By Mike Ingram, Harrington Companye Master of the Rolls.
We had a comment on a previous post asking for more information on the Ballad of Lady Bessy (which describes the Battle of Bosworth Field) and the Harrington connection.
Here is the section of the Ballad of Lady Bessy which talks about Sir William Harrington. Note that our research (see the History section) leads us to believe the Sir William Harrington mentioned here is of the Farleton line, and not the Wolfage Manor line. It is however of interest to those studying the wider Harrington family history, hence we are happy to provide it.
That noble knight in the West Countrey,
Tell him that about Michaelmas certaine
In England I do hope to be :
Att Millford haven I will come inn,
With all the power that make may I,
The first towne I will come inn
Shall be the towne of Shrewsbury :
Pray Sir William Stanley, that noble knight,
That night that he will look on me.
Commend me to Sir Gilbert Tallbott, that royall knight,
He much in the North Countrey ;
And Sir John Savage, that man of might,
Pray them all to look on me :
For I trust in Jesus Christ so full of might
In England for to abide and bee.
I will none of thy gold, Sir Prince, said Humphrey then,
Nor none sure will I have of thy fee ;
Therefore keep thy gold thee within,
For to wage thy company :
If every hair were a man,
With thee, Sir Prince, will I be.
Thus Humphrey Brereton his leave hath tane,
And saileth forth upon the sea ;
Straight to London rideth he then,
There as the Earle and Bessy lay ;
He took them either a letter in hand,
And bad them behold, read and see.
The Earle took leave of Richard the King,
And into the West wind woud he.
He left Bessye in Leicester then,
And bad her lye in privitye ;
For if King Richard knew thee here, anon
In a fire burned must thou be.
Straight to Latham the Earle is gone,
There as the Lord Strange then lee,
He sent the Lord Strange to London
To keep King Richards company.
Sir William Stanley made anone
Ten thousand coats readily,
Which were as redd as any blood,
There on the harts head was set full high,
Which after were tryed both trusty and good
As any coud be in Christantye.
Sir Gilbert Talbot ten thousand doggs
In one hours warning for to be,
And Sir John Savage fifteen white hoods,
Which wou’d fight and never flee,
Edward Stanley had three hundred men,
There were no better in Christentye,
Sir Rees ap Thomas, a knight of Wales certain,
Eight thousand spears brought he.
Sir William Stanley sat in the Holt Castle,
And looked over his head so high ;
Which way standeth the wind, can any tell ?
I pray you, my men, look and see.
The wind it standeth south-east,
So said a knight that stood him by.
This night yonder Prince truely
Into England entereth hee ;
He called a gentleman that stood him nigh,
His name was Rowland of Warburton,
He bad him go to Shrewsbury that night,
And bid yonder Prince come inn ;
But when Rowland came to Shrewsbury,
The port culles it was let downe ;
They called him Henry Tydder in scorn truely,
And said in England he shou’d wear no crowne.
Rowland bethought him of a wyle then,
And tied a writeing to a stone,
And threw the writeing over the wall certain,
And bad the balifFs to look it upon.
They opned the gates on every side,
And met the Prince with procession ;
And wou’d not in Shrewsbury there abide,
But straight he drest him to Stafford towne.
King Richard heard then of his comeing,
He called his Lords of great renowne ;
The Lord Pearcy he came to the King,
And upon his knees he falleth downe :
I have thirty thousand fighting men
For to keep the crown with thee.
The Duke of Northfolk came to the King anone,
And downe he falleth upon his knee ;
The Earle of Surrey, that was his heir,
Were both in one company :
We have either twenty thousand men here
For to keep the crown with thee.
The Lord Latimer, and the Lord Lovell,
And the Earle of Kent he stood him by ;
The Lord Ross, and the Lord Scrope, I you tell
They wer’ all in one company ;
The Bishopp of Durham he was not away ;
Sir William Bonner he stood him by :
The good Sir William of Harrington, as I say,
Said he wou’d fight and never fly.
