Dafydd ap Gruffydd

EdwardDafydd was the grandson of Llywelyn the Great.  He was also the first nobleman in Britain to be executed by being hanged, drawn and quartered for treason.

The story is a complicated one and begins with Llywelyn the Great.  Llywelyn married Joan, the natural daughter of King John.  They had one son who inherited his father’s kingdom.  He died without heirs so the kingdom was inherited by the heirs of Llywelyn’s other son Gruffydd who had been excluded from a share in the power because of his illegitimacy.  This had followed the English way of excluding all but the legitimate heirs.  Now though Gruffydd’s four sons all had an opportunity to make a bid for power.

In 1256 Llywelyn ap Gruffydd managed to wrest power from his brothers.  The early years of his reign were helped by the fact of the Baron’s War in England and the role of Simon de Montfort.  Dafydd formed an alliance with King Henry in 1263 and continued to fight against his brother alongside Edward I from 1274.

The alliance with King Edward served Dafydd well.  He married Lady Elizabeth Ferrers, the daughter of the Earl of Derby and widow of William Marshall (2nd Baron Marshall).  He gained land and prestige in England.  But then Dafydd thought better of his links with the English and returned to fight alongside his brother.  He attacked Hawarden Castle during Easter 1282.  Edward was unamused.

That same year Llywelyn was killed and Dafydd became the next Prince of Wales.  It probably wasn’t a very comfortable position as Edward was hot on Dafydd’s heels.  In fact he was captured once but managed to escape into the Snowdonian Mountains.  Finally he was cornered along with his younger brother Owain.  Also imprisoned were Dafydd’s wife, their seven daughters, two sons and one niece.

The Lanercost Chronicle takes up the story:

The King sent him forward to the Tower of London with wife and children….David’s children were condemned to perpetual imprisonment, but David himself was first drawn as a traitor, then hanged as a thief; thirdly, he was beheaded alive, and his entrails burnt as an incendiary and a homicide; fourthly his limbs were cut into four parts as the penalty of a rebel.

 

This all took place in Shrewsbury.  As for his wife and children.  Their fates are not completely known.  His wife is thought to be buried in the church at Caerwys.  One daughter, Gwladys, a child, was sent to the Gilbertine convent in Sixhills Lincolnshire where she spent the rest of her life along with her cousin.  Her brothers Llywelyn and Dafydd were imprisoned for the rest of their lives.  Llywelyn died in suspicious circumstances in 1287 in Bristol Castle.

A warrior-bishop who collected taxes.

precinctsJohn Halton, or de Halton, was an Augustinian Canon in Carlisle.  He was elected the ninth Bishop of Carlisle on 23 April 1292 making him bishop during the reigns of Edward I and then Edward II – and putting him on the front line for the First Scottish War of Independence.

 

As well as caring for the spiritual concerns of his flock- his Register of the incumbents of the diocese still exists- he was also a busy diplomat and entertainer of royalty. The Magna  Britannia records him entertaining the king at Rose Castle (the principle residence until recently of the Bishops of Carlisle) in 1306 from 28 August until 10 September.

He was sent to Scotland in 1294 by the king and was a papal tax collector in Scotland (which possibly didn’t enhance his popularity with the locals and may account for why the Scots burned Rose Castle down at the first available opportunity – though obviously that’s my own personal spin on events).  On a more factual level, he was Governor of Carlisle Castle at one point, so had custody of Scottish prisoners and hostages – little did he realise that five hundred years later there would be so many Scottish Jacobite captives in Carlisle that the cathedral would have to be used as a prison.

 

It was Halton together with the Archbishop of York who excommunicated Robert Bruce in 1305 after the killing of John Comyn  and in 1306 he absolved everyone of their offences against the King’s enemies in Scotland which must have pleased the English borderers no end as they could then steal and kill with neither fear of hellfire and damnation nor, at the very least, a long time in Purgatory.  For his pains he was involved in the Seige of Carlisle in 1314 when Edward Bruce attempted to take the city.  He fled the border for large chunks of time enjoying the peace and quiet of Lincolnshire.  He was one of the king’s representatives in the treaty signed between England and Scotland in 1320.

 

The following year he turned up at a meeting held by Thomas of Lancaster which was the first indication of the barons uprising against Edward II.  There’s no evidence that Halton was involved any further but trouble and the bishop seemed to have gone hand in hand.  He died in 1324 having lived through some turbulent times on the border.

