Monthly Archives: June 2016

Reuben Orr 1899-1916

1c414ed2-981e-4977-ac62-1bf03712a010.jpgToday’s post is slightly different from my usual fare. As the majority of readers will be aware today marks the one hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Somme. I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to Reuben Orr of the tenth battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, regimental number 21190. He’s the boy  in the middle of the photograph that no recruiting officer could possibly have believed to be of fighting age when he took the King’s shilling.

 

The Royal Inniskilling Regiment raised thirteen battalions during the First World War. At least three of those young recruits were Reuben and two of his siblings. His cousins may have joined up as well. It was something of a family tradition. His half-brother James Futter had enlisted in the Royal Inniskilling Regiment at the age of eighteen in 1905.

 

The 10th (Service) Battalion (Derry) was formed in September 1914 at Omagh from the Derry Volunteers. The division left for France in July 1915 and the following year found itself on a battle field that would become known as The Somme.

 

The artillery began its final bombardment of enemy lines at 6.45am on the morning of July. The tenth battalion as part of the 109th Brigade left their trenches at 7.15 am. They began their advance across the no-mans land at 7.30 am on the sound of Drummer Jack Downs bugle call. Their task was to move up the Thiepval Ridge and take the Schwaben Redoubt by means of a direct frontal assault.  At their head was a drum and a flag bearing the name “Derrys.” They moved so swiftly that by 8.45am the German redoubt had been taken and the brigade advanced towards their next objective. However, they had become isolated as the units on either side of them were unable to take their objectives.

Of the 2,700 Inniskillings who took part that day 604 died. They are buried and commemorated at the memorial at Thiepval. One of them, the boy in the photograph at the beginning of this post has no known grave. He died on his seventeenth birthday. He’s my husband’s great-uncle.

 

 

 

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Pendragon Castle

DSCN0936.jpgPendragon Castle sits on the east bank of the River Eden off the B6259 in the Mallerstang Valley on the way from Yorkshire into Kirkby Stephen.  It’s a square, squat ruin of a tower that was once three storeys tall in a beautiful landscape.  It stands on a platform of earth and its walls, what remain of them, are over four meters thick.

The chap best known for owning Pendragon Castle is Hugh de Morville and he probably occupied it after Henry II’s campaign in Scotland.  The name  de Morville might ring bells.  In addition to being Lord of Westmorland he’s also one of the four knights who helpfully murdered Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 after listening to Henry II ranting about troublesome priests. Instead of the expected reward de Morville found himself kicked out of his properties with a flea in his ear.  Ultimately the castle passed through a couple of families beginning with the de Viponts who were de Morville relations before ending up in Clifford hands through the inheritance of Idonea de Vipont.

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DSC_0006We know that Robert de Clifford was given permission to crenellate Pendragon Castle in 1309 but he didn’t have long to enjoy it because he got himself killed at Bannockburn in June 1314. The reign of Edward II was not a comfortable one for the English.  In addition to the Scots gaining the upper hand in the Scottish Wars of Independence there was also the small matter of several rebellions against Edward II in England.  Robert’s son Roger was executed after the Battle of Boroughbridge. (Click on the image in this paragraph to open a new window for my post on the Battle of Boroughbridge) Ultimately it came back into the Clifford possessions but turned to a pile of rubble after an unfortunate accident with a band of Scots  and a blazing torch in 1341.

It was 1660 when Lady Anne Clifford turned her attention to rebuilding Pendragon castle “at great cost and charges.” She noted in her diary that she stayed in Pendragon for three nights on 14 october 1661.  She went on to renovate Mallerstang Chapel as well as ensuring that Pendragon had all the amenities including a brewhouse and a wash house. Spence records that the hearth returns reveal that there were twelve fire places in Pendragon and that Lady Anne Clifford wrote her will whilst she stayed there.DSCN0941.jpg

After Lady Anne Clifford’s time it returned to ruin and even in the seventeenth century during her time it had acquired the tradition of belonging to Uther Pendragon – in one version he died there when the Saxons took the castle.  But just so we’re quite clear the ruins on display today were definitely built in the twelfth century as Mallerstang Castle although Westwood and Simpson observe that the de Cliffords might have renamed it during the reign of Edward I when there was a fashion of all things Arthurian.

