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

Shrouded effigies at Fenny Bentley

thomas beresford fenny bentlyThomas Beresford died some ten years after his wife, Agnes. They were buried in St Edmund’s  Church, Fenny Bentley opposite their home in Fenny Bentley Old Hall.  Their tomb tells us quite a bit  about the couple – they had sixteen sons and five daughters – all of them in their shrouds, as indeed are Thomas and Agnes.

The Beresfords provided a troop of horsemen for Henry V and Thomas’s sons took part in the Wars of the Roses fighting on the side of Lancaster.  This is perhaps not unexpected as the Beresfords are listed as part of the Lancaster Affinity.  Having said that John Beresford managed to get on the wrong side of Henry IV when he refused to go to France.  The screen in the church was given by the Beresfords in the aftermath of the Wars of the Roses – presumably in grateful thanks for surviving.

Interesting as that may be it doesn’t explain why Thomas and his wife are chiselled as top knotted bundles.  The reason that is often given is that Thomas, who fought at Agincourt, and his wife died in 1473 and 1463 respectively but that the tomb was carved during the Tudor period meaning that no one knew what Thomas and Agnes looked like so the mason was forced to come up with his own solution to the problem of how they might have appeared.

A more plausible alternative is that the shroud tomb is a cheaper alternative to the cadaver tomb – this was a late fifteenth century fad to have your life like “before” effigy on the top of the tomb and a cadaver “after” effigy directly underneath complete with bones, worms, rigor mortis and a spot of light torment depending on the mason’s preferences. As if the fact that the monument wasn’t enough of a reminder of death the so called “trans” of cadaver tombs were designed to remind folk how transient life and its achievements really are. The shroud tomb is the model down from the full on skeleton.  If you couldn’t afford a full length alabaster likeness of your loved one in their shroud – or even your own likeness- there was always a shroud brass.

In Thomas Beresford’s case there is also the promise of salvation because there’s a painted ceiling above the tomb showing the Beresford coat of arms and winged angels. Except if course that the ceiling is rather later – being made from aluminium and being added in 1895.

FBNAisleCeiling

There is always the third option, if the first two don’t appeal, that the sculptor wasn’t much good at faces which accounts for why the whole family are decked out like sacks of spuds.

And yes for regular followers of the History Jar – this means that the season of  ecclesiastical peregrinations has commenced!

The Babingtons of Dethick before the reign of Elizabeth I

Babington, Thomas d.1519The Babington family of Dethick arrived in Derbyshire in 1420 when Sir Thomas Babington, who was born in the mid 1370s, married Isabel Dethick the daughter of Robert Dethick,  heiress to the Manor of Dethick. Prior to that time the Babingtons were a Nottinghamshire family who had moved south sometime before from Babington in Northumberland.  There are records of thirteenth century Babingtons in Northumberland during the reign of Henry III. By the reign of Edward III there are records of Babingtons in East Bridgeford.

It was from this family that the Babingtons of Dethick descended.  Sir John Babington of East Bridgeford had five sons and a daughter called Sidonia who was born in 1374. Thomas was John’s eldest son and therefore his heir. There were also Sir William Babington of Chilwell; Arnold Babington who moved to Norwich and became a Merchant of the Staple; Norman who remained in East Bridgeford and who can be found in the records as the Sheriff of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire in 1428.  Norman did rather well for himself because he married a daughter of the Duke of Norfolk.The fifth son was called John and he settled in Devon.

 

Sir Thomas Babington who married Isabel should, of course, have inherited the East Bridgeford property but it appears that he sold his inheritance to William prior to going on campaign to France.  When Thomas returned from the Hundred Years War having fought at Agincourt in 1415, he purchased the manor of Kingston-on-Soar in Nottinghamshire. He did the things required of fifteenth century gentlemen.   He became a member of parliament, was appointed to administrative jobs and produced sons and married into the Derbyshire landed gentry.

He was also a pious man and spent money on the church at Ashover.  The tower was built to mark his safe return from the Hundred Years War.   He died in 1464 and he was buried at Ashover rather than Kingston.

