Category Archives: Fourteenth Century

Two Scandalous Bishops at Lichfield Cathedral – Leofwin and Walter Langton

DSC_0049.jpgLichfield, in pre-Conquest times was a great see covering most of Mercia, these days its very much smaller and well worth a visit with its beautiful gospels and carved angel.

 

The first of this post’s scandalous bishops to reside in Lichfield, according to Cannon, was minding his own business when he was accused, fairly promptly after the Norman Conquest, of being married and forced to resign.   In fact, a quick glance at Bell’s entry for Lichfield suggests that not only did the Bishop Leofwin resign but that he also died in 1066 suggesting a convenient stratagem for removing the incumbent Saxon.  The next bishop was William the Conqueror’s own chaplain, Peter, and it was during his tenure that the seat of the see was moved from Lichfield to Chester and from there to Coventry where there was an abbey until in 1189 Lichfield was restored to its role of cathedral although there appears to have been some pretty unpleasant vying for power between the inhabitants of Lichfield and Coventry for several centuries afterwards.

 

The second scandalous bishop rocked up in 1296. Rejoicing in the nickname of ‘the king’s right-eye,’ treasurer Walter Langton was given the bishopric as a reward by King Edward I and nominated as Edward’s executor. He got down to some serious building work in Lichfield which including building houses around the cathedral precincts for the vicars and canons.

 

Four years later Walter was up to his neck in trouble. He was accused of adultery with his step-mother, of murdering his father, witchcraft and corruption. These charges were without foundation but they reflect the way in which medieval political smear campaigns  sometimes ran.  In 1307 with a new king on the throne in the form of ditch digging Edward II (that really was one of his hobbies) Walter found himself under arrest and his income handed to royal favourite Piers Gaveston. Now whilst Langton may have been corrupt and greedy the other charges had rather more to do with the dislike of Edward II and the Archbishop of Canterbury for the former treasurer than anything else.  Not that Walter appears terribly popular with anyone else either. When the Lords Ordainers, so called because of the ordinances or regulations that they (there were 21 of them) imposed on Edward II, took power in 1311 and booted Piers Gaveston out of his position as royal favourite Walter continued to languish in prison.  He did ultimately regain his position as treasurer having cleared his name but no one appears to have trusted him very much.

 

It was Langton who constructed (presumably not personally) the West front and also the three spires. Lichfield is the only cathedral in England to have a triple spire arrangement. The grotesques adorning the cathedral are rather more Victorian in design.  Unfortunately the cathedral had a rather unpleasant time during the English Civil War but more of that anon.

DSC_0051.JPG

 

 

Cannon, Jon. (2007) Cathedral: The Great English Cathedrals And The World That Made Them London: Constable

Clifton A. (1900) Bell’s Cathedrals: The Cathedral Church of Lichfield A Description of Its Fabric and A Brief History of the Espicopal See. Edinburgh: White and Co

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James the Unfortunate

James_III_of_Majorca_large.jpgI posted recently about the Battle of Crecy and noted that as well as the flower of French nobility that  John, the blind king, of Bohemia and  Jaime the King of Majorca met their maker that day.

 

It turns out, as explained to me by my friend John, that reports of the death of the King of Majorca at the Battle of Crecy were somewhat exaggerated in that he was alive and kicking for the next three years. Froissart got it wrong – which just goes to prove that you should check your facts extra especially carefully when relying upon a medieval chronicle.  I have given myself a stern talking to and will be checking very carefully before killing anyone else off on the word of anyone even remotely medieval.

 

As John explained to me, King Jaime III (Jaume if you like to vary your spelling and James for all those folk who like solid English sounding names) probably fought at Crecy, he might even have been wounded, but was killed in 1349 at the Battle of Llucmajor in Majorca.  The rest of this post courtesy of John Hearnshaw with grateful thanks- I throughly enjoyed learning about Jaime even though he’s a bit off my usual geographical radar.

Jaime III had had a fairly chequered career.  He is sometimes called Jaime the Unfortunate but he is also known as Jaime the Rash. He was the last independent king of Majorca. He was unusual for that era in that he believed that no king could have lordship over any other king.  Consequently he refused to swear fealty to his cousin Pero IV of Aragon (Peter).  Pero took his time but in 1344 he kicked Jaime out of Majorca and annexed the Balearic Islands to the Crown of Aragon where they stayed until the crown of Catalonia-Aragon and that of Castille were united by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492.

 

Consequently, by the time of Crecy in 1346, Jaime was king of nowhere-in-particular (which would account for why he was gallivanting around France).  He may well have been wounded at Crecy but by 1349 he was well enough to lead a mercenary army back to Majorca in an attempt to retake the island from its governor, who had been appointed by his cousin.  Jaime put up a decent fight but he was ultimately defeated.

