History Jar Challenge 11 answers

This week’s challenge was to identify the eldest sons of the monarch since 1066 who did not become monarch in their turn. How did you do? And how many of you spotted the fact that I missed Richard II from last week’s list. His mother Joan of Kent never became queen because her husband the Black Prince pre-deceased Edward III.

William the Conqueror’s eldest son was Robert Curthose (1). William left Robert the duchy of Normandy, William Rufus the English crown and Henry of Selby £5000. Robert made several attempts to gain the crown but none were successful.

Henry I had only two legitimate children to survive to adulthood. Unfortunately William Adelin (2) was drowned off Barfleur in Normandy when the White Ship sank on 25th November 1120. Adelin simply means Atheling which is the Saxon term to identify royal princes.

King Stephen was Henry I’s nephew. He actually had three sons. The first Baldwin died whilst still a child but the second Eustace (3) was actually crowned in 1152 but he didn’t survive his father. He died in 1153. The crowning whilst his father was still alive was a bid by Stephen to ease the succession. Stephen, if you recall, was at war with his cousin Matilda about who should wear the crown. The papacy wasn’t keen on the idea though. Eustace didn’t take the news that Stephen was negotiating with Matilda’s soon Henry particularly well, withdrew from Stephen’s army and went on a bit of a fund raising spree, by which I mean looting and pillaging. On 10 August 1153 Eustace raided Bury St Edmunds. Eustace died soon after – the monks were keen to identify this as a result of the Almighty’s displeasure. Stephen’s third son succeeded his father as Count of Mortain and his mother as Count of Boulogne. He died in 1159.

Henry II’s eldest on was named William and he died whilst still a child. Henry (4), also known as the Young King, survived to adulthood, was crowned by his father as King of England in 1170 but since no real power was forthcoming rebelled. He died in 1183 – whilst rebelling against his father once more.

Edward I had many children including three sons who died in childhood or infancy – John, Henry and Alfonso are footnotes in history. Edward of Caernarvon was born in April 1284 and became the first English Prince of Wales. Since 1301 the title has been granted to the eldest son of the monarch. From this point forward I shall only reference heirs who lived long enough to be created and invested as Prince of Wales.

Edward III’s eldest son was Edward of Woodstock better known as the Black Prince (5). He predeceased his father meaning that Edward’s son Richard succeeded his grandfather in 1377.

We now arrive at the Wars of the Roses.

Henry VI’s son Edward (6) was created Prince of Wales the year after his birth in 1453. He was killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury on 4th May 1471.

Edward IV’s son Edward (7) was created Prince of Wales in 1471 but he is better remembered as one of the murdered princes in the Tower.

Richard III’s son Edward (8) was created Prince of Wales in 1183 but he died the following year at Middleham.

Henry VII who launched Tudor rule made much of the fact that his eldest son united the red and white roses. After all, Henry’s wife was Elizabeth of York, the daughter of Edward IV. Their first child, Arthur (9) was born in Winchester in 1486 enabling Henry to weave the story of his descent from Arthur – his claim to the throne was situated in legend. Unfortunately Arthur died in 1502 at Ludlow leaving his bride Catherine of Aragon to eventually marry Arthur’s brother Henry which led ultimately to the Henrician Reformation when no male heir was forthcoming.

James VI of Scotland became James I of England in 1603 when Elizabeth I died. One of the advantages of the new Stuart monarch was that he had a ready made family which included an heir and a spare. The heir was Prince Henry (10) – who became Prince of Wales in 1610. Two years later he went for a swim in the Thames and died soon afterwards of typhoid, although many suspected poisoning.

James II of England had two daughters from his first marriage to Anne Hyde. They were Protestant. However, James married for a second time to Mary of Modena- any heir would be Catholic. In 1688 the so-called “baby in the bedpan” was born. James Francis Edward is better known as the Old Pretender. He spent his life in exile and was barred by act of parliament from inheriting the throne following the Glorious Revolution – so I’m not counting him and can only apologise to any Jacobite sympathisers.

Queen Anne’s son William was created duke of Gloucester but never created Prince of Wales. He died shortly before his eleventh birthday.

George II’s son Frederick pre-deceased his father Frederick was estranged from both his parents.

George IV’s only legitimate child, Charlotte, died in childbirth in 1817 predeceasing both her father and grandfather.

