The vnion of the two noble and illustre famelies of Lancastre & Yorke

Chrzanowski 1550hEducated at Eton and Cambridge, Edward Halle entered Gray’s Inn, was appointed sergeant of the city of London in 1532, and became a judge in the sheriff’s court. He wrote the Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York, which was published in 1542 by Thomas Bethelet. Queen Mary ordered copies of the book to be burned and only fragments survive. Richard Grafton completed the history, which was unfinished after the year 1532, based on the author’s notes and began reprinting Halle’s Chronicle in 1547 (the year Halle died). Four principal variants were published that largely differ by the addition of tables as printing was under way—two dated 1548 and two dated 1550. The present copy is one of the 1550 variants.

Halle’s Chronicles spans a period of English history of keen interest to the reading public: the War of Roses to the Tudors—from the deposing of Richard II by Lancastrian Henry of Bollingbroke (Henry IV), to the return to power of the Yorks, to the union of the two factions with Henry VII and his marriage to Elizabeth, and concluding with the reign of Henry VIII. Halle wrote as a chronicler and as an eyewitness. Through the reign of Henry VII, he draws from earlier sources, but Halle’s history of Henry VIII is original material. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the King and a Protestant, providing valuable information for future historians.

The book is also noteworthy for another reason. He read and learned well from Sir Thomas More’s History of Richard III (which he uses) and Vergil Polydore’s Anglicae Historiae. History is more than a chronicle of events. He edits material to shape it into a story to teach a lesson about the dangers of rebellion and civil unrest. This is readily apparent from the table of contents with chapter titles that include “The unquyete tyme of kyng Henry the fowerth,” “The troubleous season of king Henry the vi,” “The pitifull life of kynge Edward the v,” and “The tragicall doinges of kyng Richard the iii.” The long concluding chaper of the book (577 of 1353 text pages) is “The triumphaunte reigne of king Henry the viii.”

Shakespeare’s primary source for his English history plays was Holinshed’s Chronicles, which drew material from Halle. Shakespeare also used Halle’s Chronicles as a direct source for some details omitted by Holinshed (e.g., in the three parts of Henry VI).

Chrzanowski 1550h *

STC 12723

Title List

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