Calendar Houses

Bedstone Court calendar window

Bedstone Court in Shropshire was built by Sir Henry Ripley whose grandfather started Bowling Dyeworks in Bradford in 1806. I discovered on Monday, thank you Janet, that he purchased Bedstone Court in the 1870s and turned it into a calendar house – something I’d never come across before.

It has 365 windows, 52 rooms, 12 chimneys and 7 external doors. And it turns out that in the hall are 52 stained glass windows with include the signs of the zodiac and the labours associated with each month of the kind that you might find on a medieval calendar in a psalter or a book of hours.

It turns out that the Elizabethans introduced the calendar house in the sixteenth century – it was about the device that demonstrated your learning. Knole House in Kent built the year after Elizabeth I’s death boasts seven court yards and an eye watering 52 stair cases.

Scout Hall near Shibden in West Yorkshire is another calendar house – though in a state of ruin. It was built by John Mitchell, a silk merchant, in 1681 and boasted 365 panes of glass and 52 windows.

In the Midlands Bradgate House built by Henry Grey (yes it is that family) built a calendar house with 52 rooms, 12 chimneys and 365 windows – no, you can’t go and see it as it was demolished in 1925.

There’s not many of them – the investment and the attention to detail would have been huge but I think they’re absolutely fascinating.

Country Life Magazine

History Jar Challenge 16 – kings of France

Henry VI was crowned King of France when he was a child. Unfortunately for him the Hundred Years War took a downturn and by the end of his reign the majority of his father’s gains had been lost – the effect of this was to ensure that his wife Margaret of Anjou was deeply unpopular and that Richard of York who was a successful military leader gained political allies when Henry’s chosen general – the Duke of Somerset managed to make a complete mess of things.

King Henry VI of England

I very foolishly didn’t specify a time frame and I know some of my readers are very interested in the Early Medieval Period – or Dark Ages as it was called in that dim and distant time when I went to school. I’d have to say Dark Ages sounds more dramatic but I can see why it’s been changed.

France is named after the Franks who were a Germanic tribe. Clovis I is probably the best known of these kings. There are no prizes for identifying that the French were ruled by many kings called Louis!

Merovingian and Carolingian Dynasties (c. 410 to 843)

Chlodio – 428-445

Mervoch 445 (or possibly 448)- 457

Childeric I 457- 481

Clovis I 481-511 – he was effectively the first real king of the Franks with a kingdom that we would recognise, broadly speaking, as France. When he died his kingdom was split between his sons. So Childebert I was king of Paris, Chlothar the Old and Charibert were his brothers and ruled other parts of the kingdom- Neustria and Burgundy- which meant that further down the line the extended family went to war with one another to reunite elements of the kingdom.

Chilperic I

Chlothar the Great or the Young to distinguish him from the first Chlothar.

Dagobert I 629-639

Clovis II or the Lazy 639-657

Chlothar III 657-673

Childeric II 673-675. He and the previous king were both sons of Clovis II as was Theudric III who ruled from 675-691.

Clovis IV 691-695

Childrebert III know as the Just ruled from his brother Clovis IV’s death until 711 when he was succeeded by his son Dagobert III the Just, Chilperic II, Theuderic IV and Childeric III a.k.a “The Phantom King,” which sounds like something out of a Marvel comic. He was actually the last Merovingian monarch. By this time the so called “idle kings” had been overshadowed by their mayors of the palace – or household managers.

In 751 a new dynasty took control: The Carolingians

Pepin the Short ruled until 768 when he was succeeded by his son Carloman I and in turn by his brother Charlemagne – Charles the Great who ruled until 814. He successfully united much of western and central Europe.


814–840 King Louis I was not a king of ‘France’. He was also called Louis the Pious. He was the only son of Charlemagne who had been identified as an heir to survive his father. He was forced to abdicated in 833.

840–877 Charles II (the Bald)

877–879 Louis II (the Stammerer)

879–882 Louis III ruled jointly with Carloman.

