Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: John Stow
Editor: Rosemary Gaby
Peer Reviewed

Chronicles of England (Selection)


[As well as contributing to the revised 1587 edition of Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, John Stow published his own shorter historical works, including the Chronicles of England (1580) and the Annales of England (1592). Although Shakespeare's debt to Stow for the materials of Henry IV, Part One is uncertain, his work did contribute to popular conceptions about the reign of Henry IV and the king's relationship with his son. According to The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Stow's chronicles "were more widely read than those of any other historian of his era." The modern-spelling excerpts presented here are based on a facsimile of The Chronicles of England (1580) available through the Early English Books Online database.]

[1403 - from page 553-556 - the Battle of Shrewsbury]

1Henry Percy the younger did suddenly show himself to be the king's enemy, unto whom joined Thomas Percy Earl of Worcester, uncle to the said Henry: and to make their conspiracy excusable, they did write unto the Shires about, that they pretended nothing against the allegiance nor fidelity which they ought to the king, neither to gather to any other end an army, but only for the saving of their persons, and for the better government of the common wealth, because the payments and taxes granted to the king for the safe custody of the realm, were put to such uses as they ought not to be, and were unprofitably consumed and wasted.

2Moreover they complained, that because of the evil slanders which their enemies had made of them, they durst not personally appear in the king's presence, until the prelates and barons had entreated for them, that they might be permitted to purge themselves before the king, and be lawfully judged by their peers, so that many that saw these letters, did praise their diligence, and extoll their fidelity towards the common wealth. But the king being disquieted with these doings, that he might appease the commonality, he wrote to them, that he marveled much, that seeing the Earl of Northumberland, and Henry his son had received the most part of the payments and sums granted to him by the clergy and commonality, for the defense of the Marches of Scotland, what occasion they had to make such manifest slanders &c. But the young Henry Percy putting his confidence in the aid of Owen Glendower, and Edmund Mortimer Earl of March, with the Welshmen, and men of Cheshire, published that King Richard was alive, and was with them, whom if any man would see, they should without delay come in armor to the Castle of Leicester, which declaration made diverse variable motions in the hearts of many, and caused them to waver. King Henry considering all things wisely, gathered together as many as he could, and came suddenly in to the parts where the rebels kept their rage, and when Henry [Percy] saw upon a sudden the king's banner, and was even ready to have scaled the town of Shrewsbury he straight away desisted from the assault of the town, and said to his men: "We must now needs turn our weapons upon them that come against us. Ye see the king's standard: neither can we, though we would, seek any starting-hole. Stand to it manfully therefore, for this day shall either bring us all to promotion and honor, if we overcome, or else if we be overcome, it shall deliver us from the king's malice. For it is a more comely thing to die in battle for the common wealth, than after battle to die by the sentence of condemnation by the enemy."

3And with that, 14000 of the best men that were with Henry, made vow and promised to stand by him so long as breath would serve, and they took the field that was commodious for them, and the king and his men lay in the field right against them. The bowmen of Henry Percy began the battle. Whole arrows fell not upon the ground, but upon the bodies of the king's soldiers, and the king's archers shot as fiercely against their enemies, so that on both sides many were slain, and many thousands fled, thinking the king had been slain. But the Earl of Dunbar withdrew the king the place that he stood in, which was a good turn for him, for the foresaid Henry Percy, and Earl Douglas the Scot (than whom was never man more stout) raged so, that the king's standard was overthrown, and those about it slain, among whom was slain Humphrey Earl of Stafford, Sir Walter Blunt the king's standard-bearer, Sir Nicholas Langford, Sir John Clifton, and the two brethren Genetels, with many other knights and gentlemen, and of the commons on both sides about 5000 slain. Henry the prince was wounded in the face with an arrow. In the mean season, Henry Percy, whilst he went before his men in the battle, pressing upon his enemies, was suddenly slain, which being known, the king's enemies fled, but the Earl Douglas was taken, and also Thomas Percy Earl of Worcester, with Sir Richard Vernon, and the Baron of Kinderton, and many other were taken. This battle was fought on Mary Magdalen eve, near unto Shrewsbury, in a place called Old field, alias Bull field. On the Monday following, were condemned and beheaded at Shrewsbury the Earl of Worcester, the Baron of Kinderton, and Sir Richard Vernon. The body of Henry Percy was delivered to the L. of Furnivale to be buried, but the king caused the same body to be taken up, and to be reposed between two millstones in the Town of Shrewsbury, there to be kept with armed men, and afterward to be headed and quartered, commanding his head and quarters to be carried unto diverse cities of the kingdom.

