks, at his own admission, ‘most truly falsely’ (H5: 5.2.191), as this unhappy conquest-marriage continues in its uncomfortable bilingualism: KING: I kiss your hand, and I call you my queen. KATHERINE: Laissez, mon seigneur, laissez, laissez! Ma foi, je ne veux point que voux

abaissiez votre [grandeur] en baisant la main d’une (Notre Seigneur!) indigne serviteur. Excusez-moi, je vous supplie, mon très-puissant seigneur. [Stop, my lord, stop, stop! By my faith, I would not wish you to debase your majesty in kissing the hand of one (by our Saviour!) of your unworthy servants. Pardon me, I entreat you, my most mighty lord.] KING: Then I will kiss your lips, Kate. KATHERINE: Les dames et demoiselles pour être baisées devant leurs noces, il n’est pas la coutume de France. [For women and girls to be kissed before their wedding is not the custom of France.] KING: Madam my interpreter, what says she? ALICE: Dat it is not be de fashion pour les ladies of France – I cannot tell wat is [baiser] en Anglish. KING: To kiss. ALICE: Your Majestee entendre bettre que moi. KING: It is not a fashion for the maids in France to kiss before they are married, would she say? ALICE: Oui, vraiment. [Yes, exactly.] KING: O Kate, nice customs cur’sy to great kings. Dear Kate, you and I cannot be confin’d within the weak list of a country’s fashion. We are the makers of manners, Kate; and the liberty that follows our places stops the mouth of all find-faults, as I will do yours, for upholding the nice fashion of your country in denying me a kiss; therefore patiently, and yielding. [Kissing her.] You have witchcraft in your lips, Kate; there is more eloquence in a sugar touch of them than in the tongues of the French Council. (H5: 5.2.251–77)

Henry does indeed stop her mouth: against her will and her protests he simply pulls rank. The ‘liberty’ that he enforces has a bitter taste, since only Katherine does the ‘yielding’. Distressingly, her protest is the last word she speaks in the play: her mouth 86

Scott Kastan, Shakespeare and the Shapes of Time, p. 74.



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is literally stopped. And Henry is perfectly happy to have won the linguistic war by force. In his eyes, her lips are for kissing not for speaking. Her ‘eloquence’ comes from her post-kissed silence: and aptly enough, angels were thought to be beings that communicated without the need for speech.87 She is his final conquest, because he ‘cannot see many a fair French city for one fair French maid that stands in my way’ (H5: 5.2.318–19). And perhaps there is an intertextual hint, in the ‘sugar touch’ of Katherine’s lips, towards the spurious pedigree of ‘sugared words’ in Henry VI. Sugary eloquence was the means by which Joan persuaded Burgundy, as well as the signature of Suffolk’s treason. Henry’s silencing of Katherine proleptically imputes to his French queen the seed of the corrupting language that will flower (or already has) in the saga of his son. In The Famous Victories, this friction between the military conquest and the love conquest is even plainer. In soliloquy, Henry outlines his dilemma: Ah, Harry, thrice-unhappy Harry! Hast thou now conquered the French king and begin’st a fresh supply with his daughter? But with what face canst thou seek to gain her love which hath sought to win her father’s crown? (FV: XVIII.31–4)

Twice he then poses this question to Katherine: Tush, Kate! But tell me in plain terms, canst thou love the King of England? I cannot do as these countries do that spend half their time in wooing. Tush, wench, I am none such. But wilt thou go over to England? (FV: XVIII.46–9)

The tone of his courtship prompts the French king to comment, ‘You are very peremptory, my good brother of England’ (FV: XVIII.19). And sure enough a few lines later Henry pops the question once more, in the same clumsily martial mode: Tush, Kate! I know thou wouldst not use me so hardly. But tell me, canst thou love the King of England? (FV: XVIII.53–4)

Katherine rebounds the question back with matching brusqueness: ‘How should I love him that hath dealt so hardly with my father?’ (FV: XVIII.55). Neither of them, in contrast to Shakespeare’s depiction, attempts to gloss this marriage as anything other than what it is. In the final scene, in which the lords of both countries have rejoined the tête-à-tête, Henry again demands ‘How sayst thou, Kate? Canst thou love the King of England?’ And this time, Katherine’s response is very close to the words of her Shakespearean counterpart: ‘How should I love thee, which is my father’s enemy?’ (FV: XX.41–2). The martial basis of this marriage is emphasised, in a way that Shakespeare’s Henry coyly attempts to evade. The Henry of The Famous

87

See Dante Alighieri, De Vulgari Eloquentia, ed. and trans. Steven Botterill (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 4–5.

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Victories has fewer scruples. He brushes aside Katherine’s protest, with the clumsy pretence that she is only playing hard to get: Tut! Stand not upon these points. ’Tis you must make us friends. I know, Kate, thou art not a little proud that I love thee. What, wench, the King of England? (FV: XX.43–5)

When again in private, his opinions of both his ‘wench’ and his wars are cynically pragmatic: In faith, it is a sweet wench! But if I knew I could not have her father’s good will, I would so rouse the towers over his ears that I would make him be glad to bring her me upon his hands and knees. (FV: XVIII.70–3)

To return to the linguistic element of this martial-marital exchange: there is something knowing about both Katherine and Henry’s disingenuous linguistic competence in Henry V: Katherine has no need to ask ‘que dit-il?’ when she knows the answer, ‘que je suis semblable à les anges’. Likewise Henry’s ‘Madam my interpreter, what says she?’ is shown to be facile when she retorts ‘Your Majestee entendre bettre que moi’. As the ‘occasional deliberate slip into competence’ reveals, they are much more at home in each other’s language than they are prepared to admit.88 Alice stands between them in a strange capacity, part-chaperone, part-interpreter, part-herald. Katherine and Henry seem simultaneously ambassadors, spouses and enemies. Henry prefers the binary image; he seeks to translate Katherine into an Englishwoman, literally by putting his English tongue in her French mouth. Her comment that ‘your majesty ’ave fausse French enough to deceive de most sage demoiselle dat is en France’ (H5: 5.2.218–19) is the more apt: she is not taken in by his ‘tromperies’ but calls them – in French – what they are. Henry is the consummate actor in his eponymous history. His conquering words enact the conflict between English and French, precisely because this scene forces together France’s paradoxical functions both as ‘one flesh’ with England, and its ancient enemy. Henry and Katherine’s discovery is nothing more than a knowledge lived for centuries, which underpins both their enmity and their courtship: that their languages are mutually embedded; that (disturbingly) they understand one another perfectly. The blessing of the French king epitomises the way in which this marriage is a conquest, and the conquest a marriage, in that ancient and irreversibly paradoxical relation that underpinned every act of Anglo-French exchange: Take her, fair son, and from her blood raise up Issue to me, that the contending kingdoms Of France and England, whose very shores look pale With envy of each other’s happiness, May cease their hatred.

88

Butterfield, ‘National Histories’, p. 51.

(H5: 5.2.348–52)



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The irony, unforeseen by Charles but glaringly obvious to any audience who had seen Part I (to be pointed out shortly by the epilogue), is that the ‘issue’ the French king hopes for, ‘Henry the Sixth, in infant bands crowned king’, will be the renewed source of war ‘’twixt France and England’ (H5: 5.2.355). The queen’s blessing pushes this prophecy still further: God, the best maker of all marriages, Combine your hearts in one, your realms in one! As man and wife, being two, are one in love, So be there ’twixt your kingdoms such a spousal … That English may as French, French Englishmen, Receive each other. God speak this Amen!

(H5: 5.2.359–62, 367–8)

Butterfield optimistically holds that ‘This is a view of nation that is remarkably free from brute conquest: reflecting the spirit of Troyes, Shakespeare’s Henry has a whole vision of two nations coming together, not of one nation overmastering the other’.89 My reading is more cynical. There is no true marriage in the kingdom of Henry’s language: as much as he may have ‘truly-falsely’ played the French Englishman, he has also ensured that the old binaries are firmly in place. For all that the Queen may pray that the ‘Amen’ may be spoken by God, she speaks it in English. However, in all this talk of Katherine’s issue, it is not inconceivable that an audience might remember that after her brief Lancastrian marriage, Katherine married again, a minor Welsh squire by the name of Owen Tudor: and from this unlikely union sprang England’s Gloriana. Perhaps the French king does have the last laugh: it was Katherine’s issue that sat on the English throne when audiences watched Henry V, not Henry’s. Thomas of Woodstock and Richard II Henry V and The Famous Victories explored, in different ways, the legacy of the tradition of mimetic language in their portrayals of the Hundred Years War. Both flirted with ‘French English’, with words as a belligerent and triumphantly performative mimesis of war; with different degrees of compunction they both explored the rough and coercive transition from conquest to marriage, in the ironic volte-face necessitated by the Treaty of Troyes. Henry V, however, was a more self-conscious history play than any before it; just as its Henry V is more self-consciously an actor, a counterfeit. Obsessed with his own legitimacy, he has been crafting his public image ever since he planned his ‘reformation’ like ‘the sun’ (H4I: 1.2.201–17), while silently nursing ‘the fault / My father made in compassing the crown’ (H5: 4.2.311–12). This link between theatricality and illegitimacy, centred on this ‘fault’, is the subject of the final part of this discussion. Richard II, written c. 1595 in the middle of the history play decade,90 was at 89 90

Butterfield, ‘National Histories’, pp. 51–2. For date, see William Shakespeare, King Richard II, ed. Charles R. Forker (London, 2002), pp. 111–20.

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the epicentre of Shakespeare’s destabilisation of language, which began in the first tetralogy and crescendoed through the second. Much has been written on the linguistic imagery of Richard II, of which Calderwood’s study of the fall of ‘royal semantics’ remains the most important antecedent to this discussion.91 He argues that language functions in an analogy for kingship, as fundamentally performative and usurpable: theatricality becomes the natural metaphor for royalty that has lost its ontology. Bolingbroke began as an actor, with the utilitarian knowledge that words were mercenary and serviceable; in his prison, stripped of his substance and left only with his shadow, Richard reaches the same realisation. However, for him, the hollowness of the linguistic crown is one of bankruptcy not opportunity. His attempts to recover reality from mimesis fail: ‘I have been studying how I may compare / This prison where I live unto the world … I cannot do it’ (R2: 5.5.1–2). However, what has not been acknowledged in the scholarship so far is the thematic importance of France as the place of linguistic banishment. In Edward III and Henry VI, the Hundred Years War was presented in robust, combative language, which then disintegrated with the loss of France; in Henry V, the conventionality of language was utterly integral, both to the actor-king, performing his right in France, and to the Chorus, perpetually drawing attention to the disconnect between word and deed. In both, France was the essential context, the place where English was lost and found. In Richard II, France is the conspicuous absent presence. In a crisis of allegiance, the Duke of York complains, I am the last of noble Edward’s sons, Of whom thy father, Prince of Wales, was first. In war was never lion raged more fierce, In peace was never gentle lamb more mild, Than was that young and princely gentleman. His face thou hast, for even so look’d he, Accomplish’d with [the] number of thy hours; But when he frowned it was against the French, And not against his friends.

(R2: 2.1.171–9)

War in France was the measure of an English monarch, and Richard’s failure to prosecute it transforms the imperiousness and ferocity that were virtues in his father into his own undoing vices. French conflict proves necessary to keep England from cannibalising itself. Like Henry’s words that were only effective in France, Richard’s face (the very image of his father’s) is directed the wrong way. France becomes, again, the guarantor of English, the underwriter of its relevance, the arbiter of its meanings. This is more pointed in Thomas of Woodstock, the anonymous play composed between 1582 and 1595, sometimes known as ‘Richard II Part I’, in which the spirits 91

Calderwood, Metadrama, pp. 5–6; see also Forker’s edition, pp. 64–9; Richard Altick, ‘Symphonic Imagery in Richard II’, PMLA 62 (1947), 339–65; Robyn Bolam, ‘Richard II: Shakespeare and the Languages of the Stage’, in Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare’s History Plays, ed. Hattaway, pp. 141–57.



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of Edward III and the Black Prince are raised to decry their perverted successor. In this play, language is binary: the corrupt lawyer Tresilian, requiring his servant to call him something more elevated than ‘sir’, prompts his reply ‘I know no other sir, unless you’ll be frenchified and let me lay the monsieur to your charge’. In contrast, Queen Anne forsakes her Bohemian identity, protesting ‘let me be Englishèd’.92 In this paradigm, in which Frenchifying and Englishing are delineators of integrity, and in which the king is prepared to bargain away ‘our forts of Guynes and Calais to the French’ and to ‘let crown and kingdom waste’ in order to protect his favourites (Wood.: 4.1.124–5), linguistic/national identities are encoded as badges of honour or shame. When Bushy reads to Richard directly from the chronicles, Richard, inspired by the account of Poitiers, attempts to emulate his father: ‘as we are his body’s counterfeit / So will we be the image of his mind’ (Wood.: 2.1.94–5). However, in directing the Black Prince’s fierceness towards his own subjects, he becomes his father’s opposite. He turns the words counterfeit and image against themselves: instead of fashioning his conduct as a true copy and ‘image’ of his father’s, he becomes his fake, his ‘counterfeit’, his imperfect, reversed, even forged, reflection. Richard’s failure to be like his father leads, in both plays, to him becoming more and more French. When his death is announced in Richard II, his English identity is supplanted directly with a French one:      Herein all breathless lies The mightiest of thy greatest enemies, Richard of Burdeaux.

