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Introduction to Guy of Warwyk


1 Henry, fifth earl of Warwick, to Margery d’Oilly. See Mason, “Legends of the Beauchamps’ Ancestors,” p. 31, who suggests a date of 1205; and Weiss, ed., Boeve de Haumtone and Gui de Warewic, pp. 12–13. Gui de Warewic is sometimes categorized as an “ancestral romance,” a type of Anglo-Norman romance evincing an interest in nobility and ancestral heritage. Others in the group include Waldef, Fouke de FitzWaryn, and Boeve de Hamptoun. For a useful definition of this term, see Weiss, ed., Boeve de Haumtone and Gui de Warewic, pp. 1–2. See also Legge, Anglo-Norman Literature, pp. 139–75, especially 162–71 on Gui de Warewic. S. Crane [Danennbaum] redefines and recharacterizes the group, adding Horn and Havelock. See her “Anglo-Norman Romances of English Heroes” and Insular Romance, pp. 13–24.

2 See R. Crane, who helpfully traces this popularity. The most significant and well-known Middle English versions of the tale are romances. The romance versions of Gui to which I refer in this Introduction are the following, with my abbreviations in parentheses: Anglo-Norman Gui, the original Anglo-Norman romance from the early thirteenth century, edited and translated by Weiss (AN Gui); the Middle English Stanzaic Guy, edited from the Auchinleck MS by Wiggins (Stanzaic Guy); the fourteenth-century Middle English romance version, edited by Zupitza (Cauis); and the fifteenth-century Middle English version, also edited by Zupitza (Cambridge).

3 Wiggins, “Editorial Introduction,” p. xv.

4 Spellings for Colbrond and for Athelstan vary from version to version of the tale (e.g., Colybrond, Collebrant, Ethelstan, Æthelstan). For Lydgate, they are Colybrond and Ethelstan.

5 The Middle English versions are those listed above in note 2. For a discussion of the English manuscripts and a comparison of the treatment of the Guy story in these, see Wiggins, “Manuscripts and Texts.” For an overall discussion of the Gui narrative in the European tradition, see Weiss, “Home and Abroad” for a discussion of the Anglo-Norman Gui manuscripts, see Ailes, “Gui de Warewic in its Manuscript Context.” For some useful overviews of the Guy narrative within the context of Middle English Romance, some useful beginning points are the following: Calin, French Tradition and the Literature of Medieval England; H. Cooper, English Romance in Time; Mehl, Middle English Romances in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries; S. Crane, Insular Romance; Loomis, Mediæval Romance in England; Legge, Anglo-Norman Literature; McDonald, ed., Pulp Fictions of Medieval England; Ramsey, Chivalric Romances; and Saunders, ed., Companion to Romance. The collection of essays entitled Guy of Warwick: Icon and Ancestor, edited by Wiggins and Field, is invaluable as a starting point for any investigation of the Guy legend, as is V. Richmond’s Legend of Guy of Warwick, which provides a detailed discussion of the development of the legend and compares its many versions.

6 Pierre’s chronicle was translated by the fourteenth-century English chronicler Robert Mannyng of Brunne and incorporated into his own Chronicle. For Pierre Langtoft, see V. Richmond, Legend of Guy of Warwick, pp. 66–67 and Legge, Anglo-Norman Literature, pp . 168–69. For Langtoft’s chronicle, see the 1866 edition by Thomas Wright, available online at: pierr01pete#page/n9/mode/2up. For Brunne, see Robert Mannyng of Brunne’s The Chronicle, ed. Idelle Sullens.

7 It should be noted that the Danes actually never did besiege or attack Winchester in Ethelstan’s time. However, the battle of Brunanburh did indeed take place. Langtoft’s linking of this battle with Guy is perhaps what has given rise to the oft-repeated identification of the Guy-Colbrond battle with Brunanburh. See Legge, Anglo-Norman Literature, pp. 168–69; V. Richmond, Legend of Guy of Warwick, p. 68; and Rouse, Idea of Anglo-Saxon England, pp. 56ff. For a summary of the legend of Guy in the chronicle tradition, see V. Richmond, Legend of Guy of Warwick, pp. 65–76.

8 I am aware that the terms history and chronicle are not synonymous, though I am using them somewhat interchangeably here for the purposes of this overview. For a clear and useful distinction between the two genres, see Gransden, “Chronicles,” pp. 199–201. See also Dumville, “What Is a Chronicle?” and Given-Wilson, Chronicles. On the relationship between romance and history, see Field, “Romance as History, History as Romance.”

9 V. Richmond, Legend of Guy of Warwick, p. 68.

10 The Danes and Norse attacked European coasts on and off from the late eighth to tenth centuries, in what is often referred to as the Viking invasions. By the tenth century, large groups of Danes and Norse occupied the British Isles. The Danelaw had been settled by the Danes as a result of the Treaty of Wedmore, the result of King Alfred the Great’s victory over Guthrum, the Danish leader. In Scotland, a Danish/Norse king reigned, and an alliance of Scots, Danes, and Norse repeatedly threatened Northern England. Alfred’s descendants, including Ethelstan, repeatedly had to defend the northern borders of England against constant incursions from the north. Two good standard sources for information about this period are Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England, and Blair, Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England.

11 Popular romance that focused on specifically English heroes, for example, King Horn, Athelstan, Havelock the Dane, Beves of Hampton, as well as Guy of Warwick. As articulated by twelfth-century French poet Jean Bodel, the three traditional “matters” of romance were those of France, Britain, and Rome, dealing with the exploits, respectively, of Charlemagne, Arthur, and Trojan heroes.

12 Rouse, Idea of Anglo-Saxon England, p. 54.

13 Rouse, Idea of Anglo-Saxon England, p. 63.

14 Griffith, “Visual History,” p. 118.

15 Cohen, Of Giants, p. 95.

16 Pearsall refers to the “tradition that regards [the poem] as Lydgate’s worst” (John Lydgate, p. 167), and Schirmer wrote that it is often “held up as a prime example of Lydgate’s style at its worst” (John Lydgate: A Study, p. 93). See, however, Nolan’s “Lydgate’s Worst Poem,” which discusses Lydgate’s “Tretise for Lauandres” (MacCracken, ed., Minor Poems 2:723).

17 Ebin, John Lydgate, p. 80.

18 Not to be confused with Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerard of Wales). For Gerard of Cornwall, see Rumble, “Gerard of Cornwall.” See also V. Richmond, Legend of Guy of Warwick, p. 68. The account itself appears in two manuscripts, London, BL MS Cotton Vespasian D ix, fols. 40–43, where it is entitled “Gwido de Warwicke et vxor eius Felicis” (See Ward, Catalogue of Romances, pp. 492–94); and Oxford, Magdalen College MS 147 (begins fol. 227a), where it is entitled “Narratio de Guidone Warwicensi auctore Gerardo Cornubiensi.” See Gransden, Historical Writing, p. 493. Gerard’s text is edited by E. Edwards, Liber Monasterii de Hyda, pp. 118–23; and Schleich, “Lydgates Quelle” (reproduced and translated in this volume; see Appendix 1); and printed by Hearne, Chronicon, pp. 825–30.

19 Gerard is purported to have written this history, De gestis regum West Saxonum, and another, De gestis Britonum, but neither has been identified; they are known only by attribution in Liber de Hyda and in works by Thomas Rudborne, a mid-fifteenth-century monk and historian. For more on Rudborne and Gerard, see note 48 below.

20 This is the title in the Liber de Hyda. See E. Edwards, Liber Monasterii de Hyda, p. 118.

21 See note 1 above.

22 Fewster, Traditionality and Genre, p. 106.

23 Griffith, “Visual History,” p. 120.

24 Earl William in the 1270s named his son Guy; Earl Thomas in the 1340s named his sons Guy, Thomas, and Reynbron. See Liu, “Richard Beauchamp,” p. 272, and Fewster, Traditionality and Genre, p. 111.

25 These texts include not only Lydgate’s poem but also “the Irish Life of Sir Guy, composed before 1449, and the Rommant de Guy de Warwick of c. 1445, along with the undated ‘second or fifteenth-century version’ of Guy of Warwick (Cambridge University Library MS Fols. 2.38), which contains previously unnoticed internal evidence of a Beauchamp connection,” (Driver, “Representing Women,” p. 134). Griffith also notes Guy Beachaump’s donation to Bordesley abbey of forty books, one of which was a “romaunce de Gwy” (“Visual History,” p. 120). Griffith also notes that the “active promotion of Guy’s cult by the fifteenth-century earls” (p. 124) also drove the creation of fifteenth-century histories of the Warwick earls, including the Beauchamp Pageant, the Rous Roll, and the Warwick Roll (Griffith, pp. 124–27). See also Fewster, Traditionality and Genre, pp. 120–24.

