The House of Lancaster- the basics part ii

 

 

Constance of Castile.jpgJohn of Gaunt was married three times.

His first marriage was to Blanche of Lancaster.  She had a sister but ultimately she was the sole heiress of Henry of Grosmont, Duke of Lancaster.   She was descended from Henry III on both sides of her family but the huge wealth associated with the dukedom came Edmund Crouchback who was the second surviving son of Henry III.  Henry of Grosmont wasn’t Edmund Crouchback’s eldest son but his big brother Thomas who initially inherited the titles and estate died without heirs so Henry became the third earl of Lancaster. This title and all the land  was inherited in turn by Blanche who also brought the Earldom of Derby into John of Gaunt’s family.

In addition to Henry of Bolingbroke who became Henry IV, there was Philippa who married King John I of Portugal. Henry the Navigator is her son. Another daughter Elizabeth married into the Holland family and her descendants, the dukes of Exeter and Oxford, were involved in the Wars of the Roses.

Blanche of Lancaster died September 1369.  Traditionally she is thought to have died from bubonic plague but historians increasingly think that she died from complications associated with childbirth.  In any event soon after her death John became romantically attached to a young woman in his household, the widowed wife of one of his knights – a certain Katherine Swynford.   Katherine may or may not have been related to the royal family of Hainhault but the fact is that the widow of a Lincolnshire knight was not a suitable match for a royal duke with aspirations.

On the 21 September 1371 John of Gaunt married for a second time to Constance of Castile.  Constance was the daughter of the rather descriptively named Pedro the Cruel of Castile who had been deposed by his half-brother Henry. Whilst Constance was the Queen of Castile in name following her father’s death she never actually ruled there and part of the reason for her marriage to John of Gaunt was that she wanted someone with a bit of clout and a large army to retrieve her kingdom for her. Equally John rather fancied being a king and Richard II’s advisers thought that it was a good idea as they didn’t totally trust John of Gaunt not to snaffle his nephew’s kingdom. The marriage was a political one but it produced two children – a short-lived son called John and a daughter called Catherine of Lancaster who married back into the royal house of Castile when she married Henry III of Castile who was her half-cousin.   It is Catherine of Lancaster’s descendants who can be seen on today’s Lancaster family tree at the start of this post linking back in to the English royal family when her great granddaughter, Katherine of Aragon, married Henry VIII.

Tomorrow – wife number three and the Beauforts. I have my fingers very firmly crossed that I have managed to spell Castile correctly throughout the whole post – just let’s say that I had a problem with the number of “l”s involved, in much the same way that when I wrote a university essay about private journals I somehow ended up writing about milking parlours despite rewriting the essay three times and reading it very carefully on each occasion!

The House of Lancaster – the basics

 

The House of Lancaster - kingsi.jpgThis afternoon I’ve been learning how to convert a word document into a jpeg.  It is rather a straight forward process as it turns out.  The word document needs to be saved as a pdf which can then be saved as a jpeg.  I am therefore a very happy woman and well under way with planning the first part of the forthcoming day school on the Beaufort  family.

Here then is a brief reminder of why the House of Lancaster ended up wearing the crown.

Edward III was a long lived king.  He became king in 1327, at the age of 14, when his father Edward II “abdicated” at the suggestion of Edward III’s mother Isabella of France and her lover Roger Mortimer, Earl of March.  Three years later Edward III overthrew his regents and took charge of his kingdom. In part it was because Edward was now a young man but other factors must have included the fact that Roger Mortimer’s military campaign in Scotland didn’t go terribly well and there was the all important factor that Isabella of France had become pregnant with Mortimer’s child.  It doesn’t take a genius to work out that with Mortimer in charge that Edward III was a hindrance to perhaps placing his own child upon the throne.  Edward became involved in a coup of his own. Men loyal to Edward III burst in to Nottingham Castle through a secret passage and arrested Mortimer who was promptly carted off to London where he was executed. Alison Weir speculates that the child that Isabella was carrying was either still born or miscarried.  There certainly isn’t any further reference to an illegitimate child of the queen’s.

Meanwhile Edward III had married, the year after he became king in name only, Philippa of Hainhault. Edward and Philippa had thirteen children not all of whom survived infancy which is rather impressive since Edward III was busy governing his kingdom and launching the Hundred Years War base don the fact that his mother was a french princess, there was a vacancy and no one had explained salic law to him.   In addition to his heir, also called Edward (of Woodstock) and whom History knows as the Black Prince he had four other sons who lived into adulthood. Edward wished to ensure that all his sons were well provided for so turned them into dukes and ensured that they were all married to heiresses.

Unfortunately the Black Prince instead of settling down to beget plentiful heirs of his own became embroiled in a love story to compete with that of his younger brother John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford.  He settled his heart upon Joan of Kent who was the granddaughter of Edward I and his second wife (Margaret of France).  Young Joan or the Fair Maid of Kent as she is sometimes called had a bit of a reputation.  The Black Prince aside from being quite closely related to her was her third husband – husbands one and two had both been alive at the same time and there had been quite some scandal over the whole affair when she selected the knight Thomas Holland to be her spouse rather than the heir of the Earl of Salisbury. She had several children but only one child, Richard of Bordeaux, who survived infancy with her third husband the Black Prince.  The Holland children and their descendants turn up throughout the Wars of the Roses having married into various families adding to the general sense of internecine quarrelling.

