“The Praise of Waterford”


"Waterford, thow loyall cytie" has been honored by Henry II, chartered by John, affirmed by Henry III, and so forth, through Henry VIII. "Quia to semper intacta manes" ends each verse echoing the Waterford motto.


Croker-PopularSongs: "The motto of 'Urbs intacto manet Waterfordia' ... was conferred on the city, with other honours, by Henry VII., for the conduct of the mayor and citizens against Perkin Warbeck."

"... there was soon to be another impostor [to Henry VII's crown after Lambert Simnel (see 'The Mayor of Waterford's Letter')], Master Perkin Warbeck from Tournai, whom the men of Cork felt convinced was Richard of York, the younger of the Princes in the Tower." (Source: "The Tudors" by Neville Williams in _The Lives of the Kings & Queens of England_, ed. Antonia Fraser, University of California Press, 1995, p. 171)

Croker-PopularSongs: "The date of this composition is satisfactorily fixed, by the twentieth and twenty-second verses, to be about 1545. In the former, Henry VIIIth's present to the city of Waterford of a sword of justice in 1523, is spoken of as "lately sent;" and in the latter, the term 'our triumphant king' (which would scarcely be applied to Edward VI), must have been written subsequent to 1541, when Henry assumed the title of King of Ireland." - BS

It seems unlikely (to put it mildly) that this was a genuine folk song -- but it is an interesting curiosity, because the manuscript of it contains marginal notes. These are not uncommon in manuscripts of, say, the Bible -- but rarely in poetry!

Still, if the scribe felt the urge for footnotes, how can I resist?

"Henry the Second, that noble Kinge" -- Henry II Plantagenet, reigned 1154-1189. Henry came to Ireland in 1171, taking advantage of local strife to build an enclave on the east coast; he invaded following the invasion of his own vassal the Earl of Pembroke, known as Strongbow (see Terry Golway, _For the Cause of Liberty_, Simon & Schuster, 2000, p. 11).

The reference to his son's honor is presumably to Henry's fourth son John, the future King John. Henry, during his life, divided up his kingdom (England, much of France, and Ireland) among his four sons. John was given Ireland -- though he quickly got himself in trouble by making fun of the native chieftains's appearance (see John Harvey, _The Plantagenets_, revised edition, Fontana, 1959, p. 52). John would reign from 1199 to 1216, following the reign of his older brother Richard I (now usually known as Richard the Lion-Hearted, but at the time, he was likely to be called "Richard Yes-and-No," because he was so wishy-washy).

John's son was Henry III, who would face the rebellion of Simon de Montfort; he came to the throne as a boy, and so had a very long reign, 1216-1272.

Edward the First, reigned 1272-1307, was known for the work he did in organizing and codifying the laws of England; he did indeed grant many charters. "His son" was Edward II, reigned 1307-1327, when he was deposed.

"Edward the Third, of tryumph most abundante," was the son of Edward II, and reigned 1327-1377. His triumphs were indeed abundant, though they in the end amounted to little: He started the Hundred Years' War, in the process of which he captured the Scottish king David II (see Desmond Seward, _The Hundred Years War: The English in France 1337-1453_, Atheneum, 1978 [hereafter Seward-Hundred], p. 69) he won the great Battle of Crecy against the French in 1346 (Seward-Roses, pp. 63-68), captured Calais (see John Harvey, _The Plantagenets_, revised edition, Fontana, 1959, p. 141) and finally, after his son the Black Prince had captured the King of France at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356 (see A. R. Myers, _England in the Late Middle Ages_, eighth edition, Penguin, 1971, pp. 24-25), negotiated the Treaty of Bretigny which gave England theoretical sovereignty over a third of France (see Seward-Hundred, pp. 99-101, plus the map on p. 266).

The flip side is, Edward's reign also witnessed the Black Death (Myers, pp. 23-24), which -- apart from killing a large fraction of the population -- devastated the already-strained English treasury; England captured much of France, but proved unable to hold it; by 1374, Edward was "drink-sodden and used up," (Seward-Hundred, p. 115), and there was a struggle over control of the government (Myers, pp. 28-29), which ended with the triumph of the king's son Edward the Black Prince -- who, however, died in 1376 (from what sounds rather like malaria, acquired perhaps in an invasion of Spain).

