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Full text of "The story of William Caxton"

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THE STORY OF 
WILLIAM CAXTON 



HEROES OF ALL TIME 

FIRST VOLUMES 

Mohammed. By EDITH HOI.LANB. 

Alexander tho Great. By ABA RUSSELL, M.A. 

(Viet.) 

Augrustus. By RKN* FRANCIS, B.A. 
Alfred the Great. By A. E. MCKILLIAM, M.A. 
Thomas Becket. By SUSAN CUNNINGTON. 
Jeanne d'Arc. By E. M. WILMQT-BUXTON, 

F.R.Hist.S. 

Sir Walter Raleigh. By BEATRICE MARSHALL. 
William the Silent. By A. M. MIALL. 
Marie Antoinette. By ALICB BIRKHEAD, B.A. 
Boys who Became Famous. By F. J. SNBLL. 
Oliver Cromwell. By ESTELLE Ross. 
Peter the Great. By ALICE BIRKHEAD, B.A. 
The Girlhood of Famous Women. By F. J. 

SNELL. 

Garibaldi and his Red-Shirts. By F. J. SNELL. 
Robert Louis Stevenson. By AMY CRUSH. 
Queen Victoria. By E. GORDON BROWNE, M.A. 
Anselm. By E. M. WILMOT-BUXTON, F.R.Hist.S. 
Sir Walter Scott. By AMY CRUSE. 
William the Conqueror. By REN & FRANCIS, B.A. 
Julius Caesar. By ADA RUSSELL, M.A. (Viet.) 
Buddha. By EDITH HOLLAND. 
Queen Elizabeth. By BEATRICE MARSHALL. 
Warwick the King-maker. By RENE FRANCIS, 

B.A. 

Abraham Lincoln. By EDITH L. ELIAS, M.A. 
William Caxton. By SUSAN CUNNINGTON. 
Cardinal Wolsey. By RENE FRANCIS, B.A. 
Charles the First. By A. E. MCKILLIAM, M.A. 

Many other volumes in active preparation 



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THE STORY OF 

WILLIAM CAXTON 



BY 

SUSAN CUNNINGTON 

AUTHOR OF 

STORIES FROM DANTE ' * HOME AND STATE ' 
* THE STORY OF THOMAS BECKET ' 
ETC. 



WITH NINE ILLUSTRATIONS 




LONDON 
GEORGE G. HARRAP tf COMPANY 

2 &* 3 PORTSMOUTH STREET KINGSWAY W.C. 



MCMXVII 



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Printed itt Great Britain 
by Ttirnbull d^ Spears, 



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Contents 



CHAPTER PAGE 

I. THE KENTISH HOME .... 9 

II. THE LONDON APPRENTICE ... 20 

III. CAXTON AT BRUGES 35 

IV. CAXTON, SECRETARY AND STUDENT . . 49 
V. THE NEW INVENTION .... 62 

VI. AT THE RED PALE 74 

VII. KING EDWARD IV .. 85 

VIII. THE ROYAL HOUSE OF YORK ... 98 

IX. TROUBLOUS TIMES no 

X. THE ' UNPOPULAR KING ' . . . .127 

- . - 

XL THE PASSING OF THIS OLD ORDER . . 139 

XII. THE TUDOR ROSE 152 

' 

-." j . 

XIII. THE NEW ORDER . 168 

- 

XIV. CAXTON'S SUCCESSOR 182 







, , ,' ' .' ; 

' ' ' .. 

. . . '- ' 

. ' < 
. ' 



, 

' .'. V V ' 

* .'..,. 







Illustrations 



PAGE 

CAXTON PRESENTED TO EDWARD IV BY EARL 

RIVERS ..... Frontispiece 

THE DUCHESS OF GLOUCESTER REFUSED SANC- 
TUARY IN WESTMINSTER ABBEY ... 30 

QUEEN MARGARET TAKEN PRISONER AFTER TEWKES- 

BURY 54 

A SCRIBE WRITING 68 

CAXTON SHOWING A SPECIMEN OF HIS PRINTING 

TO EDWARD IV . . . . . .88 

THE CORONATION PROCESSION OF RICHARD III . 120 
RICHARD III 130 

THE QUEEN- DOWAGER IN SANCTUARY AT WEST- 
MINSTER .... 144 

THE YOUNG EARL OF WARWICK RIDING FROM 

THE TOWER . . . . . .178 



CHAPTER I: The Kentish 
Home 

WILLIAM CAXTON, whose father was a 
Kentish farmer, was born about the year 
1421. He lived to the age of seventy, 
and during that time saw the accession of five kings 
to the throne. Those years were some of the most 
troublous in our history, yet to Caxton we owe the 
introduction of one of the most powerful of the arts 
of peace. In bringing to England the invention of 
printing he began a revolution of greater moment 
than that of any overthrow of crown or kingdom. The 
story of his life makes known to us many interesting 
features of fifteenth-century England. 

Kent, popularly praised as ' the Garden of Eng- 
land/ was no garden when Caxton was born. A 
century before it had been famous for its fruit-trees 
and ' wort-yards ' (orchards), but these were now 
neglected, and in the Weald the scenery w r as wild 
and the cultivation of the land difficult. Not far 
from Tunbridge is a small village called Hadlow, 
which is supposed to have been near the place of 
Caxton's birth ; standing thus amid acres of moor, 
covered with low bushes of furze and thick tufts of 
heather. These growths, varied with thick coppice 
woods, though picturesque and charming to the 
modern eye, offered serious drawbacks to farming. 
The small villages and hamlets scattered over the 
Weald (once the ancient forest land) were inhabited 
by people whose hard lives and want of intercourse 
with other parts of the country kept them in a very 

9 



William Caxton 

primitive state. Years afterward, when Caxton was 
beginning the work which was to make him famous, 
he wrote in the preface to one of his translations : ' I 
was born and learned mine English in Kent, in the 
Weald, where I doubt not is spoken as broad and 
rude English as in any place in England/ 1 Any one 
who has seen the lonely farms in the Cumberland or 
Derbyshire vales or on the Devonshire moors will 
have some idea of the kind of place which was the 
home of Caxton 's boyhood. 

In the fifteenth century Kent and Sussex were the 
' Black Country ' of England ; and the timber of the 
ancient forest which once stretched over the greater 
part of those counties and into Hampshire served as 
fuel for the iron-smelting furnaces. The roads were 
bad, and across the Weald were often almost im- 
passable ; only those from Hythe and Sandwich 
to Canterbury, with its famous cathedral contain- 
ing the shrine of Archbishop Thomas Becket, were 
occasionally repaired in the interests of the pilgrims 
journeying to and fro. For two centuries there had 
been a law that woods should be cleared away for two 
hundred yards on either side of main roads ; but in 
many places they overgrew them, and besides making 
travel difficult they offered shelter to the many robbers 
who lay in wait for travellers. To-day in journeying 
through Kent the fruitful orchards and hop-gardens, 
and the comfortable farmsteads sheltered from the 
sea-breezes by clumps of hardy trees, make one think 
that life on a farm may be both prosperous and 
pleasant. But in the fifteenth century it was an 
altogether different scene. 

10 



The Kentish Home 

The three classes of people who owned or occupied 
land, or got their living by working on it, were the 
great nobles or abbots ; the tenant-farmers, cultivat- 
ing their own land or holding it at a rent from some 
abbey or castle ; and the labourers or peasants. Rural 
England had not in Caxton's day recovered from the 
terrible pestilence (the Black Death) of nearly a 
hundred years before. So many people, and especi- 
ally country people, had died that there were very 
few peasants in any part of the country compared 
with the numbers in the time of Edward III, and 
thus there was not sufficient labour to till and cultivate 
the land. The poorer village people had gradually 
for the past two centuries lost their little holdings of 
land and worked for hire. Their wages were fixed 
by Act of Parliament and were paid daily, to ensure 
that they should get nothing for the compulsory 
holidays ; they were forbidden to leave their native 
place in search of work, and especially they were not 
permitted to go to towns in order to learn a trade. 
Their employers were hardly better off, although they 
had greater freedom. The land was often very poor 
ill-dressed, ill-managed, and thus returning very 
small crops. Little was known as to differences 
of soil or the various kinds of produce for which 
they were suited ; the extravagant fashion of per- 
mitting arable land to lie fallow (i.e. uncultivated) 
one year in three in order to restore its goodness 
was universally followed instead of dressing it 
with manure ; and, as there were no methods 
known of storing hay or preserving other growths 
as food for the animals, most of the stock was 

II 



William Caxton 

killed off in November and the meat salted 
down. 

The distribution of the land was still on the old Saxon 
village plan: strips of arable field here, strips of pasture 
there, with the separate holdings marked by turfed 
paths, or balks. The narrowness of the holdings pre- 
vented the corn land from ever being ploughed across, 
hence it was not thoroughly turned ; and the long dis- 
tances at which some of the separate strips lay from 
the homestead caused great loss of time in carrying on 
farm-work. There were still but few enclosed fields, 
and animals when grazing needed continual ' herding ' ; 
geese and swine fed in the thick coppices and on the 
outskirts of the forests. We may imagine William 
Caxton 's father as a well-to-do farmer, either owning 
his farm or holding it as tenant from some manor or 
monastery. If the latter, he might be bound to 
render certain services to his landlord in repairing 
roads or bridges, or in reaping the harvest, or in 
supplying materials and labourers for the upkeep of 
the manorial estate on certain days of the year. But 
he must himself have been in a fairly independent 
position and an employer of labourers, otherwise he 
could not have apprenticed his son William to the 
London cloth merchant Robert Large. This occurred 
when the youth was about seventeen years of age. 
Until then we may picture him learning the work of 
a farmer and taking his share, from the age of eight, 
in the family duties. 

In the fifteenth century, and indeed for three 
centuries later, a household such as that of William 
Caxton 's youth was self-sustaining. Not only was 

12 



The Kentish Home 

all the food consumed produced and prepared at home, 
with all the clothing, but nearly all the tools and im- 
plements used, and even the furniture and utensils. 
The flesh eaten was the meat, fresh or salted, of the 
animals killed on the farm ; the bread was made from 
the barley or rye, grown, reaped, threshed, and ground 
at home ; the fleeces and skins were cleaned and 
tanned, dressed and spun, and afterward made up 
into rough garments ; the simple bowls and platters, 
spoons and trenchers, were home-made ; so were 
harness and fittings for plough and wagons ; so 
also were the ' candles ' grudgingly used in the long 
winter, and the lanterns of horn which carried them. 
The principal drinks were beer and decoctions of 
herbs. The former was made without hops and 
lasted good only for about a fortnight, so that brewing 
as a household function needed to take place nearly 
as often as baking. The only itinerant traders 
whose wares supplied the needs of the rural home 
were the potter and the smith ; the heavy earthenware 
basins and goblets which were slowly replacing those 
of wood or horn were sold by the one and metal- 
ware by the other. The seller of earthenware was 
generally the potter himself, who made his stock in 
the winter half of the year and hawked it in the 
better weather The smith not only dealt in hard- 
ware, but mended and sharpened the tools of the 
household the ' tinker ' of modern times is his 
lineal descendant. 

The one opportunity for intercourse with people 
not of the immediate neighbourhood was given by 
the annual fair. This yearly market, in which sales 

13 



William Caxton 

of all kinds of produce were possible, took place in 
the various trade centres at the festival of the patron 
saint of the parish, and might last for three or more 
days. In some places some particular kind of market 
might predominate as sheep, or cattle, or wool, or 
cloth but many were quite general, and gave to the 
rural population their one chance of what, in our 
own days, is summed up in the term ' shopping.' 
Naturally the occasion permitted holiday as well as 
business, since it was a complete interruption of the 
ordinary routine ; thus with large numbers of people 
congregated together there was scope for the wander- 
ing juggler and performer, the wonder-worker and 
medicine-man, and the troupes of animal-tamers and 
tricksters from which, in later days, the circus and 
travelling theatre were to develop. Though wheat 
was grown in Kent, and its soil, especially in the 
Isle of Thanet, was suitable for corn, it is probable 
that Caxton 's father found his flocks of sheep by far 
the most profitable of his possessions. The wool trade 
had been fostered and protected for centuries, and it 
was even more prosperous in the fifteenth century 
than in earlier times. The settlement of Flemish 
weavers in this country under King Edward III had 
led to a considerable increase in the trades of making 
and dyeing of cloth at home. Formerly it had been 
the custom, through the backwardness of our people 
in technical arts, to export the wool to Flanders and 
reimport the finished material. Indeed, at this time 
the reputation of English wool, unsurpassed by any 
on the Continent, was in a fair way to be equalled 
by that for sober-coloured, deep-tinted English cloth. 

14 



The Kentish Home 

A constant cross-Channel traffic was kept up between 
Dover and other Kentish ports and Calais. This 
last-named town was often, curiously enough, the 
seat of the staple, or recognized wool-market, instead 
of an English town, as there existed a dread of 
permitting alien merchants too great freedom in 
England. 

William Caxton's father was, undoubtedly, some- 
thing more than a substantial Kentish yeoman, and 
it is reasonable to suppose that his trade in fleeces 
put him easily into communication with the London 
merchant. Robert Large, like Gilbert Becket nearly 
three centuries before, became Lord Mayor of London, 
and his name has been handed down to fame through 
his connexion with a maker of history greater than 
himself. For the Kentish lad apprenticed to him 
was to accomplish in England one of the greatest 
achievements in our history. 

We may imagine that William Caxton's father 
cared but little for the troublous politics of the time, 
and that, like all quiet traders and workers, he asked 
only that the Government should guard well the coasts 
and the narrow seas, so that pirates and privateers 
should not interfere with his ships. But also we 
may imagine that the members of the Caxton house- 
hold were pleasantly aware that William was of about 
the same age as the young King. During little]Henry's 
long minority his uncles, the Duke of Bedford in 
France and the Duke of Gloucester in England, 
sought to rule his double kingdom for him to subdue 
completely the one half and to maintain in peace the 
other. It was hoped that the conquest of France, 

15 



William Caxton 

begun by his illustrious father, the ' Star of England/ 
would, with the help of the Duke of Burgundy, be 
complete before he was of age himself to rule. But 
the event was far otherwise. At the age of seven 
years he was crowned King of England at Westminster, 
and, two years later, at Paris, he was crowned King 
of France. When, in 1438, Caxton was apprenticed 
to the London merchant the young King Henry was 
beginning to try his prentice hand at ruling. At that 
date, too, it is interesting to notice, the imposing 
personality handed down to us as Warwick the 
King-maker ' was a child of ten years of age, while 
Edward, Earl of March, afterward Duke of York and 
King Edward IV., was not born until four years later. 
Little could the Kentish lad have expected to be 
brought into actual contact with these great ones of 
the land, as afterward came about. 

It is probable that young William Caxton enjoyed 
some privileges as a boy which served to form his 
taste and enabled him to use profitably the oppor- 
tunities which came to him in London. Had he 
been an apprentice who could neither read nor write 
he would hardly in three years' time have been so 
high in his master's esteem as to be named in his will, 
and thus free to strike out a new line for himself. In 
the early fifteenth century there were some possi- 
bilities of education even for country lads. Nearly 
all monasteries and priories had a school attached in 
which boys were taught to read, to sing the offices of 
the Church, and, if they showed promise, to write and 
to study the Latin grammar. However busy William 
Caxton might be during the summer months on his 

16 



The Kentish Home 

father's land, there were the long weeks of winter when 
but little could be done on the farm, and the indoor 
pursuits of the nearest religious house were open to 
all who wished to learn. And all study that was 
pursued at that time was carried on within the walls 
of a monastery. Some of these institutions were 
famous for one branch of learning, some for another, 
but in all alike a knowledge of Scripture, of history, 
of medicine, and of farming was preserved. Every 
monastery, too, possessed some precious manu- 
scripts, and most of them employed monks and 
clerks to make copies in beautiful, shapely script. 
We may well suppose that a lad like William 
Caxton early felt the charm of books and written 
characters, and that he watched with eagerness 
when, on rare occasions, the pupils of the priory 
were allowed to enter the quiet precincts of the 
scriptorium. 

The homestead which sheltered him until he was 
seventeen, and after that knew him no more, may be 
pictured as a rather long, low building consisting of 
a central room or hall in which the whole public life 
of the family was lived cooking, working, resting, 
meals, amusements, and sleep alike were carried on 
there. Above this was probably a roofed chamber, 
or solar, the private room of the heads of the house- 
hold, and the storehouse of the family treasures. The 
outer walls \vere of wattle, with timber cross-beams ; 
the roof, of thatch or red tiles, was supported at an 
acute slope by massive ' roof-trees,' visible from 
within, for ceilings were not yet common. The 
openings for light had no glass, but a painted frame- 

B 17 



William C ax ton 

work formed some protection against the weather, and 
heavy sheepskins were hung across them in winter. A 
central hearth in the hall contained the fire, and 
around it was built a kind of enclosure, within which 
great warmth and cosiness prevailed. The smoke 
escaped by an opening in the roof, but hung lingeringly 
round the rafters before emerging into the open air. 
The floor was of earth, strewn with rushes for great 
occasions, and a low platform at one;end marked the 
' parlour ' of the house. Upon it stood the table of 
the master and mistress, and, on a lower level, down 
the middle stretched the board on trestle supports 
at which sat all the farm servants for their daily meals. 
Round the house clustered sheds and byres ; shelters 
for tools, provender for the animals and stores. An 
enclosure within a wattled hedge formed a ' garth/ 
or yard, where fowls and geese, swine, and the 
younglings of the flocks and herds gathered until 
driven afield. 

The dress of the fifteenth-century yeoman was 
sternly simple, no extravagant town fashions pene- 
trating to the seclusion of the Weald. Probably 
young Caxton wore a sheepskin tunic with a coarse 
linen shirt beneath, long hose from hip to toe, with 
wooden clogs to protect the feet. His father's dress 
would be very similar, though a tunic of heavy cloth 
might replace the undressed fleece. His mother's attire 
consisted of a short gown, very full on the hips and 
with half sleeves, with a coarse linen overall for wear 
in the house, and a long, substantial cloak for great 
occasions abroad. The head-dress, which was only 
rarely worn by country women, was a light cap with 

18 



The Kentish Home 

a hanging border, usually of the same material as the 
cloak, of which it was often the detached hood. 
Women of fashion, then as now, were noted for the 
inconvenience of their attire, as indeed were also 
the men. 



CHAPTER II: The London 
Apprentice 

WHEN Caxton became apprentice to Robert 
Large, cloth merchant and alderman of 
the city of London, many lads of his age 
would be ready to envy him. For though the London 
of the fifteenth century may have been a small and 
curious town compared with the modern capital, it 
was finer and more imposing than any other city in 
the country, and had many interesting phases of life 
to behold. Tradition had even then woven romance 
and glory about it ; if its streets were not ' paved 
with gold ' in the countryman's imagination, at least 
they were full of exciting possibilities. It was in the 
year before Caxton's birth (about eighteen years 
before his first sight of London) that the famous Sir 
Richard Whittington had become Lord Mayor for the 
third time, and already the legends of his dream and 
his cat and of the many bells of the city had begun to 
be told. And indeed, apart from romance, there were 
many great and sober realities to strike the imagina- 
tion. London was the seat of the king's court ; at 
Westminster the Parliaments assembled ; it was the 
great trading centre of the kingdom ; its river was 
the highway of traffic for business as well as for 
pleasure ; docks and wharves lined the shores within 
the city boundaries ; the palaces of the nobles and 
the great ecclesiastics were more imposing than those 
in any other town except Florence ; its cathedral 
and churches, with their lofty bell-towers and stately 
shrines, were of great note with travellers even from 

20 



The London Apprentice 

the Continent ; its bridge over the Thames was one 
of the most admired sights in Europe ; and its 
cleanliness and order had won for it the name 
'the White City.' 

We think of it now as having had narrow unpaved 
streets with no footways ; as being undrained and 
unlighted ; as having had houses with overhanging 
stories and only outside staircases ; few chimneys, 
and fewer windows ; with person and property un- 
guarded and unsafe, so that walking in the streets 
after dark was forbidden by law, as leading to thefts 
and assaults. We think of it too as having been 
occupied by a rough and dirty population who knew 
nothing and cared nothing for what we now con- 
sider the essential comforts and conveniences of life. 
Heavy fortresses still guarded the principal ' gates ' 
of the city Bishop's Gate, Aid Gate, and Lud Gate ; 
and, though they were let out to citizens instead of 
being manned by guards, they were a constant re- 
minder of insecurity. Their gates were still shut at 
sunset, except the postern, which \vas opened after 
parley ; the heads of traitors and other political 
offenders were fixed on spears on each of these great 
entrances ; riots and street fights, attacks on Jews 
and foreigners, were of frequent occurrence, and when 
all men above the rank of burgher wore arms, public 
quarrels and duels were common. Yet to William 
Caxton, straight from the Weald of Kent, it must 
have seemed a very wonderful and magnificent place. 
Probably his new home was in Cannon (Candelwick) 
Street, quite near St Paul's Cathedral, and, as was the 
custom for many centuries after his day, he lived 

21 



William Caxton 

with his fellow-apprentices in his master's house. 
He was the youngest of the seven youths entering 
thus upon the beginning of their merchant's career, 
and his apprenticeship was expected to last for seven 
years. At first his duties would be very simple, but 
during that time he would be expected to master all 
the details and many of the principles belonging to 
his trade the packing and unpacking of goods ; 
the handling and measuring of bales of cloth ; the 
counting and weighing of fleeces ; the distinguishing 
of addresses and trade-marks and guild-signs on the 
large labels ; the understanding differences of texture, 
and of how to fold and wrap delicate fabrics, to 
preserve them in their rough transit from London to 
Antwerp or Bruges or Calais. 

A busy life was led by the London apprentice of 
those days. Besides the actual work of the shop 
or market, he was required to wait on his master's 
family, to do any household labours or errands, 
especially the fetching of water from the conduits, 
and to assist in watching the few materials exposed 
in the outer booth open to the street. This structure 
served instead of the modern plate-glass window 
for the showing of wares, and the apprentices vied 
with each other during the daylight hours in their 
loud cries to the passers-by of, " What d'ye lack, 
sirs ? What d'ye lack ? " 

Moreover, the London apprentice was a person of 
importance. His studies and recreations were alike 
regulated ; he was required to attend church and to 
hear sermons, and to learn his catechism on Sundays 
and holy days ; he was subject to public reproof, 

22 



The London Apprentice 

and penalties in the guild-meetings if he wasted his 
time or failed to become reasonably efficient in his 
work, and he could be publicly whipped for miscon- 
duct. In his leisure time and on Sundays and holy 
days, after divine service, he was required to attend 
at Smooth-fields (Smithfield) or Finsbury Fields for 
drill and archery practice, and was liable to be 
enrolled as a member of a kind of militia in the event 
of war or serious disturbance. He would then march 
under the command of the city aldermen and sheriffs 
and accompany the Lord Mayor in his capacity of 
chief magistrate to help to quell the disorder. He 
would join his fellows at every available opportunity 
for their favourite sport of football in the streets or 
cock-fighting in some sheltered corner, or for wrestling 
games and dancing on the open spaces where the 
' poles ' were reared at several spots within and 
without the city walls. Shrove Tuesday was the 
great privileged occasion of football ; none of the 
authorities attempted on that day to interfere, nor 
would any burgher complain of having to close and 
barricade his shop. On the first of May, when the 
eagerly looked-for spring had really come, all the 
citizen-world went May-poling. A great shaft w r ould 
be planted on the green of each of the many pleasant 
villages outside London, and within the city they 
would be reared at the junction of main roads and 
highways. The finest and tallest of these was in 
Cornhill ; though that at St Mary-le-Strand rivalled 
it : it overtopped the spire of the church of St 
Andrew, which was called on that account St Andrew 
Undershaft. 

23 



William Caxton 

Cock-fighting went on all the year round, even 
schoolboys sharing in it and clubbing together to buy 
game-birds. The contests would be fought out in 
the great schoolroom and watched by the ' heads ' on 
grand occasions, but as a rule they had to be carried 
on more or less surreptitiously. Then at Yule- 
tide, for the period from Christmas to Candlemas, 
the ' mumming/ or dumb-show acting, and carol- 
singing and wassailing, formed amusement for whole 
groups of young people, who patrolled the streets, 
visited the houses of the nobles and the enclosures 
of the monasteries, and generous hospitality and some 
largesse were given in return for their performances. 

From all accounts, the London apprentice of the 
fifteenth century had many of the characteristics of 
the town lads of to-day a perpetual restlessness, 
a quick and ready interest in the doings of the street, 
a delight in anything startling or uncomfortable, 
and a turn for impudent repartee. We may imagine 
young Caxton easily adapting himself to the con- 
ditions of his new life, though at first puzzled and 
bewildered by the noise and the bustle of town com- 
pared with the quiet of the Kentish farm ; wearing 
the long worsted hose and short fustian tunic of the 
time, a flat cloth cap on his head, and heavy wooden- 
soled low shoes on his feet. He would take his meals 
with his master's family, sitting with his companions 
at the lower end of the trestle-table, and, like them, 
keeping perfect silence until the meal was over. 
Those were the days before breakfast was a real 
' sitting-down ' meal. If he had the opportunity to 
break his fast before the dinner hour it would be by 

24 



The London Apprentice 

eating a piece of barley-bread as he went about his 
work. At eleven in winter, and twelve in summer, 
the dinner, or principal meal of the day, was taken ; 
it consisted of stewed meat or fish, cabbages or leeks, 
solid pasties of rabbit or pork, rye or barley-bread, 
and a horn of beer or ale. This was almost the 
only drink in common use. Clever housewives made 
wines from most English fruits, mead, and ' teas ' or 
decoctions of various herbs, but they were treasured 
for special occasions. Wealthy people drank French 
and Spanish wines, of which large quantities were 
imported, but in the household of the ordinary citizen 
there was a strong prejudice in favour of the home- 
brewed beer. Indeed, so highly was it thought of 
that some was exported, and great casks of it were 
sent as gifts to ambassadors and churchmen, merchants 
and officials, who had dealings with England. 

Caxton's sleeping-place was probably a loft over- 
hanging an archway into a little ' garth/ or yard, 
and perhaps one or two of the senior apprentices 
slept in the house proper, among the bales of cloth, 
as snugly as their successors in later generations 
slept ' under the counter/ Perhaps, indeed, Robert 
Large was one of the first merchants of London to 
introduce this substantial table into his warehouse 
for convenience in counting the money offered. But 
still, as three centuries earlier, there would be no 
glass in the window-opening, and, though an upper 
chamber, or solar, was becoming a feature of the 
newer London houses, there was as yet no inside 
staircase. A swinging sign, perhaps a picture of a 
hanging fleece, or a bale of cloth, made known the 

25 



William Caxton 

nature of his trade, and within doors a low, heavily 
raftered room served as workroom, warehouse, and 
sale-place for such customers as entered. But buyers 
generally stood outside. As a man abreast of the 
times and much concerned with foreign trade, Robert 
Large would possess several graduated slats of wood, 
with ells and yards and ' hands ' marked thereon, 
as laid down by Act of Parliament. 

In old London the various trades, and even the 
different parts of the same trade, were kept strictly 
distinct. If, as we suppose, Caxton's master was a 
merchant in a large way, with what we should call 
an export and import trade as well as retail, there 
would be among his bales and packages occasional 
furs and skins, dressed leathers and parchments, and 
even, perhaps, a precious manuscript or two. We 
may imagine the interest with which the young 
Kentish apprentice would take part in the unpacking 
of bales and bundles, and by degrees how he would 
learn to register the purchases and sales. The 
simplest and most usual form of early book-keeping 
was by means of ' tallies/ or slats of wood, notched 
alike on both ledges in certain frequently recurring 
numbers, as fives, tens, twelves, and twenties. One 
of these would be split lengthwise one half included 
in the bale of goods, the other half hung in the ware- 
house. Or, if receiving a bale, a ' tally ' would be 
found within, which served, as the modern invoice 
does, to check the quantity and retain as the bill. 
But for a permanent register the Roman numerals 
were employed, marked with a thick quill on parch- 
ment ; and a final I was always turned into a J for 

26 



The London Apprentice 

ornament and finish. The Arabic figures, so familiar 
to us and, as we think, so inevitable, were then hardly 
known in England, and from the ' device of place ' 
which distinguished them they were believed to have 
something of magic about them ; their use was even 
considered impious. 

The guild of cloth merchants was a leading and 
important one, though they were as yet know r n either 
as ' weavers ' when they prepared the fabric, or 
' shearmen ' when they preserved it. The cloth of 
those days was heavily ' napped,' or covered with 
surface hair, and was renovated from time to time by 
shearing or clipping. 

Once a year was held the great Cloth Fair of St 
Bartholomew on Smooth-fields, the prior of the 
monastery opening the fair and being entitled to 
certain dues and tolls which were always exacted by 
landowners from traders assembling for business. 
There, from all parts, would congregate merchants, 
foreign as well as English, though the former were 
required to leave London within forty days. Here and 
there in London were settled little colonies of Flemish 
weavers (one such was at Bermondsey), and they 
combined with their special trade that of the fullers, 
or dyers. These foreigners seem to have shared in 
the ordinary rights and duties of citizens, though we 
may suppose that they had some little roughness 
to put up with at first from their insular-minded 
neighbours, and especially from the London 'prentices. 
It is always a matter of much amusement to the 
illiterate that a foreigner speaks English with diffi- 
culty, and the favourite fifteenth-century test was 

27 



William Caxton 

to require a Fleming to say " Bread and cheese ' 
when shown those articles of food. He was inevit- 
ably betrayed by saying " Kase und Brod." 

It may have been during Caxton 's first year of 
apprenticeship that his master, Robert Large, became 
Lord Mayor. If so, we may imagine how proudly 
his apprentices would carry themselves during his 
year of office, and how they would have a prominent 
part in each pageant of the time. For the yearly 
' show ' on November gth which still commemorates 
the importance of the old City companies (or guilds) 
is but an unworthy representative of the ancient 
processions. After the civic election in the great 
raftered chamber of the Guildhall there was wont to 
be in the adjoining Chapel of St Faith a service which 
was attended by all the officials of the city. A new 
chapel, beautifully appointed and decorated, had 
been built a few years before Robert Large 's mayoralty. 
Then followed the procession to Westminster Palace 
for the newly elected mayor to offer his fealty to 
the sovereign. The procession in Caxton's day was 
through the streets, and chiefly on horseback, though 
some few years later it went in barges on the river. 
Accompanying the Lord Mayor were his principal 
dignitaries and officials the City Remembrancer, 
the Chamberlain, the Huntsman (for London was 
surrounded with chases, and hunting was a favourite 
sport), the Sw r ord-bearer, and the Mace-bearer. 
Banners and ensigns made gay the passage of the 
procession, beautifully embroidered figures of the 
patron saints of the city churches and emblazoned 
designs of the city arms succeeding each other at 

28 



The London Apprentice 

intervals. The arms, appearing also on the Common 
Seal, were the Cross of St George with the Sword of 
St Paul in one quarter ; on the other side of the seal 
in Caxton's day was a representation of St Paul and 
St Thomas of Canterbury. The guilds of the city 
followed on foot, bearing their symbols and banners, 
and foremost would be the one to which the new 
Lord Mayor belonged. 

At the Whitsuntide holiday it was the custom for 
the men of the various guilds to perform mystery 
plays and moralities in the open spaces of the towns. 
They carried with them beams and poles and erected 
a high platform as a stage. The cities of York and 
Coventry have the most famous records of such per- 
formances, but we may be sure that London was in 
no way behind in activity. The plays gave splendid 
opportunities to ambitious apprentices ; for not only 
were their services needed for the moving and placing 
of stage and properties, but one of them might be 
entrusted with a minor part in the acting itself. 