26 See Liu (“Richard Beauchamp,” p. 271–72), Fewster (Traditionality and Genre, pp. 109–10; 112), Mason (“Legends of the Beauchamps’ Ancestors,” p. 33, 38n23), and Griffith (“Visual History,” p. 121–23) for lists of such objects. The tower was built in the fourteenth century by the twelfth earl, Thomas (Griffith, “Visual History,” p. 121).

27 See Fewster, Traditionality and Genre, p. 113, and V. Richmond, Legend of Guy of Warwick, p. 473 n23, for interesting descriptions of how the name of the cliff evolved.

28 On this statue, see Fewster, Traditionality and Genre, p. 113.

29 Griffith, “Visual History,” p. 120)

30 V. Richmond, Legend of Guy of Warwick, p. 107.

31 The Beauchamps had been at the center of English political and military power since at least the time of Edward I, when William Beauchamp became the ninth Earl of Warwick. On the Beauchamps in the fifteenth century, see such histories as Keen’s England in the Later Middle Ages; Hicks, English Political Culture in the Fifteenth Century; Griffiths, Reign of King Henry VI; and Harriss, Shaping the Nation.

32 Harley 7333. See Bale and Edwards, Lydgate’s Lives of SS Edmund and Fremund, p. 14. For further discussion of this MS and the Beauchamp connection, see the discussion of manuscripts.

33 As Driver points out, “the passing down of inheritance through the maternal line is not altogether unusual in the Middle Ages, nor is it the stuff of fiction” (“Representing Women,” p. 143). The earldom of Warwick had, in fact, passed through the female line before: the seventh earl of Warwick, John de Plessis, attained the title from his wife Margery, 7th Countess of Warwick after the death of her brother Thomas, the sixth earl. The eighth earl, William Mauduit, succeeded to the title through his mother Alice de Newburgh, daughter of the fourth earl, Waleran, and heir and aunt to Margery. See Mason, “Legends of the Beauchamps’ Ancestors,” pp. 31–33; Mason, “Mauduit, William”; and Vincent, “Plessis, John.”

34 These are Harvard, MA, Houghton Library, MS Eng. 530 (HH) and London, British Library MS 7333 (Hr). The text which follows is from HH, fol. 4v.

35 Carol Fewster also makes this point, going on to note that “Margaret Talbot’s interest may have been the reason that Lydgate used a Latin historiographical and pietistic source . . . which stresses inheritance heavily” (Traditionality and Genre, p. 124; also see p. 115). Fewster’s view is that the prefatory rubric makes a general rather than a specific point about heredity (pp. 117–18).

36 On the date of Margaret’s marriage to Talbot, see Frankis, “Taste and Patronage,” p. 89. Pollard, “Talbot, John,” gives the date of the marriage as “c. 1424”.

37 See Hicks, “Beauchamp Trust,” especially pp. 137–39 and 141–42. See also Fewster, Traditionality and Genre, pp. 117–18, for a useful summary.

38 Margaret and John were also involved in legal battles involving the settlement of Margaret’s mother’s, Elizabeth Berkeley’s, estate; in this connection, Griffiths notes that Margaret was “particularly tenacious and indomitable — witness the chilling inscription on her tomb, ‘Her reson was Til deth departe.’” (Griffiths, Reign of King Henry VI, p. 572). Griffiths cites Gibbs, et al. The Complete Peerage, for the inscription. See Griffiths, p. 600n61.

39 Driver, “Representing Women,” p. 151. Driver cites Conlon, ed., Le Rommant de Guy de Warwik et de Herolt D’Ardenne (p. 22n24), for the words from the will.

40 Fewster makes this interesting point: “The prologue may be a pointed reminder, with precise relevance to Margaret Talbot’s own situation at a particularly troubled time in her fortunes” (Traditionality and Genre, pp. 116–17), and she goes on to note that the rubric “probably appeared at a time when [Margaret’s] inheritance was in jeopardy” (p. 124).

41 See Robinson, “On Two Manuscripts,” p. 197, and V. Richmond, Legend of Guy of Warwick, p. 124.

42 See A. S. G. Edwards, “The Speculum Guy de Warwick,” p. 88n33. On the dating of the poem, most scholars agree on the 1420s. See Zupitza (“Lydgate’s Leben des Guy von Warwick,” p. 26), Schirmer (John Lydgate: A Study, p. 92), Pearsall (John Lydgate, p. 167), Frankis (“Taste and Patronage,” p. 88) and Fewster (Traditionality and Genre, p. 116). There is some textual evidence that might lend support to a date in the 1440s, though it is speculative. In his bio-bibliography, Pearsall notes the strange absence in the poem of any references to Richard Beauchamp, Margaret’s father: “it is odd that there is no mention of [him], customarily regarded as the paragon of chivalry, in the poem” (Bio-Bibliography, p. 32). But there are two references in the poem to Felice’s recently deceased father in lines 181–86 and line 316. If the poem had been written in the 1440s, just after Richard died in 1439, these would be a way of honoring his memory. Also suggestive is the appearance in the Peterborough manuscript (P) of the name Richard in place of Rowand at line 316 (fol. 58v). Here the recently dead Earl is explicitly named Richard.

43 See Frankis, “Taste and Patronage,” especially pp. 87–89.

44 Frankis suggests that the location of Guy’s hermit chapel in Lydgate is influenced by the Prose Guy. See Frankis, “Taste and Patronage,” p. 88.

45 Driver, “Representing Women,” p. 137–38.

46 Driver, “Representing Women,” p. 138.

47 Driver, “Representing Women,” p. 138.

48 Rudborne, an historian and mid-fifteenth century monk of St. Swithun’s was the author of Historia Major Wintoniensis, an ecclesiastical history of Winchester. As part of his short chapter on the reign of Ethelstan in the Historia, Rudborne gives a brief account of the battle and pinpoints the year: “Actum est enim Duellum inter Gwydonem de Warewyk & Gigantem Colbrandum anno Dominicæ Incarnationis DCCCCXXVII & anno ejusdem Regis Athelstani tertio” (Rudborne, Historia Major, p. 212). For more on Rudborne, see Rumble, “Rudborne, Thomas.” Rudborne also specifies the location of Hyde Mede, “olim Denemarch appellatus est, prope Monasterium de Hyda” (Rudborne, Historia Major, p. 212). This wording recalls both Gerard and Lydgate. However, while Rudborne cites Gerard as his source in several places in the Historia Major, he does not do so in this chapter on Ethelstan and the Guy-Colbrond battle. The nature of the relationship between Rudborne and Gerard is puzzling. Gransden suggests that Rudborne “probably derived his account of the combat . . . from [Gerard’s account]” (Historical Writing, p. 493). She goes on, however, to suggest that Rudborne may have invented Gerard (Historical Writing, p. 494n1), a suggestion acknowledged but then refuted by Rumble, who notes that the “citation of Gerard’s works by the [Book of Hyde] and also by Lydgate indicates both an earlier and a wider currency than just Rudborne for them, and allows the possibility that Gerard actually existed” (“Gerard of Cornwall”). Gransden also suggests that Rudborne may actually have written the Book of Hyde (Historical Writing, p. 395n30; “Antiquarian,” pp. 302–03 and 303n19–20). Gransden does not deal with the particulars of Gerard’s life of Guy in either work, though she mentions the Magdelen MS and notes that it is printed in Hearne (Historical Writing, p. 493).

49 The appearance in Gerard and Lydgate of this specific date is not noted by V. Richmond, Rouse, or A. S. G. Edwards. Rouse mentions Gerard only once, citing Gransden on Rudborne’s sources (Historical Writing, p. 395n30 and p. 492) and quoting Sharpe, who says only that “Gerard of Cornwall is known only from citations in the work of Thomas Rudborne and in another Winchester text attributed to him; his [i.e., Rudborne’s] source [for the brief account of the Guy-Colbrond battle noted above in note 48] remains unidentified” (Sharpe, Handlist of Latin Writers, p. 138; quoted in Rouse, Idea of Anglo-Saxon England, p. 143n36). This remark suggests that Gerard’s account of the Guy-Colbrond battle is not extant, which, of course it is, though it is true that Gerard’s putative De Gestis Regum West-Saxonum or De Gestis Britonum are not. See Rouse, Idea of Anglo-Saxon England, pp. 142–44.

50 Æthelstan: The First King, p. 20; see also pp. 18–20 and 160–63. See also Foot, “Æthelstan.” See also Blair, Introduction to Anglo-Saxon England, p. 85.

51 On the association of the Guy-Colbrond battle with the Battle of Brunanburh, see note 7 above. V. Richmond also suggests that Gerard dissociates the battle from that at Brunanburh but says he does so by locating it at Hyde Mede (Legend of Guy of Warwick, p. 68–69). However, she ignores Gerard’s precise dating, which is stronger evidence for the dissociation. See note 49 above.

