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Medieval Warfare V Issue 1: Treason and Treachery - Betrayal in the Medieval World

Medieval Warfare V Issue 1: Treason and Treachery - Betrayal in the Medieval World

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Medieval Warfare V Issue 1: Treason and Treachery - Betrayal in the Medieval World

Medieval Warfare V Issue 1: Treason and Treachery - Betrayal in the Medieval World

In the Medieval period most treachery was personal - against an individual rather than a state or an institution. These articles include some of the most famous examples of treason, as well as some less familiar.

We start with a look at one of the most notorious Byzantine families, the Doukas. As well as provided several Emperors, they also included Andronikus Doukas, who famously betrayed the Emperor at the Battle of Manzikert, a defeat that opened up the eastern provinces to conquest. This article places that betrayal within a framework of family ambition.

The second article looks at alternative ways to end a siege, including simple betrayal, tricks, sending in false orders, taking advantage of a defensive mistake such as leaving a gate unguarded or convention, where the defenders agreed to surrender if not relieved within a set period of time. Even the strongest castle could fall to a good trick, as the English often found out in Wales.

Next is a less familiar topic, the fate of Countess Jacqueline of Bavaria, countess of Holland until her relatives betrayed her and seized the province.

Another unfamiliar topic is the battle of the River Talas (751), a rare clash between Arab and Chinese armies. Here there is an argument about whether any betrayal took place - one group of Turks sided with the Arabs, having previously been attacked by the Chinese. The Chinese thus viewed them as part of the Empire, while the Turks presumably didn’t share that view.

More familiar to me is the reign of Edward II, which saw the fall of his Despenser favourites, his betrayal and removal from the throne by his wife Isabella and her lover Mortimer, and their eventual overthrow by her son Edward III.

Finally we look at the role of the Stanley Family during the Wars of the Roses, where they managed to stay neutral for large parts of the conflict, before finally playing a vital role at the battle of Bosworth. Here at least it is fairly clear what their motives were - they were related through marriage to Henry Tudor, and had only narrowed escaped being executed by Richard at the start of his reign, so for Richard to expect them to be loyal to him was rather foolish.

Away from the theme there are three articles. The first looks at the problems encountered when the Higgins Armory Museum of Massachusetts closed and moved its collection into a nearby museum. Next is a look at the Swiss Pike, studying how important it was within Swiss armies, how it was used and how it was countered. Finally comes a look at the fragments of the Anglo-Saxon poem Waldere, and what they might tell us about shield wall fighting. This is an alternative view of these fragments, which are normally said to describe lone heroic fighting, but the author does make a good argument.

Getting personal with treason: Historical Introduction
The Doukai: Byzantine politics of betrayal
Not by siege, but by guile: Alternatives to siege warfare
Losing Holland: A countess betrayed
Treacherous auxiliaries: The Battle of the River Talas
Favourites and Feuds: The treason against Edward II
To kill a king: The Stanleys in the Wars of the Roses
On the move: The Higgins Armory Museum Collection
The Swiss Pike: The weapon, tactics and countermeasures
The shield-wall of Waldere: New evidence for Anglo-Saxon tactics


Treason is the crime of attacking a state authority to which one owes allegiance. [1] This typically includes acts such as participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplomats, or its secret services for a hostile and foreign power, or attempting to kill its head of state. A person who commits treason is known in law as a traitor. [2]

Historically, in common law countries, treason also covered the murder of specific social superiors, such as the murder of a husband by his wife or that of a master by his servant. Treason against the king was known as high treason and treason against a lesser superior was petty treason. As jurisdictions around the world abolished petty treason, "treason" came to refer to what was historically known as high treason.

At times, the term traitor has been used as a political epithet, regardless of any verifiable treasonable action. In a civil war or insurrection, the winners may deem the losers to be traitors. Likewise the term traitor is used in heated political discussion – typically as a slur against political dissidents, or against officials in power who are perceived as failing to act in the best interest of their constituents. In certain cases, as with the Dolchstoßlegende (Stab-in-the-back myth), the accusation of treason towards a large group of people can be a unifying political message.

Treachery at Bosworth: what really brought down Richard III

On 22 August 1485, in marshy fields near the village of Sutton Cheney in Leicestershire, Richard III led the last charge of knights in English history. A circlet of gold around his helmet, his banners flying, he threw his destiny into the hands of the god of battles.

Among the astonished observers of this glittering panoply of horses and steel galloping towards them were Sir William Stanley and his brother Thomas, whose forces had hitherto taken no part in the action. Both watched intently as Richard swept across their front and headed towards Henry Tudor, bent only on eliminating his rival.

As the king battled his way through Henry’s bodyguard, killing his standard bearer with his own hand and coming within feet of Tudor himself, William Stanley made his move. Throwing his forces at the King’s back he betrayed him and had him hacked him down. Richard, fighting manfully and crying, “Treason! Treason!”, was butchered in the bloodstained mud of Bosworth Field by a man who was, ostensibly at least, there to support him.

Historians have been tempted to see Stanley’s treachery as merely the last act in the short and brutal drama that encompassed the reign of the most controversial king in English history. Most agree that Richard had murdered his two nephews in the Tower of London and that this heinous crime so shocked the realm, even in those medieval days, that his demise was all but assured. The reason he lost the battle of Bosworth, they say, was because he had sacrificed support through this illegal coup.

But hidden among the manuscripts in the duchy of Lancaster records in the National Archives, lies a story that provides an insight into the real reason why Thomas, Lord Stanley, and his brother William betrayed Richard at Bosworth during the Wars of the Roses. The records reveal that for more than 20 years before the battle, a struggle for power in the hills of Lancashire had lit a fuse which exploded at Bosworth.

Land grab

The Stanleys had spent most of the 15th century building up a powerful concentration of estates in west Lancashire, Cheshire and north Wales. As their power grew they came into conflict with gentry families in east Lancashire who resented their acquisitive and relentless encroachments into their lands.

One such family were the Harringtons of Hornby. Unlike their Stanley rivals the Harringtons sided with the Yorkists in the Wars of the Roses and remained staunchly loyal. Unfortunately, at the battle of Wakefield in 1460, disaster struck. The Duke of York was killed and with him Thomas Harrington and his son John.

The Stanleys managed, as ever, to miss the battle. They were very keen, however, to pick up the pieces of the Harrington inheritance and take their seat at Hornby, a magnificent castle that dominated the valley of the River Lune in Stanley country.

When John Harrington had been killed at Wakefield the only heirs he left behind were two small girls. They had the legal right to inherit the castle at Hornby, but this would pass to whomever they married. Stanley immediately sought to take them as his wards and to marry them as soon as possible to his only son and a nephew.

John Harrington’s brother James was equally determined to stop him. James argued that his brother had died before their father at Wakefield and so he himself, as the oldest surviving son, had become the heir, not John’s daughters. To make good his claim he took possession of the girls, and fortified Hornby against the Stanleys.

Unfortunately for Harrington, King Edward IV – striving to bring order to a country devastated by civil strife – simply could not afford to lose the support of a powerful regional magnate, and awarded the castle to Stanley.

However, this was by no means the end of the matter. James Harrington refused to budge and held on to Hornby, and his nieces, regardless. What’s more, the records show that friction between the two families escalated to alarming proportions during the 1460s.

In the archive of the letters patent and warrants, issued under the duchy of Lancaster seal, we can see the King struggling – and failing – to maintain order in the region. While James Harrington fortified his castle and dug his heels in, Stanley refused to allow his brother, Robert Harrington, to exercise the hereditary offices of bailiff in Blackburn and Amounderness, which he had acquired by marriage. Stanley falsely indicted the Harringtons, packed the juries and attempted to imprison them.

Revolt and rebellion

This virtual state of war became a real conflict in 1469, when, in a monumental fit of pique, the Earl of Warwick – the most powerful magnate in the land, with massive estates in Yorkshire, Wales and the Midlands – rebelled against his cousin Edward IV.

The revolt saw the former king, the hapless Henry VI, being dragged out of the Tower and put back on the throne. Stanley, who had married Warwick’s sister, Eleanor Neville, stood to gain by joining the rebellion.

There were now two kings in England – and Edward was facing a bitter battle to regain control. In an attempt to secure the northwest, he placed his hopes on his younger brother, Richard Duke of Gloucester, the future Richard III.

This had immediate consequences for Stanley and Harrington, for Richard displaced the former as forester of Amounderness, Blackburn and Bowland, and appointed the latter as his deputy steward in the forest of Bowland, an extensive region to the south of Hornby. Even worse, from Stanley’s point of view, the castle of Hornby was in Amounderness, where Richard now had important legal rights.

During the rebellion Stanley tried to dislodge James once and for all by bringing a massive cannon called ‘Mile Ende’ from Bristol to blast the fortifications. The only clue we have as to why this failed is a warrant issued by Richard, dated 26 March 1470, and signed “at Hornby”.

It would appear that the 17-year-old Richard had taken sides and was helping James Harrington in his struggle against Stanley. This is hardly surprising as James’s father and brother had died with Richard’s father at Wakefield and the Harringtons were actively helping Edward get his throne back. In short, it seems that the Harringtons had a royal ally in Richard, who could challenge the hegemony of the Stanleys and help them resist his ambitions.

The Harringtons’ support for Edward was to prove of little immediate benefit when the King finally won his throne back after defeating and killing Warwick at the battle of Barnet and executing Henry VI.

Grateful he may have been, but the harsh realities of the situation forced Edward to appease the Stanleys because they could command more men than the Harringtons and, in a settlement of 1473, James Harrington was forced to surrender Hornby.

Richard ensured that he received the compensation of the nearby property of Farleton, and also land in west Yorkshire, but by the time Edward died in 1483 Stanley had still not handed over the lucrative and extensive rights that Robert Harrington claimed in Blackburn and Amounderness.

A family affair

One thing, however, had changed. The leading gentry families in the region had found a ‘good lord’ in Richard. He had been made chief steward of the duchy in the north in place of Warwick and used his power of appointment to foster members of the gentry and to check the power of Stanley.

Only royal power could do this and Richard, as trusted brother of the King, used it freely. The Dacres, Huddlestons, Pilkingtons, Ratcliffes and Parrs, all related by marriage to the Harringtons, had received offices in the region and saw Richard, not Stanley, as their lord.

When Richard took the throne he finally had the power to do something for James Harrington. The evidence shows that he planned to reopen the question of the Hornby inheritance.

This alone would have been anathema to Stanley but it was accompanied by an alarming series of appointments in the duchy of Lancaster. John Huddleston, a kinsman of the Harringtons, was made sheriff of Cumberland, steward of Penrith and warden of the west march. John Pilkington, brother-in-law of Robert Harrington, was steward of Rochdale and became Richard III’s chamberlain Richard Ratcliffe, Robert Harrington’s wife’s uncle, was the King’s deputy in the west march and became sheriff of Westmorland. Stanley felt squeezed, his power threatened and his influence diminished.

With Richard at Bosworth were a close-knit group of gentry who served in the royal household: men like John Huddleston, Thomas Pilkington and Richard Ratcliffe. They were men whom Richard could trust, but they were also the very men who were instrumental in reducing Stanley’s power in the northwest.

By Richard’s side, possibly carrying his standard, was James Harrington. When Richard III sped past the Stanleys at Bosworth Field he presented them with an opportunity too tempting to refuse.

During the 1470s Richard had become the dominant power in the north as Edward’s lieutenant. He served his brother faithfully and built up a strong and stable following. The leading gentry families could serve royal authority without an intermediary. The losers in this new dispensation were the two northern magnates, Henry Percy and Thomas Stanley.

Richard challenged their power and at Bosworth they got their revenge. When Richard rode into battle, with Harrington by his side, loyalty, fidelity and trust rode with him. Like the golden crown on Richard’s head they came crashing down to earth.

Dr David Hipshon teaches at St James Independent School in Twickenham. His book Richard III and the Death of Chivalry is published by The History Press.

Richard’s chivalry: the gallant exploits that killed a king

The fateful charge of knights at Bosworth may have been a risky strategy but it chimed perfectly with Richard III’s concept of himself: the chivalric ‘good lord’ fighting his enemies with his faithful companions at his side.

Richard’s father, the Duke of York, who was adopted as a four year-old orphan by the great warrior-king Henry V, evinced an old-fashioned, almost archaic, concept of chivalry. He had been killed when Richard was only eight but had left a powerful impression on the young boy.

In 1476 Richard presided over a solemn ceremony, redolent with pageantry and symbolism, in the reburial of his father at the family seat at Fotheringhay. An endowment of four priests at Queen’s College Cambridge specified that they should pray “for the soule of the right high and mighty prince of blessed memorie Richard duke of Yorke”. Richard III believed that his father had died fighting to restore the realm to its former glory after years of corruption and ineptitude.

