Category Archives: Twelfth Century

Henry II, Richard de Lucy and three pike.

de-lucy-coat-of-arms19 December 1154 – Henry II, also known as Henry FitzEmpress  was crowned at Westminster Abbey along with his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine. Young Henry ascended to the throne after King Stephen’s death according to the agreement made at the Treaty of Wallingford that marked the end of the civil war that had raged between Stephen and Henry’s mother the Empress Matilda for nineteen long years. Henry’s coronation brought with it the promise of peace and incorporated England into a vast empire which Henry’s youngest son John would ultimately lose.

Henry was the first of the Plantagenets to rule England and in common with Stephen and his great grandfather William the Conqueror he issued a coronation charter promising to uphold English liberties.  This document was virtually the same as the one published by his grandfather King Henry I:

Henry, by the grace of God, king of England, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine and count of Anjou, to all the earls, barons, and his faithful, French and English, greeting.

Know that, to the honour of God and of the holy church and for the advantage of my whole kingdom, I have conceded and granted, and by my present charter confirmed  to God and to the holy church, and to all the earls and barons, and to  all my men all the concessions and grants and liberties and free customs which King Henry, my grandfather, gave and conceded to them.  Similarly also, all the evil customs which he abolished and remitted, I remit and allow to be abolished for myself and my heirs. Therefore, I  will and strictly require that the holy church and all the earls and  barons, and all my men should have and hold all those customs and grants and liberties and free customs, freely and quietly, well and in peace, and completely, from me and my heirs to them and their heirs,  as freely and quietly and fully in all things as King Henry, my grandfather, granted and conceded to them and by his charter confirmed them.  Witness, Richard de Luci, at Westminster.

Richard de Lucy would become the Chief Justicar of England.  He’d already proved himself as Sheriff of Essex.  It was Richard who cared for England whilst Henry was elsewhere in his empire.  Henry spent most of his life on the road travelling from one place in his kingdom to the next so it was essential that he had someone in England that he could trust.  It was de Lucy who worked with Henry against Thomas Becket and managed to get himself excommunicated for his pains. It was also de Lucy who administered English legal reforms of the period.

In 1179 de Lucy resigned his office and retired to Lesnes Abbey near Bexley in Kent which he had founded as part of his penance for his role in Becket’s murder.  He died there a few months later.

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Initial letter of Carlisle Charter showing Sir Andrew de Harcla

The de Lucy or de Luci family arrived with William the Conqueror and grew in importance during the medieval period.   They originated from the town of Luce in Normandy.  They would also became a key family in Cumberland.  Fans of Edward II’s  hero of the Siege of Carlisle Andrew de Harcla will remember it was a de Lucy who arrested him for conspiring with the Scots and brought about his execution at Harraby for treason.  One of Richard’s family called Reginald- after I posted I received a lovely comment informing me that Reginald was Richard’s son (see comments for text), but he almost certainly was related- married into the de Rumilly family from Skipton gaining lands at Egremont and from there it was a few short steps to Anthony whose father had married a Lucy heiress.  For a fuller description access Alexander Grant’s paper on the subject: http://eprints.lancs.ac.uk/67271/1/GRANT_04_LUCY_LINEAGE_NEW_EPRINT_REF_4_.pdf

The coats of arms for the Lucy family is three fish – which initially bewildered me as I discovered fairly swiftly that the fish in question are pike.  In Latin though, the pike is a Esox Lucius –  Lucius meaning ‘light’ and being a pun on the de Lucy name.

http://www.lucey.net/webpage4.htm

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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, The Plantagenets, Twelfth Century

Pendragon Castle

DSCN0936.jpgPendragon Castle sits on the east bank of the River Eden off the B6259 in the Mallerstang Valley on the way from Yorkshire into Kirkby Stephen.  It’s a square, squat ruin of a tower that was once three storeys tall in a beautiful landscape.  It stands on a platform of earth and its walls, what remain of them, are over four meters thick.

