In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section John Hardyng

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works and Bibliographies
  • Surveys
  • Hardyng’s Sources
  • Hardyng and Scotland
  • Hardyng and the Wars of the Roses
  • Hardyng’s Influence

Medieval Studies John Hardyng
Sarah Peverley
  • LAST MODIFIED: 12 January 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0284


The English chronicler John Hardyng (b. 1378–d. c. 1465) had a colorful career before settling down to write his two versions of British history in the 1450s and 1460s. Born in Northumberland, he served in the household of Sir Henry Percy (b. 1364–d. 1403) from the age of twelve, where he learnt the art of warfare and fought in numerous battles, including the Battle of Shrewsbury (1403). Later, he served Sir Robert Umfraville, fighting alongside him in Scotland and in the first years of Henry V’s French campaign (1415–1416). In 1418 Henry V sent Hardyng to Scotland to survey the topography of the realm and seek out evidence of English overlordship. Promised a substantial gift for his espionage, Hardyng returned after three and a half years, but Henry V’s untimely death deprived him of his prize. He remained unrewarded until the 1440s, when Henry VI honored the late king’s promise and granted Hardyng an annuity. By this time Hardyng’s patron, Sir Robert, was dead and Hardyng had taken up residence in the Augustinian Priory at Kyme, Lincolnshire. It was here that he began writing his first account of British history in Middle English verse. Surviving in a single manuscript, which was presented to Henry VI and his family in 1457 along with a map of Scotland and several of the Scottish documents recovered for Henry V, Hardyng’s Chronicle draws primarily on Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae, Robert Mannyng’s Chronicle, and a Latin Prose Brut to give an account of British and English affairs from the mythical founding of Britain by Brutus to 1437. Using the historical issue of English hegemony over Scotland as an ideological touchstone to unite divided Englishmen, the Chronicle sought to promote unity amidst the social, economic, and political instability that precipitated the Wars of the Roses. Within a few years of presenting the work and receiving another reward for his service, Hardyng began revising the text for Henry VI’s political rival, Richard, duke of York. The second Chronicle rewrote history to explain York’s superior claim to the throne, but it retained Hardyng’s call for unity among Englishmen and continued to use the issue of Scottish independence as a means of rallying his peers against a common foreign enemy. When the duke of York died in December 1460, Hardyng continued revising his text for York’s son, Edward IV, who took the throne from Henry VI in March 1461. Though Hardyng died before completing his revised narrative, numerous copies of the near-complete chronicle circulated in and around London in the 1460s and 1470s, helping to explain the Yorkist pedigree. It was the second version of the Chronicle that influenced Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur and which was later taken up by the Tudor printer Richard Grafton, who issued two prints in 1543 because of its relevance to the Anglo-Scottish wars in his own time. Grafton’s prints ensured the popularity of the Chronicle among Tudor historiographers and its influence on later writers, such as Shakespeare, Spenser, and Milton.

Reference Works and Bibliographies

Entries on Hardyng’s life and works appear in several reference works and online bibliographies. Detailed accounts of Hardyng’s life and career appear in Kennedy 1989, Dunphy 2010, Summerson 2004, and the Literary Encyclopedia, along with substantial entries on Hardyng’s contemporaries and other chroniclers for contextual purposes (see also Peverley 2004b and Simpson and Peverley 2015, cited under Textual History: Editions and Extracts). The International Medieval Bibliography and the Year’s Work in English Studies are searchable resources that include summaries of articles and books focused on literary and historical analyses of Hardyng’s works, as well as extensive coverage of other medieval writers. A subscription is required for each of the digital versions of the reference works, but the Year’s Work in English Studies is also issued in print.

  • Dunphy, Graeme, ed. The Encyclopedia of the Medieval Chronicle. 2 vols. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2010.

    An important reference work covering twelve centuries of historical writing across Europe and the Middle East (including Hardyng’s work and that of his contemporaries). Originally printed by Brill in 2010, a second online edition edited by Dunphy and Cristian Bratu appeared in 2012 as part of Brill’s Medieval Reference Library; digital updates are made annually. The online edition is available by subscription.

  • The International Medieval Bibliography.

    A vast bibliographical database covering multidisciplinary research published internationally. Updated regularly, there are over thirty entries on Hardyng and over 440,000 records on other medieval subjects. Full bibliographical references and summaries accompany each entry, but the database requires a subscription.

  • Kennedy, Edward Donald. A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050–1500. Vol. 8, Chronicles and Other Historical Writing. Edited by Albert E. Hartung and J. B. Severs. New Haven, CT: Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1989.

    An important study of Middle English historiography that provides thorough synopses of chronicles and historical works in addition to wide-ranging analyses of each author and the critical reception of their work. Contains a detailed bibliography with information about extant manuscripts and early prints as well as scholarship published before 1989. Newer bibliographies should be used to supplement the volume.

  • The Literary Encyclopedia.

    Contains entries on literary and cultural topics from all periods. The database, which is accessible by subscription only, has a dedicated volume for medieval writers and their works, with suggestions for further reading. This is a useful starting point for undergraduates wanting broad surveys of authors and their works.

  • Summerson, Henry. “Hardyng, John (b. 1377/8, d. in or after 1464), Chronicler and Forger.” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Edited by Sir David Cannadine. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

    A comprehensive account of Hardyng’s life and work, though minor updates are required to take into account recent scholarship (such as Simpson and Peverley 2015, cited under Textual History: Editions and Extracts). The entry links to a biography of Hardyng’s patrons Sir Henry Percy and Sir Robert Umfraville for those wishing to explore Hardyng’s social milieu.

  • The Year’s Work in English Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1919–.

    An invaluable bibliographical review of academic work produced on English literature and language. Lists and critically evaluates new scholarship annually. Work on Hardyng features on an occasional basis. A subscription is required for online access, but a printed version of the work is also published each year.

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