(R2: 5.6.31–3)

This appellation divests Richard not only of his royalty but of his identity. The significance is heightened by a comparison with the same slur in Woodstock. The first to call Richard by this title is the ghost of Edward III, who inveighs against ‘Richard of Bordeaux, my accursèd grandchild’ (Wood.: 5.1.85). This spectral soubriquet sticks: in the civil war that follows Woodstock’s murder, Lancaster exclaims, His native country? Why, that is France, my lords! At Bordeaux he was born, which place allures And ties his deep affections still to France. Richard is English blood, not English born.

(Wood.: 5.3.97–100)

As Richard cedes his royal identity, his new title marks him out as an enemy, ‘not English born’. Even though the conflict is civil, France remains its metaphorical matrix. The slur ‘Richard of Bordeaux’ carried a particular force in the 1590s, since Mary Stuart’s foreign birth was used to argue for her debarral from the succession, according to the De natis ultra mare statute that prevented Englishmen born abroad

92

Peter Corbin and Douglas Sedge, ed., Thomas of Woodstock, or Richard the Second, Part One (Manchester, 2002), 1.2.71–3, 1.3.48. References henceforth are to this edition.

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from claiming English nationality.93 Richard II was the sole exception to this, and was singled out as the monarch whose birth made him dubiously qualified. The invocation of this statute could not but raise the ghost of the Hundred Years War, as Bishop John Leslie had argued in 1569, comparing the De natis statute with the Salic law: Yf we maye by our Municipall lawe exclude the saide Quene of Scotlande, beynge called to this crowne by the title of generall heritage. Then ys theire municipall lawe likewise good and effectuall, and consequentlie we do and haue made all this while an vniuste and wrongfull clayme to the crowne of Fraunce.94

The unspoken illegitimacy at the heart of the English dynasty (even before the deposition) meant that it had to rely on French conflict for vindication, proving itself in the foreign field; which of course, Richard failed to do. The Hundred Years War became, retrospectively, the measure of an English monarch. Woodstock abounds with nostalgic references to it: Lancaster regrets ‘the warlike battles / At Crécy field, Poitiers, Artois and Maine’ (Wood.: 1.1.34–5); Bushy reads the chronicle account of Poitiers in 2.1.54–111; the ghosts of Edward III and the Black Prince recall their victories; and this catalogue culminates in Woodstock’s bitterest accusation of his murderers: This town of Calais where I spent my blood To make it captive to the English king, Before whose walls great Edward lay encamped With his seven sons almost for fourteen months; Where the Black Prince my brother, and myself, The peers of England and our royal father, Fearless of wounds, ne’er left till it was won; And was’t to make a prison for his son?

(Wood.: 5.2.158–65)

The unhappy transformation of Calais from conquest to prison (foreshadowing the transformation of the Tower from prison for French kings to place of sequestration and assassination for English ones) emblematises the problem of Richard’s failure to make war on France. The Hundred Years War is powerfully absent, a chasm that causes the implosion of the English state. In Richard II, when Bolingbroke returns from France, York invokes the Hundred Years War as the litmus test of English integrity, this time in the context of the newfound slipperiness of English words: Grace me no grace, nor uncle me no uncle. I am no traitor’s uncle, and that word ‘grace’ 93

94

See discussion of Hale’s Allegations Against the Svrmised Title of the Qvine of Scotts (1565) in Marie Axton, The Queen’s Two Bodies: Drama and the Elizabethan Succession (London, 1977), pp. 24–5. John Leslie, A Defence of the Honour of the Right Highe, Mightye and Noble Princesse Marie Quene of Scotlande (Rheims, 1569), sig. 91r–v; see also Axton, The Queen’s Two Bodies: pp. 24–5, 111–13.



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In an ungracious mouth is but profane. Why have those banish’d and forbidden legs Dar’d once to touch a dust of England’s ground? … Were I but now the lord of such hot youth As when brave Gaunt, thy father, and myself Rescued the Black Prince, that young Mars of men, From forth the ranks of many thousand French, O then how quickly should this arm of mine, Now prisoner to the palsy, chastise thee.

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(R2: 2.3.87–91, 99–104)

Edward III’s wars are the longed-for context whose absence scars Richard’s reign, just as Henry V’s did his son’s. The loss of France, in both, corresponds with the erosion of Englishness. York is left comparing Bolingbroke to a French invader, with all the ‘deceivable and false’ attributes that attend such a comparison. He castigates even the language in Bolingbroke’s mouth: marching on England deprives Bolingbroke of the right to the words ‘grace’ and ‘uncle’, and to the concepts of kinship and allegiance they imply. The unity of the sons of Edward III, ‘Gaunt, thy father and myself ’, commanding armies abroad, is mocked by the antitypes of his grandsons, leading armies into England. Failure to make war in France is held against Richard by Northumberland, likewise, as a cardinal fault, with an echo of the first tetralogy’s rhetorical axis of words and blows:       Warr’d he hath not, But basely yielded upon compromise That which his noble ancestors achieved with blows. More hath he spent in peace than they in wars.

(R2: 2.1.252–5)

Richard’s mistaken belief in his unshakeable, ontological, stability leads him to trust implicitly in the power of his divine words: yet the trajectory of the tetralogies demonstrates that no kingship, even the most sacred, is ontological, but each is ‘achieved with blows’. His failure to make the connection means that instead of inheriting the legacy of his ancestors, he forfeits it. Too late, he realises that his words, like himself, are only pale shadows of the substance they aim at: KING RICHARD: We do debase ourselves, cousin, do we not,

To look so poorly and to speak so fair? Shall we call back Northumberland and send Defiance to the traitor, and so die? AUMERLE: No, good my lord, let’s fight with gentle words, Till time lend friends, and friends their helpful swords. (R2: 3.3.127–32)

Richard’s mimetic language has lost its lustre. Unlike Bolingbroke, whose threat ‘What my tongue speaks, my right drawn sword may prove’ (R2: 1.1.46) evinces a performative harmony between his word and his sword, there is no such correspondence in Aumerle’s formulation. In Richard’s world of words, there never has been: ‘warr’d he hath not’. The absent presence of the Hundred Years War shows

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(frighteningly) that the loss of France entails the loss of English. It needs a warrior king to enact the living relation between the word and the sword, to vindicate and sustain the contingency, or it is lost. Both Richard II and Henry VI reign with words not swords; both succeed a conqueror and assume that his substance is inheritable, rather than performed. The attempt to have linguistic mimesis without praxis, and shadow without substance, results in the collapse of the conjuration. The most pointed association of French with the loss of linguistic correspondence comes when the Duchess of York pleads with Bolingbroke for her treacherous son, casualty of the old regime: And if I were thy nurse, thy tongue to teach, ‘Pardon’ should be the first word of thy speech. I never long’d to hear a word till now, Say ‘pardon’, King, let pity teach thee how. The word is short, but not so short as sweet, No word like ‘pardon’ for kings’ mouths so meet.

(R2: 5.3.113–19)

However, her husband, pleading against Aumerle, corrects her: ‘Speak it in French, King, say “pardonne moy” (R2: 5.3.120). York’s reply shows how the same word can mean its opposite. Pardonne-moi is a courteous refusal, a polite excuse: he advises Henry how to utter exactly the word the Duchess longs to hear, and yet reverse its meaning.95 The Duchess asked for the thing itself; her husband teaches the new king how to give her only the word. This divorce between word and referent is effected by its translation into French. ‘Pardonne-moi’ is a mere courtesy, a thing that should be meaningless. Like Richard’s frowning face, this word, when moved from France to England, is both identical and opposite. The Duchess’s rage at this linguistic relativism shows how much French has become the symbol of inversion, of arbitrary semantics, and of lack of correspondence between the signifier and the signified: Dost thou teach pardon pardon to destroy? Ah, my sour husband, my hard-hearted lord, That sets the word itself against the word! Speak ‘pardon’ as ’tis current in our land, The chopping French we do not understand.

(R2: 5.3.120–4)

However, as much as pardonne is the relief-image of pardon, the Duchess has to admit that it is also, palpably, the same.96 Setting ‘the word itself against the word’ is simultaneously a translation, and a moment that shows translation to be redundant and bankrupt. French and English are identical; yet by speaking in ‘chopping French’ the king can do the very opposite of what she asks. Like Hamlet’s mirror, the mirror image of pardonne in pardon (audible, even, in its reversed intonation) is both a reflection and an inversion.

95 96

For the phrase as polite excuse or apology, see Eliot, Ortho-epia gallica, pp. 14, 32, 72. Williams also makes this point: The French Fetish, pp. 193–4, 199–200.



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The pointedness of this vignette is sharpened by the fact that the last time York knelt for royal pardon, it was to Richard:      O my liege, Pardon me, if you please; if not, I pleas’d Not to be pardoned, am content withal.

(R2: 2.1.186–8)

York’s contorted syntax represents a very real attempt to set the word against the word: pardon or no pardon are the same to him, he avers, in the king’s pleasure. Yet such arbitrary language would place in the king’s discretion language itself, a relativism that the crumbling ontology of kingship cannot support. This lexical motif returns with true solipsism in Richard’s prison. In a moment of deliberate inter- (and in this case intra-) textuality, to which this chapter has repeatedly drawn attention as integral to the strategy of the histories, Richard (unwittingly) quotes the Duchess: I have been studying how I may compare This prison where I live unto the world; And, for because the world is populous, And here is not a creature but myself, I cannot do it; yet I’ll hammer it out. My brain I’ll prove the female to my soul, My soul the father, and these two beget A generation of still-breeding thoughts; And these same thoughts people this little world, In humors like the people of this world: For no thought is contented. The better sort, As thoughts of things divine, are intermix’d With scruples and do set the word itself Against the word, As thus: ‘Come, little ones’.

(R2: 5.5.1–15)

In his attempt to engender a reality beyond his cell, Richard finds the referentiality he looked for to be a self-replicating prism. His teeming thoughts keep breeding, yet he is alone. In this context, his quotation of Matthew 19.14 shows even the authenticating power of the incarnate, divine logos, the inerrant utterance that did indeed bring a world into being, to have failed him. As vicarius dei, Richard’s word had had unimpeached efficacy: the power to adjudicate and to banish, to pardon and to punish. But to set the word against the Word is to pitch the all-creative divine language against the nihilistic solipsism of his cell. Declaring ‘Come, little ones’ is a last hopeless plea that a conjurable language will translate his teeming thoughts into real beings, and it fails. He is left with the lonely image of the actor, the engenderer of multiple mimetic realities but true inhabiter of none: Thus play I in one person many people, And none contented. Sometimes am I king; Then treasons make me wish myself a beggar,

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And so I am. Then crushing penury Persuades me I was better when a king; Then am I king’d again, and by and by Think I am unking’d by Bullingbrook, And straight am nothing. But what e’er I be, Nor I, nor any man that but man is, With nothing shall be pleas’d till he be eas’d With being nothing.

(R2: 5.5.31–41)

The exposure of the king as just a player shows both mimeses, language and theatre, to be hollow. The Chorus of Henry V insisted that king and entourage were just ‘spirits’, ciphers and crooked figures; and that francophone francophobe, fully aware that ‘in his nakedness he appears but a man’, did indeed play in one person many parts: the renegade, the king, the common soldier, the courtier.97 The difference is that he played them knowingly; Richard, the last ontological king, is the first discoverer of the fact that kingship itself is only playing:     I have no name, no title, No, not that name was given me at the font, But ’tis usurp’d … [I] know not now what name to call myself.

(R2: 4.1.255–7, 259)

As a result of this discovery, he abdicates not only his crown, but himself: BOLINGBROKE: Are you contented to resign the crown? KING RICHARD: Ay, no, no, ay; for I must nothing be;

Therefore no no, for I resign to thee. Now mark me how I will undo myself.

(R2: 4.1.200–3)

The audible pun of ‘I know no “I”’ suggests a renunciation of his whole identity. In calling for a mirror to attest ‘if my word be sterling yet in England’ (R2: 4.1.264), he acknowledges that his entire existence hangs on his word being efficacious, on his reflection having an original. Having discovered the arbitrariness of both, he looks in the glass to check that it is still his reflection he will see. And as the audience looks at what should be the mirror of nature, we see only the self-replicating forms of the infinite and closed prism of mimetic language.

Bastard language This chapter has offered a pessimistic interpretation of the metaphorical matrix of linguistic illegitimacy, imperfect mimesis and theatrical duplicity in Shakespeare’s 97

For Richard as actor and the shadow/substance metaphor, see Knowles, Shakespeare’s Arguments with History, p. 65.



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histories. However, King John, that strangely stand-alone history also written in the mid-1590s, ends with a proud assertion that is almost the exact inversion of John of Gaunt’s fatalistic prophecy of the events of the two tetralogies, that ‘That England that was wont to conquer others, / Hath made a shameful conquest of itself ’ (R2: 2.1.65–6): This England never did, nor never shall, Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror, But when it first did help to wound itself … Nought shall make us rue, If England to itself do rest but true.