The chap best known for owning Pendragon Castle is Hugh de Morville and he probably occupied it after Henry II’s campaign in Scotland.  The name  de Morville might ring bells.  In addition to being Lord of Westmorland he’s also one of the four knights who helpfully murdered Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 after listening to Henry II ranting about troublesome priests. Instead of the expected reward de Morville found himself kicked out of his properties with a flea in his ear.  Ultimately the castle passed through a couple of families beginning with the de Viponts who were de Morville relations before ending up in Clifford hands through the inheritance of Idonea de Vipont.

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DSC_0006We know that Robert de Clifford was given permission to crenellate Pendragon Castle in 1309 but he didn’t have long to enjoy it because he got himself killed at Bannockburn in June 1314. The reign of Edward II was not a comfortable one for the English.  In addition to the Scots gaining the upper hand in the Scottish Wars of Independence there was also the small matter of several rebellions against Edward II in England.  Robert’s son Roger was executed after the Battle of Boroughbridge. (Click on the image in this paragraph to open a new window for my post on the Battle of Boroughbridge) Ultimately it came back into the Clifford possessions but turned to a pile of rubble after an unfortunate accident with a band of Scots  and a blazing torch in 1341.

It was 1660 when Lady Anne Clifford turned her attention to rebuilding Pendragon castle “at great cost and charges.” She noted in her diary that she stayed in Pendragon for three nights on 14 october 1661.  She went on to renovate Mallerstang Chapel as well as ensuring that Pendragon had all the amenities including a brewhouse and a wash house. Spence records that the hearth returns reveal that there were twelve fire places in Pendragon and that Lady Anne Clifford wrote her will whilst she stayed there.DSCN0941.jpg

After Lady Anne Clifford’s time it returned to ruin and even in the seventeenth century during her time it had acquired the tradition of belonging to Uther Pendragon – in one version he died there when the Saxons took the castle.  But just so we’re quite clear the ruins on display today were definitely built in the twelfth century as Mallerstang Castle although Westwood and Simpson observe that the de Cliffords might have renamed it during the reign of Edward I when there was a fashion of all things Arthurian.

Cope, Jean (1991) Castles in Cumbria. Milnthorpe: Cicerone Press

Salter, Mike. (2002) The Castles and Tower Houses of Cumbria. Malvern: Folly Publications

Spence, Richard T, (1997) Lady Anne Clifford. Stroud: Sutton Publishing

Westwood and Simpson. (2005) The Lore of the Land: A Guide to England’s Legends. London: Penguin

 

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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Castles, Fifteenth Century, Legends, Twelfth Century, Wars of the Roses

Christmas comes but once a year…

 

 abergavennyChristmas 1175, Abergavenny Castle. The Anglo-Norman in charge, one William de Braose (there were many of them all very inventively called William), invited Seisyllt ap Dyfnwall from nearby Castell Arnallt around for a Christmas meal. Seisyllt, his son Geoffrey and the chieftains of Powys accepted the invitation. The intention, so William said in his politely worded invite, was to spend Christmas in each other’s company- to bury the hatchet. They would feast and celebrate and make a lasting reconciliation following the death of Henry Fitzmiles- an event incidentally that had ensured vast tracts of lands were now in de Braose’s ownership.

 

And what could be nicer at Christmas than peace and reconciliation? The Welsh left their weapons at the door and settled down for an evening of serious eating and drinking.

 

They didn’t notice when someone quietly shut and barred the entrance to the great hall. De Braose’s men were intent on burying the hatchet…firmly in the backs of their Welsh guests. They finished the evening by cutting down all the Welsh in the hall. De Braose even murdered Seisyllt’s seven-year-old son.

 

The fact is that Henry Fitzmiles was William’s uncle. His death at the hands of the Welsh triggered the massacre, another round in an on-going blood feud. What made the massacre at Abbergavenny different was that de Braose broke the unwritten laws of hospitality. Camden, writing in the sixteenth century described the act as one of “infamy and treachery.”

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Becket, ex-communication and Christmas-tide murder

DSC_0491Christmas Day 1170 – the Archbishop of Canterbury preached his sermon. It was a bit different to the ones that get televised these days. For a start the archbishop excommunicated a number of his bishops – he hoped they’d be damned.   He went on, it would appear, to prophesy his own murder:

 

I have spoken to you today, dear children of God, of the martyrs of the past, asking you to remember especially our martyr of Canterbury, the blessed Archbishop Elphege; because it is fitting, on Christ’s birthday, to remember what is that peace which he brought; and because, dear children, I do not think that I shall ever preach to you again; and because it is possible that in a short time you may have yet another martyr, and that one perhaps not the last. I would have you keep in your hearts these words that I say, and think of them at another time.

