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5. The Sanctification of Power

We have been arguing throughout this book that an early modern English town, unlike the great city-states of the ancient world or of Renaissance Italy, was not self-sufficient. It was, rather, a legal and political unit within the larger order of the realm, defined by privileges and immunities that granted it only a modicum of self-government under royal command and that enabled it only partially and intermittently to regulate and contain the social and economic processes upon which its way of life depended. Where Aristotle’s Athens or Dante’s Florence, with their independent governments, diverse social structures, and wide hinterlands, had plausible claims as autonomous communities capable of satisfying within their own boundaries most of the earthly hopes and wants of their members, Tudor and Stuart London or Bristol were but parts of an interlocking web of urban and rural places that no one believed could stand on their own. What held each of them together was its corporate existence and sense of community, which separated the freemen from their surroundings and gave them a unity and a capacity for collective action they otherwise would not have possessed. This capacity in turn depended on the ability of each city’s governors to convert their authority into actions in the interest of the urban community.

We know with some accuracy who among the Bristolians could claim authority in the city from the end of the fifteenth to the middle of the seventeenth century. At the head, of course, were the forty-three members of the civic body: the mayor, recorder, aldermen, sheriffs, and common councillors, all of whom had been co-opted into this duty by their predecessors. The governing group of the city also included the paid assistants of the Corporation, such as the chamberlain, the town clerk, and the sergeants-at-mace, as well as the officers of the gilds—the master, wardens, assistants, and so on—and of the parishes—the church-wardens, vestrymen, overseers of the poor, constables, and the like. Hence, in a city of ten to twelve thousand souls, of whom perhaps as many as a sixth or even a fifth were free burgesses, the proportion of citizens who shared in rule at one time or another during their lives was relatively high. At any given moment, something like 10 percent of them might have held one or another of these positions.[1] However, as with so much else in the history of this period, we know far more of the membership of the elite, who consistently left marks in the surviving municipal records, than about the lesser figures in the urban hierarchy. Nevertheless, the impression we derive from the existing sources is very much in keeping with Sir Thomas Smith’s depiction of urban political sociology in his De Republica Anglorum, first published in 1583. According to Smith, it was not only wealthy and independent citizens who exercised the authority of municipal office and bore its charges, but for default of sufficient numbers of them even “Taylors, Shoomakers, Carpenters, Brickmakers, Bricklayers, Masons” and other artificers might share in rule in the towns, sitting on “enquests and Juries” or being “Commonly made Churchwardens, alecunners, and manie times Constables.” [2] Bristol could not have conducted its daily affairs without such assistance.

Wide participation in local governance was an important feature of social and political life in Bristol, one that gave considerable substance to the ideals of communal fellowship and common duty that traditionally had been manifested in the city’s festivals and that still were conveyed in the oaths taken by every freeman. But here, as everywhere in English society, only a handful of individuals, in Bristol’s case primarily the members of the Bristol Corporation, exercised genuinely large powers in shouldering the burdens of service to the commonwealth. This elite, the very top of the city’s social hierarchy, not only occupied the principal municipal offices but held the leading posts in gild and parish as well. For example, the right fell to them, as members of the Common Council, to impose economic regulations on citizens and strangers, to administer those regulations, and to levy and collect taxes to pay for municipal government. With the Reformation, these same individuals took on added religious duties, among which were those of appointing the chaplain in the Mayor’s Chapel and the minister in Temple Church and arranging for and selecting weekly lecturers to provide theological edification and moral guidance to the populace.[3] This role became even more important after 1627, when Bristol’s government acquired the advowson of seven of its eighteen parishes.[4] To a degree perhaps not reached again until the creation of the welfare state, they oversaw the lives of the citizenry from the cradle to the grave. The governance of Bristol generally followed the pattern in the nation at large: the exercise of rule depended on the participation and tacit consent of the ruled, but the duty of government belonged to an exclusive group who alone enjoyed the legal authority to administer and judge. Fortunately, our evidence allows us to take a close look at the changing social makeup of this body under the Tudors and early Stuarts.

Throughout Bristol’s premodern history, the acquisition of public office by its citizens was a direct outgrowth of their economic and social success. If a man accumulated riches, he was expected to accept the burdens of borough government, bearing from his own funds, if necessary, a portion of the financial charges. Refusals to serve were met by heavy fines. The expenses of office could sometimes be very large, as William Dale discovered when he served as sheriff in 1518, but this made it all the more essential for wealthy men to undertake responsibility for local administration. By the charter, membership in the central governing body, the Common Council, was vested in “the better and more worthy men” of the town, who in 1635 were said to consist of those freemen possessed of at least £1,500 in goods and credit.[5]

This application of an economic standard for public office meant, however, that the composition of the Common Council tended to reflect the distribution of wealth in Bristol. Although some eligible freemen would inevitably fail to be elected, the leading occupations in the city were likely to be represented roughly in proportion to their socioeconomic weight in the community at large, for otherwise the political domination of a particular group might lead to the economic ruin of its members. Hence as the patterns of social mobility altered and the social organization became transformed, the structure of civic politics also tended to change. By the early sixteenth century, as we know, the economic changes Bristol had experienced in the wake of the loss of Bordeaux were already apparent in the new social geography of the city, with the common councillors now concentrated in the city center. We can develop this picture further by looking at municipal election results for the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

Bristol’s new charter of 1499 authorized the mayor then in office, Nicholas Browne, and two aldermen nominated by him to name the new group of Corporation members, which assured that the new body would be amenable to the spirit of hierarchy evident throughout the charter.[6] Thereafter, the system of election was co-optative. Vacancies in the Common Council were filled by vote of the remaining members of the body, who chose between two candidates for each position, one nominated by the mayor and one nominated at large. Because only a limited number of citizens were wealthy enough to serve, however, the same candidates tended to reappear from election to election until they eventually were chosen and sworn. They did not always do so willingly; some preferred to pay heavy fines rather than accept the time-consuming burdens and indeterminate expenses of municipal office. Occasionally coercion was used to dragoon a reluctant individual into service, as when Luke Hodges, grocer, was threatened with a £200 penalty for his refusal.[7] But Common Council membership also had its rewards, since this body exercised considerable power, especially in economic regulation. As a result there was always a tension in the electoral process as the councillors tried to insure that no one who could bear office would escape, but tended to seek friends and supporters for their own points of view. The outcome was a body that was never overwhelmed by a single faction but was always controlled by a majority who held common views on the key issues of the day.

The exact membership of the Common Council is unknown for most of the sixteenth century, but it can be reconstructed almost in its entirety by using the names of the sheriffs elected each year during the period. Because these officials were responsible for, among other duties, that of collecting and paying the city’s fee farm, the office was a very burdensome and costly one to hold. New members of the council usually were chosen as sheriff as a kind of entry fee or tax soon after joining the body; normally they held the post just once. A few refused to serve, and some were passed over, but in practice nearly all the common councillors held the office at one time or another during their municipal careers. By the terms of the 1499 charter, two sheriffs were elected each year, with vacancies created by death filled during the year. Between 1500 and 1600, two hundred and two Bristolians were elected to the office, which almost certainly represents more than 90 percent of the council’s membership during this period. What bias there is favors the wealthiest councillors, since these men would have been the least likely to have been passed over or to have refused to serve.[8]

The occupations of one hundred and eighty-three of Bristol’s sixteenth-century sheriffs are known. For the whole century, almost 80 percent were either overseas merchants or major retailers or soapmakers, and this proportion was on the increase—under 70 percent in the first fifty years, over 85 percent in the second. Among the grocers, drapers, mercers, and vintners, moreover, many would have abandoned their retail shops to deal exclusively by wholesale as “mere merchants.” After 1550, the cappers, tuckers, whitawers, glovers, pointmakers, tanners, pewterers, smiths, and other artisans contributed much smaller numbers or disappeared entirely from the list. In particular, the participation of the once preeminent textile industries was minimal—just over 5 percent (Table 20). In the late Middle Ages, as we know, councillors had come from a relatively undifferentiated body of shopkeeper-merchants, who bought and sold a great variety of wares by retail as well as wholesale. It is hard to escape the conclusion that after 1499 the Corporation, though apparently more diverse in the occupations represented among its membership, in fact was far more homogeneous in social makeup than it had been, and that it was becoming only more so in the course of the sixteenth century.

20. Occupations of Bristol Sheriffs, 1500-1600
  1500–1550 1550–1600 1500–1600
  No. %[a] No. %[a] No. %[a]
Source: William Adams, Adams’s Chronicle of Bristol, ed. F. F. Fox (Bristol: J. W. Arrowsmith, 1910); A. E. Hudd, “Two Bristol Calendars,” Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, Transactions 19 (1894–95): 105–41.
A. Leading entrepreneurs:
  Merchants 30 33.71 39 41.49 69 37.70
  Major retailers
    apothecary, grocer 12 13.48 8 8.51 20 10.93
    draper 6 6.74 15 15.96 21 11.48
    fishmonger     1 1.06 1 0.55
    haberdasher 4 4.49     4 2.19
    mercer 7 7.87 9 9.57 16 8.74
Vintner     2 2.13 2 1.09
      Subtotal 29 32.58 35 37.23 64 34.97
Soapmakers, chandlers 2 2.25 7 7.45 9 4.92
      Total A 61 68.54 81 86.17 142 77.60
B. Textile industries:
  Capper 2 2.25     2 1.09
  Tailor     2 2.13 2 1.09
  Tucker, clothier 3 3.37 1 1.06 4 2.19
  Upholsterer     2 2.13 2 1.09
      Total B 5 5.62 5 5.32 10 5.46
C. Leather industries:
  Shoemaker     1 1.06 1 0.55
  Tanner 4 4.49 2 2.13 6 3.28
  Whitawer, glover, pointmaker 5 5.62 1 1.06 6 3.28
      Total C 9 10.11 4 4.26 13 7.10
D. Metal industries:
  Bellfounder 1 1.12     1 0.55
  Cardmaker 1 1.12 1 1.06 2 1.09
  Goldsmith     1 1.06 1 0.55
  Pewterer 1 1.12     1 0.55
  Smith 1 1.12     1 0.55
      Total D 4 4.49 2 2.13 6 3.28
E. Woodworking:
  Hooper, cooper     1 1.06 1 0.55
F. Food production:
  Baker 2 2.25     2 1.09
  Brewer 6 6.74 1 1.06 7 3.83
      Total F 8 8.99 1 1.06 9 4.92
G. Professional and service trades:
  Scrivener 1 1.12     1 0.55
  Tidewaiter 1 1.12     1 0.55
      Total G 2 2.25     2 1.09
      Total known A–G 89   94   183  
      Total unknown A–G 13   6   19  
      Grand Total 102   100   202  

