Monthly Archives: January 2015

Thomas – a crusading, jousting Clifford

IMG_3926Thomas Clifford, the sixth baron, was born in approximately 1365.  He became a royal favourite at the time of Richard II – he was noted, apparently, for his “dissipation and indulgence” by which we can assume his shoes had very curly toes.  Quite what the inhabitants of the borders would have made of a court favourite dressed in the height of fashion is left unrecorded but Thomas found himself in the role not only of Warden of the West March but also the East March – making him a very busy man.  In 1384 he was granted custody of Carlisle Castle for life along with John Neville.  Presumably they took turns visiting.

 

One of the features of Thomas’s tenure was the knightly habit of jousting- hence the repetition of the picture in this post.  Thomas travelled widely in Europe with a retinue of knights who attended tournaments.  In fact, he even crossed into Scotland for the odd tournament and gave Lord Douglas permission to come into England for the same reason.  Think of these tournaments as the equivalent of medieval football matches crossed with the arrival of your favourite pop star.

 

In between governing the whole of the north and keeping the Scots under control and generally being knightly Thomas also rose to the role of Master of the King’s Horse.

It’s worth mentioning that while Thomas was busy doing all of this that England was having a spot of bother. The Lords Appellant were not keen on the way Richard II was ruling his kingdom.  Having come out of the Peasant’s Revolt with a reputation for personal bravery Richard developed a sense of his own importance.  It was this monarch who introduced the word ‘majesty’ into the descriptors to be used and also came up with an elaborate protocol involving repeated bowing on approaching the royal presence.  Unsurprisingly this did not go down particularly well with the aristocracy who were just as well bred as Richard.  Nor were they terribly impressed with Richard’s best friend, Richard de Vere, Earl of Oxford.  Inevitably, de Vere was  sent packing following the Battle of Radcot Bridge in 1387 and then expired whilst in exile.  Richard was forced to submit to the so called Merciless Parliament in 1388 (the year Thomas became Master of the King’s Horse)  and then spent a good number of years biding his time while he gained sufficient power to show everyone exactly who was in charge.

 

Thomas was treading an aristocratic tightrope along with every other noble in the country.  Not only did the nobility owe their land and their allegiance to the monarchy but they were increasingly connected by ties of blood.  For example Thomas’s wife, Elizabeth de Roos was descended from King Edward I. De Roos was the Lord of Helmsley – a reminder that national politics were interwoven with marriages and family relationships at a local level.  Feudalism was giving way to bastard feudalism.  In part this was a consequence of the Black Death but it was also the result of family sponsorship and patronage that lent itself to close knit community ties but also to feuding.

 

Little wonder that Thomas took himself off on crusade to Lithuania with Thomas of Woodstock, Earl of Gloucester in 1395.  Unfortunately he got into a bit of a fight with a son of the Earl of Douglas – and killed him.  Filled with remorse Thomas decided to go on another crusade to Jerusalem.  Somewhere (don’t you love it when history fails to provide all the details?) between Lithuania and Jerusalem he died, missing out on the joys of Richard II’s deposition by Henry Bolingbroke (a.k.a. Henry IV, cousin of Richard II, member of the Lords Appellant and king in Shakespeare’s Hollow Crown cycle of plays) but leaving a two-year-old to inherit the title who in turn would grow up to be one of Henry V’s warriors as well as assorted other offspring who were married into leading northern families.  But more of them anon.

 

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Margaret de Moulton and her two would be husbands…

IMG_3926Robert de Clifford, 3rd Baron de Clifford  (5 November 1305–20 May 1344) was Roger Clifford’s brother. Roger had been hanged in the aftermath of the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322. The family properties and titles taken back by the crown. Following the downfall of Edward II, Robert was reinstated to the lands and titles which belonged to the Clifford family. He married Isabel de Berkeley at Berkeley Castle in 1328  (yes, I know we’re back to red hot pokers but just let’s ignore that link shall we?) and they had seven children.  It would appear that the early years of the reign of Edward III was a quiet one for the Cliffords.