It was during the year of Large 's mayoralty, or the 
following year, that Caxton probably witnessed one 
of the striking and painful sights in which town life 
in mediaeval times abounded. It was an outcome of 
the bitter political quarrels of the time, in which the 
Council of Regency for the young King were the 
principal actors. During King Henry's childhood, 
while the Duke of Bedford was representing him 
in France, his authority here was divided between 
the Beaufort brothers and Humphrey, Duke of 
Gloucester. Henry Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester, 
afterward Cardinal, strove to establish and maintain 

29 



William Caxton 

peace between England and France ; Duke Humphrey 
chose to place himself at the head of a war-party. 
Then, as since, there were to be found plenty of people 
to shout truculently for war without thinking to 
count the cost carefully and pay for it honourably. 
All such, and many others, admired the reckless- 
ness and the bluff, open daring of the Duke of 
Gloucester, and he was so far a popular favourite 
that his name has been handed down as ' the Good 
Duke Humphrey.' 

Humphrey had mischievously overthrown the careful 
Beaufort plans, and when the opportunity came for 
retaliation the Duchess of Gloucester was accused 
of ' practising harm ' against the young King by 
means of incantations and spells of witchcraft. 
She was refused sanctuary in Westminster Abbey, 
imprisoned in the Tower, and rigorously examined 
till she gave up the names of certain wizards 
and necromancers who had instructed her. These 
men were condemned to death, and the Duchess was 
sentenced to perform public penance by walking 
through London streets robed in a white sheet bearing 
a scarlet ' S ' (i.e. Sorceress) on front and back, on 
three successive days. Her journey was probably 
from the Tower to St Paul's Cross, outside the 
Cathedral, where an address or sermon would be 
preached condemning her crime. 

Public punishments were so much in vogue that 
this episode would attract less attention and arouse 
less horror than in later times. Tradesmen who 
cheated, vagrants who attempted theft, roysterers 
who made disturbances after nightfall, were wont to 

30 




The Duchess of Gloucester refused Sanctuary in 
Westminster Abbey 

W. Hatherell 



The London Apprentice 

be whipped through the streets, or fixed in the stocks 
or the pillory (every parish possessed these penal 
instruments), while the rough men and lads made 
sport of their discomfort or pelted them with refuse. 

It does not follow that any widespread feeling 
was aroused in London on account of this punish- 
ment of the wife of a popular favourite. The Duke 
of Gloucester was so universally known as eccentric 
that when he married one of the ladies-in-waiting 
of his former wife, the Princess Jacqueline of Hainault, 
no one was greatly interested or disturbed. Similarly 
her downfall stirred but little regret. The ' Good 
Duke ' retired into private life for a time, and pre- 
sently the trouble and disgrace were forgotten. 

On the greater holy days there would be time for 
workers and apprentices to go farther afield and, 
leaving the city, explore the quaint villages near : 
on the east, Epping on the borders of its famous 
forest ; on the northern hills, Hampstead through the 
High Gate ; westward, the village of Old Bourne, 
where was the palace of the Bishops of Ely ; south- 
ward, the pretty little hamlet of Charing, with its 
beautiful cross erected to the memory of Edward I's 
chlre reine Eleanor. Without going so far there were, 
besides, quiet spots round the wells, famous of old 
time for the curative properties of their waters 
Holy Well, Clerken Well, St Clement's Well, and 
Bagnigge Wells, all favourite haunts of Londoners. 
There was also the menagerie at the Tower, for ever 
since the days of Henry I, whose menagerie at Wood- 
stock was the private delight of the monarch, and 
the resort of men of science, there had been a collection 



IVilliam Caxton 

of wild animals at the Tower to which the public 
was admitted. The name of the Lion Tower com- 
memorates to this day the home of the king's leopards 
and their keepers. 

From some of the City records we learn that Robert 
Large, during his year of office, had an official resi- 
dence, apart from his private home, at what was 
in later days known as the Windmill, in Old Jewry. 
This house had originally been a synagogue, but when 
the Jews were expelled from London (as happened 
occasionally) it had been granted to a minor order 
of friars. During the fifteenth century it was 
granted on more than one occasion to the Lord 
Mayor as his civic mansion. In later years it be- 
came a tavern. Probably this house had windows 
of oiled linen and a chimney, with a solar above the 
great hall, and a kitchen shut off with a partition. 

There remain to us some old inventories which 
give an idea of the comparatively little furniture 
and few possessions which even well-to-do citizens 
had. One such contains: "Two mattresses, 8 
blankets and i serge, 8 linen sheets, two feather 
beds, 3 brass pots, i candlestick, 2 andirons, i tri- 
pod, i washing vessel, one frying-pan, i canvas bag, 
2 pillows, 2 coffers, 6 chests, i counter, i table, 
2 stools, 2 chairs, i cupboard, 2 tubs, 6 silver 
spoons, i flagon." For many years yet people 
spent their money on fine clothes rather than on 
furniture and decorations of the house ; and if we 
wonder how they stored and took care of their 
wardrobes we may remember that most of it was in 
wear all the time. For houses were cold, draughty 

32 



The London Apprentice 

and badly-built, so that as many clothes were worn 
indoors as out. We may note, too, how our familiar 
piece of furniture came by its name of ' chest of 
drawers.' The slow development of the chest into 
a box with partitions, and presently partitions which 
would draw out instead of being lifted, explains the 
cumbrous title. 

Of changes of clothes or private possessions a 
young apprentice would have few, and Caxton 
would be no exception to the rule. A short knife 
attached to his belt for use in his work and at table, 
a second tunic with leather trimmings, an embossed 
leather strap with metal buckles, and perhaps a 
woollen rug like a Scottish plaid for night or especially 
cold weather would complete his list of treasures. 
A curt little note in a record of a trial for manslaughter 
of a young student \vho killed his opponent in a 
wrestling bout would appropriately describe the youth 
of Caxton's day : ' He has no chattels." Hence 
none could be confiscated. Nor had he cause for 
anxiety as to being robbed which was an ever- 
present dread to his substantial elders. For not only 
the perils of the streets, but also the perils of the house 
were many. Walls were unsubstantial, only a few 
being of brick or stone ; the lower part was of shingle 
and mud, the upper of timber ; and it was not there- 
fore difficult for the resolute ' housebreaker ' to 
make a hole through the wall and through it drag 
his booty. 

A marked improvement was beginning to take 
place in the methods of building at the close of 
Caxton's time in London, the making of bricks having 

c 33 



William Caxton 

become an established industry for the first time 
since Roman days. 

Instead of the seven years which was his appointed 
time, the young lad found himself free in some- 
thing over three. His master fell ill and died 
in the second year after his mayoralty ; and so 
well had his Kentish apprentice pleased him that 
he bequeathed him a legacy of twenty marks and 
cancelled his indentures of service. Caxton's mind 
was soon made up as to what to do. No longer 
would he stand at the junction of Candlewick Street 
and Cheapside crying, " What d'ye lack, sirs ? ' 
He would go abroad and see the foreign lands of 
which he had often thought as the great bales arrived 
from Antwerp or Bruges. And as he belonged to the 
fraternity of the Weavers or the Shearers (afterward 
to become the honourable guild of Cloth-workers), 
there were those who could advance his wishes and 
put him in the way of a more independent life. This 
next phase must be described in another chapter. 



34 



CHAPTER III: Caxtonat 
Bruges 

WILLIAM CAXTON, junior apprentice, was 
not the only recipient of the bounty of 
the kindly Robert Large, ex-Lord Mayor 
of London. He left to his parish church of St Olave, 
where he was buried, two hundred pounds ; to St 
Margaret's, Lothbury, twenty-five pounds ; to the 
poor, twenty pounds ; to the maintenance of London 
Bridge, one hundred marks ; to the covering in of 
the Wall brook (a nuisance in rainy seasons), two 
hundred marks ; to dowries for poor girls of his 
parish, one hundred marks ; to poor householders, 
one hundred pounds. The mark appears to have 
been worth 135. 4d., and thus Caxton's modest fortune 
was about thirteen pounds (worth now about 150). 
Picture him now a staid and upstanding youth of 
about twenty, fair haired, close cropped, with blue 
shining eyes, and clad in the sober garb of the young 
Londoner of the day. The warden and elders of the 
guild have used their influence and have recommended 
him to the officials of the corresponding guild in Bruges, 
and thither he is starting on a June morning about 
two months after his master's death. His journey 
would be made on one of the freight boats which 
carried cargoes from the London wharves to the 
Flemish ports, and would take some weeks to accom- 
plish. Indeed, in stormy weather the mere crossing 
from Sandwich to Boulogne often took a fortnight, 
the small, ill-equipped vessels being tossed about in 
the Channel, unable to get near the shore. For those 

35 



William Caxton 

were the days when there were no harbours beyond 
those formed here and there by the fortunate con- 
figuration of the land. The towns of Belgium which 
stood on the splendid rivers of that country held a 
position of great importance in the commerce of 
the Middle Ages. Where a waterway did not exist 
the enterprise of the people supplied one, and only 
France exceeded Belgium in the number of its canals. 
Bruges, in Caxton's time the principal town of West 
Flanders, is said to have gained its name from the 
many bridges over the canals which carried its trad- 
ing vessels to and from the city. With Bremen and 
Liibeck, Bruges formed the third great town of the 
famous Hanseatic League ; and though in the passing 
of centuries it is now a quiet old-world city, in the 
fifteenth century it rivalled Hamburg itself. Its 
tapestry and cloths were of European fame, and its 
guild of cloth-workers was a very important corpora- 
tion. Their hall and bell-tower were till lately one 
of the sights of the ancient city ; and when Caxton 
first visited Bruges he would find it in some ways 
more stately and impressive than London itself. 

In those days the map of Europe showed several 
very different boundaries of countries from that of 
modern times. The Duchy of Burgundy, of which 
Dijon was the old capital, was an almost independent 
fief of the king of France. Our English history of 
the time is full of suggestive references to the power 
and importance of its reigning dukes, and to our 
alternate alliances and disputes with them. The 
counts of Flanders were equally powerful, and, until 
their dominions were absorbed by France or Belgium, 

36 



A t Bruges 

they were alternately friendly or troublesome neigh- 
bours both to Germany and France. Their domin- 
ions were on the borders of these t\vo rival nations, 
and the wealth and importance of the great towns 
enabled the counts to face sovereigns of greater but 
less developed countries with impunity. Antwerp, 
on the Scheldt, was one of the greatest seaports and 
one of the strongest fortresses in Europe ; it still 
remains a city of commercial importance. Ghent, 
from which town one of the sons of King Edward III 
took his title, was almost equally great. It is not 
an island town, but a town of islands, standing on 
more than twenty detached islets connected by 
bridges. In those days Tournai w r as greater than 
Brussels, though their positions have long since been 
reversed ; and Liege, with its iron-working industry, 
is comparatively modern. 

If, as we suppose, Caxton during his time at Bruges 
held a position as agent for the London guilds, he 
had indeed an unusual and splendid opportunity for 
exercising his good sense and business judgment, 
For though trade will go on even in spite of political 
strife and arbitrary regulations, it is hampered and 
hindered by them, and the relations between England 
and Burgundy were such as to lead to restrictions. 

Only a short time before Flanders and Burgundy 
had become united under the Duke of the latter 
province, and discord with him, our some-time ally, 
was one result of the English attempt to maintain 
a position in France. 

Five years after Caxton's departure from London, 
King Henry, then aged twenty-five, was married to 

37 



William Caxton 

the Princess Margaret of Anjou, the niece of the 
French King. This did not prevent that sovereign 
from seizing the province of Maine and invading 
Normandy. The English armies were driven out, and 
by 1450 only a part of the province of Guienne and 
the port of Calais remained of the young King's great 
French inheritance. Two years later Guienne was 
lost, and thus the little son born to King Henry and 
Queen Margaret was heir to the English crown and 
Calais. But for three centuries yet his successors 
were to claim the empty title of King of France. 

When Caxton first settled in Bruges, Duke Philip 
the Good was ruler of Burgundy and Flanders, and 
faithfully sought to govern his dominions well. Six 
years before he had renounced the English claims, 
but it is very possible that he ignored the trade barrier 
set up by England for the sake of fostering the trade 
and merchandise of the cities in his duchy. The 
English Government had forbidden the carrying of 
English goods to any foreign port save Calais, thus 
seriously damaging the Flemish weaving industry 
and no less disastrously affecting the prosperity of 
English wool-growers. It is supposed that through 
the good offices of the trade guilds in each country 
the evil effects of this statute were mitigated and some 
freedom of trade was established. 

The years from 1452 to 1461 were full of trouble 
and disturbance in England. The King fell a victim 
to an attack of acute melancholia, or insanity ; an 
insurrection under a popular leader, Jack Cade, ex- 
pressed the popular indignation with the Government ; 
Richard, Duke of York, claimed to be next heir to 

38 



At Bruges 

the throne and was supported by a powerful body 
of nobles. He was appointed Protector during the 
King's illness, but in two years' time Henry was so 
far recovered as again to be able to reign. Soon 
open strife began between the supporters of the 
Lancastrian line and those of the Duke of York, and 
the Wars of the Roses kept the country in turmoil. 

Strangely enough, the principal actors in this con- 
test were the principal sufferers. There were few 
sieges, towns wisely yielded when threatened, and, 
as far as possible, pursued their way of trade under 
the new allegiance. But the great nobles, their sup- 
porters and their retainers fought savagely and re- 
lentlessly, through the long apprenticeship (it is 
suggested) of the war in France. With all the bitter- 
ness of a family quarrel it was persisted in until the 
combatants were both reduced to powerlessness. 
The peace-loving King, with his occasionally-returning 
malady, was but a source of weakness ; while his 
Queen, Margaret of Anjou, had all the courage and 
resolution of a long line of warlike ancestors, but 
never could she rely on supporters at a critical 
moment, nor bring herself to waive revenge and thus 
achieve a surer victory. The great Earl of Warwick, 
the ' Last of the Barons,' set a shameless example 
of inconstancy ; the Duke of York was slain on 
the field, handing on to his son Edward, a youth of 
about nineteen, the claim to the throne. In 1461 
Edward was proclaimed king, as Edward IV, by 
the victorious party ; and King Henry, the Queen, 
and the boy prince fled to Scotland and afterward 
to France. 

39 



William Caxton 

Three years later King Edward, yielding to the 
representations of the London merchants, sought to 
relax the restrictions on trade with Burgundy and 
Flanders, and he approached the Good Duke Philip 
with that intent. This perhaps he did the more 
readily since France was disposed to support the 
Lancastrians, and hence it seemed politic to have 
Burgundian influence on the side of York. Tradition 
has it that the Englishman, Caxton, now Rector 
of the Domus Anglorum, or House of the English 
Merchants, was chosen as envoy to carry the com- 
mission from the King of England. 

A feature of the trading settlements of foreigners 
during the Middle Ages was their invariable custom 
of living in a little community, or colony, apart from 
the townsfolk of the place. So it was when Flemings 
settled in Norwich, Germans in London, or English 
in Bruges. We see the same characteristic in the 
East India Company's factories and forts in India 
three centuries later. The English House at Bruges 
was a handsome structure, with a chapel attached, 
as became the dwelling of the merchants whose 
national commodity, wool, was claimed ' to keep 
the whole world warm/ The regulations un<ler which 
the little community lived \vere strict ana almost 
conventual ; the gates were closed at sunset and 
strangers were admitted only to interview the 
Rector. The Rector of the English House at Bruges 
was superior officer, so to speak, of the similar but 
less important houses at Antwerp and Ghent. 

Caxton seems to have arranged successfully with 
the Duke a treaty by which the commerce between 

40 



At Bruges 

England and Burgundy, interrupted by political 
quarrels during the past twenty years, was to be 
resumed freely ; besides Calais, a Flemish port was 
to be made an English ' staple/ and all men were 
forbidden to interfere with peaceful merchants of 
either country in carrying on their trade. 

At this time Caxton was a man of about forty- 
three, well versed in business, accustomed to re- 
sponsibility, a thinker, and a man of the world. 
In his travels about r the countries of Brabant, 
Flanders, Holland, and Zealand ' on the business of 
the English woollen staple, he would come into con- 
tact with men of all degrees, and be made acquainted 
with many devices in customs and trade ; in all, we 
may be sure, he found interest. 

A favourite pursuit of the great in those days 
was card-playing, and it had been one of the artistic 
industries of the noble city of Venice to paint the 
figures on the slips of cardboard. During the fifteenth 
century some enterprising German towns were em- 
ploying, instead, the quicker method of using wooden 
blocks and ' emprinting ' the designs, and the Venetian 
artists, in the interests of their trade, asked that restric- 
tions should be placed upon the use of ' emprinted ' 
cards. Probably each country had its own industry 
devoted to supplying these ' toys/ for we find that in 
the same year as that of the favourable treaty with 
Burgundy a statute of Edward IV forbade the im- 
portation of playing-cards into England. 

Besides playing-cards, devotional pictures for the 
decoration of service-books and missals were also 
produced by means of the wooden blocks. It is 



William Caxton 

possible, too, that the curious symbols which served 
as merchants' and guild marks were similarly pro- 
duced, and, if so, there was, of course, every reason 
why Caxton should have been interested in the clever 
labour-saving device. The oldest wood-block print 
known to us is dated 1423, two years after Caxton's 
birth, and represents St Christopher bearing the infant 
Christ. But at the time when Caxton was living in 
the Low Countries these prints were very generally 
seen, and they were also used as illustrations to 
Scripture texts. These appeared in books of a few 
pages, each page having a picture and a few words of 
story, the whole being known as a Block Book. But 
it still remained to be discovered how to cut out 
separate letters in such a way that their impression 
should give the right appearance on paper. The 
earliest step was the carving of separate words, such 
as titles of the pictures, or separate texts. One of 
the most persistent and patient of the workers bent 
on mastering this was John Gutenberg at Mentz ; 
another was Peter Costar at Haarlem. We can never 
know the exact share of each of these and several 
others in the various improvements, but it is generally 
agreed that Gutenberg first succeeded in cutting out 
separate words in the wooden block and thus print- 
ing a page at a time. The next step was to have the 
single letters, so that they could be used again and 
again, and, when this was accomplished, to have 
them of metal instead of wood, so that they could be 
cast in a die instead of being carved separately. 
But (as anyone knows who has tried to read ' look- 
ing-glass writing ') the die must be of the shape to 

42 



A t Bruges 

contain the letter, and the letter itself is the inversion 
of the impression it makes. So for many years the 
patient ' emprinters ' worked on, improving here 
and there, until at last some one discovered how to 
cut the die, or matrix as it is called. The new method 
of writing was not, however, at once a rival to the 
old manuscript method. 

It was at first looked upon as a curiosity, and 
though the letters were of the same shape as those 
of hand-writing, they were more mechanically regular 
and thus seemed lacking in the finish and individual 
character of the written ones. Also the evenness 
which we to-day connect with printed type could not 
be attained while the cutting of the dies had to be 
done by hand and with imperfect tools ; there was 
no way of spreading the ink quite smoothly over the 
type, nor of pressing the paper upon the inked letters 
so that the contact was exactly level. By degrees, 
however, one improvement succeeding another, the 
Mentz ' emprinters/ with splendid enthusiasm, em- 
barked on the great task of producing the whole 
Bible by the new method. One of the twenty copies 
then made was discovered in the library of Cardinal 
Mazarin, and it is hence often known as the Mazarin 
Bible. It is supposed to have been printed in the 
year 1456. 

In 1467 the Good Duke Philip of Burgundy died, 
and was succeeded by his son Charles, popularly 
known, through the mediaeval fondness for nick- 
names, as Charles the Rash, or Charles the Bold. 
At his father's court many Lancastrian exiles had 
found refuge, as the Duchess was connected with 

43 



William Caxton 

the English royal house. The chronicler, Philippe 
de Comines, describes the unhappy condition of some 
of these political refugees. " Some of them were 
reduced to such extremes of want and poverty 
before the Duke of Burgundy received them that 
no common beggar could have been in greater. I 
saw one of them who was Duke of Exeter (but he 
concealed his name) following the Duke of Burgundy's 
train barefoot and bare-legged, begging his bread 
from door to door. . . . There were also some of the 
families of the Somersets." Yet, within a year of 
his accession, we find the young Duke marrying the 
Lady Margaret, sister of the English King Edward IV. 
The marriage ceremony took place at Bruges, and the 
busy, luxurious city gave itself up to a series of 
magnificent entertainments and public rejoicings in 
honour of the event. In these William Caxton was 
probably a person of some importance. He was of 
the same nation as the bride ; he held a position of 
public trust as representative of the most influential 
merchants' guild ; and, moreover, his acquaintance 
with many cities and many interests would win for 
him esteem and respect. 

As in mediaeval Florence, the towered mansions 
of the Flemish nobles stood side by side with the 
fine houses of the burghers, and the curious modern 
affectation of scorning trade and commerce had not 
yet been adopted, even in England ; in the Flemish 
towns, as in the Italian cities, the best resources of 
art were devoted to the decoration of the churches, 
public buildings, and private houses. So that it 
was through the streets of no mean city that there 

44 



A t Bruges 

paced the bridal procession of the English Princess 
and her soldier-husband. A certain John Paston, 
an Esquire of Norfolk, who came in her train, thus 
describes his impressions of the occasion : ' As for 
the duke's court, as for lords, ladies and gentlewomen, 
knights, esquires and gentlemen, I never heard of none 
like to it save King Arthur's Court." The Duke was a 
ruler of such importance in Europe that nearly every 
court had sent its ambassador on this occasion. 
The representative of the King of France was the 
Lord High Constable, and, greatly as his presence 
was desired by the Duke as conferring honour on his 
nuptials, the manner of his coming struck a jarring 
note. He elected to arrive with great state and a 
long procession of nobles, gentlemen-at-arms and 
knights ; with trumpets and banners and all the 
panoply of grandeur, and also a disproportionate 
number of armed followers, whose swords and 
accoutrements clanked threateningly through the 
crowded streets. Moreover, he had carried before 
him a drawn sword, as emblem of feudal sovereignty. 
This so incensed the Duke that he refused to receive 
the Constable, and the festivity was therefore held 
with an omen of coming strife in every one's mind. 
Still another unhappy circumstance marred the 
joyful preparations. A quarrel took place between 
one of the Duke's retainers and a young noble in the 
train of a visiting ambassador. It was about a quite 
trifling matter merely a stroke in a game of tennis 
but the angry player against whom the decision went 
drew his sword and struck his opponent so violently 
that he died. The murderer was arrested and cast 

45 



IV i I Ham C ax ton 

into one of the Duke's prisons, and in spite of all 
pleas for mercy the Duke ordered him to be executed 
on the very morning before he himself rode forth to 
meet his bride. The relatives of the young knight, 
some of whom were men of position and influence, 
vowed vengeance against the ruler who thus sternly 
punished an offence which was often expiated by a fine. 
Such turbulent scenes were continually occurring 
in those times, and Caxton must often have witnessed 
disputes and conflicts as he pursued his ordinary life. 
We do not know exactly what position he held at 
this time, but it is supposed that ever since he had 
been commissioned, in 1464, to help to arrange the 
treaty of commerce between Edward IV of England 
and Duke Philip the Good, he had been in some 
position of trust at the ducal court. Perhaps he 
\vas a controller of estates or warden of ports, but 
it is almost certain that he was in the train of the 
Duke as he went from Bruges to Ecluse to receive 
the Princess Margaret when she arrived. We can 
fancy that the royal lady would feel a kindly interest 
in the Englishman, perhaps the only person in her 
new home, besides her own attendants, who could 
speak her own language. It is possible, too, that 
she found in him a taste similar to her own : a love 
of books and delight in songs and stories. However 
this may have been, from the coming of the English 
Princess, Caxton seems to have ceased to travel 
about from town to town negotiating with the 
merchant guilds, and to have lived on one or other 
of the estates of the Duchess, employed chiefly as 
steward or secretary. 



A t Bruges 

In that capacity he had considerable leisure, 
which (like all intelligent people) he proceeded to 
fill up. Among the possessions of the Duke and 
Duchess were, if not a library, at least several books, 
beautifully written and illuminated within, and 
massively and handsomely bound without. For the 
great were accustomed to receive as delicate gifts, 
from scholars and churchmen, fine manuscript copies 
of some favourite books. In the days when furniture 
was scarce and the little personal possessions that 
fill our modern rooms were unknown, there might 
often be found in a great carved chest in the lady's 
bower, or in a press in the wall, some few treasures 
in the way of books or musical instruments. Very 
often the owners could hardly read the books or play 
the instruments, but sometimes they could do both ; 
and apparently the Duchess Margaret was an accom- 
plished and educated \voman. 

The ' Good Duke Humphrey ' was, strange to say, 
a book-lover. When, during the French wars, the 
English army looted Paris, the Duke of Gloucester 
was in command, and he took, as his share of the spoil, 
many precious manuscript-books from the library 
of the French king in the Louvre. Some years later 
(1440-1446) he gave several of these to the University 
of Oxford, thus laying the foundation of w r hat was 
afterward to become the Bodleian Library, and one 
of the three greatest collections of books in our 
country. The central inner enclosure of the Bodleian, 
as we see it to-day, was the original ' Duke 
Humphrey's Library,' built to accommodate scholars 
wishing to study the precious volumes. We read 

47 



William Caxton 

that the building of the Library, which was put in 
hand soon after Duke Humphrey's death in 1447, 
was delayed considerably by the King (Edward IV) 
withdrawing the masons in order to build St George's 
Chapel at Windsor. 

It is interesting to notice the names of some of the 
books given or bequeathed by the Duke : the works 
of Ovid, Cato, Cicero in the Latin ; Aristotle and 
Plato in Greek ; commentaries by Bede and Vincent 
de Beauvais ; some medical treatises ; some volumes 
of the Italian novelist Boccaccio ; the sonnets of 
Petrarch and the Divine Comedy of Dante. Like 
Caxton, he had always cared ' to study in books of 
antiquity,' although from the bustling turbulence 
of his life, and the rash and unthinking conduct of 
which he was capable, we should not have expected 
it of him. None of these books which he had pos- 
sessed and enjoyed was among those which afterward 
became connected with Caxton's name. 



CHAPTER IV: Caxtm, Secre- 
tary and Student 

WE may think of Caxton during the next 
three or four years as living an entirely 
happy and congenial life in one or other 
of the Duke of Burgundy's castles, conducting the 
necessary correspondence for his patrons in the 
management of their estates, and devoting himself 
with keenness and energy to the task of reading and 
translating some of the favourite old-world stories. 
Duke Charles, as was the fashion with rulers of those 
times, was much engaged with adventurous and war- 
like pursuits, of quarrels and reprisals, of marches 
and attacks. His father had devoted the whole of 
a long life to the great endeavour of protecting 
his duchy and fostering in it the arts of peace ; 
Charles the Bold took a very different line. His hot 
and -haughty temper, impatient pride and trucu- 
lent spirit led him to be ever ready to fight, to be 
easily provoked, and with great readiness to give 
provocation. 

In his many expeditions his Duchess could not 
accompany him, so that we may picture her as living 
the ordinary life of the great ladies of the day in 
some vast, frowning castle. It would not be very 
unlike her early life in England. Her meals would 
be taken at the High Table on the dais in the great 
hall ; she would receive any honoured guest or 
traveller of note, and listen to the songs or romances 
of the wandering minstrels. Her private life would 
be spent, for the most part, in her bower, an upper 

D 49 



William Caxton 

chamber with high, narrow windows shielded by 
lattice-work, from which might be seen the fair, 
stretching country of Burgundy. There she would 
receive her bailiffs and secretaries (for we have 
reason to believe that she was a good woman of 
business), her falconers and huntsmen, and there 
she would sit, surrounded by her ladies and attend- 
ants, at a tambour-frame plying her busy needle 
in making great canvas pictures of hunting and 
pastoral scenes. 

It must not, however, be supposed that she lived 
an entirely quiet or indoor life. Hunting and 
hawking, with well-trained hounds and falcons, was 
a great resource with mediaeval ladies. Much of the 
land of Burgundy was forest or marsh, carefully 
reserved, as in England, for the use of the dukes and 
their retinues in sport. We may picture Caxton as 
occupying a privileged position in her household ; 
he appears to have had control of certain of the 
revenues of the Duchy and access to all its written 
treasures. Among these were copies of the favourite 
romances : Hector of Troy, The Romance of Alexander, 
Renard the Fox, King Arthur and his Knights, 
Charlemagne and Roland, and various fragments of 
historical records, such as Chronicles of England, 
Description of Britagne, and Feats of Arms and 
Chivalry. Most of these were written in Old French, 
the true language of romance, and not far removed 
from the Burgundian French which was spoken at 
the time. 

Here was opportunity for Caxton to develop his 
secret taste for reading, and he tells us a little about 

50 



Secretary and Student 

his pursuits and his companions and friends in 
Burgundy. " Oft was I excited of the venerable 
man Messire Henry Bolomyer, Canon of Lausanne, 
for to reduce for his pleasure some historic, as well 
in Latin and in romance as in other fashion written ; 
that is to say of the right, puissant, virtuous, and 
noble Charles the Great, King of France and Emperor 
of Rome, son of the great Pepin, and of his princes 
and barons, as Rowland, Oliver and other." These 
' reductions ' were perhaps translations, perhaps 
abridgments, of the old stories, which were wont to 
run to thousands of lines ; all later generations of 
Englishmen, therefore, are indirectly indebted to 
the worthy Messire Henry Bolomyer, Canon of 
Lausanne, for setting Caxton to the task of trans- 
lation and abridgment. For had it not been 
for his interest and desire to reproduce the old 
stories in a modern version, his attention might 
not have been so thoroughly engrossed by the new 
invention of Emprinting. That at first he saw no 
connexion between the picture-cuts, trade-mark- 
stamping, and entire books no longer hand-written 
is certain. 

In his interesting task he found such difficulties 
as daunted him an experience pardonable enough 
since he was certainly working without good diction- 
aries, and, as he modestly avows, with very imperfect 
knowledge of both the French and his own English 
tongue. When all these things came before me," 
he writes, " after that I had made and written five 
or six quires, I fell in despair of this work, and pur- 
posed no more to have continued therein, and the 



William Caxton 

quires laid apart, and in two years after laboured 
no more at this work, and was fully in will to have 
left it." Naturally the vocabulary of trade and 
intercourse with merchants would contain but few 
terms specially suited to stories of fighting and 
adventure. Perhaps his overcast air, perhaps his 
modest complaint to his mistress when discussing 
some business matter, revealed to the kindly Duchess 
her secretary's disappointment. He continues : 
" Till on a time it fortuned that the right high, 
excellent, and right virtuous princess, my right 
redoubted lady, my Lady Margaret, sent for me to 
speak with her good grace of divers matters, among 
the which I let her Highness have knowledge of the 
beginning of this work ; which anon commanded me 
to show the said five or six quires to her said grace. 
And when she had seen them anon she found de- 
faute in mine English, which she commanded me 
to amend, and moreover commanded me straightly 
to continue and make end of the residue not 
translated.'' 

It is noticeable how completely Caxton has adopted 
the courtly style of speech about his august mistress ; 
and the almost extravagantly chivalrous terms in 
which he speaks of her and her condescension show 
us too the gentler side of fifteenth-century civiliza- 
tion the element of respect and reverence for women. 
Caxton's narrative continues : " Whose dreadful 
commandment I durst in no wise disobey, because I 
am a servant unto her said grace and receive of her 
yearly fee, and other many good and great benefits ; 
but forthwith went and laboured in the said trans- 

52 



Secretary and Student 

lation after my simple and poor cunning, all so nigh 
as I can, following mine author, meekly beseeching 
the bounteous highness of my said lady that of her 
benevolence list to accept and take in gree (kindly) 
this simple and rude work.' 1 

Thus we find Caxton one of the long line of writers 
who owed their advancement, at first at least, to 
the kindly interest of great patrons. Until quite 
modern times it was, indeed, almost the only way 
of producing literary work, and the mechanical side 
-the writing or the printing, as it came to be was 
for a long time yet still a part of the author's or the 
translator's concern. A previous resident in the 
Burgundian ducal household had translated the old 
Tales of Troy into French, and his copy was un- 
doubtedly one of the manuscript books among which 
Caxton revelled in his quiet turret chamber. This 
translator was Messire Raoul de Fevre, chaplain to 
Duke Philip the Good, and he may have been still 
alive in Caxton's early years in the Duchess Margaret's 
service. 

