Katherine Swynford – mischievous woman and scandalous duchess in Lincoln Cathedral

Decoration from Vestments depicting the Katherine Wheel – worked by the Lincoln Embroiders Guild to show what these lost treasures may have looked like.

It’s impossible to separate Katherine Swynford from Lincoln Cathedral. I think its one of the reasons that I love the cathedral so much – aside from all the wonderful carvings. The more I look at the choir screen the more fantastic creatures I spot. Anyway, back to John of Gaunt’s mistress. She’s got a chapter in Medieval Royal Mistresses published by Pen and Sword.

John of Gaunt married three times: firstly to Blanche of Lancaster for title and wealth; secondly to Constanza of Castile – to claim the kingdom of Castile and Leon (it wasn’t a successful venture); and thirdly for love to his long time mistress Katherine Swynford.

Evidence that Katherine was married to Sir Hugh Swynford by 1365 can be found in the register of Lincoln Cathedral which was kept by the Lincoln Cathedral Chapter to record the gifts it received between 1304 and 1386. Katherine was probably 15 at most when she married Sir Hugh Swynford of Coleby and Kettlethorpe. He was some fifteen years older than his bride and part of John of Gaunt’s retinue. He was often absent on campaign. In 1366 he was sent to Gascony.

The Christmas, Katherine was with her mistress, Blanche of Lancaster, who was John of Gaunt’s first wife, in Bolingbroke for the festivities but in the new year she left Blanche who was pregnant with Gaunt’s son, Henry, to travel to Lincoln where she rented a house in the Cathedral Close. Katherine gave birth to Hugh’s heir, Thomas, at the end of February 1367. He was baptised at the Church of St Margaret of 25 February.

Hugh Swynford died five years later while absent on campaign. Katherine was still very young, perhaps only 21 years of age, but she was responsible for three young children. Fortunately she was able to secure her dower rights to Kettlethorpe and one third of the manor of Coleby. John of Gaunt made the family a gift of £10. The gift was the first of many recorded in his accounts. In time Katherine would be described as ‘very dear and beloved’. For now though she continued to divide her time between running her estates and working in the household of John of Gaunt’s second wife Constanza of Castile, Blanche having died in 1368. She is best remembered however for her role as governess in the household of Gaunt’s eldest daughter’s Elizabeth and Philippa. She also looked after Gaunt’s son Henry until he reached the age of six and was sent into the household of Lady Wake to continue his education.

By the end of 1372 Katherine and John of Gaunt were involved in an affair. Their eldest son John Beaufort was born the following year. By 1381 the affair was of ten years standing (or there abouts) and Katherine had given Gaunt four healthy children. her youngest child, Joan, was a babe in arms at the time of the Peasants Revolt which saw Katherine disappear from the written record. In the aftermath of the rebellion John renounced his mistress. The quitclaim of 1382 was an unusual Valentine’s gift but it distanced Katherine and her children from Gaunt.

Katherine returned to Lincoln. She rented a house in the Cathedral Close but left on occasion to visit John’s son Henry of Bolingbroke and his wife Mary de Bohun. Her son by Sir Hugh was part of Henry’s household. She continued to run her estates – she was fined in 1375 for not maintaining the Fossdyke at Kettlethorpe – and to be a part of the extended royal family. She was invited to become a Lady of the Garter by Richard II in April 1387 and was part of the congregation the previous month when the king and his queen, Anne of Bohemia, visited Lincoln Cathedral.

Katherine Swynford’s house – Pottergate, Lincoln

In 1386, Katherine’s sister Philippa Chaucer, Henry of Bolingbroke, Thomas Swynford, John Beaufort and Robert Ferrers who was shortly to become Joan Beaufort’s husband were admitted to the fraternity of Lincoln Cathedral (Turner: p.125)

Constanza died in 1394. Lancaster was 56 years of age. On 13 January 1396 he married Katherine at Lincoln Cathedral having gained the necessary consent from the papacy to do so. Soon afterwards Katherine’s Beaufort children were legitimised by the papacy and by their cousin King Richard II by means of Letters Patent read out in Parliament.

Katherine, the daughter of a knight from Hainault, was the First Lady of the land and a scandalous one at that. But Lancaster’s health began to fail and his son, who was one of the Lords Appellants who sought to curb the power of Richard II’s favourites, was banished.

