Something a bit different

The team at Pen and Sword are all lovely. At the moment I’m in the capable hands of Lucy May who is working on marketing The Son that Elizabeth I Never Had. On Wednesday I’m going to Radio Derby to talk about the book.

Listen here

to me doing Lunch With Ian Skye on BBC Radio Derby on Wednesday 17th August 12-1.

Getting to grips with a coat of arms – and summer quiz 2…crests

The Armorial Register -composition of arms

The shield is only part of a coat of arms – often the shield is at the bottom of a ‘stack’ – there may be a helm above the shield followed by a crest and a motto. The coil or wreath between the helm and the crest even has its own name – a torse – not a horse as the spell check insists that I actually mean. Fabric draped from the torse down around the helm is called mantling – mantling can be subdued or full on drapery with twiddly bits – see left.

Just to confuse matters the motto, placed on a scroll, can either go at the top of the coat of arms or at the bottom beneath the shield. The latter tends to occur if the arms is being held by two supporters – one on either side of the arms as in the lion and unicorn supporting the royal arms. The other thing that might appear beneath the shield is a ribbon or collar from which decorations may be hung – no not Christmas decorations! – medals and suchlike.

The images on the shield are called charges- I will be coming back to them.

Crests can sometimes appear on the torse above the shield without the helm just to help identify the owner. Crests often appear on retinue badges or in Scotland on clan badges. So how did that all come about? In the medieval period, the thirteenth century, it was acceptable to wear an actual crest made from a light wood or even boiled leather on top of the helmet usually for tournaments and jousts rather than real warfare – not sure how long that phase lasted as it sounds fairly silly to me – but that’s just me opinion. The mantle had a more practical use – it helped keep the sun off the back of the armour and was kept in place by the torse – so at least the knight wouldn’t fry.

This week’s quiz is to identify the crests belonging to towns, cities or counties – one or two have cropped the edges just to make it that little bit more tricky but it wasn’t a deliberate act on my part! The Telegraph had a competition to guess the coats of arms of 25 cities quite recently – I’m not a subscriber so that was as far as I got. Instead here are 12 crests for you to identify – some will be easier than others. Answers next week.

Richard Fitzgilbert-de Clare-Lord of Clare and Ceredigion. Forefather of the de Clare Earls of Hertford and Gloucester

Cardigan Castle, National Library of Wales, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Richard of Tonbridge’s grandson Richard was the eldest son of Gilbert FitzRichard who was given the Lordship of Ceredigion by King Henry I provided he could take and hold it. After his father’s death Richard inherited assorted lands in England and Wales including the Lordships of Clare and Ceredigion. Richard paid a relief of £43 6s and 8d to enter Ceredigion(1) which interesting as it recognised the king’s authority to make the grant, which later marcher lords refuted, but whilst the records are very specific about the finances they are a little on the murky side as to whether Richard was the first Earl of Hertford or not but it’s generally accepted than neither King Henry or King Stephen elevated the baron to an earldom. Like his younger brother Gilbert, Richard was loyal to King Stephen and he benefited from that loyalty but not to the extent that Stephen was prepared to extend his land holdings in Wales – which was in ferment.

In 1136 Richard travelled through the borders in the direction of Ceredigion and was ambushed and killed . His body was transported back to Kent and buried in Tonbridge Priory which was his foundation. In between times Richard’s widow, the sister of Earl Ranulf of Chester, was forced to take shelter in Cardigan Castle before being rescued and returned to England.

Richard’s son Gilbert became the 1st Earl of Hertford whilst his younger brother Roger succeeded as the second earl. A daughter married into the Percy family. William Percy’s mother was a member of a Welsh royal family so the union had less to do with securing alliances in Yorkshire than establishing networks of kinship on the marches and in Wales. Other daughters married the earls of Lincoln and Devon reflecting the loyalties of the Anarchy between King Stephen and Empress Matilda. As the former was loyal to Stephen whilst the latter was created Earl of Devon by the Empress Matilda and turned pirate in the Isle of Wight on the empress’s behalf. Lucy de Clare was his second wife.

