HALL, Edward I (1496/97-1547), of Gray's Inn, London.
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Family and Education
b. 1496/97, 1st s. of John Hall of London by Catherine, da. and coh. of Thomas Gedding of Norf. educ. Eton; King’s, Camb. adm. 31 July 1514, fellow 1517-18, BA 1518; G. Inn. unm. suc. fa. 22 Feb. 1528.3
Autumn reader, G. Inn 1533, Lent 1540.
Common serjeant, London 17 Mar. 1533-2 June 1535; under sheriff 2 June 1535-d.; commr. to enforce the Six Articles 1541, 1547.4
Edward Hall, who was to achieve fame as the author of The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancastre and York, was born in the parish of St. Mildred, Poultry, London. His father John Hall was a grocer and merchant of the staple, and warden of his company in 1512-13. Generations of Halls appear before that date in the company’s records, so it is unlikely that Edward Hall’s father was the first of his family to make his career in London. The culture of early Tudor London, and especially the vogue among its leading citizens for the reading and compiling of City chronicles, along with Eton and Cambridge, where he may have felt the first stirrings of new doctrines, were the important influences in Hall’s early life.5
At about the time that Edward Hall came down from Cambridge, the second son of the chronicler Robert Fabian (d.1513), was apprenticed to his father John Hall. Hall may have then begun to emulate Fabian and make notes of current events, and from 1518 his chronicle becomes an eye-witness account, at least of happenings in London. If history was his lifelong enthusiasm, the law was to be his profession. He entered Gray’s Inn not long after leaving the university, and his name appears in 1521 as a student there. The portion of his chronicle relating to the Parliament of 1523, especially the account of the passage of the subsidy bill through the Commons, is so vivid as to suggest that Hall had been present: if he was a Member he may have sought election as an aspiring lawyer and could thus have sat for a provincial borough, perhaps a Shropshire one, although in the absence of the returns to this Parliament this remains a matter of speculation.6
It is probable that, in its subtle presentation in the finished work, the theme of the tyranny and corruption of Wolsey which unites Hall’s account of the decade before 1529, was the product of later re-fashioning. Yet it was hostility to Wolsey, and in particular to the cardinal’s financial demands upon the City, which turned Hall into a critic of the Church. The chronicle remains a City chronicle, often noticing events of interest to Londoners only, and always seeing them through London eyes. Thus Hall’s account of Wolsey’s exchange in the Parliament of 1523 with the Speaker More takes its place among descriptions of similar struggles between the cardinal and the City, of which More himself was such a pillar. Wolsey’s bargainings with the City call forth some of Hall’s most lively passages and best informed comments.7
His hatred of Wolsey led Hall to denounce the clergy whom ‘the authority of this cardinal set ... in such a pride that they disdained all men’, and he seems to have approved of Bilney, Garret and their like in so far as they ‘spake against the pope’s authority and his pomp and pride’. It was to be expected that he would greet with enthusiasm the King’s seizure of power over the Church, for his great setpiece account of the Field of Cloth of Gold in 1520 shows his delight in majestic display and one of his chief grievances against Wolsey was that ‘he counted himself equal with princes’. Hall was present among ‘the nobility, judges and councillors and divers other persons’ summoned to Bridewell palace on 8 Nov. 1528 to hear the King explain his scruples of conscience about his marriage, and the chronicle consistently defends Henry VIII against the charge that he ‘would for his own pleasure have another wife’: in everything the King is made to act ‘like a good and discreet prince’.8
The tone of the chronicle cannot be taken as evidence that Hall’s ‘Hobbesian attitude’ (in Pollard’s phrase) was fully developed before the opening of the Parliament of 1529, and it is in any case unlikely that the work was sufficiently known for its author to have received official support for his election to that body. If he had, he would scarcely have sought a seat as far afield as Much Wenlock, although why he was returned for that borough is obscure. He had succeeded his father in the previous year, but there is nothing to suggest that he inherited property in Shropshire nor any clear reference in the local records either to his family or to the place in the parish of Kinnersley called ‘Northall’ where according to the visitation pedigree of 1584 it had its residence. According to the (probably) genuine part of the pedigree accepted by the heralds in 1623, Edward Hall’s mother came from Lackford in Suffolk and his paternal grandmother from Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire. Yet that there was some connexion with Shropshire seems undoubted. Edward Hall’s father left small sums to a Margery Shotton of Stoke-on-Term and an Agnes Tristram of Kinnersley, and in 1555 his mother made further bequests to her late husband’s kin ‘living in Shropshire’ who were known to her ‘cousin Masyer’; there were Halls among the leading inhabitants of Newport near Kinnersley, and a Thomas Hall was bailiff of Bridgnorth in 1529, 1533 and 1537; and the chronicler himself shows a particular interest in the dukes of Buckingham, powerful in this part of Shropshire. It is, however, to professional rather than family connexions or property that we should probably look for an explanation. Richard Grafton, member of the Grocers’ Company and later the King’s printer, who was to edit and publish the chronicle after Hall’s death, came from an old Shropshire family, the most distinguished member of which, Adam Grafton, archdeacon of Stafford, prebendary of Wellington and chaplain to Prince Arthur, was buried at Withington, six miles from Kinnersley, in 1530. Laid in the same church were relatives of the Graftons, the parents of John Onley, Hall’s precursor as common serjeant and colleague as under sheriff of London. Lastly, there was Hall’s fellow-Member in this Parliament, John Foster I, a local figure who had business links with the capital and who almost certainly had a hand in his election.9
