Monthly Archives: June 2014

Ann Cromwell and Dr Gibson

gibson_smallBrowsing through an old book with yellowed  whispering pages, I came across this little link between Cumbria and Oliver Cromwell. It’s tenuous  but it appealed to me simply because so little seems to be known about either of the characters involved and because reading between the lines there is a tale of a family torn asunder as a result of the English Civil war and its aftermath and also of infant mortality.

Dr Thomas Gibson was born at Bampton, near Shap.  He graduated from the University of Leiden in 1675 became the Physician General of Cromwell’s Army and went on to write The Anatomy of Human Bodies which drew extensively on other sources but which remained in print for many editions.  Little is known about his early life or indeed the death of his first wife.

Ann was Dorothy and Richard Cromwell’s sixth daughter – Oliver’s grand-daughter.  She died in 1727, aged 69.  Only her eldest sister Elizabeth was as long-lived amongst the girls in the family.  The other lasses died in infancy.  Ann, then, was born in 1659 while her father was  Lord Protector- it was a short-lived venture for him and led to his exile on the restoration of the Stuart monarchy.  His wife and family remained at home.  Richard’s letters to his daughter are written under cover of an alternative name always RC or CR and speak at his grief of not being with his family.

She was widowed early, and throughout the rest of her life she lived with her sister Elizabeth in respectable Presbyterian seclusion under the watchful eye of her husband’s nephew who became the Bishop of London.  The Bishop bequeathed £200 to Bampton Church.

 

 

 

 

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Odo, Bishop of Bayeux and Earl of Kent

B_T_, 55, Bishop Odo in battle_jpgOdo may have been made a bishop at the age of twenty but it have very little to do with a spiritual vocation.  Not only did William the Conqueror’s half-brother play an active military role but he was also notorious for his womanising and greed.

William, Odo and Robert of Motain shared a mother – Herleva, the tanner’s daughter.  William’s father, Duke Robert of Normandy, married Herleva off to Herluin de Conteville. The Bayeux Tapestry depicts Odo as playing a leading role in the planning and execution of the invasion of England in 1066.  Of course, given that he probably commissioned the embroidery it would relay that particular message.  He certainly supplied one hundred ships for the expedition and is depicted virtually sharing a seat with William at the feast before the battle.  He is shown on numerous occasions with his club or mace in hand during the battle.  As a cleric he was not supposed to spill blood – so bashing in his enemies skulls was an effective alternative.

In the aftermath of the battle Odo was given control of Dover where he managed to make himself unpopular by using the guildhall as his own place of residence and allowing a mill to be built at the mouth of the harbour.

In the spring of 1067 Odo took on the role of William’s deputy in England when William returned to Normandy.  So he played an active role crushing English revolts in East Anglia and in the north of the country.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that he became, according to the Domesday Book, one of the wealthiest landholders in the country.  He held; 184 lordships, manors in twelve other counties besides Kent and had an income somewhere in the region of £3,000 a year.  In fact, the Domesday Book shows him to be the richest tenant-in-chief in the kingdom by far.

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle and the Orderic Vitalis make clear that his spiritual capital was rather less significant describing the bishop as ‘destitute of virtue,’  ‘a ravening wolf,’  ‘ambitious,’ ‘rapacious,’ ‘greedy,’ ‘ruthless,’ ‘arrogant’ and ‘tyrannical’ – in short a real charmer.

 

Unfortunately for Odo, his ambition matched that of his half brother and it was discovered that the Bishop of Bayeux was plotting to become pope.  William locked his brother up and he was only released upon William’s death.  By way of gratitude Odo led a rebellion in 1088 against William Rufus in favour of Robert Curthose, William’s elder brother who was Duke of Normandy at that time.

Odo never returned to Britain, something for which the people of Kent were probably deeply grateful.  He died and was buried in Palermo, Sicily on his way to the First Crusade.

To find out more about the chronology of the period click on the picture to open the page relating to the eleventh century in my ‘timeline of history’ or use the tabs at the top of the blog.

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Eldred of Workington – an enigma.

norman frenchWho was Eldred of Workington?