Sir John Babington, Thomas’s son married Isabel Bradbourne, ensuring links with another local family.  He was the High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and the Royal Forests in 1480 – demonstrating that public roles were semi-inherited, in this case from his Uncle William.  He was a Yorkist supporter and had fought for Edward IV at the Battle of Barnet in 1471.  On 22ndAugust 1485 he fought for Richard III and died at Bosworth a the hands of Sir John Blount who was Henry Tudor’s Provost Marshal.  Isabel seems to have died the following year.

 

Evidently  Henry Tudor didn’t harbour a grudge against the Babingtons because the records show that Thomas’s grandson, another Thomas pictured at the start of this post, inherited the estates and the job of Sheriff despite the fact that in 1498 he married Editha or Edith Fitzherbert of Norbury.  One of the interesting things about the Norbury FitzHerberts’ is that their effigies bear the insignia of the white boar – Richard III’s personal symbol.

Thomas-Babington-of-Dethick-d-300x275.jpgThomas died in 1518 and was buried in Ashover where his grandparents were buried.  It was the first thing he identified in his will.  His wife had already died and the monument already built.  The figures around the tomb included members of his family. He did not want it broken so that he could be interred. He stipulated where he wished to be interred, that candles were to be burned around his body and alms given to the poor. He asked that his debts be paid and that if he had offended anyone that they should have restitution.  He asked for masses and prayers to be said.  In short it was a good pre-Reformation will with attention being paid for departing purgatory for Heaven as soon as possible.

 

He left behind him a family of nine sons and six daughters.  His oldest son was called Anthony.  His grandson was also called Anthony and whereas Sir Anthony Babington senior is remembered for building the church tower at Dethick, his grandson is remembered for the so-called Babington Plot which saw him attainted and executed for treason in 1586.

Antony Babington having been attainted a traitor and executed in 1586 didn’t lose the Babingtons all their property.  His brother Francis inherited Kingston-on-Soar but he sold it to Gilbert Talbot – the Earl of Shrewsbury and so the manor passed from the hands of the Babington family.  Anthony’s other brother George sold the Manor of Dethick into the hands of the Blackwall family.

Kerry, C. (1887) ‘Babington family (from Report of the Hon. Secretary).’ Derbyshire Archeological Journal :9. (pp. XXI-XXVIII).

Babington, T. (1897) ‘The will of Thomas Babington, of Dethick, Derbys.’ Derbyshire Archeological Journal :19. (pp. 080-093).

 

 

The Holland family -part 2

msharley1319f25Yesterday’s post covered all of points 1-3 and most of 4:

  1. Robert Holland who married Maud de Zouche and managed to get himself beheaded by some irate Thomas of Lancaster supporters in 1328.
  2. Sir Thomas Holland who married Edward I’s granddaughter Joan of Kent in a secret marriage.  He became the first  Holland Earl of Kent. He died in 1360.
  3.  Sir Thomas and Joan had two sons – Thomas and John. Thomas became the 2nd Holland earl of Kent after his mother’s death in 1385.  He was married to Alice FitzAlan the daughter of the Earl of Arundel. the 2nd earl died in 1394.  I’ll come back to John shortly.
  4. The 2nd earl and his wife Alice had two sons, another Thomas and Edmund.  Thomas, the elder of the two brothers became the 3rd earl but was elevated by his half-brother Richard II to the title 1st Duke of Surrey. He was demoted back to being an earl when Henry of Bolingbroke usurped the throne from his cousin Richard II.  In January 1400 Thomas plotted with his uncle John to overthrow Henry IV and return Richard II to power.  Both Thomas and John were executed.  Thomas did not have any heirs so the title of 4th earl went to Thomas’s brother Edmund.  Edmund was killed in 1408 during one of the intermittent skirmishes of the Hundred Years War.  The Holland Earldom of Kent was extinct as he had no heirs.holland1exeter

So let’s go back to John, the second son of Joan of Kent.  John benefited from the patronage of his step father the Black Prince.  He married Elizabeth of Lancaster, the daughter of John of Gaunt, was elevated to the earldom of Huntingdon and then to the title 1st Duke of Exeter.  When Henry IV gained the throne John was demoted back to his earldom, plotted to kill Henry and his sons and was promptly executed.