After his father’s death at the Battle of Wakefield, the family had been forced to flee to the court of Philip the Good of Burgundy, where an almost fantasy world of courtly etiquette and chivalric exploits was fostered.

The young Duke of Gloucester possessed a 12th-century romance of the perfect knight, Ipomedon, and in his copy he had written tant le disiree, “I have desired it so much”. The motto he used, loyaulte me lie, “loyalty binds me”, has that same sense of a craving for a lost idealism.

The Harringtons – like Richard, their lord – were to pay a heavy price for the failed horse charge at Bosworth and the Yorkists’ subsequent defeat.

After the battle, Stanley received possession of all the Harrington properties and became earl of Derby. His brother, the impetuous and treacherous William, betrayed a king once too often and was executed by Henry Tudor in 1495.

Henry himself set about dismantling the capacity of the magnates to raise their own troops and to wield their own power. Private armies were abolished and the Tudor monopoly of authority began. From henceforth this power could only be challenged by Parliament or by the rebellion of commoners.

Atreus and Thyestes

Which brother was worse? The one who engaged in the family sport of cooking children or the one who first committed adultery with his brother's wife and then raised a son for the purpose of killing his uncle? Atreus and Thyestes were sons of Pelops who himself had once been served up as a feast to the gods. He lost a shoulder in the event because Demeter ate it, but he was restored by the gods. Such was not the fate of the children of Thyestes whom Atreus cooked. Agamemnon was a son of Atreus.

The Language of Treason in Richard II.

POSTWAR CRITICISM of Richard II characteristically has addressed its portrayal of "the secularization of politics . paralleled by the commercialization of the word."(1) The play is often perceived as describing the transition from a medieval political ethos to early modern conditions. In depicting the violent extinction of Plantagenet monarchy, Richard II also distinguishes the ascendancy of Lancastrian pragmatism, setting a "divinely sanctioned monarch against Machiavellian `new man' whose power resides exclusively in his own will."(2) In particular, the language of Richard II has been identified as expressing this shift from a world which assumes political values are divinely ordained, to one dominated by the functional pursuit and maintenance of power. In James Calderwood's influential account of "the fall of speech," the play represents "the surrender of a sacramental language to a utilitarian one in which the relation between words and things is arbitrary, unsure and ephemeral."(3)

However, increasingly telling questions have been raised concerning the adequacy of this interpretation of the play and the kinds of political recognition it advances. Joseph A. Porter reminds us that there are a variety of idioms in Richard II, which qualify any reception of, and identification with, the monarch's: "What falls after all, is only Richard's speech--his conception of language--not as he [Calderwood] would have it, `Speech' itself."(4) More recent criticism has been similarly attentive to the range and ambivalence of Richard II, as well as its sympathy for the language and values of those who challenge the integrity of Richard's "sacramental" speech and bring about his deposition. The play's notable utility for the Essex rebels has inflected historicist readings of its theatricality as demystifying, subverting dominant conceptions of political obedience.(5) From this perspective, Richard II is held to envision the "medieval past not as a lost world of symbolic unity but as the scene of a continual struggle between aristocratic and constitutional liberties and a monarchy that kept trying to appropriate public resources for its private interests."(6) The stress on parliament as the context for the deposition scene, as well as its striking absence from the three Elizabethan quartos of the play, has been interpreted by Cyndia Susan Clegg, as endorsing "an authority over the monarch far more consonant with resistance theory than with the government's understanding of parliamentary authority."(7)

Such distinct critical emphases are expressive of the ambivalence created by the play's opposing perspectives, and these can be analyzed in terms of their shared concern with defining treason. Any political reading of Richard II involves an evaluation of treachery, emphasizing either Richard's or Bolingbroke's betrayal of fundamental obligations the play foregrounds this issue. In Richard II, "treason" and cognate words appear with greater frequency than in any other Shakespeare play, and its principal conflict might well be characterized as a struggle over the authority to define the offense.(8) In a play peculiarly devoid of realized action, its language is dominated either by the attribution or the evasion of the stigma of treachery virtually every significant dramatic episode is constructed around purported breaches of trust, and most characters are depicted as implicated in or, at the very least, reacting to such violations. Specifically, formal accusations of treason provide an induction into the distinct regimes presided over by Richard and Bolingbroke, and the adjudication of these helps decipher their respective strategies of governance, as well as the forms of opposition they arouse. The drama culminates, of course, with the defining actions of high treason: the deposition and assassination of a monarch.

What is distinctive to Richard II is not simply the centrality of treachery to its political exchanges, but the inquisitiveness with which competing formulations of the offense are considered. However vehemently treason is ascribed within the play, evidence is rarely constituted in a definitive way. Thus, Bolingbroke and Mowbray charge each other with treachery without the audience being able to judge who is telling the truth. Later in the play, Richard's adherent, Aumerle, is, in turn, accused of treason against Bolingbroke in a manner that is equally difficult to appraise. Moreover, such ambiguities over identifying the figure of the traitor are accompanied by uncertainties in defining treason. It can thus be depicted as the violation of honor and fealty (as Bolingbroke forcibly asserts in the play's opening) or, primarily, an offense against the king's person and will (as King Richard and, later, the Bishop of Carlisle believe). It can be apprehended as a violent action or as a form of corrupt speech (as Mowbray argues in his defense against Bolingbroke, a view adopted by his opponent as he assumes the crown). The play's structure is reflexive and dynamic, rather than being organized in a sequence or in terms of a definitive historical transition it is through the shifting configuration of treason thus generated that some of Richard Irs most daring political speculations can be discerned.

Rather than expressing either a singular or a antithetical conception of treason, Richard II is characterized by a relational or, more accurately, dialectical approach, in which treason is viewed as dependent on modulations in authority, finding meaning only in relation to the sovereignty it would help establish or undermine. If opposition to King Richard is "gross rebellion and detested treason" (2.3.108)--and Richard, of course, will see himself in his resignation of the crown as "a traitor with the rest" (4.1.248)--once Bolingbroke is crowned, opposition to his rule is, in turn, no less treasonous: Aumerle is, even to his father, guilty of "foul treason" (5.2.72).(9) Betrayal appears not as an incontrovertible act which distinguishes the faithful subject from those doomed by their corrupt ambition, but as a far more conditional offense. By locating its attributions of treason within mutating historical circumstances, the play elucidates the political conflicts intrinsic to such allegations. Repeatedly, treachery is defined in the struggle to constitute or diminish authority, and by the language used to substantiate this as such, it can be modified, contested, and redefined in relation to varying claims of legitimacy. One can conceive of the play's "ambivalence," then, in the terms suggested by a recent analysis of the dialectical method of Machiavelli's writing: as engaged in an "internal critique of positive claims to authority."(10)

One obvious influence on, and context for, these fluctuations in the play's representation of treason lies with its major source, the 1587 edition of Holinshed's Chronicles. In reinterpreting the inclusiveness of Holinshed--as well as the work's organizing commitments to constitutional government and an ethic of civic prudence--Annabel Patterson argues that a form of "early modern relativism" emerges in its account of the historical formation of treason, an attitude symptomatic of its "critical perspective on 'Law' as a set of socially and politically constructed rules, rules that particularly at this stage in history were subject to sudden and continuous change."(11) This helps in both identifying and interpreting one of the most noticeable features of Holinshed's treatment of the turbulent reign of Richard II: how treason is made to accommodate changes in the disposition of power, rather than embody a consistent concept of justice.

In its detailed narration of the struggle between royal and baronial parties, the attribution of treason and the resistance it provokes help structure Holinshed's account: it is the instrumental means by which factional ascendancy is secured and (temporarily, at least) maintained. The text, however, is notably reluctant to denote any stable conception of treachery it is, consistently, a matter of perspective. This is expressed in Holinshed's recurrent citation of treason accusations with an accompanying phrasal qualification: "whom they called traitor," "those whom they reputed to be traitors," "whom he tooke to be plaine traitors," "traitors (as they tearmed them)."(12) Here, treason is situated rhetorically, located in conflicting and partisan attempts to validate authority.

An economical example of Holinshed's pragmatic view of treachery is demonstrable in the account given of the events that lead to Richard's attack on two pivotal figures in the baronial opposition: the abduction and covert assassination of the Duke of Gloucester, which so substantially informs the action of Shakespeare's play, and, simultaneously, the trial and execution of the Earl of Arundel. In 1388, the king dissolves a statutory council of state, which maintained an "ouersight under the king of the whole gouernment of the realme" (2:776), imposed on him by his magnates. Richard and his advisors exert extraordinary pressure on a council of judges to have those responsible for this body deemed treasonable and to agree on an elaborate defense of the king's prerogative: "it was demanded of them how they ought to be punished that interrupted the king so, that he might not exercise those things that apperteined to his regalitie and prerogatiue. Whereunto answer was made, that they ought to be punished as traitors" (2:782). In response, the baronial party "gathered their power togither, determining to talke with the king with their armour vpon their backes" (2:784). They demand, by issuing a feudal challenge, the expulsion of those advisors who are responsible for such a treacherous abuse of legal process, insisting Richard "take awaie from him such traitors as remained continuallie about him. And to prooue their accusations true, they threw downe their gloues, protesting by their oths to prosecute it by battell" (2:787). Despite his initial acquiescence, the king continues to conspire against the lords and succeeds in having Gloucester forcibly removed from the realm and assassinated (2:836-37) and secures a trial, in parliament, of the Earl of Arundel for treasonably taking up arms against his authority. When the king's favorite, Bushy, articulates the "demand" of the Commons that Arundel's guilt be punished, his mordant reply provokes the same theatrical display of outraged feudal honor deployed earlier against the king's favorites:

The earle turning his head aside, quietlie said to him "Not the kings

faithfull commons require this, but thou, and what thou art I know." Then

the eight appelants standing on the other side, cast their gloves to him,

and in prosecuting their appeale (which alreadie had beene read) offered to

fight with him man to man to justifie the same" (2:841).

What is noticeable in this treatment of treason is its reversibility the same ritualistic means of proving the offense can be used either for or against royal power. Arundel (as well as Gloucester) can appear as agents in the definition of treason and as traitors. For Holinshed, betrayal can be both a corruption of the law that should protect subjects or an encroachment upon the royal prerogative any consensus over what is unpardonably illicit is not secured. Treachery is a medium in which antagonistic interests are expressed, and it provides a language in which particular claims of authority are made to appear provisional. As Arundel's case demonstrates, the discursive status of the offense means it can be exposed as partial and contingent. Holinshed's text is alert, even in a sardonic manner, to the interests that inform public speech, political displays, and legal procedure. None of the latter is free of political mediation, a feature which is registered most powerfully, in that both the object and the nature of treason can be redefined in the enforcement or modification of sovereignty. Significantly, this is equally true at all stages of the historical process he represents there is no palpable sense of a transition between distinct modes of authority. For Holinshed, treason is given static form alone according to the needs of specific circumstances. It is this conception of the offense that has significant consequences for the dialectical construction of Richard II. This relationship between the language of treason and the dynamics of authority is equally integral to Shakespeare's play its implications merit detailed scrutiny.

At the opening of Richard II, an explicitly feudal discourse is established in the attempted trial by combat between Bolingbroke and Mowbray who perceive treason in terms of the obligations, and rights, of subjects in relation to the code of honor. It is this that Richard abrogates by correlating treachery with his own person and will. This monarchical conception of treason, however, is revised by those opposed to his rule moreover, an audience learns quickly of the cynical pragmatism with which Richard exploits the judical and other prerogatives of his office (1.4). This modified evaluation of the sovereignty of the king's speech is rendered distinctively through the play's treatment of betrayal, especially in relation to Bolingbroke who, on his illicit return to the realm, deploys a tactical language in which the distinctions between treasonous and loyal sentiments are no longer clear. Bolingbroke's flexibility of speech proves his political versatility, yet the rhetorical maneuvering it demands is also subjected to critical examination and not only as a dilution of his earlier commitment to honor. In its later phase, the play demonstrates that his usurpation fosters the subsequent prosecution of treason committed in words, an offense with which he had earlier been charged, as much as in actions: this definition finds new significance in the light of Bolingbroke's own actions. Rather than arrange its conflicting registers of speech in a hierarchy, Richard II stages these as mutually qualifying. Each figure who claims political credibility and, ultimately, authority, derives this from the ascription of treachery however, the rhetorical status of such claims are simultaneously perceived in terms of an alternative conception of betrayal.

