I teach history courses for the Workers' Educational Association as well as giving talks on various history topics across Yorkshire and the Midlands as well as talks about the history and creation of cross stitch samplers and blackwork embroidery.
Samuel and Nathantial Buck’s engraving of Derby shows the town dominated by the tower of All Saints Church which was constructed at the turn of the sixteenth century and in the middle by Exeter House, owned by the Earl and Countess of Exeter. Exeter was not at home when Bonnie Prince Charlie arrived on 4 December 1745.
But who was the Earl of Exeter and why did he have a house in Derby? Brownlow Cecil, Lord Burghley had only recently succeeded his father, similarly named, as the 9th Earl of Exeter. It turns out that Brownlow’s mother, Hannah Chambers, was from Derby. Her father Thomas Chambers who ran his business from London was a merchant in copper and lead – which immediately provides the Derbyshire connection as well as a reason for the marriage of the younger son of an earl with the younger daughter of a ‘gent’. In short they were very wealthy. The 8th Earl’s elder brother died within two years of Hannah’s marriage and she became a countess.
Hannah’s grandfather is buried in All Saints. By then the family extended their home in Derby with the pleasure grounds depicted on the near side of the river to the viewer but it doesn’t seem that the earl and his countess spent much time in their Derby residence.
Having provided accommodation for the Jacobites it was sold in 1758 to the then Mayor of Derby.
Incidentally, the long narrow plots of land are the footprints of the Anglo-Saxon burgage plots – what’s not to love? A burgage consists of a long narrow plot with a house fronting on to the street – usually burgage plots were rented for cash rather than service although the latter was possible. Tenantry of a burgage plot also often accrued voting rights. Obviously Exeter House involved the purchase and amalgamation of two burgage plots because of the width of the house when the area became fashionable.
Sir William Longspée the Younger was born in about 1212. His father, William Longspée, was an illegitimate son of Henry II, friend of William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke and husband of Ela of Salisbury, the suro jure countess.
William’s father was an influential man and chivalrous man but the earl died not long after he was shipwrecked in 1225. Rumour whispered that Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent had a hand in his death through poison but by then Hubert was not a popular man. Unfortunately for William II, his mother Ela held the title in her own right so William the Younger could not legally carry the title although he did attempt to claim it.
In 1233 he sailed close to rebellion because of his friendship with Richard Marshal who took the Marches to war when one of Gilbert Basset’s manors in Wiltshire was unlawfully seized on the kings orders. Another of Marshal’s adherents Richard Siward was wrongfully imprisoned at about the same time. The king was accused of listening to the advice of his advisor the Bishop of Winchester, Peter des Roches who advocated that kings could do as they wished.
The so-called Marshal War was largely a March affair but it resulted in Shrewsbury being burned and Henry III experiencing the embarrassment of the Welsh routing his army – who were sleeping soundly in their tents at Grosmont Castle when Llewelyn’s army arrived. Longspee did not become involved but he was required to hand over his daughter as a hostage for his good behaviour when he threatened to join the rebellious barons. The Crown perhaps recognising that they were on thin ice placed the girl in the custody of her grandmother.
By 1240 William decided to go on Crusade in the service of Richard of Cornwall, Henry III’s younger brother, who sailed for the Holy Land via Marseilles. Two other groups of nobles set off at the same time including Simon de Montfort. Cornwall’s party included his own extended family, of whom Longspée was a part. William didn’t see action, returning with Cornwall in the spring of 1241.
He returned to the Holy Land in 1247 on a second crusade with the French king, Louis IX against the Egyptian mamlukes. To raise the funds for the endeavour he sold a charter to the town of Poole. It was during this crusade that he gained renown for his daring and ultimately his death as reported by the chronicler Matthew Paris which, in the long term, did nothing to help Anglo-French relations. It was reported that the Count d’Artois tricked Longspée into making an attack before the French king was in place with his own troops. Longspée, his men and 280 knights templars were killed during the encounter.
