Murder in the Abbey- John of Gaunt style

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liddel Strength – John of Gaunt on the borders

220px-Edward_III_of_England_(Order_of_the_Garter)John of Gaunt owned more than thirty castles – many came though his marriage to Blanche of Lancaster, others came by gift from his father Edward III.  One of them, Liddel Strength, sitting on the banks of the River Liddel, quite close to the wonderfully named village of Moat in Cumbria, went through assorted hands until it came into the ownership of the Earls of Kent – John the 3rd Earl of Kent died in 1352.  He was twenty-two.   He died without children and his titles passed to his sister Joan.

Joan became the 4th Countess of Kent and Baroness Wake.  History, on the other hand, knows Joan as the Fair Maid of Kent.   Thomas Holland who married her secretly ultimately became the Earl of Kent when Joan extracted herself from a second bigamous marriage that her family had imposed upon her.

All of which was rather unnecessary in this post because John, Earl of Kent passed the castle to Edward III pictured at the start of this post who in turned passed it to John of Gaunt in 1357 after he had proved his martial ability. However, given that the Scots had destroyed the castle in 1346 and behaved rather unpleasantly to the chap responsible for the castle – one Sir Walter de Selby who according to one source was forced to watch two his his sons being strangled prior to his own beheading.

The castle was never rebuilt despite the fact that the area was prone to Scottish raiding given its position on the border.  Edward III’s plan seems to have been that John should become a northern magnate and the lordship gave him the necessary political importance in the region.  Edward was also in the middle of negotiations with King David of Scotland — so a handily placed son was not to be sneezed at in the eventuality of a substitution being required.

Certainly in the 1370s when the intermittent Anglo-Scottish war broke out once more Gaunt went north on Richard II’s behalf with the intention of ending them and had placed the Percy family in a position of greater power than ever on the borders by giving the earl of Northumberland the powers necessary to levy forces from across the marches to repel a Scottish army.

The  title to the Lordship would pass to Henry of Bolingbroke in 1380.

 

The childhood of a prince

john of gauntJohn of Gaunt was born in March 1340 whilst Edward III was on campaign in France trying to claim the French throne through his mother’s, Isabella of France, bloodline – someone hadn’t explained salic law to him.  John was probably born in St Bavo Abbey in Ghent.  In later years the rumour would arise that he was no true son of Edward’s but was instead a Ghentish butcher’s brat – no one ever paused to wonder how Philippa of Hainhault might have met this butcher given that queen’s aren’t prone to popping out to do the shopping for the evening meal.

Froissart states that Gaunt’s godfather was John, Duke of Brabant, a reminder of the shifting tides of political affiliation in Europe.

In November the royal family returned to England.  We know very little of John’s early year’s although, as ever, it is the accounts that give us some insight.  We know for instance from Edward III’s wardrobe account for 1340-41 that the baby was provided with some rather snazzy red and green bedding, that he had silken robes and a household of servants.  As well as his nurse there was a female cradle-rocker.   And, as if this wasn’t enough, there were two esquire of the body, six chamber servants and three “domicelli.” Domicelli are also servants but they are of a higher social status.

John probably found himself in the royal nursery with his sisters Isabella and Joan and his older brother Lionel as well as the new baby Edmund.  At the age of seven he would have been deemed old enough to leave the nursery and begin his training as a knight.  We also know, thanks to the accounts again, that Edward set aside £1000 a year for his children and that Philippa of Hainault of seems to have been a very hands on royal mother was granted their guardianship in 1342 whilst Edward was busy across the Channel.

John was also  created the Earl of Richmond. This may have been because his father was already scouting around for prospective brides for his young son.  The earldom was reconfirmed in 1351.

Ecclesiastical documents also reveal that the young John was admitted to the confraternity at Lincoln and later to St Mary’s in York.  The later took place in 1349 just after the Princess Joan had died from the plague.

John’s next step towards adulthood was being placed in the care of his brother, Edward, the Black Prince.  John was probably in his brother’s household between 1350 and 1355 – the accounts tell us this because there were purchases of knightly accoutrements for the young prince.

It was in 1350 that John found himself in the middle of the Battle of Winchelsea.  He was too young to take part in the fight but according to Froissart John was on board the ship with his father because the king was very fond of his son.  Edward III was attempting to intercept the Castilian fleet of Pedro I who had become an ally of France rather than England – despite Edward III attempting to negotiate a marriage between England and Castile.  Edward III won the battle but it was touch and go.  He knighted his son immediately afterwards according to some versions of Gaunt’s history although others think that the narrator was confused in remembering events that had taken place thirty years previously and that Lionel and John were both knighted in 1355.  In either case Philippa of Hainhault spent an unpleasant afternoon with a good view of a sea battle.