For the early seventeenth century, the council membership is known directly from the town clerk’s minutes of its meetings. Between 1605 and 1642, when Civil War events disrupted the election procedures, one hundred and twenty-three Bristolians were chosen for service, including one who was elected, dismissed, and reelected. The occupation or status of one hundred and twenty of these men is known. The overall pattern is very similar to what we have just seen for the later sixteenth century. Over 80 percent came from among the city’s leading entrepreneurs, with a third being major retailers. There was a small increase in the percentage of merchants at the expense of retailers and soapmakers. For this period we are also able to establish the connection of the council members to the Society of Merchant Venturers, which gives us a more precise idea of their economic interests. Seventy-one councillors, or nearly 60 percent, were associated with the Society during their careers. Sixty-two served at one time or another as its master, treasurer, or warden, an indication that their connections were close. Moreover, the dominance of the Merchant Venturers in the government was strengthening during the early seventeenth century. From 1605 to 1623, 57 per cent of the new councillors were members of the Society; but from 1623 to the outbreak of the Civil War, the figure was 75 percent. These changes reflect the growing importance of the “mere merchants” in Bristol. As council vacancies fell open they were increasingly filled by Merchant Venturers (Table 21).[9]

21. Occupations of Members of the Common Council, 1605-1642
  No. %[a]
Source: A. B. Beaven, Bristol Lists: Municipal and Miscellaneous (Bristol: T. D. Taylor, Sons and Hawkins, 1899).
A. Leading entrepreneurs:
  Merchants 56 46.67
  Major retailers
    apothecary, grocer 7 5.83
    draper 11 9.17
    fishmonger 2 1.67
    haberdasher 1 0.83
    hardwareman 3 2.50
    mercer 13 10.83
    vintner, innholder 3 2.50
      Subtotal 40 33.33
  Soapmakers, chandlers 4 3.33
     Total A 100 83.33
B. Textile industries:
  Clothier 5 4.17
C. Leather industries:
  Pointmaker 1 0.83
D. Metal industries:
  Cardmaker 1 0.83
  Wiredrawer 1 0.83
     Total D 2 1.67
E. Food production:
  Brewer 7 5.83
F. Gentlemen, yeomen 5 4.17
       Total known A–F 120
      Total unknown A–F 3
        Grand Total 123

A similar pattern is apparent among the mayors and aldermen, who as Bristol’s justices of the peace were the dominant forces in local affairs. For the mayors a complete list of those holding the office is available from the high Middle Ages. Over the whole period from 1500 to 1642, between 70 and 80 percent of them were merchants, major retailers, or soapmakers, with the merchants once again representing the largest single share.[10] The figures are virtually the same for the aldermen in the early seventeenth century, when we can first establish an accurate list of their names. But since almost all of them eventually served as mayor, this similarity in proportion is only to be expected. For the early seventeenth century we can once again establish the affiliation of these men with the Merchant Venturers. Just over 60 percent of the mayors and just under 60 percent of the aldermen were members during their lifetimes. Again, the connection was strengthening in the early seventeenth century. Between 1605 and 1623, for example, just over half of the mayors were Merchant Venturers. In the following nineteen years the proportion rose to more than four out of five (Tables 22 and 23).

22. Occupations of Bristol Mayors, 1500-1642
  1500–1550 1550–1600 1600–1642
  No. %[a] No. %[a] No. %[a]
Source: William Adams, Adams’s Chronicle of Bristol, ed. F. F. Fox (Bristol: J. W. Arrowsmith, 1910); A. E. Hudd, “Two Bristol Calendars,” Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, Transactions 19 (1894–95): 105–41; A. B. Beaven, Bristol Lists: Municipal and Miscellaneous (Bristol: T. D. Taylor, Sons, and Hawkins, 1899).
A. Leading entrepreneurs:
  Merchants 21 45.65 18 36.00 20 47.62
  Major retailers
    apothecary, grocer 2 4.35 5 10.00 2 4.76
    draper 4 8.70 7 14.00 2 4.76
    fishmonger     1 2.00    
    haberdasher 4 8.70        
    hardwareman         1 2.38
    mercer 2 4.35 4 8.00 7 16.67
    vintner     2 4.00    
      Subtotal 12 26.09 19 38.00 12 28.57
  Soapmakers, chandlers     2 4.00 2 4.76
     Total A 33 71.74 39 78.00 34 80.95
B. Textile industries:
  Tailor     1 2.00    
  Tucker, clothier 1 2.17     3 7.14
  Upholsterer     1 2.00    
     Total B 1 2.17 2 4.00 3 7.14
C. Leather industries:
  Tanner 4 8.70 3 6.00    
  Whitawer, glover, pointmaker 3 6.52 1 2.00    
     Total C 7 15.22 4 8.00    
D. Metal industries:
  Bellfounder 1 2.17        
  Cardmaker         1 2.38
  Pewterer     2 4.00    
     Total D 1 2.17 2 4.00 1 2.38
E. Food production:
  Baker 1 2.17        
  Brewer 1 2.17 3 6.00 2 4.76
     Total E 2 4.35 3 6.00 2 4.76
F. Gentlemen, yeomen 2 4.35     2 4.76
     Total known A–F 46   50   42  
     Total unknown A–F 7   0   1  
       Grand Total 53   50   43  
23. Occupations of Bristol Aldermen, 1605-1642
No. %[a]  
Source: A. B. Beaven, Bristol Lists: Municipal and Miscellaneous (Bristol: T. D. Taylor, Sons, and Hawkins, 1899).
A. Leading entrepreneurs:
  Merchants 19 45.29
  Major retailers    
    apothecary, grocer 2 4.76
    draper 3 7.14
    hardwareman 1 2.38
    mercer 6 14.29
    vintner 1 2.38
      Subtotal 13 30.95
  Soapmakers, chandlers 2 4.76
     Total A 34 80.95
B. Textile industries:
  Clothier 2 4.76
C. Metal industries:
  Cardmaker 1 2.38
D. Food production:
  Brewer 2 4.76
E. Yeomen 3 7.14
      Total known A–E 42  
      Total unknown A–E 1  
        Grand Total 43  

The Bristol Corporation was never intended to be a cross-section of civic society. Unlike the governing body of London, its membership was not even selected according to gild affiliation. It was, rather, an organization of the community’s social and economic leaders, chosen primarily because their personal fortunes could bear the costs of service. It should occasion no surprise, therefore, that only a small portion of the city’s trades and industries were represented among the mayors, aldermen, and common councillors and that the mercantile and industrial elite held the vast majority of the offices. Nor is it especially remarkable that this exclusivity was reinforced by a pattern of close personal relations among these men. Given the nature of trade and industry in this period, it is only to be expected that the richest citizens of Bristol would also have shared family ties, business associations, and close friendships. But for all the predictability of these facts, they are nonetheless important in understanding how Bristol was ruled in this period.

It is not possible to review all the significant personal connections that linked the members of the Common Council. There were undoubtedly many important ties that the extant evidence has not brought to light. Enough survives, however, to give a glimpse of the general pattern. During the early seventeenth century, almost 80 percent of the Corporation members were linked to at least one other councillor by a family tie or by personal dependency, and nearly 40 percent of this group were connected to more than one of their fellow councillors. The most common bonds were those of kinship, but apprenticeship also played a very large role. Between 1598 and 1642 almost 37 percent of the members of the Common Council were related to one another by blood or marriage and a further 30 percent were tied to one another as master and apprentice.[11] Many of the ties cut across occupational lines. George White, for example, was apprenticed to Rice Jones, grocer, was the brother-in-law of William Barnes, clothier, and was the close friend and business associate of Henry Hobson, hardwareman, and Mathew Warren, clothier.[12] But connections were most commonly related to the members’ economic positions. This meant that personal relationships among the councillors tended to reinforce the differences among the various occupational groups on the council, with many of the older generation of masters relying on their sons and former apprentices to support their points of view on key issues.

Hence the possibility of deep factional division existed within the Corporation and, as we shall see in the next chapter, it was made manifest in fierce disputes that erupted at various times in the Elizabethan and early Stuart periods. But despite the strong potential for political faction in the city, the proceedings of the Common Council were usually free of political strife. Most decisions were reached by consensus, not majority vote, with the more difficult matters referred to committees for preliminary discussion and possible resolution. Election to high city office also showed few signs of bitter division. Because the offices at stake were costly to hold, a practice of rotation was followed by which nearly every member was selected as he became eligible and few served more than once in any particular post. Even more important were the demands for political harmony imposed by the Corporation’s role as the ruling authority in the city. Without the collective efforts of its members to maintain order, enforce the laws, ameliorate the city’s economic and social ills, and exercise moral leadership over the general population, the fabric of urban community would have been rent by the same divisions that always lurked near the surface of politics in the Common Council. In other words, the fact that the Corporation held genuine authority within the city worked against the temptation for one group or another to use it to the detriment of some rival. Yet the advancement of particular interests and the pursuit of private benefits could never be entirely suppressed in a body so heavily dominated by one of them. This meant not only that conflict was inevitable but that the Corporation’s role as the upholder of the common welfare required periodic justification and regular reinforcement. Before examining the actual processes of political engagement in Bristol between the beginning of the sixteenth century and the middle of the seventeenth, we should first explore the methods used to legitimate them.

Although we are reasonably certain of who exercised authority in Bristol, we are less clear about what it meant for them to do so and how their understanding of their roles might have changed during the reigns of the Tudors and the first two Stuarts. By any standard, authority is a deeply ambiguous concept.[13] It can refer in a variety of ways to rights. Someone in authority has the right to act and to be obeyed within his jurisdiction. He is at liberty to act, but he need not do so every time the opportunity arises. In terms of rights, authority is a legalistic concept, and we often speak of those holding it as having “legal” or “constitutional” authority. But “authority” can also refer in a variety of ways to capacities or powers. Someone who is exceptionally competent in a given realm is an authority: he has the power to produce results. Through his reputation for expertise he also has the title to be believed and the capacity to influence the opinions and judgments of others. In this way he exercises power over their conduct or action, and he is said to have “moral” authority. His authority not only enables him to act within his areas of competence, but imposes upon him the duty to do so. As an authority he has an obligation to perform right actions; he is not morally free to use his skills on some occasions and to withhold them on others.