Edward VII’s eldest son was created Duke of Clarence but not Prince of Wales – as his grandmother Queen Victoria was still alive. He predeceased her in 1892.

George V’s eldest so was Edward VIII (11)- created Prince of Wales in 1910. He abdicated in 1936 before his coronation – so I have added him to the list making him the eleventh person not to inherit the crown despite expectations to the contrary.

If you have any more ideas for quizzes – please let me know – I’ve really enjoyed the last two quizzes which were set by History Jar readers. Thank you.

Weir, Alison. Britain’s Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy.

History Jar Challenge 11

The first official Prince of Wales was Edward of Caernarfon. Edward was born in 1284. Apparently Edward I had been having trouble with the Welsh who declared that they wouldn’t accept a prince who spoke English. He allegedly presented them with his new infant son who spoke no English as their new prince. In reality Edward invested his son with the title in 1301.

This week’s challenge comes courtesy of Michael – thank you for this challenge that will get everyone thinking. Name the eldest sons of English monarchs since 1066 who did not succeed their parent.

History jar challenge 10 – monarchs whose mothers were not queens of England

Complete set of Players cigarette cards depicting kings and queens of England.
Can you spot the queen of England who was barred from attending the coronation of her husband?

I should have been clear that I was dating this from 1066. How did you do? I think there’s 15 clear cases of monarchs whose mothers were not queens of England and a further 3 who became queen after their children were born – but they were queens of England.

William the Conqueror’s mother was Herleva (1). Apparently Duke Robert the Devil or the magnificent depending on your view point spotted her doing the laundry by the river and the rest is history as they say.

Technically William Rufus’s mother wasn’t queen of England when he was born – Matilda of Flanders (i) only became queen in 1066 following the conquest and Rufus was born sometime between 1056 and 1060. She was very definitely queen of England by the time Henry I was born at Selby in 1068 – so I shall leave it up to you to count William Rufus in or not depending on your frame of mind.

King Stephen’s mother was Adela of Normandy (2), a daughter of William the Conqueror and Matilda of Flanders. She married Theobald III of Blois.

Henry II’s mother, the Empress Matilda (3) was never crowned so technically wasn’t the ruler.

Henry IV’s parents were John of Gaunt, the third surviving son of Edward III and his wife Blanche of Lancaster (4) – who very definitely wasn’t queen of England.

Henry V’s mother was Mary de Bohun (5) who died before Henry IV usurped Richard II’s throne.

And then we arrive at the Wars of the Roses – Edward IV and Richard III’s mother was Cecily Neville (6 and 7), the daughter of the 1st Earl of Westmorland and her husband was Richard of York.

Henry Tudor who became Henry VII was the last scion of the House of Lancaster, certainly his claim to the throne couldn’t be described as very strong bloodline wise but he did win the Battle of Bosworth – his mother was Margaret Beaufort (8), descended from John of Gaunt and Kathryn Swynford. The Beaufort children from the union were retrospectively legitimised by Richard II and then excluded from the throne by Henry IV.

James I of England but VI of Scotland’s mother was, of course, Mary Queen of Scots (9).

If you’re being picky Anne of Denmark (ii) was queen of Scotland when she gave birth to Charles I – he was too sickly to initially travel to England with the rest of the family but like Matilda of Flanders she was crowned once her husband took the throne.

James II’s wife was Anne Hyde (10 and 11) she died in 1671 before James ascended the throne in 1685. Therefore their daughters Mary and Anne are on the list and since Mary reigned alongside her husband William of Orange he also features. William of Orange’s parents were William II of Orange and Mary Henrietta (12) a much loved daughter of Charles I.

When Queen Anne died in 1714 her nearest Protestant relation was her third cousin George of Hanover – he was a grandson of Elizabeth Stuart, the Winter Queen – so the daughter of James I and Anne of Denmark. George’s mother was Elizabeth’s daughter Sophia of the Palatinate better known as Sophia of Hanover (13). She was Queen Anne’s heir but predeceased the monarch by two months.

George II’s mother was Sophia Dorothea of Celle (14) – the marriage with George of Hanover had not been happy one. On being told that she was to marry George, Sophia threw his picture at the wall declaring she wouldn’t marry “pig snout” – sadly she wasn’t given any option in the matter. His family didn’t like her overly much and she didn’t like them or her new husband. It was apparently perfectly acceptable for George to take a mistress but Sophia’s relationship with Count Philip Cristoph von Konigsmarck resulted in his death and her incarceration for thirty years in Ahlden where she died.

