Royal fun and games in Newbury

Jack of Newbury – Chapter 3

(Thomas Deloney)

Chapters one and two  show John Winchcomb as a young man, courting first a widow and then a young wife.  He makes his fortune, but Deloney also shows him to be generous to the poor and loyal to his country, not to mention clever in detecting and thwarting his enemies.  If the book as a whole follows the seasons, then this chapter of industry and celebration is appropriate to high summer – the time of year for royal progresses, and also for warfare.  Indeed the court clown/jester, Will Sommer, figures largely, with his salacious jokes and sexualised innuendo.  Sommer comes across to me as remarkably unfunny, and it rather seems as if most of the people in this chapter think the same.

How Jack of Newbury went to receive the king as he went a progress into Berkshire, and how he made him a banquet in his own house.

About the tenth yeare of the king’s reign (c.1519), his grace made his progress into Berkshire, against which time Jack of Newbury clothed thirty tall fellows, being his household servants, in blue coats faced with sarcenet, every one having a good sword and buckler on his shoulder; himself in a plain russet coat, a pair of white kersie breeches without welt or guard, and stockings of the same piece sewed to his slops, which had a great codpiece whereon he stuck his pins; who, knowing the king would come over a certain meadow, near adjoining to the town, got himself thither with all his men, and repairing to a certain ant-hill which was in the field, took up his seat there, causing his men to stand round about the same with their swords displayed.

The king, coming near the place with the rest of his nobility, and seeing them stand with their drawn weapons, sent to know the cause.

this is Henry in 1513, aged 22 - 6 years earlier than the events at Newbury, but it gives an idea of the young Henry. He sounds much more cheerful in Deloney's story, though.

Thomas Wriothesly, Garter king at arms, was the messenger, who spake in this sort.

“Good fellow, the kings majesty would know to what end you stand here with swords and bucklers prepared to fight.”

With that, Jacke of Newberie started up and made this answer: “Herald” (quoth he), “reply to his highnesse that it is poor Jacke of Newbury, who being scant marquis of a mole hill, is chosen prince of ants; and here I stand with my weapons and guard about me to defend and keep these my poor and painful subjects from the force of the idle butterflies, their sworn enemies, lest they should disturb this quiet commonwealth, who this summer season are making their winters provision.

The messenger returning, told his grace that it was one Jack of Newbury that stood there with his men about him to guard (as they say) a company of ants from the furious wrath of the prince of butterflies.

With this news the king heartily laughed, saying, “Indeede it is no marvel he stand so well prepared, considering what a terrible tyrant he hath to deal withal. Certainly, my lords” (quoth hee), “this seems to be a pleasant fellow, and therefore we will send to talk with him.”

The messenger being sent, told Jacke he must come speak with the king.

Quoth he, “His grace hath a horse, and I am on foot, therefore will him to come to me; beside that, while I am away, our enemies might come and put my people in hazard, as the Scots did England while our king was in France.”

This one is 1538 - so again he's the wrong age - but his outfit is fun.

“How dares the lamb be so bold with the lion?” quoth the herald.

“Why,” quoth he, “if there be a lion in the field, here is never a cock to fear him; and tell his majestie he might think me a very bad governor that would walk aside upon pleasure, and lead my people in peril. Herald (quoth he), it is written, He that hath a charge must looke to it; and so tell thy lord my king.”

The message being done, the king said: “Truly lords, seeing it will be no other, we will ride up to the emperor of ants, that is so careful in his government at the king’s approach.” Jacke of Newbury and his servants put up all their weapons, and with a joyful cry flung up their caps in token of victory. “Why, how now, my masters (quoth the king), is your wars ended? Let me see where is the lord general of this great campe?”

With that, Jacke of Newberie with all his servants fell on their knees, saying “God save the king of England, whose sight hath put my foes to flight, and brought great peace to the poor labouring people.”

“Trust me (quoth our king), here be prettie fellows to fight against butterflies; I must commend your courage that dares withstand such mighty giants.”

satirical tales of animal 'parliaments' date back to Chaucer and beyond.

