By Keith R. Dockray
The Ricardian, Vol.6 (1983)
Introduction: The history of fifteenth-century Yorkshire in general, and the Yorkshire rebellions of 1469 in particular, illustrates exceptionally well the compressed, contradictory nature of so much surviving later medieval primary source material. Such chronicle accounts as there are tend to be notably southern-orientated, their authors often ill-informed about (even uninterested in) the North of England. This is certainly true of London chronicles, such as the Great Chronicle of London and Fabian’s Chronicle, both written during the reign of Henry VII, and probably the work of the same London merchant Robert Fabian. Worse still, southern chroniclers are sometimes downright hostile to the North and northerners: the monkish continuator of the Croyland Chronicle, for instance, who (at the Fenland abbey of Crowland) penned his account of the 1460s not much later than 1469, was both frenziedly fearful of (and fanatically hostile to) the alien hordes from north of Trent, especially when, as in 1469, they invaded the Midlands and threatened the South.
The only chronicler of the period with both a considerable interest in, and knowledge of, northern affairs is the author of the Chronicle of John Warkworth. In all probability, this chronicle was written by John Warkworth, sometime Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge, between 1478 and 1483 (and if, as seems likely, he took his name from the Northumberland village of Warkworth, this might explain his north-country interests). Warkworth’s Chronicle, however, has received a mixed press from fifteenth-century historians: on the one hand, it has been described (by Antonia Gransden) as a ‘well – informed, contemporary and generally moderate account’ of the first thirteen years of Edward IV’s reign (1461-74); on the other, it has been criticised (by J. R. Lander) as compressed to the point of confusion and inaccuracy, its author a man writing without notes, whose memory is suspect and whose chronology is unreliable. Certainly, as a source for the Yorkshire rebellions of 1469, it has distinct shortcomings.