xx. thowsand markes. The Abbies of Rauins, of fountains, of Geruones, & diuers other to the nomber of v. Abbeis more. xx. M. markes. The Abbies of Leycester, Waltham, Gisborne, Merton, Tirseter, Osney, and other to the nomber of. vi. more xx. M. markes. The Abbies of Douers, battell, Lewes, Couentry, Dauentry and Torney. xx. M. markes. The Abbies of Northampton, Thorton, Bristow, Killingworthe, Winchcombe, Hailles, Parchester, Frediswyde, Notley, and Grimesby, xx M. markes.[Back to Top]
Which aforsaid somes, admount to the full of. 30000. markes, as for the odde. 22000. markes. they appointed Herford, Rochester, Huntingdon, Swinshed, Crowlande, Maumsbury, Burton, Tewkesbery, Donstable, Shirborne, Tauntō, and Bilande.
And ouer this they alleadged by the saide bill, þt ouer and aboue the said somme, of. 322000. marke, diuers houses of religion in England, possessed as many temporalties, as might suffice to finde yearly. xv. M. priests and clerkes, euery priest to be allowed for his stipend. vii. marke by the yere.
To the which bill no aunswere was made, but that the king of this matter would take deliberation and aduisement, and with aunswere ended so þt no further labour was made.
MarginaliaThe Suplication of beggers.And now to retourne againe from kinge Henry þe iiii. to our time of king henry the. 8. from whēce we digressed, the matter so requireth to inferre a nother certaine booke or libell intituled the Supplication of beggers, written and exhibited to king Henry the. viii. taken out as it semeth vpon the same occasiō, against the excessiue pride of Prelats and of the clergy, much about the same time and yeare which we haue now in hand: the autor wherof although be not nor durst not be expressed in þe booke, yet so farre as we haue certeynly gathered, by credible argumentes out of certayne writinges and bokes þe name of this autor was maister Fish.[Back to Top]
¶ A certaine Libell or boke intituled the Supplycation of beggers throwen and scattered at the procession in Westminster vpō Candelmas day, before king Henry the viii. for him to rede and peruse made and compiled by maister Fysh
Supplication of Beggers
This is a complete copy of Simon Fish, A supplication for the beggars (1529). For references I have used the copy in The English Scholar's Library of Old and Modern Works, ed. by Edward Arber (London, 1878), pp. 1-13.
Andrew ChibiUniversity of Leicester
To the king our soueraigne Lorde.
MOste lamentably complayneth their wofull misery vnto your hignes your poore daily bedemen the wretched hidoeus mōsters (on whom scarsly for horror any eye dare loke) þe foule vnhappy sort of lepers, & other sore people, nedy impotent, blynde, lame, and sicke, that lyue only by almes, how that their nomber is daily so sore increased that al the almesse of al the weldisposed people of this your realme is not half ynough for to susteine thē, but that for very constreint they die for hunger. And this most pestilēt mischief is come vpō your said poore beadmen, by the reason that there is in the tymes of your noble predecessors passed craftely, crept into this your realme another sorte (not of impotent) but of strong puisaunt and counterfeit holy, and idel beggers and vacabūdes, which since the tyme of their first entre by al the craft and wylinesse of Sathan are nowe encreased vnder your sight not only into a great nomber, but also into a kyngdom. There are not the herdes, but the rauinous wolues going in herdes clothing deuouring the flocke: Bishops, Abbots, Priours, Deacons, Archedeacons Suffraganes, Priestes, Monkes, Chanons, friers, Pardoners and Somners. And who is abell to nomber this idell rauenous sort whiche (setting al labour aside) haue begged so importunatly that they haue gottē into theirhandes, more then the third part of all your Realme.
The Supplication makes three important arguments (economic, theological and anti-clerical). That the clergy control so much land is one of his economic complaints. The economic argument is probably the key aspect of the treatise given that the 1520s witnessed a Europe wide inflation crisis.
