Toads as murder weapons…King John

Buchel, Charles A.; Herbert Beerbohm Tree (1852-1917), as King John in ‘King John’ by William Shakespeare; Theatre Collection;

King John died at Newark a week after he lost his baggage train in The Wash on 18 October 1216 from the bloody flux as dysentery was then known. There were rumours that he may have been poisoned.  The Annals of Clonmacnoise reported that the source of the poison was ‘a cup of ale wherein there was a toad pricked with a broach.’ The Brut Chronicle repeats the same tale but provides the murderer as well – a monk who was not keen on John and who was prepared to die if need be. He was required to drink before the king and did so; hurried off to the infirmary and expired.

I admit to sitting up and taking notice – rumours of poison did circulate at the time, any unexpected death raised the question in people’s minds but sticking a toad in a cup of ale seemed excessive – for a start surely the king would have noticed an amphibian floating around in his cup?

Nothing daunted I did some research. It turns out that British species of common toads (Bufo bufo) and tadpoles are poisonous They produce something called bufotoxin which causes cats and dogs to froth at the mouth if they catch one and eat it. The poison is, apparently, in the toad’s skin.

The Brut was written in the 13th century and the Annals of Conmacnoise were a 15th century offering drawing on earlier texts. By then King John had his reputation for tyranny. I’m not even going to attempt to unravel the way that the monk was viewed.

Other writers of the time suggested that John had succumbed to gluttony or dysentry – take your pick…but don’t go putting toads in your beer.

For more about King John’s and his mistresses…but no toads don’t forget my most recent publication by Pen and Sword, Medieval Royal Mistresses Mischievous Women Who Slept with Kings and Princes is available in all good bookshops. I spotted it in my own local bookshop the other day and was very excited.

Interpreting King John – Painting History.

Buchel, Charles A.; Herbert Beerbohm Tree (1852-1917), as King John in ‘King John’ by William Shakespeare; Theatre Collection;

History paintings first became popular in the 17th century but they were associated with classical history, the Bible and mythology rather than British history or more recent subjects. Gradually the genre expanded – inevitably scenes of battles began to become popular.

History paintings usually tell a story so they could also be described as narrative art. There’s also a degree of theatricality about many depictions of history – perhaps it’s inevitable given Shakespeare’s impact on popular interpretations of history.

So, today, meet King John – well meet Herbert Beerbohm Tree a Shakespearian actor portrayed by Charles Buchel. He certainly looks the part – wealthy and rather troubled…or possibly decidedly shifty. It’s entirely up to you.

Tree was also a manager and the man who employed Buchel for sixteen years providing him with illustrations for various aspects of theatrical advertising. King John was performed in London at Her Majesty’s Theatre 1899-1900. Apparently the production was noted for its rather spectacular scenery and costumes. Some circuits thought that it was too elaborate (I wonder what they would make of modern film productions). It was also the point at which fictional interpretations of history moved from stage and page to film – it can be viewed on YouTube here:

The question is, how do Shakespeare’s plays and their interpretation impact on our understanding of historical events and people? After all, it’s not just a retelling of history -or even educating us about the past- there is a much more emotive response.

And yes, for those of you who know me well, I can’t actually think of the historical persona of King John without summoning this version of him to mind… I apologise – I know it shouldn’t but it just pops into my head perhaps because it was my first encounter with the youngest son of King Henry II. It’s a thought – how many of you have an image of a historical persona in your mind that is not drawn from primary sources but from a fictional rendering? And how does it impact on the way you perceive that persons’s actions and impact on history?