Richard’s descendants held the earldoms of Hertford and Gloucester until 1314 when Gilbert de Clare the 8th earl of Gloucester and 7th earl of Hertford was killed at Bannockburn. His widow, Maud de Burgh, protested pregnancy for the next three years until King Edward II called time on the possibility of there being a male de Clare heir to inherit the title.

(1) ed. White et al, p.255

White, Eryn Want, Jenkins, Geraint H., Suggest, Richard (eds.), Cardiganshire County History Volume 2: Medieval and Early Modern Cardiganshire. (Cardiff:University of Wales Press, 2019)

Summer picture quiz 2022 – getting to grips with heraldry

Many apologies to those of you who are very comfortable with your heraldry – I’m having a bit of a refresh and am starting with canting arms which isn’t necessarily a logical place to begin but never mind. Essentially the image depicted on the arms is a pun or rebus playing on their owner’s name. The French call them armes parlantes or talking arms.

Simply say what you see! One belongs to a family and the second belongs to a kingdom – which is a bit mean of me as the kingdom tends to be described without it’s second smaller component. Not all canting arms are obvious as language and imagery has changed across the centuries. The third arms is another family name.

Canting arms 1 and 2.
Canting arms 3

Walter Gifford – Lord of Longueville

The Gifford arms – Gules (red) three lions passant (walking with right foot raised) argent (silver)

The Lord of Longueville in Normandy was a man who accompanied William the Conqueror to England in 1066. He was granted 107 Lordships of which 48 were in Buckinghamshire. His son, also named Walter, is usually styled 1st Earl of Buckingham. It should be noted that father and son are sometimes confused because of the names and the lack of clarity about dates of birth and death. Suffice it to say there were two Walters and the records are a tad on the dodgy side leading to some confusion in the available secondary sources.

Walter like many of William the Conqueror’s trusted companions was a kinsman via Gunnor the wife (more Danico or hand fasted wife) of Duke Richard I of Normandy. William of Jumiéges provides the information about Walter’s mother. He was instrumental in the defence of Normandy. He may also have been a diplomat on William’s behalf as he can be found going on a pilgrimage to St Iago de Compostella in Spain – it may have been a cover for a visit to the King of Galicia. When Gifford returned from Spain he gave the duke a horse according to some sources. He was at the Council of Lillebonne where William revealed his intention to invade England and he provided thirty ships for William’s invasion fleet and a hundred men.

Despite Giffard’s advancing age by the time of the Norman Conquest, though we don’t know exactly when he was born, he was offered the honour of carrying the duke’s standard at the Battle of Hastings. Gifford declined the honour on the grounds of his age and because he wanted both hands free. Apparently William was suitably impressed with Giffard’s response and by the knight’s bravery on the field although he did require rescuing by William himself according to one story.

As might be expected having spent his life on the battlefield Gifford was quite keen in atoning for his sins so founded a monastery at St Michel de Bolbec in 1079.

The family were powerful both in terms of running the state and the church. One of Walter’s sons became the Bishop of Winchester during the reign of King Henry I having served as William Rufus’s chancellor. His daughter Rohese married the second son of Richard of Tonbridge, another of William’s kinsmen and a key political player of the period. He died soon after 1085/86 and his son was a Commissioner for the Domesday Book of 1087. Rohese is another of the women mentioned in the Domesday Book as a landholder in her own right. Eventually half the honour of Long Crendon in Buckinghamshire which was originally part of her father’s English estates would be passed to her descendants. William Marshal became Lord of Long Crendon by right of his wife Isabel de Clare.

Just to add an extra note of caution Walter was not the only Gifford to arrive in England in 1066. His brother Osborne also took part in the Battle of Hastings and he received land in Gloucestershire. According to the Roll of Battle Abbey the Giffards of Brimsfield and Chillington descended from Osborne.

