Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester: Chronicles and Ideas of Exile and Imprisonment in Fifteenth-Century England.
In July 1441, Eleanor was accused of conspiring with four accomplices to foresee or bring about the death of Henry VI. (6) Following the initial accusation, Eleanor fled to the sanctuary of Westminster before emerging to face examination by bishops of the king's council, after which she was committed to be held at Leeds Castle. (7) In October, Eleanor was returned to London and kept at Westminster to await her fate. (8) Her sentence included the performance of a penitential walk on three market days in November through the streets of London, divorce from Humphrey, and the loss of her title. Eleanor remained at Westminster until January, when the final element of her punishment was enacted--her permanent removal from London by Sir Thomas Stanley, controller of the king's household. Eleanor was kept under the control of the king's household for the rest of her life. (9) She was first held at Chester Castle, later relocated to Kenilworth Castle, and then to the Isle of Man before her final removal to Beaumaris Castle in Wales, where she died on 7 July 1452. (10)
The focus of this article is the depiction of Eleanor's removal from London within the contexts of exile and imprisonment in three recensions of the fifteenth-century English Prose Brut chronicle continuations. (11) Descriptions of this element of Eleanor's punishment are not consistent across recensions. While some chroniclers describe her state as one of 'sauf gard', at other times her punishment is 'perpetuel prison', or she is described as a 'warde'. Eleanor's departure is also represented on at least one occasion as a sort of death, calling to mind the language of exile. (12) Furthermore, at times ideas of exile and imprisonment merge. These variations may have been influenced by uncertainty on the part of contemporary writers about Eleanor's final location and her date of death. (13) The inconsistencies are also partly explicable by the lack of legal precedents to deal with Eleanor's alleged crimes, presumably contributing to conflicting chronicle descriptions about what exactly Eleanor was alleged to have done. (14) This study argues that these circumstances, along with Eleanor's status of birth and gendered expectations of ideal female behaviour, created an exceptional opportunity for chroniclers to represent her removal from London in a certain way. An analysis of three chronicle recensions acknowledging the wider motivations of the chroniclers, their readers, and the historical moment reveals that exile and imprisonment were fluid concepts and that the boundaries between them were permeable and in constant negotiation. A comparative approach draws attention to this interrelationship between exile and imprisonment and illustrates their topicality as they were applied to Eleanor as part of a broader social and political commentary about Lancastrian rule.
I. Fifteenth-Century English Chronicles and Eleanor's Downfall
Before moving to a close reading of the relevant chronicle entries, a general outline of the form and function of fifteenth-century English chronicles is useful. The subject matter of the chronicles was primarily historical and was presented chronologically. A chronicler was privileged with the opportunity to reshape an historical event in order to comment on either past or present situations in ways comparable to works of a more obviously literary type. (15) By the mid-fifteenth century English chronicle-writing 'ceased to be a predominantly monastic preserve' and chronicles were more likely to be written in the vernacular than in Latin. (16) As a result, while chronicles were being compiled by clerics within royal and noble households they were also compiled by laymen in urban environments. (17) Antonia Gransden remarks on the increased role of the chronicle as propaganda in this period, noting that a chronicler might have had a patron whom they sought to please and that they could shape their work to present a certain viewpoint. (18) The primary means of transmission of the chronicles was probably as texts read aloud to an audience. Varying in form and function, the fifteenth-century English chronicle was a powerful medium of expression with a wide reach across society.
This study recognizes the value of contextualizing events recorded in the chronicles within a larger narrative and is methodologically grounded in this approach. (19) Eleanor's downfall provides an ideal case study, as every contemporary chronicle written in England refers to it. (20) However, the meaning of Eleanor's story as depicted in chronicles was not found solely in the event as an isolated incident, but as an episode within a collection of stories. Sometimes, these stories also engaged with themes of expulsion or containment. A contextual approach acknowledges Eleanor's removal as historically significant while also showing how it was open to manipulation and interpretation by chroniclers according to a range of desires and as part of a larger story. While recognizing the differences between annals and chronicles, this study is informed by the work of Sarah Foot, who argues for the importance of reading annals in their entirety, revealing them to be 'the self-conscious construction (emplotment) of cogent stories, made meaningful by selection, omission and careful interpretation.' (21) A close reading of one event as depicted in three recensions applies Foot's 'entirety' approach on a smaller scale as it concentrates on Eleanor's removal and ideas of exile and imprisonment to consider how a year's entry was shaped in order to comment upon broader social and political concerns.
An analysis of three chronicle recensions portraying Eleanor's removal from London not only exposes ideas of exile and imprisonment as fluid and interrelated, but as especially relevant at this time. (22) It is inherent that an approach interrogating how this event was manipulated recognizes that the historical figure of Eleanor was at risk of re-appropriation by contemporary writers to the extent that actual events became submerged beneath narrative intent. However, rather than detract from the value of this study, such manipulation confirms that broader concerns about apparent subversions of social, cultural, and political expectations of behaviour did not always find expression in the same ways, even across chronicles with generally similar motivations. Above all, this study takes seriously the fate of a gentry-born woman who became a duchess only to be stripped of her title. To do so with a focus on exile and imprisonment provides insights into these states as powerful narrative tools and demonstrates their relevance in fifteenth-century England.
The three chronicle recensions of this study comprise two Brut chronicle continuations, edited by Friedrich W. D. Brie, and An English Chronicle 1377-1461, also a Brut chronicle continuation and edited by William Marx. (23) There are over 180 extant manuscripts of the Brut and the 'extraordinarily wide readership included nobles, gentry, merchants and guildsmen, secular and religious, men and women.' (24) These three recensions provide the fullest accounts of Eleanor's downfall, to the extent that Ralph Griffiths remarks that they 'must be indebted to an eye-witness account.' (25) These chronicles are London-centric, all three are written in the vernacular, and all are anonymous. (26) Each recension includes Eleanor's crimes in their accounts for the year 1440, or the year spanning 1440-41. They have been chosen primarily for their level of description and for their relatedness by virtue of all being Brut chronicle continuations. The use of only three recensions to the exclusion of others enables a close reading and facilitates an interrogation of the range of meanings attached to exile and imprisonment. This selection also provides considerable opportunities for comparison across recensions. (27) The chronological focus is limited to the year's entries that refer to Eleanor. An analysis of the sections concerning Eleanor alongside other events recorded for the year will show that Eleanor's departure not only captured the attention of chroniclers, but that her experience allowed for the application of the concepts of exile and imprisonment in order to tell a larger story of Lancastrian rule.
Despite the anonymity of the chroniclers, it is possible to glean something of their allegiances. For example, regarding An English Chronicle, Marx analyses the choices of the compiler and the underlying biases in their inclusion and representation of particular events. (28) Marx describes the section covering Eleanor's downfall as 'a carefully constructed piece of Yorkist myth-making.' (29) Commenting on the account of Eleanor's trial, Marx argues that the compiler avoided possible political motivations behind Eleanor's downfall and represented the event as part of a wider social disorder across the realm. (30) Although all three recensions share a Yorkist perspective and seek to highlight the failures of Henry VI's rule the focus varies, as does the use of exile and imprisonment as means of representing a doomed Lancastrian lineage. These variations offer rich opportunities for comparison between expulsion and incarceration, further nuancing understandings of these ideas and the meanings attached to Eleanor's departure from London.
