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About this text

  • Title: Chronicles of England
  • Author: Richard Grafton
  • Editors: Michael Best, Andrew Griffin, Sarah Milligan
  • Coordinating editor: James D. Mardock

  • Copyright Michael Best. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Editors: Michael Best, Andrew Griffin, Sarah Milligan
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    Chronicles of England


    0.1This selection is from Richard Grafton's Chronicles of England (London: Richard Tottell, 1564). Grafton's work is a summary gleaned from a number of chronicles; his account follows Geoffrey of Monmouth in recording that the division of the kingdom and the marriages of Gonorilla and Ragan are arranged after the love test, rather than before it as in King Lear; Lear also retains control over half his kingdom during his life. While we cannot be sure that Shakespeare read Grafton's work, it is interesting in its cogent retelling of a popluar narrative.

    1The reign of King Leyr

    Leyr the son of Bladud, or Baldud, after the death of his father, was made ruler over the Britons. This Leyr was of noble conditions, and guided his land and subjects in great wealth and quietness. He made the Town of Caerleir, now called Leicester. And albeit that this man reigned long over Britain, yet is there no notable thing worthy of memory written of him, except as Geoffrey [of Monmouth] saith, that he had by his wife three daughters and no son, and the daughters were named Gonorilla, Ragan, and Cordeilla, the which he loved much, but most specially he loved the youngest, Cordeilla by name.

    When this Leyr, or Leyth after some writers, was fallen into competent age, being desirous to know the mind of his three daughters, he first demanded of Gonorilla, the eldest, how well she loved him, the which, calling her gods to record, said she loved him more than her own soul. With this answer, the father, being well contented, demanded of Ragan the second daughter how well she loved him; to whom she answered, and affirming with great oaths, said that she could not with her tongue express the great love she bore to him, and added further that she loved him above all creatures.. After these pleasant answers had of those two daughters, he called before him Cordeilla, the youngest, who, understanding the dissimulation of her two sisters and intending to prove her father, said, "Most reverend father, where my two sisters have dissimulated with thee and uttered their pleasant words fruitless, I, knowing the great love and fatherly zeal that thou ever hast borne toward me (for the which I may not speak unto thee otherwise than my conscience leadeth me), therefore I say to thee, father, I have ever loved thee as my father and shall continually, while I live, love thee as my natural father. And if thou wilt be further inquisitive of the love that I bear thee: as thy riches and substance is, so much art thou worth; and so much and no more do I love thee."

    The father with this answer being discontent, married his two elder daughters, the one unto the Duke of Cornwall, and the other unto the Duke of Albany, or Scotland, and divided with them two in marriage his land of Britain after his death and the one half in hand during his natural life. And for his third daughter Cordeilla he reserved nothing.

    It so fortuned after, that Aganippus, which the English chronicle named Aganip, King of France, heard of the beauty and womanhood of Cordeilla, he sent unto her father and asked her in marriage. To whom it was answered, that the king would gladly give unto him his daughter, but for dower, he would not depart with, for he had promised all unto his other two daughters.

    5Aganippus, by his messengers being thus informed, remembering the virtues of the aforenamed Cordeilla, did without promise of dower, take the said Cordeilla to his wife. . . .

    Then it followeth in the history, when Leyr was fallen into age, the aforesaid two dukes, thinking long before the lordship of Britain fell into their hands, arose against their father (as Gaufride sayeth) and spoiled him of the governance thereof, upon certain conditions to be continued for term of life, the which in process of time were minished , as well by Maglanus as by Henninus, husbands of the aforenamed Gonorild and Ragan. But that [which] most displeased Leyr was the unkindness of these two daughters, considering their words to him before spoken and sworn, and now found and proved them all contrary.

    For the which he, being by necessity constrained, fled his land and sailed into Gallia for to be comforted of his youngest daughter Cordeilla. Whereof she, having knowledge of natural kindness, comforted him, and after showing all the matter to her husband, by his agreement received him and his to her lord's court where he was cherished after her best manner.

    Long it were to show unto you the circumstance of the utterance of the unkindness of his two daughters, and of the words of comfort given to him by Aganippus and Cordeilla, or of the counsel or purveyance made by the said Aganippus and his lords for the restoring again of Leyr to his dominion. But finally, he was, by the help of the said Aganippus, restored again to the government of the realm of Britain, and possessed and ruled the same as governor thereof by the space of three years after, in which season died Aganippus. And when this Leyr had ruled this land by the term of forty years, as divers do affirm, he died and was buried at his own town, Caerleyr, or Leicester, leaving after him to inherit the land his daughter Cordeilla.

    Cordeilla, the youngest daughter of Leyr, was by the assent of the Britons made Queen of Britain, and she guided the land full wisely by the term and space of five whole years. The which time expired, her two nephews, Morgan and Cunedagious, sons of her two sisters, came upon her land and made therin great waste and destruction, and at the last took and cast her into a strong prison, where she, being in despair of the recovery of her estate, as saith Gaufride, slew herself.