Category Archives: surprising connections

Edward III, Danny Dyer and the Emperor Charlemagne

220px-king_edward_iii_from_npgEdward III is sometimes described as “The Father of the Nation.” According to one of my old copies of Who Do You Think You Are magazine approximately four million people along with the likes of Danny Dyer are descended from King Edward III. Ian Mortimer’s book on Edward III suggests that the actual figure is somewhere between 80 and 95% of the population of England- perhaps ‘Father of Millions’ would have been a better name.

(And wasn’t it a brilliant opening episode of Who Do You Think You Are?– I hope there’re more episodes this series that go back up a family tree as far as possible but I doubt anyone will look quite as stunned as East Enders’ actor Danny when he found himself sitting in Westminster Abbey with a pedigree as long as your arm in his hand – and then there’s the Cromwell link!)

So, where to start if you want to know more about Edward III? Edward III was rather helpfully the son of Edward II. Edward II was married to Isabella of France – the warmly named “She-Wolf” who arrived in England aged twelve to discover that her spouse had a preference for his male companions, in particular Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despencer. Chroniclers of the period are disapproving of Edward’s friendships. To cut a long and complicated story down to size Edward II was deposed by Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer when young Prince Edward was just fourteen.   Edward II disappeared from the scene via Berkeley Castle and a helping hand; though there are some interesting theories that his death was somewhat exaggerated.

 

Young Prince Edward became King Edward III though the power behind the throne was in the hands of his mother and Roger Mortimer. Edward III became increasingly concerned about his perilous position vis a vis Mortimer who behaved as though he was king. Edward, aged just seventeen in 1330 seized his opportunity in Nottingham when his men were able to sneak into the castle through a network of tunnels, surprise Mortimer and take back power. Edward III went on to reign until his death in 1377; some fifty years plus a few months.

 

Edward married Philippa of Hainault in York Minster in 1328 and proved a most uxorious monarch though that didn’t stop him having several illegitimate children with his mistress, the avaricious Alice Perrers, after Philippa’s death. The royal pair had thirteen children of whom nine survived to adulthood – I’m not sure what the maths is but to expand from nine (plus a hand full of illegitimate children) to at least four million descendents is jaw dropping. If you want to understand the maths better double click on the picture at the start of this post to open up a new page and an article in the National Geographic which also explains how come you might be related to the Emperor Charlemagne even if you don’t have the family tree and paper trail to prove it.

 

What do we know of Edward’s children? Let’s deal with the boys first. Edward of Woodstock, the so-called Black Prince and the hero of Crecy was born in 1330. He made a love match with his cousin Joan of Kent (who had a dodgy marital past of her own). They had two sons but the eldest died when he was just six. The second boy, Richard of Bordeaux, became Richard II when his grandfather died – the Black Prince having pre-deceased his father. Richard II had no children. So far so straight forward and no sign of the four million.

Lionel of Antwerp was Edward’s third son but only the second to survive to adulthood. Lionel was married twice. His second bride was Violante Visconti of Piedmont. Lionel died shortly after arriving in Italy and definitely before he had the chance to go doing any begetting. The word ‘poison’ was bandied around at the time and it should be noted that Violante’s second husband was also murdered.  Lionel did have a child from his first marriage– a girl called Philippa who found herself married into the Mortimer family in the person of Edmund Mortimer (a difficult opening conversation might have been “your grandfather was my grandma’s lover and then my dad had him dragged off and executed!”) The House of York would one day base its claim to the English throne on its descent from Philippa. That line was also descended from Lionel’s younger brother Edmund of Langley hence the York bit. There are rather a lot of girls in Lionel’s strand of descent through the family tree.  Reason enough for bloodlines getting lost over time as younger daughters of younger daughters gradually tumbled down the social ladder and that’s before warfare, treachery, bad luck as well as just being plain unimportant get involved in the equation.

 

The next son to arrive in Edward III’s and Philippa of Hainhault’s nursery was John of Gaunt. John, the duke of Lancaster, through his first marriage to his distant cousin Blanche fathered the Lancastrian line of kings – Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI. He had two daughters with his second wife Constance of Castile but they married royalty on the Iberian Peninsula. It is through one of them that Katherine of Aragon is descended from Edward III.

 

John of Gaunt also had a third family with his mistress Katherine Swynford. This family was later legitimised by the pope and by parliament. This family were called Beaufort after one of John’s castles in France. It is through the Beaufort line that Henry Tudor would one day make his claim to the throne. Students of the Wars of the Roses know that the problem for the House of Lancaster was that there was a shortage of males by 1485, hence the rather dodgy claim of Henry Tudor. However, there were plenty of girls in the distant family tree when you look at it closely – all of them, well at least the ones who didn’t die in infancy or become nuns, contributing to the projected four million descendants of Edward III.

