A very happy Christmas to all History Jar readers

And then dear reader it was Christmas 2019. Thank you all for reading the History Jar this year as I have meandered through history and made the odd spelling mistake en route. Thank you to all who have commented, corrected and shared.

I hope that some of my enthusiasm for history has communicated itself in this year’s posts and that you will continue with me into 2020.

I shall continue to unravel the Plantagenets into the new year then resume the Norman story with more on their struggle for power. Inevitably I shall digress – The Fishpool Treasure will definitely be featuring soon.

I trust that you will all receive a goodly parcel of history books that you can’t put down until the very last page.

John of Gaunt’s house of Lancaster

john of gauntGaunt married Blanche of Lancaster on 19 May 1359 by 1361 he had been created Earl of Lancaster by right of his wife who was a co-heiress with her elder sister Matilda who died soon after. Gaunt became the Duke of Lancaster in November 1362.  The Lancaster inheritance made him extremely wealthy.

The first child be born to the couple was called Philippa and she was born in 1360 at Leicester. Her marriage was negotiated as part of Gaunt’s aspirations to hold the throne of Castile by right of his second wife Constanza.  She married John I of Portugal with whom she had eight children including Henry the Navigator. And there we shall leave her.

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Elizabeth of Lancaster, St Mary’s Church, Burford, Shropshire. Image from Wikipedia

The second child to survive childhood was Elizabeth who was born in 1363, the baby brother born the year before died in infancy. She married three times. Elizabeth added scandal to the Lancaster line and a bit of a tangle! Her father married her to John Hastings in 1380. The groom was eight at the time whilst Elizabeth was seventeen. The marriage was about political alliances.  Perhaps unsurprisingly Elizabeth was not overly impressed with her new groom – it would certainly be several years before she became a wife in anything but name.

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Close up of John Holland from an illustration in John Creton’s account of the murder of Richard II which is held by the British Library

John Holland, Duke of Exeter- half brother of Richard II by their shared mother Joan of Kent was ten years older than Elizabeth and he wooed her persistently. The  unsurprising result was that she became pregnant. Gaunt had to arrange an annulment as Hastings was still only fourteen and a second marriage for Elizabeth which took place in June 1386.   Altogether the couple would have five children.

As for Hastings he married Philippa Mortimer who has been mentioned in a previous post – she was the daughter of Philippa of Clarence.  Or put another way Hastings was rejected by a granddaughter of Edward III so married a great-grand daughter. Philippa went on to marry Richard FitzAlan the 11th Earl of Arundel (there was a thirty year age gap if you recall) after Hastings died on the 30th December 1389 in a jousting accident.

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So far so good .  Richard FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel – Philippa Mortimer’s second husband was a Lord Appellant who effectively revolted against Richard II who was also Philippa Mortimer’s first cousin once removed. Arundel was, of course, beheaded for treason by Richard II in 1397. Holland occupied Arundel Castle, the home of FitzAlan on Richard’s request.  Just so that the other key strand of the political pattern is clear Elizabeth’s brother Henry of Bolingbroke was also a Lord Appellant.

Meanwhile Elizabeth having moved on to husband number two found herself on the opposite side of the fence to Philippa and her brother.  John Holland, despite his violent temper and the murder of the earl of Stafford which resulted in the temporary confiscation of his lands, was loyal to his half brother. In short he was an Anti-Appellant. In 1388 he was created Earl of Huntingdon, was given parcels of land by his half brother (often confiscated from the Lords Appellant) handheld assorted important official roles.

In 1397 John Holland was present at the arrest of Thomas of Woodstock (Duke of Gloucester) at Pleshey Castle. Thomas of Woodstock was Elizabeth’s uncle as well as being a Lord Appellant and uncle of Richard II who ultimately ordered Thomas’s murder.

In 1399 John of Gaunt died and Richard II felt able to take his revenge against Elizabeth’s brother, Henry of Bolingbroke by changing banishment for a period of ten years to banishment for life. As a consequence Henry returned and usurped his cousin becoming Henry IV.  He acted against those involved in the arrest anqdmurder of Thomas of Woodstock. John Holland was stripped of much of the land which Richard II had given him.  He also lost his dukedom and reverted to being only the Earl of Huntingdon.