King Richard made a messenger,
And sent him into the West Countrey ;
And bid the Earle of Darby make him bowne,
And bring twenty thousand men unto me,
Or else the Lord Strange his head I will him send,
And doubtless his son shall dye ;
For hitherto his father I took for my friend,
And now he hath deceived me.
Another herald appeared then :
To Sir William Stanley, that doughty knight ;
Bid him bring to me ten thousand men,
Or else to death he shall be dight.
Then answered that doughty knight,
And spake to the herald without letting ;
Say, upon Bosse worth field I mind to fight,
Uppon Monday early in the morning ;
Such a breakfast I him behight,
As never did knight to any King.
The messenger home can him gett,
To tell King Richard this tydeing.
Fast together his hands then cou’d he ding,
And said the Lord Strange shou’d surely dye ;
And putt him into the Tower of London,
For at liberty he shou’d not bee.
Lett us leave Richard and his Lords full of pride,
And talk we more of the Stanley’s blood,
That brought Richmond over the sea with wind and tyde,
From litle Brittain into England over the flood.
Now is Earle Richmond into Stafford come,
And Sir William Stanley to litle Stoone :
The Prince had rather then all the gold in Christentye
To have Sir William Stanley to look upon.
A messenger was made ready anone,
That night to go to litle Stoon :
Sir William Stanley he rideth to Stafford towne,
With a solemn company ready bowne ;
When the knight to Stafford was comin,
That Earle Richmond might him see,
He took him in his arms then,
And there he kissed him times three :
The welfare of thy body doth comfort me more
Then all the gold in Christantye.
Then answered that royall knight there,
And to the Prince these words spake he ;
Remember man, both night and day,
Who doth now the most for thee ;
In England thou shalt wear a crown, I say,
Or else doubtless I will dye :
A fairer lady then thou shalt have for thy feer,
Was there never in Christanty ;
She is a Countesse, a King’s daughter,
And there to both wise and witty.
I must this night to Stone, my soveraigne,
For to comfort my company.
The Prince he took him by the hand,
And said, Farewell, Sir William, fair and free.
Now is word come to Sir William Stanley there,
Earley in the Monday in the morning,
That the Earle of Darby, his brother dear,
Had given battle to Richard the King.
That wou’d I not, said Sir William anone,
For all the gold in Christantye,
That the battle shou’d be done,
Unless that he at the battle shou’d be done ;
Straight to Lichfield cou’d he ride,
In all the hast that might bee ;
And when he came to Lichfield that tyde,
All they, cryed King Henry,
Straight to Bolesworth can they go
In all the hast that might be.
But when he came Bolesworth field unto,
There met a royall company ;
The Earle of Darby thither was come,
And twenty thousand stood him by ;
Sir John Savage, his sisters son,
He was his nephew of his blood so nigh,
He had fifteen hundred fighting men,
That wou’d fight and never flye ;
Sir William Stanley, that royall knight, then
Ten thousand red-coats had he,
They wou’d bicker with their bows there,
They wou’d fight and never flye ;
The Red Ross, and the Blew Boar,
They were both a solemn company.
Sir Rees ap Thomas he was thereby,
With ten thousand spears of mighty tree.
The Earle of Richmond went to the Earle of Darby,
And downe he falleth upon his knee ;
Said, Father Stanley, full of might,
The vaward I pray you give to me,
For I am come to claime my right,
And faine revenged wou’d I bee.
Stand up, he said, my son quickly,
Thou has thy mothers blessing truely,
The vaward, son, I will give to thee,
So that thou wilt be ordered by me :
Sir William Stanley, my brother dear,
In the battle he shall bee ;
Sir John Savage, he hath no peer,
He shall be a wing then to thee ;
Sir Rees ap Thomas shall break the array,
For he will fight and never flee ;
I my selfe will hove on the hill, I say,
The fair battle I will see.