BattleofSluys.jpg

This particular image is from Froissart’s Chronicle.  It depicts the Battle of Sluys which was fought in 1340 between england and France but it gives a good idea that a sea battle was really about getting the ships alongside one another and then being engaged in hand to hand fighting.

In 1355 John was old enough to join his father and older brother on their military campaigns in Normandy and from Calais.  Whilst Edward was occupied in France the Scots took the opportunity to capture Berwick-Upon-Tweed but that’s a different story.  The key thing is that John was part of the winter campaign to recapture the town which surrendered on 13 January 1356.

The following year John was granted the  lordship of Liddel – John was going to be a northern lord getting to grips with those pesky Scots.  The next step in securing John’s future would be his marriage to Blanche of Lancaster.  Childhood – such as it had been- was over.

Goodman, Anthony. (1992) John of Gaunt. London: Longman.

The Wykeham Incident

WilliamOfWykehamEngland, until the Reformation, always had its share of clever clerics – think Cardinals Beaufort and Wolsey for example.  Not only did they hold important places in the Church’s hierarchy they also held the reins of power in State matters as well.  Whilst I’m at it, the other two clerics who people may immediately identify are Thomas Becket who became Henry II’s bête noire and Simon of Sudbury who managed to get himself beheaded by revolting peasants in 1381 – his head is still in Sudbury’s parish church if you’re of a ghoulish turn of mind.

So just who is Wykeham? William  Wykeham is Edward III’s leading cleric and statesman and like the above named gentlemen he had the knack of irritating folk – well mainly John of Gaunt.  Wykeham’s story is an interesting one in that he was not the second son of aristocracy or even a member of the gentry.  Generally his family are described as poor.  His father could afford for him not to labour on the land but it would have been a sacrifice as would the education that replaced manual labour. William’s natural talent was recognised and he must have had a sponsor who helped pay for his education.  William was educated in Winchester and then found employment as a clerk (in minor orders) in Winchester.  By 1349 (just in time for the Black Death) Wykeham was in the employ of the Bishop of Winchester.  This would have brought him into the royal orbit as the bishop was Edward III’s treasurer. Winchester also has close associations with the court so it was a place of opportunity for a gifted young man.

 

Wykeham continued working for the bishop until the mid 1350s at which point he suddenly accrued a number of official roles at court.  He was also made surveyor of the works for Windsor Castle and its park.  He had arrived – the long path to overnight success had been trodden and from now on he made rapid advances in royal service.  He turns up in Calais negotiating the terms of the Treaty of Bretigny in 1360.

Wykeham became more and more influential as the 1360s progressed.  It did not make him very popular with the rest of Edward III’s advisors not least because having decided to undergo ordination he also squirrelled away some very lucrative livings at a point when there was peace with France and the rich pickings of earlier years were not so readily available.  in 1366 on Edward III’s orders he was elected Bishop of Winchester.  He also went on to become Edward’s chancellor.

john of gauntIt seemed as though there would be no stopping him but as ever the currents of political power eddy and swirl.  Parliament ultimately petitioned the king to stop the practice of ecclesiastics having positions of power and not being liable to account for their actions, and that non-clerical laymen should replaced them. An important supporter of this action was John of Gaunt who was not keen on Wykeham – which is a bit rich coming from the man who used Edward III’s increasing infirmity as an opportunity to take control of the court and to reverse reforms made by the king.

In 1371 Gaunt had his way and Wykeham found himself transformed from one of the wealthiest men in the kingdom to being utterly reliant on the charity of his friends when he was kicked out of the See of Winchester and forced to resign the chancellorship. John of Gaunt tried to have Wykeham charged with corruption.

In 1377 when Richard II became king Wykeham received a full pardon although it should be noted that initially Wykeham was specifically excluded from the pardon and it was only after an ecclesiastical uproar that his name was added to the list. He went on to be one of the king’s councillors demonstrating that John of Gaunt did not control the regency council in the way that is often suggested given that he and Wykeham were at loggerheads with one another.  Between 1389 and 1391 Wykeham was Richard II’s chancellor. In 1391 he was back on the case of the war with the French – by now the war was sixty years long on and off.

He died in 1404 having welcomed Henry of Bolingbroke to Winchester in 1400 as king.

