Middle English Word of the Moment

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Earl of Kent's confession

This is my translation of the Anglo-Norman text of the Earl of Kent's confession, taken from the appendix to E. M. Thompson's edition of Murimuth (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1889). He prints it there because it appears so in just one of the manuscripts of the chronicle - I believe it's also printed in Latin in Walsingham's Historia Anglicana (Rolls Series, 1863) ii 351, but I haven't verified this, and am not sure what the relationship is between the two versions.

For those who don't know, or do know and quite understandably quite keep the events of these few years straight, here's a brief summary:

- Isabella, queen of England, invaded England to depose her husband Edward II, with the help of her lover Roger Mortimer and Edward's brother Edmund, earl of Kent.

- Having deposed Edward II, they set up his son, a rather young Edward III, in his place. Isabella and Mortimer proceeded to have a party.

- Not long after, Edward II apparently died in captivity at Berkeley Castle. This was terribly unfortunate, and suspiciously convenient, especially for Mortimer. Even more conveniently, no one actually seems to have seen him dead. Anyway, he vanished.

- People proceeded to become more discontented with Isabella and Mortimer's rule.

- Suddenly, the Earl of Kent and a good number of other rather prominent people, as well as people who were rather likely to be in the know, were arrested/accused/looked at funny for trying to rescue the officially dead former king from durance vile in Corfe. Note that one of the men listed below, Sir John Pecche, was apparently the steward in charge of the castle in question, and therefore rather likely to know who was locked up in his charge.

- Despite this, they were naturally all just being terrible malicious liars who were out to upset the established order and oust their true king Morti- er - Edward III, and so many of them, including Kent, lost their heads. Others, according to proof and position, were exiled, fined, or just looked at funny for a while.

- Not long after this, Edward III decided he'd had enough of being a figurehead for a man who liked to do things like stage expensive tournaments in which he dressed up as King Arthur while asserting that he had no designs on the throne and had Edward's uncle executed for trying to rescue his father, had Mortimer executed and his mother politely retired, and took over ruling properly.

- The definitely-not-still-alive Edward II, meanwhile, wandered over to Italy where he spent the rest of his days pottering quietly about the gardens in a nice little monastery, and possibly digging ditches and clipping hedges, just like he'd always wanted to.


Alianore, over at her Edward II blog, made a series of posts on Kent's conspiracy, in which she untangled the characters and sequence of events beautifully: parts one, two, three and four.

The Anglo-Norman is below the translation, verbatim as published in Thompson's edition, if anyone wants to cite it - or disagree with me, of course!

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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.


This statement was given before Robert Howel, crowner of the king’s household, and afterward before the barons and peers of the realm, at Winchester, on the sixteenth day of March in the fourth year*:

Let it be known that E[dmund] Earl of Kent admits that the pope charged him, on his blessing, to bend all his pains and diligence to deliver E[dward] his brother, sometime* king of England, promising to cover his costs.

And he says that a friar preacher of a London convent came to him in Kensington, near London, and told him that he had raised the devil, who had told him most assuredly that E[dward] his brother, sometime king of England, was alive.*

And he says that the Archbishop of York sent to him a chaplain, Sir Aleyn, who bore a letter of credence reading thus: that he would give him for the deliverance of his brother 5000 pounds and more, so much as he had and could supply.

And he says that Sir Ingelram Berenger spoke to him in London on behalf of Sir William la Zouche, saying that he would do all in his power for his brother’s deliverance.

And he says that Sir William de Cliff came to him with the same message, by this token: that they rode together between Woking and Guildford, and he said that he avoided the town of Guildford because his niece Despenser* was there in that town; and that same Sir William spoke to him of the alliance between Richard, the son the Earl of Arundel, and his daughter *, and also said that it would be the greatest honour that ever befell him, and that he would aid him as far as he could to achieve these things.

And he says that the same William came to him on behalf of Hugh Despenser*, to say that he would be well pleased to be with him; because he said that he would be sure of accomplishing the deliverance within a little time.

And he says that Sir William de Derham, clerk of his letters, and Brother Thomas Bromfeld were those who most aided and urged him to undertake these things.

And he says that Sir Robert Taunton brought him word of these things on behalf of the Archbishop of York, saying that he had ready 5000 pounds to answer his needs in the undertaking, from the coffers of Sir Hugh Despenser.

