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 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.

 

 

The Holland family -from medieval gentry to dukes – part one.

220px-Thomas_Holland_1430.jpgThe story of the Holland family begins with Robert de Holland from Upholland in Lancashire.  He was born about 1283. He was a trusted part of Thomas of Lancaster’s household.  He benefitted from being within the Lancaster affinity by acquiring land as well as a wife in the form of Maud de Zouche – a co-heiress.

He fought at Boroughbridge in 1322 but not on the side of the earl who was in rebellion against his cousin the king.  This may well have been because Edward II was holding one of Robert’s daughters hostage at the time. However, the Lancaster faction were not quick to forgive the fact that the second earl was executed in Pontefract soon after the battle and that Robert, one of his most trusted men, had been a traitor to the earl’s cause.

Thomas of Lancaster was succeeded by his younger brother – Henry of Lancaster. Time passed.  On 15 October 1328 Robert Holland, or Holand, was at Borehamwood.  Unfortunately so were a number of Lancaster supporters.  There was an argument.  Robert was beheaded.

Thomas, Robert’s eldest son pictured at the start of this post in his garter robes, served Edward III. He was a man of no substantial wealth.  His mother Maud had to borrow money so he could be outfitted as a knight. However, it would appear that Thomas had a great deal of charm, not to mention nerve and persistence.  He wooed and won Edward III’s young cousin Joan of Kent.  They married in a secret exchange of vows when she was eleven or twelve.  He was more than ten years older than Joan.  It would take another nine years, a bigamous marriage and a papal decree before he was allowed to live with his bride.

Thomas’s fortunes really changed when Joan’s brother died.  He had no other heirs so Joan became the Countess of Kent in her own right (suo jure).  Thomas effectively became an earl through the right of his wife.  Thomas who had a proven military  track record by this time now had the money and the position in society to fulfil a leading military role in the Hundred Years War. Thomas and Joan’s eldest son another Thomas became a baron after his father’s death but did not become the 2nd Holland Earl of Kent until Joan died in 1385.

wiz33vab_medium.jpgThomas died in December 1360.  The following year his widow married her cousin Edward, the Black Prince.  The Holland children now had access to patronage with a very heavy clout.  Thomas (Joan’s son) gained a wealthy and aristocratic bride from the FitzAlan family.   More importantly it was the Hollands’ half-brother, Richard, who ascended the throne after Edward III died in 1377.

Thomas and John Holland were loyal to their half brother, Richard II, and benefited from their close ties – John even managed to get away with murder.  The Holland family found themselves spouses from some of the wealthiest families in the country, had the ear and trust of the Crown and continued to thrive whilst Richard II was on the throne.  The second earl’s son, another Thomas not only became the 3rd Earl of Kent but from 1397 the 1st Duke of Surrey.  This was a reward for loyalty.  Thomas had arrested his FitzAlan uncle on behalf of his royal uncle Richard II.   Perhaps because he felt a bit guilty about it he the founded of Mount Grace Priory in Yorkshire the following year.

It is perhaps unsurprising that when Richard II was deposed by Henry of Bolingbroke – Richard’s first cousin and the Hollands’ first cousin once removed- that they found themselves being demoted.  The dukedom had to be handed back.  As a consequence Thomas Holland the 3rd earl of Kent became involved with the Epiphany Rising of 1400.  He was executed.  He had no children.

holland1exeter.jpg0bea27da411458b11f502fb7d52aad65.jpgThomas’s uncle John (Joan’s second son) was executed at the same time.  John Holland had married another wealthy royal cousin, Elizabeth of Lancaster (John of Gaunt’s daughter).  This may have been because of the Black Prince’s patronage and it may have been because his mother Joan of Kent got on well with her cousin John of Gaunt.  John became Earl of Huntingdon in 1388 and in 1397 became the Duke of Exeter.  He was also involved in removing Richard II’s enemies.  In John’s case not only had he arrested his uncle Richard FitzAlan (the 11th Earl of Arundel) he has gone to Calais to arrest Thomas of Woodstock, Richard’s youngest Royal uncle. Thomas had died whilst in Calais as pictured in Froissart – the story involves a mattress…

When Richard II fell from power John was stripped of his dukedom but was allowed to retain his earldom by his brother-in-law the new king Henry IV.  This double relationship did not stop John from being involved in the Epiphany Rising of 1400 nor did it prevent his execution.

