The Conqueror and the Scots

Most people think that in the aftermath of 1066, having won the Battle of Hastings, that William the Conqueror was able to sit back on his newly acquired throne and twiddle his fingers – after all the story is the Conquest of England and that is usually where the topic stops if you are a school child.

However, William spent the rest of his life dealing with rebellions both in England and in Normandy. His neighbours in Normandy also assumed that if William was in England that the Norman border would make an easy target.

As a result of the various rebellions in England many of the Saxon nobility sought shelter at the Scottish court of Malcolm III. He ended up married to Edgar the Atheling’s sister Margaret in 1071 – who renowned for her piety became St Margaret. Edgar with his family arrived in Scotland in 1068 having previously submitted to William only to join with Gospatrick of Northumbria to rebel against William. According to legend the family was on board a vessel destined for the Continent, remember they were originally from Hungary before being invited by Edward the Confessor to return to England.

So far as Malcolm was concerned his marriage to Margaret gave him a claim to the English throne – stories tend to linger more on the romance of the fleeing princess rather than the potential for a land grab. It was an opportunity for Malcolm to expand his borders southwards during times when William had his hands full elsewhere. He celebrated his marriage by invading various bits of Northumberland and Cumberland. It is probable that he was looking to establish a secure border and annex Cumberland which the Normans had not yet got around to quelling aside from the easily accessible coastal areas.

In 1072 William, having dealt with the revolting Northerners, turned his attention to the Scots. He sent an army across the border as well as a fleet of ships. The Scots and the Normans met at Abernethy in Perthshire. Malcom lost the ensuing battle and he was forced to sign the Treaty of Abernethy. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle recorded that Malcolm agreed to become William’s man and his son Duncan was handed over as surety for future good behaviour. Edgar was asked politely to leave Scotland and William gave Malcom lands in Cumberland – but which in reality did not receive the Norman stamp until the reign of William Rufus – and even then in times of trouble the Scots were quick to shift the border south. Just as an aside the Norman habit of giving Scottish nobility land in the north of England as a way of turning them into liege men did ultimately change the Scottish language and the politics of the region.

This all sounds very clear cut but the Normans did not successfully invade Scotland – Scotland remained firmly in the hands of the Scots – albeit a Scottish court which many felt was becoming anglicised by the presence of Margaret, her children by Malcolm and the assorted ragtag of Saxons who had sought shelter across the border.

Throughout this period there were skirmishes and battles across the borders between England and Scotland. In 1079 the treaty had to be re-imposed after a Norman army skirmished across the border in retaliation for Malcolm’s incursions into Northumberland.

The treaty broke down completely in 1093. Malcom was killed at the Battle of Alnwick on the 13th November and Margaret, apparently from grief, died on the 16th November. Malcolm was succeeded by his brother Donald.

Orderic Vitalis

The Venerable Bede – whose work Orderic copied.

Orderic was born in 1075 in Atcham, Shropshire. His father came to England during the Conquest with Roger of Montgomery, the first Earl of Shrewsbury. As a reward Odelerius was given a church – remember there were different degrees of holy orders. Odelerius appears to have been a clerk in holy orders – part of the secular clergy before becoming a priest and then a monk. But in any event he had a family as well as being a priest. Priestly marriages were banned in 1123 by the First Lateran Council- so Orderic was born at a time when there was greater flexibility in the arrangement but wrote at a time when such liaisons were prohibited. Orderic’s mother appears to have been English.

At the age of ten he became an oblate at Saint-Evroul. He tells his readers this in his writings – so not only does he provide us with history but we also have a biography.

As an oblate Orderic was not a professed monk but his life was dedicated to God at this point and his parents paid for the privilege. Not only that but they had given the Church their most precious treasure. (Van Hout suggests that Orderic’s mother may have died soon after the birth of her third child which would explain why Orderic was sent to be educated with monks at the age of five.) It should also be remembered that the Earl of Shrewsbury was the patron of Orderic’s father and at this point he was seeking the favour of Saint-Evroul with many gifts. Orderic did not speak French when his father handed him over to a monk named Reginald. Orderic writes his his father weeping as he delivered him to Reginald and Orderic himself also crying. Odelerius never saw his son again.