Eleanor's legal status is relevant to her depiction in contemporary chronicles. While it is not the intention of this study to unpack the legalities of Eleanor's examination and subsequent treatment, it is important to understand that the allegations against her were informed by the 1352 statute of treason, which defined high and petty treason. (31) The accusation that Eleanor compassed the death of Henry VI identified her behaviour as high treason. (32) However, Eleanor was examined and judged by ecclesiastics. (33) John Bellamy remarks that Eleanor 'was not put on trial for treason possibly because there were no satisfactory precedents for the trial of peeresses for felony and treason.' (34) Eleanor's unusual legal situation provided chroniclers with an exceptional opportunity to shape ideas of exile and imprisonment in different ways to suit their own purposes and to locate Eleanor's story within a broader context. (35)
While Eleanor's problematic legal status was relevant to her portrayal, it cannot entirely explain the varying depictions of her departure from London. These chronicle recensions were compiled at a time when exile and imprisonment were significantly important ideas, not least because they had been experienced in recent memory by kings. Exploring representations of treason in the fourteenth-century Westminster chronicle, Paul Strohm remarks: 'The chronicler has treason on his mind'. (36) The same appears to have been true for these chroniclers--exile and imprisonment were on their minds. The circumstances surrounding Eleanor's downfall made her an ideal subject through which to explore what it meant to be an exile or a prisoner in fifteenth-century England. When read as part of a narrative covering a full year's entry, Eleanor's story becomes intrinsically linked with other experiences of exile and imprisonment, including that of her king.
Although Eleanor's downfall occurred in 1441, these chronicle recensions were circulating in the third quarter of the fifteenth century, after her death and Henry VI's removal from the English throne in 1461. Accounts of Eleanor's departure are heavily informed by events which took place after she left the city. For example, Londoners witnessed the marriage of Henry VI with a foreign bride, Margaret of Anjou, along with the associated increasing unrest between nobles loyal to Henry VI and those with Yorkist allegiances. (37) Tensions spilled over onto the battlefield and exile and imprisonment were never far from the public consciousness, culminating in the death of an imprisoned king--Henry VI. (38) Indeed, Henry VI's final decade was marked by his experiences of both states. Following his removal from the throne in 1461, Henry VI was replaced by Edward IV, the first Yorkist king. Henry VI lived in exile from 1461 and was also held prisoner in the Tower of London for a period before a brief return to the throne in 1470-71. In 1471, he died a prisoner after Edward IV took the throne a second time. (39)
When read within its broader context, Eleanor's removal in these recensions becomes a pivotal moment in the reign of HenryVI. Her behaviour is represented as an example of the disorder of the realm, and her punishment as an attempt to restore order. Eleanor's departure does not, however, lead to Henry VI's political recovery, but foreshadows his decline. (40) The chronicles depict scenarios of possibilities about Eleanor's fate, revealing the meanings of exile and imprisonment as open to manipulation in order to craft a particular version of events. The boundaries between the two ideas are also exposed as porous. Not all recensions definitively close Eleanor's story by consigning her to perpetual imprisonment. (41) In this respect, Eleanor becomes an enduring potential threat to Henry VI's kingship. While this portrayal complements the pro-Yorkist bias of these chronicles, it is not solely explicable in these terms. When exile and imprisonment are historicized their inter-relationship reflects broader concerns with political uncertainty and the treatment of those who were perceived to threaten established structures of society.
II. Brut, Trinity College, Cambridge, MS O.9.1
The most detailed chronicle account of Eleanor's downfall is found within the recension in Trinity College, Cambridge, MS O.91. (42) This recension closes in 1446, following a description of Margaret of Anjou's coronation and the arrival of a diplomatic mission from France to London. (43) Eleanor clearly captured the chronicler's attention and she features in the entries for the years 1440-41 and 1441-42, and again in 1442-43. (44) It is these three entries with which this analysis is concerned.
The 1440-41 entry begins with the return of Charles, Duke of Orleans to his homeland of France, reunited with his wife and assuming his lordship after his long captivity in England. His ordeal is one of many experiences of political imprisonment played out across England at this time and its inclusion foregrounds the relevance of incarceration in the public consciousness. It also means that when Eleanor is introduced, she is not the entry's first example of a prisoner. Indeed, the reference to Charles, Duke of Orleans introduces one type of imprisonment, the political imprisonment of a nobleman, against which Eleanor's incarceration, described in the fourth section in the entry, can be immediately compared. (45) After the account of Charles, Duke of Orleans are the details of a duel, followed by a reference to the departure from England of certain noblemen, accompanied by noblewomen, to govern on behalf of Henry VI in France and Normandy. (46) Although these English nobles travel with the king's favour, their leaving recalls the exile experienced by many of the elite in this century as they fled their country when the political tide turned against them. This connection is heightened when their departure to France is described so soon after the return of Charles, Duke of Orleans to France. The account of Eleanor's downfall draws meaning from the events surrounding it. A closer consideration of Eleanor's fate alongside accounts of her contemporaries who also experienced exile, imprisonment, or both, reveals these states as multifarious and changeable to suit particular purposes.
The account of Eleanor's treason in MS O.9.1 is preceded by the arrival of Henry VI from Essex into London. (47) The two entries (1440-41 and 1441-42) which concern Eleanor's demise almost merge into one as they are connected by Eleanor's presence across both. Indeed, the permeability of the boundaries of narrative structure are somewhat replicated within the text as foreigners, subjects, and the king all move, at times with great drama, across geographical boundaries. Perhaps most powerfully, the sections concerning Eleanor are also about Henry VI, ensuring a constant reminder to the reader that Eleanor's crimes are against her king. Henry VI is not only recalled as the intended victim of Eleanor's treason, but as an active monarch who moves and speaks: 'come oute of Essexe', 'thanked the Maire'. (48) Such a representation of Henry VI is significant, as both Eleanor and Henry VI will eventually leave London, losing their capacity for freedom of movement and speech within the city, along with the associated power. Although Henry VI is not returning from exile at this moment, he will at a later date, offering another opportunity for comparison. The account of Henry VI's return from Essex not only creates a connection between Eleanor and Henry VI, but raises the possibility that Eleanor's subsequent removal from London might also be temporary. This prospect is reinforced when Henry VI's return is read back against the opening example of Charles, Duke of Orleans, who had been a prisoner for over twenty years before returning home, establishing at the outset a topical connection between exile and imprisonment. (49)
The chronicler's depiction of Eleanor's removal from London contains elements of both exilic and imprisoned states. This is offset against her situation in the period leading up to the imposition of her punishment, which is represented in language aligning solely with contemporary understandings of incarceration. For example, once charged, Eleanor is described as being taken 'into the handes and ward of Sir Iohn Steward and Sir William Wolff, knyghtes [...] to be kept in holde strongly in the Castell of Ledes in Kent'. (50) In October, Eleanor was returned to London, where she was 'put and kept in warde of be Constable'. (51) After performing her penitential walk in November, Eleanor remained at Westminster 'in warde in be Constablery' until her final removal from London in January. (52) These language choices leave no doubt that Eleanor was imprisoned during these months. While the repetition of the word 'ward' confirms that Eleanor was under the care of others, contemporary readers would most likely have been aware of the multiple meanings of the word, one of which encompassed the legal context of guardianship of a person 'incapable of conducting his affairs'. Wardship reflected Eleanor's lack of legal independence due to her sex. It was also a state which Henry VI himself was to later experience when he fell ill in 1453, and these almost imperceptible associations between Eleanor's care and that of Henry VI become more prominent as the entry progresses. (53)
Henry VI's mental incapacitation and his periods of exile and imprisonment, along with those of other Lancastrian kings, would surely have been in the reader's recent memory. (54) In a temporal parallel, Henry VI's 1461 flight into exile after the Lancastrian defeat at the battle ofTowton spanned ten years, while Eleanor lived on for just over ten years following her removal from London. (55) Describing Eleanor's leaving, the chronicler merges a description evocative of a royal procession (like Henry VI's procession into London) with words suggestive of banishment and incarceration:
And on the Friday at after-None, she was had at the Kynges comaundment and wille, forth to the Cite of Chestre, in an hors-bere, with strenght of peple; and fro Chestre into be Ile of Man, to be kept bere in sauf gard, etc. (56)
The phrase 'sauf gard, etc.' suggests containment, but the sentence also evokes an image of exile. (57) This is found in the reference to the 'hors-bere', and the 'strenght of peple' observing Eleanor's departure, which recalls the ritual of the funeral procession. Exile was understood as a sort of death. (58) The exile was sentenced to an existence on the margins for either a determined or infinite period and was physically removed from the life they knew. Eleanor's dramatic departure is written in language capturing these aspects of exile, and she is described as being taken progressively further from London--'fro Chestre into be Ile of Man'--as punishment for her crimes. Exile could be applied regardless of social status or sex and this is dramatically expressed as the account implicitly encourages comparison between Eleanor and an inept Lancastrian king who would himself go into exile.