George III was possibly married bigamously to Queen Charlotte in which case George IV shouldn’t have been king anyway, and nor should William IV but that’s an entirely different story and so far as the record is concerned their mother was the queen of England and George III’s only spouse…despite what other documents might suggest.

Queen Victoria’s father was George III’s son Edward, Duke of Kent. Her mother was Victoria of Safe-Coburg-Saalfield (15).

And finally King George VI was Duke of York when our current queen Elizabeth II was born – her mother was Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (iii) who became queen in 1936 when her brother-in-law abdicated. The coronation took place in 1937.

History Jar Podcast

Those of you on my class mailing list or the History Jar Facebook page will already know about this. Thank you for the very kind feedback that I’ve received. The first episode is a sprint through Norman monarchs. There’s also a mnemonic included for those folk who are delving into their historical knowledge to do some home history schooling of younger school age children.

The school history curriculum in England and Wales includes the Norman Conquest in Year 7 (first year of secondary school) and it can also appear at Key Stage One or Two. The rest of the Norman period is unlikely to be covered until Key Stage 4 which may include Anglo Saxon society, the ways in which Edward the Confessor’s death was problematic and Norman government amongst other things.

Mnemonic’s are sentences that help you to remember a list. You take the first letter from each word in the phrase or sentence to help recall the list: e.g. Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain is the best known mnemonic which helps you to remember the order that the colours appear in the rainbow.

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-history-jar-podcast/id1509714747

You should see the History jar and on the right hand side an arrow. Click on the arrow to listen. I can only apologise about the sound quality – I’m amazed the mic worked and as its the first one I’ve ever done I don’t think that I’m going to win any prizes for delivery. In future I shall position Paddington Bear in the front row before I start recording as a substitute for my lovely ladies and gentlemen. Hopefully I shall get better with an audience – even a solitary furry audience with a blue duffel coat and red wellies.

Burial places of English Monarchs – History Jar challenge 3 answers

Friday again – time flies when you’re doing all those little jobs that you’ve been putting off for the last two decades.

William the Conqueror was of course the Duke of Normandy and is buried in St Stephen’s Abbey, Caen which he founded prior to the conquest and his wife Matilda of Flanders was buried in the sister abbey, the Abbey of the Holy Trinity or Abbey Aux Dames as it is also known in Caen. William the Conqueror’s funeral was a bit on the traumatic side according to Orderic Vitalis because the body was too big for the coffin and there was a bit of an explosion as a consequence.

William Rufus who had a nasty accident with an arrow in the New Forest on 2nd August 1100 was buried in Winchester Cathedral. His bones are believed to be somewhere in the mortuary chests that house the remans of Saxon and Medieval Kings which were desecrated in 1642 by Parliamentarians.

Mortuary Chests, Winchester Cathedral.

Henry I and his first wife Edith or Matilda of Scotland as she became after her marriage are the first royal burials in Westminster Abbey following the interment of Edward Confessor who was buried in the abbey he founded in 1066. His second wife Adeline eventually became a nun and was buried in Affligem Abbey in Brabant.

King Stephen and his wife Matilda of Boulogne were buried in Faversham Abbey in Kent. The royal tombs were destroyed during the dissolution of the monasteries.

Henry II is buried in Fontevrault Abbey in France along with his estranged queen Eleanor of Aquitaine and their son Richard I better known as the Lion-heart – Richard’s wife Berengaria can be found in Le Mans Cathedral. Henry’s daughter-in-law Isabella of Angoulême is also buried in Fontevrault whereas King John is is buried in Worcester Cathedral. It probably would have been complicated to transport his body to France given that the Barons War was underway and the french were invading England at the time.

Illustration of King John’s effigy also at Worcester Cathedral

Henry III is another Westminster burial where as his wife, Eleanor of Provence, is buried in Amesbury Abbey in Wiltshire. The tomb was lost upon the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Edward I famously died at Burgh-by-Sands as he was about to cross the Solway on yet another attempt on Scotland. His body was transported back to Westminster Abbey to lay beside his beloved wife Eleanor of Castile.