 

jaimeiiistatueIf you ever go to Llucmajor there is little to show of the battle itself apart from a small memorial but there is a nice tomb in Llucmajor church and a statue on the outskirts of the town of Jaime and his standard bearer (who may or may not have been his brother) dying together.

Double click on the image of the statue to open a new page about the kings of Majorca and a link to the Battle of Llucmajor.

 

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Richard II – birthday boy

tumblr_m94jocf45j1qeu6ilo1_500Richard, son of the Black Prince and Joan of Kent was born on January 6th 1367. Ten years later the Black Prince died pre-deceasing his aged and increasingly infirm father Edward III. It says something about the changes in society that a child was successfully able to inherit his grandfather’s throne. It probably also says rather a lot about Richard’s uncles, particularly John of Gaunt that there was no take over bid.

 

Richard’s reign tends to be remembered, in popular imagination at least, for two things. The first event was the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. Richard demonstrated personal bravery in order to ride out to Smithfield to meet Wat Tyler – and remember that Richard’s chancellor, even though he did resign shortly before, Simon of Sudbury had been brutally murdered by the mob and that John of Gaunt’s palace, The Savoy, had been utterly destroyed.

 

Richard, married to Anne of Bohemia introduced the word Majesty to court circles, no doubt helping his uncles and relatives to remember who was in charge. It was this period that saw curly toed footwear, Geoffrey Chaucer and the building of Westminster Hall. Despite these things which seem on their own to indicate a period of culture and learning (shoes aside) but Richard failed to live up to his early promise.  In addition to not being particularly keen on fighting the french he liked bathing, reading and clothes as well as getting his own way. The death of Anne of Bohemia in 1394 didn’t help matters very much nor did his second marriage two years later to Isabella of Valois who was a child so unable to curb his despotic tendencies or desire to have his entire court on their knees:

 

‘After this on solemn festivals when by custom [Richard II] performed kingly rituals, he would order a throne to be prepared for him in his chamber on which he liked to sit ostentatiously from after dinner until vespers, talking to no one but watching everyone; and when his eye fell on anyone, regardless of rank, that person had to bend his knee towards the king …’

Continuatio Eulogii, pp. 371-9

 

 

To cut a long story short Richard didn’t look to his relatives for support once he reached adulthood – a fact which irritated them immensely. One of Richard’s uncles (Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester) waited until John of Gaunt (yet another of Richard’s uncles) was out of the country and then used the law to curb Richard’s increasingly authoritarian practices. Many of Richard’s favourites were executed. The event is recalled by the title that the 1388 Parliament is known by – the Merciless Parliament.

 

Richard had to wait nearly a decade to get his own back and during that time he ensured that there was a cohort of men loyal to him as well as a crack troop at his command. In 1397 Richard arrested and banished his opponents including his cousin Henry of Bolingbroke who was also John of Gaunt’s son. The Duke of Gloucester having been arrested and sent to Calais had a fatal ‘accident’, allegedly involving a mattress, on his nephew’s orders.

 

When John of Gaunt died, Henry of Bolingbroke thought that his banishment would be over. Instead Richard made the banishment permanent and stripped Henry of his lands. Henry landed at Ravenspur with the intent of reclaiming the Duchy of Lancaster. Which leads to the second event of Richard’s reign which most folk know – his usurpation and death from starvation at Pontefract. No wonder Shakespeare found plenty of material to write about.

Froissart’s Chronicles, somewhat sympathetic to Richard, gives an account of the period but ultimately seems to indicate that Richard brought his own downfall upon himself through his authoritarianism and failure to make war on the French.

 

Two generations on, problems resulting from Richard’s removal would arise when the Lancaster line failed to produce a strong king. Henry IV as Henry Bolingbroke became held on to his crown though in constant fear that someone would do to him what he had done to Richard.  Henry V was probably the most martial king of the period and then there was Henry VI.  That would be the time when a swift investigation of the family tree would remind the nobility that the Lancaster line was descended from Edward III’s third surviving son.  Unfortunately for England, Lionel of Antwerp, Edward’s second surviving son, had a child Philippa who had married into the Mortimer family.  Richard II had named Philippa’s son (Roger Mortimer) his heir. At a time when the Lancaster line weakened this inconvenient fact would become very important indeed. And it would be another Richard – Richard of York – descended on both his mother and father’s side from Edward III who would demand that attention be paid to the previously ignored rights of the Mortimers.

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Battle of Crecy anniversary

Battle_of_crecy_froissart.jpgIt’s the 670th anniversary of the Battle of Crecy this year on August 26th, so no doubt I’ll return to the subject in due course.