 

However a little digging reveals yet another shady marriage linked to the power politics of the north and hurtles the blog straight back into the chaotic times of Edward II. Here’s what Yerburgh had to say in 1912 from his text entitled Some Notes on Our Family History. The comments in italics are mine:

 

There is not much to be said about Robert de Clifford (damned by faint praise). In the account of the Dacres of Gillsland his betrothal to Margaret de Multon and her elopement with Ranulph de Dacre will be found. He rose with the fortunes of Edward III., and he recovered the inheritance which his elder brother’s troubles and misfortunes had lost for a while. He was a favourite with both the Edwards of England and Scotland, and he made a great match for his young son to a family of great power in the North, and died after he had been Lord of Skipton in possession twenty-eight years.

 

Not an exciting twenty-eight years then…except of course this is a man who was involved with the politics and interminable war with Scotland.  So his ‘quiet’ was probably our ‘quite exciting’, all things considered.The Collectanea Cliffordiana by Arthur Clifford offers some further information which confirms this. Just as his forefathers had played their role on the borders so to did the third baron. He entertained Edward Baliol who was King of Scotland at Brough and at Appleby and when he wasn’t entertaining the king he was conducting warfare against him (must have made for interesting after dinner conversation). He is recorded as having taken his turn as warden of the West Marches in the eighth year of Edward III’s reign. His co-warden was a man called Ranulph de Dacre which brings us back to Yerburgh’s so-called ‘elopement’ which turns out not to be a romantic interlude but to be the abduction of a minor in order to acquire land and more importantly power.

 

Margaret de Moulton’s family held the Barony of Gilsland. She was her father Thomas’s only heir. She had been married at the age of seven to Robert Clifford in that an agreement was reached – the actual ‘marriage’ would have taken place when Margaret came of age.  In the meantime she clearly remained at home.  Other young brides might have found themselves being brought up in the houses which they would one day supervise.  It depended entirely upon the families, the arrangements and the fastness of the contracts that the two groups made.  As it was the Clifford family were going through tricky times. King Edward II, who always had his eye on ways to make money, claimed her as his ward and sent her to Warwick Castle, from where Ranulph abducted her when she was thirteen. The Barony of Gilsland was right on the edge of England.  It was an important feature in the geography and politics of the borders.

 

Ranulph de Dacre was pardoned at the end of October 1317 “for stealing awai in the nighte out of the king’s custody from his Castell of Warwick of Margaret, daughter and heir of Thomas of Molton of Gilsland, whoe helde of ye Kinge in capite, and was within age, whearof the sayd Ranulphe standeth indighted in Curis Regis.” Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmoreland Antiquarian, V4, P470.  The marriage and the accruement of power was one of the factors which turned Dacre into Lord Dacre.  The other factor was the salient point that border barons could behave rather badly in their own time so long as they kept the Scots out of England when required to do so.

 

It is possible to surmise that Edward II cannot have been very happy about pardoning Dacre as Ranulph was involved in the judicial murder, of Edward II’s favourite, Piers Gaveston, in 1312. Ranolph was pardoned for any part he had taken in the death of Piers in 1313, as were the other conspirators including Ranulph’s father and brother.

 

As for Ranulph and Robert Clifford, they clearly arrived at a consensus given their roles as joint wardens and indeed survivors of the nasty political games of the period. The Lannercost Chronicle recorded the marriage between Robert and Margaret but also that there had been a pre-contract between Thomas de Moulton and William de Dacre before the Clifford contract which again wasn’t unusual and reflects the way in which families negotiated with one another and jockeyed for position within society.  The concept of negotiation, pre-contract and contract were important ones because a pre-contract was as legally binding as the actual thing – so having promised Margaret to the Dacres, Thomas should not have arrived at an arrangement with the Cliffords – turning Margaret’s abduction from a moral blackspot into a fine and chivalrous deed (the sentence is best read in an ironic tone) .

 

As for Isobel de Berkeley, well it turns out that women who married into and out of the Clifford family weren’t always particularly good at doing what the monarch, or even their fathers, wanted them to do.  She married again after a brief widowhood.  In 1345 she had to pay a fine and receive a pardon for marrying a chap called Sir Thomas de Musgrave without getting royal permission to do so first.  I’d like to think it was a love match but no doubt a bit more digging will uncover an unpleasant matrimonial tale …it makes me glad to come from a long line of peasants.

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Maud Clifford and some very unsavoury men…

IMG_3953Before leaving the troubled reign of Edward II for the calmer waters of the Hundred Years War it is time to conclude with the story of Robert Clifford’s wife Maud – or what we know of it.  As is often the case at this time sources provide information about Maud’s birth and marriage as well financial snippets pertaining to her value in terms of estate and marriageability but no insight into her personality or mind.