(KJ: 5.7.112–14, 117–18)

Ostensibly these words offer a rousing endorsement of national unity. In context, however, they end the sorry story of usurpation, tyranny, infanticide and regicide; and they are uttered by the Faulconbridge, the Bastard and linguistic conventionalist who has been mocking the meaning out of language throughout. In retort to the city of Angiers’ resilience, he quips,     Here’s a large mouth indeed, That spits forth death and mountains, rocks and seas … He speaks plain cannon-fire, and smoke, and bounce, He gives the bastinado with his tongue; Our ears are cudgell’d – not a word of his But buffets better than a fist of France. ’Zounds, I was never so bethump’d with words Since I first call’d my brother’s father dad.

(KJ: 2.1.457–8, 462–7)

Faulconbridge embodies language at its most futile and risible: the ‘bastinado’ of Angiers’ defiance is no more real than the ‘bastinado’ of Touchstone’s; the theatre of war is merely a bethumping of words.98 Illegitimacy is the best spokesman for language, in the final analysis. Williams calls Faulconbridge ‘a figure of Englishness’ because of this very quality:99 it is a man known on the page only as ‘the Bastard’ who articulates with greatest ease the total arbitrariness of words. His very person is an arbitrary signifier: his existence is defined by calling things things they are not: by calling his brother’s father dad. His nationalism that seems so jarring partakes of the broader current in the history plays that undercuts the very patriotic narrative on which they are predicated. Ultimately John speaks for all the history kings when he declares: I am a scribbled form, drawn with a pen Upon a parchment.

98

99

(KJ: 5.7.32–3)

Bastinado occurs only three times in Shakespeare: it belongs to Touchstone and the Bastard, both cited above, and also to Falstaff, describing Glendower: ‘he of Wales that gave Amamon the bastinado’ (H4I: 2.4.336–7). Williams, The French Fetish, p. 202.

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Shakespeare’s histories draw attention repeatedly to their own conventionality. The loss of France remains symbolic of the loss of representative language, and both are losses from which the plays do not recover. They cannot confer immortality, and, unlike the chronicles, they do not ultimately make that boast. They offer concentric circles of mimesis spiralling around an absent original. Grafton and Nashe claimed this as immortality, and some critics have followed suit, hailing them as plays that bring history to life. However, this optimism is undercut by the deeply ambivalent relation between the theatrical mimesis and the historical object it purports to represent. As Walsh argues, Shakespeare’s theatrical chronicles replace the ‘absences of the past’ only with ‘the “absent presence” of performances’.100 Like language, the playhouse is a place of convincing likeness masking essential difference. Language becomes an object of scrutiny in Shakespeare’s histories because it is (and always was) their analogue: just as the historiographical account must acknowledge that its original is lost, and that its attempt to represent in fact effaces and replaces it, so every word circles around its referent in the knowledge that it has only an arbitrary claim to encode it. The irony of theatrical and linguistic mimesis is that it silently destroyed its object.

100 Walsh,

‘Unkind Division’, pp. 144.

Conclusion

The literature of the Hundred Years War, from contemporary accounts to those for which it was recent history, exhibited a profound awareness of and fascination with the idea that the conflict was embedded in language. The irony was that ‘English’ national identity and language were fundamentally constituted by French conflict: the same wars that galvanised the impulse to articulate a robust national identity forced the recognition of the centrality of their own place in shaping that identity. This knowledge made each nationalistic act of articulation fraught with complexity and self-consciousness about the paradox on which it was predicated. No doubt, had this book been able to widen its focus beyond the specific context of the Hundred Years War to medieval England’s other frontiers, other histories and other self-made national narratives, the conclusions it could offer would be richer. The Hundred Years War was just one context, although it was unique and remarkable in its longevity, its hold over historical imagination (manifested in its ongoing myth-making) and its legacy for the ways in which England’s history and language were conceived and debated. However, the narrower aim of this book has been to trace the conjunction between language and war in this single conflict, from the first chroniclers and poets to the playwrights who put it on the stage; from the performative linguistic mimesis in contemporary narratives to its literal performance. The Hundred Years War is not the only prism through which to look at these issues: in many ways, the questions concerning language, meaning and national identity that it engendered were only specific instantiations of questions at stake more globally, as this discussion has intimated at several points, and an investigation of their comparable surfacing in other political contexts would offer a fascinating analogue to this one. However, the consciousness among its narrators that language functioned mimetically permits a glimpse not only of the contemporary presentation of the war, but the way in which that shaped the directions in which it would burgeon, as national myth, for two centuries afterwards. This consciousness manifested from lofty claims to textual immortality, to vituperative jingoism, to official constructions of a party line, to troubled meditations on the moral exigencies of war poetry, to explorations of the ways in which the mimesis of theatre was mirrored by the deceptive mimesis of language itself. But for all of them, mimetic language was intensely problematic. The concept of foregrounding, which so aptly described the ways in which the

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virtuosic abusive ballads pushed ‘to the background … the object of expression … in order to place in the foreground the act of expression’,1 put its finger on the nub of the problem of literary language tout court. Divorcing the object from the act of expression – the praxis from the mimesis, the substance from the shadow or the mirror from nature – was the dilemma that, in various guises, presented itself to these war writers. This book has had only ‘small time’ to pause at those among them whose reaction against the aestheticisation (and anaesthetisation) of war led them to baulk at the idea of representing it at all. But theirs was the more honest, and the more compromised. reaction. From Page’s incompatible ‘syghtys of differauns’ to Riche’s ‘impossible infinit in nature’, there was a counter-tradition of rejecting, rather than embracing, the warlike linguistic mimesis. These took a step back from nationalistic explorations of the power of ‘writing’ history: they meditated on the ethics of writing war at all. Small time; but these are the moments with which I want to close. The investment of history in language, which began with the beginnings of English history, bequeathed an intimidating legacy to the continuators of each century. Some embraced it with combative relish; others distanced themselves from it even as they recognised the helplessness with which language was trapped inside history, and vice versa. In 1873, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, the historical audit brings so much to life which is false and absurd, violent and inhuman, that the condition of pious illusion falls to pieces. And a thing can live only through a pious illusion. For man is creative only through love and in the shadow of love’s illusions, only through the unconditional belief in perfection and righteousness … Art has the opposite effect to history; and only, perhaps, if history suffers transformation into a pure work of art, can it preserve instincts or arouse them.2

Nietzsche felt the weight of history to be a millstone around the neck of humanity: we who live in the latter days, he argued, can only look backwards. Everything magnificent has happened already, as has everything terrible: as we can only recapitulate the grandeur of the past, so we are doomed to repeat its mistakes. Looking to history prevents us from escaping it, either by true creativity (because we are conditioned by the forms we have inherited) or by hope (because we are burdened the bleakness of the past). In this formulation, ‘a pure work of art’ is the only escape from the degenerative clutches of history. The greater the chasm between history and art, the more hope that an artistic generation will transcend the vicious cycle of its ancestors. As opposed to the ‘historical audit’ that condemns, the work of art can retain its illusions (precisely because they are illusions) of perfection and righteousness. However, the century that followed challenged the relationship between history and art more profoundly than Nietzsche could have imagined. Its poets and philosophers declared war to be unrepresentable: something which art could not and should not imitate. Yeats’s On Being Asked for a War Poem (1915) began with the 1 2

Mukařovský, ‘Standard Language’, p. 19. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Use and Abuse of History, trans. Adrian Collins, intro. by Julius Kraft, 2nd rev. edn (Indianapolis, 1949; repr. 1957), VII, p. 42.



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self-silencing statement, ‘I think it better that in times like these / A poet’s mouth be silent’.3 Adorno (1951) famously said, ‘poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric’.4 Art that represents war as something glorious or tragic inevitably superimposes the particular onto the multitudinous, following the ‘happy few’, or the ‘band of brothers’ (H5: 4.3.60). However, as Wilfred Owen wrote (1917), art has no orisons for those who ‘die as cattle’.5 Where Nietzsche held that only if ‘history suffers transformation into a pure work of art’ could it cease to be ‘violent and inhuman’, Adorno declared that transformation to be not only impossible but inadmissible. Nietzsche encouraged humanity to free itself of the history that chained and burdened it; Adorno, the other side of the twentieth century, felt the chain to be too heavy to lift, and the very attempt to be an exploitative betrayal. War has often been touted as the subject ‘that defeats representation’.6 However, fifteen years later Adorno retracted his statement, saying ‘perennial suffering has as much right to expression as a tortured man has to scream; hence it may have been wrong to say that after Auschwitz you could no longer write poems’.7 Although Yeats’s poem protested its silence, it remained a poem; just as Owen’s outrage that there are ‘no prayers nor bells’ for the doomed youth except the ‘shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells’, led him to call his poem an ‘Anthem’.8 The trauma of war seemingly cannot help but find expression, however problematic the search for it, and that is problematic indeed. ‘If war resists artistic mimesis, it is also dependent on it’, as the editors of a recent study, War and Literature, comment; its ‘idealisations are not destroyed by the writing of disillusionment, even when literature seeks directly to condemn conflict’, partly because war literature is by definition animated by, and parasitic upon, the conflict it decries. ‘The author’s self-expression becomes ironically heroic, given life and importance by the very conflict it strives to disavow.’9 This is, perhaps, the inescapable self-defeating paradox of war writing: we need to seek pathos in chaos, and shroud the unspeakable and the monstrous in the dignity and honour of remembrance. Yet to do so is to be drawn into the wider orbit of the machinery of war, to partake of the rhetoric of heroism that clings to protest and dissent, as much as in another form it clings to sacrifice and glory. ‘The rhetoric of inexpressibility fights its own battle with the urgent necessity of representation, record and recognition’,10 and that battle shows no signs of ceasing to rage. Accounts of the wars between England and France represent different kinds of attempt to transform history into art, and different responses to the ethical demands 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

W. B. Yeats, On Being Asked for a War Poem, lines 1–2, in The Poems, ed. Daniel Albright (London, 1990), p. 205. Theodor Adorno, ‘Cultural Criticism and Society’, in The Adorno Reader, ed. Brian O’Connor, trans. Samuel and Sherry Weber (Oxford, 2000), pp. 195–210 (210). Wilfred Owen, Anthem for Doomed Youth, line 1, in The Complete Poems and Fragments, ed. Jon Stallworthy, 2 vols (London, 1983), vol. I, p. 99. Laura Ashe and Ian Patterson, ed. War and Literature (Cambridge, 2014), p. xi. Adorno, ‘Meditations on Metaphysics: After Auschwitz’, in The Adorno Reader, pp. 84–8 (86). Owen, Anthem for Doomed Youth, lines 5, 7. Ashe and Patterson, War and Literature, p. xi. Ibid., p. xii.

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of doing so. Every one of them was conscious of what it meant to ‘write’ history, the paradoxical formulation poised between Nietzsche’s oppositions of history and art, truth and poetry. This is the dichotomy as Adorno, Yeats and Owen faced it: a dichotomy as old as English history; and perhaps as the war-old world itself.

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Companion to Ancrene Wisse, ed. Yoko Wada (Cambridge, 2003), pp. 83–102. ——, ed., Multilingualism in Later Medieval Britain (Cambridge, 2000). Troyan, Scott D., ‘Unwritten between the Lines: The Unspoken History of Rhetoric’, in Medieval Rhetoric: A Casebook, ed. Scott D. Troyan (New York, 2004), pp. 217–46. Turner, Marion, Chaucerian Conflict: Languages of Antagonism in Late Fourteenth-­ Century London (Oxford, 2007). Turville-Petre, Thorlac, ‘Afterword: The Brutus Prologue to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’, in Imagining a Medieval English Nation, ed. Kathy Lavezzo (Minneapolis, 2004), pp. 340–6. ——, England the Nation: Language, Literature, and National Identity, 1290–1340 (Oxford, 1996; repr. 2002). ——, ‘Political Lyrics’, in A Companion to the Middle English Lyric, ed. Thomas G. Duncan (Cambridge, 2005), pp. 171–88. ——, ‘Politics and Poetry in the Early Fourteenth Century: The Case of Robert Mannyng’s Chronicle’, Review of English Studies 39 (1988), 1–28. Tyler, Elizabeth M., ed., Conceptualizing Multilingualism in England, c. 800–c. 1250 (Turnhout, 2011). Vising, Johan, Anglo-Norman Language and Literature (London, 1923). Wakelin, Daniel, Humanism, Reading and English Literature, 1430–1530 (Oxford, 2007). Wallace, David, Premodern Places: Calais to Surinam, Chaucer to Aphra Behn (Oxford, 2004). Walsh, Brian, ‘“Unkind Division”: The Double Absence of Performing History in 1 Henry VI’, Shakespeare Quarterly 55:2 (2004), 119–47. Waswo, Richard, Language and Meaning in the Renaissance (Princeton, NJ, 1987). ——, The Founding Legend of Western Civilization: From Virgil to Vietnam (Hanover, NH, and London, 1997). Watson, Nicholas, ‘The Politics of Middle English Writing’, in The Idea of the Vernacular: An Anthology of Middle English Literary Theory, 1280–1520, ed. Jocelyn WoganBrowne, Nicholas Watson, Andrew Taylor and Ruth Evans (Exeter, 1999), pp. 331–52. Weijer, Neil, ‘Re-printing or Remaking? The Early Printed Editions of The Chronicles of England’, in The Prose Brut and Other Late Medieval Chronicles: Books Have Their Histories. Essays in Honour of Lister M. Matheson, ed. Jaclyn Rajsic, Erik Kooper and Dominique Hoche (York, forthcoming 2016), pp. 125–48. Wells, Stanley, Gary Taylor, William Montgomery and John Jowett, William Shakespeare: A Textual Companion (New York and London, 1997). Wentersdorf, Karl P., ‘The Date of Edward III’, Shakespeare Quarterly 16 (1965), 227–31. Wernham, R. B., ‘Queen Elizabeth and the Siege of Rouen, 1591’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 15 (1932), 163–79. Whiting, Bartlett Jere, and Helen Wescott Whiting, eds, Proverbs, Sentences and Proverbial Phrases from English Writings Mainly Before 1500 (Cambridge, MA, 1968). Wicker, Helen, ‘The Politics of Vernacular Speech: Cases of Treasonable Language, c. 1440–1453’, in Vernacularity in England and Wales, c. 1300–1550, ed. Elisabeth Salter and Helen Wicker (Turnhout, 2011) p. 171–97. Williams, Deanne, The French Fetish from Chaucer to Shakespeare (Cambridge, 2004). Wilson, R. M., Early Middle English Literature, 3rd edn (London, 1968). ——, ‘English and French in England 1100–1300’, History 28 (1943), 37–60.