Effigy_John_Holland_died_1447He and Elizabeth of Lancaster had three sons.  The eldest and youngest died without heirs whilst the middle son, conveniently called John regained the dukedom from Henry V following the victory at Agincourt.  John, the second Duke of Exeter, married the widow of Edmund Mortimer and had two children.  The boy was called Henry and he was born in 1430 so we have now arrived at the Wars of the Roses generations.

Henry became the 3rd Duke of Exeter in 1447.  He was an important political figure.  So it is not surprising that he married Richard of York’s young daughter Anne. On December 30th 1460 he was one of the Lancastrian commanders at the Battle of Wakefield – where his father-in-law was killed.  He was at Towton and fled to Scotland to continue serving Margaret of Anjou.  He wasn’t caught by the Yorkist king Edward IV until he was injured at the Battle of Barnet on the 14th April 1471.  The following year his wife, who had already separated from him, sought a divorce.  In 1475 he was let out of the Tower having volunteered to go to France with Edward IV.  Henry Holland, 3rd Duke of Exeter and Joan of Kent’s great grandson.  On the way back from France Henry fell mysteriously overboard and drowned – probably on the orders of Edward IV.  I’ve posted about the 3rd duke before. Click on the link to open a new window: https://thehistoryjar.com/2017/02/07/duke-of-exeter-was-he-murdered-or-did-he-slip/ Henry’s only child, a daughter called Anne had predeceased him a year earlier.

And that’s the end of the Holland males.  There are, of course, assorted female Holland descendants – married as  you might expect into some of the most important families in the country.  I shall begin to look at the female line in part three of this series.

 

 

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

 

Margaret Beaufort – the pictures

BeaufortLadyM_CU_SJ_170smI tend to think of Lady Margaret Beaufort looking rather austere in a wimple and black gown as pictured left.   Melanie Taylor, art historian (https://melanievtaylor.co.uk) very kindly told me about the image of Margaret at prayer which hangs in St John’s College, Cambridge.  It was painted by Rowland Lockey who was Nicholas Hilliard’s apprentice.    He was born in 1565 and his best known picture is probably that of Sir Thomas More and his family.  The image of Lady Margaret was presented to St John’s in 1598 by Julius Clippersby – Roy Strong says it was Juliana Clippersby who gave it to the college, making it less of a primary source than you might have imagined on first looking at it.  It certainly accounts for the abundance of Tudor royal images and coats of arms.

 

margaret-beaufort hever.jpgA quick check on the National Portrait Gallery website revealed eighteen images associated with Henry Tudor’s mother in their collection.  They all picture her dressed as a widow. There are other portraits dotted around the countryside including the one at Hever Castle pictured left which features an expensive cloth of state, trademark widow’s wimple, black frock and prayer book.  We tend to think that the black dress she is most commonly associated with is akin to a monastic habit but in actual fact the fabrics and dyes made her clothing some of the most expensive available.  The robes she wore were the same quality as those worn by Henry VII’s queen and during one Christmas celebration they wore identical garments.

Let’s make no mistake here.  There was a degree of nunliness (is that even a word?) about the king’s mother especially during her last decade. Despite the fact that her last husband Lord Thomas Stanley was very much alive Margaret had taken a public vow of chastity in 1499 and thereafter the pair lived separate lives. Margaret was enrolled in the lists five religious houses- Charterhouse, Croyland, Durham and Westminster are listed by the Catholic Encyclopaedia.  Essentially she took vows under canon law that enabled her to continue living in the public sphere rather than the secluded world of a nunnery.

Her friend and confessor John Fisher developed this image of her in his sermon about Margaret entitled A Mornygne Remembrance.  He compared her to Martha, a woman of action, but who combined her capabilities with prayer, fasting and abstinence.  Records of her gifts and patronage also develop the theme of piety.  She helped found the Cult of the Holy Name of Jesus in England during this period – the letters IHS which are so common in churches today were little used before this period (Unfortunately her patronage of the cult meant that it was very markedly Catholic which proved somewhat of a problem during her grandson’s reign.)  In her later years she attended several masses daily that caused her back problems. Please, no one comment on the possibility of a guilty conscience – draw your own conclusions – pious woman or maniac murderer of princes wishing to atone – take your pick. Since Fisher didn’t break the confessional its all circumstantial!

