A lecture to give on A Chaste Maid in Cheapside has led me on to have a closer look at the various pamphlets about the Eleanor Cross in
The Downe-fall of Dagon starts unexpectedly, with a variant of that minor genre of speaking statues, as the
Maybe there is some exaggeration here, but I like the image of fiercer sectarians refusing even to walk past the cross, but rather taking diversions through side streets. The pamphlet now turns into a mock-testament (‘I give my Body and Stones to those Masons and Workemen that cannot tell how to frame the like againe, to keep by them for a patterne’, etc). A verse epitaph follows, again mingling satire and sympathy. The author then resumes with his account of the general reasons for the demolition: such a cross is better suited an ‘Idolatrous place’ like Rome than this ‘civill Citie’, its images misled badly instructed Protestants to believe in the intercession of saints – and after these come (I take it) the real reasons, that explain why 1643 was to be the year of demolition:
This Crosse hath been a great meanes to cause superstition and idolatry from time to time in worshipping and adoring it, as many people have done as they passe by it; for divers people both men and women hath been seen by severall honest, ancient and good Inhabitants dwelling neare the place, that sundry sorts of people have by three a clock in the morning come barefoot to the Crosse, and kneeled downe, and said something to themselves, crossed their fore-head and their breast, and so risen and making obeisance, went away, which punishment was enjoyned upon them, as a penance for some sins they had committed.’
This oddly coy account of Catholics doing penance nocturnally at the cross strikes me as potentially an early modern urban myth. The next part seems far more likely to me, in a city where Charles’s sympathizers might have thought the war was soon going to end with the King’s triumphant return:
‘Likewise hundreds of people have been publickly seen and in the midst of the day, bend their bodies to it, and put off their hats, and cross themselves: Not only as they have gone on foot by it, but divers that have rid on horse-back and in Coaches have put out their heads and pull’d off their hats, and done reverence to it; this hath bin done for these many yeares together’.
The Cheapside cross had been politicized: it had become a place to show a moment of defiance for those who held to the church of Archbishop Laud, gentry sympathizers expecting the King back from Oxford. Ministers complained both in sermons, and in print (says our author); others complained to the Houses of Parliament, and so a warrant for the demolition was rapidly issued, with the trained bands deployed ‘because divers people had given out they would rather lose their lives then it should down…’
This pamphlet, with its speech for the cross itself, resembles the verse monologue (again, voiced for the Eleanor Cross) deploring the proposed demolition A vindication of
Have I transgrest the Law? Or did I ever
Our gracious Sovereigne from his people sever? …
… Do’s Religion such a hatred bring,
To hate the very picture of a King?
The remarkable funeral of Cheapside-Crosse in London, dated1642 (this must be ‘old style’), seems to explain that the ‘mortal wound’ to the cross came on January 24th. I surmise that this may have been the date of parliament’s warrant. The pamphlet imagines a funeral procession for the cross, envisaging Valentine’s Day as suitable for a rather fond farewell. First, those invited who will not attend are listed: Bishops, Jesuits, Papists, Arminians – Cavaliers will not be there as their aim is ‘to make more Crosses in the kingdom’, or so the writer puns. But then the he goes on to imagine the send-off procession. It faintly recollects Nashe’s Will Summers his last will and testament, a city pageant, or maybe even a masque. Members of 12 livery companies enter first, with their apprentices, singing a song, then another set of representatives of another 12 companies, also singing (‘The great Idoll is down, down, downe…’), next members of the Carpenters, Plumbers, Stone-Cutters and Gilders, expressing mingled joy and sorrow (the latter emotion stemming from the fact that there is no possibility of a commission to them for a replacement). Their song rejoices in the way that the royal crown on the adjacent water conduit, ‘The Standard’ will now be more famous with its medieval rival removed. Again, there’s that undercurrent of divided loyalty,
The author of what appears to be an earlier pamphlet, The Crosses case in
Also contributed to this furious debate was the spittle-flecked ‘humour’ of The Popes proclamation: together with the lawes and ordinances established by him and his shavelings, concerning his adherents and rights which hee claimeth in
Images: my own rehandling of images from The A