In part Odelerius gave his sons to the Church as a penance. He had come to regard himself as deeply sinful. He gave money for the building of St Peter’s Abbey around the church that the Earl of Shrewsbury had given him. He became a monk and his sons Orderic and Benedict were given to the Church only his youngest son remained to the wider world. Van Houts (Rozier: p24) suggests two possible reasons for giving two sons to the Church: i) penance for being a married priest and therefore living in sin (and Orderic’s writing reflects the shame of being the son of such a union.) ii) penance for his part in the Norman Conquest.

By 1107 Orderic was an ordained priest and had been given the name Vitalis by the Benedictine monks who struggled with the Anglo-Saxon name Orderic. Orderic knew the scriptorium well and seems to have been an excellent copyist as more than twenty works have been assigned to his hand including Bede’s.

Orderic’s  career as a chronicler began with a copy of the Gesta Normannorum ducum by Guillaume de Jumièges which he extended.

Orderic travelled but returned to his monastery which was thriving. It was also increasingly wealthy. Not only were men like the Earl of Shrewsbury giving it gifts but men who had spent their lives at war were returning to Normandy to find sanctuary in monastic houses in their later years. No doubt they shared stories as well as paying their way. The house was also a hub for the monastic houses that were being set up in England.

The abbot of Saint Evroul wanted a history of the abbey and so Orderic began to write – what turned out to be a general history. The Historia Ecclesiastica grew out of the information that Orderic heard and unlike other chroniclers of the period Orderic allows the voices of the contributors to be heard – and not always sorted into the right order. William wrote about the Norman Conquest and William the Conqueror as his history progressed from the creation of the world into what were then current affairs. This period is covered in books three to five of his history. Not only does he write about the Norman Conquest of England but the foundation of the Norman kingdom of Sicily. He wasn’t shy about criticising everybody – the Normand for being over greedy and the English for being below par when it came to resisting the Normans.

Orderic finished this history which ran to thirteen books because he said that he was getting old – book six covered the abbey which was the original purpose of his writing. He probably died in 1142 having written a chronicle that covered political history, descriptions of people, customs, traditions and fashion as well as his own story amongst other things.

https://archive.org/details/ecclesiasticalhi03orde/page/n8

(eds) Charles C. Rozier, Daniel Roach, Giles Edward Murray Gasper, Elizabeth van Hout (2016) Orderic Vitalis: Life, Works and Interpretations. Martlesham : The Boydell Press

John of Worcester – writing up the Conquest on the orders of Bishop Wulfstan

A Benedictine scribe – probably Bede illustrated in the Life and Miracles of St Cuthbert.

John of Worcester was a monk, unsurprisingly, from Worcester Abbey. He is usually regarded as the author of Chronicon ex chronicis. This is a world wide history which begins with the Creation and ends 1140 (the reign of King Stephen.)

The Orderic Vitalis – an Anglo-Norman Chronicle of the period contains some notes about John. It states that a native of Worcestershire he entered the abbey as a boy and recorded the reigns of the Conqueror and his sons upto and including Henry I. The monk initially worked on the orders of Bishop Wulfstan who wanted John to continue the chronicles of Marianus Scotus, an Irish monk living in Mainz who died there in 1082. The Orderic describes him as a holy man.

Experts believe that three hands are evident in the chronicles and just to add a degree of complexity there are seven versions of the Chronicle located in different places whose contents are not exactly the same – there is some sense of history being reworked according to circumstance. There are also assorted illustrations. It is John of Worcester’s Chronicle that contains an illustration of the nightmares of Henry I who dreamt that various social orders came to him in his sleep across three nights demanding legal reforms and justice. The third dream contained monks and bishops who weren’t best pleased with Henry’s laissez-faire attitude to Church property.

Bishop Wulfstan on the effigy of King John in Worcester Cathedral

The works of John have been conflated with Florence of Worcester. For many centuries, until very recently, Florence was given credit for John’s Chronicle. Part of the reason for this confusion is that John did not blow his own trumpet unlike some other chroniclers. We have only what the Orderic Vitalis says about him.

Bishop Wulfstan was the last Anglo-Saxon Bishop in post-Conquest England. He died in 1095. Wulfstan was responsible for knocking down the Saxon Cathedral of Worcester and rebuilding in a fashionable Romanesque (Norman) style. Only the crypt remains of his building works.