[1412 - from page 576-581 – an interview between the prince and his father]

4King Henry kept his Christmas at his manor of Eltham, being so sore sick, that sometime men thought that he had been dead: notwithstanding it pleased God that he recovered his strength again a little.

5After Christmas he called the nobles of the realm together to a parliament at London, but he lived not to the end thereof, for now after the great and fortunate chances happened to him and being delivered of all civil division, he was taken with sickness, of the which he languished till his appointed hour, during which sickness, some evil disposed people labored to make dissention between the king and the prince his son, by reason whereof, and by the act of youth, which he exercised more than meanly, and for the great recourse of people unto him, of whom his court was at all times more abundant than the king his father, the king suspected that we would presume to usurp the crown, he being alive: which suspicious jealousy was occasion that he in part withdrew his affection and singular love from the prince. But when this noble prince was advertised of his father's jealousy, he disguised himself in a gown of blue satin, made full of small eyelet holes, and at every eyelet the needle wherewith it was made hanging still by a thread of silk. And about his arm he wore a dog's collar set full of SS of gold, and the tirets of the same also of fine gold. Thus appareled, with a great company of lords and other noblemen of his court, he came to the king his father, who at that time lay at Westminster, where at his coming (by his own commandment) not one of his company advanced himself further than the fire in the hall, notwithstanding that they were greatly and oft desired to the contrary, by the lords and great estates of the king's court. And that the prince had commanded, to give the less occasion of mistrust to the king his father, but he himself only accompanied of the king's house, passed forth to the king his father, to whom (after due salutation) he desired to show the intent of his mind in secret manner.

7Then the king caused himself to be born in his chair into his secret chamber (because he was diseased and might not go) where in the presence of three or four persons, in whom the king had most confidence, he commanded the prince to show the effect of his mind. Then the prince kneeling down before his father, said to him these words: "Most redoubted lord and father, I am this time come to your presence, as your liegeman, and as your son natural, in all things to obey your grace as my sovereign lord and father. And whereas I understand you have me suspect of my behavior against your grace, and that you fear I would usurp your crown against the pleasure of your highness, of my conversation your grace knoweth that if you were in fear of any man, of what estate so ever he were, my duty were to the endangering of my life to punish that person, thereby to raze that sore from your heart. And then how much rather ought I to suffer death to bring your grace from the fear that you have of me that am your natural son, and your liegeman. And to that intent I have this day by confession and receiving the sacrament, prepared myself, and therefore most redoubted lord and father, I beseech you in the honor of God, for the easing of your heart, heretofore your knees to slay me with this dagger." And at that word with all reverence he delivered to the king his dagger, saying: "My lord and father my life is not so desirous to me, that I would live one day that should be to you displeasure, nor I covet not so much my life as I do your pleasure and welfare, and in your thus doing, here in the presence of these lords, and tofore God at the day of judgment I clearly forgive you my death." At these words of the prince, the king taken with compassion of heart, cast from him the dagger, and embracing the prince kissed him, and with effusion of tears said unto him: "My right dear and heartily beloved son, it is of truth that I had you partly suspect, and as I now perceive, undeserved on your part: but seeing this your humility and faithfulness, I shall neither slay you, nor from henceforth have you any more in mistrust, for no report that shall be made unto me, and thereof I assure you upon mine honor." Thus by his great wisdom was the wrongful imagination of his father's hate utterly avoided, and himself restored to the king's former grace and favor.