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1193 [1193]

K. Hen. 8. The supplication of Beggars.

Somners 

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A summoner was a minor church official whose duty was to summon offenders to appear in ecclesiastical courts to stand trial for their offences against the church. Already, by Fish's period, holders were highly suspect of corruption and accepting bribes. See R Wunderli, 'Pre-Reformation London Summoners and the Murder of Richard Hunne', in Journal of Ecclesiastical History 33 (1982), pp. 209-24.

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by extortion, in a yeare, by asciting the people to the Commissaries Court, and afterward releasing the apparauntes for money? Finally, the infinite number of beggyng Friers, what get they in a yeare?

Marginalia* Peraduenture the common counte of the parißhes of England, among men, and in Mappes of gthe olde time so vvent. And albeit the sayd parißhes doe not amount novv to the same rate of 52000: yet neuertheles the number (no doubt) is great, and therfore the quartarage of the Fryers can not be litgle, but ryseth to a great pennye through the realme. VVherupō the scope of this mans reason soūdeth to good purpose. For although he hit not perfectlye on the iust summes, yet it cā not be denyed, but the Fryers had very much, and much more, thē they deserued. Agayne, neither can it bee denyed, but the more they had, the lesse redounded to the impotent nedye beggars in deede. And vvhat reason is it, that such valiaunt beggars, vvhich may vvorke, and yet vvill needes bee idle, shoulod reape any peece of the croppe, vvhich beare no burden of the haruest, but vvilfully do sit idle, and serue to no vse necaßary in the common vvealth? * Here if it please your grace to marke, you shall see a thyng far out of ioint. There are within your realme of England. 52000. Parishe Churches. And this standing, that there be but x. housholdes in euery Parish, yet are there v.c. M. & xx.M. housholdes. And of euery of these housholdes hath euery of the fiue orders of Friers, a peny a quarter, for euery order: that is, for all the fiue orders, fiue pence a quarter, for euery house: that is, for all þe fiue orders. xx. ḋ. a yeare of euery house. Summa v.c. and xx.M. quarters of Aūgels. 

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At the time (c.1526) under Henry VIII, an Angel was valued at 7s and 6d. Fish's point is that just one of the existing five orders of mendicant friars in England took some ₤43.333 6s.8d each year out of the English economy.

That is cclx.M. half aungels. Summa cxxx. M. aūgels. Marginalia* Admitte the summa totalis came not to so much, yet it came to more then the Fryers deserued, vvhich coulde vvell vvorke and vvoulde not, and vvoulde needes begge, and needed not. VVherof reade more pag. 504. and 507. in the storye of Armachanus.* Summa totalis xliij.M. poundes & cccxxxiij. li. vi. s. viij. d. sterlyng. Wherof not iiij. c. yeares passed, they had not one peny.

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Marginalia* Oh greuous, &c. these vvordes, sayth M. More, the soules them selues dyd heare, euen into Purgatorye. Belyke M. More him selfe stoode behind Purgatorye dore the same time, or ells hovv coulde he tell, that the soules dyd heare hym? * Oh greuous & paynfull exactions, thus yearelye to bee payd: from the whiche the people of your noble predecessours the kinges of the auncient Britaines, euer stoode free. And this will they haue, or els they wil procure him that will not geue it them, to be taken as an hereticke. What Tyranne euer oppressed þe people, lyke this cruell & vengeable generation? what subiectes shalbe able to helpe theyr prince, that be after this faciō yearely poled? What good Christen people can be able to succour vs poore lepers, blynde, sore, and lame, that be thus yearely oppressed? Is it any maruaile that your people so complayn of pouertie? Is it any maruaile that the taxes, fiftenes and subsidies, 

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These are parliamentary grants of taxation calculated based on one-fifteen of a person's annual income (there was another valuation based on a tenth) as well as customs duties paid annual to the king in the form of tonnage (on wine) and poundage (on all other goods).

that your grace most tenderly of great compassion, hath taken among your people to defende them frō the threatened ruine of their common wealth, haue bene so sloughtfully, yea paynefully leuied, seyng almost the vttermost peny that mought haue bene leuied, hath bene gathered before yearely, by this rauinous and insatiable generation? Neither þe Danes nor the Saxones, in the time of the aunciēt Britons, should euer haue bene able to haue brought theyr armies frō so farre, hether into your land, to haue conquered it, if they had had at that tyme, such a sorte of idle glottons to finde at home. MarginaliaHe meaneth all thys onely of idle Fryers.The noble kyng Arthur had neuer bene able to haue caried hys armie to the foote of the mountaines, to resiste the cōmyng down of Lucius the Emperour, 
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This refers to one of two possible sources. Either the Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth or a fourteenth century poem known as Alliterative Morte Arthure. Both tell the same tale, that of the (fictional) emperor's attempt to regain Gaul from Arthur. Arthur and his army defeat the emperor, thereby adding Italy to his extensive continental holdings.

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if such yearely exactions had bene taken of his people. The Grekes had neuer bene able to haue so long continued at the siege of Troy, if they had had at home such an idle sorte of cormorantes to find. The auncient Romaines had neuer bene able to haue put all the whole world vnder their obeysaunce, if their people had bene thus yearely oppressed. The Turke nowe in your time should neuer bene able to get so much ground of Christendome, if hee had in his Empire such a sorte of locustes, to deuoure his substaunce. Lay then these sinnes to the foresaid third part of the possessions of the realme, that ye may see whether it drawe nygh vnto the halfe of the whole substaunce of the Realme, or not: so shall ye finde that it draweth farre aboue.

