"The Pleasant Story of Peachey the Famous Shoomaker of Fleetstreet in London" - An Early 16th century English Non-lethal Duel

By Belinda Hertz

From Thomas Deloney's, The Gentle Craft, c.1597, fictional tales of common craftsmen in London during the late 16th century (Part 2, Chapter V, p. 41-43). The amusing tale of two courtier sea captains who run afoul of a common shoemaker and his fellows whom they seriously underestimate, illustrates some interesting aspects of late 16th century English Arts of Defence.

Peachey, a wealthy shoemaker in London employs "forty tall men on worke beside Prentises" whom he dressed in fine clothes "all with black caps and yellow feathers." Deloney wrote, that "every Sunday and holiday, when this gentleman-like Citizen went to Church in his black gown garded with Velvet, it was his order to have all his men in their liveries to wait upon him, with every man his sword and buckler, ready at any time, if need required."

He tells us how "It came to passe upon St. Georges day, that this jolly Shoomaker (being servant to the Duke of Suffolk) went to the Court with all his men after him, to give attendance upon his noble Master, which some yong Gentlemen more wanton than wise, beholding and envying his gallant mind, devised how they might picke some quarrell, thereby to have occasion to try his manhood." Two gentleman thus decided to put Peachey the common shoemaker in his place. Deloney described them as "Tom Stuteley, and Strangwidge, two gallant Sea Captaines, who were attired all in Crimson Velvet, in Marriners wide slops that reacht to the foot, in watched silk thrumb hats and white feathers, having Pages attending with their weapons."

Stuteley complains, "Can a Shooemaker come to the Court with more Servingmen at his heeles then Captaine Stuteley?…how it makes my blood rise." He then swears, "now by this iron and steell quoth Stuteley, were it not that he is attendant on the good Duke, I would have him by the eares presently." He then offers a wager to his fellow gentlemen, saying, "I will lay an hundred pound, and stake it downe straight, that Captaine Strangwidge and I will beat him and all his forty men. The Gentlemen being ready to set this match forward, greatly commended the Captaines high courage: notwithstanding they would not hazard their money on such a desperate match."

Stuteley and Strangewidge nevertheless declare they mean to pay Peachey's shop a visit where "the crossest customers shall he finde us that ever came to his shop for shooes." Stuteley plans to argue over some boots with him and "thus we will raise our quarrel, when they are made, if they come not on easie, and sit on our legs neatly, we will make them pluck them off againe, and presently we will beat them in peeces about his pate, which if he seeme to take in dudgin, and with his men follow us into the street for revenge, if we make them not leap before us like Monkies, and force them run away like sheep-biters, let us lose our credits and Captainships forever."

"But what if you should chance to kill any of them said the Gentlemen?" To which Stuteley answers, "what care we, we are bound to sea on a gallant voyage, wherein the King hath no small venture, and without us it cannot go forward, so that it is not the death of twenty men can stay us at home, and therefore when they should be seeking of us in Fleetstreet, we would be seeking out the Coast of Florida." The gentlemen then reply, "if you do any such thing we shall heare of it: for the report thereof will be famous through London."

Soon Stuteley and Strangwidge came into Fleetstreet to inquiry of Peachey's shop, they called for the good man of the house, the foreman of the shop and said "let us speak with thy Master." The foreman answered, "You shall finde me sufficient to serve you, my Master set me in the shop." At this the two gentlemen replied indignantly, "You whorson peasant, know you to whom you speak?" The foreman agitated by their rudeness answers, "I speak to a Velvet foole, a silken slave that knowes not how to governe his tongue."

Deloney wrote how at this point: "Stuteley swore like a mad man and presently drew out a dudgin haft dagger that he had by his side, and began to lay at the fellow, which one of his fellowes seeing, flung at last at his head and feld him to the ground. Strangwidge thereupon drew his sword, but by that time the fellow had took downe his sword and buckler, which hung in the shop hard at hand, and therewith so well defended himselfe, that Strangwidge could do him no hurt, and by that time Stuteley recovering crald up againe. But Peachie hearing a great hurly burly in the shop, came forth and demanded the cause of the quarrell? His servants told him that those Gentlemen had given the Journeyman very ill words. How can they chuse but speak ill quoth Peachie, for it may be they never learn'd to speak well. Whereupon he went unto them saying; how now Captaines, how grew this quarrell twixt you and my men?"