52 Winchester itself, as King Alfred’s capital and a significant military/administrative center throughout the Anglo-Saxon and Post-Conquest periods, had been associated with the Guy legend since its inception. As Rouse points out, Winchester also has strong associations with other English romances, particularly the Arthurian romances, but also Havelok the Dane and Sir Orfeo (Idea of Anglo-Saxon England, p. 134). Rouse goes on to discuss the significance of Winchester and its landscape features as “urban signifiers” (Idea of Anglo-Saxon England, p. 136). See his chapter on Winchester, pp. 134–56.

53 See Warton, History of English Poetry, 1:89 and 1:93. See also Ward, Catalogue of Romances, p. 480, and Rouse, Idea of Anglo-Saxon England, pp. 140–41, Bradbury, Writing Aloud, pp. 1–2, and V. Richmond, Legend of Guy of Warwick, p. 76.

54 See Warton, History of English Poetry, 1:89nr. See Rouse for other connections between the legend of Guy and the city of Winchester (Idea of Anglo-Saxon England, pp. 138–40).

55 For Gerald’s phrasing, see Appendix, p. 150. On the name of this hospital, see Explanatory Note to line 322.

56 On Gerard’s “new monastery” and the “menstre ful roiall,” see Explanatory Note to lines 324–25.

57 This name apparently persisted for many years. Warton asserts that “Guy fought and conquered Colbrond . . . just without the northern walls of the city of Winchester, in a meadow to this day called Danemarch.” See History of English Poetry, 1:89nr. See also note 58 below. The location is associated with Hyde Abbey, just outside the north wall of town, where, not coincidentally, Guy spends the night when he arrives in Winchester.

58 Gerard and Rudborne are the only historians to provide these names for the battle site, perhaps providing evidence for Gransden’s speculation that Rudborne may have invented Gerard (see note 48 above). In this detail as well as in pinpointing the year as 927, Rudborne’s account matches Gerard’s. However, there are many differences between the two accounts, not least of which is length. The name Danemarch may have been in use since as early as the 11th century. See Ward, Catalogue of Romances, p. 480, and the note on that page. Rouse’s contention, in an otherwise very useful discussion of the connections between Winchester and the battle, that Rudborne was the first to make a connection between “Guy’s gigantomachia and [the name] Denemarche” (Idea of Anglo-Saxon England, p. 143), cannot be completely trusted, as he does not take Gerard into account in his discussion (see note 49 above). For Rouse’s discussion of the battle and the name, see pp. 142–43.

59 According to Warton, the axe remained in St. Swithun’s priory in the cathedral until the dissolution of the monasteries. See History of English Poetry, 1:89nr. An account of Guy-associated Winchester artifacts very similar to Warton’s is to be found in The History and Antiquities of Winchester (1773), whose anonymous author adduces as evidence for Guy’s existence and the Guy-Colbrond battle the name of “the place where the battle was fought, which has ever since been called Danemark, . . . the battle axe of Colbrand, which was preserved in the cathedral till the reformation[,] a painting of the combat even now . . . visible on the wall in the north transept of the same church, and a representation of a great and little man in combat, . . . till within a few years past . . . visible on a stone in the city-wall, opposite the place of engagement, which has ever since been called Colbrand’s chair” (History and Antiquities of Winchester 2:19). Rudborne also tells us that Colbrond’s axe is kept in the cathedral in St. Swithin’s priory (Rudborne, Historia Major, p. 212). See also Rouse, who notes the competing Beauchamp tradition that Guy’s armor, including his axe, was part of the collection of Beauchamp family heirlooms. Rouse has some interesting speculations about possible rivalry between Warwick and Winchester; see Idea of Anglo-Saxon England, pp. 144–46.

60 The ballade stanza (rhyming ababbcbc) was much used by the French poets such as Mauchaut but not adopted with much enthusiasm by English poets such as Chaucer and Lydgate. Chaucer uses it in The Monk’s Tale (hence this form is sometimes called Monk’s Tale stanza) and in “An ABC,” but he preferred rhyme royal, a seven-line stanza rhyming ababbcc, or couplets. We cannot with consistency link stanza form to genre in Lydgate, who uses the ballade stanza for short lyrics as well as some longer works in addition to the Guy, such as the Lives of SS Edmund and Fremund and Legend of St. Austin at Compton; couplets for the Siege of Thebes and Troy Book; and rhyme royale for the Fall of Princes, Life of Our Lady, and the Fabula.

61 Despite his overall judgment of the poem as narratively clumsy, Pearsall seems to approve of this opening section as “the only part of the poem that shows any power” (John Lydgate, p. 167).

62 For the figure of the giant in folktale, legend, and romance, see Cohen, Of Giants, especially pp. 87–90 and 95.

63 While other versions of the legend also mention the passing of the title through Felice to Guy, Lydgate’s insistent emphasis is significant. As Driver notes, Lydgate in particular is “most emphatic” about this inheritance (“Representing Women,” p. 142).

64 For a useful analysis of the women in Guy stories and of the figure of Felice in particular, see Driver, “Representing Women.”

65 A. S. G. Edwards also remarks on the relationship between Guy’s “knightly and devotional dimensions” but suggests that “it is these spiritual dimensions that shape Guy’s conduct which are given greater prominence in the narrative” (“The Speculum Guy de Warwick,” p. 89).

66 On the portrayal of the battle, Derek Pearsall remarks somewhat unkindly that “the narrative slithers forward without perceptible motion, so that one is not even aware . . . that the battle of Guy and Colbrand . . . has begun” (John Lydgate, p. 168). A. S. G. Edwards points out that the lack of focus on the battle creates “much greater emphasis . . . on the process by which Guy’s role as champion is established and the aftermath of his victory, his identification of himself to the king, and his return to Warwick” (“The Speculum Guy de Warwick,” p. 89).

67 Ethelstan’s prayer is reported indirectly in Gerard, the AN Gui, and in the Middle English romance versions. Of Ethelstan’s prayer A. S. G. Edwards cogently notes that direct speech “emphasize[s] the power of prayer and divine agency in directing the course of earthly affairs and resisting the forces of evil the Danes embody” (“The Speculum Guy de Warwick,” p. 89). Edwards does not address the other instances of direct speech in the poem.

68 Guy agrees to fight Colbrond for various reasons in other versions: out of pity for Ethelstan and “with God’s grace” (Weiss, ed., AN Gui, lines (10999–11008); for God and to “make Inglond fre” (Wiggins, ed., Stanzaic Guy, line 2969); for “goddys loue in trynyte / And for yow all beseche me” (Cambridge, lines 10123–24); and out of pity: “Now ye all for help crye / I shall for yow do thys bateyle: With help of god wyll I not fayle” (Caius, lines 10511–13). It is worth noting here the substantive textual variant to line 359 in HH and Hr that equally emphasizes this idea: “To the comoune goode my servyce shall not fayle” (see Textual Note to line 359).

69 For a detailed discussion of this concept of common profit as Lydgate intends it, see Peck, Kingship and Common Profit, p. xxi: “The key to Gower’s encyclopedic moral philosophy is ‘comun profit,’ by which he means the mutual enhancement, each by each, of all parts of a community for the general welfare of that community taken as a whole. It applies to the community of faculties within an individual man as well as the state of England with its individuals and its three estates. Each part has its natural rights. If one part deprives another, not only does the deprived part suffer from the onslaught but the oppressor is diminished too, for he loses the benefit of his larger self which he has affronted. To diminish another is to diminish oneself. Conversely, if one is capable of taking joy in another’s success, and promotes that success for ‘l’onour et le commun proufit’ (Mirour, [line] 12905), he will himself grow and find a joy as great as his own successes hold.”

70 Black, “Individual and Society,” p. 596.

71 Black, “Individual and Society,” p. 597.

72 This phrase is probably not, however, an attempt on Lydgate’s part to characterize Guy; it is a conventional “filler” line.

73 First identified by Hammond (“Two British Museum Manuscripts”), this group of manuscripts demonstrates a variety of inter-relationships involving content, scribe/s, and provenance. For more information on these manuscripts, please see the Introduction to Fabula in this volume, under “Manuscripts” and “Note on the Text” pp. 25–28.

74 See Robinson, “On Two Manuscripts,” especially pp. 177–97.

75 Robinson felt that four of the six items in HH were copied by Shirley, based on his analysis of hand as well as a letter from Henry Bradshaw to the then owner of the MS that accompanies the manuscript (“On Two Manuscripts,” pp. 177–79). As Mooney notes, this ascription was repeated for a number of years until it was corrected in 1950 by A. I. Doyle (“Professional Scribes,” pp. 131–32). The ascription may still be found from time to time; see, for example, V. Richmond (Legend of Guy of Warwick, p. 124) and Fewster (Traditionality and Genre, pp. 115–16).