And he says that the same Sir Robert and two friar preachers who are out of their order, the one named Edmund Savage and the other John, were the intermediaries of this affair.

And he says that Sir Fulk Fitzwarrene came to him at Westminster to pray and urge him to undertake this business, emboldening him in these things, and told him that it would be the greatest honour that ever befell him, and that he would give body, heart and all he could to help him.

And he said that Sir Ingeram Berenger came to him on behalf of Sir John Pecche, being in accord with that man, to say that he would give body, heart and all he could.

And he says that Sir Henry Beaumont and Sir Thomas Roscelyn spoke to him in Paris*, in the chambers of the Duke of Brabant, saying that they were prepared to come to England to assist in this venture; and that they urged him on to this end; and that they made shore near Scotland, with the aid of Donald of Mar, who was prepared to aid them to achieve these ends so far as he could. But they arrived too late.

And he says that Sir Richard Pontefract, confessor to Lady de Vescy, came to him on this business at the coronation at Kensington, and then at Arundel, on behalf of the Archbishop of York.

And he says that a monk of Quar and John Comminges, his cousin, had furnished a ship, a barge and a boat to carry his brother to his castle of Arundel, and thence wherever he would. And he says that all this matter had been revealed to Sir E. de Monchiver and George Percy.

And he says that the letters which he had sent to Sir Bugues de Bayeux and to John Deveril, sealed with his seal, that he did send – and that there was also one letter written in his wife’s hand.

And he says that Ingelram Berenger, Malcolm Musard and John Cumming had laboured and bent their backs to do these things.

And he says that Sir Ingelram Berenger came to him at Arundel, in his chambers above the chapel, and said that the bishop of London would aid him so much as was in his power in the deliverance of his brother.

And all these things he admits as true, and confesses himself guilty, that he has wrongly set himself to the unmaking of his lord king and his crown, by the advice of those aforesaid; and he wholly delivers himself to the will of that king, to come barefoot to London, in his shirt, or to whatsoever place the king shall name, with a rope about his neck to London, or whatsoever place the king may name, to do with him as he please.

