Cambridgeshire Collection

Service at the Installation of John Morton, Bishop of Ely

John Morton was born in Dorset c 1410 and died at Knowles, Kent, 15 September 1500, aged about 90. He was educated at Oxford, and became a doctor of civil law and principal of the civil-law school in 1452. He was elevated to the bishopric of Ely on 30 October 1478 (installed in 1479), and then to the archbishopric of Canterbury on 6 October 1486, having been appointed chancellor of England in March of that year. This movement into the heights of royal service began on 26 September 1456, when he became chancellor to Edward, prince of Wales, and was thus drawn into the political crises in England in the period. Politically, Morton struck a balance between Yorkist and Lancastrian partisanship, but not without severe setbacks at times.

Morton was involved in drafting the bill of attainder against Richard, duke of York in 1459, and was present with the Lancastrians at the Second Battle of St Albans on 17 February 1460/1. Morton was excluded from the general pardon of Lancastrians in 1461, and fled to the continent and the court of Queen Margaret, where he was appointed keeper of the Privy Seal. He remained in France for most of the next decade, matriculating in theology at the University of Louvain in 1469, and only receiving a pardon by Edward IV in 1471 after the short-lived readeption of Henry VI. Soon after the pardon, however, Edward named Morton master of the Rolls, a position he occupied 1472–9, ambassador to France in 1477, and finally appointed him bishop of Ely in 1478 (consecrated 1479). Soon after his installation at Ely, however, Morton joined (and possibly engineered) Henry Stafford, duke of Buckingham's rebellion against Richard III in 1483. He was arrested in the same year and escaped to Flanders, returning once again from exile at the accession of Henry VII. Royal support for Morton then returned, with Henry VII seeing Morton's elevation to archbishop of Canterbury in 1486 and naming him lord chancellor in 1486 (Alumni Oxonienses 1500–1714 Joseph Foster (ed) (Oxford, 1891), pp 1026–1049, British History Online, accessed 11 March 2022; Christopher Harper-Bill, 'Morton, John (d. 1500), administrator and archbishop of Canterbury' ODNB, accessed 20 September 2021).

The 1479 feast at Morton's elevation to bishop of Ely, however, shows that even under Edward IV suspicions of disloyalty were not entirely forgotten. The guests included both churchmen and nobles. The food choices provide three courses of both meat and fish dishes to respect the lay and ecclesiastical guests, but transition slowly from almost wholly meat (secular) to fish (spiritual). The herald's menu also describes a series of six subtleties (small models or images presented with a poem), presented, two for each course, with an accompanying verse. The subtleties reflect a similar transition: the first is a white lion (an emblem from Edward IV's coat of arms), and the accompanying poem references 'the habundant grace / Of king Edward in al his actes wise.' The sixth is the church itself, in brass, accompanied by a poem to welcome all of high and low degree therein, and to invite them to yield to God.

As Anne Brannen notes the food, the subtleties, the poems, and guests all create a program expressing Edward's magnanimity, but also his watchfulness. A participant was to understand that the king 'could forgive true repentance, and reward excellence'; within 'a well-knit society, well-governed and impervious to, though aware of the possibilities of, rebellion' ('Subtleties,' pp 2–3).

Thus this feast, though a very different sort of performance, contains a double message: turn away from the corrupting influence of the world to reject sin, and seek reward through both secular and spiritual loyalty and steadfastness.


Service at the Installation of John Morton, Bishop of Ely

ff lxxxxi verso col 1–lxxxxii col 2

Le premere course pur lestates.

⁌ Un sotelte de lyon blanke

Thinke and thanke prelate of grete prise

That it hath pleasid the habundant grace.

Of king Edward in al his acts wise

The to promote hyder to his please.

This lytil yle whyle thou hast tyme and space.

For to repayre do ay thy besy cure

For thy rewarde of heuen thou shalt be sure

Pur potage

Frumenty and venyson

Syngnet rosted

Graunt luce in sarris

Roo roested regardaunt

Feusaunt roosted

Venison in paste

Grete custarde

Leche porpul

Un sotelte de natiuite saint Iohn rehersall

Blissyd Iohn baptist for thy name so preciouse

Gracia dei be thy true interpretacion

Pray euer to god yat in thy lyue vertuouse

Iohn nowe of this see thorough thy meditacion.