An effigy was erected in Salisbury Cathedral although his remains were buried in the Holy Land at Acre.
Although William was married and had several children, his own heir, another William, also predeceased Ela of Salisbury who died in 1261. William the even younger’s (sorry couldn’t think of anything snappier) only child, Margaret, married Henry de Lacy, 3rd Earl of Lincoln. Margaret became suo jure Countess of Salisbury in her own right following her grandmother’s death.
The female line continued to hold the earldom of Salisbury. Margaret’s daughter Alice de Lacy became the suo jure countess of Lincoln and Salisbury after one of her brothers fell down a well and the other one fell off a parapet at Pontefract Castle. Alice was unhappily married to Edward I’s nephew Thomas of Lancaster from childhood. The inheritance, when it fell into Thomas’s lap, made him the wealthiest man in the kingdom. Alice’s turbulent life is well worth the retelling: it includes two kidnaps and imprisonment demonstrating that, on occasion, life as an heiress wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Alice died without children in 1348.
The earldom of Lincoln fell into abeyance but the earldom of Salisbury had already been forfeited in 1322. The lands which had once belonged to the Longspée dynasty passed back up the collateral line to James Audley who was descended from William Longspée the younger’s eldest daughter Ela who was married into the Audley family.
The title would be recreated for Edward III’s friend William Montagu or Montacute depending upon your preference. And from there it’s a hop and a skip to Richard Neville Earl of Warwick (a.k.a. The Kingmaker).
If you would like to find out about William Longspée, Earl of Salisbury’s mother she can be found in Medieval Royal Mistresses and Alice Montagu, 5th Countess of Salisbury appears in my forthcoming book about The Kingmaker’s Women.
What’s not to love about a parrot or in this case a popinjay? This is Robert Tweng’s coat of arms according to a certain well known online encyclopaedia site – argent field; fess of gules and three birdies – no that’s to a technical term. The popinjays or parrots first turn up on a Tweng coat of arms in 1255. Apparently parrots became popular during the reign of Henry III.
This particular manifestation was created in 1690 for Richard Lumley , one of the so-called Immortal Seven who invited William of Orange across the Channel to depose his father-in-law James II. He was created Viscount Lumley as a reward although the title had existed previously in Ireland. The family were of royalist stock during the civil wars of the seventeenth century.
So how do the Lumleys and Robert Tweng fit together? Robert Tweng, or William the Angry, had three sons who all died without legitimate heirs of their own. In 1374 his barony which he had in his own turned acquired through marriage to an heiress, passed through Tweng’s daughter Lucy into the Lumley family. Simples… though I’m still not sure why anyone would opt for a goose-stepping parrot.
In December 1231 a band of masked men from Yorkshire calling themselves the Brotherhood attacked a group of foreign churchmen as they came out from a meeting at St. Albans. Most of the clergy fled back to the church but one Italian named Censius, wasn’t as fast as the others. He became a prisoner and he was not released until he had paid a ransom.
The masked men wanted to rid England of foreign holders of benefice. The problem had arisen since the papacy began to demand its annual taxes in full. Inevitably the masked men proved to be very popular with the English who shared gossip about foreign priests becoming wealthy on the back of English labour. It helped that the band carried letters which suggested that the Crown approved of what they were doing. The blame for all the foreigners was about to fall on the head of Henry III’s long term adviser Hubert de Burgh, 1st Earl of Kent.
The Brotherhood grew. It turned out that Robert Tweng, from Yorkshire riding under the name William Wither was responsible for the first raids but it quickly became clear that any one in possession of a cloak and a mask was taking the opportunity to rob ecclesiastical types with Italian accents. They were robbed, their tithe barns emptied and life generally became rather uncomfortable. Some Italians went into hiding and others left the country. Papal messengers were held up and robbed.
The bishops held a council in February 1232 and excommunicated everyone connected with the attacks. Unexpectedly, they were ignored. Gregory IX was not amused and gave King Henry III and the Church in England a ticking off adding that any one caught should be sent to Rome.