884–888 Charles the Fat

888–898 Eudes (also Odo) of Paris (non-Carolingian)

898–922 Charles III or the Simple which is a bit unkind as the alternative translation simply means straightforward.

922–923 Robert I (non-Carolingian)

923–936 Raoul (or Rudolf, non-Carolingian)

936–954 Louis IV (d’Outremer or The Foreigner)

954–986 Lothar (Lothaire)

986–987 Louis V the Do-Nothing – which probably says everything that needs to be said.

Capetian Dynasty

Hugh Capet is usually considered the first king of France as we would recognise it. But it wasn’t as straightforward as all that – the kingdom of France was centred on Paris – it took time to expand.

  • 987–996 Hugh Capet
  • 996–1031 Robert II (the Pious)
  • 1031–1060 Henry I
  • 1060–1108 Philip I
  • 1108–1137 Louis VI (the Fat). This particular Louis was a key centraliser and a man who spent a long time fighting the Normans who had made their base in England. Much of the problem stemmed from the fact that Henry I of England having deprived his elder brother Robert Curthose of Normandy also took Gisors which was French.
  • 1137–1180 Louis VII (the Young) was first married to Eleanor of Aquitaine but the marriage was annulled and she married Henry II of England.
  • 1180–1223 Philip II Augustus
  • 1223–1226 Louis VIII (the Lion)
  • 1226–1270 Louis IX (St. Louis)
  • 1270–1285 Philip III (the Bold)
  • 1285–1314 Philip IV (the Fair) was the king who had the Knight’s Templar burned at the stake and who had his daughters-in-law imprisoned following the scandal of the affair of the Tower of Nesle.
  • 1314–1316 Louis X (the Stubborn or the Quarrelsome). His reign was short but he allowed serfs to buy their freedom. He had married Margaret of Burgundy ( a cousin) in 1305 but she was involved in the scandal of Nesle and imprisoned for adultery where she died. There was one child from the marriage – Joan who in addition to being a girl was also stigmatised by her mother’s behaviour. Louis married for a second time and had one sone John who inherited the throne in 1316.
  • 1316–John I died without a male heir which was unfortunate as under France’s salic law women were prohibited from inheriting. he ruled for less than a week under the regency of his uncle and when he died it ended a centuries old line of fathers handing the crown to their sons. Philip the Tall was Louis X’s brother but his uncle Charles of Valois wanted to rule.
  • 1316–1322 Philip V (the Tall)
  • 1322–1328 Charles IV (the Fair).

Valois Dynasty 

The Valois dynasty as more famous in English History books for their role as England’s adversaries in the Hundred Years War. Henry V married Katherine of Valois, the daughter of Charles VI.

  • 1328–1350 Philip VI (the Fortunate) wasn’t really that fortunate because his reign was dominated by who should be king of France.
  • 1350–1364 John II (the Good)
  • 1364–1380 Charles V (the Wise)
  • 1380–1422 Charles VI (the Mad, Well-Beloved, or Foolish) Charles believed that he was made of glass and that he would break if anyone touched him.
  • 1422–1461 Charles VII (the Well-Served or Victorious)
  • 1461–1483 Louis XI (the Spider)
  • 1483–1498 Charles VIII (Father of his People)
  • 1498–1515 Louis XII
  • 1515–1547 Francis I who was of an age with Henry VIII.
  • 1547–1559 Henry II
  • 1559–1560 Francis II was Mary Queen of Scots’ first spouse.
  • 1560–1574 Charles IX
  • 1574–1589 Henry III

Bourbon Dynasty 

The Bourbon kings of France included the absolute apogee of a European monarch, the Sun King Louis XIV, and just two people later, the king who would be beheaded by a revolution.

  • 1589–1610 Henry IV
  • 1610–1643 Louis XIII
  • 1643–1715 Louis XIV (the Sun King)
  • 1715–1774 Lousie XV 
  • 1774–1792 Louis XVI who managed to get himself executed along with his wife Marie-Antoinette.

And that is probably more than enough for the time being.

History Jar Challenge 14

James VI of Scotland and I of England

How many Scottish monarchs can you identify beginning from Kenneth III who died in 1005 and finishing with James VI of Scotland who became James I of England in 1603.