From the outset, Richard II depicts a struggle concerning the power to define treason, and an argument is rehearsed over the principles it validates.(13) Significantly, in the conflict between Bolingbroke and Mowbray, any affiliation with a controlling viewpoint, including that of the crown, is obstructed, in that the appellants are opposed on broadly equal terms. Moreover, informing this irresolution in discerning the traitor is a far more profound inability to identify the nature of treachery. The dissension of the appellant knights is based on an expressed commitment to chivalric honor, which the king perceives as superseded by his own person their competitive behavior embodies the "moral autonomy" of the honor code Mervyn James has made familiar in leaving "little room for the concepts of sovereignty, or of unconditional obedience."(14)

We can see this schism in the definition of treason emerging in the king's opening query to Gaunt, regarding Bolingbroke's motivations:

Richard. Tell me, moreover, hast thou sounded him,

If he appeal the Duke on ancient malice,

Or worthily as a good subject should

On some known ground of treachery in him?

Gaunt. As near as I could sift him on that argument,

On some apparent danger seen in him,

Aim'd at your Highness, no inveterate malice.

The king is already sensitive to Bolingbroke's sense of principle: the phrase "ancient malice" is dismissive both of an enduring feud with Mowbray and of its archaic expression. For Richard, the worth of "a good subject" is determined by his attitude toward treachery and Gaunt, intriguingly, is unsure of his son's status. Here, as in the following scene, Gaunt expresses a conception of social relations familiar to Tudor sensibilities, in that betrayal is conceived of primarily as an intended assault on the king. This emphasis on the monarch's person as the supreme object of treason had long been ascendant in legislation yet, in Richard II, the language of betrayal is not concentrated wholly on the king.(15)

The chivalric fervor with which Bolingbroke expresses his sense of profaned honor signifies his sense of treachery any defilement of the privileges intrinsic to nobility is treason even the mute element of blood speaks, or cries, with the force of scriptural injunction to avenge the injustice and dishonor committed by the murder of Gloucester. Mowbray:

Sluic'd out his innocent soul through streams of blood,

Which blood, like sacrificing Abel's, cries

Even from the tongueless caverns of the earth

To me for justice and rough chastisement

And, by the glorious worth of my descent,

This arm shall do it, or this life be spent.

There are unchivalrous connotations, of course, in the offenses attributed to his enemy: Mowbray has misused the public purse, embezzling for "lewd imployments" money intended for military pay and, in a wild accusation, has engineered all the conspiracies "for these eighteen years / Complotted and contrived in this land" (1.1.95-96). However, aside from such self-interest, cowardice and lack of knightly largesse, the core act of treason is Mowbray's desecration of blood for which the right of redress is claimed.

Bolingbroke does present his indictment of Mowbray as "a traitor and a miscreant" as an act of protective loyalty toward his king. The monarch and the realm must be protected from such a dangerous subject this care issues from "the devotion of a subject's love, / Tend'ring the precious safety of my prince" (1.1.31-32). Yet, the rhetorical opportunity this affords him for a charismatic assertion of his own dynastic authority diminishes this care as a central motive Bolingbroke acts under the sacred obligations entailed "by the glorious worth of my descent." His words are spoken under the hearing of God, rather than the king, and their truth will be testified to in a providential verdict elicited by his own will:

My body shall make good upon this earth,

Or my divine soul answer it in heaven.

With a foul traitor's name stuff I thy throat,

And wish--so please my sovereign--ere I move,

What my tongue speaks my right drawn sword may prove.

The fact that Richard's desires are here reduced to a parenthesis is consistent with Bolingbroke's acting as both the bearer of proof and the instrument of retribution. There is audacity in the correspondence drawn between the words he uses and their validation in the justice his body will enact.

Mowbray also addresses treason as a violation of honor. For him, it is Bolingbroke's speech that enacts this violation. In insisting that the allegations are made by a "slanderous coward," Mowbray indicts his opponent's words as issuing "from the rancour of a villain, / A recreant and most degenerate traitor" (1.1.143-44). Again, the physicality of the language is striking, as well as the forcible manner in which aristocratic honor is to be vindicated independently through the trial by combat. Mowbray will "prove myself a loyal gentleman / Even in the best blood chamber'd in his bosom" (1.1.148-49), a demand that outweighs the king's command:

Myself I throw, dread sovereign, at thy foot

My life thou shalt command, but not my shame:

The one my duty owes, but my fair name,

Despite of death, that lives upon my grave,

To dark dishonour's use thou shalt not have.

I am disgrac'd, impeach'd, and baffl'd here,

Pierc'd to the soul with slander's venom'd spear,

The which no balm can cure but his heart-blood

Which breath'd this poison.

Here, Mowbray further intensifies the personal dimension of betrayal in his sense of the spiritual peril consequent upon obliterated knighthood. Similarly, Bolingbroke insists that he cannot obey Richard's command to forego resorting to arms against Mowbray this would be a "deep sin", an injustice done to honor which he is obliged to rectify regardless of the king's will (1.1.187-95).(16)

Clearly, Richard is alert to the political implications of this shared language which transcends his own entitlement to obedience. This is apparent in his implied admonition to Bolingbroke as "our subject" (1.1.115-23) and in his reaffirmation of his "sceptre's awe" by countermanding the trial by combat. The king is determined to subsume the role of providence and resolve the issue of treason within his own judicial prerogative. Moreover, he offers a scathing commentary on chivalric justice and the equivalence it draws between honor and treachery. For the king, the "rites of knighthood" are merely an imposture, animated by a mixture of "eagle-winged pride / Of sky-aspiring and ambitious thoughts, / With rival-hating envy" (1.3.129-31). Richard perceives their martial display as a regressive and sectarian indulgence which threatens:

To wake our peace, which in our country's cradle

Draws the sweet infant breath of gentle sleep

Which so rous'd up with boist'rous untun'd drums,

With harsh-resounding trumpets' dreadful bray,

And grating shock of wrathful iron arms,

Might from our quiet confines fright fair peace,

And make us wade even in our kindred's blood--

Therefore we banish you our territories.

Richard insists on his possession of the kingdom--"our fields" "our fair dominions"(17)--construing its welfare as that of an infant threatened by the clangor of feudal violence. The peace of the realm is individuated physically, and it is this which can be made subject to assault and betrayal. Richard's identity is symbiotic with that of his kingdom as the object of treason, and the king rebukes the knights as subjects whose primary duty is to obey his will.(18) The obsolescence of their conception of treachery is forcibly demonstrated, both in the peremptory sentences of banishment and in the arbitrary revision of Bolingbroke's exile, eliciting his stunned recognition of the power of words issuing from "the breath of kings" (1.3.213-15). Richard, then, initiates a process of great significance for the play: by displacing the authority that the appellant knights claim through treason, he establishes a critical perspective on the interests with which it is informed.

It is integral to the play's "internal critique" of authority, however, that the legitimacy of Richard's appropriation of treason is, in turn, qualified by those who dissent from it. Opposition to the monarch is not conflated with treachery indeed, Richard II extends considerable latitude to those who perceive the king's actions as a destructive repeal of custom. The ethos whereby fealty and honor are primary forms of social obligation allows assumptions regarding obedience to be revised when it is the king who is responsible for their violation.(19) In the exchange between Gaunt and the bereaved Duchess of Gloucester that precedes the planned trial by combat, Gaunt's insistence on the submissiveness owed "God's substitute" must withstand powerful criticism from an alternative understanding of loyalty. For the Duchess, Gaunt's noble blood should reveal that his "patience" is equivalent to "pale cold cowardice," excusing Richard's involvement in her husband's assassination and inviting future annihilation (1.2.25-36). In another compelling metaphor of personification, the Duchess envisages Edward III's bloodline as a dynastic tree being "hack'd down," its destruction that of a living identity: "Yet art thou slain in him" (1.2.25).

Finally, Gaunt himself testifies to this understanding of Richard as betraying the values from which his royal authority is drawn. From Gaunt's historical perspective of an England governed by "true chivalry," it is the king who appears dishonorable and alien, enslaved to Italianate fashions, the flattery of favorites, and his own corrupt will. In the growing intensity of this condemnation, Richard's "England" is depicted as engaged in the conquest of itself, a paradox whose dreadful implications demands opposition (2.1.57-68). The culminating moment in Gaunt's verbal assault on Richard's status comes in his direct challenge to his continuing legitimacy: the heroic spirit of Edward III is invoked as desiring the king's deposition even before his accession to the throne (2.1.104-8).(20) In a crushing formulation, he asserts that Richard has now effectively deposed himself--"Landlord of England art thou now, not king, / Thy state of law is bondslave to the law" (2.1.113-14)--a statement whose treasonous implications the king immediately recognizes (2.1.115-22).(21) Gaunt continues to subject the king's actions to corrosive rhetorical scrutiny, climaxing with the monstrous image of his pelican-like consumption of the slaughtered Gloucester's blood, "tapp'd out and drunkenly carous'd." After Gaunt's death, York continues this critique of Richard's entitlement to the throne, given his betrayal of "customary rights," embodied in Richard's confiscation of his brother's estate, and the discord this will arouse among "well-disposed hearts": "And prick my tender patience to those thoughts / Which honour and allegiance cannot think" (2.1.207-8).

York's desperation at reaching the limits of his fealty, at being brought to the brink of treason, brings us to a key episode in the play's developing concern with the effect of political crisis on existing social duties. The insecurity Richard II cultivates over a reliable definition of treachery is augmented when those opposed to the king's will further complicate attitudes to the offense by a subtle process of verbal arbitration: it is this that allows for the dissent repressed by York's sense of "honour" and "allegiance." In contrast to the often stark and declarative language that accompanies the play's earlier antipathies, Bolingbroke and his allies develop an equivocal mode of speech which can be adjusted tactically. Again, an awareness of the influence exerted by treason on the play's representation of conflict is useful in identifying how much verbal expedience is required to evade its ascription. Rather than establish feudal disenchantment as the principal challenge to Richard's betrayal of his office, the play attends, increasingly, to the strategic composition of language.

In the first stirrings of resistance against Richard, it is significant that--in the hostile reactions of Northumberland, Ross and Willoughby to Bolingbroke being "Bereft and gelded of his patrimony"--there is a growing sensitivity to the political implications of words:

Ross. My heart is great, but it must break with silence,

Ere't be disburdened with a liberal tongue.

North. Nay, speak thy mind, and let him ne'er speak more

That speaks thy words again to do thee harm.

Will. Tends that that thou wouldst speak to the Duke of

If it be so, out with it boldly man

Quick is mine ear to hear of good towards him.

Once agreement has been reached to speak securely, their grievances can be rehearsed against the king's arbitrary rule and the consequent vulnerability of "our lives, our children, and our heirs" to factional whim. The dangerous logic of this critique of the "degenerate king" as a thief and a tyrant leads to a number of tactics to sustain both critical reflection and the actions that might accompany it. Thus, Northumberland's news of Bolingbroke's imminent return at the head of an armed party is introduced tactfully:

. even through the hollow eyes of death

I spy life peering But I dare not say

How near the tidings of our comfort is.

If Richard's regime is equated implicitly with death, this demands that the possibility of "life" be embraced but, again, the consequences of such a choice are presented indirectly. Ross urges Northumberland to disclose his knowledge in terms of their shared desires hence, it has the quality of thought, something unspoken: "Be confident to speak, Northumberland: / We three are but thyself, and, speaking so, / Thy words are but as thoughts therefore be bold" (2.1.274-76). Richard's betrayals are used to sanction the development of a flexible idiom in which inhibitions against open criticism of the king are overcome. Richard, however, is not to be resisted explicitly: the effect of Bolingbroke's return is conveyed conditionally through discreet metaphors of freedom restored, guilt exposed, and honor renewed:

If then we shall shake off our slavish yoke,

Imp out our drooping country's broken wing,

Redeem from broking pawn the blemish'd crown,

Wipe off the dust that hides our sceptre's gilt,

And make high majesty look like itself .

This attentiveness to the accommodation of words and loyalties to new circumstances is present in Northumberland's elaborate compliment to the returned Bolingbroke's "fair discourse" (2.3.2-18), a homage that is amply repaid: "Of much less value is my company / Than your good words" (2.3.19-20). It is striking that Bolingbroke's speech is now denuded of chivalric fervor and is characterized by politic insinuation. Those who rally to his cause are greeted warmly with oblique hints of the material advantage that will accrue from their loyalty (2.3.45-67). Of course, the perspective from which Bolingbroke's return to the realm, and his defiance of the king, are perceived as treachery does not disappear from the play. It is reintroduced punctually with York's angry imputation of his "gross rebellion and detested treason" (2.3.108). York's attack on his nephew's resort to arms is met by Bolingbroke's claim of a new status as the wronged "Lancaster" and an appeal to his uncle's sense of the outrageous violation of family honor: "I am a subject, / And I challenge law" (2.3.132-33). Bolingbroke's strategy is typified by this pragmatic arbitration he does not formulate an alternative conception of treachery so much as amend York's dogmatism by revealing its limitations in the present context--a mitigation adapted, persuasively, to the needs of both his supporters and his opponents.