Burke, Bernard. The Roll of Battle Abbey, Annotated. (E. Churton, 1848)

Planché, James Robinson. The Conqueror and His Companions. (London: Tinsley brothers, 1874)

Medieval barons and earls – the Clare family

Tonbridge Castle Gatehouse by N Chadwick, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Duke Richard I of Normandy had many illegitimate children – Godfey, the eldest of the the duke’s natural children received Brionne from his father – demonstrating the practice of using illegitimate children to build a network of loyalty. Godfrey died in about 1015 and Brionne passed to his own son Gilbert but the county of Eu which Godfrey received from his half-brother Duke Richard II passed to William, one of Duke Richard I’s other children.

Gilbert became increasingly important during the rule of William the Conqueror’s father Robert and adopted the title Count of Brionne. He continued to agitate for the return of Eu which he gained in 1040 with William’s death. Unfortunately for Gilbert he was assassinated the same year and his own sons Richard and Baldwin fled to Flanders. Brionne as well as Eu was lost.

The FitzGilberts took part in the Norman conquest of England and did very nicely out of it. Baldwin can be found as the Sheriff of Devon and held Exeter, Okehampton and many other manors in the West Country. Richard was even more influential. He served as chief justices with William de Warenne in 1075 and received large amounts of land including Clare in Suffolk which comprised something like 127 knights’ fees as well including estates in Essex, Surrey and Kent The Conqueror even found his kinsman a wealthy bride in the shape of Rohese Gifford – her dowry included lands in Huntingdon and Hertfordshire (I think they married before the conquest in about 1054?) The marriage to Rohese continued to pay dividends for the de Clare family as they eventually received half of the Gifford estates.

Richard built castles at Tonbridge in Kent, Clare (the Victorians tried to put a train line through it) and Bletchingly in Surrey. Richard FitzGilbert was called Richard de Clare after the vast honour of Clare but also known as Richard of Tonbridge after his castle in Kent – this was the Domesday’s Book preferred name for Richard. However, following William I’s death in September 1087 de Clare joined with his feudal overlord (and potential half-brother but let’s not go there) Bishop Ovo to rebel against William Rufus in order to place Rufus’s older brother Robert Curthose on the throne.

Tonbridge was besieged for two days and de Clare was forced to surrender. Tonbridge did not come out of the experience well. Rufus had it burned. de Clare was sent off to live in the monastery at St Neot’s in Huntingdonshire where he died in 1090-91. He and Rohese re-founded the priory shortly after the Norman Conquest.

After Richard died his estates were divided between his two sons – one held the land in Normandy whilst his younger son inherited the English estates – thus avoiding the difficulties of owing allegiance to both William Rufus and Robert Curthose.

Gilbert FitzRichard did not necessarily get on well with William Rufus but when King Henry I ascended the throne in 1100 following an unfortunate accident in the New Forest the de Clare family fortunes looked rather more rosy. One of the possible reasons for this hypothesised by various writers was that Walter Tirel who ‘accidentally’ shot William Rufus was married to Gilbert’s sister Adelize – there is no positive proof that there was a plot. It’s all very circumstantial but the de Clare did well out of Henry I’s reign.

Altschul, Michael. A Baronial Family in Medieval England: The Clares, 1217-1314. (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2019)

Round,J. H., ‘The Family of Clare’, The Archaeological Journal, Vol. 56 2nd series Vol 6 (1899)

C. Warren Hollister, ‘The Strange Death of William Rufus’, Speculum, Vol. 48, No. 4 (Oct., 1973), pp. 645-46

Getting to grips with …windows

Discovering Stained Glass, Carola Hicks, p.6

I love stained glass – and incidentally the little diamond shaped panes are called quarries. It turns out that glass has been around since the third millennium BC – leading us to the inevitable question of What did the Romans ever do for us?