summer quiz 2 answers

British Library 13th Century Bestiary – Do you know where Edward IV sent a camel? I feel an animal themed Christmas series of posts coming on!
  1. Edward was born in 1284 in Carnarvon, according to legend Edward I presented his new-born on a child to the Welsh as a prince who spoke no English.
  2. Edward’s parents were King Edward I and Eleanor of Castile – remembered by the Eleanor Crosses.
  3. Edward was supposed to have been killed in Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire on 21 September 1327. By Tudor times he was supposed to have met his demise by the insertion of a red hot poker in an unmentionable and eyewaterinw location – a reference to his alleged homosexuality. Whilst medieval chroniclers placed the blame on Roger Mortimer’s doorstep no one suggested an incident with a poker although by 1326 his enemies did accuse him of sodomy. Ian Mortimer suggested in 2005 that he did not die. He pointed out that only the Brut written at the time gave his death as 1326. The discovery of the Fieschi Letter in the 1870s cast doubt on the events that history generally accepts as having happened and there is contemporary evidence that Edward was still alive at the end of 1327. There are two theories and it is up to you to consider the evidence provided and weigh the evidence to decide which one is more likely.
  4. Edward granted the earldom of Cornwall to his friend Piers Gaveston but not until after his father died.
  5. Pope Boniface VIII arranged the marriage between Edward II and Isabella of France to bring an to the warring over Gascony which Edward claimed as his.
  6. The Lords Ordainers demanded that Edward II reform his household and get rid of his favourite. They passed a series of ordinances – hence the name.
  7. Battle of Bannockburn June 1314 – Edward II didn’t win but he is on record as digging a lot of ditches.
  8. Thomas of Lancaster was executed on 22 March 1322 near Pontefract Castle following the Battle of Boroughbridge which took place on 16 March 1322.
  9. Hugh Despenser the Elder was the only baron who remained loyal to Edward II throughout his life. His son Hugh Despenser the Younger became Edward’s hated favourite. On the Marches his desire for land resulted in the so-called Despenser War.
  10. Isabella of France became Edward II’s wife.
  11. Isabella’s lover was Roger Mortimer of Wigmore.
  12. Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer invaded England at Orwell in Suffolk.
  13. Hugh Despenser the Elder was executed at Bristol then fed to the dogs.
  14. Edward II is buried in Gloucester Cathedral. Robert Curthose, the deposed Duke of Normandy, brother of William Rufus and Henry I is also buried in Gloucester Cathedral. At the time it was St Peter’s Abbey.
  15. Edward had four legitimate children, Edward who became King Edward III and started the Hundred Years War; John of Eltham who died aged twenty; Eleanor of Woodstock who married Reginald or Renauld II, Count of Guilders and was forced, according to the story, to show that she didn’t have leprosy and Joan of the Tower who was married to King David II of Scotland to bring an end to the Anglo-Scottish Wars. Edward also had an illegitimate son called Adam.
  16. Edmund of Woodstock, the Earl of Kent , Edward’s half brother by Margaret of France, was executed in 1330 for his part in a plot to depose Mortimer and Isabella. The death of his uncle was one of the factors which spurred seventeen-year-old Edward to act against his mother and her lover.
  17. The English and the French fought over Gascony. Edward I spent many years in Gascony. It was part of his personal possessions as was Aquitaine.
  18. Edward II kept a camel at Langley.
  19. He took a lion on campaign to Scotland.
  20. Christopher Marlowe wrote a play about the monarch ensuring he remained within the public eye.
The execution of Thomas of Lancaster

The Lion of Justice and his women…or rather his children

King Henry I

Henry I sometimes known as the Lion of Justice was married to Edith of Scotland, the daughter of Malcolm III and St Margaret meaning that the royal house of Wessex once again sat upon the throne, or at least quite close to it. And if you’re wondering who Edith might have been, she is known in the history books as Matilda on account of the fact that the Normans found Edith a foreign sounding name.

Henry went on to have somewhere int he region of 24 illegitimate children, many of them born to mothers unknown to history. William of Malmsebury who was a fan of Henry’s noted that “Throughout his life he was wholly free from impure desires.” The statement implies that William must have led a very sheltered or blinkered life! Until we read on to discover that the only reason Henry had so many mistresses was for “the sake of issue.” Poor King Henry I – fancy having so many women simply to increase the numbers of children with royal blood in their veins. It was a tough job but someone had to do it. It’s interesting though that an illegitimate child was a useful commodity so far as the Crown was concerned. It reflects the fact that the status of illegitimate children changed with the passage of time.

Female children could be married off in exactly the same way as legitimate ones to cement an alliance or a treaty. Sybil, the daughter of Sybil Corbet, married King Alexander I of Scotland in 1107. Another daughter, Rohese, married Henry de la Pomerai. He was a loyal supporter of the king, so the marriage may have held an element of reward for loyal service in drawing him closer to the Crown by ties of blood. Interestingly the half siblings of the Empress Matilda can be identified as bolstering support for her in the West Country during the Anarchy reflecting the importance of family ties (somewhat at odds to my more usual Wars of the Roses theme.)

William de Breteuil had no legitimate children. One of Henry’s daughters – Juliane- was married off to Eustace de Pacy, William’s illegitimate son. The marriage brought with it promises of support for Eustace against any other of William’s relations. It was the children of this union who were blinded and their noses split on the orders of their uncompromising grandfather when one of William’s hostages, the son of Ralph Harenc was blinded. Juliane attempted to kill her father with a cross bow after her two daughters were cruelly maimed.

History Jar Challenge 15 answers – Saxon kings of the Cerdic line

King Alfred the Great – Wantage – his birthplace.

There have been a many Saxon kings of England and at times there were seven kingdoms in England know as the Heptarchy. The Dark Ages as they once were but have been renamed the Early Medieval Period. I have listed all the kings of the Cerdic line but realistically the kings of Wessex only had a claim to being the kings of all of England from 924 onwards. The tenth century also saw an assortment of Danish kings who I have listed as part of this post.

