Edith/Matilda of Scotland

Edith or Matilda of Scotland was the wife of Henry I.  The couple had four children but only two survived to adulthood – Matilda and William. It was the death of William that ultimately plunged England into a lengthy and rather bloody civil war.

Edith was born circa 1080 in Dunfermline to Malcolm III and Margaret , grand-daughter of King Edmund Ironside and great niece of Edward the Confessor .  Somewhat confusingly since Margaret fled England along with her family at the time of the Norman Conquest it turns out that Edith’s godfather was Robert Curthose, the eldest son of William the Conqueror.  William’s queen, Matilda of Flanders was also present at Edith’s baptism  as godmother. It’s recorded that little Edith pulled at the royal headdress – this was later seen as a sign that Edith would herself be queen one day. Tyler identifies the fact that Edith’s name identifies her Saxon royal heritage whilst the choice of godparents reflects the political capital of the infant.

When she was about six Edith was sent to England to be educated by the nuns of Romsey Abbey in Wiltshire.  The Royal House of Wessex had a tradition of association with the abbey and Edith’s aunt Christina was the abbess there. She had left Scotland in 1086 to become a nun. Edith’s older sister Mary went with her. As well as spending time in Romsey the girls also spent time at Wilton Abbey – again there was a royal connection to the House of Wessex – Edward the Confessor’s wife Edith Godwinson was associated with the nunnery and had retired there after the Conquest. Wilton was regarded as a centre for female learning as well as a centre of spirituality.  The nunnery had a nail from the True Cross, bits of the Venerable Bede and St Edith.

The choice of these nunneries perhaps reflects the political heritage of Edith of Dunfermline.  The Normans weren’t necessarily secure on the throne and by maintaining their royal behaviours Malcolm III and his wife were leaving a path open to reclaiming the crown as well as arranging good marriages for their daughters.

Unsurprisingly Edith had lots of prospective suitors including the 2ndearl of Surrey (de Warenne) and Alan Rufus the Lord of Richmond.  It is also suggested that William Rufus might have been a candidate for Edith’s hand – it is perhaps one reason why Edith was required to wear a religious habit during her childhood.

Edith’s settled life came to an end on November 13 1093 when her father and one of her brothers was killed at the Battle of Alnwick.  Her mother died on the 16thNovember at Dunfermline where she is buried. Aside from a controversy about whether she was a nun or not History does not know where Edith was between 1093 and 1100.

At some point in 1093 Edith left Wilton and was ordered back there by Anselm the Bishop of Canterbury. He believed that she had taken holy orders – that she was in fact a nun. In 1100 Edith was called upon to testify before a council of bishops that although she had been educated at Romsey and Wilton that she had not taken any vows.  She stated that Christina had required her to wear a habit to protect her from unwanted attention from Norman lords.  Edith does not appear to have had a good relationship with Christina – she stated that her aunt would often give her a sound slapping and “horrible scolding.” She further added that when she was out of her aunt’s sight she tore off the monastic veil that her aunt made her wear and trampled it in the dust.

In addition to Edith’s testimony there was also the fact that Archbishop Lanfranc had ruled that Saxon women who went into hiding in nunneries in the aftermath of the Conquest could not be deemed as having taken monastic vows when they emerged from their hiding places.  Although Edith clearly hadn’t gone into hiding due to ravaging Normans, Christina’s dressing of the girl in a monastic habit was seen as having stemmed from the same root. William of Malmsebury notes that Christina grew old and died at Romsey so perhaps the move to Wilton was partially to get away from an unloved relation – but that is entirely speculation.  

On one hand its evident that Edith/Matilda’s bloodline was ample reason for Henry I to marry her but William of Malmsebury states that Henry loved his new bride.  Henry I and Edith married on November 11thin Westminster Abbey. Anselm performed the marriage but before doing so told the entire congregation about Edith potentially being a nun and asked for any objections.  The congregation- possibly knowing what was good for it- cried out in Edith’s favour.  Afterwards she took the name Matilda – not that it stopped Henry I’s lords mocking him by calling him Godrick and his queen Godiva because of the return to Saxon customs that Henry instituted.  