76 The correction was made by Doyle. See Mooney “Professional Scribes,” p. 132 and Voigts, “Handlist of Middle English in Harvard Manuscripts,” p.17. On both manuscripts’ relation to Shirley, see also Connolly, John Shirley, pp. 173–75, and Mooney, “John Shirley’s Heirs,” especially pp. 190–95.

77 Connolly, John Shirley, p. 173.

78 The relevant portion of the headnote to the Lives is as follows: “now late translated oute of latyne into Englisshe by daun Iohn Lydgate religeous of the same place at [th]e comandement of kyng henre the vi. solempnising [th]ere his ffeste of Cristemasse [th]e yeere of his tendre age of the speciall instaunce of Richard beauchamp Eorlle of warwike.” The complete note can be found in Bale and Edwards, Lydgate’s Lives of Ss Edmund & Fremund, p. 14, from whom I take this text, and Mooney, “John Shirley’s Heirs,” p. 193n25. The rubric is puzzling in that the poem was commissioned by Abbot William Curteys, not Beauchamp, as the headnote seems to imply. See also Connolly, John Shirley, pp. 175 and 187n19, and Mooney’s work.

79 For HH, see especially Robinson, “On Two Manuscripts”; Voigts, “Handlist of Middle English in Harvard Manuscripts”; Conolly, John Shirley, p. 172–73; and Mooney, “John Shirley’s Heirs,” pp. 194–95. For Hr, see Manly and Rickert, Text of the Canterbury Tales, 1:207–18; Bale and Edwards, Lydgate’s Lives of SS Edmund & Fremund, pp. 13–14; Connolly, John Shirley, pp. 173–75; and Mooney, “John Shirley’s Heirs,” pp. 190–95. A printing error on p. 195 of this article suggests that Hr’s text of Lydgate’s Guy is acephalus, but it is not.

80 The items in the manuscript are, in order, Compleynt of Christ, Guy, Three Kings of Coleyne, Governaunce of Princes, Serpent of Division, and the prose Brut. Robinson felt all except for Governaunce and Serpent were in Shirley’s hand (“On Two Manuscripts,” p. 180). Robinson’s description and edition of the Guy text is still valuable, though it must be supplemented by those of later scholars. See Voigts, “Handlist of Middle English in Harvard Manuscripts.” See also Mooney, “John Shirley’s Heirs,” pp. 194–95; and Connolly, John Shirley, pp. 172–73.

81 See Seymour, “Lives of SS Edmund and Fremund,” pp. 19–20.

82 For a description, see Manly and Rickert, Text of the Canterbury Tales, pp. 207–18 and Bale and Edwards, Lydgate’s Lives of SS Edmund & Fremund, pp. 13–14. See also Mooney, “John Shirley’s Heirs,” p. 190–95, and Connolly, John Shirley, pp. 173–75.

83 Text of the Canterbury Tales, p. 214. See, for example, Bale and Edwards, Lydgate’s Lives of SS Edmund and Fremund, p. 14.

84 See also the description of L on p. 26 of this volume.

85 Counted as one item by both Robinson and the cataloguer of Lansdowne manuscripts. Including the two short Chaucer poems and the fragmentary Life of St. Giles with which the manuscript begins, there are nineteen items.

86 For descriptions of this manuscript, see Reinecke, ed., Saint Albon and Saint Amphibalus, pp. xi–xii; Van Dorsten, “Leyden ‘Lydgate Manuscript,’” p. 320, and Hammond, Chaucer: A Bibliographical Manual, pp. 331–32.

87 See also the description of V on p. 26 of this volume.

88 For a description, see Van Dorsten, “Leyden ‘Lydgate Manuscript.’”

89 The texts are not identical, but very similar, as the Textual Notes in this volume illustrate.

90 For a comprehensive description of this manuscript, see Mooney, “Scribes and Booklets.”

91 These are Aelred’s Life of St. Edward, Aelred’s homily for the translation of Edward’s relics on his feast day (October 13, 1163), an account of the translation, and two sequentiae (liturgical hymns), one for St. Edward and one for St. Leonard. Brief manuscript descriptions are provided by Ker, Medieval Manuscripts, pp. 170–71 and Jackson, “In translacione sancti Edwardi,” pp. 47–49.

92 Ker dates the manuscript to between 1471 and 1483. See Ker, Medieval Manuscripts, p. 171.

93 Bale and Edwards, Lydgate’s Lives of SS Edmund & Fremund, p. 17.

94 Bale and Edwards, Lydgate’s Lives of SS Edmund & Fremund, p. 17.

95 See Bale, The Jew in the Medieval Book, p. 115; and Bale, “House Devil,” p. 190.

96 Bale and Edwards, Lydgate’s Lives of SS Edmund & Fremund, p. 17.

97 Although one might expect that HH or Hr, with their close affiliations to the Beauchamp family, might have been chosen, their texts of Guy are not only incomplete (see pp. 100–01 above) but also generally inferior to those of the Group B manuscripts, particularly Ld. A glance at the textual notes will make this clear. The Zupitza and MacCracken editions are also based on Ld.

98 Bale, The Jew in the Medieval Book, p. 115; Bale, “House Devil,” p. 190. In The Jew in the Medieval Book, Bale asserts that “Laud Misc. 683 is one of several similar vernacular MSS produced at Bury in the fifteenth century,” p. 216n49. Here he cites Seymour, “Some Lydgate Manuscripts,” who, though he does not explicitly say that Laud Misc. 683 was produced at Bury, suggests that it is a distinct possibility. See Seymour, pp. 10 and 12.

99 A. S. G. Edwards, “The Speculum Guy de Warwick,” p. 90. See also p. 90n43, where Edwards cites his article “Fifteenth-Century Middle English Verse,” pp. 104–05, in which he writes that Laud Misc. 683 is one of a group of manuscripts that seem to be connected to Bury St. Edmunds, p. 104.

100 Weiss, “Home and Abroad,” p. 2n3; Ailes, “Gui de Warewic in its Manuscript Context,” pp. 21–22.

101 The “Verses” appear in Hr, L, V, T, and P. On the appearance of the Verses in a variety of manuscripts and manuscript contexts, and on the many versions of these, see Mooney, “Lydgate’s Kings.”

102 A. S. G. Edwards, “Speculum Guy de Warwick,” p. 90.

103 See Explanatory Note to line 6.
Guy of Warwick was one of the most popular and best-known of English narratives, from its first appearance in literature as an Anglo Norman romance, Gui de Warewic, composed in the early thirteenth century to commemorate the marriage of an early Warwick earl,1 through its many manifestations in romance and chronicle, in manuscript and printed books, down to the Romantic period.2 As Alison Wiggins puts it, Guy is “England’s other Arthur, his legend England’s most successful medieval romance.”3 The full story encompasses the exploits and adventures of Guy, who, in his efforts to win the hand of the fair Felice, daughter of the Earl of Warwick, seeks and finds adventure both on the continent and in England. Shortly after marrying her and conceiving a son, Guy renounces his married and chivalric life and undertakes a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to atone for his deeds, encountering further adventures along the way; returning to England disguised as a pilgrim, Guy saves the country from Danish overlordship by defeating their champion, the dread giant Colbrond,4 in single combat, after which he dies a saintly death, just before (or in some versions, just after) he is reunited with Felice.

The legend of Guy reached the height of its popularity in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, circulating in a variety of romance versions.5 Guy had also entered the chronicle tradition as a real historical figure inserted into the era of King Ethelstan’s wars against the Danes by Pierre Langtoft, in whose Chronicque d’Angleterre6 Guy battles Colbrond and defeats the Danes under Anlaf, who, having been defeated at Brunanburh by Ethelstan, has returned to besiege Winchester.7 Langtoft’s work was translated into English by the historian Robert Mannyng of Brunne, and thence into a variety of subsequent histories and chronicles.8 Thus romance crossed into “history” and, as Velma Richmond explains, the “fusion of chronicle and romance became the mode for subsequent ‘historical’ treatments of Ethelstan’s reign,”9 with Guy of Warwick firmly embedded in history as the man who saved Ethelstan and all of England from the ravages of the terrible Danes.10

Guy’s battle with Colbrond is significant to cementing the medieval English understanding of its Anglo-Saxon past. Robert Rouse’s valuable study of how Middle English romances presented this past illustrates the variety of ways medieval audiences understood and responded to the “fusion” of romance and history that Guy by the fifteenth century represented. Speaking of the Matter of England romances11 specifically, Rouse writes that “as a form of popular history, many medieval romances can be seen to construct historical narratives that represent popular understandings of the past.”12 By the fourteenth century, in both chronicle and romance, Guy was figured as the savior of England, the embodiment of English heroism, while Colbrond became the very embodiment of evil, a “primal threat that underlies a possible Danish victory.”13 The Guy-Colbrond battle became the legend’s central and most important episode, “a defining feature not only of Guy’s career but of early English history.”14 As Jeffrey Cohen puts it, through this episode “England as a nation is being materialized through the body of Guy.”15

Lydgate’s poem focuses only on this last third of the tale: Guy’s return to England as a pilgrim, his battle with Colbrond, and his death. It is thus considerably shorter than the longer romance versions with which the medieval audience would have been familiar, and it is also more self-consciously historical than the Middle English romance versions, emphasizing dates, locations, and names, underlining Guy’s Warwick ancestral connections, and de-emphasizing both romance and hagiography. Yet it also mingles characteristics of the genres of history, romance, and saint’s life, resisting easy categorization into one particular genre. The poem has met with little critical attention and even less approbation. Often considered a narrative and artistic failure, it has even been characterized as Lydgate’s “worst poem.”16 Yet Lois Ebin suggests that, while the poem “is not of exceptional poetic merit, it nevertheless is . . . competent and strategically planned.”17 Lydgate’s unique treatment of the Guy legend and the figure of Guy himself are attributable to his source, his patron, and his handling of structure, style, and theme.