On 14 July 1398 Katherine’s son Henry was consecrated Bishop of Lincoln. He was translated to Winchester in 1404.

After Gaunt’s death, Henry returned from exile and claimed Richard’s throne for himself. As King Henry IV he granted Katherine 1,000 marks a years from the Duchy of Lancaster. She had retired to Lincoln where she maintained her close association with the cathedral. She gave them red velvet chasubles and orphreys decorated with golden leopards.

Katherine died on 10 May 1403. She was buried in the cathedral near the high altar. John of Gaunt was buried in Old St Paul’s next to his first wife Blanche of Lancaster. In November 1440 Katherine’s daughter Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland was buried near her mother. She was married Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland. Her eldest son Richard Neville, the 5th Earl of Salisbury would father another Richard – the so-called Kingmaker. His youngest daughter Anne was Richard III’s queen.

Before he died John of Gaunt arranged, in 1398, for a chantry to be built in the cathedral so that masses could be said for himself and for Katherine. Gaunt’s own links with Lincoln were of longstanding and dated from his first wedding to Blanche of Lancaster in 1362.

Hickey , Julia A., Medieval Royal Mistresses: Mischievous Women who Slept with Princes and Kings

Turner, Marian, Chaucer a European Life

From the Countess of Aumale to the two wives of William Marshal the Younger – money, marriage and how to make the most of widowhood

Eleanor of England – youngest daughter of King John

Hawise, the suo jure Countess of Aumale was married to William de Mandeville, 3rd Earl of Essex but she had something of a reputation during her life time according to Richard of Devizes as a woman ‘who is almost a man, lacking nothing virile except the virile organs.’ Despite that she was married off on Richard the Lionheart’s orders for a second time to William de Forz, her social inferior, who was one of the king’s naval commanders. The countess was not amused. She was even less amused when after de Forz’s death in 1195 she was required to take as her third husband Baldwin de Béthune who was a crusader and also Richard’s companion in captivity – he was well born but a third son. Baldwin would die in 1212 and Hawise took the opportunity of paying a fine of 5,000 marks in instalments to avoid marriage for a fourth time.

There were rumours that the countess was King John’s mistress and that her eldest son by William de Forz was in fact John’s own progeny. The rumour arose because when Hawise died the fine she owed the king was still not fully paid – a debt of 4,000 marks was carried forward to her heir- (remember a mark is 2/3’s of a pound so – £2667 in 1214 when she died and a whopping £4,000,000 or thereabouts now) but John forgave the new earl the debt, provided him with a wealthy bride of his own who he himself dowered and forgave Aumale for siding with the barons and the French – suggesting a degree of fondness with which King John did not habitually regard his aristocracy. And yes I have posted about Hawise and her son William before and she will turn up in the book on medieval royal mistresses being published by Pen and Sword in November. So why today?

Let us return to husband number three – Baldwin de Béthune – the imprisoned crusader and buddy of King Richard I. Friendship was clearly important because as a third son he would not reasonably have expected to marry someone as wealthy as Hawise who had possession of large chunks of Normandy (until John lost most of the duchy) as well as Holderness and Craven in Yorkshire. It helped that he had taken Richard’s place in prison and that he spent rather a lot of his own money paying the king’s ransom.

During the 1170s Baldwin served in the household of Henry II’s eldest son Henry The Young King. He made a lifelong friendship with another younger son struggling to make his own way in the world – William Marshal. Like Marshal as well as serving the Young King and Henry II, Baldwin offered loyal service to the Lionheart and King John – in 1200 he was one of the guarantor’s of peace between John and King Philip of France. He can be found signing royal grants in 1201 but, again, like William Marshal he found himself in less favour with the passage of time and withdrew to his wife’s lands. Unlike Marshal no one wrote a biography of his life soon after this death so he is less well known today than his old friend.

