Famous Wars of Henry I and the Prince of Wales
Henry Chettle, Thomas Dekker, and Michael Drayton (1598)
To playwrights in Philip Henslowe's diary
Fol. 45 (Greg, I.85)
Lent vnto drayton & cheattell the 13 of marche 1598 } in parte payments of a boocke wher in is a parte of } xxxxs a weallche man written wch they have promysed to delyuer } by the xx day next followinge J saye lent R money . . . . . . . . . }
lent vnto the company to paye drayton & dyckers } & chetell ther full payment for the boocke called } iiili vs the famos wares of henry the first & the prynce } of walles the some of . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . }
Miscellaneous expenses in Philip Henslowe's diary
Fol. 45 (Greg, I.85)
lent at that tyme vnto the company for to spend } at the Readynge of that boocke at the sonne in } vs new fyshstreate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . }
Having paid for the play in full in March 1598, the Admiral's company most likely mounted a production in late spring, following the collective reading by 25 March at the Sun on New Fish Street.
History (Harbage; Wiggins, #1114)
Possible Narrative and Dramatic Sources or Analogues
Henry I (AD 1068/9–1135) was the youngest son of William the Conqueror and Matilda of Flanders. His epithet, "Beauclerc", which stems from his supposed mastery of science and the liberal arts, seems to have originated in the 14th century, though reports of Henry's learning appear to have been greatly exaggerated (ODNB).
Foxe, Acts and Monuments (1583)
Foxe provides a succinct description of Henry I:
HEnry first of that name, the third sonne of W. Conquerour, succeeding his brother Rufus: began his raigne in England, the yere of our Lord 1100. who for his knowledge & science in the 7. liberal arts, was surnamed Clerke or bewclerke. In whome may wel appeare, howe knowledge and learning doth greatly conduce, to the gouernement and administration of any realme or country. At the beginning, he reformed the state and condition of the clergie: released the grieuous paiments: reduced againe king Edwards laws, with emendation therof: he reformed the old and vntrue measures, & made a measure after þe length of his arme: he greatly abhorred excesse of meats & drinks: many things misused before his time he reformed: and vsed to vanquish more by counsaile then by sworde. Suche persons as were nice and wanton, he secluded from hys court. This man as appeareth, litle fauoured the vsurped power of the Bishop of Rome. Soone after he was King, he maried Matilde or Maude: daughter of Malcolin king of Scots, and of Margaret his wife: daughter of Edward the Outlaw, as is before specified: being a professed Nunne in Winchester, whom notwithstanding (wtout the popes dispensation) he maried by the consent of Anselme. By the which Maude he receaued 2. sonnes, William, and Richard: & 2. daughters, Maude & Mary, which Maude afterward was maried to Henry the v. Emperour. &c. (Book 4, Appendix, p214)
Other notable features of Henry's narrative observed by Foxe include:
• The attempt by Henry's elder brother, Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy, to make an attempt at seizing the English crown but was ultimately appeased with the promise of a sizeable yearly income;
• Years later, Robert was taken prisoner in war and imprisoned in the Castle of Cardiff, Wales;
• During Henry I's reign, the hospital of St. Bartholomew in Smithfield was founded (to be finished by Richard Whittington [c.1350–1423], mayor of London);
• Henry was responsible for the introduction of strict new laws against thieves and felons resulting in hanging (cf. the story of Bellendon, the first thief hanged in England, which occurred during Henry's reign [lost play: "Bellendon, or Belin Dun"]);
• He also pursued ecclesiastical reform with mixed results, leading to an extended altercation with Anselme, Archbishop of Canterbury.
Wiggins offers Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, either in the 1577 or 1587 edition, as well as (possibly) other chronicle sources (#1114).