Unsurprisingly John resented this and plotted to restore his half brother to the throne. The Epiphany Plot conspired to murder Henry IV and his sons in January 1400. How Elizabeth might have felt about the death of her brother and nephews is not recorded. The plot was uncovered and the conspirators fled.  John Holland was captured at Pleshey where Thomas of Woodstock had been arrested four years earlier. He was executed on 16 January 1400.  The execution was ordered by Joan FitzAlan the sister of the Earl of Arundel …who had been executed three years earlier.

And I think that’s a good place to stop for the time being.  Incidentally I have no idea how the yellow square appeared on the family tree!  I have posted about Elizabeth of Lancaster and John before – follow the link to open a new window. https://thehistoryjar.com/2015/03/16/elizabeth-of-lancaster-and-sir-john-holland/

 

 

 

 

Plantagenet- Lancaster and Beaufort

john of gauntToday we have arrived at the third surviving son of Edward III – John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster.  I’ve posted about him before so I don’t intend to write about him in any great detail here – but there is a very tangled Plantagenet skein to unravel in terms of his children.

John married three times – his first marriage was to Blanche of Lancaster.  She was the daughter of Henry of Grosmont, Duke of Lancaster.  His grandfather was Edmund Crouchback, the younger brother of Edward I.  This makes Blanche the great-great-grand-daughter of Henry III (yes- another one.)  Her mother Isabella de Beaumont came from an equally prestigious bloodline.  Her great grandfather was King of Jerusalem and somewhere along the line, inevitably, there was some Plantagenet blood flowing in Isabella’s veins.

Marriage_of_Blanche_of_Lancaster_and_John_of_Gaunt_1359During the latter part of the 1350s Edward III was looking to provide wealth and land for his older sons. Blanche married John of Gaunt at Reading Abbey in May 1359.  Blanche gave birth to seven children between 1360 and her death in 1368 but only three survived to adulthood: Philippa, Elizabeth and Henry of Bolingbroke. Philippa married into the royal house of Portugal in 1387 as part of the Treaty of Windsor so for the time being we can remove her from the intersecting Plantagenet lines – possibly with a huge sigh of relief.

When Henry of Bolingbroke usurped his cousin Richard II one of the pieces of “fake news” circulated by Lancaster sympathisers to justify the take over was that Edmund Crouchback was actually Edward I’s older brother but that because he was deformed, the younger brother took the crown.  This was a fabrication.  Edmund was called Crouchback because he had taken the cross and gone on Crusade. It is interesting none-the-less that Henry IV made his claim not from his grandfather Edward III but from his maternal link to Henry III.

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Constanza of Castile – the source is the British Library 

Gaunt’s second wife was Constance (Constanza) of Castile.  John had aspirations to wear his own crown rather than simply watch over this nephew Richard II and there were plenty of members of Richard’s council who were delighted when John developed a continental interest.  The marriage produced a child Catherine in 1372, a year after the marriage, followed by a son John who did not survive infancy.  Catherine married Henry III of Castile and became the country’s regent during the minority of her son – John II of Castile.

Just to add to the familial knot:- Gaunt’s brother, Edmund of Langley – Duke of York married Constanza’s sister Isabella of Castile who was the mother of his children rather than his second wife Joan Holland.

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The third wife is the famous one – Katherine Swynford.  John married her in 1396 but the couple had begun an affair soon after Blanche of Lancaster’s death and the death of Katherine’s husband Hugh.  Kathryn’s eldest son by John was born the year after Constance of Castile had Catherine.  There were four members of the Beaufort brood – John, Henry, Thomas and Joan.  When John married Katherine he arranged for the entire family to be legitimised by the Church and the State.

Where does that leave us – aside from the need for a fortifying cup of tea? It leaves us with the two children from John’s marriage to Blanche of Lancaster who remained in England and the four from his relationship with Katherine Swynford – but as Cardinal Henry Beaufort had no legitimate children we are left with a total of five children who married and extended the Plantagenet line – which isn’t so bad until you realise exactly how large Joan Beaufort’s family actually was!