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Wimsatt, James, Chaucer and the Poems of ‘Ch’ in University of Pennsylvania MS French 15 (Cambridge, 1982). Winstead, Karen A., John Capgrave’s Fifteenth Century (Philadelphia, 2007). Wogan-Browne, Jocelyn, ‘General Introduction: What’s in a Name? The “French” of “England”’, in Language and Culture in Medieval Britain: The French of England, c. 1100–c. 1500, ed. Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, Carolyn Collette, Maryanne Kowaleski, Linne Mooney, Ad Putter and David Trotter (York, 2009), pp. 1–13. Wogan-Browne, Jocelyn, Carolyn Collette, Maryanne Kowaleski, Linne Mooney, Ad Putter and David Trotter, eds, Language and Culture in Medieval Britain: The French of England, c. 1100–c. 1500 (York, 2009). Wogan-Browne, Jocelyn, Nicholas Watson, Andrew Taylor and Ruth Evans, eds, The Idea of the Vernacular: An Anthology of Middle English Literary Theory, 1280–1520 (Exeter, 1999). Woodbine, G. E., ‘The Language of the English Law’, Speculum 18 (1943), 395–436. Woodcock, Matthew, ‘Tudor Soldier-Authors and the Art of Military Autobiography’, in Representing War and Violence in Later Medieval Europe, ed. Joanna Bellis and Laura Slater (Cambridge, forthcoming). Yeager, R. F., ‘Politics and the French Language in England during the Hundred Years’ War: The Case of John Gower’, in Inscribing the Hundred Years’ War in French and English Cultures, ed. Denise N. Baker (Albany, NY, 2000), pp. 127–57. Zurcher, Andrew, Spenser’s Legal Language: Law and Poetry in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2007).

Online resources The Anglo-Norman Dictionary, stable URL: www.anglo-norman.net (accessed November 2015) Bible Gateway (text of the King James Version), stable URL: www.biblegateway.com (accessed November 2015) The Douai-Rheims Bible with translation, stable URL: www.drbo.org (accessed November 2015) Early Manuscripts at Oxford University, stable URL: www.image.ox.ac.uk (accessed November 2015) The Holinshed Project, stable URL: www.english.ox.ac.uk/holinshed (accessed November 2015) The Middle English Dictionary, stable URL: www.quod.lib.umich.edu/m/med/ (accessed November 2015) The Oxford English Dictionary, stable URL: www.oed.com (accessed November 2015) The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, stable URL: www.oxforddnb.com (accessed November 2015) The Soldier in Later Medieval England database, stable URL: www.medievalsoldier. org (accessed November 2015)

Acknowledgements

Many people have deserved my heartfelt thanks over the course of writing this book: first, Caroline Palmer, Robert Kinsey, Rohais Haughton, Grant Shipcott, Nick Bingham and the Boydell and Brewer team, for being so genuinely kind and helpful and overseeing such a smooth process; to the designer of the cover, for such an imaginative final design; and to the anonymous reader: thank you for reading this with such sympathy, rigour, encouragement and enthusiasm. Second, the Harry F. Guggenheim Foundation, whose sponsorship of my research fellowship made this book possible; whose vision, generosity and hospitality were truly inspiring; and whom I have also to thank for financial support for the illustrations. In particular, I thank Josiah Bunting, Deirdre Hamill, Karen Colvard and Joel Wallman: I will look back with gratitude on the honour and privilege it was to work with you, and the ways in which your vision and support shaped my work. Third, Pembroke College, Cambridge, which facilitated my research with the utmost kindness and collegiality and whose financial support also contributed to the costs of illustrations. For eleven years Pembroke was my home from home, first as alma mater and latterly as employer, and I could not have belonged to a livelier or lovelier community. In particular, Katrin Ettenhuber and Mark Wormald, who have been such significant mentors and friends: thank you for everything. ‘Don’t try to be clever; try to be kind’, was what Mark told a bunch of matriculating teenagers in 2004, and it stuck. Katrin’s gentleness, loyalty, intelligence and wit cannot be overstated, nor her steadfast commitment to her students. I have so much admiration for the way her hearty cynicism for the worse ways of the academy has transformed her corner of it so radically for the better; and I have cherished our magnificent, barely edible, Texan Barbecue pizza binges. Jacqueline Tasioulas, whom I entirely blame for making me a medievalist, deserves a very affectionate thank you as the best of teachers, as well as the best of shots: I won’t readily forget the way she dispatched a wasp with a neatly judged lob of Klaeber’s Beowulf from a distance of several metres, nor (in later years) the invitations for fish and chips at Clare, to find out how her old student was faring. Thank you to my many other colleagues and friends, particularly Patricia Aske (supreme among librarians), Caroline Burt, Kenneth Clarke, Nick Davies, James Gardom, Mina Gorji, Alex Houen, Marion Kant, Torsten Meissner, Chloe Nahum-Claudel, Katharina Rietzler, Colin Wilcockson, Anna Young, and all the fellows and staff of Pembroke who have made the last four years a joy. I

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am immensely grateful to my students, who have approached medieval and early modern literature with a gusto and grace that put me to shame. Thank you too to my new colleagues and students at Merton College, Oxford, for such a warm welcome to ‘the other side’, particularly Rachel Buxton, Will Bowers, Steven Gunn, Richard McCabe, Julia Walworth and Michael Whitworth: I look forward to knowing you all better. Fourth, the staff of the British Library, Lambeth Palace Library and Cambridge University Library for their permission to reproduce images from manuscripts in their collections, and to the libraries of Gonville and Caius, St John’s, Trinity, and Corpus Christi Colleges, Cambridge, the Bodleian, and Balliol College, Oxford, the Joseph Regenstein Library, Illinois University Library, Holkham Hall Library and the Huntington Library for enabling me to consult their materials. Jim Kelly deserves special thanks for his extraordinarily creative and good-humoured efforts to get me a copy of an unpublished thesis in the library of the University of Massachussetts, as does Suzanne Reynolds for such a rich and enjoyable visit to the magnificent library of Holkham Hall. Some of this material has appeared in different forms elsewhere, and I am grateful to the editors of the various volumes and journals for their permission to rework it here. Parts of Chapter 1 appeared in ‘Mapping the National Narrative: PlaceName Etymology in Laʒamon’s Brut and Its Sources’, in Reading Laʒamon’s Brut: Approaches and Explorations, ed. Rosamund Allen, Jane Roberts and Carole Weinberg, DQR Studies in Literature 52 (Amsterdam and New York, 2013), pp. 321–42. Parts of Chapters 2, 3 and 4 form the basis of related discussions in ‘Rymes Sette for a Remembraunce: Memorialization and Mimetic Language in the War Poetry of the Late Middle Ages’, Review of English Studies 64: 264 (2013), 183–207 and ‘“Fresch anamalit termes”: The Contradictory Celebrity of Chaucer’s Aureation’, in Chaucer and Fame: Reputation and Reception, ed. Catherine Nall and Isabel Davis (Cambridge, 2015), pp. 143–63. Chapters 2 and 3 raise subjects that are developed in greater detail by articles in preparation: ‘Art’s Ambiguous Object: John Page’s Siege of Rouen, a Siege Romance of the Hundred Years War?’ in Insular Romance: Contexts and Traditions, ed. Ken Rooney (forthcoming); ‘Propaganda or Parody? Latin Abuse Poetry from the Hundred Years War’, in Crossing Borders in the Insular Middle Ages, ed. Aisling Byrne and Victoria Flood (Turnhout, forthcoming); and ‘An AngloDanish Naval Encounter, and its Footprint in Two Fourteenth-­Century Chronicles’ (in preparation). None of the material is simply reproduced; it is reworked with different analysis and emphasis. Much of this material I first discovered when working on a PhD in the English Faculty in Cambridge, that salmon-pink cuboid that was my other home from home. Thank you to Andrew Zurcher, very best of supervisors and friends, whose integrity and kindness are only surpassed by his brilliance and humour. He demanded from a nervous, diffident and generally intimidated graduate student levels of self-­ belief that materialised mainly because he believed they would. He taught me huge amounts about scholarship, and he showed me how to be unremittingly cynical about the world without forgetting when to be an idealist. I am hugely thankful to my other academic mainstays: Helen Cooper, whose tireless support and belief, hospitality, encouragement, apparently bottomless



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knowledge and longstanding friendship have been so very precious; Ardis Butterfield, whose scholarship is an inspiration, and whose generosity and general cheering-on have been so dogged; and Daniel Wakelin, for his unfailing encouragement, as well as his on-demand manuscript expertise. Thank you to Neil Wright, for his patience in untangling the knotty and poorly transcribed texts I inflicted upon the Latin reading group; to Jason Scott-Warren and Joanna Craigwood for allowing me to read pre-publication copies of their work; and to David Colclough, Stephanie Downes, Robert Ellis, Jennifer Fellows, Catherine Nall, Nicholas Perkins and Elizaveta Strakhov for their important suggestions and support as these ideas took shape. Julia Boffey and Tony Edwards deserve special thanks, as the nicest of neighbours and kindest of mentors: you have read so much of my stuff and taught me to be a better scholar in countless ways, as well as being exceptionally hospitable and supportive along the way. For making the Cambridge years such a delight and for their contagious (outrageous!) passion for the Middle Ages, I have to thank my much-beloved gaggle of ‘Finchley Heroes’: Aisling Byrne, Vicky Flood, Jessica Lockhart, Katie Mathis, Jacob Stulberg. Jessica, although now an ocean away, brings exuberance and hilarity into my life on a regular basis. Vicky is one of the most insightful, gentle and genuine people I know. And Aisling, who commands so much admiration and affection from everyone who knows her, thank you: your friendship is one of the most cherished. Venetia Bridges deserves special thanks, as such a faithful, clear-sighted and affectionate friend, who also (with endless patience) leant her Latin expertise on more occasions than I can remember. Megan Leitch has read so much of my stuff, with such tireless kindness, that she surely qualifies for a badge by now: her comments have been invaluable, and her bankable positivity has pulled me out of many a hole. I thank my other medievalist (and honorary medievalist) friends: Ruth Ahnert, Jennifer Barton Bird, Rachel Bower, Joanna Craigwood, Alexandra da Costa, Elizabeth Dearnley, Sara Harris, Joni Henry, Megan Murton, Harriet Phillips, Lucy Razzall, Danica Summerlin and Emily Wingfield. Your better wits have sharpened mine in countless ways. Middle English Scrabble was a stroke of genius that will (no doubt) very soon make us all disgustingly rich. (Scrabble, but without standardisation: it makes so much sense.) Finally, to those older claims on my heart: Keira May Harvey, still and always my best friend, with gratitude for the dancing days in the Nissan Micra and all those biscuit slices in adversity. (Who would I be without you, I wonder?) My undergraduate friends, particularly James Baxter, Tom Craig, Robert Crellin, Alex Dawson, James Drinkwater, Simeon and Emily Dry, Hannah Dyson, Emma Firestone, Hannah Frost, Fran Kirkham, Caroline and Peter Herbert, Hermione Hoby, Sian Hogan, Michael Humphreys, Alice Lobsinger, Sarah Lambie, Martin Noutch, Tim Smith-Laing, Catherine Spencer, Ben Spiller, Paul Tognarelli, Bel Trew, Joe Warrington, Caroline Wilson and Rebecca Wylie. In particular, Charlotte Charteris: from the deep-fried pizza fiasco to the flapper extravaganza, you have brought life so much of its wit and poise and many of its one-liners. Thank you to my muchloved London friends, especially Mairi and Andrew Lewis, Shona Gibson, Martin Hammond and Annie and Andy Liggins, and to my Cumbrian friends, Margaret and David Ferriby, Margaret Maxwell and John, much missed, Catherine Prady,

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Tim Ravalde and Esther Hudson. I think often of my childhood friends, Jennifer George, Claire Mattinson, Emma Royle; and the radiant Corrie-Anne Young, always missed. Thank you to my wonderful sister and brother, Cathy and David Mottershead, whose years of companionship and camaraderie have been the very best. To my grandparents, Hywel and Kitty Roberts and Jean Mottershead, who take such delight in their grandchildren and are very loved by them; and my granddad Sidney Mottershead, whom I never knew. To Doreen and Nigel Bellis and my wider Bellis family: Robbie, Lizzie and Lola, Andrew and Emily, Fiona and Chris: thank you for being such a welcoming and raucous crew. To my parents, Ann and Alan Mottershead: for your unstinting kindness, your profound sense of goodness, your propensity to laugh at life, and your prolonged love affair with books. I owe you more than I fully know. And lastly, the loves of my life: Daniel, who amazes me every single day. Your little sibling, currently racing this book into the world: I cannot wait to meet you. And Tim, whose gentle-hearted optimism and confidence, integrity, loyalty and long-sightedness have held me in many a wobble; and whose ability to make a pun out of apparently anything raises the bar for maverick etymologists everywhere. This book is yours, as I am.