The gallery depicts modern glass which can be found in St Mary’s Church, Richmond, North Yorkshire. it won’t come as a surprise to learn that much of the medieval glass was somewhat knocked about during the English Civil War and Commonwealth period. Restoration commenced under Sir George Gilbert Scott during the Victorian period.

The ones pictures below are modern and dedicated to Ruth Gedye who was just eighteen years old when she died. The artist Alan Davis of Whitby created the image based on Ruth’s favourite hymns.

The last image in the gallery comes from a different window in the church. Alan’s work can also be found in Manchester Cathedral. Hicks notes that the abstract designs with which we are familiar these days were popularised after World War Two thanks to commissions for Coventry Cathedral and the Catholic cathedral in Liverpool. She lists some examples and although I have seen the ‘Prisoners of Conscience’ window in Salisbury I can’t remember it particularly clearly, unlike the Richard III window at Leicester.

Hicks, Carola, Discovering Stained Glass, (Princess Risborough: Shire Publications, 1968 reprinted 2006)

The Rollright Stones

Ok – I admit that I was trying to find pictures of Warwick Castle and St Mary’s Church Warwick but as regular followers of my blog are aware I had something of a catastrophe with my photos so its not necessarily straight forward – so when I looked at this batch from Oxfordshire and immediately knew what they were I thought I would blog about them even though megalithic monuments are well outside my usual remit – but then who doesn’t like a stone circle in the landscape? The stone circle known as The King’s Men has stood since 2,500 BC give or take a few years. Its made from local limestone and is very heavily weathered. Don’t try and count them, they are apparently uncountable. Essentially the aim is to count the stones three times and reach the same total on each occasion – if you can do this then you shall have your heart’s desire but be warned supernatural forces will prevent you from making an accurate count.

The King Stone stands on its own and is probably a burial marker rather than having an association with The King’s Men stone circle. It’s also 1000 years younger. It’s been suggested that the name for the stone originates in Anglo Saxon times when it was used as a meeting place but it’s a matter for speculation rather than fact – though the archeology of the area does reveal an Anglo-Saxon cemetery nearby.

Oldest by far are the so-called Whispering Knights which stand away from the stone circle. The whispering knight are a dolmen burial chamber with a fallen cap stone. The portal description is because the standing stones look like a giant doorway.

And if you like your legends – the king and his courtiers were turned to stone by a witch – who was presumably having a bad day. She encountered the king and his court and informed him that if he could take seven strides and see Long Compton that he would be King of England. As he made his seventh stride a ridge rose up obscuring his view – and the witch turned them into stone. The little group of whispering knights were supposed to have been plotting some kind of treachery when they were caught by the spell. And the witch? Well she apparently turned into an elder tree. If the tree is cut down the spell will be broken. – everything you need to know!

And for those of you who like a good book and a list:

Burnham, Andy, The Old Stones: A Field Guide to the Megalithic Sites of Britain and Ireland

Burl, Aubrey, Stone Circles of the British Isles

Haddingham, Evan, Circles and Standing Stones

The clandestine marriages of George III’s brothers…and the Royal Marriage Act of 1772

Anne, Duchess of Cumberland, Thomas Gainsborough – Royal Collection Object 400945

In 1772 it was forbidden that any descendent of King George II aged under 25 years should marry without the express consent of the monarch. Any one over that age was required to provide a year’s notice of their intentions to the Privy Council in writing- then they had to keep their fingers cross that the Houses of Lords and Commons had no objection. Failure to comply made any marriage null and void. The 1772 Act was replaced in 2011 with the Perth Agreement which means that only the first six people in line to the throne need to get the monarch’s permission for a marriage.

The reasons behind the act were very straight forward – the royal family was being brought into disrepute George III’s brother married beneath him. Henry Duke of Cumberland married Anne Horton née Lutterall on 2 October 1771. She was the daughter of an MP and more importantly a commoner. Henry told his brother in November that he was married and was banished as a direct consequence.

