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  • Title: Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland 1587 (Selection)
  • Editor: Michael Best

  • Copyright Michael Best. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Raphael Holinshed
    Editor: Michael Best
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    Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland 1587 (Selection)

    [The final years the reign of King Richard I]

    [The pope enforces his rights in England]


    The pope's letters to the king for the church of Lambeth.

    In the beginning of the next [year], the pope's nuncio came with letters, not only to the archbishop and bishops of England, but also to the king himself, signifying the pope's resolute decree touching the church and college of Lambeth to be broken down and suppressed. Whereupon the king and archbishop (though sore against their wills) when they saw no way longer to shift off the matter, yielded to the pope's pleasure: and so the archbishop sent his letters to Lambeth, where the 21st day of January they were read, and the 27th day of the same month was the church cast down, and the canons which were already there placed had commandment to depart from thence without further delay. Thus the monks in despite of the king and archbishop had their wills, but yet their vexation ceased not,

    The monks borne out by the pope.

    for the king and archbishop, bearing them no small evil will for that they had so obtained their purpose contrary to their minds and intents, molested them divers ways, although the monks still upon complaint to the pope were very much relieved and found great friendship both with him and likewise with his court. So that it may be observed that these dishclouts of the pope's kitchen have in all ages, since their first quickening been troublesome and mutinous, saucy and insolent, proud and malapert. But

    Proh pudor, hos tolerare potest Ecclesia porcos,
    Quum sint lasciui nimium, nimiumque superbi,
    Dumtaxat ventri, veneri somnoque vacantes?

    [Richard prepares for a further crusade]

    In this mean time, King Richard, being now at rest from troubles of war, studied busily to provide money, meaning to make a new voyage into the holy land.

    A tax. Five shillings of every plough land, as saith Mattew of Westminster.

    Therefore, finding himself bare of treasure by reason the French wars had emptied his coffers, he set a great tax upon his subjects and by that means, having recovered a great sum, he builded that notable strong castle in Normandy upon the bank of the river of Seine

    Chateau Galliard built.

    named Chateau Galliard; which when it was finished, he fell a jesting thereat and said;

    Behold, is not this a fair daughter of one year's growth.

    5The soil where this castle was builded belonged to the Archbishop of Rouen, for which there followed great strife betwixt the king and the archbishop till the pope took up the matter (as before ye have heard).

    [Richard seeks treasure from viscount Vidomer of Limoges]

    After this, he determined to chastise certain persons in Poitou, which during the wars betwixt him and the French king had aided the Frenchmen against him. Whereupon with an army he passed forth towards them, but by the way he was informed that one Vidomer, a viscount in the country of Brittany, had found great treasure, and therefore pretending a right thereto by virtue of his prerogative, he sent for the viscount, who, smelling out the matter and supposing the king would not be indifferent in parting the treasure, fled into Limousin, where, although the people were tributaries to the king of England, yet they took part with the French king.

    There is a town in that country called Châlus-Cheverel,


    into which the said viscount retired for safeguard of himself, and then gave the townsmen a great portion of treasure to the end they should defend him and his quarrel for the rest. King Richard still following him, as one that could not avoid his fatal ordinance, hasted into the confines of Limousin, fully determining either to win the town by force, if the inhabitants should make resistance, or at leastwise to get into his hands the prey which he so earnestly pursued. At his first approach he gave many fierce assaults to the town, but they within, having thoroughly provided aforehand for to defend a siege, so resisted his attempts,

    King Richard besiegeth Châlus.

    that within three days after his coming he ceased to assail the town, meaning to undermine the walls, which otherwise he perceived would very hardily be gotten, considering the stoutness of them within, and withal the natural strength and situation of the place itself.

    [He is mortally wounded and wills the crown to John]

    Hereupon therefore on the 26th of March while he (together with captain Mercadier) went about unadvisedly to view the town the better to consider the place which way he might convey the course of his mine, they came so far within danger that the king was stricken in the left arm,

    He is wounded.

    or (as some write) in the shoulder where it joined to the neck, with a quarrel envenomed (as is to be supposed by the sequel). Being thus wounded, he gat to his horse and rode home again to his lodging, where he caused the wound to be searched and bound up and, as a man nothing dismayed therewith, continued his siege with such force and assurance that within 12 days after the mishap the town was yielded unto him, although very little treasure (to make any great account of) was at that time found therein.