And for anyone doubting whether Edith/Matilda was legally able to marry, the fact that a healthy baby daughter, the future Empress Matilda, was born in February 1102 followed by a boy called William in September 1103 put an end to those niggling concerns that Henry might have married a nun – would God have blessed a marriage if it was invalid?

Honeycutt, Lois L. (2005) Matilda of Scotland: A Study in Medieval Queenship

“Edith Becomes Matilda.” England in Europe: English Royal Women and Literary Patronage, C.1000–C.1150, by ELIZABETH M. TYLER, University of Toronto Press, Toronto; Buffalo; London, 2017, pp. 302–353. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt1whm96v.14. Accessed 24 Feb. 2020.

Candlemas on the borders

Edward III

Candlemas or the Feast of the Purification of Mary is February 2 and the date when the baby Jesus was supposed to be presented at the Temple. Jesus is the light of the world – there were ceremonies that involved processing with candles which were often then blessed. These candles were supposed to be helpful in time of illness – they would be decorated and kept throughout the following year. They were also supposed to protect dwellings from storms.

Candlemas is one of those feasts that turns up in a historical context to mark the time of year. It’s not a quarter day but it is an important feast. I’ve come across it most often when reading about the border between England and Scotland. George MacDonald Fraser made the feast famous with his novel The Candlemas Road a story set in the sixteenth century about Lady Margaret Dacre the heiress of Askerton Hall.

Essentially Candlemas was the feast that was half way between Christmas and the Spring Equinox. For the borderers this meant the “light at the end of the tunnel” so to speak – the reivers’ horses weren’t up to the task of raiding from that point onwards.

Portrait of Sir Robert Carey circa 1591 NT; (c) Montacute House; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Raiding and reiving seems to have gone on all year but the cycle of the seasons made the winter months particularly noticeable. “The longer the nights grow the worse they will be,” notes Sir Robert Carey in his memoirs of his time as the Deputy Warden of the English West March. George MacDonald Fraser records that from September to November the land was dry and the cattle which had been in the meadows all summer were at their best i.e. it was good riding and the cattle were at their most valuable and thus a greater temptation. As the winter progressed the cattle grew weaker and the weather was often too bad to want to steal them in any case. By February 2nd – forty days after Christmas, the cattle were in their poorest condition and feed was more expensive so it was unlikely that many people would be feeding their horses the oats they required for hard riding – so if you were a law abiding soul you would probably sleep a little easier…until the better weather at any rate.

It should be noted that there is always an exception! The Scots won the Battle of Nesbit Moor in August 1355 before attacking and sacking Berwick-Upon-Tweed. Edward III was forced to bring an army north in order to defend the castle at Berwick which was under siege. The Scots decided that discretion was a sensible option and backed off before Edward arrived at his destination. Having met with Edward Balliol at Roxburgh, Edward decided to teach the Scots a lesson and in delivered his retribution in February 1356 in the Burned Candlemas Campaign. Basically Edward III set fire to the Lothians and what the English didn’t destroy the Scots did in a bid to force the English back with a burned earth policy. In the end this turned out to be justified as Edward’s fleet was destroyed in winter gales off North Berwick.

Edward expressed his irritation by destroying Haddington Monastery but was eventually forced to turn back.

‘Whitekirk and the ‘Burnt Candlemas’, Rev. Edward B. Rankin in the Scottish Historical Review Vol. 13, No. 50 (Jan., 1916), pp. 133-137

MacDonald-Fraser, George. The Steel Bonnets

Mortimer, Ian. (2008) The Perfect King: the life of Edward III

The Conqueror and the Scots

Most people think that in the aftermath of 1066, having won the Battle of Hastings, that William the Conqueror was able to sit back on his newly acquired throne and twiddle his fingers – after all the story is the Conquest of England and that is usually where the topic stops if you are a school child.

However, William spent the rest of his life dealing with rebellions both in England and in Normandy. His neighbours in Normandy also assumed that if William was in England that the Norman border would make an easy target.

As a result of the various rebellions in England many of the Saxon nobility sought shelter at the Scottish court of Malcolm III. He ended up married to Edgar the Atheling’s sister Margaret in 1071 – who renowned for her piety became St Margaret. Edgar with his family arrived in Scotland in 1068 having previously submitted to William only to join with Gospatrick of Northumbria to rebel against William. According to legend the family was on board a vessel destined for the Continent, remember they were originally from Hungary before being invited by Edward the Confessor to return to England.