Robert Tweng was identified, excommunicated and then packed off to Rome. The Pope, discovering that the knight’s actions were due to a church, to which he held the advowson, to an alien without his consent being granted office, absolved Tweng. Tweng had inherited the problem of Kirkleatham Church when he married Matilda de Autrey in 1222. Gisborough claimed the advowson as well and had managed to gain possession while Matilda’s uncle Sir William de Kylton was elderly and unwell. having taken the matter to the ecclesiastical court and got no where Tweng had taken matters into his own hands with the support of some very powerful northern families including the de Vescis and Percys. he is also thought to have had links with Henry’s younger brother Richard of Cornwall who afforded him support when the matter came to Henry III’s attention and the knight was sent off Rome with letters from the king.
The Brotherhood, their point made, stopped what they were doing and official investigations dropped. prominent men both in Church and State had either been involved personally or supported the brotherhood. It was a case of not opening a can of worms, turning over any rocks and definitely not disturbing any sleeping dogs. Only one man was going to get the blame and that was Hubert de Burgh, the king’s long term advisor if his political opponent Peter des Roches, Bishop of Winchester had his way.
Eleanor of Brittany was a grand daughter of King Henry II born in about 1184. She was the eldest child of Henry’s son Geoffrey and Constance, sure jure Countess of Brittany. Geoffrey, who was older than his brother John, was killed during a tournament in Paris in August 1186. His only son, Arthur, was a posthumous child. With the arrival of Arthur, Eleanor was no longer such a good catch as a bride because the duchy would pass to her brother. Her grandfather kept Eleanor in protective custody from the time she was two-years of age. King Philip II demanded that the girl should become his ward but Henry refused to consider the possibility.
With the death of Geoffrey, Richard became his niece’s guardian. The king offered her as a bride to Saladin’s brother when her aunt Joanna of Sicily refused. After Richard’s imprisonment on his way home from the 3rd Crusade by Duke Leopold of Austria she was betrothed to the duke’s son. The death of Leopold before she could be handed into his care meant that the betrothal was broken. There were other betrothal negotiations but none came to fruition. Then in 1199 Richard died unexpectedly. In 1201, Eleanor’s mother Constance, who had petitioned for her daughter’s return into her custody on several occasions, also died.
Arthur, Eleanor’s brother, had a good claim to the throne. He was, after all, the son of John’s elder brother but John was an adult who was not a pawn of the French in the way that Arthur became. In 1202 Arthur was captured after he laid siege to his grandmother Eleanor of Aquitaine at Mirebeau. Arthur disappeared from the historical record during Easter 1203, believed to have been murdered by his uncle John in a drunken rage. Eleanor, who was in England, was a threat by association but bumping off his niece would be far too suspicious.
Technically as an unmarried female she was John’s ward and she would remain his dependent for the rest of his life. If she was freed, permitted to rule as the duchess of Brittany and married then her husband would have had a claim to the throne – although after the experience with the Empress Matilda no one was keen on the idea of a female monarch. By keeping her in custody the possibility of civil war was removed as was any possibility of her taking an active political role. Even so, the possibility of a marriage was considered. A woman with legitimate royal blood was a useful bargaining chip. In 1208, John created her Countess of Richmond and permitted her to come to court by then her younger half-sister was Brittany’s duchess. She may also have accompanied her uncle on campaign in 1214 when John sought to regain at least part of his father’s empire.
Throughout it all Eleanor was treated as a royal kinsman, she had ladies, good food and royal robes but she was not free to come and go as she wished either in John’s life time or during the reign of his son King Henry III. By 1225 she had a small household and an allowance for almsgiving, but it did not represent the income from the earldom of Richmond and even worse Henry removed the title from her in order to bestow it elsewhere. Over the years she was moved around the countryside. She stayed at Corfe in Dorset but travelled to Bowes and Burgh as well as Marlborough and Gloucester. It seems that her guards were changed regularly in order to prevent any escape plots being hatched.