Meanwhile in England the peace which followed 
Edward of York's victory lasted but a short time 
and was rudely broken. Warwick, the most powerful 
of the new King's supporters, who had great estates 
all over England and whose fortress-mansion in 
London is still commemorated in Warwick Lane, 
became discontented with the rewards and considera- 
tion he received from Edward. He was especially 
offended at the King's refusal to sanction the marriage 
of the Duke of Clarence with Warwick's daughter. 
He therefore began to plot with the King of France, 

53 



William Caxton 

Louis XI, and secretly had the forbidden marriage 
accomplished. He also visited Duke Charles of 
Burgundy, but failed to win his support for the plan. 
Louis, however, was quite willing to help the 
Lancastrians back to power, since Edward of York 
had chosen to ally himself with Burgundy, and he 
arranged a meeting between the Earl of Warwick 
and the exiled Queen Margaret. The Queen accepted 
his offer of service, and a marriage was arranged 
between the young Prince of Wales and Warwick's 
second daughter, Anne. Then the Earl returned to 
England, gathered his forces, enticed King Edward 
from London to subdue an insurrection in the 
North, and then marched to London and proclaimed 
Henry VI a restored king. 

It was then Edward's turn to flee. In the latter 
part of the year 1470 he appeared at his sister's 
court in Bruges as a refugee from England, while 
his Queen sought sanctuary in Westminster Abbey, 
and there the heir to the throne was born during his 
father's exile. This was barely three years after the 
gay wedding of Duke Charles the Bold and the 
Yorkist princess. Revolutions were so frequent in 
the many small, turbulent States on the Continent 
that possibly the King's sojourn at the Burgundian 
court aroused but little interest except in the high 
quarters of political intrigue. Louis of France would 
be annoyed, of course, but the Duke of Burgundy 
was too powerful and important a ruler at present 
to be crushed for espousing the opposite side in a 
neighbour's quarrel. 

Edward's stay in exile was short, for in less than 

54 




Queen Margaret taken Prisoner after Tewkesbury 54 

Stephen Reid 



Secretary and Student 

six months he had made a bold dash for England, 
landed far in the north and won adherents (like 
Bolingbroke in Richard II's day) by protesting that 
he had come back to claim his York estates. Of two 
things we may be sure that while in Flanders and 
Burgundy he won golden opinions for his gracious 
and manly bearing, and that he saw and spoke 
with his fellow-countryman, William Caxton. Hence 
there would be a thrill of interest in Burgundian 
court circles when in the following May came the 
news that, after the battle of Barnet and the battle 
of Tewkesbury (in one of which the powerful Warwick 
was killed and in the other the young Prince Edward 
and Queen Margaret taken prisoner) Edward of York 
was again King of England. He sent a gracious 
letter of thanks to the nobles, the mayor, and the 
burghers of Bruges for their kindly welcome in his 
exile. The palace where he stayed is now one of the 
Museums of the city, but the raftered hall where he 
was entertained, the kitchen with its mighty open 
fire-place where the banquets were prepared, even 
the little apothecaries' room where the Duchess 
Margaret's ' leech ' prepared the medicines and 
unguents for the ducal household may still be seen. 
A few pieces of armour and some ancient solid fur- 
niture may have been seen by the exiled ancestor 
of our present sovereign, and many of the heavy 
kitchen utensils now carefully treasured date back 
to an even earlier day. 

Philippe de Comines, the great chronicler of the 
times, warmly praises King Edward's open and fear- 
less manner, and especially commends his generosity 

55 



William Caxton 

in war. He writes : " King Edward told me that in 
all the battles which he had gained his way was that 
when victory was on his side, to mount a horse and 
ride about crying out, ' Save the common soldiers 
but put the gentry to the sword.' 

One of the ducal castles was evidently at Ghent 
and another at Cologne, for Caxton mentions in his 
prefaces in later years that he was resident at Bruges, 
at Ghent, and at Cologne, and that he had much 
leisure, but was all the more bent on persevering 
with the translation of the old romances. ' I thought 
in myself it should be good to translate it (The 
Histories of Troy) into our English, to the end that 
it might be had as well in the royaume of England as 
in other lands/' He tells us too that it was " begun 
in Bruges, and continued in Ghent and finished in 
Cologne in time of the troublous world and of the 
great division in the royaumes of England and France, 
that is, to wit, the year of our Lord one thousand 
four hundred and seventy-one/' 

At Cologne a vigorous centre of the new, mysteri- 
ous art of ' printing ' was growing up ; and conse- 
quently we may imagine Caxton making friends 
there with the silent busy men and, by slow degrees, 
getting to understand more and more of the wonder- 
ful trade secret. For, devoted as he was to his 
translator's art, he found the mechanical labour 
of writing out his version very wearisome. His 
Apologia in the Third Book of his Recueil says : 
" Thus end I this book, which I have translated 
after mine author as nigh as God hath given me 
cunning, to Whom be given thanks and praises. 

56 



Secretary and Student 

And forasmuch as in the writing of the same my pen 
is worn, mine hand weary and not steadfast, mine 
eyes dimmed with overmuch looking on the white 
paper, and my courage not so prone and ready to 
labour as it hath been, and that age creepeth on me 
daily and feebleth all the body ; and also because 
I have promised to divers gentlemen and to my 
friends to address them as hastily as I might this 
said book, therefore I have practised and learned, 
at my charge and dispense, to ordain this said book 
in print, after the manner and form as you may 
here see ; and is not written with pen and ink as 
other books are to the end that every man may have 
them at once.' 1 

A book with fair pages covered with words ' not 
written with pen and ink ' was in the fifteenth and 
sixteenth centuries as great a wonder as in the nine- 
teenth century were the first steam locomotive or the 
early automobiles. As, however, there was not yet 
a cursive (or running) script, the first printers copied 
the familiar manuscript characters (afterward to be 
known as the Black Letter type), and the difference 
between print and handwriting was not very easily 
recognized. This led to the insertion in most books 
of the announcement : 'I, without pen or pencil, 
have imprinted this book.' 1 Another feature of the 
work of the early printers is often forgotten now that 
labour is so divided into different trades and machinery 
is plentiful. The German and Flemish workers from 
whom Caxton learnt the art had to make their own 
presses or adapt them from something already in 
use, to cut or cast their type, to make their own ink 

57 



William Caxton 

even the ' dabbers/ or soft knots of sheepskin, with 
which to apply it had to be made ; and besides reading 
and correcting their copies, they had to bind the book 
when printed. 

Most inventions, in their progress toward perfec- 
tion, leave, as it were, a trail of defeated ambitions, 
of ruined and disappointed men, and often of martyrs 
in their cause. That of printing was no exception. 
For although the cost of printing many copies of a 
book was much less than that of writing many copies, 
yet to print only a few, or to succeed in selling only 
a few, made the process much too expensive. Hence 
the hesitation with which a work was undertaken 
unless a sale were guaranteed by some patron. Caxton 
was fortunate enough to have powerful friends among 
the great, so that his knowledge of the hardships 
endured by some of the printers of Mentz and Bruges 
served, not to depress him, but to make him careful 
and far-seeing. 

Among the nobles in attendance on the Princess 
Margaret, when she came to Bruges in 1468 as a bride, 
was a certain young peer, Lord Scales, brother to the 
Queen of Edward IV. When, three years later, 
Edward took refuge at the Burgundian court, this 
nobleman was in his retinue, and on one of these 
occasions became known to Caxton. They had 
evidently some similarity in tastes, and we may well 
fancy them discussing books together. By this time 
Lord Scales had reached his majority and become 
Earl Rivers, while his family was fast becoming the 
most powerful in England. A few years later 
we find Caxton ' emprinting ' " The Dictes and 

58 



Secretary and Student 

notable wise sayings of the Philosophers, trans- 
lated out of French by Antony Wydeville, Earl 
Rivers." 

Before this happened, however, there were troubles 
and misfortunes for the royal house of Burgundy 
which undoubtedly affected Caxton. The fiery Duke, 
well-named le Temeraire, was bent on annexing the 
province of Lorraine, which separated his Burgundian 
dominions from those of the Netherlands. He also 
desired to seize Provence, once part of the old 
Burgundian kingdom. These ambitions stirred up 
powerful enemies : the Swiss League of the border 
Cantons, the Duke of Austria, and the King of France. 
Then occurred an alliance which at first appeared 
chivalrous and fair. The English King shall we 
say in return for Burgundy's hospitality in the days 
of his exile ? brought over an army to help the Duke 
in his great designs. Charles, rash as ever, failed to 
meet his ally at Calais, and the artful French King, 
Louis XI, induced Edward to throw over the Duke of 
Burgundy and to takes sides with France. The in- 
glorious Treaty of Pecquigny in 1475 ratified this, and 
Edward returned home the richer by an immense sum 
of money and the promise of a yearly ' tribute ' of ten 
thousand pounds. Two years later Duke Charles was 
killed in battle, his duchy was annexed by France, and 
his daughter Mary ruled over the Netherlands. We hear 
no more of the Duchess Margaret for some years, and 
probably from this time Caxton 's service in the ducal 
household came to an end, and he gave himself up 
entirely to the mastery and practice of the art of 
printing. 

59 



William Caxton 

It was at this period that Caxton is believed to 
have married. Probably his bride was the daughter 
of some substantial Flemish burgher or Burgundian 
merchant, and by this time Caxton would himself 
have become almost Flemish. His early interest in 
books and later studies in translating lead us to sup- 
pose him to have had a considerable gift for languages 
in spite of the modest way in which he speaks of his 
attainments. He evidently did not become a rich 
man, as many merchants have done, but he seems to 
have cared more for other things than for money, and 
to have pursued generously his private hobbies as 
well as his daily trade. His reading of the high 
romances of olden days strengthened this bent of his 
mind, and we find him, some years later, upbraiding 
knights and gentlemen for spending their time in 
vain and foolish pleasures and for shunning all worthy 
contests of strength and skill. He presses upon his 
readers to note how, in the histories of King Arthur, 
" may be seen noble chivalry, courtesy, humanity, 
friendliness, hardiness, love and friendship, as well as 
cowardice, murder, hate and sin. Do after the good 
and leave the evil," he concludes, " and it shall bring 
you to good fame and renown/' 

Caxton was not, however, in any sense a Dry-as- 
dust. He says plainly elsewhere that, ' In my 
judgment, histories of noble feats and valiant acts of 
arms and war which have been achieved of old time 
. . . are as well for to see and know their valiantness 
. . . as it is to occupy the ken and study overmuch 
in books of contemplation." There is preserved in 
a private library a scrap of parchment with some of 

60 



Secretary and Student 

Caxton's handwriting upon it. Carefully elaborated 
flourishes adorn the capital letters, and the neat 
characters stand in even lines, minute but clear, 
with the so frequently occurring phrase, ' translated 
by me William Caxton at Westminstere." 



CHAPTER V: The New 

Invention 

* 

DURING the years 1471-6 Caxton journeyed 
through various German towns, and finally 
settled at Cologne, perhaps in partnership 
with one of the printers of that city. His impatience 
with the labour of writing and the slowness of hand- 
work in book production was stronger than ever, so 
that though he was approaching middle age he turned 
himself to the mastery of the new art. Apparently 
by this time he possessed several valuable manuscript 
translations, the work chiefly of his own hand and 
brain ; but it was no small enterprise for a man of 
mature years to embark upon a new trade and that 
one which might be expected to develop but very 
slowly. Probably during the latter part of the time 
he was collecting the necessary implements and 
materials, prescriptions for the making of ink, and 
particulars as to obtaining parchment and vellum, all 
of which would involve much trouble and expense. 
In his first printed book he announced, with openness 
and simplicity : ' I have practised and learned at my 
great charge and dispense, to ordain this said book 
in print." 

He appears to have undertaken at about the same 
time the task of translating into French, and then of 
printing, a curious book, then a century old, written 
in Latin by a certain Brother Bartholomew, entitled 
DC Proprietatibus Rerum. Though Latin was still 
the language of scholarship and of devotion, French 
was the tongue of the noble patrons of the new art 

62 



The New Invention 

in Flanders, and, to a certain extent, in England. 
Thomas Warton, the old historian of English poetry, 
reminds us of our debt to French Literature when he 
says : " By means of French translations, our country- 
men, who understood French much better than Latin, 
became acquainted with many useful books which 
they would not otherwise have known." The 
Metamorphoses of Ovid \vas another work translated 
by the busy Caxton ; a manuscript copy of this is 
one of the treasures of Magdalen College Library, 
Cambridge. 

Translation from the classics had become a pursuit 
in favour with men of rank even before Earl Rivers 
produced his Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers in 
1477. The Earl of Worcester, who was beheaded during 
the brief Lancastrian supremacy in 1470, had already 
translated Cicero's De Amicitia ; the companion work, 
De Senectute, Caxton himself afterward translated. But 
the most famous of the early books printed by Caxton 
was The Game and Playe of the Chesse. This was a 
very curious work of a French priest, in which, under 
the guise of a description of how to play chess, there 
was introduced a considerable amount of moral 
teaching. Caxton printed it at Cologne in the original 
French, with woodcuts of the king, the queen, the 
fool, and the knight. The letterpress explained how 
a philosopher pursuaded a cruel king of Babylon to 
amend his ways by teaching him to play chess and by 
explaining to him that the pieces and the moves 
were symbolical of the right and peaceful pursuits of 
the nation, from the men of highest degree to those 
of the lowest. Next were described the offices and 

63 



William Caxton 

duties of a king and a queen, the characteristics of 
the fool (in English changed to the bishop) , the knight 
and the rook, and then very fully the classes of 
people represented in the eight pawns. The first 
class consisted of the tillers of the earth ; the second of 
smiths and metal-workers ; the third of advocates, 
notaries, and cloth-makers ; the fourth of merchants 
and exchangers ; the fifth of physicians, spicers, and 
apothecaries ; the sixth of taverners and victuallers ; 
the seventh of city guards, toll-takers, and customs 
officers ; and the eighth of messengers, couriers, and 
' players at the dice.' 

By the year 1475 the condition of things in the 
Flemish and Burgundian towns was sad in the extreme. 
Duke Charles the Bold had persisted in one warlike 
extravagance after another until the once-prosperous 
towns of his dominions were drained of their wealth 
by taxation and trade losses. In England things 
were more peaceful, King Edward IV having, on 
his restoration, completely crushed by confiscations 
and executions the Lancastrian baronage and silenced 
their sympathizers, while interfering little in the 
affairs of the rest of the nation. He was by nature, 
as so many warlike heroes have been, luxurious and 
pleasure-loving, and, when not engaged in some 
violent martial exercise, he was content to live an idle 
and self-indulgent life. He had replaced the extinct 
or fallen baronage of his predecessors' time with a 
new class of his own creation, in which, naturally 
enough, the family of his queen came foremost. 

The greatest trouble of his reign had been the 
treacherous conduct of his brother, the Duke of 



The New Invention 

Clarence, who had systematically intrigued against 
him. The death of Clarence was in late years generally 
attributed to the King or to his influence, though at 
the time there was no one of sufficient daring or in- 
tegrity to assert the fact. The King's expedition to 
Calais in 1475 on behalf of the Duke of Burgundy, 
his sister's husband and previously his own host and 
protector, and his inglorious return laden with ' tribute ' 
from the King of France, were all of a piece with the 
political methods of the time. The English people at 
large might well be satisfied to be spared the drain of 
heavy war-loans, and under the peaceful conditions 
that were established trade and national prosperity 
were progressing well. 

Thus it was that in 1476 William Caxton returned 
to England, the bringer of a new art and the bearer 
of strange treasures in heavy chests and coffers, such 
as precious rolls of manuscript, phials of pigments 
and powders, and various implements of wood and 
metal, besides (most valuable of all !) a case of metal 
dies. Within his mind, too, was a store of learning 
and accumulated experience, and a quiet resolution 
to establish himself in his native land and show his 
countrymen the advantages of the great invention he 
had mastered abroad. Although little is known of 
his domestic affairs, we are sure that with him came 
his wife Maud. Landing from the boat at Queenhithe, 
or Dowgate, Caxton once again found himself in 
London, after an absence of nearly thirty years. 

No great alteration would be noticeable in the 
appearance of the city : a few more brick houses, 
fewer low wooden ones ; more windows in the larger 

E 65 



William Caxton 

houses instead of shuttered apertures ; also more 
division into separate rooms in the manors and great 
houses, a ' parloir ' separate from the ' refectory ' in 
monasteries, and rather more gorgeous style of dress 
among the nobles, and a soberer one (if possible) 
among persons of lesser rank ; these would be some 
of the alterations, but, on the whole, London had not 
changed greatly. Gaunt heads were still exposed on 
the turrets of London Bridge, the Barbican, and 
Temple Bar ; the river was still the great highway 
of traffic, and the royal barges, nainted red, with 
high pavilions and great figures ?.\ the prow, passed 
up and down the river between Richmond and the 
Tower. We may suppose that the open ' ditch ' of 
Wall Brook had been covered in, in accordance with 
the endeavour made nearly forty years before, when 
Caxton's public-spirited master, Robert Large, be- 
queathed a handsome legacy toward the work. 

The trend of daily life and behaviour under the 
growing prosperity of the people is shown in the 
records of one of Edward IV's infrequent parliaments. 
In order to check extravagance and display in dress 
an Act of 1464 decreed that " No yeoman or any other 
person under the degree of yeoman shall wear in the 
apparel for his body, any bolster, nor stuffing of wool, 
cotton, or caddis in his pourpoint or doublet, but a 
lining only, according to the same." Another indica- 
tion is given in the Chronicle of London, by William 
Gregory ; a Papal decree in 1466 ordained that ' ' No 
cordwainer shall make any pikes (the pointed toe 
ornaments) more than two inches long, or sell shoes 
on Sunday, or even fit a shoe upon a man's foot on 

66 



The New Invention 

Sunday, on pain of excommunication. Neither shall 
any cordwainer attend any fair on Sundays, under 
the same penalty." This Bull was approved by the 
King's Council and also confirmed by Act of Parlia- 
ment, and a proclamation was made at Paul's Cross 
to that effect. Apparently the cordwainers appealed 
arainst the restriction in the interests of their trade, 
and the men of fashion continued very largely to 
ignore it. 

One feature of mediaeval trade customs was the 
rigorous limitation of workers to their own trades, and 
even to certain specified branches of the same trade. 
So strict were these that those who made boots and 
shoes might not repair them ; those who made hats 
might not make caps ; weavers and fullers might 
sell only retail in their own town and might not go 
beyond its limits to trade, as that would infringe the 
rights of the merchants. Caxton had come back to 
London, but he had stepped outside the boundaries 
of his own trade ; he had to seek anew the ' freedom ' 
of the city. 

The art of writing was, for many centuries, almost 
the prerogative of the monastic orders. They and 
the royal lawyers and scriveners practised the art 
which hardly any other subject sought to master. 
But with the decay of religious fervour, the consequent 
ill-repute of some of the monasteries, and the slacken- 
ing of the ' rule ' of industry and piety, together with 
the increasing wealth and growing business inter- 
course among the citizens in great towns, the old 
monopoly existed no longer. It had, however, been 
succeeded by another by the formation of ' guilds/ 



William Caxton 

in which the bands of lay copyists were enrolled, and 
who plied their trade in certain recognized places and 
almost at certain fixed rates. One such was ' The 
Brothers of the Pen/ another the ' Guild of Writers,' 
yet another the ' Paul's Scriveners.' Their stations 
were near the gates of the cathedral enclosure or at 
the entrances of the great churches. Their dress was 
almost uniform, consisting of a long, heavy, tight- 
fitting cloak over a short tunic, the former with 
capacious lining or ' sleeves ' in which sheets of 
parchment could be carried ; an ink-horn hung from 
the girdle, and one or two feathered ends of quills 
were visible on the under tunic. A close cap on the 
head, and soft leather shoes with dull-coloured hose 
completed the attire of the professional ' writer.' 

These men would undertake small tasks, such as 
correspondence, or great ones, such as the copying 
of an entire book. Sharing the pages among several 
of the workers, they would accomplish the task in a 
comparatively short time. We may easily under- 
stand how cold would be the welcome extended by 
this profession to the new art of printing, either in 
London or in the German or Flemish cities. Caxton 
was, therefore, unable to attempt to settle down in 
the London of which he was a ' freeman ' ; his freedom 
covered only the cloth-workers' trade. Yet he needed 
a town, not a country district, and required also the 
presence of people interested in books and wealthy 
enough to buy them. Hence he betook himself to 
Westminster, then, as formerly and for two centuries 
later, easily accessible by river but separated from 
London by three miles of almost impassable road. 

68 




A Scribe Writing 

From a manuscript of the fifteenth century in the 
British Museum 



68 



The New Invention 

Journeying by river the traveller would embark 
at Queenhithe, and after passing the wharves of the 
city he would see the palaces of the nobles and bishops, 
with their pleasaunces and gardens stretching down 
to the strand, and kept private by the water-gates 
at the foot of the steps. First, and most commanding, 
stood Baynard's Castle, built by Duke Humphrey of 
Gloucester fifty years before ; then the monastery of 
the Black Friars ; the Convent of Bride Well, that of 
the White Friars, then the Temple, just beyond the 
city boundary, with its round church built on the 
model of that over the Holy Sepulchre. Then came 
the splendid Durham House ; the ruins of the Savoy 
Palace, seat of John of Gaunt, destroyed in the Wat 
Tyler riots of 1381 and not rebuilt until more than 
a century had passed ; and York House, the residence 
of another royal duke and famous in later history as 
the birthplace of Francis Bacon. The landing-place at 
Westminster was near the royal Palace, which dated 
back to the Great Hall of William Rufus, close beside 
the Abbey of St Peter. 

The precincts of the Palace adjoined those of the 
Abbey, and there was only a village beyond. The 
Abbey and the Palace alike were self-contained, 
providing, by means of enormous staffs of officials and 
workers, all the necessaries of the residents within. 
In later days the palace of the White Hall, standing 
farther north, supplanted Westminster as a royal resi- 
dence, but in Caxton's day the sovereigns used the 
latter continually. Among the great group of buildings 
comprising the Palace were the Exchequer Hall (with 
prisons beneath it) for finance business, and the Star 

69 



William Caxton 

Chamber for meetings of the king and his council. 
There were also the Queen's Hall, the Nursery, the 
King's Wardrobe, the Chandlery and the Almonry ; 
and surrounding these in a great enclosure were 
gardens, fishponds, vineries, granaries, and wort-yards. 
Near the river were the barracks, the stables, the 
mews, and the barns. 

The Palace consisted rather of several connected 
buildings than of one ; it comprised the state chambers 
as well as houses for the king's privileged nobles and 
high officers. Much of the building was timber, 
finely-carved and well-proportioned ; there were lofty 
roofs, pointed gables, the rich colours of stained glass 
and painted walls ; bright tapestries and gay canopies, 
and everywhere the heraldic bearings of royal owner 
or aristocratic occupier. The courtyard and green- 
sward of the Palace could accommodate all the 
busy splendour of guests and tournaments, and 
the entertainments of the frivolous company of 
nobles and knights with which Edward surrounded 
himself. 

More important even than the Palace of Westminster 
was the Abbey Church and its surrounding monastery. 
In the latter half of the fifteenth century this ancient 
Benedictine foundation was at the height of its power 
and splendour. The Order had ever been renowned 
for scholarship and a large school for boys occupied 
one of the cloisters. Narrow desks, one behind 
another, accommodated the young learners, who 
were never permitted to speak to each other during 
school hours or to use any languages other than Latin 
or French. 

70 



JTke Neiv Invention 

As in earlier days, the sons of nobles and even 
royal princes were received in the abbot's household 
for training ; the gentler practices of knighthood 
supplemented the teaching of the school, while the 
duties of waiting on their elders, holding torches 
or lanterns, fetching and carrying implements, 
and performing other small services, accustomed 
them to some of the responsibilities of their future 
positions. 

Besides its school the Abbey was famous for its 
scriptorium, wherein sat diligent monks copying 
and illuminating books. In an ante-chamber the 
steward and his clerks would be found keeping 
the accounts and records of the Abbey farms, rents, 
and expenditure ; in the abbot's private rooms his 
secretaries and lawyers dealt with the Papal and 
foreign correspondence or the communications from 
the sovereign. 

In common with all monasteries open hospitality 
was offered in the great hall ; beyond this was the 
refectory of the monks, who took their meals in silence 
while a student or chorister read aloud from the 
Fathers or the Martyrology. Crowds of poor way- 
farers and mendicants were received and fed at stated 
hours in the Almonry ; political offenders and their 
attendants sought sanctuary within the monastery 
grounds, finding refuge, if necessary, in the fortified 
tower near the entrance, which no angry earl or 
sovereign dared storm. 

The abbot, as became his office, had some separate 
and additional accommodation. The Jerusalem 
chamber was part of his residence in the time of King 

7 1 



William Caxton 

Edward IV ; the present dining-hall of the boys of 
Westminster School was the abbot's refectory ; their 
great schoolroom was his dormitory. Besides the 
continual round of services in the stately church 
(which began at two or three o'clock in the morning, 
and ended only with Compline at eight at night) there 
were not infrequently state ceremonials of one kind and 
another in the Abbey. During Caxton's residence 
abroad it had seen three coronations ; first, that of 
Margaret of Anjou when she became the bride of 
the young Henry VI in 1445 ; that of Edward IV 
himself in 1461 ; and four years later that of his Queen, 
Lady Elizabeth Grey. 

Although in the years soon to come it was found 
that many of the religious foundations had outlived 
their usefulness, yet in 1476 they still formed centres 
of learning and of the useful arts. Agriculture and 
farming, primitive as was their condition, were 
managed best by the conventual landowners ; the 
knowledge and practice of medicine were largely in 
their hands ; they sustained much of the cost of 
draining land and making roads and bridges ; the 
care of the poor and the sick and the education of the 
young was entirely theirs. 

To such a little kingdom within itself consisting 
probably of not more than eighty professed monks 
and novices, but with visitors, professional and house- 
hold staff, servitors, helpers and dependents, number- 
ing between three and four hundred persons came 
Caxton in the year 1476. We must not suppose him 
asking alms, favour or toleration ; he was prepared 
to rent such part of their out-buildings as would serve, 

72 



The New Invention 

and to add to the varied crafts of smith and chandler, 
weaver and fuller, pewterer and potter, the new art 
of printing. His settlement there, his methods of 
work and what he accomplished will be told in later 
chapters. 



73 



CHAPTER VI: At the 

Red Pale 

WE may be sure that Caxton had carefully 
planned his proceedings and was confident 
that the Abbot John of St Peter's, as the 
head of a Benedictine monastery, would be interested 
in the new invention for producing books. All fell 
out as he desired. The large extent of the monastery 
buildings and precincts made it almost like a little 
town, and Caxton was given possession of certain 
chambers in the outer buildings adjoining the Almonry. 
This centre for wayfarers was near the principal gate ; 
indeed it adjoined the Gate-house, a strong tower 
built over the entrance. Here was a prison (for, like 
the lay barons, each abbot and prelate had dungeons 
or cells for offenders), and in close proximity was the 
hospital for aged women, recently built by the charit- 
able Countess of Richmond. 

Thus in the shadow and seclusion of the Abbey 
Church of St Peter, amid its various activities, was 
planted the beginning of the new movement which 
was to change so greatly the old life and thought. 
But Caxton's chief idea was that in this powerful 
shelter and gracious centre of learning he would be 
free from vexatious restrictions and trade jealousies. 

On the other hand, the new-comer was, no doubt, 
a welcomed inmate of that cloistered city, as a traveller, 
a man of affairs, and one who had occupied a respon- 
sible position in connexion with the leading merchant- 
guild, whose chief staple was at Westminster. We 
may suppose that Caxton had with him one or two 

74 



At the Red Pale 

copies of ' emprynted ' books, and we may well 
believe that the clerks of the Abbey scriptorium 
would be greatly interested in the mysterious art 
by which ' many copies were begun in one day and 
ended in one day." 

The energetic worker let no grass grow under his 
feet. As soon as his press could be put together, 
some ink made, and the type set up, he issued a notice 
in effect, an advertisement. This was couched in 
an adroit form of words : ' If it please any man, 
spiritual or temporal, to buy any Pyes of two and 
three commemorations of Salisbury Use, emprynted 
after the forme of the present letter, which ben well 
and truly correct, let hym come to Westminstre in to 
the Almonrye at the Red Pale and he shall have them 
good chepe. Supplico stet cedilla." No advertise- 
ment of modern times, however ingeniously con- 
structed, could have more points of interest than 
this fifteenth-century handbill. One precious copy 
is now preserved in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. 

The announcement which reads so curiously is of 
a Directorium, showing clearly the ' commemorations ' 
of feast days falling within the great festivals of 
Easter and Whitsuntide. As Easter is a ' movable ' 
feast, i.e. falling on different dates in different years, 
the Ascension and Pentecost are movable also, \vhile 
certain Saints' days are kept always on the same date. 
The greater feasts have precedence, so that lesser 
ones are transferred to other days if they come together. 
In pre-printing days it was no easy matter to determine 
the date of Easter for any year, and a great part of 
mediaeval arithmetic, as studied in the cloister, had 

75 



William Caxton 

been devoted to calculations by which Easter might 
be found. But even in Caxton's day there was no 
general circulation of calendars, and the ones com- 
piled in the separate monasteries were, of course, in 
script. Caxton was thus issuing a set of directions 
for the observance of the feasts in due order, or as we 
should now term it, an almanac. The peculiar term 
' Pyes ' seems to have referred to existing manuscript 
directories which, from abbreviations and alterations, 
were obscure and difficult to read. Curiously enough 
the word ' pie ' to-day is applicable to type indis- 
criminately mixed, and thus connects the highly- 
developed art of the present day with the small 
beginnings of the first English printer. 

This book was soon followed by others. Among 
the earliest was the French version of the Histories of 
Troy, as translated by Caxton's honoured friend, 
Raoul le Fevre, chaplain to the Duke of Burgundy, 
and done into English by Caxton himself " at 
the commandement of the right hye, myghty and 
vertuouse Pryncesse hys redoubted lady Margaret, by 
the grace of God, Duchesse of Bourgoyne, of Brabant, 
etc." Next appeared his English version of the 
Life of Jason. 

These ancient romances show only one of the forms 
of literature in which Caxton was interested. Soon 
he issued his translation of the Game and Playe of the 
Chesse, dedicating it to the King's brother, the Duke 
of Clarence, a young prince of unstable mind and 
treacherous instincts. Perhaps Caxton, greatly daring, 
hoped that the allegory in the book would win the 
Duke to more upright courses. The inscription dis- 



At the Red Pale 

erectly assumes the best. " To the right noble, right 
excellent and vertuous Prince George due of Clarence, 
Erl of Warwick and of Salisburye, grete chamberlayn 
of England and lieutenant of Ireland, oldest broder 
of Kynge Edward by the grace of God Kynge of 
England and of Fraunce your most humble servant 
William Caxton amonge other your servantes sendes 
unto you peas, helthe, joye and victorye upon your 
Enemyes. Right highe puyssant and joyous and 
vertuous desirs. Amen. 