The monks at Worcester had an interesting relationship with the Godwin family – and are the only chroniclers not to relate Swein Godwin’s misdeeds with relish. By 1055 Wulfstan was acting as prior at Worcester whilst the bishop was on the king’s business. He went on to become Harold Godwinson’s confessor. In 1061 Wulfstan became the abbot of Worcester when his predecessor was promoted to the Bishopric of York.

In 1066 Wulfstan was with Harold when he became king. Harold’s claim to the throne was helped by the fact that Wulfstan had a reputation for holiness. Wulfstan helped to stem the rebellions that sprung up in the north against Harold in the spring of 1066 by stating that it was a sin to rebel against an anointed king.

The Worcester Chronicle recounts Wulfstan being required to surrender his staff of office to William the Conqueror and that he refused saying that he would only surrender it to the king who had made him a bishop. He laid the staff on Edward the Confessor’s tomb in Westminster – where it miraculously became stuck. Only Wulfstan could remove it and so William was forced to recognise Wulfstan as the Bishop of Worcester whether he wanted him or not.

I’ve posted about Wulfstan before when I posted about King John who revered the bishop and used him as an argument for why English kings had the right to appoint bishops and not the pope. The sharp eyed amongst the History Jar readers may also remember that Wild Edric who rebelled against William the Conqueror was Wulfstan’s Steersman – or commander of the warship that the bishop provided for the defence of the realm.

History does not record exactly how Wulfstan felt about his former steersman rebelling against the anointed King William who had disposed of King Harold but we do know from the accounts that there were many refugees from the various rebellions in Worcester; that Wulfstan provided funds for soldiers to defend Worcester and that he campaigned against the practice of selling the landless/dispossed English into slavery. He specifically campaigned against slavery in Bristol which was part of his diocese at the time.

It is from John of Worcester’s chronicle that we know what happened to some of Harold Godwinson’s family in the aftermath of the Conquest. Harold’s son “Ulf” was held hostage by King William and released only when the king died in 1087. History does not tell us what happened to Ulf. He probably went on crusade with William’s eldest son, Robert Curthose. There are records of a visit by Wulfstan to Gunhild, one of Harold’s daughters, in Wilton nunnery. Gunhild ended up married to Alan the Red of Richmond – there is some question as to whether she was a nun or had simply been educated in Wilton and then stayed there to avoid the consequences of the Conquest.

Happily the chronicles have been translated from Latin into English and can be found online here: http://www.bsswebsite.me.uk/History/JohnofWorcester/Chronicle_John2.html

Thomas of Woodstock’s children

Thomas of Woodstock: London, British Library Cotton MS Nero D.VIII, f. 0

Thomas was the youngest surviving legitimate son of Edward III and Philippa of Hainhault. He was born in 1355.

He married the co-heiress Eleanor de Bohun and moved into Pleshey Castle. Once ensconced he tried to persuade his young sister-in-law Mary de Bohun that what she really wanted to be was an impoverished nun leaving him to inherit everything by right of his wife. His mother-in-law and her sister had other ideas, conferred with Thomas’s older brother John of Gaunt and the next thing that Thomas knew was that his nephew Henry of Bolingbroke had married Mary.

Richard II created him Earl of Essex by right of his wife who was the elder of the two sisters and in 1385 he was made Earl of Aumale and Duke of Gloucester. Rather ungratefully in light of the titles Thomas was one of the Lords Appellant which not only put him at odds with his nephew Richard II but also with the family of his brother Edmund of Langley who were part of the Counter-Appellant faction. Ultimately Richard was revenged upon his uncle by having him arrested, taken to Calais and murdered.

Thomas and Eleanor had five children -the eldest was a boy. Philippa died young and Isobel became a nun. After his father’s arrest Humphrey was made a ward of the Crown – he was a Plantagenet after all. Richard took him and the son of Henry of Bolingbroke to Ireland with him in 1398 but Humphrey died before he could be reunited with his mother. Isabel de Bohun died soon after her son.