She died at Bristol Castle in 1241 after 39 years as a prisoner having never plotted against a king of England.
Eleanor, named after her mother, was the sixth child of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. She was born in about 1161 but in 1170 she was married to Alfonso VIII of Castile. The aim was to secure the border with Aquitaine. One of Eleanor’s daughters born in 1188 was named Blanche. Initially a sister of Blanche’s was betrothed to Philip II of France’s heir but the girls’ grandmother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, decided that it was Blanche who would make a better queen of France.
In 1200, Blanche was escorted across the Pyrenees by her indomitable grandmother, the marriage being made to the benefit of King John of England and involving the dower of lordships held by the English Crown. There was only a year between the bride and groom.
In 1215, King John’s revolting barons offered the English throne to Louis because he was married to Henry II’s granddaughter – and who was going to turn down an entire realm? At one point two thirds of England’s barons recognised Louis as their king, he held London and one third of the country. In 1217 the tide turned in the aftermath of the Battle of Lincoln but Louis tried to regain the military imperative. It was Blanche who put the fleet together that would resupply her husband when Philip II of France refused to help. She gained cash from her father-in-law by threatening to offer her children as hostages. It was all to no avail. Following the Battle of Sandwich in the summer of 1217 Louis was forced to come to terms with King Henry III’s supporters and take himself home.
Philip died in 1223 but was followed three years later by Blanche’s husband. Louis IX was only 12 years old but unlike Henry III’s mother, Blanche had no intention of deserting her son and besides which Louis VIII left the regency in Blanche’s hands on his deathbed. She forced the French magnates to accept the young king and in the capacity of regent played both the military and diplomatic cards in a way that her grandmother would have applauded. In 1229 she forged the Treaty of Paris. She remained an influential political player throughout her life and in 1248 became regent of France for a second time when Louis went on the Seventh Crusade.
She died in 1252, perhaps to the relief of her daughter-in-law, Margaret of Province, who had a difficult relationship with Blanche who was jealous of any time that Louis spent with Margaret.
King John died at Newark a week after he lost his baggage train in The Wash on 18 October 1216 from the bloody flux as dysentery was then known. There were rumours that he may have been poisoned. The Annals of Clonmacnoise reported that the source of the poison was ‘a cup of ale wherein there was a toad pricked with a broach.’ The Brut Chronicle repeats the same tale but provides the murderer as well – a monk who was not keen on John and who was prepared to die if need be. He was required to drink before the king and did so; hurried off to the infirmary and expired.
I admit to sitting up and taking notice – rumours of poison did circulate at the time, any unexpected death raised the question in people’s minds but sticking a toad in a cup of ale seemed excessive – for a start surely the king would have noticed an amphibian floating around in his cup?
Nothing daunted I did some research. It turns out that British species of common toads (Bufo bufo) and tadpoles are poisonous They produce something called bufotoxin which causes cats and dogs to froth at the mouth if they catch one and eat it. The poison is, apparently, in the toad’s skin.
The Brut was written in the 13th century and the Annals of Conmacnoise were a 15th century offering drawing on earlier texts. By then King John had his reputation for tyranny. I’m not even going to attempt to unravel the way that the monk was viewed.
Other writers of the time suggested that John had succumbed to gluttony or dysentry – take your pick…but don’t go putting toads in your beer.
For more about King John’s and his mistresses…but no toads don’t forget my most recent publication by Pen and Sword, Medieval Royal Mistresses Mischievous Women Who Slept with Kings and Princes is available in all good bookshops. I spotted it in my own local bookshop the other day and was very excited.