So why is Wykeham important? Firstly he isn’t of noble birth – which no doubt caused quite a lot of resentment at the time.  In an age when blood line was all important Wykeham is a role model for the self made man.  He’s symptomatic of changing times.  War and plague as well as some effective patronage opened up possibilities for his advancement. Second, we are used to hearing that Gaunt was all powerful.  In 1377  Gaunt was unable to continue his campaign against Wykeham despite the fact that he is usually depicted as the leading member of the regency council.  And thirdly, the reason usually given for Gaunt’s unrelenting campaign against Wykeham is that allegedly Wykeham spread the rumour that Gaunt was actually the son of a Ghentish butcher rather than Edward III – and well all know how history loves a good conspiracy theory.

 

 

Death of Henry V

 

henry vKing Henry V of England  or Henry of Monmouth if you’ve been reading Shakespeare became king in 1413.  He resumed the Hundred Years War that his great grandfather Edward III had pursued and in 1415 won the Battle of Agincourt.  So far so good.  As part of the Treaty of Troyes between England and France that followed – recognising Henry as Charles VI’s heir he married Katherine of Valois – the French king’s daughter.  All the dominoes had been lined up for a union between England and France.  He had done, in short order, what medieval kings were required to do – he’d been victorious in war and landed a bona fide princess to boot and his first child was a boy – what more could you want?

Popular history does not tend to linger on the realities of a successful military campaign.  For instance Henry ordered all males over the age of twelve to be executed after the fall of Caen and in Agincourt English archers were ordered to cut the throats of their French captives.  However, this sort of behaviour is not the sort of thing that one expects from heroic kings – look at Richard I and his massacre as an example of popular history quietly removing the more unsavoury aspects of life.

Henry V will always be a heroic warrior king because he didn’t survive very long after his victory over the French and thanks to the works of Shakespeare.  He died on the 31st August 1422 of dysentery whilst in France.  He’d just returned there after three years spent in England.  He left behind him a nine-month-old son who now became King Henry VI.  Katherine of Valois was effectively sidelined and ultimately quietly married Owen Tudor.

It says something that the Lancastrian line which had contended with plots ever since Henry of Bolingbroke usurped the throne from his cousin Richard II was able to maintain power with an infant on the throne.  In part this was because there had been a plot against Henry before he went to war in 1415.  Edmund Mortimer, the Earl of March and man with a better claim to the throne than Henry revealed that a plot was afoot to depose Henry before he went to France.

Although this plot was formulated elsewhere it is known as the Southampton Plot because this was where events played out.  Richard, Earl of Cambridge was the main conspirator. Its for this reason that the Southampton Plot is also known as the Cambridge Plot.  He was married to Anne Mortimer (their son was Richard of York who managed to get himself killed at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460).  Although  Richard was the Earl of Cambridge he didn’t have the money or the land to go with the title – this wasn’t helpful when he was expected to contribute towards Henry’s forthcoming war.  He became involved with Henry Scrope of Masham and Sir Thomas Grey of Heton in a plot to put his brother-in-law Edward Mortimer on the throne (I should note that Anne Mortimer was dead by this point) having killed Henry V and his brothers as they were about to depart for France.  Mortimer decided that he had no desire to revolt against Henry V so revealed the plot claiming that he had no idea what was going on.  This saved him from execution but did ensure that Henry was able to mop up the opposition at home before going off to trounce the French – Richard, Scrope and Grey were tried and executed at the beginning of August in Southampton.  Henry V set sail on the 11th August 1415 for those readers who would like another August date to add to the collection.

Dysentery was known as the “bloody flux.”  As well as uncontrollable diarrhoea  Henry would have experienced stomach cramps, a fever, vomiting and exhaustion.  It was more often fatal than not given that soldiers marched long distances, lived off the land and weren’t prone to being overly fastidious in their hygiene.  Damp ground  and heat also helped to spread the disease.

And that brings us to the end of August.  Sadly the WEA have cancelled the short course in Derby at the beginning of September so if you were thinking of coming – I’m very sorry but the WEA decided that there weren’t the numbers.

Crowning the Young King

640px-Coronation_of_Henry_the_Young_King_-_Becket_Leaves_c.1220-1240_f._3r_-_BL_Loan_MS_88.jpgPrince Henry was born on 11 Feb 1155, the second of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine’s sons.  Five years later he married the daughter of King Louis of France – Marguerite, her dowry was the Vexin region and Henry’s father King Henry II was keen to extend his empire. At seven Prince Henry was sent off to the household of Thomas Becket – the arrangement didn’t last long.

On 14 June 1170, Henry II had Henry crowned king of England at Westminster. The Archbishop of York did the honours as Thomas Becket, by then Archbishop of Canterbury, was in exile. From that point forward Henry is known in history as the Young King. He is the only English monarch, even if he doesn’t feature on most lists of kings and queens, to be crowned during his father’s lifetime.  And in all honesty the problems that followed between father and son were largely because the title was an empty one.