Index

Adam  17, 175, 176, 178 Adgar (Marian hagiographer)  20–1 Adorno, Theodor  253–4 Ælfric  175 Agincourt Agincourt Carol, The (poem)  113, 153 Battle of (1415)  xi, 50, 100, 112–13, 114–15, 160–3, 192, 218, 231 Battle of Agincourt, The (poem)  101, 107, 121, 153 Albion (Albina foundation myth)  149 Alfred (the Great), King of Wessex  176 Alliterative Revival  107–8 Alliterative Verse  68, 92, 106–8, 153, 224, 226 Ambassadors Burgundian  124, 225 English  65, 75, 89, 123, 139, 222 n.61, 240 French  73, 90, 218, 240 Answere for the Tyme, An (Puritan pamphlet)  201 Anderson, Benedict (origin and spread of nationalism)  47, 50 Anglo-French Wars, 1295–9  22–3, 62 Anglo-Norman (see also French of England under French language)  4, 10, 19, 23, 26–9, 31, 33–4, 36, 39, 46, 65, 76–7, 136 Anglo-Saxon (see Old English) Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy  24 Anjou  85, 92 Anjou and Alençon, Francis, Duke of (proposed marriage to Elizabeth I, 1579)  xii, 169, 170, 218 Anne of Bohemia, Queen of England  243 Aquitaine  x, xii, 95 Ariosto, Ludovico  183 Arras, Congress of (1435)  xi, 112, 115, 121, 135

Artois  244 Ascham, Roger (The Scholemaster)  198, 201–2 Ashby, George (The Active Policy of a Prince)  127–8 Ashton, Peter (Shorte Treatise Upon the Turkes Chronicle)  195, 199 Audelay, John (Recollection of Henry V)  114, 161 Augustine, St (De Doctrina Christiana and De Magistro)  16–17, 202 Aureation (rhetorical style)  79–80, 82, 91, 96, 98, 122–3, 127–9, 134, 147–8, 153, 182, 185, 197–8, 200, 213 Babel, Tower of  16, 148, 157, 176, 180, 202 Bacon, Francis (The Advancement of Learning)  202 Bale, John  199 Bale, Robert (Bale’s Chronicle)  51, 86, 87, 90, 96 Ballade in Despyte of the Flemynges, The (poem)  115, 121–4, 148 Balliol College, Oxford, MS 354  150 n.180, 151 n.186, 159 Barclay, Alexander  168 Barnwell Priory, Cambridgeshire  150 Battle of Egyngecourte, and the Great Sege of Rone, The (poem)  160–3 Baugé, Battle of, 1421  xi Becanus, Goropius  176 Becket, Thomas, St Thomas of Canterbury  34 Bedford, Duke of (John of Lancaster)  xi, 54, 112, 142, 227 Betham, Peter (The Preceptes of Warre)  179, 184

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Bibbesworth, Walter of (Tretiz de Langage)  35 Bible, The 1 Chronicles, Book of  200 n.147 2 Corinthians, Book of  200 n.147 Acts, Book of  200 n.147 Deuteronomy, Book of  200 n.147 Genesis, Book of  92, 200 Hosea, Book of  200 n.147 Jeremiah, Book of  200 n.147 Job, Book of  200 n.147 King James Version  200 Lamentations, Book of  200 n.147 Luke, Gospel of  181, 200 Mark, Gospel of  177 n.61 Matthew, Gospel of  177, 247 Nahum, Book of  200 n.147 Psalm 2  200 Psalm 6  200 n.147 Psalm 10  200 n.147 Psalm 21  200 n.147 Psalm 38  200 n.147 Psalm 62  200 n.147 Psalm 140  200 n.147 Proverbs, Book of  200 n.147 Romans, Book of  200 n.147 translation of  123, 177 Zechariah, Book of  200 n.147 Black Death (see Plague) Black Lion of Flanders (Vlaamse Leeuw)  122 n.74 Black Prince, The (Edward Prince of Wales)  x, xi, 67, 73, 135, 144, 223, 225, 243, 244, 245 Boccaccio, Giovanni  133, 134 Bodleian Library, Oxford MS Bodley 851  108 n.28 MS Digby 102  101, 112 MS Douce 302  114 MS eMus 124  150 n.180 MS Rawlinson B.24  108 n.28 Bosworth, Battle of, 1485  xii Borde, Andrew (The Fyrst Boke of the Introduction of Knowledge)  172 Bordeaux capture of, 1453  219, 224 ‘Richard of ’ (soubriquet for Richard II)  243 Boroughbridge, Battle of, 1322  26 Borrowing (see loanwords)

Boulogne-sur-Mer, siege of, 1492  127 Bourchier, John, Lord Berners (translator of Froissart)  167, 221 Breast-milk (language imparted in)  110, 181–2 Brembre, Nicholas  72 Brétigny, Treaty of, 1360  x, 47, 135, 138 Brewers’ Company (records kept in English, 1422)  139 British Library, London MS Additional 27879 (The Percy Folio)  150 n.180, 160 MS Additional 39236  144 n.166 MS Cotton Cleopatra C.iv  92, 101, 107 n.24, 121 n.72 MS Cotton Galba E.viii  150 n.180 MS Cotton Galba E.ix  104, 115 n.52 MS Cotton Titus A.xx  108, 111 n. 34 MS Egerton 650  57–8, 78, 79 MS Egerton 1995  63 n.45, 100 n.3, 150 n.180, 157, 159 MS Harley 53  60, 74, 115 MS Harley 78  128 MS Harley 266  101 n.6, 150 n.180 MS Harley 753  150 n.180 MS Harley 2256  150 n.180 MS Harley 7333  142–3 MS Julius B.ii  91, 120 MS Lansdowne 210  100 n.3 MS Royal 14.B.vi  24, 25 n.65 MS Royal 15.E.vi (The Shrewsbury Book)  142, 144 n.165, 145, 209 Brittany  x, 63 Brut Chronicle Anglo-Norman Brut  19 Middle English prose Brut account of Danish raids (1366)  59 anonymous/collective composition  81, 116 connection with London chronicles  51, 53, 79 contemporary popularity  52, 57–8 depiction of the Norman Conquest  19, 23, 26 early modern readers  193, 215 French language  75 interest in etymology  6, 83, 118–19 Law French  73 legend of Henry V’s tennis balls  114 lexis of the Hundred Years War  67, 73–4, 78, 81, 84–9, 91–3, 94, 116–18, 157–8



preservation of John Page’s The Siege of Rouen  58, 101, 150, 154 n.199, 160, 163 preservation of Hundred Years War poetry  115, 117, 119 printed as Caxton’s Chronicles of England  159, 163, 193, 194 scholarly neglect  51–3 Brutus (legendary founder of Britain)  6, 13–15, 17, 83, 84, 118–19, 149, 182, 196 Burgundy  65, 98, 120, 121, 122, 124, 126, 135 Burgundy, Duke of (see Philippe le Bon or Jean sans Peur) Butterfield, Ardis  4, 10, 12, 18, 34, 36, 46, 48–9, 66, 69–71, 119, 129–30, 133–5, 165, 187–9, 235, 237, 241 Cade, Jack, Rebellion of, 1450  90, 221, 229–30 Caen, siege of, 1346  60, 105, 107 Calais Anonymous of Calais (poet)  109 n.30 attempted Franco-Flemish siege of, 1436 (see also Franco-Flemish alliance, under Flemish)  xi, 50, 88, 89, 112, 114, 119, 121, 126, 152 capture by the Duke of Guise, 1558  xii, 7, 10, 169, 219, 243 deputy of (Lord Berners)  167 siege of by Edward III, 1346–7  x, 105, 106, 135, 151, 161, 244 Siege of Calais, The (poem)  104, 125, 127, 153 verses on  115, 124, 141 Calot, Lawrence  142, 147 Calques  39 Cambridge University Library MS Hh.6.9  150 n.180 MS Ll.v.20  144 n.166 Cambrésis  x Camden, William (Remains Concerning Britain)  33 n.111, 175, 177, 179, 180–1, 191, 195, 201 Canterbury Archbishop of  1295 Canterbury Tales, The (see Chaucer, Geoffrey) name distribution  35 William of (Vita Sancti Thomae)  34 Capet (Capetian dynasty)  x, 6, 66, 144 n.166

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Capgrave, John (The Abbreuiation of Chronicles)  51, 63, 73–6, 85, 87, 89–91 Carew, Richard (The Excellencie of the English Tongue)  179–80 Castiglione, Baldassare (The Book of the Courtier)  190 n.106 Castile  172, 216 Castillon  xii Castleford, Thomas (Castleford’s Chronicle)  22–3, 28, 41, 80 Catholicism  48, 170 Catholic League (see also French Wars of Religion)  218 Caxton, William  Boethius (epilogue)  128 Chronicles of England (prologue)  159, 163, 193 Liure des Eneydes (prologue)  122–3 Polychronicon (prologue)  55, 98, 194 printer  97–8 Cecil, Robert (Earl of Salisbury)  217 Cecil, William (Lord Burghley)  218, 219 Cellini, Benvenuto (sculptor)  172 n.41 Chandos Herald, The (The Life of the Black Prince)  51 n.1 Channel, English  18, 60, 134, 139, 144, 172, 218 Charles IV (the Fair), King of France  x Charles V (the Wise), King of France  xi Charles VI (the Mad), King of France  xi, 62, 63, 222, 234, 241 Charles VII (the Victorious), King of France  xi, xii, 95, 125, 224 Charles VIII (the Affable), King of France  xii Charny, Geoffrey De  90 Chartier, Alain  51 n.1 Chaucer, Geoffrey Book of the Duchess, The  131, 133 capture at Réthel and ransom  126, 134–5, 182 Canterbury Tales, The  127, 131, 183 Complaint of Venus, The  132 Complaint to His Purse  149 Cook’s Tale, The  119, 120–1 early writing in French  130–1 ‘Father of English’  126–9, 130, 137, 182, 185, 187 House of Fame, The  72, 183 n.82 Knight’s Tale, The  3, 135

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Legend of Good Women, The  131 Manciple’s Tale, The  136–7 Nun’s Priest’s Tale, The  120 Parson’s Tale, The  89, 153 poems of ‘Ch’  130 n.102 Romaunt of the Rose, The  129 Shipman’s Tale, The  119 Squire’s Tale, The  135, 182–3 Treatise on the Astrolabe, The  131–2 Troilus and Criseyde  3, 134, 136, 183 n.82 Cheke, John  177, 190–1 Chettle, Henry (Sir Thomas More)  218 Chévauchée  x, 135 Chicago, University Library MS 254  79, 150 n.180 Chivalry  115, 135, 152, 153, 159, 167 Christmas  154, 163 Chronicle of the Rebellion of Lincolnshire  96 Churchyarde, Thomas  196 Cicero, Marcus Tullius (Tully)  15, 164, 170, 183, 185, 216 Clarence, Duke of (Lionel of Antwerp)  xi, 84, 96, 135 Cobham, Eleanor  87 Colet, John  166 Complaint Unto Pity, The (poem)  128 Compound words (rhetorical figure)  178, 226 Confusio linguarum (see Babel, Tower of ) Constance, Council of, 1414–18  xi, 75–6, 139, 140 Cooper, Helen  2, 19, 187 Cravant  xi Crécy Battle of, 1340  x, 73, 75, 91, 105, 107, 109, 135, 196, 222, 244 Forest  103 Creede, Thomas (printer)  233 Creole  29 Crowland Abbey, Chronicle of (pseudo-Ingulf forgery)  25, 63, 173 Cursor mundi (poem)  31–3 Danes (also Denmark)  43 n.166, 59, 175 Daniel, Samuel (Defence of Ryme and Musophilus)  180, 191, 202–4, 210 Dante, Alighieri (De Vulgare Eloquentia)  36, 176, 239 n.87 Davies, John (Discovery of the True Causes Why Ireland was Never Entirely Subdued)  173