" Fynysshed the last day of Marche the yer of our 
lord God a thousand foure hundred and lxxiiij.' J 

Then in a prologue he continues : " For as much 
as I have understand and knowe that ye are enclined 
unto the comyn wele of the Kynge our seyde sovereign 
lord, his nobles, lords and comyn people of his noble 
royaume of England, and that ye serve gladly the 
Inhabitations thereof enformed in good, vertuous, 
profhtable, and honeste manners : In whiche your 
noble persone with guydyng of your hows aboundeth 
gyving light and ensample unto all others." And 
it further says that the little book is printed in order 
that its teachings " may be applied unto the morality 
of the public weal, as well of the nobles and of the 
common people, after the Game and Playe of the 
Chesse." 

We may imagine the Prince being shown a copy, 
with the fair inscription standing neat and bold on 
the first page, on one of his visits to the Red Pale. 
And it soon became the fashion for the courtiers to 
follow the example set by the King himself, and to 
visit the travelled Englishman in order to watch the 

77 



William Caxton 

mysterious process of which he was master. Caxton, 
who had known King Edward during the less happy 
days of his exile at his sister's court in Bruges, no 
doubt rejoiced in the signs of peace and stability in 
the government of England, while he also delighted 
in the proofs of royal favour which he received. 
For the King was a cultivated scholar, as lay learning 
went, and was the first monarch since King Henry III 
of whom this could be said. He was pleased to show 
himself the patron of learning and the arts, and during 
the latter years of his reign, when untroubled by 
revolts and wars, he varied his unworthy amusements 
and coarse pleasures with some occasional service to 
intellectual things. His Queen's brother, Anthony 
Woodville, Earl Rivers, perhaps first enlisted his 
royal interest in Caxton, for his collection of Dictes 
and notable wyse Sayings of the Philosophers was one 
of the books printed at the Red Pale in the year 
1477. 

This style of writing is found in all countries at a 
certain stage of literary development, and it formed a 
stepping-stone from the indirect teaching and sugges- 
tion of the fable to the sustained reasoning and argu- 
ment of the treatise or the sermon. Short, detached 
' sentences ' which expressed clearly some one phase 
of truth and could be easily remembered were the 
learned examples of instructive composition, as pro- 
verbs or simple aphorisms were the popular ones. 
The collection made and translated by Earl Rivers 
was probably from the classical writers, Greek and 
Latin ; another volume, however, was composed of 
modern examples from the original writings of a learned 



At the Red Pale 

lady, Christine de Pisa, who was a notable figure at 
the court of King Charles V of France in the latter 
half of the fourteenth century. 

Christine's collection of Morale Proverbes, in metre, 
was most highly esteemed in her own day, and even 
now, indeed, they take rank as admirable specimens 
of early French literature. One of her most striking 
productions was the Dittie de Jeanne d'Arc, though as 
this was written in the year of the author's death, 
1429, she knew only of the wonderful achievements 
of the Maid. The monarch who had befriended 
Christine had passed away, so also had his successor, 
and the unworthy Charles VII was reigning when she 
died. Her father had been an astronomer of note, 
and during her early residence with him in France 
she had married ; soon, however, she had been left 
a widow. Her sentiments were strongly royalist, 
and her religious thought in accordance with the 
teachings of the Church. Hence she opposed what 
may be called the ' free-thinking ' tendencies of her 
day, which found expression in the second part of 
the curious old poem, the Roman de la Rose. 

A somewhat similar book of detached reflections 
was Memorare Novissima : which treatetli of the Foure 
laste Thinges, possibly compiled by the prior or sub- 
prior of the Abbey, both of whom were noted scholars. 
Still another was the Cnrial of Alain Chartier, an 
eloquent writer at the Burgundian court in the days 
of Duke Philip the Good. This consisted of moral 
and political counsels and reflections expressed in the 
clear, concise form to which the French tongue so 
readily lends itself. The writer is said to have had 

79 



William Caxton 

the best prose style of any before the sixteenth century. 
A couplet in Caxton's version runs : 

Ther is no dangyer but of a vylayn, 
Ne pryde but of a poure man enryched. 

It is interesting to find school books and one or 
two books intended for children among the produc- 
tions at the Red Pale during these early years. A 
curious little book, Stans Piter ad Mensam, cast in 
the difficult old Ballade Royale metre, consisted of 
gentle admonitions as to right conduct and ended 
with a number of ' Moral Distichs/ in parallel columns : 

Aryse erly And to thy soupe soberly 

Serue God deuoutly And to thy bed merrily 

And be there jocondly 

Go to thy mete appetently And slepe surely 
And aryse temperately 

The Chronicles of England and the Description of 
Britain were the first history and geography books 
to be printed in England. The former is taken from 
the old Chronicle of Brute, ' ' emprinted by me William 
Caxton In thabbey of Westmynstre by London 
fynysshid and accomplisshid the X day of Juyn the 
yere of thincarnacion of our Lord God M.CCCC.LXXX. 
And in the XX yere of the regne of kyng Edward the 
fourth " ; the latter is taken from the Polycronicon 
of Ralph Higden. Caxton is supposed to have added 
certain details to this, and after giving a descrip- 
tion of England's rivers and cities, provinces and 
bishoprics, he mentions the wonders of Stonehenge. 
" There be great stones and wondrous huge, and be 

80 



At the Red Pale 

reared on high, as it were gates set upon other gates ; 
nevertheless it is not known clearly nor aperceived 
how and wherefore they be so areared and so 
wonderful hanged." 

Another book was a version of Cato's Morals, or, 
as Caxton puts it, The Book called Caton a favourite 
school book of the Middle Ages for the teaching of 
Latin and moral maxims. A canon of Westminster 
Abbey translated this into English and Caxton printed 
it. It ends : 

Here haue I fonde that shall you guyde and lede 
Straight to gode fame and leve you in hir hous. 

In his preface Caxton wrote : ' In my judgment it is 
the best book to be taught to young children in schools ; 
and also to people of every age it is full convenient if 
it be well understanden." 

Caxton had very clear ideas as to the responsibility 
of printing books and thus making them more easily 
accessible to people in general. He shared in the 
general prejudice, which held when only a small 
minority could read, against making common know- 
ledge the opinions of certain writers. Among such 
was part of Virgil's JEneid, which he translated into 
English through French ; he speaks of the difficulty 
he found in using suitable terms to express the meaning 
a difficulty which any translator, however brilliant, 
will acknowledge. In the preface he declares : " For- 
asmuch as this present book is not for a rude 
uplandish man to labour therein nor to read it, but 
only for a clerk or noble gentleman that feeleth and 
understandeth in feats of arms, in love, in noble 

F 81 



William Caxton 

chivalry. . . .' : Similarly he desired to limit the 
readers of his translation of Cicero's Book on Old Age. 
As a foreword he says : This book is not requisite 
nor eke convenient for every rude and simple man, 
which understandeth not science nor cunning, and for 
such as have not heard of the noble policy and prudence 
of the Romans ; but for noble, wise, and great lords, 
gentlemen and merchants, that have been and daily 
be occupied in matters touching the public weal. . . ." 
A special interest attaches to the printing of the 
curious old book, The Mirrour of the World, or Thym- 
mage of the Same. This was a typical mediaeval 
treatise, containing descriptions of a variety of things : 
the Seven Liberal Arts, or Foundations of Learning 
based upon the old Roman trivium and quadrivium 
(Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric in the one, and Arith- 
metic, Geometry, Music, and Astronomy in the other), 
and ending with an account of the earthly paradise. 
In the preface to this Caxton writes : " The hearts of 
nobles, eschewing of idleness at such times as they 
have some other virtuous occupations in hand, ought 
to exercise them in reading, studying and visiting the 
noble feats and deeds of the sage and wise men . . . 
and among other this present book, which is called 
the Image or Mirror of the World, ought to be visited, 
read and known by cause it treateth of the world and 
of the wonderful division thereof. ... I have made 
it so plain that every man reading may understand 
it, if he advisedly and attentively read it or hear it." 
The enthusiastic worker had been moved to commend 
the book so highly as the result of his labours, for he 
had not himself chosen it, as was generally the case. 

82 



At the Red Pale 

He was commissioned to produce it by an esteemed 
member of the Guild of Cloth-workers, to which he 
himself belonged, as a gift to Lord Hastings. It was 
illustrated with woodcuts, and they serve to show us 
the style and manner of the dress and behaviour of 
the day. 

The literature of France was laid under contribution, 
not only for works of romantic interest or religious 
import, but also for a type of w r riting peculiarly its 
own. The History of Reynard the Fox was a collec- 
tion of satires upon the clergy and the nobility, woven 
into the form of beast-stories, and was the work of 
various authors, for one hundred and fifty years, from 
the middle of the twelfth century onward. But, 
happily, there was no need to seek always in other 
literatures for material. We read that Caxton was a 
devoted lover of Chaucer's \vorks, and when it appeared 
that his first edition of the Cauntcrburye Tales had many 
errors and imperfections, he had the type set up 
entirely afresh in order to produce the work worthily. 
He wrote of Chaucer thus in an epilogue to one of 
his books : ' In all his works he excelleth in my 
opinion all other writers in our English. For he 
writeth no void words, but all his matter is full of 
high and quick sentences, to whom ought to be given 
laud and praising for his noble making and writing." 

It seems that Caxton and Chaucer were in some 
ways alike in character and temperament, except 
that the poet had a buoyancy and merriment of spirit 
which apparently Caxton lacked. His translation of 
the Consolations of Philosophy of the old Roman 
philosopher, Boethius, especially stirred Caxton to 

83 



William Caxton 

admiration ; " first translator of this book into English 
and embellisher in making the said language ornate 
and fair, which shall endure perpetually ; and there- 
fore he ought to be eternally remembered." 

This noble Roman of the late fifth and early sixth 
centuries was counsellor to the Emperor Theodoric, 
but after many years of faithful service he became 
distrusted by his imperial master and was cast into 
prison. To fortify his soul in the noisome dungeon 
in which he was confined, he set about a task which 
should lift him above present miseries ; this was 
nothing less than the recounting, under the form of 
a Vision, the many Consolations of Philosophy revealed 
to him by a beautiful Presence. His book was the 
delight of all mediaeval thinkers and the model of 
many later allegories. 

In the loft of St Alban's Grammar School was dis- 
covered, only about half a century ago, a perfect copy 
of Caxton's Boethius, soaked with rain and decaying 
with age, but it was intact and the leaves were uncut. 
It is now carefully treasured among the Caxton books 
in the British Museum. 



CHAPTER VII: King 
Edward IV 

WHEN Caxton set up his press at the Red 
Pale in the Almonry at Westminster, the 
monarch, Edward IV, was a man in the 
prime of life, gay of demeanour, luxurious in his habits, 
and fond of the pageantry of court ceremonial. His 
rule was by that time unquestioned ; his ^baronage 
was almost entirely of his own creation-. c.;id the 
people at large were content with a sovereign who 
had shown himself to have no lust for war, and who 
raised his revenue without oppressive taxation. By 
temperament idle and insensitive, he bore for a 
long time with what seems extraordinary patience the 
treacherous devices of his brother George, the Duke of 
Clarence. But when at length fully roused he took 
drastic steps and showed himself stayed by no scruple. 
He arraigned the Duke before Parliament in 1478 on 
the charge of treasonable plotting with the King's 
enemies (the Lancastrians). The session opened, as 
usual, with a sermon by the Chancellor, the Arch- 
bishop of York, on the text, ' He beareth not the 
sword in vain," and the preacher illustrated it with 
many examples of punishment inflicted on those who 
broke their oath of fealty. 

There was no opposition and but little discussion ; 
the Commons approved and the Peers passed the 
sentence. Some few months before this the wretched 
Clarence had fled from the Court, for, besides his 
intrigues against the King, he was perpetually quarrel- 
ling with his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester. 

85 



William Caxton 

The brothers differed completely in temperament and 
disposition. The elder was unstable, peevish, dis- 
contented and, though ambitious, unable to persist in 
any responsible action. Gloucester was content to be 
the right hand of the King, to manage his steward- 
ship, to carry out his behests and desires, and 
quietly and efficiently to make himself indispensable. 
In his position as Great Chamberlain he would have 
ample opportunity for offering slights and provocations 
to his irritable and wayward brother, and it is possible 
that he used it. 

The Great Hall at Westminster was the scene of the 
attainder trial. King Edward was present and heard 
the clerk read the skilfully-worded charge, ending 
with the protestation that ' the King remembering 
ever . . . the tender love which of youth he bare 
unto him could have found it in his heart upon due 
submission to have forgiven him, but that he had 
shown himself incorrigible. And moreover since that 
the King must defend his surety and royal issue, 
although he be right sorry, yet considering justice a 
virtue, he doth hereby declare George, Duke of 
Clarence, guilty of high treason/' The accused denied 
and protested, and demanded to be allowed ' wager 
of battle.' From his prison in the Tower came 
vague rumours, and presently it was known that 
he had met his death by some form of violence, on 
the King's responsibility, though ' of his clemency ' 
he had not required the indignity of a public 
execution. This was the last occasion for five years 
on which King Edward summoned a parliament, 
and the sharp, summary dealing of the monarch 

86 



King Edward I V 

had by this time terrorized his foes into silent 
impotence. 

Looking back to the time of Caxton's arrival in 
England, it seems that it was the period when perhaps 
the relations between members of the royal house 
bore the nearest semblance to peace. The King and 
his brothers would be seen in public together, and on 
one occasion at least they journeyed together to 
Westminster to see the ' emprinting presse ' in the 
Almonry. We may fancy we see the royal party 
sweeping into the quiet precincts, with their train 
of nobles and gentlemen, pages and attendants, and 
a noisy rabble of hounds and pet monkeys on leash. 
The King, ' head and shoulders taller than the people/ 
of commanding presence, magnificently attired and 
wearing heavily-ringed gloves, we may think of as 
jesting with those near him, and occasionally putting 
curt, clear questions as he scrutinized the clever, 
clumsy mechanism at work. Near him, one on either 
hand, would stand the unbrotherly dukes, murmur- 
ing some comment or query into the royal ear 
Clarence, restless, peevish, and with harsh shrill voice ; 
Gloucester, dark, scornful, moving stiffly with a slight 
limp, and with a perpetual gesture of shouldering off 
his senior. 

Probably the little Prince of Wales, then about 
six years of age, was of the party. Rather over- 
weighted by his governor and councillors he might 
have been, but with boyish interest he would watch 
the murky helpers of the wonderful Caxton as they 
manipulated their ' dabbers ' or turned the great 
creaking handle of the screw. And then the breathless 



William Caxton 

eagerness of the whole party as a fair sheet was 
withdrawn from the press, all evenly ' emprinted ' 
and never a word framed with the pen ! There is a 
picture which shows Earl Rivers on bended knee 
offering to the King a printed copy of his Dictes and 
Sayings of the Philosophers, but Prince Edward was 
not on that occasion one of the party. 

By the time that the King's vengeance had descended 
and the Duke of Clarence had disappeared, the Prince 
of Wales was living away from his parents, with his 
governor, the Earl Rivers, at Ludlow Castle. There 
he had quite a Court household, with chancellor and 
chamberlain, treasurer and steward, and a staff of 
purveyors and attendants. Why at Ludlow ? J ' we 
may ask. Because there were threatenings of up- 
risings amongst the Welsh, and it was thought that 
to have the Prince in residence on the Marches would 
tend to calm and still revolt. The task of Earl Rivers 
as Lord President of the Council of the Marches was 
no easy one just then. 

The revengeful King, \vho hesitated at no crime 
to remove a political foe, showed himself gentle and 
considerate in his plans for his heir. He himself 
drew up the series of regulations by \vhich the young 
Prince's life was to be ordered during his minority. 
His hours of study, his amusements, his rest, and his 
table were minutely arranged. ' He is to rise early, 
to attend Mass, to begin directly after his meal some 
form of virtuous learning. ' While he dines ' noble 
stories ' are to be read to him ; afterward he is to 
be encouraged in all seemly sports and to be sent 
' merry and joyous ' to bed. For companions he 

88 




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King Edward I V 

is to have the sons of noble lords and gentlemen, 
and neither he nor they may in any wise be per- 
mitted to pass their days in idleness or in foolish 
pursuits. Prince Edward seems to have been a fair 
and comely boy, of a gentle disposition and sensitive 
to displeasure or rough jesting, immensely admiring 
his jovial, handsome father, though not a little afraid 
of him. The heir to the throne had a younger brother 
Richard, who was five years of age, a merry, fearless 
child, delighting in animals and noisy sports. At the 
age of one year he had been created Duke of York 
by his proud father, and before he was five he was 
betrothed to the little Lady Anne, daughter of the 
Duke of Norfolk, and the last of the dukes of the name 
of Mowbray. 

A few days before the assembling of the Parliament 
\vhich was to try the Duke of Clarence for treason, 
there took place in St Stephen's chapel of the Abbey 
a stately ceremony of betrothal. All the great nobles 
of the realm were present ; the bishops and clergy ; 
the Lord Chancellor and his suite ; Prince Richard's 
sisters, and the Prince of Wales. The Lady Elizabeth 
and Lady Mary were both older than the Prince of 
Wales ; next came the Lady Cecily, and then Richard, 
the hero of the occasion. The next in age \vere the 
Lady Margaret and the Lady Anne, who appear to 
have been left at home in the royal nursery at Sheen. 
The Duke of Gloucester, as Great Chamberlain, was 
controller of the ceremony ; the Duke of Clarence was 
away, but closely \vatched by the King's myrmidons 
in readiness for the coming trial. 

A splendid procession swept from the council 



William Caxton 

chamber to the chapel; heralds, trumpeters, and 
great dignitaries preceded the little central figure ; 
behind him walked, on the right, the tall imperious 
King, and on the left the Prince of Wales. With 
slow and stately steps, and at a pace accommodated 
to that of the tiny satin-clad Prince Richard, the 
gorgeous line entered the chapel, within which, in 
the royal enclosure, there waited the Queen and the 
young princesses with their train of ladies and knights. 
From another door entered the little Lady Anne, 
barely up to the elbow of the kindly Earl Rivers, 
who supported her on one side while the Earl of Lincoln 
supported her on the other. Her heavily-embroidered 
gown of white satin, besprinkled with seed pearls, 
was a miniature copy of what her mother might have 
worn ; its long train was borne by six pages, eldest 
sons of peers, companions of the Prince of Wales. 
With the conclusion of the ceremony there was a 
splendid admission of youthful knights, when numbers 
of the gallant boys were presented with their spurs. 
Then followed banquets and tourneys, jousts and gay 
spectacles for all the aristocratic beholders. If the 
principal personages in whose honour it was all 
devised wondered what it was about, we may at least 
hope that they enjoyed the glitter and display and had 
some intelligible merry-making of their own in their 
respective nurseries when it was all over. 

King Edward delighted in all forms of ceremonial, 
and carried them out and exacted their careful 
fulfilment with whole-hearted thoroughness. His 
royal predecessor, King Henry VI, in his ill-health, 
anxiety, and preoccupation with other matters, 

90 



King Edward I V 

maintained but a slovenly Court, although a very 
extravagant one. Very different was that of 
Edward IV ; carefully ordered, well administered, 
and strictly controlled, it gave good return in magnifi- 
cence and impressi veness for its lavish expense. 
His eldest daughter, the Princess Elizabeth, born 
in 1465, had her own little Court and household. 
When she \vas only two years of age manors and 
estates were settled on her, and until the birth of the 
Prince of Wales four years later, she was regarded 
by her ambitious father, not only as the Princess 
Royal, but as heiress apparent to the throne. An 
attempt was made to betroth her to the young Prince 
Edward, son of Henry VI and Queen Margaret, the 
Lancastrian Prince of Wales. This falling through, 
she was betrothed to the Dauphin, afterward 
Louis XII of France. She and her sister Mary, who 
was only a year younger, had great trouble and care 
bestowed on their education. They had French and 
Spanish governesses, and learned to speak and to 
read those languages ; accomplished copyists were 
employed to teach them to write ; foreign musicians 
taught them to play on the harp and the melle (the 
precursor of the violin), and Master Walter Halliday, 
the president of the King's minstrels, instructed them 
in singing. 

Their royal father appears to have loved music. 
He liberally supported the ' gentlemen ' and the 
' children ' of the chapel royal who sang the services, 
and not only permitted the existence of a band of 
minstrels in the royal household, but established it 
as a ' Gild of Music ' ; furthermore, he required their 



William Caxton 

attendance upon him wherever he resided. Two 
minstrels formed part of the Prince of Wales' household 
at Ludlow, and the committing to memory of some of 
their verses formed part of his lighter exercises. Danc- 
ing was also one of the accomplishments of the young 
princesses ; this we learn from an account preserved 
of the festivities held on the occasion of a visit of 
Louis de Bruges, envoy of Charles, Duke of Burgundy. 
The King seems to have delighted to show honour 
to his Burgundian guest, and to return with lavish 
hand the hospitality which had been shown him 
during his exile in 1471. After supper, we read, he 
was taken to the Queen's apartments, where she and 
her ladies were singing, playing and dancing. " Also 
the King danced with my lady Elizabeth his eldest 
daughter/' says the enraptured writer. The next 
day they arose early, sang matins and heard Mass in 
the King's chapel, and then had " grete sporte ' in 
the Park adjoining Windsor Castle ; here, whether as 
prize, trophy or mere splendid gift, the Sieur Louis 
de Bruges had presented to him by the King, with 
many courtly compliments, a royal crossbow, with 
strings of silk, and a quiver of gilt-headed arrows, 
all enclosed in a case covered with purple velvet, and 
with the royal arms and badges emblazoned thereon. 
Then there followed deer-hunting in Windsor forest, 
a visit to the King's private gardens and vineyard, 
and a return to the Castle in time for evensong. In 
the late afternoon was a grand banquet given in her 
own apartments by the Queen ; again the young 
' Dauphiness/ as the King loved to call her, was 
present, and was at the High Table on the da'is, to 

92 



King Edward IV 

which Sieur Louis was invited. At a long table, placed 
lengthwise, was a great array of ladies, ' seated all at 
one side/ facing into the room and served from thence. 
Still farther removed were the Queen's gentlewomen, 
similarly seated, and at corresponding tables were 
the attendants and servitors of the honoured guest. 
Again, after the banquet, there was dancing, when the 
Lady Elizabeth had for her partner her indulgent 
father, and later she had the Duke of Buckingham, 
her uncle, who had married the Queen's sister Catherine, 
but was still uncomfortably Lancastrian by tradi- 
tion and instinct. The King's brother, Richard of 
Gloucester, was Lord Chamberlain at this time, and 
after the entertainment, at about nine of the clock, 
he showed the gratified envoy to the suite of rooms 
prepared for his private use. 

Carpeted floors and silken and tapestried hangings 
adorned three stately rooms ; others were arranged 
for sleeping. In one was a canopied frame, with a bed 
of down, silken sheets, fine fustian coverings, and a 
counterpane worked with cloth of gold and lined with 
ermine ; in another was a couch, with a feather bed, 
tented hood, linen hangings, and, in a corner, that 
most unusual fitting, a cupboard. In yet another 
room were baths, with white hangings. After their 
baths and toilet the guests were offered various 
delicacies, green ginger, syrups, comfits and hippocras 
before going to bed. These dainty and careful arrange- 
ments, and especially the fitting and furnishing of 
the curtains and hangings, were under the personal 
direction of the Queen as to patterns, making, and 
placing. This is a very pretty instance of the notable 

93 



William C ax ton 

housewifery of the royal ladies of our land, and we 
may imagine the courtly compliments of which the 
Burgundian envoy would deliver himself as one 
sumptuous item after another was displayed. 

In the year 1478, not many months after the 
betrothal of little Prince Richard and the disappear- 
ance of the Duke of Clarence, the Queen gave birth 
to another son, who was named George apparently 
the fondness for family names was stronger than the 
distaste for painful associations 1 His father created 
him Duke of Bedford as soon as he was christened, 
but the little fellow lived only till the following March. 
Then the sturdy Richard, aged six, was given the 
vacant Dukedom of Bedford, and also made Lord- 
Lieutenant of Ireland, with power to appoint a deputy ! 
This was an office formerly held by the Duke of 
Clarence. 

The King's political judgment, not merely his 
ambition, no doubt dictated the bestowal of great 
offices and dignities upon his young children, as well 
as upon the members and connexions of his wife's 
family. The measures tended to give an air of stability 
to his throne and power, and as they were supported 
by his observance of strict laws of homage and courtesy 
to all persons connected with him, there was built up 
a habit of respect and ceremony which gave dignity 
to the royal house. The early plans of the great Earl 
of Warwick for him included, \ve remember, a marriage 
with the Princess of France. The young King's im- 
petuous alliance with the Lady Elizabeth Grey, a 
widow, and a member of the Woodville, or Wydvylle, 
family, might have been a crushing blow to his kingly 

94 



King Edward IV 

ambitions. There were always some people who 
would remember that he had chosen as his wife a 
lady who was but an attendant in the ante-chamber 
of the haughty Queen Margaret, Henry VI's wife. 
Hence, to surround himself and her, their children 
and her relatives with pomp and ceremony was 
at least a way of silencing tongues and perhaps of 
dimming memories. 

Some memoirs kept by a foreign visitor, who came 
as ambassador from the King of Bohemia, describe 
with awe the strict etiquette of the English Court. 
Very great reverence is paid always to the King ; 
even the greatest noblemen kneel before him. At a 
banquet the King's stool was central and alone ; none 
spoke without obeisance ; in drinking, the cup was 
raised and solemn salutation made to the King." 
Similarly the Queen maintained her state in her private 
apartments, where he was permitted to visit her. 
Her Majesty " sat on a golden stool alone at her table ; 
her mother and the King's sister ' (the Lady Anne 
was still unmarried) ' stood far below her. And 
when the Queen spoke to her mother or to the Lady 
Anne, they kneeled down every time before her. . . . 
And all her ladies and maids, and those who waited 
upon her, even great lords, had to kneel while she was 
eating, which continued three hours." Then, as we 
have seen before, there was dancing after the banquet : 
' the Lady Anne danced with two Dukes, and the 
beautiful dances and reverences performed before the 
Queen the like I have never seen," says the delighted 
narrator. " After the dance the King's singing men 
came in and sang." Probably some of the songs 

95 



William C ax ton 

were in a new form of composition, recently made 
known by Belgian composers and afterward to be 
popularized as the ' Madrigal.' 

This entertainment perhaps took place at Sheen 
Palace, for during his stay the ambassador was taken 
to London on the King's barge and shown his fort- 
palaces, the Tower and Baynard's Castle, and the 
treasures of his armouries. 

The year 1478 was a busy one, but by no means 
only in receptions and courtly ceremonials. The 
King had always interested himself greatly in the 
trade of the country, and though his methods were 
strongly ' Protectionist ' (as we should now call them) 
they suited that stage of development of national 
industries ; for example, the forbidding of the ex- 
portation of wool led to its better manufacture into 
cloth. One provision, which has been echoed from 
time to time, was that which prohibited the shipping 
of merchandise in ' foreign bottoms/ and this led to 
the formation of a fleet, which was used indifferently 
for purposes of war, of trading, and of the King's 
voyages. The Mary Reddiffe, 500 tons, and the 
Mary and John, 900 tons, both Bristol-built ships, 
were two of the largest in the fleet. Not only were 
there treaties of trade drawn up with Burgundy and 
Flanders, but also with several other continental 
countries, including Denmark and Portugal. 

One province in which the King's activity was 
marked v/as, as might be expected, that of building. 
During the twelve peaceful years of his absolute 
rule the Wall of the City of London was rebuilt, the 
Tower was enlarged and repaired, and the palace of 



King Edward I V 

Whitehall was restored and ornamented. The Chapel 
of the Knights, dedicated to St George at Windsor, was 
also rebuilt and much enlarged. Some of the neces- 
sary expense the arbitrary King defrayed by the seizure 
of endowments belonging to King's College, Cam- 
bridge, and its school, Eton College. He enlarged 
and beautified his palaces at Eltham and Sheen, 
favourite residences of his Queen, and strengthened 
Dover Castle. His wife took under her patronage 
Queen Margaret's foundation at Cambridge University, 
and founded another hall, calling it St Catherine's 
the name which she gave to her little daughter who 
was born in 1479. Also for the first time in English 
history a Poet Laureate was appointed as one of the 
officials of the King's court. 



97 



CHAPTER VIII: The Royal 
House of York 

THE year 1480 was notable for two events 
concerning the royal family. One was 
that another little princess was born and 
was christened Bridget, the other that the Duchess- 
Dowager Margaret of Burgundy paid a visit to her 
English home. Her husband, Duke Charles the Bold, 
had died in battle three years before, and her step- 
daughter Mary succeeded to his Flemish dominions. 
The greater part of the Duchy proper had been 
annexed by the French king, leaving only Franche 
Comte, or the Free County of Burgundy, to the 
heiress. She had married Maximilian, the son of 
the Emperor Frederick III, and thus a strong 
German influence was brought to bear in securing 
the Low Countries from the ambitious designs of 
Louis XI. 

Their son Philip was a possible husband for the 
Princess Anne of England, fourth daughter of King 
Edward, now aged five years, and a proposal was 
made that the English King should shake himself 
free from the French obligations and become the ally 
of Flanders. But Edward hesitated, as the French 
pension of fifty thousand crowns, stipulated in the 
Treaty of Pecquigny, was faithfully paid by Louis, 
and Maximilian \vas slow to undertake the same scale 
of bribery as well as to promise marriage estates to 
the little Philip. The King of France tried to interest 
the Dowager-Duchess in a French alliance, and to 
counteract this the visit to England was proposed. 

93 



The Royal House of York 

Great preparations were made for her reception, and 
in the month of July she arrived. 

There was put at her disposal a fortified house not 
far from Baynard's Castle, at Cole Harbour, a name 
still preserved in London in St Nicholas' Church, 
Cole Abbey, and Coldharbour Lane, off Thames Street. 
The house was hung with rich tapestries and furnished 
with couches, stools, chests, and a complete array of 
kitchen implements. One of the royal stewards was 
put in charge, and litter and fodder in enormous 
quantities were provided for her horses. Beyond 
this, splendid new liveries with the Edwardian badge 
were supplied for her attendants ; they were made of 
silver and gold cloth, and velvet purple and black. 
Housing for her steeds in procession were also ready, 
and a barge for her service, with the boatmen in 
royal liveries, swung at the harbour stairs. The style 
of dress at this period for retainers and servants was 
that known as parti-coloured, i.e. one side of the 
costume, leg, sleeve, trunk might be of dull red 
perhaps, and the other of tawny ; or one side of dull 
blue and the other of grey ; the tawny and the grey 
being the humble equivalents of the gold and silver of 
aristocratic dress. 

We are sure that during her stay, which lasted for 
ten months, the Duchess was taken along the river 
to Westminster to see the working of the ' emprinting 
presse ' at the Red Pale. Caxton's Description of 
Britain appeared in that year, so that perhaps the 
Duchess witnessed the actual printing of some of the 
sheets, and would learn with interest that it was the 
compilation of her sometime secretary, who had 

99 



William Caxton 

resumed his labours of translation years before at 
her dread command. Undoubtedly the Castle of 
Fotheringay, the old home of King Edward and the 
birthplace of the Duchess herself, would have come 
in for some description. Probably, too, Ludlow 
Castle and the ' Marches ' which it commanded were 
described, for there the King had spent some years 
of his youthful life and had seen his father entertain 
King Henry VI, on one occasion at least, within its 
walls. 