 

The next prince was Edmund of Langley who became the duke of York. He married the younger sister of John of Gaunt’s second wife Constance of Castile and there were offspring. Edward III had three more sons after that, Thomas and William who both died in infancy and then came Thomas of Woodstock who was created duke of Gloucester. He’s the one who ended up murdered in Calais on the orders of his nephew Richard II – a mattress was involved – but not before he’d fathered a number of children.

 

Now – for the girls who, it would have to be said, are much more straightforward. Edward III’s eldest daughter was called Isabella. She had two daughters, one of whom married in to the de Vere family – meaning that the earls of Oxford can trace their ancestry back to Edward III as well as to other Plantagenets. The next girl was called Joan and she was one of the first victims of the Black Death that struck in 1349. Her sister Blanche died in infancy in 1342. The next two sisters weren’t particularly long lived either. Their names were Mary and Margaret. So far as history is currently aware none of the last four had offspring.

 

Edward III also had a number of known illegitimate children. Alison Weir lists them as John Surrey, Joan, Jane and possibly Nicholas Lytlington who became the Abbot of Westminster but there is uncertainty as to his paternity. He could also have been a Dispenser. I should like to say that as an abbot it isn’t really an issue, except of course being in clerical orders doesn’t seemed to have prevented rather a lot of the clergy from fathering children.

 

And those are the key names if you’re one of the four million. Of course, it turns out that if you’re from Western Europe and understand mathematics (its true apparently even if you don’t understand the maths) you’re also related to the Emperor Charlemagne – which is mildly disconcerting. If you just want to find out more about Britain’s royal genealogy then the most comprehensive place to look is at Alison Weir’s  Britain’s Royal Families published by Vintage Books.

I’m off to find my gateway ancestor… though I must admit to never having seen a genealogical expert just sitting around, waiting for me to turn up in order to point me in the right direction. Ho hum!

 

 

 

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Great Malvern Priory

IMG_7747.JPGWhat a gem!  Great Malvern Priory was founded in 1085 by a hermit, Aldwin, from Worcester Abbey on land belonging to Westminster Abbey.  This means that during the life of Great Malvern’s monastic establishment it looked to  Benedictine Westminster for direction which is why it’s a priory rather than an abbey in its own right.

Aldwin was supported and guided by Bishop Wulfstan of Worcester who went on to become one of King John’s favourite saints. The priory also received its charter and funding from  William the Conqueror who gave charters to many monasteries – a reminder that the conquest of England had the Pope’s blessing and that William was conscious of the need to give thanks for his victory. Henry I and Edward III confirmed and renewed the charter. The priory wasn’t without its problems though.  The fact that it was on Westminster Abbey land but founded by a monk from Worcester and looked to the Worcester for guidance led to friction at various times in the priory’s history.

DSC_0102The pillars in the nave of today’s building are Norman and there are odd clues to the Norman past scattered about the building but the priory as it stands today dates largely from the fifteenth century.  The Bishop of Worcester was called upon to consecrate the new build in 1460 – just as the Wars of the Roses really got started (Battle of Wakefield December 30 1460).  However, the new build ensured that assorted Lancaster and York monarchs added their ‘bit’ to the decor from Henry VI’s tiles via Richard III’s stained glass windows to Henry VII. At least those monarchs wanted to enhance the building, finished in 1502.

In 1535 Dr Legh, one of Cromwell’s commissioners and a bit of a thug by all accounts,  visited the priory.  Things can’t have been that bad as there is no report of his findings amongst Cromwell’s documents.  According to the Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535, the income of the prior and convent amounted to £375 0s. 6½ d. It escaped the act suppressing the small monasteries, although a cell belonging to the priory wasn’t so fortunate.

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In 1539 the monastery was dissolved despite the please of Hugh Latimer the Bishop of Worcester (he would ultimately go to the flames in the reign of Mary Tudor for his Protestantism). He wrote to Cromwell on behalf of the prior; ‘at the request of an honest man, the prior of GreatMalvern, of my diocese,’ pleads for the ‘upstandynge’ of his house, and continuance of the same to many good purposes, ‘not in monkery . . . but to maintain teaching, preaching, study with praying, and (to the which he is much given) good “howsekepynge,” for to the “vertu” of hospitality he hath been greatly inclined from his beginning, and is very much commended in these parts for the same . . . The man is old, a good “howsekepere,” feeds many, and that daily, for the country is poor and full of penury. Alas, my good lord, shall not we see two or three in each shire changed to such remedy? . . Sir William Kingston can report of the man further.’ The letter dated 13 December 1538 finishes with flattery: “Blessed be God of England that worketh all, whose instrument you be! I heard you say once after you had seen that furious invective of cardinal Pole that you would make him to eat his own heart, which you have now, [I trow], brought to pass, for he must [needs] now eat his own heart, and be[as] heartless as he is graceless.”  Latimer went on to offer Cromwell 200 marks and the king 500 if they would spare the priory.

