Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: Edward Hall
Editor: Rosemary Gaby
Peer Reviewed

Hall's Chronicle (Selection)


[Edward Hall's Union of the Two Noble and Illustrious Families of Lancaster and York (1548) may not have been a direct source for this play. It does, however, provide an important example of the official Tudor perspective on the century preceding the reign of Henry VII. Its full title is The Union of the two noble and illustrious families of Lancaster and York being long in continual dissension for the crown of this noble realm, with all the acts done in both the times of the Princes, both of the one lineage and of the other, beginning at the time of king Henry the fourth, the first author of this division, and so successively proceeding to the reign of the high and prudent prince, king Henry the eighth, the indubitable flower and very heir of both the said lineages. As this title indicates, Hall presents a providential view of history which sees Henry IV's usurpation of the throne as leading directly to the Wars of the Roses: a crisis finally resolved through the union of the houses of Lancaster and York through the marriage of the Lancastrian Henry Tudor with Elizabeth of York. Holinshed draws on Hall extensively and it is interesting to compare the two texts. This modern-spelling excerpt is based on the facsimile provided by the Early English Books Online database.]

The Third Year

1In this year appeared a comet or blazing Star of a huge quantity by a long season which, as the Astronomers affirmed, signified great effusion of man's blood, which judgment was not frustrate, as you shall perceive. For Henry, Earl of Northumberland and Thomas, Earl of Worcester, his brother, and his son Lord Henry Percy called Hotspur, which were to King Henry in the beginning of his reign both fautors, friends and aiders, perceiving now that he had pacified all domestical sedition and repressed his enemies, and reduced his realm to a convenient quietness, began somewhat to envy the glory of him, and grudged against his wealth and felicity. And specially grieved, because the king demanded of the Earl and his son such Scottish prisoners as they had taken at the conflicts fought at Holmedon and Nesbit, as you before have heard. For of all the captives which were there taken, there was delivered to the king's possession only Mordake, Earl of Fife, son to the Duke of Albany, Governor of Scotland, for the king them diverse and times of the Earl and his son required. But the Percies, affirming them to be their own proper prisoners and their peculiar praies, whom (as they reported) Owen Glendower kept in filthy prison shackled with irons, only for that cause that he took his part, and was to him faithful and true. The king began not a little to muse on this request, and not without a cause, for indeed it touched him as near as his shirt, as you well may perceive by the genealogy rehearsed in the beginning of this story. For this Edmund was son to Earl Roger, which was son to Lady Philippa, daughter to Lionel, Duke of Clarence, the third son to King Edward the third, which Edmund, at King Richard's going to Ireland, was proclaimed heir apparent to the crown and realm, whose Aunt, called Elinor, this Lord Henry Percy had married. And therefore the king little forced, although that that lineage were clearly subverted and utterly extinct.

2When the king had long digested and studied on this matter, he made answer and said that the Earl of March was not taken prisoner neither for his cause nor in his service, but willingly suffered himself to be taken, because he would take no part against Owen Glendower and his [ac]complices, and therefore he would neither ransom nor relieve him, which fraud the king caused openly to be published and divulged, with which answer, if the parties were angry, doubt you not. But with the publishing of the cautell that the Earl of March was willingly taken, they ten times more fumed and raged, in so much that Sir Henry Hotspur said openly: "Behold the heir of the realm is robbed of his right, and yet the robber, with his own, will not redeem him." So in this fury the Percies departed, nothing more minding than to depose King Henry from the high type of his regality, and to deliver and set in his throne their cousin, friend & confederate, Edmund, Earl of March, whom they not only delivered out of the captivity of Owen Glendower, but also entered into a league and amity with the said Owen against King Henry and all his friends and fautors, to the great displeasure and long unquieting of King Henry and his partakers. Here, I pass over to declare how a certain writer writeth that this Earl of March, the Lord Percy and Owen Glendower were unwisely made [to] believe by a Welsh Prophesier, that King Henry was the Moldwarp, cursed of God's own mouth, and that they three were the Dragon, the Lion and the Wolf, which should divide this realm between them, by the deviation and not divination of that mawmet Merlin.

