1. Elsewhere in The Philological Museum I have posted an edition of Bernard André’s De Vita atque Gestis Henrici Septimi Historia, originally printed by James Gairdner, Historia Regis Henrici Septimi a Bernardo Andrea Tholosate Conscripta, necnon Alia Quaedam ad Eundem Regem Spectantia (vol. 10 of Rerum Britannicarum medii aevi scriptores, London, 1858). In addition to this biography, André wrote a series of Annales devoted to the years they individually cover. Unfortunately, only two of Henry VII’s time are known to be extant., both included in Gairdner’s edition. We have two others written in the succeeding reign, the one in 1515, presented to Henry VIII on entering the seventh year of his reign, and the other in 1521, wishing prosperity to him on his thirteenth. All four are preserved in the British Library Cottonian collection.
2. Henry obviously made an effort to groom André (more successful in his role of regius poeta, continuing the Medieval tradition of the versificator regis) as a historian for his reign, and his motivation was equally obvious: to shore up the legitimacy of his new and still fragile reign by having that historian deflate the validity of the damaging rumors about his displacement of Richard III and the rival claims to the throne of Lambert Simnel and Perkin Warbeck circulating in England and maliciously broadcast throughout Europe by his archenemy Margaret of Burgundy (to serve the latter purpose, it was essential that the history in question be written in Latin — this is no doubt the reason why versions of Thomas More’s incomplete The History of Richard III exist written in both languages. The feeble quality of André’s efforts in the history line (the snatches of poetry included in the Vita are considerably more effective) only went to show that he could not be trusted to produce anything useful, which is why Henry eventually gave up on the project and turned to Polydore Vergil.
2. In introducing André’s Vita I have already written about Henry’s major role in introducing Humanism into England and his innovation (which remained a hallmark of the Tudor dynasty and continued through the reign of James I) of coopting literature written both in English and Latin as a vehicle for political propaganda, made all more the effective by Henry’s appreciation of the tremendous multiplying power of the printing press. (If any reader imagines the use of the word “propaganda” represents too harsh an appraisal, that reaction will not survive a reading of Tanya Reimer’s brilliant 2008 monograph “This Realm of England is an Empire: The Tudors’ Justification of Imperial Rule Through Legend by Propaganda and Pageantry.” The frequent use of Neo-Latin literature to speed this effort is only a small fraction of the use of literature, pageantry, iconography and — at least commencing with the start of the Church of England — the pulpit, greatly enhanced by reliance on the printing press, for essentially propagandistic purposes. It was aimed at a limited segment of the population but one whose support was crucial for the success of the Tudor dynasty (Mary was the Tudor sovereign who seems not to have been alive to its value and her failure to publicize her side of the story has probably damaged her reputation down to this very day.) There is no need the repeat this here and we may immediately turn to the two Annales installments pertinent to the reign of Henry VII. These are the ones for 1504/5 (Cottonian MS. Julius A iv) and 1507/ 8 (Cottonian MS. Julius A iii respectively). The question is what is the relation of these compositions to the Vita. In his introduction to his 1858 edition of the Vita and the Annales, as he called them, Gairdner wrote (p. xi):
In this preface [to the Vita, André] intimates his intention of presenting yearly to the king some literary effort, greater or less according to the fertility of his genius for the time being, which might be accepted as the tenths and first fruits of his leisure. this attention he appears to have fulfilled by writing yearly an account of the principal occurrences of the time; but of these compositions, unfortunately, only two of Henry VII’s time are known to be extant...We have other two written in the succeeding the reign, the one in 1515, presented to Henry VIII on entering the seventh year of his reign, and the other in 1521, wishing prosperity to the thirteenth.
These annual historical summaries consist of the detailed record of the events of the year in question, small and large alike, written much in the manner of so-called herald’s journals. They are not worked up into any kind of literary form and the organizing and prioritizing iudicium of the true Humanistic historian is absent. As such, while they may contain plenty of interesting and useful nuggets of information, some of which will probably be of interest to modern historians, assembled as raw material for something more formal André never got around to writing (both ones distinctly anticipate the logbook of current events maintained by William Camden, which appears to have been started with a similar intent, albeit over time it morphed into something more like a personal diary), which are best understood as notes for a possible history, but scarcely as a history per se.
3. In his introduction (p. xiii) Gairdner went on to write “The works of Bernard André printed in this volume are, first, his Life of Henry VII, extending down to the capture of Perkin Warbeck, and, secondly, the two smaller pieces giving an account of the events of Henry’s 20th and 23d years, which appear to have been portions of a continuation of the Life.” So he evidently entertained a theory that the Annales commenced at the point in time where the Vita ends. Our manuscript of the Vita is not a very good one, and its abrupt ending may well be yet another of its manifold defects, so it probably offers no definitive evidence of what André actually wrote or what his intentions were. By the most optimistic appraisal, had he truly meant to stop where the Vita manuscript leaves off, with a description of Henry punishing Perkin Warbeck’s Cornish followers, it is hard to imagine he would have lacked the literary savvy to see that a coda was required to tie the whole thing up into a neater package. In truth, we have no certain idea how far down the Vita did or was meant to carry or how far back in time André went with the Annales, so the impression that there was no chronological overlap between the two works may be no more than an optical illusion created by the state of our available evidence. A suspension of judgment about the relationship of André’s two efforts works seems in order.
4. I wish to express my gratitude to Dr, David Starkey for directing my attention to this pair of texts.