…Henry…had prepared an army of 5,000 Bretons and furnished a navy of 15 ships [which] began to sail with prosperous wind the 6th ides of October in the year of health …But a little before [a] sudden tempest arose, with which he was so afflicted that his ships were constrained by force of a cruel gale of wind to turn their course [to] one way [and] another; [some] of them were blown back into Normandy, others into Brittany. The ship [in which] Henry was, with one other, tossed all the night long with the waves, came at the last very early in the morning, when the wind grew calm, upon the south coast of [England] … From here Earl Henry, viewing afar off all the shore beset with soldiers, which King Richard … had everywhere [placed], gave open commandment that not one man of them all should [land] before the [remainder] of the ships should come together … But … after that he [saw] none of his own ships within view, [he] hoisted up sail, and with prosperous wind came into Normandy, so that a man may think the very blast of the wind drove him back from danger. (Polydore Vergil, Anglia Historia (London: J B Nichols, 1846), p 210-11)
Such an experience would certainly have provided ample motivation, on the occasion of Henry’s next attempt, for a prayer to the Virgin to ‘Pray to [her] son that … he may drive away the reproaches that the sea of the world now heaps up’ and lead the would-be king to ‘safe shores’. If such was indeed the motet’s aim, then it would seem its prayers were answered: Vergil informs us that:
… after he had made his prayers to God that he might have a happy and prosperous journey, he [set sail] from the mouth of the Seine with [just] two thousand armed men and a few ships, the calends of August, and with a soft southern wind. (p 216)
This hypothesis does nothing, of course, to explain the presence of the name ‘Charolus’ in two of the voice parts, though this could reflect, as Wegman has proposed, an attempt to adapt the motet for another magnate, for example the contemporary Charles VIII of France.
from notes by Andrew Kirkman © 2003