It wasn’t the first time that Henry had managed to get himself tangled up with a woman – in 1769 there were rumours that he married Olivia Wilmot and fathered a daughter named after her mother. Olivia junior later married John Thomas Serres and took to styling herself Princess Olive of Cumberland- although that was nothing compared to the scandal of a court case that took place a hundred years after the event. Cumberland was also sued by Lord Grosvenor for adultery and had to pay £10, 000 damages.

As though that wasn’t bad enough once George, who was a devoted husband and father of 15 children, made his act law, another of his brothers, William the Duke of Gloucester had to own up that he had been clandestinely married for six years to Maria, the dowager Countess of Waldegrave. She was the illegitimate daughter of Sir Edward Walpole. George had already heard rumours of the liaison but didn’t know that the pair had been married in secret by Maria’s chaplain. He’d sent William on a series of diplomatic missions to try and break up the romance. What forced William to tell his brother was the fact that Maria became pregnant. Their daughter Sophia was born at the end of May 1773 just a short while after the Privy Council held up the validity of the secret marriage. The couple had two more children including a second daughter who died during infancy. I’d like to tell you that despite all the angst that the couple lived happily ever after – sadly William, a true Hanoverian, began an affair with one of his wife’s ladies in waiting and had an illegitimate daughter – Maria was not amused but found herself living in a household alongside with her husband’s mistress.

Olivia Wilmot -Princess Olive of Cumberland’s daughter married John Serres, a marine painter to George III – the marriage not successful: she took many lovers, he kept her short of cash and they got themselves into debt. Eventually the pair divorced. Olive wrote to the Prince Regent (who had his own brush with the 1772 Marriage Act when he married the Catholic widow Maria Fitzherbert in a secret and illegal ceremony rendering the marriage null and void under the terms of the 1772 act.) Olive initially claimed that she was the natural daughter of the Duke of Cumberland. The story underwent a revision three years later in 1820 when she became the daughter of a Polish princess who was legally married to the duke despite the fact that she never came to England! By 1844 Olive’s daughter Lavinia Ryves was trying to extract cash from George III’s will and in 1866 the case went to court. She presented three sets of documents which were confiscated at the end of the case and which can now be viewed in the National Archives at Kew having been deemed forgeries.

Lavinia’s barrister also made the claim that George IV ought not to have been king and that Queen Victoria should not be queen because George III was actually married to Hannah Lightfoot rather than Queen Caroline. The story had been brewing for a very long time. Which was pretty impressive given that there was only one whisper of scandal in a private letter during George III’s life – Walpole described the monarch as ‘chaste’ unlike his grandfather and great grandfather or even his sons.

Ashdown-Hill, John, Royal Marriage Secrets: Consorts and Concubines, Bigamists and Bastards,_1885-1900/Serres,_Olivia

Cecily of York

Cecily of York: probably 1482–83, formerly Canterbury Cathedral, now Burrell Collection

It was not always easy being a princess in the fifteenth century – Cecily of York, the second surviving daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, was born on 20 March 1469. It wasn’t a good year to be born. The week before her birth, a papal dispensation was issued for Cecily’s uncle George to marry Isabel Neville, the daughter of the Earl of Warwick – cousins of Cecily’s as it happens. By the end of spring Robin of Redesdale’s rebellion had flared up and been extinguished; George and Isabel tied the knot in Calais and then the king’s brother and cousin came back to England where they made war on Cecily’s father. By the middle of August 1469 Edward IV was a reluctant guest of the Kingmaker’s and Elizabeth Woodville together with their three daughters remained in London. The coup didn’t quite go as planned but the following year the king was forced to flee his kingdom whilst the queen and her daughters sought sanctuary in Westminster. Later Sir Thomas More in his account of the History of Richard III would describe her as ‘not so fortunate as fair’. She certainly had an eventful infancy and childhood which was anything but fortunate.

