Monthly Archives: July 2016

Margaret Beaufort’s other family

Stained_glass_in_the_Burrell_CollectionDSCF0301_07.jpgThe Wars of the Roses or The Cousins War as it was called at the time is complicated enough without looking too closely at the relationships that existed between the women of the period and the links forged by marriages often arranged to secure family alliances and extend land holdings. Yet, to do so gives a new insight into the power dynamics, politics and family relationships of the period and also of the Tudor period given that Henry VIII emulated his father when he approached mid-life by starting to execute members of his nobility with too much Plantagenet blood in their veins.

 

Margaret Beaufort and her assorted extended family is typical of the far reaching links that often seem to run counter to what might be expected from the overarching political affiliations depicted in history books. Her mother was Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe. Margaret Beauchamp was married three times. She had children by all three of her husbands. These children were Margaret Beaufort’s half-siblings and thus aunts and uncles of Henry Tudor, thought much less publicized than Jasper Tudor. Margaret Beaufort’s youngest half-brother, John born sometime around 1450, was the child of Margaret Beauchamp’s third marriage to Lionel de Welles, the sixth baron Welles.

 

Lionel died at the Battle of Towton in 1461 fighting on the Lancastrian side. Barons number seven and eight (Lionel Welles’ son and grandson from a previous marriage) had their heads chopped off for plotting against Edward IV in 1470. This resulted in an Act of Attainder and the removal of titles and estates most of which were situated in Lincolnshire. John Welles, not put off by the severing of heads from shoulders, continued the family tradition of loyalty to Lancaster by becoming involved with Buckingham’s rebellion against Richard III in 1483. He then scarpered across the Channel where he joined his nephew Henry Tudor.

 

So far so good – though I admit a family tree would help. He returned to England in 1485 by his nephew’s side, was knighted and got his lands back. He also acquired a bride some nineteen years his junior and who tied him more closely than ever to the royal family.

 

His bride was Cecily Plantagenet, the second daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville to survive to adulthood (her elder sister Mary died young). She had been offered as a bride to King James III of Scotland’s heir in 1474 – and in 1482, the year before Edward IV’s death, to the Duke of Albany although there was the slight problem of Albany already having a wife.

 

Cecily’s grand Scottish match came to nothing. Instead her father died and she found herself in sanctuary for the second time in her short life and no longer a princess. Her parents’ marriage was declared invalid on account of her father’s alleged pre-contract with Lady Eleanor Butler making his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville bigamous and Cecily and her siblings illegitimate.

 

Richard III arranged for his niece to marry Ralph Scrope the younger brother of a northern baron. The marriage was swiftly brought to an end once Henry VII gained the throne. Cecily was required at court and in the hands of a good Lancastrian rather than a supporter of Richard III. In 1486 she carried Prince Arthur to his baptism and in 1487 she accompanied her sister Elizabeth, Henry VII’s wife, to her coronation. By the following year she was married to Henry VII’s less well-known uncle John Welles. This was a clever move on Henry’s part. It rewarded his uncle for his loyalty and ensured that Cecily didn’t acquire an overly ambitious husband.

 

It was, however, a marriage that makes for complicated family ties. Cecily as well as becoming Henry Tudor’s sister-in-law also became his mother’s (Margaret Beaufort) sister-in-law; something of an irony bearing in mind that Margaret Beaufort in the red corner and Elizabeth Woodville in the white corner (Cecily’s mother) were consummate rivals and only united in 1483 against a common foe in Richard III (if popular history is to be believed and we set aside the fact that Elizabeth Woodville not only accepted Margaret Beaufort at court whilst Edward IV was alive but asked her to be godmother to one of her daughters at a time when both women might reasonably have supposed that their positions were established and secure…I did say it was complicated).

 

Cecily and John had two daughters both of whom died in childhood. John died in 1499 and Cecily continued with her duties at court where she seems to have been something of a favourite. She was part of Prince Arthur’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon. Records state that she carried the bride’s train and danced with Prince Arthur at the festivities afterwards. Jones and Underwood note that during this time she and Margaret Beaufort spent time together and seem to have grown to like one another.

 

She was also financially secure. Welles having died without children left a will giving Cecily an interest in his estates for her lifetime. He named her as executor of his will along with Margaret Beaufort’s, and now Henry VII’s, long trusted henchman Sir Reginald Bray.

