About JuliaH

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.

Sir Edmund Cokayne – knight for an hour

Sir edmund cokayne.jpgEdmund Cokayne or Cockayne, depending on the source and your own preference, is buried in St Oswald’s Church, Ashbourne but he lived near Alport at Harthill Hall.  His parents were Sir John Cokayne and Cecilia Vernon.  Sir John Cokayne was John of Gaunt’s steward for the duke’s estates north of the Trent – so very much part of the Lancaster Affinity.  As might be expected the family including Edmund were MPs for Derbyshire.

He fought at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 against Hotspur.  In July of that year the Percy family which had initially supported Henry of Bolingbroke against his cousin Richard II rebelled against Henry and joined with Owain Glyndwr.  Henry IV had been king since 1399 whilst his cousin starved to death in Pontefract Castle.  The Percys now stated that Henry had declared the throne illegally.  The aim of the Percys and the rebels was to kill Henry and his son in order to put Edmund Mortimer, the earl of March on the throne.  Mortimer was descended from Edward III’s second son, Lionel of Antwerp, so had a better claim than  Henry.  In addition Mortimer had been Richard II’s heir.

Edmund Cokayne’s family owed their position in society to the House of Lancaster.  They had risen to be de facto lords of the manor based on their service to John of Gaunt.  He was part of the 11,000 to 14,000 men who joined battle on behalf of Henry IV.  Depending on the numbers there were either 10,000 or 15,000 on the rebel side.  The battle of Shrewsbury was fought on the 21st July 1403.

Edmund was knighted on the field of battle by Henry IV and died an hour later.  His body was returned to Ashbourne where he was buried alongside his father in the Boothby Chapel in St Oswald’s Church.  The Cokayne coat of arms can be found alongside other arms in Battlefield Church, Shrewsbury.

Edmund’s brother and son would continue to serve the house of Lancaster.

greenfinch (1).jpg

Sir edmund Cokayne

 

Sir Charles Lucas -parole breaker or royalist martyr?

charles lucas.jpgCharles Lucas was one of Margaret Cavendish’s brothers.  An anti-Royalist mob sacked their home in 1642.  This was when Madge was sent off to Oxford to live with her sister.  She gained a place as one of Henrietta Maria’s ladies in waiting and went into exile with her.

Charles meanwhile as a younger brother was Cambridge educated but expected to make his own way in the world.  Like so many other younger sons he spent much of the 1630s on the Continent fighting in the Thirty Years War.  When Charles I declared war on the Scots in 1638, Charles returned home to fight in the so-called Bishop’s War.  He commanded a troop of horse under his brother Sir John Lucas’s command.  As a consequence he was knighted by the king and for those of you who like a Yorkshire link was made Governor of Richmond in 1639.  During the civil war itself Charles was part of Prince Rupert’s cavalry.  Later he transferred to the army of the Marquis of Newcastle – who Charles’ sister Madge would marry in 1645 in exile in Paris.

Eventually in 1646 Charles was taken prisoner at the Battle of Stow-On-The-Wold.  He gave his parole to Sir Thomas Fairfax that he would lay down his arms and go home.

Lucas went back on his word in June 1648 when Lord Goring, fresh from the rebellion in Kent, arrived in East Anglia.  Lucas occupied his home town, Colchester, in the name of the King.  The intention was to raise support in East Anglia but instead of which Thomas Fairfax surrounded Colchester and settled in for a siege.  Things were somewhat complicated by the fact that Fairfax absolutely refused to negotiate with Lucas – who had broken his parole. Lucas was executed – by firing squad (a fact which I couldn’t remember this morning.)  He and Lord Lisle were excluded from the terms that ended the siege because they had gone back on their words.  This may not have been strictly legal.  His tomb states that he was barbarously murdered.  The portrait of Sir Charles Lucas at the start of this post can be found in Colchester Castle.