Anne of Gloucester was born in 1383 and married three times- firstly to Thomas Stafford, 3rd Earl of Stafford. He died in 1392 about two years after the marriage which was not consummated. His older brother Ralf was murdered by John Holland ( Richard II’s half brother, Elizabeth of Lancaster’s husband, Henry of Bolingbroke’s brother-in-law.) Husband number two was Edmund Stafford – the 5th Earl and Thomas and Ralf’s brother (there was another brother in between who was the 4th earl.)

Anne and Thomas had children –

Humphrey Stafford became the 1st Duke of Buckingham. He married a cousin – Anne Neville, the daughter of the Earl of Westmorland and John of Gaunt’s daughter Joan Beaufort. Apparently Humphrey and Anne had somewhere in the region of twelve children but we are going to leave them alone for another day – suffice it to say there were many marriages of cousins including a couple of Margaret Beauforts covered in previous posts.

Anne Stafford married Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March – another cousin, rightful king of England in the eyes of supporters of Richard II and anti-Henry factions. The pair had no children. After Edmund’s death in 1425 she married John Holland the second Duke of Exeter – another cousin. This particular Holland was the son of the murderous John Holland (the one who killed Anne’s Uncle Ralph)and Elizabeth of Lancaster.

Philippa Stafford died young.

As for Ann Stafford and John Holland’s children there were a son and a daughter. Henry Holland became the 3rd Duke of Exeter. Despite being married to Richard of York’s daughter Anne (yet another cousin) he remained a Lancastrian and the marriage was not a happy one. He spent some time in the Tower once Edward IV was on the throne but went with Edward to France in 1475. He unaccountably fell overboard and drowned on the homeward journey – no one was particularly upset and his only legitimate child pre-deceased him.

Anne Stafford’s daughter was also named Anne. She was born somewhere about 1430 and like her mother was married three times. Firstly she married John Neville (another cousin) who died. Then she married John’s uncle somewhat confusingly also called John and a nightmare to explain on the papal dispensation I should imagine. He was killed at Towton. Then Anne married James Douglas the Earl of Douglas.

And finally back to Anne Stafford who was, you may remember, married three times. Her third husband was William Bourchier, Count of Eu. There were children and the was the whole cousin intermarriage business all over again.

It would perhaps have been easier to identify the leading families who were not descended from Edward III, Edward I or Henry III! History does not happen in a vacuum. The Wars of the Roses did not spring fully formed from the void caused by Henry VI’s breakdown. It was a family squabble that escalated across the generations and it was quite clearly not a cut and dried question of which side you were on given that the key families were like a board of directors running a family firm with increasingly hostile takeover bids being actioned!

As for the probability of being descended from Edward III – follow this link for the mathematics: http://community.dur.ac.uk/a.r.millard/genealogy/EdwardIIIDescent.php

If you wish to look more closely at Edward III’s descendants then this website is a good starting point: https://www.genealogics.org/descendtext.php?personID=I00000811&tree=LEO&generations=

Weir, Alison. Britain’s Royal Families.

Constance of York

Conisburgh Castle – An English Heritage property.

Constance was the only daughter of Edmund of Langley and Isabella of Castile. She was born at Conisburgh Castle – probably in 14374. Four years later she was betrothed to Edward le Despenser – who inconveniently died so she promptly became the betrothed of his brother Thomas. The pair were the great-grandson’s of Isabella of France’s lover – the ones who toppled Edward II from power – despite this they were still one of the wealthiest families in the country. Richard II gave Thomas the title Earl of Gloucester but this was stripped from him by Henry IV – leaving him as Baron Despenser of Glamorgan.

In 1392 Isabella of Castile died and Edmund of Langley married a bride who was younger than his daughter – Joan Holland (I’m starting to think that there must be at least one Holland in every post.) And just so we’re clear about this she was the daughter of Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent but the niece of John Holland who I mentioned in the previous post as being Isabella of Castile’s lover…not sure how that’s covered by papal dispensation.

