Guy

of

Warwick

 
   

This page collects images and links related to the story of Guy of Warwick, concentrating especially on its later transmutations.

The image above on the left shows Guy as one of the Nine Worthies, from Richard Lloyd's 1584 A brief discourse of the most renowned actes and right valiant conquests of those puisant princes, called the nine worthies (Early English Books, 1475 - 1640 / 475:07). The Nine Worthies were traditionally three trios of heroes, pagan, biblical, and Christian. The usual line-up was Hector, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar; Joshua, David, and Judas Maccabeus; and Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Bouillon (a figure from the First Crusade). Lloyd, however, replaces Godfrey with Guy. Note the heraldic emphasis in the description below:

  Click the lion to see a 16th-century image of the arms of Warwick: you will see the shield attributed by Lloyd to Guy (image at right) as one part of those arms.      

GVI was tall and large of limbe, none in his dayes were like to him:

Of good complexion, seemely of face, and liberall in euery place:

Valiant, strong and venterous, godly, kind, and courteous

He or and asure bookes discrie, a cheueron ermine bare checkie.

 
       

The story of Guy of Warwick appears in the 13th-century Anglo-Norman poem Gui de Warewic, and then in Middle English in both 14th- and 15th-century versions. Dominica Legge has suggested that the Anglo-Norman poem may have been written to flatter Thomas, Earl of Warwick (Anglo-Norman Literature and its Background, Oxford, 1963; p. 162). More recently, Susan Crane has argued that romances like Guy and the closely-related Beues of Hamtoun, among others, reflect the particular concerns of land-holding families in England: see her Insular Romance: Politics, Faith, and Culture in Anglo-Norman and Middle English Literature, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1986.

Both Guy and Beues appear in the Auchinleck Manuscript, a collection of Middle English texts produced in London around 1330. Click the thumbnail on the left to go to an online facsimile of the manuscript, now housed in the National Library of Scotland.

 
       

The story of Guy enjoyed enormous popularity after the Middle Ages, appearing frequently in ballad and chapbook versions.

 
  Click the lion to go to the Bodleian Library's Broadside Ballads database, where you will find several versions of A Plesant and Renowned song of Sir Guy, Earl of Warwick...; the ballad begins "Was ever Knight for Lady's sake so cross'd in Love as I sir Guy"  
 
 

Versions of Guy's story also appeared frequently in anthologies; John Ashton published the story at least twice, in the 1887 collection whose title page you see to the left, and also in a collection which used woodcuts from the chapbook versions for its illustrations. The page spread below is an image from John Ashton, Chap-Books of the Eighteenth Century, 1882. Ashton's introduction addresses the popular history of Guy's relics:

The mute witnesses of Guy's wonderful deeds, preserved in Warwick Castle, have been proved apocryphal in these investigating and matter-of-fact days. His breastplate, or helmet, is the "croupe" of a suit of horse armour; another breastplate is a "poitrel." His famous porridge-pot or punch-bowl is a garrison crock of the sixteenth century, and his fork a military fork, temp. Henry VIII.

The "relics" were part of the attraction of Guy's Cliff, shown in an engraving below.

 
               
     
                           
The popularity of the legend, and the association with local history, appears in John Merridew's 1821 account of Guy's story, whose title page is shown below. The statue facing the title page is still to be seen in the chapel at Guy's Cliff.
  Click the lion to go to a BBC local history page which deals with the story of Guy of Warwick.  
Warwick Castle, ancestral home of the earls of Warwick, is something of a theme park these days; click the lion on the left to visit its website, which includes a VR panorama of the castle and a timeline showing the long association of the earls of Warwick with the castle.  
Guy entered popular literature, not just through ballads, chapbooks, and travel literature, but also through adaptations aimed at children. The image below shows one of Gammer Gurton's Story Books, a mid 19th-century collection which also included a version of the story of Bevis.
 
  Versions of Bishop Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765) were another source for dissemination of Guy's legend. The image on the left is taken from Sidney Lanier's 1882 The Boy's Percy. Lanier (1842-1881) was an American poet and writer who also produced a Boy's King Arthur (1880) and a Boy's Mabinogion (1881). The image below shows the moral lesson drawn in another 19th-century American version of the story of Guy (this version ends with Guy's marriage to Felicia, here renamed Ethelind...)  
 
 
F.J. Harvey Darton (1878-1936 and author of, among many other things, Children's Books in England: five centuries of social life, 1932, included the story of Guy in his Wonder Book of Old Romance, 1907:
   

Return to 512 syllabus page Return to 512 resource page

The material on this page and on my site in general is intended to accompany my courses at the University of British Columbia, and is drawn from my own ongoing research. Please do not use it without permission. You may contact me at sian@mail.ubc.ca. Some of the images on these pages are drawn from items in Rare Books and Special Collections, University of British Columbia Library, and are used with permission.
©Siân Echard. Not to be copied, used, or revised without explicit written permission from the copyright owner.