Not that it did any good. By January 1539 the priory had been suppressed and the lead stripped from its roof.  The prior, one Richard Whitborn, received h £66 13s. 4d. each year.  Ultimately, in 1541, the parishioners of Great Malvern purchased the priory for £20.00 as the original parish church was in a poor state.  They acquired the “stateliest parish church in England.” The parish church of St Mary and St Michael is without a shadow of a doubt a show stopper.

 

A second post will consider Great Malvern’s medieval tiles whilst a third post will explore the wonderful medieval windows and also a fourth post on the glass given by Richard III and by Henry VII.  As you might guess, I spent a very happy morning in Great Malvern Priory although I wasn’t able to study the misericords (the ledges on which the monks could rest during services) because of work being done in the choir of the church.  Great Malvern is unusual in that as well as depicting a mermaid on its misericords it also has a merman.

For fans of C.S. Lewis it is also worth noting that he went to school in Malvern College just before World War One and whilst he was there he may have been inspired by the enclosed east doors of the priory church which ultimately turned into the wardrobe by which the Pevensies entered Narnia.  A glimpse through the lock reveals a fir tree and a lamp post.

‘Houses of Benedictine monks: Priory of Great Malvern’, in A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 2, ed. J W Willis-Bund and William Page (London, 1971), pp. 136-143. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/worcs/vol2/pp136-143 [accessed 16 August 2016].

Cleop. E. iv.264. B. M.Wright’s Suppression of the Monasteries,148. ‘Henry VIII: December 1538 11-15’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 13 Part 2, August-December 1538, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1893), pp. 438-455. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol13/no2/pp438-455 [accessed 23 August 2016].

‘Parishes: Great Malvern with Newland’, in A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 4, ed. William Page and J W Willis-Bund (London, 1924), pp. 123-134. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/worcs/vol4/pp123-134 [accessed 16 August 2016].

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Edward IV’s wily mistress…or should that be elusive mistress?

images-17I’ve become side tracked by Edward IV’s mistresses and illegitimate children. I’ve already posted about his holiest mistress – Lady Eleanor Butler and I posted last year about the ‘merriest mistress’ Jane, or rather Elizabeth, Shore. I may write another post about her in due course. That just leaves the wiliest mistress – who would appear to be Elizabeth Lucie or Lucy nee Wayte and who often merits only a sentence in works on Edward IV  because unlike the other two very little is known about her.

There were other women as well but they seem to have been so numerous and so unimportant in the great scheme of things that no one bothered to jot down their names. Polydore Vergil writing after 1505 for his Anglica Historia commissioned by Henry VII suggests that Edward may have made overtures in some very inappropriate places – including the Earl of Warwick’s wider household “and yt caryeth soome colour of truthe, which commonly is reportyd, that king Edward showld have assayed to do soome unhonest act in the earls howse; for as muche as the king was a man who wold readyly cast an eye upon yowng ladyes, and loove them inordinately.” Obviously it wasn’t in Vergil’s best interest to sell the York king as a choir boy but then neither did anyone else. Commines noted that much of Edward IV’s problem was his interest in pleasure. Mancini described him as “licentious in the extreme.” He also wrote “he (Edward) pursued with no discrimination the married and unmarried the noble and lowly: however he took none by force.”  According to Ross, the Croyland Chronicle was amazed that Edward was able to rule a kingdom whilst partaking of so many “sensual enjoyments.” Gregory’s Chronicle, which Ross notes is the most contemporary of the reports, commented that Edward wasn’t very chaste…something of an understatement it would appear.