 

I have posted abut the Siege of Colchester before.  That post can be found here: https://thehistoryjar.com/tag/charles-lucas/

The Putney Debates- one man, one vote…or not.

putney-debatesAt the end of the First English Civil War in 1647 the men who had fought against the king found themselves in disagreement.  One group of politicians wanted to reach a settlement with the king other groups wanted more radical reforms.  It is safe to say that none of them trusted one another much by the end of 1647. The Putney Debates, held at St Mary’s Church Putney in the autumn of 1647 presented the views of different factions within the army.

On one side of the argument were the so called Grandees.  These were officers who came from the landed gentry. Unsurprisingly they did not share the Levellers’ desire for a redistribution of land.  Oliver Cromwell, Henry Ireton and Thomas Fairfax were the most influential of the Grandees as well as being respected military commanders.  These men were initially prepared to negotiate terms with Charles I as the war drew to an end.

On the other side of the argument were men such as Colonel Rainsborough who after four years of war had been radicalised.  The men who represented the radical groups and rank and file had been first appointed as agitators or “new agents” elected to take the grievances  of the soldiery to the Grandees when the news of Parliament’s desire to disband the New Model Army had first been aired in 1647.  Initially men wanted to know when they would receive their back pay, receive indemnity from actions carried out during the war and dispute the way in which they were being drafted to Ireland.

In October 1647 five particularly radical regiments selected new agitators and issued a manifesto contacting their viewpoint.  This was endorsed by civilian levellers as well as radicals within the army.  They wanted universal male suffrage, two-yearly parliaments, reorganisation of constituencies, equality of law and freedom from being pressed into military service – all of which seems very reasonable to modern eyes but were the cause of concern to the Grandees who saw a world turned upside down in the Levellers’ Agreement.

The debates began on the 28th October 1647 and were initially recorded.  Essentially the Levellers argued they had rights as Englishmen to a say in how the country was run.  The Grandees thought that it would result in chaos.  A compromise was arrived at with the Grandees saying that soldiers who fought in the civil war should be entitled to a vote and the Levellers conceding that if a man was in receipt of alms or a beggar that he should not have the franchise.

However on the 8th November Cromwell ordered the agitators back to their regiments.  The opportunity to present the manifesto to the Army Council and from there to Parliament would be denied to the Levellers.  Another manifesto was drawn up by army officers and this was the one presented to the Army Council.    The men of the New Model Army would not have a large meeting and a vote.  Instead they would be offered three smaller reviews.  Knowing that they were being cheated of their manifesto there was nearly a mutiny at Corkbush Field on the 15th November 1647 ending with the execution of Private Richard Arnold, one of three ringleaders who had been forced to draw lots.

The beginning of the Second English Civil War in 1648 and divisions with the Scots saw the army close its ranks for the time being. The Grandees disgusted with the perfidy of Charles I were no longer prepared to negotiate whilst the Levellers found themselves mutinying in 1649.  Anger over the failure of Parliament to pay back wages not to mention the way in which men were selected for service in Ireland led to a number of regiments refusing to obey their officers.

 

The Midlands in the English Civil War

Sir_John_Gell_originalDuring 1642 Parliament and the Crown laid out their various pieces on the chess board that was England. Each side attempted to take control of  places of strategic importance.  Having passed the Militia Bill, Parliament thought that it had control of the Commissions of Array and the appointment to offices such as Lord Lieutenantry responsible for the raising of armed forces.  They also assumed that they would have control of each county’s official magazine (by law each county was required to have a stockpile of arms).  However, this didn’t stop the king sending his own commissions nor for that matter some Lord Lieutenants declaring for the king.

The Midlands became important when the Battle of Edgehill, fought on the 23rd October 1642, failed to have a clear outcome.  It was at that point that the Royalists took control of Newark and Sir John Gell (pictured at the start of this post) became the military commander in the area for Parliament.  In Nottingham, John Hutchinson of Owthorpe, who would be one of the signatories of Charles I’s death warrant, together with Gell took Nottingham for Parliament.