Although indicating some of the ways that the recension associates Eleanor's removal with the experiences of nobles and kings, Eleanor's punishment was inherently associated with the crime of treason, offering other opportunities for comparison. On felony and exile in the high middle ages, William Chester Jordan remarks that 'exile was a central feature of medieval jurisprudence and judicial practice throughout Europe', but that:
the relationship of the medieval English law of exile to the laws addressing felons and felonies--heinous crimes which in theory deserved severe corporal or capital punishment--is a complicated and, by modern reckoning, an unusual one. (59)
Jordan recognizes that women 'constituted a small but not insignificant proportion of asylum seekers'. (60) A chronicle entry suggesting that Eleanor was exiled would have resonated with readers who may well have witnessed the expulsion of traitors from within their own community. On treason during the Wars of the Roses, Megan Leitch remarks: 'exile, and thus loss of community, increasingly took the place of execution as punishment for traitors in late medieval England'. (61) As such, Eleanor's treatment was the expected consequence of her crimes, as it was for others who committed this felony.
In this recension, Eleanor's departure is represented as a carefully orchestrated public performance complete with the visual and aural backdrop of a storm. (62) The image of the storm reinforces a link between Henry VI's earlier procession into the city and Eleanor's similarly staged removal, furthering potential comparisons between the disgraced duchess and her king. The chronicler's description of the spectacle of a procession, amplified by the drama of an extreme weather event, depicts the enactment of exile or imprisonment as requiring an audience, and that part of the meaning of each was located in their deterrent role and an intent to restore order within a society.
After Eleanor's departure, three other items feature in the year's entry. The next section describes a battle between a foreigner knighted by Henry VI and an English squire, in which the squire was victorious and was rewarded by Henry VI with a knighthood. (63) This is an example of the king's ability to create nobles, which was a necessary yet potentially perilous undertaking. Indeed, Eleanor is an example of such social elevation, with her downfall serving as a vivid reminder of the dangers of conferring high status upon those not of noble birth. (64) The second section describes a storm which destroyed the fruit crop for the coming year and brought flooding to London. (65) This weather account does not clearly herald or wash away disorder. Rather, it illustrates the consequences when a king does not fulfil his duty to marry and produce an heir, symbolized here by the absence of fruit. References such as these indicate that the chronicler sought to include examples which discussed nobility and also justified associations between Henry VI and Eleanor.
The third section of the entry directly contextualizes Eleanor's story with stories of other nobles through allusions to exile and imprisonment. The chronicler recounts the journey from London to Normandy and France by John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, 'to help to gouerne and kepe vnder the Duke of York, the partyes byyond the see'. (66) While John, Earl of Shrewsbury is not being exiled, his movement from England to France is an inversion of the initial journey of Charles, Duke of Orleans from England to France. The two nobles also shared the experience of being prisoners of war, as John, Earl of Shrewbury was taken prisoner in 1429, during the wars with France. He was freed four years later. (67) The chronicler bookends Eleanor's story with accounts of these noblemen who had been prisoners. In doing so, the chronicler not only associates Eleanor with nobles but continues to ascribe to her a certain nobility and political value even after her downfall, thus warranting a sentence incorporating elements of banishment and containment.
In light of the recent exilic experiences of Lancastrian kings, the concept of exile at this time carried with it the threat of return and the reclamation of power. On this theme, the use of 'etc.' at the close of the section on Eleanor's removal leaves her story open. (68) Especially when contextualized, these three letters hold dangerous possibilities. The absence of finality is supported by the earlier account of the return of Charles, Duke of Orleans to his home and family after his long imprisonment. When the reader reaches 'etc.', they know that prisoners did walk free. By extension, the exile might also return home.
This recension also engages with the social and emotional consequences of exile for the banished or incarcerated, and for those left behind. In a comparative analysis of Eleanor's treatment in contemporary poems, Jamie Fumo remarks: 'Exile from the city--rendered in terms of imprisonment in the Lament and leprosy in the Testament--is tantamount to a living death in both cases.' (69) Fumo expresses an intersection between exile and imprisonment and identifies it as being captured in Eleanor's experience. Similar ideas are also apparent in the chronicler's representation of the enduring effects of Eleanor's departure. A section in the following year's entry (1442-43) acknowledges Eleanor's existence beyond London and her potential for return. The entry centres around a speech made 'at be Blak-Heth in Kent' by a 'woman of Kent' to the king, who 'spake to hym boldly, and reviled hym vngoodly and vnwisely for Dame Alianore Cobham, bat he shuld haue hir hoom ageyn to hir husbond, the Duke of Gloucestre'. (70) In this speech, Eleanor's punishment is represented as the separation of a wife from her husband and a woman from her home and community, but not necessarily justifiable nor permanent. (71) In the absence of Eleanor's voice, the woman of Kent expresses the internal effects of the separation that must be endured by Eleanor, Humphrey, and Eleanor's supporters. (72) When this plea is made for Eleanor's return, it raises the possibility that she could be returned home at the command of her king, thus restoring her household and community to as it was before. (73)
As the longest of the three recensions, MS O.9.1 is worthy of sustained enquiry. When Eleanor's experience is considered within a broader context, she is immersed into the political realm, becoming an example of what could happen to the noble who did not perform as they ought and to the king who did not rule as he should. Words of exile and imprisonment are used across the entry, revealing the boundaries between these states as porous and shifting according to circumstance and authorial intent. As ideas of banishment and containment are applied to Eleanor, they are depicted as incorporating immense political, social, and emotional effects. This reading also demonstrates the value of situating chronicle entries within their wider context as a means of drawing attention to pervasive themes. Whether contemporary readers experienced Eleanor's story in its entirety, or seized upon the more scandalous sections, the chronicler has included it as part of a whole, as one moment in England's movement towards Yorkist rule.
This recension incorporates Eleanor's downfall within a wider discussion of what was meant by exile and imprisonment at this time while also suggesting circumstances under which such punishments could be justified. Eleanor's ignoble birth and her behaviour enabled the chronicler to appropriate the historical figure of Eleanor to explore ideas of exile and imprisonment in particular detail. However, as Eleanor's story is exploited to this end she takes her place alongside kings and noblemen, confirming her position as a woman who disrupted and challenged contemporary understandings of ideal female conduct. At the same time, the textual positioning of Eleanor alongside her king functions as an indictment of Henry VI's position, enabling the chronicler to hint that Henry VI also occupies a place to which he was not legitimately entitled. Eleanor's presence in the company of nobles and a king serves as a timely reminder of the dangers of moving beyond one's station and the potential punishment for those who threatened existing systems of order. The chronicler achieves this through a careful composition of examples of exile and imprisonment, within which Eleanor remains central.
III. Brut, BL Add. MS 10099
The opportunities for chroniclers to apply ideas of exile and imprisonment to Eleanor's story according to varying motivations are further demonstrated when comparisons are made across recensions. The British Library Add. MS 10099 Brut-recension begins with the English capture of Rouen in 1419. (74) It closes with Henry VI's departure from London to Scotland and Edward IV's coronation in 1461. (75) The 1441 entry opens with Eleanor's arrest for treason. (76) In this recension, Eleanor's story is significantly truncated. Her examination and penance are given cursory treatment before a short description of her removal from London: '& aftir in perpetuel prison in be Ile of Man, vnder be keping of Sir Thomas Stanley' (77) While MS O.9.1 combines 'sauf gard' with words of exile to describe Eleanor's departure, this recension openly uses the language of imprisonment. However, allusions to exile remain, and a reading of the section within its broader context confirms that both banishment and incarceration were relevant themes for the chronicler. Although represented slightly differently in this recension, there is still a sense that social disorder and political unrest might be managed through banishment, containment, or a combination of both states. The extent to which this was depicted as achievable can be gleaned from a contextual analysis.