Edward II, who allegedly died after an incident with a hot poker in Berkeley Castle is buried in Gloucester Cathedral – although there is a theory that he wasn’t killed in which case he is clearly not in the cathedral but so far as regular history is concerned that’s where he can be located. Edward’s estranged wife Isabella of France was buried in Greyfriars Church, Newgate and was yet another loss during the Reformation.

Edward II – Gloucester Cathedral

Philippa of Hainhault is also buried in Westminster along with her husband Edward III. Their grandson Richard II married Anne of Bohemia who died of the plague. She can be found in Westminster as can Richard who died in Pontefract Castle, possibly from starvation having been usurped by his cousin Henry of Bolingbroke. He was originally buried in King’s Langley Church in Hertfordshire but was relocated in 1413.

Henry of Bolingbroke who became Henry IV was married firstly to Mary de Bohun. She died before he became king so technically her burial place in Leicester is not the resting place of a royal. Henry’s second wife Joan of Navarre is buried in Canterbury Cathedral along with Henry.

Both Henry V and his wife Katherine of Valois are buried in Westminster Abbey. Their son Henry VI was murdered by Edward IV bringing the Wars of the Roses to a close on 21 May 1471. He was first buried in Cherstey Abbey in Surrey so that he couldn’t become a focus for disgruntled Lancastrians but he was then removed to St George’s Chapel in Windsor in 1485. Somewhat ironically the man who ordered his murder is also buried in St George’s Chapel along with his wife Elizabeth Woodville – thus disgruntled Yorkists didn’t have a focus either. Edward V was never crowned and disappeared in the Tower – depends which conspiracy theory you believe as to where his remains might be. There is an urn in Westminster Abbey that contains the bones of two children found in the Tower in 1674 during building work.

Richard III, famously the king under the carpark was initially buried in the Collegiate Church of St Mary Leicester and can now be found in Leicester Cathedral along with some beautiful modern stained glass windows. His wife Anne Neville who probably died from tuberculosis is in Westminster Abbey.

Richard III’s tomb at Leicester Cathedral

Henry VII and Elizabeth of York are in Westminster as are their grandchildren Edward VI, Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I. Henry VIII is in St George’s Chapel, Windsor. His wives are buried as follows: Katherine of Aragon is buried in Peterborough Abbey. her original tomb was destroyed during the English Civil War. Anne Boleyn was executed and buried in the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower. Jane Seymour is next to her chunky spouse in Windsor. Anne of Cleves is in Westminster Abbey. Katherine Howard is in the Tower (and of course that’s where Lady Jane Grey the nine days queen of England can also be found) and Katherine Parr is buried in Sudely Castle Chapel.

On to the Stuarts. James is buried in Westminster with his wife Anne of Denmark. Charles I was buried in St George’s Chapel Windsor following his execution. His queen Henrietta Maria is in the Cathedral St Denis, Paris. Charles II is in Westminster but his wife Katherine of Braganza returned to Portugal following Charles’ death and is buried in Lisbon. James II was forced to flee in 1688 when William of Orange and James’ daughter Mary were politely asked to invade to save England from Catholicism. James’ first wife Anne Hyde is in Westminster but she died before James became king. James was buried in the Chapel of St Edmund in Paris. The idea was that he might one day be relocated to Westminster. Unfortunately his remains were still in France at the time of the revolution and somas people believe it disappeared.

William of Orange and his wife Mary are in Westminster as is Queen Anne and her husband George of Denmark. All of Anne’s children are also buried in Westminster Abbey in the same vault as Mary Tudor.

Anne was the last of the Stuart line and so the protestant Hanoverians arrived. George I is buried near Osnabruck but George II is in Westminster whereas George III, George IV and William IV are in St George’s Chapel Windsor. Queen Victoria initially buried her husband Albert in St George’s Chapel but he was removed to the Royal Mausoleum, Frogmore, Windsor where he is interred with Queen Victoria who died at Osbourne House on the Isle of White in 1901.

Edward VII is buried along with his queen, Alexandra in St George’s Chapel, Windsor as are George V and Mary of Teck. George VI and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the Queen Mother are also buried in St George’s Chapel, Windsor.

Edward VIII abdicated before he cold be crowned. He is buried in Frogmore.

https://www.westminster-abbey.org/about-the-abbey/history/royal-tombs

Store cupboard of quotes

Linked to the King’s beasts which is the name given to the carved heraldic creatures at Greenwich Palace this week’s store cupboard of quotes should be about Henry VIII – they can be primary, secondary – serious or not.