The Hundred Years war commenced in 1337 as these things do with an exchange of views about the import of wool into Flanders. Nor were the English terribly happy that the French were encouraging the Scots to rebel so Edward III put his thinking hat on and came up with his family tree. His mother, was of course, Isabella of France a.k.a. the She-wolf. England didn’t have a salic law and Edward couldn’t see that the fact that the French prohibited women from inheriting the throne being a particular problem. He calmly announced that although he had supported Philip of Valois in 1328 when Charles IV had died without sons that he had decided, upon careful reflection, that his own claim was a better one.

 

The war kicked off with a few cross-channel raids. In 1340 things changed. The English navy defeated the French at Sluys ensuring control of the English Channel or La Manche as the french prefer to call it. This was followed by a full scale invasion of France by an English army of 12,000 of whom more than half were longbow men. These men were veterans of the Scottish campaigns. The English enjoyed a holiday in Normandy doing what medieval soldiers did – think pillage and rape.

 

The French massed their army of 12,000 plus 6,000 or so mercenaries with crossbows. It should also be added that there were huge numbers of peasants who’d been pressed into service as foot soldiers – so plenty of bill hooks and scythes in evidence. Philip moved this army to the Somme thinking to place Edward at a disadvantage.

 

Edward ignored the water hazard and made for the top of a hill where he divided his force into three groups and instructed them to dig ditches and plant sharpened stakes in the ground. The French had not encountered the power of the longbow men against foot soldiers or cavalry before but it was this battle that made their name and ensured that the weapon came to dominate the war. By the end of the afternoon the French had been soundly beaten.

 

In other news of the battle the Black Prince, a sixteen-year-old novice at warfare, was in charge of the English right flank and when it looked as though the French might be successful at that end of the battlefield the king told his commanders to let his son get on with it – something of a steep learning curve. It was in this battle that the blind King of Bohemia managed to get himself killed along with the King of Majorca and a thousand or so French knights. Philip of Valois was lucky to escape capture.

 

Our account of the battle comes from Froissart who was born in 1337 or thereabouts so not on the scene of the battle itself but employed at the age of twenty-four by Phillipa of Hainault (Edward III’s lady wife) in a literary capacity. He is recorded as making careful research and asking lots of questions before putting quill to parchment– he’s also more or less the only detailed chronicler of events. For his report of events click on the picture at the start of this post to open up a new window.  The picture is an illustration from Froissart’s Chronicles.

 

It is worth remembering that the Hundred Years War is the backdrop to the reign of Richard II, the social unrest of his reign and his deposition by Henry IV.  It returns to the forefront of popular history with King Henry V of Agincourt fame and his marriage to Katherine of Valois and lingers during much of Henry VI’s reign- think Joan of Arc- resulting ultimately in Richard of York becoming decidedly aggrieved about Henry VI’s reliance upon the Beauforts  and Margaret of Anjou’s advice.  Henry VI’s failure to repeat his father’s victories and the decades of constant warfare are all part of the fateful mix that contribute to the Wars of the Roses.  And, of course without Katherine of Valois and a certain Clerk of the Wardrobe there would have been no Henry Tudor.

 

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Another naughty nun to start the new year

 

augustinian nun.jpgThe Priory of Moxby in Yorkshire was an Augustinian foundation for nuns although it had originally been founded as a double house (the only Augustinian double house in England) and it seems that the nuns, well certainly one of them, were a bit naughty during the fourteenth century. Sabina de Applegarth is identified in a letter dated 1310 as having apostatized. Or put another way, decided that she didn’t want to be a nun anymore.

 

Archbishop Greenfield of York sent the letter instructing the priory to receive Sabina back into the fold as a penitent – we have no idea whether she’d been caught in civilian clothing or decided to hand herself in. That same year the prioress resigned and four years later after a visitation the nuns received a list of things they needed to do in order to be deemed good nuns – there was to be an annual accounting for income and expenditure. They were not to run up any new debts. Healthy nuns were not to lay around in the infirmary. The nuns were not to take in boarders or girls over twelve unless the bishop said they could. The nuns were to stay together as they were expected to do – think of the flock principle here. Nor were they to wander around in the woods on their own. They certainly weren’t to go gossiping with the locals or any passing brothers. The prioress was to eat with the other nuns (the flocking principle again) and she was to always be accompanied by another nun and to have a waiting-maid with her. Relatives weren’t welcome…were there an over abundance of giggling sisters, aunts and grannies?  Or was it a question of one too many brothers and uncles turning up?