Lydgate follows a chronicle version of the Guy legend for his own poem. His source is the eleventh chapter of a purported fourteenth-century Latin prose history of the West Saxons by Gerardus Cornubiensis, Gerard of Cornwall.18 This history, if it existed,19 has not survived except for this eleventh chapter, a brief and self-contained treatment of the Guy and Colbrond episode entitled De bello inter Gwydonum de Warwick et Colbrondum [The Battle between Guy of Warwick and Colbrond]20 which focuses on what would have been about the last third of the legend, Guy’s return to England as a pilgrim, his battle with Colbrond, and his death.

Following Gerard, Lydgate’s Guy focuses only on this final episode. It opens in the year 927, with a description of the fierce persecution of the Danes, who are besieging Winchester, King Ethelstan’s capital. Ethelstan has been handed an ultimatum: he must either submit to the two cruel Danish princes, Anelaph and Gonelaph, or find a champion to fight for England in single combat against Colbrond. Ethelstan draws together his council to find a solution. They must find a champion, but none are to be found: their best hopes, Herald of Harderne and Guy of Warwick, are both out of the country, Herald searching for Guy’s son, and Guy away on pilgrimage. In despair, Ethelstan takes to his room and prays for help before falling asleep, which arrives in the form of an angel who instructs him to arise at daybreak and find, at the north gate of the city, a pilgrim, from whom he will request and receive help. The focus now shifts to Guy, who, arriving in Portsmouth and hearing not only about the terrible Danish invasions but also about the absence of Herald and the death of his wife’s father, makes his way to Winchester. After staying the night at a hospice just outside the north wall of the city, Guy enters the north gate, where Ethelstan, seeing the pilgrim he was to seek for and unaware of Guy’s true identity, finds him and begs him for help. Guy demurs on the grounds that he is old and unaccustomed to armor, but at last agrees to help for the sake of the common profit. Arrangements for the battle are swiftly made: Guy and Colbrond come together on July 12 at Hyde Meadow, also known as Danemarche, just outside the city. Guy is victorious, confesses his identity to Ethelstan, refuses any reward, and makes his way to his own city of Warwick, where, continuing incognito, he spends three days among a group of beggars who are receiving alms from Felice. Removing to a hermitage near Warwick, he lives for two more years and, receiving notification of his death from an angel sent by God, sends his wedding ring and instructions to Felice for his burial; she arrives just after he dies, and efficiently makes burial arrangements for him and herself. She herself dies fifteen days later, but not before ensuring that their son, Reynborne, will inherit the earldom Guy held as her husband and that she, though she is a woman, can rightfully pass to their son. Lydgate ends the poem by referring to his source, Gerard Cornubiensis, and suggesting, in a typical modesty topos, that any blame for dullness ought to be placed on himself and not on Gerard.


Lydgate takes pains throughout the poem to show that he is following an authoritative source, characterizing his work as a “translacioun” (line 570 ) and frequently referring to the “the cronycleer,” Gerard, whom he names at the end (lines 571–72). Particularly emphasized throughout the poem is the matter of ancestral inheritance: Guy’s title, which he holds by virtue of being married to the daughter of the Earl of Warwick, will be readily passed to his son through Felice. This interest in inheritance, to which Lydgate gives more attention than Gerard, is connected to Lydgate’s patron, Margaret de Talbot, eldest daughter of Richard Beauchamp, the thirteenth Earl of Warwick.

The Beauchamps, earls of Warwick since the thirteenth century, had long had an interest in connecting their family with Guy of Warwick, inserting the legendary figure into their own ancestry in order to bolster their prestige and power. The original Anglo-Norman romance, Gui de Warwic, had probably been composed to commemorate the wedding of the fifth Earl in 1205,21 and, as Carol Fewster notes, “every earl of Warwick [since the late thirteenth century] leaves some evidence of a link created with the story.”22 David Griffith also observes that “all of the surviving images [in art and architecture] of Guy produced from c. 1360 have an explicit Beauchamp connection.”23 The Beauchamps named their heirs after Guy and his son Reynbourne;24 they commissioned and collected books about him,25 they accrued and bequeathed material objects associated with him, and a tower at Warwick castle was named after him.26 By the fifteenth century, the cliff near Warwick castle, formerly called Gybbeclyffe, had become identified as the hermitage to which Guy retired after his battle, and it was now known as “Guy’s cliff”;27 Richard Beauchamp, Margaret’s father, established a chapel and even constructed a statue of Guy (as a knight, not a pilgrim) there.28 The Beauchamps’ conscious “programme of architectural, artistic, literary, and ecclesiastical patronage [that] created the sense that the family enjoyed a direct lineage back to the historical founder of the dynasty”29 has been well described by such scholars as Carol Fewster, Velma Richmond, Emma Mason, and Yin Liu, the last of whom gives a fascinating account of how Richard created and participated in a tournament at Guines designed to imitate the literary structure of chivalric romance. In this, as in much else, Richard, as Richmond points out, “cast[s] himself as a latter-day Guy.”30

A powerful political family,31 the Beauchamps were also consistent literary patrons of Lydgate. Richard had commissioned Lydgate’s poem on “The Title and Pedigree of Henry VI” and his second wife, Isabella, had commissioned the “Fifteen Joys of our Lady.” Richard is also associated in one manuscript with Lydgate’s Lives of St. Edmund and Fremund.32 Margaret’s own interest in the story of Guy may have arisen from a desire to assert her ancestral claim as a Warwick daughter, through whom, like Felice, she could pass the earldom to her husband John Talbot.33 These concerns are suggested by a rubric that prefaces the poem in two manuscripts:34 “Her now begynnyth an abstracte owte the cronycles in latyn made by Gyrade Cornubyence the worthy the cronyculer of Westsexse & translatid into Englishe be lydegate Daun Iohan at the request of Margret Countasse of Shrowesbury lady Talbot ffournyvale & lysle of the lyffe of that most worthy knyght Guy of Warrewyk of whos blode she is lenyally descended.” The intent of this rubric is clearly to establish Margaret as a direct lineal descendent of Guy, an historical “fact,” underlined by the implicit emphasis on Lydgate’s reliability as translator and the historicity of his material, a Latin prose chronicle by a named author also known for his history of West Saxon kings.35

Margaret may have been particularly interested in the Guy story and its historicity because of her own family circumstances. She was the eldest daughter of Richard and his first wife, Elizabeth Berkely, and in about 1424 she married John Talbot,36 who would have expected to become the next Earl of Warwick after Richard, inheriting the title through Margaret. The poem could have been written to commemorate Margaret’s wedding or indeed that of her father, who remarried in 1423 after Elizabeth’s death the previous year. Either occasion would have been appropriate for a poem that stressed Margaret’s lineage and implicitly her claim as the eldest daughter to pass the title of Earl to her husband. Though these hopes would have been dashed when Richard had a male heir, Henry, born in 1425, and then a daughter, Anne, there was always the possibility that Margaret could assert a claim in the event that these children did not live. After Richard died in 1439, there was protracted legal wrangling between Richard’s first and second families over the inheritance, the “Beauchamp Trust,”37 and after both Henry and his daughter died, making his sister Anne in 1449 the full heir, the first family continued to press their claims. One imagines Margaret in particular, who was apparently a formidable woman,38 pressing hard to wrest back the title, but apparently this was never seriously a possibility; Anne’s husband, Richard Neville, became the next Earl of Warwick. However, as Martha Driver notes, John Talbot never gave up his hope of becoming Earl, directing in his will (1452) that he be buried in the new chapel of Warwick, “in case that eny time hereaftre y may actayne to the name and lordeship of Warewik as right wolle.”39

These events speak to Margaret’s interest in the Warwick inheritance and may bear on the date of the prefatory rubric’s composition, if not the poem’s.40 The rubric had to have been composed after 1442, when John Talbot was created Earl of Shrewsbury, and indeed it was this that led Robinson and Richmond to date the actual poem to the 1440’s.41 However, as A. S. G. Edwards points out, the rubric need not be contemporary with the poem’s composition, and most scholars suggest the 1420s as the more likely decade.42 This is probably the period during which two more Lives of Guy, both connected with John Talbot, were written. The French Prose Guy is extant in two manuscripts, one of which is a luxury manuscript presented by Talbot to Margaret of Anjou on her marriage to Henry VI in 1445. As John Frankis has shown, this version was very likely written in England in the 1420s and commissioned either by Talbot himself or by Richard Beauchamp.43 Frankis also notes an apparent influence of this life of Guy on Lydgate’s version.44 Another life of Guy, the Irish Life of Sir Guy of Warwick, is also connected with Talbot: in Middle Irish, it was, as Driver says, “very probably” composed “by a person in the circle of Margaret . . . and . . . John, who was (from 1414 to 1419, in 1425, and again from 1445 to 1447) Lieutenant or Justiciar of Ireland.”45 It seems hardly coincidence that “during these years Guy of Warwick was translated into Irish.”46 Driver goes on to note that in this Irish version, Guy’s father-in-law the Earl of Warwick is called “Richard of Warwick,” clearly a “nod to Richard Beauchamp.”47 All of this evidence points to the early 1420s as a date for Lydgate’s poem.