    In this mean season, the king had committed the cure of his wound to one of Mercadier his surgeons, who taking in hand to pluck out the quarrel, drew forth only the shaft at the first and left the iron still within, and afterwards, going about most unskilfully to get forth the head of the said quarrel, he used such incisions, and so mangled the king's arm, yet he could cut it,

    The king despaired of life.

    that he himself despaired of all help and longer life, affirming flatly to such as stood about him that he could not long continue by reason of his butcherly handling. To be short, feeling himself to wax weaker and weaker, preparing his mind to death, which he perceived now to be at hand, he ordained his testament,

    He ordaineth his testament.

    or rather reformed and added sundry things unto the same which he before had made at the time of his going forth towards the holy land.

    10Unto his brother John he assigned the crown of England and all other his lands and dominions, causing the nobles there present to swear fealty unto him. His money, his jewels, and all other his goods moveable he willed to be divided into three parts, of the which Otho the emperor, his sister's son to have one, his household servants an other part, and the third to be distributed to the poor. Finally, remembering himself also of the place of his burial, he commanded that his body should be interred at Fontevraud at his father's feet, but he willed his heart to be conveyed unto Rouen and there buried, in testimony of the love which he had ever borne unto that city for the steadfast faith and tried loyalty at all times found in the citizens there. His bowels he ordained to be buried in Poitiers, as in a place naturally unthankful and not worthy to retain any of the more honorable parts of his body.

    Moreover he caused the arcubalister that wounded him to be sought out, whose name was Bertram de Gurden or Peter Basill (for so he named himself as some write) who being brought before the king, he demanded wherein he had so much offended him that he should so lie in wait to slay him rather than Mercadier, who was then in his company and attendant on his person? The other answered boldly again, saying;

    I purposed to kill thee because thou slewest my father and two of my brethren heretofore, and wouldst also now have slain me if I had happened to fall into thy hands. Wherefore I intended to revenge their deaths, not caring in the mean time what became of myself, so that I might in any wise obtain my will of thee who in such sort hast bereft me of my friends.

    The king, hearkening unto his words

    A notable example of forgiving an enemy.

    and pondering his talk by good advisement, freely pardoned him, and withal commanded that he should be set at liberty and thereto have an hundred shillings given him in his purse, and so to be let go. Moreover, he gave strait charge that no man should hurt him or seek any revenge for this his death hereafter. Thus the penitent prince not only forgave but also rewarded his adversary. Howbeit, after his decease, Mercadier getting him into his hands first caused the skin to be stripped of his body, and after hanged him on a gibbet.

    [Richard's death]

    At length king Richard by force of sickness (increased with anguish of his incurable wound) departed this life on the Tuesday before Palm Sunday, being the ninth of April

    King Richard departed this life.

    and the eleventh day after he was hurt, in the year after the birth of our Saviour 1199 in the 44th year of his age, and after he had reigned nine years, nine months, and odd days. He left no issue behind him. He was tall of stature and well proportioned,

    His stature and shape of body.

    fair and comely of face, so as in his countenance appeared much favor and gravity; of hair bright auburn, as it were betwixt red and yellow, with long arms, and nimble in all his joints; his thighs and legs were of due proportion and answerable to the other parts of his body..


    His disposition of mind.

    As he was comely of personage, so was he of stomach more courageous and fierce, so that, not without cause, he obtained the surname of Coeur-de-lion, that is to say, the lion's heart. Moreover, he was courteous to his soldiers, and towards his friends and strangers that resorted unto him very liberal; but to his enemies hard and not to be entreated, desirous of battle, an enemy to rest and quietness, very eloquent of speech and wise, but ready to enter into jeopardies, and that without fear or forecast in time of greatest perils.

    These were his virtuous qualities; but his vices (if his virtues,

    The vices that were in king Richard.

    his age, and the wars which he maintained were thoroughly weighed) were either none at all or else few in number, and not very notorious. He was noted of the common people to be partly subject unto pride, which surely for the most part followeth stoutness of mind; of incontinency, to the which his youth might happily be somewhat bent; and of covetousness, into the which infamy most captains and such princes as commonly follow the wars do oftentimes fall when of necessity they are driven to exact money, as well of friends as enemies, to maintain the infinite charges of their wars.