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Ceste reconissance fuit faite devant Robert Houel, coruner del hostel le roi, et puis devant le grantz et piers de la terre, a Wyncestre, le xvj. jour de Marcz lan quarte: - Cest a saver, qe E. counte de Kent conust qe le apostoille ly charga, sour sa beneizon, qil meist sa peine et sa diligence deliverer E. soun frere, jadis roi Dengleterre, et qil a ceo trovereit ses costages. Et dit qe un frere prechour du covent de Loundres vint a ly, a Kenssingtone juxte Loundres, et ly dit qil avoit leve le deable, qe li dit serteinement qe E. soun frere, jadis roi Dengleterre, fut en vie. Et dit qe le ercevesqe de Everwik ly manda per un chapeleyn, syr Aleyn, une lettre de credence, et fut la credence tiele: qil ly eidroyt a la deliverance soun frere de v. mille livres et outre de quant qil aveit et quant qil poreit reindre. Et dit qe sire Ingeram Berenger dist a ly a Loundres de par sire William de la Souche qil mettroit quant qil porreit a la deliverance soun frere. Et dit qe sire William de Clif vint a li en mesme le message, par celes enseignes qils chivacherent ensemble entre Wokkingge et Gildeforde, et li dist qil eschuast la vile de Gildeforde par la reson de sa nece la Despenser qe fust em mesme la vile de Gildeforde; et mesme sely sire William ly parla de lalyance entre le fitz Richard, counte de Arundel, et sa filie, et dist outre qe ceo serrent le plus grant honur qe unqes ly avynt, et qil ly aidereit en tant com il poeit a ceste chose faire. Et dit qe mesme sely sire Wiliam vint a ly de par Hugues le Despenser, qe ly dit qil serroit bien seant qil fut ovesqe ly; kar il dit qe il seroit sour de la deliverance en bref temps. Et dit, qe sire William de Derham, clerk de ses lettres, et frere Thomas de Brounfelde furent ceux qe plus ly abetterent et enticerent a cestes choses susdite faire. Et dit qe sire Robert de Tauntone de par le ercevesqe de Evirwik eu message de ces choses avantdites et li dit qe il avoit prest v. mille livres a cele besoigne susdite par faire, et ceo de largent sire Hugues le Despenser. Et dit qe mesme sely sire Robert et deus freres prechours qe sunt hors de lour ordre, des quex lun se fait apeller Edmoun Savage, et lautre Johan, furent les brokours de ceste bosoigne. Et dit qe sire Fouke le fitz Waryn vint a ly a Westmonstre et ly pria et ly entica de ceste chose comencer, et ly enbaudi a cestes choses faire, et ly dit qe ceo serroit le plus grant hunur qe unqes ly avynt, et ly dit qil ly aideroit ou corps, quer, et quant qil avoit. Et dit qe monsire Ingeram Berenger vynt a ly de par sire Johan Pecche, qe fut de cele covyne, et a ceo mettreit cors, et quor, et quant qil avoit. Et dit qe sire Henry Bemound et sire Thomas Roscelyn parlerent a ly en Parys, en la chaumbre le Duk Braban, qil fusent prest de venir en Engleterre en aeide de cestes avantdites; et qils ly enticerent de cestes choses faire; et qil ariveroient devers les parties de Escoce, par abet de Donalde de Maar, qe il serroit en aeide de eux, a celes choses maintenir, et quant qil poeit. Mes le temps de lour venue est passe. Et dit, qe sire Richard de Pountfreyt, confessour la dame de Vescy, vynt a ly a Kensingtone, al corounement, et puis a Arundel, de par le ercevesqe de Everwike, pur cestes choses avantditz. Et dit, qe un moigne de Quarrer et Johan Cymmygs, soun cosyn, avoient aparaille une nyef, une barge, une batel, a menir soun frere et ly a soun chastel de Arundel et dilloqes la ou homme ust ordine. Et dit qe de cestes choses avantdites il soi descovereit a sire E. de Mounchiver et a Jorge de Percy. Et dit qe les lettres quelx il ad envoie a sire Buges de Baiouse et a Johan Devroillie, enselez de soun seal, qil les envoia – qe la une lettre fut enscripte de la meyn sa femme. Et dit qe Ingeram Berenger, Maucelym Musarde et Johan Cymmynge travaillerent et firent lour peine a cestes choses faire. Et dit qe sire Ingeram Berenger vynt a ly, a Arundel, en sa chaumbre a mount la chapele, et dit qe le evesqe de Loundres ly aideroit a la deliverance soun frere de quant qil avoit. Et cestes choses il conust estre vereies, et se rent coupable qil se ad malveisement porte en defesance de soun seignor lige et de sa corune, par abet de ces avantdit; et se met de tut a la volunte le roi, de venir nu pe, en sa chemise, a Loundres ou a ceste vile, ou par la ou le roi voudra ordiner, ou une corde entour soun col, de faire de ly ceo qe ly plerra.

6 comments:

Alianore said...

Great translation! I've often wondered if the devil-raising friar - for pity's sake! - was inserted into Kent's confession to discredit him. It's so completely bizarre, and the archbishop of York and his other followers would never have supported him if he'd approached them with that particular story. The archbishop wrote a letter to the mayor of London saying that Edward was alive and in good health in 1329 or 1330 - don't know if you've seen it, Ceirseach. Fascinating stuff.

Kent had far more supporters than I'd even realised when I wrote my posts about all this - I kept finding more and more of them on the Close Roll!

Ceirseach said...

It is bizarre, and it's particularly bizarre that it comes so near the start - right after the pope. Which would lend weight to the discrediting theory, I suppose - make people sit up and take notice immediately, rather than make them slog through all the "Et dit que"s.

Ceirseach said...

Oh, and, no I haven't seen the archbishop's letter, but I know of it.

Lady D. said...

First part of post - hilarious! Second part - great translation, really easy to read. I still wonder how they got Kent to sign that confession - or indeed learnt all of the information. I can't see Kent as a man liable to just easily offer up the information - perhaps he was falsely bribed, forced or else it was either info they already had or maybe even fabricated (God, that was a long sentence!)

Susan Higginbotham said...

Enjoyed the translation! I've often wondered why Kent was so intent on avoiding Eleanor le Despenser in Guildford--or what exactly she was doing there.

Ceirseach said...

Yes, it's rather tantalising, isn't it? I suppose it must have seemed self-explanatory to his audience - tactically avoiding representatives or associates of the opposing party to avoid awkward etiquette moments over dinner? Trying to avoid over-burdening the town with two noble retinues at once?