This was a tricky challenge as there are many Saxon kings who have not achieved much notice by popular history.

The kingdom of Wessex was founded in A.D. 519 by Cerdic. Chroniclers helpfully tracked his family tree back to Noah – leaving that aside, Queen Elizabeth I is a direct descendent of Cerdic as are all monarchs from Henry II onwards. Henry’s paternal grandmother was Edith or Matilda of Scotland who was St Margaret’s daughter. Margaret and her brother, Edgar, were the last surviving representatives of the royal house of Wessex in 1066.

The golden wyvern that can be seen in the borders of the Bayeux Tapestry is the chosen symbol of the royal house of Wessex.

The family tree from Cerdic is based on a 9th century chronicle. Cerdic was followed by his son Cynric and his grandson Ceawlin. History isn’t quite sure what happened to Ceawlin but he was succeeded by his nephew (we think) Ceol circa 591. The throne went to Ceol’s brother Ceolwulf after he died in 597. This was because Ceol’s son, Cynegils, was too young to rule at the time. Little is known about Ceolwulf aside from the fact he spent a lot of time fighting the Welsh, the Picts and the Scots.

In 611 Ceolwulf died by which time Cynegils was old enough to rule – which he did. Cynegils gave the northern bit of his kingdom to his son Cwichelm. Cynegils also recognised the power of the kingdom of Mercia and married off his younger son into the royal house of Mercia. For those of you with a Derbyshire connection it was during this period that the Northumbrians clashed with the house of Wessex in Derbyshire near modern day Castleton and Win Hill and Lose Hill got their names. Wessex didn’t win. They were weakened politically and in terms of man power. It wasn’t long before Mercia was much bigger and Wessex was much smaller.

Cynegils died and was succeeded by his son Cenwahl who had been married to Penda of Mercia’s sister in a bid to maintain some sort of peace. Cenwahl now discarded his wife which was not an astute move. Penda took a dim view of the situation and was soon king of Wessex as well as Mercia.

Cenwahl eventually got his throne back but the succession was a bit messy. Æscwine, who was Cenwahl’s son ruled for two years before Centwine, uncle of Æscwine, took the throne in 676. Cyngils had converted to Christianity whilst in exile when Penda was king of Wessex and Centwine was also a Christian – so much so that it’s centrally believed that in 685 he washed his hands of the world in order to become a monk.

His successor was Cædwalla who had been forced out of Wessex when he was a young man along with other members of the extended Cerdic family by Cenwahl. History isn’t quite sure how he fits into the Cerdic line but the chroniclers are clear that he does and clearly Cenwahl regarded him as a potential nuisance. In 688 having built a more stable kingdom he became a Christian and abdicated having been injured. He died a short time afterwards.

Wessex became a somewhat chaotic for a time after that. Cædwalla had been a strong king who had subdued various sub-kings but now they were able to make their own bids for power and for land. King Ine emerged as the dominant figure. He would rule for 37 years.

Æthelheard  became king in 726. He was Inge’s brother-in-law and became king because of the influence of Mercia. Wessex now found itself on the back foot. Mercia became increasingly powerful.

Cuthred of Wessex, who was Æthelheard’s brother ruled from 740 to 756. At this time the king of Mercia was the overlord of the king of Wessex but by the time he died Wessex was more politically powerful.

Sigeberht ruled Wessex for a year from 757 to 757. He was probably Cuthred’s cousin. He was kicked off the throne by the Witan – or council- under the leadership of Cynewulf due to unlawful acts. The witan gave him various bits of Hampshire in compensation but he managed to kill someone whose family killed him in return. Sigeberht’s brother Cyneheard was also removed from power when Sigeberht was toppled. He bided his time for the better part of thirty years before taking his revenge.

Cynewulf ruled for 29 years but was eventually murdered by Cyneheard whilst visiting his mistress. In 779 the kingdom of Wessex was beaten in battle by the Offa, the king of Mercia. Mercia dominated politics at this time in the Saxon power shuffle.

Beorthric of Wessex was of the Cerdic line according to the chroniclers but no one was quite clear where he fitted in the picture. Suffice it to say he wouldn’t have been king of Wessex without the help of Offa of Mercia. He married one of Offa’s daughters for good measure having driven his rival Egbert into exile.

Egbert became king of Wessex in 802 having been forced into exile by Offa of Mercia and Beorthric of Wessex. His remains are in the mortuary chests in Winchester Cathedral. He was succeeded by his son Ethelwulf in 839. Ultimately he handed Wessex to his son Ethelbad but continued to reign elsewhere in England.

And we arrive at our first scandal. Ethelbad married his father’s widow – Judith of France. Judith was Ethelwulf’s second wife and there were no children from either of the marriages. Understandably the church looked askance at her marriage to her step-son.