Ranulf was born sometime in the first decade of the twelfth century. His parents were Ranulf le Meschin, 3rd Earl of Chester and Lucy de Tailleboise of Bolingbroke. The palatinate of Chester was hugely powerful and included estates across the Midlands. It came into the family with the sinking of the White Ship and death of Richard d’Avranches. Henry I made Ranulf’s father yield the lordship of Carlisle and pay a huge fine before licensing le Meshchin to enter it. Together with this and Lucy of Bolingbroke’s inheritance which included lands in Lincolnshire as well as the castellanship of Lincoln Castle he became the king of powerful magnate who might challenge a king. Henry I treated the 3rd earl with suspicion and withheld some of the lands which were rightfully his because he recognised the threat which the third earl presented.
Ranulf de Gernon became earl in his turn in 1129. He resented the debt that he inherited from his father and the loss of the honour of Carlisle. However, he did nothing to challenge Henry I unlike his half brother William de Roumare who rebelled when the king would not return the lands that belonged to his mother and which his step-father had given up in order to secure the earldom of Chester.
Before Henry’s death, the king sought to bind Ranulf closer to his family by permitting an advantageous marriage between the earl and his own granddaughter, Maud of Gloucester – the daughter of his illegitimate son Earl Robert of Gloucester. It was a miscalculation. The only loyalty Ranulf had was to himself; his half-brother, the son of his mother’s second marriage; and the land which Ranulf believed to be rightfully his.
In 1136 King Stephen agreed that Carlisle should be Scottish. The land he ceded to David I’s son Henry was the honour of Carlisle which Ranulf believed to be rightfully his. To make matters worse Stephen arranged a marriage between Henry of Scotland and and Adeline de Warenne whose half-brothers Waleran and Robert de Beaumont were Ranulf’s main rivals for power in the Midlands.
Ranulf and his half-brother, William de Roumare, seized Lincoln Castle in January 1141. Stephen arrived with an army to besiege them but Ranulf escaped, returned to the Marches and raised his levies. He also sought the help of Robert of Gloucester whose daughter was still trapped behind the walls of the castle. Robert took the opportunity not only to rescue his child but to demand that Ranulf switch allegiance to the Empress Matilda – which Ranulf duly did.
On 2 February 1141 Stephen found himself captured on the battlefield – and he remained in captivity for the next seven months until Robert of Gloucester was captured in his turn. A prisoner exchange put Stephen back on the throne. Matilda had lost her opportunity to be crowned and win the civil war.
In 1145, Ranulf changed sides once more. Matilda had come to terms with David of Scotland in 1141 meaning that if Ranulf wanted to pursue his claim to the honour of Carlisle, that Stephen was now the man for him. Also the king had briefly besieged Lincoln Castle in 1144 – and now the king agreed that it should remain with Ranulf and his half-brother. When it seemed that Stephen would be victorious Ranulf was much more active on the king’s behalf
But in 1146 he went to Northampton to ask the king to lead an army into Wales. Men more loyal than Ranulf believed that the earl was plotting treachery. After all, men from Wales had joined the earl at Lincoln in 1141 as part of a mutual alliance between Ranulf and Llewelyn of Gwynedd. Instead of providing an army Stephen had the earl arrested. The Welsh, on hearing the news, took the opportunity for a spot of light raiding and plundering.
Having exacted a promise of good behaviour and hostages – the king released Ranulf once more. Inevitably – the earl changed sides – he died in December 1153
Henry I’s heart was buried in England while the rest of him was interred in Normandy. During the Crusades it became fashionable, if you died and were sufficiently wealthy, to send bits of your body home for burial – welcome to the age of the heart burial. Most people were buried as soon as possible after they died. For the medieval elite it was rather different. Bodies could be transported very long distances and it made sense to remove the internal organs before the journey – cooks and butchers were often summoned to perform the grisly operation. The viscera were then buried near where the person popped their clogs. Alternatively, as it was expensive and often rather difficult to send the entire body home, the heart was sent in a nice box surrounded by herbs and spices so it didn’t go off on the journey.