Alphonso, Earl of Chester

Prince Alfonso is one of history’s ‘what ifs?’  He is a son of King Edward I and Eleanor of Castile.  The couple had fourteen children though many did not survive infancy.  Alfonso was born on the 24 November 1273 in Bayonne (Gascony) as his parents journeyed home from crusade upon receiving the news that King Henry III was dead.  This made Alfonso the third male child of the couple to have survived into infancy and then childhood.

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Sadly when his parents arrived home they discovered that his older brother Prince John had died in August 1271.  He was just six years old.  A year after Alfonso’s birth his remaining brother Henry also died.  Like John, he was six years old. Both died from unspecified illness.

So, Alfonso, named after Eleanor’s family, was heir to the throne.  Apparently he was lively, quick and intelligent.  His father created him Earl of Chester and planned a marriage that would enhance an English alliance against the French.  The illuminated page in this blog comes from the so-called Alphonso Psalter which was commissioned when Alphonso was to have been married to Margaret, daughter of Florent V, Count of Holland.  The coats of arms at the bottom of the page show the union of the two families.

The psalter is beautiful. It contains fantastical creatures such as griffins and mermaids as well as scenes from everyday life and biblical characters – like this letter depicting King David playing his harp.  Work soon came to a halt though.

On August 19 1284 the ten-year-old heir to the throne died at Windsor Castle.  He was buried in Westminster Abbey.

The psalter is in the British Library.  It was eventually completed thirteen years later when Alfonso’s sister Elizabeth married John I of Holland and Zealand – the brother of the girl Alphonso was to have married.

And as for the English crown?  Well, Edward I had only one more male heir – Edward of Caernarfon who is known in popular history as the king murdered with a red-hot poker.

 

Marguerite of France

200px-Marguerite_of_franceUsually when we think of Edward I’s queen we think of Eleanor of Castile.  However the grief-stricken widower married again.  Initially he planned to marry Philip III’s daughter Blanche but she was married elsewhere to the Duke of Austria in fact.  In her place, Philip IV offered the king his young half-sister Marguerite.  Edward was so disgruntled about the loss of his potential bride that he went to war, or so the story goes.  Five years later, following negotiations the sixty year old king married Marguerite.  It’s more likely that the protracted negotiations had to do with who would hold Gascony.  It was all that remained of the Angevin empire and Edward wished to keep hold of it but the French had other ideas.

However, the couple finally tied the knot in 1299.  There was a forty-year age difference.  They were married in Canterbury and then Edward hurried back to Scotland to pursue his military campaign but not before Marguerite became pregnant.  Her first child, Thomas, was born a year after her marriage in Brotherton in Yorkshire.

Marguerite – presumably fed up of being deserted in London by her groom- hastened north to join the king.  It was the start of a mutually loving relationship.  When her sister Blanche died, Edward tried to lighten her distress by having the whole court go into mourning.  There are also letters which show his concern for his young wife’s health. They had three children, one of whom was called Eleanor after Edward’s first queen which just goes to show how understanding Marguerite must have been.  She even attended masses and memorial services for Edward’s first wife.  She also became friends with her step-children and interceded with the king on more than one occasion on behalf of folk who’d irritated him. She even managed to soothe Edward’s anger against the man who hid the crown used by Robert Bruce.  No wonder her English subjects called her ‘The Pearl of France.”

Her desire to be loved and liked may have had some negative side effects though.  The king gave her wardships worth £4000 so that she could pay her debts, a quarter of which seems to have been with an Italian cloth merchant….so a well-dressed lady.  Whatever her methods she and her husband had a genuinely loving relationship and she steered a delicate course across the treacherous waters of Anglo-French relations which remained difficult during this period.

When Edward died, Marguerite proclaimed “When Edward died, all men died for me.”  She retreated to Marlborough Castle after the coronation of her step-son which was unfortunate.  Her niece Isabella – to be known in history as the ‘she-wolf of France’ arrived in England as Edward III’s new bride and at that time the barely adolescent Isabella could have done with a bit of loving help from her diplomatic and much-loved aunt.

Marguerite died just ten years after her king.

King John and St Wolstan

king john1According to Roger of Wendover, as King John lay dying he commended his body and soul to God and St Wolstan. Wolstan was the Saxon Archbishop of Worcester, consecrated in 1062, who remained in post after the Norman Conquest.  Legend says he was called upon to resign his bishopric but lay his crozier upon the shrine Edward the Confessor in Westminster from whom he’d gained his bishopric.  No one could move the crozier except for Wolstan.  This was taken as a sign that the devoted, but not especially learned priest, should retain his see. king john It is hard to find a rationale for King John’s appreciation of Wolstan – who incidentally was canonised during John’s reign. Certainly chroniclers do not record a lifetime of prayer on John’s lips.  Perhaps John admired a man who overcame his temptations and turned aside from ambition but who still ended his life as a bishop.  Whatever the reasons, John was drawn to St Wolstan.  He visited Wolstan’s shrine at Worcester twice – once in 1207 and again in 1214.  He may have visited more often.  He came to Worcester to negotiate with the Welsh and also to hunt in nearby forests. John asked to be buried next to his favourite saint which is why he lies in Worcester Cathedral, as does Prince Arthur (Henry VIII’s elder brother).  The cathedral library contains John’s will and one of his thumb bone’s in its collection.