“Most dread sovereign (quoth Jacke), not long ago in my conceit I saw the most provident nation of the ants summoned their chief peers to a parliament, which was held in the famous city Dry Dusty, the one and thirtieth day of September; where as, by their wisdoms I was chose their king, at what time also many bills of complaint were brought in against divers ill members in the commonwealth: among whom the mole was attainted of high treason to their state, and therefore was banished for ever from their quiet kingdom: so was the grasshopper and the caterpillar, because they were not only idle, but also lived upon the labours of other men: amongst the rest, the butterfly was very much misliked, but few durst say any thing to him because of his golden apparel:

Jack is referring to the wealthy and influential Thomas Wolsey. Here he is dressed in scarlet, not gold, though.

who through sufferance grew so ambitious and malapert, that the poor ant could no sooner get an egg into her nest but he would have it away, and especially against Easter, which at length was misliked.

This painted ass took snuff in the nose, and assembled a great many other of his own coat, by windy wars to root these painful people out of the land, that he himself might be seated above them all.

“These were proud butterflies,” quoth the king.

“Whereupon I with my men (quoth Jack) prepared ourselves to withstand them till such time as your majesties royal presence put them to flight.”

“Tush (said the king), thou must think that the force of flies is not great.”

“Notwithstanding (quoth Jacke), their gay gowns make poor men afraid.”

“I perceive (quoth Cardinal Wolsey) that you being king of ants, do carry a great grudge to the butterflies.”

“Aye (quoth Jacke) we be as great foes as the fox and the snake are friends, for the one of them being subtle, loves the other for his craft; but now I intend to be no longer a prince, because the majesty of a king hath eclipsed my glory: so that looking like the peacocke on my black feet, makes me abase my vainglorious feathers, and humbly I yield unto his majestic all my sovereign rule and dignity, both of life and goods, casting my weapons at his feet, to doe any service therein his grace shall command me.”

“God a mercy, good Jack (quoth the king), I have often heard of thee, and this morning I mean to visit thy house.”

Thus the king with great delight rode along until he came to the town’s end, where a great multitude of people attended to see his majesty: where also queene Katherine with all her train met him.  Thus with great rejoicing of the commons, the king and queene passed along to this jolly clothier’s house, where the good wife of the house, with threescore maidens attending on her, presented the king with a bee-hive, most richly gilt with gold, and all the bees therein were also gold, curiously made by art,

The idea of representing concepts physically or pictorially as 'emblems' was extremely popular through the sixteenth century. This, from Whitney's 'Choice of Emblemes', shows a part of the complex political emblem that Jack has staged for Henry.

and out of the top of the same hive sprung a flourishing green tree which bore golden apples, and at the root thereof lay divers serpents seeking to destroy it, whom Prudence and Fortitude trod under their feet, holding this inscription in their hands.

Lo here presented to your royall sight,
The figure of a flourishing common-wealth;
Where vertuous subjects labour with delight.
And beat the drones to death which live by stealth.

Ambition, envie, treason, loathsome serpents be,
Which seeke the downfall of this fruitfull tree.
But Lady Prudence, with deepe searching eye.
Their ill intended purpose doth prevent;

And noble fortitude standing always ny,
Disperst their power prepar’d with bade intent.
Thus they are foiled that mount by meanes unmeet.
And so, like slaves, are trodden under feet.

The king favourably accepted this emblem, and receiving it at the woman’s hands, willed Cardinal Wolsey to look thereon, commanding it should be sent to Windsor castle. This cardinal was at that time Lord Chancellor of England, and a wonderful proude prelate, by whose meanes great variance was set betwixt the king of England and the French king, the emperor of Almaine, and divers other princes of Christendome; thereby the trafficke of those merchants was utterly forbidden, which bred a generall woe through England, especially among clothiers; insomuch that having no sale for their cloth, they were faine to put away many of their people which wrought for them, as hereafter more at large be declared.

Then was his majestie brought into a great hall, where foure long tables stood readie covered : and passing through that place, the king and queene came into a fair and large parlour hung about with goodly tapestry, where was a table prepared for his highnesse and the queenes grace; all the floor where the king sat was covered with broad clothes in stead of green rushes; these were choice pieces of the finest wool, of an azure colour, valued at an hundred pound a cloth, which afterward was given to his majestie.