Bolingbroke proves expert in complicating the judgments made concerning his actions. In the dispatching of Bushy and Greene to execution, he takes pains to "unfold some causes of your death" to legitimize his assertiveness. The transgression against chivalric honor incurred by his dispossession is stressed, as well as his protective care for the monarch. The tacit implication, however, is that they are guilty of treason to Bolingbroke as instruments of Richard's corrupt will. The personal judgment they are subjected to enhances his right and status as "a prince by fortune of my birth, / Near to the king in blood" (3.1.16-17).(22) Again, Bolingbroke's speech is equivocal in having an implicit, but not exclusively critical, potential. Northumberland's "uncrowning" of the king in his curt reference to "Richard" (3.3.5-14) may betray many of the attitudes of those loyal to him, but such indiscretion is entirely alien to Bolingbroke's political tact. His public standing is increased by the use of suggestion: just as the king once sabotaged Bolingbroke's authority by superseding his chivalric entitlement to dispense justice, so "Lancaster" rhetorically depletes Richard's authority by tempering the monarchical concept of treason. In a remarkable speech, Bolingbroke delegates to Northumberland an address to Richard in which he uses the formulation "King Richard" on five occasions (3.3.31-67). At the outset, this testifies to the "allegiance and true faith of heart" that governs his loyalty to "his most royal person." Yet, this seemingly sacrosanct pledge is immediately qualified: it is contingent upon the repeal of his sentence and the restoration of his lands. What accompanies this is a threat of violence, the collocation of force with persuasion in Bolingbroke's political lexicon his "stooping duty" is delivered alongside the retribution he will visit in a "crimson tempest" on the "fresh green lap of fair King Richard's land." In an informal coda, Bolingbroke engages in what appears to be an elaborate parody of Richard's imminent metaphorical projection of the "thund'ring shock" that should accompany their encounter:

Be he the fire, I'll be the yielding water

The rage be his, whilst on the earth I rain

My waters--on the earth, and not on him.

March on, and mark King Richard how he looks.

The profane potential of these words is given more implication by the seditious pun on "rain" notably, Bolingbroke's response to the king's appearance is equally divested of reverence:

See, see, King Richard doth himself appear,

As doth the blushing discontented sun

From out the fiery portal of the East,

When he perceives the envious clouds are bent

To dim his glory and to stain the track

Of his bright passage to the occident.

This satirical account of Richard's poetic, and political, self-conception dispenses with the king's charisma.(23)

The ambiguous implications of Bolingbroke's address help establish the grounds for his ascendancy his strategic refusal to behave as a unified political subject makes manifest that absolute claims of authority can be subject to qualification and change.(24) Again in Richard II, the kernel of this strategy is formed by its relationship to treachery. Bolingbroke's linguistic cunning allows him to rebut Richard's charge, "That every stride he makes upon my land / Is dangerous treason" (3.3.92-93). By maintaining, principally through Northumberland, that his wants have a strictly limited scope--his own "infranchisement" and the restoration of his "lineal royalties"--Bolingbroke manages to assert simultaneously his own royal blood and his sense of justice, with what degree of good or bad faith, it is impossible to evaluate. Although Richard longs to "send / Defiance to the traitor, and so die" (3.3.130-31), his bitter resignation to "come at traitor's calls" recognizes the power of "King Bolingbroke."

As several have established, Shakespeare's interest in treason is intrinsic to his understanding of the distinctive practices of early modern authority. Historical study has demonstrated that treason statutes, and the trials and executions that accompanied them, were carefully regimented by Tudor governments: as many defendants pointed out, their prosecution acted to confirm an already assumed guilt.(25) The public exposure of the traitor was expected to reveal an adherence to the heinous beliefs itemized in the treason act of 1571: "that the Queene . is an Heretyke Schesmatyke Tyraunt Infidell or an Usurper of the Crowne" (13 Elizabeth c. 1). In the ritualized judgment and punishment of treason against the monarch, and in the citation of such procedures and their assumptions in other settings such as the theater, the populace were encouraged to absorb antipathies and inhibitions. However, there were significant debates in Tudor culture concerning both the impartiality of treason trials and the adequacy of the law itself, disputes whose implications are absorbed by both Holinshed and Shakespeare's play. In particular, there were marked differences concerning the status of verbal and written expression as proof of a treasonous temperament, the "transgressive imagining" Karen Cunningham has detailed as an innovatory mode of interpreting political betrayal.(26) Current critical thinking has interpreted treason not simply as a matter of external juridical control, but as a discourse that sought to influence political consciousness: "a tranquil and orderly society seemed to depend not merely upon the `outward observance' and `external conformity' of its subjects, but upon their `heartfelt love' and `sincere conviction'."(27)

Certainly the legislative pursuit of the "imagining" of treason had material effect on the conduct of late Elizabethan treason trials, where the majesty of sovereignty was testified to in the prosecution of words that might impede its prerogative. A representative case, proximate to Shakespeare's play, is the arraignment of Sir John Perrot, the Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1592.(28) This precisely reproduces the prohibitions against injurious forms of political reflection and expression, the treasonous "Pryntinge Wrytinge Cyphryng Speache Wordes or Sayinges," prohibited in the 1571 act. Perrot is "not charged with not executing her majesty's commandments, but with contemptuous speeches used against her majesty in the matter" (1319). His offense is proved by hostile interpretation of his irreverent words and the debased imaginings they express: "which imagination itself was in itself High-Treason, albeit the same proceeded not to any overt fact: and the heart being possessed with the abundance of his traitorous imagination, and not being able so to contain itself, burst forth in vile and traitorous Speeches, and from thence to horrible and heinous actions" (1318). As one witness defined it: "he spoke as though the kingdom were his own, and not the queen's" (1319).

Such a politically charged legal process, however, was subject to challenge. Catholic polemicists are an especially rich source of criticism of Elizabethan legal policy toward treason, as Curt Breight has noted.(29) An apposite example would be Cardinal Allen's parodic citation of the terms cited by Tudor treason law as, in fact, evidence of the truths the government sought to extirpate from public discourse: "she [Elizabeth] ys so notoriously knowne, termed and taken for an heretike, as well at home as abrode, that she was glad to provide by a special acte of parliament, that none should call her heretike, Schismatike, Tyrante, usurper, or infidell, under pain of highe treason."(30) The capacity to question the interests informing prosecutions for treason was widespread. Camden, for example, provides important evidence of a contemporary capacity to demystify the treason trial his account of Perrot's indictment emphasizes how partisan motivations could operate under the guise of justice. Sir Christopher Hatton and a circle of Perrot's adversaries at court "laboured tooth and nayle to put him from his place, as a man over-proud. And so farre was the matter brought, that when they found an informer or two in Ireland, though Hatton were now dead, they called him in the moneth of April to his tryall, Burghley Lord Treasurer labouring to the contrary."(31) Even in the most carefully orchestrated arraignments, there could be volatile moments where the crown's evidence could be disputed by a competing account of its distorted and malevolent character. Essex questioned the motivations of those proceeding against him, accusing Cecil of treasonable sympathies for a Spanish succession: "I can prove thus much from sir Robert Cecil's own mouth that he, speaking to one of his fellow-counsellors, should say, That none in the world but the infanta of Spain had right to the crown of England." The proof for Cecil's disaffection is based on verbal testimony, but a witness promptly testifies that he "never did hear Mr Secretary use any such words," and the distinction between treasonous and loyal speech is reaffirmed to Cecil's satisfaction: "The difference between you and me is great for I speak in the person of an honest man, and you, my lord, in the person of a Traitor."(32)

In Richard II, language is consistently adduced as evidence of a character's treasonous disposition, from Richard's opening inquiry to Gaunt concerning his son's motivations but the play is equally attentive to the historical and political necessities which accompany this. Even in the feudal atmosphere of the play's early scenes, Bolingbroke is accused of treacherous speech by his opponent, although the proof of this is to be decided in combat. However, there is a distinctive emphasis on the apprehension of verbal treachery that arises from the means Bolingbroke uses to assume the throne. Again, treason is identified as the key medium through which sovereignty is expressed (as well as challenged) the accession of the new king is commingled with that of Aumerle for the assassination of the Duke of Gloucester. Unquestionably, there is intention in this: reopening the circumstances surrounding Gloucester's death further besmirches Richard's authority and uncovers the corruption Bolingbroke has been impelled to contain. That the once-reviled Bagot is the chief--and, presumably, suborned--witness is another indication of the purpose of these events.

Bolingbroke initiates the proceedings against Aumerle:

Now, Bagot, freely speak thy mind--

What thou dost know of noble Gloucester's death,

Who wrought it with the king, and who perform'd

The bloody office of his timeless end.

Significantly, the accusations that follow have little of the earlier chivalric insistence on the dishonor intrinsic to specific actions. The testimony is not simply evidence of a treasonable assault on a member of the royal family, but proof of his disloyal temperament. Bagot, and subsequently the appellant knights, recount their recollections of what Aumerle said:

My Lord Aumerle, I know your daring tongue

Scorns to unsay what once it hath delivered.

In that dead time when Gloucester's death was plotted,

I heard you say "Is not my arm of length,

That reacheth from the restful English court

As far as Callice, to mine uncle's head?"

Amongst much other talk that very time

I heard you say that you had rather refuse

The offer of an hundred thousand crowns

Than Bolingbroke's return to England--

Adding withal, how bless'd this land would be,

In this your cousin's death.

Bagot's indictment resembles the protocols of the Elizabethan treason-trial: the reckless words of the accused prove his malicious ambition. Strikingly, given the character of Bolingbroke's earlier political strategy, Aumerle's treachery is proved by his equivocal language, his use of words which are an implicit claim of kingly stature and which culminate in the compassing of Bolingbroke's death.(33)

Despite Aumerle's attempts to discredit Bagot, he is repeatedly confronted with hostile accounts of his disloyal conversations and those of his confederates:

By that fair sun which shows me where thou stand'st,

I heard thee say, and vauntingly thou spak'st it,

That thou wert cause of noble Gloucester's death.

As I intend to thrive in this new world,

Aumerle is guilty of my true appeal.

Besides, I heard the banished Norfolk say

That thou, Aumerle, dids't send two of thy men

To execute the noble Duke at Callice.

(4.1.35-37 78-82 italics added)

Again--it is not simply what Aumerle, or Mowbray, is accused of saying--but also the "vaunting" manner in which it was spoken. It is difficult, however, to identify conclusive proof in this the rhetorical nature of the allegations is palpable. Surrey, an apparently reliable witness, was also "in presence" during the disputed conversations he testifies for the accused, and we have no evidence to evaluate the rival claims. Instead, the issue of Aumerle's treachery is displaced by the Bishop of Carlisle's shocking intervention to insist that the real enactment of treason has just been witnessed in Bolingbroke's sudden decision to "ascend the regal throne" (4.1.114-49). Carlisle reaffirms the political proprieties of speech--"I speak to subjects, and a subject speaks"--and the ordained hierarchy that has been violated by the deposition of "the figure of God's majesty." Carlisle's rival testimony continues to envisage what cannot be seen directly in his prophecy of the "tumultuous wars" that subsequently consume the kingdom, a form of seditious speculation which results in his immediate arrest for treason.

To help interpret this melee of accusation and counter-accusation, it is important to register again the investigative nature of Richard II's treatment of authority. The play is alert to the origins of Bolingbroke's action against utterance as those of a protagonist inured to the adaptation of principle to necessity. Such a perspective sheds light on the new king's use of contrivance to consolidate his power, a tendency that is notoriously visible in Richard's subversive self-deposition. This scene is laden with inference concerning the imperative for an orchestrated spectacle compressed in Bolingbroke's terse instructions to: "Fetch hither Richard, that in common view / He may surrender so we shall proceed/Without suspicion" (4.1.155-57 italics added). Again, there is a significant emphasis on verbal testimony Richard's public resignation of the crown should naturalize Bolingbroke's authority by infusing it with both inevitability and rectitude. This tactical production of a criminal self is, of course, drastically undermined by Richard's poetic intensification of the deprivation to which he is being subjected and by his competing use of equivocal speech to imply that political interests exist within judicial procedures. Contrary to his penitent demeanor in Holinshed--where he reads out and signs, in public, the statement of his own deposition(34)--Richard refuses to confirm the legal forms that would guarantee his own subjection by using Bolingbroke's tactics of self-abnegation and indeterminate statement:

Mine eyes are full of tears, I cannot see.

And yet salt water blinds them not so much

But that they can see a sort of traitors here.

Nay, if I turn mine eyes upon myself,

I find myself a traitor with the rest.

For I have given here my soul's consent

T'undeck the pompous body of a king

Made glory base, and sovereignty a slave

Proud majesty a subject, state a peasant.

