Chronicle of Fabyan

Chrzanowski 1542fRobert Fabyan (d. 1513) was born into an Essex family that was connected with trade in London. He became a member of the Drapers company, a prominent figure in London, and a citizen-chronicler that integrated details of the city’s history into his narrative of British (and French) history. Fabyan served as sheriff of London in 1493-1494 and as an alderman until he resigned in 1502, spending his later years on his estate in Essex.

Fabyan’s The New Chronicles of England and France was first published by Richard Pynson in 1516. Each section begins with a verse prologue, and Fabyan uses the verse prologue at the beginning of the book to describe the writer’s job to “heweth the rough stone” and the printer’s to “work it” so that “it may appear to all that shall it se[e] A thing right perfect….” The book is best described as being the last 15th-century chronicle rather than the first of the 16th century. To his credit, Fabyan draws from a wide range of English, French, and Frankish authorities, but largely uncritically. As the story grows closer to his own time, the work grows in interest and details—arguably to excess about London pageantry and festivities. And for the post-Conquest years, he benchmarks the history with names of London’s “Baylyffs, Mayres and Shryves” for each year.

In a 1533 edition, William Rastell updated the work through Henry VII’s reign. Richard Grafton printed and likely contributed to writing the life of Henry VIII for the next (third) edition. Yet, Fabyan’s Chronicles remained a chronicle, not a critical history. The third edition abruptly ends with a pithy entry, “the first day of Julye was a Welshemanne hung, drawne and quartered for prophesiyng of the kyng his majesties death.”

The present copy is an example of this third edition (1542). In addition to a continuation of the history to 1541, significant alterations were made to earlier events to conform to Protestant sensibilities. The pope became “bishop of Rome,” King Henry II lost his moniker of “hammer of the Holy Church,” and Thomas Becket was not “martyred” to become a “blessed saynt,” he was “murdered” because he was a “traitorous bishop.” A fourth edition, printed in Catholic Marian England, reverted to the former text.

Chrzanowski 1542f *

STC 10661

Title List

1479–1550 | 1551–1580 | 1583–1608 | 1609–1675