 

King Henry II wasn’t doing anything politically innovative but he was avoiding potential disputes about the succession, remember Henry was the second son, and making a statement about how unimportant Becket actually was.  This wasn’t helpful as there was a bit of a tug of war relating to whether York or Canterbury was more important.  Becket was furious because he believed that Canterbury crowned English monarchs. York basically stuck his tongue out at Canterbury by waving a letter around from Pope Alexander III which gave the King of England the right to have Prince Henry crowned by whoever he wanted. Becket upped the ante by excommunicating the Bishop of York and the other bishops who had assisted in the coronation. So much for Henry II trying to curb the power of the Church.

BecketHenryII

After Becket’s death there was a second coronation – on 27thAugust 1172 at Winchester for the prince and his princess.  This coronation wasn’t unusual either – medieval kings where in the habit of reminding their subjects who was in charge by being crowned on more than one occasion but in this instance Henry II was remedying a perceived slight to King Louis of France in not having Marguerite crowned alongside her husband at Westminster.  With Becket dead – the Bishop of Rouen crowned the pair.

 

henry the young kingUnfortunately the Young King expected power and finances to go with the title. When this was not forthcoming he revolted against his father in 1173.  Henry II was ultimately victorious in the family dispute but one of the consequences was the imprisonment of Eleanor of Aquitaine who had sided with her sons.  The Young King got more money out of the deal but no more power although he was sent to fulfill various ceremonial duties on his father’s behalf.  Instead of political power the Young King turned to the tournament and jousting.

 

Henry was supported in his new role by a knight in his household – William Marshall.  The pair travelled around Europe gaining reknown at the tourney.  They fell out in 1182 when Marshall was accused of being a little too close to Marguerite.

 

By the end of the year the Young King was in rebellion once more and in 1183 he died having taken to pillaging monastic houses to finance his campaign.  He died from dysentery and as a result of his death William Marshall, who had reconciled with his young lord and received permission to rebel against the king, went to the Holy Land to lay the Young King’s cloak in the Holy Sepelchre.

 

 

Berwick upon Tweed, Richard of Gloucester and the fate of a princess

Berwick upon tweedAccording to the Scotsman Berwick Upon Tweed changed hands some thirteen times in its turbulent history.  So, it was originally part of the Kingdom of Northumbria and these are the key changes of occupier.

henry iiiIn 1018 following the Battle of Carham the border moved to the Tweed and Berwick became Scottish which it remained until William I of Scotland became involved in the civil war between Henry II and his sons in 1173.  After his defeat Berwick became English.  In all fairness Henry II had rather caused bad feeling between the Scots and English when he forced the Scots to hand Carlisle back to England – which given how supportive King David of Scotland had been to him seems rather ungracious.  William I of Scotland (or William the Lion if you prefer) had simply taken advantage of the family fall out between Henry II and his sons.  Unfortunately for him he was captured in 1174 at the Battle of Alnwick.  He was released under terms of vassalage and made to give up various castles as well as Berwick.

 

220px-Edward_III_of_England_(Order_of_the_Garter)Henry II’s son, Richard the Lionheart, who, as I have mentioned previously, would have been more than prepared to sell London to the highest bidder to finance his Crusade sold the town back to the Scots where it remained until 1296 and the Scottish Wars of Independence. Needless to say it was Edward I who captured the town for the English at that time after the Scots had invaded Cumberland under the leadership of John Baliol who was in alliance with the French.  There were executions and much swearing of fealty not to mention fortification building.

 

In April 1318 during the reign of Edward II (who was not known for his military prowess) Berwick fell once again to the Scots.  By 1333 the boot was on the other foot with Edward III now on the throne.  Sir Archibald Douglas found himself inside the town and preparing for a siege – no doubt making good use of the fortifications built on the orders of Edward I.  Douglas was defeated at the Battle of Halidon Hill in September 1333 and Berwick became English once more.

 

And thus it might have remained but  for the Wars of the Roses.  In 1461 Edward IV won the Battle of Towton leaving Henry VI without a kingdom. Margaret of Anjou gave Berwick and Carlisle to the Scots in return for their support to help when the Crown once again.    I should point out that the citizens of Carlisle did not hand themselves over to Scotland whilst those in Berwick found themselves once more under Scottish rule. Not that it did Margaret of Anjou much good nor for that matter diplomatic relations between Scotland and the new Yorkist regime although there was a treaty negotiated in 1474 which should have seen 45 years of peace – as all important treaties were this one was sealed with the agreement that Edward’s third daughter Cecily should marry James III’s son also called James.  Sadly no one appears to have told anyone along the borders of this intent for peaceful living as the borderers simply carried on as usual.