The Black Prince careered around France, irritating the French, winning battles and inconveniently dying of dropsy in 1376 the year before his father which meant that the heir to the throne was a nine-year-old boy with four wealthy adult male uncles…and for those readers who enjoy a good pantomime this was clearly not a good position to be in.

It says something for the stability of the kingdom that Richard II became king in 1377 aged just ten.  Four years later the Peasants were revolting and Richard showed his metal by riding out to meet their leader Wat Tyler at Mile End and then at Smithfield.  The rebellion was unsuccessful and this is not the post to explore it any further. Let’s just say that the reign didn’t go well after a promising early start.

Richard’s lords, the so-called Lords Appellant plotted against him.  One of the men was his uncle – Thomas of Woodstock, the Duke of Gloucester.  He would have a nasty accident in Calais with a mattress which suffocated him on his nephew’s orders. Another uncle Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence was already dead – poisoned it would appear by his Italian father-in-law. The Duke of York (Edmund of Langley) kept his nose clean and receives mention in Richard II’s will as a potential heir along with Lionel’s grandson by his only child Philippa who married Roger Mortimer, Earl of March (a descendent of Isabella of France’s lover)- which just leaves us with the most powerful uncle, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.  Everyone believed that Gaunt wanted to be king but he was never anything but loyal to his nephew.

The same can not be said of Gaunt’s eldest son, Henry of Bolingbroke (the Earl of Derby). Henry had joined the Lords Appellant in 1387 to plot against Richard who bided his time until he had gained sufficient power to take his revenge.  Henry meanwhile had learned the error of his ways and John of Gaunt had returned from making his claim to the throne of Castile to help keep order in the family. Henry of Bolingbroke reported an alleged treasonous comment in 1398 made by Thomas Mowbray, the Duke of Norfolk.  The pair were to fight a duel at Coventry but Richard changed his mind and banished Mowbray for life.  Henry was banished for a period of ten years, ostensibly to avoid further blood shed.  The following year John of Gaunt died and rather than send the revenue from the Lancaster estates to his cousin Henry, Richard II now took the opportunity to banish Henry of Bolingbroke for life and claim all of his uncle’s lands.  Richard had cousin Henry’s young son, also called Henry with him as a hostage for Henry of Bolingbroke’s good behaviour when he sailed off to Ireland to deal with the Irish.

Henry of Bolingbroke, now returned to England claiming that he wanted nothing more than what was rightfully his. He swiftly gained sufficient power to claim the kingdom for himself and bingo Henry of Bolingbroke, a.k.a the Earl of Derby transformed overnight into King Henry IV (though he did spend the rest of his life looking one this shoulder for potential plotters and assassins).  Richard II was carted off to Pontefract Castle where someone (Thomas Swynford as it happens) forgot to feed him and he died. Young Henry the hostage would turn into Henry V,

The house of Lancaster now seemed secure on the throne as Henry IV had many sons. Unfortunately his eldest son Henry V contracted dysentery and died leaving a nine month old child, also called Henry on the throne. After a while the hold of the House of Lancaster unravelled – Henry VI aside from not wanting to thrash the French actually married one of them, failed to produce an heir for such a long time that when Prince Edward finally turned up there were plenty of rumours about paternity.  It didn’t help that Henry VI had suffered a mental breakdown and was incapable of ruling let alone acknowledging his son.

The descendants of all those dukes began to look back up their family trees.  Factions formed and it was one short step from angry words to drawn swords on various battle fields.  Ultimately Prince Edward of Lancaster would died at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471 meaning that the house of Lancaster would have to look back up its own family tree for a potential heir.

Henry V’s brothers were as follows:

Thomas who died in 1421 at the Battle of Bauge.  He had no legitimate children.

John, the Duke of Bedford who took over the campaign and governance in France after the death of his brother Henry V.   He had been married twice for reasons of allegiance, firstly to Anne of Burgundy and then to Jacquetta of Luxembourg (yes, that one who was mother of Elizabeth Woodville).  Neither wife had produced a little scion of the house of Lancaster.

Humphrey, the Duke of Gloucester who took over ruling in England on behalf of his little nephew Henry VI counterbalanced by the child’s half great-uncle Cardinal Beaufort.  Humphrey is known as the “Good Duke.”  His first wife was Jacqueline of Holland, Zeeland and Hainault (all very useful for waging war against the French).  The marriage was annulled  and Humphrey married his mistress Eleanor Cobham.  In 1441 Humphrey’s grip on political power was removed when his wife was convicted of witchcraft and the pair were forcibly divorced.  There were no children and Humphrey died unexpectedly in 1447…possibly from poison.

For the House of Lancaster to continue to vie for the throne after the death of Henry Vi and his son in 1471 it would have to look elsewhere for its sprigs – which is, of course, where the House of Beaufort comes into the equation.

Meanwhile there’s always an opportunity for spotting heraldic devices on modern pubs.  The white hart was Richard II’s favoured heraldic device whereas Henry IV used several including the fettered swan of his wife Mary de Bohun.  Henry V sometimes used the fettered swan as well.  And then of course there is Henry VI’s spotted panther  incensed (means its shooting flames) which is rather wonderful but which so far as I am aware does not feature as a pub.