 

Sir Thomas More, who was only four when Edward died, wrote about Elizabeth Lucy and seems to have mistaken her with Eleanor Butler – either that or Edward spent his time running around the countryside promising to marry unsuitable widows whenever they put up a bit of resistance to his advances. He writes, “The Duchess (Cecily, Duchess of York, Edward IV’s mother), with these words nothing appeased, and seeing the King (Edward IV) so set thereon that she could not pull him back, so highly she disdained it that under pretext of her duty to God, she devised to disturb this marriage [to Elizabeth Woodville], and rather to help that he should marry one Dame Elizabeth Lucy, whom the King had also not long before gotten with child. Wherefore the King’s mother objected openly against his marriage, as it were in discharge of her conscience, that the King was betrothed to Dame Elizabeth Lucy, and her husband before God….Whereupon Dame Elizabeth Lucy was sent for. And although she was by the King’s mother and many others filled with good encouragement-to affirm that she was betrothed unto the King-yet when she was solemnly sworn to say the truth, she confessed that they were never betrothed. However, she said his Grace spoke so loving words unto her that she verily hoped he would have married her, and that if it had not been for such kind words, she would never have showed such kindness to him, to let him so kindly get her with child.”

 

So just who was Dame Elizabeth Lucy? Ashdown-Hill, pro-Richardian historian, identifies her as the daughter of Thomas Wayte of Hampshire. Further digging around reveals that this is not necessarily the case. Michael Hicks notes that  More was wrong about the pre-contract and goes on to suggest that he was also wrong about the lady’s name as there is no one by the name of Elizabeth Lucy in the records – at least not some one of reasonably noble birth. Digging around on the Internet yielded an interesting forum discussion which identifies Margaret FitzLewis widow of Sir William Lucy. Its perhaps not surprising then that historians have placed her social status as anything from the wife/daughter of the peer of the realm to good-time girl or  as the Seventeenth Century historian Buck described her – a ‘wanton wench.’

 

Byrne is much more clear cut in her introduction to the Lisle Letters. She places Elizabeth Lucy as being a nineteen-year-old widow  of  Lancastrian connections from an established Hampshire family holding a number of manors when she met the king.

 

Whoever the elusive Elizabeth really was she is the mother of Arthur Plantagenet (born anytime between 1461 and 1475 depending upon which source you read but Byrne opts for 1462) who is referenced as having family in Hampshire, a fact which is corroborated in the Lisle Letters which locates the Wayte family, or parts of it, in Titchfield. Arthur also had a sister called Elizabeth (born 1464 ish), though apparently we can’t even agree on that, some researchers argue that actually she was called Margaret…so there’s either a name error or possibly two daughters.  And of course, some historians argue that because of the possible difference in their ages Arthur and Elizabeth might not have had the same mother (yes I know, if there’s only about three years between them that its not an issue but there is a reference which suggests Arthur was born in 1475 -so a lot of ifs, buts and maybes.)

Any way, Elizabeth daughter of Edward IV married Thomas Lumley of Durham. The Duchess of Cambridge is numbered among her descendants. Further evidence as to Elizabeth’s royal father is provided by the papal dispensation which allowed Elizabeth’s son Roger to marry Anne Conyers – the two of them being related within the prohibited degrees of affinity (something like fourth cousins) Testamenta Eboracensia 3 (Surtees Soc., vol. 45) (1865): 355).

History isn’t totally sure what happened to Elizabeth Lucy nee Wayte. She simply disappears from the records which suggests that either the king was no longer interested in her, she died or if she was from the lower social orders simply got on with her life along with countless other undocumented medieval people.  Putting a post on Elizabeth Lucy together is rather like a composite character exercise!

Edward IV did have other illegitimate children, not counting his children with Elizabeth Woodville who found themselves delegitimised by their Uncle Richard, but history doesn’t provide them with mothers. Grace Plantagenet, for example, turns up at the funeral of Elizabeth Woodville but beyond that we know very little.  There is a tantalising hint of an unknown daughter marrying into the Musgrave family but it was unsupported by any evidence. There’s a better evidenced possibility of the wife of the 6th Baron Audley being one of Edward IV’s daughters – though I’m sure that there are probably arguments for her being someone else entirely!

 

Ashdown-Hill, John (1999) ‘The Elusive Mistress: Elizabeth Lucy and Her Family’ in The Richardian  11 (June 1999), pp. 490–505. 31

Crawford, Anne. (2007)  The Yorkists: The History of a Dynasty. London: Continuum

Given-Wilson & A. Curteis (1984) Royal Bastards of Medieval London:Routledge and Keegan

England

Hicks, Michael. (2002) English Political Culture in the Fifteenth Century.  New York: Routledge

Hicks, Micael (2004) Edward IV London: Bloomsbury

Ross, Charles Derek. (1997)  Edward IV (English Monarchs Series)  New Haven and London: Yale University Press

St. Clare Byrne, Murial (1983) The Lisle Letters: An Abridgement

Weir, Alison (1994) The Princes In The Tower  London:Random House

http://www.thomasmorestudies.org/docs/Richard.pdf

Elizabeth Waite, in Lundy, Darryl. The Peerage: A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain as well as the royal families of Europe.