 

 

Richard_III_of_EnglandAugust 24 1482 Berwick became English once more having fallen into the hands of Richard, Duke of Gloucester who strengthened his army with assorted European mercenaries until there were somewhere in the region of 20,000 men in his force.  Richard marched north from York in the middle of July. Once at Berwick Richard left some men to besiege the town whilst he went on to Edinburgh where he hoped to meet with King James III of Scotland in battle (it should be noted that one of James’ brothers was in the English army). It wasn’t just James’ brother who was disgruntled.  It turned out that quite a few of his nobles were less than happy as they took the opportunity of the English invasion to lock James away.  It became swiftly clear to Richard that he would not be able to capture Edinburgh so returned to Berwick where he captured the town making the thirteenth and final change of hands.

 

Meanwhile the Scottish nobility asked for a marriage between James’ son James and Edward IV’s daughter Cecily to go ahead.  Richard said that the marriage should go ahead if Edward wished it but demanded the return of Cecily’s dowry which had already been paid.

 

Just to complicate things – James’ brother, the one fighting in the English army proposed that it should be him that married Cecily.  He had hopes of becoming King himself.  Edward IV considered the Duke of  Albany’s proposal and it did seem in 1482 that there might be an Anglo-Scottish marriage but in reality the whole notion was unpopular.  The following year,  on 9th April, Edward died unexpectedly and rather than marrying royalty Cecily found herself married off to one of her uncle’s supporters Ralph Scrope of Masham. This prevented her from being used as a stepping-stone to the Crown.  This particular marriage was annulled by Henry VII after Bosworth which occurred on 22 August 1485 and Cecily was married off to Lord Welles who was Margaret Beaufort’s half-brother and prevented Cecily, once again, from being used as a stepping-stone to the Crown.

Meanwhile Berwick remained relatively peacefully until 1639 when the Scottish Presbyterian Army and Charles I’s army found itself at a standoff.  The Pacification of Berwick brought the so-called First Bishops’ War to an end.  Unsurprisingly Charles broke the agreement just as soon as he had gathered sufficient funds, arms and men. The Second Bishops’ war broke out the following year with the English Civil War beginning in 1642.

 

 

 

The Massacre at Ayyadieh – Richard the Lionheart not so lionhearted.

Lionhearts-MassacreRichard I once offered to sell London to the highest bidder in order to finance his role in the Third Crusade.  Folklore remembers him as Richard the Lionheart rather than Richard I  making him relatively unusual amongst English monarchs in that he is remembered by a name rather than a number.  Countless Hollywood productions have presented him as the chap who saves the day when he returns to England in the nick of time whilst his brother John appears as the villain of the piece. I can’t think of any film about Robin Hood where King Richard doesn’t turn up to set matters right – what’s not to like?  Richard was even a popular king in his own time – probably because he wasn’t in his country terribly often.   He did what medieval kings were supposed to do – he was victorious in war…and he had good press in the form of his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine and one of his justicar’s William Marshal.

 

Like many a warrior king before and after him, Richard was responsible for changing England’s financial status from reasonable to disastrous. He spent most of his father’s treasury, increased taxes, sold jobs (how exactly do you think the Sheriff of Nottingham got the title in the first place) and even released William of Scotland from his oath of fealty for the sum of  10,000 marks – which raises the question of exactly what Edward I was doing thinking when he stated his right to choose a Scottish king as Scotland’s feudal overlord and kicked off the Scottish wars of Independence.

 

In 1190, having more or less sold off the family silver, Richard set off to the Holy Land via Sicily. His sister Joan who was the dowager queen of Sicily had been denied her dower rights so Richard got a bit of early practice in terms of storming cities before progressing to Cyprus and then on to Acre, which was under siege.

 

300px-Siege_of_AcreAcre eventually fell to the Crusaders.  On August 20 1191 Richard responded to Saladin’s failure to comply with the terms of negotiation over the citizens and defenders of Acre. Saladin had been stalling over a prisoner swap and failed to make an interim payment of gold coin. Richard killed all his captives.

 

Basically it was normal after a battle or a prolonged siege to swap prisoners.  Richard asked for a list of Christian prisoners but none was forthcoming.   Even worse a piece of the True Cross  and the first instalment of 200,000 gold coins was not handed over on a pre-arranged date as part of the terms agreed after the fall of Acre. Richard believed that Saladin was stalling for time in order to bring in fresh troops and recapture Acre and that he had gone back on his word – whereas in reality it is not totally clear that Saladin had agreed to the terms that Richard demanded.  Time may well have conspired against him with the walls of Acre falling before his instructions could be relayed to its defenders.

