Middle English Word of the Moment

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Anglo-Norman petitions #5: Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, to Henry IV

Translation of a petition from Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, to Henry IV, presumably in 1399. Having helped Henry IV overthrow Richard II, who had made him Archbishop of Canterbury in 1397 then exiled him for his association with the Lords Appellant, Arundel writes formally petitioning to be allowed to re-assume his position and the lands and holdings associated with it.

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 XIX, p 20: Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, to Henry IV.

To the most excellent and most redoubtable lord, our lord the king, your humble chaplain Thomas Archbishop of Canterbury and primate of all England entreats that[1], the said supplicant being wrongfully impeached of diverse matters by the parliament held at Westminster on the day following the Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the twenty-first year of the reign of Richard the second, lately King of England, and being in addition in his absence and with no defence given sentences to permanent exile from the realm of England, and his temporalities of the said archbishopric having been seized into the hands of the said former king, and all his goods and properties having been declared forfeit against all true law and reason, may it please your royal majesty[2] to consider the matter of the said impeachment and judgement thus wrongfully given in his absence and with no defence given, and to make judgement in this present parliament to reverse the sentence and declare it invalid, to find that he must be restored to his temporalities in every degree with all the issues, commodities and profits of the holdings that accompany them from the day of the said judgement to the day of the present parliament, together with all the goods and strongholds thus against law and reason declared forfeit, as if no judgement had ever been delivered against him. 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). 20.

[1] Isn't that a potent opening, the careful blend of power and reverence? It combines flattery - to a man just risen to new heights, those forms of address must be heady indeed, especially coming from the “Archbishop of Canterbury and primate of all England”, who nevertheless presents himself as “your humble chaplain” - with promise - I am on your side, God is on your side, I can consolidate your position - and just a hint of threat, because if you were to choose not to reinstate this man as is right (and he makes good use of righteous language throughout the rest of the letter) he has enough political clout to possibly bring you down again, not to mention the influence he might have with someone higher up. Richard II flouted Thomas Arundel, and look what happened to him...

[2] “vostre majesté roiale” - I believe it was Henry VIII who first insisted on “Your Majesty” as the formal form of address to the king. Arundel isn't using it here as a formal title, of course, but it stands out as uncommon: most petitions so far have used “hautesse”, “seigneurie”, etc. Perhaps Arundel is laying on the flattery rather thick.


Anonymous said...

“vostre majesté roiale”—extra stress on the natural royalty of someone whose rise to the throne was questionably legitimate, perhaps?

(And hey: my word verification word is `unsion'. How does it know?)

Ceirseach said...

Wouldn't be at all surprised if that was it. Sticking to the shape of the normal forms, just going a little bit farther with the content...