Saturday, June 14, 2008

What the sources say about the golden angel

With help from Will McLean and Google I am able to post what contemporary writers said about the golden angel which took part in Richard II's coronation.

First, the chronicler Thomas Walsingham, with what is supposed to be straight reportage:

The city was in every way most richly adorned, and the conduits ran with wine for three hours. In the upper end of the Cheap was erected a castle with four towers ; on two sides of which ran forth wine abundantly. In the towers were placed four beautiful virgins, of stature and age like to the King, apparelled in white vestures; these damsels, on the King's approach, blew in his face leaves of gold, and threw on him and his horse counterfeit golden florins. When he was come before the castle, they took cups of gold, and filling them with wine at the spouts of the castle, presented the same to the King and his nobles. On the top of the castle, betwixt the towers, stood a golden angel, holding a crown in his hands ; and so contrived, that, when the King came, he bowed down and offered him the crown.

William Langland, a poet, seems to include this scene (argues Scott Lightsey's Manmade Marvels) in an allegorical/fantastic view of the kingdom in Piers Ploughman,:

Then looked up a lunatic · a lean thing withal,
And kneeling before the king well speaking said:
`Christ keep thee sir King · and thy kingdom,
And grant thee to rule the realm · so Loyalty may love thee,
And for thy rightful ruling · be rewarded in heaven.'
Then in the air on high · an angel of heaven
Stooped and spoke in Latin · for simple men could not
Discuss nor judge · that which should justify them,
But should suffer and serve · therefore said the angel:

`Sum Rex, sum Princeps: neutram fortasse deinceps;
O qui jura regis Christi specialia regis, hoc quod agas melius Justus es,
esto pius!
Nudum jus a te vestiri vult pietate; qualia vis metere talia grand sere.
Si jus nudatur nudo de jure metatur; si seritur pietas de pietate
metas.'
Then an angry buffoon · a glutton of words,
To the angel on high · answered after:
`Dum rex a regere dicatur nomen habere,
Nomen habet sine re nisi studet jura tenere.'
Then began all the commons · to cry out in Latin,
For counsel of the king · construe how-so he would:
`Praecepta regis sunt nobis vincula legis.

I am not feeling confident enough in my Latin at the moment to translate those passages in their entirety, but it seems that this passage pits the angel and the rich commons of the kingdom (or the parliamentary Commons), who are anxious to give a pious king divine power, against buffoons and lunatics who say "Since the king (rex) gets his name from guiding (regere), he has that name to no purpose unless he strives to keep the law."

Hardly relevant to today's concerns, eh?

Update: Thanks to Scott Lightsey's book (p. 46), I can now include what the Anonimalle Chronicle says:

Set up in the middle of the Cheap stood tower of painted canvas, curiously constructed, over timber support-beams; about the tower were four turrets, in which stood four damsels, exceedingly lovely and beautifully arrayed, and these said damsels threw gold coins in the direction of the prince's coming. Within the said tower had also been built a small belfry, and on the belfry stood an angel bearing a golden crown holding it out towards the said prince, to do him comfort.

1 comment:

  1. That's certainly some food for thought!

    ReplyDelete