Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

dren, and especially portionless daughters, were treated by their parents in the reign of Henry VI. This correspondence is full of evidence of the efforts made to get rid of them ; first, when children, by putting them out to serve in great houses and learn manners, and afterwards to marry them and get rid of them for good. We have no reason to suppose that the household of the good judge' was sterner than that of any other man in the same position, but his daughter Elizabeth, who was afterwards twice very well married, was considered such a drug by her mother Agnes, after refusing two or three suitors, that she was allowed to see no visitors, and still proving intractable, was about one particular Eastertide beaten, once * in the week or twice, and sometimes twice in one day, and

her head broken in one or two places. In this instance, the method employed to bring the young lady to reason was so severe that we cannot help thinking that Agnes Paston was acting on Bacon's rule, “Marry your daughters betimes,

lest they marry themselves, and was afraid of that most dreadful thing à mésalliance, such as actually befell her grandchild Margery, who engaged herself to and married Richard Calle, the family bailiff

, both to her mother's and her brothers' disgust. One of whom writes, ' an my father, whom 'God assoil, were alive and had consented thereto, and my ' mother, and ye both, he (Calle) should never have my good' will for to make my sister sell candle and mustard in Fram

lingham. In spite of which awful prospect, we believe that the marriage of Richard Calle and Margery Paston was a very happy one.

We have already remarked that “ the good judge' was much worried by his enemies while he was alive. Even his knowledge of the law and its resources could not hold him harmless, but it was much worse for his family when he was gone who had been their shield and buckler. They had worse foes now than · Aslak for Sprouston,' or that 'cursed Bishop for Brom· holm.' They were envied as upstarts by all their neighbours, and all the more so because they had bought manors from impoverished heirs. When his father died, John Paston was only four and twenty, and though bred to the law he neither possessed the learning nor the weight of the judge. All kinds of claims were soon set up to dues and quit rents on a portion of the property which William Paston had purchased in fee simple and, worse still, the manor of Oxnead was claimed outright by one of the family of Hauteyn, who hoped to recover it by the influence of the great Earl of Suffolk. It was fortunate for the Pastons that the fall of that powerful nobleman

6

a

* while the claimant's suit was pending induced him to abandon it and to join with others of his family to release their rights at once and for ever to Agnes Paston, on whom Oxnead had been settled by the judge. But this was only the beginning of troubles which, we may say at once, dogged John Paston all through his life, and pursued his descendants after him. In these the family certainly relied much on the vigilance and discretion of Margaret Paston, whose great duty seems to have been to defend the possessions which the Pastons had acquired from the attacks of their foes while her husband or her sons were absent in London. Thus, as we have seen, another of William Paston's purchases had been the manor of Gresham from Thomas Chaucer, who had bought it from the Molynes family, who had thus lost all right to it. But this did not at all hinder young Robert Hungerford, who, after his marriage with a Molynes, had been created Lord Molynes, from seizing Gresham in 1448. After fruitless representations to the young lord, John Paston took a leaf out of his assailant's book, and seized on a mansion within the said town,' in which he maintained himself for three months; but in January 1450, while John was forced to go to London, and Margaret was left in the house with only twelve retainers, a company of a thousand persons appeared before it, turned the faithful wife out, and then rifled the mansion, only departing when they had cut the door-posts asunder and done damage to the amount of more than 2001. As they went the rioters declared that if they could have laid hands on John Paston they would have taken his life as well as his goods. To make a long story short, we may say that John Paston at last succeeded in regaining possession of his ruined house; but that when he went further and brought an action against Lord Molynes for waste and damage, and indicted him and his abettors for felony, the sheriff, who was well disposed towards him, gave notice to Paston's friends that he had received a distinct injunction from the king to make up a panel to acquit Lord Molynes. •Royal letters of such a

tenure,' says Mr. Gairdner, do not seem to have been at all - incompatible with the usages of Henry VI.'s reign ;' and to show the cheapness of injustice in these times—when court favour went for everything and right for nothing-John Paston himself tells us that the document on which the sheriff acted was one that could be procured for 6s. 8d.

While the Paston family was barely holding its own in defence of the property acquired by the judge, a fresh accession of wealth and influence was being prepared for them, which, while it threatened to ruin them by reviving the envy of their neighbours, again plunged them in a sea of troubles. At the time of which we write almost the last of Henry V.'s great captains had died or been slain like the veteran Talbot, in 1453, at Castillon. With them had gone all the English possessions in France, and the strife in which England was to be engaged for twenty years was civil war. But one of those captains still remained, the veteran Sir John Fastolf, of whom we first hear in this correspondence as captain of Le Mans in 1434, but who for some years had given up soldiering, and lived in London in his own house at Southwark, where we find him at the time of Jack Cade's rebellion, when he was falsely accused of having diminished the garrisons of Normandy, Le Mans and Maine, and thereby caused the loss of the king's inheritance beyond the sea. Of this, as well as of the accusation of cowardice at the battle of Patay-though in all probability the cowardice of Shakspeare's fat knight has arisen out of the story—it is needless to say Fastolf was quite guiltless. That he had been a great and fortunate captain no one could deny. Well-born, his paternal manor of Caister had been vested in him by his mother when he was six-and-twenty; since then he had gone to the French wars with Henry V., and shared in the glories of the battle of Agincourt and the siege of Rouen. He had served in France under the Regent Bedford, had taken several strong castles and one illustrious prisoner, the Duke of Alençon; had governed conquered districts, and fought with glory in many pitched battles. That this brilliant career had not been unattended with profit was evident to all men. The ransom alone of his prisoners must have made him a wealthy man, and what we know of his character and prudence after he returned to England amply proves that in his thrifty hands wealth would not be allowed to lie idle. It is but seldom that to the glory of a great commander is added the occupation of a money-lender and the pettifogging of an attorney. If it detracts fro