Cope, Jean (1991) Castles in Cumbria. Milnthorpe: Cicerone Press

Salter, Mike. (2002) The Castles and Tower Houses of Cumbria. Malvern: Folly Publications

Spence, Richard T, (1997) Lady Anne Clifford. Stroud: Sutton Publishing

Westwood and Simpson. (2005) The Lore of the Land: A Guide to England’s Legends. London: Penguin

 

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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Castles, Fifteenth Century, Legends, Twelfth Century, Wars of the Roses

George Clifford, Queen’s Champion

george clifford.jpgGeorge Clifford was born on August 8, 1558 in Brougham Castle. In 1570 he became the third Earl of Cumberland and also the last of the direct line of Robert de Clifford’s descendants. He willed his title and estates to his younger brother (breaking an entail dating from the reign of Edward II and ensuring a legal battle which lasted most of his daughter’s life).

George was eleven-years-old when he became the earl, so orphaned as he was , the monarch held his wardship. Elizabeth could have kept young George at horse, at Court or sold the wardship either to George’s family or to the highest bidder. She chose to do the latter. Francis Russell, the puritan Earl of Bedford purchased young George’s wardship and in due course, 1577, married him off to his own youngest daughter Margaret. George spent the remainder of his childhood and adolescence in the south of England and in Cambridge where he studied mathematics and geography.

 

When he grew up George was bitten by the seafaring bug. He used the revenue from his estates to fund voyages of exploration. He also had a bit of a gambling habit. In short he was a stereotypical Elizabethan roistering seafarer/courtier with an interest in mathematics and a link to Mary Queen of Scots (he was on the jury during her trial). His first voyage was in 1586 and he sailed alongside two other vessels sponsored by Sir Walter Raleigh. Clifford found himself a very long way from Skipton. He sailed to Brazil where he took a share of a Portuguese prize vessel. It was a slaver – so George’s loot on this occasion came from slavery.

 

George’s son was born in 1584. He was called Francis but died five years later just before his youngest sibling was born. Francis’s brother Robert also died young. This left only one child born in 1590 – a girl called Anne. It is from her diaries that we learn much about George’s spending habits, his lady friend and the hostility that came to exist between himself and his wife. He may have made money from his voyages but he lost it betting on horses and the outcome of jousts. When he died it took the next sixty years to return the estate to some sort of financial order.

 

DSCN0099.jpgIn 1588 George commanded the Elizabeth Bonaventure against the Spanish Armada and two years later became the Queen’s champion jouster wearing her glove pinned to his hat. Clifford’s tournament armour can be seen today in the Metropolitan Museum in New York (apologies for the photograph I’ve become much better at indoor shots since I took this one but it might be a while until I get the opportunity to take another.) In 1592 he was made a Knight of the Garter. By 1600 George was a founder member of the East India Company and in 1603 he became the Lord Warden of the West Marches – so based in Carlisle.   As this paragraph reveals George was a busy man and was often away from home either at court or seeing to his various nautical adventures. It was expedient for the family to live in London where George’s interests lay but as time passed he and Margaret went their separate ways.

Following the death of Queen Elizabeth, which Lady Anne Clifford described in her diaries, George went north to greet the man whose mother he’d helped to condemn.  It was said that George’s retinue looked rather more splendid than the new king’s did.

 

Countess Margaret was not amused by her husband’s debts or affair with a ‘lady of quality’. Nor was she amused that their daughter Anne had effectively been bypassed as Clifford’s heir when he made his will. He bequeathed her £15,000 making her a respectable heiress but ignoring what was hers by right of birth. He may have done this because he was aware of the burden of debt that lay on the estate.

George died on October 30 1605 in London but he is buried in Holy Trinity Church, Skipton.  These three pictures show detail from his tomb.IMG_3901

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Double click on the portrait of Clifford to open a new window and see what The Peerage has to say about George.

Mitchell WR (2002) The Fabulous Cliffords. Settle: Castleberg

Spence. Richard T. (1997) Lady Anne Clifford. Frome: Sutton Publishing

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Filed under Carlisle, Mary Queen of Scots, Sixteenth Century, The Tudors

Kirby Muxloe Castle and William, Lord Hastings

DSC_0077There’s not much left of Kirby Muxloe Castle today apart from two red brick octagonal corner turrets and a gate-house. There’s also a rather fine moat filled with water lilies and at this time of year rather a lot of Canada geese. DOn’t go during the week because the doors are locked! The gate house boasts some state of the art gun loops which reflect the ways in which war fare was changing during the fifteenth century.

 

Originally there was a manor at Kirby Muxloe but when William Lord Hastings got hold of it in 1474, he applied for a license to crenulate. Being best buddies with Edward IV, Hastings was promptly granted the right to turn the manor into a castle. He began work in 1480.

