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and got excommunicated for his pains. As for his adversary, he had interest enough to get himself appointed and consecrated Bishop of Cork. This Priory of Bromholm, for which he was counsel against this apestate brother, was an object of special interest to William Paston, who exerted himself on its behalf on several occasions both before and after his elevation to the Bench. It was within a mile, as he tells us himself, of the place of his birth. After his death it became the burialplace of the family, and in it John Paston his son was sumptuously interred in the reign of Edward IV. It was a monastery of some celebrity, as its ruins still attest, standing by the sad seashore, and conspicuous from a distance both by land and sea. After Walsingham no religious house in Norfolk attracted more pilgrims, for it could show a very special treasure in its Holy Rood, mentioned by Chaucer in the Canterbury Tales,' which contained a bit of the True Cross, brought from Constantinople two hundred years before the period of which we are writing.
At last, as we have said, in 1444 'the good judge' died, but not before he and his wife had chosen a suitable wife for his eldest son John. We forgot to mention that the judge himself was married to Agnes, daughter and heiress of Sir Edmund Berry of Harlingbury Hall in Hertfordshire. And now let none of our readers, old or young, suppose that marriages in those days were like marriages in these, when the feelings of the young people are more consulted than the will and prudence of their parents. Then fathers and mothers, or worse still, guardians, had the sole arrangement of the matter, and in the best of cases, all that was considered was whether the union were equal on either side in position and property. With regard to parents, we do not remember that they sold their children in marriage any more than they do now, but in the case of guardians it was notorious that wards were constantly sold without regard to their own will or consent, and all the redress that a ward had against his guardian was that he might sue him if he had been matched with a woman unequal in fortune or in rank. Marriages, in fact, in those days were matters of business and not of sentiment; and it does not appear that the wedding of John Paston, the judge's son, was any exception to the rule. His father and mother picked out for him a gentlewoman of good family and fortune, and John was handed over to her and she to John, as if they had been mere bundles of goods. Her name was Margaret, daughter and heiress of John Mauteby of Mauteby, near Caister in Norfolk, and in a letter from Agnes Paston to the judge, she sends him 'good • tidings of the coming and bringing home of the gentlewoman * from Reedham,' when we are expressly told that this was the • first acquaintance' between John Paston and the said “gentle* woman, who had made him such' gentle cheer,' that her future mother-in-law, at the advice of a “parson’ who knew the young lady's taste in colours, begged her husband, who was then in London, to buy her a gown, which must be a‘goodly blue, or else ' a bright sanguin.' If her daughter-in-law could only get that there was hope that there would be no need of any great treaty between them.'
We are bound to say that the gentlewoman' thus brought into the family proved a most devoted and affectionate wife to John Paston for about twenty-six years. After his death she was the mainstay of the family in perilous times, and without her advice her children could scarcely have weathered the constant storms to which the Pastons were exposed. Her letters form a great part of this whole correspondence, and certainly are the most interesting of any that we find in it, as introducing us to a woman of great force of character and resolute will, but yet truly humble, gentle, and loving. Very early in these volumes, we find in No. 36 a letter which, as Mr. Gairdner observes, is pretty sufficient evidence that women, • at least, were human in the fifteenth century.' She was left with her first child in Norfolk while her husband was laid up in London, by an illness seemingly occasioned by some wound or injury. It was a case of urgency, and Agnes his mother had vowed to give to our Lady of Walsingham an image of wax of the weight of her son, while Margaret was to go on a pilgrimage to Walsingham and also to St. Leonard's at Norwich. If I might have had my will,' she writes, “I • should have seen you ere this time. I would you were at
home if it were for your ease--and your sore might be as ' well looked to here as there ye be-even liever than a gown
though it were of scarlet;' where, in midst of all her distress and love for her husband, we see the gentlewoman's' old love of bright colours peeping out.
Before leaving this part of the subject, we must say that the treatment of children by their parents in the fifteenth century was different from ours. Fifty years ago
young were certainly not petted and spoilt as they too often are now, so that we sympathise heartily with the feelings of the father who declared that he had never eaten the wing of a chicken in his life, for when he was young it was always given to his parents, while now that he was old it was given to the little · dears. But this wholesome severity of sixty years ago was altogether different in kind from the cruelty with which chil
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 a 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 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 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,