The House of Alpin, of which Kenneth was part, ruled from 848 until 1034. I’ve opted for an eleventh century start as it’s concurrent with the history written about in many posts of the History Jar and there were, as we discovered last week, many marriages made into the Scottish royal family.

Picture quiz 4

What is it? And which group of people associated with England’s history made it? I’ve given you the whole thing on this occasion. I shall give the credits for the image next week when I reveal the answer as to do so now would give the game away completely.

Store cupboard of quotes – week 9 Some Plantagenet monarchs

Dan Jones is a leading historian who has written several books about the Plantagenets. The Hollow Crown is a Sunday Times best seller and his book The Plantagenets: the Kings who made England is a must have for anyone with an interest in medieval England. In these quotes who is he writing about.

  1. “…………sent instructions to the royal servant Hubert de Burgh, who was serving as Arthur’s jailer, demanding that he should blind and castrate his prisoner.”
  2. “Had ……………… been richer, less beset by other problems and a more competent military strategist, securing Sicily for his second son might have resembled the masterful pan-European geopoliticking in which his grandfather Henry II might have specialised. Unfortunately, he was none of those things. He was a naive fantasist with a penchant for schemes.”
  3. “………… was, as one contemporary chronicler put it, “the man against whom no one could prevail except God himself.” The fourth son of William the Conqueror, he enjoyed an exceptionally long, peaceful, and prosperous reign of thirty-five years, in which royal authority in England reached new heights. After his father’s death in 1087, England and Normandy had been split apart. …………. ruthlessly reunited them.”
  4. The Holland family traced their own royal ancestry through …………. sister Elizabeth. In January 1444 the most senior Holland, John, earl of Huntingdon, was promoted to duke of Exeter, with precedence over all other dukes except for York—another elevation specifically credited to his closeness in blood to the king. John Holland died in August 1447, and his son Henry Holland eventually succeeded to his duchy.” 
  5. “Pope Pius II, watching England from afar, would later describe ……….. in this phase of his life as “a man more timorous than a woman, utterly devoid of wit or spirit, who left everything in his wife’s hands.”
  6. While …………… was accustomed to fighting on foot, Warwick was said by one chronicler to prefer to run with his men into battle before mounting on horseback, “and if he found victory inclined to his side, he charged boldly among them; if otherwise he took care of himself in time and provided for his escape.” 
  7. “….. had been the first nobleman north of the Alps to take the Cross in Autumn 1187. His departure to the Holy Land had been delayed almost two years by his quarrel with his father.”
  8. “He had the Plantagenet temper in perhaps the most potent form. It is said that in a fit of rage …………. once literally frightened a man to death.”
  9. and 10. Perhaps most surprising of all, the deposed and imprisoned King Henry was not murdered. This had been the fate of the two Plantagenet kings who had lost their crowns before him: ………………..died while in custody at Berkeley Castle in 1327, while …………………….was killed at Pontefract in 1400, the year following his deposition. Ironically, Henry’s survival was perhaps a mark of his uniquely pitiful and ineffectual approach to kingship—for it was much harder to justify killing a man who had done nothing evil or tyrannical, but had earned his fate thanks to his dewy-eyed simplicity. Permitting Henry to remain alive was a bold decision that Edward IV would come to regret. But in 1465 it must have struck the king as a brave and magnanimous act.” 

rhubarb – an international traveller

Illustration from – Home to the wonderful Richard Bell’s illustrations.

The pond is now awaiting plants and water feature. The raised veggie bed has been planted – at this rate the garden is soon going to look immaculate.

Any way, today’s post is about rhubarb. Apparently it’s a bit of a new comer being only about two centuries old on our plates before that it was used as a drug with purgative qualities – which means than my ancestral rhubarb must be fairly close to the first flowering of rhubarb as a pudding rather than a useful asset for any physician. Each generation on my mother’s side of the family is issued with a crown of rhubarb when they set up home for themselves. My rhubarb has come with me wherever I’ve lived- a crown divided and carefully replanted in a new location. I know for sure that it originated from my great-grandfather’s garden – an unusual piece of family history but there you go.