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Filed under Fifteenth Century, Kings of England, surprising connections, The Plantagenets, Wars of the Roses

Christina of Denmark, Duchess of Milan

holbein-christina-denmark-duchess-milan-NG2475-fm

In October 1537 Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour, died from complications following childbirth. Henry, a man notorious for divorcing his first wife and beheading his second was in need of a new wife – or at least that was the view of his chief minister Thomas Cromwell.

Cromwell’s attention initially fell upon Marie de Guise a young widow with a son – so a proven track record for the production of heirs. She was also purported to be a tall woman, something that Henry liked the sound of when he Marie was described to him. Marie however declined the offer of marriage explaining that she only had a little neck. She went on to marry James V of Scotland.

Henry next suggested that all the eligible women in France on Cromwell’s list of suitable brides make like to meet in Calais – think of it as a Tudor hen night where the king could choose his next wife on the grounds that Henry didn’t trust his ambassadors and he was determined he didn’t want to marry an ugly princess. Unsurprisingly the prospective brides and their families were not terribly impressed with the idea – the French ambassador explained that diplomatic marriages were not horse markets . There was also the small matter of the fact that Henry had been excommunicated- which rather put off the Catholic brides.

Ultimately Cromwell sent Hans Holbein on a fact-finding trip with his paintbrush and easel. One of the most striking portraits that Holbein painted at this time was that of sixteen-year-old Christina of Denmark. Christina was the younger daughter of Christian II of Denmark and Isabella of Austria (sister of Charles V). Christian was an early follower of Luther – even if Charles V was very Catholic.  Christian was a bit of an unfortunate king – his wife died, his children were effectively confiscated by their Hapsburg uncle and then he managed to get himself toppled and imprisoned – so Christina of Denmark was actually more Christina of the Netherlands. In some ways she was already part of the English royal family because her great-aunt was none other than Katherine of Aragon.

In addition to being a Hapsburg she was also, as this picture shows, a very pretty girl. She’d been married by proxy at the age of eleven to the Duke of Milan who was a mere twenty-six years older that her. He died two years later – hence the deep black of mourning- Christina returning to her uncle in Brussels so that he could arrange the next advantageous diplomatic marriage. Like Marie she was a tad concerned about the English King’s way with the ladies. She is supposed to have said that if she had two heads one of them would be at the disposal of Henry. Charles V who was looking for allies against the French seems little bothered about the way in which his aunt had been treated and was quite prepared to send his niece across the Channel…unless a better offer came along.

As a consequence of the initial negotiations Holbein visited Brussels in 1538. Christina sat for a portrait but only for three hours.  Holbein did his preliminary drawings, came home and whipped up the portrait.  And what a portrait! This is the only full-length female portrait that Holbein made (I think if memory serves me correctly). The colours and the simplicity of the picture concentrate the viewer on Christina’s hands and face as does the beautifully executed fur collar.  There is a hint of a smile on Christina’s face – perhaps she knew she wouldn’t have to marry Henry!  Henry liked the portrait so much that he announced that he was in love.

For some reason the negotiations did not continue. Christina married François, Duc de Bar in 1541, who succeeded his father as Duc de Lorraine in 1544 and died in 1545, leaving Christina Regent of Lorraine with three children. She died in 1590. As for the portrait – well Henry liked it so much he kept it.

The image for this post was accessed from http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/hans-holbein-the-younger-christina-of-denmark-duchess-of-milan 08/11/2015 @ 23:26

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Ivo de Taillebois

norman frenchIvo de Taillebois arrived in England in 1066 with William of Normandy. Accounts are not clear cut as to who his parents were, Fulk of Anjou is a possible contender for the title. There is also a suggestion that like William, Ivo may have been illegitimate.

Many of the records related to Ivo are vague or lost.  One thing is clear.  He did well from the invasion. He gained parts of Lancashire, Westmorland and also Lincolnshire. He became Sheriff of that County two years after the invasion and features as an extensive landowner in the Domesday Book. There is some debate as to how Ivo acquired Kendal or Kendale, which later became a barony. The Strickland sisters say that he married a Saxon Noblewoman, Lucy, Countess of Chester, sister of the earls Edwin of Mercia and Morcar of Northumbria. Lands in Kendal would have come to him through his marriage but it is also evident that he was given lands by William Rufus. It is certain that he gave the church in Kendale to St Mary’s Abbey in York. It should also be added that the Scots were only driven out of Cumbria in 1092 – so Kendal was no sinecure.  The remains of his motte and bailey castle can be viewed at Castle Howe, the stone castle is from a later period.