 

William Marshall – loyal knight and crusader

WilliamMarshalAlready a week into 2018 – where on earth did 2017 go? But now that we have arrived at Twelfth Night the time has come to refill the History Jar.  Before I meandered into the halls of England I was waxing lyrical about William Marshall.  It turns out that I have even more reason to be interested inhume than I had first thought.  It turns out that my spouse – “He Who Is Occasionally Obeyed- HWIOO” is a direct descendant of the aforementioned.

However, back to the man in question.  Serving Henry II and his sons was not an easy option. By February 1183 Henry II and  Prince Richard found themselves facing a rebellious army headed up by the rest of the royal brood. The Young King soon found himself in an uncomfortable position and sent for William.  Interestingly Henry II gave Marshall leave to rejoin his rebellious son.

History doesn’t say what William thought of the Young King’s looting of the abbey at La Couronne near Limoges but when the Young King succumbed to dysentery it didn’t take folk long to point at his desecration of the abbey rather than poor hygiene as the cause of the problem.

On the 7th June 1183, at Martel Castle, The Young King realised that he was dying. On the 11th of June he made his confession in public.  William Marshall was one of the knights who heard Prince Henry’s sins described and saw him receive the last rites.  One of the last things he did aside from asking to be buried with his ancestors and for mercy for his household was to give William his cloak and ask him to take it to the Holy Land “and with it pay my debts to God.” Chroniclers writing afterwards described Henry as a bit of a wild playboy.  Gerald of Wales described him as ungrateful.

Whatever the truth, bearing mind that no one was too keen on reminding Henry II of any links they might have had with his rebellious offspring, Marshall now stepped away from his role within the royal household and set off on pilgrimage.  It was probably a very sensible thing to do.  By this time he’d been accused of all kinds of naughtiness with the Young King’s wife and had taken part in two rebellions against Henry II as part of the mesnie (household) of the Young King.  What is more interesting is that Henry II promised to keep Marshall’s job open for him and gave him money for the journey.  Henry had, despite everything, loved his son.

We know that Marshall spent two years in the Holy Land but we don’t know what he got up to because although his biography mentions many exploits in passing it doesn’t go into any detail. Certainly Marshall didn’t arrive at an auspicious time.  The forces of Saladin were victorious across the region nor did it probably help that the man who was in part responsible for his uncle Patrick’s murder was in charge militarily -Guy de Lusignan who would eventually marry Sybilla of Jerusalem and inherit a very troubled kingdom after the death of the boy king Baldwin V. Guy would be taken prisoner within two years by Saladin and Jerusalem would fall triggering the Third Crusade.

By the spring of 1186 Marshal was back in England with a length of silk cloth which would one day become his shroud.  The Young King’s cloak was left in Jerusalem – Marshall’s last service to Henry II’s eldest son complete.  Marshall was ready to resume his service to the Crown and as he came to the brink of his fourth decade it was time to take a wife.

Marshall’s life would continue to be intertwined with the lives of Henry II’s sons.  He would serve them with loyalty and also the boy king Henry III but ultimately in 1219 he would lay down his secular burden, retire to his estates in Caversham. His own loyal knight John of Earley – a man who contributed much to Marshall’s biography – would be sent to collect a simple length of white silk which had lain in store throughout Marshall’s rather eventful life. He revealed that he had taken a vow to join the Knights Templar in the 1180s -so perhaps during his time in the Holy Land.  In return for them burying him as one of their own he gave them the manor of Upleadon.  He’d even arranged for the stitching of a robe of the knights’ order.

Marshall was buried in the church of the Knights’ Templar in London on 20 May 1219.  It would appear that Marshall may have spent only two years in the Holy Land but that part of his heart had been there ever since.

His pilgrimage to the Holy Land was the second pilgrimage that he had made.  His first one had been to Cologne when he had been accused in 1182 of indiscretions with the Young King’s wife.  Marshall had demanded trial by combat to prove his innocence and been refused.  He had taken himself off to Cologne to the shrine of the Three Kings.  The relics had been taken from Milan in 1164 but it was only in the 1190s that an impressive golden shrine was constructed – which seems an appropriate way to end a post the day after Epiphany, the day when the three kings or magi were supposed to have arrived in Bethlehem following “yonder star.”

magi

Medieval Halls

DSC_0204Until about 1600 halls were large official rooms rather than private spaces.  Gainsborough Old Hall is the advent for December 2nd.  It’s a wonderful building constructed from timber frame and brick.  It was built by Thomas Burgh who inherited the manor of Gainsborough in 1455 – so just as the Wars of the Roses was kicking off.  Thomas’s father had done rather well from the Hundred Years War and had married into the Percy family to improve their social standing.  It was his marriage into the Party family that bought Gainsborough into the Burgh’s possession.

Historians believe that the hall and kitchen were built first from timber in the traditional manner with a cruck frame and wattle and daub. The brick was added later when the Burgh family wanted new ways of showing off their wealth.  The great hall is constructed from huge oak beams.  Originally there would have been a central fire.  The smoke escaped through a louvred frame in the roof – so more kippering.  The raised dais where the lord and his family sat was at the opposite end of the room from the cooking  and service areas which were accessed through three doors.  Evidence of the screen hiding these doors can still be seen in the wall above the door frames.