The conquest of France was already unraveling by the time of their deaths. Mike Ashley, _British Kings and Queens_, 2000, originally published as _The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens_, 1998, p. 604, says that Edward's "final year was spent in much loneliness and sadness aware that the administration about him was crumbling."

With the Black Prince dead, as well as Edward's second son Lionel, the throne passed to the Black Prince's son, the boy Richard II (ascended 1377, deposed 1399, died, probably murdered, 1400).

Richard had a very difficult minority, with English conquests in France slowly being lost and his barons quarreling. It didn't help that he was without a true heir; his first marriage was childless and, when his beloved first wife died, he apparently almost went mad (Harvey, p. 156), he married a very young French princess who was years from childbearing age.

Harvey, p. 157, says that Richard made a very constructive visit to Ireland in 1394-1395, but soon after, he turned into a tyrant. When his uncle John of Gaunt died in early 1399, the last restraints on his behavior were lifted (Harvey, p. 159). Richard took over the vast Lancaster estates of John (who had ruled what was almost a kingdom within a kingdom), thus disinheriting his son Henry of Bolingbroke. Bolingbroke had already been exiled by Richard, and this was the final straw. When Richard took another trip to Ireland in 1399, Henry invaded England, and the despotic Richard had angered so many barons that Henry had no trouble taking over.

Henry ruled 1399-1413, but was never easy on the throne (Harvey, p. 163); he was not Richard's proper heir. (His claim, recall, came through Edward III's third son John, but the second son Lionel had left descendants.) He was unable to do anything about the disastrous situations in France and Ireland; it was all he could do to control his own barons and the Welsh revolt of Owen Glendower.

The song does not clearly distinguish between Henry IV and his offspring, but the "lusty Henry that conquered France" is Henry V (1413-1422). He didn't exactly conquer France, since there was still a portion that was independent -- but his battles did cause him to be declared the heir to the French throne in 1420 (Ashley, p. 611). Unfortunately, he died only two years later, leaving only a baby, the future Henry VI, as heir. (Incidentally, he was *not* lusty; many English kings left a large collection of bastards, but Henry V seems to have been almost monkish in his habits.)

If Henry V was less than worldly, Henry VI surely qualifies as the most out-of-it King in English history to that time. (The English did not start inbreeding the way most continental monarch did until the Hannoverian Succession in 1714. As a result, English monarchs were mostly sane, if often utterly wrong-headed. There were only two major instances of genetic defectives in the English royal family: Henry VI, who was the son of Katherine of France, the daughter of Charles the Mad -- and the descendants of Henry VII, who were *also* descendants of Charles the Mad; after Henry V died, Katherine formed a common-law marriage with Owen Tudor; their grandson was Henry VII.)

The song calls Henry VI "Henry the Holly [holy], that borne was in Wyndsore." This is perhaps an attempt to cover up his notorious incapacity. But it was just that -- incapacity. He may not actually have been mentally retarded, but he certainly lacked the power of decision needed to rule (Ashley, p. 614), and at various times in the 1450s, he went mad. Inactivity was confused for piety by some, but there is no actual evidence that Henry was in any sense extraordinary in holiness. And, because he was always being pushed around by his advisors, he could be made to decree anything.

The song completely fails to note that "Edward the Strong" (Edward IV, reigned 1461-1470 and 1471-1483) deposed Henry VI (though Henry was briefly restored 1470-1471 before being re-deposed -- and, this time, killed). Edward IV was certainly the rightful King of England -- but he was merely a third cousin, twice over, several times removed, of Henry VI. He was able to take the throne only because Henry was incompetent to keep it. Thus, citing both Henry VI and Edward IV is about like citing charters from both Ahura Mazda and Ahriman -- some owe allegiance to one, some to the other, but few will recognize the authority of both.

Of course, that's nothing to calling Henry VII "Henry the Valiant." The guy never truly commanded a battle; the only major fight where he was present was the Battle of Bosworth, where he overthrew Richard III -- and most authorities agree that it was the Earl of Oxford who had field command (e.g. John Gillingham, _The Wars of the Roses_, Louisiana State University, 1981, p. 244; Paul Murray Kendall, _Richard the Third_, Norton, 1956, p. 435). Henry's primary activity was to avoid getting killed when Richard III made his death-or-glory charge which was so noteworthy that not even Shakespeare could get it wrong. (Which is amazing, since the only other thing Shakespeare got right in "Richard III" was the names "Edward," "Henry," and "George."