So far as Malcolm was concerned his marriage to Margaret gave him a claim to the English throne – stories tend to linger more on the romance of the fleeing princess rather than the potential for a land grab. It was an opportunity for Malcolm to expand his borders southwards during times when William had his hands full elsewhere. He celebrated his marriage by invading various bits of Northumberland and Cumberland. It is probable that he was looking to establish a secure border and annex Cumberland which the Normans had not yet got around to quelling aside from the easily accessible coastal areas.

In 1072 William, having dealt with the revolting Northerners, turned his attention to the Scots. He sent an army across the border as well as a fleet of ships. The Scots and the Normans met at Abernethy in Perthshire. Malcom lost the ensuing battle and he was forced to sign the Treaty of Abernethy. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle recorded that Malcolm agreed to become William’s man and his son Duncan was handed over as surety for future good behaviour. Edgar was asked politely to leave Scotland and William gave Malcom lands in Cumberland – but which in reality did not receive the Norman stamp until the reign of William Rufus – and even then in times of trouble the Scots were quick to shift the border south. Just as an aside the Norman habit of giving Scottish nobility land in the north of England as a way of turning them into liege men did ultimately change the Scottish language and the politics of the region.

This all sounds very clear cut but the Normans did not successfully invade Scotland – Scotland remained firmly in the hands of the Scots – albeit a Scottish court which many felt was becoming anglicised by the presence of Margaret, her children by Malcolm and the assorted ragtag of Saxons who had sought shelter across the border.

Throughout this period there were skirmishes and battles across the borders between England and Scotland. In 1079 the treaty had to be re-imposed after a Norman army skirmished across the border in retaliation for Malcolm’s incursions into Northumberland.

The treaty broke down completely in 1093. Malcom was killed at the Battle of Alnwick on the 13th November and Margaret, apparently from grief, died on the 16th November. Malcolm was succeeded by his brother Donald.

The Butler did it!

Paxton House.jpgPaxton House in Berwickshire, pictured here from the gardens to the rear of the property, is a Regency delight stuffed with Chippendale furniture.  It was built by Patrick Home who had to pay for the design of the house by John Adam (younger brother of Robert), the quarrying, dressing and building of his delightfully symmetrical home a few miles from Berwick.  Ironically having built it he never actually lived in it.

The Homes are an ancient – and somewhat unlucky- border family. This is perhaps testified by the fact that between 1413 and 1576 every eldest son of the Home family died either in battle or as a prisoner in English hands.  The house even boasts a section of the so-called Flodden Banner that covered the bodies of Lord Home and his oldest son.   Though of course Paxton House hadn’t been built at that point.  In fact it wouldn’t be started until 1755.

The Home family managed to get itself into even deeper trouble in 1715 when it supported the Jacobite cause. Sir George Home of Wedderburn, his brother and his son managed to get caught at the Battle of Preston. Although George’s life was spared he was still guilty of treason so lost the family estate.  However, a cousin called Ninian was able to demonstrate that George owed him so much money that the estate was effectively mortgaged to him – resulting in its return to the family.  As these things tend to be, inheritance proved complicated.  Ninian had returned the property to George but none of George’s sons had legitimate heirs.  There were daughters.  Ninian intended that his son should marry George’s daughter Margaret but the son preferred Margaret’s younger sister.  Ninian having been widowed married Margaret himself…with me so far?  He was approximately thirty years older than his bride but that didn’t stop him fathering a second rather large family of whom the builder of Paxton House – Patrick- was the eldest surviving son.

Ninian died.  Margaret became responsible for her family’s upbringing.  Patrick was to be a lawyer. She sent him to be educated in Leipzig.  From there he went to Frederick the Great’s court, fell in love and was ordered to take the grand tour by his mother principally because the only way for Patrick to marry the girl he loved was to settle in Germany and Margaret did not want the family money to leave the country.

Whilst Patrick was touring Europe the family butler decided to relieve the family of the rent which was kept in a locked cabinet beneath Lady Home’s bed in her home at Linthill near Eyemouth.  The cabinet is now at Paxton House. Patrick’s mother was in the habit of carefully locking her chamber door before retiring to bed.  She also kept the keys to the cabinet under her pillow.