Ethelbad died in 860 and was succeeded by is brother Ethelbert who also died without heirs so the throne passed to another brother Ethelred in 865.

King Ethelred or Æthelred I died on 23 April 871 at the Battle of Merton between the Saxons and the Great Heathern Army as the Danes were known. He was succeeded by his very well known brother King Alfred the Great.

When Alfred died he passed the throne to his son Edward the Elder in 899.

In 924/5 Athelstan succeeded his father. Athelstan realistically claimed the crown not only of Wessex but of England. He never married and when he died he was succeeded by his half brother Edmund I – or the Magnificent. He was murdered in 946 whitely having his diner in 946. His brother Edred succeeded him. Edred died in 955 and was succeeded by his nephew Edwy. As you can see the succession is not necessarily as straight forward one. Kings of Wessex and subsequently kings of England were chosen from a pool of people from the Cerdic bloodline.

Edwy the Fair ruled for four years before dying and being succeeded by his brother Edgar. Edgar married twice – his second marriage was to Elfrida who was somewhat scandalous. When Edgar died in 975 he was succeeded by his son from his first marriage Edward -who swiftly became known as Edward the Martyr when he was murdered at Corfe Castle by his step-mother Elfrida who wanted her own son to rule.

Edward the Martyr

Ethelred or Æthelred II now became king – history knows him as Ethelred or Æthelred the Unready. Unready simply means ill advised. He became king in 978 after the untimely demise of his half-brother. Ethelred married twice. His second wife was Emma of Normandy which was convenient when she, Ethelred and their sons Edward and Alfred had to flee England when Sweyn Forkbeard invaded.

Fugit emma regina cum pueris suis in normanniam cum pueris suis ut ibidem a duce patre suo protegatur.

Sweyn died in 1014. Ethelred returned and when he died two years later his son from his first marriage Edmund II or Edmund Ironside became king. He died the same year. Edmund had been married to Edith, the daughter of an East Anglian thane and their sons Edward and Edmund were sent to Denmark and from there sent to Hungary. Edmund died young but Edward married Agatha and would have a part to play in England’s history.

Edward spent most of his life in exile. He was eventually invited home by his half-uncle Edward the Confessor only to be murdered (in all likelihood) shortly after arrival in England. His son is better known in history as Edgar the Atheling who was proclaimed king after the Battle of Hastings and the death of King Harold. He was required to submit to William the Conqueror – though of course, that wasn’t the end of his story. Edgar’s sister is known in history as St Margaret.

Meanwhile Ethelred’s widow married to the Danish king Canute who took the throne after Edmund Ironside’s death. Canute or Cnut ruled from 30 November 1016 until 12 November 1035. He was succeeded by his son Hathacanute and then by his half-brother Harold Harefoot. Harold died in 1040 without heirs allowing the royal house of Wessex back into the picture.

Edward the Confessor – drawn from the Bayeux Tapestry

Ethelred the Unready’s son, Edward the Confessor now became king of England. He died on the 4th or 5th of January 1066. He had no direct heirs. Edgar the Atheling was too young to rule and was not sufficiently popular in any event so Harold Godwinson, the Earl of Wessex became King Harold II of England.

Weir Alison, Britain’s Royal Families.

History jar podcast episode 5 – The House of York

Episode 5 of the podcast is now available in the series No plan like yours to study history wisely. Having covered the Lancastrians in previous podcast we have now arrived at the house of York, descended thrice over from Edward III. This week we cover Richard of Consiburgh and Richard of York – not to mention assorted Earls of March before progressing to Edward IV, Richard III and the Princes in the Tower.

I’m relaxing a bit more but am aware that I can still improve the quality of the presentation – none the less I hope that you’re enjoying the podcasts. I’ve actually started to enjoy making them, not least because I now feel much more confident with the software…and am enjoying the sound effects!

With many thanks to Andrew Durrant of This is Distorted

And the legal bit:

This podcast uses sounds from free sound which are licensed under creative commons:

Ambient battle sounds by pfranzen at

Beheading SFX by Ajexk at

Canonfire sound by hellboy1305 at

History Jar Challenge 13 answers – royal mistresses since 1066

Maria Fitzherbert

William the Conqueror isn’t listed as having any known mistresses. He had no illegitimate children and it certainly appears that until his wife, Matilda of Flanders, supported their eldest son Robert Curthose in his rebellion against his father, that the couple worked effectively as a partnership.

There are many discussions about the sexuality of William Rufus. In the eighteenth century there was a suggestion that he might have had an illegitimate son but there is no contemporary evidence. The existence of illegitimate children, so long as the monarch recognised them, were the most likely way of a record of the mother being kept.

And then we arrive at Henry I – who is popular history remembers for having a large number of illegitimate children. His mistresses included: 1) Sybilla Corbet of Alcester. The Corbet’s were a powerful family and one of her daughters also named Sybilla was married to King Alexander of Scotland. Her eldest son Robert became the Earl of Gloucester who supported his half sister Matilda in her claim to the throne.