For some purposes these two ideas complement one another. He who authorizes an action has a right; he who is authorized has a duty. The former works autonomously to perform as he chooses in the realm in which he is entitled to act. The latter works for the good or the interest of those who have granted him his power, and he must perform this service if he is to meet his obligation to them. This formulation, however, assumes that the fundamental unit of analysis is the individual and that the fundamental question is how individuals come to accept authority. It neglects the way the very concept of authority presupposes the existence of community. It is not enough to claim authority for oneself; it is also necessary that it be recognized by others according to some mutually agreed-upon rules. Otherwise, one is applying force, not exercising authority.[14]

The problem of community proves just as troubling as the problem of authority, since communities are not all of the same type. We can speak with equal clarity of linguistic communities, where large numbers of people residing in different countries share the same tongue, and academic communities, where small numbers working in the same institution pursue common goals in their various disciplines. But to modern social scientists and historians the term has come to distinguish tight-knit collectivities of people living in close proximity in village or town, separated from the larger society and the state. In keeping with this kind of understanding, it is often assumed that authority in a community is what Max Weber called “traditional authority,” that is, authority that rests on “an established belief in the sanctity of immemorial traditions and the legitimacy of the status of those exercising authority under them.” Here is where “moral authority” holds sway. Authority in a more broadly gauged modern society is what Weber called “legal authority,” that is, authority that rests on “a belief in the ‘legality’ of patterns of normative rules and the right of those elevated to authority under such rules to issue commands.”[15] In this interpretive scheme, the early modern period is often treated as the time when the second type of authority first took hold. It is widely considered to be the era that saw the rise of the bureaucratic state and that consequently produced the inevitable collisions between society and the state. But this new rational form of authority, the interpretation goes, did not succeed all at once. Instead it made itself felt initially only in certain advanced political settings, namely, the great cities of Italy and the courts of the great northern monarchs. The provinces, and especially the provincial towns, remained centers of the older, sanctified forms of authority, subject to the predatory challenges of power-mongering state officials.[16]

But no one living in an early modern English town could have made the distinctions between community and society or traditional and legal authority upon which such an interpretation depends. As used in modern scholarship, these are terms of art. They may help us locate ourselves amid the complexities we study, but they do so by obscuring the uncertainties and ambiguities with which contemporaries lived. They make it difficult to see how those who experienced the changes understood them. If we are to grasp this reality, we must turn our attention to the ways that ideas of authority were represented at the time. In the provincial towns authority was present at every turn, but on certain festive occasions—at the annual election of the mayor, for example—it received particular notice by the townsmen. Here ideas, so difficult to come by in words, were revealed in gestures and actions.

In the late medieval era it was not possible to think of a community without also attending to the place of leadership within it. According to the common understanding, every social organism was a body politic in which head and members worked together for the common good. A community lacking a head was, like the human body on which it was modeled, either dead or an enormity. This theme was especially important in cities, since what held them together was their corporate existence, which in turn depended on the ability of their governors to act for the whole polity. Their governing powers required constant justification and continuous reinforcement. Not surprisingly, celebrations of authority became one of the great subjects of urban culture in the period. Embedded in them was a particular view of authority according to which the right to make decisions for the community depended on public recognition of the individual’s worthiness for the task. The activities of St. Katherine’s players in uniting the members of the city’s most important craft with the officials of the Corporation was only one among the many ceremonial means addressing this issue.

In the fifteenth century, Bristol’s government, established by Edward III’s charter of 1373, was a self-perpetuating, closed institution of forty-two citizens. Its members were chosen by co-optation, and its chief officers, the mayor and a single sheriff, were elected exclusively from among its own membership. As described by Ricart, election proceedings began on St. Giles Day, 1 September, when the mayor’s four sergeants officially warned the membership of the Common Council of the impending election. The election itself was held on 15 September, and failure to appear subjected each absent councillor to a fine of £10, very steep for the period. Candidates were nominated as well as chosen on 15 September, and each election was conceived to be a spontaneous judgment by the councillors about who was best suited to serve the city. The voting proper began with the current mayor “first by his reason” naming and giving “his voice to some whorshipfull man of the seide hows,” that is, nominating and voting in the same motion. “[A]fter hym the Shiref, and so all the house perusid in the same, euery man to gyve his voice as shall please him.” In theory, it was possible for each council member to nominate a new candidate, including himself, when his time came to give his voice. The victor was “hym that hathe moste voices.” In fact, contests appear to have been exceedingly rare. But participation by the entire membership in this way helped to bind them in obedience to the new regime, since the councillors were much less free to criticize or oppose the new officers at a later date if they had played a part in selecting them. The vote of every member was to be based on the principles of spontaneity and openness. An election was the free choice of the assembled civic leadership made according to the community’s highest ideals. Reason and good conscience were to be used to find the best person to serve the commonwealth for the coming year.[17]

Election to the mayoralty was a great honor in the city. In recognizing the worthiness of the man for this office of trust, it enhanced his social importance both by the deference that his fellow townsmen would now show him and by the opportunity his office gave to display his wealth to the city. The office was also a burden, requiring time away from personal business and the outlay of large sums to support the ceremonial requirements of officeholding. The mayor had little independent political power, however, since his freedom of action was restrained by the legal forms he was obliged to follow and by the council, which acted as a check upon his formulation of policy. Nevertheless, because the office brought enhanced status it carried political weight: status, especially when given official recognition, rewarded the recipient with greater influence in local affairs and brought his fellow townsmen to him for wise counsel.[18]

In the public presentation of the new mayor, all these considerations played a role. The process began at once. Having been in “due form electid,” the successful candidate was to “rise fro[m] the place he sat in, and come sytt a dextris by the olde maires side,” there to participate in subsequent deliberations. Once these “communications” had been completed, attention was turned to making the new mayor known to the town. With the adjournment of the election meeting, he was worshipfully accompanyed, with “. . . certein of the seid hous, home to his place,” in effect publicly announcing the election to all who observed this mayoral party pass through the streets.[19]

The official date for the new mayor’s installation into office was Michaelmas, 29 September, fully two weeks after the election. In the interval, Ricart tells us, “the seide persone so electid maire shalle haue his leysour to make his purveyaunce of his worshipfull householde, and the honourable apparailling of his mansion, in as plesaunt and goodly wise as kan be devised.” When his house was readied for the festivities to come, the new mayor was to come to the Guildhall in a full-scale procession in which he took his proper place as the head of the government, “accompanyd with the Shiref and all his brethern of the Counseill, to feche him at his hows and bring him to the seide hall, in as solempne and honourable wise as he can devise to do his oune worshippe.” Since the mayor was the head not only of the government but of the community, it was proper for him to enter office “to the honour, laude, and preysyng” of all Bristol, whose inhabitants perforce witnessed the procession as it made its way through the streets.[20]

Because of the preeminence of the mayor in the civic hierarchy, the ceremony at his inauguration was extremely rich in meaning and detail. His formal installation into the seat of authority was accomplished only after he had been reminded of his responsibilities to the borough community and sworn to his duties. Before administering the oath, the outgoing mayor made a speech to his brethren and the others assembled that stressed the commonweal of the city and the maintenance of unity among the citizens. According to Ricart, he apologized to his fellow townsmen for any offense he might have given and offered to make amends for his errors from his own goods or to “ask theym forgevenes in as herty wyse” as he could, “trusting verilly in God they shal haue no grete causes of ferther complaynts.” If he could not heal all the wounds that his government might have caused, the mayor continued, the “worshipfulle man” chosen to be the new mayor “of his grete wisedome, by goddes grace, shal refourme and amende alle such thinges as I of my sympileness haue not duely ne formably executed or fulfilled.” Finally, the outgoing mayor thanked his fellow citizens for their “godeness” according to their “due merits” in showing “trewe obedience to kepe the king our alther liege lorde is lawes, and my commaundment in his name, at all tymes,” and he prayed that God would reward them with “moche joy, prosperitie and peas, as evir had comens and true Cristen people.”[21]

After the speaking of these significant words came the swearing-in of the new mayor (Figure 5). The oath, as it was taken in Ricart’s time and with some small changes at least to the end of the sixteenth century, was preoccupied with the formal and specific tasks undertaken by the mayor that had been laid out in the city’s charters.[22] Ricart shows the incoming mayor swearing on a book, almost certainly the Bible, held by the outgoing mayor; the common councillors sit or stand around the council table. A number of citizens appear at the periphery. The town clerk reads the oath, the swordbearer holds the cap and sword of justice, and an assistant holds the seal mentioned by Ricart. On the council table we see a large pouch (probably containing monies to be received into the new mayor’s care), a scroll, and an account book. The room itself is decorated with the royal arms in the center, the Cross of St. George to the left, and the arms of the town of Bristol to the right. Standing at the “high deise” of the Guildhall, before his fellow common councillors and members of the “Comyns,” the inauguree swore allegiance to the monarch to “kepe and meyntene the peas of the same toune with all my power.” Under this authority he then promised to “reproue and chastice the misrewlers and mysdoers in the forsaid toune,” to maintain the “fraunchises and free custumes whiche beth gode,” to put away “all euell custumes and wronges,” to “defende, the Wydowes and Orphans,” and to “kepe, and meyntene all laudable ordinaunces.” Most important, he also swore “trewely, and with right,” to

trete the people of my bailly, and do every man right, as well to the poer as to the riche, in that that longeth to me to do. And nouther for ghifte nor for loue, affeccion, promesse, nor for hate, I shall do no man wronge, nor destourbe no mannes right.[23]

In these clauses the mayor is viewed largely in his capacity as a judge. The underlying theme, even where the enforcement of municipal ordinances is concerned, is one of judiciousness and evenhandedness.[24] By the formula of the oath, the mayor’s role within the city rests almost entirely on his position as the king’s vicegerent in the city. This same emphasis is apparent at the conclusion of the oath. After kissing the book held for him by the outgoing mayor, the new mayor received from the hands of his predecessor the essential symbols of his office: the king’s sword and the cap of justice, the casket containing the seal of his office as escheator, the seal of the Statute of the Staple, and the seal of the Statute Merchant, all signifying the judicial authority the mayor derived from the Crown.