 

By 1322 things had changed – the Scots had arrived and the unfortunate Sabina de Applegarth had been packed off to Nun Monkton to escape the hairy brutes. The other sisters were scattered across Yorkshire during that period but by 1325 they must have been back together although the prioress,  Joan de Barton, seems to have shaken off the accompanying nun and waiting maid deemed necessary by the Archbishop long enough to get into some rather close conversation with the chaplain, one Laurence de Systeford. History provides her penance and the crime – which is a relief after reading about all the earlier restrictions which hint at laxity but don’t actually spell them out.

 

In 1328, the past clearly forgotten, Sabina briefly made prioress but was removed the same year with instructions that she was never to hold an administrative post again nor was she to ever be allowed out of the convent again – this was also when a letter writing ban was imposed upon her: she wasn’t to write letters or to receive them – ever (what on earth had she been up to?)   To say that her career as a nun was chequered would be to put it mildly.

 

Historically speaking we know that the Priory of Moxby was badly damaged by the Scottish invasion of 1322 and we can see that the nuns didn’t seem particularly well managed – reading between the lines there are hints of Sabrina’s besetting sins but nothing that reveals the full extent of her naughtiness and certainly nothing as to why she became a nun in the first place as poverty and chastity do not seem to have been her vocation.

 

 

‘Houses of Austin nuns: Priory of Moxby’, in A History of the County of York: Volume 3, ed. William Page (London, 1974), pp. 239-240 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/yorks/vol3/pp239-240 [accessed 3 January 2016].

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Elizabeth of Lancaster and Sir John Holland

elizabeth_of_lancasterI’ve found a new author – well, she might not be new but she’s new to me- Anne O Brien.  I’ve just guzzled ‘The King’s Sister’ a novel about Elizabeth of Lancaster, the third child of Blanche of Lancaster and John of Gaunt.

Her story is an everyday tale of the Plantagenets – so there’re two arranged marriages, treachery and a spot of skulduggery for starters.

John of Gaunt arranged a marriage between Elizabeth and John Hasting’s the third Earl of Pembroke in 1380.  She was seventeen, he was eight and got on, in the novel at least, very well with Elizabeth’s little brother Henry of whom more anon.  It isn’t perhaps surprising that she was more attracted to John Holland a son of Princess Joan and her first husband (the one she married when she was twelve before her family married her off to a second more important husband but that’s a different story) who had been married for a third time to the Black Prince and was mother to King Richard II.  John Holland had a reputation as a ladies man and a champion jouster – or in other words a knight errant- as well as gaining a reputation as a soldier in the field in both Scotland and Spain.  Apparently, according to the records of the time, he was smitten with Elizabeth of Lancaster’s great beauty.  He followed her day and night…so what would you do if you were a hormone ridden teenager – remain loyal to the child to whom your father has married you off to or run away with the handsome half brother of the king?   Elizabeth’s marriage to the young Earl of Pembroke was annulled.

The relationship between Elizabeth and John Holland is a tempestuous one in Anne O’Brien’s novel but the historical reality is not without its ironies.  John’s half brother was Richard II.  Elizabeth’s brother was Henry Bolingbroke a.k.a. Henry IV.  I should imagine that the family get together after Henry deposed and imprisoned Elizabeth’s brother-in-law was a tense one.  Although John gave his fealty to the new king he remained loyal to Richard in Pontefract – and despite Richard’s notorious temperamental streak – he’d been good to his half-brother and wife.  John Holland had been created First Duke of Exeter and been rewarded with other posts and estates.

In 1400 he was involved in the so-called ‘Epiphany Plot,’ also known as ‘the Three Earls Plot’ which sought to overthrow Henry, kill him and his sons, and return Richard II to the throne.  The plot was betrayed and John fled but was captured at Pleshy Castle in Essex.  He was fortunate to get so far.  Twenty-nine of the conspirators were executed at Oxford.  John was  was executed by Joan Fitzallan, the Countess of Hereford who had a grudge against Elizabeth’s husband.  Holland had executed her brother (the Earl of Arundel) several years before without going through the niceties of an entirely fair trial.

Henry IV used attainder to impoverish his sister and his nieces and nephews in the short term.  So not what you might call a terribly happy-ever-after for the couple although there is more to Elizabeth’s story and her children because they remained close to the crown and eventually regained their titles if not all of their estates.  As for Richard II, well he apparently starved himself to death very soon after the failed uprising in January 1400.  The chroniclers didn’t believe it either!

As for me I’m pleased to report that there are five other novels by Anne O Brien…as well as a list of places for me to visit that are associated with the Plantagenet princess who broke the rules and ran off with her handsome knight only to find herself embroiled in deadly family politics.

