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Though some make slight of LIBELS, yet you may see by them how the wind sits; As, take a straw and throw it up into the air, you may see by that which way the wind is, which you shall not do by casting up a stone. More solid things do not shew the complexion of the times so well as BALLADS and Libels.
RELIQUES OF ANCIENT POETRY, ETC.
SERIES THE SECOND.
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,'
-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, 30,0001. 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 first stanza the aforesaid sum of thirty thousand pounds 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 second stanza the reader is to note that Richard, along with the Earldom of Cornwall, had the honours of Walingford 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 VOL. II.
the day of the battle of Lewes. After the battle was lost, Richard king of the Romans took refuge in a windmill, which he baricadoed, 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.
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 overrun 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 Holingshed, Rapin, &c.
The following is copied from a very ancient MS. in the British Museum. [Harl. MSS. 2253. f. 23.] This MS. 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 Þ; the y is pointed after the Saxon manner, and the ì hath an oblique stroke over it.
SITTETH alle stille, ant herkneth to me;
Ant so he dude more.
Tricthen shalt thou never more.
Richard of Alemaigne, whil that he wes kying,
The kyng of Alemaigne wende do ful wel,
Ver. 2, kyn, MS.