Hugh of Manchester

Hugh of Manchester: A Statesman and Divine of the Thirteenth Century.[10]

“Let me be the remembrancer,” says Fuller when describing the worthies of Lancashire, “that Hugh of Manchester in this county wrote a book in the reign of King Edward the First, intituled, ‘De Fanaticorum Deliriis' (Of the Dotages of Fanatics). At which time an impostor had almost made Eleanor the queen-mother mad, by reporting the posthume miracles done by her husband, King Henry the Third, till this our Hugh settled her judgment aright. I could wish some worthy divine (with such Lancashire doth abound) would resume this subject, and shew how ancient and modern fanatics, though differing much in their wild fancies and opinions, meet together in a mutual madness and distraction.”

The historians of Lancashire have generally followed Fuller in regarding Hugh of Manchester as a native of the county, but there is nothing to identify him with certainty, for his name may be referred alike to Lancashire or to Warwickshire, and the tests that can now be applied are not decisive. The pedigree in Dugdale's “Warwickshire” does not show our churchman, though there is a Hugh de Mancestre who was one of the justices of Warwickshire 29, 30, 31, and 32 of Henry III. In the thirty-sixth year of that King he had a grant of free warren. He was then coroner for the county and next year escheator. He died 37 Henry III., leaving two sons, Simon and Walter. There is no place assigned to Hugh in this genealogy, but even if he belonged to the stock he may have been a collateral relative or he may have been omitted as a member of a religious order having theoretically no further interest in worldly affairs.

The date of his birth is unknown. Fuller, following the authority of Pits, says that he was, “when Adolescens  [a youth], a Dominican; but when Juvenis  [a young man] he changed his copy, and turned a Franciscan. Say not he degraded himself, choosing a later order then he left; for it seems that amongst them the last is counted the best, as of a more refined perfection. He was a great scholar, and highly esteemed in that age for his severity and discretion.” He was a Doctor of Divinity and Professor of Theology, and afterwards Provincial of the Franciscan Order in England. The most interesting incident in his life is that already named, and which led to the production of that one of his works which is most frequently named. The death of Henry III., in 1272, removed a good man but an incompetent monarch from a world where moral excellence does not supply the deficiency of administrative ability. But the rule of not speaking evil of the dead led some after Henry's death to invest his memory with a sanctity that approached to a popular canonization. We may again quote Fuller, who is relying upon the authority of Bale: “An impostor happened at this time, pretending himself first blind, then cured at the tomb of King Henry the Third, so to get coin to himself, and credit to the dead King. But our Hugh discovered the cheat; and, writing a book, ‘De Fanaticorum Deliriis,' dedicated it to King Edward the First, who kindly accepted thereof, preferring that his father's memory should appear to posterity with his true face, than painted with such false miracles.” It is a matter of regret that this book has not survived; since it is creditable to an age when superstition too often conceded an unwarranted belief in baseless claims. That Hugh of Manchester had the skill to detect the imposture is honourable to his intellect, and Edward I. must be commended for the candour that rewarded the scholar who had dispersed from the kingly father some of that odour of sanctity with which ignorance had surrounded his memory.

There is an interesting reference to Hugh of Manchester in a letter sent by Archbishop John Romanus to Friar William de Hotham, who was afterwards Bishop of Dublin. This epistle is dated 10th December, 1293, and is printed in “Historical Papers and Letters, from the Northern Registers,” edited by James Raine (London, 1873, p. 102):—