Gerard’s chronicle version of Guy may have appealed to both Margaret and Lydgate because of its apparent historical authenticity. Both Gerard and Lydgate open with the language of the historian, placing the narrative precisely into context (lines 1–6). The poem is full of details that anchor the narrative in time and place, but perhaps most striking of all is the exact dating of the Guy-Colbrond battle to July 12 (line 371). Only Gerard and Lydgate name this date and only one other chronicler, Thomas Rudborne, who was probably following Gerard, notes the year as 927.48

This particular date is linked to a documented historical event pivotal to the reign of Ethelstan. On July 12, 927,49 Ethelstan, having driven the Danes from Northumbria earlier that year, called together and gained the peace pledges of four powerful kings (Constantíne of Scotland, Owain of Strathclyde, Hywel of the Welsh, and Ealdred of English Northumbria) at the river Eamont. The Treaty of Eamont marked, says Sarah Foot “in formal ceremony the profound significance of Ethelstan’s acquisition of direct rule over Northumbria and the change in his royal status from king of the West Saxons and Mercians to ruler over all the English peoples.”50 Thus Guy’s triumph over Colbrond takes place on the same date as Ethelstan’s triumph over Northumbria. The specification of the date adds to the historical sense Lydgate was striving for, and, interestingly, also implicitly refutes the chronicle tradition’s association of the Guy-Colbrond battle with the Battle of Brunanburh in 937.51

Specific references to and locations in the city of Winchester also add to the sense of historical authenticity. Winchester had been associated with the Guy legend from its inception, no doubt because of its military and administrative significance during the Anglo-Saxon and post-Conquest periods, and its connections to the legend have been well noted by scholars.52 Often cited, for example, is eighteenth-century literary historian Thomas Warton’s anecdote that in 1338 a minstrel entertained the bishop of Winchester and the monks of the cathedral priory of St. Swithin with a Song of Colbrond,53 and Warton also tells us of Colbrond’s axe, kept “in the treasury of St. Swithin’s priory until the dissolution” and of the painting of the battle in “the north transept of [Winchester] cathedral till within [Warton’s] memory.”54

Gerard adds to these general associations, however, with unique narrative and geographical detail which Lydgate either reproduced or adapted. For example, on his return to England, Gerard’s Guy arrives in Portsmouth whence he makes his way to Winchester. Arriving late, he takes shelter in a hospital dedicated to the Sacred Cross located 250 paces from the north wall near a new monastery.55 Lydgate adapts the references slightly but still maintains the sense of geographical and historical authenticity: Guy shelters in an “old hospytall . . . Two hundrid pas withoute the north wall / Where stondeth now a menstre ful roiall” (lines 322–25).56 This minster is Hyde Abbey, located very near the battle site pinpointed by both Gerard and Lydgate as Hyde Mede, later known as Danemarche (“The place callyd of antyquyte / In Inglyssh tonge named Hyde Meede / Or ellis Denmark,” lines 378–80).57 The name Hyde Mede is explained by the presence of the abbey; that of Danemarche, though it may have come to be associated with the Danes, actually had been in use for centuries.58 Winchester Cathedral, too, is a significant location. It is highlighted both as the place to which the crowd processes after the battle and to which Guy brings Colbrond’s axe. Gerard says, and Lydgate implies, that the axe is still there: “Wich instrument thorugh al this regyoun / Is yit callid the ex of Colybrond” (lines 437–38).59


Lydgate not only reproduces many of Gerard’s historiographic details but also follows Gerard’s narrative structure, which differs significantly from that of the romance versions. These open with Guy’s return to England and only later shift to Ethelstan. In Gerard and Lydgate, the situation is reversed. The poem opens with Ethelstan and the Danish invasions. Guy makes his appearance about halfway through when he arrives at Portsmouth. His return to England is directly linked to Ethelstan’s prayer for deliverance; thus the delayed entrance both illustrates God’s merciful hand and emphasizes Guy’s significant place in an historical and patriotic narrative. But Lydgate also alters Gerard’s account in some significant ways. He expands Gerard’s relatively short prose account to 592 lines of eight-line ballad stanzas,60 adding description, moralizing exempla, and didactic observation particularly in the first part of the poem, creating a moral as well as historical dimension to the English-Danish conflict. Lydgate also adds emphasis to the ancestral theme, gives Guy and Felice a kind of practicality present neither in Gerard nor the romances, de-emphasizes both romance and hagiography, and enlivens the narrative with direct speech. Throughout, Lydgate underlines Guy’s historical authenticity as English hero and true Warwick ancestor.

After its chronicle-like opening, the poem’s opening stanzas are filled with action, creating a vivid account of the terrifying ferocity of the Danes. Building on Gerard, Lydgate portrays the Danes as the embodiment of evil as they sweep down on Winchester with fire and blood.61 A kinesthetic sense is palpable in the swift, savage action which spares no one, not even “women greet with chylde” (line 16). Lydgate vividly and effectively contrasts the red Danish fury with the pale helplessness of the English. While Danish fires burn fiercely on the hills, the people below are “[f]or verray dreed of colour ded and pale / Whan the stremys ran doun of red blood / Lyk a gret ryver” (lines 30–32). These opening stanzas are also effective in establishing the moral framework. The great sin of the Danes is pride, the subject of the next few stanzas, which replace the arresting imagery and movement of the poem’s opening with a series of didactic observations and exempla showing that, while God punishes the proud and tyrannical, he is merciful to the virtuous. While this material may seem merely digressive, its purpose is to frame the crisis in ethical terms: God will be “mercyable” (line 87) to those who deserve it. Ethelstan will gain God’s favour and intervention because of his virtue and nobility: “The hand of God stood always in his myght / To chaunge his trouble into prosperyté” (lines 79–80).

Ethelstan and his council must decide whether to submit to the Danes or find a champion to engage the giant Colbrond62 in single combat. Only now does Guy’s name appear in the poem, in the first of what will be three passages on the Warwick ancestry. In each instance, Lydgate greatly expands Gerard’s brief exposition, making the Warwick line of succession a major theme in the poem.63 The passages occur at significant narrative moments: here near the beginning, with the council’s wish that even one great English champion — Rowand, Herald, or Guy — were available to fight Colbrond (lines 165–85); next, when Guy arrives in England (lines 284–316); and third, when Guy dies (lines 553–68). Each set of stanzas emphasizes Felice’s lineage and virtue and blurs the line between the fictional and the real, intertwining praise for the Warwick line with praise for Guy, shaping him as an authentic Warwick ancestor.

The first of these passages fills in the “back story” of Guy and Felice—his abandonment of her, their unborn son, and the chivalric life in order to live like a pilgrim. The initial focus is on Raynborne, Felice and Guy’s son, who will inherit the Warwick title through Felice, the legitimate heir now that her father Rowand is dead (line 177). Felice, Rowand, and Guy are all presented as exemplars: Felice is the highest example of “trouthe and womanhede” (line 180),64 Rowand, of “noblesse and manheede” (line 181), and Guy, of chivalry and virtue. Guy’s roles of knight and pilgrim are carefully balanced here. He is the best knight of his time, the “lode sterre” of manhood (line 168), but he is also so virtuous, perfect, in fact (line 194), that he has forsaken the world for the love of Christ (line 192). This innate virtue has led him to reject “wordly pompe” (line 198) and to become “Goddis knyght” (line 195). Guy embodies the physical and spiritual qualities that will enable him to fight Colbrond and save England. Set within this passage on the Warwick succession, the description of Guy’s multiple virtues intermingles praise for him and for the Warwicks.

