Parroiall (Pareil?) of Princes

Anon. (before 1641)

Historical Records

Bentley, 5.1326. Stationers' Register, 15 April 1641. Entered for John Nicholson

three playes, vizt. A Tragedy called Charles, Duke of Burbon, The Parroiall of Princes & England's first happines, or, the Life of St. Austin... xviiid.

Theatrical Provenance


Probable Genre(s)


Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues

none known

References to the Play

none known

Critical Commentary

The meaning of "parroiall" is uncertain. Greg proposes that it could be from "Parail" (apparel); "Pareil" (equal mate); "Parol" (utterance); or "Parole" (word of honour). (Greg, BEPD). Bentley, 5.1387, repeats Greg's observation. Both neglect the suggestion of Sibley (118) that the word should be read as "pair royal", a moderately frequent seventeenth century idiom for a set of three.

For What It's Worth

I would propose that Sibley is clearly right. OED (pair royal n.) confirms that in this period the phrase is frequently a single word, and it lists variant spellings including "paroyall" and "parreiall". For an apposite example of the phrase in use, see Fuller, The historie of the holy warre, 264, praising the French contribution to the Crusades:

As France sent the most, so many of most eminent note: She sheweth for the game no worse cards then a pair royall of Kings; Lewis the Young, Philip Augustus, and Saint Lewis; besides Philip the Bold his sonne, who went half-way to Tunis.

"Pair royal" is the correct reading of the title, and whatever subject this lost play was on, it celebrated three princes working together.

This play was registered along with two other lost plays, Charles, Duke of Bourbon and England’s First Happiness, or The Life of St. Austin. John Nicholson was not a well-known printer of plays. The only extant play he printed was "J.D."'s The Knave in Grain… acted at the Fortune (1640). Is this a tenuous indication of the possible theatrical provenance of these three lost, anonymous plays?

Works Cited

Fuller, Thomas. The historie of the holy warre. Cambridge: Thomas Buck, 1639.

Site created and maintained by Matthew Steggle 10 December 2009.