The Swearing of the New Mayor at Michaelmass in the Late Fifteenth Century. (Robert Ricart, The Maire of Bristowe Is Kalendar, Bristol Record Office, MS 04270 (1), f. 152. By permission of the City of Bristol Record Office.)
[Full Size]

When taken together with the outgoing mayor’s speech, however, the inauguration conveys a more complex picture of the mayor’s role. Although his authority derived from a royal grant, its base was local. He was the king’s lieutenant in the city, but the borough’s servant. As head of the community he could act as a buffer between the Crown and the city, protecting it from corrosive outside interference and permitting it the maximum autonomy by carrying out the king’s business and maintaining peace in his name. The mayor’s duty was, with the aid of the Holy Trinity, to keep the city “in prosperouse peas and felicite” and to preserve its internal solidarity by maintaining the social fabric against all damage, especially that caused by misgovernment.[25]

Along with the formal oath-taking, which renewed the bonds of authority, there were also informal proceedings which were intended to promote the internal solidarity of the civic body. The first of these festive events occurred immediately after the mayor had taken his oath. Once the symbols of office had been handed over to him, he immediately changed places with his predecessor and “all the whole company” brought “home the new Maire to his place, with trompetts and clareners, in as joyful, honourable, and solempne wise as can be devised…there to leve the new Maire, and then to bring home the olde Maire.”[26] These honorific processions were followed by communal dinners, the majority of the council dining with the new mayor at his house and a smaller number, including all the officers, dining with the outgoing mayor. After they had eaten, “all the hole Counseille” assembled at the High Crosse, in the town center,

and from thens the new maire and the olde maire, with alle the hole company, to walke honourably to Seint Mighels churche, and there to offre. And then to retorne to the new Maires hous, there to take cakebrede and wyne. And then, evey man taking his leeve of the Maire, and to retray home to their evensong.[27]

This ceremony repeated in a symbolic way the transfer of authority from the outgoing to the incoming mayor. First the council was divided to honor, some one man, some the other, by being his guests. The two mayors then jointly led a slow and stately procession uphill to St. Michael’s Church. The mood seems to have been one of reluctant farewell to the outgoing mayor. But after the offering at St. Michael’s the tone would have changed. The return to the town center, downhill, undoubtedly conveyed a lively spirit of energetic and joyful new beginning. To conclude the celebration, all were united at the new mayor’s house, where they sealed the transition of power by sharing his cheerful hospitality.

The mayor’s role as both the king’s and the community’s servant received special emphasis when royalty visited the city. Between 1461 and 1509 there were five such visits to the city, of which only Henry VII’s in 1486 is documented in detail.[28] These rare events stressed Bristol’s dual character as a legal corporation and a moral community. Although in planning each of these celebrations the Bristolians must have paid great attention to the monarch’s tastes and views, they also had a chance to express their own outlook, since the arrangements were all made and financed by the citizenry themselves. Henry VII visited Bristol in 1486 on his progress through the realm to secure the loyalty and obedience of his kingdom’s major cities after his victory at Bosworth Field.[29] Hence much attention was bound to have been paid to Bristol’s subordination to royal authority. But the principal theme of the performances put on during his stay was, not the power of the king, but the corporate autonomy of the city.

The most important pageant took place amid “great Melodie and singing,” immediately as the king passed through the town gate. Henry was accompanied there by “the Maire, Shriffe, the Bailiffs, and ther Brethern, and great Nomber of other Burgesses al on Horseback,” who had ridden out of the town to greet him. “But the Mair of Bristow bar no mase, nor the Shrif…no rodde, unto the tyme they came to the gate…wher beginneth ther Fraunches.” Here the mayor and the sheriff took up the symbols of their offices as the representatives of royal justice in the borough, in the process accentuating the boundaries of the community and their own authority within it.[30]

When the king had passed the gate and entered Bristol proper, he was greeted at once by a figure representing the legendary British “King Bremmius,” according to tradition the founder of the city. Bremmius welcomed his “moost dere Cosine of England and Fraunce” to the town, thanking God highly on behalf of the Bristolians “for such a Soueraigne Lorde.” But his main purpose was to ask Henry for assistance. “This Towne lefte I in greate prosperitie,” he said,

By you, ther herts Hope and Comfort in this Distresse,
Havyng Riches and Welth many Folde;
The Merchaunt, the Artyficer, ev’ryche in his Degre,
Had great Plentye both of Silver and Golde,
And lifed in Joye as they desire wolde,
At my departing; but I have been so long away,
That Bristow is fallen into Decaye
Irrecuparable, withoute that a due Remedy
By you, ther herts Hope and Comfort in this Distresse,
Proveded bee, at your Leyser convenynetly,
To your Navy and Cloth-making, wherby I gesse
The Wele of this Town standeth in Sikerness,
May be mayteigned, as they have bee
In Days hertofore in Prosperitie.
Now farwell, dere Cosyn, my Leve I take
At you, that Wele of Bountie bee
To your saide Subjects for Maries Sake,
That bereth you ther Fidelitie.
In moost loving wise graunte ye
Some Remedye herin, and he wille quite your Mede,
That never unrewarded leveth good Dede.[31]

This may seem no more than a straightforward petition for aid from the Crown, but the speech has another, more subtle dimension.[32] According to Geoffrey of Monmouth and his followers, King Bremmius, or Brennius as he is more frequently called, was one of the noble race of Trojans who ruled Britain after Brutus had conquered and settled the land. In one version of the story, made prominent in Bristol by Ricart’s Kalendar, this Brennius is identified as the founder of Bristol, just as Brutus founded London and King Ebrancus founded York.[33] Since Henry Tudor himself claimed descent from the British kings,[34] King Bremmius gave Bristol a form of kinship tie to the new monarch which was of use in requesting assistance from him. At the same time, reference to the mythic founder helped avoid the worst implication of the petition—the apparent dependency of the borough community upon the royal will for its maintenance. Since Bristol was in existence from the first beginnings of the “British realm,” the Bristolians seem to have been saying, its status could hardly depend on a later royal patent. Any special exemptions or privileges it received were offered, not by the king’s mere motion and sovereign will, but as a moral obligation to preserve the noble work of his great and famous ancestor. As Bremmius says, he founded the city and “called it Bristow” after himself, “for a Memoriall,” so that the British would never forget him.[35]

Along with advancing Bristol’s claim on Henry for aid, this form of petition upheld Bristol’s independent honor. It was clear in law that each of the city’s liberties and franchises, including that of corporate status, required royal warrant. In this sense the borough community was founded by the royal will. But the existence of the borough, with its sworn membership and its reciprocal and interlocking social relationships, transcended this dependency, since its citizenry formed a moral community as well as a legal corporation. History was called upon to resolve this dilemma. Because the city was obviously the creation of men, it could not be thought a part of the natural landscape. It required a founder. But if the community was to preserve its independence, its foundation had to be set in the distant past. By stressing Bristol’s antiquity, King Bremmius pointed not only to the borough community’s continuity but also to its autonomy. Autonomy went hand in hand with unity. The city presented itself to the larger world as a single, integrated whole, existing independently of its surroundings.

As expressed in ceremony, the unity of late medieval Bristol was a living unity like that of the human body. The city was understood to be a highly structured organism whose parts worked together to preserve the well-being of its members. But to maintain this unity required constant vigilance, because there were always divisive interests, such as craft rivalries, ready to undermine the general welfare. Bristol’s social and political rituals were aimed at purging the disruptive forces from the community and reinforcing the moral and spiritual foundations of the community by direct confrontation with the most vulnerable points in the social body.[36] The ceremonies and festivities at the annual inauguration of the mayor addressed only the yearly transfer of authority from one individual to another, a threatening and dangerous moment in the life of any body politic. It was also necessary, however, to deal with the even greater source of potential trouble, the fact that Bristol’s public officials were also private men who might be tempted to put themselves or their families and friends above the common good. They needed to be reminded of their duties as servants to the community: hence the promises of fairness in the mayor’s oath, and the presence of the Commons in the Guildhall to hear it.

On St. Michael’s Day, however, the Commons played only a passive role, standing in the Guildhall outside the ring of councillors merely to witness the oath-taking, and thronging the streets to watch deferentially as the procession passed by. In other festivities they were more assertive, intervening to mock the civic authorities for their folly, to chastise them for their failures, and to instruct them in their duties. As we have already seen, this was probably the work of St. Katherine’s players on 25 November. Similarly, at Christmas a Lord of Misrule issued satiric proclamations and ordinances endorsing licentiousness, approving disorder, and encouraging drunkenness, idleness, and other misdemeanors, thereby standing authority on its head and criticizing its shortcomings.[37] But the most intriguing of these celebrations is the festival of the Boy-Bishop.

Much of what we know of this popular custom relates to its use in cathedral chapters, university colleges, and schools such as Eton. At Salisbury Cathedral, for example, a young chorister was elected to serve in this mock-episcopal capacity from 6 December, St. Nicholas’ Day, to Childermas, 28 December. According to the account given by a seventeenth-century antiquary, he was not only “to beare the name and hold up the state of a Bishop…habited with a Crozier…in his hand and a Mitre upon his head,” but to perform everything the “very Bishop himself” did, except the mass. And “his fellows,” a group of boy choristers, “were to take upon them the style and counterfeit of Prebends yielding to their Bishop…no less than canonical obedience.” The Sarum use also provided elaborate processionals and services for the mock bishop, including his giving the sermon and benediction on Holy Innocents’ Day.[38] But in Bristol the custom made the municipal authorities as much the focus of the occasion as the church hierarchy was. Ricart describes the festival as follows:

[O]n Seynt Nicholas Eve…the Maire, and Shiref, and their brethern to walke to Seynt Nicholas churche, there to hire theire even-song: and on the morrow to hire theire masse, and offre, and hire the bishop’s sermon, and have his blissyng; and after dyner, the seide Maire, Shiref and theire brethern, to assemble at the maires counter, there waytyng the Bishoppes comming; pleying the meane whiles at Dyce, the towne clerke to fynde theym Dyce, and to have I d. of every Raphill; and when the Bishop is come thedir, his chapell there to synge, and the bishope to geve them his blissyng, and then he and all his chapell to be serued there with brede and wyne. And so departe the Maire, Shiref, and theire brethern to hire the bishopes evesonge at Seynt Nicholas chirch.[39]

In most respects it appears that the authority of the Bristol Boy-Bishop corresponded quite closely to the usage at Salisbury. He had a chapter, gave sermons, offered benedictions, and sang evensong.[40] But his blessing of the civic body during its game of dice appears to be unique.