Tomb-of-Lady-Margaret-Beaufort-Countess-of-Richmond-and-Derby-at-Westminster-Abbey.jpgIt turns out that there is only one original known likeness of the redoubtable matriarch of the Tudor family – her funeral effigy cast by Italian Master Pietro Torrigiano. He also  created the wonderful sculpture of Henry VIII as a little boy and the bust of Henry VII. The face was probably taken from her death mask – so not one of her better days. Interestingly as well as the Beaufort arms the Stafford knot features in the imagery around her effigy.

All the rest of the images of Margaret were created during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries at a time when all those new manor houses with their brand new long galleries required populating with portraits demonstrating loyalty to the monarchy.  The images may have been created from an original now lost or perhaps from the effigy in Westminster.

 

Unknown-woman-formerly-known-as-Lady-Margaret-Beaufort-Countess-of-Richmond-and-Derby.jpgThe portrait that I’m particularly fond of is purported to be Margaret Beaufort in her youth but unfortunately the headdress doesn’t match to the correct period but to a time closer to the beginning of the sixteenth century.  The National Portrait Gallery identifies it as an Unknown Lady. Despite that you can see how the folded hands, the rings on her fingers, and headdress would lead to the idea that it was Margaret Beaufort. The portrait has been in the National Portrait Gallery since 1908.

 

Davis, David J.  (2013) Seeing Faith, Printing Pictures: Religious Identity during the English Reformation. 

 

Sir Henry Stafford’s will

BeaufortLadyM_CU_SJ_170smHenry Stafford was the second son of Humphrey Stafford, First Duke of Buckingham. I’ve posted about him before.  The post can be found here.   Henry was Margaret’s second husband (discounting John de la Pole).  Their marriage began when she was fourteen and covered the period of Henry Tudor’s minority – initially in the care of Jasper Tudor and then, after Towton,  Sir William Herbert.

On the 14th April 1471, Sir Henry took part in the Battle of Barnet against the Earl of Warwick’s forces.  Warwick having turned his coat and reached an agreement with Henry VI’s queen Margaret of Anjou.  The official record does not record how Margaret Beaufort felt about her husband taking up arms on York’s behalf.  Clearly Edmund Beaufort’s visit to the couple at Woking in March did not go as planned! Nor for that matter do we fully know why Stafford chose to support the Yorkist king rather than the Lancastrian one on this particular occasion.

Sir Henry was wounded and returned to Woking (which he and Margaret had acquired through royal warrant in 1466 – it had formerly been in Beaufort hands) where he was cared for by Margaret. He died on the 4th October 1471.

He had written his will on the 13th April 1471 – a hasty realisation of what might follow.  It was witnessed by the parish priest of Woking, a man named Walter Baker.  He also gave 10 shillings to the church for tithes – noting that he may have forgotten to pay them or even withheld them previously. Another 20 shillings were given for building work in the church.

The bequests that the will contains are few.  He left Henry Tudor new velvet trappings for four horses, Reginald Bray – his man of business- a “grizzled horse”  and £160 for masses to be said for his soul. The copy of the will held by St John’s College, Cambridge includes the gift of another horse to his brother John – who Edward IV had created Earl of Wiltshire.  He left everything else to his “entirely beloved wife Margaret, Countess of Richmond, she thereof to dispose her own free will for ever more.”  Another, downloadable, copy of the will can be found in the National Archives at Kew.

Halsted, Caroline (1845)  Life of Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby, mother of King Henry the Seventh. https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=PF9iAAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

Jones, Michael and Underwood, Malcom. (1992)  The King’s Mother. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Licence, Amy. 2016 Red Roses. Stroud: The History Press

 

 

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/D970211

Death of Henry V

 

henry vKing Henry V of England  or Henry of Monmouth if you’ve been reading Shakespeare became king in 1413.  He resumed the Hundred Years War that his great grandfather Edward III had pursued and in 1415 won the Battle of Agincourt.  So far so good.  As part of the Treaty of Troyes between England and France that followed – recognising Henry as Charles VI’s heir he married Katherine of Valois – the French king’s daughter.  All the dominoes had been lined up for a union between England and France.  He had done, in short order, what medieval kings were required to do – he’d been victorious in war and landed a bona fide princess to boot and his first child was a boy – what more could you want?