The butler, a man by the name of Norman Ross, knew how the tumbler mechanism for the lock to her bedroom worked.  He let himself in having stopped the lock by choking it with cherry stones, hid until Lady Home retired for the night and waited until she was asleep.  There was then the small matter of retrieving the keys from beneath her pillow.

Martin, David, 1737-1797; Margaret Home (d.1751), Lady BillieUnfortunately Margaret pictured above (image accessed from https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/margaret-home-d-1751-lady-billie-210935)  awoke.  The butler panicked and stabbed his employer with a knife – that he either had about him or which was upon the night stand depending on the source.  Margaret managed to summon help and survived long enough to name her murderer who had escaped through a window as the servants arrived on the scene.  She died on August 16 1751- the attack having happened on the night of the 12th.  Other accounts suggest that Margaret survived only two days.  In either event the murder is deemed to have occurred on the 12th.

Ross was arrested the following day and conveyed to Edinburgh where he was tried.  Prior to his execution he had his right hand chopped off.  He was also hanged in chains – one of the last men to suffer this fate.  Essentially his body was tarred and hanged in a cage where it was left to decompose. The severed hand was placed on top of the gallows.  Scottish law and English law differed in the treatment of Ross.  Under English law he would have been found guilty of petty treason but under Scottish law it was murder plain and simple.  The additional punishment reflected the fact that bond between servant and employer had been broken.  Ross was a trusted member of the household and is described in texts of the time as Margaret Home’s “confidential servant.”

It was probably as a consequence his dramatic return home that Patrick forgot to empty his travelling chest – a large and ornate piece of furniture.  It eventually languished in Paxton House for the next two hundred  and fifty years – consequentially the house has some very fine mid eighteenth century gentlemen’s costumes on display.

In 1755 Patrick began to build the house with a view to marrying the young woman he’d fallen in love with when he was twenty-two.  Unfortunately Sophie de Brandt, his sweetheart, died before the house was finished.  Patrick never furnished the house – that task fell to his cousin, another Ninian Home, when Patrick sold him the house in 1773 having inherited Wedderburn Castle from his uncle.

I loved Paxton House – a hidden gem. It’s part of the Historic Houses Association and entry to the house is by tour.  I’d have to say as much as I enjoyed the history I also enjoyed spotting the appropriately regency clad teddy bears that are part of the children’s trail! There’s no image of the Flodden Banner as photography is not permitted in the house.

 

The Scots Magazine   – Volume 13 – Page 405

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=YoE4AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA355&lpg=PA355&dq=murder+of+margaret+Home,+Lady+Billie+1751&source=bl&ots=WLN4vs7WI0&sig=ACfU3U0WxBupL5x7hwUG_E4yhfc5OQ8Klg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjD89us1eniAhW5XRUIHUHPDpE4ChDoATABegQICRAB#v=onepage&q=murder%20of%20margaret%20Home%2C%20Lady%20Billie%201751&f=false

Preston Tower and it’s builder – from murderer to warden of the east march

preston towerIn 1415 there were about 78 peel or pele towers in Northumberland.  These towers were essentially private fortifications for protection in the event of Scottish raids – or neighbours you  didn’t necessarily agree with.  The idea was that you could secure your family and portable valuables until it was safe to emerge or help arrived – beacons were kept on the top of the towers which could be lit to summon help and to worn the surrounding countryside of danger. Preston tower 1

Peel towers were an architecture that resulted from the Scottish Wars of Independence.  Some of the peel towers were not ordinarily used as dwellings – rather they should be considered refuges in times of trouble whilst at the other end of the spectrum places like Aydon Castle near Hexham resemble castles.

Preston Tower was built by Sir Robert Harbottle at the end of the fourteenth century.  Sir Robert was a man of his time.  He was part of the affinity of Sir Mathew Radmayne of Levens and rose in Redmayne’s service.  When Harbottle murdered a man in Methley in Yorkshire in 1392 it was Redmayne and his successor who secured Harbottle’s pardon.