 

Just four days later on the 29th of December 1170, four knights arrived from Bures in Normandy where Henry II  was celebrating Christmas. The Archbishop of York, as well as the Bishops of London and Salisbury had travelled there to complain about being excommunicated for having crowned Henry’s son Henry who was referred to afterwards as the ‘Young King’. Becket had returned from his six-year exile that year and re-crowned the Young King but it clearly rankled that the bishops had already done the job. Henry II is purported to have had a bit of a temper tantrum culminating with the fatal words “Who will rid me of this turbulent priest.”

 

 

Four knights saw an opportunity for fortune and glory so caught the first ship for England- Walter Fitz Urse, Walter de Tracey, Richard le Breton and Hugh de Moreville- wanted Becket to go to Winchester to account for his actions. Thomas, who had been offered an opportunity to flee as the knights burst in, refused. The archbishop was brutally murdered and the four knights discovered that Henry II hadn’t actually meant for anyone to go thundering off to kill the troublesome archbishop.

 

 

 

 

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King John’s Christmas gift…

King_John_from_De_Rege_JohannePrince John, youngest son of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine was born on or around Christmas Eve 1166 or 1167. The fact that the date of his birth is so poorly recorded reflects how unimportant he was in the great scheme of things at that time. Henry II had three other sons who had survived the perils of childhood – Young Henry, Geoffrey and Richard- John nicknamed ‘Lackland’ by his father could have little expected that he would one day become king.

 

What follows is not, by any stretch of the imagination, history. It’s a poem by A.A. Milne. However, what it does do is demonstrate the fact that popular culture is incredibly important when it comes to our perception of key historical figures.  The Victorians were not keen on John and it’s a viewpoint that has endured.  John has certainly had some bad press over the centuries. I’ve posted several accounts linked to King John and with the best will in the world he certainly did have ‘his little ways’ – with nephews, white satin, jewels, women and barons.  The fact remains though, given the behaviour of other medieval kings, that the old A level question is valid – was John a bad king or an unlucky one?

 

King John’s Christmas

King John was not a good man —

He had his little ways.

And sometimes no one spoke to him

For days and days and days.

And men who came across him,

When walking in the town,

Gave him a supercilious stare,

Or passed with noses in the air —

And bad King John stood dumbly there,

Blushing beneath his crown.

 

King John was not a good man,

And no good friends had he.

He stayed in every afternoon…

But no one came to tea.

And, round about December,

The cards upon his shelf

Which wished him lots of Christmas cheer,

And fortune in the coming year,

Were never from his near and dear,

But only from himself.

 

King John was not a good man,

Yet had his hopes and fears.

They’d given him no present now

For years and years and years.

But every year at Christmas,

While minstrels stood about,

Collecting tribute from the young

For all the songs they might have sung,

He stole away upstairs and hung

A hopeful stocking out.

 

King John was not a good man,

He lived his life aloof;

Alone he thought a message out

While climbing up the roof.

He wrote it down and propped it

Against the chimney stack:

“TO ALL AND SUNDRY – NEAR AND FAR

Christmas in particular.”

And signed it not “Johannes R.”

But very humbly, “Jack.”

“I want some crackers,

And I want some candy;

I think a box of chocolates

Would come in handy;

I don’t mind oranges,

I do like nuts!

And I SHOULD like a pocket-knife

That really cuts.

And, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all,

Bring me a big, red, india-rubber ball!”

 

King John was not a good man —

He wrote this message out,

And gat him to this room again,

Descending by the spout.

And all that night he lay there,

A prey to hopes and fears.

“I think that’s him a-coming now!”

(Anxiety bedewed his brow.)

“He’ll bring one present, anyhow —

The first I had for years.”