His experiences in the Parliament must have fortified Hall’s belief in the plenitude of royal authority, and his outlook and activity eventually brought him the King’s favour: with Cromwell he was doubtless already acquainted through Gray’s Inn. During the first session a bill against the abuse of protections against creditors was committed to Hall, Cromwell and three others, but whether or not they thought it ill advised it never passed. (In a Star Chamber action brought at some time after February 1538 Hall was to be accused, in his capacity of under sheriff, of refusing to take notice of a royal protection which had been issued to the plaintiff, a London ironmonger.) Hall may also have been one of those ‘learned in the law’ who were appointed by the Commons in 1529 to draw up bills ‘of the probates of testaments’ and ‘for mortuaries’, and was possibly that ‘gentleman of Gray’s Inn’ who offended ‘the spiritual men’ by answering their argument from prescription with the quip, ‘The usage hath ever been of thieves to rob on Shooters Hill; ergo it is lawful’. The bill for the sowing of flax and hemp enacted during the fifth session (1533) was committed to four Members who included a ‘Mr. Halle’, but this was almost certainly Francis Hall. Later in the same year Edward Hall successfully petitioned the King, by way of Cromwell, for ‘venison at my reading the week before Lammas’, sending Cromwell, at the same time, a map of Hungary and a picture of Andrea Doria. It was ‘at the request of the King’s letters’ that Hall was elected common serjeant in 1533, and in the following year he played some part in the administration of the oath of succession to Londoners. On 1 June 1535 the King wrote again to the City for ‘our well-beloved subject Edward Hall to be now promoted to the office of under sheriff ... like as you have promised us heretofore at the contemplation of our former letters’: the appointment was made next day.10
Hall probably sat for Wenlock again in the Parliament of June 1536 when the King asked for the re-election of the previous Members. His account of this Parliament is brief and contains no clue as to his Membership, but this does not tell against it as the chronicle is equally meagre about the later Parliaments in which he sat. He reappeared in the Commons in 1539, perhaps once more for Wenlock, and spoke in favour of the bill of Six Articles. The theme of the speech was, ‘it is written "Obey your King", an injunction which Hall supported by claiming that 'in chronciles [it] may be found that the most part of ceremonies now used in the Church of England were by princes either first invented or established': he went on to suggest that the bishops should reveal to the Commons 'the conferences of scripture and the allegations of the ancient fathers' which were the foundations of the articles, and that 'the Act might be printed in the Latin tongue, whereby other nations might see on what ground we proceed'. Strikingly, Hall himself does not allude to this speech ot to any discussion of the bill in Parliament, and he was to be critical of the Act's application.11
Henry VIII's assertion of his orthodoxy must indeed have caused Hall misgivings. While condemning harshly and unfairly all those who had opposed the breach with Rome, Hall had clearly favoured the activities of Barnes, Bilney, Frith and Tyndale, and all others who ahd criticized the clergy, and he attacks Gardiner for procuring the deaths of Barnes and others in 1540 without specific charge. He had been an advocate of translations of the Bible, and the chronicle includes a long account of William Tracy, whose body was dug up and burnt, because he said in his will that 'he trusted in God only and hoping by him to be saved, and not by no saint'. Hall's version of this notorious episode may well rest in the testimony of the victim's son, Richard Tracy, a colleague of his in the Parliament of 1529.12
Hall's emphasis on allegiance and his exemplary accommodation to the royal will doubtless assisted hsi reappearance in the last two Parliaments of the reign. He continued to sit in the Commons for a Shropshire borough, but evidently a place was no longer available for him at Wenlock and he was returned for the neighbouring borough. Bridgnorth was amenable to the council in the marshes of Wales which sometimes met there, and presumable Hall owed his election as much to conciliar support as to his own links with the town. On both occasions he took procedures over his partners William Grey I and Henry Blount, two local gentlemen. Early in 1545 the sheriff of Shropshire reported that Bridgnorth had made no return, but some time before the delayed opening of the Parliament Hall and Blount were elected. The chroncile throws no light on Hall's role in these two Parliaments, although it recounts some of their episodes, including Ferrer's case in 1542 and three years later the King's rebuke for wraggling, 'word for word as near as I was able to report it'.13
It was probably during these last years of his life that Hall set about turning his into the finished chroncile. In his preface to the first edition Richard Grafton wrote that the author
was a man in the later time of his life not so painful and studious as before he had been: wherefore he perfected and wrote his history no farther than to the four and twentieth year of King Henry the eight: the rest he left noted in divers and many pamphlets and papers, which ... I ... have in suchwise compiled ... as may after the said years, appear in this work: but utterly without any addition of mine.