You’d have thought that Harbottle would have kept his head down but it wasn’t long before he came to the attention of the law once again when he took part in a raid on the Yorkshire property of Isabel Fauconberg stealing her property as well as the property of her tenants.   A commission was set up to investigate but somehow or other Harbottle escaped the consequence of his crimes once more.

Henry IV,  having taken the crown from his cousin Richard II, made him constable of Dunstanburgh Castle in 1399 – clearly not having read his cv beforehand.  He even managed to acquire one of the wardenship of the east march – essentially turning Harbottle into the law.  Perhaps it’s not surprising that since he did so well from the Red Rose monarchs that Harbottle was loyal to both Henry IV and Henry V even when the Percy family rebelled against them.  Having bagged himself an heiress in the form of Isabel Monbourcher,  Harbottle had risen from henchman to man of wealth and influence.  When Hotspur rebelled against Henry IV, Harbottle was able to claim a better share of his wife’s inheritance  – so it would appear that luck was on his side as well.

In between times Harbottle had served in Henry IV’s army in 1400 against the Scots and became a member for parliament.  In short he had become part of the gentry in the north and had a good stout peel tower to prove it.

Preston Tower has walls which are over two metres thick, is three storeys high and has rooms off the main chamber at each level.  It was described by Pevsner as one of the best bits of medieval architecture in the country.

 

https://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1386-1421/member/harbottle-robert-1419

The Catholic north in 1569

pilgrimage-of-grace-banner.jpgEngland had been Protestant since the death of Mary Tudor in 1558.  The majority of the population had quietly got on with the change from Protestantism under Edward VI to Catholicism under Mary and then back to Protestantism with the ascent of Elizabeth.

On 14 November 1569 the Northern Earls led by the earls of Northumberland and Westmorland revolted.  They and their followers arrived at Durham Cathedral and celebrated a Catholic Mass having first of all overturned the communion table and destroyed Protestant books.  They rapidly acquired some 6000 men who marched under the old Pilgrimage of Grace (1536) banner – the five wounds of Christ shown at the start of this post. No one is quite sure how many people flocked to follow the banner – numbers have been put as high as 20,000.

What is interesting, aside from the insurgency itself, is the number of people who chose to go to the mass and what the state of religious belief actually was.  The cathedral was packed.  Perhaps its not so surprising.  Cuthbert Tunstall had been Bishop of Durham in 1559 but had been deprived of the diocese when he refused the Oath of Supremacy. He had been replaced by James Pilkington an unpopular but conformist Puritan.  That said there were a large number of parishes, many of them impoverished and subject to border raids, not to mention a shortage of clergy.  In many places the vicar had to serve several parishes or there were none.  It was even noted that “vagabond Scots” did the work of preaching.  It is perhaps not surprising that people continued to believe what they had always believed, irrelevant of what Protestant London might like. Effectively circumstance and geography ensured that religious belief in the north remained conservative.

The stated aim of the Northern Rebellion was to topple Elizabeth and replace her with Mary Queen of Scots – returning Catholicism to the country once again. By the 20th of December the Earls of Westmorland and Northumberland had fled across the border into Scotland and the churches which had toppled their communion tables and celebrated mass had some explaining to do. The Durham Consistory Court was busy.  Charges related to destroying Protestant books and altars, setting up Catholic altars and holy water stones that should have been destroyed previously but which had simply been hidden away, taking part in a Catholic mass and other Catholic rites.  Not everyone attended a mass because they wanted to. People in Darlington were forced to attend the event and so far as the Durham clergy were concerned a number of them testified that they had taken part in the old rites by compulsion rather than desire.

The numbers of churches destroying the paraphernalia of Protestantism in Yorkshire was even higher than it was in County Durham. It’s worth noting that the Earl of Northumberland’s territory stretched far into Yorkshire. Inevitably with statistics it is impossible to know how many of the men who burned books did so under duress or had simply become carried away on a tide of destruction rather than having genuine belief into the rights and wrongs of the matter.

As for the altars and water stones there is evidence that when it became clear that the rebellion was failing that a number of them including the water stones placed by the doors in Durham Cathedral were quietly returned to their hiding places.  When questioned no one admitted to knowing what had happened to them.

Texts identify the fact that in the years that followed numbers of Northern magnates opened their homes to Jesuits and the problem of clergy numbers remained in the north alongside impoverished livings.

