Sunday, 23 April 2017

Niclas von Popplau`s report

After a long time of not posting, among other things due to a stay in Hamburg, I am now back with a translation of Niclas von Popplau`s personal report of his meetings with Richard III and his impressions. It does not mention Francis by name, though he is apparently mentioned in one place.

The translation is my own, taken from the original text as reproduced in Piotr Radzikowski`s annotated version of it, "Reisebeschreibung Niclas von Popplau, Ritters, bürtig von Breslau". The annotations are also my own. It starts with Popplau arriving in Richard`s presence and ends with him taking leave of it. Popplau`s observations about England go on longer than that, but this is the bit concerned with the time he spent with Richard.


There I arrived on the day of Philipp and Jacobi, this is the first of May 1454 [sic] [1] a Saturday, and found the king there, who granted me gracious audience and questioning, in the presence of all princes, earls councils and his whole nobility, in front of which I spoke Latin. This astonished the king almost a lot, because of my eloquence (little though it was), I gave his Majesty King the Imperial Majesty King`s letter, next to that of the Duchess of Burgundy [2], all of which were commendations and promotion letters. These his Majesty King took with great delight very graciously.

After the reading of them the king himself came to me, took me by the hand and pulled me after him. [3] Gave me as an answer, through an interpreter speaking Latin, although not in almost delightful words, that all I wanted and his Majesty King could do he would do with pleasure, because of his Imperial Majesty the Prince of Burgundy and for my person also, in repect of my learning and eloquence, which he would not have looked to me for nor believed me to have had he not heard me himself. Graciously inclined to comply with me, he addressed me three times (as is tradition in England) before I left his Majesty King`s presence with the words: “Ick heit Ju willkom, und sit bey mir free willkom”. [4] Because the English use these words for persons of high and low standing, if they come from their own country or elsewhere. Use them also in meetings, invitations for meals, or collation (??), also when one blessed the other, they spoke: “Ick heit ju Willkomm.” In this way the king`s councils princes and lords spoke to me as well when they did me the honour.

When I left the king, he let his nobles and chamberlains accompany me to my inn. This made many people follow us to the house, also women and virgins. Went secretly, with the landlady`s permission (so they could look at me alone) into the inn. [5]

The other day the king sent a nobleman to me, that I might go to his church. There I heard the most lovely music, as I had never heard in my life, which, due to the clearness of voices might be compared to the dear angels. After mass the king sent to me the lord of Bergin, Johannem von Zaume (which is a famous town for trade in Brabant). He took me by the right hand in the church when the king wanted to leave the church after mass, and led me first before the king into the chamber or tent, which was erected by the church.[6]

There I saw the king`s bed [7], from top to bottom, with red velvet and a gold piece on top of each other, which the Lombards call Altabass, like adored his Imperial Majesty`s bed in like wise. There was in the king`s tent also a table, around it with silk cloth and gold embroidered on it, next to the bed adored and prepared. The king went to the table and had a [sash??] of gold on it many and fat pearls, probably of the size of peas wíth diamons embroidered beneath them. The [sash??] was about as broad as a large man`s hand and went from over his armpits on the left side of his back to beneath his right arm.

With him to the table went his princes and lords. When he had sat at the table, two princes the king`s blood-friends [8] and the Earl of Nordhännerland [sic] [9], who is the most powerful in all of England. They did sit very far away from the king though, almost at the end of the table. But when the king saw me, standing for him (because his kingly magnificence, with the wise men of his court had done much hard work so I saw him sit at the table as a king with his kingly jewellery). The king made me sit at the table also with his two blood-friends the abovenamed princes. At which I answered it would be my greatest delight and desire (because I would within a short time have to get up and leave) to see his Kingly Majesty`s face and widely-famous virtues rather than sitting at the table with his Majesty`s other companions.

Which speech the king much liked, as well as my answers, so that he ate of almost no food, but constantly talked to me. Asked me about his Imperial Highness and all kings and princes of the realm [Holy Roman Empire] which I knew about their habits, happiness, trade and virtues. To which I answered all which would honour them. After that the king was still for a while. Then he began again to trouble me with many questions, of several things and trades, and finally of the Turk. At which I answered the king that Kingly Majesty of Hungary, with the Imperial Majesty with clever people and his Majesty`s [delight?], had defeated more than twelve thousand Turks of the Turkish Emperor`s.
When the king heard this, he was very happy and answered to it: “I wished, that this my kingdom and country was in the place of the country and kingdom of Hungary also on the Turkish border. I would certainly cast out, alone with my people without help frm other kings, princes and lord, not only the Turk but all my enemies and opponents.” Oh dear God, what a magnanimous lord I recognised in the king.