De amico ad amicam (poem)  42–3 De natis ultra mare (statute)  243–4 Declaration of the Trew and Dewe Title of Henry VIII (treatise)  167–8 Dekker, Thomas (Sir Thomas More)  218 n.44 Denization (formal process of becoming a resident alien)  191–2 Deschamps, Eustache  3, 51 n.1, 130 Dickens, Charles  40 n.147 Dispute between the Englishman and the Frenchman (poem)  108–11 Donatus, Aelius (Ars Minor)  179 n.70 Doublets (see Hendiadys) Du Bellay, Joachim (La deffence et illustration de la langue françoyse)  172, 179 Dunbar, William (The Golden Targe)  128 Dutch  176 Eden, language of (also Paradise)  6, 16, 17, 170, 176, 202 Edward I, King of England  x, 22, 24–5, 35, 61 Edward II, King of England  25 Edward III, King of England claim to France  x–xi, 28, 65–7, 144 n.166, 218 depiction in the chronicles  24–5, 74, 91, 93, 95 depiction in Laurence Minot’s poem sequence  102–8, 151 early modern legacy and depictions  7, 166, 215, 220, 222–4, 230, 242–5 French campaigns  60, 126, 135 political use of/statements about language  36, 44, 46, 47, 61, 64, 65, 66, 67, 140 Edward III (play, see Shakespeare, William) Edward IV, King of England  xii, 52 n.9, 83, 91, 95, 96, 97 Edward V, King of England  xii Edward, Prince of Wales (son of Henry VI)  97, 127 Edward the Confessor  19, 23, 25, 144, 175 Edward the Elder  25 Edward the Martyr  25 Eliot, John (Ortho-epia Gallica)  190, 246 Elizabeth I, Queen of England Alençon match, 1597 (see Anjou and Alençon, Francis, Duke of ) Calais, pressure to reconquer  7, 169



Elizabethan era  2, 7, 165, 166, 182, 212, 214, 223, 233 England’s Elizabeth (see Heywood, Thomas) French conflict  215–16, 218 identification with Richard II  217 Spanish conflict  215–17, 218 speech at Tilbury  215 succession crisis  214 Elyot, Thomas (The Boke Named the Governor)  190 Enforce we us (carol)  100, 113 England alliances (see under Flemish and Scotland) civil wars and unrest (see Peasants’Revolt and Wars of the Roses) conflicts (see Ireland, Scotland, Spain, New World, The, and Wales) foundation legend (see Brutus) multilingualism of (see under English language) national identity of (see Nationalism and Englishness) recognised as a nation (see under Constance, Council of ) rulers of (see under William I, William II, Richard I, Henry II, Henry III, Edward I, Edward III, Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI, Edward IV, Richard III, Henry VII, Henry VIII, Mary I, Elizabeth I) wars with France (see Anglo-French Wars of 1295–9, Hundred Years War and Henry VIII, King of England) English Chronicle, 1377–1461  85–7, 92 English language Adamic language, relation to  176, 183 aureate style (see aureation) ‘broken English’  235–6 early modern boasts about  179–80, 184–7 elimination, threat of  19–20, 26, 28, 51, 61–2, 64, 73 etymology  17, 47, 64, 118–19 ‘French English’  188–90, 213, 241 Hebrew, relation to  177 insecurity about  27, 36–8, 40, 44, 71, 75, 80, 123, 132–3, 164–5, 171–2, 187, 192, 230 Lancastrian promotion of  47, 65 n. 52, 93, 98, 139–41 linguistic nationalism  12, 20, 23, 28, 32–3,

INDEX  

291

36–7, 45–6, 48–50, 62–4, 67, 76–7, 83, 129–34, 165, 188, 230, 235–41 loanwords from French, Flemish, Greek and Latin (see loanwords) merger with French  4, 6, 10, 13, 17–20, 29, 30, 38–44, 46, 64, 68–71, 81, 189, 246 metaphor of linguistic invasion  2, 6, 10, 12, 17–27, 44–5, 61–2, 64, 66, 124, 129, 170, 173–80, 192, 206, 224, 234 ‘mother tongue’  64, 71, 171, 178, 185, 188, 189 national character of  68–94, 110, 124 Old English (see Old English) plain style  23, 43, 55, 73, 92, 120, 123, 129, 157, 183–5, 193–205, 213, 224 political use of in the Hundred Years War  4, 6, 45, 47, 64, 65, 68, 82, 98–9, 102, 106, 139 ‘strange English’  1, 68–73, 79–80, 82, 84, 90–4, 99, 123, 126–7, 134, 136, 147–8, 173–5, 185, 188, 190–2, 195, 198, 201, 210 ‘triumph of ’  10, 12–13, 33, 36, 47, 48–9, 165–6, 180, 187 vernacularity  3, 10, 27, 31–2, 35–6, 38, 57 ‘Englishness’  45, 64, 67, 74, 76, 83, 107, 115, 121, 126, 128–31, 141, 146–7, 245, 249 Epanorthosis (rhetorical figure)  94 Essex, Earl of (Robert Devereux)  xii, 215, 217, 219 Essex Rebellion, 1601  217 Etymology  5–6, 9–10, 13–20, 43, 47, 53, 64, 67–8, 71, 79, 81, 83, 85, 93, 102, 111, 114, 118–19, 164–5, 177–8, 182, 192, 196–7, 200–1, 204, 208 216, 224 Eulogium Continuation, formerly Davies’s Chronicle (see English Chronicle, 1377–1461) Euphuism  197, 200 Eve  17, 170 Exeter, Duke of (Henry Holland)  86 Exultavit Cor (carol)  113 Fabyan, Robert (Chronicles of Englande & of Fraunce and Fabyans Cronycle Newly Prynted)  193, 196, 225 Faerie Queene (see Spenser, Edmund) Famous Victories of Henry V, The (play)  7, 210, 218, 230–41 Ferrer, Vincent  166 Field of the Cloth of Gold, 1520  xii

292  

THE HUNDRED YEARS WAR IN LITERATURE

Fleming, Abraham (Holinshed’s Chronicles, 1587 edition)  198–9 Flemish ambassadors (see Ambassadors)  124, 225 Anglo-Burgundian alliances 1340  x 1419–35  xi, 74, 121, 124 anti-Flemish sentiment in the Hundred Years War  104 n.19, 106–7, 119–21 attacks on merchants 1425 and 1436  120 failed siege of Calais, 1436 (see Calais) Franco-Flemish alliance, 1435 (see also Arras, Congress of )  xi, 74, 85, 114, 121 immigrants to England  26 loanwords in English  119, 121–6, 147 massacre, 1381  119 merchants’ privileges in London  120 poems written against  106–7, 114–19, 121–6 proclamation to prohibit molestation of (1436)  120 proclamation to renew oaths of allegiance (1435)  120 Fleur-de-lys (French symbol)  x, 144, 168 Follies of the Duke of Burgundy, The (poem)  101, 112, 115, 124–5 For Victory in France (carol, 1492)  127 Foregrounding (see also Mukařovský, Jan and Prague School, The)  26, 64, 71–2, 93, 100–2, 107–9, 113, 116, 121, 124, 148–9, 166, 194, 212, 222, 234, 251–2 Formigny  xii Formulaic language  53, 74, 78, 80, 82, 86–7, 93, 152–4 Fougères  xii Foundation legend (see Brutus) France alliances with Scotland and Burgundy (see under Flemish and Scotland) civil unrest (see Jacquerie, The) depiction in English chronicles (see under French language and ‘Frenchness’) language of (see French language) laws and customs of (see Salic Law, The) regions and significant places of (see Agincourt, Anjou, Aquitaine, Baugé, Bordeaux, Brittany, Caen, Calais, Cambrésis, Castillon, Cravant, Crécy, Fougères, Formigny, Gascony, Guînes, Harfleur, La Rochelle, Languedoc,

Maine, Normandy, Montereau, Paris, Poitiers, Orléans, Rheims, Rouen, Thérouanne, Tournai, Verneuil, Vincennes) rulers of (see Philippe IV, Charles IV, Philippe VI, Jean II, Charles V, Charles VI, Charles VII, Joan of Arc, Charles VIII, Louis XI, Louis XII, François I) wars with England (see Anglo-French Wars of 1295–9, Hundred Years War and Henry VIII, King of England) writers of (see Chartier, Alain; Deschamps, Eustache; Grandes Chroniques de France; Froissart, Jean; Graunson, Oton de; Le Bel, Jean; Machaut, Guillaume de; Monstrelet, Enguerrand de; Oresme, Nicole; Pintoin, Michel; Pizan, Christine de; Pour ce que plusieurs (la loi salicque); Venette, Jean de; Vows of the Heron, The) François I, King of France  xii François de Lorraine, Duke of Guise  xii, 169 French language Anglo-Norman (see Anglo-Norman) ‘broken French’  235 bureaucratic/formal/epistolary language  36, 41–2, 61 n.30, 64–5, 66–7, 70, 80, 90, 172 depiction in the chronicles  73–7 ‘false French’ (rejection of enemy language)  44–5, 46, 65, 68, 71, 73–7, 83, 87–94, 106–8, 137, 170, 181, 197, 218, 224 ‘French of England’ (see also AngloNorman)  4, 10, 26, 33–4, 46, 65, 77 ‘French English’ (see French English under English language) guides to learning  35–6, 41, 189–90, 235–6 incomprehensible to English speakers  31–33, 35–7, 41–2, 46–7, 61, 65–6, 75, 224, 235, 246 Inkhorn Controversy  187–90 insular idiolect compared to continental standard  34, 61 language of the Fall  170, 176 Law French  22, 40–1, 47 n.180, 65, 73, 80, 88, 90, 97, 120, 129, 173–5, 192 lingua franca  75, 90, 172 loanwords in English (see loanwords)



INDEX  

293

merger with English (see English language under merger with French) national character of  73–7, 87–94, 106–11 Norman/English aristocrats continuing to speak French  21, 25, 28–30, 40, 64 prestige of  39–43, 46, 64, 80, 90–1, 98, 122, 128–33, 137, 147–8, 172, 196, 213, 243, 246 Shakespeare’s use of  234–41 vernacular hermeneutics (see also Nicole Oresme)  36, 172–3 vernacular in England  28–31, 35, 39 ‘Frenchness’ (xenophobic stereotype)  6, 10, 44, 64, 67, 74, 78, 84, 92, 94, 95, 108–11, 139, 218 French Wars of Religion  217 n.33, 219 Froissart, Jean  51 n.1, 65–6, 90, 167, 221–2

Greek language  132, 165, 170, 172, 177, 180, 185, 187 Greene, Robert (Greenes Groats-Worth of Witte)  184 n. 85, 212 Gregory I (Pope)  237 Gregory’s Chronicle  51, 63, 72 n.85, 86–8, 94–5, 140, 150 n.180 Gregory, William, Mayor of London (see also Gregory’s Chronicle)  63 n.45 Guarna, Andrew (Bellum Grammaticale)  189–90 Guesclin, Bertrand du  xi Guido Delle Colonne (Historia Destructionis Troiae)  140 Guînes capture of, 1351  73, 107 siege of, 1558  196

Gallicana duplicitas (phrase coined by Henry V)  123, 140 Gardyner, Thomas (Gardyners Passetaunce Touchyng the Outrage of Fraunce, The)  168 Gascony  x–xii Gaunt, John of (see Lancaster, Duke of ) Genealogy  2, 24–5, 74, 87, 142, 144–5, 147, 185 Geoffrey of Monmouth (Historia Regum Britanniae)  13–17 George, St, patron saint of England  1, 168 Gesta Henrici Quinti  51 n.1 Gibbon, Charles (A Watch-Worde for Warre)  216–17 Giovio, Paolo (Shorte Treatise Upon the Turkes Chronicle)  194–5, 199 Globe Theatre, London  230–1 Gloucester, Duke of (Humphrey of Lancaster)  50, 86–7, 116, 226–7, 229 Glyndŵr, Owain  249 n.98 God Save King Henry V (poem)  101 Goldyng, Arthur (Preface to Thabridgement of the Histories of Trogus Pompeius)  195, 199 Gospel of Nicodemus, The  104 Gower, John (Cinkante Balades and Mirour de l’Omme)  64, 127–8, 183–4 Grafton, Richard (printer)  54–6, 196, 198, 203, 231, 250 Grammar schools  25, 36, 120, 177–8, 192, 212 Grandes Chroniques de France (compiled at Saint Denis)  52–3 Graunson, Oton de  3, 51 n.1, 132–4

Hagiography  19–20 Hale, Bernard (Allegations Against the Surmised Title of the Qvine of Scots)  244 n.93 Halidon Hill, Battle of  105–6 Hall, Edward (The Vnyon of the Twoo Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York)  159 n.204, 193–4, 196–8, 209 Hardyng, John (The Chronicle of Iohn Hardyng)  51, 52 n.9, 54–5, 74, 84, 90–1 Harfleur, siege of, 1415  xi, 114, 135, 160, 163, 197 Harman, Thomas (A Caveat or Warning for Common Cursetors)  195 Hart, John (A Method or Comfortable Beginning)  178–9, 188 Harvey, Gabriel  165 Haywarde, John (The Firste Parte of the Life and Raigne of King Henrie IIII)  217 Haywarde, William (Bellum Grammaticale)  189–90 Hebrew language  65, 132, 177 Hendiadys (rhetorical figure, also doublets)  54, 73, 93–4, 98, 114, 149, 197 Hengist  191 Henri d’Arci (Vitas Patrum)  30 Henri IV, King of France  xii, 217, 219 Henry II, King of England  35 Henry III, King of England  46, 169 Henry IV, King of England (Henry Bolingbroke)  vi, 41–2, 64, 91, 144, 148–9, 169, 217, 242, 244–8, 248 Henry IV Parts I & II (see Shakespeare, William)