Doran, Susan, and Durston, Christopher (1991)Princes, Pastors and People: The Church and Religion in England, 1529-1689 London: Routledge

Duffy, Eamon (1992)  The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400-1580, New Haven: Yale University Press

Kesselring, Krista J. (2007) The Northern Rebellion of 1569: Faith, Politics and Protest in Elizabethan England, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan

Anne of Denmark and the witches of Copenhagen

Attributed_to_Marcus_Gheeraerts_the_Younger_Anne_of_Denmark.jpgIn 1590 James VI of Scotland got married.  His wife was a Protestant princess.  She had been raised in a Lutheran court.  The dowry of £150,000 helped as did a hand full of islands including Orkney which Scotland already held but which now legally became Scottish rather than Scandinavian.

It began as a love story.  James wrote to his fourteen year old bride and fell so in love with her that when bad weather prevented her from reaching Scotland, he himself took to the sea so that he could reach Anne who had arrived safely in Oslo rather than remain on a vessel which had almost foundered in the storm.  Having been married the pair returned to Denmark where James developed an interest in witchcraft – he went on to write a text entitled Daemonologie.

The Danish minister of financed faced criticism for not properly outfitting the vessel.The Danish admiral responsible for conveying Anne to Norway rather than Edinburgh blamed a Copenhagen witch rather than bad weather or his own seafaring skills.  The woman, Anna Koldings was the wife of a burgess with whom the admiral had quarrelled confessed to being a witch…under torture.  It was an impressive story.  Apparently the witch responsible for the storm has sent little devils in wheelbarrows across the sea.  They then climbed up the keels of the fleet which was transporting Anne and caused the storm.  In September 1590 she was burned to death. Eleven other women, including the wife of the burgomaster, were also executed because quite clearly transporting demons in empty barrows across the sea would require the efforts of more than one woman.

When James returned to Scotland his interest in the topic of witches was well and truly alight.  The Kirk was delighted as they had been keen on the topic of witches for some considerable time.  Now that the king was on board the way was clear to start the bonfires.  In North Berwick a coven was unmasked and James was amazed when they repeated conversations that he had in Norway – the burnings began. The North Berwick trials ran for two years and more than seventy people were implicated.

 

 

Liddel Strength – John of Gaunt on the borders

220px-Edward_III_of_England_(Order_of_the_Garter)John of Gaunt owned more than thirty castles – many came though his marriage to Blanche of Lancaster, others came by gift from his father Edward III.  One of them, Liddel Strength, sitting on the banks of the River Liddel, quite close to the wonderfully named village of Moat in Cumbria, went through assorted hands until it came into the ownership of the Earls of Kent – John the 3rd Earl of Kent died in 1352.  He was twenty-two.   He died without children and his titles passed to his sister Joan.

Joan became the 4th Countess of Kent and Baroness Wake.  History, on the other hand, knows Joan as the Fair Maid of Kent.   Thomas Holland who married her secretly ultimately became the Earl of Kent when Joan extracted herself from a second bigamous marriage that her family had imposed upon her.

All of which was rather unnecessary in this post because John, Earl of Kent passed the castle to Edward III pictured at the start of this post who in turned passed it to John of Gaunt in 1357 after he had proved his martial ability. However, given that the Scots had destroyed the castle in 1346 and behaved rather unpleasantly to the chap responsible for the castle – one Sir Walter de Selby who according to one source was forced to watch two his his sons being strangled prior to his own beheading.

The castle was never rebuilt despite the fact that the area was prone to Scottish raiding given its position on the border.  Edward III’s plan seems to have been that John should become a northern magnate and the lordship gave him the necessary political importance in the region.  Edward was also in the middle of negotiations with King David of Scotland — so a handily placed son was not to be sneezed at in the eventuality of a substitution being required.

Certainly in the 1370s when the intermittent Anglo-Scottish war broke out once more Gaunt went north on Richard II’s behalf with the intention of ending them and had placed the Percy family in a position of greater power than ever on the borders by giving the earl of Northumberland the powers necessary to levy forces from across the marches to repel a Scottish army.

The  title to the Lordship would pass to Henry of Bolingbroke in 1380.