If it detracts from the fame of Fastolf to find him combining all these three pursuits in one person, we cannot help it; but so it was. For years after his return from France Sir John lingered in London, very useful in the king's council, but always intending to return to his native Norfolk, where he had an intention to fulfil, but never accomplishing his purpose. In

. those days, as alas, is common in ours, great men often wanted money, and especially those mighty lords who alternately entertained the king, or made their way in arms to his presence, to displace, by a great show of retainers, their rivals in the royal favour. In such a position was the Duke of York, the first of the leaders of the White Rose party, who, in December 1452,

VOL. CXLV. NO. CCXCVII,

L

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a

6

was in need of money. In this strait he applied to the old knight in Southwark, and accordingly, in one of the additional documents which Mr. Gairdner has incorporated in this edition, under No. 182, we find the original indenture under which the money was borrowed. By it it appears that Richard, Duke of York, for the sum of 4371., to be repaid before the Feast of St. John Baptist next ensuing, pledged to Sir John • Fastolf certain jewels, to wit, a nouch (brooch) of gold, with

a great pointed diamond set up on a rose enamelled white; a • nouch of gold in fashion of a ragged staff, with two images of a man and woman garnished with a ruby, a diamond, and a great pearl; and a flower of gold garnished with two rubys, a diamond,

and three hanging pearls.' As this indenture was .signed at Fotheringay, the duke's strong castle, shortly after a royal visit to Ludlow, we may well imagine that the money was needed to defray the cost of the entertainments on that occasion.

We have heard that it is part of the creed of a London pawnbroker that jewels once pledged are seldom or never redeemed, and it is curious to see that these jewels, one of them evidently the badge of the White Rose, was forfeited and remained with the others in Fastolf's hands till his death, when, with an immense quantity of jewels and plate, thy fell into the custody of his executors. That the House of York thought them of great value is proved by the fact that in the year 1461, shortly after Edward IV., the Duke of York's son, had been proclaimed King, he redeemed those family jewels from John Paston, as one of Fastolf's executors, for the sum of 700 marks, to be repaid in three annual instalments of 200 and one of 100 marks. All this was promised on the word of a king;' and all we can say is, that we hope Fastolf's executors got the money, for Edward was anything but firmly seated on the throne, and had many a hard fight still before the White Rose finally triumphed over the Red. Had he not been a great soldier, Sir John would have made a first-rate attorney, and one who, in our time, would rather be found about the Old Bailey than in Lincoln's Inn. His correspondence is full of writs and distresses, and altogether, what with his lawsuits and processes, his agent, Sir Thomas Howes, must have had a hard time of it. Mr. Gairdner thinks that the familiarity with the law shown by the old knight was due to the fact that all classes were then more versed in the law and its technicalities than we are in this generation. Even when Shakspeare makes Justice Shallow ridiculous with his coram and custalorum and ratolorum, he sees in that jargon a fresh proof of his position. He

a

6

6

[ocr errors]

thinks, therefore, that as Sir John Fastolf had more property to protect than most people, he would make more use of legal phraseology than others. Be that as it may, there, about the year 1450, was the old knight, with his mails filled with mortgages and obligations, his strong-room full of plate and jewels, his ships continually passing between Yarmouth and London, in every respect a money-making accumulative man. We have already said that while he lingered in London he had one great object in life. As early as the reign of his master Henry V., he obtained leave to fortify: a dwelling on his paternal manor of Caister as strong as he himself could devise.' For years this had been his desire, and now, when more than seventy, it was about to be fulfilled. *Masons and brick• layers,' says Mr. Gairdner, 'were building up for him a mag

nificent edifice, the ruins of which are still the most interest‘ing features of the neighbourhood,' while the walls compassed more than six acres of ground. This strong castle had been many years in building, but at last, in 1454, it was finished, and Sir John removed from London and took up his abode at Caister, where he seems, with one short interval, to have spent the remainder of his days. If we are asked what all this has to do with the Pastons, the answer is ready. The old knight was related in blood to John Paston's wife, and even to the Pastons themselves, for in his last will he calls John Paston his cousin. But he had other ties to him ; he was not at all likely to cultivate his cousins unless they had been of use to him. For some reason, no doubt a good one, Sir John had a high opinion of John Paston's capacity for business, and was often asking his advice. When Caister Castle was on the eve of completion, John Paston was allowed to have some control over the edifice, and probably acted as clerk of the works. At last, when the great man came down, it was regarded as an event not only in the neighbouring town of Yarmouth, but in Norwich itself. On this occasion John Paston's brother wrote to him from London: “Sir John saith ye are the heartiest

kinsman and friend that he knoweth. He would have you at *Mauteby dwelling,'-Mauteby being Margaret Paston's manor close by his Caister. There at Caister he lived for five more years, meditating over unsettled accounts that he had with the Crown, and, contrary to the divine precept that it is more blessed to give than to receive, generally appearing in his dealings with his fellow-men in the unpleasant shape of a creditor. “Cruel and vengeable he hath been ever,' says his own servant Henry Windsor,' and for the most part without pity and mercy.' So also his secretary Worcester served him for years without

« EdellinenJatka »