Popular history does not tend to linger on the realities of a successful military campaign.  For instance Henry ordered all males over the age of twelve to be executed after the fall of Caen and in Agincourt English archers were ordered to cut the throats of their French captives.  However, this sort of behaviour is not the sort of thing that one expects from heroic kings – look at Richard I and his massacre as an example of popular history quietly removing the more unsavoury aspects of life.

Henry V will always be a heroic warrior king because he didn’t survive very long after his victory over the French and thanks to the works of Shakespeare.  He died on the 31st August 1422 of dysentery whilst in France.  He’d just returned there after three years spent in England.  He left behind him a nine-month-old son who now became King Henry VI.  Katherine of Valois was effectively sidelined and ultimately quietly married Owen Tudor.

It says something that the Lancastrian line which had contended with plots ever since Henry of Bolingbroke usurped the throne from his cousin Richard II was able to maintain power with an infant on the throne.  In part this was because there had been a plot against Henry before he went to war in 1415.  Edmund Mortimer, the Earl of March and man with a better claim to the throne than Henry revealed that a plot was afoot to depose Henry before he went to France.

Although this plot was formulated elsewhere it is known as the Southampton Plot because this was where events played out.  Richard, Earl of Cambridge was the main conspirator. Its for this reason that the Southampton Plot is also known as the Cambridge Plot.  He was married to Anne Mortimer (their son was Richard of York who managed to get himself killed at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460).  Although  Richard was the Earl of Cambridge he didn’t have the money or the land to go with the title – this wasn’t helpful when he was expected to contribute towards Henry’s forthcoming war.  He became involved with Henry Scrope of Masham and Sir Thomas Grey of Heton in a plot to put his brother-in-law Edward Mortimer on the throne (I should note that Anne Mortimer was dead by this point) having killed Henry V and his brothers as they were about to depart for France.  Mortimer decided that he had no desire to revolt against Henry V so revealed the plot claiming that he had no idea what was going on.  This saved him from execution but did ensure that Henry was able to mop up the opposition at home before going off to trounce the French – Richard, Scrope and Grey were tried and executed at the beginning of August in Southampton.  Henry V set sail on the 11th August 1415 for those readers who would like another August date to add to the collection.

Dysentery was known as the “bloody flux.”  As well as uncontrollable diarrhoea  Henry would have experienced stomach cramps, a fever, vomiting and exhaustion.  It was more often fatal than not given that soldiers marched long distances, lived off the land and weren’t prone to being overly fastidious in their hygiene.  Damp ground  and heat also helped to spread the disease.

And that brings us to the end of August.  Sadly the WEA have cancelled the short course in Derby at the beginning of September so if you were thinking of coming – I’m very sorry but the WEA decided that there weren’t the numbers.

Bamburgh Castle – red rose or white – its changing ownership in the aftermath of Towton.

Bamburgh CastleBamburgh Castle perched on the edge of Budle Bay is another of the Percy castles but its history is much longer than that.  It was home to Gospatrick Earl of Northumbria at the time of the Norman Conquest.  He was eventually forced to submit to the Conqueror.  Bamburgh was handed over to the Bishop of Durham.  Sources differ as to whether it was William the Conqueror who built the first castle on the site or the bishop.  Suffice it to say that by the reign of Henry II after several changes of ownership it was in Crown hands – Henry II funded the great keep and it became a venue for a number of Plantagenet visitors.

Now is not the time to discuss the politics of the English East March or the rivalry between the Nevilles and the Percies.  Suffice it to say that Bamburgh was a Lancastrian Castle during the Wars of the Roses. Following the Battle of Towton in 1461 Bamburgh, Alnwick, Warkworth and Dunstanburgh  remained in the hands of the Lancastrians.  This meant that Edward IV was not secure from Scottish incursions or from Lancastrian forces landing along the coast.

Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick , a.k.a. The Kingmaker besieged Bamburgh and it surrendered in July 1462.  Unfortunately for the Yorkists Margaret of Anjou landed with troop in October with french mercenaries – the Yorkist garrison now promptly handed themselves and Bamburgh over to the Lancastrians. Edward IV now came north and Margaret decamped to Scotland leaving Sir Ralph Percy and Henry Beaufort (Duke of Somerset) in charge of the castle.  There was another short siege and in December the castle was once again in Yorkist hands.

Ralph Percy, the garrison commander, was allowed to swear allegiance to Edward IV. Edward wanted the Percy family on his side but by the new year Ralph had concluded that he preferred the Lancastrian cause to that of the Yorkists and the Nevilles who were, after all, long time enemies of the Percies.  In March 1463 Bamburgh was back in the hands of Margaret of Anjou.  In the North East of the country 1463 was a year of sieges and intermittent warfare orchestrated by Margaret and her Scottish allies but by the end of the year the politically savvy Scots had organised a truce with the Yorkists.

It says something that during 1462-1464 Henry VI was at Bamburgh at various times. In 1464 looked as though the Lancastrians might be on firmer ground when the Duke of Somerset changed sides once again.  John Neville, the Kingmaker’s younger brother now came north and a battle was fought at Hedgeley Moor in April 1464 followed dup by the Battle of Hexham the following month.  Neville defeated the Duke of Somerset who was captured and promptly executed. Henry VI left Bywell Castle the day after the Battle of Hexham and went into hiding in the uplands of Northumbria and Cumberland.

The Northumbrian castles that had remained Lancastrian now surrendered but Bamburgh in the hands of Sir Ralph Grey remained obdurate.  In part this was because he had been Yorkist in 1463 and having changed sides permitted the Lancastrians back into Alnwick – making this post feel rather like a game of musical castles.  The Yorkists told him that they would execute him just as soon as they could – oddly enough this did’t encourage him to surrender nor did the information that one man would be executed for every cannon ball fired at the castle –   Nine months, many canon balls and a collapsing tower later Bamburgh had no choice but to capitualte making it the first castle in England to be defeated by the power of artillery.  And it wouldn’t have surrendered even then, had Sir Ralph not been knocked senseless and his second in command taken the opportunity to surrender whilst Sir Ralph was out for the count.

The Earl of Warwick didn’t carry out his threat to execute one man per cannon ball but Grey was executed in July. After the fall of Bamburgh the Yorkists more or less controlled the whole country with the exception of Harlech Castle and a few isolated pockets.

 

 

Warkworth Castle, Hotspur and Rebellion against Henry IV

DSC_0030.jpgWarkworth Castle was not always in the hands of the Percy family.  It was presented to them in 1332 by Edward III.  Our interest today is in the 1st earl of Northumberland who was so created at the coronation of Richard II.  The earl’s mother was Mary of Lancaster, a granddaughter of Henry III.  Ultimately the 1st earl sided with his cousin Henry Bolingbroke and helped to topple Richard II from power in 1399.  Henry, who had been exiled by Richard II returned to Ravenspur after his father’s death ostensibly to claim the Duchy of Lancaster which Richard had decided to confiscate upon John of Gaunt’s death.  Richard II was in Ireland at the time of Henry’s arrival at Ravenspur.  Richard returned to England via Wales.  He found himself in Conway Castle having a discussion with the Earl of Northumberland and the Archbishop of Canterbury.  From there he found himself in the Tower of London, deposed by Parliament on an assortment of charges agains this realm and from there sent to Pontefract where he died- either because he was starved, forgotten about or refused to eat.   Henry IV did not see himself as a usurper because legally the throne became vacant when Richard was deposed by Parliament. He had merely stepped up to take the role.

As is the way of these things relations soured between the Earl of Northumberland and Henry IV. Given that there were family links as well as ties of affinity and education it is perhaps unexpected. However, this is where the story becomes more complicated and not just in terms of the politics of power.  Hotspur was married to Elizabeth Mortimer.  The Mortimers were descended from Lionel of Antwerp who was John of Gaunt’s older brother – thus even though the throne may have been legally vacant Henry Bolingbroke really and truly shouldn’t have become king. The title should have gone to the earl of March – Edmund Mortimer- who was the son of Elizabeth Mortimer’s brother Roger who had been killed by the Irish in 1398.  Edmund who was a rather youthful eight at the time. Realpolitik must have noted that Richard II’s minority hadn’t been without its issues. Better a grown man than a youth.