My own favourite tongue-in-cheek texts include 1066 And All That from which this particular quote comes :

Henry VIII was a strong king with a very strong sense of humour and VIII wives, memorable among whom were Katherine the Arrogant, Anne of Cloves, Lady Jane Austin and Anne Hathaway. His beard was, however, red.

And whilst we’re on the subject of Jane Austen her words about the Tudors in her History of England are also worth a chuckle:

His Majesty (Henry VII) died & was succeeded by his son Henry whose only merit was his not being quite so bad as his daughter Elizabeth.

If only I still had my Ladybird book of Henry VIII – I’m sure that I must have possessed one.

As last week if you have a quote you would like to share please add it to the comments so that the list of Henry VIII quotes grows.

My next post will be about books which don’t necessarily take history too seriously!

History Jar History Challenge 2 – royal beasts

Royal Arms. Royal Naval College, Greenwich

At the time of the coronation in 1953 there were a number of decorations set up in London composed of royal devices in their various forms. Amongst them, in Westminster Abbey, stood ten six foot tall royal heraldic beasts. Their inspiration was taken from the heraldic beasts at Hampton Court Palace originally placed there by Henry VIII, gaining them the name “the King’s Beasts.”

These beasts, and others like them may be found on coats of arms, heraldic badges used on the liveries and standards of various families and the two heraldic supports of a shield of arms.

The royal arms and their beasts have changed across the centuries – the Tudors added a royal beast, as did the Stuarts for example.

Royal arms can be seen in churches across the country. It became usual for churches to do this following the Reformation – and was a very visual way of the population being reminded exactly who was in charge. Royal arms can also be found in various stately stacks around the country as assorted nobility and gentry used their building projects to demonstrate their loyalty to their monarch.

So, your challenge this week, is to name as many royal beasts as you can that have been linked with the royal family since 1066. And just to get you started here is a link to an old post about the lion and the unicorn https://thehistoryjar.com/2016/05/14/the-lion-and-the-unicorn-2/

By all means add the royal beast into the comments box – and if you wish the person who introduced it into the royal family.

Pinches, J.H. &R.V. (1974) The Royal Heraldry of England. London: Heraldry Today

Stanford London, H. (1953) The Queen’s Beasts. London: Newman Name

Consorts of English monarchs since 1066

Last week I set the first History Jar Challenge which was to name as many English royal consorts as you could since 1066. There are, I think, 38 of them. Not all royal spouses became kings or queens alongside the monarch in question. How did you do? There will be another challenge on Saturday!

The Normans

William the Conqueror = (1) Matilda of Flanders. Following the conquest she was crowned as William’s consort in 1068.

William Rufus = unmarried.

Henry I =

  1. (2) Edith of Scotland who became Matilda of Scotland upon her marriage to Henry. Henry I’s mother Matilda of Flanders was Edith’s godmother and it is said that at her christening she pulled at Matilda’s head dress signifying that one day she would rise to her godmother’s rank. She died on 1st May 1118 and is buried in Westminster Abbey.
  2. (3) Adeliza (there are alternative spellings and pronunciations) of Louvain.

Stephen = (4) Matilda of Boulogne who was the niece of Edith/Matilda of Scotland.

The Empress Matilda was never crowned queen of England. And you will be delighted to hear that there aren’t any more Matildas!

The Plantagenets

Eleanor of Aquitaine

Henry II = (5) Eleanor of Aquitaine

Richard the Lionheart = (6) Berengaria of Navarre

John =

  1. Isabella of Gloucester but she was never queen of England due to an annulment on the grounds of consanguinity.
  2. (7) Isabella of Angoulême. She was crowned in Westminster in 1200 when she was 12.

Henry III = (8) Eleanor of Province

Eleanor of Castile

Edward I =

  1. (9) Eleanor of Castile (after who the Eleanor crosses are named.)
  2. (10) Margaret of France

Edward II = (11) Isabella of France – one of English history’s she-wolves.

Edward III = (12) Philippa of Hainhault. They married in 1328 in York Minster during a snow storm – which was unfortunate as the minster was without a roof at the time.

Richard II =

  1. (13) Anne of Bohemia. She died of plague in 1394 at Sheen Palace. Richard was so devastated that he ordered that the palace be demolished.
  2. (14) Isabella of France who was a child at the time of her marriage. Following Richard II’s usurpation by his cousin Henry Bolingbroke she returned to France.