 

Behind the scenes Cecily was taking her life in her own hands. History knows relatively little of the arrangements behind her first marriage to Ralph Scrope but in all likelihood it was arranged by Richard III who’d promised his nieces marriages to gentlemen (but not nobility of the first order). Her second marriage was obviously political. In that Cecily’s life was no different from countless other women of the period but she was about to break the rules. In 1502, Cecily married Thomas Kyme of Friskney, a Lincolnshire esquire, without royal license and socially far below her in rank.

 

Henry VII was not amused.

 

However, Cecily and Thomas had an unexpected ally in Cecily’s sister-in-law, Margaret Beaufort. Margaret permitted Cecily, of whom she appears fond, to stay in her house at Collyweston until the king’s anger had time to simmer down. She also began negotiations on Cecily’s behalf. As you might expect much of Henry’s anger was about loss of prestige, something important to the parvenu Tudor. But, almost as important to Henry VII was his treasury. As soon as the marriage came to light Henry set about removing the Welles’ estates from his sister-in-law but Margaret, canny negotiator, ensured that Cecily retained some of her lands and was able to pay her way out of trouble though not back into royal favour which may explain why she didn’t attend her sister, Elizabeth of York’s funeral – a noticeable absence after all the other key events she’d played an important role in.

 

Cecily appears to have continued to be often in Margaret Beaufort’s company and when Cecily died in 1507 it was Margaret Beaufort who paid most of her funeral expenses.

 

Jones, Michael K and Underwood, Malcolm G.(1992) The King’s Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

 

 

 

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

Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe

beauchamp.jpgWho?  Well, she’s the maternal grandmother of Henry Tudor. In the great scheme of things John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset could have looked for a more prestigious marriage but he’d been a prisoner of the french for seventeen years and was hugely indebted on account of the ransom that had to be paid for his release.

Margaret, the daughter of Baron Beauchamp, was something of an heiress.  He brother had died young and without children. She married Sir Oliver St John who fathered several children and then died in France as a result of being involved in the Hundred Years War freeing Margaret up to marry the Duke of Somerset who was swiftly got his new bride pregnant and went back to fighting the French. A girl child duly arrived called Margaret.  The day before little Margaret Beaufort’s first birthday which fell on the 31 May 1444 her father died, in all probability by his own hand as a result of not doing terribly well in his campaign against the French.

Margaret Beauchamp widowed for a second time now spent three years without a husband at her home in Bletsoe where her daughter seems to have enjoyed a brief but happy childhood amongst her five half-siblings although she was given in wardship to William de la Pole, Earl -later Duke- of Suffolk. History isn’t entirely sure when Margaret Beaufort left her mother’s care although we do know that Margaret Beaufort remained loyal to her wider St John family throughout her life.  We also know that Suffolk arranged for his ward to marry his own son only for the whole  house of cards to come tumbling down when Henry VI became involved, ordered Margaret Beauchamp to bring her daughter to court in 1453 and gave Margaret who was a significant heiress as a bride to his own half-brother despite the fact that the child was already married to John de la Pole.  This childhood marriage was swiftly annulled and Margaret Beaufort always spoke of her marriage to Edmund Tudor as her first marriage.

 

Margaret Beauchamp married for a third time to one Lionel, Lord Welles who managed to survive longer than husbands one and two but who carelessly got himself killed at the Battle of Towton in 1461.

Lord Welles was a supporter of Margaret Beauchamp’s brother-in-law Edmund Beaufort (now Duke of Somerset – the one rumour said may have fathered Margaret of Anjou’s son rather than Henry VI). Lionel was part of the extended Clifford and Greystoke families for those who like a northern link. He was also an unsuccessful Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and served as deputy  Lieutenant for Calais on behalf of Edmund Beaufort who got himself killed in 1455 at the First Battle of St Albans.

We know very little else about Margaret Beauchamp except that she had a book of hours because it passed into the hands of her daughter Margaret Beaufort.  It is often referenced in texts because of Margaret Beaufort’s habit of annotating it. Double click on the image at the start of this post to open the British Library page with information about the Beaufort/Beauchamp Book of Hours.

Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe died in 1482 and was buried in Wimbourne Minster – so we also have a good idea what she may have looked like from her effigy which lays alongside that of her second husband – John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset.

 

Jones, Michael K. and Underwood, Malcolm G. (1993) The King’s Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

 

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Hexham Abbey font

IMG_7649 - Version 2.jpgSometimes the layers of history that make up our past are on prominent display.  The funny thing is that quite often we simply wander by thousands of years of our heritage without batting an eye let alone pausing to consider the twists and turns that led the elements to be placed as they are.

Take Hexham Abbey for instance.  It’s one of the earliest Christian buildings in the country, founded as it was by St Wilfred in AD674.  Should you feel the urge you can explore the Saxon crypt with its two entrances – one accessed on hands and knees in total darkness by Saxon pilgrims who were then suitably awe-struck (in the correct sense of the word) when they finally arrived at the brightly lit shrine with its relics. The second entry was for the monks who were not required to crawl.  These days, I should add, there’re a handy set of stairs.  There’s also a Saxon frith – or peace- stool that speaks of the abbey’s ancient past in the nave.

However, today’s post is about one item made up of several components which encompasses Hexham Abbey’s history from Roman times up to  and including the twentieth century.

IMG_7564.jpgThe oldest element is the actual font.  It was shaped in medieval times from the base of a Roman column, possibly from Corbridge where much of the dressed stone used to build the abbey comes from which is why the abbey boasts a Roman altar tucked away behind a cupboard.  More famous and more prominently displayed, the Flavinus tombstone which depicts a twenty-five-year-old Roman cavalryman and standard bearer along with an unclad British person who may being trampled upon or who may be about to hamstring Flavinus’ horse thus resulting in the need for the tombstone.   Flavinus was buried in the cemetery at Corbridge. The regimental burial fund paid for his rather fine nine foot tall tomb stone.  Six hundred or so years later St Wilfred’s workmen saw a lovely bit of stone, hauled it from Corbridge to Hexham where it became part of the masonry, Flavinus destined to be hidden from view for a very long time.  He was only rediscovered during renovations in 1881.

The plinth on which the font stands is medieval workmanship whilst the steps to the font are twentieth century.

IMG_7652Moving up: the cover is Jacobean work. Originally there must have been an older font cover.  Medieval requirements were that the water in the font should be kept covered and secure for cleanliness and so that dastardly personages couldn’t pinch it. History does not explain what happened to Hexham’s font cover.  Perhaps it was Henry VIII’s reformation thugs who took exception to its splendour or perhaps it was a bunch of Scots looking for something to burn- having said that the locals weren’t above the odd bit of raiding either and let’s not rule out good old-fashioned woodworm. Examples of medieval font covers do still exist. To find out more about them double click on the link and open a new page.

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The canopy that hangs above the font was crafted by a Belgian refugee called Josephus Ceulemans in 1916, part of the canopy is made from wood dating from the fifteenth century.

And there you have it two thousand  (ish) years of history as explained to me by a very friendly guide.

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Black Middens Bastle House

DSC_0075.JPGThe architecture of any border territory is inevitably studded with fortifications; the largest being the castle. On the Scottish borders there are two other kinds of fortified building dating, in their present form, from the sixteenth century. The best known of these two is the pele or peel tower. These were three or four storey buildings with very thick walls. The ground floor was used for storage whilst the upper floors were for living. Some towers like the one at Clifton near Penrith were really only used during times of crisis.

Once James VI of Scotland ascended the throne of England after Elizabeth I’s death and became James I of England (uniting the lion and the unicorn as heraldic supporters) he declared that hence forth the borders would be known as the ‘Middle Shires’ and that all peel towers should be dismantled.  Given the number of peel towers still standing on both sides of the border it may reasonably be suggested that not all the border families received that particular memo. Others incorporated the family tower into new builds such as at Hutton in the Forest and Dalemain.

DSC_0071.jpgThe third typical border fortification is the bastle house. A bastle house is a fortified farmhouse. Typically it presents as a two-storey building with very thick walls. The ground floor was a barn for livestock. If it had windows at all they would have been narrow slits for ventilation. At Black Middens the original door was in the gable end.   The rather dark and dingy upper floor with its tiny door and narrow window were the living quarters which were accessed, in the early days at least, by a ladder which could be hauled up behind the inhabitants in times of trouble. In later times an external stair case was often added along with more windows and doors. The bastle house at Black Middens near Bellingham also boasts some sturdy looking sockets for bars across the door as additional security. A farmer would have to be relatively wealthy in order to afford one of these stone buildings.

