Two Yorkist Versions of "The King Who Will Win the Holy Cross," a Popular Fifteenth-Century Political Prophecy

[Boldface passages identify the prophesied king as an "Edward of Rouen" associated with a "boar" (EIV's badge), the Holy Land, the Holy Cross, conquest and empire crowned at Rome.]

The Earliest Known Version from MS Hatton 56 (c. 1453):

 "thes ben ye names of ye kyng ŝat shall wynne ŝe holy crosse after [certain proficies] awtentid . . . "

"Seint Thomas of Caunterbury callith hym ŝe virgyn kyng

And merlyon callith hym a bull of ŝe threfold nature

John ŝe Eremyte callith hym kyng of herdys

And tullyus callith hym kyng of ŝe brood forthes

And Merlyns Siluester callith hym kyng of wrecches

And Abyon a monk of Almayne callith hym a lyon of the eyer ŝe which shall take his wynges  & fle to rome

And Arphin patryark within Affrik callith hym a westron beest ŝat shall destroye ŝo ordre of freres prechers and ŝerto shall wynne ŝe grete part of ŝe werlde and shall make free weye to ŝe holy land.  And in ŝat time many thyngs shall be herd of Antecrist and many merveyles shal be sen by . . .

Malyngulus an abbot of Ierlond callith hym ŝe vjthe of Irelond The which will not be gouerned but be god alone and by hym self.

Sybyle ŝe wyse calleth hym ŝe second lyon of grete Bretayne ŝe which shall wynne the holy crosse

Petris de Bal della in Almayny callith hym ŝe Egle the which shall ouercom vi kynges of [langage?]

Master Tyllyus of Serra callith hym an unycorn

David callith hym the Son of man

Banaster of Inglond callith hym a boor of [clene nature]

The dottour of Seynt Jermyn callith hym a trew dragon the whiche shall treden onder fote ŝe kyng of pryde and shall take his winges & flee to ŝe holy land.

Robert ŝe Scrybe of Bredelyngton callith hym ŝe [Cocke] of the Brute

Mahemyte callith hym to ŝe paynymys the delyca[t] Rose of Bretayne called Edward.

He that is lord aboue all thing

Save Edward oure kyng."[1]

A  Version Nearly Contemporary with Malory's Lifetime (1471-83) f rom Trinity MS R 3 19 (ff 244 r-v)  Owned by Roger Thorney, London Mercer and Patron of Wynkyn de Worde’s Bookshop (+ owned Caxton editions):

 “These ben the names of seyntes and prophyts that prophesy of a kyng that shuld be callyd Edward

Seynt Thomas of Caunterbury calleth hym the urgent kynge of bewte

Rychard Scrope the hooly Bysshop of Yorke calleth hym the holy blood of Nativite

Edmund Lacy the hooly Bysshop of Excestr sayde that oon Edward shuld conquere for harryse shuld reygne no mo

Marlyn calleth hym a Bulle of iij fold nature that ys of England Fraunce and Spayne

John the heremyte calleth hym of the Brode For the that ys he shalbe kyng of the broode Sees

Marlyn Syluester calleth hym kyng of Wreches that ys There shuld be so may ryotous folk and so many theues within the xxith yere of hys reygne that he shall haue moche to do to correct them

The monke of Almayn calleth hym a lyon of the ayre the whych shall take hye wynges and flee to Rome And thee to be made Emperor

Alphen the Patriark of Jerusalem wroot in a booke and calleth hym the Westorn beste the whych dysputeth the Blak bulle with the golden hornes.  Frust in the nest he shalbe gyn and he shall conquere a gret part of the world  And he shall make fre wey in to holy land

Malyn the abbot of Irelond calleth hym the fyrseth lyon the which wyll be gouernyd by noman but by god alone and hymself

Sybyll the prophete calleth hym the second lyon of the gret Bretayne that shall wynne the holy crosse

Peter of Belwelden in Almayn calleth hym the Egyll the wyche shall ouecom vi kynges

Mastyr Tullius of Varta  calleth hym an unicorne whych shall neuer torne hys face for any were

Dauid the prophete calleth hym in te sawter booke Filius honoris that ys the son of worshyp

Banastre calleth hym a Boore of clene natur

Seynt Germayn calleth hym a Dragon whych shuld be crystenys in hys font and so shuld neuer noon but he alone And he shuld trede undyr hys feete the kyng of pryde and he shuld haue wyngys and flee in to the holy land

Robert the scrybe of Brydlyngton calleth hym the Cok of the trew Brittes

Makamyte calleth hym the delyte of Crystyndom  And he shall dystroy hym and all false pepyll by the power of Almyghty God  And also he shalbe callyd Edward of Roone[2]

Note: Beside this prophecy, Thorney sketched a fleur-de-lis, suggesting his identification of the foretold king with the man identified by the “Makamyte” prophecy as Edward of Rouen, then Edward IV of England.  Also see the ballad of Towton which calls Edward the “rose” of “roun” (Robbins 215-18).

Malory on Arthur's Return (1460-70/1): "/ yet som men say in many p[art]ys of Inglonde that kynge Arthur ys nat dede but ys [had] by the wyll of oure lorde Jesu in to a nother place and men say that he shall com agayne and he shall wynne the holy crosse / yet I woll nat say that hit shall be so  But rather I wolde say here in thys worlde he chaunged hys lyff  And many men say that there ys wrytten uppon the tumbe thys Hic iacet Arthurus rex quondam rex que futurus."  To see the emphasis given the prophecy in Caxton's printed text (1485), click here.

[1] Leslie Coote, Prophecy and Public Affairs in Later Medieval England, York: York Medieval Press, 2000.  208.  Based on the last line, Coote believes the prophecy originally was composed during the reign of Edward III.  In this later manuscript (before 1461), it links Edward to a successor "in 'Bridlington' the Cock who will inherit the name and nature of the Bull, the king who will succeed sine vi where his ancestor has failed" [and] “is asociated with the apocalyptic, imperial hero Henry V, and the Galfridian hero Edward III, the Boar of Windsor and the Bull of 'Bridlington,' who was identified with, but himself was not, Arthur redivivus.  This was the hero of whose advent the 'commons' were convinced"  (209).  Malory’s statement that “som men say” this prophecy does refer to Arthur’s return suggests either that he only knew of it by hear-say, or that its symbolic vocabulary was not as carefully interpreted by fifteenth-century readers as it has been by modern scholars.  Certainly Richard Thorney was able to ignore the apparent difference between the present “Edward oure kyng,” Edward IV, and the ruler named in these future-tense prophecies.

[2]   The transcription is by Leslie Coote, and I reproduce it here by her kind permission.