The role of the Boy-Bishop in this encounter is both satiric and didactic. Although the throwing of dice was a common pastime in the later Middle Ages, this form of gambling was also understood to be a pernicious vice, one that indicated the corruption of those who played at it. In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, for example, dice-playing appears again and again as the symbol of folly and evil. The Pardoner speaks of it, together with drunkenness, as the “devels sacrifice”; the Franklin indicates that it is the very opposite of virtue and frugality; the Shipman shows it to be the negation of the merchant’s craft. In “The Cookes Tale” it is portrayed as a form of sin which, along with dancing, lechery, and drunkenness, leads to idleness and theft.[41] These views were commonplaces of the moral teaching not only of Chaucer’s time but for the three centuries following. According to Sir Thomas Elyot, writing in 1531, dice-playing was the devil’s invention:

For what better allective coulde Lucifer deuise to allure or bringe men pleasauntly in to damnable seruitude, than to purpose to them in fourme of a playe, his principall tresory; wherin the more parte of synne is contained, and all goodnesse and vertue confounded?[42]

The governor of the game of dice, of course, is Fortune, which by nature is changeable, alternately bringing good and bad to those who are at her mercy.[43] Accordingly, to play at dice is to abandon God’s will and moral purpose to go over to mere chance. At the same time, it is to deny one’s capacity to reason and to act. In the words of Elyot again,

there is nat a more playne figure of idleness…For besides that, that therin is no maner of exercise for the body or mynde, they which do playe herat must seme to haue no portion of witte or kunnyng, if they will be called faire plaiars.[44]

In the Bristol Common Council this understanding of dice-playing took on added significance. By the city’s charters, the principal duties of the councillors were, first, to establish competent ordinances “that shall be consonant with reason and useful for the commonalty,” and, second, to levy local tallages and rates for common purposes and oversee their proper expenditure.[45] To sit at the mayor’s counter throwing dice represents the absolute abandonment of these responsibilities. Where reason and prudence were supposed to prevail, we find chance and profligacy; where the councillors were supposed to act as the better and more worthy men of the community, we find them idly playing with no apparent regard to their standing. As Chaucer tells us,

Hasard is verray mooder of lesyngs
And of deceite and cursed forswearings
Blaspheme of Crist, manslaughtre, and wast also
Of catle and of tyme, and furthermo
It is repreeve and contrarie of honour
For to ben holde a common hasardour
And ever the hyer he is of estaat
The moore is he yholden desolaat
If that a prince useth hasardry
In all governaunce and policye
He is, by commune opinioun
Yholde the lasse in reputacioun[46]

The significance of the Boy-Bishop’s visit to the Guildhall may perhaps be better understood by looking briefly at a surviving sermon of a Boy-Bishop given at St. Paul’s, London, in the early 1490s. Beginning with the exhortation “Prayse ye childerne almyghty God,” this sermon likens man in childhood to animal kind:

A childe fyrste whan he is in his infant age is not contreyned unto no lawes; he is not corrected nother beten; and there is no defaute layde unto hym, but utterly he is lefte unto the lawe of kynde. Do he what somever he will no man doth blame hym. Morally the state of man immedyately after synne was verely the state of chilhode and infans hauinge no nouryce.

Adult life, of course, was to be just the opposite: under law, and subject to blame and punishment when it failed to obey. But if it fell under the control of the passions, it became childhood again. As the Boy-Bishop says,

whan that man was utterly without ony expressyd lawe, havynge no mayster to his owne naturall inclynacyon as to his lawe, there was no lawe of God newe put to hym.

The message is double-sided. Quoting St. Paul in Corinthians, the young preacher says,

Be not chylderne in your wyttes; but from all synne and malyce be ye childerne in clennesse. And in this fourme all maner of people and al maner of ages in clennese of lyf ought to be pure as childrine.[47]

Viewed in light of these remarks, the presence of the Boy-Bishop at the mayor’s counter offers a telling commentary upon the dice game. The city fathers are shown to act without a child’s cleanness but with his wit. They abandon themselves to the “lawe of kynde” and the whims of chance, being for the moment without a “nouryce or guyder.” To them comes a child bishop, exercising a supremely adult authority and signifying the high purposes for which they were elected. In this way the festivity not only criticized the mayor and his brethren for their inevitable failings but purged them of their official sins. It also emphasized that the civic authorities served the community and thus were subject to the chastisement and the approbation of those they governed. As we know from John Northbrooke, by the late sixteenth century the combined effects of religious revolution and economic change had already profoundly transformed the cultural forms that Ricart had so lovingly calendared. These same changes in outlook also took their toll on the conception of political authority in Bristol. No longer was the city conceived as a quasi-religious brotherhood, in which authority was celebrated and legitimized at feasts and on holy days. Rather, the ideals of godly rule, linking the authority of the local governors to the monarchy and from thence to God himself shaped the new conception of officeholding. Thomas Thompson, lecturing his Bristol congregation on the virtues requisite of a magistrate, best articulates this viewpoint. Government officials, he says, are to be

such as are most perfect in knowledge, hence in conscience, and expert in practice.…But since all the praise of vertue is in action, we cannot make knowledge only the Magistrates complement: and therefore with those Intellectual abilities they must adioyne those morall vertues of Fortitude and Iustice…both to endure the troubles, looses and dangers of gouernment…in warres, and…in peace.[48]

A magistrate was expected to be a Christian exemplum of civic virtue, not only living according to God’s law and with the blessing of his grace, but also endowed with a practical understanding of worldly affairs and the courage to use that understanding wisely and well.

There was no doubt that government service was considered a duty for such a man. As Thompson says,

it is not…for him to refuse it as either too base or troublesome, vnlesse hee will bee accounted either an idle, or a proud man…since hee is a member of that body politique which by all meanes hee must preserue, and since he must not hide what God hath giuen him for the benefit of the Common-wealth vnlesse he will partake of the punishment inflicted vpon the idle seruant, whose talent was given vnto another. For (as Chrysostome saith well) hee that receiveth the grace of learning for the profit of others, and doth not use it, doth wholly loose that grace.[49]

Thompson also makes clear that the principal responsibilities of city officers “were to keep order,” without which there is “Anarchie, wherein every man is kinge in his owne conceite, vndertaking what him list to doe as when there was no King in Isreal.” And, in proper fulfillment of their judicial duties, they were to “both scatter the wicked, and Iudge the poore in truth.[50] Their failure to accept these responsibilities or their neglect of them in their rule would only bring ruin to the commonwealth:

For I pray you shall not all the body bee troubled, when the head is shaken asunder? As shall not the tree be subiect to falling, when the root is bared? Some flatter the great men telling them, that they by reason of their wealth, and high estate neede not doe any thing else, but to live at ease, eat and drinke, and take their pastime, as the retchlesse rich glutton said to his secure soule. But the wisest king that euer liued said Wo bee to thee O Land when thy King is a child and thy Princes eate in the Morning.[51]

To a degree these are commonplaces of late medieval and early modern political culture; little about them would have been foreign to Ricart. But in the Elizabethan and early Stuart periods, the mechanisms of communal control that the citizens had previously imposed upon their governors—for example, in the performances of St. Katherine’s players and of the Boy-Bishop—had been replaced by a different form of ritual, according to which the common councillors reminded themselves of their high calling. To open each council session, they prayed:

Especially (O Lord) wee beseech thee in they great and infinite mercyes to look uppon this Citye and uppon us nowe assembled and uppon all the corporacion and commons here that wee both for our selves and for them may consulte of those thinges which concern our dutyes towards thee our gratious God and towardes the Kinge under our gratious Lorde that both wee and all the people of this Citye may glorifie they name [and] may live in brotherly love, and charitye one toward another.[52]

Prayer, of course, could bind political actions as forcibly as could social obligation. But prayer involved a very different kind of ritual exchange from that which had regulated political authority in late medieval Bristol. It linked the prayer-giver to God, not to the community which, as a microcosm of the universe, mediated between the individual and his Maker.

Not surprisingly, these early modern magistrates set themselves in the wider world of the nation by the principle of hierarchy. Indeed, much of Bristol’s ceremonial life in the later sixteenth and the early seventeenth century conveyed precisely this quality. Its most characteristic form was the procession. Eleven major feast days were recognized. On them the mayor and his brethren were to wear the scarlet robes signifying their particular rank in the civic body—cloaks with fur and felt trimming for the mayor and former mayors, gowns alone for the rest. These so-called “Scarlett days” were Michaelmas, when the new mayor was installed—preceded and followed by solemn processions, as in the past—All Hallows Day, Christmas, St. Stephen’s Day, Twelfth Day, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, The Feast of the Ascension, Whitsunday, Trinity Sunday, and St. James Day, for the great summer fair. On every one of these important religious festivals, with the exception of St. James Day, there was a full-scale procession of the city government, wherein all could observe the civic hierarchy in its proper order making its way through the town. Except for the absence of the festivals of St. Clement, St. Katherine, St. Nicholas, Corpus Christi, St. John, and St. Peter, all of this would have been familiar enough to Ricart and his contemporaries. But there is one all-important difference. In the later sixteenth and the early seventeenth century, the Corporation members dressed themselves in their scarlet garments not to hear mass, still less to participate in a drunken revel, but to attend a lecture by one of the city’s preachers. Sitting together in church, the mayor and the councillors must have stood out as an honored elite among the congregation.[53]

Not only did these changes bring a new earnestness and sense of sobriety to officeholding, they also raised the magistrates above criticism from their inferiors. No longer was emphasis placed primarily upon their membership in the borough community. Instead, their role as the agents of royal authority was given special attention. Authority now meant sovereignty; it conveyed rights and yielded majesty and power. The magistrates revealed this viewpoint especially in the symbolism they chose for asserting their position. In 1606, for example, the Common Council agreed that a convenient place ought to be built in the Bristol Cathedral where they and their wives might “sytte…to heare the sermons on the Sabaothe and after festival dayes.”[54] After some discussion, the dean and the chapter agreed to the proposal, and a gallery was built “over against the pulpit.” William Adams, Bristol’s early seventeenth-century chronicler, who no doubt himself saw the finished work, gives the following description:

It was not only a fair and comely ornament to the church, but also a fit and convenient place for the council to sit and hear the word preached, leaving the room below for gentlemen and others. They placed there our King’s arms gilded, and under [it] reserved a fair seat for the King or any nobleman that should come to this city: and under the same [gallery] also fair seats for the council’s and clergy’s wives and other fit place also for the bishop, dean and others of the clergy.[55]

There could be no clearer hierarchical symbolism, nor a more revealing insight into how the Bristol Corporation viewed their place in God’s order. Seated in honor above the pulpit, with the bishop, the dean, and even the king himself perhaps among them, they were to hear the Holy Word. This self-image was a powerful one. Less than two years later, Bishop Thornborough, returning to Bristol from a long absence at York, where he was dean of the Cathedral Chapter, found its symbolism so much an affront to his own episcopal dignity that he ordered the gallery removed.[56]

These new attitudes were given added depth when royalty appeared in the city. Two such visits were made between 1558 and 1640: one by Queen Elizabeth I in 1574, and the second by Queen Anne of Denmark in 1613. Both occasioned magnificent displays of civic pomp. Since much honor accrued from these rare opportunities to entertain royalty, every effort was made to show the city at its best. But these two events reveal a very different profile than had appeared for the visit of Henry VII. In both instances the celebrations took the form of massive military displays in which the prowess of the city’s Trained Bands went hand in hand with their show of loyalty and obedience to royal rule. Instead of stressing the city’s antiquity and independence, the mayor and his brethren emphasized their city’s place in the larger organization of the state and their own subordination to the monarchy.[57] We can see this clearly in the description of Queen Elizabeth’s visit.