Maud de Clare was born on the Welsh Marches, the daughter of Thomas de Clare and Julianna FitzMaurice. The family held land in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Norfolk and Ireland. Maud and her sister were eligible brides and would ultimately become even more wealthy but before a series of male deaths within the Clare family brought that to pass Maud was married to Robert de Clifford in 1295  at the age of about nineteen keeping old alliances strong and strengthening the Clifford family coffers.

Maud and Robert had four children: Roger, who inherited the title upon his father’s death in 1314 but who fought on the losing side at the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322, his brother Robert who regained the family titles and estates in 1327; a daughter Idonea who marries into the Percy family and another daughter Margaret whose own marriage was not without its difficulties (more of that anon).

Maud, widowed in 1314, was an heiress and heiresses were having a tricky time of things during the reign of Edward II.  There are many accounts of abductions and forced marriages.  We know that Maud was at Bowes in 1315 and we know that she was kidnapped by a man called John the Irishman who was a member of Edward II’s household and custodian of Barnard Castle.

He had a pretty unsavoury reputation, as did many of Edward II’s friends, though by this time intermittent border warfare and the frequency of Scottish raiders meant that law and order was declining in the north. Even the March Laws could not protect the weak and powerless from the strong and heavily armed.

In any event, Bowes is close to Barnard Castle and John apparently helped himself to Maud and her chattels. Oddly enough he did not force the widow into a new marriage which would have been the sensible thing to do as she came from an influential family. Perhaps John thought that Edward II would sanction that event at a later date? Or perhaps there was some other game in mind? Who knows what goes on in the mind of a medieval warlord?

Edward II, who was staying in Nottingham at the time, was not terribly amused. He sent Sir William Montacute, Sir Robert de Welle, three more knights and thirty-six esquires and men of arms to Bowes to rescue Maud. There was also to be an enquiry as to what had happened. Maud was rescued but John appears to have suffered no ill effects of having kidnapped and ‘ravist’ Maud other than loosing custody of Barnard Castle.  In fact when John was dying in 1317 Edward II’s accounts show that the king spent a lot of money on the care of John – did he regard Maud’s kidnap as something of a prank?  Or was there perhaps a sub-text about which history knows nothing?  Maud’s views are not recorded but it is known that her son Roger was very anti-Edward and no wonder.

Maud Clifford had, however, met her knight in shining armour. Sir Robert de Welle from Worcestershire was a knight but not necessarily a suitable husband for someone who held important political connections, lands and was a wealthy woman in her own right. Women such as these, even widows, could rarely expect to marry where they chose and Edward II was known for handing over unwilling brides to enrich his favourites.

Maud and Robert were married by 16 December 1315 without the king’s permission. As a consequence of which Edward II took Maud’s dower lands and all the goods in them. They were returned following payment of a large fine (£100).  So far so good.

Except of course the plot thickens. Robert de Welle was given power of attorney by his step-son in 1320 but did not join with the Ordainers against the king in 1322 suggesting that de Welle was the King’s man. In fact it appears that Maud’s new husband remained on good terms with Edward II receiving lands and valuables from him through the rest of the king’s reign. In 1323 he became one of the keepers for the Bishopric of Winchester as well as going in 1326 to Scotland to treat with Robert the Bruce and just to show that the armour was a bit on the tarnished side his sister-in-law also complained bitterly about the way he took her property as well as that of his wife’s. He also acquired his step-son’s London properties once Roger was attainted, although this could have been a method for keeping the property in the family.  Equally it could have been a touch of that avariciousness that Edward II liked to see in the men around him.

 

He turns up in Norfolk in 1326 as Lord of Well Hall which was which was held under the Earl of Clare, the capital lord. The text (Notes and Queries, Number 84, June 7, 1851  A Medium of Inter-communication for Literary Men, Artists, Antiquaries, Geneologists, etc.) goes on to note “He died circ. 9 Edw. III.” This means that de Welle died in the ninth year of Edward III’s reign putting it somewhere around 1335 his wife having died in 1327 and de Welle himself having lost the powers he once wielded with the overthrow of Edward II.

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Edward II and his favourites

edwardiiPiers Gaveston was the son of a Gascon lord. When Edward I chose suitable persons for his eldest surviving son’s household young Piers was selected on account of his father’s loyalty and the fact that Edward thought he’d make a good role model – Piers was apparently a bit of a charmer.