The groundlessness of Bolingbroke's authority appears in the absurdity with which the deposed king expresses his new loyalty (4.1.218-22). Richard divulges his understanding of the actual treason being committed: the "truth" of the scene is shown to be composed in the interests of new-made sovereignty. Partly, this is established by the historical process the audience has witnessed in the play with its conflicting formulations of treason. Bolingbroke's accession has been predicated on a reappraisal of social obligations that demonstrate his entitlement to act as a self-constituted source of authority. The consequence of this is that "King Bolingbroke" constrains the same kind of politically destabilizing speech which might qualify his own entitlement to power, specifically the use of insinuation to disclose the pragmatic origins of his jurisdiction (and which is deployed with such dialectical force by Richard).

Richard's coded ridicule is reinforced within the play by a new strain of absurdity in its closing phase. As a number of critics have argued, there is a strong taint of the ridiculous over Aumerle's involvement in the conspiracy against Bolingbroke.(35) Of course, it is the treason committed by Richard's imprisonment and killing that distances an audience from Bolingbroke's "new world." The sinister allusion that secures Richard's death embodies the same tactics of intimation that secured his authority. Just as Bolingbroke deployed a versatile political register in achieving power, so the play arouses a similarly fluid range of reactions to that authority. It is precisely this latitude that treason is being mobilized to regiment, but it is vulnerable to the conditional political insight that brought it into being. As the drama proves, such practical deliberation can also decipher the limitations, discontinuity, and defectiveness that validated its own ascendancy.

Still, in important respects, the foiling of Aumerle's plot is a tribute to the success of Bolingbroke's kingship and its impressive combination of toleration with force. Yet, there is a double-edged aspect to this. Partly, the incongruous nature of the conclusion is reinforced by its fugitive resemblance to the play's opening events: the accusations that accompany the preparations for Aumerle's trial by combat are also followed by an act of dispossession that questions the monarch's legitimacy, and this incurs another conspiracy against the king. The play appears to visit Bolingbroke with the return of intractable political problems. In light of the new king's earlier concern with the symptomatic appearance of disloyal expression, it is significant that Aumerle's offense is committed and betrayed by a piece of writing. Similarly, the scale of his treason is diminished by its manifest lack of sophistication, and its crassness is emphasized by its discovery in the York household.

This diminution in the efficacy of treason is connected both to the practice of Bolingbroke's sovereignty and the historical conditions that underpin it. York's impulse to betray his own son is a signal, in however serio-comic a fashion, of a compulsive loyalty derived from highly unstable circumstances. It is this which revokes his earlier allegiances both to Richard and to kinship and honor. Clearly, it is fundamental to Bolingbroke's success that he has transcended existing obligations and impressed on his new subjects the necessity of conformity to his will and maintenance of his favor. In identifying the recapitulation of events and situations in the play, it is significant that York's protective loyalty to the king is now expressed by both informing upon and then demanding the death of his son.(36) However, York's eloquent compassion for Richard in his public humiliation is juxtaposed to his abrupt, even insensate, commendation of the necessity that dictates they have become Bolingbroke's "sworn subjects" (5.2.37-40). The apprehension of Aumerle's conspiracy by his father continues to plot a dynamic relationship between treason and sovereignty as political quantities prone to alteration. More pressingly, there is an increasingly debased quality to the formation of loyalties. The obligation demanded by the new regime--embodying the easily recognizable injunction that to fail to report treason is itself treason--is rendered as disturbing and divisive and the reductive conception of honor to which York appeals has a similarly degraded aspect: "Mine honour lives when his dishonour dies, / Or my sham'd life in his dishonour lies / Thou kill'st me in his life--giving him breath, / The traitor lives, the true man's put to death" (5.3.68-71). Such a tortuous set of paradoxes and inversions in the language of treason register the degree to which loyalty derives from a circumstantial historical process whose fluctuations are embodied in York.

In his final (as well as first) soliloquy, the imprisoned Richard II reflects on the extraordinary displacement that has deprived him of power. He summons up habits of thought that appear convincing, only to expose their partiality and limitation. Given the brute reality with which deposition has contradicted his own self-conception as a monarch, the king explores how any settled physical state can be overturned and how any process of thought is self-deceiving to the extent that it ignores the possibility of negation, lust as his ambitious fantasies of escape are canceled by the prison walls, so even "thoughts of things divine, are intermix'd / With scruples, and do set the word itself / Against the word" (5.5.12-14). Of course, the Duchess of York has just used the same phrase in berating her husband's cynical use of the term pardon to prevent the bestowing of pardon on Aumerle: "That sets the word itself against the word!" (5.3.120). This verbal formulation describes the subtle and pervasive dramatic process by which apparently self-consistent terms and concepts are qualified and divided against themselves in Richard II. As Richard acknowledges in the moments prior to his death, there is a painful correspondence between sovereignty and treason, as if one condition produces the other which haunts and dispossesses it: "Sometimes am I king, / Then treasons make me wish myself a beggar, / And so I am" (5.5.32-34). In a macabre, destructive way, treason and sovereignty depend on and describe each other, and such proximity is most strikingly manifested in rendering the other provisional: if a king can become a beggar, Richard has witnessed how a traitor can become a king. Like its soliloquizing protagonist, Richard II seems drawn to such paradoxical and inquiring modes in its consideration of political values, especially as they are established and contested through language. There is no starker instance of the questions the play has raised concerning the authority treason threatens and locates than in its final paradoxical spectacle of the new and treason-tainted king confronted by the body of the betrayed and the betrayer.

In a recent essay, David Norbrook argues that criticism of Richard II should attend more carefully to the motivations of the Essex conspirators and their revival of the play on the day before their rising: "the 1601 performance was a significant pointer to elements in the play's political rhetoric."(37) In conclusion, it is worth pursuing briefly this suggestion to reflect on the play's concern with treachery in relation to the rebellion with which it has long been associated. To modern sensibilities, the inclusiveness of the text, and the demands it makes for complex modulations in emotional and political response, render it a bizarre choice either for incendiary propaganda or for ideological material likely to strengthen rebellious resolve. If Mervyn James is correct, Richard II could hardly have offered the inspiration provided by John Hayward's The First Part of the Life and Reign of King Henry IV (1599), where "history became a field for the play of the heroic energy of the autonomous political will, seeking to dominate events by its command of the politic arts."(38) If the temperament of Essex has been accurately evoked--"a confused jumble of fears, rages, sly plottings and crude irrational outbursts of emotions, culminating in the tragic and dismal fiasco of the 8 February rebellion"(39)--it may be misguided to impute, either to the Earl or his circle, any subtlety of interest, beyond that of an apparently successful deposition, in the spectacle of Shakespeare's play.

However, if the interest of Essex and his followers in the history of Richard II is undoubted, their attitude toward it is less clear. When the Earl accused Robert Cecil of supporting a Catholic succession, he implied Cecil's sympathy for Robert Parson's notorious tract A conference about the next succession (1595). Parson's key argument for the Spanish claim was based on the legality of Richard II's deposition, and, hence, the primacy of the Lancastrian line, an argument Essex repudiates as treasonous.(40) As Paul Hammer points out, an emphasis on the military complexion of the circle has tended to simplify its nature, primarily by obscuring the Earl's erudition. His following was renowned as a center for intense, if hardly disinterested, scholarly inquiry, centered upon an "intellectually high-powered" secretariat, "a remarkable concentration of scholarly talent."(41) In this ethos, a more sophisticated rationale might be admitted for the conspirators' interest in Shakespeare's play, especially its disputative stance toward treason as a category relative to authority. The earl's complaint that his reputation was distorted by "the false glass of others' information"(42) certainly resonates with Richard II's concern with the ensnarements of treason for public figures and the politically charged dynamics by which reputations are divested of, as well as invested with, integrity. Moreover, even the play's dialectical openness may have appealed to their demand for the right of unprejudiced judgment, an impartial appraisal of the often complex and misunderstood realities that could be obscured by the rhetorical flare of treason allegations. The fullness and lucidity with which Richard II considers the intensive political mediation intrinsic to the attribution of treason may have been the source of a more complex interest from the Essex circle in the fate of both its protagonists.

(1) James L. Calderwood, Metadrama in Shakespeare's Henriad: Richard II to Henry V (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1979), 32.

(2) Barbara Hodgdon, The End Crowns All: Closure and Contradiction in Shakespeare's History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), 130.

(3) Calderwood, Metadrama, p. 6.

(4) The Drama of Speech Acts: Shakespeare's Lancastrian Tetralogy (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1979), 43. For a similar critique of Richard's language, see Ronald R. MacDonald, "Uneasy Lies: Language and History in Shakespeare's Lancastrian Tetralogy," Shakespeare Quarterly 35 (1984): 22-39, esp. 22-30.

(5) See, for example, David Scott Kastan's influential "Proud Majesty Made a Subject: Shakespeare and the Spectacle of Rule," Shakespeare Quarterly 37 (1986): 459-75. For a critique of such approaches, see Leeds Barroll, "A New History for Shakespeare and His Time," Shakespeare Quarterly 39 (1988): 441-64.

(6) David Norbrook, "The Emperor's new body? Richard II, Ernst Kantorowicz, and the politics of Shakespeare criticism," Textual Practice 10 (1996): 329-57, 348-49.

(7) "'By the choise and inuitation of al the realme': Richard II and Elizabethan Press Censorship," Shakespeare Quarterly 48 (1997): 432-48, 444.

(8) "Traitor" occurs twenty-eight times in Richard II there are thirteen uses of "treason." Henry V also has thirteen instances of the latter, although ten of these are concentrated in the "traitor's scene," 2.2. A number of recent essays have analyzed Shakespeare's interest in what one critic terms the "vast discourse of treason that became an increasingly central response to difficult social problems in late Elizabethan and early Jacobean London" Curt Breight, "`Treason doth never prosper': The Tempest and the Discourse of Treason," Shakespeare Quarterly 41 (1990): 1-28, 1. For a range of recent discussions of Shakespeare's treatment of the motif, see Craig A. Bernthal, "Treason in the Family: The Trial of Thumpe v. Horner," Shakespeare Quarterly 42 (1991): 44-54 Karin S. Coddon, "`Suche Strange Desygns': Madness, Subjectivity, and Treason in Hamlet and Elizabethan Culture" in Hamlet, ed. Suzanne L. Wofford (New York: Bedford, 1994), pp. 380-402 Karen Cunningham, "Female Fidelities on Trial: Proof in the Howard Attainder and Cymbeline," Renaissance Drama NS 25 (1994): 1- 31 Nina Levine, "Lawful Symmetry: The Politics of Treason in 2 Henry VI," Renaissance Drama NS 25 (1994): 197-218. The most comprehensive historical account remains John Bellamy's The Tudor Law of Treason (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979) the same author provides further useful context in The Law of Treason in the Later Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970). See also, Lacey Baldwin Smith, Treason in Tudor England: Politics and Paranoia (London: Jonathan Cape, 1986) and G. R. Elton Policy and Police: The Enforcement of the Reformation in the Age of Thomas Cromwell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972), 263-326. Mark Nicholls has produced some interesting recent analyses of the political conspiracies and treason-trials that accompanied James's accession to the English throne see "Two Winchester Trials: the Prosecution of Henry, Lord Cobham, and Thomas, Lord Grey of Wilton, 1603," Historical Research 68 (1995): 26-48 "Treason's Reward: the punishment of conspirators in the Bye plot of 1603," Historical Journal 38 (1995): 821-42. His conclusion in the latter, 842, is conceived narrowly: "treason remained a personal crime, committed by individuals with often the pettiest, most idiosyncratic of motives--on occasion, indeed, with no perceptible motive at all."

(9) All citations of Richard II refer to the Arden edition of King Richard II, ed. Peter Ure (London: Methuen, 1961).

(10) Victoria Kahn, Machiavellian Rhetoric: From the Counter-Reformation to Milton (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), 5.

(11) Patterson, Reading Holinshed's Chronicles (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 159. This comment is part of a valuable analysis of treason law in relation to the significant, if highly anomalous, trial in 1554, of Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, 154-83.

(12) These and all subsequent quotations are from Holinshed's Chronicles, ed. Henry Ellis, 6 vols. [London, 1807-8 repr. New York: AMS Press, 1965). These phrases occur on 2:738, 784, 791.

(13) For an analysis of the blend of deference and aggression intrinsic to the judicial combat and its significance for Elizabethan concerns with the native rights of the nobility, see Richard C. McCoy, The Rites of Knighthood: The Literature and Politics of Elizabethan Chivalry (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989), esp. 1-27.

(14) Mervyn James, "English politics and the concept of honour, 1485-1642," in Society, Politics and Culture: Studies in early modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 308-415, 327.