When Elizabeth came to Bristol in 1574, “the mayor and all the council riding upon good steeds, with footcloths, and pages by their sides” received Her Majesty within Lawford’s Gate, just outside the boundaries of the city. There an interesting series of exchanges took place, in marked contrast to the symbolism adopted in 1486. At the gate “the mayor delivered [his] mace unto her Grace,” thus relinquishing the sign of his authority as her lieutenant, “and she delivered it unto him again,” reinforcing her authority over the city and his dependence upon her for favor. After an oration by John Popham, the recorder, and the delivery of a gift of £100 in gold to her, the queen was escorted through the city in a procession in which “the mayor himself rode nigh before the Queene, betweene 2 serjeants at arms.”[58] This procession, with each rider holding his proper place in relation to the queen and the others in the order of march, set the tone for the military displays that occupied the queen’s time for the rest of her three-day stay.

To give the displays added meaning, the city hired the poet Thomas Churchyard to supply an allegory, which was presented to the queen in speeches and in a little book interpreting for her the actions of the armed bands.[59] The allegory pitted peace against war and put the city on the side of peace:

Dissenshion breeds the brawll,
     and that is Pomp and Pried:
The Fort on law and order stands,
     and still in peace would bied.
The Warrs is wicked world,
     as by his fruets is seen:
The Fortres representith peace,
     and takes thy part O Queen.[60]
Later we learn that the Fort stands for the “Citie.” The “Citie” resists war and shows “what follies and conflicts rise in Ciuill broyls, and what quietnesse coms by a mutual loue and agrement.”[61] “Our traed doth stand on Siuill lief / and thear our glory lies,” it says,
Wee Marchants keep a mean vnmixt,
     with any iarrying part:
And bryng boeth Treble and the Baess,
     in order still by art.[62]
However, it required human reason and will to tune the parts of a community into harmony with one another, for order in this allegory is conceived as an active principle; it must be created and not merely preserved. “Our orders maks the roister meek,” says the “Citie,”
and plucks the prowd on knees.
The stif and stubborne kno the yoek,
     and roets vp rotten trees
That may infect a fruetfull feeld,
     what can be sweet and sownd:
But in that soyl whear for offence,
     is due correction fownd.
Wee make the siuill laws to shien,
     and by example mield
Reform the rued, rebuek the bold,
     and tame the contrey wyeld.[63]

Nevertheless, vanity could undermine this harmony, by encouraging people “to prowl about for pens and piuish pealf” to the neglect of their fellows. Such selfishness was shortsighted, however; it bred dissension and blinded one to danger. To overcome this threat it was necessary for citizens to move beyond their petty, private interests into the service of the queen and the nation. All were members of her “staet,” and hence must be “a true and loyal stock…reddy…with losse of lief” to battle her foes.[64] Thus the “Citie” declares that “though our ioy be most in peace, and peace we do maintain…Yet haue we soldyars” that

…daer blade hit with the best,
     when cawse of contrey coms
And cals out of courage to the fight,
     by sound of warlike Droms.[65]

It was only from the monarch, however, that peace and order could come to the city. She was a “Prince in deed of princely minde…the toutchstoen…the Pillar, Prop and stay [o]f eury region far or neer.” She was the “noble Judge” who stood above the fray to decide great quarrels. Hence her “helpyng hand” was needed “to cord disorders” wherever they appeared:[66]

And blest be God we haue a Prince,
     by whom our peace is kept:
And vnder whom this Citie long,
     and land hath safly slept.
For whomliekwyse a thousand gifts,
     of grace enioy we do:
And feell from God in this her rayne
     ten thousand blessyngs to.
And mark how mad Dissension thriues,
     that would set warres abroetch:
Who sets to saell poer peoples liues,
     and gets but viell reproetch.
And endles shaem for all their sleights:
O England ioy with vs:
And kis the steps whear she doth tread,
that keeps her countrey thus.
In peace and rest, and perfait stay,
whearfore the god of peace:
In peace by peace our peace presarue,
and her long lief encrease.[67]

The dependence upon the queen so clearly articulated in these verses was repeated in the mock battle itself. The third and last day of the maneuvers ended with three assaults upon the fort, but the enemy, having been repulsed, agreed to a parley. The attackers offered the “good Citizens and Soldiors” of the fort a chance to surrender and “depart with bag and bagaeg,” honorably but in defeat. “To which the Fort maed answer, that the Cortaynes nor Bulwarks was not their defence, but the corrage of good peple, & the force of a mighty prince (who saet and beheld all these doyngs) was the thing they trusted to.” With this the enemy was defeated and peace was declared. “[A]t which pece boeth sides shot-of their Artillery, in sien of triumphe, and so crying God saue the Queen, these triumphs and warlik pastimes finished.”[68]

Throughout these three days the underlying theme was the city’s place in the royal chain of command. The queen came to town “with princely trayn and power,” and to honor her the city called out the Trained Bands to guard and wait upon her. The citizens thus fell “with all orders and marshall manner” into line with this princely train. Churchyard’s allegory, moreover, gave added stress to the queen’s position as commander. He arranged, for example, to have the gentlemen waiting upon the queen join with the citizens in defense of the fort. In addition, during one of the mock engagements, John Robartes, a common councillor, came to the queen to crave her aid “in their defence that peace desiers.” Later, on the third day, “nue suckors commyng from the Court to the Forts great comfort” turned the tide of battle. To cap this symbolism, the queen exercised the prerogative of commander in rewarding the Trained Bands with a gift of 200 crowns for a banquet.[69] Whereas Henry VII’s stay in Bristol had stressed the city’s independence from the ruling monarch, Elizabeth I’s emphasized just the reverse. Instead of arising from autonomy, as was claimed in the fifteenth century, civic unity now required the authority of the monarch.[70]

The spirit of this new urban order is captured in a sermon given in 1635 by Thomas Palmer, vicar of St. Thomas and St. Mary, Redcliffe, in Bristol. “This honorable City,” he says,

may be compared unto the sea-faring Tribe of Zebulon, that was a Haven for ships.…And so is this. The men of that Tribe were expert in warre: they could keepe ranke, they were skilfull at all the Instruments of warre.…And so may the men of the City.[71]

Warfare is understood to be the scourge of God upon the wicked; it “is sent into the world for our sinnes, to correct us for them, to deterre us from them.” In consequence, military service is a divine calling. “As warre is from the Lord,” Palmer says,

so let it be for the Lord. If Caesars honour was touched, his souldiers were so prodigall of their blood, so desperately furious, that they were invincible. They gave unto Caesar that which was Caesars: let us give unto God, that which is Gods; the expense of our dearest blood for the maintenance of his Cause.[72]

This militant Christianity was highly political, with the soldier viewed as the counterpart of the government official; each in his own realm battled in God’s name against iniquity and evil. As their roles were conceived by Palmer,

[t]he sword of the Warriour findes an honourable Parallel with the sword of the Magistrate. They are both drawn for the execution of Justice. Experience and skill are requisite to the managing of them both. Let the Magistrate countenance the souldier in time of Peace. And the souldier shall defend the Magistrate in the time of warre.[73]

The two coexisted under the Lord of Hosts,

[t]hat as that God of Peace hath taught us those things which belong unto our peace: so that Man of warre would teach our hands to warre, and our fingers to fight; that neither the sword of the Magistrate, nor of the warriour may bee drawne wrongfully, or in vaine. That the end of our temporall warfare may be a blessed peace upon earth: and of our spirituall, an eternall peace in the heavens. Unto which Peace the God of Peace brings us all.[74]

In contrast to the social vision of the late medieval community, whose hierarchical structure was mediated by a series of ritualized exchanges and mocking reversals of role, this new model of society was a military one, with sharply defined ranks, rigid organization, and harsh discipline. There is no room here for the carnival spirit of abandon that Mikhail Bakhtin argues offered “a second world and second life outside officialdom,” through which “all hierarchical rank, privileges, norms and prohibitions” are suspended, and people are permitted to enter “for a time…the utopian realm of community, freedom, equality, and abundance.”[75]

In this light, the history of Bristol’s midsummer watches on St. John’s Eve and St. Peter’s Eve, 24 and 29 June, is especially instructive. In the fifteenth century, these were convivial gild events involving candlelight processions through the town and gild drinkings, which were generally such bibulous and violent affairs that in 1450 the Common Council took to distributing wine to each gild in strictly limited quantities paid for out of the town coffers.[76] In 1572–73, however, Mayor John Browne ended the drunken revels and “the delightful shows” that traditionally had accompanied these festive occasions and, according to William Adams, “turned the same into a general muster in war-like sort; and all the burgesses being fully armed with all sorts of warlike weapons, every craft and science several by themselves with their drums and colours,” which, Adams says, “was well used and made a comely show.”[77] In making this change Browne was anticipating the view of John Northbrooke, who in his Treatise against dicing, dancing, and vain plays, published only five years later, argued that military exercises “trayning vp men in the knowledge of martiall and warrelike affaires and exercising” and imparting “knowledge to handle weapons” were acceptable forms of play.[78]

For Bristolians in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the controlling social metaphor was the idea of the body politic. A body politic is a commonwealth; its component parts form an integrated whole and cannot exist separately from one another. In consequence, not only must there be a head to rule, but everything else must be proportionately organized and in its proper place. The vision is one of a hierarchical division of labor in which some parts have greater importance or value than others but each performs a function vital for the rest. If this body politic should fall into disorder, the ruling authority was to restore it to health by reestablishing the proper arrangement of organs and limbs.

This hierarchical image of society rested on two competing ideals. On the one hand, there was the ideal of reciprocity, by which the ruler and the ruled worked together for the common good, thereby creating a moral community. On the other, there was the ideal of rank or function, by which each member of the community contributed to the commonwealth according to his station, but only established rulers had responsibility for government. Implicit in the notion of a body politic was a connection between commonwealth and rule. The commonwealth involved the mutual relations of the members of society; rule involved the use of authority by governors to bring order and security to them. Proper coordination of the commonwealth with the exercise of such authority produced a harmonious polity. But at bottom these concepts offered alternative visions of order. In the former, every member of the polity had an obligation to uphold justice, the foundation of order; in the latter, the governors alone dispensed justice.