294  

THE HUNDRED YEARS WAR IN LITERATURE

Henry V, King of England accession  xi alliance with Burgundy (see AngloBurgundian alliance under Flemish) alliance with Emperor Sigismund (see also Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor)  75, 140 claim to France  66, 196 coining of phrase Gallicana duplicitas  123, 140 death  xi, 54, 210, 232 imitation by Henry VIII  xii, 7, 165–8, 215 Lancastrian usurpation  24, 66–7, 70, 90–1, 138, 144, 149, 228–9, 242, 249 legend of the tennis balls  114, 160–1 marriage to Katherine of Valois (see also Katherine of Valois, Queen of England)  xi, 86, 141, 169 military victories in France  xi, 54, 67, 75, 95, 111, 150–1, 153, 197 patronage of Lydgate’s Troy Book  138–9 political poetry  100–1, 112–14, 125, 137, 149, 153–4, 160 promotion of English (see Lancastrian promotion of under English language) royal progress  142 Henry V (see Shakespeare, William) Henry VI, King of England accession  xi deposition and restoration  xii death  xii, 228 dual monarchy (England and France)  141, 142, 144, 147, 149 issue of proclamations  120 losses in France  95–6, 121 marriage to Margaret of Anjou (see also Margaret of Anjou, Queen of England)  xii, 169 patronage of chronicles  52 n.9 political poetry  112, 142–3, 148 propaganda  144–5 Henry VI Parts I, II & III (see Shakespeare, William) Henry VII, King of England  xii, 127, 171, 215, 220 Henry VIII, King of England  xii, 7, 165–8, 215 Henry of Huntingdon (The Chronicle of Henry of Huntingdon)  19 Hereford, Bishop of  62

Herod, King (mystery play character)  123, 176 Heteroglossia  11, 17, 158 Heywood, Thomas (England’s Elizabeth and Sir Thomas More)  214, 218 Higden, Ranulph (Polychronicon)  36, 43–4, 56 Hill, Richard (compiler of Balliol MS 354)  150 n.180, 160 Historie of the Arrivall of King Edward IV  96–7 History play (1590s phenomenon)  1, 7, 165, 207–16, 218–22, 224, 231, 232–4, 241–2, 249 Hoby, Thomas  190 Hoccleve, Thomas (The Regiment of Princes)  127, 138 Holinshed, Raphael (Holinshed’s Chronicles)  159 n.204, 173–4, 184, 191–3, 197–9, 220 Holkham Hall, MS 670  101 n.6, 150 n.180 Homer  134, 184–5 Hue de Rotelande (Ipomedon)  30 Humanism  64, 164–6, 170–1, 177, 180, 183, 196 Hume, David  28 Hundred Years War contemporary chronicles and accounts of  2, 6, 51, 77–94, 95–8 early modern chronicles and accounts of  2, 5–7, 98, 159–63, 165–8, 170, 201–2, 206–8, 210–11, 220–1, 230, 244–5 events, start and end dates, and terminology of  x–xii, 9–10, 218–19, 230, 251 Inkhorn Controversy’s use of  165–6, 187–93 literature, corpus of  4, 12, 101–3, 111, 115, 126, 131, 134–5, 139, 150, 152, 158, 163, 251 nationalism  1, 20, 45–50, 76, 131 paradoxes of  4, 13, 17–18, 24, 60–8, 129, 142 political language  3, 12–13, 19, 27, 33, 37, 44, 46, 77, 94, 97–8, 100–1, 121, 182, 196, 200, 229, 241–2 propaganda (contemporary)  4, 6, 12–13, 20, 25–7, 38, 44–7, 49–50, 64, 66–7, 73, 76–7, 80, 96, 101–2, 104, 108–11, 113, 115, 120, 126–7, 129, 131, 134, 137–49, 152, 163 propaganda (Tudor)  166–8, 170, 207, 215, 219, 244



Hutten, Robert (Margarita Theologica)  188 Illinois, University Library MS 116  101 n.6, 150 n.180 Inkhorn Controversy  inkhorn terms  1, 178–9, 182, 184–5, 188, 190–2, 195, 198–9, 201, 204, 212–13 denizen (inkhorn controversy term)  190–2, 195 linguistic furore  7, 129, 170, 179, 187, 193–5, 202, 213 mingle-mangle  174–5, 177–8 metaphors of Hundred Years War  165–6, 170, 187–93 plain style (see plain style under English language) resurrection of Old English lexemes  177–8, 182, 184–5, 188, 226 Shakespeare’s use of  7, 212, 229–30 terminology of  174, 193 insulane (rhetorical term)  75–6, 91 Invective Against France, An (poem)  108–11 Ireland English invasion of  3, 170, 173–4 Irish language  173–4, 181, 184, 191, 235 n.84 Irish wetnurses  181 Old English in  173–4, 184–5 Isidore of Seville (Etymologiae)  14–15, 118 Italian language  36, 136 n.132, 172, 176, 179, 184 Italy  36, 134, 190 Jacquerie (rebellion in northern France)  x James I, King of England (Basilikon Doron)  215, 217 James I, King of Scotland (The Kingis Quhair)  128 Jean II (the Good), King of France  x–xi, 50, 66, 73, 135 Jean Sans Peur (John the Fearless), Duke of Burgundy  xi, 85, 91–2, 124 n.83 Jerusalem, siege of  151–2 Joan of Arc (Jeanne d’Arc)  xi, 75, 85, 197, 215, 224–5, 239 John Benet’s Chronicle  78–9 John, King of Bohemia (killed at Crécy)  x Jonson, Ben (Every Man in his Humour and The Devil is an Ass)  212, 222 Julius II (Pope)  166

INDEX  

295

Justinus, Marcus Junianus (Thabridgment of the Histories of Trogus Pompeius)  195, 199 Katherine of Valois, Queen of England  xi– xii, 114, 141, 235–41 Kempe, Andreas (Die Sprachen des Paradises)  176 Kent, Godwyn, Duke of  89 Kingis Quhair, The (see James I, King of Scotland) Kingston, Richard, Dean of Windsor  42 Kyd, Thomas (Soliman and Perseda)  1–2, 224 La Rochelle  xi Lading language  119 n.59 Lambarde, William  217 Lambeth Palace Library, London MS 6  60, 115, 117, 121 MS 84  121 MS 259  52 n.9 MS 331  101 n.6, 150 n.180 Lancastrian antagonists in Wars of the Roses  95, 97, 227 dynasty  185–6, 219, 241 court poets  130, 138–9, 142, 148–9 (see also Lydgate, John and Hoccleve, Thomas) promotion of English (see Lancastrian promotion of under English language) propaganda (see propaganda (contemporary) under Hundred Years War, The) suppression of Lollardy  123 use of French  130 usurpation and legitimacy  2, 7, 66–7, 82, 139, 144, 147, 149, 155, 224, 228 Lancaster, Duke of (John of Gaunt)  74, 132, 144, 245, 249 Lanfranc, Archbishop  19 n. 35 Langland, William (Piers Plowman)  33, 200 Langtoft, Peter of (Langtoft’s Chronicle)  23–4, 76 Languedoc  x Latin abuse poetry  102, 108–11, 116 chronicles  59, 92 classical learning  15, 120, 131–2, 170–2, 177–80, 183, 185, 187–9, 194–5, 216

296  

THE HUNDRED YEARS WAR IN LITERATURE

language of England  25, 30–1, 35, 40, 44–5, 65, 70, 82, 131, 136 lingua franca  109, 132 macaronic poetry  42–3 vernacular syntax and glosses  39 n.143, 43 Law French (see Law French under French language) Laʒamon (Brut)  15–16, 21 Le Bel, Jean (Chronicle)  51 n.1 Leche, Sir Philip  151 Leslie, Bishop John (A Defence of the Honour of the Right Highe, Mightye and Noble Princesse Marie Quene of Scotlande)  244 Leulinghen, Truce of, 1389  xi Lever, Ralph (Art of Reason)  178, 192 Libelle of Englyshe Polycye, The (poem)  115 Life of the Black Prince (see Chandos Herald, The) Lisle, William de (A Saxon Treatise Concerning the Old and New Testament)  175–6, 183–4 Loanwords borrowing  30, 37–40, 43–4, 67, 71–80, 84, 86, 91, 97–8, 101, 129, 137, 165, 172–5, 177–8, 180–1, 183–5, 188–90, 195, 229 Flemish  119–20 French  17, 44, 77–94, 98, 122, 177–8, 181, 184, 187, 191–3, 224 Latin and Greek  177–8 politicisation of  5, 77–94, 79, 90–1, 129, 193, 200 Lollardy  123 London cannon  161 chronicles of  51, 53, 73, 78–9, 86 n.143, 57, 95, 136, 140, 159 citizens and traders of  57, 87, 97, 116, 120–1, 136, 159 language (see also lading language)  119 mayor and aldermen/sherriffs  54, 62, 63, 65 n.52 name distribution in  35 panic over French invasion  63 royal progress through  142, 144, 148 theatres  214, 219 Tower of  xii Troia Nova, Brutus’s capital  115 violence against Flemish residents  119–21 Lord Chamberlain’s Men  217 Louis XI (the Prudent), King of France  xii

Louis XII, King of France  xii Louis, St, King of France  144–5 Lucan  134 Lucifer  176 Lucy, Sir William  224 Lydgate, John early modern celebration of  9 n.2, 182–4 King Henry VI’s Triumphal Entry into London  148 Kings of England, The  100, 149, 150 n.180, 159–60 Lancastrian court poet  6, 82, 102, 122–3, 125–7, 129 n. 95, 130, 138–49, 153 misattributed verse  107 n.24, 121, 148 Roundel for the Coronation of Henry VI  148 Siege of Thebes  3 Title and Pedigree of King Henry VI  112, 142–8 Troy Book  3, 138–9 Macaronic writing  41–3, 113, 119 n.59, 237 Machaut, Guillaume de  3, 51 n2, 131, 133 Magny, Walter de (Flemish emissary)  225 Maine  xi–xii, 227, 230, 244 Malmesbury, William of (Gesta Regum Anglorum)  20 Malory, Sir Thomas (Le Morte Darthur)  74, 153 Mandeville, John (Mandeville’s Travels)  150 n.180 Mankind (play)  123 Mannyng, Robert (The Chronicle)  22–5, 32, 68–71, 131, 134 Map, Walter (De Nugis Curialium)  34 March, Earl of (George Dunbar)  41–2 Margaret of Anjou, Queen of England  xii, 86, 95, 97, 142, 144, 169, 226, 227, 228 Marlowe, Christopher (Edward II)  215 Mary I, Queen of England  7, 169 Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots  218, 243–4 Mayor and aldermen/sherriffs of London (see mayor and aldermen/sherriffs under London) Mercers’ petition  72 Metham, John  122 Middle English prose Brut chronicle (see Middle English prose Brut under Brut Chronicle) Milton, John (History of Britain)  14



Minot, Laurence  24, 102, 103–8, 109 n.30, 111, 113–16, 126, 151–3 Mockery of the Flemings, The (poem)  115–21, 124 n.83, 126, 152 Monstrelet, Enguerrand de  51 n.1 Montereau  xi, 124 n.83 Mortimer, Edmund  66 Mothe, G. de la (The French Alphabet)  41 Mountfort, Rosa de  41–2 Mukařovský, Jan (see also foregrounding and Prague School of Linguistics, The)  101–2, 108 n.27, 252 Mulcaster, Richard (The First Part of the Elementarie)  173, 178, 192 Multilingualism  4, 10–11, 37, 45 Munday, Anthony (Sir Thomas More)  218 Nájera, Battle of, 1367  xi Nashe, Thomas (Pierce Pennilesse and Preface to Menaphon)  183, 194, 208–10, 218, 232–3, 250 Nation state  11 Nationalism (also national identity) early modern  1–2, 7, 45–50, 165, 169–70, 174, 182, 185, 187, 193–4, 197, 201, 216, 219–20, 221, 229, 234, 249 in criticism  27, 30 linguistic  1–2, 13, 33–4, 47, 68–78, 91–2, 165, 182, 197, 200, 201–2, 243 medieval  4, 6, 10, 12, 14, 17, 20, 26–7, 32, 34, 37–8, 44, 45–50, 53, 66, 68–78, 98–9, 103–4, 108–9, 111, 118, 129–30, 134, 139–41, 144 n.168, 149, 154–5, 169, 174, 187, 191, 193, 201, 251–2 post-nationalism  11, 27 Nennius (Historia Brittonum)  14 New World, The  9, 166, 170 Nietzsche, Friedrich  193, 252–4 Norfolk  33, 35, 103 Norman Conquest events of 1066  2, 4, 6, 13, 17–18, 20, 22–3, 29–30, 35, 38, 166, 171, 173, 177 linguistic effects of  6, 17–18, 21, 27–60, 173–6, 188 Norman Yoke (early modern tradition)  7, 171–82, 188, 192–3 Norman Yoke (medieval tradition)  18–27, 63–4, 80, 84 Norman Yoke (eighteenth- and nineteenthcentury tradition)  27–8