IMG_9865

 

 

 

Thomas was a Yorkist so found that his position in society was further established.  He became Sheriff of Lincoln as well as one of the Esquires to the Body of Edward IV.    He celebrated his new position by marrying a wealthy widow.

Thomas continued to be loyal to Edward in 1469 when the Earl of Warwick rebelled against Edward’s lordship and then during the so-called Re-Adaptation of Henry VI.  In fact it was Thomas who was one of the Yorkists who helped Edward escape his foes in 1471.

Richard III  visited the hall on the way from York to London on October 10th 1483.  The owner of the time Sir Thomas Burgh  was the same chap who’d commissioned the building in the first place and who had demonstrated his loyalty to the Yorkist cause throughout the period.  A week previously Henry Tudor had attempted to sail from Brittany with a fleet to invade at his mother’s behest.  He was forced to turn back leaving the duke of Buckingham to rise in rebellion agains this former friend Richard III.  Buckingham would be executed in Salisbury at the beginning of November and Edward V’s coronation postponed for the last time.

However, something went seriously awry between the House of York and the Burgh family because Thomas turned his coat and by 1485 was a supporter of Henry Tudor. As a result of his support of the Tudors, Thomas was elevated once again becoming Baron Gainsborough.

Sir Thomas’s heir, Edward was loyal to the Tudors as well but suffered from inherited mental health problems meaning that a younger son also called Thomas became the head of the family.  This particular Lord Burgh was Anne Boleyn’s chamberlain and sat as part of the jury at her trial. His son, another Edward, was Katherine Parr’s first husband. They married in 1529 but by 1533 he was dead.

Katherine Howard.jpg Henry VIII visited the hall with wife number five- the ill fated Katherine Howard.

It’s unusual to find an untampered medieval hall simply because later owners added extensions and made alterations to suit their own needs. I must admit that I rather liked the Henry VIII and his wife dolls scattered around the hall – a couple of whom are pictured here and its not often you can trot around corridors that cover such a fascinating period of history from start to finish.

Katherine Parr Henry VIII

Jacquetta and Sir Richard Woodville – Yorkists

Plate 4--Garter Stall Plate earl riversSir Richard Woodville (Lord Rivers) and his eldest son Sir Anthony were men in trouble in the aftermath of the Battle of Towton fought at Eastertide 1461.  They were Lancastrians who within six weeks of the battle found themselves attainted of treason and their lands confiscated.

By July 12 1462 Lord Rivers was pardoned.  It would appear from the correspondence of the time that Jacquetta had a hand in the changing state of affairs.   By 1463 Lord Rivers had found a place in the Privy Council.

Even more unexpectedly perhaps the new king married the couple’s eldest daughter the recently widowed Elizabeth Grey – who history knows as Elizabeth Woodville in May 1464.  Presumably Edward knew that marrying a penniless Lancastrian widow wouldn’t go down well with Warwick, especially as Edward had been in Calais in 1460 when Lord Rivers had been paraded through the town and rated as a “knave.”  Perhaps this was why Edward failed to mention the fact of his marriage to his cousin.

Elizabeth was crowned on May 26 1465.  There was a lot of emphasis placed upon Elizabeth’s maternal pedigree. In February 1466 the couple’s first child was born.    Between 1463 and 1483 the Woodvilles would rise in power and political dominance.    The earl of Warwick realised this would be at the expense of the Nevilles within week’s of Elizabeth Woodville’s public acknowledgement as between 1464 and 1466 Elizabeth arranged the marriage of many of her siblings into the richest and most powerful families in the land starting with the marriage of Elizabeth’s sister to the heir of the earl of Arundel.  Personally Warwick would not have been amused when the match he arranged between his nephew George and Anne Holland, heiress to the earldom of Exeter was overturned so that Anne could marry Elizabeth’s oldest son Thomas Grey.  Warwick’s aunt the dowager duchess of Norfolk (Katherine Neville) found herself married to nineteen year old John Woodville.  The duchess would have qualified for her bus pass at the time.  I could go on but you get the gist – there were a certain number of heirs and heiresses available and the Woodvilles swamped the market.

It was undoubtedly the rise of the Woodvilles that contributed to Warwick’s decision to turn against Edward in 1469. Not only had the family married above themselves so far as he was concerned but Sir Richard had ousted Lord Mountjoy (who just so happened to be the earl of Warwick’s uncle by marriage) from the position of treasurer in 1466.  Matters probably weren’t helped when the following year he was elevated to being Constable of England.

Warwick broke away from Edward in 1469 giving his association with low born men like earl (yes that’s right there was a promotion as well) as one of his reasons.  The two had apparently reconciled their differences earlier but a northern rebellion led by Robin of Redesdale was actually the earl of Warwick’s doing.  In addition the earl was plotting with Edward’s brother George duke of  Clarence.  The whole thing only came into the open when George married Isobel Neville (Warwick’s oldest daughter) on 11 July in Calais.  Edward suddenly discovered that not only was he facing an army of rebels from the north but that Warwick and Clarence had arrived in Sandwich and were marching with a second army having been allowed into London and “borrowed” some money from the City.  Edward was caught between two armies and became reliant on the earls Pembroke and Devon to raise an army on his behalf.