Four distinct events feature in the 1441 entry; an account of the crimes and punishment of Eleanor and her accomplices, an affray in Fleet Street, the arrangement of the marriage between Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou, and the elevation of three dukes to earldom and one earl to the title of marquis. (78) While the entry shares features with MS O.9.1, including a reference to Eleanor's crimes as an example of misgovernance and the insertion of a storm as a sign of disorder (within the section describing Margaret of Anjou's arrival), there are also significant differences. (79) The largest section concerns Eleanor's downfall, although also including the punishment of her accomplices. A contextual reading of this section suggests that the chronicler was motivated by a desire to represent Eleanor's punishment as imprisonment for life, rendered through her removal to a distant place. However, as in MS O.9.1, the structure and content of the entry implies that the danger of a woman who attempted to subvert established systems of order did not necessarily recede with her departure.
Although the King's council took a 'vital interest', as outlined, Eleanor's sentence was handed down by an ecclesiastical council. (80) Perpetual imprisonment was a common punishment for heresy and monastic crimes. Ralph Pugh describes crimes warranting the imposition of this sentence in the monastic context as ranging from attempts to 'kill their abbots, wounding them, or even committing outright murder'. Pugh remarks: 'These terrible outrages brought upon the perpetrators lifelong imprisonment or at least imprisonment that could only be terminated at the will of the general chapter'. (81) The meanings attached to perpetual imprisonment were complicated, but they were shaped by these examples. The chronicler's application of this sentence to Eleanor indicates a desire to highlight the severity of her crimes while also aligning with her appearance before an ecclesiastical council.
Eleanor's removal from London as an ecclesiastical sentence is reinforced by the imposition of her penitential walk. (82) As these religious allusions are made, they serve to remind the reader that the boundaries between religious and secular were never distinct and that Eleanor's crimes were against both king and God. (83) Most dramatically, the penultimate section recounts the miraculous conquering of a fire which began in the steeple of St Paul's during a great tempest: 'inpossible, saufe only bi je grace of God'. (84) This is the second instance of fire, as it follows the burning of Eleanor's female accomplice, who was named as a witch. (85) Eleanor's accomplice was put to death for heresy, but burning was also punishment for treason. (86) To extrapolate, it is not inconceivable that Eleanor's accomplice became a substitute for Eleanor.When contextualized, the entry represents and justifies Eleanor's incarceration as an ecclesiastical punishment, but never entirely at the expense of recognizing her crimes as secular.
The placement of Eleanor's story at the beginning of the year's entry illustrates how ideas of exile and imprisonment could be shaped to suit the chronicler's purpose. At first glance, the chronicler appears to depict Eleanor's story in a more contained fashion than that witnessed in MS O.9.1. However, Eleanor's lingering presence throughout the entry implies that her subversive behaviour was not so easily managed. While Eleanor's imprisonment recognizes the severity of her crimes, it simultaneously acknowledges her capacity to disrupt existing structures of society. Eleanor's dangerousness is conveyed through her survival, a technique also used in MS O.9.1. In this instance, despite assigning Eleanor to perpetual prison, a state which would imply the end of her story, the chronicler uses her punishment as a precursor to further discussion of the event. The chronicler then dramatically closes the stories of Eleanor's accomplices. In doing so, Eleanor's imprisonment loses some of its finality as, although removed from the narrative, she remains alive and is relocated to the distant Isle of Man. (87) Her state replicates elements of the exilic experience, expressed through her enforced relocation to a distant site, but she is never completely absent. (88) Exile was, as Fumo remarks, a 'living death', with the potential for return. (89) This danger is partly enacted in the chronicle entry with Eleanor's presence creating ripples beneath the surface of the narrative, proving that her behaviour could not be comprehensively contained.
Perpetual imprisonment was not only imposed for ecclesiastical crimes, but could also constitute a secular punishment. On at least one occasion it was handed down as a reduction of a sentence of death for treason. A precedent is found in the 1398 sentence of perpetual imprisonment imposed upon John Lord Cobham and Sir John Cheyne, both of whom were initially sentenced to be drawn and hanged for the crime of treason. (90) In a lessening of this sentence, Cobham was exiled. The treatment of Cobham illustrates that either banishment or incarceration could be applied as secular penalties for treason. Although Eleanor was not imprisoned by a secular court, this earlier example confirms that this merging of ideas of banishment and incarceration as appearing in chronicles found precedents in secular punishments for treason, albeit as applied to men.
In relation to treason, the punishment of men and women differed. (91) Gwen Seabourne remarks on the 'gender imbalance in connection with those imprisoned for treason'. (92) Seabourne also describes Eleanor's sentence as falling under the 'auspices of ecclesiastical rather than secular judges' and that her sentence was divorce and perpetual imprisonment. (93) Considering why women were not executed at this time, Seabourne draws attention to 'the idea that imprisonment for life might be seen as a harsher penalty than death (at least for men) was current as early as the time of Cicero, and made some appearance in medieval literature'. (94) Seabourne recounts the dishonour of imprisonment for noble men, arguing that:
noble women were not seen as participating in the same military code, and their honour was conceived of as primarily concerned with sexual intactness or chastity, rather than bodily freedom. The distinction in treatment of noble traitors may therefore be seen to be not simply as one of harshness v. leniency but also of selecting treatment appropriate to gender and social role. (95)
This recension avoids direct engagement with such issues, as the chronicler primarily associates Eleanor's punishment with the ecclesiastical realm. However, the previously discussed MS O.9.1 recension offers a different perspective. As the chronicler attempts to depict Eleanor's containment by the king's household as appropriate for her sex and social position, she is positioned alongside men of high status and consequently immersed into the world of masculine honour. While BL Add. MS 10099 represents Eleanor as imprisoned early in the entry, the containment of one subversive woman (Eleanor) is somewhat negated with the arrival in the penultimate entry of another (Margaret of Anjou) who, it could be argued, replaces Eleanor as a threat to Henry VI's kingship. (96) The location of women at either end of the year's entry confirms that even if, as Seabourne argues, women might not participate in the same military code, they had the capacity to disrupt it through their presence.
Across both recensions, the chroniclers depict Eleanor's removal as an appropriate punishment for her crimes. However, neither resolves the problem of women subverting gendered expectations of ideal behaviour, as Eleanor is not comprehensively contained with no danger of return. This is unsurprising when Yorkist-leaning chronicles sought to dishonour and delegitimize Henry VI. The inability of exile or imprisonment, even when brought together, to 'close' Eleanor's story is one way through which this denigration was enacted. Together, BL Add. MS 10099 and MS O.9.1 illustrate some of the ways that the uncertainties of Eleanor's punishment facilitated the manipulation of ideas of exile and imprisonment as a response to wider cultural and social concerns about how to deal with a woman whose behaviour threatened existing gendered ideals of appropriate conduct.
IV. An English Chronicle
An English Chronicle, as the third recension of Eleanors story under analysis, is perhaps the most overt in representing Eleanor's removal from London as shaped by imprisonment as an appropriate method for containing a woman who challenged gendered expectations of how a woman ought to behave. In this example, Eleanor's punishment is portrayed as a direct consequence of her treason. On motivation, Marx remarks upon two contemporary examples concerning heresy and heresy linked to treason, one of which is Eleanor's:
the compiler of the Chronicle [...] would seem to have used both scandals and reported them in such detail as part of a larger design to suggest a degree of social malaise that extended from the common people to the highest levels in Lancastrian society. (97)
In the year's entry concerning Eleanor, imprisonment is also deployed as a means through which religious men are punished for their deviation from the accepted practices of their vocation. Similarly, Eleanor is punished for her own transgression of social norms. Her incarceration is portrayed as censure for a woman who rose above her station of birth and subsequently behaved in a fashion incommensurate with her newly-achieved nobility and gendered expectations of conduct. A close reading of this recension confirms that the chronicler places considerable importance upon the need for Eleanor to acknowledge her behaviour as incompatible with that anticipated for her sex. Her punishment is depicted as an opportunity for the necessary redemption, meaning not only that Eleanor functions as an exemplar of the societal malaise to which Marx refers, but that her imprisonment offers a remedy.