(15) Its most influential formulation is located in the famous statute of 1352, the progenitor of all subsequent legislation: "When a Man doth compass or imagine the Death of our Lord the King, or of our Lady his [Queen] or of their eldest Son and Heir" (25 Edward II 5 c. 2). The act was revised, audaciously, under Cromwell's auspices for Henry VIII in 1534, to emphasize the harm to majesty incurred by hostile "imagining" those who "malicyously wyshe will or desyre by wordes or writinge, or by crafte ymagen invent practyse or attempte, any bodely harme to be donne or commytted to the Kynges moste royall personne" (26 Henry VIII c. 13). It was this thesis of treason that became the period's dominant formulation, and which was absorbed into the major component of Elizabethan legislation in 1571. For a historical analysis, see Bellamy, Tudor Law, esp. 31-34 and Elton, 263-92 for interpretations of its significance for Shakespearean theater, see Cunningham and Katharine Eisaman Maus, "Proof and Consequences: Othello and the Crime of Intention," in Inwardness and Theater in the English Renaissance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 104-27.

(16) Robert Bartlett observes how the medieval trial by combat was a medium in which political differences between the aristocracy and the monarchy were expressed: "There are, then, signs in this period of a clash between rulers seeking to limit the duel and aristocracies jealous of their judicial authority and individual honour," Trial by Fire and Water: The Medieval Judicial Ordeal (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), p. 126. Ute Frevert develops this point in ascertaining the political significance of the duel for the feudal aristocracy in ways pertinent to the play: "Instead of regarding their own honour as a mere derivative of that honour which was personified by the prince as ruler and master, the sense of honour of the aristocracy retained a residue of habitual freedom and self-determination, to which they lent expression by engaging in duelling," Men of Honour: A Social and Cultural History of the Duel, trans. Anthony Williams (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995), p. 15.

(17) Joseph Porter is acute on Richard's tendency to refer to his own public self when apparently speaking of collective issues: "throughout the play Richard generally uses `we' to mean a public identity which exists in the perception, consciousness, and thought of his audience--that-which-is-perceived, as it is perceived by the public" Drama of Speech Acts, p. 31.

(18) Compare the insistence of the 1352 treason act: "that ought to be judged Treason which extends to our Lord the King, and His Royal Majesty" (25 Edward III 5 c. 2). Claire McEachern's remarks on the utility of personification in Elizabethan political discourse are also useful in interpreting "a vocabulary of the monarch's private identity in the service of corporate identity, . Henry V and the Paradox of the Body Politic," Shakespeare Quarterly 45 (1994): 33-56, 37.

(19) Obviously, the early phase of the play is alert to the importance of political divisions within medieval society. Peter G. Phialas emphasizes the significance of Edward III's kingship as a contrast to Richard's corruption of the office "The Medieval in Richard II," Shakespeare Quarterly 12 (1961): 305- 10. More recently, Graham Holderness has argued that the play depicts the distinctive political ethos of feudal society, defining the traditional social values violated by Richard as "a feudalism given cohesion and structure by the central authority of a king bound to his subjects by the reciprocal bonds of fealty" Shakespeare Recycled: The Making of Historical Drama (Hertfordshire: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992), p. 64.

(20) In terms of the 1352 treason act and subsequent Elizabethan legal practice-see below, note 28--such speculation could amount to a traitorous `imagining' of a harmful act against the monarch, a feature that confirms Gaunt's break with orthodox loyalties.

(21) As has been observed, this is a powerful constitutional statement of the necessity for a law-centered monarchy where it is the law from which the king's power derives and he is to rule according to it see Donna B. Hamilton, "The State of Law in Richard II," Shakespeare Quarterly 34 (1983): 5-17.

(22) In an (unconscious) acknowledgment of the equivocal implications of this scene, Leonard Tennenhouse asserts that Bolingbroke "arrests Bushy and Green on charges of treason for assaulting the king's [that is, Richard's] body" see his Power on Display: The politics of Shakespeare's genres (London: Methuen, 1986), 80. The rhetorical emphasis, however, is undoubtedly on their offenses against Bolingbroke. Tennenhouse's general observation on the political process represented in Shakespeare's history plays helps illuminate Bolingbroke's attitude toward treason: "Together these chronicle history plays demonstrate, then, that authority goes to the contender who can seize hold of the symbols and signs legitimizing authority and wrest them from his rivals to make them serve his own interests" Power on Display, p. 83.

(23) The political implications of Bolingbroke's equivocal speech may well have carried more charge to an Elizabethan audience Steven Mullaney discerns a widespread cultural sensitivity to ambiguous speech--"the figure of treason itself"--as symptomatic of a politically disordered subject see his "Lying Like Truth: Riddle, Representation and Treason in Renaissance England," English Literary History 47 (1980): 32-47. Patricia Parker makes a similar argument in interpreting the "motivated rhetoric" of, among other texts, Thomas Wilson's manual of logic, The Rule of Reason (1551): "The `doubtfulnesse' of words--their capability of being `twoo waies taken'--not only undermines reason's `rule' but may lead to specious and politically dangerous "consequentes" based on the transport of words outside an acceptable range of regulated meaning" Parker, Literary Fat Ladies: Rhetoric, Gender, Property (London: Methuen, 1987), 100.

(24) The relationship between Bolingbroke's making relative static assumptions and the command this demonstrates can again be illuminated by analogy to the form and content of Machiavelli's writing, interpreted by Victoria Kahn as a "sophisticated rhetorical strategy, the aim of which is to destabilize or dehypostatize our conception of political virtue, for only a destabilized virtu can be effective in the destabilized world of political reality" Machiavellian Rhetoric, p. 25.

(25) See, for example, Mary, Queen of Scot's shrewd observation on the prejudicial nature of her trial: "being already condemned by forejudgings, to give some shew and colour of a just and legal proceeding," William Cobbett and Thomas Howell, eds. Cobbett's Complete Collection of State Trials (London, 1809), 2:1169-70.

(26) Cunningham, "Female Fidelities on Trial," esp. 2-4.

(27) Maus, "Proof and Consequences," 24.

(28) Subsequent quotations are from State Trials 2:1315-34. For an insightful account of the legal procedures involved in proving treacherous interiority, see Karen Cunningham, "`A Spanish heart in an English body': The Ralegh treason trial and the poetics of proof,"Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 22 (1992): 327-51.

(29) Breight, "Treason doth never prosper," 3-5.

(30) An admonition to the nobility and people of England and Ireland (1588), sigs. [A5.sup.v]-[A6.sub.r]. For a detailed study of Elizabethan Catholicism, see Peter Holmes, Resistance and Compromise: The Political Thought of the Elizabethan Catholics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), esp. 129-65.

(31) The historie of the princesse Elizabeth (1630), trans. R. Norton, sigs. [Eee3.sup.r+v].

(33) W.F. Bolton notes that Aumerle's figurative response to Bagot's accusation--"mine honour soil'd / With the attainder of his slanderous lips" (4.1.23-24 italics added)--refers to the legal consequences of accusation (that is, the extinction of rights and capacities that followed the sentencing of a traitor), see, "Ricardian Law Reports and Richard II," Shakespeare Studies 20 (1988): 53-66, 59-60.

(34) Holinshed's Chronicles, 2:862-63.

(35) Sheldon P. Zitner, "Aumerle's Conspiracy," Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 14 (1974): 236-57. John Halverson argues that the tone of the whole play is more satirical and absurd than has been registered "The Lamentable Comedy of Richard II," English Literary Renaissance 24 (1994): 343-69.

(36) In relation to the unsettling effect of this, compare Craig Bernthal's perceptive remarks on the conflict over treason between Thumpe and Horner in 2 Henry VI, as embodying "the disquieting reality that people are not safe to speak their minds even in their own homes, that loyalty to the family and loyalty to the state are in fact at odds, and that, while a state cannot exist without stability in the family, the state's very efforts to purge itself of treason could undermine the harmony of family life and, in the long run, the state itself" "Treason in the Family," p. 50.

(37) "`A liberal tongue': Language and Rebellion in Richard II," in Shakespeare's Universe: Renaissance Ideas and Conventions, ed. J. M. Mucciolo (Hants: Scolar Press, 1996), 37-51, 38. Norbrook reexamines the Essex circle's interest in the play's aristocratic constitutionalism and "the slow and painful process of formulating opposition" "Liberal Tongue," p. 41.

(38) "At a Crossroads of the Political Culture: The Essex Revolt, 1601," in Society, Politics and Culture: Studies in Early Modern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986): 416-65, 421.

(39) Robert Lacey, Robert, Earl of Essex: An Elizabethan Icarus (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971), 261-62.

(40) In "`By the choise and inuitation of al the realme': Richard II and Elizabethan Press Censorship," Shakespeare Quarterly 48 (1997): 432-48, Cyndia Susan Clegg discusses the implications of Parson's treatise for the play, esp. 437-42.

(41) Hammer, "The Uses of Scholarship: The Secretariat of Robert Devereux, Second Earl of Essex," English Historical Review 109 (1994): 26-51, 31.

(42) Cited in Penry Williams, The Later Tudors: England, 1547-1603 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), 372.

DERMOT CAVANAGH is a Lecturer in English at the University of Northumbria at Newcastle upon Tyne. He is currently completing a book on "disorderly" language in the Tudor history play.

6. Wang Jingwei

Considered the greatest traitor in Chinese history, Wang Jingwei was born in 1883. When he turned 21, he went to school in Japan, where he encountered Sun-Yat Sen, a famous Chinese revolutionary. Under the influence of Sen, he began to participate in plots against the government, including an abortive assassination attempt on the Manchu Regent in Beijing.

Jang stayed in prison until the Wuchang uprising in 1911: after that time, Sun remained his mentor. Sun Yat-Sen’s Guangdong government rose to power in 1920: when Sun lay on his deathbed in 1925, Wang was his chosen successor. Wang could not hold onto power, however: Jiang Jieshi’s military faction usurped him the very same year.

When Nanjing fell to the Japanese in 1937, Wang began his traitorous dealings with the Japanese government, earning his place in history. He supported Japan’s plans for an armistice in a notorious telegram that led to his expulsion from the Chongqing government. When China was in crisis and needed him most, Jingwei took pains to ally with the Japanese and go along with its invaders. Wang died before he could witness the defeat of the Japanese by Allied forces in WWII.

Explorations in Medieval Culture

Koninklijke Brill NV,
P.O. Box 9000, 2300 PA Leiden, The Netherlands

A peer-reviewed book series that provides a forum for investigations of aspects of the medieval world from a textual and cultural perspective, using an interdisciplinary approach. This series examines a varied range of social and cultural issues like language, identity, monstrosity, gender, race, religion, injustice, medical treatment, death, and grief through the whole medieval period, ca. 600–1500, including early modern and modern medievalisms and responses to the Middle Ages. Innovative and interesting cultural and intertextual studies from all geographical regions of the medieval world are welcome. The series will contain monographs, edited volumes, and critical editions and other works of reference.

Managing Editor: Kate Hammond, Brill

Series Editor: Larissa Tracy, Longwood University
(Old and Middle English language and literature, Old Norse, Celtic Studies, gender, legal and social justice)

Editorial Board:
Tina Boyer, Wake Forest University
(Old and Middle High German, epics and romances, gender, monstrosity, popular culture)

Emma Campbell, University of Warwick (UK)
(M edieval French literature, translation, gender and sexuality, critical theory)

Kelly DeVries, Loyola Maryland
(Arms and armaments, military history, chivalry, medicine)

David F. Johnson, Florida State University
(Middle Dutch, Old English language and literature, History of the English Language, romance, Arthuriana)

Asa Simon Mittman, California State University, Chico
(Art History, Anglo-Saxon, maps, monstrosity, digital humanities, material culture)

Thea Tomaini, University of Southern California
(Early Modern literature, death, disinterment, oaths, ghosts)

Wendy Turner, Georgia Regents University
(History, mental health, learning disabilities, early science, castles and defense, law)

David Wacks, University of Oregon
(Iberia, Spanish, Catalan, Arabic, Hebrew, crusade literature, fictionality, Christian transformation of pagan traditions)

Renée Ward, University of Lincoln (UK)
( Middle English romance, monsters, outlaws, Arthuriana, violence, medievalism)

All queries and submissions should be sent to
Series Editor: [email protected] [email protected]

Style Sheets can be be downloaded as a pdf. EiMC Style Guidelines (Brill)

Sample timeline for producing/submitting edited collections: EiMC Timeline (Brill)

Published Titles

Wounds and Wound Repair in Medieval Culture (2015)
Edited by Larissa Tracy and Kelly DeVries

The spectacle of the wounded body figured prominently in the Middle Ages, from images of Christ’s wounds on the cross, to the ripped and torn bodies of tortured saints who miraculously heal through divine intervention, to graphic accounts of battlefield and tournament wounds—evidence of which survives in the archaeological record—and literary episodes of fatal (or not so fatal) wounds. This volume offers a comprehensive look at the complexity of wounding and wound repair in medieval literature and culture, bringing together essays from a wide range of sources and disciplines including arms and armaments, military history, medical history, literature, art history, hagiography, and archaeology across medieval and early modern Europe.
Contributors are Stephen Atkinson, Debby Banham, Albrecht Classen, Joshua Easterling, Charlene M. Eska, Carmel Ferragud, M.R. Geldof, Elina Gertsman, Barbara A. Goodman, Máire Johnson, Rachel E. Kellett, Ilana Krug, Virginia Langum, Michael Livingston, Iain A. MacInnes, Timothy May, Vibeke Olson, Salvador Ryan, William Sayers, Patricia Skinner, Alicia Spencer-Hall, Wendy J. Turner, Christine Voth, and Robert C. Woosnam-Savage.