The goodliest lordshyppes, maners, landes and territories are theirs. Besides this they haue the x. part of al the corne medow, pasture, grasse, wodde, coltes, caues, lābes, pigges, gese & chickens. Ouer and besides the x. part of euery seruauntes wages, the x. part of wolle, milke, hony waxe, chese and butter, yea and they loke so narrowly vpō their profits that the poore wyues must be coūtable to them of euery x. eggs or els she getteh not her ryghtes at Easter, & shalbe takē as an heretike. Hereto haue they their four offring days. when money pul they in probates of testamentes, pryuie tithes, and by mens offringes to their pylgrimages, and at their first masses. Euery man & child that is buried, must pay somewhat for masses & diriges to be song for him or els they will accuse their friendes and executours of heresie. what money gette they by mortuaries, by hearing of confessions (and yet they wyll kepe therof no counsell) by halowyng of churches, altares, superaltares, capels, & belles, by cursinge of men, & absoluyng thē again for money. What a multitude of money gather the pardoners in a yeare? How much money get the Sōners
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.[Back to Top]
by extortion in a yeare, by asciting the people to the cōmissaries court, & afterward releasing thapparaūce for mony. Finally, the infinitie nōber of begging freers what get they in a yere. Here if it please your grace to marke, ye shall see a thing far out of ioynt. Ther ar within your realme of Englād 52000 parish churches. And this standing that there be but x. housholdes in euery paryshe, yet are there v.c. M. and xx. M. housholdes. And euery of these housholdes hath euery of the fiue orders of freers a peny a quarter for euerye order, that is for all the fiue orders fiue pence a quarter for euerye house. That is for all the fyue orders xx. d. a yeare of euery house. Summa v.c.. & xx. M. quarters of Aungels.
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 cx. M. half aungels. Summa. cxxx. M. aungels. Summa totalis xliii M. poundes & cccxxxiii li. vi. s. viii. d. sterlynge. Wherof not iiij. c. yeares passed they had not one peny. greuous and painful exactions, thus yearely to be payd, from the whiche the people of your noble predecessours the kynges of the auncient Brytaines, euer stode fre. And this wyll they haue or els they wyll procure hym that wyll not geue it them, to be taken as an heretike. What tyraunt euer oppressed the people lyke this cruell and vengeable generation? what subiectes shalbe able to helpe theyr prynce, that be after this facion yearely polled? 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 marueil that the taxes, fyftenes and subsydies,
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 moste tenderly of great compassion hath taken among your people to defende them from the threatened ruyne of their common wealth, haue bene so sloughtfully, yea painfully leuied? Seing all moste the vttermoste peny that mought haue been leuied haue ben gathered before yearly by this rauinous & insatiable generation. The Danes neyther the Saxones, in the tyme of the auncient Brytons should neuer haue ben able to haue brought theyr armies from so farre hether, into your lande, to haue conquered it, if they had had at that tyme such a sorte of idell glottons to fynde at home. The noble kyng Arthur had neuer been abyll to haue caried his armie to the foote of the mountaynes to reuil the comyng downe of Lucius the Emperour,
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.[Back to Top]
if suche yearly exactions hadde bene taken of his people. The Grekes had neuer bene abyll to haue so lōg continued at the siege of Troy if they had had at home suche an idell sort of cormorauntes to finde. The aūcient Romains had neuer bene able to haue put all the whole worlde vnder their obeysaunce if their people had bene thus yearly oppressed. The Tuke nowe in your time shulde neuer bee able to get so muche grounde of Christendome, if he had in his Empire suche a sort of locutes to deuoure his substaunce. Laye then these sommes to the forsayde thyrde parte 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 fynde that it draweth farre aboue. Nowe lette vs then compare the nomber of this vnkynde idel sorte, vnto the nomber of the laye people and we shall see whether it be indifferently shyfted or not that they should haue halfe. Cōpare them to the nomber of men, so are they not the hundreth persone. Compare them to men, wemen and chyldren then are they not the foure hundred persone in nomber. One part therfore in foure hundreth partes deuyded, were to muche for them, except they dyd laboure, what an vnequall burthen then is it that they haue halfe with the multitude and are not the foure hundreth persone of their nomber? What rogue is able to tell that euer there was anye common wealth so sore oppressed synce the worlde fyrst began?[Back to Top]
And what doo all these gredye sorte of sturdye idell holye