Valiant or not, Henry managed to take the throne (for details, see e.g. "The Rose of England.") But it was a shaky throne; he faced many revolts, and two major plus several minor pretenders. For the problems Henry faced up to the time of the first major pretender, Lambert Simnel [referred to in the song as "Lambart [who] was crowned by false advertence"], as well as how Waterford stuck by Henry, see the notes to "The Mayor of Waterford's Letter." But not even crushing two revolts (Stafford's and Lambert's) spelled peace for Henry VII; the country was just too restive and he was just too efficient about collecting taxes (it was in his reign that the infamous Morton's Fork was invented -- named for John Morton, who came to be Archbishop of Canterbury and Chancellor. The Fork was a trick used by tax collectors: If a man lived in luxury, he had money which could be taxed; if he lived in poverty, he was saving money which could be taxed). Much of the country, for one reason or another, wanted a different king.

Kendall, p. 477, says that there had been "at least three other 'feigned boys.'" But the three after Lambert were quickly dealt with. Not so imposter #5. In 1491, Henry was confronted with the most serious pretender of all, Perkin Warbeck (called "Parkin" in the song). Warbeck was an interesting case, because several witnesses said he actually looked like a member of the House of York (see Alison Weir, _The Princes in the Tower_, Ballantine, 1992, p. 239). It's not impossible that he was an illegitimate son of Edward IV (who sowed enough wild oats to supply an entire stable of horses), but there doesn't seem to be any evidence for this, and Weir, p. 241, thinks it unlikely. She mentions a possibility that he was Richard III's son -- but the one Plantagenet whom Warbeck did *not* resemble was the short, dark Richard III.

According to Desmond Seward, _The Wars of the Roses_, Penguin, 1995 [hereafter Seward-Roses], p. 322, "'Pierrequin Werbecque' was born in Tournai in about 1474, the son of a boatman. Weir, p. 241, says that he eventually admitted to being "the son of John Warbeck, or Osbeck, and Katherine de Faro, his wife, both converted Jews living in Tournai where John was a minor official. When Peter (or Peterkin, as he was known) was small, the family lived for a time in London, where John Warbek earned a living by suppling carpets to the royal court."

Whatever Warbeck's early history, he apparently arrived in Ireland in 1491 as the servant of a Breton silk merchant and, while walking through the streets of Cork dressed in his master's splendid clothes (Seward-Roses, p. 322; Weir, p. 242, describes him as modeling the outfits), was taken for a member of the Yorkist royal family."

Apparently that was enough for Warbeck and those around him. According to Weir, p. 236, he briefly claimed to be the Earl of Warwick, the son of King Edward IV's younger brother George of Clarence. Henry VII in his propaganda said that he also listed himself as the son of Richard III. But he soon settled upon the identity of Richard of York, the younger of Edward IV's two sons. (Probably he decided to adopt the persona of Richard, the younger of the Princes in the Tower, rather than Edward, the older, because they were close in age, or because Edward V had been known to more people. But it is interesting to note that, if the bones said to be those of the Princes are indeed theirs -- and there can be no proof either way until the British Royal Family gives permission for DNA testing -- the elder suffered from dental problems that might well have killed him. So Richard was the prince more likely to still be alive,)

Quite a few of the monarchs of Europe recognized him -- including, for a time, the King of France (Weir, p. 236). Henry finally talked Charles VIII out of supporting the pretender, but the Dowager Duchess of Burgundy, and her stepson-in-law, the Duke Maximillian, recognized him and gave him shelter in Flanders. The Dowager Duchess was the sister of Edward IV, and must have known he was a pretender -- but evidently would have preferred anyone to Henry VII.

In 1493, Warbeck returned to Ireland, that hotbed of Yorkist sympathy (Weir, p. 237). Henry VII sent Lord Poynings to Ireland in 1494 to stop him. Poynings did not manage to catch Warbeck -- but he did drive him back to Flanders, plus he forced the Irish parliament to pass Poynings' Law, which all but destroyed the Irish parliament; the English crown was given the right to control its meetings and negate any legislation which affected anything outside Ireland (see Peter and Fiona Somerset Fry, _A History of Ireland_, Routledge, 1988; I use the 1993 Barnes & Noble edition; p. 103). This particular law was responsible for many of the problems of Ireland over the next three centuries.