The second extended Warwick reference is strategically embedded in the account of Guy’s arrival in England, a pivotal moment in the narrative. The eponymous hero has finally arrived on England’s shores and entered into the poem. The moment is heightened by its positioning — Guy arrives implicitly as God’s agent, an answer to Ethelstan’s desperate prayer for help — and by a recapitulation of the Warwick material. Emphasized again are Felice’s virtue and Raynborne’s legitimate inheritance through her of the earldom, made illustrious by her dead father. Again, Guy is presented as both knight and pilgrim, with initial descriptors stressing his martial role. The “noble famous knyght” (line 293) steps ashore, sent by God “taccomplisshe in knyghthood fynally / The laste empryse of his hih renoun” (lines 299–300). He is the “kyngys champioun” (line 301) in pilgrim garb, and in these capacities he will come through Winchester’s north gate where Ethelstan waits. It is worth noting that, though Ethelstan sees only a lowly pilgrim, it is in the language of knighthood that he appeals for help, begging him “to underfonge this knyhtly hih empryse” (line 347), and to be his “champion” (line 351).

The final set of passages emphasizing the Warwick inheritance is positioned very near the poem’s end. Here, Lydgate seizes a final opportunity to praise Felice, stress the ancestral theme, and articulate Guy’s worthiness as ancestor: “the stok descendyng of antyquyté / To Guy [Raynbourne’s] fader be tytle of mariage, / After whos deth, of lawe and equyté” (lines 561–63) Raynbourne will inherit the title. Guy is the inevitable and natural beneficiary of Felice’s inheritance, which will come to fruition in their son. Again, Guy’s physical and heroic qualities are balanced with his spiritual and pilgrim attributes. Guy’s “parfight lyf” (line 580) of “vertuous governaunce, . . . wylful povert, hard goyng, and penaunce” (lines 580–81), is also characterized by his “marcyal name” (line 578), “knyghtly excellence” (line 575) and “noblesse” (line 577). When Guy sends for Felice just before he dies, he does so as a “notable, famous, worthy knyght” (line 529). Lydgate’s final reference to him is as “sir Guy” (line 586). Felice has been praised likewise in the highest terms. As the inheritor of the Warwick title, she is of impeccable virtue, the very example of noble womanhood. At the end of the poem, three stanzas are devoted to describing her excellence, her practicality, and her obedience in following Guy’s instructions about preparing his tomb (lines 521–44).

In all three of these extended passages on the Warwick inheritance, Guy’s virtue is shown to reside in his multiple roles as knight, pilgrim, agent of God, and authentic ancestor. Lydgate keeps these in careful balance throughout the poem65 by de-emphasizing hagiography and romance. Lydgate consistently keeps the poem from edging into romance, and this is echoed by a parallel movement away from hagiography. In Middle English and French romance versions of the tale, Guy prays before going into battle with Colbrond; he is armed with glittering and bejeweled armor; the battle is rendered in exciting blow-by-blow detail, and there is much jubilation and singing of the “Te Deum” on Guy’s victory. Guy reveals his identity to Ethelstan, retires to a hermitage, and dies a saintly death just as Felice arrives for an emotional reunion with her dying (or newly dead) husband. However, these romance and hagiographical motifs are muted or absent in Lydgate’s poem. Preparations for the battle, rendered in practical and legalistic language, sharply contrast with the praying or arming of the romances:
Tyme set of Jule upon the twelfth day,
Place assigned, and meetyng of thes tweyne;
The accord rehersed, the statute, and the peyne,
Doubylnesse and fraude set asyde
As the partyes were boundyn in serteyn,
For short conclusioun therby to abyde. (lines 371–76)
                                                              on 12 July


Nor is the battle itself given much attention.66 Most striking, however, is Lydgate’s treatment of Guy’s death. In many versions of the tale, Guy’s dead body emits the sweet odor of sanctity, a sign of God’s favor reserved only for saints or the very saint-like. Angels carry Guy’s soul to heaven, and sometimes miracles attend his death: his body is too heavy even for a hundred men to move it, the sick are sometimes healed. Here, however, Guy’s death is quiet and humble. When he receives an angelic message that he is to die, he sends for Felice, who, when she arrives, finds him lying “dedly and pale of face” (line 528). Conspicuous by its absence is any sweet odor emanating from his body. Nor do any miracles attend his death. There is no trouble moving his body; no sick are healed. Felice follows Guy’s burial instructions and prepares for her own death. That Lydgate does not accord Guy a saintly death is a significant deviation not only from the romance tradition but also from Gerard and his source. It speaks to the balance Lydgate achieves in Guy’s portrayal. It is neither Guy’s saintliness or his romantic heroism celebrated in his death but, rather, his humanity. Lydgate, that is, consistently works to depict Guy as neither saint nor romance hero but an historically authentic figure, a man of extraordinary virtue and bravery and a legitimate Warwick ancestor.

Direct speech helps to characterize Guy in this way. In Lydgate’s source, direct speech occurs only twice, the angel answering Ethelstan’s prayer and Guy revealing his true identity. Lydgate, however, increases this number: Ethelstan’s heartfelt prayer is voiced,67 the angel speaks to him twice, and Guy himself speaks four times, agreeing to fight Colbrond (lines 357–60), responding to Ethelstan’s desire to learn his identity (lines 449–64), revealing that identity (lines 470–72), and vowing never again to remove his pilgrim garb (lines 487–88). These direct speeches not only vivify the narrative but they also function significantly to humanize Guy. In his very first words, spoken in response to Ethelstan’s appeal for help, Guy articulates a concern for the common good. He replies, that is, as neither saint nor knight: “For comoun profit good wil shal nat fayll, / My lyf juparte to set thys lond in ese” (lines 359–60). Unlike the responses of the romance Guys, there are no references to God, to patriotism, or to chivalry in this reply.68 The reference to “comoun profit” does not appear in other versions of the Guy story, nor is it in Gerard. This is Lydgate’s innovation, and, in the manner of John Gower, its use takes Guy out of the realm of romance and hagiography and into the English world of citizenship and the common good.69 As Anthony Black points out, the term referred not only to goods themselves which collectively “would benefit all indiscriminately, such as internal and external peace, and the prosperity of the realm” but also “the promotion of common interests, the integrity of one’s territory and the preservation of common assets. There was much emphasis on the subordination of the individual to communal need.”70 The common profit included a dimension of caritas (Christian love and friendship) but it was grounded at its core in the community, the civitas.71 That Lydgate gives this phrase to Guy suggests a different sort of heroism than that found in other iterations of the character. Though Guy is certainly a pilgrim, an agent of God, and a heroic champion, he is also very much a decent Englishman.

Guy’s three other direct speeches reinforce his humanity and humility, their tone consistent with Lydgate’s reshaping of the legend away from romance and hagiography. Guy replies to Ethelstan’s question about his identity with a set of practical instructions about where they must meet, outside the city, “Noon but we tweyne beyng in presence / With trouthe assured that ye shal be secré” (lines 459–60), and he even adds a rather informal “ye gete no more of me” (line 461).72 The terms with which he reveals his name to Ethelstan are dutifully meek and respectful, and his final words carry the force of some emotion and immediacy, reinforcing his innate humility. With”pitous wepyng” (line 485) Guy re-dons his pilgrim garb and declares “Duryng my lyf, it may noon other bee, / Schall I never doon off this garnement” (lines 487–88).

In his poem, Lydgate transforms the legend of Guy, shaping his source material and the tradition to his purposes. Skillfully exploiting the possibilities in Gerard’s condensed narrative to enhance the moral, historical, and ancestral dimensions of the Guy legend, Lydgate links the figure of Guy intimately not only to the Warwick line but also to English history. Without downplaying Guy’s virtue, spirituality, or humility, Lydgate strengthens his humanity, practicality, and authenticity. Herein lies Lydgate’s unique contribution to the Guy legend.