Other and more exciting amusements were devised 
for the Duchess during her stay. The ordinary 
accounts of the royal household, and especially for 
the ' wardrobe/ are much swollen during the year 
1480 undoubtedly through the expenditure incurred 
for the Burgundian lady. Princess Elizabeth (still 
called the ' Dauphiness,' although the French king 
hung back strangely from the alliance), now aged 
nearly fifteen, had a roll of cloth of gold for a robe ; 
the Prince of Wales received a similar roll of white 
cloth, while Prince Richard had a saddle and equip- 
ment for riding, with apparently a complete outfit 
in velvet, satin, and sarsenet. By this time he would 
have quitted the nursery and the ladies' bower, and 
for some part of the year at least would be residing 
in a great household, for this in mediaeval times was 
the equivalent of the Public School. Perhaps he was 
placed in the care of the Archbishop of York, perhaps 
in that of the Duke of Northumberland, and there 
he would begin to learn the duties of noble boyhood 
and the few book-subjects of the time. The young 
princes and their sisters would certainly have been 

100 



The Royal House of York 

permitted to share in some of the festivities of that 
gay summer. There would be tourneys and jousts 
on Tothill Fields, near Westminster Palace ; hunting 
in Windsor Forest ; hawking on the Essex Marshes 
and the low-lying fields in Westminster, now known 
as Pimlico. Even to visit the chief royal falconry 
in the great Mews (near to where the National Gallery 
now stands) would be a delightful treat. There 
highly trained birds clung pensively to stout perches, 
some fiercer ones chafed, never without their jesses ; 
young falcons were being taught the rudiments of 
good manners on the wrist, and fluffy little goshawks 
-most treasured of all tumbled about in cosy nests. 
The inspection would be full of pleasure for the privi- 
leged young people. Then there were the animals 
in the Tower Enclosure the King's leopards, three 
lions, a dromedary, and a cage of marmosets. Always, 
too, there was the pleasant river-journey in the gaily- 
painted royal barge, manned by stalwart rowers in 
the bright liveries of the King. The red and blue 
oars gleamed in the sunshine, the King's minstrels, 
ensconced in a tower on deck, played merry airs ; 
heralds and trumpeters blew fanfares of warning, 
and within the canopied enclosure amidships reclined 
the genial Monarch, his Queen and their august visitor, 
with some privileged younger members of the family 
and the great ladies and nobles of the court. Stately 
swans glided up and down the stream ; ducks and 
waterfowl gathered in the sedges ; cargo boats, rowed 
by swarthy crews, crept slowly along to the wharves, 
and laden ferry-boats made their way with difficulty 
from bank to bank. 

101 



William C ax ton 

The Duchess Margaret, who had arrived in Bruges 
in 1468 for her marriage, had had but a short wedded 
life, her husband having been killed in battle in 1477. 
She had no children and her step-daughter was nearly 
of her own age. We may imagine her contrasting her 
lonely lot with that of her brother's wife, the English 
Queen. For though little Prince George had died 
before he was a year old, King Edward had now nine 
children (counting the baby Bridget), two boys and 
seven girls. The Lady Mary, the second daughter, 
aged about thirteen, was very delicate, and two years 
later fell ill and died. The third daughter, Margaret, 
was the namesake of the Duchess ; the next one, Anne, 
was called after another sister of the King. 

We may imagine that, in accordance with royal 
custom in all ages, the Duchess Margaret not only 
received handsome entertainment, but also bestowed 
noble gifts upon her relatives and the distinguished 
members of the court. Enormous bales and heavy 
chests, embossed coffers and bulging sacks were 
stowed away, we may be sure, in the dark, cramped 
holds of the little Flemish vessels, and moved the 
curiosity of the onlookers at the disembarking. 
Presently they would be unpacked and a variety of 
beautiful things distributed ; many of them were 
for personal decoration in that age of fondness for 
show. There would almost certainly be some ' picture- 
blocks ' for the inmates of the royal nursery, for the 
Low Countries were the home of the mediaeval wood- 
cut. Some packs of playing-cards would delight the 
elders. The ' court ' cards were often most elaborately 
and beautifully painted, some bearing portraits of great 

102 



The Royal House of York 

men and women of recent times. In many repre- 
sentations of the time one card bore the portrait of 
the wife of the French king, and one that of Joan of 
Arc. The knaves, too, were much more like knaben 
(boys) than our modern ones gallant lads in pretty 
dress instead of the curious conventional figures we 
know. The suits were not at that time rigorously 
fixed as hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades ; one 
suit, for instance, was two bells. 

Then it is possible that for the young princesses, 
her nieces, the Duchess Margaret had brought silken 
hose, gaily-painted shoes, or soft ' couvre-chefs ' for 
the head. For the Queen, or indeed for King Edward 
himself, there could be hardly any gift more pleasing 
than some flasks of cordial, vials of unguents, or pots 
of delicate medicaments. The King himself was a 
great patron of apothecaries ; and every mistress of a 
household kept a medicine-store as faithfully as her 
linen-chest. Specifics against the prevailing epidemic 
of the plague were quite usual. Perfumes were highly 
esteemed, and must occasionally have been sorely 
needed both in homes and streets. Some years 
earlier King Edward had sent to his brother-in-law, 
the Duke of Burgundy, a finger-ring with a diamond 
inset, and a similar ornament may have been among 
his sister's gifts on this occasion. Probably, too, she 
had brought for some esteemed host or representative 
one or more examples of the ' printed ' books of Bruges 
or Cologne or Mentz for the Duchess was ever a 
book-lover. And, finally, there would be casks and 
flagons of the sweet red wines, and white, for which 
her country was already famous. 

103 



William Caxton 

However much impressed the Duchess Margaret 
might have been with her brother's kingdom, Court, 
and stately surroundings, she must have been struck 
with the change in himself. The nine years that 
had passed since their meeting during his exile had 
left their mark on the great frame and resolute mind 
of the King. His ruthless punishment of his foes, 
open or suspected, had terrorized his nobles into 
obedience ; his impetuous and reckless conduct of 
affairs had won the admiration of the bulk of his 
subjects of lesser rank, and, in general, he was popular. 
But his ambitions were continually being frustrated, 
and the miseries of remorse made themselves felt 
as the years passed. His self-indulgent habits im- 
paired his health ; his impaired health affected his 
spirits and destroyed his energy. Indeed he seemed 
hardly the same man as the exiled Edward of 1471 
who, with a handful of supporters, made a dash for 
his own country and triumphantly seized his realm. 

He was perpetually harassed with the thought of 
the succession to the throne. Only a few months 
before the arrival of the Duchess Margaret he had 
received envoys from the French king laden with 
rich gifts, which appealed to his love of wealth and 
display. But no definite word was spoken as to 
when the ' Dauphiness ' prospective was to become 
the Dauphiness in fact, and he began to be irritably 
conscious that he was being trifled with by France. 
Affairs with regard to Scotland were also unsettled. 
The Scottish king, James III, had suggested that 
his brother the Duke of Albany should marry the 
widow r ed Duchess Margaret, but King Edward had 

104 



The Royal House of York 

hesitated to sanction this match for fear of offending 
Louis XL King James was as ambitious and as ready 
to drive a bargain as Edward himself, and he inter- 
fered in the matters in dispute between Louis XI and 
Maximilian, the husband of Mary of Burgundy. High- 
handed as usual, the English King had seized the Duke 
of Albany and imprisoned him, but he had escaped a 
few months before this time and had taken refuge at 
the court of Louis. This was another occasion for 
anxiety as, should the French king espouse his cause 
and support the Scottish king, an invasion of England 
would probably ensue. 

The King's plan for his beloved heir Edward, 
Prince of Wales, was that he should marry the daughter 
of the Duke of Brittany, evidently with the idea of 
securing certain dominions across the Channel. A 
still more ambitious alliance was hoped for at the time 
of the Duchess Margaret's visit the marriage of the 
little Lady Catherine, aged three, to Prince John of 
Spain, the third son of Ferdinand and Isabella. In all 
these lofty designs for his children Edward had the 
ready sympathy, and indeed the eager suggestions, 
of his Queen. Partly to gratify her and partly to 
surround himself with a new nobility, who might be 
expected to be loyal to the sovereign who had honoured 
them, the King had arranged, or sanctioned, the 
marriage of the Queen's six sisters to noblemen, 
whom he advanced to high positions. 

The government of England during Edward IV's 
reign was practically a military control. Parliament 
was summoned but once between 1474 and 1483, and 
that was only to procure the condemnation of the 

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William Caxton 

Duke of Clarence. The Duke of Gloucester was the 
King's right-hand man ; officially he was ' Great Cham- 
berlain and Lord High Admiral/ where ' Admiral ' 
is not an exclusively naval title. Henry Bourchier, Earl 
of Essex, was Treasurer, and the Archbishop of York 
was Chancellor. Early in the reign it had been pro- 
posed, as one way of maintaining peace with Scotland, 
that the Duke of Clarence should marry Margaret, 
the sister of the Scottish king, James III. This fell 
through, and some years later (1474) the infant son 
of James was betrothed to King Edward's fourth 
daughter, Cecily, aged five. But the ceremony, 
though faithfully carried out, was not enough to 
secure friendly relations between the two countries, 
chiefly on account of the restless ambition of Alexander, 
Duke of Albany, the King's brother. The characters 
and relations of these two men might almost have 
suggested to Shakespeare those of Prospero and 
the usurping Duke of Milan in The Tempest. For 
James III was overmuch given to the study of secret 
and magical arts, and Alexander, backed by a dis- 
contented party in the State, scornfully interfered in 
the affairs of government and made mischief with 
the English king. 

The great nobles, in spite of the law against main- 
tenance, kept up stately retinues in their strong castles, 
and in practice the countenance and protection of a 
powerful baron were better worth seeking by lesser 
people than the protection of the law. We read 
that the number of retainers who were kept at their 
lord's expense and wore their lord's ' livery ' and 
badge, varied from sixteen for a knight to two hundred 

106 



The Royal House of York 

and fifty for a duke, through all the grades, baron, 
viscount, earl, marquess, etc. Hence it came that 
quarrels easily developed into fights, and that a body 
of armed men could enable an unsuccessful pleader 
in a lawsuit to hold his own against any legal decision. 
An interesting collection of letters written to and 
from the members of an East Anglian family shows 
that the instinct for settling any dispute by appeals 
to force was far stronger than that for finding a 
peaceable solution. One letter relates how some 
disappointed relatives, declining to abide by the 
terms of the will of a deceased squire, invaded the 
house they thought should have been theirs, and held 
it against all comers. The writer l says : There be 
men in Cotton-hall who be strangely disposed towards 
you, for as I hear say, they make revel there, they 
melt lead, and break down your bridge, and make 
that no man go into the place, but on a ladder ; and 
make them as strong as they can. As for Edward 
Dale (apparently a neighbour) he does not abide at 
home, they threaten him so because he will send them 
no victuals. . . . And as for the tenants, they be 
well disposed to you, except one or two, if that ye 
will support them in haste, for they may not keep 
their cattle off the ground longer, and they desire to 
have your own presence.' 1 

In a letter from Mistress Paston to her husband, 
who was absent in the train of the Duke of Norfolk, 
she says : " As for tidings we have none good in this 
country. It was told me that Richard Southwell 
hath entered in the manor of Hale, the which is the 

1 The Paston Letters. 
107 



William Caxton 

Lady Boys', and keepeth it with strength with such 
another fellowship as hath been at Brayston, and 
wasteth and despoileth all that there is ; and the 
Lady Boys, as it is told me, is to London to complain 
to the King and the Lords thereof. . . ." It is char- 
acteristic of the violence of the times that the good 
old English word ' fellowship ' had become degraded 
so that it invariably refers to the band of armed 
retainers employed by some powerful landowner. 
On the occasion of the holding of the King's courts, 
which the King sometimes attended in person, the 
question of disputed ownership would be settled in 
accordance with justice based upon the evidence. 
But that by no means assured possession to the 
suitor if the unsuccessful party was strong enough 
to take it by force. 

In these same letters we have various details show- 
ing how important was the matter of liveried retainers 
on any great occasion. Sir John Paston writes to 
his brother : " Brother, is it that the King shall come 
into Norfolk in haste and I wot not whether I may 
come with him or not ; if I come I must make a livery 
of twenty gowns, which I must pick out by your 
advice ; and as for the cloth for such persons as be 
in the county, if it might be had there at Norwich or 
not, I wot not. . . . And whether ye will offer your- 
self to wait upon my Lord of Norfolk or not, I would 
ye did that were best to do. . . . He shall have 
two hundred in a livery blue and tawny, and blue on 
the left side, and both dark colours." 

On another occasion the son, Sir John, writes to 
his father : ' Please you to wit that I am at Lynn 

108 



The Royal Hoitse of York 

and am informed by divers persons that the Master 
of Carbrooke (a Master of Knights Templars) would 
take rule in the Mary Talbot as for captain, and give 
jackets of his livery to divers persons which he waged 
(paid) by other men, in the said ship. Wherefore, 
inasmuch as I have but few soldiers in mine livery 
here, to strengthen me in that which is the King's 
commandment, I keep with me your two men 
Dawbenny and Calle, which I purpose shall sail with 
me to Yarmouth, for I have purveyed harness for 
them. . . ." Not infrequently the King had paid 
visits to the county of Norfolk, usually accompanied 
by his brother, the Duke of Gloucester. The Queen's 
relatives held large estates in the county, that of 
Lord Rivers comprising the district famous in our 
own day as Sandringham. Toward the close, how- 
ever, of Edward's reign he journeyed alone, Duke 
Richard being fully occupied in the North as Warden 
of the Marches. 



109 



CHAPTER IX: Troublous 
Times 

N the year 1483 there were great doings at 
Westminster and elsewhere ; and, however 
much Caxton may have been engrossed in his 
work in the Almonry, the stir of the world outside 
must have reached him. For in the early spring of 
that year the King lay ill, and before his people had 
realized his sickness he had passed away. The 
once active soldier had become enfeebled by self- 
indulgence and luxurious living, sad and morose 
through disappointed ambitions, and, seized by fever 
or ague, he had no strength or spirit wherewith to 
resist it. His brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, 
was at York, ruling his ' province of the North/ and 
the young Prince of Wales, aged thirteen, was still 
at Ludlow Castle, in the charge of Lord Rivers. 
Certain that he would not recover, King Edward 
sent for the two bitter rivals, Lord Hastings and the 
Marquis of Dorset, and implored them to be recon- 
ciled and to keep the peace during the minority of 
his young son Edward. 

He then declared that the Prince and his younger 
son Richard were heirs to his kingdom, and he com- 
mitted them to the care of the Duke of Gloucester. 
The lords present were so moved at the sight of his 
sufferings and misery that they promised all he 
asked and shook hands in token of amity, though 
the feud of Hastings and the Marquis of Dorset was 
too bitter to be thus healed. At the age of forty, 
after a reign of twenty-two years, Edward IV passed 

no 



Troublous Times 

away, leaving the English crown once again to a child 
of tender years. 

In his will the King had directed that he was to 
be buried at Windsor, in the chapel of St George, 
and that the building and decoration of that chapel 
should be completed. He bequeathed money for 
the foundation of a chantry and of a hospital or 
almshouse for thirteen aged men ; he stated that 
all his just debts were to be paid, and all claims 
upon his bounty when alive were to be honoured 
to the full out of his estate. To his second son 
Richard, already created Duke of Norfolk and Duke 
of York, he left great estates, and a noble fortune 
to each of his daughters, of whom the Queen was to 
be guardian. 

Preparations were made for an imposing funeral. 
For a week the body of the late King lay in state 
in the Abbey, then, in the midst of a stately procession 
of peers and men-at-arms, singing monks and clerks, 
it was borne by slow stages to Windsor and buried 
in the tomb he had had brought from Mentz some 
months earlier. Meanwhile messengers had been sent 
by Lord Hastings, at that time Great Chamberlain, to 
the heir to the throne at Ludlow and to the Duke of 
Gloucester at York. He delivered the King's mandate 
that Richard of Gloucester was the responsible 
guardian of the young King and of his realm, and 
begged him to join his royal master at once and to 
bring him to the capital. So slowly did news travel 
in those days, and so unprepared was every one 
concerned, that the new sovereign (to be known as 
Edward V) left Ludlow Castle only on April 24th, 

in 



William Caxton 

nearly a week after his father was buried. So great 
a company came with him that they made but slow 
progress and were five da}^s in reaching Northampton, 
where he was to have been met by his uncle, Duke 
Richard. 

However, plots and counterplots were afoot, and 
Earl Rivers and Lord Grey desired that the young 
King should reach London and, if possible, be crowned, 
before Gloucester could take up his duties as Protector. 
They hurried on with the royal lad toward London but 
were overtaken at Stratford, in Essex, by the angry 
Gloucester. He and his supporters were resolved 
that none of the Queen's family (the Woodvilles and 
Greys) should have positions of authority near the 
young King. Tidings of these doings reached the 
widowed Queen in her palace at Sheen, and she fled 
with her younger son Richard and her four daughters 
into sanctuary at the Abbey of Westminster. The 
Great Chamberlain had a hard and busy time for 
some days as rumours flew about ; the citizens of 
London impetuously took sides with one party or the 
other, and expressed their views by tumultuous 
gatherings in the streets. Earl Rivers was put under 
honourable arrest, and the Lord Hastings summoned 
the Mayor and Corporation to a conference in which 
he assured them that the Lord Protector and the 
Lords of the Council were fully alive to their responsi- 
bilities, and that the way of safety for plain citizens 
was to retire to their houses and to pursue their busi- 
ness peacefully. Caxton commented rather severely 
on the excited instability of the Londoners : ' No- 
wher be these fairer or better bespoken children than 

112 



Troublous Times 

they in their youth, but at their full riping there is 
no kernel, no good corn found, but chaffe for the 
most part." 

The disturbed state of things led to the decision to 
escort the young King Edward to the Tower as his 
residence during the days before the coronation could 
take place. It was at once the most dignified and 
the strongest of the royal residences in London, but 
it must not be thought of at that date as primarily 
a prison. Every baron's castle contained dungeons 
and the royal fortresses were the same, but the Tower 
was first of all the king's residence. On a day early 
in May there went forth an imposing procession of 
barons and men-at-arms, the mayor and the civic 
officials, to meet the young King. At Hornsey they 
met the royal cavalcade, and, turning back with it, 
took part in a grand ceremonial at the Bishop of 
London's palace, where the archbishops and bishops 
offered their homage and the mayor and aldermen 
took their oaths of fealty. Then they rode on toward 
the Tower, through the crowds of thronging, curious 
citizens. Richard, Duke of Gloucester, rode bare- 
headed behind the young Edward, announcing from 
time to time in a loud voice, " Behold your Prince and 
Sovereign." The royal lad was of a quiet and timor- 
ous disposition, and was probably overwhelmed with 
the novelty of his new position and the clashing of the 
nobles' wills and desires even in his very presence. 
It may well have been that he was conscious of sad 
foreboding as he entered the gateway of the gloomy 
fortress. For the Queen's party, inspired by her 
determined and restless ambition, was bent upon 

H 113 



William Caxton 

having Gloucester's Protectorate cease at the King's 
coronation ; and desired that she herself, with her 
relatives, should become his advisers and guardians. 
To thwart this the Protector demanded the guardian- 
ship of the King's brother, Prince Richard, since he 
was next heir to the throne ; and he, being supported 
in his claim by the two archbishops, the Queen after 
a stormy scene gave way. 

The meeting between the two brothers took place 
at the Bishop of London's palace, and there they 
spent some days together while preparations for the 
coronation were made. Harsh doings were afoot, 
too, for Lord Hastings, chief leader of the Queen's 
party, had been accused of treason and summarily 
executed without even the formality of a trial. 
Rumours of this and other disturbing news no doubt 
reached the young princes as they practised their 
parts and were instructed in their duties for the 
great ceremony. The coronation was to take place 
on June 24th and the meeting of Parliament on 
the next day. For the opening the Lord Chan- 
cellor (the Bishop of Lincoln) prepared an impressive 
sermon upon the text, ' Listen, O Isles, unto me 
and hearken, ye people, from afar : the Lord hath 
called me." This, though it was never delivered, 
has been preserved among our records, and strange 
and quaint are some of the images and turns of speech. 
"It be undoubted that all the habitation of man be 
either in land or in water. Then if there be any sureness 
or permanence in this world such as may be found out 
of heaven it is rather in the Isles and lands environed 
with water than in the See or in any great Rivers." 

1x4 



Troublous Times 

Just before the Sunday of the coronation the Lord 
Protector postponed the intended meeting of Parlia- 
ment, and then followed it up with the announcement 
that the coronation was to be deferred till November. 
The rest of the grim story is told so effectively and 
with such mastery by Shakespeare in his Tragedy 
of King Richard the Third that most readers can think 
of the Duke of Gloucester only as deformed without 
and a monster of cruelty within. He was not, how- 
ever, accepted as such in his own time ; the political 
party supporting him appear to have believed that 
through an earlier secret marriage of Edward IV 
his children had no legal claim to the throne. This, 
if justified, made Edward's brother Richard the next 
heir. We read that, in order to sway the public mind, 
on the very Sunday which was to have seen the 
coronation a political sermon was preached at Paul's 
Cross by the brother of the Lord Mayor. Taking as 
his text a verse from the Book of Wisdom, " The 
brood of the ungodly shall perish . . . and shall 
not strike deep root," the preacher declared that there 
were grave doubts as to the right of the young Prince 
to be crowned King Edward V, and that the Protector 
himself was in that case the rightful heir. 

We may well imagine that Caxton was among 
the crowd of listeners, which numbered " peers and 
clerks and goodly gentlemen and a great concourse of 
citizens," and we can picture his grave face among 
those of the startled hearers. We read that they were 
too much disturbed and surprised to receive the news 
with the cries of welcome which had been expected. 
However, the next day the Lord Mayor and city 

"5 



William Caxton 

aldermen, the Duke of Buckingham and others, went 
to Baynard's Castle where Richard was residing and 
craved audience. They begged him to take not 
merely the protection of the realm but the throne 
itself. 

It is a curious illustration of the slowness and un- 
certainty of communication in Caxton's day, that the 
Protector's mandate postponing the opening of Par- 
liament failed to reach most of its members in time, 
so that they were on the spot on June 26th, when 
" all the lords spiritual and temporal of this realm ' 
accompanied him to Westminster. There they pre- 
sented him with an address petitioning him to receive 
the crown, and on July 4th he was proclaimed king. 

Two days later the coronation took place, the cere- 
mony being performed by the aged Cardinal-Arch- 
bishop Bourchier, a fortnight after the date when he 
was to have crowned the young Prince Edward. This 
great ecclesiastic was one of the most striking figures 
of the time. Himself of royal descent (for he was the 
great-grandson of Edward III), it had been his lot to 
hold the highest positions in Church and State. At the 
age of twenty-nine he w r as made Bishop of Worcester ; 
ten years later he was translated to the wealthy 
and important See of Ely ; twelve years after this he 
became Archbishop of Canterbury and soon after Lord 
Chancellor. This was in 1454, when the Duke of 
York was Protector, but when in the next year King 
Henry recovered from his malady, and Queen Margaret 
held power, the Great Seal was taken from him. At 
the defeat of the Lancastrians the Archbishop crowned 
Edward king, but he held aloof from political life 

116 



Troublous Times 

for many years. He was nominated cardinal in 1467 
and seldom took part in any but Church functions 
afterward. He built himself a castle-palace and was 
distinguished throughout Europe as the patron of 
learning and the friend of scholars, keeping a splendid 
hospitality and maintaining a stately household. 
We are told that it was at his banquets that there 
first appeared in England the small sweet grapes of 
Corinth, familiar to us as 'currants.' 

Twice in his life the Cardinal- Archbishop was said 
to have ' prevented a revolution ' by his tact and calm 
judgment. One occasion was \vhen the victorious 
Duke of York entered the House of Lords after the 
battle of Northampton and advanced toward the 
steps of the throne as though about to make for 
the seat. The Archbishop advanced with a courtly 
obeisance, saying, Will not my Lord of York go 
and pay his respects to the King ? ' The Duke was 
taken aback and became so conscious that the feeling 
of the assembly was not with him that he retired. The 
second occasion contrasts strangely with this. In- 
stead of administering a rebuff, Bourchier, by his 
action, established Edward's position at a critical 
time. In 1470 when the King's secret marriage with 
Lady Elizabeth Grey offended many of the nobility, 
it \vas very doubtful whether the citizens of London 
would support him or not. The Archbishop made 
great preparations for an impressive ceremony and, 
surrounded by several bishops and the Cathedral 
clergy, a\vaited the King on the steps of St Paul's 
Cathedral and gave him his episcopal blessing. 

Now once more he was to hold a prominent position 

117 



William Caxton 

in the great events of the time. The curious eyes 
of the Londoners were again to be feasted with 
pageants and processions and ceremonies. From 
Baynard's Castle to Westminster Hall, from the 
Hall to the Abbey, where the coronation took place, 
from the Abbey to St Paul's and amid welcoming 
shouts at last rode the new King. Everything that 
could add to the impressiveness of the occasion was 
done, but there is a grim suggestiveness in the fact 
that pages and heralds were wearing the splendid 
suits prepared for the coronation of the young Edward, 
and scarcely could the symbols of the intended King 
be hidden beneath the hastily-prepared cognizance 
of Richard. The State records bear the entry, " Eight 
thousand boars made and wrought upon fustian at 
twenty shillings a thousand." Later tradition had 
it that the young Prince Edward walked with his 
brother in the great procession, but it is believed that 
this was not so. There were present, however, all 
the magnates of the land the Duke of Buckingham, 
a resplendent figure ; the Duke of Norfolk, and the 
Duke of Suffolk, many bishops, the Cardinal-Primate, 
and, apparently, some of the members of the late 
king's family. Another entry gives, ' For the Lady 
Bridget, one of the daughters of King Edward IV, 
being sick, two long pillows of fustian stuffed with 
down." 

The Duke of Norfolk was proclaimed High Con- 
stable of England for the ceremony, and the haughty 
Buckingham High Steward of England ; his office 
it was to bear the King's train in the Hall and in the 
Abbey. He himself in the procession through London 

118 



Troublous Times 

was ' dressed in a suit of blue velvet embroidered 
with gold in imitation of fire." His horse was capari- 
soned with the same material, the rich trappings 
falling to the ground and being supported by gold 
tassels borne by footmen gorgeously attired. Before 
the King rode the High Constable, bearing a Sword 
unsheathed. 

The Cardinal-Archbishop, in full pontifical vest- 
ments, walked in the procession. Following him 
and his chaplains came the Earl of Huntington bear- 
ing the gilt spurs. Then came a gorgeous throng of 
nobles with the royal insignia. One earl bore the 
staff of St Edward, the emblem of justice, another 
a pointless sword, the emblem of mercy ; a peer carried 
the mace, the Duke of Suffolk the sceptre, the Duke 
of Norfolk the royal crown, and his son, the Earl of 
Surrey, bore the Sw r ord of State. 

From Westminster Hall to the Abbey the King 
walked beneath a silken canopy, borne by the peer- 
wardens of the Cinque Ports, supported by a bishop 
on either side. Immediately behind him came the 
Queen, wearing a diamond coronet, and followed by 
peers who bore a rod crowned with a dove, and 
the consort's crown. The Queen's train-bearer was 
Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, whose 
son Henry, then absent in France, was destined to 
become the founder of another royal house. When 
the coronation ceremony was over the privileged 
few in the Abbey saw, for a few moments, King 
Richard III wearing the crown and holding in either 
hand the sceptre and the orb. Beside him stood his 
Queen, crowned, and holding her dove-crowned rod. 

119 



William C ax ton 

The great banquet in Westminster Hall rivalled 
in magnificence the most splendid of Edward TV's 
functions. The new King was in his element as the 
centre of the display. Seated at a raised table, 
the Queen on his left and the Cardinal-Archbishop 
on his right, he was served by nobles from vessels 
of gold, his consort from vessels of gilt, and the 
Cardinal from silver. At other tables sat all the 
great barons who supported his claim, except those 
who, in their official positions, served at the banquet. 
It was the coveted prerogative of the Lord Mayor 
of London to serve the royal pair with a golden goblet 
of sweet wine and a vial of water, and afterward 
to retain the vessels as his own. Midway through 
the banquet the King's champion rode into the Hall, 
fully armoured, and flung down his gauntlet, challeng- 
ing to fight any man who disputed Richard's title. 
As the metal glove rang on the floor the Hall resounded 
with cries of ' God save King Richard ! King 
Richard ! King Richard ! " 

But the central figure of that stately scene, how- 
ever magnificently vested and served without, was 
bitten with sore misgivings within. He had good 
reason to know the lowly knees, bent heads, and lusty 
shouts might accompany disloyal or discontented 
spirits, and we read that he was especially doubtful 
of Lord Stanley's allegiance. " When the feast 
was finished the King sent home all the Lords into 
their counties that would depart, except the Lord 
Stanley.' 1 He had sought to clear from his path 
all the powerful adversaries of his claim, and during 
the very days of his triumphal progress and corona- 

120 




o 

5 

M-l 

O _ 

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2 

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a 
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Troublous Times 

tion Earl Rivers and Lord Richard Grey were put 
to death in far Pontefract Castle (the ' Pomfret ' of 
King Richard II). 

In the succeeding days the King set about 
such steps of precaution as might be taken. He 
sent special messengers to the nobles in charge of 
the garrisons at Guisnes and Calais, releasing his 
subjects in those towns from their allegiance to 
King Edward V and demanding its transfer to 
himself, ' that good laws, reason, and the Concorde 
and assent of the lordes and commons of the royaume 
have ordained to reign upon the people, our said 
soverayne lord King Richard the Iljde." He issued 
a proclamation enjoining peace upon his people and 
charging the judges and magistrates to administer 
justice. He visited the court of King's Bench and 
sat in judgment because he considered " it was the 
chiefest duty of the King to administer the laws." 

He made his young son, Edward, Lieutenant of 
Ireland, with the Earl of Kildare as Deputy, and 
promised alwaj-s to guard ' the weal of Ireland.' 
He dismissed his North-country troops who had 
followed him to London, and set out upon a royal 
progress through his realm. Apparently the begin- 
ning of the journey was by water. Leaving London, 
the royal barges went on to Greenwich, Sheen Park 
being one of the royal residences, then to Reading, 
and on to Oxford. There the King and Queen were 
the honoured guests of Magdalen College, and many 
academic festivities took place. His next stay was 
at Woodstock, the old forest-palace of the Angevin 
sovereigns, which had been restored in the midst 

121 



William Caxton 

of a ' chase ' by Edward IV. These lands Richard 
ordered to be thrown open, thus winning the delighted 
gratitude of the people. 

At Gloucester, the city of his title, at Tewkesbury, 
at Worcester, and at Warwick similar splendid scenes 
took place. As the last-named castle was the home 
of his wife in her girlhood, the celebrations there were 
especially magnificent ; there he received greetings 
from the sovereigns of Spain, France, and Burgundy 
by their ambassadors. At York itself, the centre 
of his old northern province, very notable prepara- 
tions were made to receive worthily him ' who had 
been their governor and was now their King.' 1 The 
streets were decorated, the houses hung with arras 
and tapestry work, and a procession met the royal 
visitors on their way to the cathedral, with the mayor 
and the civic dignitaries clad in ' red gowns/ the 
nobles and gentlemen in blue velvet. Everywhere 
shone emblazoned on waving banners the ' Boar ' 
cognizance, and all retainers had new suits of fustian 
and leather to do honour to the occasion. 

Gifts were offered to the sovereign and his consort 
in caskets of gold ; it is said that as much as 5000 
was thus presented. The King had declined similar 
' benevolences ' from the burgesses of London and 
Gloucester, protesting that he ' desired their hearts, 
not their purses," but he appears to have accepted 
the bounty of the northern capital. All this must 
have much impressed the Spanish envoy, who had 
accompanied the royal procession from Warwick. 