2) Ansfrida was the widow of a knight who held land owned by Abingdon Abbey. Henry “supported her in her troubles.” (Henry I Penguin Monarch series.) Their son Richard was drowned on the White Ship in 1120. Henry I was nothing if not equal in his attentions. Ansfrida has a Saxon name whereas 3) Edith’s father was Forn Sigulfson, Lord of Greystoke. His mistresses also included 4) Nesta, Princess of Deheubarth and 5)Isabella of Meulan. These women didn’t bear all his illegitimate children so there are a whole bunch of unknown mothers as well. It’s thought that one this life that Henry must have had at least ten mistresses from all walks of life. Henry not only acknowledged, educated and provided for his illegitimate children but he also provided influential husbands for the women.

King Stephen had far fewer mistresses than his uncle. 6) Dameta is listed as a gentlewoman of Normandy.

Henry II’s mistresses include a prostitute called 7) Ikenai; 8) Rosamund Clifford, 9)Ida de Tosny the daughter of the Earl of Leicester who was Henry II’s ward, 10) Alice of France who was actually betrothed to Henry’s son Richard at the time, 11) Nesta Bloet.

Richard the Lionheart had no illegitimate offspring and no recorded mistresses. His brother John on the other hand was a little too free with the wives, daughters and sisters of his barons. 12) The sister of the Earl of Surrey was one of John’s mistresses, 13) Clementine Pinel, 14) Hawise de Tracy,

Henry III seems to have had no known mistresses and neither does Edward I. Edward II who history links with Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despenser is recorded as having an illegitimate child called Adam by an unknown woman.

Edward III married Philippa of Hainault on 24th January 1328. The royal couple had thirteen children. Edward does not appear to have taken a mistress until Philippa became unwell. His mistress is the first mistress, aside from Fair Rosamund, that popular history tends to remember – 15) Alice Perrers- who gained a reputation for greed having Edward III’s ear in terms of politics and being in receipt of jewels and lands from her lover.

Richard II, Edward’s grandson was devoted to his wife Anne of Bohemia. His second wife Isabella of France was a child when she arrived in England, in later years she would marry the Duke of Orleans. There are no recorded mistresses. Henry IV is recorded as having an illegitimate child by an unknown woman but Henry V and Henry VI had no illegitimate children.

Edward IV on the other hand boasted on bedding the holiest, merriest and wiliest mistresses in the land! The holy mistress was 16) Lady Eleanor Butler to whom he might have been pre-contracted in marriage making his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville bigamous. The merriest mistress was 17) Jane Shore and the wiliest was 18) Elizabeth Lucy who bore a son called Arthur who would be educated with his nephew Henry and die in the Tower from a heart attack brought on by the news that he was to be released.

Henry VII has no recorded mistresses, though there are the dancing girls in the accounts of course. His predecessor Richard III did have illegitimate children but history does not record the names of their mothers.

Henry VIII is unusual in that many of his mistresses became his wives and there was of course the need for him to show his virility and ability to have a son. The only illegitimate child that was definitely illegitimate and who Henry acknowledged was Henry Fitzroy – his mother was 19) Bessie Blount. He had an affair with 20) Anne Stafford, 21) Mary Boleyn, 22) Anne Boleyn, 23) Madge Shelton, 24) Jane Seymour, 25) Catherine Howard, 26) Jane Popincourt, 27) Anne Basset (the step-daughter of Arthur Plantagenet), 28) Elizabeth Carew, 29) Margaret Skipworth, 30) Joan Dingley. Unless Henry VIII’s love life impacted on international politics or he married his mistress the tracking down of Henry’s mistresses is based on circumstantial evidence.

Henry’s children- Edward, Mary and Elizabeth ruled in turn. Questions, rumour and scandal attached themselves to Elizabeth’s relationship with Lord Robert Dudley.

James I had no illegitimate children and no recorded mistresses. There was scandal associated with his male favourites including Robert Carr the Earl of Somerset who was found guilty of murder and George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham who was assassinated during the reign of Charles I.

Charles I became devoted to his wife Henrietta Maria.

Charles II, the Merry Monarch, is famous for his mistresses: 31) Lucy Walter the mother of the Duke of Monmouth; 32) Elizabeth Killigrew; 33) Katherine Pegge of Yeldersley in Derbyshire whose son became the Earl of Plymouth; 34) Barbara Villiers; 35) Nell Gwyn; 36) Louise Renee, Duchess of Portsmouth and 37) Mary Davies. Presumably having spent so much time in Europe during the Commonwealth Period Charles happily adopted the french custom of the royal mistress as being a semi-official position. Charles is reported to have had somewhere in the region of twelve illegitimate offspring but unlike Henry VIII never attempted to annul his marriage in a bid to provide a royal heir.