For the moment the fortunes of the Holland family looked bleak. It would continue to be dubious until 1415 when John Holland’s son, another John, would be able to regain the dukedom of Exeter from Henry V after the Battle of Agincourt. He would also continue the family tradition of marrying someone who was a cousin in a degree that required papal dispensation and which kept his family close to the line of succession!

Hicks, Michael.  Whose who in Medieval History

P.S. A family tree will be forthcoming at some point soon.

 

 

 

 

 

Alice of Norfolk – granddaughter of Edward I murdered by her own husband

220px-Edward_III_of_England_(Order_of_the_Garter)Alice of Norfolk, was born about 1324.  She was the daughter of Thomas of Brotherton and Alice Hales.  She was the youngest of their three children.

Her story  begins for the purposes of this post in October 1330 when Edward III pictured at the start of this post staged a coup to rid himself of the regency of Roger Mortimer and Isabella of France.  The band of men who crept through the tunnels beneath Nottingham Castle were led by William Montagu or Montacute. In 1337 he was created Earl of Salisbury and remained a key influence on Edward III throughout his life.

Thomas was Edward II’s  oldest half-brother but had been swift to align himself with his sister-in-law Isabella of France and her lover Roger Mortimer.  Now he had a problem.  In October 1330 Edward III had regained control of the kingdom and Thomas, despite being Earl Marshal, was not what you might describe as a central political figure.  It is evident from Edward III’s letters that Thomas was not his favourite uncle – that place had been reserved for Thomas’s younger brother, Edmund Earl of Kent whose execution may have decided Edward III to claim what was his.

Thomas_of_Brotherton,_1st_Earl_of_NorfolkIt is perhaps not surprising then that Thomas used his youngest child as a political pawn and married her into the Montagu family in 1333. William Montagu had been raised alongside Edward III and had married into the extended royal family in the person of thirteen year old Joan of Kent.  Unfortunately it had turned out to be a bigamous marriage.  Joan having already married Thomas Holland before the knight went on crusade in Prussia. Eventually, after much wrangling, the pope told Joan to return to Thomas Holland.

Joan’s cousin, Alice, married Edward, William Montagu’s brother.  The couple had five children of whom four were daughters.

Twenty years after her marriage Alice died as a result of injuries sustained during a violent assault by her husband and some of his retainers. They had a bit of a reputation in and around Bungay which is saying something given that this story unfolds against the backdrop of the Hundred Years War.  Montagu fought at Crecy (1346) as did his more famous older brother.

After Alice’s death at the end of January 1352   Montagu and some of his retainers, no doubt heroes of Crecy, were charged with her murder but only one, William Dunche of Bungay, was convicted in and he was eventually pardoned in 1361.

Montagu eventually died in July 1361 having got away with the murder of his wife.

 

Thomas of Brotherton – a king’s son

Thomas_of_Brotherton,_1st_Earl_of_Norfolk.pngThomas of Brotherton was the oldest son of Edward I’s second wife Margaret of France. Margaret was never crowned.   Her son Thomas was born on 1 June 1300  near Pontefract.  It was a difficult labour which is why Thomas is named after Thomas Becket.  Margaret and her ladies prayed that the sainted bishop would intercede on Margaret’s behalf for a safe delivery. Marguerite_of_france copy.jpg

A year after he was born Thomas had his own household. When he was two years old Edward I created  his new son the Earl of Norfolk.  As readers of the History Jar have probably come to expect by now, there isn’t much information about Thomas’s childhood other that what can be gleaned from the account books.

On the 7th July 1307 Edward I died and Thomas’s half brother, Edward, became king in their father’s stead.  Thomas was just seven years old but he was heir tot he throne. Not that Edward II lavished titles and estates upon his little brother.  Edward I had meant to make Thomas the Earl of Cornwall – that particular title went to Piers Gaveston.  It didn’t impress Margaret of France (pictured above) or other members of the royal family that such an important title should be wasted on a favourite like Gaveston.

edwardiiEventually, in 1312, after the birth of his own heir, Edward II confirmed his half brother as Earl of Norfolk and Earl Marshal of England. He also appears in the legal record as being an executor of his mother’s will. We also have records of Thomas’s half sister Mary visiting him regularly when he was a child.  Mary was a nun at Amesbury.