At York, too, the King met his son, Prince Edward, 
who had been sent with a retinue of knights from 

122 



Troublous Times 

Middleham Castle, where he was being educated in 
the household of its noble owner. There was a grand 
ceremony of knighting the young Prince, and he 
was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester 
on the same day. He was but ten years old, three 
years younger than his hapless cousin Ed\vard, then 
imprisoned in the Tower. Still another Edward 
was there, and was knighted on the occasion this 
was the eldest son of the Duke of Clarence. Several 
of the young sons of the nobles present were also 
knighted. 

The courtly ceremonies were barely over when 
King Richard had occasion to turn his mind to 
sterner matters. Although it seemed that the 
strongest party of nobles \vas on his side and desired 
him to hold the throne, there were plenty of dis- 
affected people and malcontents. Among these 
were some who had openly espoused Richard's cause, 
and chief of such was the powerful Duke of Bucking- 
ham. To him came, openly or secretly, all who 
desired to upset the newly-established order of 
things. The ex-Queen Elizabeth, from her sanctuary 
in the Abbey precincts of Westminster, had many 
sympathizers, and was prepared to plot with any 
party that would seek to remove Richard. 

A certain Welsh physician, acting as go-between 
for the Countess of Richmond and the royal widow, 
arranged a marriage between the Princess Elizabeth 
or her sister Cicely, and the young Henry, Duke of 
Richmond, then in honourable exile at the court 
of Brittany. When rumours of wicked deeds in the 
Tower were bandied about, there were insurrections 

123 



William C ax ton 

in various parts of the country, and the Duke of 
Buckingham put himself at the head of the most 
powerful body of rebels. At the same time Henry 
of Richmond's hosts, the Duke and Duchess of 
Brittany, gave him substantial help in the form of 
a small fleet of ships, and with these he set sail for 
England. 

There were many people he knew who would be 
prepared to recognize and support his claim to the 
English throne if he. showed himself able to make a 
good attack, but without this prudence would dic- 
tate a waiting policy. There could be no feeling of 
passionate loyalty anywhere, such as at some periods 
in history has brought about changes of rulers. 
Edward IV had not been able to evoke it, nor could 
his unknown young heir ; still less could his un- 
scrupulous brother, now on the throne. Certainly 
such a sentiment could not be strongly felt toward 
the Earl of Richmond, even though he could claim 
descent from King Edward III. 

When, as he was turning southward, news of the 
insurrections and of Buckingham's part in fomenting 
them reached King Richard, he took such energetic 
steps and found such effective support that the 
risings were crushed and their leader seized and 
imprisoned. If not ' the stars in their courses/ at 
least the elements were against the insurgents, for 
a terrific storm of rain and hail and tempestuous 
gales made marching and fighting impossible. 
Impossible, too, it was in the face of prudence for 
the remnants of the little fleet from Brittany to land 
Henry of Richmond on the shores he wished to claim. 

124 



Troublous Times 

Two of the seven vessels reached the safe expanse 
of Poole harbour (' one of the finest natural harbours 
in the world '), and the shallow draught of the fifteenth- 
century vessels found no inconvenience in the sand- 
banks at its entrance. But the test-question, 
" Friends and helpers, or not ? ' brought no eager 
response, and as the tempest lulled Henry sailed 
away to return, however, to some purpose later. 

The King's vengeance on Buckingham's treachery 
was sharp and complete. He was beheaded on 
Sunday, the 2nd November, somewhat less than a 
month after his open declaration of rebellion, in 
front of Salisbury Cathedral. Although this prompt 
action effectually checked the rising, it led to the 
King's undoing. Popular sentiment began to turn 
against a sovereign who showed himself ruthless 
in anger and vengeance. The storm which had aided 
his purpose began to be interpreted as a visitation 
of God for the murder of the young princes, and the 
disastrous overflow of the Severn was known as 
' Buckingham's \vater ' ; thus linking the fallen noble 
with the fallen princes. An eclipse occurring at 
about the same time moved the people to an anxious 
inquiry as to whether the deeds of King or nation 
provoked the wrath of God. But for the moment 
men were not united enough to take action against 
a sovereign so ready in resource, so unflinching in 
action, and so resolute in punishment, and by the 
beginning of December King Richard entered London 
in peace ; all leaders of revolt were executed or 
outlawed and their partisans were awed into silence. 
Confiscation of property of course accompanied 

125 



William Caxton 

death or exile, so that he could win new adherents 
by grants and gifts. 

Yet, perplexingly enough, cruel and relentless as 
Richard could be, in some instances he showed him- 
self indulgent. One such example was in his treat- 
ment of Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond. 
She was now married to her third husband, Lord 
Stanley, and in him Richard placed such confidence 
that, while formally confiscating the titles and 
possessions of the Countess, he named her husband 
as their guardian. A writer of the time remarks : 
" Had not his mercye exceeded his crueltye his safety 
had been more assured, and his name (peradventure) 
not soe much subject to obloquy." 

It is impossible to say to what extent these turbulent 
episodes interfered with the ordinary life of the 
people, especially with that of those who, like Caxton, 
lived in the shelter of a power and authority not 
greatly affected by isolated disturbances of the time. 
In the next chapter we shall see something of his 
connexion with the new monarch and his court. 



126 



CHAPTER X: The 'Unpopular 
King ' 

THE year 1484 was a busy one for King 
Richard. The courtly and civic ceremonies 
and the loyal observances which had at- 
tended his assumption of the crown were over ; over, 
too, was the pronouncing of sentences of death or 
banishment with which he visited antagonists who 
had thwarted him. It was the season for work, and 
in this the King showed himself indefatigable. His 
first and only Parliament was summoned for January 
23rd ; to it came between thirty and forty peers and 
about a hundred members of the House of Commons. 
The clergy assembled apart, in Convocation, and we 
read that in their first meeting they voted a liberal 
subsidy to the King. The sermon preached by the 
Chancellor at the opening of Parliament was upon 
the text, We have many members in one body," 
and stress was laid upon the duty of governments 
to seek the welfare and happiness of the people. 

The Commons, no doubt under pressure, elected 
as their Speaker, William Catesby, who was a retainer 
of the King's household when he was Duke of Glou- 
cester. Those were the days when the Commons had 
as yet attempted no legislation, but humbly, by peti- 
tions to the King, asked for redress of grievances. 
Their first work in this session was the consideration 
of the Bill introduced by the Peers, stating the claims 
of Richard to the throne and to the title of king. 
They gave it their approval and followed it up with 
a grant of tunnage and poundage (i.e. the import 

127 



William Caxton 

duties) and the tax on wool, for life. The reason for 
this indiscreetly generous provision was the King's 
own announcement that ' benevolences ' and forced 
loans were illegal, and that he could never have re- 
course to them. 

Most of the petitions submitted by the House of 
Commons to the King concerned trade and commerce, 
the removal of restrictions and the promoting of free 
intercourse between merchants. One clause in the 
promise granted was to the effect that " no statutes 
shall be interpreted as being a hindrance to any arti- 
ficer, or merchant stranger, of what nation or country 
he be, bringing into this realm, or selling by retail 
or otherwise any manner of books, written or em- 
printed." We may imagine the interest with which 
the quiet worker and lover of literature in the Almonry 
of Westminster heard of this and saw the widening 
range of his industry. 

The last item of parliamentary business was the 
taking of the oath to secure the succession of the young 
Prince Edward, son of Richard, and, within a month 
after its assembling, Parliament was dismissed. The 
King, meanwhile, was attending carefully to contin- 
ental affairs. He made a treaty with the Duke of 
Brittany, who thereupon bade farewell to his refugee, 
Henry Richmond ; he recognized the papal authority 
in ecclesiastical matters and dispatched two bishops 
to convey his ' homage and filial duty ' to the Pontiff 
at Rome ; he sent an embassy to the court of 
Burgundy, whose Dowager-Duchess Margaret in her 
widowhood had a royal court of her own and seemed 
to hold a kind of sovereignty over Flanders. 

128 



The ' Unpopular King ' 

France had offered shelter to Henry Richmond^ 
hence Richard was warily watching France. Thither 
had fled, too, more than one member of the noble 
houses whom he was minded to destroy. But apart 
from the wreaking of his vengeance upon foes, in which 
he followed old familiar custom and precedent, the 
King appeared to have set himself to govern well. 
The great anxiety and distraction was ever the fear 
of invasion by Henry Richmond, aided as he might 
* be by some continental sovereign, and welcomed 
by disappointed subjects at home. In view of this 
Richard set himself to increase the navy, and, by 
granting privileges to merchants, to obtain command 
of further ships in case of need. 

But misfortune dogged him. In the spring the 
young Prince of Wales died, leaving the King with 
no ' heirs of his body ' to succeed him. True, there 
were nephews ; there were the young son of his 
brother, the late Duke of Clarence, and the young son 
of his sister who had married the Duke of Suffolk. 
He named the latter, John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, 
as heir-presumptive. In spite of Richard's care and 
his designs to win popularity by giving up several of 
the royal forests which his predecessor had enclosed, 
men's minds were turning more and more toward 
a successor of maturer years, so that Richard could 
not rely upon any strength of national feeling to 
oppose the action of impatient partisans of the house 
of Lancaster. He was conscious of evil portents, and 
his past cruelties might well have made him afraid. 
Perhaps, too, besides the promise of coming troubles 
there reached his ears the popular sentiment which 

i 129 



William Caxton 

declared that he was not himself ruling the kingdom 
but that upstart favourites controlled him. The rude 
doggerel has come down to us which declared that : 

The Cat, the Rat, and Lovel the Dog, 
Rule all England under the Hog. 

The names gibbeted thus are Catesby, Earl Ratcliffe, 
and Lord Lovel, with a punning reference to the hound 
in the Lovel coat of arms, and to the King's cogniz- 
ance of the boar, which was blazoned everywhere. 

Soon after the death of Prince Edward the Queen 
became ill, and in less than a year the King had lost 
both his heir and his wife. In his desperate resolve 
to maintain his hold on the throne he proposed to 
marry the Princess Elizabeth, daughter of his brother, 
the late King. But even the least scrupulous of his 
advisers warned him against such a perilous step. 
The rumour of the King's intention turned many of 
his subjects against him, and confirmed others in 
their fear that his love of power could make him 
forget all claims of honour or of conscience. 

While the gathering clouds were heralding the close 
of a reign, the least known and honoured of any in 
our history, many quiet workers were pursuing their 
way and trusting only not to be mixed up in any of 
the broils which threatened to rage about the throne. 
The plots and intrigues, their authors and objects, 
are either forgotten or covered with a cloak of dis- 
credit ; some few books, however, sent out from the 
Red Pale at Westminster during those gloomy months 
are among our greatest national treasures. 

In an early chapter we pictured the visit of King 

130 




Richard III 
G. Demain Hammond 



130 



The 'Unpopular King' 

Edward IV and his brothers to the Almonry ; and 
with them the silent meditative youth, Richard of 
Gloucester. We may imagine as companion picture 
a later visit with that same Richard as the central 
figure. For literature was one of the interests of the 
King when he permitted himself to shake off the 
cares of State ; and the new method of producing 
books was under his direct patronage. In the pre- 
ceding year he had on more than one occasion taken 
to Westminster the pale, sickly boy \vhose death 
had now disappointed his hopes. The Queen, too, 
had accompanied him, and had been presented by 
Caxton with a copy of his French and English phrase- 
book, first printed three years earlier in the new clear 
type with which he was gradually replacing the 
crooked characters of first books. This phrase-book 
was a kind of short compendium of general knowledge 
in French and English set in parallel columns, and it 
was evidently designed to be committed to memory 
in both languages. Some instructive comparisons 
of fifteenth century and modern spelling are suggested 
as w r e study a reproduction of Caxton's booklet. 



FRENSSHE 

La Grace de sainct esperit 
Veut enluminer les cures 
De ceulx qui le aprendront 
Et nous doiust perseuerance 
En bonnes operaciones 
Et apres ceste vie transitorie 
La pardurable joye & glorie. 



ENGLISSH 

The grace of the holy ghoost 
Wylle enlighten the hertes 
Of them that shall lerne it 
And us gyve perseuerance 
In good werkes, 
And after this lyf transitorie 
The euerlastyng joy and glorie. 



Thus, after the devout fashion of mediaeval times, the 
little book reads. No punctuation aids the reading, 



William Caxton 

but it is one of the first books in which the printer 
is careful to begin the lines evenly. The arrival in 
England of an enterprising Lithuanian exile, John 
Lettou, who established a printing-press in London 
in 1480, provided with the clearer Italian type and 
fitted so that the appearance of the page was neater 
than those of the Mentz printers, made Caxton look 
to his laurels. Hence, on the King's visit in 1484, the 
raftered chamber would be crowded up with precious 
piles of paper thick and heavy ; and trays of metal 
type would be continually increased and weeded out. 
All the appliances for making the type would be there 
too. 

By this time, too, Caxton had two or three per- 
manent helpers, one of whom was an enthusiast like 
his master, and, like him, destined to become famous. 
This was Wynken de Worde, a native of Belgium, the 
form of whose name suggests the conflicting influences 
of France and Germany on the Netherlands at that 
time. He seems to have been a most efficient worker, 
not only carrying out Caxton 's improvements but 
also suggesting others. One such, attributed to de 
Worde, was the introduction of a larger-sized page, 
and another, the printing of two pages at once. 

Although many of the books printed by Caxton 
are undated we find that some at least of the im- 
portant ones which appeared during the brief reign 
of Richard III are clearly marked. One of these 
was the Confessio Amantis of the poet Gower, friend 
and servant of an earlier King Richard. The double- 
columned text has at the end : 

" Enprynted at Westmestre by me || Willyam 

132 



The ' Unpopular King ' 

Caxton and fynysshed the II || day of Septembre the 
fyrst yere of the || regne of Kyng Richard the thyrd/ 
the || yere of our lord a thousand / CCCC / Ixxxiij." 

The long slanting line which took the place of the 
familiar comma was the only punctuation, and this 
was not allowed to appear in the text. The absence 
of a standard spelling and a clear and simple method 
of writing dates is shown by a comparison of this 
ending with that of another printed in the same year. 
This was a treatise by the Chevalier de la Tour 
Landry for the ' Enseignement ' of his daughters ; 
probably this was an ingenious fiction covering the 
production of a ' Book of Manners ' which seems 
oddly to anticipate Lord Chesterfield's ' Letters ' to 
his son. The closing page bears the inscription : 

" Here fynysshed the booke / whiche the Knight of 
the Toure ma || de to the enseygnement and tech- 
yng of his doughters transla || ted oute of Frenssh 
in to our maternall Englysshe tongue by || me 
William Caxton / whiche book was ended & fynysshed 
the || fyrst day of Juyn / the yere of oure lord 
M CCCClxxxiij. 

" And enprynted at Westmynstre the last day of 
Janyuer the fyrst yere of the regne of kynge Rychard 
the thyrd." 

The parallel lines showing where in Caxton's print 
the line of text ended, remind us how in all early 
printed books, and while paper was scarce and dear, 
there was no convention that monosyllabic words 
should not be divided or that others should be broken 
at their syllables. The indifferent use of i and y 
suggests that thus the failure of one or other letter 

133 



William Caxton 

in the supplies of type was got over, as was also the 
occasional dropping of the final e. The date was 
always something to struggle with in the centuries 
before the complete introduction of the Arabic sym- 
bols. Chaucer had mentioned the ' figures newe ' 
which he had seen in his travels, but they were, 
in Caxton 's time and for many years to come, 
mysterious, occult, and believed to belong to 
witchcraft. 

Caxton's preface to this book shows his high opinion 
of it : 'I advise every gentleman or woman having 
children, desiring them to be virtuously brought 
forth, to get and have this book, to the end that they 
may learn to govern them virtuously in this present 
life.' 1 He also says that he undertook to translate 
and print it at " the request of a noble lady/ 1 

But the largest and most exacting of his produc- 
tions during these years was his illustrated translation 
from French and Latin manuscripts of the Golden 
Legend. It consisted of the narratives of the lives 
and miracles of the Saints, and to the mediaeval mind 
it was, as Caxton termed it, " the mirror of the regime 
and government of the body and of the soul." He 
found the work so onerous that he was more than 
once ' in a manner half desperate ' to give up the 
task. But it was undertaken at the request of his 
honoured patron, the Earl of Arundel, who encouraged 
him to proceed by promising to take several copies 
of the finished work. He is said also to have given 
Caxton a small pension, or annuity, which, according 
to old custom, was not in money but in kind, and 
consisted of venison presented twice a year. 

134 



The * Unpopular King ' 

At the end of the book is printed : 

Whiche werke || I have accomplisshed at the 
commaun || dmente and requeste of the noble and || 
puyssaunt erle and my special good || lord Wyllyam 
erle of arondel || and have fynysshed it at Westmestre 
the twenty || day of Nouembre the yere of our lord || 
M CCCC Ixxxiij & the fyrst yere || of the reygne 
of Kyng Rychard the || thyrd. By me Wyllyam 
Caxton." 

To do honour to his patron Caxton introduced the 
Arundel coat of arms and motto, a device which 
anticipated the long roll of punning or rebus cog- 
nizances for which the English peerage is famous. 
A running horse with the legend, " My Truste is," 
on his flank invites the reader to interpret it as " My 
Truste is Fast." Caxton's own device, which he 
placed in all his later books, has been supposed to 
bear a hidden meaning ; the peculiar symbol between 
his initials had the effect of making the whole appear 
to be an unusually elaborate monogram, although 
apparently it is really the overlapping Arabic figures 

74- 

As in the case of many of the greatest men in 

history, very little is known of Caxton's private life. 
The man is enshrined in his work. But careful search 
has resulted in a few details from which a scanty 
harvest of personal interests has been gathered. 
During his residence abroad it seems that Caxton had 
married a Flemish maiden bearing the favourite 
name of Maud, and that, when he returned to 
England, he brought with him a wife and a daughter. 
He may have met his bride at Cologne while he was 

135 



William Caxton 

laboriously mastering the new art, for it is unlikely 
that he could have married when in the household 
of the Duchess Margaret, and in the earlier years, 
when he was head of the English house of the Wool- 
men's Guild in Bruges, he was a member of a com- 
munity living under rules which forbade anything but 
a common life. But in the simple burgher households 
of Cologne and Mentz something of the conditions 
of his youthful apprenticeship in London would exist, 
so that, when he returned to England, we may suppose 
him to have brought with him his wife and a daughter. 
In later years there were apparently three children, 
two sons and a daughter, in the house behind the 
Red Pale. 

For some time a tradition existed that Caxton's 
father spent his last years in his son's house and was 
buried from there in the churchyard of St Margaret's, 
Westminster. But the name was not an uncommon 
one, in its form as used by the famous printer or 
in the variant ' Causton/ and on the face of it there 
is no great likelihood that the Kentish farmer would 
in his old age leave the family homestead for life in 
the house of a travelled and stranger-son engrossed 
in a novel and busy profession. In the year 1484 
Caxton interrupted his work on the Golden Legend, 
to issue a Broadside, or single sheet, of Death-Bed 
Prayers. Hence it is suggested that in that year his 
father died, and that Caxton's mourning visit to 
the Kentish home impelled him to turn his skill 
to the production of something of solemn import 
befitting the occasion. The Broadsides would appeal 
not so much to the ordinary townsmen as to the 

136 



The i Unpopular King ' 

clergy, whose duty led them to the bed-sides of the 
dying. While all that issued from Caxton's Press 
is valuable and rare, this single sheet, printed on one 
side only, exists in the form of one copy, which is 
carefully treasured in a private library. 

Though we are able to know but few details of 
Caxton's domestic life, there remain some interesting 
particulars of what may be termed his civic, or 
municipal, activities. It was natural that an able 
Englishman who had returned from a long sojourn 
and responsible work abroad, and was engaged, under 
patronage of the great, and even of the Court, in the 
newest industry of the day, should take part in the 
government and control of the affairs of his parish. 
In the records of the church of St Margaret, 
Westminster, Caxton is mentioned as among 
those who were present at the audit of the 
warden's accounts. The entry is evidently by a 
clerk : ' In the presence of John Randolf, squyer, 
Richard Umpay, gentleman, Thomas Burgeys, John 
Kendall, notary, William Caxton . . . with other 
paryshyns." 

Similar records kept by the Mercers' Company 
show that Caxton remained an honoured member 
of the Guild of Woolmen, whose chief English staple 
was at Westminster near the steel yard of the Hanse 
merchants. Once a year at least this guild, like most 
of the mediaeval trade societies, held a general audit 
of its accounts. On the Feast of the Assumption 
of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was kept as a 
general holiday, a festive gathering of the members 
shared in the discussion of the society's prosperity, 

137 



William C ax ton 

and the excellent dinner which followed it. The entries 
one year cover two long pages, and include : 

A tonne of wyne vjs iid 

John Dray ton, chief cok for his reward xxvs 
For the hire of xxiiij doseyn erthen 

pottes for ale and wyne . . . iiijs 

For iiij players for their labour . . xiis xd 

For rushes . . . . . . ijs iiijd 

From these curious old accounts we learn that 
swans, herons, capons, ' chekens/ ' gese,' and ' conyes ' 
furnished the table, besides many kinds of fish, in- 
cluding ' turbut,' oysters, and ' sea pranys.' The 
habit of heavy feeding for which Englishmen were 
noted was apparently a civic characteristic even in 
the fifteenth century. A later entry in those same 
pages shows that considerable roughness or clumsi- 
ness distinguished the guests, the ' cok/ or his assist- 
ants : "For erthen pottes broken at the same feast . . . 
vijs viiijd." 

With the passing away of the year 1484 (which we 
must remember ended in March) the murmurs of the 
coming storm grew so loud that not only King and 
Court, nobles and political plotters were aware of it, 
but also peaceful citizens and workers who would fain 
have been absorbed in their own business. 



138 



CHAPTER XI: The Passing 
of the Old Order 

BEFORE entering upon a description of the 
next struggle for the English crown a few 
words must be said about one of the most 
distinguished and important personalities of the time, 
Margaret, Countess of Richmond, who, when we saw 
her last, was assisting at the coronation of Richard 
Ill's consort. This lady, one of the many Margarets 
in our history and especially of the fifteenth century, 
is perhaps the most graciously noted of all. She 
was of royal lineage and a great heiress by birth. 
When, at the age of four, she lost her father, John 
Beaufort, Duke of Somerset, governor of Aquitaine 
and Normandy in the reign of Henry VI, she became 
the King's ward. Henry bestow r ed the office of 
guardian upon William de la Pole, afterward Duke 
of Suffolk, and he enjoyed the revenues of her estates 
until his impeachment and death. One of the charges 
against him was that he had arranged a secret marriage 
between his young son and the Lady Margaret, and 
indeed many great nobles were anxious to obtain 
her hand for their sons. 

When she was only eight years old King Henry had 
her betrothed to his half-brother, Edmund Tudor ; 
and in obedience to a vision which came to her after 
asking for Divine guidance, she married him when 
she was fourteen. During the ten years since her 
father's death she had lived under the guardianship 
of her mother (also a Margaret) a daughter of the great 
house of Beauchamp. Under her care and training 

139 



William Caxton 

the young heiress acquired a wonderful amount of 
learning and developed a most devoted love and 
reverence for knowledge and goodness. She was a 
woman grown when Caxton's first books came out, 
but we may imagine the interest and delight with 
which she would see the fruits of the new invention. 

On her marriage in 1455 the Lady Margaret lived 
at Pembroke Castle, a possession of the Tudor family. 
Her husband's father, Ow r en Tudor, is one of the 
romantic characters of our history. For gallantry 
at Agincourt he became an esquire of the chamber 
to the soldier-King Henry V, and at his sovereign's 
death was given the same post to the baby-prince. 
The widowed Queen Katharine showed him further 
honour and soon secretly married him. Their eldest 
son it was who married Lady Margaret Beaufort. 

A short time before the birth of their first child 
the Earl died and the Countess Margaret was a widow 
before she was sixteen years old ; she then again 
became a royal ward. For some years she lived 
quietly at Pembroke Castle, devoting herself to the 
care and upbringing of her little son, well content to 
be out of the turmoil of political strife. The boy, 
who was afterward to become the astute, calculating 
Henry VII, in no way resembled either his gentle, 
generous mother or his eager, impetuous father, 
though his great ability and strength of character 
may have been inherited from the Countess without 
her beauty of temperament. 

In the early years of the Civil War the Countess 
married Sir Henry Stafford, son of the Duke of Buck- 
ingham. But this was insufficient protection against 

140 



The Passing of the Old Order 

the disfavour of the new sovereign when the Yorkist 
leader became King Edward IV. Partly on account 
of her Lancastrian birth, but also in vengeance for 
Jasper Tudor's (her brother-in-law) resolute support 
of Henry VI, Edward IV attainted the little Henry 
Tudor and seized his heritage, bestowing it upon his 
own brother, the Duke of Clarence. The lad and his 
mother were placed in the charge of Sir William 
Herbert, a prominent supporter of the house of York, 
and they appeared to have lived in Pembroke Castle 
as before but now as prisoners of state. 

Then in the whirligig of political fortune the success 
of the Lancastrians, with the aid of the powerful Earl 
of Warwick (aptly enough called the King-maker), 
and the flight of Edward IV to the Burgundian Court, 
restored to the Countess Margaret and her son their 
forfeited inheritance and position. An interesting 
event in the life of the young Henry of Richmond was 
his visit to the Court in London with his uncle, Jasper 
Tudor. There he was kindly welcomed by the failing 
Henry VI, and some say that the dispirited monarch 
foretold for the boy the throne of England. Within 
a few months the daring return of Edward of York, 
and his victorious encounters with Queen Margaret's 
army, again threw the Tudor family into a position 
of danger. Jasper carried his nephew, now aged 
fourteen, with him in his flight to France, and the 
lonely mother lived secluded in a house belonging 
to her mother's family, the Beauchamps, in the Mid- 
land shires. Here she sought, and undoubtedly found, 
consolation in living^the life of a religious. Long^ 
hours were spent in prayer and meditation, material 

141 



William Caxton 

comfort was shunned, severe penances embraced, 
and the needs and sorrows of the sick and poor made 
her one care. The fact that she was the wife of Sir 
Henry Stafford seems hardly to have affected her life. 
Her position and possessions gave her a dangerous 
political importance which she had to bear in her own 
person. Her marriage with Stafford united two great 
Lancastrian houses, and perhaps this gave some 
security to both, unless any ardent members engaged 
in political plots. A popular description of the 
wealth and position of the Stafford (Buckingham) 
family was that there were as many liveries with 
' Stafford Knots ' as there were with the ' ragged 
staffs ' (Warwick's cognizance). Sir Henry in his will 
left his whole fortune to his ' beloved wife/ except 
for a few personal bequests of coursers, a ' grizzled 
horse ' and ' harness ' to his own friends. To the 
exiled Henry of Richmond he left his ' trapper and 
four new horse harness of velvet.' 

These, and other legacies of the time, remind us 
of the extent to which wealth consisted in lavish 
finery, rich wearing apparel, fine animals, massive 
hangings and ' harness,' and to a lesser extent in 
choice weapons, curiously embossed and ornamented. 

The widowed Countess again connected herself in 
marriage with a great noble, and this certainly, as her 
previous one possibly, was in response to courtly and 
political pressure. Her third husband was Lord Stanley, 
chief adviser and personal friend of Edward IV. The 
wedding took place when this monarch, worn out with 
alternate war- work and self-indulgence, lay ill and de- 
spondent, tormented by painful memories and oppressed 

142 



The Passing of the Old Order 

by gloomy fears for the future. Lord Stanley was 
the steward of the King's household, and his wife, of 
necessity, became a leading figure in the empty, 
noisy Court life of the time. She was, however, so 
much the great lady, the cultivated, adaptable woman 
of the world, that she accommodated herself to her 
changed life, finding support, perhaps, in her growing 
hopes for the future of her son. He, at the Court 
of Brittany, was a centre for many far-sighted mal- 
contents, and developed a resolute and patient attitude 
which greatly helped to bring about his future triumph. 

Two years after the Countess Margaret's marriage 
King Edward IV died, and the Protector, Duke 
Richard, suspecting Stanley's loyalty, imprisoned 
him in the Tower. When, however, his path clear, 
Gloucester had secured for himself the crown, he 
restored the nobleman to his position at Court. Thus 
it came about that the Countess Margaret was train- 
bearer to the new Queen at her coronation. But her 
mind must have been full of the future possibilities ; 
in the eyes of many Richard was a mere usurper ; 
Margaret's own descent from the princely John of 
Gaunt gave her a better claim to the crown, and she 
herself certainly believed that, with the accession of 
a sovereign with a stronger title and a cleaner record, 
happier times would ensue for the nation. 

To accomplish this she resolved to waive her own 
claim, and, transferring it to her beloved son, to accom- 
plish his marriage with the Princess Elizabeth, eldest 
daughter of the late King ; thus she hoped to merge 
rivalries and dissensions in a national peace. The 
old historian, Polydore Virgil, writes : ' She being 

143 



William Caxton 

a wise woman, after the slaughter of King Edward's 
children was known, began to hope well of her son's 
fortune ; supposing that that deed would without 
doubt prove for the benefit of the commonwealth, 
if it might chance the blood of King Henry VI and 
King Edward should be intermingled by affinity, and 
so two pernicious factions, by conjoining of both 
houses, be utterly taken away." 

She soon won to her way of thinking her connexion 
by marriage, Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, and he 
entered enthusiastically into the plan. The young 
Princess, who was noted for her beauty and spirit, 
was with the Queen-Dowager ' in Sanctuary ' at West- 
minster, close to the abode of Caxton. In a suite of 
stone chambers over the archway looking into the 
Abbey enclosure, and at right angles to the long 
buildings of the Almonry, the widow of Edward IV 
waited and watched and hoped. 

The eager, ill-natured attempt was destined to 
failure, and, as we have seen, the Duke of Buckingham 
was executed for treason. 1 Richard's vengeance fell 
heavily, too, upon the Countess. Her estates were 
confiscated, her titles and dignities taken from her, 
her son was attainted of high treason, and she was 
ordered to be confined in a castle belonging to her 
husband, Lord Stanley, and prevented from com- 
municating in any way with her son. So undaunted 
was she, however, that in spite of watch and ward 
she actively employed herself in preparing Richmond's 
way, enlisting supporters, supplying stores of arms 
and provisions in readiness for his coming, and in- 

1 Chapter ix. 
144 




The Queen-Dowager in Sanctuary at Westminster 

W. Hatherell 



144 



' 



The Passing of the Old Order 

spiring every one with confidence in the justice and 
bounden success of the attempt. 

Soon after the middle of May King Richard set 
off to the North, leaving Lord Lovel in command of 
a fleet of ships to watch the coast round Southampton. 
Resting at Nottingham he issued letters of array to 
the lord-lieutenants of counties charging them to 
muster all trained men and to equip them well in 
readiness thoroughly to defend him and his realm 
from the traitorous attacks of ' one Henry Tydder, 
son of Edmund Tydder, son of Owen Tydder, who of 
his insatiable ambition and covetousness, pretended 
title to the crown of England." 

By the beginning of August Henry of Richmond had 
landed on the coast of Wales and had sent letters and 
issued a proclamation asserting his claim. Some of 
his chief supporters were Welsh, and to them he wrote 
in terms implying that there could be no question 
as to the Tightness of his attempt to secure the 
throne : ' purposing in all haste possible to descend 
into our realm of England, not only for the adoption 
of the crown, unto us as of right appertaining, but 
also for the oppression of that odious tyrant, Richard 
late Duke of Gloucester, usurper of our said right. . . . 
We desire and pray you and upon your allegiance 
strictly charge and command you that immediately 
upon sight hereof, with all such power as ye may 
make, defensibly arrayed for the war, ye address you 
towards us, without any tarrying upon the way." 

