Wykes, Thomas de (DNB00)

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WYKES, THOMAS de (fl. 1258–1293), chronicler, took the habit of a canon regular at Osney Abbey, near Oxford, on 14 April 1282 (Wykes, an. 1282). He mentions in his chronicle various namesakes and probable kinsfolk, including Robert de Wykes (d. 1246), Edith de Wyke (d. 1269), and John de Wykes, who in 1283 took a ‘votum profectionis’ (ib. pp. 96, 230, 295). The name is a fairly common one, both as a personal and a place name, so that it is highly unsafe to identify him with other bearers of the same name, such as Thomas de Wyke, priest, who before 1249 wished to become a Franciscan friar (Monumenta Franciscana, p. 350). The nearest place to Oxford called Wyke seems to be Wyke Hamon, near Stony Stratford. Wykes's personal memory went back to 1258, so that he was no longer a young man when he took the canon's habit. According to Henry Richards Luard [q. v.], Wykes's editor, he became in 1285 the official chronicler of Osney, having previously composed history on his own account, and that he continued writing until 1293, when the tone of one of the chronicles with which his name is associated changes.

A poem praising the young Edward I, printed in T. Wright's ‘Political Songs,’ pp. 128–32 (Camden Soc.), from a thirteenth-century Cottonian manuscript (Vespasian B. xiii. f. 130), is described as ‘Versus secundum Thomam de Wyka compositi de domino Edwardo Angliæ rege.’ It is based clearly, as Dr. Liebermann has pointed out, on the chronicle which, since the days of Leland, has been assigned to Thomas de Wykes, and which contains the notices of the Wykes family and of no other private individuals. It may therefore be looked upon as fairly probable that Wykes was the author of it. The chronicle in question is contained in only one manuscript, viz. Cottonian MS. Titus A. 14. It was first printed by Thomas Gale [q. v.] in his ‘Historiæ Anglicanæ Scriptores Quinque,’ ii. 21–118 (Oxford, 1687), with a continuation on pp. 118–28 that goes down to 1304. It was better edited by Luard in ‘Annales Monastici,’ iv. 1–319 (Rolls Series, 1869). A recognised Osney chronicle (Cotton. MS. Tit. A. 9) has been printed by Luard side by side with it, and clearly stands in a close relation to it. From it Gale derived his continuation of the Titus manuscript after 1289, and Anthony Wood, who largely used its local references, quotes it as ‘the Chronicle of Wykes’ (Hist. Univ. Oxford, pp. 95 &c.). Luard has defined the relationship of the two works. In its earlier part (1066–1258) the chronicle of Wykes is very similar to that of Osney, though generally, but not invariably, it is more diffuse and full. In 1258, however, Wykes's narrative becomes substantially distinct, and at the same time extremely valuable. After 1278 the chronicles become almost identical; but from 1280 to 1284 they differ, though ‘Wykes’ is now the least useful, and substantially an abridgment of the other. They are again identical between 1285 and 1289, in which latter year Wykes stops, though Luard thinks that he sees Wykes's hand in the part of the Osney chronicle down to 1293.

The part of Wykes which has most real value is from 1258 to 1288. For these thirty years it is of almost unique importance. While all the other chroniclers of the barons' wars are, including the Osney annalist, partisans of Montfort, Wykes is a decided royalist. He is, however, a progressive royalist, who criticises freely, and somewhat despises the weakness of Henry III, while greatly reverencing the royal office. His heroes are Richard of Cornwall—whose removal to Germany took away the chief check on the king, and perhaps led to the civil war—and, above all, Edward, who gave his father an intelligible and popular policy, and was strong enough to carry it through with success. Wykes dislikes the foreigners, though he has a good word for William of Valence [q. v.], but a strong hatred for Peter of Aigueblanche [q. v.] He is more than an annalist, writing vigorously if diffusely and rather floridly, and showing a good sense of perspective and more eye to a continuous and interesting narrative than most of his contemporaries.

[Luard's preface to Annales Monastici, vol. iv. pp. i–xxxv, discusses all the problems connected with Wykes's Chronicle. See also Hardy's Descriptive Catalogue of Manuscript Materials of British History (iii. 228), and, above all, Pauli's preface to the extracts from Wykes in Monumenta Germaniæ, SS. (xxviii. 484–6), which gives the result of the investigations of Dr. Liebermann.]

T. F. T.