4.  Other Supportive Evidence for the Candidate

We now look for further supporting evidence in the life and times of James Cottrell.  We stress that individually some of these points might be tenuous and of trivial or minor importance;  it is in the aggregation of these points that they add up to a very significant weight of evidence supporting the attribution.  Most of the following points concern parallels between the Nero A.x manuscript and the life of James Cottrell;  a few are more generally concerned with his family and its later literary associations.  We can merge these points into the probability estimate by assigning a probability of 0.5 to each of the 23 points.  This yields an overall probability of a person from the north west towards the end of the fourteenth century meeting all these points of only 0.086635 or about 11.54 to one against a set of multiple coincidences.  Combining this with the earlier estimate (see Appendix A) of 55 to 1 we arrive at odds of 981 to 1 against all the points in the template (except education) and in this section being a fortuitous set of coincidences.

4.1. Ordered Abroad by his Liege Lord

In Patience the Gawain-Poet advocates patience if one is sent abroad by his “liege lord”.


Other yif my lege lorde lyst on lyue me to bidde
Other to ryde other to to renne to Rome in his ernde

  --Patience (51-52)

From the way the point is expressed, we may infer that the narrator (and perhaps the Gawain-Poet) did have a liege lord, the only question in Patience is whether or not his liege lord sent him abroad.

James Cottrell was in the service of John of Gaunt up to 1386, and he was sent abroad by John of Gaunt.  First in 1381 when he accompanied the army of Edmund of Langley, Earl of Cambridge, and later the first Duke of York.  Salvador Soares Cotrim [PAULO02] refers to him as a “general” in this army, but it is doubtful if there was such a rank at that time.  On the second occasion he accompanied John of Gaunt on his abortive attempt to claim the throne of Léon and Castile in 1386, and remained in Portugal with John of Gaunt's daughter, Philippa of Lancaster, on her marriage to João in February 1387.[13]  Sentenced to a lifetime of exile in this manner, James Cottrell was certainly sent abroad by his liege lord, and it would have availed him little to show any displeasure or reluctance.  It is known that Philippa's chancellor later requested permission to return home, and met with Philippa's sympathy - if not acquiescence - [RUSSELL55] (p.545).  Although Soares refers to him accompanying Edmund of Langley, it seems most likely that John of Gaunt was the original liege-lord of James Cottrell, particularly as the family manor was held of the Duke of Lancaster.

[13] Philippa had earlier been betrothed by proxy to João in December 1386, and this is sometimes referred to as the date of the marriage.  The formal marriage took place on 14 February, 1387.