The Songs and Travels of a Tudor Minstrel: Richard Sheale of Tamworth

April 2012
1 line illustrations
224 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781903153390
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
York Medieval Press
BISAC LCO009000, MUS020000

The Songs and Travels of a Tudor Minstrel: Richard Sheale of Tamworth

Andrew Taylor

A reconstruction of the life and works of a sixteenth-century minstrel, showing the tradition to be flourishing well into the Tudor period.
Richard Sheale, a harper and balladeer from Tamworth, is virtually the only English minstrel whose life story is known to us in any detail. It had been thought that by the sixteenth century minstrels had generally been downgraded to the role of mere jesters. However, through a careful examination of the manuscript which Sheale almost certainly "wrote" (Bodleian Ashmole 48) and other records, the author argues that the oral tradition remained vibrant at this period, contrary to the common idea that print had by this stage destroyed traditional minstrelsy. The author shows that under the patronage of Edward Stanley, earl of Derby, and his son, from one of the most important aristocratic families in England, Sheale recited and collected ballads and travelled to and from London to market them. Amongst his repertoire was the famous Chevy Chase, which Sir Philip Sidney said moved his heart "more than with a trumpet". Sheale also composed his own verse, including a lament on being robbed of 60 on his way to London; the poem is reproduced in this volume.

Andrew Taylor lectures in the Department of English, University of Ottawa.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Minstrel Rides Out
The Minstrel of Tamworth and His Audiences
The Stanleys, The Stanley Poem, and the Campaign of 1558
Ashmole 48 and Its History
The Hunting of the Cheviot and the Battle of Otterburn
'More than with a Trumpet': Tudor Responses to the Cheviot Ballads
The Lay of the Last Minstrel
Appendix: Five Poems Bearing the Name of Richard Sheale


[A] carefully researched study of one minstrel, one manuscript, and a social world in which they were both living and already taking on an antiqued patina. JOURNAL OF FOLKLORE RESEARCH

Impressive, productive and insightful. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW

Contains a wealth of information useful to any student of early modern musical traditions. HISTORY, December 2013

Provides a fascinating insight into a transitional moment in the history of English balladry. . This is an intriguing book, highly recommended. FOLK MUSIC JOURNAL

Offers important revisions to our understanding of the sixteenth century musician and his relationship to the various communities he served. THE MEDIEVAL REVIEW

[A] stimulating and well written study. [...] Historians, literary scholars, folklorists, anthropologists, and singers will all find [...] material to set them thinking. RENAISSANCE QUARTERLY


Taylor's piecing together of Sheale's life and work adds greatly to our understanding of late minstrelsy and the social and political world that formed its background. EARLY MUSIC