“Forget about the crackers,

And forget the candy;

I’m sure a box of chocolates

Would never come in handy;

I don’t like oranges,

I don’t want nuts,

And I HAVE got a pocket-knife

That almost cuts.

But, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all,

Bring me a big, red, india-rubber ball!”

 

King John was not a good man,

Next morning when the sun

Rose up to tell a waiting world

That Christmas had begun,

And people seized their stockings,

And opened them with glee,

And crackers, toys and games appeared,

And lips with sticky sweets were smeared,

King John said grimly: “As I feared,

Nothing again for me!”

“I did want crackers,

And I did want candy;

I know a box of chocolates

Would come in handy;

I do love oranges,

I did want nuts!

And, oh! if Father Christmas, had loved me at all,

He would have brought a big, red,

india-rubber ball!”

 

King John stood by the window,

And frowned to see below

The happy bands of boys and girls

All playing in the snow.

A while he stood there watching,

And envying them all …

When through the window big and red

There hurtled by his royal head,

And bounced and fell upon the bed,

An india-rubber ball!

AND, OH, FATHER CHRISTMAS,

MY BLESSINGS ON YOU FALL

FOR BRINGING HIM

A BIG, RED,

INDIA-RUBBER

BALL

A. A. Milne

 

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Filed under Historical Rhymes, Kings of England, Twelfth Century

Christmas with Henry II and his sons.

feastChristmas at the court of Henry II probably became increasingly fraught as his sons grew to adulthood. They revolted at various times against their father and feuded with one another. Vincent and Harper-Bill reference in particular the Christmas of 1182.  Eleanor of Aquitaine was not in attendance having been kept a prisoner since she’d sided with her three elder sons in their first revolt against Henry in 1173.  The one thing that Christmas 1182 wasn’t, was the season of peace and goodwill to all men.

 

The Young King had semi-revolted against his father by waging war with brother Richard over Poitou. In the spring of the following year his brother Geoffrey of Brittany would join up with Young Henry against their father and brother as well. William Marshall, widely accepted as the hero of the age and all round trustworthy chap on account of his loyalty to a succession of Plantagenets, was facing accusations of adultery with none other than the Young King’s wife, Princess Margaret of France. And, just because things come in threes rather like buses, William de Tancarville was insisting on his right to wash the king’s hands.

 

The great and the good were summoned to Caen for the celebrations. More than a thousand knights attended. William Marshall took the opportunity to challenge the Young King to bring out Marshall’s accusers – the non-too-subtle implication being that Marshall would then proceed to thrash them soundly. He volunteered to fight three accusers on three successive days and if he lost any of the knightly bouts then he would be deemed guilty of adultery through trial by combat. Young Henry did not accept the challenge. So Marshall then suggested that if no one would fight him they could cut off one of his fingers and then have the fight. Unsurprisingly this resulted in a stunned silence. Now, what should have happened is that Marshall should have been declared innocent of the crime that no one was naming on the spot because quite clearly his accusers weren’t prepared to put themselves in dangers way. However, the Young King didn’t do what protocol required, it should also be added that some historians believe that Marshall’s biography makes much of the accusation because he was actually guilty of being ambitious and greedy and he was trying to make the adultery smear into a scandalous smokescreen for his real activities (think more along the lines of Game of Thrones than Sir Walter Scott). Marshall announced that he was being denied justice. Henry II gave the knight safe conduct and Marshall left in what can only be described as a bit of a righteous huff…it also gave him an excuse to leave his lord…yes, that’s right…the same lord who was just about to rebel against his father. Marshall did not rejoin the Young King until he was dying of dysentery and he’d sought permission not only from Henry II but also Philip of France.  Make of it what you will.

 

Meanwhile William de Tancarville, who was a hereditary chamberlain, insisted on his hand washing rights. Apparently the king was just about to have his hands washed when Tancarville pushed his way to the front and grabbed at the silver basin that the chamberlain was using. The person who had been about to wash Henry’s hands kept hold of the basin and I suspect that much sloshing about ensued until Henry told the bloke with the basin to hand it over to Tancarville who then made a great show of ensuring that Henry had clean hands – ceremonially speaking of course. And then he proceeded to pocket the basin that had held the water for the king’s clean up as well as the basins employed for the handwashing of the princes. It turns out that the silver basins were a perk of the job, which would perhaps account for why the first handwasher-in-chief wasn’t keen on letting go of it in the first place.