DSC_0087.JPGThe bricks which form the towers and gate house were fired locally under the direction of John Cowper, who’d been an apprentice working on Henry VI’s school at Eton. The red bricks are interspaced with a black diamond or ‘diaper’ pattern which also incorporates the initials WH – William wanted folk to know who lived in the snazzy new castle. There’s also a sleeve or ‘maunch’ from his coat of arms, a jug and a boat – although the guide book admits that historians are till scratching their heads as to why Hastings wanted those particular decorations.  A set of accounts survives from 1480 to 1484 detailing work on the castle. It reveals 100,000 bricks a week were being fired.

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The west tower was the only part of Hastings’ project to be completed. Work stopped five years later when Hastings had a nasty accident with an axe on Tower Green on 13 June 1483. Hastings’ wife continued working on the building and the family continued to live there until 1630 although Hastings’ plan was never fulfilled.

 

So who was William, Lord Hastings? He was born in approximately 1430 and his father owed his service to Richard, Duke of York. William was knighted by Edward IV in the aftermath of Towton in 1461 and swiftly became chamberlain to Edward’s household. He was one of the courtiers who helped arrange the marriage of Margaret of York (Edward’s sister) to the Duke of Burgundy. Hastings took the opportunity to build his land base in his native Leicestershire – principly Ashby de la Zouche and Kirkby Muxloe as well as Slingsby in Yorkshire whilst in the royal household. When Edward briefly lost his throne in 1470 on account of the Kingmaker being unamused at Edward’s secret wedding to Elizabeth Woodville, Hastings fled to the continent with his monarch. Hastings was with Edward fighting against the Earl of Warwick at the Battle of Barnet which may have taken some explaining at home as Hastings’ wife Katherine was actually Katherine Neville – the Earl of Warwick’s sister (also making him cousin by marriage to Edward IV and Richard, Duke of Gloucester).

 

Hastings took part in the Battle of Tewkesbury which saw the death of Lancastrian Prince Edward and the capture of Henry VI’s queen, Margaret of Anjou. In the aftermath of Tewkesbury Hastings found himself being sent to Calais in order to restore order on behalf of Edward IV. As a consequence of all that loyalty and martial activity he was even more liberally rewarded once the Yorkists were secure on the throne… and he got to go to all of Edward IV’s parties as well. Mancini describes Hastings as being privy to all of Edward’s pleasures ( i.e. all that drinking and debauchery that ruined Edward IV’s health).

 

Of course, like many other of Edward’s courtiers Hastings fought a running smear campaign against the Woodvilles and in particular with Edward’s step-son Thomas Grey, the Earl of Dorset and Elizabeth Woodville’s brother Anthony (Earl Rivers). It was, perhaps, as a consequence of this faction fighting that Hastings sent a messenger to Richard in Middleham when Edward died unexpectedly on April 9, 1483. The Croyland Chronicle suggests that Hastings may have feared for his life.

 

The Woodvilles seemed to be about to conduct a coup which would have seen them in control of the young king Edward V and which would have paid no heed to Edward IV’s clear instructions that Richard, Duke of Gloucester was to be the regent. Things must have looked bad when Hastings tried to stop the proposed coronation of 4 May saying that the Woodvilles should wait until Richard arrived in London.

What we know is thus:

April 9 1483: Edward IV died.

April 11 1483: Edward V proclaimed king. The date for the coronation was fixed on May 4. Edward V was summoned to London from Ludlow. There was an argument between Elizabeth Woodville and Hastings over the number of men who should be sent to bring the king to London. Hastings threatened to go to Calais . Hastings wrote to Richard, Duke of Gloucester in Middleham informing him of his brother’s death and the dangers of a Woodville coup. Richard had the letter by April 20th.

 

April 14 1483: News of Edward IV’s death reaches Ludlow and probably the Duke of Buckingham.

 

April 20: Council sits in London. Arguments between Woodville faction and other older noble stock including Hastings about apparent haste of coronation.

April 24: Earl Rivers sets out for London with Edward V and 2,000 men.

April 26: Richard of Gloucester in Nottingham where a certain Humphrey Percival met with him in secret to discuss the Duke of Buckingham’s proposal to meet with him in Northampton. Earl Rivers met with messengers on the road and agreed to meet Gloucester and Buckingham in Northampton.

April 29: Edward V and Lord Rivers arrive in Northampton. Sir Richard Grey (Edward’s half brother) arrived from London ordering Rivers to hurry to London. Rivers moved on to Stony Stratford- Rivers then went back to Northampton where Buckingham and Goucester had arrived to find the king gone.

April 30: Lord Rivers discovered that he was a prisoner. Sir Richard Grey was arrested as were others of Edward V’s escort. Late on the evening of the 30th Elizabeth Woodville went into sanctuary at Westminster Abbey with her remaining son and her daughters. Dr Morton, (Lord Chancellor and later Cardinal and Henry Tudor’s right hand man) surrendered the Great Seal into Elizabeth Woodville’s keeping. Hastings wrote and told Richard what Morton had done.

