Percy's Reliques - Richard of Almaigne.

Richard of Almaigne.

"A ballad made by one of the adherents to Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, soon after the battle of Lewes, which was fought May 14, 1264."

This piece affords a curious specimen of ancient satire, and shews that the liberty, assumed by the good people of this realm, of abusing their kings and princes at pleasure, is a privilege of very long standing.

To render this antique libel intelligible, the reader is to understand that just before the battle of Lewes, which proved so fatal to the interests of Henry III. the barons had offered his brother Richard King of the Romans 30,000l. to procure a peace upon such terms as would have divested Henry of all his regal power, and therefore the treaty proved abortive. The consequences of that battle are well known: the king, prince Edward his son, his brother Richard, and many of his friends, fell into the hands of their enemies: while two great barons of the king's party, John Earl of Warren, and Hugh Bigot the king's Justiciary, had been glad to escape into France.

In the 1st stanza the aforesaid sum of 30,000l. is alluded to; but, with the usual misrepresentation of party malevolence, is asserted to have been the exorbitant demand of the king's brother.

With regard to the 2nd stanza, the reader is to note that Richard, along with the earldom of Cornwall, had the honours of Wallingford and Eyre confirmed to him on his marriage with Sanchia, daughter of the Count of Provence, in 1243. Windsor castle was the chief fortress belonging to the king, and had been garrisoned by foreigners: a circumstance which furnishes out the burthen of each stanza.

The third stanza alludes to a remarkable circumstance which happened on the day of the battle of Lewes. After the battle was lost, Richard King of the Romans took refuge in a windmill, which he barricadoed, and maintained for some time against the barons, but in the evening was obliged to surrender.-- See a very full account of this in the Chronicle of Mailros. Oxon. 1684. p. 229.

The fourth stanza is of obvious interpretation: Richard, who had been elected King of the Romans in 1256, and had afterwards gone over to take possession of his dignity, was in the year 1259 about to return into England, when the barons raised a popular clamour, that he was bringing with him foreigners to over-run the kingdom: upon which he was forced to dismiss almost all his followers, otherwise the barons would have opposed his landing.

In the fifth stanza, the writer regrets the escape of the Earl of Warren; and, in the sixth and seventh stanzas, insinuates, that, if he and Sir Hugh Bigot once fell into the hands of their adversaries, they should never more return home; a circumstance which fixes the date of this ballad; for in the year 1265, both these noblemen landed in South Wales, and the royal party soon after gained the ascendant. See Holinshed, Rapin, &c.

The following is copied from a very ancient manuscript in the British Museum. [Harl. MSS. 2253. s. 23.] This manuscript is judged, from the peculiarities of the writing, to be not later than the time of Richard II.; th being every where expressed by the character [thorn]; the y is pointed after the Saxon manner, and the hath an oblique stroke over it.

Prefixed to this libel on the government was a small design, which the engraver intended should correspond with the subject. One the one side a Satyr (emblem of Petulance and Ridicule) is trampling on the ensigns of Royalty; on the other, Faction, under the mask of Liberty, is inciting Ignorance and Popular Rage to to deface the royal image, which stands on a pedestal inscribed MAGNA CHARTA, to denote that the rights of a king, as well as those of the people, are founded upon laws, and that to attack one, is in effect to demolish both.

SITTETH alle stille, ant herkneth to me;
The Kyng of Alemaigne, bi mi leaute,
Thritti thousent pound askede he
For te make the pees in the countre,
Ant so he dude more.
Richard, thah thou be ever trichard,
Tricthen shalt thou never more.

Richard of Alemaigne, whil that he wes trying,
He spende al is tresour opon swyvyng,
Haveth he nout of Walingford oferlyng,
Let him habbe, ase he brew, bale to dryng,
Maugre Wyndesore.
Richard, thah thou be ever, &c.

The Kyng of Alemaigne wende do ful wel,
He saisede the mulne for a castel,
With hare sharpe swerdes he grounde the stel,
He wende that the sayles were mangonel
To helpe Wyndesore.
Richard, thah thou be ever, &c.

The Kyng of Alemaigne gederede ys host,
Makede him a castel of a mulne post,
Wende with is prude, ant is muchele bost,
Brohte from Alemayne mony sori gost
To store Wyndesore.
Richard, thah thou be ever, &c.

By God, that is aboven ous, he dude much synne,
That lette passen over see the Erl of Warynne:
He hath robbed Engelond, the mores, ant the fenne,
The gold, ant the selver, and y-boren henne,
For love of Wyndesore.
Richard, thah thou be ever, &c.

Sire Simond de Mountfort hath suore bi ys chyn,
Hevede he nou here the Erl of Waryn,
Shuld he never more come to is yn,
Ne with sheld, ne with spere, ne with other gyn,
To help of Wyndesore.
Richard, thah thou be ever, &c.

Sire Simon de Montfort hath suore bi ys cop,
Hevede he nou here Sire Hue de Bigot:
Al he shulde grante here twelfmoneth scot
Shulde he never more with his sot pot
To helpe Wyndesore.
Richard, thah thou be ever, &c.

Be the luef, be the loht, Sire Edward,
Thou shalt ride sporteles o thy lyard
Al the ryhte way to Dovere-ward,
Shalt thou never more breke foreward;
Ant that reweth sore
Edward, thou dudest as a shreward,
Forsoke thyn emes lore
Richard, &c.

*** This ballad will rise in its importance with the reader, when he finds, that it is even believed to have occasioned a law in our Statute Book, viz. "Against slanderous reports or tales, to cause discord betwixt king and people."-- Westm. Primer, c. 34. anno 3. Edw. I. That it had this effect, is the opinion of an eminent writer. See "Observations upon the Statutes, &c." 4to. 2d. edit. 1766, p. 71.

However, in the Harl. Collection may be found other satirical and defamatory rhymes of the same age, that might have their share in contributing to this first law against libels.

 

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