James II was as well known for his womanising as his brother. He was required by Charles I to marry Anne Hyde the daughter of Lord Clarendon when she became pregnant. He also took 37) the daughter of Sir Winston Churchill as a mistress – she was the sister of the 1st Duke of Marlborough; 38) Katherine, Countess of Dorchester.

William and Mary and Anne followed but scandalous mistresses, leaving aside Anne’s close relationships with two of her ladies in waiting, only resumed with the arrival of the Hanoverians. There was a rumour that William of Orange had an affair with the Countess of Orkney – if we want to be strictly fair.

George I locked his wife Sophia Dorothea of Celle away when she committed adultery. 39) Melusine von der Schulenburg became George’s long term companion. They had three daughters. When he arrived in England in September 1714 had two mistresses with him. There were also 18 cooks.

George II who famously told Queen Caroline on her deathbed that he wouldn’t marry again – just have mistresses. The most famous mistress was 40) Henrietta Howard; 41) Amalia, Countess of Yarmouth.

George III is said to have married 42) Hannah Lightfoot the daughter of a shoemaker prior to his wedding to Sophia Charlotte.

George IV is said to have married 43) Maria Fitzherbert who was a Catholic. He described her as his wife of “heart and soul.” Their marriage was declared invalid because of her religion and because George had not sought his father’s permission which he knew would not be granted. when George died he asked to be buried with a miniature of Maria around his neck. He had other mistresses 44) Grace Daymple; 45) Mary Robinson; 46) Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey; 47) Isabella Ingram-Seymour, Marchioness of Hertford; 48) Elizabeth Conyngham, Marchioness of Conyngham. There was also Eliza Crole who was a theatre manager’s daughter.

William IV had been quite happily living with 49) Dorothy Jordan when he was Duke of Clarence until it became clear that he would need an heir. In 1811 William put Dorothy or Dorothea to one side and married an heiress.

Victoria – I’ll leave aside films that link Victoria semi romantically with John Brown.

Edward VII known as Edward the Caresser seems to have taken Henry I as a model on a far grander scale. It was once estimated that he had something like 50 affairs! According to popular history he was sent off to spend time with the grenadier guards who arranged for his education to be extended thanks to Nellie Clifden. In Paris he apparently enjoyed the company of several prostitutes. House parties involving the Prince of Wales and then the king involved discrete rooming arrangements. 50) Hortense Schneider; 51) Giulia Barucci; 52) Susan Pelham-Clinton; 53) Lillie Langtry; 54) Daisy Greville the Countess of Warwick – her maiden name was Brooke and it resulted in the sobriquet “babbling.”; 55) Agnes Keyser; 56) Jenny Churchill (Sir Winston’s mother) 57) Alice Keppel who was at his deathbed in 1910. Edward never acknowledged any illegitimate children – though that doesn’t mean there weren’t any if the rumours of the time are anything to go by. 58) Susan Vane Tempest is said to have had a child in 1873 but Susan died in 1875 and the trail goes cold.

George V was more interested in collecting stamps than women but Edward VIII who was never crowned took many mistresses when he was Prince of Wales. His affair and determination to marry twice divorced Wallis Simpson resulted in his abdication.

Freidman, Dennis. Ladies of the bedchamber: The Role of the Royal Mistress

Ridley, Jane. Bertie: A Life of Edward VII

History Jar Challenge 13

Fair Rosamund Clifford, the mistress of King Henry II by Dante Gabriel Rosetti. In 1174 Henry II acknowledged his relationship with Rosamund having probably turned to her when Queen Eleanor was pregnant with the couple’s final child – John. She retired to Godstow Nunnery where she had been educated in 1176. Fable says that Henry hid his mistress from Queen Eleanor in a maze at Woodstock but that Eleanor found her and offered her a choice between a dagger and a bowl of poison. Rosamund drank the poison. The story does not appear before the fourteenth century. rosamond’s tomb was moved from inside Godstow Church on the orders of Hugh of Lincoln but the tomb itself was only finally lost with the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Royal mistresses since 1066, this week, if you please. We’ll leave Elizabeth I’s romantic attachments to one side and Queen Anne’s as well. Some monarchs are remarkably discreet, others less so. Henry VII for example was not known for his mistresses – but his account book reveals payment to “dancing girls” …they may just have been dancing. Other mistresses have achieved notoriety and in the case of Henry VIII’s mistresses, in many instances, the Crown itself. You may find yourself dealing with potentially bigamous monarchs as well this week. Good luck.

History Jar Challenge 12 answers – first born daughters of monarchs since 1066

Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales – daughter of George IV
by George Dawe
oil on canvas, 1817
NPG 51
© National Portrait Gallery, London

This is a tricky one – how did you do?