The Black Middens bastle house also boasts the remnants of an eighteenth century cottage that appears to have been built on the foundations of an earlier bastle house on the site reflecting that these dwellings evolved over time. The Tarset Valley is home to several bastle houses in varying states of decay and which now feature as part of a walking trail. The houses grouped as they are also hint at mutual support in times of trouble.

Black Middens is at the end of a long narrow winding sheep filled road with big views.  Its very easy to imagine Kinmont Willie, the Armstrong laird best known for being rescued from Carlisle Castle by one of Sir Walter Scott’s ancestors, arriving on the scene to do a spot of reiving. In addition to stealing sheep, horses, mares and a goat the Scot and his merry band of raiders also killed six people and maimed eleven more on one memorable occasion in 1583.

Of course, there’re bastle houses all over the borders and it isn’t always necessary to traipse to the back of beyond to find them.  In Haltwhistle for example every second house seems to bear a blue plaque announcing its provenance as a bastle house, though these days they have evolved to something barely recognisable as a fortified dwelling. The impact of the Scottish Wars of Independence and the growth of border reiving culture is also recalled in a ballad called ‘The Fray of Haltwhistle’ – yet another pesky Armstrong comes calling.

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Lord Roos, the Lakes and a Jacobean scandal

frances cecil.jpgLady Anne Clifford recorded her thoughts about this particular scandal in her diaries.  She wasn’t impressed.  These days the story is little known, paling as it does beside the case of Frances  Carr nee HowardLady Somerset and the murder of Thomas Overbury.

Anne Lake, daughter of Secretary of State Sir Thomas Lake married William Cecil, Lord Roos or de Ros in February 1616. William Cecil was the grandson of Thomas Cecil who was the son of William Cecil (Lord Burghley – Queen Elizabeth’s advisor). It wasn’t a happy marriage from the outset not least because of William’s belief that Anne had been turned against him by her mother Mary Lake.

 

It wasn’t long before William’s wife and mother-in-law were blackmailing William about his alleged impotence in an attempt to get him to sign his land over to the Lakes. By August 1616 Cecil had become sufficiently fed up with his new family to flee to foreign parts – Italy if you want to be precise. The couple were separated.  Sir Thomas now demanded a settlement for his daughter suggesting lands at Walhamstow that were already mortgaged to him.  It wasn’t happy and worse was to come.

 

Frances Cecil (born Brydges)  pictured at the state of the post at a later time and from the National Portrait Gallery collection was William’s step-grandmother. She and William were virtually the same age. Mary Lake accused Frances of an incestuous and adulterous affair with William (even though they weren’t related by blood they were related by marriage). Then just for good measure said that she had tried to poison Anne because she knew about the relationship.

 

The matter ended up in front of James I who passed it on to the Star Chamber to deal with. The earl of Exeter, Thomas Cecil – husband of Frances, grandfather of William accused the Lakes of slander.

 

If that wasn’t enough Anne’s brother Arthur had become involved in the fracas. He apparently attacked Cecil due to Anne’s wounded honour and there was a plan for the two men to fight a duel but it never happened. Instead, Arthur nearly had to fight a duel with a couple of other nobles on account of hearing them joking about sister Anne. And no wonder they were the ballad mongers and poetry makers of the period had a field day with the scandal. Follow the link to find out more about five scurrilous poems of the period featuring the Lake ladies http://www.earlystuartlibels.net/htdocs/lake_roos_section/J0.html .

The case was ultimately judged in 1619 after Lord Roos had died in the aforementioned foreign parts.   It turned out that the Lakes had done a spot of letter forging  to ‘prove’ the incestuous relationship and a had been leaning on people to get them to support their claims. The Lakes were flung into the Tower,  Anne Lake’s parents fined  £5000 each and required to ask pardon of the king and Frances Cecil. Anne did what was required in 1619 but it was May 1621 before Mary Lake fulfilled the need to ask pardon.