The conformation of Thomas as Earl of Norfolk  would normally have made him politically important. It was confirming his seat on the royal board.  However he was still only twelve years old at the time. As he grew to maturity the barons became increasingly restive.  Political uncertainty ultimately gave rise to rebellion.  Interestingly as a young man he was at the funeral of Piers Gaveston.  Edward II clearly felt that his brother should be seen to side with him at that point in time.  As Thomas grew up he demonstrated the Plantagenet temper.  He also fell victim to Hugh Despenser’s greed – he was required to hand over valuable land to the Royal favourite including Chepstow which had a lucrative taxation on imported wine.  It is perhaps not surprising that he allied himself to his sister-in-law Isabella of France and took the opportunity to do a spot of looting from the Despensers along the way.  Thomas was one of the judges that found both the Despensers guilty.  He then settled into the new regime with the bonus of several large grants and estates.

The ties that held Thomas to Isabella and Mortimer were further strengthened when Thomas’s son Edward married Beatrice Mortimer, the daughter of Isabella’s lover Roger. However, within three years Norfolk had changed his allegiance to his nephew who was of age to rule without the regency of his mother and Roger Mortimer.

Ultimately Thomas became on of his nephew’s advisors when in 1330 Edward III reclaimed the throne for himself.  Thomas was after all, the Earl Marshal of England.  However, it appears that his nephew preferred other advisors than his uncle.

Sometime between his sixteenth and twentieth birthdays Thomas married Alice Hales of Harwich.  Her father was the coroner for Norfolk.  It seems odd that the son of a king would marry so far down the social ladder. They had three children – a boy and two girls.   Their son Edward died without children so the earldom of Norfolk was passed to Thomas’s daughter Margaret who is know in history as Margaret Marshal because the Dukes of Norfolk hold the title of Earl Marshal of England. Two of Margaret’s descendants would marry Henry VIII.

As for Thomas’s other daughter, she was called Alice. Alice was married to Edward Montagu.  His brother,  William, was one of Edward III’s favourites.  It may have been that Thomas was trying to rebuild his political capital.  She died in 1352 – murdered by her own husband.

Thomas died on the 20th September 1338 and is buried in the abbey of Bury St Edmunds.  He does not appear to have been very popular or very successful for that matter.

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!

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.

 

Gilbert de Clare the 8th and last de Clare Earl of Gloucester

gilbert de clare.jpgThe 7th Earl of Gloucester, Gilbert, the Red Earl, was born in 1243. He took part of the second Barons War in 1262 which saw the barons rise against King Henry III.  He was one of Simon de Montfort’s supporters and took part in the Battle of Lewes.  They were turbulent times and although  de Montford effectively toppled the Crown  it wasn’t long before there was a falling out amongst the barons.  This resulted in Gilbert changing sides and fighting on the side of Prince Edward at the Battle of Kenilworth and the Battle of Evesham where de Montfort was killed.

 

When Henry III died whilst Edward I was in Sicily, de Clare found himself Guardian of England. On the  home front however, the story remained rather more complicated.  Gilbert was married to his first wife in 1253 when he was just ten years old.  She was Alice de Lusignan – King Henry III’s niece – a possible reason for the relatively leniency with which Gilbert found himself being treated by Henry III during the baron’s war.  Having said that the pair separated in 1267.  Apparently Alice had taken a shine to her cousin young Prince Edward who would one day be Edward I.  The marriage was annulled in 1285.

 

In 1290  Gilbert married the twenty-two year old Joan of Acre,  a daughter of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile (not sure how that works on the laws of consanguinity marrying the daughter of your first wife’s cousin –dispensation was required.)  The pair had a son also called Gilbert and three daughters; Eleanor, Margaret and Elizabeth. He died in 1295 and was buried in Tewkesbury Abbey.

 

Gilbert junior was born in 1291 and became the 8th Earl of Gloucester when he was four.  Just a reminder here – his grandfather was Edward I who had some seventeen children in total by his two wives.  Joan of Acre was born in 1272 whilst Edward was on crusade.  He was raised, in part, at court in the household of his grandfather’s second wife Margaret of France.