The king being set with the chiefest of his councell about him, after a delicate dinner, a sumptuous banquet was brought in, served all in glasse: the description whereof were too long for me to write and you to reade. The great hall was also filled with lords and knights and gentlemen, who were attended by no other but the servants of the house; the ladies of honour and gentlewomen of the court were all seated in another parlour by themselves, at whose table the maidens of the house did wait in decent sort, the serving-men by themselves, and the pages and footmen by themselves, upon whom the prentices did attend most diligently. During the kings abiding in this place there was no want of delicates: Rhenish wine, claret wine, and sacke, was as plentiful as small ale. Then from the highest to the lowest they were served in such sort as no discontent was found any way, so that great commendations redounded unto the good-man of the house. The lord Cardinal, that of late found himself gall’d by the allegory of the ants, spake in this wise to the king.

If it should please your highnesse (quoth he) but to note the vaine glorie of these artificers, you should find no small cause of dislike in many of their actions : for an instance, the fellow of this house, he hath not stocke this day to undo himselfe, onely to become famous by receiving of your majesty: like Herostratus, the shoemaker, that burned the temple of Diana only to get himself a name; more than for any affection he bears to your grace, as may well be proved by this : Let there be had a simple subsidy levied upon them for the assistance of your highness’ wars or any other weighty affaires of the commonwealth and state of the realm, though it be not the twentieth part of their substance, they will so grudge and repine, that it is wonderful; and like people desperate, cry out, they be quite undone.

My Lord Cardinal, quoth the queene (under correction of my lord the king), I durst lay an hundred pound Jacke of Newberie was never of that minde, nor is not at this instant. If ye aske him I warrant he will say so. My selfe also had a proofe thereof at the Scottish invasion, at what time this man, being feoffed but at sixe men, brought (at his own cost) an hundred and fifty into the field.

I would I had more such subjects, said the king ; and many of so good a minde.

Ho, ho, Harry (quoth Will Sommers),

Will Sommers (born after 1491 - d. 1560)

then had not Empson and Dudley been chronicled for knaves, nor sent to the tower for treason.

But then they had not knowne the paine of imprisonment, quoth our king, who, with their subtlety grieved many others.

But their subtleties was such that it brake their necks, quoth Will Sommers. Whereat the king and queene, laughing heartily, rose from the table; by which time Jacke of Newberie had caused all his folks to go to their work, that his grace and all the nobilitie might see it: so indeed the queen had requested. Then came his highnesse, where he saw an hundred looms standing in one room, and two men working in every one, who pleasantly sung in this sort.

The Weavers Song.

When Hercules did use to spin,
And Pallas wrought upon the loome.
Our trade to flourish did begin,
While conscience went not selling broom.

Then love and friendship did agree
To keep the band of amitie.

When princes sons kept sheep in field,
And queens made cakes of wheaten flower.
Then men to lucre did not yield,
Which brought good cheer in everie bower.

Then love and friendship did agree
To hold the bands of amitie.

But when that giants, huge and high
Did fight with speares like weavers beames,
Then they in iron beds did lie.
And brought poor men to hard extremes.

Yet love and friendship did agree
To hold the bands of amitie.

Ther David tooke his sling and stone.
Not fearing great Goliath’s strength
He pierced his braines and broke the bone,
Though he were fifty foot of length.

For love and friendship, did agree
To hold the bands of amitie.

But while the Greekes besieged Troy,
Penelope apace did spin,
And weavers wrought with mickle joy.
Though little gains were coming in.

For love and friendship. did agree
To hold the bands of amitie.

Had Helen then sate carding wool,
(Whose beauteous face did breed such strife)
Shee had not beene sir Paris trull,
Nor caus’d so many lose their life.

Yet we by love did still agree,
To hold the bands of amitie.

Or had king Priams wanton sonne
Beene making quills with sweet content.
He had not then his friends undone
When he to Greece a gadding went.

For love and friendship did agree
To hold the bands of amitie.

The cedar trees indure more stormes
Than little shrubbs that sprout on hie.
The weavers live more void of harmes
Than princes of great dignitie.

While love and friendship doth agree
To hold the bands of amitie.

