Feature of the month: Coopers Chronicle

Coopers Chronicle, Conteininge the Whole Discourse of the Histories as well of this Realme as all Other Contreis
Thomas Lanquet
London: T. Berthelet, 1560
Cc [Lanquet] SR

Coopers Chronicle is a history of the world in annalistic form from the Creation until what was, at the time of printing, the present. The standard library attribution of this chronicle to Thomas Lanquet is a little unfair, for Lanquet died “of a grievous sickness” in 1545 (aged 24), as recorded in a note on p. 92. He had reached only the rule of the emperor Tiberius (who died in 37 AD); almost three-quarters of the volume remained to be written. Thomas Cooper (ca 1517-1594), who was to serve as bishop of Lincoln and then of Winchester, took on the task. The result was first published in 1549 as An Epitome of Cronicles Conteining the Whole Discourse of the Histories as well of this Realme of England, as all other Countreis, going up to the reign of Edward VI. In 1560 it was republished as Coopers Chronicle and took the history up to the death of Mary Tudor in 1558; an edition issued twice in 1565 extended it to the seventh year of the reign of Elizabeth I.

We fetched out the 1560 edition recently for a display of books around the topic of the Magna Carta. The text here is identical to that of the 1549 edition. Fascinating about the summary of John’s life, written before the upsurge of interest in the charter by historians and lawyers at the end of the sixteenth century, is that it does not mention the Magna Carta at all:

Great strife and variance hapned in England between kyng John & the nobles and commons of his realme, because he wold not use the laws of S. Edward, and other auncient libertees, whiche the people required: whom the kyng had divers tymes appeased with fayre words and promises: but because the lords perceived them to come to smalle effect, they pursued him so hardlie, that he was gladde to sende for ayde to Flaunders, and in lyke maner the nobles with theyr alies sent for Lewys the sonne of Phillip of Fraunce, and him saluted as kyng, and mainteyned in warre against kyng John, to the great hurt of this realme of England. Duryng the time of this warre kyng John ended his lyfe.

Silence concerning the charter is, among the books we showed, unique to this earliest one, although the next two (Henry Care’s English Liberties (1691) and British Liberties (1766)) rush over King John to the charter signed by Henry III in 1225 and confirmed by Edward I in 1297. From the late eighteenth century, a mere children’s book, Mrs Trimmer’s Description of a Set of Prints of English History ([1785?]) devotes a section to “King John granting Magna Charta”, while the latest book exhibited was entirely about this document and notes, in an attitude far removed from Cooper’s: “Perhaps there is no event of the History of England, which is more popularly remembered and referred to, than the granting of the Great Charter by King John” (Richard Thomson, An Historical Essay on the Magna Charta of King John (1829)).

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