 

Good will at the Christmas Court at Caen in 1182 seems noticeable only by its absence. By January the king and his sons were heartily fed up of one another and took themselves off for a spot of perennial Plantagenet family fisticuffs – de Tancarville siding with the Young King.

Click on the image of the festive feast to open up a new tab and a post about the Young King at Christmas including 1182.

Christopher Harper-Bill, Nicholas Vincent Henry II: New Interpretations

William M. Reddy  The Making of Romantic Love: Longing and Sexuality in Europe, South Asia and Japan 900-1200 CE

 

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Byland Abbey

DSCN3786-2In 1135 twelve monks left Furness Abbey to found a daughter house.  Their leader was Abbot Gerald and their destination was Calder Abbey.  Sadly their neighbours, the Scots, proved rather rowdy. Three years later Abbot Gerald and his little band returned to Furness.  Gerald had no intention of stopping being an abbot so he and his followers were refused admittance.

Impoverished and homeless the monks set off for York believing that they might gain some help from Thurstan, Archbishop of York.  Footsore and weary the little band arrived in Thirsk – some twenty miles short of their destination.  In Thirsk they met Lady Gundreda de Mowbray who took a shine to the monastic posse.  She suggested that the monks go to Hood at the foot of Sutton Bank.  Her uncle, she explained, had a jolly nice cave that they could use.  His name was Robert d’Alney and he had been a monk at Whitby but had left to become a hermit.  Clearly she’d forgotten that hermits like their own company.  In any event Gerald and his monks joined Robert on the understanding that as soon as Gundreda’s son was of age that he would endow a monastery for them.

Gerald took the opportunity to travel to Savigny where the monks from Furness Abbey originated.  He negotiated the new abbey’s independence from Furness.  The abbey which he would build would not be a daughter house.  It would be independent.  Gerald, parchment of independence in hand hurried home – where he promptly died.DSCN3794

Robert d’Alney  clearly wasn’t cut out to be a hermit because having shared his cave with the monks not only did he throw in his lot with them he became their next abbot.  He would remain in charge for the next fifty-four years.

Robert’s great-nephew, Roger de Mowbray, now come into his inheritance, gave the monks land at Old Byland.  Unfortunately the new monastery was too close to the abbey at Rievaulx.  This in itself wouldn’t have been a problem.  The difficulty lay in the fact that the monks kept slightly different hours.  The bells of one abbey interrupted the services of the other.  The monks of Old Byland who’d only been there a year moved once more in 1147 to more land provided by Roger de Mowbray.

By 1150 Byland had a reputation equal to that of Rievaulx and Fountains. It was at this point that the abbot of Furness Abbey tried to reassert the authority of Furness over Byland- presumably the abbot had his eye on reflected glory and lots of loot.  By this time the Savignac monks had merged with the Cistercians.  The case was sent to Aelred of Rievaulx for judgement. Aelred ruled that his neighbours were independent.  It probably helped that Abbot Aelred was friends with the abbot of Byland at that time.

DSCN3800If internal political wrangles weren’t bad enough the monks of Byland (they moved the name with them) also had to drain marshes and cope with those rowdy Scots.  In 1322 the rather disastrous King Edward II spent the night at Byland Abbey.  His army was firmly trounced by the Scots and he fled to York on hearing the news, leaving the monks to face the victors of the battle who were intent on a spot of pillage.

History darkened Bylands door once more in 1536 when Cromwell sent his commissioners to survey all the monasteries.  Byland had an income of £295.  In addition to the abbot there were twenty-five choir monks. According to Page, “The abbey received, it is not known why, Letters Patent dated 30 January 1537,  to continue, but it surrendered 30 Henry VIII, when pensions were granted to the abbot (£50) and twenty-three monks; one other, John Harryson, received no money pension quia habet vicariam de Byland.”  The ink well thought to have been used at the signing of the surrender can be seen in the museum attached to the abbey ruins.

