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The History of that most famous Saynt and Souldier of Christ Iesus; St. George of Cappadocia.

HEYLYN Peter (1631)

£850.00  [First Edition]

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Asserted from the Fictions of the middle ages of the Church and opposition of the present. The Institution of the most Noble Order of St. George, named the Garter. A Catalogue of all the Knights thereof untill this present.First Edition. 4to in 8s. [22], 351pp. Engraved title-page by William Marshall incorporating portraits of Edward III and Charles I and St George militant and triumphant (shaved along lower edge). Contemporary limp vellum (detached at upper inner joint, lacking ties).London: [by B. A[lsop]. and T. F[awcett].] for Henry Seyle,

STC 13272Heylyn laments that though no saint was 'able to shew a cleerer title to the Crowne of Martyrdome', 'wee now are taught a Lesson so exactly contrary, that fire and water cannot be at a greater difference. St.George if they may bee beleeved which say it, must now no longer bee conceiv'd, as one that ever liv'd, or mov'd or had any being: or if a man at all, a wicked man, an Arian' (referring to some accounts that St George was a bloody Christian-slaying near-eastern bishop). What his writing's lack in factual accuracy is more than compensated for with weight of learning and the controversial, if often digressive, opinionated, and tendentious, panache with which Heylyn disects and analyses his sources: he establishes to his own satisfaction the veracity of St George, steers a course between the fictitious embellishments of the Catholic histories and 'truth not faction', rebuts the 'hereticks' of his day, answers the doubts of successive generations of historians and martyrologists, and defends the tales of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table ('doubtlesse there is much in it of reall truth'), Guy of Warwick and Bevis of Southampton as well as the story of George and the dragon ('for in that times before us, there have beene Dragons, Serpentine creatures of excessive bulke, and no lesse danger, is a thing evident in the best writers'). There are extensive quotations from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Spenser's Faerie Queen, and Drayton's Poly-Olbion, and much antiquarian information about Heylyn's native Oxfordshire. The second part ends with chronological lists by monarch of all the knights of the garter, beginning with Edward III and the founder knights and ending with William Cecil, Earl of Exeter, created K.G. in 1630.

Heylyn wrote this work in gratitude for his appointment as king's chaplain in 1630, a preferment he received through the Earl of Danby's recommendation to Archbishop Laud. It is an examination of the veracity of St George and a justification of his position as Patron Saint of England and the Order of the Garter as the premier order of chivalry in Europe. As such it was part of Charles I's campaign to reinvent the order using new iconography and historiography: this can also be seen in Rubens's St George and the Princess, which can be seen as an idealised portrait of Charles and Henrietta Maria, and Carew's court masque Coelum Britannicum (1634). As J.S.A. Adamson has written "the Order of the Garter was reformed by Charles I to proveide the model for a new and purified chivalric ethic. The religious rituals of the order, in particular the liturgy for the celebration of the feast of St George, were endowed with a new importance in the life of the court. The Garter's knightly ceremonial re-emphasised not merely martial valour, but sacred loyalty and idealised moral virtue. What dominated the ceremonial was no longer (as in the tournament or in the Tudor Garter ceremonial) the individual display of knights and their retinues, but the sacral figure of the King, attended by knights companion uniformly attired and unaccompanied by private retinues."

See: Adamson (J.S.A.) 'Chivalry and Political Culture in Caroline England', in Sharpe (K.) & Lake (P.), eds., Culture and Politics in Early Stuart England. 1994, pp. 161-197.Sharpe (K.), The Personal Rule of Charles I, 1992, pp. 219-222.

Provenance: 1. Basil Gaisford, signed and dated (1896) on the bookplate Thomas Gaisford (1779-1855), Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, classical scholar, and the Bodleian Library's delegate to the Oxford University Press. 2. St. Hugh's, Parkminster (circular library stamp on A3r (first page of dedicatory epistle)).

Stock Code: 53629