Baldwin and Hawise had a daughter named Alice and in 1203 Baldwin and Marshal arranged that their children should marry. William Marshal the Younger who was probably fostered by Marshal’s lifelong friend would marry Alice when she came of age and the two families would be tied by blood. Alice was not her mother’s heiress but she would inherit lands, including Wantage in Berkshire (currently Oxfordshire) which King Henry II and King Richard gave to her father. Unfortunately Alice died young and in 1224 William Marshal the Younger married King Henry III’s sister Eleanor who was born in 1215. Eleanor was nine at the time of the marriage and Marshal was thirty-four. He died in 1231 when Eleanor was nineteen but there were no children from the union. Soon afterwards Eleanor took a vow of chastity which meant that her brother wouldn’t be able to find another husband for her – unfortunately she fell in love several years later and the vow made things somewhat difficult for the couple.

Want to do calculations to update costs? Try the Bank of England’s inflation calculator.

https://www.bankofengland.co.uk/monetary-policy/inflation/inflation-calculator

Cecily of York

Cecily of York: probably 1482–83, formerly Canterbury Cathedral, now Burrell Collection

It was not always easy being a princess in the fifteenth century – Cecily of York, the second surviving daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, was born on 20 March 1469. It wasn’t a good year to be born. The week before her birth, a papal dispensation was issued for Cecily’s uncle George to marry Isabel Neville, the daughter of the Earl of Warwick – cousins of Cecily’s as it happens. By the end of spring Robin of Redesdale’s rebellion had flared up and been extinguished; George and Isabel tied the knot in Calais and then the king’s brother and cousin came back to England where they made war on Cecily’s father. By the middle of August 1469 Edward IV was a reluctant guest of the Kingmaker’s and Elizabeth Woodville together with their three daughters remained in London. The coup didn’t quite go as planned but the following year the king was forced to flee his kingdom whilst the queen and her daughters sought sanctuary in Westminster. Later Sir Thomas More in his account of the History of Richard III would describe her as ‘not so fortunate as fair’. She certainly had an eventful infancy and childhood which was anything but fortunate.

When Cecily was four she was contracted in marriage to James Duke of Rothesay to cement a pact with the kings of Scotland. The marriage was called off but for a little while Cecily was styled Princess of Scots. Although that particular marriage fell through in 1482 Edward IV continued to pursue the idea of a Scots alliance this time with the Duke of Albany who had designs on the Scottish throne.

On 15 January 1478 Cecily attended the marriage of her younger brother Richard Duke of York to the heiress Anne Mowbray.

Edward IV died on 9 April 1483. By the beginning of May Elizabeth Woodville, her daughters and younger son Richard of Shrewsbury were back in sanctuary at Westminster. In June Cecily was declared to be illegitimate with her siblings and in January 1484 Parliament issued the Titulus Regius confirmed the illegitimacy. By March Elizabeth had come to an agreement with Richard III and her daughters emerged from sanctuary. It’s possible that Cecily joined her elder sister Elizabeth in Queen Anne’s household or alternatively she may have been sent north with her younger sisters to Sandal Castle where Margaret Plantagenet and her younger brother Edward Earl of Warwick resided.

Richard had agreed to arrange suitable marriages for his nieces but he had also made them illegitimate. Cecily was married to Ralph Scrope of Upsall. The Scrope family were part of the Neville hegemony who transferred their allegiance to Richard when he was the Duke of Gloucester. The marriage was a good one for a base born daughter of the king but when Henry Tudor became king the marriage was annulled on the grounds of consanguinity. The problem remained that Cecily was a Plantagenet so Henry could not afford to make a very good marriage for his sister-in-law in case he inadvertently created opposition to his own rule. This matter was resolved by a marriage to Lord Welles – making Cecily his sister-in-law and his aunt by marriage. The marriage took place before the Christmas festivities of 1487 as by that time Cecily was married to Lady Margaret Beaufort’s half-brother. Her sister Catherine was married to Henry’s full uncle Jasper Tudor. Cecily’s two daughters died young but the marriage proved a successful one. Welles died in 1499 much to Cecily’s distress. She became a wealthy widow – Welles left her a life interest in his estates. Welles had taken the precaution of naming Lady Margaret Beaufort and Henry VII to oversee his wishes.

Henry appeared fond of Cecily. She played a prominent role at court as did her cousin Margaret the daughter of George Duke of Clarence and Isabel Neville.