The shepherd sitting in the field
Doth tune his pipe with hearts delight
When princes watch with spear and shield
The poor man soundly sleeps all night.

While love and friendship doth agree
To hold the bands of amitie.

 Yet this by proofe is daily tried,
For Gods good gifts we are ingrate,
And no man through the world so wide
Lives well contented with his state.

No love and friendship we can see
To hold the bands of amitie.

Well sung, good fellowes, said our king; light hearts and merrie mindes live long without grey hairs.

But (quoth Will Sommers) seldome without red noses.

Well, said the king, there is a hundred angels to make good cheer withall, and look that every year once you make a feast among your selves, and frankly (every yeare) I give you leave to fetch four buckes out of Donington Parke, without any mans let or controlment.[1]

0, I beseech your grace (quoth Will Sommers) let it be with a condition.

What is that? said our king.

My liege, quoth hee, that although the keeper will have the skins that they may give their wives the hornes.

Go to, said the queene ; thy head is fuller of knaverie than thy purse is of crownes.

The poor workmen humbly thanked his majesty for his bountiful liberality: and ever since it hath been a custom among the weavers, every yeare directly after Bartholomewtide, in remembrance of the kings favour, to meete together and make a merrie feast. His majesty came next among the spinners and carders, who were merrily a-working; whereat Will Sommers fell into a great laughter.

What ayles the foole to laugh? sayd the king.

Marrie (quoth Will Sommers) to see these maidens get their living as birds doe eate their meate.

How is that? said the queene.

By going still backward, quoth Will Sommers; and I will lay a wager, that they that practise so well being maides to go backward will quickly learne ere long to fall backward.

But, sirra, said the Cardinal, thou didst fall forward when thou brokest thy face in master Kingsmiles cellar.

But you, my lord, sate forward (quoth Will Sommers) when you sate in the stocks at Sir Amias Paulets.[2]

Whereat there was greater laughing than before. The king and queene and all the nobilitie heedefully beheld these women, who for the most part were very faire and comely creatures, and were all attired alike from top to toe: then (after due reverence) the maidens in dulcet manner chaunted out this song, two of them singing the dittie, and all the rest bearing the burden.

The Maidens Song.

a possible tune for this ancient ballad, collected by Child

It was a knight in Scotland borne,
Follow my love, come over the strand.
Was taken prisoner and left forlorne
Even by the good earle of Northumberland,

Then was he cast in prison strong,
Follow my love, leape over the strand,
Where he could not walke nor lie along,
Even by the goode earle of Northumberland.

And as in sorrow thus he lay.
Follow my love, come over the strand,
The earl’s sweete daughter walkt that way,
And she the faire flower of Northumberland.

And passing by, like an angell bright.
Follow my love, come over the strand.
This prisoner had of her a sight.
And she the faire flower of Northumberland.

And loud to her this knight did crie,
Follow my love, come over the strand.
The salt teares standing in his eye.
And she the faire flower of Northumberland.

Faire lady, he said, take pity on me.
Follow my love, come over the strand.
And let me not in prison dye.
And you the faire flower of Northumberland.

Faire sir, how should I take pity on thee.
Follow my love, come over the strand.
Thou being a foe to our countrey.
And I the faire flower of Northumberland ?

Faire lady, I am no foe, he said.
Follow my love, come over the strand.
Through thy sweet love heere was I stayd.
For thee, the faire flower of Northumberland ?

Why shouldst thou come heere for love of me.
Follow my love, come over the strand,
Having wife and children in the country?
And I the faire flower of Northumberland.

I sweare by the blessed Trinitie,
Follow my love, come over the strand,
I have no wife nor children I,
Nor dwelling at home in merrie Scotland.

If curteously you will set me free.
Follow my love, come over the strand,
I vow that I will marrie thee
So soone as I come in faire Scotland.

Thou shalt be a lady of castles and towers.
Follow my love, come over the strand,
And sit like a queene in princely bowers
When I am at home in faire Scotland.

Then parted hence this lady gay,
Follow my love, come over the strand.
And got her father’s ring away
To helpe this sad knight into faire Scotland.

Likewise much gold she got by sleight.
Follow my love, come over the strand.
And all to helpe this forlorne knight
To wend from her father to faire Scotland.

