Gower Bibliography

Philippa of Lancaster, Queen of Portugal—and Patron of the Gower Translations?

Coleman, Joyce. "Philippa of Lancaster, Queen of Portugal—and Patron of the Gower Translations?" In England and Iberia in the Middle Ages, 12th-15th Century: Cultural, Literary, and Political Changes. Ed. Bullón-Fernández, María. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007, pp. 135-65.


The first 16 pages (135-51) of Coleman's study paint a sensitive and revealing portrait of the daughter John of Gaunt married to the young king João I of Portugal in 1387. Pious, learned and intensely moral, but also convincingly sketched by Coleman as a patroness of many things English in her new kingdom, including the Sarum Rite and religious Nottingham alabasters alongside lighter pastimes and English styles of dress and accessories, Philippa here is brought to life as a popular and admired consort whose influence significantly helped shape the emergent Portuguese court. Coleman intends this biographical material as backdrop and support for her arguments that 1) "Philippa, having obtained a copy of the Confessio from one of her many English contacts, …then engaged Robert Payne to translate it as a present for her husband, and more generally their court, and that she further had the work translated from Portuguese into Castilian as a gift for her half-sister Catherine, and her brother-in-law, Enrique III of Castile" (p. 154); 2) that Robert Payne the translator was the son of "Thomas Elie/Elim Payn," Philippa's treasurer, and a Portuguese wife, Antónia Dias d'Arca (p. 153). These conclusions, whole or in part, have been severally raised in the past by P.E. Russell, John Matthews Manly, W.J. Entwhistle, Robert Hamm, Manual Alvar and R.F. Yeager, but Coleman, while giving full credit wherever it is due, constructs the most convincing case yet for Philippa's direct involvement, based upon the richer vision of the queen she is able to afford us through her adroit combing of historical sources for evidence overlooked or misinterpreted by earlier (male) scholars, whose own gender, she implies, led them to erroneous conclusions: "Can it be a coincidence that most of the alternative initiators proposed by these scholars are male? Not all of the scholars who speculate about the Iberian Confessio's [sic] exclude Philippa, but none pays sufficient attention to the web of associations that link her to the Payn family and to the prospective owners and readers of the translations. Nor has any scholar—even Russell, who cowrote a short biography of Philippa in 1940—discovered more in her than the hyper-pious and dutiful daughter, wife, and mother, Coleman writes (p. 154). All should agree with her subsequent conclusion, that "The account of her life in Portugal assembled here allows us to broaden that perspective considerably" (p. 154). [RFY. Copyright The John Gower Society. JGN 27.2]

Item Type:Book Section
Subjects:Facsimiles, Editions, and Translations
Confessio Amantis

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