Some time in 1502, or thereabouts, Cecily who was an ornament of Henry VII’s court, made a third marriage – to Thomas Kyme a squire from Lincolnshire. It was a love match – she had married far beneath her in much the same way that her grandmother Jaquetta of Luxembourg married below her social level. Henry VII was not as understanding of Cecily as Henry VI had been of her grandmother. As the sister of the queen she was a valuable bride (shades of Mary Boleyn). She was banished form court and her property confiscated. Fortunately Henry’s redoubtable mother Lady Margaret Beaufort supported Cecily by allowing the couple to live at her home at Collyweston. it appears that Margaret who knew the princess from infancy was fond of her. She managed to persuade Henry to allow Cecily to keep a small portion from the estates that Welles left her and to remit the fine that Kyme faced for having married without seeking royal permission.

Because Cecily chose to marry for love she dropped into obscurity. The written record becomes unclear. It seems that she bore Kyme two children, Richard and Margaret before dying in 1507. She is either buried in Quarr Abbey on the Isle of White -near her home, or somewhere near Hatfield where she possibly lived in the final weeks of her life.

Images of Quarr Abbey

Nicolas, Nicholas Harris. Privy Purse Expenses of Elizabeth of York: Wardrobe Accounts of Edward the Fourth: With a Memoir of Elizabeth of York, and Notes. United Kingdom: W. Pickering, 1830.

https://archive.org/details/livesprincesses02greegoog

Rather irritatingly I’ve just realised that I’m not sure if the middle photo bottom row is Quarr Abbey or not – if you recall all my photos were either destroyed or hopelessly jumbled.

Katherine Plantagenet – illegitimate daughter of Richard III

St James’ Garlickhythe – The medieval church was destroyed in the Great Fire of London.

During the summer of 1483 Richard Duke of Gloucester found it necessary to remind Londoners that his late brother was a tad on the licentious side – Jane Shore, the king’s mistress, who was in the duke’s bad books in any event for carrying messages between Elizabeth Woodville and Lord Hastings was required to do penance carrying a lighted taper bare foot through the streets of London in just her shift. It wasn’t news that Edward liked the ladies but it was a warm up for the fact was that apparently the late king forgot to mention to Elizabeth Woodville that he was already pre contracted to Lady Eleanor Butler when he married her in 1464 – in another secret marriage.

As well as illegitimising his nephews Richard was also pulling a media stunt that his father Richard of York and father-in-law the Earl of Warwick would have approved. Essentially he was stating that Edward’s court was corrupt to the core and that a new broom was required. Richard, a pious man, was just the chap for the job having the necessary Plantagenet bloodlines, a dutiful wife and an heir as well. For good measure Ralph Shaa reminded everyone who might care to listen that Duchess Cecily was supposed to have had a fling in Rouen with an archer whilst the Duke of York was busy elsewhere resulting in the arrival of Edward nine months later – who was tall and blond unlike his rather short and dark father.

However, Richard was not without his own past so far as the ladies were concerned. He had two acknowledged illegitimate children – John of Gloucester or Pontefract depending on the source and a daughter called Katherine, a possible second natural son named Richard who turned up as a builder in Kent and another daughter provided by the Victorians with no evidence to support the idea.

Katherine appears in the records in 1484 when Richard III arranged her marriage to William Herbert the former Earl of Pembroke who was created Earl of Huntingdon when Edward IV acquired the title for his eldest son. There is no indication of where or when she was born or who her mother might have been. There is some circumstantial evidence in Richard’s account books. In 1477 Richard granted Katherine Haute, a relation of the Woodvilles through marriage, an annuity of £5 a year from Richard’s estates in East Anglia. Its possible that Katherine’s marriage to James Haute came about when the pair discovered she was pregnant though given Gloucester’s later hostility to the Woodvilles seeking help from Elizabeth Woodville is a little eyebrow raising. The lure of an annual income of £5 may have done the job and ensured that James who was Elizabeth’s cousin took on a wife and child. With no other explanation for the annuity, two and two can be added together but whether Katherine Haute was ever Richard’s mistress will never be certain based on the current written record. Nor can history be sure who Katherine Plantagenet’s mother was.