 

But back to Lucy. She held lands in and around Spalding. This may have been part of the reason, along with his role as King’s man, that Ivo found himself in Ely taking up arms against Hereward the Wake in 1071. Lucy’s brothers were also caught up in the rebellion against the conqueror – making their lands forfeit- so Ivo seems to have done quite well out of it all. No one seems to have recorded what Lucy thought of all this or the fact that she appears to have been married not once, not twice but thrice (her third husband being Ranulf le Meschin) dying in 1131. One thing is clear though Lucy has disappeared into history leaving some very fragmentary and tantalizing historical evidence behind her.

 

In addition to Kendal, Ivo was also overlord of Furness. The man’s family tree is complicated. Evidence suggested that he may have been married twice before marrying Lucy. Other evidence taken from Ingulph de Croydon- the Croyland Chronicle- and reproduced in Some Records of Two Lakeland Towns by Brydson paints an unappealing picture of Kendal’s first Norman lord:

 

“All the people in his domains were very careful to appear humble before Taillebois, and never to address him without bending one knee to the earth, but though they were anxious to render him all homage, he made no return of goodwill. On the contrary he vexed, tormented, and imprisoned them, and loaded

them with daily cruelties ; his truly diabolical spirit loved evil for evil’s sake. He would often set his dogs to pursue other men’s cattle, would scatter the animals far and wide, drown them in the lakes, maim them in various ways, and make them unfit for service by breaking their limbs or backs. Ivo was not only absolved, but praised for all he had done in extortion, pillage, and murder.”

 

Sounds charming!  And he was a forebear of Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth queen and also of George Washington.

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A captain, a cupboard and a viking – a cupboard full of Hubbards

charlesCaptain John Hubbard served upon seven royal naval vessels during the reign of Charles II when the country was at war with the Dutch.  In 1665 he commanded the Happy Return at the Battle of Lowestoft which saw a great victory.  In 1666 he was made captain of the Royal Charles, previously known as the Naseby (and one of Cromwell’s most prized vessels).   The following year he  joined the Rupert; then the Plymouth, the Milford, and the Assistance.  It was while on the Assistance that Captain John Hubbard was killed in action against some Algerine corsairs.  Pepys talks about Hubbard being killed as a result of being overly brave.

The Royal Charles became one of the Royal Navy’s biggest shames.  The Dutch fleet sailed up the Thames to Chatham in 1667.  They cut the flagship from the fleet and carried it away.  The ship was the Royal Charles.

But on to Old Mother Hubbard who went to the cupboard.  According to the rhyme she was going to fetch her doggy a bone. Of course the cupboard was bare.   Apparently Old Mother Hubbard was, in fact, Cardinal Wolsey, making the cupboard in this instance the Catholic Church.  The doggy (a.k.a. King Henry VIII) wanted an annulment from his queen – Katherine of Aragon – which was not forthcoming because the Pope found himself under the watchful eye of Katherine’s nephew.

That just leaves the viking.  Hubba the Horrible or Ubba was a brother of Ivar the Boneless and Halfdan. There is another school of thought that says it is a name that made its appearance with the Normans.  Whatever the case Internet research suggests that anyone with the surname Hubbard, Hubbert or Hobart is descended from one John Hubba who is recorded as living in Suffolk in 1274.  His family possibly descended from “Euro, filius Huberti” who can be found in the Domesday Book and who appear to have some familial link to William the Conqueror but I need to do much more research as yet.

All exciting stuff – but made even more so by the fact that, in so far as I can rely on parish records,  Captain John Hubbard is my eight times great grandfather…

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Chaucer and the de la Poles.

chaucer3This is one of those surprising connection posts.  It also reflects the way in which society changed as a consequence of the Black Death and the decline of feudalism.  The descendent of an inn keeper became a Duke of Suffolk and was embroiled in the bloody aftermath of the Wars of the Roses.

The Chaucer family were upwardly mobile, of that there’s no doubt.  Geoffrey’s great-grandfather was a inn  in Ipswich, his grandfather was a shoemaker – not a humble cobbler- think wholesale shoe sales with entrepreneurial tendencies; he was also a vintner.  In addition, he had the good sense to marry a pepperer’s widow called Mary Heron which added a further very lucrative string to his bow.