Next time: John of Gaunt’s Lancaster children – Philippa, Elizabeth and Henry. Be ready for the complications of Elizabeth’s marriage!

Weir, Alison. Britain’s Royal Families

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plantagenet: Clarence, Holland, Mortimer … York

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Richard of York pictured in the Talbot Shrewsbury Book

Yesterday I plotted Lionel of Antwerp’s descendants for two generations.  By marrying into the royal line the Mortimer family found themselves in an invidious position in 1399.  Richard II had identified Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March, as his heir by right of his mother Philippa of Clarence bypassing the document created by his grandfather Edward III which nominated another cousin Henry of Bolingbroke as heir in the event of Richard’s death without children. Henry was the son of John of Gaunt – the third surviving son of Edward III.

Just so we’re clear the Mortimer line descended from Lionel of Antwerp who was Edward III’s second surviving son. Although his only child, Philippa, was female, England did not have a Salic law (lex Salica) prohibiting female lines from inheriting. Had Richard II died prior to 1398 there might well have been a civil war given that Philippa’s son Roger was an adult and able to make his claim.  Fortunately for Henry of Bolingbroke, Roger was killed in 1398 leaving young sons who were not in a position to attempt to enforce their claim to the throne.

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The new generation of Mortimers had some rather royal  DNA. In addition to being descended from Edward III they were also doubly descended from the Plantagenets by their mother Eleanor Holland whose father was descended from Edward I and whose mother was descended from Henry III.  Not that it brought them a lot of luck.

Edmund (the 5th Earl of March) and his brother Roger found themselves being cared for at various royal residence including Windsor by Henry IV (or their first cousin 3 times removed if you want to count back up the family tree.)  Henry placed them in the care of yet another cousin several times removed Constance of York. Constance was not a wise choice despite the familial relationship.  Her husband Thomas le Despencer, had been executed in Bristol following the Epiphany Uprising in 1400.  Five years later Constance made an attempt to rescue Edmund and Roger Mortimer from Windsor and take them to Wales where their uncle Edmund Mortimer had now joined with Owen  Glyn Dwr (Glendower) in a bid to depose Henry IV.  They made it to Cheltenham before Henry’s men recaptured them.  They were then returned to custody in Pevensey and a closer watch was kept on them. Henry was all to aware that they were Richard II’s heirs and that in terms of rights of inheritance he was descended from the third surviving son of Edward III whilst the Mortimers were descended from the second surviving son.

In 1413 Henry IV died and Henry of Monmouth became king.  He gave the Mortimers back their freedom.  Roger Mortimer, Edmund’s younger brother probably died soon after.

Two years later in 1415 Edmund married Ann Stafford the daughter of the 5th Earl of Stafford.  You probably won’t be surprised to hear that Ann was Edmund’s cousin – a second cousin once removed in fact.  A papal dispensation was required and since the marriage was without Henry V’s consent there was also a large fine to be paid. Ann’s mother was the daughter of Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of  Gloucester (the fifth surviving son of Edward III and yet to be covered in a post).  There was also a family connection to the Mortimer family to be taken into account on the papal dispensation.  I am delighted to report, from the point of view of the family tree, that there were no children from the match and Edmund died of plague in 1425.

Eleanor Mortimer – the youngest sister was born in 1395, did get married but became a nun when her husband died in about 1414.  (Isn’t it nice when a member of the Plantagenet family can be dealt with in a sentence?)

woman in hennin.gifSo that just leaves Anne Mortimer who was born in 1390. Anne married Richard of Conisburgh the youngest son of  Edmund of Langley Duke of York who I have yet to post about.  It was Richard’s sister Constance who plotted to send Anne’s brothers to their uncle in Wales in 1405. The marriage between Richard and Anne Mortimer took place as early as 1406.(

Her experience following the usurpation of Richard II had not been good.  She, her sister Eleanor and their mother had not been treated well by Henry IV who kept them short of money.  In 1405 when Eleanor Holland died her two daughters were described as “destitute.”  Anne’s marriage to Richard was not about money – he was not a wealthy man: his father had left him nothing at all in his will. Furthermore the marriage was made without the approval of the king nor was the Pope approached for a dispensation given that they were first cousins twice removed.  The marriage achieved papal approval two years after the actual event itself.