The Prince of Wales and Piers were both about 16 when they met. They certainly took to one another though how close their friendship was is a matter of speculation. After all, Edward went on to have four children with his wife Isabella. Many at the time thought Edward and Piers were having a homosexual relationship (it explained why Edward could refuse Piers nothing), but some modern historians see it as more like close brotherly love. Edward referred to Gaveston as ‘my brother Piers’. Whatever the exact nature of the relationship, it was a disaster for the kingdom.

In 1307 Edward I banished Gaveston from England, though he was to be paid an allowance. The king asked the men gathered round his death-bed to ensure that Gaveston did not return (one of them was Robert Clifford) unfortunately for England all the men gathered around Edward at the time appear to have had their fingers crossed when they promised Edward that Gaveston wouldn’t be allowed back.

The new king, Edward II, immediately brought Gaveston back to his side, made him Earl of Cornwall and bestowed on him an aristocratic wife, land  and money. Edward II was not like his father – medieval kings were supposed to be successful warriors. Edward II was more interested in digging ditches and chatting to ordinary men – preferably burly ones with a good set of biceps if some accounts are to be credited. He was also prone to doing slightly silly things such as burning Wetheral Priory on an evening out (well it saved the Scots a job) and it was swiftly becoming clear to all around him that he was not a good judge of men.

 

In 1308 Edward allowed Gaveston a prominent role in his coronation and later at his wedding banquet, at which he paid so much attention to the favourite that Queen Isabella’s French relatives walked out. It probably didn’t help that Gaveston had ordered tapestries for the occasion – they depicted the king’s arms quartered with his own. There was also the matter of Piers wearing the queen’s jewelry ‘for safe keeping.’

The king was forced to send Gaveston away to Ireland later that year, but he was back in 1309 and resumed his position at court as Edward’s principal adviser. This effectively meant that if you wanted to get the king you had to go through Piers. He controlled royal patronage and used his position to get rich.

By March 1310 opposition had mounted to such a point that the king had to agree to the appointment of the Lords Ordainers, a committee of 21 earls, barons and bishops who were to draw up rules for the management of the royal household and the realm. At the forefront of this drive to curtail Edward’s power was his cousin Thomas of Lancaster.

Gaveston was exiled by the Lord Ordinancers in November 1311. He returned without permission in January 1312 and was captured. He was effectively kidnapped on his journey south by Thomas of Lancaster at Warwick. He sentenced Gaveston to death and had the sentence carried out as soon as possible. The problem was that the execution wasn’t entirely legal. Lancaster had exceeded his authority. This caused a rift between some of the Lord Ordainers and although Edward II couldn’t act against them immediately he stored up his anger and took his revenge at a later date when he felt that he was in a position of strength.

 

Meanwhile the king led a military campaign in Scotland that failed to subdue Robert the Bruce. It would eventually culminate with a crushing defeat for the English in 1314 at the Battle of Bannockburn. Edward had no idea of strategy or good positioning for an army.   He thought that it was enough to turn up with lots of men.  The north of England found itself open to wave after wave of Scottish invaders and raiders. Skipton Castle came under attack in 1317, 1318, 1399 and 1322. It was partly because of this that Sir Roger Clifford, second Lord of Westmorland joined with the king’s enemies.

 

It didn’t help either that the harvest failed in 1315. The famine was not the king’s fault but it was symptomatic of the problems besetting his realm. The country was descending into chaos and just to make matters worse Edward found himself a new best friend. Hugh Despenser and his dear old dad also called Hugh Despenser. Hugh Despenser the Younger was married to Edward II’s niece so he was already part of the family.

Edward was clearly attracted to arrogant and greedy men. The Despensers made Gaveston look positively mild in comparison. They seized castles that didn’t belong to them, bullied women (by which I mean breaking their legs) and were probably unkind to small animals.  Things came to a head when they took possession of land in the Welsh marches that definitely didn’t belong to them. It was at this point that court politics erupted into open rebellion. Parliament caused the two men to be banished in 1321 but Edward called them home the following year.