3I will not rehearse how they, by their deputies in the house of the Archdeacon of Bangor, seduced with that false feigned Prophesy, divided the realm amongst them, nor yet write how by a tripartite indenture sealed with their seals, all England from Severn and Trent South and Eastward, was assigned to the Earl of March: Nor how all Wales and the lands beyond Severn Westward, were appointed to Owen Glendower, and all the remnant from Trent Northward to the Lord Percy. But I will declare to you that which was not prophesized: that is, the confusion, destruction and perdition of these persons, not only giving credit to such a vain fable, but also setting it forward and hoping to attain to the effect of the same, which was especial of the Lord Percy and Owen Glendower. For the Earl of March was ever kept in the court under such a keeper that he could neither do or attempt any thing against the king without his knowledge, and died without issue, leaving his right title and interest to Anne, his sister and heir, married to Richard, Earl of Cambridge, father to the Duke of York, whose offspring, in continuance of time, obtained the game and got the garland. O, ye wavering Welshmen, call you these prophecies? Nay, call them unprofitable practices. Name you them divinations? Nay, name them diabolical devices. Say you they be prognostications? Nay, they be pestiferous publishings. For by declaring & credit giving to their subtle & obscure meanings, princes have been deceived, many a noble man hath suffered, and many an honest man hath been beguiled & destroyed.

4King Henry, knowing of this new confederacy, and nothing less minding then that that happened after, gathered a great army to go again into Wales, whereof the Earl of Northumberland and his son were advertised, by Lord Thomas, Earl of Worcester, and with all diligence raised all the power that they could make and sent to the Scots which before were taken prisoners at Holmedon for aid and men, promising the Earl Douglas the town of Berwick and a part of Northumberland, and to other Scottish lords great lordships and seigniories, if they obtained the upper hand and superiority. The Scots, allured with desire of gain, and for no malice that they bare to King Henry, but somewhat desirous to be revenged of their old grieves, came to the Earl with great company, and to make their cause seem good and just, they devised certain articles by the advice of Richard Scroop, Archbishop of York, brother to the Lord Scroop, whom King Henry caused to be beheaded at Bristow, as you have heard before. Which articles they showed to diverse noblemen and prelates of the realm, which, favoring and consenting to their purpose, not only promised them aid and succor by words, but by their writing and seals confirmed the same. Howbeit, whether it were for fear, either for that they would be lookers-on and no deed-doers, neither promise by word or by writing was performed. For all their confederates them abandoned, & at the day of the conflict left alone, the Earl of Stafford only except, which being of a haughty courage and high stomach, kept his promise & joined with the Percies, to his destruction.

5The Lord Percy, with the Earl Douglas and other earls of Scotland with a great army, departed out of the Northparties, leaving his father sick (which promised upon his amendment & recovery without delay to follow) and came to Stafford where his uncle the Earl of Worcester and he met, and there began to consult upon their great affairs and high attempted enterprise. There they exhorted their soldiers and companions to refuse no pain for the advancement of the commonwealth, nor to spare no travail for the liberty of their country: protesting openly that they made war only to restore the noble realm of England to his accustomed glory and freedom, which was governed by a tyrant and not by his lawful and right king. The captains swore and the soldiers promised to fight, yea & to die for the liberty of their country. When all things were prepared, they set forward toward Wales, looking every hour for new aid and succors, noising abroad that they came to aid the king against Owen Glendower. The king, hearing of the earls approaching, thought it policy to encounter with them before that the Welshmen should join with their army, and so include him on both parts, and therefore returned suddenly to the town of Shrewsbury. He was scantly entered into the town, but he was by his posts advertised that the earls, with banners displayed and battles ranged, were coming toward him, and were so hot and so courageous, that they with light horses began to skirmish with his host. The king, perceiving their doings, issued out and encamped himself without the East gate of the town. The earls nothing abashed, although their succors them deceived, embattled themselves not far from the king's army. And the same night they sent the articles whereof I spake before, by Thomas Caton and Thomas Salvain, esquires to King Henry, signed with their hands and sealed with their seals, which articles (because no Chronicler save one maketh mention what was the very cause and occasion of this great bloody battle, in the which on both parts were above forty thousand men assembled) I, word for word, according to my copy, do here rehearse.