When Cecily was four she was contracted in marriage to James Duke of Rothesay to cement a pact with the kings of Scotland. The marriage was called off but for a little while Cecily was styled Princess of Scots. Although that particular marriage fell through in 1482 Edward IV continued to pursue the idea of a Scots alliance this time with the Duke of Albany who had designs on the Scottish throne.

On 15 January 1478 Cecily attended the marriage of her younger brother Richard Duke of York to the heiress Anne Mowbray.

Edward IV died on 9 April 1483. By the beginning of May Elizabeth Woodville, her daughters and younger son Richard of Shrewsbury were back in sanctuary at Westminster. In June Cecily was declared to be illegitimate with her siblings and in January 1484 Parliament issued the Titulus Regius confirmed the illegitimacy. By March Elizabeth had come to an agreement with Richard III and her daughters emerged from sanctuary. It’s possible that Cecily joined her elder sister Elizabeth in Queen Anne’s household or alternatively she may have been sent north with her younger sisters to Sandal Castle where Margaret Plantagenet and her younger brother Edward Earl of Warwick resided.

Richard had agreed to arrange suitable marriages for his nieces but he had also made them illegitimate. Cecily was married to Ralph Scrope of Upsall. The Scrope family were part of the Neville hegemony who transferred their allegiance to Richard when he was the Duke of Gloucester. The marriage was a good one for a base born daughter of the king but when Henry Tudor became king the marriage was annulled on the grounds of consanguinity. The problem remained that Cecily was a Plantagenet so Henry could not afford to make a very good marriage for his sister-in-law in case he inadvertently created opposition to his own rule. This matter was resolved by a marriage to Lord Welles – making Cecily his sister-in-law and his aunt by marriage. The marriage took place before the Christmas festivities of 1487 as by that time Cecily was married to Lady Margaret Beaufort’s half-brother. Her sister Catherine was married to Henry’s full uncle Jasper Tudor. Cecily’s two daughters died young but the marriage proved a successful one. Welles died in 1499 much to Cecily’s distress. She became a wealthy widow – Welles left her a life interest in his estates. Welles had taken the precaution of naming Lady Margaret Beaufort and Henry VII to oversee his wishes.

Henry appeared fond of Cecily. She played a prominent role at court as did her cousin Margaret the daughter of George Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville.

Some time in 1502, or thereabouts, Cecily who was an ornament of Henry VII’s court, made a third marriage – to Thomas Kyme a squire from Lincolnshire. It was a love match – she had married far beneath her in much the same way that her grandmother Jaquetta of Luxembourg married below her social level. Henry VII was not as understanding of Cecily as Henry VI had been of her grandmother. As the sister of the queen she was a valuable bride (shades of Mary Boleyn). She was banished form court and her property confiscated. Fortunately Henry’s redoubtable mother Lady Margaret Beaufort supported Cecily by allowing the couple to live at her home at Collyweston. it appears that Margaret who knew the princess from infancy was fond of her. She managed to persuade Henry to allow Cecily to keep a small portion from the estates that Welles left her and to remit the fine that Kyme faced for having married without seeking royal permission.

Because Cecily chose to marry for love she dropped into obscurity. The written record becomes unclear. It seems that she bore Kyme two children, Richard and Margaret before dying in 1507. She is either buried in Quarr Abbey on the Isle of White -near her home, or somewhere near Hatfield where she possibly lived in the final weeks of her life.

Images of Quarr Abbey

Nicolas, Nicholas Harris. Privy Purse Expenses of Elizabeth of York: Wardrobe Accounts of Edward the Fourth: With a Memoir of Elizabeth of York, and Notes. United Kingdom: W. Pickering, 1830.

Rather irritatingly I’ve just realised that I’m not sure if the middle photo bottom row is Quarr Abbey or not – if you recall all my photos were either destroyed or hopelessly jumbled.