Journal Article

Between Customer and Court: <i>A Brief Abstract of the Genealogie and Race of All the Kynges of England and its Lost Source</i>

Henk Dragstra

in The Library

Volume 9, issue 2, pages 127-157
Published in print June 2008 | ISSN: 0024-2160
Published online July 2008 | e-ISSN: 1744-8581 | DOI:
Between Customer and Court: A Brief Abstract of the Genealogie and Race of All the Kynges of England and its Lost Source

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Giles Godet's A brief abstract of the genealogie and race of all the kynges of England, dating from c 1560, is a long series of portraits of the English monarchs, to date, with brief descriptions below them. Those from William the Conqueror onwards show much resemblance, both in portraiture and description, to the series Alle de Coninghen in Enghelant (1534), which describes them in Dutch up to Henry VIII. In spite of their seniority, the verses in Dutch cannot be the source of A brief abstract, the mistranslations being all on the Dutch side. This is confirmed by the existence of early manuscript versions of the text in English in Bodleian MS Rawlinson C. 448, dating from Henry VIII's reign, and in Bodleian MS Lat. Th. D. 15, dated 1551. An early source for both the portraits and the text of Godet's series is John Rastell's prose history The Pastyme of People, published 1529-30. It is therefore likely that a printed series, now lost, containing portraits and verses based on this book, and published c 1530, served as a model for the Dutch prints, the English manuscripts, and A brief abstract. Godet probably printed this section of his genealogy first, updating it when Elizabeth succeeded Mary, and then adding series of rulers preceding William I, perhaps in several instalments. While the series helped to popularize and legitimize the monarchy, the change of monarch and of state religion in 1558 necessitated some changes in the wording of the descriptions, to avoid offending the court. At the same time Godet's production appealed to the middle-class customers for whom it was intended by applying populist criteria to rulers of the distant past and by extolling the longevity of English cities, especially London.

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Subjects: Publishing ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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