6We Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, High Constable of England, and Warden of the West Marches of England toward Scotland, Henry Percy our eldest son, Warden of the East Marches of England toward Scotland, and Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester, being proctors and protectors of the commonwealth, before our Lord Jesu Christ our supreme judge, do allege, say and intend to prove with our hands personally this instant day, against the Henry, Duke of Lancaster, thy [ac]complices and favorers, unjustly presuming and named king of England without title of right, but only of thy guile and by force of thy fautors: that when thou, after thine exile, didst enter England, thou madest an oath to us upon the holy Gospels, bodily touched and kissed by thee at Doncaster, that thou wouldest never claim the crown, kingdom or state royal but only thine own proper inheritance, and the inheritance of thy wife in England, and that Richard our sovereign lord the king and thine, should reign during the term of his life, governed by the good counsel of the lords spiritual and temporal. Thou hast imprisoned the same thy sovereign lord and our king within the Tower of London, until he had, for fear of death, resigned his kingdoms of England and France, and had renounced all his right in the foresaid kingdoms, and others his dominions and lands of beyond the sea. Under color of which resignation and renunciation, by the counsel of thy friends and [ac]complices, and by the open noising of the rascal people by thee and thy adherents assembled at Westminster, thou hast crowned thyself king of the realms aforesaid, and hast seized and entered into all the castles and lordships pertaining to the king's crown, contrary to thine oath. Wherefore thou art forsworn and false.

7Also we do allege, say and intend to prove, that where thou sworest upon the same Gospels in the same place and time to us, that thou wouldest not suffer any dismes to be levied of the Clergy, nor fifteens on the people, nor any other tallagies and taxes to be levied in the realm of England to the behoffe of the realm during thy life, but by the consideration of the three estates of the realm, except for great need in causes of importance or for the resistance of our enemies, only and none otherwise. Thou, contrary to thine oath so made, hast done to be levied right many dismes and fifteens, and other impositions and tallagies, as well of the Clergy as of the commonality of the realm of England, & of the Merchants, for fear of thy majesty royal. Wherefore thou art perjured and false.

8Also we do allege, say & intend to prove, that w[h]ere thou sworest to us upon the same Gospels in the foresaid place and time, that our sovereign lord and thine, King Richard, should reign during the term of his life in his royal prerogative and dignity: thou hast caused the same our sovereign lord and thine, traitorously within the castle of Pomfret, without the consent or judgment of the lords of the realm, by the space of fifteen days and so many nights (which is horrible among Christian people to be heard) with hunger, thirst and cold to perish, to be murdered. Wherefore thou art perjured and false.

9Also we do allege, say & intend to prove, that thou at that time when our sovereign lord and thine, King Richard, was so by that horrible murder dead, as above said, thou by extort power, didst usurp and take the kingdom of England, and the name and the honor of the kingdom of France, unjustly and wrongfully, contrary to thine oath, from Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March and of Ulster, then next and direct heir of England and of France, immediately by due course of inheritance after the decease of the foresaid Richard. Wherefore thou art perjured and false.

10Also we do allege, say & intend to prove as aforesaid, that where thou madest an oath in the same place and time, to support and maintain the laws and good customs of the realm of England, and also afterward at the time of thy coronation thou madest an oath, the said laws and good customs to keep and conserve inviolate. Thou fraudulently and contrary to the law of England and thy fautors, have written almost through every shire in England to choose such knights for to hold a parliament as shall be for thy pleasure and purpose, so that in thy parliaments no justice should be ministered against thy mind in these our complaints now moved and showed by us, whereby at any time we might have any perfect redress, notwithstanding that we, according to our conscience (as we trust ruled by God), have often times thereof complained, as well can testify and bear witness the right reverend fathers in God, Thomas Arundell, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Richard Scroop, Archbishop of York. Wherefore now, by force and strength of hand before our Lord Jesu Christ, we must ask our remedy and help.

11Also we do allege, say and intend to prove, that where Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March and Ulster, was taken prisoner by Owen Glendower in a pitched and foughten field, and cast into prison and laden with iron fetters, for thy matter and cause, whom falsely thou hast proclaimed willingly to yield himself prisoner to the said Owen Glendower, and neither wouldest deliver him thyself, nor yet suffer us his kinsmen to ransom and deliver him. Yet not withstanding, we have not only concluded and agreed with the same Owen for his ransom at our proper charges and expenses, but also for a peace between thee and the said Owen. Why hast thou then not only published and declared us as traitors, but also craftily and deceitfully imagined, purposed and conspired the utter destruction and confusion of our persons? For the which cause we defy thee, thy fautors and [ac]complices as common traitors and destroyers of the realm, and the invaders, oppressors and confounders of the very true and right heirs to the Crown of England, which thing we intend with our hands to prove this day, almighty God helping us.