 

At first Edward was victorious. His army quelled the Mortimers and then another army loyal to him was victorious at the Battle of Boroughbridge. The army was led by Sir Andrew de Harcla who knew that Thomas of Lancaster had called upon the Scots for support. Lancaster is supposed to have said that Sir Andrew would find himself in a position similar to that of Lancaster before the year was out. It turned out to be true. Roger Mortimer found himself in the Tower of London and Thomas of Lancaster found himself without a head. The following year Sir Andrew de Harcla, who had lost confidence in his king’s ability to protect the people of the north following the Battle of Byland in 1322, was found guilty of treating with the Scots. He was hanged, drawn and quartered in Carlisle. Ironically Edward was forced to make terms with the Scots shortly afterwards because he’d had his best warriors executed.

 

It was just after this in 1325 that Queen Isabella took the opportunity to go home to France for a holiday along with her son where she wreaked havoc upon her family as well as meeting and falling in love with Roger Mortimer who had managed to escape from the Tower.

 

Isabella and Mortimer invaded England from the Continent in 1326 with only 1500 men. Such was the unpopularity of the king and his favourites that people flocked to join them. The Despensers suffered unpleasant deaths. Hugh Despenser the younger was taken to the market place in Hereford covered in tattoos outlining his many sins which included rape (Alison Weir has a theory that Despenser raped the queen) before being hanged, drawn and quartered.

 

Edward was forced to abdicate in January 1327, in favour of his son another Edward. Edward II was murdered at Berkeley Castle. He is the king purported to have been killed with a red-hot poker shoved somewhere unmentionable. However Dr Ian Mortimer presents an intriguing theory that the king’s death was feigned.

 

 

 

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Roger de Clifford – the Second Lord Clifford.

IMG_3982Roger Clifford, the 2nd Baron Clifford born in 1299 at Appleby Castle inherited the title, estates and inherited role of Sheriff of Westmorland upon the death of his father at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 at the age of fourteen. It was never a good idea to inherit as a minor as it could play havoc with estate income but 1314 was a particularly bad time to inherit property in the North of England. The Scots took advantage in the military ineptitude of Edward II to raid the borders, into Durham and on into Yorkshire. Skipton Castle was soon withstanding Scottish marauders.

 

Little wonder then that Roger, when he attained his majority, found himself drawn towards Thomas of Lancaster, Edward II’s cousin (His father was Edmund Crouchback, Edward I’s brother) a man of sound military experience. Through a complicated series of manoeuvres King Edward II was forced to form a council with Thomas of Lancaster at its head. The goal was to try to make some sense out of the chaos that followed Edward’s policies and reliance upon his favourites – Piers Gaveston and then Hugh Despencer.

 

Not that the council’s policies did much good. Berwick was lost to the English in 1318 and Edward’s favourite, the avaricious Hugh Despencer, so successfully irritated the nobility (who were already a tad tetchy about Edward II’s whole management style) that they revolted. The flames were first fanned into open revolt on the Welsh Marches where nobles including the Earl of Hereford and Sir Roger Mortimer found that their land was prey to Despencer and his father.

 

The Earl of Hereford was, according to the Lannercost Chronicle, Roger Clifford’s father-in-law so it was almost inevitable that he should have been drawn in to the conflict. As is always the case, history is not necessarily clear-cut. Another source states that Roger Clifford was unmarried at the time of his death, his marriage having been annulled but more of that shortly. It should also be added that Despencer had helped himself to some land belonging to Roger’s mother the heiress Maud de Clare giving Clifford more than enough reason to take up arms.

 

 

Edward realizing that he was on the verge of loosing his kingdom exiled Despenser and called on his loyal subjects to tackle Thomas of Lancaster and his cronies. Mortimer and the Welsh marches were subdued in January 1322. A northern army led by Thomas of Lancaster posed more of a threat.

 

Of key importance to Edward II’s victory over his subjects in 1322 was Sir Andrew de Harcla, the hero of the Siege of Carlisle, who marched south with an army of borderers upon hearing that Lancaster had turned to the Scots for support. The Lannercost Chronicle contains an account of the Battle of Boroughbridge:

 

 

On Tuesday, then, after the third Sunday in Lent, being the seventeenth of the kalends of April [16 March 1322], the aforesaid Earls arrived in force, and perceiving that Sir Andrew had anticipated them by occupying the north end of the bridge, they arranged that the Earl of Hereford and Sir Roger de Clifford (a man of great strength who had married his daughter) should advance with their company and seize the bridge from the pikemen stationed there, while the Earl of Lancaster with the rest of the cavalry should attack the ford and seize the water and ford from the pikemen, putting them to flight and killing all who resisted; but matters took a different turn.  For when the Earl of Hereford (with his standard‑bearer leading the advance, to wit, Sir Ralf de Applinsdene) and Sir Roger de Clifford and some other knights, had entered upon the bridge before the others as bold as lions, charging fiercely upon the enemy, pikes were thrust at the Earl from all sides; he fell immediately and was killed with his standard‑bearer and the knights aforesaid, to wit, Sir W de Sule and Sir Roger de Berefield; but Sir Roger de Clifford, though grievously wounded with pikes and arrows, and driven back, escaped with difficulty along with the others.