 

Richard, who had the full measure of Plantagenet temper, ordered that all the prisoners from Acre should be taken to a hill called Ayyadieh. There in full view of the Muslim army and Saladin’s headquarters, approximately 3000 soldiers, men, women and children from the city were killed.  Even Richard’s estimates are similar.

 

Saladin’s army was so incensed that they attempted to charge Richard’s army but were beaten back.  The Crusaders were able to make their retreat unscathed after the slaughter.

 

Killing unarmed women and children is not heroic, no matter which way it’s dressed up – change the century and the uniform and it looks very unpleasant indeed. The massacre at Ayyadieh is a blot on Richard’s reputation, to modern eyes, although it is never usually referred to in popular histories – as it doesn’t fit with the legend of the heroic king. Richard and his chroniclers justify events by noting that the negotiations fell apart because of Saladin’s failure to meet the required standards.  Further justification, if any is given, is offered in the form that these were bloodthirsty times.  In 1187, the Battle Hattin, which saw the biggest defeat of the period in the Holy Land, was followed by the mass killing and imprisonment of Knights Hospitaller and Templar.

Richard wanted the piece of the True Cross because he genuinely believed it was part of the cross on which Christ was crucified and he was deeply religious (don’t lets even go down the avenue of faith and a life spent at war.) There was also the political statement that it made.  Saladin had acquired the piece of cross after the Battle of Hattin.  In part its return to the Crusaders would have gone some way to reverse their defeat in 1187.  It’s about honour as much as anything else.

 

Strategically speaking the massacre demonstrated that Richard was not a man to mess with.  It also dealt with the problem of a large number of prisoners.  Richard did not have the men to care for them and he could not leave them behind him whilst he continued his campaign.  He could not afford to deplete his army or risk an enemy behind him. There was not so much food that he could really take them with him and there would still have been the need for guards and the problem of a hostile force. The only other alternative would have been to sell the prisoners into slavery and that would have taken time that Richard did not have. Beha ad-Din, Saladin’s biographer, was an eyewitness to events and whilst he was hostile to Richard’s actions it is also apparent that he understand them militarily.  This, is of course, something that a modern reader may well struggle to do – the words war crime spring to mind.  No wonder there are so many texts about how History should be studied and the difficulties of looking objectively at the past.

 

Extremely hostile chroniclers write that Richard always intended the massacre but there is no evidence of him behaving in this manner at other times during the Crusade or indeed in his intermittent wars at home.  Not that it really matters – if, generally speaking we look at the facts of Richard I’s reign- he would not turn up quite so often in films as a hero. He was never in England.  He raised taxes to go to war, then more taxes had to be raised to pay his ransom when he was captured by his enemies on his way home. He did not sit around feeling concerned about the financial plight of his Saxon citizens.  Sometimes it really doesn’t matter what actually happened, even at the time, it’s about perceptions and the story that people want to hear.

 

For a timeline of the Third Crusade:

https://historystack.com/Third_Crusade

 

 

The Battle of Evesham

simon de montfortI am leaping around historically speaking at the moment. The Battle of Evesham was fought on the morning of the 4th August 1265.  Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester was in Evesham when news arrived that the royal army under the leadership of Prince Edward had been sighted – probably from the abbey.  Despite holding Henry III captive, De Montfort was outnumbered by as many as three to one which is why he started the battle with a cavalry charge which had it succeeded would have split Edward’s army and given de Montfort an opportunity to escape from Evesham with most of his men.  He had to charge uphill which was never going to be tactically satisfactory.  Unfortunately for de Montfort Prince Edward was going to turn into King Edward I – probably England’s most effective martial king. Edward learned much from de Montfort regarding tactics when he’d been at the receiving end of them at the Battle of Lewes. Now he employed them against de Montfort himself. The royal army swung in from both sides on de Montfort’s flanks and after several hours fighting it became a rout.  Henry III barely escaped with his life so eager was the royal army to let blood.

 

There was even a thunder storm to add  some atmosphere to an already bloody battle.  As many as 4000 of de Montfort’s 6000 men were killed. Many of the nobles that fought on his side were slaughtered including de Montfort and his son Henry.  Prince Edward did not offer any quarter regarding de Montfort as a rebel who needed to be extinguished. This was unusual at the time as it was generally accepted that quarter would be given and ransom obtained.  De Montfort was killed by Roger de Mortimer.  It proved to be the decisive battle of this particular Barons’ War –the Second one- but it would be another two years before peace was restored to the kingdom on account of many of the rebellious barons having well defended castles.