Eleanor's trial and punishment is the third and final event in the 1441 entry. (98) The first describes the burning of a vicar found guilty of heresy, with many of his followers imprisoned, while the second also features a vicar, accused of heresy and put 'in prison'. (99) The trial and punishment of Eleanor and her accomplices makes up the remainder of the entry and is by far the longest. Unlike the previous two sections, the word 'prison' is not used to represent Eleanor's punishment, although words and phrases associated with confinement are used: 'holden', 'committed to the warde', and 'to be kept saffely'. (100) Eleanor's state after her removal from London is described as:
to the warde of Ser Thomas Stanley wherein sho wasse all hir liffetyme, havyng yerly C marcis assigned vnto hir for hir ffyndynge and expenses, whose pride, fals coveties, and lichery, were cause off hir confusion. (101)
My analysis of Eleanor's removal in MS O.9.1 discussed the use of 'warde' as a word encompassing protection. The mention of Eleanor's confusion in this recension anticipates a similar need for care. Again, it might also encourage a comparison between Eleanor and Henry VI, whom the chronicler later describes as 'simple'. (102) The reference to the practicalities of providing for Eleanor's care, combined with a list of her vices as the 'cause off hir confusion', illustrates the perceived importance of the subversive woman being placed under enduring and satisfactory control. In this example, Eleanor's compromised internal state is finally represented as the cause of her confusion, and thus her crimes, and her wardship as the necessary treatment.
The chronicler does not depict Eleanor's assignment to Stanley's care as solely for her own benefit. Megan Cassidy-Welch's analysis of imprisonment in the medieval religious imagination demonstrates how imprisonment could also serve as a moral example, as it was drawn upon by authors to convey a religious message. (103) In a similar fashion, the chronicler uses Eleanor's fate as a reminder to other women of the dangers of'pride, fals coveties, and lichery'. (104) Eleanor is to be protected by another man, who does so on behalf of the king. However, despite the chronicler's attempts at explanation, Eleanor's final state does not readily equate with wardship. A ward was usually a minor and Eleanor was not. In addition, Eleanor is earlier described as having 'fayned her seke, and wolde haue stolne away pryveli be water' to avoid her examination, a clear act of agency on her part. (105) The lines after the description of Eleanor being transferred 'to the warde' mention 'hir confusion', but such a state does not align with an earlier escape attempt. While the use of 'warde' could offer a suitable description of Eleanor's containment, her age and demonstrated agency do not easily accommodate its use. To return to MS O.9.1, the term 'sauf gard' is equally difficult to interpret as it follows the lengthy account of Eleanor's crimes, her manipulation of accomplices, and her alleged desire to destroy the king. (106) In both recensions, these words are employed at the close of the section and a comparison suggests that both chroniclers experienced difficulty in reconciling Eleanor's depiction as a woman without control alongside accounts of activities demonstrating her agency.
While neither MS O.9.1 or BL Add. MS 10099 mention what Eleanor's life might be like after her removal, An English Chronicle indicates her reduced living conditions: 'havyng yerly C marcis assigned vnto hir for hir ffyndynge and expenses'. (107) This allowance confirms that the king's household retained responsibility over her care. However, the chronicler records that these monies were 'assigned vnto hir', not to Stanley, indicating that Eleanor had some control over her expenditure. A recurring payment suggests imprisonment rather than exile, as Eleanor is not economically separated from society and she remains overseen by a member of the royal household. While the realities of Eleanor's situation cannot be known, these words do not represent her as an exile cast out alone and with no means of support. In this respect, An English Chronicle differs considerably from the other two recensions, drawing more heavily on ideas of imprisonment rather than exile as a means of punishing Eleanor for her crimes.
This article has focused on representations of Eleanor's removal from London in three Brut chronicle continuation recensions as a means of exploring ideas of exile and imprisonment in fifteenth-century England. Bringing these two states into dialogue reveals them as malleable, inter-related and subject to change according to specific circumstances. A close study of three chronicle representations of Eleanor's fate has set her story within the broader context of each year's entry, proving both the relevance of exile and imprisonment at this historical moment and the significance of Eleanor's story to understandings of fifteenth-century English society.
This reading of three Brut chronicle continuation recensions adds another layer to existing historiographies about Eleanor, fifteenth-century England, and exile and imprisonment. An analysis of how concepts of banishment or incarceration were attached to Eleanor and set within a wider narrative shows how a set of circumstances--the non-noble mistress who married a Duke, a weak king, no legal precedent for peeresses who committed treason, and a violent transition from Lancastrian to Yorkist rule which included periods when the king himself was exiled or imprisoned--all converged to create an opportunity for chroniclers to apply ideas of exile and imprisonment as part of a broader social and political commentary on fifteenth-century England.
The limitation of this study to one episode across three recensions has ensured a relatively small sample, reduced further by a focus on sections within the relevant year's entries engaging with ideas of incarceration or banishment. While the motivation of each of these chroniclers was to provide a narrative from a Yorkist perspective and with an urban focus, their approaches varied. A comparison of recensions confirms that chroniclers selected different material to make up the year's entries, with their choices combining to create a unique whole. However, all recensions gave great attention to Eleanor and all mentioned her removal from London. Each recension also named Eleanor's treason, establishing an immediate and enduring connection between Eleanor and her king. In many respects, Eleanor's downfall was represented as Henry VI's downfall. Although an oblique sleight of association, it was enormous. Despite their many similarities, the variations across these recensions are worthy of sustained analysis. As this study has shown, while the Brut chronicle continuations were the most widely-read chronicles in fifteenth-century England they did not always tell the same story. Even an apparently small detail, a disgraced duchess's departure from the city on a January day, was told differently across these three versions. A small sample has enabled close study of this event, while a contextual approach illustrated how the meanings attached to Eleanor's story extended across the narrative, compounded by other stories of exile and imprisonment.
Although exile and imprisonment were powerful ideas that might enable the censuring of Eleanor's behaviour, they could not, even when brought together, turn the tide of a monarchy in turmoil. On a popular level, Eleanor's story as portrayed in these three chronicle recensions was the stuff of scandal, featuring illicit associations, subversive women, and intrigue. At the same time, it may also have made for reassuring reading, possibly finding favour with readers seeking confirmation of their own nobility through a story of ignoble behaviour. Across each scenario, Eleanor's fate must have reverberated as a moral warning. In these ways, a gentry-born woman who assumed the title of duchess through marriage was an historical subject whose appeal crossed social boundaries, drawing in many readers for her story.
Understandings of exile and imprisonment were historically contingent and remained potent themes during the years of Yorkist rule under Edward IV. Eleanor's removal from London was not the footnote to her downfall, but offered an opportunity for chroniclers to include her story as part of a wider discussion about the state of the realm. As they did so, Eleanor's place as a figure of considerable historical significance was confirmed. Her inclusion in the chronicles illustrated both the appeal and the dangers of the woman who subverted established systems of order. However, even when Eleanor was depicted as contained the threat of her return lingered. As these chroniclers represented Eleanor in this way, they drew attention to an enduring fear of the return of the exile or the escape of the prisoner. A Lancastrian king had been replaced for a Yorkist one, but the legacy of Lancastrian understandings of exile and imprisonment endured. Eleanor's inclusion in these chronicle recensions reveals insights into anxieties about understandings of gender and status and the relationship between women and political instability that did not necessarily abate upon the exile or imprisonment of the accused or the removal of a monarch.