April 31: Hastings speaks to the Councilsaying that Gloucester was “fastly faithful to his prince.” (Weir: 85). He also said that Rivers and Grey would receive impartial justice.

May 2: Gloucester despatches Rivers and Grey north. Issues orders that Dr Morton was to be sacked as Lord Chancellor but the bishop was allowed to keep his seat on the Council.

May 3: Edward V and Richard, Duke of Gloucester leave Northampton for London.

May 4: Having spent the night in St Albans the king and the duke travel towards London.

 

To all intents and purposes Richard, Duke of Gloucester was in complete control. The Croyland Chronicle comments on how well Lord Hastings was doing out of the whole affair. But something was wrong. Perhaps Hastings resented the fact that he’d stayed in London at the heart of the danger sending information to Richard for very little reward. Perhaps he didn’t much like the Duke of Buckingham who seemed to be in the ascendant. Perhaps he was a bit concerned about Richard’s power. Certainly he discussed with like minded peers how the regent’s new powers should be kept under control. Was it possible that Hastings changed his mind and began negotiating with the Woodvilles? How was Edward IV’s mistress Jane Shore involved?

 

Jane Shore had transferred her affections from the deceased Edward IV to William Hastings if Mancini and Thomas More (who was a child at the time but who seems to have got his information from the Howard family) are to be believed. Alison Weir comments that Edward IV was generous with his friends in that he wasn’t jealous of his mistresses’ affections. It appears that one of the causes of rivalry between Hastings and Dorset were a shared interest in Mistress Shore (Weir: 55)

 

June 10 1483 Richard sent Sir Richard Ratcliffe north to the mayor of York and the Earl of Northumberland with letters ordering them south to support Richard against the Woodvilles. The letters state that Richard believed that the Woodvilles intended to murder him (Cole:185).

 

Friday June 13 1485: Lord Howard called in at Jane Shore’s house where he collected William, Lord Hastings. Howard and Hastings made their way to a council meeting in the Tower of London. At 9 in the morning Richard arrived at the meeting and sent  Dr Morton the Bishop of Ely for a “mess of strawberries.”   Richard excused himself and returned an hour and a half later in a bit of a temper. Hastings was accused of treason. Lord Stanley was taken prisoner, as was Dr Morton.

 

Hastings was dragged down to the courtyard and beheaded on some timber after his confession had been heard by a cleric. A herald was sent through London denouncing Hastings’ plot and announcing his execution.

 

Monday June 16 1485: Westminster Abbey surrounded by armed men. Richard, Duke of York went into the Tower to keep Edward V company , Richard the Protector having given his word as to the boy’s safety.

 

June 25 1485: Anthony Woodville, Elizabeth Woodville’s brother executed at Pontefract Castle.

 

Richard restored Hastings’ family to its position the month after William was killed with their titles, estates and wealth. Royle and other historians of the Wars of the Roses make the point that Richard’s accusation that Hastings was plotting with the Woodvilles via Jane Shore seems hard to believe. Hastings couldn’t stand the Woodvilles. Was it possible that Hastings feared that Richard would usurp the throne? Did he know something that no one else knew at that time? Did Richard have to silence him – a case of political expediency? Mancini wrote that Hastings needed to be taken out in order for Richard to claim the throne and that Hastings never suspected his friend of duplicity. Medieval politics weren’t just brutal, they were deadly.

Hastings’ death is the first of the historical events chalked up against Richard III – whatever we might think of him as an individual or a monarch.  It was an execution without trial and as such must be seen as murder. Earl Rivers and Richard Grey didn’t get a trial either. And no, he’s not the only monarch to indulge in a spot of murder – with or without the law on his side.

 

Cole, Hubert (1973). The Wars of the Roses. London:Granada Publishing

Royle, Trevor. (2009). The Road to Bosworth Field. London: Little Brown

Weir, Alison. (1992) The Princes in the Tower. New York: Ballantine

 

 

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Filed under Castles, Fifteenth Century, The Plantagenets, Wars of the Roses

Richard III windows Leicester Cathedral

IMG_7218It’s more than a year since King Richard III was reinterred at Leicester Cathedral in March 2015 after famously being discovered under a car park.

In addition to the rather large slab of Swaledale stone fashioned to represent a sarcophagus there are two fine new windows in the north side of St Katherine’s chapel designed by artist Thomas Denny which are truly beautiful.