    Hereof it came that on a time while he sojourned in France about his wars which he held against King Philip, there came unto him a French priest whose name was Fulco, who required the King in any wise to put from him three abominable daughters which he had, and to bestow them in marriage,

    Fulco a priest

    lest God punish him for them. "Thou liest hypocrite." said the king, "to thy very face, for all the world knoweth that I have not one daughter." "I lie not," said the priest, "for thou hast three daughters: one of them is called pride, the second covetousness, and the third lechery." With that the king called to him his lords and barons, and said to them;

    This hypocrite here hath required me to marry away my three daughters, which (as he saith) I cherish, nourish, foster and maintain -- that is to say, pride, covetousness, and lechery. And now that I have found out necessary and fit husbands for them, I will do it with effect, and seek no more delays. I therefore bequeath my pride to the high-minded Templars and hospitallers, which are as proud as Lucifer himself. My covetousness I give unto the white monks, otherwise called of the Cistercian order, for they covet the devil and all. My lechery I commit to the prelates of the church, who have most pleasure and felicity therein.

    There lived in the days of this King Richard

    Baldwin and Hubert, archbishops of Canterbury.

    men of worthy fame amongst those of the clergy: Baldwin, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Hubert who succeeded him in that See; also Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln, a man for his worthiness of life highly to be commended. Moreover, William, Bishop of Ely, who, though otherwise he was to be dispraised for his ambition and pompous haughtiness, yet the king used his service for a time greatly to his profit and advancement of the public affairs. Also of learned men we find divers in these days that flourished here in this land, as Baldwin of Devonshire that came to be bishop of Worcester in this king's time, and after his decease he was advanced to the government of the archbishop's See of Canterbury; he wrote divers treatises, namely of matters pertaining to divinity.

    John Bale.

    Daniel Morley, well seen in the Mathematicals, John de Hexam, and Richard de Hexham, two notable historians, Guilielmus Stephenides a monk of Canterbury who wrote much in the praise of Archbishop Becket. Beside these, we find one Richard that was an abbot of the order Premonstratensian, Richard Divisiensis, Nicholas Walkington, Robert de Bello Foco, an excellent philosopher, etc. ¶ See Bale in his third century.

    20In martial renown there flourished in this king's days divers noble captains, as Robert, Earl of Leicester, Ranulf de Fulgiers, two of the Bardolphs, Hugh and Henry, three Williams, Marshall, Brunell, and Mandeville, with two Roberts, Ros and Sabeville. Furthermore, I find that in the days of this King Richard,

    A great dearth

    a great dearth reigned in England, and also in France, for the space of three or four years during the wars between him and King Philip, so that after his return out of Germany and from imprisonment a quarter of wheat was sold at 18 shillings eight pence, no small price in those days, if you consider the alloy of money then current.

    Also immediately after, that is to say, in the year of our Lord, a thousand, one hundred, ninety six, which was about the seventh year of the said king's reign, there followed a marvellous sore death, which daily consumed such numbers of people that scarce there might be found any to keep and look to those that were sick,

    A great mortality of people.

    or to bury them that died. Which sickness was a pestilential fever or sharp burning ague. The accustomed manner of burial was also neglected, so that in many places they made great pits and threw their dead bodies into the same, one upon an other, for the multitude of them that died was such that they could not have time to make for every one a several grave. This mortality continued for the space of five or six months, and at length ceased in the cold season of winter.

    Two suns.

    In the octaves of Pentecost before this great death, in the first hour of the day, there appeared two suns, the true sun and another, as it were a counterfeit sun; but so apparently, that hard it was to the common people to discern the one from the other. The skilful also were compelled by instruments to distinguish the one from the other, in taking their altitudes and places, whereby in the end they found the new apparition, as it were, to wait upon the planet, and so continued by the space of certain hours. At length when the beholders (of whom William Parvus that recorded things in that age was one) had well wearied their eyes in diligent marking the manner of this strange appearance, the counterfeit sun vanished away.

    ¶ This strange wonder was taken for a signification of that which followed, that is to say, of war, famine and pestilence; or, to say the truth, it betokened rather the continuance of two of those mischiefs. For war and famine had sore afflicted the people before that time, and as yet ceased not; but as for the pestilence, it began soon after the strange sight, whereof ensued such effect as I have already rehearsed.

    Thus far king Richard.