To this Stuteley calls Peachey and his men no good rogues so that Peachey tells him to leave his shop and "get you quickly from my doore, or by this sunne that shines, ile set you packing." He adds, "I feare you not…you forgot your maners too much to give me such base tearms, for I would you well knew I keepe forty good fellowes in my house, that in respect of their manhood may seeme to be your equals." Seizing the opportunity to feign offense, Stuteley tells Peachey, "if we two beat not thee and thy forty men, I durst be hangd up at thy doore." Peachey retorts back, "Fie, fie, tis too much oddes quoth Peachey, dare you two take ten? nay dare you fight with five?"

At this, Strangwidge "gave him a sound blow on the eare" and told him "meet me in Lincolnes-Inne-fields presently", and thereupon they went their wayes. Deloney went on to tell how "Peachie fetching straight his sword and buckler, call'd his man John Abridges to go with him, charging all the rest not to stir out of doores, and so into the fields they went, where immediately they met with these lusty Caveliers. The Captaines seeing him come only with one man, askt if there well all the helpe he had? I will request no more quoth Peachie, to swinge you both out of the fields."

Stuteley then mocked Peachey, asking, "tell us, hast thou made thy Will, and set thy house in order?" "What if I have not?" replied Peachie. "Why then quoth Strangwidge, for thy wife and childrens sake go home againe and do it, or else get more aide about thee to preserve thy life."
Adding further insult he then suggested, "these be two disguised butter whores ile lay my life, that have more skill in scoulding then in fighting." Finally, Peachey the shoemaker addressed his two snobbish would be customers he would fight and do so without hitting their groin or the legs, saying, "if you be men, leave your foule words, and draw your faire weapons, and because I will spare your middle peece, if I strike a stroke below the girdle, call me Cut."

Deloney next described how in daylight there in the field "therewith drawing their weapons, they fell to it lustily, where Peachie and his man laid so bravely about them, that they beat both the Captaines out of breath, in which fray, Stutely was wounded in the head, and Strangwidge in the sword arme, but at last they were parted by many Gentlemen that came in good time to prevent further mischiefe. The Captaines got them straight to the Surgion, and Peachie with his man went directly home: and while they were a dressing, Peachie hearing how they were hurt, sent to Stuteley a kerchiefe by one of his men, and by another a scarffe to Strangwidge, by the third he sent a bottle of Aqua vitæ, wishing them to be of good cheare, for hee intended to be better acquainted with them ere long. The Captaines finding these favours to be but flouts, were more grieved thereat, then at their hurt, and therefore with many disdainfull speeches, they refused his proffer'd curtesie."

Afterward Peachey's men continued repeatedly to duel with the arrogant captains, "two at a time, did often meet and fight with them, and so narrowly would they watch for them, that they could be in no place in peace, insomuch that the Captaines found fighting work enough, and a great deale more then willingly they would, whereby they received many scarres and wounds in the body, so that lightly they were never out of Surgions hands. Upon a time it chanced that being upon the point of their voyage, and shortly to go to sea, Stuteley and Strangwidge having beene at the Court, and newly come from my Lord Admirals lodging, before they came to Charing-crosse, they were encountred by a couple of Peachies men, who presently drew upon them, and laid so freely about, that the two Captaines were glad at length to house themselves for their refuge."

Eventually Stuteley was to lament, "shall we never be in quiet for these quoystrels? never were we so ferrited before, swownes we can no sooner look into the streets, but these shoomakers have us by the eares: a pox on it that ever we medled with the rascals." Strangwidge himself complained, "there is no other shift but to seek their friendship, otherwise we are in danger every houre to be maimed, therefore to keep our lims sound against we go to Sea, tis best to finde meanes to quiet this grudge." He then said, "it were good to do so, if a man knew how, but you may be sure they will not easily be intreated, seeing we have so mightily abused them in speech." And so it came to pass that the two captains sent "their friends unto Master Peachie, and by his man, yet they would not yeeld, nor give consent to be appeased, nor to put up such wrong as they had received without further revenge, so that the Captaines were at length constrained to make sute to the Duke of Suffolk to take up the matter, who most honorably performed their request, and so the grudge ended betwixt them, to the great credit of Master Peachie, and all his men." Thus ended the Peachey the shoemaker's adventure with the rude captains.

Thomas Deloney. The Gentle Craft. Printed for Robert Bird, London, 1637.

 
 

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