Their son, Geoffrey’s father, John Chaucer was an established merchant and freeman of the City of London.  He was sufficiently wealthy for his aunt to attempt to kidnap him in order to marry his cousin when he arrived at a marriageable age.  The plot was foiled but it demonstrates how much the Chaucer family circumstances had changed in four generations.

As the Chaucers climbed the social rungs they became soldiers and served in royal households.  Geoffrey Chaucer was talented not only as a poet but also as a diplomat.  It helped that he was married to the sister of John of Gaunt’s mistress – Katherine Swynford – which is in itself a fairly unexpected connection but one of history’s more well-known links.

However it is in Geoffrey’s descendants that the really unexpected connection begins to take shape.  Geoffrey’s son Thomas- there are some suggestions that Thomas was in fact John of Gaunt’s son but there is no evidence to confirm this- had a daughter called Alice who married three times.  Her final husband was William de la Pole – who became the Duke of Suffolk.  They had one son – John who married Edward IV’s sister Elizabeth which turned the de la Poles into Plantagenets which was an excellent step up the social ladder in the world before the Wars of the Roses but was not so useful in the Tudor world.

Alice’s grandson John took part in the ill-fated  uprising against Henry VII  with Lambert Simnel.  He was killed.  His younger brother Edmund took on the family title but fled to Europe where he found protection at the court of the Hapsburgs. Unfortunately Philip the Handsome was shipwrecked on the English coast and Henry VII was able to have the troublesome Plantagenet returned to his care and a comfy room in the Tower of London.  In 1513 Henry VIII had Edmund executed.  The third de la Pole brother was called Richard who became a soldier of fortune and was killed at the Battle of Pavia – an event which Henry VIII celebrated.

But who would have thought that any of the three were related to Geoffrey Chaucer?

 

 

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Princess Joan of Kent

joan of kentJoan of Kent was the daughter of Prince Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent and his wife Margaret Wake; wife of the Black Prince and mother to King Richard II.  She is unusual in that on the death of her brother, the 3rd Earl of Kent and 4th Baron Wake, Joan inherited the titles in her own right.

She may well be named after her maternal grandmother who was Princess Joan, King John’s illegitimate daughter who married Llewelyn the Great of Gwynedd.  Just to add to the family tangle, Princess Joan was also cousin to Roger Mortimer, Earl of March.  And Roger Mortimer was the man who was Queen Isabella’s lover and the man responsible for the judicial execution of Joan of Kent’s father who had continued to be loyal to the deposed Edward II (Kent’s half brother).  Once the usurping Earl of March had been done away with and Edward III assumed control of the throne he arranged for Joan and her sister to come to court.  The two girls were raised alongside his own children.  So Joan grew up with the Black Prince.  Eventually Joan became Edward III’s ward.

 

Clearly Joan was an important member of the royal family.  Whoever won her hand in marriage would gain many points in the medieval power game.  Joan had other ideas.  She fell in love with Sir Thomas Holland.  She was twelve.  He was twenty-six. His grandmother was Ela Longespee whose grandfather was the Fist Earl of Salisbury and the illegitimate son of Henry II which puts a whole new meaning on the saying ‘keep it in the family.’  Suffice it to say Thomas Holland wasn’t someone of the make.  His ancestry was as illustrious as that of Joan.

 

The problem was that because the pair had run away to get married it wasn’t strictly legal though very romantic.  Joan, and indeed Thomas, required the king’s consent to get married.  Her guardians at the time wanted Joan to marry their son Sir Thomas Montague, who was the second Earl of Salisbury.  They didn’t see Joan’s marriage to Thomas as a problem.  They simply waited for him to leave the country to go on crusade and then forced Joan to marry their son. In 1341 Holland returned home and wasn’t terribly pleased to discover that his wife was married to another man.  Undeterred he set about winning fame in France in what was to become the Hundred Years War as a military commander and then set about regaining Joan.  Salisbury put up a fight but in the end Pope Clement VI annulled Joan’s marriage to Salisbury.

 

Joan’s firstborn son Thomas Holland who became the Earl of Kent was an ancestor of Katherine Parr which is definitely an unexpected connection – though given the medieval penchant for familial marriages it probably shouldn’t be quite such a surprise. Another son married one of John of Gaunt’s daughters. And yet another child was an ancestor of Lady Jane Grey.  Sir Thomas died in 1360 leaving Joan a rich widow.  She was eventually buried beside her first husband.