Today the ruins, in the care of English Heritage, are set in a tranquil vale on theDSCN3805 edge of Sutton Bank.  The church, which follows the basic Cistercian floor plan is cross shape.  It’s majesty lies on its West Front with the ruins of what was once a glorious rose window.  By the time the monks of Byland built their church the Cistercians were moving away from the austerity of their early years.  It must have been a magnificent building with its symmetric green and white tiles. Tiles from Byland Abbey are on display in the British Museum as well as being found in situ.  Click on the image of the  circular pattern of tiles to the right to open up a photograph of the British Museum tiles in a new page.

The size of the church reflects the two groups of monks that populated Cistercian monasteries.  The choir monks were literate and spent most of their time in prayer and reflection.  They used the east end of the church.  Unlike the Benedictines who used tenant farmers and servants the Cistercians used a second tier of monks.  Lay brothers took monastic vows but their role was that of labour.  For them there were simplified services at the beginning and the end of the day.  They learned their prayers and they were not permitted to learn to read or write.  The lay brothers used the west part of the church.  DSCN3830

The two groups of monks remained separate not only in their worship but also in their quarters.  Cistercian monasteries follow a different pattern to Benedictine establishments. The huge cloister was at the heart of the monastery.  The choir monks had their quarters to the east.  This range of buildings included a first floor dormitory with a staircase leading into the south transept of the church facilitating the night services.  The south range of the cloister housed the kitchens and the refectory whilst the west range was home to the lay brothers.  Like the choir monks they had their own reredorter (monastic toilet block).

Harrison, Stuart A. Byland Abbey. London: English Heritage

‘Houses of Cistercian monks: Byland’, in A History of the County of York: Volume 3, ed. William Page (London, 1974), pp. 131-134 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/yorks/vol3/pp131-134 [accessed 22 July 2015].

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Monastic Houses of Derbyshire.

DSC_0287-9Yorkshire is knee deep in monastic houses from the great foundations such as Fountains and Rievaulx to the smaller but no less fascinating Kirklees Priory with its links to Robin Hood.  Part of the reason for the great number of monastic foundations in Yorkshire is the fact that the early monks wanted to live like the Desert Fathers – on their own in the wild. It was also excellent land for sheep once it had been cleared, although the monks of Jervaulx made their reputation as breeders of fine horses.  The Yorkshire Moors must have seemed very wild a thousand years ago.  Then there were the monastic patrons and benefactors.  So far so good – but what about Derbyshire surely it was no less wild and surely to goodness there were plenty of patrons eager to save their souls?  It’s not as if its a million miles from Yorkshire either (though clearly the traffic restrictions currently in operation on the M1 are doing a very good job of creating that impression).  In actual fact the large monasteries did have extensive links with Derbyshire but rather than establishing monastic houses they established granges – or farms. Roche Abbey had a number of granges in the White Peak.

The abbey that most immediately springs to mind is Calke Abbey which now bears no resemblance to an abbey and which is in the hands of the National Trust.  A bit of research revealed that it wasn’t an abbey, it was a priory in the hands of Augustinian Canons – so that’s me told.  The priory at Repton is its daughter house.  Now I’ve always known Repton for its links to Vikings so clearly I’m not doing very well thus far.

Gresley Priory became a parish church and Darley Priory – another Augustinian stronghold turned into an eighteenth century stately stack whilst its guest house became an inn rejoining in the name “Old Abbey Inn” just in case a passing historian should miss the obvious. Then there’s Dale Abbey in Deepdale. Then there’s Bradbourne Priory and Breadsall Priory.  Each and every one of these was run by the Augustinians.  As might be expected, Derby boasted more than one monastic foundation including the Augustinians.

The Benedictines were the first monks to settle in Post-Conquest England.  Their robes were black. The Cluniacs were aliens – all under the control of the mother house in France and the Augustinians were priests who went outside the precincts of their monastic houses to minister to their flocks. The later additions to the monastic fold were the twelfth century  Cistercians who looked to a life of poverty and hard work – which brings us back to the Cistercians of Rievaulx and Fountains.

Now, all I need to do is reach for my copy of Derbyshire King’s England by Arthur Mee and a road atlas and plan my route.