Henry IV =

  1. Mary de Bohun who died before Henry became king.
  2. (15) Joan of Navarre became queen upon her marriage to Henry in 1402 but she wasn’t crowned until the following year.

Henry V = (16) Katherine of Valois who would marry Owain Tudor following Henry’s death.

Henry VI = (17) Margaret of Anjou (another she-wolf)

Edward IV = (18) Elizabeth Woodville (and this is not the time to discuss whether or not Edward was a bigamist)

Richard III = (19) Anne Neville

The Tudors

Elizabeth of York

Henry VII = (20) Elizabeth of York

Henry VIII = famously married six times. He believed that he had only ever been legitimately married to Jane Seymour and Katherine Parr – one because she produced a son and the other because he died before she could be toppled from the rather tenuous position as Henry’s spouse.

  1. (21) Catherine of Aragon
  2. (22) Anne Boleyn
  3. (23) Jane Seymour
  4. Anne of Cleves – not crowned because Henry took against her.
  5. (24) Katherine Howard
  6. (25) Katherine Parr

Edward VI = unmarried

Lady Jane Grey was never crowned although she was proclaimed queen.

Mary Tudor and Philip II of Spain part of the Woburn Abbey Collection

Mary I = (26) Philip II of Spain. The Spanish Match as it was known was deeply unpopular. Although Philip became king he had very little power.

Elizabeth I = unmarried

The Stuarts

Anne of Denmark by Gheeraerts

James I = (27) Anne of Denmark

Charles I = (28) Henrietta Maria

Charles II = (29) Katherine of Braganza

James II =

  1. Anne Hyde who died before James became king.
  2. (30) Mary of Modena

William III and Mary II who were married to one another.

Anne = George of Denmark – was raised to the English peerage prior to Anne becoming queen but was never crowned as prince consort.

The Hanoverians

George I = Sophia Dorothea who never became queen of England because George divorced her for adultery before he became king of England. She spent the remainder of her life locked up in Ahlden Castle in Germany.

George II = (31) Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach

George III = (32) Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. There is a possibility that he married bigamously.

George IV =

  1. Maria Fitzherbert – who was Catholic and therefore the marriage was against the 1701 Act of Settlement and the Royal Marriages Act of 1772. This marriage was deemed to be invalid.
  2. Caroline of Brunswick. It wasn’t a happy marriage. She was forcibly barred from attending George’s coronation so was never crowned.

William IV = (33) Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen

Victoria = (34) Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

Edward VII =(35) Alexandra of Denmark

The Windsors

George V = (36) Mary of Teck

Edward VIII was proclaimed king but never crowned, preferring to abdicate in order to marry Mrs Wallis Simpson.

George VI = (37) Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon

Elizabeth II = (38) Philip of Greece

William Rufus – the red

King William II – a name that we don’t tend to use – it’s usually Rufus. Bynames which described a person’s appearance crop up a lot in medieval history. It was a habit that gradually disappeared from the naming of English monarchs but in continental Europe there were a whole series of Charleses who rejoiced in bynames such as “fat,” “bald,” “simple,” not to mention a number of King Louis who were pious or who stammered.

Eadmer of Canterbury never uses his byname whilst a slightly later writer, William of Malmesbury does call him King William Rufus and spends some time describing him whereas Geoffrey de Gaimar who wrote before 1140 explains that he was called Rufus on account of his hair colouring.

It’s Orderic Vitalis who calls him William Rufus throughout his account and its probably from him that the name has stuck.

William was a third child after Robert and Richard and as as such may well have been intended, initially at least, for the church. If this was indeed the case he may have been more literate than historians give him credit for. Usually Henry II is identified as the first post-Conquest literate King of England. Essentially if you were going to be a knight and land owner you did not need to be able to read and write – someone else could do it for you.

As a third son his birth was not particularly auspicious – so history down not know the date.

We know that part of his education was overseen by Lanfranc of Bec who went on to become Archbishop of Canterbury. He could have been placed in monastic care from the age of five which might go some way towards explaining his antipathy towards the Church.

Richard died and William’s role in life may have been amended to reflect this. As Robert grew to adulthood he rebelled against his father. Again, William’s standing in society would have been affected by this but it is important to note that a boy’s military training began at the age of twelve and young William was noted for his aptitude in warfare in a family and court that trained hard in combat so if he had been destined for the church William changed his plan early on.