 

 

The Chronicle records the overnight armistice between Lancaster and de Harcla, who had once served Lancaster. It continues:

 

But during that night the Earl of Hereford’s men deserted and fled, because their lord had been killed, also many of the Earl of Lancaster’s men and those of my Lord de Clifford and others deserted from them.  When morning came, therefore, the Earl of Lancaster, my Lord de Clifford, my Lord de Mowbray and all who had remained with them, surrendered to Sir Andrew, who himself took them to York as captives, where they were confined in the castle to await there the pleasure of my lord the King.

 

Roger had been seriously wounded but it didn’t save him from Edward II’s wrath. In March 1322 the motte and bailey castle at York gained a new name when Roger Clifford was hanged in chains from its walls. Clifford may have given his name to Clifford’s Tower but his lands from Hartlepool to Westmorland were confiscated by the crown.

 

A man found guilty of treason not only forfeited his life but also the wealth of his family.  In this case the third lord was Roger’s brother, Robert (the good news is that everything was restored in 1327). The king played fast and loose with the laws of the land when he confiscated many of the Clifford estates. There were rules about dower lands and entails which should have resulted in Robert, who was a minor, keeping more than he did but wars cost money and besides, Edward II had favourites to please. Two thirds of the Clifford estates were bagged by the crown. The third that remained had come into the family along with Maud de Clare.

 

Roger died without legitimate heirs although folklore, as recorded by William Wordsworth (yes – the William Wordsworth) notes that Roger had a mistress by whom he had a number of children (allegedly). Julian of the Bower (yes I know it’s a boy’s name) is supposed to have been so beloved of Roger that he had a house built for her near Penrith in the Whinfell Forest. Julian’s Bower is not without controversy. The name is given to turf mazes across the country and Julian’s Bower near Penrith may or may not be the remnants of a medieval love nest given that Nicholson and Burn in their county history identify its origins as Roman.  There is no reason given for Roger’s marriage being annulled but then much of Roger’s personal life seems to be as nebulous as will o’ the wisp.

My next post will take an overview of Edward II’s reign which is convenient as I have just started a book called ‘The Cup of Ghosts’ by Paul Doherty about Matilda of Westminster, a fictional confidante of Isabella of France – Edward II’s wife and personal ‘She-wolf.’

 

 

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Calder Abbey – or a false start

DSCN3786-2In 1135 twelve monks and a newly minted abbot called Gerold left Furness Abbey to found a daughter house at Calder near Egremont.  The land had been donated by Ranulf Meschin but he doesn’t appear to have endowed the new abbey with an estate sufficient to thrive.  Even more unfortunately for the Savignac monks of the newly founded Calder Abbey, England was just about to erupt into civil war between King Stephen and Empress Matilda.

King Henry I had twenty-two children of whom twenty were illegitimate.  He had only one legitimate son and he drowned when the White Ship sank in 1120.  Henry made the leading barons swear to accept his daughter Matilda as their queen but they had their fingers crossed. As soon as Henry departed this life Matilda’s cousin Stephen of Blois snaffled the crown.  The next nineteen years when ‘Christ and his apostles slept’ were not a good time to be founding anything far less an abbey a stone’s throw from the Scottish border.  The Scots sensing that the English might be distracted took the opportunity to invade most of Cumberland and claim it for themselves.  This seems to have involved burning large chunks of it to the ground.

Within three years of its foundation, thanks to Scottish raids,  Calder Abbey was on its knees.  The twelve monks and their abbot set off back to Furness.  Now, this is where accounts differ.  In the first version of the story Gerold rather liked being an abbot and refused to stop being one even though he didn’t have an abbey anymore.  In the second version Furness Abbey had founded a daughter house (Calder Abbey)  to rid itself of a little band of trouble makers. It had no intention of letting them back in again even if the Scots had burned their home.