 

Almost inevitably the town and abbey of Evesham suffered in the aftermath of the battle.  Simon de Montfort, whose body was badly mutilated, was finally buried near the high altar in the abbey.  Only the bell tower remains today.

Our story actually began when Henry III tried to turn the clock back.  The Provisions of Oxford in 1258 had led to reforms from which many would argue parliamentary democracy had its foundation.  Henry III tried to undo the reforms and in 1264 had fought the Battle of Lewes.  In that battle de Montfort captured Henry III and Prince Edward, effectively allowing de Montfort to rule England for a year and to summon Parliaments thus drawing on Magna Carta which was about fifty years old at that point as well as the Provisions of Oxford.    De Montfort ensured that barons loyal to the Crown were fined or incarcerated – the Earl of Derby found himself in the Tower for instance.

However, things did not go all de Montfort’s way.  In May one of de Montfort’s supporters, the Earl of Gloucester (yup – that’s right he was a de Clare) suddenly changed sides.  The so-called Red Earl on account of his hair colouring and temper helped Prince Edward escape and put an army together.  He drew on his extended family and affinity – many of the Crown’s army came from the Welsh marches.  The outcome was the slaughter on the 4thAugust 1265 but ten years later in 1275 the Statute of Westminster accepted many of the Oxford provisions and there was reconciliation between Crown and barons.

A first hand account of the battle may be found at the National Archives. http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/magna-carta/battle-of-evesham/

 

 

 

 

Joan Beaufort’s family – Anne Neville, Countess of Stafford

Joan Beaufort neville family tree

 

Joan BeaufortAn earlier post looked at Katherine Neville’s four marriages.  Today I am looking at Anne Neville’s marriages.  Anne was born in about 1410 (depending on the source you read). By the time she was fourteen she was married to Humphrey Stafford, Earl of Stafford who would go on to become the First Duke of Buckingham.  The family was hugely wealthy.  Anne like many of the other women in her family became noted for her interest in books and spent money on lavishly illustrated prayer books and psalters. The Wingfield Book of Hours was hers for example.  In addition, as with others of her family History also has her book of accounts detailing her expenditure. She died in 1480 at the age of seventy (ish) after two marriages and many children – again figures vary depending upon the source but there were at least ten of them.  Sadly of their sons, only three survived to adulthood.

Anne’s eldest son with Humphrey Stafford – unsurprisingly another Humphrey died in 1458 of plague – a reminder of the fact that disease stalked the land culling various Beaufort descendants just as much as war. Anne’s son had been married to his cousin Margaret Beaufort – not to be confused with the Margaret Beaufort. This one was the daughter of  Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset (the one who had a thing with Katherine of Valois and managed to get himself killed at the first Battle of St Albans in May 1455) rather than her more famous cousin who was first married to Edmund Tudor.

The next son was Henry Stafford who married the widowed Margaret Tudor – nee Beaufort.  It must have been a bit confusing to have two Margaret Beauforts in the family.  This Margaret, other than being Henry VII’s mother, was the daughter of John Beaufort the older brother of Edmund who died in 1444 under suspicious circumstances having lost vast chunks of France due to ineptitude.  Henry seems to have had a skin condition called St Anthony’s Fire – the condition involving inflation of the skin as well as headaches and sickness which cannot have been ideal when you had to get togged up in armour and go and fight battles.  There were no grandchildren from this union but the pair seem to have genuinely loved one another celebrating their wedding anniversary each year and Margaret Beaufort celebrated St Anthony’s day throughout her life. Sir Henry also fell victim to the Wars of the Roses dying from injuries sustained at the Battle of Barnet in October 1470.  Although the family had started off loyal to Henry VI, Henry had made his peace with Edward IV and when he was injured was fighting on the side of the White Rose.

The third and final son to survive to adulthood was called John and he would become the Earl of Wilshire.  Like his brothers he fought in the Wars of the Roses.  History knows that he was at Hexham in 1464 fighting on the side of Edward IV.  He went on to become Chief Butler for England.  Like his brothers he married an heiress.   He and his wife, Constance, had one son, also called John, who inherited John’s title and estates when he was a child.  As his cousin Buckingham would do, John found himself under the care of his paternal grandmother – Anne Neville.

Several daughters from Anne’s marriage to Humphrey survived to marriageable age and this proved to be a bit of a headache for the Buckinghams despite the wealth I mentioned earlier.  Part of the problem was the Humphrey’s mother held extensive dower estates having not only been married to Humphrey’s father but to his older brother before that.  There was also the fact that Buckingham wished to make extremely good marriages for his daughters and that cost money.