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Now, let vs then compare the nomber of this vnkynd idle sorte, vnto the nomber of the lay people, and we shal see whether it bee indifferently shifted or not, that they should haue halfe. MarginaliaAn vnequall diuision that the Fryers should haue halfe with the multitude, they being not the foure hundreth person of the number.Compare them to the number of men, so are they not the hundreth person. Compare them to men, wemen and childrē, then are they not the foure hūdreth person in number. One part therfore in foure hūdreth partes deuided, were to much for them, except they did labour. What an vnequall burthen is it that they haue halfe with the multitude, and are not the foure hundreth person of their nomber? What tongue is able to tell that euer there was any common wealth so sore oppres-sed, since the world first began?

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And what doth all this gredy sort of sturdy, idle, holy theeues, with these yearely exactions that they take of the people? Truly nothyng but exempt them selues from þe obedience of your grace. Nothyng but trāslate all rule, power, lordship, authoritie, obediēce & dignitie, frō your grace, vnto them. Nothyng but that all your subiectes should fall into disobedience and rebellion agaynst your grace, and be vnder them, as they did vnto your noble predecessour kyng Iohn: 

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Fish relates here the essential details of the origins of the Magna Carta. John was in dispute with the king of France (Philip Augustus) over his succession to the English throne, and with the pope (Innocent III) over the election of Stephen Langton as archbishop of Canterbury. John refused to recognize the election and Innocent issued an interdict against England in 1208, an excommunication order against John in 1209, and encouraged Philip to invade in 1212. John backed down and went so far as to give England and Ireland over to the pope (renting them back as a fiefdom for a yearly tribute of 1000 marks). It is this to which Fish refers.

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MarginaliaThe rule of kinges empayred, by the Popes clergie.which for because that he would haue punished certain traitours that had conspired with the Frenche kyng, to haue deposed him from his crowne and dignitie (among the whiche a Clerke called Stephen, whom afterwarde agaynst the kynges will, the Pope made Byshop of Caunterbury, was one) enterdited his land. For the whiche matter your most noble realme wrongfully (alas for shame) hath stand tributary not vnto any kinde of temporall prince, but vnto a cruell deuilishe bloudsupper, dronken in the bloud of the Saintes and Martyrs of Christ, euer since.

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Here were an holy sort of Prelates, that thus cruelly could punish such a rightuous kyng, all his realme and succession, for doyng right. Here were charitable sorte of holy men, that could thus enterdite an whole realme, and plucke away the obedience of the people from their naturall liege Lord, and kyng, for none other cause, but for his righteousnes. Here were a blessed sorte, not of meke heardes, but of bloudsuppers, that could set the French kyng vpon such a righteous Prince, to cause him to lose hys crowne and dignitie, to make effusion of the bloud of his people, MarginaliaK. Iohn submitted him selfe vnto the Pope, read before pag. 331.vnles this good and blessed king, of great compassion, more fearyng and lamentyng the shedyng of the bloud of his people, then the losse of his crowne and dignitie, agaynst all right and consciēce, had submitted hym selfe vnto them.

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O case most horrible, that euer so noble a kyng, realme and succession, should thus bee made to stoupe to such a sorte of bloudsuppers. Where was his sword, power, crowne, and dignitie become, whereby hee might haue done iustice in this matter? where was their obedience become that should haue bene subiect vnder his hygh power in this matter? Yea where was the obedience of all his subiectes become, that for maintenaunce of the cōmon wealth, should haue holpen hym manfully to haue resisted these bloudsuppers, to þe sheding of theyr bloud? was not altogether by their policy, translated from this good kyng vnto them?

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Yea, and what do they more? MarginaliaIf thys be not true in the whole, I would the greatest parte were not such.Truly nothyng, but apply them selues by all the sleightes they may, to haue to do with euery mans wife, euery mans daughter, and euery mans mayde, that cuckoldrie and baudrie should reigne ouer al, among your subiectes, that no mā should know his owne childe, that their bastardes might inherite the possessions of euery man, to put the right begotten children cleare beside their inheritaunce, in subuersiō of all estates and godly order. These bee they that by their absteinyng from Mariage, do let the generation of the people, whereby all the realme at length, if it should be continued, shalbe made desert and inhabitable. 

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This is part and parcel of Fish's various anti-clerical arguments. Here, clerical celibacy and sexual incontinence are said to have created the appearance of no less than 100,000 whores.

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Marginalia100000. idle whores made in England by the Popes clergie.These bee they that haue made an C. M. idle whores in your realme, whiche would haue gotten their lyuyng honestly, in the sweat of theyr faces, had not their superfluous riches illected them to vncleane lust and idelnes. These be they that corrupt the whole generation of man kynd in your realme, that catche the pockes of one woman, and beare them to an other, that be burnt with one woman, and beare it to an other, that catche the lepry of one woman, and beare it to an other. Yea some one of them shall boast among his felowes, that he hath medled with an C. women. These bee they that when they haue ones drawen mens wiues to such incontinencie, spend away their husbandes goodes, make the wemen to runne away from their husbandes, yea, runne away them selues both with wife and goodes, bringyng both man, wife, and children, to idlenesse, thefte, and beggery. Yea, who is able to nomber the great & broade bottomles Occeane Sea, ful of euils, that this mischieuous and sinfull generation may lawfully bryng vppon vs, vnpunished?

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Where is your sword, power, crowne, and dignitie become, that should punishe by punishement of death, euen as other men are punished, the felonyes, rapes, murders, and treasons committed by this sinfull generation? where is their obedience become that should bee vnder your hygh power in this matter? Is not altogether translated and exempt from your grace vnto them?

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Yes
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