Gypsy Folk Tales, by Francis Hindes Groome, , at sacred-texts.com
Next the Chronica di Bologna tells how 'the 18th of July 1422 a duke of Egypt, Duke Andrew, arrived at Bologna, with women,
children, and men from his own country. There might be a hundred. This duke having denied the Christian faith, the King of Hungary [the Emperor Sigismund] had taken possession of his lands and person. Then he told the King that he wished to return to Christianity, and he had been baptized with about four thousand men; those who refused baptism were put to death. After the King of Hungary had thus taken and rebaptized them, he commanded them to travel about the world for seven years, to go to Rome to see the pope, and then to return to their own country. When they arrived at Bologna, they had been journeying for five years, and more than half of them were dead. They had a mandate from the King of Hungary, the Emperor, permitting them during these seven years to thieve, wherever they might go, without being amenable to justice.
When they arrived at Bologna, they lodged themselves inside and outside the Gate of Galiera, and settled themselves under the porticoes, except the duke, who lodged at the King's Inn (Albergo del Re). They remained a fortnight at Bologna. During this time many people went to see them, on account of the duke's wife, who, it was said, could foretell what would happen to a person during his lifetime, as well as what was interesting in the present, how many children would be born, and other things. Concerning all which she told truly. And of those who wished to have their fortunes told, few went to consult without getting their purse stolen, and the women had pieces of their dress cut off. The women of the band wandered about the town, seven or eight together; they entered the houses of the inhabitants, and whilst they were telling idle tales, some of them laid hold of what was within their reach. In the same way they visited the shops under the pretext of buying something, but really to steal. Many thefts were thus committed at Bologna. So it was cried through the town that no one should go to see them under a penalty of fifty pounds and excommunication, for they were the most cunning thieves in all the world. It was even permitted those who had been robbed by them to rob them in return to the amount of their losses. In consequence of which several of the inhabitants of Bologna slipped during the night into a stable where some of their horses were shut up, and stole the best of them. The others, wishing to get back their horses, agreed to restore a great number of the stolen articles. But seeing that there was nothing more to gain there, they left Bologna and went off towards Rome.
'Observe that they were the ugliest brood ever seen in this country. They were lean and black, and they ate like swine. Their
women went in smocks, and wore a pilgrim's cloak across the shoulder, rings in their ears, and a long veil on their head. One of them gave birth to a child in the market-place, and at the end of three days went on to rejoin her people.'
On 7th August the same band, now swelled to two hundred, arrived at Forli, where, writes the city chronicler, 'some 1 said they were from India.' The Vatican archives may contain some record of the audience granted to these strange penitents by Pope Martin v.; all that we know is that later in the same year the 'cunning and lazy strange people called Zigeiner,' led by Duke Michael, were back in Switzerland with papal as well as imperial safe-conducts. And next, after a gap of nearly five years, in the August of 1427 there appeared outside Paris, then held by the English, a hundred men, women, and children, 'good Christians from Lower Egypt, who were headed by a duke, an earl, and ten other horsemen. They told how the pope, after hearing their confession, gave them as penance to wander seven years without sleeping in a bed, and letters enjoining every bishop and mitred abbot to make them one payment of ten livres tournois.'
xii:1 Aliqui in the Latin may stand for either some of the Gypsies or some of the townsfolk, more probably the latter. Æneas Sylvius Piccolomini (Pope Pius II.) speaks, a very few years after this, of the Northumbrian women staring at him 'as in Italy the people stare at an Ethiopian or an Indian.'