Berengaria of Navarre

berengaria_tombDaughter of Sancho the Wise of Navarre, Berengaria was related to the royalty of Spain, England and France.

She was brought from Navarre to Sicily by her future mother-in-law, Eleanor of Aquitaine, in 1190 to marry King Richard I of England.  She was in her twenties at the time.

Richard was in Sicily on his way to the Holy Land to join with the Third Crusade having taken the cross in 1187.  He had been prevented from fulfilling his vow because of a Plantagenet power struggle with his father King Henry II and younger brother Prince John over control of Aquitaine.  His ally in his rebellion against his father was the French King Philip but by the time Berengaria arrived on the scene relations were souring between the two monarchs, not least because Philip expected Richard to marry the french princess Alys, a bride-to-be of some twenty years.  Unfortunately, Philip’s half-sister was an unsuitable match in Richard’s eye – not least because she had been Henry II’s mistress, not that this stopped Philip from pocketing some 10,000 marks in compensation.

Berengaria accompanied Richard and Richard’s widowed sister Queen Joanna of Sicily to the Holy Land.  Before their ship could reach Outremer it was separated from the main fleet and the royal women were ship wrecked off Cyprus.  The ruler of Cyprus, Isaac Comnenus, whose only redeeming feature seems to have been the love he bore his daughter, attempted to take them hostage.  This resulted in Richard leading an attack on Cyprus and capturing the island in less than a month.  As well as demonstrating his prowess in battle, Richard also captured a useful staging post.  Berengaria and Richard were married in May 1191 at Limassol. Berengaria was also crowned at this time and Richard gave her dower rights to all territories in Gascony south of the River Garonne.  The marriage had been delayed thus far because of it being Lent.

Why marry Berengaria?  Richard was the Duke of Aquitaine before he became King of England.  An alliance with Navarre went some way to off setting the expanding power of Castille and Count Raymond of Toulouse who was undoubtedly a thorn in Richard’s side.  It could also be that Berengaria’s reputation was spotless, a direct contrast to Alys.  Chroniclers of the time were generous in their praise of a queen who never came to England.  William of Newburgh described her as prudent and beautiful.

Both royal women accompanied Richard to the Holy Land.  They were at the Siege of Acre and remained there while the crusaders pushed in land and it was from here that they sailed when Richard and Saladin agreed their truce in 1191.  Berengaria and Joanna sailed to Brindisi and from there they travelled to Rome while Richard travelled home a different route and found himself a captive of the Duke of Austria.

Following his release, Berengaria did not join her husband.  The estrangement between husband and wife was never fully reconciled.  Perhaps because Richard needed to secure his empire from the machinations of Philip of France or possibly because Berengaria’s father was now dead and her brother, Sancho VII, had succeeded to the throne.  The Navarre alliance served Richard well during his crusading years.  Certainly he’d never bothered to demand the two castles that were Berengaria’s dowry.  Now however, Richard set about gaining what the marriage treaty guaranteed.  He even involved Pope Innocent III. The couple remained childless and spent very little time in one another’s company.  As he lay dying he sent for his mother, not his wife. Berengaria did not attend Richard’s funeral and remained in a small castle near Angers -in effect a penniless princess having failed to provide Richard with an heir.

Berengaria now entered into a long struggle with King John for her dower lands which were all in France.  In addition to her own dower lands in Gascony she was supposed to receive Eleanor’s lands in England, Normandy and Poitou after Eleanor’s death.  John, once named Lackland, was not forthcoming.   Fortunately, her sister, Blanche of Champagne took in the widowed queen and later King Philip gave her the city of Le Mans to rule. It was only in 1214 that John said he would settle the claim. This was, in part, due to Magna Carta and the fact that the Pope had excommunicated him but he never did pay what was owed.  King Henry III settled Berengaria’s claim when he came to the throne.

Berengaria lived in Le Mans and ruled there from 1204 until her death in 1230.  She ruled well and with determination, even tackling corrupt clerics.  The Bishop of Le Man once closed the door of the cathedral in her face as she arrived for a Palm Sunday service.  She also founded the abbey of L’Epau