 

The childhood of a prince

john of gauntJohn of Gaunt was born in March 1340 whilst Edward III was on campaign in France trying to claim the French throne through his mother’s, Isabella of France, bloodline – someone hadn’t explained salic law to him.  John was probably born in St Bavo Abbey in Ghent.  In later years the rumour would arise that he was no true son of Edward’s but was instead a Ghentish butcher’s brat – no one ever paused to wonder how Philippa of Hainhault might have met this butcher given that queen’s aren’t prone to popping out to do the shopping for the evening meal.

Froissart states that Gaunt’s godfather was John, Duke of Brabant, a reminder of the shifting tides of political affiliation in Europe.

In November the royal family returned to England.  We know very little of John’s early year’s although, as ever, it is the accounts that give us some insight.  We know for instance from Edward III’s wardrobe account for 1340-41 that the baby was provided with some rather snazzy red and green bedding, that he had silken robes and a household of servants.  As well as his nurse there was a female cradle-rocker.   And, as if this wasn’t enough, there were two esquire of the body, six chamber servants and three “domicelli.” Domicelli are also servants but they are of a higher social status.

John probably found himself in the royal nursery with his sisters Isabella and Joan and his older brother Lionel as well as the new baby Edmund.  At the age of seven he would have been deemed old enough to leave the nursery and begin his training as a knight.  We also know, thanks to the accounts again, that Edward set aside £1000 a year for his children and that Philippa of Hainault of seems to have been a very hands on royal mother was granted their guardianship in 1342 whilst Edward was busy across the Channel.

John was also  created the Earl of Richmond. This may have been because his father was already scouting around for prospective brides for his young son.  The earldom was reconfirmed in 1351.

Ecclesiastical documents also reveal that the young John was admitted to the confraternity at Lincoln and later to St Mary’s in York.  The later took place in 1349 just after the Princess Joan had died from the plague.

John’s next step towards adulthood was being placed in the care of his brother, Edward, the Black Prince.  John was probably in his brother’s household between 1350 and 1355 – the accounts tell us this because there were purchases of knightly accoutrements for the young prince.

It was in 1350 that John found himself in the middle of the Battle of Winchelsea.  He was too young to take part in the fight but according to Froissart John was on board the ship with his father because the king was very fond of his son.  Edward III was attempting to intercept the Castilian fleet of Pedro I who had become an ally of France rather than England – despite Edward III attempting to negotiate a marriage between England and Castile.  Edward III won the battle but it was touch and go.  He knighted his son immediately afterwards according to some versions of Gaunt’s history although others think that the narrator was confused in remembering events that had taken place thirty years previously and that Lionel and John were both knighted in 1355.  In either case Philippa of Hainhault spent an unpleasant afternoon with a good view of a sea battle.

BattleofSluys.jpg

This particular image is from Froissart’s Chronicle.  It depicts the Battle of Sluys which was fought in 1340 between england and France but it gives a good idea that a sea battle was really about getting the ships alongside one another and then being engaged in hand to hand fighting.

In 1355 John was old enough to join his father and older brother on their military campaigns in Normandy and from Calais.  Whilst Edward was occupied in France the Scots took the opportunity to capture Berwick-Upon-Tweed but that’s a different story.  The key thing is that John was part of the winter campaign to recapture the town which surrendered on 13 January 1356.

The following year John was granted the  lordship of Liddel – John was going to be a northern lord getting to grips with those pesky Scots.  The next step in securing John’s future would be his marriage to Blanche of Lancaster.  Childhood – such as it had been- was over.

Goodman, Anthony. (1992) John of Gaunt. London: Longman.

Berwick upon Tweed, Richard of Gloucester and the fate of a princess

Berwick upon tweedAccording to the Scotsman Berwick Upon Tweed changed hands some thirteen times in its turbulent history.  So, it was originally part of the Kingdom of Northumbria and these are the key changes of occupier.

henry iiiIn 1018 following the Battle of Carham the border moved to the Tweed and Berwick became Scottish which it remained until William I of Scotland became involved in the civil war between Henry II and his sons in 1173.  After his defeat Berwick became English.  In all fairness Henry II had rather caused bad feeling between the Scots and English when he forced the Scots to hand Carlisle back to England – which given how supportive King David of Scotland had been to him seems rather ungracious.  William I of Scotland (or William the Lion if you prefer) had simply taken advantage of the family fall out between Henry II and his sons.  Unfortunately for him he was captured in 1174 at the Battle of Alnwick.  He was released under terms of vassalage and made to give up various castles as well as Berwick.