Authority in late medieval Bristol had arisen from within the community of burgesses, which as a microcosm of the world replicated the order of the universe and displayed in small its harmonies and correspondences. Those who ruled the borough did so by virtue of their moral leadership in it, which was sanctioned not only by the legalities of election but by rituals of recognition and acceptance which criticized and purified as well as exalted those in power. In Queen Elizabeth I’s time, authority arose in a much wider field. Those who held authority were no longer merely citizens of their borough. Their community could no longer be thought of as a microcosm of the world. It was instead part of a larger commonwealth; it did not stand alone. Those who governed the community were agents of royal rule, subject to the tutelage of the Crown and privileged to associate themselves with its majesty and power.


1. This estimate is based on BRO, Burgess Book (1607–51). During the years covered by this book of enrollments an average of 97.30 freemen were admitted each year, rising from a mean of 72.00 in the years 1607–1611 and reaching a height of 126.25 in 1627–1631; see Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 2, pp. 752–58. In the absence of accurate knowledge of age-specific death rates, detailed figures for life expectancy, or a reliable age pyramid for the city, it is not possible to work out precisely how many freemen would have been alive in any one year. But, given our estimates of Bristol’s population, it seems plausible to think that the number might have been somewhere near two thousand in the early seventeenth century. On the number of Bristol burgesses, see ibid., vol. 2, pp. 468–69, 875n. 5. On the degree of participation in rule in urban settings, see Rappaport, Worlds within Worlds, chaps. 2, 6–8. [BACK]

2. Sir Thomas Smith, De Republica Anglorum: A Discourse of the Commonwealth of England, ed. L. Alston (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1906), pp. 41–42, 46. [BACK]

3. Latham, ed., Bristol Charters, 1509–1899, pp. 26–30, 84–92, 94–111; W. R. Barker, St. Mark’s, or the Mayor’s Chapel Bristol, Formerly Called the Church of the Gaunts (Bristol: W. C. Hemmons, 1892); BRO, Old Ordinance Book, f. 54r–v; BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 1, pp. 52, 82, 108, 125, 128, 140, 147; vol. 2, ff. 5r, 6v, 7r–v, 33r, 48r–v, 88r; Adams’s Chronicle, pp. 184–85; APC (1592–95), p. 120; Latimer, Sixteenth-Century Bristol, pp. 16–17, 98–99, 103–4; Latimer, Annals, pp. 29–31; Paul Seaver, The Puritan Lectureships: The Politics of Religious Dissent, 1560–1662 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1970), pp. 99–100. [BACK]

4. BRO, Deed 01075 (1); Latimer, Annals, pp. 97–98. [BACK]

5. Cronne, ed., Bristol Charters, 1378–1499; BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 3, f. 122r; Latham, ed., Bristol Charters, 1509–1899, pp. 6–7; J. H. Thomas, Town Government in the Sixteenth Century, Based Chiefly on the Records of the Following Provincial Towns: Cambridge, Chester, Coventry, Ipswich, Leicester, Lincoln, Manchester, Northampton, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Shrewsbury (London: G. Allen and Unwin, 1933), p. 34; see also Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 1, chap. 2; Sacks, “The Corporate Town and the English State,” pp. 87–88. [BACK]

6. Cronne, ed., Bristol Charters, 1378–1499, pp. 167, 183; Latham, ed., Bristol Charters, 1509–1899, p. 4. I. S. Leadam has argued that the force of this clause, and of the charter in general, was to purge the old corporation of its Yorkist sympathizers. But this view would appear to go beyond the surviving evidence; see Leadam, ed., Select Cases before the Star Chamber, p. cv. [BACK]

7. BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 3, f. 122r; see also Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 2, pp. 693–94. [BACK]

8. See Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 2, p. 694. [BACK]

9. Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 2, pp. 694–706. [BACK]

10. Curiously, the percentage of “merchants” among those who served as mayor fell from the first half of the sixteenth century to the second, and rose again in the early seventeenth century. Perhaps the relatively low figure for 1550–1600 conceals a number of grocers, drapers, and mercers who were in fact “mere merchants” and members of the Society of Merchant Venturers. [BACK]

11. Sacks, Trade, Society and Politics, vol. 2, pp. 706–8. [BACK]

12. PRO, PROB 6/88 Seager. [BACK]

13. This paragraph and the following depend on the discussion in “Authority,” a debate between R. S. Peters and Peter Winch in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 32 (1958): supplement, pp. 207–40, reprinted in Anthony Quinton, ed., Political Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967), pp. 83–111. See also Richard Tuck, “Why Authority Is Such a Problem,” in Peter Laslett, W. G. Runciman, and Quentin Skinner, eds., Philosophy, Politics and Society, 4th ser. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1972), pp. 194–207; Richard Flathman, The Practice of Authority: Authority and the Authoritative (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); Joseph Raz, The Morality of Freedom (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), chaps. 2–4. [BACK]

14. Winch, “Authority,” p. 99; Tuck, “Why Authority Is Such a Problem,” pp. 200–207. [BACK]

15. Weber, Theory of Economic and Social Organization, p. 328; Peters, “Authority,” pp. 86–87. [BACK]

16. The classic expression in English of this view can be found in A. F. Pollard’s chapter “The New Monarchy,” in his Factors in Modern History (New York: G. Putnam’s Sons, 1907), chap. 3. Among contemporary historians, G. R. Elton has done the most to explore the bureaucratic character of the emergent English state in the sixteenth century: see especially his Tudor Revolution in Government: Administrative Change in the Reign of Henry VIII (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953) and England under the Tudors, 2d ed. (London: Methuen, 1974), chap. 7. More generally, see H. R. Trevor-Roper, “The General Crisis of the Seventeenth Century,” in Trevor Aston, ed., Crisis in Europe: 1560–1660 (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Books, 1967), pp. 63–102. The implications of this view of the state for the treatment of provincial or local history are summarized in Finberg, The Local Historian and His Theme, pp. 5–8; Alan Everitt, “The County Community,” in E. W. Ives, ed., The English Revolution, 1600–1660 (New York: Harper and Row, 1971), pp. 48–63; Everitt, “The Local Community and the Great Rebellion,” pp. 76–99; and Conrad Russell, Parliaments and English Politics, 1621–1629 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1979), pp. 5–26. [BACK]

17. Ricart, Kalendar, p. 70. See also LRB, vol. 2, pp. 46–47. [BACK]

18. See Phythian-Adams, “Ceremony and the Citizen,” pp. 57–85. On this point see also Edgeworth, Sermons, f. 282v, where priests are compared to aldermen, who have authority not because they are the eldest but “partely for their substaunce, and more for their honestye and sadnesse and wisdome.” [BACK]

19. Ricart, Kalendar, p. 70. [BACK]

20. Ricart, Kalendar, pp. 70–71; Phythian-Adams, “Ceremony and the Citizen,” p. 62. [BACK]

21. Ricart, Kalendar, p. 71. [BACK]

22. Ibid., p. 72n. For the much simpler oath used before 1373, see LRB, vol. 1, p. 46. [BACK]

23. Ricart, Kalendar, pp. 72–74. [BACK]

24. Ibid., p. 71. [BACK]

25. Ibid., p. 72. [BACK]

26. Ibid., p. 74. [BACK]

27. Ibid., pp. 74–75. [BACK]

28. See Adams’s Chronicle, pp. 69–80; Ricart, Kalendar, pp. 42–49; “A shorte and briefe memory of the first progress,” pp. 185–203. A somewhat sketchy account of King Edward IV’s visit to Bristol in 1461 also survives; see F. J. Furnival, ed., Political, Religious and Love Poems from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lambeth Ms. No 306 and Other Sources (Early English Text Society, orig. ser., 15, 1866), pp. 5–6. [BACK]

29. John C. Meagher, “The First Progress of Henry VII,” Renaissance Drama, n.s. 1 (1968): 45–73; Sydney Anglo, Spectacle, Pageantry and Drama and Early Tudor Policy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), pp. 21–45. [BACK]

30. Leland, De rebvs Britannicus, vol. 4, p. 199. [BACK]

31. Ibid., pp. 199–200. [BACK]

32. It should perhaps be noted that Bristol’s petition was not without effect. Two days after King Bremmius’s speech, the king summoned the mayor, the sheriff, and other burgesses to inquire about the city’s poverty and to offer various forms of aid. According to the herald who recorded these proceedings, “the Meyre of the Towne towlde me they hadde not this hundred yeres of noo King so good a Comfort. Wherfor they thanked Almighty God, that hath them soo good and gracious a Souveraige Lord”: ibid., p. 202. See also Anglo, Spectacle, p. 34; Meagher, “First Progress of Henry VII,” p. 72. [BACK]

33. Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain, trans. Sebastian Evan, rev. ed. Charles W. Dunn, intro. Gwyn Jones, 2 vols. (London: Folio Society, 1958), vol. 1, pp. 46ff.; Acton Griscom, The Historiam Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth with Contributions to the Study of Its Place in Early British History, Together with a Literal Translation of the Welsh Manuscript No. LXI of Jesus College, Oxford by Robert Ellis Jones (London: Longmans, Green, 1929), pp. 276ff.; Helaine H. Newstead, Bran the Blessed in Arthurian Romance (New York: Columbia University Press, 1939), pp. 155–67; Frederich W. D. Brie, ed., The Brut, or, The Chronicles of England (Early English Text Society, orig. ser., 131, 1906), pp. 26–27; F. S. Haydon, ed., Eulogium (historiarum sive temporis): Chronicon ad orbe condito usque ad annum Domini MCCCLXVI., a monacho quodam Malmesbriensi exaratum. Accendunt continuationes duae, quarum una ad annum MCCCXIII., altera ad annum MCCCXC perducta est, 3 vols. (London: Longman, Brown, Green, Longman and Roberts, 1858–63), vol. 2, p. 242; Anglo, Spectacle, p. 33. Bremmius or Brennius is identified with the historical Brennus, who sacked Rome in 390 b.c. According to Ricart, after returning from his great victories abroad “Brynne first founded and billed this worshipfull Town of Bristut that nowe is Bristowe and set it vpon a litell hill, that is to say, bitweene Seint Nicholas yate, Seint Johnes yate, Seint Leonardes yate, and the Newe yate” (Ricart, Kalendar, p. 10). According to tradition, this Brennius first named the city he founded “Brenstou.” On the founding of London and York, see Geoffrey of Monmouth, Kings of Britain, vol. 1, p. 7; vol. 2, p.7; Brie, ed., Brut, pp. 11, 15. [BACK]