By 1495, Henry had rounded up just about all of Warbeck's English followers (Weir, p. 237; Seward-Roses, p. 322, claims he learned who they were by bribing a former Yorkist knight), and even executed Sir William Stanley (Kendall, p. 457) -- the man who, a decade earlier, had killed Richard III and put Henry on the throne! (Seward-Roses, p. 322, considers it significant that Stanley,who always had an eye to his own profit, thought Warbeck enough of a threat to Henry as to support him. It certainly is interesting -- but I'm not convinced Stanley *did* support Warbeck. Being William Stanley, he may have simply tried to have a foot in both camps. But Henry -- unlike his relatively merciful predecessor Richard III, who always forgave the Stanleys -- wouldn't allow such things. For the whole Stanley mess, see the notes to "The Vicar of Bray.")

When Warbeck attempted to land in England, he was driven off (Seward-Roses, p. 323); he then headed for Waterford, but Poynings drove him back; finally, he ended up in Scotland, where James IV took him in but then came to dislike him and made him unwelcome; he headed once more for Ireland in 1497 (Weir, p. 238; Seward-Roses, p. 323). He finally managed to land in Cornwall ( which had risen in rebellion over Henry's impossible taxes), but when Henry's army arrived, Warbeck fled, was captured, and for a time was treated well. But he tried to escape, and was captured again, tortured, and placed in close confinement near the very Earl of Warwick he had once impersonated (Seward-Roses, p. 323).

Weir, p. 238, speculates that this was deliberate -- the government was trying to lure them into a conspiracy. Certainly the government detected one (even though Warwick was considered feeble-minded (Kendall, p. 349; Weir, p. 239; Seward-Roses, p. 324), and both were executed in 1499.

Seward-Roses, p. 324, mentions Francis Bacon's belief that Warwick was killed because Ferdinand of Aragon had refused to marry his daughter to Henry VII's son until all possible Plantagenet pretenders were eliminated; as long as any were alive, there would be plots.

Before his execution, Warbeck confessed -- or at least was said to have confessed -- that he was not the son of Edward IV. Warwick's turn followed soon after (Seward-Roses, p. 324, mentions the coming of another false Warwick, named Ralph Wulford, as helping to prompt this), without any such notable confession. The last great threat to Henry VII's illegitimate kingship was done.

Could Warbeck have displaced Henry? It's an interesting question. After 1495, he had no chance. But there might have been a possibility in 1494 or 1495. So it was pretty significant when Waterford kept him from landing in Ireland.

Although one might argue that this marked the pinnacle of Waterford's career, the song does not end there. Having already praised the unwarlike Henry VII, it proceeds to the reign of his son Henry VII (reigned 1509-1547), whom it calls "Henry the Tryumphant." Pretty good for a king who never really participated in a battle. (Maybe it refers to the fact that he didn't face any rebellions.) Henry VIII was the second son of Henry VII, and did not become crown prince until his older brother died, so he was given more clerical than military training (Ashley, p. 630). Henry did lead an army to invade France, conducting a couple of successful sieges and winning the so-called "Battle of the Spurs," (Ashley, p. 631) -- but this 1513 "victory" was really only a cavalry skirmish, and Henry allowed himself to be bought off. A much more notable victory at this time was the English defeat of the Scots at Flodden (for which see, e.g., "The Flowers of the Forest"), but Henry had no part in that; it was the Howard Earl of Surrey who commanded the English force.

It seems clear that Henry was still king at the time of this song, though, so little wonder that it buttered him up. -RBW

Cross references


  1. Croker-PopularSongs, pp. 312-320, "The Praise of Waterford" (1 text)
  2. ADDITIONAL: Thomas Kinsella, _The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse_ (Oxford, 1989), pp. 154-155, "The Praise of Waterford" (1 text, excerpted from Croker)
  3. BI, CrPS312


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1824 (Ryland, _History of Waterford_, according to Croker-PopularSongs)