Hoccleve and Lydgate

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The worries of the Lancastrian court, Hoccleve and Lydgate

The House of Lancaster, throughout the four monarchs that it spawned was consistently concerned about legitimacy and attempted to prove the legitimacy of their rule. Since Thomas Hoccleve and John Lydgate were hangers on at the court, they attempted to write poetry to strengthen the Lancastrian claim to the crown. While neither of them were literally “court-poets” they both were at the fringes and Lydgate ended up actually gaining the patronage of the kings while Hoccleve was granted an annuity which wasn't regularly paid.

Lancastrian Problems of Legitimacy

The poets were only able to exist due to the worries of the Lancastrian kings about the legitimacy of the crown. The Lancastrians were offshoots of the Platagenet line, who ruled England before the Lancastrians. Henry IV, who was the first Lancastrian king, imprisoned Richard II and bypassed Richard's son to gain control of the throne. Both Owain Glyndwr, who led a Welsh rebellion, and Henry Percy, who allied with Glyndwr rebelled during Henry IV's reign so the Lancastrian ideal of legitimacy simply became even more important. Henry the V had far less problems than his father did partly due to the military successes that he had and partly because he made it clear that he would rule the entire country of England. There were some problems with the populace mainly because Henry V was campaigning a lot. He was a military leader and therefore not in England a lot. Of course, this all fell apart during the reign of Henry VI when the House of York rebelled against the unstable king and the Wars of the Roses truly commenced.


Hoccleve was associated with being a clerk for the Privy Seal for most of his life. He was therefore around the court on a regular basis. It was during Henry V's reign that he was able to gain the patronage of the king. Hoccleve wrote a variety of poems on rather public themes that were specifically toward Henry V. Hoccleve's biggest work as of this time is his 1410-11 Regement of Princes, which is completely and obviously biased toward Henry. Throughout the work, Hoccleve comments upon Henry V's geneology and attempts to cast the Lancastrian throne in a very good light as far as lineage is concerned. In this piece, he comments particularly about John of Gaunt, the first Duke of Lancaster, who was Henry's maternal grandfather and on Edward III, who was John of Gaunt's father.

Hoccleve was also involved in the Lancastrian persecution of the Lollards, who were seen as more of an opportunity to distract the country from issues of legitimacy to issues of religion. Religion is generally held to be more interesting than legitimacy, particularly when religion has to do with a lot of burning. Since the various Lancastrians were interested in persecuting the Lollards, Hoccleve attempted to ensure that the Lollards were portrayed in a negative light. Of course, this is particularly ironic when John of Gaunt, who was Henry IV's father, protected the Lollards from getting burned and it was only with Henry IV that the Lollards were persecuted. When John Oldcastle led a rebellion against Henry V due to his involvement in Lollardy, Hoccleve wrote that Oldcastle doesn't have sufficient manhood to be a knight and should give up all womanly persuits to become an actual man.


John Lydgate was a monk, who despite the vows to remain cloistered, still managed to gain the king's patronage and still managed to exist upon the fringes of the Lancastrian court. While on his first absence from the abbey, when he attended Oxford, he managed to attract the attention of Henry V, who wrote a letter to the abbot of Lydgate's monastery telling the abbot to allow Lydgate to continue his studies. Lydgate worked on a number of lesser works before finally deciding to advance Henry V's claim to the throne as well as Henry VI's, who turned out to be woefully inadequate. His first major work, a translation and embelishment of Guido delle Colonne's Historia, entitled the Troy Book, claimed Henry as its patron. After this translation, Lydgate rushed into a flurry of work, many of which praised the infant who would eventually be crowned as Henry VI. He wrote within the epilogoue of a work about Henry V's right to rule France. Lydgate even, within a poem, wrote a prayer to God that Henry V would end up in heaven alongside the saints. He attempted to legitimize Henry's rule through praise of Henry's wondrous deeds, about how great of a King Henry was.


Strohm, Paul. "Hoccleve, Lydgate and the Lancastrian Court." The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999.

Tuck, Anthony. Crown And Nobility: England 1272-1461, Blackwell Publishers, 1999

Strohm. England's Empty Throne, Yale University Press, 1998


You have a nice flow and focus to your article, but you need to include internal or external links for background information. You also should include more sources for a broader range of knowledge. Overall, you write very well, but just need to fine tune some details. Letter Grade: A-

Andrew Parent – interesting topic, very complicated, which makes the article a little difficult to decipher. You did make it easier to understand though. I would recommend links; they would help with the background of your article and make it clearer. A.

Lots of good information. I would focus on grammar, some sentences don't flow well (such as using words like "actually, literally, attempted" or "was" at the end of a sentence). Other than that well done. B

For the most part, the article was a very good read. Even though you present readers with a complicated subject by going in to such detail in places you make it easy for readers to know what's going on. I agree with the suggestion for more links though-it would have been helpful. Letter Grade: A-

I would really consider changing the organization of your article; perhaps putting the two poets first or switching the first two sections would increase clarity. Also, at times, you present information as if the reader is already somewhat familiar with these two poets, when, in effect, it is not the case for many. Good information and it is clear you have a definite grasp of the material, but you need to present it in perhaps a more accessible fashion. Letter grade: B+

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