Control of key locations in Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire became of central importance for communications and resources.  The king was based in Oxford so it was essential that information could pass through the Midlands to the Royalist army in Yorkshire and that there was safe passage to Royalist Wales – to get to Chester and North Wales from Oxfordshire the main road passed through Staffordshire.  It was also an area rich in resources important for war – from grazing for horses to the materials necessary to manufacture weapons and ammunition.

And yet there were no major battles in the North Midlands – consequently popular history does not tend to portray the four counties as being as heavily involved in the conflict as other regions.  It’s almost as though sieges don’t count whereas large set piece battles such as Marston Moor do.  Newark was essential and besieged on three occasions as was Lichfield.  Local historians, as might be expected, are far more aware of the sieges of Ashby de La Zouche and Tutbury.  In fact all the Royalist garrisons were besieged at least once. Even Tissington still has the remains of its own siege works built to defend the village from attack.

Parliament gradually seized control of the major towns to the south of the region so that they held Northamptonshire – its cobblers receiving vast orders for boots and shoes to fit the Parliamentarian army, Leicester, Derby which was unwalled and Nottingham as well as Stafford.  The Royalist garrisons  included Belvoir Castle, Newark, Bolsover Castle and Welbeck Abbey owned by the Marquis of Newcastle, Lincoln, Gainsborough,  and Tutbury as well as many smaller manor houses including Wingfield Manor more famous for the incarceration of Mary Queen of Scots and, of course, Tissington.  The fight for the Midlands was just as bitter as anywhere else but on a smaller scale with many local disputes.  The problem for the Royalists was that gradually their forces were drawn into the conflicts to the North and the South. For instance, Prince Rupert took cavalry north to relieve the Siege of York. The Royalists did not have the manpower left to control the Midlands where they were under pressure from local Parliamentarians as well as Parliament’s “national” New Model Army. Their command chain was not as efficient as that of Parliament and relied more heavily on the local magnates.

For a more detailed appraisal of the role of the Midlands read Martyn Bennett’s article entitled “Holding the centre ground; the strategic importance of the North Midlands 1642-1646.”  which can be found a www.eastmidlandshistoryorg.uk

 

Political discord – 1647 style

charles i full lengthIn January the Scots handed King Charles I over to the English.  He had surrendered to the Scots int he hope that they would treat him better than the English and as a strategy for sowing political disharmony amongst his enemies.  The Scots sold him to the English for £40,000.

On the 15th March Harlech Castle surrendered after a ten month siege.  The constable of the castle had been in post since 1644.  His name was William Owen who originated from Shropshire. Harlech itself had always been in the possession of the king.  Perhaps because it wasn’t readily accessible to artillery it remained unchallenged until the final months of the civil war. This was probably just as well as Owen’s garrison comprised just fifteen men.  Owen took himself off to Scotland and after the Royalist defeat found himself in Nottingham Castle.  He was required to pay a fine of £400 before being allowed home. However he wasn’t required to pay one tenth of his income in tax as many other Royalists were required to do.

 

All that remained was to negotiate a settlement with the King and set up a series of laws for the good governance of the three kingdoms – even though no one could accuse what was happening in Ireland of being peaceful.  Generals Ireton and Lambert drafted something called the Heads of Proposals.  Essentially England would become Presbyterian, Parliament would have control of the armed forces and Royalists would not be allowed to hold office for five years.

Oliver_Cromwell_by_Samuel_CooperMany army officers and soldiers were unhappy about the fact that Parliament would even consider negotiating with the king. It was one of the causal factors that led to the Putney Debates.  The so-called “Grandees” who had negotiated with the king were seen as having failed the Parliamentarian cause.  By August five radical cavalry regiments had elected agitators to state their views.  One of their demands was for universal male suffrage, i.e. a levelling.  The Grandees, Cromwell amongst them, invited the radicals to debate their demands – resulting in the Putney Debates which started on the 28th October and lasted for three days.

Unfortunately Cromwell became alarmed at the extent of the radical ideas expressed so the debaters were ordered back to their regiments. A document was drawn up to replace the one which the Levellers had presented.  This did not go down well in the radical regiments. On the 15th November there was almost a mutiny which had to be suppressed before matters got out of hand.

