Written in Royston, this letter was delivered to Archbishop Thomas Bourchier in London while the king was on his way to Leicester. John Say delivered it at Watford, though not into the king’s hands as York hoped. This is a long letter, and pretty dense, so I’m posting it with a translation below. (Translation from British History online, Parliamentary Rolls, Henry VI, 1455. http://www.british-history.ac.uk)
As members of the Archbishop’s family were split between the king’s forces and York’s, it would have been in his interests to try and broker a peaceful end to the very tense situation.
The letter has been described as ‘propaganda’, which it was certainly used for after the fact. I don’t doubt, however, that the three lords were genuinely concerned about their safety should the meeting at Leicester go ahead without them. There was a flurry of letters during the days leading up to the first battle of St Albans, all intended for the eyes of the king and none of them (apparently) reaching him. York blamed Somerset for withholding them and, according to the Fastolf Relation, Buckingham admitted to Mowbray Herald that Henry hadn’t seen them. Whether anything would have changed had the king read the letters is, of course, impossible to know.
The letters were sent to various lords, Salisbury’s brother Fauconberg, the Archbishop and later, in a move that smacks of desperation, the earl of Devon. My feeling is that Ralph lord Cromwell was supposed to have been there to act as a voice for the Yorkist lords, but he didn’t quite make it to St Albans in time.
To the right revernd fadre in God, right worshipfull and with all oure hertes right entierly wellbelovyd cousyn, Thomas archiebishop of Caunterbury, and chauncellor of Englond.
Right reverend fader in God, right worshipfull and with all oure hertes right entierly welbelovyd cousin, we recommaunde us unto you. And for somuche as we here that a greet rumour and wondre is hadde of oure commyngm, and of the manere therof, toward the most noble presence of the kyng oure moost doubted soverain, and that by diverse persones such as of approved experience have not put thaim in such devoir to that tht might have avaunced the honour and prosperite of him, of this his noble reaume, and his people of the same, as accorded with theire trouthe and duetee, many doubtes and ambiguitees be thrawen to his magestee roiall and amonge the peeple, of oure trouth and duetee unto his highnesse: we havyng consideracion unto thoffice the heed of justice of this lande that ye occupie, notifie unto youre worthy faderhood and cousinage, that of oure said commyng, ner the manere therof, we entende not with Goddes grace to procede to any matier or thyng, other than with Goddes mercy shalbe to his plesure, the honour, prosperite and wele of oure said soveraine lord, his said land and people. Alwey kepyng oure throuthe to his said highnesse unspotted and unbrused, entendyng to drawe directly to gidres with you, and all other lordes of this lande, that be of such tendre zele and affeccion to the honour, prosperite and wele of our said said souveraine lord, his said reaume and people, as we hold undoubted ye bee, and blissed be God ye approve youre self to youre grete laude and worship, to the profite and uncolored groundes and conclusions of suche thinges as of reason mowe most spedely growe to the said honour and wele, and the good publique, restfull and politique rule and governaunce of his said lande and people, withoute any thyng takyng or presumyng upon oure self, withoute thavis and assent of you and of the said lordes; leiyng therefore a part oure owne particuler quarels, which we shall never preferre afore the duetee, trouth, love and affeccion, that we owne unto oure said soveraine lord, his said reaume and people. Over this like it you to wite, that we understond the callyng and stablysshing of the kynges counsail at his towne of Leycestre, toke the grounde by such as we conceyve caused thappointement thereof there, for suertee of his moost noble persone, which of common presumpcion implieth a mistrust to somme persones: we therfore his true and humbe liegement, have accompaigned us the better, to thentent to emploie us in such devoir as accordeth with oure deutee, to that we may be the suertee of his said most noble persone, wherin we woll neither spare our bodies ner goodes; and also to knowe whoo be had in jelosy of such mistrust, to the entent that we mowe procede to the subduyng of thaim beyng culpables of the thyng causyng such mistrust; or elles by the avise of your said faderhood and the said lordes, to remove the ambiguitee and the occasion o that same mistrust. We also understond what colerable and subtile meanes be made by oure enemies, holdyng thaim colorably aboute the seid mooste noble persone of oure said soveraine lord, of might of men and habilementes of werre have the more surely accompaigned us, to thentent that at oure commyng to his most high presence, we mowe be of power to kepe ourself oute of the daungier whereunto oure said enemies have neot secces to studie, labour and compasse to bryng us, such as in allewise we will eschewe with Goddes grace.
Item, for asmoche as we understonde that other lordes of this lande have be late sent fore, by the kynges commaundment under his lettres, to comen unto his counsail privately late called at Westmynstre, whereunto we have not been among the said lordes called, we conceyve a jelosy had ayenst us, wherof we purpose with Goddes grace to declare us, and to shewe us such as we bee in oure trouthe, duetee and ligeaunce to oure said soveraine lord, entendyng in all wyse to remove the said jelosy, which we woll eschewe to have liyng dormant upon us. Furthermore, we heryng the grete defaime and blaspheme thrawen ayenst us by oure seid ennemies of oure said commyng, require you on Goddes behalf, and of the feith and trouth that ye owe unto oure said soveraine lord, on his behalf also require you, and on oure owene exhorte and pray you, that ye standyng the fadre and metropolitan of the chirche of Englond, wol at oure request make oute with all possible diligence the censures of the chirche, to be opened and leied at the crosse of Seint Paule within the cittee of London, and thurgh all the parties of this land, in as rigorous and timorouse manere as the chirche wol suffre it, uppon and ayenst all thaim that entende any untrouth, prejudice, hurt or derogacion ayenst thestate, prosperite and welfare of oure said soveraine lord, his said land and people, it wol like you to shewe and ministre until his high excellence, and to the lordes of his counsail, makyng oure said entent to be shewed to all other to whom it apperteigneth by youre wiscome, for the removyng and overthrawyng of the cedicious and fraudulent blaspheme and defaime, untruly savyng youre reverence leyed upon on, Oure Lord knoweth: the which request in the premisses we make unto you, first on Goddes behalf, as to the chauncellor and chief justice of the same; and also on oure owne behalf, and on the behalf of the lordes, knyghtes, squiers and all other people beyng with us, which have desired and required us to make to you the said request, wherein we desire and pray you to put you in such devoir, as it belongeth you of youre duetee to God, to oure said soveraine lord, and his said land; that of any inconvenient that for lacke thereof mowe falle, that God defende, noo charge or burdon be leyed upon you, wherof we wold be right sory, as knoweth Oure Blessid Creatour, whoo you said faderhood and cousinage preserve and guyde in all honour, felicite and welfare.