We’re not sure if William’s wife Matilda bore any daughters after the Conqueror became king of England in 1066. His eldest daughter Cecilia was born some time around 1054 and she was sent to the Abbey of the Holy Trinity just prior to the invasion of 1066. She became a bride of Christ, sealing the compact that her father was making with God in exactly the same way that a royal bride would seal any other treaty. She would one day become the abbess at Caen.

William Rufus was unmarried

Henry I had only two legitimate children. His first daughter Euphemia died whilst still a baby but the second daughter Adelaide born in 1102 took the name Matilda upon her marriage and is better known as the Empress Matilda – The Lady of the English.

King Stephen’s eldest surviving daughter, Mary, became a nun in Romsey Abbey Hampshire and in time became it’s abbess. Which sounds straight forward enough until you realise that when her brother William died she succeeded him as the Countess of Boulogne in 1159. Matthew I Count of Flanders abducted her from her convent and married her despite the fact that she was very clearly a nun. The couple had two daughters but the married was eventually annulled and Mary entered a French nunnery where she died in 1182.

Henry II’s eldest daughter was named after her grandmother Matilda. She married Henry “the Lion” of Saxony and Bavaria., a keen supporter of his cousin Frederick Barbarossa. He was an extremely powerful prince – so definitely a dynastic marriage as Henry sought to create his empire.

Richard I had no issue.

John’s daughter Joan fund herself married off to Alexander II of Scotland in 1221 when she was eleven. She died in 1238. Matthew Paris, the chronicler, suggests that the royal couple had a falling out and in 1237 when Joan came with her husband to England to negotiate with Henry III the Scottish queen remained in England. Henry granted her various manors and it is said that she died in the arms of her brothers Henry III and Richard of Cornwall. Henry must have love this sister very much because the effigy he ordered for her tomb some fourteen years after her death is the first we have of a queen in England.

Henry III’s first daughter Margaret married Alexander II’s successor, Alexander III. Alexander III was the son of Alexander of Scotland and his first wife Mary de Coucy. Alexander III was the monarch who died when his horse plunged from a cliff, allegedly, on a dark and stormy night leaving his and Margaret’s granddaughter, known as the Maid of Norway, to inherit the Scottish throne. Her death ultimately led to Edward I’s claim of overlordship and the Scottish Wars of Independence.

Edward I’s eldest daughter was named Eleanor, presumably after her mother Eleanor of Castile. The issue Rolls of 1302 describe her as Edward’s eldest daughter. She was first married to Alfonso III of Aragon by proxy but the marriage was never consummated as he died. She then married Henry III, Count of Bar.

Edward II’s daughter was another Eleanor who married Reginald II, Count of Guilders and Zuptphen. He would one day become his brother-in-law, Edward III’s, closest ally against the french when he launched the Hundred Years War. However, in 1338 Eleanor contracted leprosy – or so Reginald the Black said- her husband banished her from court. She became a nun.

Edward III’s daughter was Isabella – so he can’t have had that much of a grudge against his mother Isabella of France- she was born in 1332 at Woodstock and would on to marry Enguerrand II, Lord of Coucy. Her husband’s father is described as a “brigand-lord.” Coucy is in Picardy. Her father, to whom she was close, had attempted to marry her off when she was just three to Pedro of Castile, though this match was ultimately negotiated for Isabella’s younger sister. As her father’s favourite she was a bit over indulged and unusually didn’t get married until she was 33. When she was 19 she was betrothed to the son of the Lord of Albret. The fleet that was going to take her to her spouse was all set to sail but Isabella changed her mind and the marriage was called off – demonstrating Edward’s indulgence. Instead he granted her 1,000 marks a year and she eventually married her husband who was seven years her junior. He was actually a hostage for John II of France. The couple met at Windsor, Edward made a huge settlement on the couple, including lands that had once belonged to Enguerrand’s family across the north of England. Edward even made his son-in-law the Earl of Bedford.

Richard II had no issue.

Henry IV’s eldest daughter was named Blanche after her paternal grandmother. She was born in 1392 before Henry usurped his cousin’s throne. Her marriage to Louis Duke of Bavaria and Count Palatine was another dynastic arrangement. As with many women, she died in childbirth.

Henry V and Henry VI had one son each but no daughters.

Edward IV’s eldest daughter was Elizabeth of York, who found herself married to Henry Tudor bringing the Wars of the Roses to a close.

Elizabeth of York

Richard III had no legitimate daughters. His illegitimate daughter Katherine married William Herbert, Earl of Huntingdon. He had been Earl of Pembroke but was made to give it up by Edward IV along with his lands to Prince Edward (the one who died along with his brother in the Tower.) By 1487 he is listed as a widower.