Just to really complicate things Ann Mortimer’s aunt Joan Holland was Richard of Consiburgh’s step-mother. Joan married Edmund of Langley, Duke of York in 1393 when she was about thirteen.

Anne and Richard had three children: Henry, Richard and Isobel.  Isobel would marry and have children who would be involved in the Wars of the Roses – three of them would get themselves killed. Henry died young leaving Richard to inherit the dukedom of York when Richard of Conisburgh plotted against Henry V and was executed in 1415.

With Anne’s son Richard we arrive at the Richard of York who gave battle in vain at Wakefield in 1460 having tried to claim the kingdom from King Henry VI.  It is Richard who is pictured at the star of this post.

Anne Mortimer died when she was just twenty due to complications giving birth to her only surviving son Richard. She is the grandmother of Edward IV and Richard III.

Weir, Alison. Britain’s Royal Families

 

Richard Fitz Scrob

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William the Conqueror

Scrob is pronounced “Scroob” and this particular Scrob is thought to be an ancestor of the Scrope family who I usually blog about in the context of border wardenry.

Richard was granted lands on the Welsh marches by Edward the Confessor – so he is part of that group of Normans who were established prior to the Conquest.  Historians think that Richard had become part of the Confessor’s friendship network in Normandy and that when he became king in 1042 that Fitz Scrob benefited from lands in Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire.  Study of Richard’s Castle near Ludlow reveals that Fitz Scrob built a simple motte and bailey fortification as early as 1050 making it one of the first castles in the country.  Ultimately a settlement grew around the castle even though the local population were initially recorded as being very alarmed by the new structure in their midst.

Inevitably in the aftermath the Conquest a land hungry border baron with adult sons might have looked to his Anglo-Saxon neighbour with a view to acquiring some of his land.  This appears to be what happened in the case of Fitz Scrob whose land lay alongside that of Eadric (Wild Edric), the nephew of Eadric Streona.  Up until the Conquest Eadric had been one of the wealthiest landowners in Shropshire.  His land was not forfeit after the Conquest because he had not taken part in the Battle of Hastings.  However his lands were gradually confiscated and split up between Norman lords including Richard Fitz Scrob based in Hereford.

Somewhat ironically William the Conqueror had left Earl Edwin of Mercia in charge of the county recognising that the borders were an important area of his new kingdom.  He did not want to antagonise the Saxons who lived there in case they made an alliance with the unconquered Welsh princes. This did not stop Fitz Scrob.

Some books suggest that Fitz Scrob expected reward from the Conqueror for having provided him with information prior to the invasion and that Eadric’s lands were what he had in mind. By 1067 Eadric, refusing to hand over his lands, was in revolt against the Normans.  A raid towards Hereford is recorded that year.  It accords with the period when William returned to Normandy and his regents took the opportunity to enrich themselves in his absence. As the Saxons began to rebel elsewhere in the kingdom the path of Eadric’s campaign has largely been lost.  Edwin, Earl of Mercia also rebelled against William but swiftly made his peace when William returned to England.

In 1069 Eadric made an alliance with the Welsh, besieged Shrewsbury and burned the town. Ultimately William the Conqueror  handed approximately 7/8th of Shropshire over to Norman land holders – after all Eadric had made an oath to him when William became king and even though he had been provoked he had rebelled – William was the tenant-in-chief and following Eadric’s rebellion he simply took the land leaving Eadric with only three manors to support himself and his family. Amongst the men to benefit was  Osbern FitzRichard the son of Richard Fitz Scrob.  History is not entirely certain when Richard Fitz Scrob died but he is last mentioned in the records in 1067.

Fitz Scrob’s descendants eventually married into the Mortimer family who played an important part in later medieval history. Another of them married Rosamund Clifford’s sister.  Rosamund was, of course, the mistress of Henry II.