The couple had several children but not all survived until adulthood. Richard survive to marry a cousin – Eleanor Neville the daughter of Joan Beaufort and the Earl of Westmorland – who I have posted about previously: https://thehistoryjar.com/2018/04/03/joan-beauforts-descendants-eleanor-neville-countess-of-northumberland/ He died without heirs. His title passed to his sister Isabella (a posthumous child) who was married twice, firstly to the Earl of Worcester and secondly to the Earl of Warwick – both men were called Richard Beauchamp. The latter marriage produced a daughter Anne. Anne was a wealthy heiress with both Despencer and Beauchamp lands. She married one of her Neville cousins who took the title of Earl of Warwick by right of his wife. History knows him as the Kingmaker. Constance’s great grand daughter Anne became queen of England when her husband the Duke of Gloucester (yet another cousin) became Richard III.

Just as Edmund of Langley and his sons were loyal to Richard II, so was Constance and her husband Thomas le Despenser. Unfortunately this meant that when Henry of Bolingbroke deposed his cousin that Constance’s family were left rather disgruntled. Thomas took part in the Epiphany Rising of 1400 and was executed in Bristol where he was captured as he attempted to flee – leaving Constance as the wife of an attainted traitor and totally reliant on her cousin Henry IV. There was also the fact that Constance’s brother Edward of Norwich was probably the person who betrayed the plot to Henry IV.

In 1405 Constance who had attained a position as governess to her Mortimer relations (Edmund Mortimer the young 5th Earl of March and rightful king in the eyes of many and his younger brother) absconded with them from Windsor to take them to their uncle in Wales.The refugees were recaptured a week later and the Earl of March found himself in closer confinement. Constance also implicated her brother Edward of Norwich in the plot – he was imprisoned for seventeen weeks. Again, this is recapping events which readers of the History Jar may well remember from earlier posts: https://thehistoryjar.com/2014/09/16/edmund-mortimer-5th-earl-of-march-from-the-house-of-mortimer-to-the-house-of-york/

There is another child – Constance had an affair with Edmund Holland the 4th Earl of Kent – her step-mother’s brother. A daughter resulted. Eleanor, was born at Kenilworth Castle in about 1405. She later married James Touchet, Lord Audley. Throughout her life she insisted that she was legitimate – that Constance and Edmund had married just as Joan of Ken had married by a verbal exchange of vows followed by consummation. The Holland family utterly refused to accept this.

I’ve posted about Constance before: https://thehistoryjar.com/tag/constance-of-york/

Next the descendants of Thomas of Woodstock. As for the descendants of Edmund of Langley it is apparent from their histories that the Wars of the Roses in the Fifteenth Century which people at the time called the Cousins War had been simmering for three generations.

Edmund of Langley – Duke of York – Plantagenet family ties

Richard of Conisburgh

Edmund was born the year after John of Gaunt at Langley in Hertfordshire. When he was twenty-one he was created the Earl of Cambridge. He was created Duke of York by his nephew in 1385.

Edmund married twice. His first marriage was to Isabella of Castile. She was the sister of Constanza of Castile who was John of Gaunt’s second wife – he claimed the kingdom of Castile by right of his wife who was the elder of the sisters. Edward III had sought to marry Edmund into the royal house of Flanders during the period when he was looking to provide wealth and title to his sons but in 1372 Edmund married Isabella. By that time he was about 31 and Isabella was about 16.

It doesn’t appear to have been a very happy marriage if Isabella’s will is anything to go by. She died in 1392. She left property to her children, to Richard II and to the Duke of Lancaster but nothing to her husband. Despite this the pair had three children: Edward of Norwich born in 1373, Constance born in 1374 and Richard born in 1375 at Conisburgh Castle.

The chronicler Thomas of Walsingham was rather sniffy about Isabella’s morals. The reason for this is that Isabella had an affair with John Holland (they do get everywhere don’t they?) John Holland was the Duke of Exeter and Richard II’s half brother (executed in 1400). The affair appears to have started in 1374 which raised an interesting question about the legitimacy of Richard of Conisburgh who was the grandfather of Edward IV and Richard III. Remember though that even if he wasn’t Edmund’s son, and indeed Edmund left him nothing in his will, the Yorkist claim to the throne came from Richard’s marriage to Anne Mortimer – a descendant of Lionel of Antwerp rather than the York connection which was the junior line because Edmund of Langley was a younger brother.