Huntingdon carried Queen Anne’s sceptre at Richard’s coronation but there is no mention of Katherine being in attendance. The king made sure that the marriage agreement for his daughter included jointure lands of £200 a year which provided for Katherine’s widowhood. She was a young teenager at this point whilst her husband to be was approaching thirty and appears to have been subject to poor health. The king undertook to pay for the wedding and settle lands on his daughter. The king’s accounts reveal the purchase of rich fabrics for the bride and groom but beyond that very little is known. If Katherine had a child by her husband it does not seem to have survived and neither did Katherine. By the time of Elizabeth of York’s coronation as the queen consort of Henry VII in 1487, Herbert was described as a widower – although even that is a matter for some speculation. If Herbert repudiated Katherine it would have been a reference to the death of his first wife. She was buried in St James’ Church Garlickhythe London as the Countess of Huntingdon – no reference to whose daughter she was but if there was any monument or tomb of some description for Richard’s daughter it was destroyed by the Great Fire of London. It is possible that she died of sweating sickness and that her husband did not provide a monument or had yet to commission one when he himself died in 1491. He was buried in Tintern Abbey alongside his first wife – Mary Woodville.

Hammond, Peter, ‘The Illegitimate Children of Richard III,’ in J. Petre, ed., Richard III: Crown and People.

Hammond, Peter, The Children of Richard II

Hicks, Michael,  Anne Neville.

Horrox, Rosemary , Richard III: A Study in Service

Robin of Redesdale or Robin Mend-all

In April 1469 parts of the north rose in rebellion against Edward IV. John Neville, the Earl of Northumberland – the Percy family having been displaced for a time – put down the rebellion killing Robin, if Polydore Vergil is to be believed. A second leader took on Robin’s authority and name and the rebellion continued. it’s worth pointing out that John was the Kingmaker’s brother and that the Kingmaker, a.k.a the Earl of Warwick, orchestrated the uprising. Amongst the rebels demands was the removal of the Woodville family from power.

The real identity of Robin is unknown. He may have been Sir John Conyers or his brother William. Sir John was Middelham’s steward, related by marriage to the Nevilles and would fight alongside the kingmaker at the Battle of Edgecote in July 1469. Conyers was one of the casualties of the battle. Equally, it seems unlikely that Warwick’s brother would put down a rebellion fermented by the Kingmaker. An alternative source for the uprising might be the Percy family who had suffered a serious setback at Towton when their rivals the Nevilles emerged victorious and the Lancastrian king was toppled from power. The north became a Neville stronghold and in 1464 Neville became the Earl of Northumberland – which did not go down well with the locals. It should also be added that the rebels weren’t keen on the tax situation. None-the-Less the Warkwarth Chronicle places the blame for the rebellion squarely on the shoulders of Warwick.

Part of the problem in terms of understanding the rebellion, or even rebellions, and its participants is that the chronicles are often written at a later date and/or by writers living in the south. The Croyland Chronicler was not a fan of anyone who lived north of the River Trent – which isn’t even the north in He-who-is-occasionally-obeyed’s opinion but then he comes from Cumbria and most of the country is the south so far as he’s concerned. The other problem is that there’s no record of trials – there is a set of records sent to Calais (remember Warwick was the Captain of Calais)

Anne Neville, Queen of England

Anne Neville

Anne, the younger daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, also known as the ‘kingmaker’ was married to both Margaret of Anjou’s son, the Lancastrian heir to the throne and after this death at the Battle of Tewkesbury to Richard of Gloucester, the last Yorkist king.

Anne and her older sister Isabel grew up at Middleham where they met George of Clarence and Richard. Unfortunately their father’s relationship with George and Richard’s brother, King Edward IV soured after Edward married Elizabeth Woodville. In 1470, Warwick switched sides resulting in Anne’s marriage to Edward of Lancaster.

Following Warwick’s death at the Battle of Barnet on 14 April 1471, Isabel and Anne became co-heiresses but their mother Anne Beauchamp, who was descended from the Despensers, had first to be declared legally dead before George could access his wife’s inheritance as Richard Neville was earl in jure uxoris. Anne remained countess of Warwick until her death in 1492 but her estates were nobbled by her sons-in-law, although in order to marry Anne, Richard effectively forewent much of his share. Anne had effectively become the ward of George and had no intention of sharing the kingmaker’s estates with anyone. Anne was probably destined for a nunnery but in the meantime the story went that she was hidden in the kitchens.