The Giant Hero in Medieval Literature (monograph) (2016)
By Tina Marie Boyer

In The Giant Hero in Medieval Literature, Tina Boyer counters the monstrous status of giants by arguing that they are more broadly legible than traditionally believed. Building on an initial analysis of St. Augustine’s City of God, Bernard of Clairvaux’s deliberations on monsters and marvels, and readings in Tomasin von Zerclaere’s Welsche Gast provide insights into the spectrum of antagonistic and heroic roles that giants play in the courtly realm. This approach places the figure of the giant within the cultural and religious confines of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and allows an in-depth analysis of epics and romances through political, social, religious, and gender identities tied to the figure of the giant. Sources range from German to French, English, and Iberian works.

Between Sword and Prayer: Warfare and Medieval Clergy in Cultural Perspectives (2017)
Edited by Radosław Kotecki, Jacek Maciejewski, and John S. Ott

Between Sword and Prayer is a broad-ranging anthology focused on the involvement of medieval clergy in warfare and a variety of related military activities. The essays address, on the one hand, the issue of clerical participation in combat, in organizing military campaigns, and in armed defense, and on the other, questions surrounding the political, ideological, or religious legitimization of clerical military aggression. These perspectives are further enriched by chapters dealing with the problem of the textual representation of clergy who actively participated in military affairs. The essays in this volume span Latin Christendom, encompassing geographically the four corners of medieval Europe: Western, East-Central, Northern Europe, and the Mediterranean.
Contributors are Carlos de Ayala Martínez, Geneviève Bührer-Thierry, Chris Dennis, Pablo Dorronzoro Ramírez, Lawrence G. Duggan, Daniel Gerrard, Robert Houghton, Carsten Selch Jensen, Radosław Kotecki, Jacek Maciejewski, Ivan Majnarić, Monika Michalska, Michael Edward Moore, Craig M. Nakashian, John S. Ott, Katherine Allen Smith, and Anna Waśko.

Melusine’s Footprint: Tracing the Legacy of a
Medieval Myth
Edited by Misty Urban, Deva F. Kemmis, and Melissa Ridley Elmes

In Melusine’s Footprint: Tracing the Legacy of a Medieval Myth, editors Misty Urban, Deva Kemmis, and Melissa Ridley Elmes offer an invigorating international and interdisciplinary examination of the legendary fairy Melusine. Along with fresh insights into the popular French and German traditions, these essays investigate Melusine’s English, Dutch, Spanish, and Chinese counterparts and explore her roots in philosophy, folklore, and classical myth.
Combining approaches from art history, history, alchemy, literature, cultural studies, and medievalism, applying rigorous critical lenses ranging from feminism and comparative literature to film and monster theory, this volume brings Melusine scholarship into the twenty-first century with twenty lively and evocative essays that reassess this powerful figure’s multiple meanings and illuminate her dynamic resonances across cultures and time.
Contributors are Anna Casas Aguilar, Jennifer Alberghini, Frederika Bain, Anna-Lisa Baumeister, Albrecht Classen, Chera A. Cole, Tania M. Colwell, Zoë Enstone, Stacey L. Hahn, Deva F. Kemmis, Ana Pairet, Pit Péporté, Simone Pfleger, Caroline Prud’Homme, Melissa Ridley Elmes, Renata Schellenberg, Misty Urban, Angela Jane Weisl, Lydia Zeldenrust, and Zifeng Zhao.

Dealing With The Dead: Mortality and Community in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (2018)
Edited by Thea Tomaini

Death was a constant, visible presence in medieval and renaissance Europe. Yet, the acknowledgement of death did not necessarily amount to an acceptance of its finality. Whether they were commoners, clergy, aristocrats, or kings, the dead continued to function literally as integrated members of their communities long after they were laid to rest in their graves.
From stories of revenants bringing pleas from Purgatory to the living, to the practical uses and regulation of burial space from the tradition of the ars moriendi, to the depiction of death on the stage and from the making of martyrs, to funerals for the rich and poor, this volume examines how communities dealt with their dead as continual, albeit non-living members.
Contributors are Jill Clements, Libby Escobedo, Hilary Fox, Sonsoles Garcia, Stephen Gordon, Melissa Herman, Mary Leech, Nikki Malain, Kathryn Maud, Justin Noetzel, Anthony Perron, Martina Saltamacchia, Thea Tomaini, Wendy Turner, and Christina Welch

New Perspectives on Elite and Royal Households in
Medieval and Early Modern Europe
Edited by Theresa Earenfight

In this volume, the authors bring fresh approaches to the subject of royal and noble households in medieval and early modern Europe. The essays focus on the people of the highest social rank: the nuclear and extended royal family, their household attendants, noblemen and noblewomen as courtiers, and physicians. Themes include financial and administrative management, itinerant households, the household of an imprisoned noblewoman, blended households, and cultural influence. The essays are grounded in sources such as records of court ceremonial, economic records, letters, legal records, wills, and inventories. The authors employ a variety of methods, including prosopography, economic history, visual analysis, network analysis, and gift exchange, and the collection is engaged with current political, sociological, anthropological, gender, and feminist theories.

Trauma in Medieval Society
Edited by Wendy J. Turner and Christina Lee

Trauma in Medieval Society is an edited collection of articles from a variety of scholars on the history of trauma and the traumatized in medieval Europe. Looking at trauma as a theoretical concept, as part of the literary and historical lives of medieval individuals and communities, this volume brings together scholars from the fields of archaeology, anthropology, history, literature, religion, and languages.

The collection offers insights into the physical impairments from and psychological responses to injury, shock, war, or other violence—either corporeal or mental. From biographical to socio-cultural analyses, these articles examine skeletal and archival evidence as well as literary substantiation of trauma as lived experience in the Middle Ages.
Contributors are Carla L. Burrell, Sara M. Canavan, Susan L. Einbinder, Michael M. Emery, Bianca Frohne, Ronald J. Ganze, Helen Hickey, Sonja Kerth, Jenni Kuuliala, Christina Lee, Kate McGrath, Charles-Louis Morand Métivier, James C. Ohman, Walton O. Schalick, III, Sally Shockro, Patricia Skinner, Donna Trembinski, Wendy J. Turner, Belle S. Tuten, Anne Van Arsdall, and Marit van Cant.

Imagined Communities: Constructing Collective
Identities in Medieval Europe
Edited by Andrzej Pleszczyński, Joanna Sobiesiak, Karol Szejgiec, Michał Tomaszek, Tomasz Tarczyński, and Przemysław Tyczka

Imagined Communities: Constructing Collective Identities in Medieval Europe offers a series of studies focusing on the problems of conceptualisation of social group identities, including national, royal, aristocratic, regional, urban, religious, and gendered communities. The geographical focus of the case studies presented in this volume range from Wales and Scotland, to Hungary and Ruthenia, while both narrative and other types of evidence, such as legal texts, are drawn upon. What emerges is how the characteristics and aspirations of communities are exemplified and legitimised through the presentation of the past and an imagined picture of present. By means of its multiple perspectives, this volume offers significant insight into the medieval dynamics of collective mentality and group consciousness.
Contributors are Dániel Bagi, Mariusz Bartnicki, Zbigniew Dalewski, Georg Jostkleigrewe, Bartosz Klusek, Paweł Kras, Wojciech Michalski, Martin Nodl, Andrzej Pleszczyński, Euryn Rhys Roberts, Stanisław Rosik, Joanna Sobiesiak, Karol Szejgiec, Michał Tomaszek, Tomasz Tarczyński, Przemysław Tyszka, Tatiana Vilkul, and Przemysław Wiszewski.

The Faces of Charisma: Image, Text, Object in Byzantium and the Medieval West
Edited by Brigitte M. Bedos-Rezak and Martha Rust

In Image, Text, Object in Byzantium and the Medieval West: The Faces of Charisma, a multi-disciplinary group of scholars advances the theory that charisma may be a quality of art as well as of person. Beginning with the argument that Weberian charisma of person is itself a matter of representation, this volume shows that to study charismatic art is to experiment with a theory of representation that allows for the possibility of nothing less than a breakdown between art and viewer and between art and lived experience. The volume examines charismatic works of literature, visual art, and architecture from England, Northern Europe, Italy, Greece, and Constantinople and from time periods ranging from antiquity to the beginning of the early modern period.
Contributors are Joseph Salvatore Ackley, Paul Binski, Paroma Chatterjee, Andrey Egorov, Erik Gustafson, Duncan Hardy, Stephen Jaeger, Jacqueline E. Jung, Lynsey McCulloch, Martino Rossi Monti, Gavin Richardson, and Andrew Romig.

Treason: Medieval and Early Modern Adultery,
Betrayal, and Shame
Edited By Larissa Tracy

The willingness to betray one’s country, one’s people, one’s family—to commit treason and foreswear loyalty to one entity by giving it to another—is a difficult concept for many people to comprehend. Yet, societies have grappled with treason for centuries the motivations, implications, and consequences are rarely clear cut and are often subjective. Set against the framework of modern political concerns, Treason: Medieval and Early Modern Adultery, Betrayal, and Shame considers the various forms of treachery in a variety of sources, including literature, historical chronicles, and material culture creating a complex portrait of the development of this high crime. Larissa Tracy artfully brings together younger critics as well as seasoned scholars in a compelling and topical conversation on treason.
Contributors are Frank Battaglia, Dianne Berg, Tina Marie Boyer, Albrecht Classen, Sam Claussen, Freddy C. Domínguez, Melissa Ridley Elmes, Ana Grinberg, Iain A. MacInnes, Inna Matyushina, Sally Shockro, Susan Small, Peter Sposato, Sarah J. Sprouse, Daniel Thomas, and Larissa Tracy.

Remembering the Medieval Present: Generative Uses of England’s Pre-Conquest Past, 10th to 15th Centuries
Edited by Brian O’Camb and Jay Paul Gates

This volume of essays focuses on how individuals living in the late tenth through fifteenth centuries engaged with the authorizing culture of the Anglo-Saxons. Drawing from a reservoir of undertreated early English documents and texts, each contributor shows how individual poets, ecclesiasts, legists, and institutions claimed Anglo-Saxon predecessors for rhetorical purposes in response to social, cultural, and linguistic change. Contributors trouble simple definitions of identity and period, exploring how medieval authors looked to earlier periods of history to define social identities and make claims for their present moment based on the political fiction of an imagined community of a single, distinct nation unified in identity by descent and religion.
Contributors are Cynthia Turner Camp, Irina Dumitrescu, Jay Paul Gates, Erin Michelle Goeres, Mary Kate Hurley, Maren Clegg Hyer, Nicole Marafioti, Brian O’Camb, Kathleen Smith, Carla María Thomas, Larissa Tracy, and Eric Weiskott.

Books Under Contract

Grief and Gender in the Middle Ages
Edited by Lee Templeton

Cross-Cultural Charlemagne in the Middle Ages
Edited by Jace Stuckey

Law | Book | Culture in the Early and High Middle Ages
Edited by Thomas Gobbitt

Horses Across the Medieval World
Edited by Anastasija Ropa and Timothy Dawson

Rethinking Medieval Ireland and Beyond: Lifecycles, Landscapes and Settlements
Edited by Victoria L. McAlister, with Linda Shine

Kids Those Days: Children in Medieval Culture
Edited by Lahney Preston-Matto and Mary A. Valante

Peter Damian, The Book of Gomorrah, and Alain de Lille, The Plaint of Nature: New Translations from the Latin
Edited and Translated by David Rollo

Germans and Poles in the Middle Ages: The Perception of the ‘Other’ and the Presence of Mutual Stereotypes
Edited by Grischa Vercamer and Andrzej Pleszczyński

Byzantine Satire
Edited by Przemyslaw T. Marciniak and Ingela Nilsson

CFPs for Collections
Current CFPs for edited collections under consideration can be found here. Questions should be directed to the volume editor:

Painful Pleasures: Sado-masochism in Medieval Culture
Ed. Christopher T. Vaccaro
This interdisciplinary collection brings together essays that engage rigorously with manifestations of sadistic and masochistic impulses in medieval culture. Such impulses may be implicit in the functioning of institutions and embedded within the very framework of pre-modern European culture. We are especially interested in interdisciplinary and transcultural studies, as well as those that incorporate the disciplines of law, history, sociology, archaeology, folklore, theology, art history
Relevant topics include but are not limited the following:
Expressions of sado-masochistic sex and/or love
Penitence and Penitentials
Roles and role reversals
Please submit abstracts (250-500 words) or complete essays (7,000-10,000 words including references) to Christopher T. Vaccaro at [email protected]

Meditations on Sin and Sanctity in the Old French Vie des pères
Ed. Karen (Casey) Casebier
La Vie des pères is a 13 th -century collection of contes pieux that demonstrates two distinct paradigms of medieval holiness. The earliest tales date from the early 13 th -century, and highlight the importance of confession, repentance and salvation whereas later additions in the mid-to-late 13 th -century include a number of miracle tales that emphasize the role of grace in salvation. While it seems evident that both messages resonate with sinners, some tales in the collection emphasize the piety of hermits and other characters, such as converted Saracens and Jews, while other stories underscore the more salacious aspects of hagiography, such as the temptation of holy men and women, pre-conversion lives of sin, or spectacular falls from grace. Indeed, the dual focus on sin and sanctity suggests that the spiritual edification of the reader is enhanced or encouraged by the promise of narratives whose exempla recall those found in secular entertainment.