INDEX  

297

Normans  15, 22, 25–6, 60–3, 104, 114, 106–7, 114, 155 Normandy duke of  61, 89 Edward III’s conquests in  x, 85, 104–8 Elizabethan conflict in  xii, 215 Ordinance of (see Ordinance of Normandy) Henry V’s conquest of  xi, 75, 113, 142, 160 French recapture of  xii, 92, 95, 221 North, Roger (Discourse on the Study of Laws)  47 n.180 Northern Homily Cycle, The  89 Nun of Barking, The  34 Of Arthour and of Merlin (poem)  33 Of the Six Kings (poem)  105 Old English (also Anglo-Saxon)  15, 17, 24–6, 28, 39, 71, 108 n.25, 118–19, 171, 174–8, 182–3, 187–8, 191, 226 Oldcastle, Sir John (see also Lollardy)  87 Orderic Vitalis  19, 34 Ordinance of Normandy  60–1 Oresme, Nicole  36 Orléans, siege of, 1429  xi Ovid  134 Owen, Wilfred (Anthem for Doomed Youth)  253–4 Oxford University  35 Page, John identity of  150–1 legacy in the sixteenth century  159–63 manuscripts  150 n.180 Siege of Rouen  6–7, 101–2, 126, 150–9, 205, 252 Pagentry/royal progress  142, 144 Paradiastole (rhetorical figure)  94 Paris  xi, 35, 144 Parliament addresses to  6, 61, 73, 87 French-speaking  64, 80 metaphor of  191 opened in/use of English  65 n.52 petitions  72, 119–20, 141 portrayal in the chronicles  89 rolls  5, 27, 61–2, 73 Parma, Duke of (Alexander Farnese)  217 Peasants’ Revolt, The, 1381  xi, 119–20

298  

THE HUNDRED YEARS WAR IN LITERATURE

Percy Folio, The (see MS Additional 27879 under British Library) Percy, Sir Ralph  95 Performative language (also J. L. Austin)  37, 64, 66, 67, 81, 92, 100, 102, 104, 106, 108, 111, 114, 124, 126, 136, 202, 207, 208, 241, 242, 245, 251 Periodisation  2–3 Petrarch, Francesco  133 Philippe IV (the Fair), King of France  x, 22–3 Philippe VI (the Fortunate), King of France  x, 61, 65, 73–4, 88, 90–1, 106, 125–6 Philippe le Bon (Philip the Good), Duke of Burgundy  xi, 74, 85, 91–2, 112, 115, 120, 121, 124–5, 225, 227, 239 Pierre d’Abernon of Fetcham (La Vie Seint Richard)  31 Piers Plowman (see Langland, William) Pintoin, Michel (see also Grandes Chroniques de France)  51 n.1 Piramus, Denis (La Vie Seint Edmond le Rei)  30, 32 Pitt, Sir Humphrey of Shiffnal  160 Pizan, Christine de  51 n.1 Place names  13–15, 17 Plague  36, 214 Plantagenet  x, 2, 25, 140, 144 n.166 Plato (Cratylus)  16–17, 136–7 Pléiade, The (see also Du Bellay, Joachim)  172 Poitiers, Battle of, 1356  x, 50, 223, 243–4 Political prophecy, prohibition of (1402)  112–13 Pour ce que plusieurs (la loy salicque)  167–8 Prague School of Linguistics, The (see also foregrounding and Mukařovský, Jan)  101–2 Prick of Conscience, The (poem)  104 Princeps serenissime (carol)  113 Propaganda (see under Hundred Years War) Prophecies of Merlin, The (poem)  105 Prose Brut (see Brut Chronicle) Prosopopoeia (rhetorical figure)  212, 218 n.43 Protestantism  xii, 125, 169, 170, 198, 201, 219 Pseudo-Ingulf (see Crowland Abbey, Chronicle of) Purgatoire de Saint Patrice  30 Puttenham, George (Art of English Poesy)  173–4, 184

Pynson, Richard (royal printer)  167–8, 183 Quartering of royal arms  x, 168, 218 Race riots, 1517  218 Radcliffe, Sir John  153 Raleigh, Sir Walter  215 Reading, John of (Chronica Johannis de Reading)  59 Receyt of the Ladie Kateryne  215 n.24 Reformation, The  48, 76, 98, 170 Rheims, Siege of, 1359  x, 126, 135 Richard Coer de Lyon (poem)  31 Richard I, King of England (‘Coer de Lyon’)  215 Richard II, King of England accession  xi deposition (1399) and death  xi, 60, 66–7, 82, 89, 140, 144, 217, 220 244 invocation by Elizabeth I  217 minority  62 proclamation against dissenting speech, 1387  72 reign  36, 41, 62, 191 vogue of French  130 Richard II (see Shakespeare, William) Richard III, King of England  xii Richard of Devizes  35 Riche, Barnabe A Souldiers Wishe to Britons Welfare  204–5, 252 Allarme to England  199 Elizabethan courtier and soldier  181, 196, 203–5, 252 Farewell to Military Profession  181, 204 Faultes Faults and Nothing Else but Faultes  199 Robert of Gloucester (The Metrical Chronicle)  21–2, 23, 28, 69 n.64, 83 Roland (legend of )  221 Rolle, Richard  69, 72, 131 Romance genre  31, 105, 115, 144, 149, 151–3, 157–8, 211 Rome, English College of Rome MS 1306  125 Rome, Vatican Library MS Reg. Lat. 869  66 n.54 Roos, Lord John  151 Rouen city of  144 n.166



INDEX  

burial place of John Talbot and Richard I’s heart  215 siege of, 1418–19  xi, 57–8, 88, 102, 135, 150–9, 160, 162–3 siege of, 1449  xii, 215 siege of, 1591  xii, 215, 217 Siege of Rouen, The (see Page, John) trial of Jeanne d’Arc, 1431  xi Salic Law, The  66, 167, 244 Salisbury assizes, 1631  41 Salisbury, Earls of (Richard Neville and Thomas Montacute)  86, 224, 227 Saye, Lord  86, 229–30 Scorn of the Duke of Burgundy (poem)  112, 115, 124–6 Scotland alliance with England  xi anti-Scottish sentiment  104 n.19, 181 conflict with England  3, 24, 76, 90, 104–6, 181 derivation from Albanactus  14 Franco-Scottish alliance  61, 104–6 Mary, Queen of (see Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots) place of refuge for fugitives  xii, 175 treatment in Shakespeare  235 Scott, Sir Walter  28, 39 Shakespeare, William access to medieval sources  220 As You Like It  206, 209, 211, 213–14, 249 authorship and collaboration  220, 222, 233 dramatisation of the Hundred Years War  210–11, 215, 217, 220, 230, 233, 239 Edward III  7, 210, 215, 221–4, 242 genre of history plays and tetralogy form  207–10, 215, 220–2, 233, 245, 249–50 Hamlet  211, 231, 246 Henry IV Part I  238, 241, 249 n.98 Henry V  7, 207, 210, 222, 225, 228, 230–42, 248, 253 Henry VI Part I  7, 208–11, 215, 221–30, 232, 239, 242 Henry VI Part II  7, 211, 222–30, 242 Henry VI Part III  7, 211, 222–30, 242 King John  215, 249 Love’s Labour’s Lost  211–14, 222, 227 Much Ado About Nothing  229 n.70

299

Richard II  7, 210, 217, 241–8 scenes in French  224, 234, 241 staging of linguistic debates and Inkhorn Controversy  7, 205, 207–8, 211–14, 224, 226, 229–30, 235–8, 242, 248–50 Tetralogy, First  210, 212, 220–2, 225, 229, 232, 242, 245, 249 Tetralogy, Second  210, 220–2, 225, 232–3, 249 theatrical mimesis  206–11, 230–2 Sherry, Richard (Treatise of Schemes and Tropes)  184 Shrewsbury Book, The (see MS Royal 15.E.vi under British Library) Sidney, Sir Philip (Defence of Poetry)  207 Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor  75–6, 140 Simier, Jean de (French ambassador)  218 Simnel, Lambert (Rebellion, 1487)  171 Singleton, Hugh (printer)  169 Sir Thomas More (play)  218 Skelton, John (Phyllyp Sparowe)  33 n.111, 171 Sluys, Battle of, 1340  x, 63, 104, 107, 215 Soliman and Perseda (see Kyd, Thomas) Somerset, Dukes of (Edmund and Henry Beaufort)  86–7, 96, 229 soraismus (rhetorical figure)  174 South English Legendary  22, 89 Southampton (sack of, 1338)  63 Spain  3, 216, 218 Spanish Armada, 1588  215 Speculum vitae  31–2 Speght, Thomas (printer)  185–6 Spelling reform movement  178 Spenser, Edmund A View of the Present State of Ireland  181 E. K.  9 n.2, 164, 170, 182 ‘kingdom of language’  165–6 Mother Hubberd’s Tale  218 The Faerie Queene  9, 17, 182, 205, 215 The Shepheardes Calender  9, 164, 169, 183 Spiegel, Gabrielle  5, 16, 20 Spurs, Battle of the, 1513  xii St Albans, Battle of, 1455  xii Stanihurst, Richard (De Rebus in Hibernia Gestis and Holinshed’s Irish Chronicle)  174, 184–5, 191 Statius  134 Statute of Pleading, 1362  x, 6, 46–7, 65, 73, 75, 80 Statute of Treasons, 1351  72, 87, 96, 200

300  

THE HUNDRED YEARS WAR IN LITERATURE

Statute rejecting subjection to France, 1340  67, 141 Stow, John (The Abridgement of the English Chronicle)  21 n.51, 85, 87, 91, 193, 196, 220, 225 Straw, Jack (see also Peasants’ Revolt, The)  120 n.62 Stubbes, John (The Discoverie of a Gaping Gulf)  169–70, 181–2, 218 Swedish language  176 Suffolk, Dukes of (Michael and William de la Pole)  85–7, 89, 225–6, 239 Synonymia (rhetorical figure)  93, 96, 190, 206 Talbot, Sir John  xii, 142, 144, 208–10, 213, 215, 217, 223–4 Tennis (legend of the Dauphin’s tennis balls)  114, 160–1 Tewkesbury, Battle of, 1471  xii The Rose of Ryse (carol)  113 Thérouanne, siege of, 1513  xii Thomas of Woodstock (play)  7, 210, 241–8 Tournai, sieges of, 1340 and 1513  x, xii, 135 Tours, Treaty of  xii Towton, Battle of, 1461  xii Traheron, Bartholomew (A Warning to Englande to Repente)  169 Translatio studii et imperii  132–3 Treasonable speech  72, 88, 151 n.185 Tretiz de Langage (see Bibbesworth, Walter of ) Trevisa, John Dialogue Between the Lord and the Clerk  57–9 Polychronicon  36, 40, 56–7, 85, 93, 98 Trinity College, Cambridge, MS O.9.1  52 n.9, 79, 150 n.180 Troy, siege of  3, 139–40, 151–2 Troyes, Treaty of, 1420  xi, 86, 141–2, 148, 241 Tudor  dynasty  xii, 2–3, 7, 166–9, 185, 214–15, 217, 219–20, 229 period  165, 169, 188, 214, 219 Tudor, Owen  xii, 241 Turner, William (Preface to Margarita Theologica)  188 Tyndale, William (The Obedience of a Christian Man)  125 n.84, 176–7, 200 Umfraville, Sir Gilbert  155

Usk, Thomas (The Testament of Love)  70–3, 91, 131 Valois dynasty  x–xii, 6, 36, 73, 88, 90–1, 141–2, 167 Venette, Jean de (Chronicle of Jean de Venette)  51 n.1 Ver, Robert  87, 90 Vergil, Polydore  196 Vernacularity (see under English language) Verneuil  xi Vie de Seint Clement  31 Vincennes  xi Virgil (Eclogues)  15, 134 Vows of the Heron, The  51 n.1 Wakefield cycle (mystery plays)  176 Wales  3, 14, 42, 235 n.84, 241, 249 n.98 Wallis, John (Grammaticae linguae anglicanae)  40 n.147 Walsingham, Sir Thomas  219 Warbeck, Perkin (Rebellion, 1495–7)  171 Warkworth’s Chronicle  83–4, 96 Wars of the Roses, The  xii, 72, 95–7 Warwick, Earl of (Richard Neville, the ‘Kingmaker’)  xii, 85, 96, 142, 226–8, 230 Webbe, William, (A Discourse of English Poetry)  183 Whetstone, George (The Honourable Reputation of a Soldier)  215–19 Whig historiography  11, 46, 48 Whytstons, James (De iusticia et sanctitate belli)  168 William I (the Conqueror), King of England  22, 24, 148–9, 173 William II (Rufus), King of England  83 Wilson, Thomas (The Art of Rhetoric)  188–9, 199, 201 Winchester  35 Wycliffe, John  52, 199 Wycliffite sermons, 82 Yeats, W. B. (On Being Asked for a War Poem)  252–4 York Cycle (mystery plays)  176 York, Duke of (Richard Plantagenet)  86–7, 94, 228, 242 Yorkist faction  xii, 53, 94–6 Ywain and Gawain  104