For eight or more days I stayed there and almost always was at his court for meals. But when I was blessed by the king on the last day he spoke to me: because I was determined to go away, he did not want to irritate nor hinder my determined way. If I on fulfillment of my journey I have decided to make, would like on the way back to visit with his Majesty, I would please his Majesty King far more than now. Wanted to make me feel his grace in all ways. Gave me a golden necklace which he took from the neck of a free or born lord and gave to me in his own person.

Three days before, and before I made goodbye to his majesty, he sent to me Herr Hanßen von Bergin who showed me that Kingly Majesty had for me got fifty nobles [coins] (which are a hundred Rhenish gulden and a half), which his Majesty King gave me as a gift. When I now wanted to sit with His Majesty, I begged his Majesty not to give me such a gift as one undeserving, because I came to His Majesty, not for gifts and presents, but to gain His Majesty`s grace [goodwill]. To which the king answered, if I declined for my honour his gifts, which proved his honour, how did I think I could gain his goodwill? Since I desired his goodwill, I should also accept his gracious deference as well and in no way decline. Therefore I thanked the king and finally accepted it, because I regarded the honour higher than the use and in the same way would have chosen the honour, as the highly learned philosopher and orator Marcus Cicero in the third book “Offitorum” writes and teaches. The [present?] the king have me held in the gold thirteen ounces of londnish weight. One ounce are twelve Rhenish gulden. So I retired also from the princes, lords and councils. Only then the king bade me rent an inn and sent me an open letter, that I might as often travel to His Majesty, safe in land and water, before all his subjects together with my own.

Before that I invited many of the king`s chamberlains, along with many of rhe nobility, with them I had also the king`s musicians, pipers [and other musicians]. Also the king have me fifty nobles [coins], which I sent him back and refused to accept. This moved the king and he sent for me again and let me be asked if I was of king`s or prince`s dynasty that I despised his gifts, to which I answered I had not declined his Majesty`s gift and presents because of contempt but only out of honour. [10] So he punished me harshly with words and urged me so I had to take it. To me came also the king`s herold, his pipers and [other musicians], which I gave to one and the other crown [coin].

The King Richard is of the dynasty from the land of Gloßcostier, called born prince, three fingers longer but somewhat more slender and not as thick as me, also much leaner. Has very subtle arms and legs, also a great heart.    


[1] 1484

[2] Piotr Radzikowski points out, in his annotations to the original text, that there was no reigning Duchess of Burgundy, and assumed that instead the Duke of Burgundy is meant. However, it may well be Popplau meant the Dowager Duchess of Burgundy here, who was after all Richard`s sister Margaret, whom Popplau would have seen together with the duke`s father when visiting Burgundy. This is somewhat supported by the fact that the actual Duke was a minor of six years and Richard clearly refered to his father Maximilian as connected with Popplau later in his conversation with him.

[3] Popplau does not specify where he pulled him or why, but it seems indicated he wished to speak with him from man to man and not formally in front of the entire court.

[4] Radzikowski notes that the words Popplau wrote down were almost certainly not Richard`s actual words but the translation into Popplau`s language.

[5] This continues a preoccupation Popplau has earlier in his report of England, before meeting Richard, with very beautiful English women whom he enjoyed looking at but irritated him by, in his opinion, constantly trying to take his virginity, a prospect not agreeable to him.

[6] This was in York.

[7] His bed of state.

[8] Radzikowski thinks these men could only have been the Duke of Suffolk and his son the Earl of Lincoln, as the only closely blood related men of Richard`s at court, but he neglects to point out that not only is Suffolk not known to have been present but that he was not by blood related to Richard. Popplau seems to mean friends of Richard`s who were also relatives, whether by blood or marriage. These two men were almost certainly John de la Pole, the Earl of Lincoln, Richard`s nephew and then newly made heir presumptive, and Francis Lovell, Richard`s cousin by marriage.

[9] The Earl of Northumberland

[10] This seems to be the same story already related above.