The reds and golds are particularly eye-catching.  The more you look; the more you see. There’s even a football in the window for those who look carefully enough – a reminder of Leicester’s successful 2015-2016 football season.

I love the window depicting Leicester’s archeology including mosaics, Saxon treasure and  a skeleton – presumably Richard’s.IMG_7242The window on the left shows women tending to bodies in the aftermath of battle – Bosworth, although it could, of course, be any Wars of the Roses field. Above the women a window depicts a body slung over a horse reflecting Richard’s last undignified journey back to Leicester. Study of his skeleton revealed that his body was not treated honourably in the aftermath of his death.

The central panel depicts the road to Emmaus.  Above this scene young man learns to ride a horse at Middleham Castle and three children play at Fotheringay. Richard was born in Fotheringay Castle in 1452 and grew up in Middleham in the care of his Neville relations who held Middleham at that time.  Later it would become his own home.

IMG_7243The window on the right depicts Richard and Anne Neville mourning the death of their son Edward of Middleham who died on April 9 1484.  Richard’s journey through the shadow of the Valley of Death continued with the death of Anne in March 1485.  Richard was dead five months later.  Above the main panels there’s a boar – Richard’s emblem; the Battle of Tewkesbury and Kirkby Muxloe built by Lord Hastings.  There’s an oak and a castle representing a kingdom.  Richard became king in 1483 after serving his brother Edward IV loyally throughout his life.  Richard’s motto was “Loyalty binds me.”

Richard  reigned for two years. He was the last Yorkist Plantagenet king of England. It is the events leading up to his claiming the kingdom and the disappearance of his two nephews which focus people’s attention away from the loyal and good service that he fulfilled on his brother’s behalf. There’s a discarded crown as well in the main panel on the right as well as an orb and sceptre. Richard can be seen riding across Leicester’s bridge on his way to battle.

Half a millennia after Shakespeare’s hatchet job on the last Plantagenet kingIMG_7244, Richard III has acquired a breath taking monument which seeks to redress the balance.  I’m not saying the man was a saint – he was a medieval king and generally speaking they probably weren’t the type of people you’d wish to meet down a dark alley but neither was he the monster that the Tudors portrayed. Politics was a bloody and brutal affair-just ask Lord Hastings who was summarily executed for reasons we don’t fully understand even today and equally consider Francis, Lord Lovell who remained loyal to Richard when all hope was lost.

DSC_0055.jpgI’m not sure it it was intentDSC_0055.jpgonal or not but knowing the story of Richard III and his missing nephews I found it impossible to look at the Emmaus scene without pondering on the fates of King Edward V and his brother Richard of York – although the two young men are too old to be the princes their presence is something that continues to haunt Richard’s history.  Whether the question as to what happened to the princes will ever be answered is another matter – and generally speaking there’s nothing like a conspiracy theory to keep writers and academics in employment.

 

But that’s not to say the truth won’t eventually surface. We now know that Richard III wasn’t the hunchbacked monster of Tudor propaganda but that he did have scoliosis which developed as he grew to maturity – so a sort of middle ground between two differing historical views. Perhaps more than anything Richard III was the one thing which no medieval king could afford to be – ultimately unlucky.  He was the last English king to die on the battlefield.  Henry Tudor dated his reign to the day before Bosworth to ensure an act of attainder hung over the heads of all the nobility who’d been loyal to Richard.

But for all that, the one medieval king who most people can name whether they’re interested in history or not is King Richard III.

A trip to Leicester can also involve a visit to Bosworth Field and Kirkby Muxloe Castle.  There’s even a Richard III experience opposite the cathedral though I must admit I didn’t avail myself of that particular facility. I was more than happy with Thomas Denny’s windows.

 

 

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Filed under Fifteenth Century, Kings of England, The Plantagenets, Wars of the Roses

Matilda’s ship – the Mora

mora-guillaume-le-conquerant.jpgMrs Conqueror a.k.a Duchess Matilda was an organised sort of woman – which was probably just as well given her spouse.  In the run up to the Norman conquest she and William handed over their daughter Cecilia to God as a nun at La Trinite in Caen.  She went on to become the abbess.

Having made her investment with the Almighty Mrs Conqueror moved on to the practicalities of sailing across the Channel and capturing England.  She commissioned a new ship to be built in Barfleur in the Viking style with a figurehead of a golden child holding an ivory horn in one hand and pointing onwards with the other- which as Borman says was unusual.  The more normal figurehead usually had an animal or perhaps a dragon head. Hilliam says that the child was ten-year-old William Rufus but Borman speculates that the duchess might well have fallen pregnant just before the whole conquest project. The prow bore a lion’s head and the banner on the masthead had been consecrated in Rome. You can see the golden child in this picture of the Mora from the Bayeux Tapestry.  And, ladies and gentleman should you be wondering what to give the significant other in your life, the Mora was a surprise present.  William only found out about it in the summer of 1066 and immediately made it his flagship (sensible man).