 

220px-Edward_III_of_England_(Order_of_the_Garter)Henry II’s son, Richard the Lionheart, who, as I have mentioned previously, would have been more than prepared to sell London to the highest bidder to finance his Crusade sold the town back to the Scots where it remained until 1296 and the Scottish Wars of Independence. Needless to say it was Edward I who captured the town for the English at that time after the Scots had invaded Cumberland under the leadership of John Baliol who was in alliance with the French.  There were executions and much swearing of fealty not to mention fortification building.

 

In April 1318 during the reign of Edward II (who was not known for his military prowess) Berwick fell once again to the Scots.  By 1333 the boot was on the other foot with Edward III now on the throne.  Sir Archibald Douglas found himself inside the town and preparing for a siege – no doubt making good use of the fortifications built on the orders of Edward I.  Douglas was defeated at the Battle of Halidon Hill in September 1333 and Berwick became English once more.

 

And thus it might have remained but  for the Wars of the Roses.  In 1461 Edward IV won the Battle of Towton leaving Henry VI without a kingdom. Margaret of Anjou gave Berwick and Carlisle to the Scots in return for their support to help when the Crown once again.    I should point out that the citizens of Carlisle did not hand themselves over to Scotland whilst those in Berwick found themselves once more under Scottish rule. Not that it did Margaret of Anjou much good nor for that matter diplomatic relations between Scotland and the new Yorkist regime although there was a treaty negotiated in 1474 which should have seen 45 years of peace – as all important treaties were this one was sealed with the agreement that Edward’s third daughter Cecily should marry James III’s son also called James.  Sadly no one appears to have told anyone along the borders of this intent for peaceful living as the borderers simply carried on as usual.

 

 

Richard_III_of_EnglandAugust 24 1482 Berwick became English once more having fallen into the hands of Richard, Duke of Gloucester who strengthened his army with assorted European mercenaries until there were somewhere in the region of 20,000 men in his force.  Richard marched north from York in the middle of July. Once at Berwick Richard left some men to besiege the town whilst he went on to Edinburgh where he hoped to meet with King James III of Scotland in battle (it should be noted that one of James’ brothers was in the English army). It wasn’t just James’ brother who was disgruntled.  It turned out that quite a few of his nobles were less than happy as they took the opportunity of the English invasion to lock James away.  It became swiftly clear to Richard that he would not be able to capture Edinburgh so returned to Berwick where he captured the town making the thirteenth and final change of hands.

 

Meanwhile the Scottish nobility asked for a marriage between James’ son James and Edward IV’s daughter Cecily to go ahead.  Richard said that the marriage should go ahead if Edward wished it but demanded the return of Cecily’s dowry which had already been paid.

 

Just to complicate things – James’ brother, the one fighting in the English army proposed that it should be him that married Cecily.  He had hopes of becoming King himself.  Edward IV considered the Duke of  Albany’s proposal and it did seem in 1482 that there might be an Anglo-Scottish marriage but in reality the whole notion was unpopular.  The following year,  on 9th April, Edward died unexpectedly and rather than marrying royalty Cecily found herself married off to one of her uncle’s supporters Ralph Scrope of Masham. This prevented her from being used as a stepping-stone to the Crown.  This particular marriage was annulled by Henry VII after Bosworth which occurred on 22 August 1485 and Cecily was married off to Lord Welles who was Margaret Beaufort’s half-brother and prevented Cecily, once again, from being used as a stepping-stone to the Crown.

Meanwhile Berwick remained relatively peacefully until 1639 when the Scottish Presbyterian Army and Charles I’s army found itself at a standoff.  The Pacification of Berwick brought the so-called First Bishops’ War to an end.  Unsurprisingly Charles broke the agreement just as soon as he had gathered sufficient funds, arms and men. The Second Bishops’ war broke out the following year with the English Civil War beginning in 1642.