Sally Fisher (*)
(*) Aspects of this article are drawn from my PhD thesis (Monash University) and I acknowledge the support of an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship.This article was developed from a paper presented at the Monash CMRS Inaugural Annual Symposium: 'Tied with indissoluble chains': Languages of Exile and Imprisonment in Medieval and Renaissance England and Italy (April 2015). I thank the sponsors of the event, along with the participants for their feedback. I am grateful to Professor Megan CassidyWelch and Lisa Di Crescenzo for their comments on an earlier version of this article and to Parergon's two anonymous reviewers for their very helpful advice.
(1) Nigel Saul, Death, Art, and Memory in Medieval England: The Cobham Family and Their Monuments, 1300-1500 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 262: Genealogies: The Cobhams of Sterborough.
(2) Humphrey was the youngest of the four sons of Mary de Bohun and Henry IV
(3) Although unproven, at least one contemporary chronicler suggests that Eleanor was Humphrey's mistress prior to the divorce. See Enguerrand de Monstrelet, La Chronique d'Enguerran de Monstrelet, ed. by Louis Douet dArcq, 6 vols (Paris: 1857-1862), IV, 270-71: 'le dessusdit duc de Glocestre, sachant ceste departie faite par nostre saint pere le Pape, espousa et prinst en mariage une femme de bas estat au regard de luy, nommee Alyenor de Cobatre, dont dessus est faicte mencion, laquelle le duc par avant tenue en sa compaignie certain temps comme sa dame, par amours'.
(4) Kenneth H. Vickers, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester: A Biography (London: Constable, 1907), p. 248, citing George Frederick Beltz, Memorials of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, from Its Foundation to the Present Time (London, 1841), p. ccxxiii.
(5) Ralph A. Griffiths, 'The Trial of Eleanor Cobham: An Episode in the Fall of Duke Humphrey of Gloucester', in Griffiths, King and Country: England and Wales in the Fifteenth Century (London: Hambledon, 1991), pp. 233-52 (pp. 234-35) (first publ. in Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 51 (1969), 381-99). I am greatly indebted to Griffiths' overview of Eleanor's trial, which draws together the extant contemporary sources concerning this event.
(6) Griffiths, 'The Trial of Eleanor Cobham', pp. 238-39. Eleanor's accomplices were Roger Bolingbroke, her clerk;Thomas Southwell, canon of St. Stephen's ChapelWestminster, rector of St Stephen's, Walbrook, London and vicar of Ruislip, Middlesex; John Home, her chaplain; and Margery Jourdemayne, also known as the Witch of Eye.
(7) The chronicles provide contemporary, although often conflicting, accounts of Eleanor's examination. For example: An English Chronicle, 1377-1461: A New Edition. Edited from Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales MS 21068 and Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Lyell 34, ed. by William Marx, Medieval Chronicles, 3 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2003), p. 62. For a secondary account, see: Griffiths, 'The Trial of Eleanor Cobham', p. 241. Eleanor's examination took place over two days, July 24-25.
(8) On ecclesiastics being granted charter rights to 'have' a prison, see Ralph B. Pugh, Imprisonment in Medieval England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), p. 85. Westminster Abbey was granted this right in 1399.
(9) Ralph A. Griffiths, The Reign of Henry VI: The Exercise of Royal Authority, 1422-1461 (Stroud: Sutton, 1998), p. 307. Stanley resigned in the winter of 1450-51 and was replaced by Sir Richard Harrington, a 'cousin and close associate' of Stanley.
(10) Griffiths, The Reign of Henry VI, p. 360.
(11) On the English Prose Brut, see Elizabeth Bryan, 'Prose Brut, English', in Encyclopedia of the Medieval Chronicle, ed. by Graeme Dunphy and others, 2 vols (Leiden: Brill, 2010), II, 1239-40.
(12) The Brut or the Chronicles of England, ed. by Friedrich W D. Brie, EETS, 136, 2 vols (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1908), II, 482.
(13) Such uncertainty continued into the twentieth century. Griffiths' 1991 publication confirms Beaumaris Castle in 1452, not the Isle of Man in 1457, as the site of Eleanor's death. See Griffiths, 'The Trial of Eleanor Cobham', p. 249: 'it was probably there [the Isle of Man] that she died about 1457', and p. 252 n. 5: 'Subsequently, evidence came to light which established that Eleanor Cobham died at Beaumaris Castle, in North Wales, on 7 July 1452, still in captivity'.
(14) Griffiths, 'The Trial of Eleanor Cobham', p. 250.
(15) Chris Given-Wilson, Chronicles: The Writing of History in Medieval England (London: Hambledon and London, 2004), p. ix.
(16) Given-Wilson, Chronicles, p. xix.
(17) Given-Wilson, Chronicles, p. xx.
(18) Antonia Gransden, Historical Writing in England, c. 1307 to the Early Sixteenth Century, 2 vols (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982), II, xii. Where Gransden uses the word 'audience', I use 'reader', although my use of this word encompasses the audience as listeners.
(19) For a similar approach, see Maree Shirota, 'Royal Depositions and the "Canterbury Roll"', Parergon, 32:2 (2015), 39-61. Shirota focuses on the theme of deposition to examine the ability of a fifteenth-century genealogical roll 'to be read as both a "historical" and "political" document' (p. 49).
(20) Griffiths, 'The Trial of Eleanor Cobham', p. 233 n. 5.
(21) Sarah Foot, 'Finding the Meaning of Form: Narrative in Annals and Chronicles,' in Writing Medieval History, ed. by Nancy F. Partner (London: Hodder Arnold, 2005), pp. 88-108 (p. 102).
(22) Modern scholars also differ in their description of Eleanor's removal. For example, see Griffiths, 'The Trial of Eleanor Cobham', pp. 248, 251. Griffiths describes Eleanor as 'a prisoner', a term compounded by his use of words such as 'custody', 'detention', and 'safely locked away'. Cf. Barbara A. Hanawalt, 'Portraits of Outlaws, Felons, and Rebels in Late Medieval England', in British Outlaws of Literature and History: Essays on Medieval and Early Modern Figures from Robin Hood to Twm Shon Catty, ed. by Alexander L. Kaufman (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011), pp. 45-64 (p. 60): 'she ended her life in exile'.
(23) The Brut, pp. 478-82, 508-09; An English Chronicle. For An English Chronicle, Griffiths cites the following: An English Chronicle from 1377 to 1461, ed. J. S. Davies (London: Camden Society, 1856). I use the more recent Marx edition, which collates Davies' edition of Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Lyell 24 with the Aberystwyth manuscript, as cited above.
(24) Bryan, 'Prose Brut, English', p. 1239.
(25) Griffiths, 'The Trial of Eleanor Cobham', pp. 233-34 n. 5.
(26) On town chronicles, see Regula Schmid, 'The Town Chronicles', in Encyclopedia of the Medieval Chronicle, II, 1432-38.
(27) For a comparable example exploring representations of one episode across different chronicles, see: Alicia Marchant, The Revolt of Owain Glyndwr in Medieval English Chronicles (Woodbridge:York Medieval Press, Boydell, 2014).
(28) An English Chronicle, 'Introduction', pp. xxxii-xxxvi. Marx uses the term 'compiler', while some scholars use 'chronicler'. Other than when discussing Marx's commentary, I employ the term 'chronicler'.
(29) An English Chronicle, p. xci.
(30) An English Chronicle, p. xcv.
(31) For an overview, see: John G. Bellamy, The Law of Treason in England in the Later Middle Ages, Cambridge Studies in English Legal History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), pp. 1-14. On the statute, see pp. 59-101 (p. 59), citing M. McKisack, The Fourteenth Century (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959), p. 257.