References to the Play
Fleay did not comment on the possible narrative of the play but did suggest it might be the same as "Welchmans price," a play title listed in Henslowe's inventory of books belonging to the Admiral's men, 3 March 1598 (Greg, Papers, 121). Fleay seems to have renamed "Welchmans price" as "The Welshman's prize" (BCED, 2.307; BCED, I.122-23). Fleay read Henslowe's naming of Dekker among the team of dramatists in the second (and full) payment for the play as evidence that Chettle and Drayton found "their work in arrear" and "applied to Dekker for help" (BCED, I.12). Apparently accounting for the payment of 5s over a total of 120s for the play, Fleay supposed that the company combined that extra with the 5s for the reading of the play at the Sun to pay for hiring the room and providing 'good cheer'; he further supposed that Henslowe's entry immediately following, which concerns a private performance at which their gear was lost, was a performance of "The Famous Wars of Henry I and the Prince of Wales" (BCED, I.122-23).
Greg questioned why Chettle, Dekker, and Drayton's play addressed the conflicts of Henry I when the Welsh wars of Henry II with either Gruffydd ab Rhys, Prince of South Wales, or Gruffydd ab Cynan, Prince of North Wales "were much more famous"(II.191-2, #130). Often skeptical of Fleay's identification of two or more play titles as one, Greg here thought Fleay "right" in identifying "Famous Wars of Henry I and the Prince of Wales" with the title listed in Henslowe's 1598 inventory, and he adopted Fleay's change of titles, "The Welshman's Prize" (Greg, II.191-92, #130). Casting about for other plays with which to connect "The Famous Wars of Henry I and the Prince of Wales," Greg offered "The Welshman," 1595; "The Life and Death of Henry I," 1597; the "History of Henry I" recorded by Sir Henry Herbert on 10 April 1624 naming "Damport" (Robert Davenport) as author; the "Henry the First and Henry the Second" entered in the Stationers' Register by Humphrey Moseley on 9 October 1653, which is attributed to Shakespeare as well as Davenport; and the "Henry the First and Henry the Second" in the list of plays John Warburton claimed to have had before his cook used the sheets to line pie pans.
Gurr combines the entries of "Famous Wars of Henry I and the Prince of Wales" with the listing of "Welchmans price" in Henslowe's inventory of books in March 1598 (#90, p. 234; also, p. 102). He reads the specification of "a weallche man" as "the growth of a liking for Welsh accents" (p. 234, n.79).
Wiggins disentangles Chettle, Dekker, and Drayton's play from "The Welshman's Prize" (he offers "The Welshman's Price" as an alternate title; #1115). Of "The Famous Wars of Henry I and the Prince of Wales," he observes that the reference to a Welshman in the payment on 13 Marche may be to the Prince of Wales specified in the second payment but "is just as likely" to be "a comic turn conceived for the company clown" (#1114).
For What It's Worth
Henslowe's mention in the payment of 13 March 1598 of a Welsh man (in a separate entry from the subsequent title, "Famous Wars of Henry I and the Prince of Wales") precipitated a lumping of Chettle, Dekker, and Drayton's play with other titles in the diary. Malone footnoted the entry of "A Booke wherein is a Part of a Welshman" with the suggestion that the play meant was The Valiant Welshman (presumably Robert Armin's play, c. 1612, Q1615 (I, pt..2, p. 309). Collier rejected Malone's supposition, suggesting instead that Henslowe's entry on 29 November 1595 ("The Welshman") was more likely Armin's play (Collier, p. 120). Fleay ignored the entanglement of ("The Welshman") of 1595 with Henslowe's entry on 13 March 1598 (above) but introduced another identification, that being the Chettle-Dekker-Drayton play with "Welchmans price" in Henslowe's inventory of playbooks in March 1598. That is the lumping that scholars have perpetuated (as well as the change from "price" to "prize"), excepting Wiggins (#1114, #1115). Gurr specifically decouples "The Famous Wars of Henry I and the Prince of Wales" from the 1595 ("The Welshman") (p. 234, n. 79), as does Wiggins (#882).
Site created and maintained by Roslyn L. Knutson, Professor Emerita, UA-Little Rock; updated 27 May 2016.