I should note that the Romans thought that anyone who ate rhubarb was a barbarian – not sure where or why that idea came about but it’s a thought to toy with next time you tuck into your crumble.

Chinese rhubarb has its first mention in 2700 BC where it was listed as a drug. It seems to have travelled to Europe during the fourteenth century – it’s description as East Indian rhubarb describes the route it travelled by. And yes it does bring Marco Polo into the equation. Someone once sent Thomas Cromwell – Henry VIII’s Putney minister- a rhubarb seed as a valuable gift. In 1542 rhubarb was worth ten times the value of cinnamon and four times the value of saffron. Apparently physicians wanted dramatic effects so that their patients knew they were getting value for money – think we’ll move swiftly on from that particular image.

In 1653 China opened its borders with Russia and the Russians began to trade in rhubarb – it all sounds very exotic doesn’t it? In 1704 the Russians listed rhubarb as something that they had the trading monopoly on. It was heavily regulated. By the 1860s the bottom had dropped out of the market.

The culture of rhubarb as a plant rather than imported as a drug began in Padua. It arrived in England in it’s plant form as a seed during the reign of Charles I and was cultivated from root division from 1777 onwards. As well it might have been because for part of the seventeenth century it was more expensive than opium. Cultivation gradually extended across the country – most famously to the rhubarb triangle of Yorkshire, thanks in part to the development of cookery during the Georgian period.

And now the sun has come out for the first time today and my garden is looking nicely hydrated. I’ve just got a path to put in using rescued edging stones and an Alnwick rose to move to somewhere that it will be happier – but who would have thought so many historic people could have been lurking in a rhubarb bed.

Prior, Mary. (2009) Rhubarbaria. Prospect Books

Royal Beasts – history challenge 2

James VI of Scotland and James I of England, Royal Arms in Edinburgh Castle

It’s Friday already! it’s time to consider the royal beasts that can be found on armorial bearing down the centuries – in particular the supporters. The idea of having two armorial supporters- one on either side of a shield of arms is usually credited to medieval engravers with a space to fill in a circular seal according to H Stanford London in 1953.

The lion of England is first recorded in evidence during the reign of Henry I when his daughter Matilda married her second husband, Geoffrey of Anjou from whom the Plantagenets are descended. From that time onwards lions appear on royal shields including that of William Longespée or Long Sword, Earl of Salisbury who was one of Henry I’s illegitimate sons.

It was probably during the time of Henry II that the two lions of the Conqueror were invented so that when he married Eleanor of Aquitaine – the lion of Aquitaine could be added to the royal coat of arms. Normandy had two leopards rather than lions.

Lithograph by Edward Bawden

Edward III reigned from 1322 until 1377. The beast most closely associated with him is the griffin as it was engraved on his private seal. It represented the qualities of guardianship and vigilance – so a polite statement that Edward III was in charge and caring for his country unlike his deposed father Edward II or mother Isabella of France.

Another of the beasts linked to Edward III on display during the coronation was the falcon and the fetterlock which was also associated with Richard II and both houses of York and Lancaster. Later Elizabeth of York used it as her badge as had her brother Richard, Duke of York. Another Tudor is also associated with the falcon – Elizabeth I- but hers is crowned and sceptred. It is a direction reference to her mother who used the falcon as her badge.

Richard II chose a white hart as his personal badge. It has links with his mother, Joan of Kent’s, white hind badge and is also a pun on Richard’s name. The white hart was not one of the royal beasts on display at the coronation in 1953 and given what happen to Richard II, it’s probably not surprising.

Henry IV and his son Henry V included a white swan amongst their armorial beasts – Henry IV’s wife and the mother of his children was the heiress Mary deBohun. The swan in question usually has a crown round its neck from which a chain is attached. Another Bohun beast to make into the royal stable was the white antelope but neither of these beasts featured as part of the display for the queen’s coronation.