It is sometimes thought that he was in his uncle Prince Edward of Carnarvon’s household. In 1305 there was a dispute that resulted in Edward I cutting his son’s household.  The prince wrote to his sister Elizabeth to ask her to write to their step-mother to ask their father to restore two members of his household to him: one was Gilbert de Clare the other was Piers Gaveston.  The following year both men were knighted prior to war with Scotland at the so-called Feast of the Swans. However, and you probably shouldn’t be surprised by this, there was a second Gilbert de Clare who was approximately three years older than Prince Edward and it was he who was in the prince’s household.  The two Gilberts were cousins – but let’s not get into the genealogy.

 

Unfortunately once Edward of Carnarvon became king our Gilbert became increasingly disgruntled with the king’s relationship with Gaveston and in 1310 became one of the Lords Ordainers seeking to  reform the king’s household resulting in Gaveston’s exile from England in 1311 and his death in 1312 when he returned to England – Edward II having announced that Gaveston’s sentence was unlawful and effectively reducing the country to a state of civil war. Gilbert as a royal relation was able to smooth troubled waters between the two groups.  He would go on, with the demise of Gaveston to be one of Edward’s loyal supporters. Possibly one of the reasons for his dissatisfaction was that when he inherited his titles at the age of sixteen he was quickly immersed in border warfare serving in border warden roles and as Captain of Scotland.

 

On 24 June 1314 Gilbert was part of his uncle’s army in Scotland at Bannockburn.  He was killed. The body was sent back to England with due honour.   He was only twenty-three had no children so the de Clare estates were divided between his three sisters who were now co-heiresses.

There is a final sting in the tale of this post. In 1308 Gilbert married Maud or Matilda de Burgh, daughter of the Earl of Ulster. The pair did apparently  have a son called John in 1312 who did not survive long after his birth. However, when her husband died in 1314 Maud claimed she was pregnant so that the estates of the Earldom of Gloucester could not be split.  The law required that everyone wait for a posthumous  child to be born.  Three years later it was decided that she really couldn’t have been pregnant for twice as long as an elephant and the earldom was broken up between Gilbert’s three sisters.

Maud died in 1320 and was buried in Tewkesbury Abbey beside her husband who is pictured in one of the abbey’s stained glass windows as depicted at the start of this post.

 

Lords Appellant leaping

Richard_II_King_of_EnglandTo leap is to make a sudden movement it can also mean to swiftly provide help or protection.  Neither, if I am honest is very helpful in terms of my leaping lords for this post!  So, there’s no help for it I shall have to cheat:

 

The five lords who made a sudden move against Richard II in 1387 to control his tendencies towards tyranny were called the Lords Appellant because they called upon parliament through legal procedure called an appeal of treason to prosecute Richard II’s favourites – the first three were the Duke of Gloucester (the king’s uncle known as Thomas of Woodstock), Richard FitzAlan Earl of Arundel and  Thomas de Beauchamp Earl of Warwick.  They were joined in their desire to restrain the king’s behaviour by Henry Bolingbroke who was Earl of Derby at that time and also Thomas de Mowbray the Earl of Nottingham.

These men successfully formed a commission for a year to rule the kingdom and at the end of that year they fought a battle with Robert de Vere, the earl of Oxford and the most influential of Richard’s despised favourites. As a result of the Battle of Radcot Bridge Richard II found himself a medieval monarch without much in the way of power and his other favourites found themselves in something of a tight spot. And so it might have continued had Henry Bolingbroke’s father John of Gaunt not returned to England in 1389 from Spain breaking the power of the Lords Appellant.  It took Richard until 1397 to regain all his kingly powers and to begin to exact his revenge.

Where men have more than one title they are known by the most senior title from duke via marquess, earl and viscount to baron.  If a member of the nobility inherits or is granted a superior title to the one he already holds he is known by the more important title hence forth but keep any others he has accrued – think of it as a form of  “top trumps.”  This can be a little bit on the confusing side when reading around a subject as historically people are known by their title e.g. Henry of Bolingbroke is known as Derby.  When their title changes, their name is recorded differently e.g. Hereford. The person is the same but it isn’t immediately obvious. It is a useful method of dating a primary source but it can take some getting used to.

thomas mowbray.jpgLet us begin.  The earl of Nottingham, Thomas de Mowbray, managed to eventually find his way back into Richard II’s good books by helping to get rid of another  Lord Appellant.  It is likely that Mowbray helped with the murder of the Duke of Gloucester in 1397 – he had a nasty accident in Calais.  As a result of this Richard elevated him from being the Earl of Nottingham to the first Mowbray Duke of Norfolk – so we’ll count him as two lords for the time being given his key titles.  It didn’t end well for de Mowbray though as he had an argument with Bolingbroke presumably about killing off co-conspirators. Bolingbroke reported de Mowbray’s comments to the king  and there was another argument. They were due to fight a duel in Coventry to resolve the matter but Richard banished them both in 1398. De Mowbray was exiled for life.  He died in Venice in 1399 of Plague.