Two gallant steedes both good and able.
Follow my love, come over the strand.
She likewise tooke out of the stable
To ride with this knight into faire Scotland.

And to the jaylor she sent this ring.
Follow my love, come over the strand.
The knight from prison forth to bring.
To wend with her into faire Scotland.

This token set the prisoner free.
Follow my love, come over the strand,
Who straight went to this faire lady
To wend with her into faire Scotland.

A gallant steed he did bestride,
Follow my love, come over the strand,
And with the lady away did ride.
And she the faire flower of Northumberland.

They rode till they came to a water cleare.
Follow my love, come over the strand.
Good sir, how should I follow you heere,
And I the faire flower of Northumberland ?

The water is rough and wonderfull deep,
Follow my love, come over the strand.
And on my saddle I shall not keep.
And I the faire flower of Northumberland.

Feare not the ford, faire lady, quoth he.
Follow my love, come over the strand,
For long I cannot stay for thee,
And thou the faire flower of Northumberland.

The lady prickt her wanton steed.
Follow my love, come over the strand.
And over the river swum with speed,
And she the faire flower of Northumberland.

From top to toe all wet was she,
Follow my love, come over the strand;
This have I done for love of thee,
And I the faire flower of Northumberland.

Thus rode she all one winters night,
Follow my love, come over the strand,
Till Edenborow they saw in sight.
The chiefest towne in all Scotland.

Now chuse (quoth he), thou wanton flower,
Follow my love, come over the strand.
Where thou wilt be my paramour,
Or get thee home to Northumberland.

For I have wife and children five,
Follow my love, come over the strand.
In Edenborow they be alive,
Then get thee home to faire England.

This favour shalt thou have to boote.
Follow my love, come over the strand,
He have thy horse, go thou on foote.
Go, get thee home to Northumberland.

O, false and faithlesse knight, quoth shee.
Follow my love, come over the strand.
And canst thou deale so bad with me,
And I the faire flower of Northumberland ?

Dishonour not a ladies name.
Follow my love, come over the strand.
But draw thy sword and end my shame.
And I the faire flower of Northumberland.

He took her from her stately steed.
Follow my love, come over the strand.
And left her there in extreme need.
And she the faire flower of Northumberland.

Then sate she down full heavily,
Follow my love, come over the strand,
At length two knights came riding by.
Two gallant knights of fair England.

She fell down humbly on her knee.
Follow my love, come over the strand,
Saying, Courteous knights, take pittie on me,
And I the faire flower of Northumberland.

I have offended my father dear.
Follow my love, come over the strand.
And by a false knight that brought me here.
From the good earle of Northumberland.

They tooke her up behind them then.
Follow my love, come over the strand.
And brought her to her father’s againe,
And he the good earle of Northumberland.

All you faire maidens be warned by me.
Follow my love, come over the strand,
Scots were never true, nor never will be,
To lord, nor lady, nor faire England.


After the kings majesty and the queen had heard this song sweetly sung by them, he cast them a great reward : and so departing thence, went to the fulling-mills and dye-house, where a great many were also hard at work ; and his majesty perceiving what a great number of people were by this one man set on work, both admired and commended him: saying, further, that no trade in all the land was so much to be cherished and maintained as this, which, quoth he, may well be called the life of the poor; and as the king returned from this place, with intent to take horse and depart, there met him a great many of children in garments of white silke fringed with gold, their heads crowned with golden bayes, and about their arms each one had a scarf of greene sarcenet fast tied, in their hands they bore silver bowes, and under their girdles golden arrowes.