(32) Megan Leitch, Romancing Treason: The Literature of the Wars of the Roses (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), p. 21, citing Edward III, Statute 5 (January 1352); translation (and original French) in Statutes of the Realm, ed. by A. Luders and others (London: Record Commission, 1810-28), I, 319-20: 'a Man doth compass or imagine the Death of our Lord the King'.
(33) Bellamy, The Law of Treason, p. 153. On the examination as recorded in chronicles, for which 'there is unfortunately no official record to compare it', Bellamy remarks: 'Very likely the clergy were only investigating heresy and perhaps witchcraft. They would not have been investigating treason since it was not clergyable.'
(34) Bellamy, The Law of Treason, p. 154 n. 2: 'This was remedied in the parliament of January-March 1442: see Rot. Parl., v, 56 b'. On the female felon and treason, although for a slightly earlier period, see Barbara Hanawalt, 'The Female Felon in Fourteenth-Century England', in Women in Medieval Society, ed. by Brenda Bolton and Susan Mosher Stuard (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1976), pp. 125-40 (p. 135).
(35) Although there is little legal documentation surrounding Eleanor's trial, the indictment records are extant: The National Archives, KB 9/72/14, 'Indictment of those compassing the death of the king by necromancy' (1440). Of note, Eleanor's female accomplice, Margery Jourdemayne, is not named in the indictment, but is named in chronicle accounts.
(36) Paul Strohm, Hochon's Arrow: The Social Imagination of Fourteenth-Century Texts (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), p. 122.
(37) On Margaret of Anjou, see Helen Maurer, Margaret of Anjou: Queenship and Power in Late Medieval England (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2003).
(38) Griffiths, The Reign of Henry VI, p. 892.
(39) For an overview, see Griffiths, The Reign of HenryVI, chapter 25: 'Lancastrian King and Yorkist Rule, 1460-1461'; 'Epilogue: The Destruction of a Dynasty'.
(40) See Mary-Rose McLaren, The London Chronicles of the Fifteenth Century: A Revolution in English Writing. With an Annotated Edition of Bradford, West Yorkshire Archives MS 32d86/42 (Cambridge: Brewer, 2002), appendix 6: Significant Events Recorded in the London Chronicles, 'The Arrest and Penance of the Duchess of Gloucester', pp. 272-74. On Eleanor's downfall, McLaren remarks that, unlike perhaps the 1381 rising, 'it did not in any way create significant change' (p. 272).
(41) On chronicles and narrative closure, see Alicia Marchant, 'Narratives of Death and Emotional Affect in Chronicles', Parergon, 31.2 (2014), 81-98. Marchant engages with Hayden White's argument of the chronicles' 'failure to achieve narrative closure', arguing that this was not their goal but, rather, 'to construct a narrative that was capable of sustaining significance and was meaningful for their readers' (p. 86), citing Hayden White, 'The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality', Critical Inquiry, 7 (1980), 5-27 (p. 9).
(42) The Brut, pp. 478-84. For details, see p. vii-viii. Although citations are from Brie's edition, I acknowledge the assistance of the staff at The Wren Library, Trinity College, Cambridge in accessing Trinity College, Cambridge, MS O.9.1, also available online: <http://trin-sites-pub.trin.cam.ac.uk/james/viewpage.php?index=954> [accessed 31 August 2016]. The manuscript is written in several hands. The Brut section, spanning 1430-1446 (fols [49.sup.r]-[201.sup.r]), is in a fifteenth-century Anglicana hand and almost certainly attributable to one scribe, enabling comparison between Eleanor's story and a larger story of exile and imprisonment.
(43) The Brut, pp. 488-90.
(44) The Brut, pp. 477-84.
(45) See, too, Griffiths,'TheTrial of Eleanor Cobham', p. 238. Griffiths remarks of Eleanor that 'it need be no coincidence that her association with necromancers and astrologers was said to have begun about April 1440, for at that point Gloucester [... ] was in process of being defeated on the issue of whether the captive duke of Orleans should be released in order to promote peace between England and France'.
(46) The Brut, p. 477.
(47) The Brut, p. 477: 'the Kyng was not so sone passed the Cite, bot pat it hayled, rayned and eke lightned'. These words can be compared with the close of Eleanor's story, where her final removal from Westminster is described as taking place during a storm of 'thonder, lightnyng, hayll and rayne, pat the peple were sore adredde and agast of the grete noyse and hydous of weder' (p. 482). For discussion of this event within the context of the weather and Eleanor's trial, see McLaren, The London Chronicles, p. 74. On portents and wonders in chronicles, see Alexander L. Kaufman, '"And Many Oper Diuerse Tokens Portents and Wonders in "Warkworth's" Chronicle', in The Prose Brut and Other Late Medieval Chronicles: Books Have Their Histories: Essays in Honour of Lister M. Matheson, ed. by Jaclyn Rajsic, Erik Kooper and Dominique Hoche (Woodbridge; Boydell and Brewer;York:York Medieval Press, 2016), pp. 49-63.
(48) The Brut, p. 477.
(49) Griffiths, The Reign of Henry VI, p. 360. Charles, Duke of Orleans was in the care of Eleanor's father, Sir Reginald Cobham, from May 1436 to July 1438, meaning there was also a filial association.
(50) The Brut, p. 479. Cf. A. R. Myers, 'The Captivity of a Royal Witch: The Household Accounts of Queen Joan of Navarre, 1419-21', Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 24 (1940), 263-84. Joan of Navarre, second wife of Henry IV and step-mother to Humphrey, was arrested in 1419 on the accusation of treason and sorcery. A prisoner for nearly three years, Joan spent the last two years of her imprisonment at Leeds Castle. Myers briefly compares the charges against Joan with the charges made against Eleanor (pp. 272-73). For recent work on Joan of Navarre, see Elena Woodacre, 'The Perils of Promotion: Maternal Ambition and Sacrifice in the Life of Joan of Navarre, Duchess of Brittany, and Queen of England', in Virtuous or Villainess? The Image of the Royal Mother from the Early Medieval to the Early Modern Era, ed. by Carey Fleiner and Elena Woodacre (NewYork: Palgrave Macmillan), pp. 125-48.
(51) The Brut, p. 480.
(52) The Brut, p. 482.
(53) Griffiths, The Reign of Henry VI, p. 715: 'a severe mental collapse, accompanied by a crippling physical disablement'.
(54) Bertram Percy Wolffe, Henry VI (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), p. 333. On Henry VI's exile and the Lancastrian (and Yorkist) experience: 'His grandfather had won the kingdom from exile; Henry's successor was to recover it from exile'.
(55) Wolffe, Henry VI, p. 333.
(56) The Brut, p. 482.
(57) On the containment of early medieval religious women see, for example, Roberta Gilchrist, Gender and Material Culture: The Archaeology of Religious Women (London: Routledge, 1997).
(58) On exile in this period, see Exile in the Middle Ages: Selected Proceedings from the International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds, 8-11 July 2002, ed. by Laura Napran and Elisabeth Van Houts, International Medieval Research, vol. 13 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004).
(59) William Chester Jordan, From England to France: Felony and Exile in the High Middle Ages (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015), p. 7.
(60) Jordan, From England to France, p. 1 8.
(61) Leitch, Romancing Treason, p. 101, citing William R. Jones, 'Sanctuary, Exile, and Law: The Fugitive and Public Authority in Medieval England and Modern America', in Essays on English Law and the American Experience, ed. by Elizabeth A. Cawthon and David E. Narrett (Texas: Texas A&M University Press, 1994), pp. 19-41 (p. 30); J. J. Jusserand, English Wayfaring Life in the Middle Ages, trans. by Lucy Toulmin Smith, 4th edn (1889; London: Benn, 1950).
(62) References to the weather were a commonly employed narrative device in chronicles. See, for example, McLaren, The London Chronicles, pp. 71-72 (p. 72): 'To varying degrees in the chronicles, storms are also used as a sign of cosmic disorder'.
(63) The Brut, p. 482.
