Fortean Times

Adam of Usk’s Chronicle


Adam of Usk (c.1352-1430) was a Welsh priest whose chronicle written between 1377 and 1421 gives valuable insights into such events as the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, the rebellion of Owen Glyndwr and the deposition of Richard II. His chronicle also records the following wonders and marvels.

1399 – At the time of this parliament, two of the king’s servants dining in London found in five eggs with which they were served the distinct face of a man, exact in every respect, and having white in place of hair standing clear of the face above the forehead and coming down the cheeks to the chin; and I saw one of them.

In these days was born at Usk a calf which had two tails, two heads, four eyes and four ears. Such another monster saw I also in my youth in the parish of Llancayo, in the house of a certain woman, Llugu daughter of Watkyn by name. There was born too, in the parish of Llanbatock, a boy with one eye only, placed in his forehead.

1400 – Four little bells, hanging at the four corners of the shrine of Saint Edward at Westminste­r, ringing of their own accord and with more than human power, miraculous­ly sounded four times in one day, to the great awe and wonder of the brethren.

The spring wherein the head of Llewellyn ap Griffith, last Prince of Wales, was washed after that it was cut off, and which is in the village of Builth, throughout a livelong day did flow in an unmixed stream of blood.

1402 – In my journey hither, first at Cologne and thence right up to Pisa mentioned above, as well by night as by day, I beheld a dreadful comet which went before the sun, a terror to the world – to the clergy which is the sun thereof, and to the knighthood which is its moon – which forecast the death of the Duke of Milan, as it soon after came to pass. His dreaded arms too, a serpent azure swallowing a naked man gules, on a field argent, were then ofttimes seen in the air.

1406 – While I was in Bruges, the above-named Earl of Northumber­land and Lord of Bardolf were lodged, the one in the monastery of Eeckhout, and the other in a hospice in the midst of the city. And on the eve of Saint Brice (12th November), in the twilight of the evening, there came from the side of England in the air a ball of fire, greater than a large barrel, lighting up, as it were, the whole world. And as it drew near, all men were astounded and stood in fear lest the city should be destroyed. But it passed on straight against the belfry of Saint Mary, and, being severed in twain by the blow, it drove apart its two portions to fall over against the doors of the said Earl and Lord: a mighty token, as did afterwards appear, of their ruin.

Mark Hopper

Hull, East Yorkshire

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