Perhaps I’d better go back to the start with this one. John Holland has cropped up in a recent post because he had to marry John of Gaunt’s daughter Elizabeth when she became pregnant by him. This caused a scandal because her first marriage had to be annulled, her husband was too young to have consummated the marriage, so that she could marry John. John’s affair with Isabella was before he seduced Elizabeth. Even Chaucer wrote about about the affair – he describes Mars (John) kissing Venus (Isabella) but it would seem that whilst it was an open secret Edmund did acknowledge his youngest son and the affair fizzled out.

Isabella gave the bulk of her estate to Richard II when she died but asked that her youngest son should be provided by the king with a pension. Richard of Conisburgh was the king’s godson as well as being a royal cousin. The allowance that was granted was £500 but it was only paid occasionally and after the deposition of Richard II, Richard of Conisburgh was reliant on the generosity of another cousin Henry of Bolingbroke who was now Henry IV. Unfortunately Edmund of Langley and his children were counter appellants and had benefited from Richard II banishing Henry. They had been granted some of his lands for example.

Not only was this impecunious younger son not mentioned in Edmund of Langley’s will but Edward of Norwich also failed to mention him in his will either – Richard had been executed shortly before Edward’s death due to his part in the Southampton Plot which sought to depose Henry V. Richard was executed on 5th August 1415 for his part in the plot. Edward of Norwich was killed on 25 October 1415 at the Battle of Agincourt (he had no heirs.)

Another Margaret Beaufort

I’m still posting about the children of John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset and his wife Margaret Holland. This particular Margaret Beaufort was born sometime around 1409 and was the couple’s youngest daughter.

She was a little older than her husband Thomas Courtney, 5th Earl of Devon. The couple had five children of whom three were sons. All her sons managed to get themselves either killed or executed during the Wars of the Roses. The oldest son was executed in York following the Battle of Towton in 1461; Harry who did not inherit the earldom thanks to the act of Attainder against his brother was executed in 1469 whilst the youngest son John did inherit the title during the Lancastrian Readeption of 1470. Unfortunately this was a rather short lived Lancastrian period of power. John was killed the following year at the Battle of Tewkesbury which saw the Yorkists victorious.

This left two daughters – Joan and Elizabeth. Joan married Sir Roger Clifford – meaning that Hostspur was his grand father and Elizabeth Mortimer, the daughter of the 3rd Earl of March was his maternal grandmother. Put simply yet another cousin. Clifford’s father had been killed at the Battle of St Albans and his father is better known to history as BlackFaced Clifford who swore vengeance on his father’s killers and was himself killed at Ferrybridge in 1461. Roger followed the Lancastrians into Scotland in the aftermath of Towton. Along with his brother Robert he successfully recaptured Skipton Castle from the Yorkists in 1464 but the victory was only temporary. It became apparent that the House of York was in the ascendent- Robert and Roger came to an accommodation of sorts but then Edward IV died unexpectedly. The pair became involved with the Duke of Buckingham’s rebellion against Richard III in 1483 – more family connections remember. Robert managed to flee the country but Roger was captured and despite a mob attempting to free him he was ultimately executed in 1485 at the Tower of London.

Joan and Roger had a son called Charles and two daughters who fade into the gentry during the Tudor period.

Elizabeth Courtney married Sir Hugh Conway but there were no children from the union.

And that ladies and gentleman takes me as far through the descendants of John of Gaunt as I am going to venture at the moment. Once again it is clear that whilst the family were powerful that their daughters married into the country’s leading families. However, in time of trouble the cadet branches swiftly lost their prestige and married into gentry families meaning that the Plantagenet line becomes disguised.

My next post will return us to the remaining children of Edward III – Edmund of Langley who was created Duke of York in 1385 and married the sister of John of Gaunt’s second wife Constanza of Castile. Isabella of Castile had only three children but there is rather a lot of speculation about the legitimacy of her youngest son.

Weir, Alison. Britain’s Royal Families

Yorke, James. 1640 Union of Honour accessed from Google Books

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.

Joan Beaufort – a love story

Joan – the daughter of John Beaufort the first Earl of Somerset (John of Gaunt’s eldest son with Katherine Swynford) married James Stewart in February 1424. James was James I of Scotland and had the misfortune to be captured by Henry IV when he was a child on his way to safety in France. He’d been proclaimed king of Scotland in 1406 aged eleven but not released until the June of the same year that he married Joan – so whilst it was a love match it was also very convenient for Henry VI’s regency council and for Cardinal Henry Beaufort who was doing his level best to elevate and enrich the Beaufort family. Ultimately it meant that the King of Scotland was tied to the Plantagenets through marriage to Henry’s cousin. He was also required to pay a hefty ransom and sent back to Scotland to create some order from the anarchy into which it had descended.