Whatever the truth, Gerold and his twelve footsore monks set off on their travels once more.  Their intent was to go to York and present their case to Archbishop Thurston.  However, on arrival at Thirsk they met the mother of Roger Mowbray who suggested a nice location at Hood where another relation of hers was busy being a hermit (perhaps she hadn’t spotted the fact that hermits like being on their own and that thirteen additions would rather ruin the solitude).

The monks settled down in their new Yorkshire home but as they hadn’t been made to feel very welcome by their brothers back in Cumberland they decided that they wanted to free themselves from the jurisdiction of Furness.  This happened in 1142 but not before Gerold had made a trip to the Savignac head office at Savigny to present his case.

Hood proved to be an unsuitable location for a monastery so in 1143 the brothers moved again, this time to Byland.  Unfortunately they failed to notice that Rievaulx Abbey was right on the doorstep.  The two abbeys were so close that they could hear each other’s bells which would not have been a problem had they been keeping to the same schedule but unfortunately they weren’t.  The refugees from Calder were forced to move for a third time and on this occasion the monastic community we know as Byland Abbey thrived.

The abbey at Furness and later the abbey at Calder continued to try to claim superiority over the monks of Byland despite the fact that Gerold had been released from his allegiance to Furness and that Calder Abbey hadn’t really existed until 1143 when Furness Abbey made a second attempt at building a daughter house on the land given to them by Ranulf Meschin.

(The picture is of Byland Abbey.  Calder Abbey is not currently open to the public.)

 

 

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Shap Abbey and Robert Clifford

 

DSCN0997Shap Abbey was originally founded in about 1191 by Thomas who was the son of Gospatric at a place called Preston Patrick. For some reason that history does not provide the site was unsuitable for the White Canons who  came to dwell there. Perhaps the Kendale Valley wasn’t remote enough for them. In any event the Premonstratensians relocated in about 1200 to the remote and wild land beside the River Lowther at a place called “Hepp’ or ‘Heap’ so called because of a pile of nearby megaliths. Shap Abbey was duly dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene.

The Premonstratensians were founded by St Norbert in Germany.  The Premonstratensians lived frugal lives in isolated places following the example of the early desert fathers.  As regular canons they were all ordained priests who lived together in a monastic community.

 

During the thirteenth century, according to Butler & Given-Wilson, there were twenty canons there and, as with every other monastic community, Shap was dependent upon the generosity of its patrons and benefactors. For instance Shap manor was previously held by the Curwens of Workington and then subsequently by Shap Abbey.  Curwen records that Thomas de Workington gave to the canons land, pasture and the Rectory of Shap as well as the church of Bampton; Johanna de Veteripont gave them nine acres while other members of the de Veteripont family gave the vill of Reagill where they had a grange and chapel the Hospital of St. Nicholas near Appleby to maintain three lepers, also a parcel of land in Knock Shalcock.  Another benefactor was Robert Clifford, First Lord Clifford of Westmorland.   Summerson notes that Clifford, who was buried at Shap following his death at Bannockburn in 1314, had founded a chantry at Shap for his parents. Roger Clifford had died in 1282 in Wales whilst Isabella Vieuxpont – from whom Robert inherited many of his northern territories- died in 1291 and was buried at Shap (H Clifford, The House of Clifford (Andover, 1987), pp 51–2).  Shap was to become the burial place for many generations of the Clifford family including the Shepherd Lord (the 10th Lord Clifford) who died in 1523.

A chantry was usually a chapel within a church dedicated to a particular benefactor or benefactor’s family. It is where prayers and masses for the benefactors’ souls were said to help them get out of Purgatory faster than might otherwise be expected. There is no indication in the archeology, as it has currently been explored, as to the location of the Clifford Chantry. Equally there is no mention made of the chantry in the documents relating to the dissolution of the abbey. Having said that Keld Chapel which is thought to have been a separate chantry chapel belonging to Shap Abbey also goes unmentioned in the documents of the time.

 

John F Curwen, ‘Parishes (West Ward): St Michael, Shap’, in The Later Records Relating To North Westmorland Or the Barony of Appleby (Kendal, 1932), pp. 358-376 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/n-westmorland-records/vol8/pp358-376 [accessed 1 January 2015].