 

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Thomas – a crusading, jousting Clifford

IMG_3926Thomas Clifford, the sixth baron, was born in approximately 1365.  He became a royal favourite at the time of Richard II – he was noted, apparently, for his “dissipation and indulgence” by which we can assume his shoes had very curly toes.  Quite what the inhabitants of the borders would have made of a court favourite dressed in the height of fashion is left unrecorded but Thomas found himself in the role not only of Warden of the West March but also the East March – making him a very busy man.  In 1384 he was granted custody of Carlisle Castle for life along with John Neville.  Presumably they took turns visiting.

 

One of the features of Thomas’s tenure was the knightly habit of jousting- hence the repetition of the picture in this post.  Thomas travelled widely in Europe with a retinue of knights who attended tournaments.  In fact, he even crossed into Scotland for the odd tournament and gave Lord Douglas permission to come into England for the same reason.  Think of these tournaments as the equivalent of medieval football matches crossed with the arrival of your favourite pop star.

 

In between governing the whole of the north and keeping the Scots under control and generally being knightly Thomas also rose to the role of Master of the King’s Horse.

It’s worth mentioning that while Thomas was busy doing all of this that England was having a spot of bother. The Lords Appellant were not keen on the way Richard II was ruling his kingdom.  Having come out of the Peasant’s Revolt with a reputation for personal bravery Richard developed a sense of his own importance.  It was this monarch who introduced the word ‘majesty’ into the descriptors to be used and also came up with an elaborate protocol involving repeated bowing on approaching the royal presence.  Unsurprisingly this did not go down particularly well with the aristocracy who were just as well bred as Richard.  Nor were they terribly impressed with Richard’s best friend, Richard de Vere, Earl of Oxford.  Inevitably, de Vere was  sent packing following the Battle of Radcot Bridge in 1387 and then expired whilst in exile.  Richard was forced to submit to the so called Merciless Parliament in 1388 (the year Thomas became Master of the King’s Horse)  and then spent a good number of years biding his time while he gained sufficient power to show everyone exactly who was in charge.

 

Thomas was treading an aristocratic tightrope along with every other noble in the country.  Not only did the nobility owe their land and their allegiance to the monarchy but they were increasingly connected by ties of blood.  For example Thomas’s wife, Elizabeth de Roos was descended from King Edward I. De Roos was the Lord of Helmsley – a reminder that national politics were interwoven with marriages and family relationships at a local level.  Feudalism was giving way to bastard feudalism.  In part this was a consequence of the Black Death but it was also the result of family sponsorship and patronage that lent itself to close knit community ties but also to feuding.

 

Little wonder that Thomas took himself off on crusade to Lithuania with Thomas of Woodstock, Earl of Gloucester in 1395.  Unfortunately he got into a bit of a fight with a son of the Earl of Douglas – and killed him.  Filled with remorse Thomas decided to go on another crusade to Jerusalem.  Somewhere (don’t you love it when history fails to provide all the details?) between Lithuania and Jerusalem he died, missing out on the joys of Richard II’s deposition by Henry Bolingbroke (a.k.a. Henry IV, cousin of Richard II, member of the Lords Appellant and king in Shakespeare’s Hollow Crown cycle of plays) but leaving a two-year-old to inherit the title who in turn would grow up to be one of Henry V’s warriors as well as assorted other offspring who were married into leading northern families.  But more of them anon.

 

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Margaret de Moulton and her two would be husbands…

IMG_3926Robert de Clifford, 3rd Baron de Clifford  (5 November 1305–20 May 1344) was Roger Clifford’s brother. Roger had been hanged in the aftermath of the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322. The family properties and titles taken back by the crown. Following the downfall of Edward II, Robert was reinstated to the lands and titles which belonged to the Clifford family. He married Isabel de Berkeley at Berkeley Castle in 1328  (yes, I know we’re back to red hot pokers but just let’s ignore that link shall we?) and they had seven children.  It would appear that the early years of the reign of Edward III was a quiet one for the Cliffords.

 

However a little digging reveals yet another shady marriage linked to the power politics of the north and hurtles the blog straight back into the chaotic times of Edward II. Here’s what Yerburgh had to say in 1912 from his text entitled Some Notes on Our Family History. The comments in italics are mine:

 

There is not much to be said about Robert de Clifford (damned by faint praise). In the account of the Dacres of Gillsland his betrothal to Margaret de Multon and her elopement with Ranulph de Dacre will be found. He rose with the fortunes of Edward III., and he recovered the inheritance which his elder brother’s troubles and misfortunes had lost for a while. He was a favourite with both the Edwards of England and Scotland, and he made a great match for his young son to a family of great power in the North, and died after he had been Lord of Skipton in possession twenty-eight years.