Lydgate’s Guy is indexed in IMEV 875. Like the Fabula, the poem is extant in seven fifteenth-century manuscripts, a number which suggests the poem was reasonably popular and well-known. All of the manuscripts except for P participate in a large group of manuscripts that share a number of Lydgate texts in common.73 The texts of Guy fall into two groups, Group A and Group B, as distinguished by Robinson.74

Group A
The texts of Guy in Houghton Library, MS Eng 530 and British Library, MS Harley 7333 are closely similar, both also have a truncated envoy, omit three stanzas (lines 265–88), contain an alternate version of lines 230–40, and are headed by a rubric attributing the patronage of the poem to Margaret Beauchamp. Both manuscripts were at one time thought to have been copied in whole or in part by John Shirley,75 but scholars now agree that both are derived from a lost Shirley exemplar.76 Both manuscripts also exhibit a strong Beauchamp connection in addition to the rubric: Houghton Library, MS Eng 530 ends with a prose Brut, which breaks off during the reign of Henry VI, accompanied by an annotation that in this year (1439) Richard Beauchamp “the gode erle of Warwyke” died. As Margaret Connolly points out, this information is pertinent to the date of the manuscript, since the “new chapell” where Richard’s body is said to lie was not completed until 1464.77 British Library, MS Harley 7333 also contains a reference to Beachamp in a headnote to the text of Lydgate’s Lives of SS Edmund and Fremund (written in honor of Henry VI’s Christmas 1433 visit to Bury St. Edmunds), and Richard is also named as having commissioned Lydgate’s “Title and Pedigree of Henry VI,” a poem that appears uniquely in this manuscript.78 Both HH and Hr have been well-described.79

Cambridge, MA, Harvard University, Houghton Library, MS Eng 530 (HH): quarto, 211 leaves, on paper, dating from between 1440 and 1464, containing six items of historical and didactic material, including Guy which appears on fols. 4v–12v.80

London, British Library, MS Harley 7333 (Hr): a large manuscript, over 200 pages, dating from between 1450 and 1460.81 It consists of seven parts, or booklets, written by multiple scribes,82 containing works by Chaucer (including The Canterbury Tales) and others; and seven works by Lydgate, including Guy and the Lives of SS Edmund and Fremund. John M. Manly and Edith Rickert’s suggestion that the manuscript was associated with the religious house of St. Mary de Pratis in Leicester has been accepted by most scholars.83 Guy appears on 33r–35v, preceded by the same rubric that appears in HH.

Group B
These five manuscripts all contain complete texts of Guy; that is to say that they contain a full eight-line envoy and three stanzas missing in Group A; they also share the same version of lines 230–240. None of them include the rubric present in the two Group A texts. The “sister manuscripts,” British Library, MS Lansdowne 699 and University Library, MS Vossius Germ. Gall Q.9 are closely related.

London, British Library, MS Lansdowne 699 (L): 176 leaves, on paper, quarto, mid to late fifteenth century.84 The contents include Chaucer’s “Fortune,” “Truth,”85 and seventeen Lydgate items, including the Fabula, all of which, other than the Lives of SS Albon and Amphibal, are also found in University Library, MS Vossius Germ. Gall Q.9. Guy appears on fols. 18v–27v with the rubric Incipit Guydo de Warwik.86

Leiden, University Library, MS Vossius Germ. Gall. Q.9 (V): quarto, 135 leaves, late fifteenth century.87 Guy appears on fols. 17r–29v. The poem is entitled (in a different hand) Danico invasio regnante Ethelstano un cum historia Guidonis de Warwik.88 V is closely related to L, not only in the number and order of Lydgate items (both manuscripts have the first eighteen items in common, ten of which appear in the same order) but also in its texts of both the Fabula and Guy.89

Cambridge, Cambridge University Library, MS Trinity R.3.21 (T): a large composite anthology, once owned by John Stow; made up of several booklets copied by three scribes, containing mainly religious and didactic works, several in duplicate, and a number of works by Lydgate. It shares its main scribes with Trinity MS R.3.19, and another scribe with two of the Fabula manuscripts, Harley 2251 and Add. 34360. Guy is found on fols. 305r–314r and is entitled A Tale of Guy & Colbrond.90

Peterborough, Peterborough Central Library (P): a small book, on paper, late fifteenth century, contains only seven items, of which only the final two, Lydgate’s Verses on the Kings of England (IMEV 882; fols. 49r–52v) and the Guy (fols. 54–63) are in English. The other five items, in Latin, consist of hagiographical and liturgical material focused mainly on St. Edward.91 The scribe identifies himself as Thomas Sandon on fol. 48r; he certainly wrote the Latin items and probably the Lydgate ones as well. The final stanza of Lydgate’s Verses on the Kings provides an approximate date: it refers to Henry VI’s burial in 1471 at Chertsey Abbey and is thus before 1484 when Henry’s bones were moved to Windsor.92

Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Laud Misc. 683 (Ld): a large Lydgate anthology, on vellum, with 151 leaves; its first section, fols. 1–107, originally a separate manuscript, contains religious and didactic works by Lydgate, including his Testament. Guy of Warwick appears on fols. 65–78. Anthony Bale and A. S. G. Edwards suggest that its contents “point to a Suffolk provenance.”93 Several works show a connection to or interest in Lydgate’s own monastery, Bury St. Edmunds. The many prayers to saints include prayers to St. Robert, a local saint, and to St. Edmund. The manuscript also contains part of Miracles of St. Edmund — it is the only manuscript to contain this work without the accompanying Lives of SS Edmund and Fremund94 — and Lydgate’s Life of St. Giles, written for Abbot Curteys of Bury St. Edmunds. These contents seem to point clearly to a Suffolk provenance and local interest in the devotional; several other works, including the Guy (fols. 65–77v) as well as the prayers to St. Thomas and St. George illustrate a “general English devotional patriotism.”95 There is a blanket attribution to Lydgate on f. 105r: “Al the langage that heerre be forn ys wretyn was maad and compiled by damp Johannis Lydgate monk of Seynt Edmundys Bury on whos sowle now [Jesu] have mercy.” This note must have been written after 1449, the year Lydgate died. Nevertheless, this is not far off the date of 1444 suggested by Bale and Edwards.96

The text for the present edition is provided by Laud Misc. 683.97 It has a very probable Suffolk provenance and clear connections to Lydgate’s own monastery: Bale writes that Ld “comprises a regional eulogy to Suffolk and East Anglia,”98 A. S. G. Edwards notes that it is one of a group of manuscripts “that seem to have been professionally produced from exemplars that may derive ultimately from . . . Bury St. Edmunds.”99 Its first section, fols. 1–105r, originally a separate manuscript, is clearly meant to be a Lydgate anthology, with a blanket scribal ascription of all of the texts to Lydgate. MacCracken and Zupitza also based their editions on Laud, but neither had access to all of the manuscripts.


The manuscript contexts within which Lydgate’s Guy appears suggest a strong interest in the exemplary and in the historical. In this respect, it is consistent with the manuscript contexts within which the Anglo-Norman Gui appears as well; as both Judith Weiss and Marianne Ailes point out, the material with which Gui appears often bespeaks an overt interest in the historical, suggesting, as Weiss remarks, that “its readers may have regarded it as history.”100 This also appears to be the case with Lydgate’s Guy of Warwick, which consistently appears with material pertaining to the history of England and/or with English monarchs. Five of the manuscripts include Lydgate’s Verses on the Kings of England,101 two, HH and Hr, contain the Brut, L and V contain the “histories” of Arthur and Constantine from Lydgate’s Fall of Princes, and P centers on the exemplary and historical with its focus on Edward as king and saint. Overall, the contents of the manuscripts containing Guy can be described as collections of mainly short, didactic works that show a marked interest in the historical and the exemplary. Taking note of this fact, and singling out, in addition to the historical material, such works as Life of St. Giles (L, V, and Ld) and Legend of St. Austen at Compton (L and V), to which I would add Life of St. George (T), A. S. G. Edwards remarks that “these [manuscripts] provide the most obvious parallels to the historical and hagiographical elements in Guy of Warwick.”102 Laud Misc. 683 paradoxically both deviates from and reinforces this pattern. It does not contain the Verses or the Brut, but it does show a marked connection with material concerning St. Edmund. This material has clear connections with the same historical period that Guy purportedly belongs to. In fact, the descriptions of Danish ferocity and slaughter in Lives of SS Edmund and Fremund show clear similarities with the same sorts of descriptions in Guy.103 Thus the contents of Ld also evince an interest in the exemplary and the historical.


As outlined in the General Introduction, I have followed METS principles in preparing this edition of Guy. Scribal abbreviations are silently expanded; I have taken the macron to indicate m/n. Other strokes and flourishes I have considered otiose. I have also silently joined or separated words where not to do so would be confusing; for example, hym silff becomes hymsilf (line 318), while Infeere becomes in feere (line 456). I have tried to punctuate with a light hand while at the same time using punctuation as an aid to reading Lydgate’s loose, paratactic sentences. Often these lack a finite verb or a clear grammatical subject; in these cases, punctuation can do only so much. The textual notes record any emendations I have made as well as substantive variants from the six other manuscripts that record significant differences in meaning. I have not included variations in spelling, or grammatical or other morphological variants (for example, wer/werne, drawith/draw, been/ben/byn), though on occasion I have included an interesting or unusual example. Where, however, the forms are significantly different (e.g., eke/also), I have included the variant. And if it is uncertain as to whether a variant records a different word or simply a different spelling, for example dool/dulle, I include this as well. Where more than one witness records the same variant, I include only one form, usually from the manuscript sigla that comes first alphabetically. I do not make a special point of indicating where my text differs from MacCracken’s or Zupitza’s, nor do I draw attention to where there may be errors or omissions in one or the other of their collations. I have not usually noted whether variants are scribal corrections, that is, added or inserted above the line or after a cancellation, and I have included marginalia only when it is of particular interest.

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