King Richard, on the borders of Sherwood Forest, 
heard swift tidings of Richmond's landing and soon 
of his steady marching from the west with a growing 

K 145 



William Caxton 

army of supporters. He distrusted, with reason, 
more than one of his nobles even the chief officials 
of his household and among them Lord Stanley, 
husband of the Countess Margaret. He issued pro- 
clamations declaring certain of them traitors ; then 
seizing the young Lord Strange, Stanley's son, who 
was in attendance at court, he wrung from him a 
confession that his father was in the confidence of 
the invader. Stanley himself disappointed Henry by 
his tardy response to the command to meet him, 
fearing that Richard would take his son's life in 
revenge. 

By the middle of August Richmond had reached 
Lichfield, and King Richard was setting out from 
Nottingham with an immense array of armed men 
whom he had succeeded in collecting. A curious 
detail is preserved in the archives of the city of York, 
always devotedly ready to serve their former ' Governor 
of the North.' The mayor was ordered to send up 
to the King " in all possible haste, eighty citizens, 
each soldier being furnished with ten shillings in 
advance for ten days' wages." On his way thither, 
mounted on his great white horse, the King rested at 
Leicester, and tradition says that he slept at the Blue 
Boar Inn, and that in the hollow bottom of his bed- 
stead, which was carried about with him, he kept a 
large sum of money. This was never used for its 
purpose of maintaining his army, but was found, 
eighty years later, in its secret hiding-place. 

One of the curious features of the time was the 
mingling of pomp and show with the grim business of 
war. We read that in setting out from Leicester 

146 



The Passing of the Old Order 

with his troops King Richard, attired in magnificent 
robes and wearing his crown upon his head, rode to 
encounter the opposing army, which was said to be 
but half as large as his own. The next day, after a 
night passed in sight of the foe, he rose dispirited and 
doubtful, but assembled his leaders and appointed 
them their places. He sent an imperative message 
to Lord Stanley to join him at once, on peril of the 
instant execution of his son, Lord Strange. Stanley's 
undaunted reply was that he had other sons and was 

' not minded yet to come.'' A similar reply to 
Richmond's urgent plea, sent at almost the same 
moment, was that he would come ' in time conveni- 
ent." As the battle progressed the prudent noble 
joined his forces with Henry's and thus helped to 
the successful issue which seemed to be never in doubt. 
The unhappy Richard at the head of a large contingent 
showed defiant valour, and, when urged to escape, 
he protested, I will not budge a foot : I will die 
King of England." In less than three hours the battle 
of Bosworth Field was over ; the royal crown had fallen 
unheeded into a clump of bushes, and its defeated 
wearer lay mortally wounded on the trampled ground. 
A few hours later the dead King's body was 
carried ignominiously behind a mounted soldier toward 
Leicester, where it was buried in the Grey Friars' 
graveyard. The recovered crown was taken to the Earl 
of Richmond and placed on his head by Lord Stanley, 
his stepfather, amid the eager shouts of the soldiers, 

' King Henry ! King Henry ! ' Thus began the 
new monarchy. 

In spite of the political disturbances, the pro- 

147 



William Caxton 

scriptions and bloodshed of these years, many humble 
people seem to have kept on with their work quietly, 
only faintly concerned in the quarrels and pretensions 
of princes and the feuds and fights of nobles. Life 
in mediaeval times, and later, was a mingling of greatly 
contrasted things. Harsh punishments and cruel 
practices went on among a gay and kindly popula- 
tion ; individual tyrannies existed side by side with 
splendid instances of individual piety and devotion ; 
sickness and disease, pestilence and war ravaged 
the towns and the country-side, and as soon as they 
were over the courageous and light-hearted inhabitants 
resumed their daily toil and pursued their accustomed 
way. Among such was our diligent student and 
worker, Caxton. The waves of political conflict must 
have beaten upon the outer walls of the great Abbey 
of Westminster, which sheltered as many fallen fortunes 
and rising endeavours as a small township. The march 
of armed men, the rattle of weapons, and the cries 
of the victorious and of the defeated alike must have 
echoed there in this very year of 1485. 

The Princess Elizabeth had been separated from 
her mother by King Richard's orders and had 
been borne in safe custody to a remote northern 
castle ; the Queen-Dowager herself was placed with 
her younger daughters in Westminster Palace for a 
few months and afterward sent to the Abbey of 
Bermondsey, where she remained until her death. 
At the very time when King Richard was preparing 
to leave London for the final struggle, Caxton finished 
one of his most famous books and one of his most 
arduous translations. The latter was The Life of 

148 



The Passing of the Old Order 

St Winifred, which was, as he states, ' ' reduced into 
Englysshe by me William Caxton," and her martyr- 
dom is commemorated as the origin of the Holy Well 
in Flintshire. This book had a ready sale, it seems, 
since this saint was regarded most devoutly at that 
time in England, and King Henry VII built a chapel 
over the well which marked the source. This, in its 
restored form, is still one of the attractions of the 
little Flintshire town as well as a centre of devotion 
for the faithful. 1 The other work was the ' noble 
and joyous book entytled le morte Darthur . . . 
reduced in to Englysshe by syr Thomas Malory 
Knyght . . . and by me devyded in to xxj bookes 
chapytred and emprynted and fynysshed in thabbey 
Westmestre the last day of Juyl the yere of our Lord 
MCCCClxxxv. Caxton me fieri fecit.' 1 This w r as 
perhaps the most modern of the books hitherto 
printed by Caxton, as Sir Thomas Malory wrote it 
in 1470. 

We may get some idea of Caxton's industry and 
capacity for work from the colophon at the end of 
another book produced during the same eventful year. 
This was the ancient and beautiful romance of The 
knight Paris and the fair Vienne, originally in Old 
Spanish, but in the fifteenth century translated into 
Provencal the true language of romance. After a 

1 As a result of the improved modern system of water-supply to 
the town, St Winifred's Spring has become so diverted from its 
original course that the well threatens to run dry. Though efforts 
are being made to preserve sufficient force of water to maintain it, 
there is every probability that soon, as in the case of many of the 
old wells of London, there will remain only the name of St Winifred's 
as a memento of its historical fame. 

149 



William Caxton 

period of neglect it was revived and translated into 
French and other Romance tongues. Caxton turned 
it into English and printed it, the only previously 
printed version being one in Italian which appeared 
three years earlier. His last page runs : 

" Thus endeth thystorye of the noble and valyaunt 
knyght parys and the fayre vyenne doughter of the 
doulphyn of Vyennoys translated out of frensshe 
into englysshe by Wyllam Caxton at Westmestre 
fynysshed the last day of August the yere of our lord 
MCCCClxxv and enprynted the xix day of decembre 
the same yere and the fyrst yere of the regne of kyng 
Harry the seventh. Esplicit p Caxton.' 1 

These were the days before there were any books 
written actually for children, but it is interesting 
to find that a great French bishop, a contemporary 
of Caxton, thought so highly of the romance, Paris 
and Vienne that he translated it into Latin for the 
use of his godchildren, the son and daughters of a 
chancellor. So far as is known there is only one 
copy in existence of Caxton's printed translation : 
it is kept in the British Museum. 

At the accession of Henry VII Caxton was getting 
on in years. He was well past the prime of life, and, 
though full of interest and energy, less able to under- 
take alone the various duties belonging to the pro- 
duction of books. And besides the great labour of 
translation, the various materials needed in the pro- 
cess of printing were almost all prepared, or even 
made, by the workers. The parchment only was 
manufactured elsewhere and was procured ready for 
use. But the type, the frames, the ink, the engraving 

150 



The Passing of the Old Order 

and other tools, were made on the spot, and when the 
sheets were printed the decorations and binding were 
still to be done. So precious was parchment that 
any spare or spoilt sheets were used as lining for the 
covers, or were cut into strips and inserted to strengthen 
the folds. In this way, curiously enough, have been 
preserved some fragments of Caxton's printing which 
would otherwise have vanished. 

From 1485 onward one of the workmen at the 
Red Pale seems to have taken a more prominent 
position and to have shared his master's confidence. 
This was Wynkyn de Worde, who was destined in a 
few years' time to stand in Caxton's place and carry 
on his work. With the beginning of the new reign 
there came a promise of peace and stability which 
had for long been absent, and in the added security 
of its good government the arts of peace, among which 
was the printing of books, began to flourish. In 
the next chapter we shall share with Caxton and other 
industrious citizens of London and Westminster in 
the rejoicings and anticipations which accompanied 
the coronation of Henry Tudor. 



15* 



CHAPTER XII: The Tudor 
Rose 

WITHIN a week of his victory at Bosworth 
Field, Henry, Earl of Richmond, was 
entering London in great pomp as king. 
It is said that the indignity with which King Richard's 
body was treated was not by the orders of Henry, 
and indeed that he gave commands (which were little 
heeded) that it should be interred with due honour. 
Beyond the gates of the city London's Lord Mayor 
and aldermen met the approaching procession and 
escorted the King through crowded streets of shouting 
citizens to St Paul's Cathedral. There was held a 
service of thanksgiving, and Henry's banners of war 
were solemnly hung in the chapel of the Holy Ghost. 
The Bishop and clergy ordained processions to various 
churches during the week as the religious celebration 
of the victory. 

Though publicly claiming the throne of England 
as rightful heir, Henry was conscious of the weakness 
of the argument of lineal descent. The house of York, 
descended from the third son of Edward III, had 
one living male representative, while Henry's claim 
was based upon his descent from John of Gaunt, 
Edward Ill's fourth son. Following the unhappy 
precedents of monarchs who seize their thrones, 
Henry's first act was to imprison that representative, 
Edward, the young Earl of Warwick, in the Tower. 
He was the son of Edward IV's brother George, 
Duke of Clarence, and of the Lady Isabel, daughter 
of the King-maker ; and, at the time of the battle 

152 



The Tudor Rose 

of Bosworth, he was in honourable captivity in a 
Yorkshire castle, in company, it was said, with the 
Lady Elizabeth, daughter of Edward IV. 

When the lad, aged fifteen, was sent to the Tower, 
the young Princess was given back to her mother's 
charge in the convent at Bermondsey. It was fully 
intended that Henry should unite the rival houses of 
Lancaster and York by marriage with this lady, but 
the King first hastened on the preparations for his 
coronation and for the assembling of Parliament. 
The crowning was fixed for the 3oth of October, and 
joyful anticipations were formed of the triumphant 
opening of the new reign. But a terrible misfortune 
broke over the country. With the beginning of 
September an unknown and malignant disease made 
its appearance ; soon it struck down people of all ages 
and all classes throughout England. Its ravages 
were hardly felt in Ireland and Scotland, but it spared 
no part of England, and was especially fatal in the 
South. The sickness began in London early in October, 
and in nearly every case it proved fatal. The Lord 
Mayor who had welcomed Henry, and several of the 
aldermen, were among the earliest victims. A new 
mayor was appointed to carry on the great civic 
preparations, and he, too, died from the disease. 

Preparations for the coming coronation were thus 
carried out under gloomy circumstances, but such 
general relief was felt that there seems to have been 
no mention of the pestilence as an ill omen. The King 
set himself .without delay to the necessary business 
of reigning, simply announcing his accession to the 
great States of Europe, and summoning a Parliament 

153 



William Caxton 

to assemble during the first week of November. 
During this time he was in residence with the Bishop 
of London at his palace at Fulham ; and a day or 
two before his coronation he attended a banquet at 
the palace of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal 
Bourchier. The journey from Fulham to Lambeth 
was made by river, in the Bishop's state barge, but 
when His Majesty left for the Tower he went in martial 
procession, riding through the streets. At London 
Bridge he was met by the Lord Mayor and aldermen, 
who again welcomed him to the capital, and presented 
him with a thousand marks. Undoubtedly Caxton 
was present with the members of his guild. Arrived 
at the Tower, the King bestowed honours on some 
few of his followers ; his uncle, Jasper Tudor, was 
created Duke of Bedford, and Lord Stanley, his step- 
father, Earl of Derby ; both were made members of 
his Council. A few knighthoods were given, but there 
were no lavish rewards scattered among his sup- 
porters. The Earl of Oxford was appointed Constable 
of the Tower, ' with charge of the lions.' 

On the morning of October 3oth we may be sure 
that the citizens of London were early astir. Large 
numbers were actually to take part in the ceremonies 
of the day, either by walking in the civic procession 
or by lining the streets ; every one else would desire 
to be a spectator. The mayor and aldermen, in their 
robes of office, their henchmen and heralds, officers 
and footmen, the various city guilds, with their 
banners and emblems all claimed the right to share 
in the sovereign's stately journey to Westminster 
for his crowning. Then there were the two bands of 

154 



The Tudor Rose 

' Watches/ or city police as many as two hundred 
and forty, we are told comprising pikemen in glitter- 
ing corslets, billmen in leathern ' aperns/ and archers 
in white fustian jackets, with the arms of London 
emblazoned on back and front, bearing their bows 
and sheaths of arrows. Footmen with long staves 
cleared the way, and trumpeters on horseback mar- 
shalled the procession, all combined to make a gay and 
stirring scene in which Londoners delighted. 

The King's procession and array were, however, 
much more modest than those of his two predecessors, 
Richard III and Edward IV. Perhaps this was partly 
due to his frugal temperament, perhaps to his discreet 
resolve to make no display until he had securely 
established his position. Two features which were 
novel have been handed down to us : one, that his 
escort of knights were mounted ' in French fashion/ 
two on one horse, powerful Flemish geldings ; the 
other, that a band of archers rode close around 
his person, screening him from the general view. A 
little later Henry established this troop as a per- 
manent bodyguard, always in attendance on his 
person, and in it we may see the origin of the famous 
' Yeomen of the Guard/ 

Arrived at Westminster Palace the usual cere- 
monies of robing took place in the great Hall ; the 
King then, in the midst of a stately body of prelates 
and clergy, moved on into the Abbey with his retinue. 
Cardinal Bourchier placed the crown upon his head ; 
he was duly anointed and acclaimed, and he returned 
to his palace-fortress, the Tower, through the rejoicing 
throngs of citizens. Feasts and holiday continued for 

155 



William Caxton 

the rest of the week, and the ordinary appearance 
of things was only just restored when Parliament 
opened. 

Enthroned in Westminster Hall, Henry heard the 
speech of the Lord Chancellor, the eloquent Bishop of 
Worcester, and then proceeded to the great business 
in hand the obtaining of parliamentary sanction 
of his position. Soon the statute \vas drawn up 
proclaiming it ' enacted by the authority of this 
present Parliament that the inheritance of the crowns 
of the realms of England and of France be, rest, 
remain, and abide in the most royal person of our now 
sovereign lord King Harry the VII." The way in 
which this was brought in gave the keynote of Henry's 
later behaviour toward the nobles, for the Commons 
introduced it, the Lords gave their assent, and then 
the King declared ' Le Roy le voet en toutz 
pointz." 

Then there were the revoking of the attainders of 
powerful Lancastrians and the solemn finding of the 
' late Duke of Gloucester ' and his adherents as 
traitors. Very wisely Henry followed this up with 
a proclamation of pardon to all others who, having 
resisted him, would now acknowledge him loyally. 
He also gave seats in his Privy Council to two 
bishops, one of whom was soon to become well known 
and greatly dreaded ; these were Fox of Exeter and 
Morton of Ely. 

In January the King married the Princess Elizabeth, 
a gentle and beautiful girl. Her mother, the Dowager- 
Queen Elizabeth, Edward IV's widow, was in no way 
allowed to participate in the ceremony, though by 

156 



The Tudor Rose 

Act of Parliament she was recognized as Queen- 
Dowager. Her life, like that of many women of 
high birth in those turbulent times, had been a 
chequered one. Raised to the throne as the consort 
of Edward IV, she had held the exalted rank of Queen 
with the consciousness that her royal husband's 
family and many of the nobility considered her as 
an inferior and an upstart. With a prudence which 
served her better than a sensitive apprehension of 
her position would have done, she used her power to 
raise the fortunes of her family, and her tact to re- 
strain, unsuspected, some of the rash or dishonourable 
intentions of the King. At his death her guardian- 
ship of her sons and of the realm was of short 
duration. Her children wrested from her, the sons 
murdered, and the daughter the unwitting object of 
political aims and compromises, she had great need 
to be a woman of extraordinary resolution or of 
remarkable resignation to endure the time of per- 
plexity and danger which followed her husband's 
death. 

Apparently her daughter Elizabeth was taken from 
her side in the Bermondsey Convent early in January 
1486 and given into the charge of the Countess of 
Richmond, the King's mother. His Majesty, though 
desirous to make this marriage for political reasons, 
was in no hurry to go through the ceremony. Indeed, 
not only his Parliament, but also his Privy Councillors 
had to convey to him the strong desire of his people 
to see the union accomplished, before he could be 
brought to fix the day. At last January i8th was 
appointed, and the Countess Margaret then gave up 

157 



William Caxton 

her secluded life and took to her heart as a daughter 
the young Elizabeth. 

The people of London had again an opportunity 
of seeing a pageant of glittering array. The royal 
procession was one of great magnificence. The 
Princess Elizabeth in a litter with canopy of white 
cloth decked with silver, and attended by young 
maidens in white and blue velvet, was borne along 
from the Countess of Richmond's London residence 
of Cold Harbour. The streets, and not the river, now 
formed the route ; the King's procession on horse 
and foot approached Westminster from the river- 
fortress of Baynard's Castle. The Mayor and alder- 
men, the guilds and companies, turned out in all their 
civic glory, and the trained bands, composed of 
apprentices and journeymen, formed little guards of 
honour around banners and emblems. The King, 
wearing a gown of purple velvet over a suit of white 
cloth of gold, rode a great bay horse, caparisoned with 
heavy needlework. The nobles of his retinue were 
hardly less gorgeous ; tunics of embossed ' gold- 
smiths' work,' with heavy blue or crimson sleeves, 
hats and caps of coloured velvet decked with precious 
stones ; and gay cloaks of varied colours, with tassels 
of gold and silver, completed their array. Bells 
jangled from the hangings and trappings of the horses, 
and the King's archers marched swingingly in a hollow 
square about the central figure. And everywhere 
were blazoned the Tudor Rose and the Portcullis of 
York. 

Cardinal Bourchier, assisted by nearly all the English 
bishops, performed the ceremony at the Abbey, and 

158 



The Tudor Rose 

the newly-wedded bride entered upon her life as 
Queen-Consort. The Countess Margaret was present 
at all great functions, comporting herself to the young 
Queen in a lowly and reverent manner. In the com- 
parative seclusion of her home-life she was at once 
the tender counsellor and the affectionate mother. 
Herself a devoted lover of learning, she it was, no 
doubt, who imparted some knowledge to Queen 
Elizabeth, so that she emulated the Countess in found- 
ing or endowing places of learning. The Almonry 
at Westminster was, we may be sure, visited by the 
young Queen, for the Countess Margaret, like her 
namesake of Burgundy in earlier days, was a patron 
of the diligent Caxton. Curiously enough there are 
no books printed by Caxton still existing which bear 
the date of 1486, the first year of King Henry VIFs 
reign, his marriage, and the birth of his eldest son. 

It may be that illness, domestic trouble, or the 
municipal affairs in which he bore a part, absorbed 
him more than formerly. Or again he may have 
been busily engaged in preparing translations of some 
of the works printed in the next year, while his helper, 
Wynkyn de Worde, and his workmen produced 
service-books and kalendars. 

We pictured how some seven or eight years earlier 
the debonair monarch Edward IV, his brothers, the 
Dukes of Clarence and Gloucester, and the young 
Prince of Wales, paid a visit to the Red Pale. 1 Simi- 
larly we may imagine the Countess Margaret and her 
daughter-in-law, the young Queen, being received by 
Caxton and shown some of the mysterious processes 

1 Chapter VII. 
159 



William Caxton 

and the wonderful results. Now there were more 
men at work, changes had been made in the types 
used, perhaps some improvement had taken place 
in preparing the ink, and also there was a greater 
display of illustrations. But the great chamber was 
still the same crowded and dingy, and immensely 
interesting with its little groups of workers, its stacks 
of parchment, vessels of ink in different stages of 
readiness, trays of types, leather and vellum for 
binding, palettes of brilliant colours used for initials, 
the high bench at w r hich the woodcuts were prepared, 
and the great framework of the press in the middle, 
shaking with the thuds that ' enprynted ' a sheet at 
a time. The ladies now would see what the earlier 
visitors could not the precious piles of printed 
books, ready for binding as they w r ere wanted, and a 
growing heap of spoilt sheets or rejected leaves from 
which the binder took his edgings and foldings. 

In the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey are 
stored some curious relics of those and the succeeding 
years. These relics are fragments of manuscripts 
and of printed paper actually used by Caxton and de 
Worde and the skeletons of rats which had carried 
them away to their holes in the Triforium. 

Before the end of the year the royal couple were 
rejoicing in the birth of a young prince. He was 
named Arthur in compliment to the King's Welsh 
ancestry, and we may imagine that there would 
be a demand for copies of Caxton's ' joyous book ' 
among the aristocrats of the court. The child was 
born in Winchester Castle and christened in the 
cathedral. There remain some interesting records 

1 60 



The Tudor Rose 

of the stately ceremonial of the occasion, devised 
with loving care by the Countess Margaret. All was 
arranged beforehand so that no untoward hitch 
might occur : "A duchess shall carry the infant to 
the font, and if it be a prince an earl shall bear the 
train of the mantle which shall be of rich cloth of 
gold with a long train furred throughout with ermine ; 
if it be a princess a countess shall bear the train." 
The cradle of estate was to be covered with crimson 
cloth of gold, and at the head were to be engraven 
the King's arms. It was to have two counterpanes 
of scarlet, furred with ermine and bordered with velvet, 
cloth of gold, or tissue. 

It is pleasant to note that the Queen-Dowager was 
permitted to share in the joyful ceremony of the 
christening. The duchess appointed was the infant's 
aunt, the Princess Cecily, Elizabeth's sister, and the 
elaborate train was borne by her brother, the Marquis 
of Dorset. The Dowager-Queen awaited their coming 
in the cathedral, and presented, as her christening- 
gift, a rich cup of gold. The Earl of Derby (husband 
of Countess Margaret) gave ' a rich salt of gold 
covered,' and the Earl of Oxford, the King's most 
potent help at Bosworth, presented ' a pair of gilt 
basons.' In commemoration of the happy event the 
Queen founded a Lady-Chapel in Winchester Cathedral. 
This was in September 1486. 

Rather more than a year later the young Queen 
left her peaceful home at Sheen Palace, where the 
royal couple seem mostly to have lived, to take part 
in the imposing ceremony of her coronation. Hitherto 
she has been Queen of courtesy ; but now the Council 

L 161 



William C ax ton 

and advisers had at length induced the reserved and 
self-contained King to bestow upon her the due 
honour of crowning. When at last he had consented, 
Henry's first care was to make it the occasion of un- 
paralleled magnificence. In the dark November days 
of 1487 London and Westminster were again gladdened 
with a royal pageant. The Queen and the Countess 
Margaret were first brought in the royal barge from 
Greenwich to the Tower, and then followed a great 
civic display. Again the mayor, sheriffs and alder- 
men played their wonted part, " with diverse and many 
worshipful commoners chosen out of every craft, with 
their liveries in barges freshly furnished with banners 
and streamers of silk, richly beaten with the arms 
and badges of their crafts.' 1 Gay music, trumpets, 
and clarions and other minstrelsies accompanied the 
progress. It is reasonable to suppose that among 
" the diverse and worshipful commoners ' was to be 
seen Master William Caxton wearing a heavy furred 
robe, and keenly observant of all the changing 
scene. 

The King awaited the ladies' arrival at the Tower 
steps, and greeted his wife and his mother in a " manner 
right joyous and comfortable to behold." The next 
day the coronation took place. The city was decorated 
in the most sumptuous way ; heavy tapestries and 
arras of cloth of gold and velvet were hung from the 
upper windows of the houses ; wreaths and branches 
of trees made festoons across the road, and, in readi- 
ness for the revelries at night, lanterns were slung from 
every corner or were placed in numbers on wrought- 
iron frames in curious designs. All along the way 

162 



The Tudor Rose 

stood the City Companies in order of their greatness 
and importance, the wealthiest being nearest to St 
Paul's Cathedral, and at intervals were stationed 
bands of " well-singing children, some arrayed like 
angels and others like virgins, to sing sweet songs as 
her grace passed by." 

With these, and other pretty touches, was shown 
the people's appreciation of the fact that it was the 
young Queen's festival. She was borne in a great 
open litter under a canopy carried by four Knights of 
the Bath ; the King's mother, in a smaller litter, 
followed immediately behind. Before them rode, on 
grey palfreys, six baronesses wearing crimson velvet, 
and the Duke of Bedford, Jasper Tudor. We read 
that the Queen wore ' ' a kirtle of white cloth of gold 
and mantle of the same, furred with ermine. Her 
long fair hair streamed down her back, and on her 
head she wore a coronet of gold, glittering with 
precious stones." She spent that night in West- 
minster Palace, and the next day she became the 
central figure of a still more imposing procession 
that passed from the great Hall to the Abbey. 

Clad in a kirtle and mantle of purple velvet, furred 
with bands of ermine, and wearing a circlet of gold 
upon her head, she passed along the streets, pre- 
ceded and surrounded by all the great nobles and 
ecclesiastics of the realm. The Bishops of Winchester 
and Ely supported her on either side ; the Princess 
Cecily carried her train. The staff with the dove 
was borne by the Earl of Arundel, the sceptre by the 
Duke of Suffolk, and the crown on its velvet cushion 
by the Duke of Bedford. A long train of knights 

163 



William Caxton 

and barons, their heralds and pursuivants, and as 
many bishops and abbots, robed and mitred, passed 
in through the great west door and up to the altar. 

The King with his mother and a goodly sight of 
ladies stood on a stage from which they could con- 
veniently behold the ceremony." 

In the afternoon the newly-crowned Queen gave 
a banquet in Westminster Hall, the King and the 
Countess Margaret being spectators ' in a latticed 
gallery.' With due ceremony the Queen's Majesty 
was served by a peer on bended knee ; two of her ladies 
sat at her feet ; the Countess of Oxford and the 
Countess of Rivers, members of leading Lancastrian 
and Yorkist houses respectively, knelt on either 
hand and ' at times held a kerchief before her 
grace.' 

Only one further ceremony at all approaching the 
magnificence of this is recorded as being shared by the 
Queen the festival of the Knights of the Garter 
held on St George's Day in the following year. We 
read that the King rode in procession from Windsor 
Castle to St George's Chapel, surrounded by his 
' brother-knights,' attired in the gorgeous robes of 
the Order. The Queen and the Countess of Richmond 
were in a massive chariot drawn by six horses, coach 
and horses being caparisoned in cloth of gold. Behind 
them rode a score of ladies of high birth on white 
palfreys, with saddles of cloth of gold, and white roses 
emblazoned on all their trappings. Then came a 
knight leading the Queen's horse, with saddle and 
housings of cloth of gold, and silver bells jingling on 
the heavy fringes. 

164 



The Tudor Rose 

King Henry, unlike Edward IV, had no love for 
pageantry and display, and he usually grudged the 
cost of royal entertainments. Very occasionally, 
however, he found it politic to indulge his subjects 
with an imposing spectacle, but toward its expenses, 
however, those participating were expected to con- 
tribute. There is always connected with his name 
the remembrance of his stern and systematic repres- 
sion of the barons, their independence, their great 
possessions, and their large bands of retainers. At 
present he was only feeling his way, but soon he made 
it quite clear that money-making pursuits, instead of 
money-spending pursuits, had his patronage. Besides 
his favourable treaties with other nations he was 
careful to foster trade at home. He took the Guild 
of St John Baptist, of the Woolmen and ' Merchant 
Taylors/ under his special protection, even becoming 
a member of that body. Since peace is the first 
essential for prosperous industry, the King deter- 
mined to put down the frequent quarrels between 
the great nobles and their partisans by making 
forfeit the lands of those who ' partook of routs 
and unlawful assemblies.' In his second Parlia- 
ment there were also passed laws against usury, a 
practice which greatly hampered trade, and others 
whereby peaceful foreign merchants might journey 
about the country. 

The King personally visited many of the districts 
where he suspected disloyalty. Setting out from his 
mother's manor of Torrington, in Devonshire, he went 
across country to Suffolk and Norfolk, keeping his 
Christmas feast at Norwich, and thence journeyed 



William Caxton 

to Cambridge and thence on to London. Perhaps 
it was due to this that we find recorded the King's 
command to ' make and repair ' the road from London 
to Cambridge. The eastern approach to the capital 
lay through the Essex marshes, and the fenlands of 
Huntingdon and Cambridgeshire were entirely un- 
drained as yet. His mother, the Countess Margaret, 
a few years later built and endowed two colleges at 
Cambridge, Christ's and St John's, and two Reader- 
ships in Divinity at Oxford. Henry so far resembled 
her as to support and to protect places of learning. 

London began to assume a different appearance 
with the greater security of person and possessions 
under Henry's government. The King rebuilt the 
river-fort, Baynard's Castle, so that it became more of 
a palace and less of a fortress ; he pressed on 
the slowly-moving work of building the chapel of 
Henry VI in Westminster Abbey, intending to bring 
the coffin of that monarch from St George's Chapel, 
Windsor, where his predecessor, Richard III, had 
placed it, to rest within the Abbey walls. This was 
never done, and the chapel by degrees lost its 
connexion with Henry Plantagenet ; before it was 
finished it became known as the Chapel of Henry VII, 
and as such remains the most distinguished monu- 
ment to his memory. In the building of it two smaller 
chapels, those of St Faith and of the Holy Trinity, 
with which Caxton must have been familiar, were 
demolished. 

Another memorial of Henry Tudor's kingly taste 
for building was the hospital, for one hundred poor 
persons, on the ruins of the Savoy Palace. This, 

166 



The Tudor Rose 

the residence of John of Gaunt, wrecked by the 
populace in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, had lain 
in ruins ever since. The chapel (which alone remains 
to-day) was the chapel for the bedesmen and bedes- 
women of the hospital. 



167 



CHAPTER XIII: T/ie New 
Order 

ALTHOUGH Henry of Richmond had become 
king, not only by conquest, but also by parlia- 
mentary sanction, which expressed the general 
will of the nation, there were powerful individuals 
and a restless minority who were ill-content. The 
open disaffection was led in England by Lord Lovell 
and John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, whom 
Richard III had named as his heir. But there were 
also plots and intrigues elsewhere, the fact that Henry's 
was ' an island-realm ' in no way preventing the contin- 
ental rulers from interesting themselves in its fortunes. 
It will be noticed that Henry still retained the title 
of ' King of France/ as, indeed, did all his successors 
until George III. But it was an empty show, as the 
seaport of Calais, one of the staples of the wool trade, 
was all that remained of the once extensive heritage 
of the Angevin sovereigns. 

Indeed, the kingdom of France had become so 
consolidated that only Brittany, of all the old feudal 
signiories, remained independent. There Henry 
Richmond had sheltered until he could strike his blow, 
and to its ruler he was indebted for help in gaining 
the throne. The King of France, too, had been 
friendly and had advanced money for the equipment 
of his forces ; for this Henry had left as sureties the 
Marquis of Dorset and a knight. 