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Robert, First Lord Clifford

IMG_4008Robert Clifford was born in 1274. He was the son of Isabella de Vieuxpont and Roger Clifford. The Cliffords were an old Norman family who took their name from their main seat in Herefordshire meaning that the Lords of Skipton were distantly related to Rosamond Clifford (Fair Rosamond) who was Henry I’s mistress. On his mother’s side – Isabella and her sister Idonea were coheirs to the lordship of Westmorland which, together with Edward I’s campaign to subdue Scotland, would ultimately change the marches upon which the Cliffords prowled.

 

Young Robert lost his father early so the vast lands (including Brough, Brougham and Appleby) that would one day be his passed into other hands for the time being. When he reached his majority Robert would spend years trying to regain property which had been stolen during his minority.  He ultimately grew to maturity under the care of Edward I from whom he learned the art of warfare in North Wales before making a name for himself in Scotland. By 1297 he was responsible for Edward’s castles in Cumberland as well as taking part in the perennial border warfare of the period. The following year, according to Summerson, he became Keeper of Nottingham Castle and the justice in the royal forests north of the River Trent. That same year Edward I gave Robert Clifford Caerlaverock Castle and all the lands that belonged to Sir William Douglas as a reward for his work. On one hand this was very nice for Robert on the other hand the Douglas family were not best pleased. Edward’s grant triggered a feud between the Douglasses and the Cliffords that lasted for the next hundred years.  It probably didn’t help that Robert’s actions in Dumfries and Annan were recorded in the Song of Caerlaverock. Clifford was undoubtedly a capable as well as loyal officer to the crown – it certainly helped him to build an extensive power base on which to build his family’s fortunes.

He attended Edward I until his death and from his appointment as Marshall of England by Edward II whom Clifford had served during the Prince of Wales’ time on campaign in Scotland. He didn’t hold the job for long. He also gave up his role of Justice and Keeper of Nottingham Castle.  In October 1309 he was appointed keeper of the English West March with Carlisle as its headquarters, and was ordered to act as Warden of Scotland, with a force of 100 men-at-arms and 300 foot soldiers – so he probably didn’t have much time to sit around in Nottingham.

 

It was at about this time Robert came to an accommodation with his childless aunt (Idonea) which ultimately resulted in the Lordship of Westmorland being granted to him. Robert Clifford already held Brough Castle and Appleby and now he was granted Skipton Castle making him a force to be reckoned with in the north.

 

Unfortunately the business of the Scottish Wars of Independence were somewhat sidelined by Edward II’s relationship with Piers Gaveston. The King’s favourite was greedy for wealth and power. In October 1310, just as Clifford was building a substantial power base for himself in the north-west the king granted the Honour of Penrith to Gaveston – a bit of a fly in the ointment so far as Clifford was concerned but not sufficient to make him join with many of the other English barons who formed a commission against Edward II to reform the way in which Edward governed his household and the realm.  The barons issued ordinances from which they gained the name Lords Ordainers.  One of the ordinances made Edward II take back into royal custody all the land which he’d given away.  This meant that Robert having gained Skipton was forced to return it to the crown.  A bizarre game of pass the castle then followed in which Skipton was then handed back to Clifford.  The reason behind this probably lies in the fact that Clifford had given his lands in Monmouth in exchange for the Honour of Skipton – so he wasn’t depriving the crown of its revenue. Clifford resumed his building work on the outer defences of the castle.

 

This uncertainty and his previous record for loyalty didn’t mean that Clifford wasn’t sympathetic to the demands of the Lords Ordainers. In 1312 he prevented Gaveston from receiving Scottish help, besieged him in Scarborough Castle and recovered royal jewels from Newcastle when they were abandoned by the king and his favourite. Later he acted as a go-between for the Earls of Lancaster and Warwick who sought a pardon when Edward II regained control of his realm. The earls received a pardon and so did Robert Clifford.

 

The pardons signaled a resumption of the Scottish War of Independence. In June 1314 Clifford was summoned to Berwick and the start of the campaign that ended in disaster for the English at Bannockburn. Clifford was killed in action. His body was taken to Carlisle and from there to Shap Abbey where he was buried.

Skipton Castle was about to face Scottish invasion and be plunged into civil war – life wasn’t going to be very restful for the Clifford family either.

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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Carlisle, Castles, Fourteenth Century, Kings of England, Thirteenth Century