The couple’s oldest daughter, another Anne, married the heir to the Earl of Oxford. Aubrey de Vere is best known to history for being executed for treason in 1462 along with his father the twelfth Earl of Oxford.  Edward IV had Aubrey and his father arrested for writing to Margaret of Anjou and planning to have a Lancastrian force land in England. This was rather unfortunate as up until that time the de Vere’s had done rather well at keeping themselves out of the fifteenth century fracas. It would also have to be said that the exact nature of the plot is rather blurred round the edges.  Anne de Vere nee Stafford went on to marry Thomas, Lord Cobham. Thomas died in 1471 without legitimate male issue so his title passed to Anne’s daughter also called Anne who was married to Edward Burgh of Gainsborough who was unfortunately declared insane.

Anne Cobham married Edward Burgh when he was thirteen.  Katherine Parr’s first spouse was a member of the Burgh family.  Anne Neville and Humphrey Stafford’s 2x-great grandson Thomas Burgh fought at Flodden in 1513 and sat on Anne Boleyn’s trial having been very forceful in her favour at the time of Henry VIII’s divorce from Katherine of Aragon – he is on record as ripping the royal coat of arms from her barge. His residence in Gainsborough was Gainsborough Old Hall which I have posted about before. Sir Thomas does not seem to have been a terribly pleasant man given his towering rages and having his own grandchildren declared illegitimate.

But back to the daughters of Anne Neville and Humphrey Stafford. Joan Stafford, was married aged ten to William, Viscount Beaumont who started out as a Lancastrian, became temporarily Yorkist after Towton when he was captured but wasn’t given back his lands- Edward chose to give them to his friend Lord Hastings- so remained Lancastrian at heart which meant that the next two decades were eventful for him until he returned with Henry Tudor and took part in the Battle of Bosworth. William was unusual in that his loyalty to the Lancastrians was pretty much unwavering. Unfortunately for Joan the marriage was set aside in 1477.  She went on to marry Sir William Knyvett of Buckenham in Norfolk.  The family was an important part of the Norfolk gentry and feature in the Paston Letters.  Like her mother, Joan commissioned many books which survive today.

A third daughter called Catherine married into the Talbot family.  John Talbot became the third Earl of Shrewsbury after his father’s death in 1460.The couple had two sons and a daughter.  It feels as though Neville strands of DNA link most of the important fifteenth century families and reflects the way in which a power base and affinity could be built.  Another daughter, Margaret married Robert Dunham of Devon.

Humphrey Stafford overstretched himself as he was still paying his daughters’ dowries when he died and accommodation had to be made for that in his will.  The Buckinghams were good Lancastrians.  Humphrey was killed in 1460 at the Battle of Northampton whilst guarding Henry VI’s tent.  If you recall this was the battle that Edmund Grey rather ruined for the Lancastrians by changing sides mid battle and allowing the Earl of Warwick through his lines. This event rather changed things within the wider Neville family dynamic.  In 1459 after the Battle of Ludford Bridge (which really wasn’t a battle – more of a stand-off followed by a tactical scarpering by Richard of York) Anne and Humphrey had accommodated Anne’s sister Cecily who was Richard of York’s wife along with her younger children.  Thanks to popular fiction if we think of Anne at all it is usually in her rather frosty welcome of disgraced Cecily. The wheel of Fortune turned in 1460 at the Battle of Northampton and by Easter 1461 the Lancastrians had been labelled traitors and the house of York was in the ascendant with Cecily lording it over widowed Anne.

 

The Second duke of Buckingham was Anne’s grandson.  He wasn’t even five years old when he acquired the title.  Wardship of the new duke passed into the hands of Anne but Edward IV – who was Anne’s nephew (Cecily Neville was his mother)- purchased the wardship from her and with it the right to organise the young duke’s marriage.  He’s the one who ended up married to Katherine Woodville, feeling resentful of his Yorkist cousin who didn’t allow him the freedoms and rights that he felt were his due. Ultimately he undertook a spot of light revolting against Richard III in October 1483 which ended in his execution at the beginning of November the same year in Salisbury.

 

Six years after the death of Humphrey Stafford, Anne married  again to Walter Blount who was the first Baron Mountjoy.  They had no children (and trust me when I say that since beginning to track the descendants of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford that I am grateful whenever I come across that fact.) Mountjoy died in 1474 mentioning his beloved wife in his will.

Anne died in 1480 and is buried in Pleshy, Essex next to Humphrey Stafford as her will requested. Only her daughter Joan Stafford survived her. Most famously she left books to her one time daughter-in-law Margaret Beaufort who was now married to Thomas Stanley, Earl of Derby.

 

Baldwin, David. (2009).  The Kingmaker’s Sisters. Stroud: The History Press

The Encyclopaedia of the Wars of the Roses