It didn’t go well for Edward or his earls for that matter.  On 26th July 1469   The earl of Pembroke’s army was intercepted by Warwick at Edgecote near Banbury and bested at the river crossing there.   The army might have fought on but Pembroke’s men seeing more of Warwick’s forces arriving assumed that the earl’s army was much larger than it really was.   William Herbert, the earl of Pembroke was captured and executed the following day.  The earl of Devon was also executed as were a number of Edward IV’s other key supporters.

Edward was happily oblivious to all of this being ensconced in Nottingham at the time when he left the city on the 29th July he was captured by Bishop George Neville at Olney and now found himself in the situation of Henry VI – i.e. in need of protection from bad advisers – or more correctly a prisoner.  By August he was resident in Warwick’s castle at Middleham and Elizabeth Woodville was firmly situated in Westminster with her children in sanctuary.

Where were the Woodvilles in all of this?  Sir Richard and his second son John were in Edward IV’s army.  They fled the went into hiding.  They were found in August at Chepstow and executed on the 12th August 1469 at Kennilworth.

That same month one Richard Wake accused Woodville’s widow Jacquetta of being a witch.  The earl of Warwick had Jacquetta arrested and taken to Warwick Castle.  Jacquetta did not panic.  Instead she wrote a letter to the mayor and aldermen of London calling in a favour.  George duke of Clarence became involved and Warwick for whatever reason seemed to get cold feet about the whole business and released her.  She very sensibly joined Elizabeth claiming sanctuary in Westminster Abbey.

The witchcraft case only failed ultimately because Edward was able to escape his cousin’s clutches in 1470 and the family disagreement patched up (for the time being).  On the 10th February 1470 it was added to the record books that the dowager duchess of Bedford was not in fact a witch and that her accusers were malicious trouble makers.  The story came out of the woodwork again in 1484 when Richard III wanted to use the tale against the Woodvilles – it can be seen in the Titulus Regulus.

Since then much has been made by fiction writers of Jacquetta’s magical abilities from blowing up storms to arranging for a nasty fog.  However, in reality the lady’s biggest mistake was to be an educated woman at a time when being able to read was suspect and being the mother of the most hated family in England (by some powerful factions in any event) did not help.  In the previous generation Good Duke Humphrey’s wife, Eleanor Cobham, was accused of witchcraft as a ploy to bring down Humphrey whilst Henry IV’s second wife Joan of Navarre was also accused of witchcraft – by her step-son no less- as a method of controlling her dower lands.

England did not remain long at peace.  By September 1470 Warwick and Clarence were in Lancastrian colours and Margaret of Anjou had invaded.  Jacquetta returned to sanctuary with Elizabeth and her grandchildren whilst Edward IV and Jacquetta’s son Anthony fled abroad.

Jacquetta died on the 30 May 1472.  She was fifty-six and like Katherine Swynford – her descendents would be English monarchs to this day.

Gregory, Philippa, Baldwin, David and Jones, Michael. (2011) Women of the Cousins’ War.  London: Simon and Schuster

Thomas Walsingham – and the “Scandalous Chronicle.”

KatSwynfordThomas Walsingham was a Benedictine monk.  He lived at St Albans Abbey where he had been educated and is usually considered the last of the great medieval chroniclers being a prolific producer of manuscripts including the “Chronicon Angliae” which covering the years 1328 to 1388.  It is in this chronicle that he criticises John of Gaunt.   The “Gesta Abbatum” or the St Albans Chronicle or Chronica Maiora as a continuation of that of Mathew Paris – and in fact his histories draw heavily on Paris’s work. His writings end in 1422 when he died but it is from Walsingham that we know about Wat Tyler, John Wycliff and the reigns of Richard II and Henry IV.

In part because he wasn’t a fan of John Wycliff and Lollardy – he took against John of Gaunt who was regarded as offering protection to reformers, Wycliff in particular. However, it should be added that there are two versions of Walsingham’s chronicle – one which is deeply hostile to John of Gaunt describing him as having “unbridled malice and greed, fearing neither God nor man.”  Walsingham’s general view was that Gaunt was after his nephew’s crown. True, Gaunt was the power behind the throne but hindsight shows that he never sought to take the crown by force despite several provocations.  It would also have to be said that Walsingham was just repeating what other people thought.  In 1377 his arms were reversed and marched through London by an angry mob. In 1381 his London palace, the Savoy, was burned to the ground. Walsingham was also critical of John’s relationship with  Katherine Swynford describing her as an “unmentionable concubine” and a “whore.”

william bell scott john of gauntRather amusingly and to the detriment of the chronicle a second version was penned after Henry IV, who was of course Gaunt’s son, came to the throne. Oddly all the unpleasant remarks about Gaunt were removed…so that the first version came to be known as “the scandalous chronicle.”

In all fairness Walsingham was critical of most of Richard II’s courtiers describing them as knights of love rather than war and better with words than weapons – well he should know about that!