“Suo suus salutem, gratiam et benedictionem. Quoniam in recessu nostro apud Wixebrigg dixistis quod cum fratre Hugone de Maincestre, colloquium habituri nobis aliqua significaretis, dilectioni vestræ per experientiam multiplicem approbatæ notum facimus per præsentes quod vobis, sicut diximus viva voce, de illa cedula missa apud Schardeburgh occasione aliquorum falsorum nobis a Fratribus et Minoribus impositorum, quicquid cum honestate poterimus, dictante conscientia faciemus; verum quia, secundum quod nostis, ad observationem canonum in professione nostra sumus firmiter obligati, contra Constitutionem Generalem nihil ausi erimus attemptare. Et quia, argumento nostro ipso inaudito, hec etiam semiplene dicto respondere voluistis, ipsum argumentum vobis scribimus, ut super illo, literatorie nobis satisfacere valeatis. Et est argumentum tale. Supponamus quod curati teneantur curare modo sic. Quicunque tenetur curare, tenetur vultum pecoris sui cognoscere; sed vultum pecoris sui sufficienter cognoscere non potest nisi confessionem subditi audiendo; ergo, quicunque tenetur curare, tenetur confessionem sui subditi audire; et, ideo, credimus quod omnis utriusque sexus constitutio facta fuit. Sed vos dicitis quod qui confitentur Fratribus vestris et Minoribus non tenentur confiteri proprio sacerdoti; ergo proprius sacerdos non tenetur audire confessionem suam; sed, si non tenetur audire confessionem, non tenetur cognoscere vultum suum. Ergo ad destructionem consequentis non tenetur curare. Sed ex hypothesi in principio argumenti curare tenetur. Ergo tenetur curare et non tenetur curare; quæ sunt contradictorie opposita. Et, ut utamur verbis doctoris nostri venerabilis Augustini, primo libro de Trinitate, ‘Non pigebit me,' inquit ‘sic ubi hæsito quærere, nec pudebit sic ubi erro discere. Quisquis ergo hæc audit vel legit, ubi pariter certus est, purgat mecum; ubi pariter hæsitat quærat mecum; ubi errorem suum cognoscit, redeat ad me; ubi mecum revocat me ad se, ita ingrediamur simul caritatis viam, tendentes ad Eum de Quo dictum est quærite faciem Ejus semper.' Et quia in Constitutione Martini continentur hæc verba, ‘Volumus autem quod hi qui Fratribus confitebuntur, iidem parochialibus presbyteris confiteri semel in anno, prout generale concilium statuit, nihilominus teneantur; et quod Fratres eos diligenter et efficaciter secundum datam eis a Domino gratiam exhortentur,' ac nos diximus in cedula quod secundum naturam privilegii sui ipsi Fratres sibi confitentibus injungant, seu eos moneant et inducant quod semel in anno confiteantur proprio sacerdoti. Quatenus a privilegio discrepat dictum nostrum parati erimus, si vobis, placeat, revocare. Bene valete. Data apud Wycomb, iiij idus Decembris, pontificatus nostri anno octavo.”

The following is a translation:—

“For his (son, Romanus, Archbishop) wisheth safety, grace, and blessing. Since in our recess at Wilebrigg you said that, being about to hold converse with Brother Hugh of Manchester, you would point out to us some matters for consideration, we, for your love proved by manifold experience, make known to you by means of this writing, that, just as we said by living voice, about that document sent from Schardeburgh on the occasion of certain falsehoods imposed upon us by the Friars and Minors, whatsoever we can with honesty, and under the dictates of conscience, we will do for you. But because, as you know, we are in our profession firmly bound to the observation of the canons, nothing dare we attempt against the general constitution. And because our argument itself has not been heard, and because you have not wished to respond to what had been only half stated; we write for you the argument itself, in order that you may be able to satisfy us by letter. And the argument is this. Let us suppose that parish priests are bound to administer their cure of souls thus. Whoever is bound to administer a cure of souls is bound to know the face [11] of his flock. But he cannot thoroughly know the face of his flock unless by hearing the confession of him under his care. Therefore, he who is bound to administer a cure of souls is bound to hear the confession of him who is under his care; and we believe it was for that reason that to every body, of either sex, a peculiar constitution was given. But you say that they who confess to your Friars and Minors are not bound to confess to their own proper priest. Therefore their own priest is not bound to hear their confession. But if he is not bound to hear their confession, he is not bound to know their face. Therefore, to the destruction of the conclusion of the argument, he is not bound to administer his cure of souls. But according to the hypothesis in the beginning of the argument he is bound to administer his cure of souls. Therefore he is bound, and he is not bound, to administer his cure of souls. But these things are contradictory. And, if I may use the words of our venerable teacher Augustine, which occur in the first book concerning the Trinity: ‘It will not,' he says, ‘be irksome to me thus to inquire wherever I hesitate, nor shame me thus to learn wherever I err. Whoever, therefore, hears or reads these words, let him, when he is equally certain, cleanse himself as I do; when he is equally doubtful, let him go with me and ask; when he knows his error, let him return to me; when he recalls me to himself let us walk together the way of charity, leading towards Him of Whom it has been written, ‘Seek ye always His face.' And because in the constitution of [Pope] Martin these words are contained, ‘And we wish that these people who confess to the Friars, the same may be bound nevertheless to confess to their own parish priests, once in the year, according to the statute of the general council; and that the Friars diligently and efficaciously exhort them, according to the grace given them by the Lord,' so we said in the afore-mentioned attestation that the Friars can, according to the nature of their privilege, enjoin upon those confessing to them, or advise and persuade them, that once in a year they confess to their own priest. In so far as what we have said differs from the privilege, we shall be prepared, if it please you, to revoke it. Fare ye well. Dated at Wycomb, IIII Ides of December in the 8th year of our pontificate.”