Meanwhile – in June Parliament decided that Christmas was a nasty superstitious sort of event.  They also banned Easter and Whitsun. As a result when Christmas came around rather than conforming with the new rules there were riots in Kent which swiftly evolved into the Second English Civil War.

The king had decided that he didn’t like the turn of events, the Levellers’ plan didn’t leave much room for a king and he became convinced that he would be assassinated. So he decided to escape Parliament.  There was also the small matter of a constitutional monarchy.  On November 11th Charles escaped from Hampton Court in the direction of the New Forest – where he became lost.  He had aimed to make for Jersey but ended up on the Isle of Wight where he was recaptured.

Prince of Wales marries widow with four children given to “slippery ways.”

joan of kentThe tabloids would have had a field day in 1361 when Edward, Prince of Wales – better known as the Black Prince married the love of his life.  The people’s princess in this instance was his cousin, Joan of Kent.

Whilst she was the daughter of Edward I’s youngest son, Edmund Earl of Kent, by his second wife Margaret of France. There were a couple of skeletons rattling around the closet.  For a start Edmund had been executed for treason in March 1330 – his crime?  The attempted rescue of his half-brother King Edward II, a mere two years and six months after Edward II was supposed to have died in Berkeley Castle.  Despite this small anomaly Joan had been raised in the household of Edward III’s queen, Philippa of Hainault.  Perhaps this was where the Black Prince learned to call his future bride Jeanette.

The second scandal was harder to find a way round.  Joan, aged twelve, had secretly married a household knight called Thomas Holland. Unfortunately Thomas was then required to go and do knightly things abroad.  The marriage being a secret, Joan’s family arranged an appropriate match to the heir of the Earl of Salisbury.  It was an unfortunate turn of events because it was inevitable that Holland would return to clim his bride.  The Pope finally declared Joan to be married to Thomas in 1349.

After Thomas’s detain Normandy, fighting in one of the interminable campaigns of the Hundred Year’s War in 1360 Joan went on to marry her cousin the Black Prince – which can’t have gone down well as it would have been more politically savvy for the prince to have married a foreign princess for land, dowry and political allegiance.

Adam of Use writing some fourteen years after Joan’s death in 1399 described her as given to “slippery ways.” Even Froissart who was fond of pretty ladies described her as the most “amorous.”  I find it interesting to think that chroniclers, particularly Adam of Usk, dared to be so free with their opinions.  Adam suggested that Joan feared that her son might be toppled as king because of the number of flatterers that surrounded him – indicating that for all her amorous ways that Joan was politically astute – or was having words put into her mouth at a time when  Richard II was on the verge of being toppled from his throne.  It should be noted that Joan of Gaunt once fled from London to one of her residences for protection so my money is on politically astute.

 

There will be more on Joan as I am teaching a day school in Halifax on this rather colourful lady on Thursday 25th April.  There are still spaces available if you would like to book.  There will also be many references!

Chester and the civil war – besieged.

John1stLordByron.jpgEven before the Civil war started various key ports and fortifications were being snaffled either by Parliament or the Crown.  Some, like Bristol and Lichfield, changed hands more than once inflicting severe damage on the local populations.

Chester sitting as it does on the River Dee was one of those strategic locations.  It gave access to Wales, to Ireland and to the North. It was also Royalist in sympathy.  Before the war it was a very fine town indeed.  After the civil war, the siege and the plague which struck in 1647 it looked very much worse for wear.

william_brereton_original.jpgBy the end of 1643 Sir William Brereton (pictured right) who had been one of the MPs for Cheshire and been elected in 1640 to the Long Parliament had secured most of the surrounding countryside for Parliament.  The Royalists extended Chester’s defences to include new earthworks recognising that their time would come.  In 1644 those defences were improved by Prince Rupert – who seems to have got everywhere.