Henry IVHenry of Bolingbroke initially got away with his involvement with the Lords Appellant after Richard regained power because of the importance of Henry’s father John of Gaunt.  Bolingbroke can also be counted a second time because Richard made him the Duke of Hereford during the lull in proceedings.  Upon the death of John of Gaunt Richard changed Henry ‘s sentence to life in exile and he kept John of Gaunt’s land for himself rather than allowing Henry the revenue.  It was for this reason that Henry returned to England, ostensibly to reclaim the duchy of Lancaster which had been his father’s.  From there it was one short step to becoming Henry IV.

Thomas de Beauchamp Earl of Warwick had only the one title so we shall leave him alone and be grateful for small mercies.  FitzAlan was not only earl of Arundel, he was also earl of Surrey – so he counts twice giving us seven titles thus far.

It is perhaps not surprising that as a king’s son the Duke of Gloucester had more than his fair share of titles.  He was also the first earl of Buckingham and the first earl of Essex – bringing us to a nice round ten.

Unsurprisingly many of the men listed above have other titles as well.  I have not counted the fact that de Mowbray became the earl of Norfolk after his grandmother died because he was already the duke of Norfolk. He would have been known by the senior title of duke rather than the more junior earl.

Equally I have not counted the fact that Henry of Bolingbroke was also the Earl of Northampton.  He acquired this title through his wife Mary de Bohun in 1384 and demonstrates rather nicely the matrimonial method for collecting a title. but his own title Earl of Derby was more likely to be used rather than the title of Northampton which was of the same value as the one he already held- remember that aristocratic game of top trumps I mentioned earlier.

 

 

 

 

 

Murder in the Abbey- John of Gaunt style

john of gauntIn 1378 Westminster Abbey had to be closed for several months after  an unfortunate interlude.  Murder had been done in the choir and John of Gaunt was implicated.  It didn’t help his reputation as the abbey had to be reconsecrated.

The back story is important. Two knights called Schakell and Hawle or Hauley had taken a Spanish Count prisoner whilst fighting with the Black Prince during the Hundred Years War – the capture took place in 1367 at the Battle of Najera. A ransom was required for the release of the Count of Denia from Aragon.  This was normal procedure and one of the reasons why going to war was so popular as men were able to make a fortune on the battlefield by capturing wealthy men. The Count was allowed to return to Spain to organise the ransom but had to leave his son, Alphonso, as a hostage. Ten years later Alphonso, who was the count’s eldest son was still in England.

Unfortunately for Schakell and Robert Hawle, who was actually Schakell’s squire John of Gaunt was negotiating for the Crown of Castile.  The fact that a Spanish noble was being held hostage until his pa sent back large sums of cash was not good press. Pressure was applied.  Remember this was only a year after Richard II had become king.  John’s power whilst not absolute was non the less impressive.

The two knights refused to release their prisoner. John had them arrested and sent to the Tower of London to focus their minds.   They managed to escape from the Tower and fled to Westminster Abbey where they claimed sanctuary.

You can probably see where this is going.  Sanctuary was ignored by a group of by the Constable of the Tower, Alan Boxhall. Schakell was captured but Hawle and a monk were murdered in the Choir.  All of which sounds as though it was a mad chase through the street and an action which took place in the heat of the moment.

Unfortunately a royal letter made its way to the Abbot of Westminster demanding that Schakell and Hawle be handed over.  The abbot refused.  And that’s when the Constable made his move – so not the heat of the moment. And he didn’t go with a few men.  He took fifty men into the abbey.

The upshot of this was that Bloxhall and all who were involved were excommunicated apart from the young Richard II, his mother Joan of Kent and of course John of Gaunt which seems a bit rich as it’s not a wild leap of deduction to work out who the plan’s mastermind might have been.