Lucraft, Jeannette. (2006) Katherine Swynford: The History of a Medieval Mistress. Stroud: Sutton Publishing

Weir, Alison. (2007) Katherine Swynford:The Story of John of Gaunt and his Scandalous Duchess. London: Random House

Get thee to a nunnery! Swynford and Chaucer

nun5.gifIt was quite common in the earlier part of the Middle Ages for a parent to dedicate a baby or a young child to holy orders.  These children were called oblates because the child was offered to God with an altar cloth wrapped around their right hand – an oblation or offering.

Prior to the invasion of 1066 William, duke of Normandy, and his wife Matilda sent their daughter Cecilia into the noviciate at the abbey of Holy Trinity in Caen.  The date is significant – 18 June 1066.  She didn’t become a fully professed nun until 1075 when she was about nineteen or twenty.

It’s easy to speculate that Cecilia was offered in exchange for a successful invasion. Equally many parents gave their child as an offering in hope of heavenly brownie points. It should also be added that if you were a man with many daughters and insufficient lands you might be tempted to palm the plainest or least marriageable daughter off on the Church to avoid all the expenditure that accompanied nuptial arrangements.  Until the rule of Innocent III (1198-1215) children who were given to the Church had no power to quit the religious life once they grew up.  This could lead to unfortunate incidences of runaway or pregnant nuns not to mention nuns like Chaucer’s abbess who dressed well and kept pets.

Katherine Swynford’s eldest daughter Margaret along with her cousin Elizabeth Chaucer entered the nunnery at Barking when they were children.  It is possible that Katherine Swynford and Philippa Chaucer were following family tradition in dedicating a daughter to the Church because evidence suggests that the pair had an older sister (probably a half sibling) called Elizabeth or possibly Isabelle who entered the nunnery of St Wandru in Mons in 1349.

medieval-nuns

 

Elizabeth Chaucer entered the nunnery in 1381 following nomination by Richard II – demonstrating the influence of Katherine by this time.  Elizabeth had previously been lodged in the convent of St Helens in Bishopgate.  We know that John of Gaunt paid her admission fee – in lieu of a dowry.  It was a large sum- £51 8s 2d.  This in its turn has given rise to the rumour that Philippa may have had an affair with the duke of Lancaster and that Elizabeth was his daughter.  As Weir points out, Gaunt acknowledged his other illegitimate children and provided for them handsomely so why would he be furtive about Elizabeth, if she was indeed his?.She also notes that the care given by Gaunt to  members of his household was generous so there should be no raised eyebrows about the gift, although of course Auntie Katherine may have had a hand in it so that her own daughter would have, at least, had the company of a cousin. Margaret went on to become the abbess of Barking in 1419.

The abbess of Barking had the legal status of a baron- a reminder that for women the Church was more or less the only way to wield power in your own right so long as you made it to the top of the job ladder.  Margaret Swynford is recorded as dying in 1433.

Its not much information about the two girls but it’s all there is!

Weir speculates as to whether Sir Hugh and Katherine Swynford might have had other children.  She notes that there was a Katherine Swynford at Stixwold Priory in 1377.  However, other than the name and the fact that it is just possible that the traditionally accepted marriage date for Hugh and Katherine is wrong there is no evidence that this particular Katherine was a member of our Katherine Swynford’s immediate family.  Also Barking was a prestigious location.  It would be here that Jasper and Edmund Tudor were sent after their mother’s death.  By contrast Stixwold was rather impoverished.

 

Lucraft, Jeannette. (2006) Katherine Swynford: The History of a Medieval Mistress. Stroud: Sutton Publishing

Weir, Alison. (2007) Katherine Swynford:The Story of John of Gaunt and his Scandalous Duchess. London: Random House

‘Houses of Benedictine nuns: Abbey of Barking’, in A History of the County of Essex: Volume 2, ed. William Page and J Horace Round (London, 1907), pp. 115-122. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/essex/vol2/pp115-122 [accessed 7 September 2017].

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Blanche Swynford

KatSwynfordBeing a girl, daughter of a minor and somewhat impecunious Lincolnshire knight claiming descent back to the Saxons, no one thought it sufficiently important to make note of Blanche Swynford’s date of birth. Of course, History reveals little Blanche to be the god-daughter of John of Gaunt and daughter of Katherine Swynford. Nor for that matter is History terribly sure about the number of her sisters.

 

Historians are uncertain whether Blanche is older or younger than her brother Thomas who was born on 21 September 1368.  Anthony Goodman argues that Blanche was born sometime in 1366 whilst John of Gaunt’s first wife was still alive.  It makes sense that if Gaunt was her godfather that Blanche of Lancaster may well have been her godmother.  Equally it is possible to argue that the baby was named after the late duchess and not born until 1370 (ish).  Both scenarios are equally valid although there may be some shifting in the dates depending on the text.

Weir suggests that Blnache may have been born earlier given that Hugh inherited his estates in 1361 pushing the marriage date for Katherine and Hugh back to the start of the decade, at a point where Katherine would have only just attained a legally marriageable age, rather than placing it sometime between 1366 and 1367 as is usual.  In part the problem arises because Historians are uncertain whether Katherine married at a very young age or not.  The argument often given is that it seems unlikely that a very young woman would have been made governess of Gaunt’s children.

