Thursday, February 11, 2010

Scrope v. Grosvenor

The English lawsuit, Scrope v. Grosvenor has a prominent place in the history of heraldry, since a record of the case before the court of chivalry has been preserved. I am going to be lazy and reproduce part of the Wikipedia entry, mainly because I couldn't do better myself:

In 1385, King Richard II of England invaded Scotland with his army. During this invasion, two of the king’s knights realized that they were using the same coat of arms. Richard Scrope, 1st Baron Scrope of Bolton from Bolton in Yorkshire and Sir Robert Grosvenor from Cheshire were both bearing arms blazoned Azure a Bend Or. When Scrope brought an action, Grosvenor maintained that his ancestor had come to England with William the Conqueror bearing these arms and that the family had borne them since. The case was brought before a military court and presided over by the constable of England. Several hundred witnesses were heard and these included John of Gaunt, King of Castile and Duke of Lancaster and Geoffrey Chaucer and a then-little known Welshman called Owain Glyndŵr. It was not until 1389 that the case was finally decided in Scrope’s favor. Grosvenor was allowed to continue bearing the arms within a bordure argent for difference. Neither party was happy with the decision, so when King Richard II gave his personal verdict on 27 May 1390 he confirmed that Grosvenor could not bear the differenced arms. His opinion was that these two shields were too similar for unrelated families in the same country to bear.


Unfortunately, it is not easy to get beyond modern summaries of this sort. The last time a record of the case was printed was 1832, and the book seems to be very rare; the University of Toronto's copy is on microfilm, with all the inconvenience and lack of readability that that implies. Today, however, it occurred to me that it might be on Google Books, a resource that is extremely useful for out of copyright materials.

At the moment, only half of the two volume work is available on preview. Maybe volume 1 (probably Stanford University's copy) was too beat up to be scanned? Volume 1, I am sad to say, has the actual transcript of the trial -- which I recall was in Latin -- but volume 2 which is a history of a family of Scrope contains a lot of information, and includes short biographies of the witnesses at the trial (who attested to where they had seen the arms borne by the two principals). Somebody out there might be very interested in this material.

4 comments:

  1. It's an interesting trial, yes! In the line of heraldic histories, are you familiar with this article from just a few years back:

    Peter R. Moore, "The Heraldic Charge Against the Earl of Surrey, 1546-47." English Historical Review 116 (June, 2001): 557-583.

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  2. Is the text a thing you need? Cambridge UL seems to have a copy, I could find some time to go and transcribe if so. Or order a few photocopies to deliver at Kalamazoo or sooner if that would be better!

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  3. Six of the depositions are translated here:

    http://www.courses.fas.harvard.edu/~chaucer/special/lifemann/scropetrial/index.html

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  4. 10th,

    Thanks for the offer but I have no immediate need. I am hoping that one of these days the whole thing will be available to anyone who wants it.

    Will, thanks to you as well.

    Janice, I will look it up.

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