Friday, 1 June 2018

13th June 1473: Francis and Anne join the Corpus Christi Guild in York

On the feast day of Corpus Christi of the year 1473, which fell onto the 13th June, Francis, his wife Anne, her mother Alice and most of her siblings joined the Corpus Christi Guild in York. They were among several others of high standing who joined this guild, which had been founded in 1408. Other members included the king`s mother Cecily Neville, Lord Clifford (who has gained historical notority as the killer of Edmund of Rutland), Lord Scrope, as well as a number of bishops and archbishops during its not quite 150 years of existence. Richard III and his wife Anne equally became famous members, though they only joined it four years after Francis.

Membership cost 2 shillings a year, as Alexandra Johnson points out in her essay on the guild, and was open to anyone who could afford this. The ordinances of the guild stated that "all candidates for admission to the guild [are] to be received by the six masters or keepers. No oath [is] to be required by them, but they shall charge their conscience to contribute, according to their means, to the support of the guild."

One can imagine that this meant nobles were popular members, as they would have been able to give a lot if they so wished. Sadly, we do not know any longer how much Francis contributed, but since he was a pious man, it may have been a lot.

The guild was "dedicated to the praise and honour of the most sacred body of our Lord Jesus Christ" and aimed to see to the proper observation of the holiday of Corpus Christi. At least two of its six "keepers", clergymen in charge of the guild, would be leading the parade on the day after Corpus Christi every day. While on the actual day of Corpus Christi, the York Mystery Plays took place, the day afterwards there was a parade, still in the essentials the same as Corpus Christi parades today, to the honour of the body of Christ. Guild members joined it, together with officials of the city of York, followed the clergymen who led the parade.

Together with Francis, over 100 other people, men and women, joined the guild, among them his wife and most of her family. The register of the guild states that Francis "and his wife Anne" joined with  "Lady Alice FitzHugh" and "Richard, Roger, Edward, Thomas and Elizabeth, children of the said Alice FitzHugh".

Curiously, this is the only reference to a FitzHugh child called Roger, and it`s likely that it was a scribe`s mistake, aciddentally writing Roger instead of George FitzHugh. George, then around eleven years old, was at that time still his brother`s heir, and would have most likely been mentioned between him and his younger brother Edward.

Notably missing is the FitzHugh`s oldest child Alice, who was by then married with children herself and lived in her own household, and their youngest child, a boy named John. Francis`s sisters, who had been brought up in the FitzHugh household after their mother`s death, were equally not present. In Joan`s case, this was probably because, like Alice, she was already married, if recently, and no longer lived in the FitzHugh household. It is less certain why Frideswide did not join the guild with the family, but given that she was only around eight to nine years of age, she may have been considered too young. The fact that John FitzHugh would have been around her age corroborates this theory.

Francis himself was still several months shy of his seventeenth birthday when he joined the guild, while his wife Anne was around thirteen. For both, it must have been an exciting event, but as is so often the case, about their feelings and attitude towards the Corpus Christi Guild, we have little indication and can only speculate.

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