But in the once-powerful Burgundy, now becoming 
absorbed in the Empire, there was a centre of intrigue 
against the Tudor King. The widowed Duchess 

168 



The New Order 

Margaret, Edward IV's sister, bitterly resented the 
suppression of the house of York, and welcomed and 
sheltered any conspirators against Henry. There 
originated and was carried out the plan for training 
an Oxford lad, named Lambert Simnel, to imperson- 
ate the young Edward Plantagenet, son of the Duke 
of Clarence, whom Henry kept in honourable custody 
in the Tower. While the clumsy imposture w r as being 
exposed and contemptuously dealt with, another of 
similar import was being devised. A Flemish youth 
of Tournay, of pleasing manners and adventurous 
mind, who had travelled much in the service of Bur- 
gundian nobles and merchants, was received by the 
Duchess Margaret at her court and exalted to the 
position of reputed heir to the English throne. It 
was given out that he was Prince Richard, the younger 
of the two sons of Edward IV, who were imprisoned 
in the Tower by Richard, Duke of Gloucester. 

When our story ends the lad was still learning his 
part, in tutelage at Bruges, as a royal prince, with 
industriously circulated reports of his attainments, 
his purpose, and the growing number of his supporters 
and adherents. Thus were fanned the hopes of many 
disappointed persons in the political world who were 
ready to adventure something to disturb the estab- 
lished order of things. The Duchess resolutely 
nursed her animosity against Henry VII, and his 
marriage with her niece Elizabeth seemed only to 
inflame her against the Queen and her mother for 
thus leaguing themselves with the enemy who had 
overthrown their house. Her devices helped to 
make the wearer of the crown as uneasy as she could 

169 



William Caxton 

desire for some years before the actual issuing of 
Perkin's proclamation, though with the cold resolu- 
tion which distinguished him Henry put a brave 
face upon the matter. 

It is always remembered of this first Tudor King 
that his great achievement was the depression of 
the powerful barons and the fostering of the merchant 
class. Before Caxton's death in 1491 the astute 
Morton, Bishop of Ely, had become Archbishop of 
Canterbury by the King's wish. He, unlike his 
illustrious predecessor, Thomas Becket, in no way 
disappointed his royal master in his new position. 
His presidency of the small judicial court, which the 
King had formed out of his Council, permitted him to 
exercise the peculiarly penetrating judgment which 
distinguished him. Powerful and headstrong nobles, 
confronted with the passionless administration of 
the Star Chamber, found themselves paying enormous 
fines in order to maintain their positions and prestige 
in their own demesnes. The statutes against retainers, 
' maintenance ' and ' liveries ' that is, against the 
armed retinues which added to the glory of their 
state and made each one almost a little king might 
perhaps have been ignored by men whose wills were 
apt to be a law to themselves. But the searching 
inquiries of the King's secretaries and the famous 
' Morton's fork ' were not to be evaded. 

King Henry, gloomily regarding the imposing band 
of tenants and serving-men assembled in an earl's 
courtyard to do honour to his royal guest, waived 
aside the proffered compliment and insisted : You 
must speak with my Secretary, my lord Earl." The 

170 



The New Order 

interview could but end in one way an offering or a 
fine, call it what you will, from a noble to his king 
as earnest of his humble loyalty. Where display was 
absent and no penalty therefore could be incurred 
for it, the Cardinal-Chancellor's other horn impaled 
the victim : ' Since you eschew vain expenditure, 
my lord, it must follow that you have where- 
withal to support the King in his defence of the 
realm." 

In Lytton's fine romance, The Last of the Barons, 
we have a stirring picture of the power and magnifi- 
cence of the noble houses of Edward IV's day, the 
head and crown of which was that of Warwick. 
Nearly as powerful, and maintaining its position later, 
was the great family of Clifford, which was descended 
from William the Lion, King of Scotland in the 
twelfth century, and allied with the royal Plantagenets 
by marriage. Sometimes supporters and sometimes 
opponents of the house of Warwick, the Cliffords have 
left their mark upon the history of the times, the lands 
they owned, and the literature which revives for us 
the past. The Earl of the late fifteenth century was 
prudent enough to avoid the exactions of Henry VII, 
though his sovereign jealously regarded his posses- 
sions. Hereford, on the borders of Wales, still boasts 
the traditions of the ancient Cliffords ; Skipton, in 
Yorkshire, was the centre of their northern territories ; 
Brougham Castle, in Westmorland, came into the family 
as dowry of an heiress, as did Appleby Castle in the 
same county. The Countess Clifford of those days, 
when she became a widow, was sheriff of the county. 
Indeed, the barons of Westmorland were for long to 

171 



William Caxton 

be almost independent of the sovereign, so far 
removed was that debatable shire from any real 
control of the King. 

The manor of Threlkeld, beyond Penrith in the fast- 
nesses of Blencathara and Skiddaw, was the scene of 
the romantic disguise of the heir of the house as a 
shepherd's son during the ascendancy of the Yorkists 
in Edward TV's reign. A Clifford is mentioned by 
Shakespeare, 1 another by Southey ; the unfortunate 
heir, ' the Shepherd Earl,' is the subject of Words- 
worth's Song at the Feast of Brougham Castle ; his 
mother's misfortunes are mentioned in The Waggoner, 
and his later retreat at Bardon Tower in The White 
Doe of Rylstone. The name of their London mansion 
by the Thames is still preserved in Clifford's Inn, 
which, after the fourteenth century, was, like the 
ancient foundation of the Knights Templars, rented 
to the law-students. 

In the Paston Letters are many revelations of the 
lawless and violent dealings of the great landowners 
in claiming or asserting their rights and settling their 
disputes with their neighbours or tenants. Driving 
off cattle, burning of barns, even the besieging of houses 
and the forcible detention of opponents, supplemented 
the slow processes of the law or were substituted for 
them. The Duke of Norfolk on one occasion entered 
Caistor Manor, owned by a member of the Paston 
family, drove off a flock of sheep and a number of 
oxen, and carried away a hundred pounds' worth of 
furniture. For three years he compelled the manorial 
tenants to pay their rents to himself ; and he re- 

1 // King Henry VI, Act V, Sc. n. 
172 



The New Order 

linquished his position only on being paid a sum of 
five hundred marks. An almost similar instance 
occurred at Hellesden, which was raided by the Duke 
of Suffolk. The list of goods removed has been pre- 
served, and includes " ij fedder beddes with ij bolsters, 
iiij materas, iij cortayns of blewe lakeram, vi payre 
of sheetes of ij webbes," evidently from the chambers 
of the manor ; implements from the ' botere ' and 
the ' brewhere/ such as " ij pantrye knyves " and " a 
syff to syft malt." There were also removed ' j 
mortar of marbell with a pestell ' from the kitchen, 
and " gear taken out of church.' 1 

It must be added that the smaller landowners 
quarrelled and terrorized each other by displays of 
force as readily as the barons, and that they rarely 
waited for a legal decision in any dispute before taking 
up arms. Hence there was real need for the stern 
measures of Henry in establishing order and compelling 
observance of the ' King's peace,' even in the terri- 
tories of the most powerful noble. 

The Paston family had been one of solid compet- 
ence and integrity, and soon after Henry's accession 
John Paston was appointed Sheriff of Norfolk and 
Suffolk ; to him it fell to prevent the restless mal- 
content, Lord Lovell, from finding safe hiding-places 
in the " ports and creeks and other places upon the 
coasts " of the Eastern counties. Also the Lambert 
Simnel rising was expected first in that district, and 
the King journeyed through Suffolk and Norfolk in 
order to animate the loyalty of his subjects. John 
Paston was made " an esquier of the body ' to the 
King, and in the course of his official duties was 

173 



William Caxton 

responsible, whenever the disturbed condition of the 
country made it necessary, for raising and bringing 
in person to the Lord High Admiral, " a company 
defensively arrayed, horsed and harnessed to be 
at the King's wages " and to serve as a troop of 
fighting-men. 

In spite, however, of a warlike tendency in the 
manner of life of the fifteenth century, there were 
many characteristics which show that it was not 
entirely barbarous. A travelled Italian writer of the 
time comments upon the good manners of English 
gentlemen, and this was probably due to the training 
of the feudal system, where the position of every one 
was clearly defined. The princely households of 
great barons and ecclesiastics were schools of manners 
as well as colleges for the learning of clerkly and 
knightly arts. The rough plenty of the table and the 
crude extravagance of personal attire did not exhaust 
the capacity for enjoyment of the fifteenth-century 
gentleman or the lady his wife. Compared with the 
embarrassing number of petty possessions of an in- 
dividual of to-day the personal treasures may seem 
few in number, but they stood for their owners' love 
of beauty and intellectual interest. Some wills and 
inventories amongst the Paston Letters may be taken 
as typical. Margaret Paston, sister-in-law of the 
Sheriff John already mentioned, bequeaths, among 
a considerable amount of solid furniture and house- 
hold goods, to her daughter Anne " my green hangyng 
in my parlour at Mauteby, a standing cuppe with a 
cover gilt with a flat knoppe, xij silver spoones, my 
best corse girdill, blewe harneised with silver and 

174 



The New Order 

gilt, my primer, my bedes of silver enamelled." To 
Margery, her daughter-in-law, she leaves some silver 
and " my masse book with all mine awter clothes," 
and to another daughter-in-law, her ' prymer clad 
with grene velvet." 

A special point of interest attaches to the " In- 
ventory of Englysshe Boks of ... " probably the 
John Paston already named. They are eighteen in 
number and include four books on Heraldry, and one 
on " Knyghthod and the Maner of makyng Knyghts, 
Jousts and Tourneaments, paces holden by Soldiers 
and Challenges ' . . ., a service-book, given him by 
Percival Robsart ; two books of Cicero, de Senectitte 
and de Amicitia ; a version of the Chronicle of 
England, beginning at the ' Dethe of Arthur, Guy 
Erl of Warwick, King Richard Cur de Lyon . . . 
to Edwarde the iij " ; and two books of Chaucer. 
All these in manuscript ; but there remains one, 
" Item, a Boke in preente of the Pleye of the Chess." 

This collection was quite a creditable library for 
a country squire of the time, and we may imagine 
that in this and in any similar household the few 
books possessed were carefully treasured and rarely 
permitted to be handled. In another inventory, 
that of the possessions of Sir James Gloys, Priest of 
St Clement's, Norwich, there occur the names of a 
few books, none of which is printed : a ' boke of 
Statutes," a " boke of xij chapetyres of Lyncoln," 
" a boke 'of Sofistry," ' a boke of Seynt Thomas de 
Veritatibus, a red boke with Hugrecio and Papie, 
iij bokes of Sofistry and maney other small bokes," 
in a coffer. There was also a copy of a book to be 

175 



William Caxton 

closely connected with Caxton in the course of 
another few years, the Vitce Patrum. 

Returning to the Red Pale and a consideration of 
Caxton's later work, we find that early in 1487 he 
undertook the printing of The Book of Good Manners, 
at the request of a fellow-member of the Mercers' 
Guild. The book was translated from the work of 
an Augustin friar of Paris, to whom was committed 
part of the education of the young son of Charles V 
of France. Soon this was followed by a life of Christ, 
Speculum Vitce Christi, largely taken from a French 
version of the work by St Bonaventura. There is 
an anticipation of the great poem of Milton in the 
heading of the first chapter : ' A devoute medytacion 
of the grete Councyll in Neuene for the restorynge of 
man and hys sauvacyon ..." and ' All the Courte 
of Neuene wondrynge and commendyng the souerayne 
wysedome assented wel here to . . . ' 

This was the first of a succession of religious books, 
another of which was The Doctrinal of Sapience, con- 
sisting of that which " ought the prestres to lerne 
and teche to theyr parysshes." The earliest Statutes 
of the Realm to be printed were those of the Parlia- 
ment of the first year of King Henry VI Fs reign, and 
they were issued from Caxton's Press at about this 
time. The existing remains show that a large variety 
of works were being produced during the last few 
years of his life, including some second editions of 
early books. In preparing these we read that the 
diligent enthusiast went through the pages most care- 
fully, correcting errors and removing imperfections. 
By this time he had introduced several improvements 

176 



The New Order 

in types and methods ; there is greater evenness of 
spacing and regularity of lines than in the first issues. 
The second edition of the Game and, Playe of the 
Chesse shows also an alteration in matter. The de- 
dication and inscription to George, Duke of Clarence, 
are removed and replaced by a prologue by Caxton 
himself. In it, after the manner of men getting on 
in years, he praises the ' good old times ' in which 
was " every man in his office contente, and stood the 
cytees of the royaume in worship and renome . . . 
how was renomed the noble royaume of England, alle 
the world dradde hit and spake worshyp of hit." 

Two years before his death we find an interesting 
connexion between Caxton and one of the great 
ladies of the time. In 1489 the Duchess of Somerset, 
mother of the Countess Margaret and therefore 
maternal grandmother of the King, desired Caxton 
to translate for her the romance of Blanchardin and 
Eglantine, a French love-story. Apparently she 
wished it translated only, but soon Caxton printed it, 
with the inscription, ' : Unto the ryght noble puyssant 
& excellent pryncesse my redoubted lady my lady 
margarete duchess of Somercete moder unto our 
naturel and soverayn lord. . . ." 

In the same year Caxton translated and printed, 
by command of the King himself, The Fayts of Arms 
and Chivalry, ' \vhich book, being in French, was 
delivered to me, William Caxton, by the most 
Christian King, my natural sovereign lord, King 
Henry VII in his Palace of Westminster." The 
following year he brought out the first English version 
of the devotional work known as the Fifteen Oes, 

M 177 



William Caxton 

each prayer beginning with ' O ' This, as he states 
explicitly, was ' by commandment of our liege lade 
Elizabeth by the grace of God Quene of Englande and 
of Fraunce, & also of the right hye & most noble 
pryncesse Margarete Moder unto our soverayn lorde 
the Kyng." 

It is curious to notice that no inkling would be 
gained from any of the books and fragments of Caxton's 
writing and printing that three different sovereigns 
sat on the throne of England during his work at the 
Red Pale, and that each had to scheme and fight for 
his crown. The fact suggests two or three things : 
one, that the political ferment of royal and baronial 
disputes passed very much over the heads of the 
plain citizens of the towns and the yeomen of the 
country. When their trade and manner of life were 
violently interfered with they would accommodate 
themselves as well as they could to their circumstances, 
and only when hard pressed would they take sides 
or espouse a cause. Townsmen were then, as always, 
able to be more independent of the aristocratic class 
than the farmers and peasants in rural districts, and 
thus were less subject to be enrolled as ' horsed and 
harnessed ' fighters in a cause which they neither 
understood nor cared about. 

Another point suggested is the secrecy and immunity 
from criticism with which plots and counterplots 
could be hatched when the great body of the people 
stayed in one place, when communication was slow 
and difficult, and when the government was carried 
on by small and powerful minorities. We may im- 
agine that when, in order to defeat the intentions of 

178 




The young Earl of Warwick riding from the Tower 
Eileen Robinson and Irene Ward 



178 



The New Order 

the supporters of Lambert Simnel, King Henry 
caused Edward, the young Earl of Warwick, son of 
the Duke of Clarence, to be brought from the Tower 
and to ride through London, but few of the beholders 
understood what it was all about. 

We see, therefore, that what looks like Caxton's 
easy transference of loyalty and admiring reverence 
from one sovereign to another was really the expres- 
sion of the Englishman's typical readiness to accept 
things as they are. Perhaps we may interpret his 
use of the term ' natural ' lord in these later inscrip- 
tions as showing his real attachment to the Lancastrian 
dynasty so rudely interrupted by Edward of York. 

We are able to piece together a little of the in- 
timate personal life of Caxton, as has already been 
seen, from entries and references in registers and 
accounts. In 1490 it is conjectured that he lost his 
wife, for in the parish records of St Margaret, West- 
minster, is the quiet reading : " Item : Atte burying 
of Maude Caxton for torches and tapres iijs. ijd." 
It may be that this event moved the busy worker to 
turn his attention to an old Latin treatise, which he 
translated and printed as The Art and Craft to know 
Well to Die. The diligent worker was then getting 
on in years, having either reached, or nearly attained, 
the threescore years and ten of active life which few 
can hope to pass. It is believed that there was no 
lingering illness and no long withdrawing from his 
beloved labour of translating and producing books, 
but that he was actually working at an unfinished 
task when he died. 

His introduction to the Art and Craft just named 

k_. 

179 



William Caxton 

began When it is soo that what a man maketh or 
doeth it is made to come to some ende and yf the 
thynge be goode and well made it must nedes come 
to goode end/ 1 

He died in 1491 while at work on a translation of 
the Vita Patrum, and was buried in St Margaret's 
Churchyard within a stone 's-throw of the scene of his 
happy labours for thirteen years. An entry in the 
parish register of accounts runs : 

Atte bureying of William Caxton for iiij 

torches . . . . . vjs viijd 

For the belle atte same bureying . . vjd 

The usual charge for the ' knell,' as appears from 
other entries, was sixpence, but the term ' torches ' 
probably covers various other items of expenditure 
belonging to the funeral of a prominent citizen. 

Caxton seems to have left a married daughter, to 
whom, with staid affection, he no doubt left some 
small legacy. But of this we have no certain know- 
ledge. What we do know is that he had not amassed 
wealth ; his labours had often been for love ; in spite 
of the patronage of kings and nobles there were many 
risks and losses attending his enterprise ; and so it 
came about that his bequest to his parish church 
consisted of some copies of the Golden Legend which 
he had printed. There was fitness in this, since the 
churches may almost be said to have contained the 
first libraries, and the clergy and churchwardens 
were the first booksellers. Even in Caxton's day 
there probably stood near the Abbey gates, or perhaps 
in St Margaret's porch, members of the ' Brothers 

180 



The New Order 

of the Pen,' or writers, whose services might be hired 
for making wills, drawing up documents, or copying 
manuscripts. These copyists who had been wont 
to wait, furnished with a quire of paper, inkhorn and 
quills, and a narrow heavy desk, presently gave way 
to the vendors of materials and implements used in 
writing. Our term ' stationery ' still enshrines the 
memory of the ' stations ' near the cathedrals and 
churches where they stood. 



181 



CHAPTER XIV: Caxton s 

Successor 

AMONG the indirect testimony to Caxton's 
high character and kindly personality may 
be reckoned the attitude toward his work 
and memory adopted by his colleague and successor, 
Wynkyn de Worde. For the press at the Red Pale 
continued though its first master's hand was still, 
and from it there issued many fresh books as well as 
reprints of the earlier ones. The new owner made 
some alterations, devised and carried out improve- 
ments in paper, types, and style ; he also introduced 
title-pages, a concession which Caxton always refused 
to make. But for two years he forebore to use his 
own name, and announced the printed volumes as 
' from Caxton's house at Westminster.' He naturally 
retained the sign of the Red Pale, and modified some- 
what the Caxton monogram to suit his own. An 
almost comical feature is the variety of ways in which 
he contrived to spell his name whether from choice 
or for the sake of variety we know not. But so did 
Shakespeare nearly a hundred years later. After 
more than five centuries of printing and the establish- 
ment of a standard spelling, we hardly recognize, 
until we read the writings of the time, how much 
individuality governed the form of words in those 
distant days. Besides personal uncertainty, which, if 
it is felt now, may be so easily removed, there seems 
to have been a fashion, or succession of fashions, in 
spelling. 

The use of y for i, the interchangeable u and v 

182 



Caxtons Successor 

(which now have their different provinces well de- 
fined), the occasional appearance of the early English 
h (then and for long years yet to be without its aspirate 
pretensions), the use of c in the termination tion 
(showing its French origin and pronunciation) all 
these were fairly regular and established. But varia- 
tions for reasons of taste seem to have occurred in 
de Worde's renderings of his name. It is made to 
look very Saxon in ' Wynkyn Theworde/ Latin 
in Wynandus de Worde/ Spanish in ' Vuinandi 
de Vuorde,' and Flemish enough in ' Winandi de 
Wordensis/ Certainly it was marvellously well suited 
to his trade. 

Another of Caxton's workmen set up a press near 
the Temple, on the boundary of the City of London. 
The old ' Gates ' still retained in terminations, as 
Bishopsgate, Aldgate, marked the original walls of 
London. As the city grew, the settlements beyond 
the walls were gradually included, and a ring of ' bars ' 
show the larger extent of the capital. Holborn Bars 
and Temple Bar are noticeable survivals on the great 
western and south-western highways. 

Other printing presses, too, were set up ; one at 
Oxford had been established soon after Caxton's, 
and also one at St Albans. Richard Pynson, at 
Temple Bar, was proud to call Caxton " my worshipful 
maister." But though the new art progressed it was 
still something of an ingenious toy, a curiosity rather 
than a power, and was as yet to be wondered at, for 
people had no inkling of the coming days of restric- 
tions and penalties in store for it. 

Other changes were approaching and great events 

183 



William Caxton 

crowded on each other in the history of court and 
city. The King pursued his discreet policy of seeking 
for commercial possibilities on the Continent. That 
most interesting confederation of towns known as 
the Hanseatic League held most of the trade with the 
East and had a vantage ground which the English 
had not on the Baltic. They had undisputed posses- 
sion of their fortress ' haus ' near London Bridge, 
immune from all civic and legal restraints, and held 
much land on the Lincolnshire coast by Lynn and 
Boston. With this League the King arranged a more 
favourable treaty, and supported it by encouraging 
the building of ships of heavier draught and capacity 
for larger cargoes. Still the ' mercantile marine ' 
and the Royal Navy were the same ; but perhaps 
we may see in Henry VIFs one ship of war, the 
Great Harry, the ancestor of our later formidable 
list of men-of-war. 

Another increase of trading facilities came about 
through the King's negotiations against Venice, then 
the great Mediterranean commercial centre. Her 
chief rival was Pisa, for those were the davs when 

*/ 

individual towns, and not nations, led the way in 
buying and selling goods. Henry VII, always an 
astute bargainer, established a wool staple at Pisa, 
and concluded a treaty with Florence, the inland 
mart for Pisa, by which English wool was to be carried 
in English ships to Pisa instead of to Venice, and the 
famous wines of Malvoisie and the fabrics and spices 
from the East were to be imported similarly ; the 
Venetian galleys and port being thus completely 
ignored. 

184 



Caxton s Successor 

This treaty had a distinct bearing on the interests 
of Caxton and his successor, since the Italian towns 
were then in the forefront of civilization. Art and 
letters flourished, and the progress of printing was 
more marked in Italy than in its birthplace even, the 
German Mentz. There the script-form of the char- 
acters, known as the ' Black Letter ' \vas discarded 
for the clear Roman type, which painfully won its 
place in England. The first English use of this was 
made in King Henry VIIFs famous tract against 
Luther, which won for him the title Fidei Defensor 
still to be seen on our coins. Hence, among the 
treasures of the cargoes brought from the Mediter- 
ranean ports were books ; at first they were entirely 
hand-written but by degrees they came to be chiefly 
printed copies. 

The King and his mother were ready patrons of 
learning, and thus exercised great influence on the 
taste and pursuits of the age. We may imagine the 
King himself, perhaps with his young sons, visiting 
the Red Pale and being received by Wynkyn de 
Worde, as Ed\vard IV and his boys had been by 
Caxton. The Countess Margaret, too, continued 
her patronage of the new art. A curious old book, 
known as the Scala Perfectionis (now among the 
treasures of a famous library), bears the inscription, 
" Englished and enprinted by command of Margaret 
Countess of Richmond and Derby in Will Caxton's 
house, by Wynkyn de Worde, anno salutis 1494." 

Two years before Caxton died the Queen gave birth 
to a daughter. She was named Margaret, and in 
later days, by her marriage with James IV of Scotland, 

185 



William Caxton 

she became the ancestress of every English sovereign 
after Queen Elizabeth. In the year of Caxton 's 
death another son was born to the royal pair ; he 
was destined at his brother's death to become heir- 
apparent and to reign as Henry VIII. The favourite 
home of the King and Queen during these years was 
the palace at Eltham, which alternated with that at 
Sheen. About this time the King changed the latter 
name to Richmond, in his own honour, a word de- 
rived, it is believed, from the French Rougemont. 

The favourite ambition of the monarch, after that 
of amassing wealth, was building. He undertook 
the restoration and enlargement of the chapel of St 
George at Windsor, and the building of a worthy 
memorial at Westminster to the memory of Henry VI. 
The ancient Lady Chapel was pulled down, with an 
adjacent smaller one ; instead was designed a lofty 
and imposing chapel, rather attached to than actually 
within the Abbey, to contain the tomb of the last of 
the Plantagenets. The coffin of this sovereign re- 
posed at the time in St George's Chapel at Windsor, 
having been brought thither from Chertsey Abbey 
by Richard III. This taste for building the King 
may have inherited from his mother. She was con- 
tinually active in supporting and fostering works of 
mercy as well as places of learning. She endowed 
and enlarged the St James* ' Hospital for Leprous 
Maids,' about two miles from Temple Bar, in the 
fields that were afterward to become the sur- 
roundings of Piccadilly. At Oxford she endowed 
two Readerships in Theology, and founded two 
colleges at Cambridge, Christ's and St John's. Queen 

186 



Caxtons Successor 

Elizabeth, her daughter-in-law, emulating her in this, 
established the similar foundation at Cambridge, 
called ' Queen's College/ in her honour. 

Ten years after Caxton's death a great trouble 
befell the King and Queen. Prince Arthur, the 
future king, fell ill and died at the age of sixteen. 
His royal father had brought about his alliance with 
the Infanta Katharine of Spain, thus uniting England 
with the most powerful royal house of Europe. At 
the close of the following year the Queen died, and 
the splendid chapel, then newly begun at Westminster, 
had its first ceremony in the interment of her body. 
Her broken-hearted consort spared nothing to show 
her honour in her funeral ; its pompous state ex- 
celled anything that had ever been seen on such an 
occasion. 

The coffin was taken on a royal barge, draped with 
black and silver, from Richmond to St Paul's, where 
a service was held and a sermon delivered by Fisher, 
the eloquent Bishop of Rochester. Thence it was 
borne through mourning streets, hung with sad- 
coloured arras and tapestries, to Westminster Hall. 

Tawny velvyt and black sarsnet " draped the walls, 
and silver embossings of the rose and portcullis shone 
in the sombre folds. A simple feature, like that which 
had appeared in her coronation, was that within the 
guard of barons and knights walked immediately 
about the bier as many maidens as there were years 
in the Queen's age, clad in white and bearing tapers. 
A white cross stretched the length of the velvet- 
covered coffin as it rested in the great central space 
of Westminster Hall. 

187 



William Caxton 

The coffin was then carried (along the route followed 
by the Queen's coronation procession) to the steps of 
the high altar in the Abbey, later to be transferred 
to a temporary resting-place until the building of the 
chapel should be finished. When this event finally 
came about the original intention had drifted from 
royal and other memories, and it was understood to 
be the chapel and memorial, not of Henry VI, but of 
Henry VII. This was in 1581, and eight years later 
King Henry himself was there laid to rest. 

The Countess Margaret lived but a few months 
after the death of her beloved son. Her tomb may 
be seen in the splendid chapel, engraved with the 
Derby arms and insignia, while the antelope of the 
house of Lancaster lies at her feet. The symbolism 
of the daisies wrought in the iron of the gates pro- 
claims Margaret, ' the descendant and ancestress of 
Kings.'' The Bishop of Rochester preached her 
funeral sermon, and the great scholar Erasmus wrote 
the inscription for her tomb. 

A relic of this distinguished and lovable woman 
is among the historic treasures of a famous house. 
A missal, richly bound and ornamented, the gift one 
New Year's Day of the King and Queen, bears in 
curious old script the greetings of their Majesties. 
In the King's hand are the words : " Madame, I pray 
you Remember me your loving Maister, Henry R " ; 
and in the Queen's : " Madame I pray you forget not 
me. Pray to God that I may have part of your 
prayers. Elysabeth y e Queene.' J 

None of the three husbands of the great Countess 
is buried in the Abbey. The Earl of Richmond's 

188 



Caxtons Successor 

tomb is in St David's Cathedral, bearing the inscrip- 
tion, written by his widow, which named him " father 
and brother to Kings." His mother, Katharine of 
Valois, the widowed Queen of Henry V, whose 
marriage with Owen Tudor offended all her royal 
contemporaries, lay in an obscure recess not far 
from the stately Chapel of Henry VH. The Earl 
of Derby, Constable of England, the most powerful 
subject in the realm, had died some few years before 
the Countess Margaret. Strangely enough, his brother, 
Sir William Stanley, was implicated in the Perkin 
Warbeck rebellion ; he was beheaded in the Tower 
and his great possessions were confiscated. 

At the time when the Countess was laid to rest, 
there had reposed near by for a hundred years and 
more the bones of England's first great poet, Geoffrey 
Chaucer. His burial in the Abbey was, however, due 
to the fact that he was an official in the royal house- 
hold and lived in Westminster in a house leased from 
the Abbot. But a leaden tablet with an inscription 
in recognition of his genius was placed on a pillar 
by Caxton, the devout lover of his verse. Thus our 
master-printer is linked with his illustrious pre- 
decessor by this evidence of his homage as well as in 
his production of printed copies of Chaucer's works. 

It is usual to think of the fifteenth century as a dark 
and inglorious period, the stormy dawn of a bright 
and marvellous day. Yet there lived some whose 
names are great in our history : among scholars 
were those of Grocyn and Linacre, and among poets, 
Henryson, Skelton, and Dunbar of Scotland. Henry- 
son was poet laureate in Caxton's latter years, and 



William Caxton 

it was his proud duty to compose a panegyric upon 
the occasion of the young Prince Arthur being created 
Prince of Wales and on that of Prince Henry (after- 
ward Henry VIII) being made Duke of York. After- 
ward he became tutor to the young Prince. In 
his own words : 

The honor of England I lernyd to spelle 
In dygnite roiall that doth excelle. 

But, as we have seen, there was then greater freedom 
in the matter of spelling than has since been the 
case. 

Caxton lived just long enough to see the small 
beginning of English expansion of territory, for at 
his death the Bristol seamen, John and Sebastian 
Cabot, were about to start on their adventurous 
voyage to Newfoundland, in two sturdy little ships 
manned with prisoners released from gaol. 

Of the men to become famous in the next reign, 
Colet, afterward Dean of St Paul's and founder of 
the famous school, was a young man ; so was Sir 
Thomas More, so was Wolsey, the future Cardinal 
and the last of the great ecclesiastical statesmen. 
Each of them must have seen and handled some 
copies of the half hundred books printed by Caxton 
at the Red Pale. 

The principal literature produced in England in 
Caxton's own day consisted of ballads. These were 
the lineal descendants of the rhythmical narratives 
declaimed by minstrels, commemorating the lives and 
feats of heroes and adventurers, with many romantic 
additions. The most famous collection was that 

190 



Caxtoris Successor 

entitled " A Lytel Giste of Robin Hode," and this we 
find was one of those printed by Wynkyn de Worde 
at the command of the Countess Margaret. 

The life and work of William Caxton, burgher, 
translator, printer and lover of books, are worthily 
and fittingly commemorated in Westminster. The 
modern Hall bears his name, and its windows, like 
those of St Margaret's Church, picture him as he 
lived and worked. The ancient bell had sounded over 
his head in his busy labours, and rang his knell when 
he went to rest in those far-off days of long ago. 






AMONG THE WORKS CONSULTED IN THE PREPARATION 
OF THIS BOOK ARE THE FOLLOWING : 

THE POLITICAL HISTORY OF ENGLAND. Ed. Hurst 

and Poole. 

SOCIAL ENGLAND. Ed. TrailL 
ENGLAND IN THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY. Denton. 
TOWN LIFE IN ENGLAND IN THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY. 

Mrs T. R. Green. 
EDWARD IV. Stratford. 
RICHARD III. Gairdner. 
THE UNPOPULAR KING. Legge. 
ENGLAND UNDER THE TUDORS. Bttsch. 
THE PASTON LETTERS. Ed. Gairdner. 
LIFE AND TYPOGRAPHY OF WILLIAM CAXTON. Blades. 
MEDIEVAL TOWNS : LONDON, BRUGES, ETC.