34. See Sydney Anglo, “The British History in Early Tudor Propaganda,” Bulletin John Rylands Library 44 (1961–62): 17–48. Henry VII’s “British” origins also played an important part in the pageants arranged for him at York and Worcester in 1486: ibid., pp. 27–28. [BACK]

35. Leland, De rebvs Britannicus, vol. 4, p. 199. [BACK]

36. See Sacks, “Demise of the Martyrs,” pp. 146–55; James, “Ritual, Drama and Social Body,” pp. 1–29. [BACK]

37. Ricart, Kalendar, pp. 80, 85–86. [BACK]

38. [ John Gregory], Episcopus Puerum in die Innocentium, Or, A Discovery of an Ancient Custom in the Church of Sarum Making an Anniversary Bishop among the Choristers (London, 1649), in John Gurgany, ed., Posthuma of John Gregory (London, 1671), pp. 113–16; Christopher Wordsworth, ed., Ceremonies and Processions of the Church of Salisbury (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1901), pp. 52–59; Daniel Rock, The Church of Our Fathers as Seen in St. Osmund’s Rite for the Cathedral of Salisbury, ed. G. W. Hart and Witt Frere, 4 vols. (London: J. Hodges, 1903–1904), vol. 4, pp. 250–55; Christopher Wordsworth and Douglas MacLean, Statutes and Customs of the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Salisbury (London: W. Clowes and Sons, 1915), pp. 264–65, esp. “Roger de Mortivale’s Code” (1319), p. 264. Gregory prints on the title page of his work and again on p. 117 a sketch of the Boy-Bishop statue found at Salisbury. It shows a youth in a bishop’s robes, with mitre and crozier, offering a benediction while standing atop a dragon. The Boy-Bishop ceremony was practiced not only in the church but also at schools and colleges. For a useful survey of St. Nicholas’s career as a saint from the days of the early Christians to the present, see Charles W. Jones, Saint Nicholas of Myra, Bari and Manhattan: Biography of a Legend (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978). In general on the Boy-Bishop in England, see Brand, Popular Antiquities, vol. 1, pp. 421ff.; Strutt, Sports and Pastimes, pp. 272–73; G. L. Gomme, ed., The Gentleman’s Magazine Library: Manners and Customs (London: Stock, 1883), p. 89; Wright, British Calendar Customs, vol. 3, pp. 194–97; J. G. Nichols, ed., Two Sermons Preached by the Boy Bishop in St. Paul’s, Temp. Henry VIII [sic] and at Gloucester, Temp. Mary, intro. Edward F. Rimbault, Camden Miscellany 7 (Camden Society, new ser. 14, 1876), pp. v–xxxii; Chambers, Medieval Stage, vol. 1, chap. 15; R. T. Hampson, Medii aevi Kalendarium, or Dates, Charters and Customs of the Middle Ages, 2 vols. (London: H. K. Causton and Son, 1841), vol. 1, p. 80. See also Natalie Zemon Davis, Society and Culture in Early Modern France: Eight Essays (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1975), pp. 97–123; Keith Thomas, Rule and Misrule in the Schools of Early Modern England: The Stenton Lecture, 1975 (Reading: University of Reading, 1976). [BACK]

39. Ricart, Kalendar, p. 46. It is not clear from which church or ecclesiastical house in Bristol this Boy-Bishop was selected. He might have been a chorister at St. Nicholas Church or have been attached to one of the monastic houses in the city. Bristol did not become a bishopric in its own right until 1542. [BACK]

40. Unfortunately, no Boy-Bishop sermon has survived for Bristol, but at least two, and possibly three, such sermons do exist. The two that are certain date from the 1490s and 1555, respectively, and are printed in Nichols, ed., Two Sermons, pp. 1–29; the third is Desiderius Erasmus, Concio de puero Iesu, written at John Colet’s request for St. Paul’s School, circa 1510, which survives in an English edition of 1536, Desiderius Erasmus, A Most Excellent Sermon and Full of Frute and Edificyon of the Childe Jesus (London, 1536?); Desiderius Erasmus, Erasmi Concio De Pvero Iesv: A Sermon on the Child Jesus by Desiderius Erasmus, in an Old English Version of Unknown Authorship, ed. J. H. Lupton (London: George Bell and Sons, 1901); see also Desiderius Erasmus, “Homily on the Child Jesus: Concio de piero Iesu,” ed. and trans. Emily Kearns, in Collected Works of Erasmus, ed. Alexander Dalzell et al., vol. 29 (Literary and Educational Writings), ed. Elaine Fantham and Erika Rummel (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1989), pp. 51–70. In this little work Erasmus appears to be using the convention of the Boy-Bishop sermon to meet the needs of Colet’s humanist program for St. Paul’s School. But there are sufficient differences in emphasis to leave open whether this homily was really intended for use in anything like its traditional Boy-Bishop setting. [BACK]

41. Geoffrey Chaucer, The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, ed. F. N. Robinson, 2d ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1957), Canterbury Tales, “The Pardoner’s Tale,” lines 463–76, 621–28; “The Franklin’s Tale,” lines 682–91; “The Shipman’s Tale,” lines 1492–96; “The Cookes Tale,” lines 4365–422. [BACK]

42. Thomas Elyot, The Boke named The Gouernour, ed. H. H. S. Croft, 2 vols. (London: K. Paul, Trench, 1883), vol. 1, p. 275. See also Northbrooke, Treatise, pp. 130ff.; Philip Stubbes, The Anatomy of Abuses (London, 1583), pp. 172–77. [BACK]

43. Chaucer, Works. Troilus and Criseyde, Book 2, lines 1347–51; Book 4, lines 1093–99; Canterbury Tales, “The Knight’s Tale,” lines 1238–50. [BACK]

44. Elyot, The Boke named The Gouernour, vol. 1, pp. 272–73. [BACK]

45. Harding, ed., Bristol Charters, 1155–1373, pp. 136–37. [BACK]

46. Chaucer, Works. Canterbury Tales: “The Pardoner’s Tale,” lines 591–602. [BACK]

47. Nichols, ed. Two Sermons, pp. 5–6. [BACK]

48. Thompson, Diet for a Drunkard, pp. 74–75. [BACK]

49. Ibid., pp. 76–77. [BACK]

50. Ibid., pp. 59–60, 75. [BACK]

51. Ibid., p. 25. [BACK]

52. BRO, Seventeenth-Century Ordinance Book, unpaginated frontispiece. This prayer dates from early in James I’s reign, not later than 1612; it mentions prayers for Prince Henry. [BACK]

53. BRO, Old Ordinance Book, f. 20v (1563). After 1564, at regular meetings of the council, held on the first Tuesday of each month, proper dress was gowns “of the gravest sort” and caps: ibid., ff. 61v, 67r–v. Scarlet was reserved for formal occasions and was worn primarily to attend church services: BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 1, p. 139; Adams’s Chronicle, p. 185. [BACK]

54. BRO, Common Council Proceedings, vol. 1, p. 167; Latimer, Annals, p. 30. [BACK]

55. Adams’s Chronicle, p. 182. [BACK]

56. Ibid., pp. 183–84; Latimer, Annals, pp. 30–31. [BACK]

57. Adams’s Chronicle, pp. 113–14, 188–200; Churchyard, Chippes, ff. 100v–110v. Queen Anne of Denmark’s visit is recounted in a long poem written by Robert Naile and copied into his Chronicle by Adams, who describes its author as an apprentice in the city. [BACK]

58. Adams’s Chronicle, pp. 113–14; we are told that “the rest of the council rode next before the nobility and trumpeters.” [BACK]

59. Churchyard, Chippes, ff. 100v, 106v. Bristol paid Churchyard £6 13s. 4d. for his efforts, and in all the city laid out almost a thousand pounds on this three days of festivity: BRO, Mayor’s Audit (1570–1574), p. 290; David M. Bergeron, English Civic Pageantry, 1558–1642 (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1971), pp. 26–27. Churchyard reports that some of the speeches at the end of the celebration “could not be spoken, by means of a Scholemaister, who enuied that any stranger should set forth these shoes”: Churchyard, Chippes, f. 110v. But in most instances the speeches were given, and in any case all were contained in the book presented to the queen. [BACK]

60. Churchyard, Chippes, f. 102r. [BACK]

61. Ibid., ff. 103r, 107r. [BACK]

62. Ibid., ff. 108r [misnumbered in the text as f. 118]–109r. [BACK]

63. Ibid., f. 108v; the punctuation of this passage has been altered to clarify the meaning. [BACK]

64. Ibid., ff. 104r–v, 101v, 102v. [BACK]

65. Ibid., ff. 108v–109r. [BACK]

66. Ibid., ff. 101v, 102r, 102v, 103v. [BACK]

67. Ibid., f. 109r–v. [BACK]

68. Ibid., f. 109v. [BACK]

69. Ibid., ff. 101r, 103r, 105r, 106r–v, 109v–110r. [BACK]

70. On this theme, see Bergeron, English Civic Pageantry, chap. 1; Roy Strong,Art and Power: Renaissance Festivals, 1450–1650 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984); Stephen Orgel, The Illusion of Power: Political Theory in the English Renaissance (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1975); Francis Yates, Astraea: The Imperial Theme in the Sixteenth Century (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1975), part 2; R. Malcolm Smuts, Court Culture and the Origins of a Royalist Tradition in Early Stuart England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987), pp. 1–50, 73–116, 191–213, 245–92. [BACK]

71. Thomas Palmer, Bristol’s Military Garden: A sermon Preached unto the worthy Company of Practitioners in the Military garden of the well Governed Citie of Bristoll (London, 1635), p. 31. [BACK]

72. Ibid., pp. 7–8. [BACK]

73. Ibid., pp. 31–32. [BACK]

74. Ibid., p. 32. [BACK]

75. Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World, trans. Hélène Iswolsky (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1968), pp. 6, 9, 10. See also Turner, Ritual Process, esp. chap. 3 and pp. 168–70, 177–78, 200–203; Davis, Society and Culture, pp. 122–23. [BACK]

76. Veale, ed., Great Red Book, vol. 4, pp. 125–26. [BACK]

77. Adams’s Chronicle, pp. 112–13. [BACK]

78. Northbrooke, Treatise, p. 107. [BACK]

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