Letters from Richard Earl of Cambridge to Henry V

Posted: March 10, 2011 in Letters, Primary sources

While hunting down the full text of the Manner & Guiding, I stumbled across these two (too?) sad pieces of correspondence.

(from Ellis’s Original letters)

In 1415, when his son, Richard (later duke of York), was four years old, Richard, earl of Cambridge, was “accused of a treasonable conspiracy, indicted, convicted and beheaded” (p45). This has come to be known as the Southampton Plot. During his captivity he wrote two letters to the king, Henry V: a letter of confession and a plea for mercy, “but neither had any effect upon Henry” (p45).

Cambridge’s letter of confession:

My most dredfulle and sovereyne lege Lord, lyke to yowre hynesse to wete touchyng the purpose cast ageyns ʒowre hye estate. Havyng ye Erle of Marche by his aune assent, and by the assent of myself, Wher of y most me repent of all worde [worldly] thyng and by the acord of the lord Scrop and Sir Thomas Grey, to have hadde ye forseyd erle into the lond of Walys wyth outyn yowre lycence, takying upon hym the sovereynte of ʒys lond; ʒyf yondyr manis persone wych they callyn kynge Richard hadde nauth bene alyve, as Y wot wel yat he nys not alyve, for the wyche poynt I putte me holy in ʒowre grace. And as for ye forme of a proclamacyon wych schulde hadde bene cryde in ye Erle name, as he heyre to the Corowne of Ynglond ageyns ʒow, my lege lord, calde by auntreu [untrue] name Harry of Lancastre usurpur of Yngland, to the entent to hadde made the more people to hadde draune to hym and from ʒow, of the wych crye Scrop knew not of by me, but Grey dyd, havyng wyth the erle a baner of ye Armes of Ynglond, havyng also ye coroune of Speyne on a palet, wych, my lege Lord, is one of ʒowre weddys, for ye wych offence y put me holy in ʒowre grace. And as for ye p’pose takyn by Unfrevyle and Wederyngtoun for ye bryngyng in of that persone whych they namyd kyng Richard, and Herry Percye oute of Scotland wyth a power of Scottys, and theyre power togedyrs neyming to theyme able to geve ʒow a bataylle, of ye wych entent Sir Thomas Grey wyste of, and i also, but nauth Scrop as by me; of ye wych knawing i submytte me holy into ʒowre grace. And as touchyng the Erle of Marche, and Lusy hys man, they seyden me both yat the Erle was nauth schreven of a great whyle, but at all hys confessours putte hym in penaunce to clayme yat yey callyddyn hys ryth that wold be that tyme that every iknew, heny thyng yat ever to hym longyd … … … Of ye which poynttes and artycles here befor wretyn, and of al odyr wych now arne nauth in mynde, but treuly as oft as heny to myn mynd fallyn i schal deuly and treuly certefye now thee of, besekyng to now, my lege Lord, for hys love yat syffyrd passyoun on ye good fryday see compassyoun on me ʒowre lege men, and yf heny of thes persones whos names arne contenyd in ʒyz tyme, i schalle be redy wyth the myth of god to make hyt good, as ʒee my lege Lord will awarde me.


Brian Wainwright, over at The Yorkist Age has some thoughts on the Southampton Plot here and here.


A plea for mercy

Myn most dredfull and sovereyne Lege Lord, i Richard York ʒowre humble subgyt and very lege man, beseke ʒow of Grace of al maner offenses wych y have done or assentyd to in heny kynde, by steryng of odyr folke eggynge me yer to, where in y wote wel i have hyll offendyd to ʒowre Hynesse; besechyng ʒow at the reverence of God yat ʒyke to take me in to the handys of ʒowre gred goodnesse. My lege Lord, my fulle trust is yat ʒee wylle have consyderacyoun, thauth yat myn persone be of none valwe, ʒowre hye goodnesse wher God hath sette ʒow in so hye estat to every lege man yat to ʒow longyth plenteousely to geve grace, yat ʒow lyke to accept ʒys myn symple reqwest for ye love of oure Lady and of ye blysfulle Holy Gost, to whome I pray yat yey mot ʒowre hert enduce to all pyte and grace for yeyre hye goodnesse.


The earl of Cambridge was executed on 5 August 1415.

  1. william marshall says:

    Any chance of a translation?

    • anevillfeast says:

      There’s no modernised versions that I can find on the net, William. if you can cope with ‘quick and dirty’ without too many problems, here’s my lightning attempt:

      My most dreadful and sovereign liege lord, I wish your highness to know touching the purpose cast against your high estate. Having the earl of March by his own assent, and by mine, which I repent of most of all wordly things and by the agreement of the lord Scrope and sir Thomas Grey, to have taken the aforesaid earl into the land of Wales without your licence, taking upon him the rule of this land, as if any person who they call king Richard had been still alive, as I know well he is not alive, for which I put myself wholly in your grace. And as for the form of a proclamation which was to have been cried in the earl’s name that he is heir to the crown of England and not you, my liege lord, called by the untrue name Harry of Lancaster usurper of England, with the intention of drawing people to him and away from you, which [proclamation] Scrope didn’t know about through me, but Grey did, the earl having with him a banner showing the arms of England and also having the crown of Spain upon a [palet?] which, my liege lord, is one of your [weddys], for which offence I put myself wholly in your grace. And as for the purpose taken by Unfreyvle and Weatherington for you bringing in of that person who they called king Richard, and Henry Percy out of Scotland with a force of Scots, and their combined power making them able to give battle against you, of which sir Thomas Grey knows and I do also, but not Scrope; and for knowing this I submit myself wholly to your grace. And touching the earl of March, and his man Lucy, they both told me that the earl had not been shriven for a great while, but his confessors gave him penance for claiming what he called his rights that would be anything that he ever longed for… Of which points and articles here before written, and of all others which I might not recall, but truly as quickly as any might be recalled I shall duly and truly certify to you know, beseeching to know, my liege lord, for the love of he how suffered the passion on Good Friday, have compassion for me your liegeman, I shall be ready with the help of god to make it good, as you my liege lord will allow.


      My most dreadful and sovereign liege lord, I Richard York your humble subject and very liegeman, beseech you of forgiveness in all manner of offences which I have done or assented to of any kind, by stirring of other folk egging me thereto, wherein I know well I have ill offended your Highness. Beseeching you in the reverence of God that you take me into the hands of your great goodness. My liege lord, my full trust is that you will have consideration, though my person be of no value, your high goodness where god has set you in so high estate over every liegeman that longs piteously to receive your grace, that it pleases you to accept this my simple request for love of our lady and of the blissful holy ghost, to whom I pray that you might induce your heart to all pity and grace through your high goodness.

      It ain’t brilliant, but I hope it helps.

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