The foremost of them represented Diana, goddess of chastity, who was attended on by a train of beautiful nymphs,

A costume for Diana: this one dates from a later masque.

and they presented to the king four prisoners. The first was a stern and grisly woman carrying a frowning countenance, and her forehead full of wrinkles, her hair as black as pitch, and her garments all bloody ; a great sword she had in her hand all stained with purple gore ; they called her name Bellona, goddesse of warres,

Statue of Bellona, grim-visaged and crowned with a skull.

who had three daughters : the first of them was a tall woman, so leane and ill favoured that her cheek bones were ready to start out of the skinne, of a pale and deadly colour; her eyes sunke into her head ; her legges so feeble that they could scantly carry the body; all along her arms and hands through the skinne you might tell the sinews, joints and bones; her teeth were very strong and sharp withall; she was so greedy that she was ready with her teeth to teare the skinne from her owne arms her attyre was blacke, and all torne and ragged ; she went barefooted, and her name was Famine. The second was a strong and lusty woman, with a looke pittilesse and unmercifull countenance ; her garments were all made of iron and Steele, and she carried in her hand a naked weapon, and she was called the Sword. The third was also a cruel creature, her eyes did sparkle like burning coales, her hair was like a flame, and her garments like burning brasse; she was so hot that none could stand near her, and they called her name Fire.

Durer imagined War, Death, Famine and Plague as horsemen. Jack (or Deloney?) invents even more terrifying female figures.

After this, they retired againe, and brought unto his highnesse two other personages. Their countenance was princely and amiable, their attyre most rich and sumptuous. The one carried in his hand a golden trumpet, and the other a palme tree : and these were called Fame and Victorie whom the goddesse of Chastity charged to waite upon this famous prince for ever. This done, each childe after other, with due reverence, gave unto his majesty a sweete smelling gillyflower, after the manner of the Persians offering something in token of loyalty and obedience.

Gillyflower (pronounced 'Jillyflower'): a relative of the modern carnation, but much more scented than the florist's variety.

The king and queene beholding the sweete favour and countenance of these children, demanded of Jack of Newberie whose children they were: who answered,
‘It shall please your highnesse to understand that these are the children of poor people that doe get their living by picking of wooll having scant a good meale once in a weeke.’
With that the king began to tell (count) his gilliflowers, whereby he found that there was 96 children.

‘Certainly, said the queene, I perceive God gives as faire children to the poor as to the rich, and fairer many times; and though their diet and keeping be but simple, the blessing of God doth cherish them: therefore,’ said the queene, ‘I will request to have two of them to waite in my chamber.’

‘Faire Katharine,’ said the king, ‘thou and I have jumpt in one opinion, thinking these children fitter for the court than the country:’ whereupon he made choice of a dozen; more, foure he ordained to be pages to his royal person, and the rest hee sent to universities, allotting to every one a gentlemans living. Divers of the noble men did in like sort entertaine some of those children into their services; so that, in the end, not one was left to picke wooll, but were all so provided for that their parents never needed to care for them; and God so blessed them that each of them came to be men of great account and authoritie in the land, whose posterities remain to this day worshipfull and famous.

The king, queene, and nobles, being ready to depart, after great thanks and gifts given to Jacke of Newberie, his majesty would have made him knight; but he meekly refused it, saying, ‘I beseech your grace let me live a poor clothier among my people, in whose maintenance I take more felicitie than in all the vaine titles of gentilitie: for these are the labouring ants whom I seeke to defend, and these be the bees which I keep, who labour in this life, not for ourselves, but for the glory of God, and to do service to our dread sovereigne.’

‘Thy knighthood need be no hindrance of thy facultie,’ quoth the king.

‘0, my dread sovereigne, sayd Jacke, honour and worship may be compared to the lake of Lethe, which makes men forget themselves that taste thereof; and to the end I may still keepe in minde from whence I came, and what I am, I beseech your grace let me rest in my russet coat, a poore clothier to my dying day.’

‘Seeing then,’ said the king, ‘that a man’s minde is a kingdome to himselfe, I will leave thee to the riches of thy owne content, and so farewell.’

The queenes majestic taking her leave of the good wife with a princely kisse, gave her a token of remembrance, a most precious and rich diamond set in gold, about the which was also curiously set six rubies and six emeralds in one piece, valued at nine hundred markes; and so her grace departed.
But in this meane space, Will Sommers kept company among the maides, and betooke himselfe to spinning as they did, which among them was helde as a forfeit of a gallon of wine; but William by no meanes would pay it, except they would take it out in kisses, rating every kisse at a farthing. ‘This payment we refuse for two causes,’ quoth the maides: ‘the one, for that wee esteeme not kisses at so base a rate; and the other, because in so doing we should give as much as you.’

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