'In this signe thou shalt ouercome hem alle': Visual Rhetoric and Yorkist Propaganda in Lydgate's Fall of Princes (Harl. MS. 1766)
Sarah Pittaway (notes)
With its much abridged text and impressive visual scheme, Harl. MS. 1766 (c. 1450-60) is unique amongst the extant manuscripts of Lydgate’s Fall of Princes (c. 1431-38/39). This paper identifies and explores a rhetoric of kingship developed by the rearranged text and amplified through the design of the visual scheme. Juxtaposing famous and infamous rulers, this rhetoric highlights the qualities necessary to be a good ruler. This concern with kingship is also intrinsically linked to motifs found in Yorkist rolls and genealogies that circulated during the early years of Edward IV’s reign which focused on the legitimacy of his claim to the throne through lineage, divine approbation and chivalric and martial right. This paper traces the links between the persons and ideals embodied both in these propagandist texts and Harl. MS. 1766, arguing that these links are a direct result of the probable patronage of the manuscript by the Tyrell family, an East Anglian gentry family whose names appear on the manuscript’s flyleaves. Commissioned as a direct response to their position as supporters of a deposed regime, Harl. MS. 1766 represents a political re-envisaging of the text designed for patrons seeking to realign themselves politically and ensure their safety in Yorkist England.