It would have to be said that William’s entire family seem to have gone slightly to town on the boat giving that year. Harkins’ comment that his mother’s family donated one hundred and twenty small boats to William’s project (Harkins:32) but that they were largely small boats capable of carrying not more than forty men.

Just in case you’re wondering what you give the woman who gives you a nice new flagship – the answer is Kent.

As to the meaning of the name Mora I direct you to a guest post on the Freelance History Writer dating from 2014 which explores some of the possible meanings of the name and directs its readers to William’s royal Nordic past.  Click on the blue link to open a new window on a very interesting article.

Borman, Tracy. (2011) Matilda: Queen of the Conqueror. London: Jonathan Cape

Harkins,  Susan S and Harkins, William H.(2008) The Life and Times of William the Conqueror. Mitchell Lane Publishers

Hilliam, Paul. (2005) William the Conqueror: First Norman King of England. The Rosen Publishing Group

 

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Filed under Eleventh Century, Norman Conquest

Harold Godwinson’s women

aeflgyvva.jpgIn 1064, so yes slightly before the start date of my self imposed chronological constraint, Earl Harold Godwinson ended up on the wrong side of the Channel.  The Malmesbury Chronicle says that he went on a fishing trip and got blown off course due to bad weather whilst the Bayeux Tapestry depicts Harold arriving to retrieve various relations who had been held hostage for several years.  Whatever the truth of it Harold swiftly found himself being handed over to Duke William in Rouen and during his time in Normandy even taking part in William’s military campaign in Brittany.

Both the Malmesbury Chronicle and the writer of the Jumieges Chronicle report that Harold agreed to support William’s claim to the English throne at this time but that William offered his eldest daughter Adeliza to Harold as a deal sweetener.  Apparently the girl wasn’t yet old enough to marry the handsome English earl but when she did come of age William offered his daughter together with a handsome dowry. Borman notes that Adeliza would have been about seven-years-old in 1064. Borman continues her story by suggesting that it was William’s wife, Matilda, who brokered the deal and that the woman in the Bayeux Tapestry titled “Aelfgyva” is in fact Adeliza.  The woman in the Bayeux Tapestry is an adult, and of course, Adeliza would not have been married until she reached puberty so it could be that the creators of the tapestry are looking to the future.  Borman (page 81) adds that it is possible that the woman is framed in a ducal doorway on the tapestry and that the priest touching her cheek is actually removing her veil – so a depiction of the betrothal ceremony.  The only problem, apart from the obvious age thing, is that why anglicise Adeliza’s name?  The tapestry is, after all, Norman despite its English crafting.  Borman also makes the very good point that there is a subtext in the tapestry.  There are a couple up to marginal naughtiness in the borders of the tapestry at this point in the story – and it hardly seems to apply to Adeliza.  Borman goes on to suggest that Aelfygvva is actually Harold’s sister who was fetched across to Normandy for a corresponding Norman-English marriage to cement the agreement.

Walker notes that one source suggests a plan to marry Harold’s sister to Duke William – which can’t have been the case as his wife Matilda might have objected.  More plausibly there may have been a projected marriage between Harold’s sister and William’s eldest son Robert. Walker also offers the suggestion that Harold was actually on his way into continental Europe to arrange an advantageous match for his sister when he got blown off course and ended up as a ‘guest’ of William.

Freeman notes that the lady in question could be a courtesan provided for Harold at Rouen or even, and I’m still not quite sure why she’d be in the Bayeux Tapestry a mistress of either Cnut or Harold’s brother Swegn (who happened to also be an abbess- the mistress that is). Freeman presents the argument that the lady in question is none of the above but actually Queen Emma who changed her name to one that tripped off Saxon tongues upon her marriage to Aethelred (the Unready). Emma ultimately married Aethelred’s enemy Cnut having left the children of her first marriage in Normandy (Alfred and Edward – who became the Confessor and despite being Saxon was actually very Norman).  At a later date she was accused of impropriety with the Bishop of Winchester – not to mention the blinding and eventual death of her own son Alfred at Ely.  Freeman argues that not only did Emma have a Norman link but demonstrated the chaos of pre-conquest England in the minds of the Normans as well as the perfidy of the Godwinson clan – Emma having been linked in her policies to Harold’s father (the treacherous Earl Godwin.) Double click on the image to open a new page and a post on the Medievalists.net published in 2012 with more detail about who the mysterious Aelfgyvva might be and why.