Henry VI’s armorial bearings were the first English monarch’s to use supporters. They were a pair of de Bohun antelope such as can be seen on the gateway of Eton College which Henry VI founded. He also made use of the heraldic panther or panther incensed – i.e. with flames coming out of it’s ears and mouth. The panther is of course the third of the three heraldic moggies – lions, leopards and panthers. There were no panthers flaming or otherwise on display in Westminster in 1953. Presumably because its not a good auspice to be reminded of a king with mental health issues whose rule, though long, resulted in a bloody civil war ending by the monarch in question being bumped off whilst at prayer in the Tower.

Edward IV’s lion supporter isn’t actually the lion of England – it’s actually the badge of the Earls of March – the white lion. Unlike the lion of England the white lion of Mortimer is not depicted with a crown and it is always shown sitting with it’s tail curled between its legs – in fact it looks a bit like a dog begging. It made it on to the list of 10 coronation beasts unlike the black dragon of Ulster which he also used as a personal badge on occasion.

Black Bull of Clarence at Greenwich

Edward IV also made use of the black bull of Clarence or Clare which was another of the Queen’s royal beasts in 1953. He was making a statement about his claim to the throne in the use of these two supporters which belonged to Roger Mortimer, Earl of March and Lionel Duke of Clarence respectively. Lionel was the elder of the royal brothers and so it was work who should have inherited the throne rather than Lancaster which was descended from John of Gaunt. The black bull continued in use as a royal beast until 1603.

Richard III is famous for his use of a white boar.

Meanwhile the Tudors introduced some new species to the proceedings. Margaret Beaufort is often associated with the emblem of the portcullis but she also used the yale as a personal badge. The yale is a bit like a cross between a goat and an antelope – clearly mythical! Margaret’s is silver with golden spots. Mane, hoofs, horns and tusks are also gold. Interestingly the yale turned up earlier as a supporter for John of Bedford’s arms (Henry V’s brother famous for incinerating Joan of Arc.) This suggests that the yale was more antelope than goat as it would have had a link to the de Bohun antelope. When the earldom of Kendal was passed to the Beaufort earls of Somerset after Bedford’s death in 1435 the yale passed with the title into the Beaufort family.

Next we have the white greyhound of Richmond which reflects Henry Tudor’s title of Earl of Richmond inherited from his father Edmund.

The greyhound is swiftly followed by the red dragon of Wales because as followers of the History Jar know, Henry VII saw himself as the descendant of King Arthur – or at least that’s what he tried to convince his subjects in order to steer them away from the fact that he took his crown on the battlefield and that his wife Elizabeth of York was actually the person most people regarded as royal.

Mary Tudor chose an eagle as one of her armorial supporters but it’s not one of the coronation beasts in 1953 – again no doubt because of the unfortunate life of the monarch in question.

With the Stuarts the royal arms acquired the unicorn and the pairing of the lion and the unicorn as supporters of the royal arms with which we are all familiar.

And finally – the white horse of Hanover which has never been a supporter of the Royal Arms and is not often listed as a royal beast but which none the less made it into the ten royal beasts identified in 1953.

The Queen’s beasts on display in Canada (Wikipedia)

Something a bit different

As some of you know I am a churchwarden at my local parish church – I will be doing this on Sunday and thought that some of you might like to join me in lighting a candle (safely of course) and thinking of one another in these uncertain times.

Derby Classes Coronavirus Update

History Jar Classes taking place in St Mary’s Parish Centre, Derby are suspended until further notice. I will be in contact with students who have paid for De Belleme over the next couple of days. My very best wishes to all my students and I look forward to seeing you all in the Autumn.

Class cancellation

Coronavirus update: March, April and May Halifax History jar classes cancelled following government statement issued 16th March 2020 re self-isolation and social distancing.

Classes will be rescheduled for the Autumn. I shall be in contact with students for whom I have no email address during the next couple of days.

I shall continuing posting as normal – who knows I might even get that best selling novel written during the course of the next few months!

I hope that you all remain in good health and that you have a good supply of history books at hand – My very best wishes to everyone who follows the History Jar.