A Norfolk gentlewoman and Lydgatian patronage: Lady Sibylle Boys and her cultural environment
Medium Aevum, 78(2), (2009)
The poetry of John Lydgate (c.1370–1449/50) is often discussed in terms of the poet’s illustrious and powerful patrons: literary commissions for royal figures such as Henry V (Troy Book), Henry VI (numerous mummings and pageant poems), and Charles VI (A Devowte Invocacioun to St Denys) demonstrate the dynamic and significant interface of fifteenth-century poetry and politics. The recent renaissance of Lydgate scholarship (in particular that inaugurated by Paul Strohm and Lee Patterson and now significantly augmented by Robert Meyer-Lee, Nigel Mortimer, and Maura Nolan) and historical enquiry into late medieval cultural politics (by Christine Carpenter, Richard Firth Green,and John Watts) has shown that life was, in Nolan’s terms, ‘inescapably political, that politics govern[ed] all vectors of daily practice’. My concern in this essay is to interrogate, and perhaps to extend, this assessment to the literary patronage of a fifteenth-century Norfolk gentlewoman, Lady Sibylle Boys (c.1370–c.1456). Sibylle Boys has traditionally been identified as the patroness of two of Lydgate’s shorter poems, ‘Epistle to Sibille’ and ‘Tretise for lauandres’; both the poems and their putative patron have been dubbed ‘minor’ and ‘marginal’.