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7 - ‘In the Mids of his Glory’: the M 9 chronicle, ‘A Mirror for Magistrates’, and the tragedy of English imperialism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 May 2022

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Summary

The military narrative preserved in College of Arms MS M 9 may have begun its life as a chronicle designed for a single fifteenth-century reader, but its unique status as a detailed account, offered from the English perspective, of martial activity in France between 1415 and 1429 helped to win for it a wide audience in the succeeding century and beyond. Two early modern authors in particular became inspired by this narrative's material, and they employed it to enrich their own written works. As we have seen in Chapter 6, the first was the chronicler Edward Hall, who introduced sixteenth-century readers to the M 9 chronicle's narrative by incorporating nearly all of it (with his own additions and emendations) into his massive history of English affairs c. 1398–1547, The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York (1548). The second was the anonymous author of the tragic verse monologue ‘How Thomas Montagu the Earl of Salisbury, in the Mids of his Glory, was Chanceably Slain with a Piece of Ordnance’ (composed 1554, first published 1559).

In the conceit of this 280-line, rhyme-royal work, a ghostly Thomas Montague, fourth earl of Salisbury, rises from the grave to recall his many military triumphs and his shocking, untimely death (3 November 1428). After a brief lament for the tarnished memory of his father, a man executed for his participation in the Epiphany Rising against King Henry IV (December 1399–January 1400), Salisbury's ghost embarks on a stirring account of his own glorious career in the second and third decades of the fifteenth century. As a young man, Salisbury quickly rose to prominence under Henry V, winning numerous military victories abroad and participating in the negotiation of all English treaties. After Henry V's death, Salisbury found favour with Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, and John, duke of Bedford, the two great noblemen who ruled as protector of England and Regent of France respectively during the infancy of King Henry VI. Both men held great confidence in him, Salisbury's ghost recalls in the poem, trusting him to ‘rule at home as often as they willed’ and sending him several times to campaign in France ‘when they it needful deemed’.

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A Soldiers' Chronicle of the Hundred Years War
College of Arms Manuscript M9
, pp. 165 - 174
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2022

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