The latest mention we have of Hugh of Manchester is in connection with his work as an ambassador. He was sent in 1294, in company with William of Gainsburgh, to demand on behalf of Edward III. the restitution of the lands claimed by the English King, but retained by force in the hands of Philip of France. On this appointment Fuller quaintly remarks: “Such who object, that fitter men than friars might have been found for that service, consider not how in that age such mortified men were presumed the most proper persons peaceably to compromise differences between the greatest princes.” There is a graphic account of the embassy in Robert of Brunne's “Chronicle”:—

“Edward sendis his sond, to France messengers,
Frere Hugh of Malmcestre was a Jacobyn,
& William of Gaynesburgh was a Cordelyn.
Alle þise passid þe se, so com þe erle of Artoys
In prison did þam be a seuenyght in Caleys.
To Paris siþen þei cam, & þer fond þei þe kyng,
þei letter forth þei nam, to trowe þer saying.
þis letter of credence þei schewed in his present,
Here no þe accordance, what þer sayng ment,
Sir Hugh was a man of state, he said as I salle rede,
‘To Prince & to prelate men salle loute & drede,
& for lorde dere his biddyng salle men do,
To lesse & more in fere haf fayth & treuth also,
& for our lord Edward, þat God him saue & se,
We toke þis trauaile hard, his bode to bere to þe.
He settes þe terme & stage bi vs, whan & why
þat he has don homage for Gascoyn plenerley,
In forward formed in pes, as was þer acordance,
As ȝour ancestres ches of Inglond & of France
þei mad a pes final after þer contek,
þou has broken it alle, & don him many ille chek.
Now at his last goyng, when he to Gascoyn went,
Ȝe cette a certeyn þing, at ȝour boþe assent,
& þat suld holden be, euer withouten ende,
þou brak þat certeynte wickkedly & vnhende
Ȝit he biddes þe se, how wrong þou wilt him lede,
Bituex him & þe was mad a priue dede,
Of Gascoyn certeyn was þat feffement,
Forto feffe him ageyn in þat tenement.
þi seisyn is well knowen þe days has þou plenere,
To restore him his owen, he sent to þe duzepers
As lawe wild & right, and couenant was in scrite.
Ȝeld it, þou has no right, with wrong holdes it in lite,
Ageyn alle maner skille, & ȝit þon ert so grefe.
For whilom þon wrote him tille, & cald him in þi brefe,
þi kynde, faythfulle & leale of Gascoyn noble duke,
þerto þou set þi seal, þat right wilt þou rebuke.
Neuer siþen hiderward suilk speche vnte him touched,
Werfore our kyng Edward n þouht fulle well has souched.
þou holdes him not þi man, no þing holdand of þe,
Ne þe þinkes neuer for þan, to mak þe more feaute.
Ne hopes to wynne þat land with dynt of douhty knyght
Of God he claymes holdand & neuer of no right.
At þis tyme is not els of Sir Edward to seye,
Bot of Edmunde þat duellis with him als breþer tueye
Forbi any oþer with him will hold & be,
He is lord & broþer, he certifies þat to þe.
þat no man in þis werlde he hifes so mykelle no dredis,
Ne with him is none herd so mykelle may help at nedis,
For he sees so well ȝour grete controued gile,
Ageyn his broþer ilk dele compassed in a while,
Reft him his heritage, sais on him felonie,
He ȝeldes vp his homage, forsakis þi companie,
& þerto alle þe londes, þat he held of þe,
& ȝeldes vp alle þe lordes of homage & feaute,
Saue þe right þat may falle of our ancestres olde,
Vnto þer heires alle to haf and to holde.
We er pouer freres, þat haf nought on to lyue,
In stede of messengeres, saue condite vs gyue,
þorgh þi lond to go in þin auowrie,
þat non vs robbe or slo, for þi curteysse.'”
—“Robert of Brunne,” vol. ii., 258, 9, 60.

On receiving the King's reply and safe conduct,

“þei had redy wending, at Douer þei toke lond
& sped þam to þe kyng, at London þei him fond.”

After the conclusion of this embassy we hear no more of Hugh of Manchester. The only additional fact concerning him that is known is that he wrote a “Compendium Theologiæ” and some other works, of which not even the titles have survived.


10. The authorities for the biography of Hugone de Maincestre are Dugdale's “History of Warwickshire,” p. 763; Gregson's “Fragments,” p. 235; Baines's “History of Lancashire,” vol. ii., pp. 193, 356; vol. iv., p. 826; “Nicholas: Trivet Annales,” 1845 (and in Daccher, Spicil. Vet. Scrip., tom. viii.); “Robert of Brunne's Rhyming Chronicle;” Hibbert-Ware's “Foundations of Manchester;” “Pits de Angliæ Scriptoribus;” “Bale de Scriptoribus Britannicis,” cent. v., num. 62; Fuller's “Worthies of England.” If the reader desires to see an example of the method of building without bricks, he may with advantage consult the notice of Hugh of Manchester in Edwin Butterworth's “Biography of Eminent Natives of Manchester.”

11. Vultus  is here translated literally. The metaphor is one frequently used, and is a reference to John x., 14.