Middle English Word of the Moment

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Anglo-Norman petitions #8: The Isle of Wight to the king

Translation of a petition from the Isle of Wight to the king (Richard II or Henry IV), asking to be excused from the tenths and fifteenths that are intended to fund the war against France in order that they may fortify their island against the constant French raids, and saying that, without those funds, the island will have to be evacuated.

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 XX, p 21: The Isle of Wight to the King.

To the most redoubtable and gracious lord, our lord the king, the poor citizens both spiritual and temporal of the Isle of Wight humbly beg that you may wish to consider, in your benign grace, the great hardship and costs that they have borne before these times and which they still bear from day to day because of the war against the enemies France and Brittany, for which reason they have great fear for their lives and livelihoods, and they mean to remove from the said Isle and to live on this side of the sea if no remedy may be found quickly for the said Isle, and therefore may it please your most gracious lordship to grant the said supplicants, in your benign grace, that they may be excused from all manner of tenths and fifteenths and all kinds of tallages to the said Isle, paid or yet to pay, to you or your heirs, throughout the aforesaid war, in order that the said supplicants may make arrangements to repel the landing of the enemy here, or to make fortifications against said landing at their own costs. 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). 21.

This is actually surprisingly hard to date, because of the Isle of Wight's habit of being attacked by the French whenever the latter had a few spare hours because their wives weren't expecting them home for tea. A quick search fails to turn up any references to this petition, or any other requests for / grants of funds, though there is refence in 1375 to the Crown threatening to confiscate the lands of nobles fleeing the raids, which makes a plausible background to this threat to evacuate.

That's quite a cunning little clause, asking to be excused from all war taxes under the king and his heirs for so long as the war with France may last. Do you think someone had tipped them that this was to go down in history as the Hundred Years War? Or that it would be probably possible to argue for the rest of recorded history that 'the aforementioned war' had never, in fact, ended?

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