Preserued be which be this stallacion

Thus is entred in to his chirche

Ther longe to endure many goode dedis to worche

⁌ The seconde course.

Un sotelte le Ile de ely rehersall.

O mortal man cal to remembraunce

This text de terra tu plamasti me

What than auayleth al worldly pleasaunce.

Sythe to the erthe thou shalt reuerte

De lime terre. how god hath ordeyned the.

Lodesterre of ely. loo suche is godys myght

Hym therefore to serue thou art bonden of right

Gely to potage

Storke roosted

Pecoke florsihed

Carpe in soppis

Rabets roosted

Breme freshewater.

Freature semeca.

Orenge in paste

Tarte borboyne

Leche damaske

Un sotelte de dieu. schepard.

Ego sum pastor bonus rehersall

Iohn ofte reuolue in thy remembranrce

That of my grace haue made the here protector

And of this folde I geue the gouernance

From rauenors to be ther true defensor

Them to preserue euery tyme & ower

Lerne of me & do thy besy deuor

From my folke all rauen to disseuor

Responcio episcopi

Fayn I wolde blissed lorde yf it like ye

This cure of thy diuine puruiaunce

And special most grace hast giue me

To gyde & rewle after thy pleasaunce

& to expel al rebel with thy maintence |

From ye chirche good lorde geue me that grace.

And so me to rewle wyth the to haue a place

⁌ The thirde course

Un sotelte le sentis petre paule. & Andrewe rehersall

Remembre iohn this yat shineth bright

with gret abundaunce all is but vayn glorie

Lerne for to die and welcome in you we knight

Welcome my preist & bisshop verily

The holy peter blissed poule & I

Of this our chirche make ye protector

And of this yle ye vertuose gouernor

⁌ Creme of almondes to potage

Boetour roosted

Perche in gelye curlew

Plouer roosted

Un caste de gely florisshyd

Creues deudose

Larkes roosted

Fresshe storgion

quynces in paste

Tarte poleyn

ffritour bounce

Leche Reiall

Un sotelte de le Eglesure letonne rehersall.

Now hertely ye bee Welcome into this hal

ffrom ye highest vnto ye lowest degree.

Requiring & specialy praing you al

Ield to god ye louing & not to me

And ferthermore of your benignite

Domino deo nostro gracias agamus

And prayse his name with te deum laudamus

Syttynge at the hygh dees.

My lord of Ely in the myddes

On the right hande

The abbot of berye

The abbot of ramesey

The prior of Ely

The mayster of the rollis

The priour of braunwell

The priour of angelesheye

⸿On the other hande

Syr Thomas howard

Syr Iohn donne

Syr Iohan wyngelfeld

Syr harry wentworthe

Iohn sapcote

Syr Edward woodhous

Syr robert chamberleyn

Syr Iohn Cheyne

Syr william branden

Syr Robert fynes

Iohn fortescu

The abbot of thorney and my Lady brandon and other estatis in the chambre


  • Footnotes
  • Glossed Terms
    • sarris n pl sars, fish of the sparoid genus Sargus [OEDO]
    • roo n roe, a species of small deer
    • paste n pastry; pastes
    • leche n slice (of bread); as an element in the names of various dishes, prepared in slices
    • porpul adj purple
    • plamasti v 2 sg ind act pf var of plasmasti [DML plasmare
    • soppis n pl sops, pieces of soaked bread
    • breme n bream
    • freature n fritter; fritour
    • semeca n sambocade, a fritter flavoured with elder flowers [OEDO]
    • borboyne n and attr possibly Bourbon, name of a French aristocratic family, here as attr, in the style associated with that family or a member of it, or with the historic French province of Bourbonnais
    • ower n hour
    • boetour n bittern
    • caste n cast, here a mould
    • creves n s and pl crayfish
    • deodose adj freshwater (d'eau douce)
    • poleyn n poultry [cp AND pulein 1]
    • bounce n possibly dogfish
    • ield v yield
    • dees n dais
  • Endnote

    The second course's 'lime terre' likely refers to alkaline earth used for mortar.

    The subtlety 'le Eglesure letonne' perhaps represents the church, modelled in something that looks like brass. The incunabula versions of the now lost original manuscript contain misreadings of the copy manuscript, and this is most likely one of them. Bentham reads 'le eglesure lettone' but does not explain the meaning of the phrase (History and Antiquities, Appendix, 35* and 36*). Coulton takes it to mean 'the Eagle on the Tun,' which he takes to be a 'punning rebus on Morton's name' (Life in the Middle Ages, vol 3, p 151).