Grafton's words probably mena that Hall at his death had brought his own final work of compilation only to the year 1532, not that he stopped writing in that year: Polydore Veergil's Anglica Historia and More's History of Richard III, on which Hall drew for his account of the previous century, were published only in 1534 and 1543. There is evidence that Hall was still making changes in a very early part of the chronicle in 1544, although some of it was then 'ready to go to print'. Grafton is right in saying that after 1532 the texts of documents and itemized notes are included somewhat piecemeal, and there is some falling off in volume and coherence, especially in the last year or two of the reign. Yet elaborate and personal descriptions are still given of events which touched Hall closely, such as the fate of Barnes and his associates. Although the work is a true chronicle in its inclusion of events of mere parochial interest, it rises to the rank in history in dealing with larger topics, for which the author drew upon other sources than his own experience, including some from abroad.14
Hall made his will during the year 1546-47, giving hsi 'soul to her maker and redeemer by whose passion and not be my deserts I trust only to be saved'. He asked to be buried 'honestly' in the former church fo the Grey Friars and a plate to be set in the wall to commemorate him. (He was in fact buried in the church of St. Benet Sherehog.) To his only brother William he left all his books in French and English to an ex-servant his books of pedigrees, one of which, it is tempting to think, contained the highly imaginative pedigree, stretching back to the Emperor Leopold of Habsburg and ending with Edmund Hall and his brother, which was accepted by the heralds in their vistitation of Shropshire in 1623. His great 'Cronica Cronicarum' was to go to 'the chamber of London to lie in the council chamber', his law books to his clerk Henry Avery, and his charts to 'Mr. Warren' and any others friends who wanted them; Warren was probably Sir Ralph Warren, lord mayor of London, whose widow was to be names supervisor of the will of Hall's mother. His own chronicle Hall bequeathed to Richard Grafton trusting that he would publish it. Hall was still alive on 31 Mar. 1547 and two weeks later he was named to the commission to enforce the Six Articles in the capital, but he was dead by the following 25 May when his will was proved. His executor William Hall subsequently brought an action in Chancery against one of his brother's servants for taking dishonest advantage of Hall during his final illness, which had lasted 12 weeks. In 1548 Grafton published the chroncile, which rapidly gained popularity: even Queen Mary's order that it should be burnt only increased interest in the book, which was republished in 1565 and was to influence Shakespeare, if only through the medium of Holinshed.15
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: Alan Harding
- 1. Foxe, Acts. and Mons. v. 505.
- 2. Bridgnorth bor. ms 9(2), f. 558.
- 3. Aged 17 on admission to King’s College, Cambridge, J. Saltmarsh’s letter to The Times, 8 Oct. 1932. Vis. Salop (Harl. Soc. xxviii), 207-8; DNB; PCC 3 Jankyn, 36 Alen; Emden, Biog. Reg. Univ. Oxf. 1501-40, p. 259; A. F. Pollard, ‘The 1st MP journalist’, The Times, 1 Oct. 1932; ‘Edward Hall’s will and chronicle’, Bull. IHR, ix. 171-7; G. Pollard, ‘The bibliog. hist. of Hall’s chronicle’, Bull. IHR, x. 12-17; ‘A lawsuit over Edward Hall’s will’, Bull. IHR, xi. 30.