Henry VII’s eldest daughter was Margaret who was sent north to marry James IV of Scotland. After James’ death at Flodden in 1513, Margaret married for a second time to Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus. She is the grandmother of Mary Queen of Scots and Henry Lord Darnley. She is also the great grandmother of Arbella Stuart. Margaret’s life was complicated by her flight from Scotland to England, her divorce from her second husband and her third marriage to Lord Methven. She died in 1541.

Unknown woman, formerly known as Margaret Tudor
by Unknown French artist
oil on panel, circa 1520
NPG 1173

Henry VIII’s eldest daughter became Bloody Mary. She was succeeded by her Protestant half-sister Elizabeth. Mary married Philip II of Spain. Neither Mary nor Elizabeth had any children.

Elizabeth was succeeded by Margaret Tudor’s great grandson James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England. His eldest daughter was named after Elizabeth. James I who saw himself as a peacemaker married Elizabeth to the Protestant prince Frederick Henry who was the Elector Palatine of the Rhine and for one winter the King of Bohemia. Elizabeth is often known as the Winter Queen. Her sons Rupert and Maurice played an active part in their uncle’s campaign to retain his throne during the English Civil War.

Elizabeth Stuart, aged about 10 years by Robert Peake the Elder,
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Charles I’s eldest daughter Mary married William II of Orange. She was the mother of William III of Orange who married his cousin Mary, the daughter of King James II.

Charles II had no legitimate children.

James II inherited the throne from his brother. His two daughters from his first marriage to Anne Hyde became Queen Mary and Queen Anne in turn. Neither of his daughters had children who survived to adulthood.

The House of Hanover is descended from Elizabeth, the Winter Queen. Elizabeth’s daughter Sophia married Ernest Augustus of Brunswick-Luneberg. She died in June 1714 shortly before her cousin Queen Anne. Her son, George Elector of Hanover was invited to become king of England.

Electress Sophia, Princess Palatine, consort of Ernest Augustus, Elector of Hanover (1630–1714)
Held by the National Trust, Ashdown House, Oxfordshire

George I’s eldest daughter, Sophia Dorothea, was born in 1685 so a long while before the crown passed into George’s hands. She married Frederick William who became the first king of Prussia. One of her sons was Frederick the Great of Prussia. Sophia had fourteen children with her husband who had an unpredictable temper.

George II’s eldest daughter Anne was created Princess Royal in 1729. She married William IV of Orange. She died in 1759.

George III’s eldest daughter was called Charlotte Augusta Matilda and she married Frederick I of Wurttemburg.

George IV’s daughter another Charlotte Augusta died in childbirth in 1817.

William IV’s eldest daughter was …yes you’ve guessed…Charlotte Augusta. She was born on the 27th March 1819 and died on the same day.

Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter was Victoria who married Frederick III of Prussia, so a descendent of Sophia Dorothea of Hanover, the daughter of George I. Victoria and Frederick’s son was, of course, Kaiser Wilhelm.

Edward VII’s eldest daughter was Louise and she married the Marquess of MacDuff who became the 1st Duke of Fife. Lousie and MacDuff were inevitably related, both being descended from George III. She married him in 1889 and it was only the second time one of Victoria’s immediate family cycle had married a British subject rather than being part of Victoria and Albert’s plan to create a royal family network that covered Europe.

George V’s eldest daughter was Victoria known as Mary and she arrive Henry Lascelles, the 6th Earl of Harewood.

Edward VIII abdicated and had no heirs.

George VI’s eldest daughter became Queen Elizabeth II.

Elizabeth II’s eldest daughter, Princess Anne became the Princess royal in 1987. She was married first to Captain Mark Philips, they separated two years after Anne became Princess Royal and divorced in 1992. She then married Sir Timothy Laurence.

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

Picture quiz 2 – the Sutton Hoo helmet

The picture I gave you last weekend was the mouthpiece.

The Sutton Hoo helmet was found in 1939 when a ship burial was excavated in Suffolk near Woodbridge. The ship – identified by the ghost of its decayed timbers and rivets was 27 meters long. It is believed to have belonged to King Raedwald of East Anglia. So, of seventh century origins. But because of the dates of the coins found with the helmet there are other possible owners for the ornate helmet including my own favourite King Anna.

Bede records that Raedwald converted to Christianity during a visit to Kent but reverted to Paganism on return home.

Anna was descended from the Wufflingas family – or Wuffling – what’s not to like? His father was Raedwald’s nephew. The family was related to the famous Abbess Hild of Whitby.

As for the helmet – it contains over 4,000 garnets so it belonged to a very important man indeed. Amongst the contents of the tomb were items from Scandinavia and the Mediterranean, demonstrating the complexity of early medieval trade routes as well as changing the way that Historian’s viewed the Anglo-Saxon world.

The BBC identified the helmet as one of the world’s most important 100 objects.