Ivo de Taillebois was succeeded by Eldred or Aelfred of Workington. He’s one of those people in history who remain elusive. We’re not sure who he was – or even what his first name might have been- or who he married. We do know that he had a son called Ketel Fitzeldred who went on to inherit the estates in and around Kendal.

Eldred is not a Norman name – its Saxon. This raises some interesting questions as to how he assumed Ivo de Taillebois’s lands.

It is possible that he might have been Ivo de Tailbois’s son by his first marriage to Elgiva, daughter of Ethelred (of Unready fame). He certainly wasn’t a young man if this was the case because she fled to Normandy during the reign of Canute. Further more, there is some dispute as to who his mother was and even whether he was Ivo’s son.

It is plausible that Eldred took on the Taillebois name because he gained lands previously associated with Ivo.  This is the most straight forward of the suggestions but is, as these things tend to be, complicated by the consideration that his title was cemented through his marriage to one of Ivo’s daughters – possibly Beatrice according to some secondary sources. However, we know that Beatrice married Ribald who was the brother of Alan the Red of Richmond.  History also tells us that Ribald eventually took himself off to St Mary’s Abbey in York following the death of Beatrice – which rather puts a crimp in the plausibility of the argument that Eldred married Beatrice; so another daughter perhaps?

 

The fact is that studying Eldred is like trying to do a jigsaw puzzle without a picture and without all the pieces.  One piece of the jigsaw that we do have come from the records of Cockersand Abbey near Lancaster  which identifies Eldred as Ivo’s son. But which is it? Son or son-in-law? Is it even the same person?  Yes, definitely a case of ever decreasing circles…and potential fuel for the historical novelist.

Eldred (whoever he was) is  a reminder that the Normans, Saxons and Norse peoples intermarried both before the Norman Conquest and after. There is also the intriguing possibility – yes, there’s that word again- that he was neither son nor son-in-law but simply a Saxon who’d accepted the Norman invaders and had been given the lands around Kendal when Ivo popped his clogs in the hope that a local might be able to rule the troublesome northerners of the region on behalf of his Norman overlords….three intriguing options: all offering a degree of plausibility and none of them having sufficient evidence to answer the question.

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Thirteen Claimants to the Scottish Throne

alexiiiAlexander III of Scotland died on a wild midnight dash to be at his beautiful bride’s side in 1286.  His broken body was found the following morning. It presented Scotland with a problem.  The reason that the king had a beautiful bride was that his sons had died leaving no heir.  For a few months the Scots waited to see if Alexander III’s widow was pregnant.  Then they looked around for their new monarch.

The new Queen of Scotland was Margaret, the Maid of Norway, Alexander’s granddaughter.  She was three years old at the time.  The little girl died on her way to claim her crown in 1290 aged just seven.  In some ways the six Guardians of Scotland who had been appointed to protect the kingdom during her regency may have been relieved – child monarchs were a prelude to unrest and they had effectively married the lassie off to Edward I’s son in a bid to ensure security along their southern border.

 

On 1st May the Scots met Edward I  at Norham.  He claimed his right to be Lord Paramount- or the feudal overlord of the Scots.  The Scots were not impressed and said that they could make no such concession because only their King could make that decision.  Resistance grew when Edward sent garrisons of armed men to ensure his will was done.

 

The three best claimants to the Scottish throne were Robert Bruce, John Balliol and  John of Hastings who were descended from King David I of Scotland.  Both Bruce and Balliol held lands in England so already recognised Edward as their overlord – in England.

 

Then there were  Eric II of Norway who had been married to Alexander III’s daughter Margaret.  Margaret had died in childbirth.  He was the father of the Maid of Norway.  Floris V, Count of Holland who appears to have forged his claim to the throne; William de Vesci; John Comyn known as the Red Comyn; Patrick, Earl of Dunbar; William de Ros; Nicholas de Soules who was a border lord; Robert de Pinkeney; Roger de Mandeville; and Patrick Galithly.

 

Many of the lesser known claimants to the throne made their bid for power based on the fact they were descendants of illegitimate children of previous kings such as William the Lion.

 

In 1292 Edward I selected John Balliol.  Four years later the Scottish Wars of Independence were well under way and the Stone of Scone was on its way to London.

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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Thirteenth Century