Rupert, had been named President of Wales in February 1644 but very swiftly irritated the local military commanders – mainly because he replaced them with experienced English commanders.  The Welsh, unsurprisingly, were also becoming a bit fed up with the war.  Rupert, having rocked the metaphorical boat left the region with rather a lot of its soldiery to lift the siege at York.

Parliament took the opportunity to gain an advantage over the depleted Royalist troops and took Oswestry which had, until then, been in Royalist hands.  As the year went on things became even worse for the Royalists.  A shipment of gunpowder on its way to Chester from Bristol was captured.  The gunpowder was then used against the Royalists at Newton.  This in turn led to the loss of Montgomery Castle.  On the 18th of September the two forces met in open battle.  The Battle of Montgomery is the largest battle to have taken place on Welsh soil during the English Civil War. The Royalists lost.

As a result of this loss Lord John Byron, the Royalist military commander (pictured at the start of this post) could not put an army in the field and so Chester was effectively besieged.  The Wheel of Fortune had turned in less than a year – from besieging Nantwich at the start of the year Byron now found himself besieged. By the summer of 1645 Brereton had control of most of Cheshire but the royalists still controlled the crossing point of the River Dee which enabled forces and supplies to get into and out of the town via North Wales which was Royalist.

Basically the siege was somewhat protracted by the fact that both sides kept nipping off to have a fight somewhere else.  For example Prince Maurice, Rupert’s little brother, arrived in February 1645 but then left again taking a large number of Byron’s Irish troops with him.

With depleted numbers it was only a matter of time before the Parliamentarians drew closer to the town. There was also the bombardment.  Byron wrote that Brereton had sent a barrage of 400 canon balls into Chester – which is pretty impressive. The original aim of the Parliamentary command had been to break the walls so that the town could be taken by storm.  This proved ineffective and a tactic of bombardment was employed. There was widespread damage to property, injury and terror.  On the 22nd September 1645 there was a partial breach of the wall but Byron received word that King Charles was coming with 4,000 cavalry.

On the 23 September Charles marched out of Wales and crossed the Dee into Chester – he had approximately 600 men.   The rest of them were with  Sir Marmaduke Langdale who crossed the Dee south of Chester with the intention of outflanking the Parliamentarians -making them the filling between his force and Byron’s.

Unfortunately the Northern Association Army were in the vicinity and upon receiving news of what the Royalists were up to had made a forced night march to intercept Langdale.  The two armies spent the morning of the 24th September in a staring match before repositioning themselves at Rowton Heath.  The king and his commanders inside Chester could do little but watch from the walls as the royalist cavalry was broken.

On the evening of the 25th September Charles recrossed the Dee with the tattered remnants of his relieving force.  Byron refused to surrender.  The Parliamentarian noose grew tighter  around Chester and the bombardment became ever more intense.  This didn’t stop Byron from trying to attack his besiegers on occasion.

When Chester did surrender it had more to do with starvation that the number of rounds of artillery fired at it. The mills and water supplies had been badly damaged by the bombardment.  Lack of ammunition meant that the Royalists lost control of the crossing point and supplies could not enter the town.

Brereton shot propaganda leaflets across the walls to persuade the defenders to surrender but from October onwards there were no further attempts to breach the walls.  Approximately 6000 people behind Chester’s walls were starving and diving of disease.  It was just a question of waiting. By December 1645 the town’s defenders began to desert.

Chester’s mayor persuaded Byron to surrender in January 1646.  The able bodied were allowed to leave whilst the sick and the starving were to be permitted an opportunity to recover.  Brereton took possession of Chester on 3rd February 1646.

A quarter of Chester had been burned. What their artillery hadn’t destroyed the Parliamentarian soldiers now smashed.

 

The sad story of an actress and a valet

1st duke of devoshire.jpgWhen the First Duke of Devonshire (pictured left) was sixty-five, suffering from gout, troubled by his stretched finances (too much spent on the gee gees at Newmarket and rebuilding Chatsworth) and his popularity with Queen Anne was waining he found consolation in the daughter of his valet.