 

Not an exciting twenty-eight years then…except of course this is a man who was involved with the politics and interminable war with Scotland.  So his ‘quiet’ was probably our ‘quite exciting’, all things considered.The Collectanea Cliffordiana by Arthur Clifford offers some further information which confirms this. Just as his forefathers had played their role on the borders so to did the third baron. He entertained Edward Baliol who was King of Scotland at Brough and at Appleby and when he wasn’t entertaining the king he was conducting warfare against him (must have made for interesting after dinner conversation). He is recorded as having taken his turn as warden of the West Marches in the eighth year of Edward III’s reign. His co-warden was a man called Ranulph de Dacre which brings us back to Yerburgh’s so-called ‘elopement’ which turns out not to be a romantic interlude but to be the abduction of a minor in order to acquire land and more importantly power.

 

Margaret de Moulton’s family held the Barony of Gilsland. She was her father Thomas’s only heir. She had been married at the age of seven to Robert Clifford in that an agreement was reached – the actual ‘marriage’ would have taken place when Margaret came of age.  In the meantime she clearly remained at home.  Other young brides might have found themselves being brought up in the houses which they would one day supervise.  It depended entirely upon the families, the arrangements and the fastness of the contracts that the two groups made.  As it was the Clifford family were going through tricky times. King Edward II, who always had his eye on ways to make money, claimed her as his ward and sent her to Warwick Castle, from where Ranulph abducted her when she was thirteen. The Barony of Gilsland was right on the edge of England.  It was an important feature in the geography and politics of the borders.

 

Ranulph de Dacre was pardoned at the end of October 1317 “for stealing awai in the nighte out of the king’s custody from his Castell of Warwick of Margaret, daughter and heir of Thomas of Molton of Gilsland, whoe helde of ye Kinge in capite, and was within age, whearof the sayd Ranulphe standeth indighted in Curis Regis.” Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmoreland Antiquarian, V4, P470.  The marriage and the accruement of power was one of the factors which turned Dacre into Lord Dacre.  The other factor was the salient point that border barons could behave rather badly in their own time so long as they kept the Scots out of England when required to do so.

 

It is possible to surmise that Edward II cannot have been very happy about pardoning Dacre as Ranulph was involved in the judicial murder, of Edward II’s favourite, Piers Gaveston, in 1312. Ranolph was pardoned for any part he had taken in the death of Piers in 1313, as were the other conspirators including Ranulph’s father and brother.

 

As for Ranulph and Robert Clifford, they clearly arrived at a consensus given their roles as joint wardens and indeed survivors of the nasty political games of the period. The Lannercost Chronicle recorded the marriage between Robert and Margaret but also that there had been a pre-contract between Thomas de Moulton and William de Dacre before the Clifford contract which again wasn’t unusual and reflects the way in which families negotiated with one another and jockeyed for position within society.  The concept of negotiation, pre-contract and contract were important ones because a pre-contract was as legally binding as the actual thing – so having promised Margaret to the Dacres, Thomas should not have arrived at an arrangement with the Cliffords – turning Margaret’s abduction from a moral blackspot into a fine and chivalrous deed (the sentence is best read in an ironic tone) .

 

As for Isobel de Berkeley, well it turns out that women who married into and out of the Clifford family weren’t always particularly good at doing what the monarch, or even their fathers, wanted them to do.  She married again after a brief widowhood.  In 1345 she had to pay a fine and receive a pardon for marrying a chap called Sir Thomas de Musgrave without getting royal permission to do so first.  I’d like to think it was a love match but no doubt a bit more digging will uncover an unpleasant matrimonial tale …it makes me glad to come from a long line of peasants.

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Maud Clifford and some very unsavoury men…

IMG_3953Before leaving the troubled reign of Edward II for the calmer waters of the Hundred Years War it is time to conclude with the story of Robert Clifford’s wife Maud – or what we know of it.  As is often the case at this time sources provide information about Maud’s birth and marriage as well financial snippets pertaining to her value in terms of estate and marriageability but no insight into her personality or mind.

Maud de Clare was born on the Welsh Marches, the daughter of Thomas de Clare and Julianna FitzMaurice. The family held land in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Norfolk and Ireland. Maud and her sister were eligible brides and would ultimately become even more wealthy but before a series of male deaths within the Clare family brought that to pass Maud was married to Robert de Clifford in 1295  at the age of about nineteen keeping old alliances strong and strengthening the Clifford family coffers.

Maud and Robert had four children: Roger, who inherited the title upon his father’s death in 1314 but who fought on the losing side at the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322, his brother Robert who regained the family titles and estates in 1327; a daughter Idonea who marries into the Percy family and another daughter Margaret whose own marriage was not without its difficulties (more of that anon).

