Bureaucratic Verse: William Lyndwood, the Privy Seal and the Form of The Libelle of Englyshe Polycye

Sebastian Sobecki*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    Abstract

    This essay associates The Libelle of Englyshe Polycye with civilian bills, or libelli, and re-evaluates the immediate historical context surrounding the poem’s composition. The wealth and accuracy of economic, political, and legal information that is contained in the poem points to the poet’s intimate familiarity with the highest functions of the King’s writing offices at Westminster. This essay argues that The Libelle of Englyshe Polycye must have been composed from within the closest circle of Henry VI’s senior administrators. Thus, the poem formed part of the Privy Seal’s strategy to identify the adolescent monarch, who had only just begun to exercise the royal privilege of granting petitions, with a defence of Calais and an ideological pursuit of peace. Central to this process were William Lyndwood, Keeper of the Privy Seal, and Walter Hungerford, the poem’s sponsor. In addition to historical and circumstantial evidence, Lyndwood’s association with The Libelle of Englyshe Polycye is supported by the centrality the poem assigns to seals and documentary validity, its legal mode as a libellus, and its programmatic emphasis on peace and unity, which Lyndwood had championed in a parliamentary sermon of 1431.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)251-288
    Number of pages38
    JournalNew Medieval Literatures
    Volume12
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2010

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