Middle English Word of the Moment

Friday, April 10, 2009

Anglo-Norman petitions #2: Maud Curteys to the Archbishop of Canterbury

Translation of a petition to Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury (1397, 1399-1414): c. 1404, Maud Curteys asks for justice against a man imprisoned on her charge of murdering her son-in-law, saying that he is also indicted for treason against the king.

Please note: I have no qualifications in Anglo-Norman, or in fact in any form of French. The following translation is intended as a fun exercise, not a rigorous scholarly undertaking, and accuracy and finesse are in no way guaranteed.

Anglo-Norman Letters and Petitions XXVIII, p 29-30: Maud Curteys to Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury.

To my most honourable, most noble and most gracious lord and most reverend father in God, the Archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England, your poor and devout petitioner Maud Curteys entreats most humbly and piteously that, one John Moyle the elder being imprisoned at the suit of your said supplicant for the death of one R. A., son[1] of the same supplicant, killed by his felonious contrivance; and the said supplicant having heard that the friends of the said John Moyle have informed you that he is not guilty of the aforementioned death in order to secure your aid in his deliverance, when in truth, most gracious lord, he is of that wholly guilty and the principal cause and contrivor of the deed, as can well be proven, if the testimony of the most worthy people of the county of Cornwall - given chiefly for his indictment - may suffice; may it please[2] your most gracious lordship and most reverent paternity[3] to consider how the said J. M. is also indicted for treason against the person of our most redoubtable lord the King, and then to graciously allow that the common law be permitted to take its course on the said J. M. for the reason aforesaid, as an example to other such men and as a vindication of justice, without aiding him or praying for him... [4] that they may have pity and compassion for the horrible murder of the said R. A., and for the great sorrow this has caused the said supplicant. For God, and in the name of charity.

Original text from Anglo-Norman Letters and Petitions from All Souls MS. 182, ed. M. D. Legge, Anglo-Norman Texts 3 (Oxford: Anglo-Norman Text Society, 1941). 29-30.

[1] Other references in the Calendar Patent Rolls to Maud and Thomas Curteys and John Moyle indicate that R. A. was their son-in-law, according to the editor's notes.

[2] "The vehemence of Maud's protestations seem to have carried her away a little: the logical progression of “supplie que (come... come... come...) plese a [vous] considerer”, into which this and most of the other petitions are organised, has been disrupted by a little maze of subordinate clauses in which she pleads her case. The return to “may it please” here is consequently a little disorienting, as its referent is 12 very involved lines overhead. I've tidied up a little in translating, to make the sense flow more clearly with semi-colons and participles, but perhaps it would have been more honest to Maud to have left the tangle as it was. She (or her clerk) is, of course, writing quite capably in a very formalised convention, which does support large numbers of subordinate clauses, but in this case I think her subject matter - understandably! - ran away with her.

[3] “paternitee”: fathership? fatherhood?

[4] A line seems to be omitted. “que plese a [vous]... suffrer que la comune ley puisse courger sur [J. M.] ... en ensample de tielx aultres et en sustenance de droiture sanz luy eider ou pour luy prier eiant pitee et compassion del horrible mourdre du dit R. A...” There is no punctuation between “prier” (to pray) and “eiant” (avoir, 3rd pl pres subj), and even if there were there is still no subject for “eiant”. Possibly Maud intended the “aultres” as the subject, added “et en sustenance de droiture” above the line as an afterthought and forgot to precede “eiant” with “que”, but it's a bit of a stretch. Given the absence of editorial punctuation, or a footnote noticing the problem, I'm going to assume it's either a) me missing something stupidly obvious or b) the editors accidentally omitting a few words, not the mediaeval scribe(s).

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