Maud, widowed in 1314, was an heiress and heiresses were having a tricky time of things during the reign of Edward II.  There are many accounts of abductions and forced marriages.  We know that Maud was at Bowes in 1315 and we know that she was kidnapped by a man called John the Irishman who was a member of Edward II’s household and custodian of Barnard Castle.

He had a pretty unsavoury reputation, as did many of Edward II’s friends, though by this time intermittent border warfare and the frequency of Scottish raiders meant that law and order was declining in the north. Even the March Laws could not protect the weak and powerless from the strong and heavily armed.

In any event, Bowes is close to Barnard Castle and John apparently helped himself to Maud and her chattels. Oddly enough he did not force the widow into a new marriage which would have been the sensible thing to do as she came from an influential family. Perhaps John thought that Edward II would sanction that event at a later date? Or perhaps there was some other game in mind? Who knows what goes on in the mind of a medieval warlord?

Edward II, who was staying in Nottingham at the time, was not terribly amused. He sent Sir William Montacute, Sir Robert de Welle, three more knights and thirty-six esquires and men of arms to Bowes to rescue Maud. There was also to be an enquiry as to what had happened. Maud was rescued but John appears to have suffered no ill effects of having kidnapped and ‘ravist’ Maud other than loosing custody of Barnard Castle.  In fact when John was dying in 1317 Edward II’s accounts show that the king spent a lot of money on the care of John – did he regard Maud’s kidnap as something of a prank?  Or was there perhaps a sub-text about which history knows nothing?  Maud’s views are not recorded but it is known that her son Roger was very anti-Edward and no wonder.

Maud Clifford had, however, met her knight in shining armour. Sir Robert de Welle from Worcestershire was a knight but not necessarily a suitable husband for someone who held important political connections, lands and was a wealthy woman in her own right. Women such as these, even widows, could rarely expect to marry where they chose and Edward II was known for handing over unwilling brides to enrich his favourites.

Maud and Robert were married by 16 December 1315 without the king’s permission. As a consequence of which Edward II took Maud’s dower lands and all the goods in them. They were returned following payment of a large fine (£100).  So far so good.

Except of course the plot thickens. Robert de Welle was given power of attorney by his step-son in 1320 but did not join with the Ordainers against the king in 1322 suggesting that de Welle was the King’s man. In fact it appears that Maud’s new husband remained on good terms with Edward II receiving lands and valuables from him through the rest of the king’s reign. In 1323 he became one of the keepers for the Bishopric of Winchester as well as going in 1326 to Scotland to treat with Robert the Bruce and just to show that the armour was a bit on the tarnished side his sister-in-law also complained bitterly about the way he took her property as well as that of his wife’s. He also acquired his step-son’s London properties once Roger was attainted, although this could have been a method for keeping the property in the family.  Equally it could have been a touch of that avariciousness that Edward II liked to see in the men around him.

 

He turns up in Norfolk in 1326 as Lord of Well Hall which was which was held under the Earl of Clare, the capital lord. The text (Notes and Queries, Number 84, June 7, 1851  A Medium of Inter-communication for Literary Men, Artists, Antiquaries, Geneologists, etc.) goes on to note “He died circ. 9 Edw. III.” This means that de Welle died in the ninth year of Edward III’s reign putting it somewhere around 1335 his wife having died in 1327 and de Welle himself having lost the powers he once wielded with the overthrow of Edward II.

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Edward II and his favourites

edwardiiPiers Gaveston was the son of a Gascon lord. When Edward I chose suitable persons for his eldest surviving son’s household young Piers was selected on account of his father’s loyalty and the fact that Edward thought he’d make a good role model – Piers was apparently a bit of a charmer.

The Prince of Wales and Piers were both about 16 when they met. They certainly took to one another though how close their friendship was is a matter of speculation. After all, Edward went on to have four children with his wife Isabella. Many at the time thought Edward and Piers were having a homosexual relationship (it explained why Edward could refuse Piers nothing), but some modern historians see it as more like close brotherly love. Edward referred to Gaveston as ‘my brother Piers’. Whatever the exact nature of the relationship, it was a disaster for the kingdom.

In 1307 Edward I banished Gaveston from England, though he was to be paid an allowance. The king asked the men gathered round his death-bed to ensure that Gaveston did not return (one of them was Robert Clifford) unfortunately for England all the men gathered around Edward at the time appear to have had their fingers crossed when they promised Edward that Gaveston wouldn’t be allowed back.

The new king, Edward II, immediately brought Gaveston back to his side, made him Earl of Cornwall and bestowed on him an aristocratic wife, land  and money. Edward II was not like his father – medieval kings were supposed to be successful warriors. Edward II was more interested in digging ditches and chatting to ordinary men – preferably burly ones with a good set of biceps if some accounts are to be credited. He was also prone to doing slightly silly things such as burning Wetheral Priory on an evening out (well it saved the Scots a job) and it was swiftly becoming clear to all around him that he was not a good judge of men.