 

 Augustin, Thierry. (2011) The story of the Conquest of England by the Normans: Its Causes, and Its Consequences, in England, Scotland, Ireland, and on the Continent Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

 

http://www.castlestudiesgroup.org.uk/CSGJournal2016-17X8-Richards%20Castle.pdf

The man who made priest holes

DSC_0094.jpgYesterday I found myself in the garderobe, sliding into a small space, ducking my head to avoid a low beam and then straightening to find myself in a priest hole.  Fortunately for me no one was going to slam the lid back into place and leave me in total darkness until it was safe for me to emerge or I was discovered and dragged off to the Tower.  I was enjoying a sunny afternoon at Oxborough Hall.

 

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During the reign of Elizabeth I Jesuits priests were feared as enemies of the state and hunted down by pursuivants.  Catholic priests moved from Catholic household to catholic household, often purporting to be cousins or other distant relations.  Wealthy families built hiding places in their homes so that when the priest hunters came calling there was somewhere to hide their illicit guest.

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The most successful priest holes were built by Nicholas Owen – not that he built the hole at Oxborough. Owen, an Oxfordshire man, was born in 1562.  He had three siblings one was a Catholic priest and another printed illegal Catholic books.  The brothers’ father was a carpenter and Nicholas in his turn was apprenticed to a joiner.  By the time he was in his mid twenties he was working for Father Henry Garnet and had become a lay brother in the Jesuit order.  He suffered from ill health including a limp from a poorly set bone and a hernia. Despite his physical frailty he travelled from house to house constructing priest holes.   Most of the people he worked for didn’t know his real name – to them he was Little John.  He worked by night in total secrecy to create his hiding places.  Many of the priest holes were so well concealed that they were only discovered in later centuries when houses underwent renovation.  Unfortunately the occasional hole is still found with its occupant still in situ.

 

Owen’s favoured locations seem to have been behind fireplaces and under stairs.  The pursuivants were men who could judge if an interior wall looked shorter than an exterior wall so Owen had to be very careful as to where he located his priest holes.

 

Nicholas was a man strong in faith.  He was eventually captured in 1606 at Hindlip Hall in Worcestershire in the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot.  It is thought he allowed himself to be captured in order to distract attention from Father Henry Garnet who was hiding nearby.

There were rules about torturing people with disabilities but this didn’t stop Robert Cecil from demanding that Owen be taken to the Tower and taxed about his knowledge by Topcliffe.  He was racked.  This caused his intestines to bulge out through his hernia.  Topcliffe ordered that they be secure by a metal plate. This cut into the hernia and he bled to death in his cell. He died rather than give away his secrets and the lives of the men who depended upon him keeping them.  The State announced that he had committed suicide.

St Nicholas Owen was canonised in 1970 and is the patron saint of illusionists and escape artists.

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Hogge Alice.  God’s Secret Agents

Reynolds, Tony. (2014) St Nicholas Owen: Priest Hole Maker

https://soul-candy.info/2012/03/mar-22-st-nicholas-owen-sj-d-1606-martyr-artist-builder-of-hiding-places-for-priests/

Illegitimate but loyal – the FitzJames family

220px-Arabella_ChurchillArabella Churchill was the mistress of the Duke of York for about ten years as well as being one of Anne Hyde’s ladies-in-waiting.  Arabella had four children by James.

Henrietta was the eldest of the siblings.  She married Henry Waldegrave, the son of a cavalier in 1683.  He was the Comptroller of James’ household.  Unlike her legitimate half-siblings Henrietta was raised as a Catholic and accompanied her father into exile along with Henry Waldegrave who died the following year.  She eventually married for a second time to Piers Butler, Viscount Galmoye but not before she’d had a fling with one of Ireland’s  wild geese. Through her first marriage she is an ancestor of Princess Diana.