    The list of attendees includes many notable figures, both secular and ecclesiastic. The master of the Rolls was Robert Morton (c 1435–97), bishop of Worcester, 1486–97, and nephew of John Morton (Christopher Harper-Bill, 'Morton, Robert (c. 1435–1497, bishop of Worcester),' ODNB, accessed 7 March 2022). Sir Thomas Howard(1443–1524), later second duke of Norfolk, was a member of Edward IV's household (David M. Head, 'Howard, Thomas, second duke of Norfolk (1443–1524), magnate and administrator,' ODNB, accessed 7 March 2022). Sir John Donne (d. 1503) was a soldier and administrator under Edward IV who later joined Buckingham's rebellion (George Holmes, 'Donne [Dwn], Sir John (d. 1503), soldier and administrator,' ODNB), accessed 21 September 2021). Sir John Wingfield (by 1428–81), of Letheringham, Suffolk, MP for Suffolk, 1478, was a member of Edward IV's Privy Council and a pardoned Lancastrian (Josiah C. Wedgwood and Anne Holt (collab), History of Parliament: Biographies of the Members of the Commons House 1439–1509 (London, 1936), 955–6). Sir Henry Wentworth (1447–99) of Nettlestead, Suffolk, was possibly MP for Suffolk, 1484, and a pardoned Lancastrian (Wedgwood and Holt, History of Parliament, 1439–1509, pp 933–4). John Sapcote (1448–1501) of Elton, Huntingdonshire, was MP for Huntingdonshire, 1472–5 (Wedgwood and Holt, History of Parliament, 1439–1509, pp 740–1). Sir Robert Chamberlain (1435–91) of Capel and Gedding, Suffolk, was MP for Suffolk, 1472–5; he fled with Edward IV to the continent during the Lancastrian readeption and was later attainted of high treason and executed under Henry VIII (Wedgwood and Holt, History of Parliament, 1439–1509, pp 170–1). Sir John Cheyne (1445–99) of Falstone, Cheyne, Wiltshire, was MP for Wiltshire, 1478, and later joined Buckingham's rebellion (Wedgwood and Holt, History of Parliament, 1439–1509, pp 182–3). Sir William Brandon (1425–91) of Soham-Count, Cambridgeshire, was MP for Suffolk, 1472–5, a retainer to the duke of Norfolk, and a later participant in Buckingham's rebellion (Wedgwood and Holt, History of Parliament, 1439–1509, pp 102–3). Sir Robert Fiennes (1425–90) of Hurstmonceaux, Sussex, was MP for Hampshire, 1447, and a pardoned Lancastrian (Wedgwood and Holt, History of Parliament, 1439–1509, pp 323–4). John Fortescue is probably Sir John Fortescue (c 1397-1479), chief justice, 1442, Lancastrian partisan and political propagandist, but may also be his nephew, Sir John Fortescue (1440–1500) of Ponsbourne, Hertfordshire, MP for Hertfordshire (1491–2) (E.W. Ives, 'Fortescue, Sir John (c. 1397–1479, justice and political theorist,'ODNB, accessed 22 September 2021; Wedgwood and Holt, History of Parliament, 1439–1509, p 349). Elizabeth Brandon was married to William Brandon, and was daughter to Sir Richard Wingfield and sister to John Wingfield (Wedgwood and Holt, History of Parliament, 1439–1509, pp 103, 956).

  • Document Description

    Record title: Service at the Installation of John Morton, Bishop of Ely

    The earliest known version of the menu is in the untitled incunabulum (STC: 782) published in Antwerp in 1503, consisting of various writings, the first of which begins, 'In this booke is conteyned the names of ye baylifs custos mairs and sherefs of london.'

    IN this booke is | Conteyned the | names of ye bay | lifs Custos ma|irs and sherefs | of the cite of lon|don from the ty|me of king rich|ard the furst. & | also thartycles | of the Chartur | and libarties of | the same Cyte. | And of the chartur and liberties off | England wyth odur dyuers mats | good and necessary for euery Citezen | to vndirstond and knowe. Whiche | ben shewid ? chaptirs after the four | me of this kalendir folowing. STC: 782.

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