Nonetheless, La Vie des pères is an eclectic collection of tales whose edifying message targets a wide audience, from the popular to the erudite. Although some miracles and hagiographical accounts represent the most popular variants of these tales, and are featured in more popular devotional collections such as Gautier de Coinci’s Miracles de Nostre Dame, others reveal a high degree of originality and deviate sharply from other known variants. This volume seeks to examine the context of La Vie des pères in relationship to other works of devotional literature, the novelty or banality of its variants, and its role in shaping popular notions of sin and sanctity in religious literature and medieval culture throughout the two principal stages of its composition.

Abstracts from all disciplines of medieval studies are welcome and interdisciplinary approaches are especially encouraged. Potential topics on the multiple perspectives of sin and sanctity expressed throughout La Vie des pères include (but are not limited to):

Manuscript production, ownership and use
Art History and the iconography of sin and sanctity
Genre Studies and Comparative Literature
Gender Studies and the gendered expression of holiness
Identity Studies and marginalized characters
Eco-criticism and/or Urban Studies
Religious Studies, Philosophy and/or History

Prince of Darkness?

History's verdict is damning. At the height of the Hundred Years' War, the Black Prince, heir to the English throne, ordered the massacre of 3,000 innocents in the French city of Limoges. It was, we're told, the act of a black-hearted brute, a callous mass-murderer. But, writes Michael Jones, new evidence has come to light that suggests the Black Prince's reputation has been besmirched for a crime that he didn't commit.

This competition is now closed

Published: August 13, 2017 at 11:54 am

On 19 September 1370 an English army drew up outside the French city of Limoges. A formidable fighting force of 4,000 men, it had been bombarding the city and undermining its walls for five days. Now, with a section of the ramparts weakened, it was ready to strike. “A large part of the wall collapsed, filling in the ditch,” wrote the chronicler Jean Froissart. “The English watched with eager anticipation, lined up in formation as they prepared to storm the city… They rushed its defences, broke through the main gate and started to slay the inhabitants, indiscriminately – as they had been ordered to.”

According Froissart, the man who gave these brutal orders was Edward III’s eldest son, Edward, Prince of Wales and Aquitaine, known to posterity as the Black Prince. “It was a terrible thing,” the chronicler continued. “Men, women and children cast themselves on their knees before the prince, begging for mercy, but he was so overcome with anger and an all-consuming desire for revenge, that he listened to no one. All were put to the sword, wherever they were found.”

Froissart concluded: “There was not that day in Limoges any heart so hardened, no one possessed of even a shred of pity, who was not deeply affected by the events taking place before them. Upwards of 3,000 citizens were put to death that day. God have mercy on their souls, for they were truly martyrs.”

It is a heartrending depiction – one that has become infamous in the annals of medieval warfare. Jean Froissart, the foremost chronicler of his age, was a passionate admirer of the code of chivalry, values that encouraged a warrior to show mercy towards the defeated. In contrast, what happened at Limoges appeared a descent into savagery. Froissart’s account left a permanent stain on the prince’s reputation. From the early 16th century he was described as the ‘Black Prince’, and the epithet stuck. Some suggested this might refer to the colour of his armour or heraldic accoutrements for others, black deeds in the war in France offered a more plausible explanation.

Was the Black Prince really a prince of darkness? A medieval commander was entitled, under the laws of war of the time, to sack a city that refused reasonable terms of surrender. Other contemporary sources – including a local chronicler of Limoges, and the Chandos Herald, who wrote an account of the prince’s life – confirm the sack took place. But they put the number of casualties at 300, a tenth of the figure given by Froissart. A recent discovery of a letter of the prince’s, written three days after his capture of the city, contains no mention of a wholesale slaughter of inhabitants. Froissart’s account needs to be tested against a range of documentary material, including new discoveries in the French archives.

Stunning victories

The sack of Limoges took place during the Hundred Years’ War, which had begun in 1337 with Edward III claiming the throne of France in the right of his mother, Isabella. Stunning victories at Crécy, in 1346, and Poitiers, in 1356, put the English in a commanding position and in 1360 they concluded a most advantageous peace treaty at Brétigny. Under its terms, the Black Prince received the principality of Aquitaine, in south-western France, to govern in his own right.

The Black Prince made his entrée on the European stage a war hero. He won his spurs at the age of 16, fighting with distinction at Crécy 10 years later he commanded the force that won the stunning triumph at Poitiers, capturing the French king, Jean II. Jean Froissart was impressed by the prince’s skill in battle and by his gallant treatment of his French prisoners in its aftermath. The chronicler’s admiration increased when, as ruler of Aquitaine, the prince set up a magnificent court, entrancing all who visited it. But by 1370 the picture had soured.

The turning point was a campaign in northern Spain, undertaken by the prince in 1367, to restore the exiled ruler, Pedro of Castile, to his throne. In military terms, it was a success, with the Black Prince gaining another striking triumph at Nájera (against the rival claimant Enrique of Trastamara).

In political terms, though, it was a disaster. Pedro reneged on his debts, and the prince left Spain out of pocket, his army riven by dysentery. In an attempt to recoup his losses, he imposed a property tax – the fouage – upon Aquitaine, which drove a number of its noblemen into open revolt. They appealed to the new French king, Charles V, and in the summer of 1369 war broke out once more.

The Black Prince was now a shadow of his former self. Suffering from a serious illness (possibly dysentery), which left him bedridden for months at a time, he lacked the money and manpower to effectively resist the French. Parts of his principality of Aquitaine began to defect to Charles V.

Amid these reverses, in late August 1370 he learnt that Limoges had gone over to the enemy through the treachery of the city’s bishop, Jean de Cros (a man who had previously stood as godfather to his eldest son). Froissart described the prince responding with a vindictive outburst of temper: “When news was brought… that Limoges had become French he fell into a violent rage…

He swore upon the soul of his father, which he had never perjured, that he would have the city back again… and that he would make the inhabitants pay dearly for their treachery.”

Hostile voices

Froissart is unreliable as a historical source. In the 1360s the chronicler had benefited from English patronage, and visited the prince in Aquitaine shortly before his ill-fated Spanish expedition. But after the death of Edward III’s queen, Philippa of Hainault, in August 1369, Froissart returned to France and the Low Countries, securing the patronage of Guy de Châtillon, Count of Blois, a partisan of Charles V. If the chronicler was privy to any testimony about the sack of Limoges, it was only from voices hostile to the prince.

Documentary evidence presents a very different picture of the campaign. On 1 July 1370 the prince determined on a new way of waging war. In contrast to Froissart’s account, it was one of clemency and persuasion rather than threat and intimidation – and the details were set out on the Gascon rolls, part of the administrative records of his principality:

“It has been decided that he [the prince] should be able to admit and receive into the king’s peace and grace those who have left his obedience – whether through the persuasion of the king’s enemies or of their own free will – who now wish to return to his allegiance, pardoning their crimes, even the most serious, and restoring their privileges. While it is sometimes justifiable to punish such actions through the exercise of royal authority, it is also, on occasions, right to temper such a policy with leniency.”

Froissart does not seem to have ever visited Limoges, and he had little knowledge of its geography. He was unaware that the city was divided into two parts: the prosperous château district, on the higher ground, dominated by the castle and abbey and the poorer cité, composed of the cathedral, bishop’s palace, smaller churches and humble dwellings, controlled by the bishop. The château district – where most of the city’s population lived – remained loyal to the prince in August 1370, and refused to admit the French the cité only did so with extreme reluctance.

Newly discovered material from French archives shows that a draft surrender agreement between the bishop, Jean de Cros, and John, Duke of Berry (the younger brother of Charles V) was jettisoned because not enough citizens had put their names to it. One chronicler even reported that the bishop resorted to subterfuge, falsely claiming that the Black Prince had suddenly died of illness, to persuade the reluctant cathedral chapter to allow Berry’s soldiers into the cité.

Welcoming committee

The Black Prince’s army arrived outside Limoges on 14 September 1370, the prince watching proceedings from a stretcher. His troops were welcomed into the château, while the inhabitants of the cité, realising they had been duped, opened negotiations with the besiegers. On 19 September, while the prince’s soldiers attacked the weakened city walls, distracting the French garrison, a body of citizens made their way to the main gate, raised the banner of France and England in a pre-arranged signal, and flung it open.

This dramatic sequence of events is revealed in a law suit held before the Paris Parlement on 10 July 1404 between two merchants of Limoges (Bizé versus Bayard). Bizé’s lawyer described the part played by his opponent’s father, Jacques Bayard, in assisting the English to regain the city 30 years earlier: “Bayard’s father, a poor man and a furrier, accompanied by other furriers, took and carried the banner of the English to the main gate, where he was captured by the captain of the garrison, who then beheaded him.”

The Parlement evidence reveals a very different story of the sack of Limoges. As English troops flooded into the cité, the enraged French garrison killed those inhabitants who had let them in, fired the houses around them and retreated towards the bishop’s palace. There was indeed a massacre (numbering hundreds not thousands) but it was conducted by the French, not the English.

Two vital documents support such a scenario. In a grant to the cathedral chapter, giving them possession of the cité, the prince clearly stated: “Understanding that as a result of the treason of their bishop, the clergy and inhabitants of the cité suffered grievous losses to their bodies and possessions, and endured much hardship… we do not wish to see them further punished as accomplices to this crime, when the fault lay clearly with the bishop and they had nothing to do with it…We therefore declare them pardoned and quit of all charges of rebellion, treason and forfeiture.”

The captain of the French garrison of Limoges, Jean de Villemur, was widely praised by Valois chroniclers for his courage during the siege. But, on his release from captivity, Charles V revoked all his land grants and confiscated his possessions. In January 1375, Villemur, living in a state of abject poverty, petitioned the French king. But despite being an able soldier, he never received another military command. Villemur’s stern punishment suggests that Charles V held him responsible for the killing of Limoges’s inhabitants, and would not forgive him for it.

Froissart’s highly coloured account of the sack of Limoges has held sway in our imagination for too long. The Black Prince returned to England shortly afterwards and his last years were overshadowed by illness. He died on 8 June 1376 aged 45, and when news of his passing reached the Valois court, Charles V held a most solemn memorial mass for him. This was an unprecedented honour – and it would hardly have been accorded to a man who had recently massacred 3,000 French civilians. It is time to remove this unwarranted stain on his reputation.

Michael Jones is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. His new biography of the Black Prince is published by Head of Zeus this month.

Punishment for Treason

English common law took treason to the crown very seriously, assigning the penalty of death by beheading, after the traitor had been drawn and quartered. Modern law still views treason against the U.S. government with a harsh eye, though torture has never been a valid punishment on U.S. soil.

According to the Constitution, Congress has the authority to set punishment for treason, though it cannot impose penalties beyond the traitor’s life. This is specified because, in historic England, someone convicted of treason was considered to be dead to the eyes of the law, thus nullifying his claim to personal and real property, even to the detriment of his descendants. In the United States, Congress has no such power, though it may sentence a traitor to the death penalty.

Modern law on treason, found in U.S. Code Title 18, Part I, Chapter 115, Section 2381, states:

“Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000 and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”


n. the crime of betraying one's country, defined in Article III, section 3 of the U. S. Constitution: "Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort." Treason requires overt acts and includes the giving of government security secrets to other countries, even if friendly, when the information could harm American security. Treason can include revealing to an antagonistic country secrets such as the design of a bomber being built by a private company for the Defense Department. Treason may include "espionage" (spying for a foreign power or doing damage to the operation of the government and its agencies, particularly involved in security) but is separate and worse than "sedition" which involves a conspiracy to upset the operation of the government. (See: sedition, espionage)