 

As well as being wealthy and well-connected with the royal family Joan was also one of the beauties of her age.  She was known as ‘the fair maid of Kent’. Many offers of marriage were made.  Joan turned them all down.  According to one version of events, one of the Black Prince’s men asked  Edward to intercede with Joan on his behalf.  Edward found himself falling in love with his childhood companion.  They were cousins within the degree prohibited by the church so before they could marry a papal dispensation was required.  On her marriage she became the first Princess of Wales.

When she became the Queen Mother her life continued to be the stuff of historical novels and mini-series.  She was so loved by the people of England that when she encountered Wat Tyler and his men at Blackheath they let her pass unharmed with an escort (you can’t help wondering who let such an important personage as the king’s mother meander into the path of revolting peasants?).  In any event the tale demonstrates that as well as being regarded in the light of national treasure she was also conventionally religious.  She was returning from pilgrimage to Canterbury when her path crossed with that of Wat Tyler.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A very surprising connection

History meets fiction and royal family history in this post.  A clue to the link is the word ‘vampire’ which first entered the English language in 1732.  Any idea yet who the surprising connection might be?

170px-VladOriginalVlad III was born in 1431. In 1442 he was handed over to the Turks along with a brother as a hostage. Five years later Vlad’s oldest brother took up arms against the Turks and his father – Dracul- made a treaty with the Hungarians. There wasn’t a happy ending. Dracul was beheaded by the Hungarians and his eldest son was murdered. It would have to be said that starving Richard II to death in Pontefract Castle or inserting red hot pokers into the royal personage of Edward II seems fairly mild in comparison to the end of Dracul’s son. His eyes were put out and he was buried alive.

The Turks took the opportunity to send young Vlad home where he attempted to seize the throne. He ruled for a short time but when he lost his army he was forced to flee to Moldavia. And that might have been the story of Vlad, son of Dracul except for one thing. In 1453 Constantinople fell to the Ottomans. Vlad was able to make a treaty with Hungary and in 1456- the year of a comet- he took back his throne.

During the next decade he came to be known as Vlad Tepes. Tepes means impaler and he ruled Wallachia (modern day Romania) and bits of Moldavia. The name gives a clue as to how he turned a lawless border kingdom into a model of good behaviour (possibly heavily tinged with overtones of terror). Legend has it that Vlad had a gold cup put by a well in Targoviste so that ordinary people could draw water and drink. It was stolen. When the thief was tracked down, Vlad had the thief’s family impaled. The second time the cup was stolen the thief’s family handed the foolish thief straight over to Vlad. The cup wasn’t stolen for a third time.

He founded the Order of the Dragon to fight infidels and heretics. In fact, he spent most of his reign campaigning against the Ottoman Empire which was seeking to expand into the Balkans during this time. He also sought to improve trading opportunities for his own citizens. His methods weren’t terribly subtle. One of the more memorable strategies involved…impaling. He is famous, or perhaps infamous for impaling people prior to enjoying a hearty breakfast and also for nailing ambassadoral hats to ambassadorial heads. In fact, one way and another he put a whole new meaning on the word head count.

And the surprising link? Well, the Queen can allegedly trace her lineage back to Vlad the Impaler’s half-brother through her grandmother Queen Mary.

 

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Surprising Connections

After a while, if you study medieval history as you struggle to untangle who is who it’s perfectly possible to believe two things: first, that all the leading families in the land were related and second, that there were only a hand full of names available. Take Matilda for example. Most famously there’s the Empress Matilda – also known as Maud – there’s even room for confusion there. And then it’s worth taking a look at her mother, also a Matilda- Matilda of Scotland. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that Matilda was a good Norman name while the Scottish princess who King Henry I married was baptised by the name Edith. It’s no wonder that I sometimes get very confused about who was who. I know some people study the medieval history of the English monarchy with a family tree at their side. I can see why.

I’m going off track. My surprising connection is much more recent and doesn’t involve anyone royal. Did you know that Josiah Wedgewood -the fine china maker- was the grandfather of Charles Darwin? So the sale of tea services and dinner plates funded the theory of evolution. How wonderful is that?

I should point out that I discovered this surprising fact whilst watching an interesting programme about the River Trent.

It’s set me thinking about other unexpected connections- a sort of historical six degrees of separation. That’s the theory that everyone is a maximum of six steps away from any other person in the world. Obviously once you’re outside six generations it wouldn’t count and monarchs would be a bit of a cheat on the grounds that there are any number of verses to help people remember their links- I resorted to a wooden ruler with the rulers on when I was at school as an aide memoire. I still have it.

I am going to add surprising connections as a category to this blog because I love the unexspectedness of the link. I can’t add a picture at the moment because I’m typing on my iPad and apparently I need another app for that. I will tackle that learning curve tomorrow.

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