12When King Henry had overseen their articles and defiance, he answered the esquires that he was ready with dent of sword and fierce battle to prove their quarrel false and feigned, and not with writing nor slanderous words, and so in his righteous cause and just quarrel he doubted not but God would both aid and assist him, against untrue persons and false forsworn traitors: with which answer the messengers departed. The next day in the morning early, which was the vigil of Mary Magdalene, the king, perceiving that the battle was nearer than he either thought or looked for, lest that long tarrying might be a [di]minishing of his strength, set his battles in good order. Likewise did his enemies, which both in puissance and courage were nothing to him inferior. Then suddenly the trumpets blew, the king's part cried "Saint George! Upon them!" The adversaries cried "Esperance Percie!" and so furiously the armies joined. The Scots, which had the forward on the lords' side, intending to be revenged of their old displeasures done to them by the English nation, set so fiercely on the king's forward, that they made them draw back, and had almost broken their array. The Welshmen also, which, since the king's departure out of Wales, had lurked and lain in woods, mountains and marshes, hearing of this battle toward, came to the aid of the earls, and refreshed the weary people with new succors. When a fearful messenger had declared to the king, that his people were beaten down on every side, it was no need to bid him stir, for suddenly he approached with his fresh battle, and comforted, heartened and encouraged his part so, that they took their hearts to them, and manly fought with their enemies.

13The prince Henry that day helped much his father, for although he were sore wounded in the face with an arrow, yet he never ceased either to fight where the battle was most strongest, or to courage his men where their hearts was most daunted. This great battle continued three long hours with indifferent fortune on both parts. That at the last the king, crying "Saint George! Victory!" brake the array and entered into the battle of his enemies and fought fiercely, and adventured so far into the battle, that the Earl Douglas strake him down and slew Sir Walter Blunt, and three other appareled in the king's suit and clothing, saying, "I marvel to see so many kings so suddenly rise again." The king was raised and did that day many a noble feat of arms. For as the Scots write and Frenchmen affirm, although that Englishmen keep silence, that he himself slew with his hands that day xxxvi. persons of his enemies, the other of his part, encouraged by his doings, fought valiantly and slew the Lord Percy called Sir Henry Hotspur, the best captain on the part adverse. When his death was known, the Scots fled, the Welshmen ran, the traitors overcome. Then neither woods letted, nor hills stopped the fearful hearts of them that were vanquished to fly, and in that flight the Earl Douglas, which for hast[e], falling from the crag of a mountain, brake one of his genitals and was taken, and for his valiantness, of the king freely & frankly delivered. There was taken also Sir Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester, & diverse other. On the king's part were slain Sir Walter Blunt and 1600 other persons, but on the part of the rebels were slain the Earl of Stafford, the Lord Percy and above five thousand other, and as for the Scots, few or none escaped alive.

14After this glorious victory by the king obtained, he rendered to almighty God his humble and hearty thanks, and caused the Earl of Worcester, the morrow after Mary Magdalene, at Shrewsbury to be drawn, hanged and quartered, and his head to be sent to London, at which place many more captains were executed. After this great battle, he like a triumphant conqueror returned with great pomp to London, where he was by the senate and magistrates solemnly received, not a little rejoicing of his good fortune and fortunate victory. But before his departure from Shrewsbury, he, not forgetting his enterprise against Owen Glendower, sent into Wales with a great army Prince Henry, his eldest son, against the said Owen and his seditious fautors, which being dismayed and in manner desperate of all comfort by the reason of the king's late victory, fled in desert places and solitary caves, where he received a final reward, meet and prepared by God's providence for such a rebel and seditious seducer. For being destitute of all comfort, dreading to show his face to any creature, lacking meat to sustain nature, for pure hunger and lack of food miserably ended his wretched life.

15This end was provided for such as gave credence to false prophecies. This end had they that by diabolical divinations were promised great possessions and seigniories. This end happeneth to such as believing such fantastical follies, aspire and gape for honor and high promotions. When the prince with little labor and less loss, had tamed & bridled the furious rage of the wild and savage Welshmen, and left governors to rule and govern the country, he returned to his father with great honor & no small praise. The Earl of Northumberland, hearing of the overthrow of his brother and son, came of his own free will to the king, excusing himself as one neither party [to] nor knowing of their doing nor enterprise. The king neither accused him nor held him excused, but dissimulated the matter for ii. causes: one was he had Berwick in his possession, which the king rather desired to have by policy than by force; the other was that the earl had his castles of Alnwick, Warkworth and other fortified with Scots, so that if the earl were apprehended, all Northumberland were in jeopardy to become Scottish. For these causes the king gave him fair words & let him depart home, where he continued in peace a while, but after he rebelled, as you shall perceive by the sequel of this story.