Mary Ann Campion had been born in 1687- the year before the first duke added his name to the document that invited William of Orange to invade.  She was just seventeen when she became pregnant – a case of droit de signeur if there ever was one!

Mary Ann was an actress, or at any rate she sang, danced and played the harpsichord.  She’d first appeared on stage when she was just eleven so it may be that she had natural talent rather than a reliance on eye-brow raising patronage. By 1703 she was singing in Italian, although some of the songs she were singing would, not by any account, be deemed suitable for a thirteen-year-old today, even a “little canary bird.”

History records her last public performance as the 14th March 1704.  The reason behind this was that the duke wished her to leave the stage.  He  set her up in London in a property known in Bolton Street, St. Martin in the Fields – where she gave birth to a daughter named after her mother.  The baby appears to have been healthy but Mary Ann either had a difficult birth or was already unwell.  She made her will on the 23r April 1706.  On the 16th May 1706 Mary died of something described as a “hectic fever.”

The duke was unfashionably grief stricken.  Although he didn’t attend the funeral he had his mistress’s remains interred at the church near Latimers in Buckinghamshire where he owned a house and where other members of his family were buried.  He even went so far as to put a monument up in her memory – enjoining readers to remember that the lovely young woman had a virtuous mind and that although her birth was lowly she had been a very sincere person more suited to nobility.

Mary Ann left her house to her daughter along with her jewellery and plate.  The duke left his daughter £10,000.

It would be nice to know what happened to Mary Ann Cavendish.

 Philip H. Highfill, Kalman A. Burnim, Edward A. Langhans A Biographical Dictionary of Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Dancers, Managers

 

The Glorious Revolution

The revolution of 1688 is also called the Bloodless Revolution. Basically James II inherited the throne from his brother Charles II on 6th Feb 1685.  Three years later he was turfed out.  James aside from being Catholic himself appointed Catholics to the army and in 1687 suspended anti-catholic laws – in Ireland Protestant officers were replaced with Catholic ones.  To be fair Protestant non-conformists also benefited from the change in laws. The problem was that in the seventeenth century religious bigotry was alive and well. The approximately ten percent of the English population who remained Catholic were at best regarded with suspicion.

James having Protestant children – Mary and Anne- was tolerated because he would be succeeded by people with the right kind of religious credentials. James’ first wife Anne Hyde was the daughter of Charles II’s minister Edward Hyde who became Lord Clarendon.  The pair married in 1660 when pressure was exerted on James to do the right thing – their child was born two months later!  Anne converted to Catholicism but the children of the marriage were raised as Protestants.  It wasn’t a popular marriage as there was concern that Edward Hyde would gain to match political power from the match.

The trouble was that Anne died in 1671 and James married for a second time to Mary of Modena – who was Catholic.  In June 1688 she gave birth to a a baby boy.  This triggered seven leading political figures to write to James’ son-in-law William of Orange inviting him to invade England.  William arrived on the 5th November.

Even James’ other daughter Anne joined William.  Across the country James discovered that the nobility and gentry were declaring their allegiance to William and Mary.  He panicked and fled from London

Apologies for the lack of picture – apparently the imps in the ether aren’t pedalling hard enough this evening!

Eleanor de Clare – a bartered, imprisoned and then kidnapped bride. Tough times for royal women in the fourteenth century.

eleanor de clare.jpgEleanor de Clare was the eldest of Gilbert de Clare 7th Earl of Gloucester’s three daughters. She was also the eldest granddaughter of Edward I, her mother being Joan of Acre.  You would think under those circumstances that her marriage would have been fairly auspicious.  Unfortunately her royal grandfather owed a Marcher Lord 2,000 livres.  Eleanor was what you might describe as “settlement of the debt” that Edward I owed to Hugh Despenser the Older.  Her wedding to Hugh Despenser the Younger  took place in 1306. It included a dowry that settled an annual income on Eleanor.  She was thirteen years old. The Despensers were an old family but they were somewhat cash strapped. Eleanor gave their family added prestige, took them a step closer to court and there was also the promise of future patronage.