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Hamelin de Warenne

DSCN6677Hamelin was an illegitimate son of Geoffrey of Anjou born in approximately 1129, so half-brother of Henry II.  He was married by order of the king to Isabella de Warenne, in her own right Countess of Surrey.  She was the only surviving child of the third earl who’d died whilst he was on crusade.  He first husband was the fourth earl.  It just so happened that Isabelle’s husband was King Stephen’s son William of  Blois – a real strategy to bring all that lovely land and loot into the family orbit.  William must have been quite happy with the arrangement because he didn’t bat an eyelid when his father disinherits shim and made Henry Fitzempress, the son of his cousin Matilda, the heir to the throne and in so doing brought the years of anarchy and civil war to a conclusion.  William who was several years younger than Isabel served Henry II until his death in 1159.

Henry II cast his eyes over all of Isabel’s considerable charms (that’ll be all those Yorkshire estates) and decided that they ought to be kept in the family.  Enter Hamelin. After the marriage, in 1164, he was recognized as Earl of Warenne – or the fifth Earl of Surrey. Hamelin, unusually, took the name of his wealthy bride.  Hamelin remained loyal throughout his life to his brother even though ultimately he did not agree with the end that befell Thomas Becket especially as he came to believe in the archbishop’s saintliness. He was supposed to have been cured of an eye problem by the cleric.  He went with his niece Joan to Sicily when she married its king and his nephew, Richard the Lionheart, recognised his uncle’s trustworthiness when he became co-regent with William Longchamp whilst Richard was away on crusade and then found himself having to count the gold in order to ransom his nephew from the clutches of his enemies.

The de Warenne’s held lands across Yorkshire and it was Hamelin who built Conisborough Castle near Doncaster around about 1180.

 

His eldest son, William went on to marry William Marshal’s daughter Matilda who was at that time the widow of Hugh Bigod. One of Hamelin and Isabella’s daughter apparently got a little too close for comfort to her royal cousin Prince John, who had a reputation for liking the ladies, and bore him a child.

 

 

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Sybilla of Conversano

df53082bbdd2602149f06143573dfe88Sybilla of Conversano, daughter of Geoffrey of Brindisi, was rather younger than her husband – Robert, Duke of Normandy a.k.a. Curthose pictured left. Chroniclers waxed lyrical about her intelligence, virtue and her beauty.  She is even purported to have sucked the poison from a poisoned arrow, or something of that ilk, that had wounded and threatened to kill her stout spouse. I note that his effigy makes him fetchingly lean as well as demonstrating a pressing need to avail himself of the facilities…sorry, shouldn’t joke.  The crossed legs are a reminder of the fact that Robert has been on crusade.

Apparently he met her on his way to the First Crusade. Obviously she made quite an impression on him because he married her on the way home. Clearly being a Duke meant you couldn’t sit around at home admiring your beautiful young bride and besides which he was a bit peeved because he’d already missed out on the English crown to his younger brother William Rufus. Whilst he’d been away William had a nasty accident with an arrow and his even younger brother Henry had snitched the crown to become King Henry I. Robert had already tried to take the crown from William and now he felt honour bound to have a go at the next brother (I should imagine the royal nursery was a cheery place during their infancies!)

 

Sybilla proved herself to be an effective agent on her husand’s behalf in his absence. Robert of Torigny even said that she did a better job than the Duke. What more could a Duke want of a wife? Just one thing – sons. Sybilla duly obliged and produced William known as Clito which translates as something similar to ‘Atheling’ or ‘heir.’

 

A few months later, in 1103, she died at Rouen. There’s nothing like a happy ending and this is nothing like a happy ending. History does not know what carried Sybilla off. William of Malmesbury blamed a midwife for binding her breasts too tightly. It could just have likely been a complication of childbirth but rumour was quick to blame Robert’s mistress. Robert of Torigny who was clearly one of Sybilla’s fans blamed the mistress as did the Orderic Vitalis who pointed a finger at Agnes Gifford who’d been widowed for about a year and was looking for another spouse – if she had arranged for her arrival to exit stage left she was to be sadly disappointed as Robert found himself rather occupied with keeping his kingdom for himself.

 

 

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