Gower Bibliography

The Gracious Conqueror

Legge, Dominica. "The Gracious Conqueror." Modern Language Notes 68.1 (1953), pp. 18-21.

Review

Legge examines references in various chronicles and petitions to Henry IV's claim to the throne of England. While Henry was said to be rightful king by election, inheritance, and conquest, the last claim seems particularly weak. However, Legge argues that "in the mouths of contemporaries the queer title 'conqueror' was not necessarily either ironical or vainly flattering, but something generally accepted" (18). The word "conqueror" was almost a synonym for "victor" and was usually applied to heroes; the word "conquest" had the meaning of "acquest" – property gained otherwise than by inheritance. While there was no such thing as a legal right of conquest, the case of William I provides proof that there was at least some precedent for the claim. Legge next considers the order in which the claims of conquest, inheritance, and election are presented in Gower’s CT and in Chaucer's "Complaint to His Purse." She notes that the gloss to the CT puts the claim to conquest last, whereas the text itself places it first. The explanation is that the text itself (as well as Chaucer's lines) gives the claims in the order in which were presented, and treats them cumulatively, from the least to the most important. The gloss "does not need to take account of this" (20), and puts the shaky right of conquest last, and "softened by the addition of the words: 'sine sanguinis effusione'" (20). The latter phrase is explained by a passage in Froissart's chronicle that illustrates how Henry though of conquest as "the acquisition by peaceful means of an inheritance vacant through the misconduct and ineptitude of his predecessor" (20). In this context, the term "conqueror" can have a positive valence, one that associates Henry with the legend of Brutus the Trojan, who conquered Albion and created the empire of Britain (20-21). [CvD]

Item Type:Article
Subjects:Sources, Analogues, and Literary Relations
Backgrounds and General Studies
Language and Word Studies
Cronica Tripertita

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