DSC_0042.jpgNow in 1403 the initially pro-Lancastrian Percies needed a reason to turn against Henry IV as they discovered that their courses were not running in parallel.  They had initially supported Henry Bolingbroke to regain what was rightfully his but he had then taken matters further and toppled Richard II from the throne – or so they said- demonstrating the History is about stories and that one person’s story is another person’s work of fiction.  Having been badly disappointed in Henry IV who had taken what was not his, the Percies now decided that it was only right and proper that they help put Mortimer on the throne.

It should be noted that Henry IV had not treated Mortimer or his younger brother badly. They were in receipt of a good education and were, for part of the time raised with the king’s own children.  Matters became complicated when Hotspur’s brother-in-law, Sir Edmund Mortimer, managed to get himself captured by Owen Glyndwr and then changed sides – or was at least accused of changing sides by Henry IV.  It probably didn’t help when Glyndwr married his daughter to Sir Edmund and that Sir Edmund wrote that his nephew, young Edmund Mortimer was actually the correct king of England rather than Henry IV.

The truth is that it was during the fourteenth century that the North of England saw the Percy family expand their territory and their power. The accession of Henry IV saw Percy being made Constable of England. This bred much resentment both nationally and locally. The start of the fifteenth century was a time when the monarch wished to curtail the Percy power base.  Meanwhile there were the local politics to contend with  – the Nevilles of Raby were snapping at Percy heels. The Percies became increasingly aggrieved. They were irritated because they had not been properly paid for their protection of the Scottish borders, Henry IV had confiscated their Scottish captives after the Battle of Homildon Hill and thus deprived them of rich ransoms, Henry IV was offering favour to men like Neville and also to George Dunbar who had sought exile in England after a slight to his family honour in Scotland. Sir Edmund had been captured in 1402 and had not been ransomed. It could be argued that Sir Edmund had taken steps to gain his freedom when he reached an understanding with Glyndwr.

It was at Warkworth that the earl plotted the rebellion that led to the death of his son Henry “Hotspur” at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 and his own exile and loss of title and lands. The key conspirators were related to the Mortimers by marriage: Elizabeth Mortimer was married to Hotspur.  Sir Edmund Mortimer was married to Glyndwr’s daughter Catherine.  They decided to divide the kingdom in three – Mortimer would rule the south, Glyndwr would rule Wales and the Percies would take control of the North.  The earl sent his son Henry and his brother Thomas (the earl of Worcester) on ahead of the earl. They raised their standard at Chester.

Dunbar, loyal to Henry IV raised an army as he marched after his Percy adversaries. Hotspur was killed at the battle of Shrewsbury whilst Thomas was executed two days later. Hotspur was initially buried in Whitchurch but when Henry IV heard rumours that Hotspur was still alive he had the body disinterred and then placed between millstones so that it could be viewed.  He then had the head displayed on the Micklegate in York. Eventually Hotspur’s remains were entombed in York Minster.

Dunbar was created the Earl of the March of Scotland  and given Thomas Percy’s estates as a reward by Henry IV.

DSC_0047.jpgThe grief-stricken earl of Northumberland made his peace with Henry IV on that occasion but it was not long before he rebelled once again, fled to Scotland with his grandson and finally returned to die at Bramham Moor.

Warkworth did not immediately hand itself over to the Crown.  It was briefly besieged although just seven canon shots were required to bring its surrender and then handed into the custody of Henry IV’s younger son John who history would best know as the Duke of Bedford.  Eventually when Henry IV died the earl’s grandson who had lived in exile in Scotland was restored to his property although a marriage to Eleanor Neville, the daughter of Ralph Neville and Joan Beaufort was negotiated first – in part to keep Ralph sweet as he had acquired much of the Percy lands and offices in the intervening time.

For more information on Warkworth follow this link: http://www.gatehouse-gazetteer.info/English%20sites/2879.html