Henrietta’s brother James, the most famous of Arabella’s FitzJames children, was raised in France and entered the service of Louis XIV.  He returned to England where he became an officer in the Blues at his father’s instigation.  In fact he was due to replace the protestant Earl of Oxford – an example of James’ strategy of giving key roles to Catholics – a strategy which helped to trigger the Glorious Revolution of 1688.  When men like John Churchill deserted James at Salisbury and went over to William of Orange, James remained loyal to his father and went to Ireland where the fight for the Crown continued before going into exile in France where he rejoined Louis XIV’s army.  His was a complicated life given that he found himself on the opposite side to his uncle, John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough.  Henry became a marshal in the french army and counselled his father not to trust John Churchill.  At one point he was captured by another his Churchill uncles and only released when exchanged with a French prisoner.  He became the Duke of Berwick but its a Jacobite title rather than one recognised by the English peerage.  He was killed in 1733, aged 63, by a passing cannon ball having refused to take part in the Jacobite rising of 1715. The Dukedom of Alba continued as a Spanish title.

A second Fitzjames boy, Henry, died in 1702 in France whilst the youngest FitzJames sibling, called Arabella born in 1674 opted to become a nun in Pontoise.  She took the name Ignatia.

Arabella Churchill married Charles Godfrey circa 1674.  She went on to have forty years of happy married life and three more children.  Godfrey was a colonel and a Whig – so anti-Jacobite.  In an already complicated family it is perhaps not surprising to learn that the FitzJames’ stepfather was one of the first men to join with William of Orange.  He would serve in various positions within the royal household as well as becoming an MP. Arabella outlived him by some sixteen years dying at the age of eighty in 1730.

 

Preston Tower and it’s builder – from murderer to warden of the east march

preston towerIn 1415 there were about 78 peel or pele towers in Northumberland.  These towers were essentially private fortifications for protection in the event of Scottish raids – or neighbours you  didn’t necessarily agree with.  The idea was that you could secure your family and portable valuables until it was safe to emerge or help arrived – beacons were kept on the top of the towers which could be lit to summon help and to worn the surrounding countryside of danger. Preston tower 1

Peel towers were an architecture that resulted from the Scottish Wars of Independence.  Some of the peel towers were not ordinarily used as dwellings – rather they should be considered refuges in times of trouble whilst at the other end of the spectrum places like Aydon Castle near Hexham resemble castles.

Preston Tower was built by Sir Robert Harbottle at the end of the fourteenth century.  Sir Robert was a man of his time.  He was part of the affinity of Sir Mathew Radmayne of Levens and rose in Redmayne’s service.  When Harbottle murdered a man in Methley in Yorkshire in 1392 it was Redmayne and his successor who secured Harbottle’s pardon.

You’d have thought that Harbottle would have kept his head down but it wasn’t long before he came to the attention of the law once again when he took part in a raid on the Yorkshire property of Isabel Fauconberg stealing her property as well as the property of her tenants.   A commission was set up to investigate but somehow or other Harbottle escaped the consequence of his crimes once more.

Henry IV,  having taken the crown from his cousin Richard II, made him constable of Dunstanburgh Castle in 1399 – clearly not having read his cv beforehand.  He even managed to acquire one of the wardenship of the east march – essentially turning Harbottle into the law.  Perhaps it’s not surprising that since he did so well from the Red Rose monarchs that Harbottle was loyal to both Henry IV and Henry V even when the Percy family rebelled against them.  Having bagged himself an heiress in the form of Isabel Monbourcher,  Harbottle had risen from henchman to man of wealth and influence.  When Hotspur rebelled against Henry IV, Harbottle was able to claim a better share of his wife’s inheritance  – so it would appear that luck was on his side as well.

In between times Harbottle had served in Henry IV’s army in 1400 against the Scots and became a member for parliament.  In short he had become part of the gentry in the north and had a good stout peel tower to prove it.

Preston Tower has walls which are over two metres thick, is three storeys high and has rooms off the main chamber at each level.  It was described by Pevsner as one of the best bits of medieval architecture in the country.

 

https://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1386-1421/member/harbottle-robert-1419

Caroline of Ansbach – how to get your husband to do what you want him to do!

Caroline of Ansbach

I came across an old Jean Plaidy novel – I haven’t read one for years but, unusually, being short of a book I started reading and am hooked – I may even start to take a more lively interest in the Hanoverians so long as I don’t get mired in Whigs and Tories.

