“THE MEMORY OF KING RICHARD STILL LAID LIKE LEES AT THE BOTTOM OF MENS HEARTS’ Sir Francis Bacon
Entry from the York City House book…’King Richard late mercifully reigning upon us was thrugh grete treason of the duc of Northefolk and many othre that turned ayenst hyme, with many othre lordes and nobilles of this north parties, was pitiously slain and murdred to the grey hevynesse of this citie’ (1)
“The memory of King Richard was so strong it laid like lees at the bottom of mens hearts and if the vessels were once stirred it would come up’…thus wrote Francis Bacon in his History Of Henry VII. He was writing about the North Of England, particularly Yorkshire and Durham but no doubt this could have applied in particular to the City of York and its stout citizens although of course, in many other places memories of the good and fair reign of King Richard still endured but lies unrecorded.
However York’s constancy to Richard’s memory has been well documented and snippets can be found in the surviving York House Books. In the aftermath of Bosworth it was recorded that “Tudor”‘s messenger , Sir Roger Cotam, was so in fear of his life to enter the city – despite the offer of a gift of ‘ii.gallons of wyne’ – that it was thought prudent that the ‘maire and his brethe shuld goo unto him’ instead. Which they did, meeting with the snivelling coward at the ‘sign of the boore’. Shame on you Sir Roger (2)
This affection and loyalty for Richard dates from the time he was Duke of Gloucester…
24 June 1482
John Davyson, a tailor, was sent to appear before the Mayor, Richerd Yorke. Davyson said he and others had heard Master William Melrig say that he, in turn, had heard Master Roger Brere say regarding ‘my lorde of Gloucestr’ ‘What myght he do for the city? Nothing bot grin for us’ (2). Oh dearie me, big mistake Master Roger! As Shakespeare was later to write “Give thy thoughts no tongue’ especially if they are daft. Melrig was sent for that very day and demands made as to what seditious words he had ‘at any time’ heard Master Roger utter against Gloucestr. Whether in truth or to pour oil on troubled waters Melrigh replied ‘noon’. The words ‘Nothing bot grin for us’ were repeated to him in an attempt to jog his memory. But Melrig stuck to his story…deftly batting the ball back into their court by assuring them he would not have stood for such words to be used unchallenged against the Duke. And that ended the matter. The truth is lost in time but begs the question did Master Roger utter those word or was a lie made up knowing that a very dim view would be taken over such utterances and would land him in deep and muddy waters?
Tellingly, years later, it was still remained hazardous to malign Richard, for on the 14 May 1491 an argument between a man called John Payntour and a schoolmaster William Burton (Burtan) was recorded in the Municipal Records. Payntour alleged he had heard the said Master Burton call Richard ‘an ypocryte’ and furthermore a ‘crochebake’ and who had ended up buried in a ditch ‘like a Dogge’. John Payntour, skilfully avoided getting into trouble with the new King (clearly it was not wise to be seen to stick up for Richard too stoutly) by adding that Burton had lied, obviously, because ‘the Kynges (Tudor) good grace had beried hym like a noble gentilman’! (3). Take it outta that Master William! I really, really like the sound of this man, Payntour, who earlier, in 1490, had to deny slandering the Earle of Northumberland by saying he was a traitor who had betrayed King Richard. . Kudos to you John Payntour and I hope, when you finally popped your clogs, you got to join good King Richard in Heaven…
The medieval Guild Hall in York where Richard and his consort Anne Neville were entertained at a great banquet in 1483.
Finally here are a selection of artworks, which I find preferable to photographs for catching the ethos of Old York from the time of King Richard, John Davyson, William Melrig, Roger Bere and the indomitable John Payntour. Their names live on…
Petergate, York. A painting by C Monkhouse 1849
Monk Bar. William Etty date unknown.
Bootham Bar..Anonymous c.1800
The Shambles Ernest Haslehurst 1920
Bootham Bar and the Minster c.1920 Noel Harry Leaver
The York House Books in two volumes. Editor Dr Lorraine C Atreed.
- York House Books Vol.1. p368.9 Edited Lorraine C Atreed
- Ibid Vol.2 p734
- Ibid vol .2 p707
- York Records: Extracts from the Municipal Records of the City of York 1843. R Davies.pp220.221