When Edward II became king in 1307 it appears that Eleanor’s fortunes looked up.  There is evidence of land settlement and in 1308 she appears as a lady-in-waiting to Edward’s new queen, Isabella of France. Not only that but her young uncle paid for her place at court.  At around this time Eleanor’s sisters were also married off.  Margaret found herself married to the king’s favourite Piers Gaveston. Meanwhile Eleanor was producing a family. By 1325 she had nine children.

In 1314 the family’s fortunes changed with the death of  Eleanor’s brother Gilbert.  For the next three years they waited for Gilbert’s wife Matilda to give birth.  She insisted that she was pregnant throughout.  Eventually though the three sisters, Eleanor, Margaret and Elizabeth were declared co-heiresses.  Glamorgan fell into Hugh Despencer’s lap and his power at court increased accordingly when Eleanor was named sub jure Lady Glamorgan.  Unfortunately he was land and power greedy.  A Welsh land dispute with Roger Mortimer ended in the imprisonment of Roger and his uncle in the Tower not to mention a nationwide reputation that eventually resulted in Edward II’s wife Isabella taking the opportunity to flee to France with her eldest son Prince Edward.

Hugh tricked his sister-in-law Elizabeth out of some of her inheritance – the Welsh lands of Usk.  Elizabeth was captured by her brother-in-law and sent to Barking Abbey.  Her husband died and then Edward II “persuaded” her to swap Usk for Despencer’s lands in the Gower.  She only got her property back in 1326 when Isabella of France and her lover, Roger Mortimer (who escaped the Tower and went to France) invaded in the name of Prince Edward.

It would have to be said that the whole family situation of the de Clare girls looks rather fraught given the land grabbing tendencies of Hugh and the fact that he and Piers Gaveston were both Edward II’s favourites.  Historians are conflicted as to the extent of the relationships but it must have made life difficult and if it wasn’t then the arrival of Isabella in 1326 from France with an army at her back certainly made life very difficult for Eleanor.

The Despencers were captured.  Eleanor’s father-in-law was hanged whilst her husband was put on trial and brutally executed on the 24 November 1326 in Hereford.  As the wheel of fortune turned up for Elizabeth it turned down for her sister. Eleanor was carted off to the Tower and three of her daughters were forced to become nuns. Even more cruel they weren’t even sent to the same nunnery.  Margaret Despencer who was probably a toddler at the time was sent to Watton.  Her sister  Eleanor went to Sempringham and the third daughter, Joan, was sent to Shaftesbury.  This was perhaps revenge for the fact that Edward II had sent three of Roger Mortimer’s daughters to live as nuns in 1324.  However, the Mortimer girls hadn’t been forcibly veiled whereas the Despencer sisters, even the toddler, would only ever know the world of the nunnery.

Eleanor  de Clare remained the Tower for two years with her youngest children.. When Eleanor was eventually released her dower lands were restored to her making her a rich widow.  She was promptly abducted from Hanley Castle by William de la Zouche who had participated in the Siege of Caerphilly Castle which had seen the capture of her first husband.  She was promptly re-arrested and thrown back into the Tower on charges of jewellery theft.  Her lands were confiscated and she was told that she would have to pay a fine of £50,000 to get them back.

Interestingly when Edward III toppled Roger Mortimer in 1330 Eleanor did not petition for an annulment of her “forced” marriage.  The fine for the return of her lands was dropped to £5,000 and it still wasn’t paid when she died.

You’d have thought that would have been sufficient drama for any woman but even after 1330 she wasn’t allowed any peace.  A knight called Sir John Grey claimed that he had married her before de la Zouche arrived on the scene. Edward III and the Pope rejected Grey’s evidence -though we don’t know what it was as it has disappeared from the record.

The image of the naked lady with no clothes on, to be found in one of the windows of Tewkesbury Abbey (where she’s buried), is thought to be Eleanor.

 

Eleanor died on the 30 June 1337.