Popular quiz knowledge jumps William from his name to his death in the New Forest. For those with a greater knowledge base is the idea that he was a tad on the villainous side – which is impressive given that his father purportedly laid waste to the north and died being haunted due to the atrocities he committed. The idea of the villainous red king comes from the writings of Eadmer of Canterbury who tells the story of St Anselm. If Anselm is the hero of the tale, William Rufus is the villain.

Later writers took up Eadmer’s position, added the views of Henry I’s chroniclers who often denigrated William to “big up” Henry and his legal reforms – turning Henry into Beauclerk or the Lion of Justice whilst William resides in the role of avaricious thwarter of the church with a questionmark about his sexuality. The Anglo -Saxon Chronicle stated that William was “abhorrent to God.”

All of which seems a bit unfair given that William put down his uncle’s rebellion in short order (admittedly he reneged on the promises that he had made to the militia); secured his country’s northern borders and exerted control over his treasury (by failing to appoint bishops and abbots so he could draw the income from the vacant bishoprics and monasteries.) It was Rufus who cemented his father’s conquest of England using techniques familiar to any medieval king worth his salt.

Revisionist historians have argued that actually Henry benefited from his brother’s policies and that William has suffered on account of negative press. It cannot have helped that he alienated the Church and that they were the chroniclers of the period. It’s probably not good press when a saint attacks you for your licentious behaviour!

More on Saxon kings and their wives

king edgar

King Edgar from Edgar’s position in the genealogical roll of the Kings of England © The British Library Board, Royal 14 B. VI. Accessed from https://www.royal.uk/edgar-r-959-975.

Alfred’s son Edward the Elder was a much married man.  Unfortunately we have to rely on later writers for much of our information.

For example Edward’s children by his first marriage to Egwina are described by William of Malmesbury in the twelfth century as illegitimate.  This is probably unlikely as one of his sons with Edwina was Althelstan whose rule was not contended when he became king after Edward the Elder died.  It is reasonable to assume that had there been a question mark over his legitimacy one of Edward’s other sons would have stood a better chance of becoming king – having said that legitimacy wasn’t necessarily the issue that it became later on.

Edward’s eldest son by his second marriage to Elfleda was called Edwin and he died in 933.  Weir notes that he may have been murdered on his half-brother’s orders. Two sons of Edward’s third marriage to  Edgiva would wear the crown in their turn.

Rather conveniently for us Athelstan never married.  He was succeeded by his brother Edmund who added the tag “the Magnificent” to his name and managed to marry himself to a saint in the first instance and then to an Ethelfleda who became a nun in the second.    Edmund was murdered in his own dining hall in 946 and succeeded by his brother Ædred or Edred depending on which spelling you happen to prefer. Between the Danes and assorted assassinations it was clearly not a good time to become a monarch no matter how magnificent you might have been.

By the time Edred died Edmund’s sons were considered old enough to inherit so first Ædwig (or Edwy) became king and he in his turn was succeeded by his brother Edgar.   If you recall from the previous post Edwy who was only a young teenager allegedly had a fall out with St Dunstan.  Edgar on the other hand came to rely upon Dunstan who encouraged the king to found abbeys and ensure that papal taxes were paid – resulting in Edgar being known as “the Peaceable” and being made a saint.

Having offered you a saint and a murder or two it’s now time to introduce Edgar’s lady wives.  Firstly Edgar married Ethelfelda – a popular name- so the sobriquet “the fair” is usually added to differentiate from all the other Ethelfledas. Sometime between 962 and 964 Ethelfleda died or if you prefer the scandalous version Edgar divorced her and sent her off to a nunnery so that he could marry wife number two with whom he was said to be conducting an adulterous affair.

Wife number two is  Elfrida – which isn’t entirely helpful as the names of the two women are alarmingly easy to swap around. Elfrida had been married firstly to Ethelwald, the Ealdorman of Devon. There is a question mark over the ealdorman’s somewhat convenient death.   When she was crowned in Bath Abbey on 11th May 973 alongside Edgar she became the first recorded instance of a coronation for a queen of England – she did not set a particularly good example thereafter.

When Edgar died in 975 he was buried at Glastonbury Abbey and his son by Ethelfleda (wife number one) became King Edward…the Martyr.

Alison Weir Britain’s Royal Families