Love thy neighbour

For many who work for the College of St George, Windsor Castle is not just their place of work, but also their home. People are not just colleagues but neighbours who foster a wonderful sense of community. However, a couple of fascinating documents in the archives reveal a dispute between neighbours that erupted in September 1607; a dispute that began with some name-calling but ended with a door taken off its hinges!

The main players in the dispute were Mark Leonard and his wife, and Nathaniel Giles and his wife, Anne. Mark Leonard was a petticannon, now known as a Minor Canon. Nathaniel Giles was Master of the Choristers and Organist. The primary document of dispute is intriguing and comprehensive, relating the events of mid-September 1607 as told by Nathaniel Giles [XI.B.50].

According to Nathaniel Giles, on September 15th 1607, Anne Giles heard Mark Leonard’s wife make “rayling speeches” towards Alice Newcomb and Mrs Leonard’s ire turned to Anne Giles when she attempted to placate her. Using “in rayling sort divers evil wordes”, Mrs Leonard called Anne Giles “paltery Baggage”, with Anne Giles retorting, as she walked away from her, “Away pich, I will not touch thee”.

Giles continues that Alice Newcomb made a complaint, and as a consequence, Anne Giles was summoned to appear at the Chapter House, and under oath, she stated that she had heard Mrs Leonard shout insults at Alice Newcomb. Taking exception to her testimony, Mrs Leonard argued that Anne Giles had, in fact, insulted her on September 15th, for she believed Anne Giles had said something slightly different from “Away pich”. According to Giles, Mrs Leonard proceeded to brand his wife “brazen faced Baggage”. Mrs Leonard was admonished for her behaviour and an end was put to it, or so it seemed.

However, according to the document, on September 16th another incident erupted. While Mr Giles was dining in the mayor’s house, Mrs Giles had some guests for dinner. The children of the choir (choristers) were outside playing in the castle yard. Mark Leonard, believing that one of the children, George Pretty, had mocked his daughter, went to strike the boy, and then ran after the children with a stick. The children ran into the Giles’s house followed by Mark Leonard. Mrs Giles admonished him for threatening violence and for chasing the children. A war of words then erupted, according to the document, in which various insults were thrown. Mark Leonard was referred to as “a dog”, and “a minstrell”, while Mrs Giles was singled out as being not only “flirt Baggage” but also “scurvy Baggage”. Her husband, in his absence, was deemed “a fiddler” who “getts his living by fidlinge” and Mrs Gibbs, one of Mrs Giles’s guests, was labelled “an idle housewife”.

The situation escalated and attempts to close the door on Mark Leonard resulted in Mrs Giles being thrown against the wall and hurting her hand. All the guests and servants then combined in an attempt to shut the door while Mrs Leonard joined her husband pushing the door from the outside. The door was lifted clear of its hinges. Mark Leonard then departed but one unfortunate child was caught as he left and struck across the face.

Nathaniel Giles was made aware of what was happening through a messenger and – as soon as dinner was finished – he returned home.

The second document is the response from Mark Leonard [XI.B.63], a concise document in which he does not directly address the events as told by Nathaniel Giles, but rather refers to a number of insults to which he was subjected. In his response, Mark Leonard requests that the Dean ask Mr Giles whether or not he said, “If yu shouldst but hurt so much of my dog his Tayle thou shouldst know I would make thee eate it”, and secondly, whether after enquiring if Mr Giles knew some of his family that he responded, “Yes I knowe them to have more honestie in one finger then such a Harlett as you hast or wilt have in thee”.

What was the outcome of the whole affair? The Chapter Acts record on October 24th 1607 that Mark Leonard received his first admonition according to the statutes for “affrightinge the wief and houshold of Mr Giles by a violent attemptinge to [end]d enter, into the same house”.  He lost one month’s pay and had to acknowledge his fault in the Chapter house in the presence of Mr Giles and the rest of the choir.

At present, all the doors of the houses in the castle are sitting on their hinges and nobody has been accused of being paltry, scurvy or flirt baggage for some time.

Éilis Crowe, Archives Trainee

The King's Free Chapel. The Chapel of the Most Honourable and Noble Order of the Garter. The Chapel of the College of St George.