 

Now that’s what you call an aside!

The Malmesbury Chronicle, to go back to the original point of the post, says that William’s daughter died before she could be married to Harold and this added to Harold’s justification for breaking his oath to support William.

There’s also the small matter that Harold was some forty years older than his intended bride and possibly already had a wife in the form of  Edith Swanneck.  History always seems a bit vague about what to call this particular Edith.  Some texts refer to her as Harold’s mistress, others as his common law wife.  It appears that the couple were hand fasted in the Norse  not-entirely-Christian-somewhat frowned upon by the Church-tradition.  Harold had several children with Edith Swanneck and they were not regarded as illegitimate at the time but then when Harold made his claim to the throne it was deemed sensible that he should make a more acceptable marriage to the widow of his enemy Llewelyn – Edith of Mercia to strengthen his position.  It was Edith Swan neck who, according to legend,  went in search of Harold’s body in the aftermath of the Battle of Hastings.

History is a bit vague about when Harold married Edith of Mercia but they were certainly married by the time he became king in 1066.  In the aftermath of Hastings, history’s last sight of Edith is heading in the direction of Chester in the company of her brothers.

Borman, Tracy (2011 ) Matilda: Queen of the Conqueror.  London: Jonathan Cape

Freeman, Eric ( 1991)  Annales de Normandie. The Identity of Aelfgyva in the Bayeux Tapestry  Volume 41  number 2 pp. 117-134 http://www.persee.fr/doc/annor_0003-4134_1991_num_41_2_1886#annor_0003-4134_1991_num_41_2_T1_0119_0000 (accessed 13th June 2016 23:35)

Walker Ian W. (2010) Harold: The Last Anglo-Saxon King Stroud: Sutton Publishing

 

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Filed under Eleventh Century, Norman Conquest

Matilda or Mrs William the Conqueror

matilda of flandersMatilda of Flanders had an illustrious pedigree including Alfred the Great.  Tracy Borman comments that she was related to most, if not all, Norther Europe’s royalty.  Her mother Adela supervised her education and later Matilda would be praised for her learning.  By the time Matilda was eighteen in about 1049 a certain Duke William whose lands marched with those of Count Baldwin V looked to be an advantageous match so when he approached Baldwin with a marriage proposal Matilda’s father accepted.

However, Matilda was less delighted.  She refused to marry William.  Borman speculates that it was because William was illegitimate – although of course the stigma of illegitimacy was not necessarily the bar to high office that it became in later centuries.

imagesWilliam was not a happy man.  He rode to Bruges, met Matilda coming out of church and proceeded to knock her into the mud, pull her plaits and hit her…an interesting variation on a box of chocolates and bunch of flowers.  In one account he is said to have kicked her with his spurs which would have been painful at the very least and Borman makes the point probably fatal.  Baldwin immediately declared war on William only to discover that Matilda had changed her mind.  After her rather rough wooing she decided she wanted to marry William.  The story was written approximately two hundred years later so a rather large pinch of salt is required in order to digest the tale but the pair do seem to have been evenly matched in terms of temper.

There may have been another reason for the change of heart.  Tracey Borman discusses the possibility of an earlier relationship with Brihtric Mau tarnishing her reputation but there again her father had already arranged another betrothal with Saxony when Matilda refused William.

Brihtric Mau was Edward the Confessor’s ambassador. He was descended from the House of Wessex and he was a wealthy man which made him a powerful man.  He was tall and handsome with blond hair.  Borman suggests that Mau is derived from ‘snew’  which is of course the Old English word for snow (Borman: 17).  Borman goes on to explain that the Chronicle of Tewkesbury – and the largest part of Mau’s lands were in Gloucestershire- describes Matilda as falling in love with the handsome Saxon.  She apparently sent a messenger back to England when he returned there proposing marriage.  This was not the way that a nice girl behaved, even if she was the daughter of a count.  It caused a scandal and to make matters worse the unspellable Brihtric rejected her.

The reason why the Chronicle of Tewkesbury is at such pains to tell the tale is because in 1067, twenty years after he’d rejected her, Matilda got her own back.  She asked William for the Manor of Tewkesbury and removed Gloucester’s charter – which was a disaster commercially and legally for the town. Dugdale’s History of the Norman Conquest adds the fact that Brihtric found himself in a dungeon in Winchester where he died in suspicious circumstances two years later – though there’s nothing very suspicious about lack of food, poor hygiene and lack of fresh air.

