Yorkist Revision

Regardless of the original purpose of the Canterbury Roll, it was eventually transformed from a pro-Lancastrian document into Yorkist propaganda.

In 1461, Edward of York seized the throne becoming Edward IV of England. Subsequently, the Canterbury Roll underwent drastic changes. Between 1463 and 1468, a Yorkist supporter found the Canterbury Roll and decided to modify it to present the Yorkists, not the Lancastrians, as the true heirs to the English crown.

The Yorkist Scribe extends the Roll, inserting the Mortimers of March in the upper left as a link to the House of York.

Yorkist amendments

The Yorkist Scribe who worked on the "corrections" was ambitious – a fact testified to by the extensive red (and messy) modifications visible in the final section of the roll.

The additions are most obvious down the left hand side of the Roll. The Yorkist Scribe uses only red and black ink. He takes noticeably less care with his amendments than the Lancastrian Scribe took in preparing his neatly measured circles and straight lines.

In order to make sense of the Yorkist claim, the new scribe inserts the Mortimers of March (a family with close links to the Yorkists). The Mortimers and their royal marriages help explain Edward IV's maternal ancestry.

The uneven red lines culminate in the last rose at the bottom, containing the name of the first Yorkist king: "EDWARDUM QUARTUM" (Edward IV).

In addition to adding to the diagram itself, the Yorkist Scribe also contributed his own commentary to explain his changes.

Squeezed in between the original commentary, the scribe identifies the Lancastrian king Henry IV – now reduced to "Henry of Derby" – as the cause of the succession crisis.



Referring to Henry IV, whose roundel appears to the left (CRN519), CRC127 denounces the Lancastrian succession:

This Henry of Darby, son of John of Gaunt, imprisoned Richard the true king of England and true heir of France, violently deposed him, and made himself to be accepted and named King Henry IV, and thus he and his heirs usurped the aforementioned crowns and occupied them, and became possessors in bad faith of the same. (CRC127)

In one sentence (CRC128), the Yorkist Scribe invalidates the entire reigns of Henry IV, V, and VI:

This blue and red line, placed in the middle, is unjust or incorrect, because he [who is] named Henry VI and his predecessors Henry IV and Henry V, violently and unjustly took upon themselves, and occupied the kingdom and the crowns of the kings of England and France. (CRC128)

At the bottom of the amended version, the Yorkist Scribe ends his modifications by incorporating the succession of Edward IV.

Edward IV and his siblings: Anne – Elizabeth – Margaret – EDWARD IV (CRN589) – Edmund – George – Richard

Why was the Yorkist Scribe satisfied with a "quick edit" of an existing roll? Why was a new roll not commissioned? This is one of the many unknowable mysteries of the Canterbury Roll. What is observable, however, is the flexibility of "history" as described by genealogical rolls. The Canterbury Roll captures the impact political circumstances could have on the writing and re-writing of history in later medieval England.


Scribal Hands in the Digital Edition

The Yorkist Scribe: Identified in the Digital Edition by the white rose of York. This is the third hand to appear on the Canterbury Roll. The scribe re-worked the manuscript’s later sections, adding roundels and commentary that made it more favourable to the Yorkist cause.

The Yorkist Scribe's work was first identified by Arnold Wall. His contribution can be dated to between 1463 and 1468, although some arguments exist to suggest his work is post 1461 and prior to 1466.

The Margaret of Burgundy Scribe: Identified in the Digital Edition by a crown icon. This is the fourth hand to appear on the Canterbury Roll. The scribe's contribution is limited to a minor amendment: the addition of Margaret of Burgundy’s title to the work of the Yorkist Scribe.

The Margaret of Burgundy Scribe's work was first identified by Chris Jones in 2011. The addition must have taken place after 1483 but was presumably made before the fall of the house of York at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.