What we can be certain about is that the papal dispensation for the marriage between John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford mentions Blanche because of the relationship that being godparent created.  There is also some evidence to suggest that Blanche grew up with John’s daughters – which makes sense given that Katherine was their governess- and which Weir uses as evidence of Katherine being married by the end of 1362 with Blanche making an arrival the following year.  The fact that Blanche is in Gaunt’s records as being in the household of his daughters in 1368 helps this viewpoint.

She turns up again in the aftermath of Queen Philippa’s death on 14 August 1369.  Edward III provided mourning for the ladies at court and Blanche as lady-in-waiting or more accurately demoiselle to John of Gaunt’s daughters received suitable garb for the occasion.  Weir argues that the mourning given to the Swynford family at this time reflects the fact that Philippa remained fond of Katherine and  Philippa Chaucer after their years growing up in the queen’s household.

Lucraft identifies the fact that Gaunt takes an active interest in his godchild.  Katherine was awarded the wardship of Robert Deyncourt in 1375 specifically to cover Blanche’s dowry. Of course, one of the key factors of having a wealthy ward was to marry him into the family as soon as decently possible.  Weir writes that Gaunt intended Deyncourt, a scion of the Lancaster Affinity, as a groom for his godchild. However – Blanche did not marry Robert.

Did she die young? Was Blanche dead by 1378? Possibly.  Alternatively the records provide us with another possible groom in the form of Sir Thomas Morrieux – the gift Gaunt gave the happy couple was extremely generous including as it did silver spoons, saucers and a basket with a silver top. The difficulty is that this may be a different Blanche. Froissart says that Morrieux’s wife was Gaunt’s illegitimate daughter. Either Froissart thought Blanche Swynford was Gaunt’s; or she was the daughter of Marie de St Hillaire or Froissart was wrong (his chronicles do contain errors). The evidence that this particular Blanche is Blanche Swynford is circumstantial- Morrieux was a Lancastrian retainer with an annuity of £100 p.a who died in Spain. Our lack of knowledge about his wife reflects the difficulty of decoding the past where records are incomplete and names not always terribly helpful.

The difficulties of working out relationships from fragmentary evidence and deductions without necessarily knowing exact dates for events are summarised by Sydney Armitage-Smith writing in 1904 about John of Gaunt:

But the attempt to identify the Duke s daughter and the daughter of his later mistress breaks down hopelessly. (It was made by Sir N Nicolas, Scrope v Grosvenor Con
troversy 11 185) For (i) there is Froissart’s explicit state ment quoted above ; (11) Blanche is never mentioned among the Beauforts , (ui) there is the insuperable difficulty of age.
Katharine Swynford, born in 1350, and married to Sir Hugh Swynford m 1367, whose elder child, Sir Thomas Swynford, was born in 1368, could not possibly have been the mother of Blanche, who was married to Sir Thomas Moneux in 1381.

https://archive.org/stream/johnofgaunt001003mbp/johnofgaunt001003mbp_djvu.txt

Lucraft, Jeannette. (2006) Katherine Swynford: The History of a Medieval Mistress. Stroud: Sutton Publishing

Weir, Alison. (2007) Katherine Swynford:The Story of John of Gaunt and his Scandalous Duchess. London: Random House

Peter de Melbourne

Melbourne_castle_1602Peter de Melbourne was an important part of the Lancaster affinity, serving as the MP for Derbyshire as well as being Constable of Melbourne Castle pictured at the start of this post (don’t go looking for it – there’s only a small section of wall surviving).

Peter’s parents also served in Lancaster’s household. Amy Melbourne knew Katherine Swynford and Philippa Chaucer serving as she did in Constance of Castile’s household. Like Katherine who raised her children alongside the duke’s as part of her terms of employment as the Gaunt governess there is evidence to suggest that Amy fetched her son into Gaunt’s household at an early age and as he grew was retained into the household – again in the way that Katherine Swynford did with her own son- Thomas Swynford. Amy’s links to Katherine are even more defined by the fact that when Katherine was away from her duties as governess it was Amy who stepped into her shoes and that the Duke gave them identical gifts for the care of his children on at least one occasion (Weir: 120).

 

In 1376 Peter was indentured for life to John of Gaunt at a fee of £10 per year; in earlier years it had been £5. He gained the role of Constable of Melbourne Castle as well as keeper of the park at the same time. After Amy’s death, parliamentary information reveals that he kept rents to the value of £66 per year which had formerly been his mother’s. This together with a marriage to one of Sir Simon Handseacre’s coheiresses made him a wealthy man and his fees would continue to grow with the passage of time marking his advancement in Gaunt’s household and then in the household of Henry of Bolingbroke.

In fact Melbourne went with Henry in 1392 to Prussia as part of Bolingbroke’s crusade – against the Lithuanians (it wasn’t a wildly popular event)- and from there accompanied Henry to the Holy Land – a fact which marks him out as being close to Bolingbroke who took only a small party of his closest friends and supporters with him.

Melbourne must have been increasingly concerned that his loyalty to Lancaster led him into conflict with Richard II. Bolingbroke was one of the Lords Appellant and being, apparently, a cautious man Melbourne gained a letter of pardon from the king for his support of Henry and the other Lords Appellant.

