Here is the second in my series of Top 10’s. This one is focussing on Dominic Mancini’s account of the events of 1483. It’s a hugely problematical source, both in terms of Mancini himself, who spoke no English, had no grasp of English politics and very limited sources, and in terms of the current translation in use which often chooses weighted words to make Mancini’s account darker.
It’s a negative source, without a doubt, written for a French audience hostile to England and Richard III and gripped by their own minority succession crisis, but it’s also misused and misunderstood. Mancini explains that he has had his arm twisted by Angelo Cato to write the account, which he had not wished to commit to paper. Cato worked at the French court, so had his own agenda is seeking to make Richard and his England seem like a land of murderous monsters.
More than this, Mancini admits, when complaining about being brow beaten into writing his account, that he knows almost nothing for certain. He wrote ‘I indeed decided that I ought not to expatiate so freely in writing as in talking, for, although on your account I did not shrink from pains, yet I had not sufficiently ascertained the names of those to be described, the intervals of time, and the secret designs of men in this whole affair.’ He adds ‘Wherefore you should not expect from me the names of individual men and places, nor that this account should be complete in all details; rather shall it resemble the effigy of a man, which lacks some of the limbs, and yet a beholder delineates for himself a man’s form.’
If Mancini had visited Torquay in the 1970’s, he might have given Manuel a run for his money.
Thank you Mathew. As always a very thought provoking post and it is nice to see writers of history who actually evaluate sources within the culture and biases of their time. Who, What, When, and Why should be asked by us all to examine biases rather than simply taking a source of information at face value.
I have waited forever for someone to ‘catch’ the Mad War (La Guerre Folle) aspect that IS the reason for Cato sending Mancini (of all people, a bottom feeder low rent agent lol, okay, a perfectly nice cleric who writes poetry in Latin. Lovely.)
And he just happens to be sent by Louis XI’s top counselor to London, probably late summer 1482, about the same time Louis’ payments to Edward IV are ending, that too is curious but a topic for another day; the Treaty has expired – it was for 7 years – and Louis has dumped Elizabeth of York for the 2 year old Margaret of Austria as a bride for his feckless dauphin… and she just happens to bring with her the prized Artois and Franche-Comte as her dowry – yes, Cato would like to know what is being said in London after these humiliations.
As for not having English, well, Louis would have had sufficient spies already in place in London (and elsewhere) who were in the clergy, trade, physicians, visiting envoys, diplomats, scholars, etc – the only tidbit Matthew missed was in that same nonsense document that de Rochefort used at the Estates-General (11 Jan 1484) was a lengthy rant they recycled from the 1450’s by a Noel Frisebois, basically a tract illuminating all the heinous crimes committed by English kings in their families, pure propaganda, then, and doctored up again for the 1484 warning to the Estates- General, in Latin btw, and very conveniently forgetting their own problems! The French royal family had enough murder and assassination IN recent memory that this rant was meant to be a distraction much like the “look! a squirrel!” tactic used with dogs. Louis XI’s own father, when he was dauphin, had the Burgundian duke, John the Fearless (Jean sans Peur) murdered in cold blood, during a seemingly safe encounter to discuss peace options! This itself was in response to Jean’s horrific murder of the first Louis duc d’Orleans, pulled from his horse and savagely clubbed and stabbed by Jean’s henchmen. The whole of the 15thc was a morass of hatred within the French royal family! That first duc d’Orleans, it is his grandson who wanted to oust the dauphin in August 1483…. look at the date again.
Cato needed something to distract what was coming, the French did not allow for a queen, otherwise, Louis XI’s equally ruthless daughter, Anne de Beaujeu, would have simply picked up where her father left off (I consider her more malicious than her father btw, if Commynes can be believed, and he found himself swinging from an iron cage for supporting Louis d’Orleans rather than de Beaujeu!)
The Mad War would likely have started earlier, in the fall of 1483, but for the manufactured efforts of that report in January of 1484, which gave de Beaujeu all the ‘evidence’ she needed to support Tudor.
Kudo’s to Matthew Lewis, well done!
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