Perhaps Sir Thomas wasn’t overjoyed when his wife was released.  His biography on the History of Parliament website imparts the fact that there were rumours that he was the victim of husband battering.

And just when you think it can’t get any more scandalous Arthur found himself being accused on incest with Anne – presumably on ‘there’s no smoke without fire’ basis. Arthur’s wife Lettuce died just after this juicy little piece of gossip came to the forefront of public scandal. It should be noted that Lady Anne Clifford was very sympathetic to Lettuce’s plight. She’d died as countless other women did at that time of complications in giving birth however gossip declared that she’d died of syphilis.

Happy days…

 

http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1604-1629/member/lake-sir-thomas-i-1561-1630

Love, Lust, and License in Early Modern England: Illicit Sex and the Nobility

By Johanna Rickman

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Brough Castle

DSCN0958You can see Brough Castle as you travel into Cumbria through Westmorland along the A685.  For years it was a key landmark meaning we ‘were nearly there.” Having said that it was many years before I discovered that the name of the little river that runs past Brough is Swindale Beck – and no that’s the moat in the first photograph rather than the beck.

The river runs alongside the flat open space that is very obviously Roman.  In fact Brough used to be the Roman fort of Verterae.  Unsurprising then that William Rufus chose the site for his own fortifications.

DSCN1031From there the tale of Brough Castle is very similar to many others in the region with the perennial seesawing between the English and the Scots.  It was a handy stopping off point as well for English monarchs on their way north to administer justice in Carlisle or to do a spot of Scot-bothering.  Edward I and Edward II both stayed in Brough; though clearly the Scot-bothering skills of father and son were markedly different.  The village of Brough was burned by the Scots in the aftermath of Bannockburn in 1314.

CNV00005-5In terms of ownership, the Castle left royal hands in 1204 when King John granted it to Robert de Vipont along with Appleby Castle and shortly after that gave Robert the title Lord of Westmorland – with the right to be held in perpetuity by his heirs which was of key importance to Lady Anne Clifford’s claim to her estates.  Robert’s son was a minor when he died so for a while the castle was held by Hubert de Burgh.  De Vipont’s grandson, also named Robert died at the Battle of Lewes in 1264 fighting alongside Simon de Montfort against the Crown which was fine until the following year when the monarchy headed up by Henry III (King John’s son) won the Battle of Evesham and demonstrated how underwhelmed he was by people demanding parliaments by seizing Robert de Vipont’s estates even though he was already dead.

DSCN1033Leaving aside legal wrangles, reforms and negotiations the estates and title were ultimately returned by the Crown to Robert’s two daughters who were co-heiresses. Their names were Isabella and Idonea.  Isabella was the younger.  Her husband was Roger de Clifford. Idonea was about nine when her father died and she went on to have two husbands but spent most of her life in Yorkshire.  Her son pre-deceased her so when she died  and was buried in Roche Abbey her entitlement to the lands and estates of Westmorland reverted to her sister and the de Clifford family.

CNV00016-8The Clifford family spent time and money making Brough more secure.  They built a tower and a hall block.

The Wars of the Roses saw the Ninth Lord Clifford die at Dintingdale the day before the Battle of Towton, Easter 1461, with an arrow in his throat and the flight of his young son and heir into obscurity.  During this time the Clifford properties were held by Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick.  Once Henry Tudor defeated Richard III the Tenth Lord Clifford came out of hiding and the Cliffords regained their estates.

Then in 1521 there was a very merry Christmas party – so merry in fact that Brough Castle caught fire and was ruined.  I suppose it makes a change from the Scots burning places down for the owners to do it themselves.

CNV00013-8Brough was only restored in 1659 when Lady Anne Clifford came into the inheritance she’d been fighting for most of her life.  She rebuilt Clifford’s Tower – only for it to burn down again in 1666 which must have been rather irritating for Lady Anne who didn’t die until ten years later. After that and because Lady Anne’s descendants weren’t as keen on old castles as she was it swiftly returned to being a ruin having been used as a sort of quarry to repair Appleby and Brough Mill at various times.

Brough remained in the hands of Lady Anne Clifford’s descendants until 1923.  Lord Hothfield handed it over to the Ministry of Works who placed helpful signs on the building:

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

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