King Richard he hoveth upon the mountaine ;
He was aware of the banner of the bould Stanley,
And said, Fetch hither the Lord Strange certain,
For he shall dye this same day :
To the death, Lord, thee ready make,
For I tell thee certainly
That thou shalt dye for thy uncles sake,
Wild William of Standley.
If I shall dye, said the Lord Strange, then,
As God forbid it shou’d so bee,
Alas, for my Lady that is at home,
It shou’d be long or she see me ;
But we shall meet at dooms day,
When the great doom shall be.
He called for a Gent, in good say
Of Lancashire, both fair and free,
The name of him it was Lathum :
A ring of gould he took from his finger,
And threw it to the Gent, then,
And bad him bring it to Lancashire,
To his Lady that was at home ;
At her table she may sit right,
Or she see her Lord it may be long,
I have no foot to fligh nor fight,
I must be murdered with the King.
If fortune my uncle Sir William Stanley loose the field,
As God forbid it shou’d so bee,
Pray her to take my eldest son and child,
And exile him over behind the sea ;
He may come in another time,
By feild or fleet, by tower or towne,
Wreak so he may his fathers death in fyne,
Upon Richard of England that weareth the crown.
A knight to King Richard then did appeare,
The good Sir William of Harrington : .
Let that Lord have his life, my dear
Sir King, I pray you grant me this boone,
We shall have upon this field anon,
The father, the son, and the uncle all three ;
Then shall you deem, Lord, with your own mouth then,
What shall be the death of them all three.
Then a block was cast upon the ground,
Thereon the Lords head was laid ;
A slave over his head can stand,
And thus that time to him thus said :
In faith there is no other booty tho’
But need that thou must be dead.
Harrington in hart was full woe,
When he saw the Lord must needs be dead :
He said, Our ray breaketh on ev’ry side,
We put our feyld in jeopardie.
He took up the Lord that tyde,
King Richard after did him never see :
Then they blew up the bewgles of brass,
That made many a wife to cry, alas !
And many a wives child father lesse ;
They shott of guns then very fast,
Over their heads they cou’d them throw ;
Arrow’s flew them between,
As thick as any hayle or snowe,
As then that time might plaine be seene.
Then Rees ap Thomas with the black raven
Shortly he brake their array ;
Then with thirty thousand fighting men
The Lord Pearcy went his way ;
The Duke of Northfolke wou’d have fledd with a good will
With twentye thousand of his company,
They went up to a wind millne upon a hill
That stood soe fayre and wonderousse hye,
There he met Sir John Savage, a royall knight,
And with him a worthy company.
To the death was he then dight,
And his son prisoner taken was he ;
Then the Lord Alroes began for to flee,
And so did many other moe.
When King Richard that sight did see,
In his heart he was never soe woe ;
I pray you, my merry men, be not away,
For upon this field will I like a man dye,
For I had rather dye this day,
Then with the Standley prisoner for to be.
A knight to King Richard can say there,
Good Sir William of Harrington,
He said, Sir King, it hath no peere
Upon this feild to death to be done,
For there may no man these dints abide ;
Low, your horse is ready at your hand ;
Sett the crown upon my head that tyde,
Give me my battle ax in my hand ;
I make a vow to mild Mary that is so bright,
I will dye the King of merry England.
Besides his head they hewed the crown down right,
That after he was not able to stand ;
They dunge him downe as they were woode,
The beat his bassnet to his head,
Untill the braine came out with bloode ;
They never left him till he was dead.
Then carryed they him to Leicester,
And pulled his head under his feet.
Bessye mett him with a merry cheere,
And with these words she did him greete :
How like you the killing of my brethren dear ?
Welcome, gentle uncle, home !
Great solace it was to see and hear,
When the battle it was all done.
I tell you masters without lett,
When the Red Ross so fair of hew
And young Bessy together mett,
It was great joy I say to you.