Richard, not known for his lack of perseverance, arranged for Anne to go into sanctuary and for a dispensation from the pope permitting their marriage. The wedding took place in 1472 and the couple returned to Middleham. Eventually Anne Beauchamp was permitted to join them. Isabel died in 1476 as a result of complications from childbirth or from TB. Anne Neville acquired some of her sisters estates as well as all but adopting her young son Edward.

Edward IV died in April 1483 and Richard was crowned in July having revealed to the world that Edward had married Elizabeth Woodville bigamously, rendering Edward V and his siblings illegitimate. Anne was crowned with him. Their only child, another Edward, became Prince of Wales. He died in Middleham in 1484 whilst his parents were journeying north to visit him. Anne, grieving for her only child, became unwell, probably from TB, and died in March 1485. She was buried in Westminster Abbey – Richard was said to have wept at her funeral although rumour already painted him as a wife killer plotting to marry his own niece. On the day Anne died there was a solar eclipse – it was said afterwards that Richard lost his favour with Heaven on the day his wife died.

Joan of Acre, runaway princess

Joan of Acre was one of Edward I’s daughters. Joan was born in Acre in 1272 whilst her father, Edward, was participating in the 9th crusade. Edward narrowly escaped assassination during the unsuccessful conflict but by September the family was on its way home. Edward and his wife paused in Sicily and it was whilst there were there than news arrived that Henry III was dead. Edward was now the king. Joan’s mother, Eleanor of Castile, left the baby with her mother Joan, Countess of Ponthieu and continued back to England arriving in 1274.

King Edward I used all of his children as diplomatic pawns to further his foreign policy. Edward of Carnarvon was betrothed four times in his childhood. Meanwhile Joan did not arrive in England until 1278 by which time her father was negotiating a match for her. Joan was betrothed to Hartmann von Hapsburg, son of King Rudolf I of Germany but he drowned in 1281. Her father took the opportunity to marry her off to Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester who was already married to someone else when Edward suggested the match. The wedding took place in Westminster Abbey on 30 April 1290.

Gilbert de Clare

Gilbert was a half-uncle by marriage to Edward I – bear with me. Henry III’s mother, Isabella of Angouleme, married Hugh de Lusignan after the death of King John. Isabella of Angouleme’s daughter Alice de Lusignan was married to Gilbert in 1253. Gilbert was ten at the time and the marriage was annulled in 1285 after King Edward approached the papacy. This had the effect of illegitimising Gilbert’s children with Alice but Gilbert, the 9th Earl of Clare, 7th Earl of Hertford and 8th Earl of Gloucester was a very powerful baron who supported Simon de Montfort against Henry III. He only returned to the Crown faction when de Montfort formed an alliance with the Welsh prince Llewellyn ap Gruffudd. Edward wanted to bind the baron to the Crown through a marriage.

Joan was a princess with attitude – which was probably just as well given that her step-children were older than she was. Soon after her own wedding she was supposed to attend the wedding of her sister Margaret but she left court without her father’s permission. Edward expressed his wrath by giving seven dresses that had been destined for Joan to her sister instead.

Joan had four children before Gilbert died in 1295. Joan’s son Gilbert was killed at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 whilst her daughters all ended up married to various of Edward II’s favourites.

Joan chose her own future after the death of her husband. Edward I was arranging for her to marry the count of Savoy but she had other ideas. She had fallen in love with her husband’s squire Ralph de Monthermer. She sent Ralph to see her father with the request that he be knighted and when he returned she quietly got married. Unfortunately she didn’t tell her father what she had done so he continued with his plans and formally announced the betrothal of Joan to the Count of Savoy. Edward was said to be so angry when he found out that he threw his crown into the fire.

More practically he had Ralph locked up in Bristol Castle, refused to see Joan and confiscated all the estates she inherited from her husband. Joan sent her daughters to see their grandfather and the Bishop of Durham. Edward seems to have calmed down when he realised that Joan was pregnant – in August 1297 Ralph was created earl of Gloucester and Hertford by right of his wife. After ten years of happy marriage Joan died at Clare in Suffolk on 23 April 1307. Her titles passed to her son and Ralph became 1st Baron Monthermer.