(64) On the creation of nobles in a chronicle account, see Sarah L. Peverley, 'Political Consciousness and the Literary Mind in Late Medieval England: Men "Brought up of Nought" in Vale, Hardyng, Mankind, and Malory', Studies in Philology, 105 (2008), 1-30.
(65) The Brut, pp. 482-83.
(66) The Brut, p. 483; A. J. Pollard, 'Talbot, John, First Earl of Shrewsbury and First Earl ofWaterford (c. 1387-1453)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/26932> [accessed 3 July 2016].
(67) Pollard, 'Talbot, John'. Talbot was freed after his captor was taken prisoner by his father-in-law (Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick) and an exchange was made. Talbot experienced imprisonment once again, in Rouen in 1449, before being released the following year.
(68) The Brut, p. 482.
(69) Jamie C. Fumo, 'Books of the Duchess: Eleanor Cobham, Henryson's Cresseid, and the Politics of Complaint', Viator, 37 (2006), 447-77 (p. 451).
(70) The Brut, pp. 483-84. The entry tells of the woman's arrest, her imprisonment and her punishment, which saw her carried through London in a cart and pressed to death.
(71) The claim has no basis in fact, however, as Eleanor had been divorced from Humphrey as part of her punishment.
(72) Eleanor, who was born in Sterborough, was also a 'woman of Kent'.
(73) Although not mentioned in these chronicle versions, a plea was also made to Humphrey by a group of London women at the time his first wife, Jacqueline was being held 'in servitute permanere'. It went unheeded and Humphrey divorced Jacqueline soon after. See, Annales Monasterii S. Albani a J. Amundesham, ed. by H. T. Riley, Rolls Series, 28, 2 vols (London: Longmans, Green, 1870), I, 20, cited and translated in Vickers, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, p. 203. On Eleanors household, see Sally Fisher, '"--All My Frendys fro Me Thei Flee:" The Disgraced and Unstable Household of Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester', in More Than Just a Castle: Royal and Elite Households in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, ed. by Theresa Earenfight (Leiden: Brill, in press).
(74) The Brut, p. 491.
(75) The Brut, p. 533. For discussion of BL Add. MS 10099, see Raluca Radulescu, 'Chronicle from Rollo to Edward IV', in Encyclopedia of the Medieval Chronicle, I, 410-11.
(76) The Brut, p. 508: 'In this yere, Elianour Cobham, Duches of Gloucestre, was Arested'.
(77) The Brut, pp. 508-09 (p. 508). For details, see p. viii: Brie collates BL Add. MS 10099 with two other versions, 'MS. Harley 3730, which breaks off in 1452', and 'Caxton's first printed edition, which closes in 1461'. On dating, see p. xiv, which dates the event at 1441.
(78) The Brut, pp. 508-10. The events are clearly distinguished from each other, as each section begins with a version of 'in this yere'. See, too, McLaren, The London Chronicles, p. 79. McLaren suggests: 'The fray in Fleet Street may be interpreted as the sort of disorder represented by Eleanor Cobham, Bolingbroke and the witch of Bye [sic]'.
(79) The Brut, p. 510.
(80) Griffiths, 'The Trial of Eleanor Cobham', p. 245. This recension was not alone in describing Eleanor's fate in this way, and at least one contemporary chronicler of a religious house applied the same term. See: Chronicle of the Grey Friars of London, ed. by John Gough Nichols (London: Camden Society, 1852), p. 18. 'Alionore was put by the kynge and hys justys to perpetuall prisone'. This brief account describes Eleanor as a witch, refers to her walk of penance, and that she was committed to perpetual prison.
(81) Pugh, Imprisonment, p. 382.
(82) The Brut, p. 508. See also Edward M. Peters, 'Prison before the Prison: The Ancient and Medieval Worlds', in The Oxford History of the Prison: The Practice of Punishment in Western Society, ed. by Norval Morris and David J. Rothman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 3-43 (pp. 27-28). Peters notes that public penance, including penitential confinement, could be imposed on the laity. On this connection between penance and confinement see, too, Jordan, From England to France, p. 18. One of the obligations of abjurers was to 'carry crosses and dress penitentially'.
(83) The Brut, p. 510. Also seen, for example, in the chronicle references to Lent and Candlemas.
(84) The Brut, p. 510.
(85) The Brut, p. 509.
(86) Strohm, Hochon's Arrow, p. 122: 'burning was the exemplary punishment for a particular crime: the crime of treason'.
(87) The Brut, p. 509. In addition to the fate of her female accomplice, Margery Jourdemayne, the chronicler describes one accomplice as pardoned (John Home), another as dying in the Tower before his sentence was handed down (Thomas Southwell), and the other as 'hanged, heded, & quartred' (Roger Bolingbroke). See, too, Marchant, 'Narratives of Death', p. 89: 'Death narratives are rare examples of closure in chronicle narrative and keep death and salvation ever present in the mind of the reader of chronicle histories'.
(88) Cf. The Brut, p. 482. In MS O.9.1 Eleanor was first taken to Chester, then the Isle of Man.
(89) Fumo, 'Books of the Duchess', p. 451.
(90) J. S. Roskell, Parliament and Politics in Late Medieval England, 3 vols (London: Hambledon, 1981), II, 58, 80. On John Lord Cobham's career, see Saul, Death, Art, and Memory, pp. 21-24. John Lord Cobham was from the more well-known Cobham family, of Cobham.
(91) Strohm, Hochon's Arrow, p. 122, citing Hanawalt, 'The Female Felon', p. 265, where Hanawalt notes that only for treason did the punishment for men and women differ: 'The treasonous man was drawn and quartered and the woman was burned at the stake'.
(92) Gwen Seabourne, Imprisoning Medieval Women: The Non-Judicial Confinement and Abduction of Women in England, c. 1170-1509 (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011), p. 27.
(93) Seabourne, Imprisoning Medieval Women, pp. 30-31.
(94) Seabourne, Imprisoning Medieval Women, p. 33.
(95) Seabourne, Imprisoning Medieval Women, p. 33.
(96) The Brut, p. 510. On representations of Margaret of Anjou, see Diana Dunn, 'Margaret of Anjou: Monster Queen or Dutiful Wife?', Medieval History, 4 (1994), 199-217 (pp. 208-10).
(97) An English Chronicle, p. xcv.
(98) An English Chronicle, p. 61: 'The [x]ix yere of bis Kynge Henry'.
(99) An English Chronicle, p. 61.
(100) An English Chronicle, p. 62.
(101) An English Chronicle, p. 64.
(102) An English Chronicle, p. 78. This description is found within an entry almost twenty years later. Chronicle readers would not, however, necessarily need the chronicler to inform them of the Lancastrian king's illness, as it was publicly known.
(103) Megan Cassidy-Welch, Imprisonment in the Medieval Religious Imagination (Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), pp. 82-91.
(104) An English Chronicle, p. 64.
(105) An English Chronicle, p. 62. Particular care is also taken concerning Eleanor's conveyance from London to Chester, with the suggestion that she will, again, feign sickness. See, Original Letters Illustrative of English History, ed. by Henry Ellis, 2nd ser., 4 vols (London: Harding and Lepard, 1827), I, 107, 'Letter of Warrant from King Henry the VIth, to the Bishop of Bath, his Chancellor, in 1441, concerning the exile of Eleanor Duchess of Gloucester': 'and that ye charge them that shal lede hir firth, that thei lette not, for sekenesse or ony dissimulacion of hir, to carie hir thedir as we have appointed'.
(106) The Brut, p. 482.
(107) An English Chronicle, p. 64. A mark was equivalent to 13s. 4d. A pound was equivalent to 20 shillings. Eleanor was receiving approximately [pounds sterling]50 pounds per year. Cf. Myers, 'The Captivity of a Royal Witch', p. 266-67. Drawing on an account covering the first three months of Joan's imprisonment, Myers remarks that her expenditure over a period of eleven weeks averaged over [pounds sterling]37 per week and that she was 'living in great comfort'.
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|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2017|
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