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Prophecy and Public Affairs in Later Medieval England

Prophecy and Public Affairs in Later Medieval England

Lesley A. Coote
Copyright Date: 2000
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Prophecy and Public Affairs in Later Medieval England
    Book Description:

    In this first general survey of political prophecy in medieval England for almost a hundred years, Lesley Coote examines the nature of political prophecy, its audience and its reception. She compares the discourse of prophecy with other, related discourses, and demonstrates how it functioned as a political language. A study of extant manuscripts produces an account of the importance of political prophecy in later medieval England, from its emergence in the twelfth century to the end of the middle ages. What emerges from this study is a political language which was neither peripheral to English political consciousness, nor merely a game for intellectuals, but a major language for the discussion of public affairs. In this language were presented ideas of 'Englishness' and the aspirations of a 'national' community, which included the imminent revelation of a great crusading hero-ruler, a second Arthur, who would lead his people into the Last Days. The book is completed with a handlist of manuscripts containing political prophecies. Dr LESLEY A. COOTE is a Research Fellow in the Department of English at the University of Hull. Valuable research tool: Handlist of manuscripts containing political prophecies.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-139-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-ix)
    (pp. 1-12)

    Writing in 1911, Rupert Taylor remarked that political prophecy ‘as a type of English literature’ had, as yet, received little attention.¹ He noted that there had been editions and studies of particular texts, but there had been no work on political prophecy in general. Many texts were still unedited, in manuscript form only, and therefore were not readily available to the majority of students and scholars.² Taylor set out to remedy this situation himself, and the resulting book became, and still remains, the standard background work on political prophecy in medieval England. It has to be recognized that Taylor was...

  6. CHAPTER ONE What is Political Prophecy?
    (pp. 13-42)

    Rupert Taylor concluded that political prophecy was a literary genre, in which texts were constructed using a specially-developed language, known to initiates. The texts, therefore, resembled coded messages, which could then be deciphered by those who knew how they had been encoded. Most medieval political prophecies, however, were not hard for educated contemporaries to understand; the intention was that the message should be clear, not that it should be enveloped in a thick fog impenetrable to all but the few. If this were so, political prophecy would not have survived in such large quantities, and would not feature so prominently...

  7. CHAPTER TWO The Second Arthur: The King as hero c. 1135–1307
    (pp. 43-82)

    In 1278 the supposed bodies of Arthur and Guinevere, having been ‘discovered’ at Glastonbury, were re-interred there by command of King Edward I of England. Before reburial, the bodies were re-clothed by the king and queen in person. This form of identification with the dead was chivalric, as was the Lord Edward’s burial of Henry de Montfort, but on this occasion it was more than that. This action did, indeed, show the Welsh that Arthur was truly dead, and would not, therefore, return to oust their English overlords as Welsh prophecies claimed. However, this apparently (to us) ghoulish ceremonial was...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Expectation and Disappointment 1307–1340
    (pp. 83-120)

    The period 1307–40 was one of the most productive for political prophecy in England. Many of the texts which became most popular in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries made their first appearance at this time, whether they were written in England or imported from the Continent. This was due, in part, to the political circumstances of these years, and was in part a result of the political and literary legacy of Edward I. Edward had both nurtured and harnessed English national feeling by all the means at his disposal, including political prophecy. In his lifetime the optimism of the...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Debate and Crusade 1340–1399
    (pp. 121-156)

    Edward III reopened hostilities with France in 1337, although he did not officially claim the French throne by right of descent from Philippe IV until 1340, quartering the French lilies with the leopards of England on his coat of arms. Despite early setbacks, mostly financial, Edward’s military campaigns were brilliantly successful, beginning with the destruction of a large French fleet at Sluys in 1340, and culminating in the defeat of Philippe of Valois’s army at Creécy in August 1346 and the taking of Calais a year later. The war was both politically and economically successful; the resettlement of Calais by...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE The Imperial Hero 1399–1440
    (pp. 157-194)

    The deposition of Richard II has been studied by generations of historians and the events of 1399 do not need to be repeated in detail here. In September 1398 Richard interrupted a duel at Coventry, in which the duke of Norfolk was preparing to defend himself against charges of treason levelled by Henry Bolingbroke, earl of Hereford and eldest son of John of Gaunt. Norfolk and Hereford were both exiled, one for life and the other for ten years, but Hereford’s exile was extended to life four months later, when Gaunt died. This enabled the king to seize the duchy...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Cadwallader and the Angelic Voice: The Rationalization of Chaos 1450–1485
    (pp. 195-234)

    In 1450, tensions and divisions in the political structure surfaced in the impeachment of the duke of Suffolk by the Commons in February, followed by his exile and murder in the name of ‘the community of the realm’ in April.¹ From May to July a rebellion begun in Kent, under an unknown individual calling himself ‘Jack Cade’, culminated in the rebels’ capture of London and the ‘execution’ of Lord Say, one of Suffolk’s associates. The city was recaptured by Lord Scales on 5 July, but the revolt was more widespread than this. Bishop Ayscough who, like Say, was associated with...

    (pp. 235-238)
    (pp. 239-280)
    (pp. 281-296)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 297-301)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 302-302)