Caroline was George II’s wife.   The thing that’s impossible to escape in the fictional account is that Caroline spends a lot of time pretending to be rather dim whilst actually manipulating her husband, George II, in terms of political decision making.

Inevitably I’ve gone off to the history books to find out more. George I and George, then Prince of Wales, had an almighty row and as a consequence George and Caroline were sent away from court.  Even worse Caroline was separated from her daughters.  She’d already had to leave her son Frederick in Hanover when the family came to England in 1714.

George I died in 1727  at which point George II became king. Caroline formed an alliance with Walpole who held a substantial majority in Parliament.  Initially they formed an alliance about the amount that the civil list would pay.  During the rest of her life  they persuaded the king to do what Walpole wanted.  This meant that Caroline had some sort of say in what happened in England.  Lord Hervey, Walpole’s political opponent cultivated the king’s mistress and discovered that it didn’t get him very far at all.

Caroline arrived in England as Princess of Wales when George, Elector of Hanover became king of England in 1714.  She immediately became the most important woman at court because George I was short of a queen.  George I had locked his wife, Sophia Dorothea of Celle, (who was also George’s first cousin)  in Ahlden Castle.  She’d been there since 1694  on account of her affair with  Count von Königsmarck.  The count was rather more unfortunate – his body was apparently disposed of in a river. Sophia Dorothea died in 1726.  George did bring his half sister and his mistress with him but they hardly counted in terms of the court scene, even though they did gain the names of the Elephant and the Maypole based on their looks.

Initially her court was almost separate from that of her husband – this wasn’t unusually what was different was that she filled it with intellectuals.  This must have come as a bit of a surprise after Queens Mary and Anne who weren’t known for their brains.  She  deliberately sought out Sir Issac Newton and was friends with Jonathan Swift.  She also set about trying to improve the lives of the people of England. In 1722 she had all of her children inoculated against small pox – using a cow pox vaccine making the whole thing wildly fashionable.  I’m less sure how warmly I feel about the fact that she had all the foundlings in London’s Foundling hospital inoculated before her own children.

Lucy Worsley says that she was the cleverest queen consort to sit on the throne.  Walpole commented that he’d taken the “right sow by the ear” when he chose to work with her.  Certainly when George went back to Hanover he trusted her sufficiently for her to rule as regent, during which time she wanted a closer look at the penal code of the time.  She was liberal in thought and behaviour and demonstrated compassion not only to the country’s imprisoned masses but also tried to plead leniency for the Jacobites in 1715.

Most important of all was that she was able to soothe George’s ruffled feathers, make him believe her words were his ideas and withstand his rudeness to her in public.  Whilst she had her husband fooled the public weren’t so easily hoodwinked:

You may strut, dapper George but ’twill all be in vain:

We know ’tis Queen Carline, not you, that reign.

The truth was that everyone apart from her husband knew that she was an intelligent and able consort.

Was she a successful queen?  The terms by which queen consorts are judged are not by their capacity to manipulate their spouses but by the children they produce.  Caroline was pregnant on at least ten occasions and had eight children. She’d already had a son and three daughters by the time she became Princess of Wales.  Her favourite son was William whom history calls Butcher Cumberland.  Together with her husband she didn’t much like her eldest son Frederick and was horrible to both him and his wife continuing a Hanoverian traction that would be maintained throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Caroline who had become rather overweight in later years died in November 1737 from a strangulated bowel  that was in part the product of poor treatment after the birth of her youngest child.  She underwent several rather unpleasant operations without any painkillers, although she did apparently find the fact that her surgeon managed to set his wig on fire with a candle rather amusing. She finally died  whilst holding her husband’s hand.

 

George II announced that no other woman he knew was fit to buckle her shoe – though that hadn’t stopped him from having many mistresses during their marriage or telling Caroline that she should love one mistress because the mistress loved him.

Dennison, Mathew. The First Iron Lady

http://www.lucyworsley.com/poor-queen-caroline-and-her-horrible-death/