Richard the Lionheart’s entrails ( a rarer form of burial) were interred in Chalus; his body was sent to Fontevraud Abbey and his heart was embalmed and buried in Rouen. Embalming does of course provide the clue – transporting bodies was expensive and not something you would volunteer to do in the middle of summer (or at any other time of the year come to think of it). Eleanor of Castile, Edward I’s beloved wife, died near Lincoln. Her entrails were buried in Lincoln after she was embalmed, her heart at Charing Cross as she requested and the rest of her was buried in Westminster Abbey. Robert the Bruce’s heart went on crusade to Grenada before eventually being buried in Melrose Abbey.
In 1299 Pope Boniface VIII issued a papal bull attacking embalming and transporting bodies hundred of miles – although he was quite happy that the bodies should be dug up and moved at a later date.
Why did it become a thing? Well, It was handy if you had links with more than one monastic house as well. Tombs could be erected in all the places where the body was scattered; endowments made for prayers in the different locations and voila a speedy exit from Purgatory in the direction of eternal salvation.
And why exactly have I gone down this avenue? Isabel de Clare was buried at Tintern Abbey as was her right as the Countess of Striguil. She was buried in the quire next to her mother Aoife of Leinster. This is a possibility though, that her heart lies at Kilkenny.
Alice was one of Richard Neville’s sisters – so she was Anne Neville’s aunt. Her father married her to one of the sons of his northern affinity – Henry FitzHugh of Ravensworth. FitzHugh would become the 5th baron. In time Alice gave her husband a clutch of sons and at least five daughters. FitzHugh was able to. marry them off to improve his own standing and the Neville family, headed by the Earl of Warwick, benefitted as well. Anne FitzHugh found herself married to Francis Lovell who would become Richard of Gloucester’s friend and Lord Chamberlain. It could have been that King Edward thought that Warwick would marry the boy to one of his own daughters but the earl had his sights set on greater things.
Inevitably the family found them selves bound up with Robin of Redesdale’s revolt in 1469 but the family together with Francis Lovell were pardoned their part in Warwick’s rebellion. Alice’s husband died in 1472 and does not seem to have been present in his brother-in-law’s army at Barnet. Nor does he seem to have taken part in the Battle of Tewkesbury. Fortunately he and Alice had founded a chantry at Ravensworth so that masses could be said for their souls to speed them through purgatory.
Life changed for Alice and her children. There would be no more grand marriages now that Warwick was gone. Alice remained a widow but she seems to have been on good terms with her brother’s replacement, Richard Duke of Gloucester. The family changed its affinity from Neville to Plantagenet and Alice is likely to have been welcome at Middleham, especially when her niece, Anne, gave birth to her son Edward of Middleham. She was the only one of Anne’s aunts to attend her coronation in 1483. With her was her daughter Elizabeth married to Sir William Parr. All the ladies who attended Anne received new gowns of blue velvet.
Alice would mourn the death of Anne and perhaps, more quietly, the end of Richard. She and her sisters Katherine, the widow of Lord Hastings executed by Richard, and Margaret were still alive when Henry Tudor claimed the throne. Margaret who had lived a life of poverty because of her husband’s Lancastrian credentials was now welcome at court. Anne Lovell lost her home at Minster Lovell which fell to Jasper Tudor although there is no indication he ever lived there. After Lovell’s disappearance in 1487 she received an annuity from the king but like her mother chose not to marry again. Instead she may have lived with her mother in the FitzHugh dower house at West Tanfield. Alice took an active role in arranging the marriages of her grandchildren and administering her dower estate. Her life was perhaps the most untroubled of the Neville sisters’ experience of marriage and life in general.
Despite providing her husband with six sons the FitzHugh barony was divided between co-heiresses within a generation. Her eldest son, Richard, suggesting that he was named after his maternal grandfather, died while his son George was still a minor and Alice’s grandson was dead by 1513. Her other sons had no legitimate male heirs of their own.
And the advent theme for today? Tricky – I’m going with the gift of blue velvet. The cloth was imported at great expense from Italy. The centres of production were Venice and Genoa. I’m not sure what colour it was but I seem to recall that Henry VIII – ever a modest and economical man- had a toilet seat covered in velvet.