That’s the story – Borman also presents the evidence that Brihtric was present at Matilda’s coronation (Borman:118) which means that he can’t have been languishing in a dank cell in Winchester awaiting a visit from Matilda’s assassin.  Whatever the truth all we have is rumours and historical fragments.  It does at least demonstrate that Matilda must have been as tempestuous as her spouse.

Borman, Tracy. (2011) Matilda: Queen of the Conqueror. London: Jonathan Cape

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Filed under Eleventh Century, Norman Conquest, Queens of England

The Battle of Wakefield

DSC_0041.JPGIn September 1459 Richard of York fled to Ireland.  He returned a year later and attempted to claim the throne from Henry VI.  This was not a sensible manoeuvre and it certainly didn’t have popular acclaim.  He did manage to wangle the agreement that he would be king after Henry VI, effectively disinheriting Prince Edward and seriously irritating Edward’s mother and Henry VI’s wife – Margaret of Anjou.

Things didn’t get better.  In November 1460 the Lords Dacre, Clifford and Neville attacked the tenants of Richard of York and the Earl of Salisbury (the Kingmaker’s father).  Meanwhile Margaret of Anjou was chivvying the north to her and her disinherited son’s aid.  It is worth pointing out that despite his title and landholdings at Conisborough and Wakefield the majority of the Duke of York’s land and support was elsewhere than the north.

Richard of York underestimated the degree of antipathy towards him and the extent to which northerners were prepared to take up arms.  He rode north to Wakefield on 9th December 1460 together with the Earl of Salisbury  in order to sort out his landholding there and to knock the Lancastrians into order. He held the necessary legal documents but very few men.  He was dogged, it appears, by bad roads, worse weather and several broken bridges as well as the Duke of Somerset’s men launching a surprise attack.  He must have been in a pretty grim frame of mind by the time he arrived at Sandal Castle pictured at the start of this post on the 21 December 1460.

Once at Sandal he was joined by knights loyal to York including Sir Thomas Parr who’d been an MP for Westmorland on five occasions.  Many of the ordinary soldiers would have had to have camped outside the castle (lucky them!).  Soon York found himself hemmed in by Lancastrians and he also discovered that he hadn’t got enough supplies.  It must have been a jolly Christmas season.

For whatever reason York’s men left the castle on the 30th December.  One version of the story says he sent men out for supplies and they failed to recognise the size of the Lancastrian force that they encountered.  Another version suggests that a certain Anthony Trollope and his men had changed from York to Lancaster and that he came up with a plan to disguise four hundred or so of the Duke of Somerset’s men as retainers of the Earl of Warwick and simply march into Sandal. Stage two of the plan was for Trollope to arrive the following morning lure York’s men out into the open and then Somerset’s men were to show their true colours which seems rather a lively not to mention hard to swallow story.  Presumably the Earl of Salisbury might have asked some questions of the men who arrived claiming to be sent by his son?

In any event on the 30 December 1460 Richard set out to meet a force of Lancastrians on Wakefield Green.  He thought that there was only a small force of men.  He was rather badly wrong.  The Yorkists charged the Lancastrians and were surprised by arrows and more Lancastrians who came from the woods that lay to both sides of the Yorkist force.  It must have seemed to Richard that for every Lancastrian he killed another two sprouted in their place.

IMG_7100Bridge Street near the River Calder is still sometimes called Fall Ings describing the number of fleeing Yorkists killed there but Richard chose to stand and fight, legend says with his back to a willow tree.  One of the reasons he may have made this decision was because his eldest son Edmund, the Earl of Rutland was amongst the Yorkists fleeing the battle field.

If this was the case it did Richard little good.  Not only did he die on the spot marked by a Victorian memorial replacing the one destroyed during the English Civil War but his son was killed near the bridge by Lord Clifford in revenge for the death of his father at the first Battle of St Albans in 1455. The news rapidly circulated that Edmund had been unarmed and pleaded for his life at the time that Clifford killed him.  The Wars of the Roses turned to another shade of nastiness as a consequence.DSC_0053.JPGDSC_0055.JPG

The chantry chapel on the bridge at Wakefield looks a little lost next to the ring road.  It was enriched by Edward IV in memory of his father and brother whose heads together with the Earl of Salisbury had adorned York’s Micklegate Bar in the aftermath of the battle.

As for Sir Thomas Parr, one of several northern knights loyal to the house of York he died the following year.  He was also the grandfather of Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth queen – or if you followed Henry’s logic second queen on account of the fact that only Jane Seymour had been his true wife!

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Clark David, (2003) Battlefield Walks in Yorkshire. Wilmslow: Sigma Press

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Filed under Fifteenth Century, The Plantagenets, Wars of the Roses