 

In 1308 Edward allowed Gaveston a prominent role in his coronation and later at his wedding banquet, at which he paid so much attention to the favourite that Queen Isabella’s French relatives walked out. It probably didn’t help that Gaveston had ordered tapestries for the occasion – they depicted the king’s arms quartered with his own. There was also the matter of Piers wearing the queen’s jewelry ‘for safe keeping.’

The king was forced to send Gaveston away to Ireland later that year, but he was back in 1309 and resumed his position at court as Edward’s principal adviser. This effectively meant that if you wanted to get the king you had to go through Piers. He controlled royal patronage and used his position to get rich.

By March 1310 opposition had mounted to such a point that the king had to agree to the appointment of the Lords Ordainers, a committee of 21 earls, barons and bishops who were to draw up rules for the management of the royal household and the realm. At the forefront of this drive to curtail Edward’s power was his cousin Thomas of Lancaster.

Gaveston was exiled by the Lord Ordinancers in November 1311. He returned without permission in January 1312 and was captured. He was effectively kidnapped on his journey south by Thomas of Lancaster at Warwick. He sentenced Gaveston to death and had the sentence carried out as soon as possible. The problem was that the execution wasn’t entirely legal. Lancaster had exceeded his authority. This caused a rift between some of the Lord Ordainers and although Edward II couldn’t act against them immediately he stored up his anger and took his revenge at a later date when he felt that he was in a position of strength.

 

Meanwhile the king led a military campaign in Scotland that failed to subdue Robert the Bruce. It would eventually culminate with a crushing defeat for the English in 1314 at the Battle of Bannockburn. Edward had no idea of strategy or good positioning for an army.   He thought that it was enough to turn up with lots of men.  The north of England found itself open to wave after wave of Scottish invaders and raiders. Skipton Castle came under attack in 1317, 1318, 1399 and 1322. It was partly because of this that Sir Roger Clifford, second Lord of Westmorland joined with the king’s enemies.

 

It didn’t help either that the harvest failed in 1315. The famine was not the king’s fault but it was symptomatic of the problems besetting his realm. The country was descending into chaos and just to make matters worse Edward found himself a new best friend. Hugh Despenser and his dear old dad also called Hugh Despenser. Hugh Despenser the Younger was married to Edward II’s niece so he was already part of the family.

Edward was clearly attracted to arrogant and greedy men. The Despensers made Gaveston look positively mild in comparison. They seized castles that didn’t belong to them, bullied women (by which I mean breaking their legs) and were probably unkind to small animals.  Things came to a head when they took possession of land in the Welsh marches that definitely didn’t belong to them. It was at this point that court politics erupted into open rebellion. Parliament caused the two men to be banished in 1321 but Edward called them home the following year.

 

At first Edward was victorious. His army quelled the Mortimers and then another army loyal to him was victorious at the Battle of Boroughbridge. The army was led by Sir Andrew de Harcla who knew that Thomas of Lancaster had called upon the Scots for support. Lancaster is supposed to have said that Sir Andrew would find himself in a position similar to that of Lancaster before the year was out. It turned out to be true. Roger Mortimer found himself in the Tower of London and Thomas of Lancaster found himself without a head. The following year Sir Andrew de Harcla, who had lost confidence in his king’s ability to protect the people of the north following the Battle of Byland in 1322, was found guilty of treating with the Scots. He was hanged, drawn and quartered in Carlisle. Ironically Edward was forced to make terms with the Scots shortly afterwards because he’d had his best warriors executed.

 

It was just after this in 1325 that Queen Isabella took the opportunity to go home to France for a holiday along with her son where she wreaked havoc upon her family as well as meeting and falling in love with Roger Mortimer who had managed to escape from the Tower.

 

Isabella and Mortimer invaded England from the Continent in 1326 with only 1500 men. Such was the unpopularity of the king and his favourites that people flocked to join them. The Despensers suffered unpleasant deaths. Hugh Despenser the younger was taken to the market place in Hereford covered in tattoos outlining his many sins which included rape (Alison Weir has a theory that Despenser raped the queen) before being hanged, drawn and quartered.

 

Edward was forced to abdicate in January 1327, in favour of his son another Edward. Edward II was murdered at Berkeley Castle. He is the king purported to have been killed with a red-hot poker shoved somewhere unmentionable. However Dr Ian Mortimer presents an intriguing theory that the king’s death was feigned.

 

 

 

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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Fourteenth Century, Kings of England