 

In 1399 it looked like a very sensible thing to have gained. John of Gaunt was dead and Henry of Bolingbroke in exile while his own son, another Henry, was  effectively hostage in Richard’s custody. Looking at the dry accounts there doesn’t seem much to tell – Melbourne appears to have jumped ship and gone over to Richard – the king confirmed Melbourne’s annuities. Melbourne went to Ireland with Richard that same summer.

 

Except of course – he hadn’t changed sides. Certainly Henry of Bolingbroke on becoming King Henry IV and locking his cousin away in Pontefract promptly granted Melbourne a fee of 100 marks a year and gave him lands in Derbyshire that had once belonged to Thomas Merke, Bishop of Carlisle and vociferous critic of the usurpation. The key to understanding the reward and what Melbourne was doing with Richard comes from recognizing the fact that Melbourne was appointed chamberlain of the household of the newly minted Prince Henry – the eldest son who’d found himself at the court of Richard. Melbourne would appear to have been caring for the Lancaster scion all along – and let’s not forget that he turns up on Henry IV’s wife’s accounts as well, as one of her two esquires. Without a doubt Peter de Melbourne was at the heart of the Lancaster household. In March 1413 when Prince Henry became King Henry V, Melbourne was rewarded by the new king for his lifelong loyal service.

 

Melbourne died in 1418.

 

Weir, Alison (2011) Katherine Swynford – The Story of John of Gaunt and his Scandalous Duchess. London:Vintage

http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1386-1421/member/melbourne-peter-1418

 

 

Sir John Marmion

marmion tomb.jpgSir John Marmion is buried in West Tanfield church near Ripon alongside his wife Elizabeth St Quentin. They feature in most guides to “must do” churches because of the wrought ironwork above their monument. Apparently the frame with its candle holders is a rare survival of a medieval hearse – which simply meant a portable frame- which was used to cover the coffin with a cloth prior to burial when it stood in front of the altar.   Goodall explains that the rite of cloth and candles would be re-enacted on an annual basis as it was regarded as of benefit to souls in purgatory. Marmion’s lady wife had the foresight to ensure they had a permanent hearse at hand for the anniversary ritual – and don’t ask me how the cloth and seven candles would have worked together without causing a small inferno – I am merely rehearsing my reading of Goodall. What makes the whole thing even more odd is that given that Marmion died in Spain it seems unlikely that his mortal remains ever ended up under a pall in West Tanfield perhaps making the prayers for his soul all the more important.

 

Sir John Marmion’s father was John Grey 2nd baron of Rotherfield. Grey’s second wife was Avice Marmion and Sir John was their eldest son. He was born in 1343 and assumed the name Marmion when his uncle Robert died without heirs.  John Marmion had an older  half-brother who would inherit the Grey name and property. He also appears to have inherited the Marmion loyalty to the house of Lancaster. Certainly Bean’s analysis of Gaunt’s record of indentures identifies the fact that Marmion was one of the group of men that Gaunt bound closely to him not only during times of war but also during times of peace. It is evident from the records that Marmion was a key figure in Gaunt’s retinue. He was personally retained by Gaunt. This seems to be somewhat confirmed by the alabaster monument in West Tanfield. Sir John’s effigy is wearing a livery collar of interlinked s’s. This is associated with Gaunt according to the Heraldry Society. He was afterall an important man in John of Gaunt’s household holding the office of chamberlain.

He was also sufficiently trusted in the wider world to be one of the men called upon to take depositions in the case of the blue shield with the bend d’or  armorial bearings in Scrope V Grosvenor case that I have previously posted about.  At the time Gaunt’s army was assembling in Plymouth to sail to Spain in order for Gaunt to make his claim on the Castilian throne by right of his marriage to Constance of Castile.

It was at this time that Marmion also showed his mettle as an independent and valued commander.  He completely refused to consider Thomas de Evese de Wysewell as a soldier in his company for the Spanish venture.  Goodman suggests that it might have been because the double-barrelled gentleman was prone to scarpering when the going got tough (Goodman: 212)

Marmion died on 25th February 1387 whilst in Spain. The army was plagued by disease brought on by starvation as well as the usual perils of charging around battle fields and besieging castles/towns. It appears as though Marmion fell victim at the same time as eleven barons, eighty knights and two hundred squires – making it one of Gaunt’s least successful adventures abroad in terms of loss of manpower.

Marmion’s name appears in Gaunt’s records the following year when it was ordered that a payment of £342 be made in respect of wages owed to Marmion and his own body of men (Goodman:122).

Goodall, John.(2015) Parish Church Treasures: The Nation’s Greatest Art Collection  London: Bloomsbury

Goodman, Anthony. (1992) John of Gaunt: The Exercise of Princely Power in Fourteenth Century Europe. London: Longman

Bean, John Malcolm William. (1989) From Lord to Patron: Lordship in Late Medieval England. Manchester: Manchester University Press

http://www.theheraldrysociety.com/articles/early_history_of_heraldry/the_livery_collar.htm (accessed 31/07/2017)

Image of Sir John Marmion and his wife from the review of St Nicholas Church posted on the Silvertraveladvisor.  Click on the image to open a new window and visit the page.