To the most reverend father in God, most worshipful and with all our hearts most entirely well-beloved cousin, Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury and chancellor of England.
Most reverend father in God, most worshipful and with all our hearts most entirely well-beloved cousin, we commend ourselves to you. And because we hear that there is great rumour and wonder at our coming, and at the manner of it, into the most noble presence of the king our most redoubted sovereign lord, and that by various people who, as experience shows, have not done all they cshould to advance the honour and prosperity of him, of this his noble realm and his people of the same, according to their truth and duty, many doubts and uncertainties have been put before his royal majesty, and spread among the people, as to our truth and duty to his highness; we, mindful that you are the head of justice in this land, inform your worthy fatherhood, our cousin, that by our said coming or the manner of it, we do not intent, with God’s grace, to proceed to any matter or thing other than that which, with God’s mercy, shall be to his pleasure, and the honour, prosperity and weal of our said sovereign lord, his said land and people. Always keeping our truth to his said highness unspotted and unbruised, intending to join with you, and all other lords of this land who are of such tender zeal and affection to the honour, prosperity and weal of our sovereign lord, his said realm and people, as we consider you undoubtedly to be, and as blessed be God you show yourself to your great praise and worship, to the profit and the unbiased grounds and conclusions of such things as by reason must most speedily grow to the said honour and weal, and the public good, peaceful and politic rule and governance of his said land and people, without presuming to take anything upon ourselves without the advice and assent of you and the said lords; therefore laying side our own particular quarrels, which we shall never prefer over the duty, truth, love and affection which we owe to our said sovereign lord, his said realm and people. Moreover, may it please you to know that we understand the summoning and establishing of the king’s council at his town of Leicester was based by such as we conceive made the decision on the security of his most noble person, which clearly implies a mistrust of certain person: therefore, we, his true and humble liegement, have come better companioned, in order to do whatever accords with our duty for the security of his said most noble person, wherein we will spare neither our bodies nor our goodes; and also to know who is suspected of such mistrust, so that we may proceed to the subjugation of those who are guilty of causing such mistrust; or else by the advice of your said fatherhood, and the said lords, to remove the uncertainty and the occasion of the same mistrust. We also, understanding what plausible and devious means are used by our enemies, who remain persuasively in attendance upon the said most noble person of our said sovereign lord, have for security accompanied ourselves with a force of armed men, so that in coming into his most high presence we may be able to keep ourselves out of the danger into which our said enemies have never ceased to contrive, work and plot to bring us, such as we will, with God’s grace, avoid by every means.
Item, in that we understand that the other lords of this land have lately been sent for by the king’s commandment under his letters, to come to his council recently summoned secretly at Westminster, among which said lords we were not included, we perceive that there is suspicion of us, and we therefore intend, with God’s grace, to declare and show ourselves as we are in our truth, duty and allegiance to our said sovereign lord, intending in every way to remove the said suspicion, which we wish to avoid clinging to us. Furthermore, we, hearing the great defamation and blasphemy hurled at us by our said enemies concerning our coming to the king, require you on God’s behalf, and on the faith and loyalty which you owe to our said sovereign lord, on his behalf also require you, and on our own behalf exhort and pray you, that you, being the father and metropolitan of the church of England, will at our request draw up with all possible diligence the censures of the church, to be opened and laid at St Paul’s cross in the city of London, and throughout all parts of this land, in as rigorous and fearful a manner as the church will allow, upon and against all those who plan any disloyalty, prejudice, harm or damage to the estate, prosperity and welfare of our said sovereign lord or his land. And this our letter stating our intent is known to God, wherein we trust you will be a sharer, and therefore we require you in the faith, truth and duty which you owe to God, to our said sovereign lord, his said land and people, that it will please you to explain and minister to his high excellence, and to the lords of his council, also causing our said intention to be explained to all others to whom it pertains by your wisdom, for the removal and overthrow of the seditious and fraudulent blasphemy and defamation, untruly, saving your reverence, laid upon us. Our lord knows: which request we make to you, first on God’s behalf, as to the father of the church of this land, and on the king’s behalf, as to the chancellor and chief justice of the same; and also on our own behalf, and on behalf of the lords, knights, esquires and other people being with us, who have desired and required of us that we make this said request to you, wherein we desire and pray that you do your best for our said sovereign lord and his land, as your duty to God requires; and that for any harm which through default thereof may befall, which God forbid, no charge or burden shall be laid upon you, for which we would be very sorry, as our Blessed Creator knows, who may evermore preserve and guide your said fatherhood, our cousin, in all honour, felicity and welfare.