Eleanor of Woodstock

Eleanor of Woodstock

Eleanor was born in 1318 was Edward II’s and Isabella of France’s eldest daughter. Edward was so pleased that he gave the queen 500 marks. For the first six years of her life she and her elder brother John and younger sister Joan remained in the custody of their mother Isabella of France at Wallingford Castle. Her eldest brother Edward also lived there until he was given his own household. Edward ensured that the family were provided for with manors in Macclesfield and the castle and the honour of High Peak, Derbyshire providing income.

In 1324 the little family were taken from the queen and taken into the care of Eleanor de Clare the wife of Hugh Despenser the Younger. Despenser had taken the opportunity of an Anglo-French conflict to state that Isabella, as a Frenchwoman, was a dangerous alien. Her lands were confiscated, her servants sent away or arrested and her children taken from her.

Eleanor and her sister Joan of the Tower left Eleanor’s care and were handed over to Ralph de Monthermer and Isabel Hastings at Marlborough Castle. Isabel was Hugh Despenser’s sister which perhaps explains his decision but equally Ralph was his brother-in-law having been married to Joan of Acre. John remained in Despenser’s household.

In 1328, a year before Isabella and Mortimer were toppled from power, Eleanor found herself in the household of her brother Edward III’s wife Philippa of Hainault. By that time negotiations were underway for a marriage to the Crown of Aragon. This match fell through and Eleanor was betrothed then married to Reinoud II of Guilders. He had something of a reputation but the whole family were aware of the difficulties of royal marriages – Eleanor’s mother, Isabella of France, having had enough of her husband’s male favourites, went to France, began an affair with Edward II’s enemy Roger Mortimer, invaded the country and allegedly arranged for her erstwhile spouse to have a nasty accident with a poker before being toppled from power by her eldest son. Eleanor was nine when her father died.

Eleanor sailed from Sandwich with a luggage full of Spanish cloth of gold and crimson velvet. The people of Guilders were pleased with their new countess – she was an English princess after all and might be able to provide a male heir. Reinoud had four daughters already. She gave birth to a son the following year in 1333 and three years later provided a spare heir called Edward.

In 1336 she was sent from her husband’s court and he began proceedings for an annulment of their marriage. He claimed that she had leprosy. There’s no evidence to support the story, nor for that matter her resolution of the problem. She arrived at court wearing a cloak which she removed to reveal…well… all of her…without a stitch on. She was very clearly not leprous so her husband had to take her back. Reinoud was shown to be a liar. It can’t have helped domestic bliss.

Reinould fell off his horse and died in 1343 leaving a nine-year-old son. Eleanor assumed power as regent but in 1350 her son confiscated all her lands. She retired to a convent where she lived in poverty for five years before she died in 1355 – at the start of the 1360s her son Edward usurped his brother and made himself Duke of Guilders but kept his brother in prison rather than murdering him. After Edward died his elder brother, Reinoud, was released from captivity – by that time he had put on a bit of weight and would be known in the history books as Reinoud the Fat.

Alison Weir, Isabella She-wolf of France, Queen of England

History Jar Podcast

Episode 4 of the podcast is now available in the series No plan like yours to study history wisely. Having covered the Normans and Plantagenets in previous podcasts we have now arrived at the house of Lancaster, descended from John of Gaunt, the third surviving son of Edward III. This week we cover Henry IV, Henry IV, and Henry VI.

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

With many thanks to Andrew Durrant of This is Distorted

www.thisisdistorted.com

And the legal bit:

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

Ambient battle sounds by pfranzen at https://freesound.org/people/pfranzen/sounds/192072/

Beheading SFX by Ajexk at https://freesound.org/s/271984/

History jar podcast episode 3 – P for Plantagenets

Episode 3 of the podcast is now available it covers the reigns of kings from Henry III to Richard II.

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

With many thanks to Andrew Durrant of This is Distorted

www.thisisdistorted.com

And the legal bit:

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

Ambient battle sounds by pfranzen at https://freesound.org/people/pfranzen/sounds/192072/

Beheading SFX by Ajexk at https://freesound.org/s/271984/

Toilet flushing by lorenzgillner at https://freesound.org/s/274448/