The love element of the romance is recorded in a poem written by James called The Kingis Quair. Apparently he saw Joan for the first time when he looked out of his window at Windsor and saw her walking her dog in the garden below. Before long he was dropping roses from his window so that he beloved could pick them up on her morning perambulations. When the household came together to dine that evening she was wearing the first of the roses pinned to her dress. The rest, as they say, is history. There was a brief interlude whilst James joined Henry V in the Hundred Years War – a ploy to stop the Scots from joining in the war on the side of the French.

Unfortunately for the happy couple James who had been educated in England had developed a taste for English forms of government which did not go down particularly with with his nobles. One of the first things James did on return to Scotland was to curtail the power of the Albany Stewarts – he had a fair few of them executed. He also restricted the power of the Church in Scottish affairs. Essentially James was a strong monarch which made him popular with the commons, especially when he sought to reform the legal system and its application but less popular with his extended family.

It is perhaps not too surprising that there was an attempted coup led by the Earl of Atholl – who fancied the crown for himself. He was staying in Perth Priory with Joan when the conspirators struck having bribed someone to let them in. The royal couple heard the sound of feet on the paved floor, knew that it represented danger but on seeking to bar the door discovered that the all important bar was missing. Joan’s lady in waiting- thrust her own arm through the bars in a bid to slow down James’ assassins whilst James used a poker to prise up the floor boards so he could escape.

James fled to the vaults beneath the priory and the place he had been using as a tennis court. Lady Kate Douglas’s arm was broken when the conspirators finally forced an entry. He sought to escape and headed into a drain – which he had unfortunately had netted off as his tennis balls kept disappearing down there. As for Joan who attempted to save her husband, she was injured but managed to escape. She went immediately to her son James, secured the throne and then demonstrated her descent from Edward I and John of Gaunt by taking a bloody revenge on the men who had killed her husband.

Joan oversaw the hunt for James’ murderers and their torture and their executions. It was a three day affair; on the first day he was put in a cart with a crane and then pulled between the cart and the crane – think of it as a travelling rack. He was then put in the pillory and made to wear a burning crown of iron. On the second day he was dragged on a hurdle through Edinburgh – and presumably pelted with lots of unpleasant things. On the third day he was disembowelled and then his heart torn out and burned – and if that doesn’t put you off breakfast nothing will.

Joan’s family of Stewarts were as follows – the marriages of the girls demonstrate how the daughters of a monarch became international rather than national pawns in treaties. Margaret who married Louis of France. He became Louis XI but the marriage was childless and it is thought unhappy. Margaret was eleven when she went to France and was immediately popular with the french court for her doll like beauty.

Isabella married the Duke of Brittany and had two daughters, the younger of whom married her first cousin once removed – so became the duchess of Brittany in a country that did adhere (sort of) to a salic law. The pair had one son who died young.

Eleanor married the Archduke of Austria – there were no children. Mary, a younger sister, married a count of Zeeland but had not children who survived infancy and Annabella (Jean in some sources) was married to a Count of Geneva who went on to become the King of Cyprus. This match was dissolved and Annabella found herself back in Scotland married into the Gordon family.

Joan, who was mute, remained in Scotland and married the earl of Morton. One of her children married Patrick Hepburn , first Earl of Bothwell. The pair had a daughter who married into the Seton family. The Setons would play an important role in the attempts by Mary Queen of Scots to involve the Spanish in plots to free her from English captivity. The family would also play an important role in the household of James VI of Scotland (1st of England.) Unsurprisingly the family were also Royalist in their allegiances during the English Civil War – which is perhaps better described as the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.

There were four daughters born before twin boys born in 1430. Alexander died the same year. His younger brother would become James II of Scotland. His grandson James IV married Margaret Tudor – so all those Stewart and Hanoverian kings of England have a little Plantagenet blood in their veins thanks to Queen Joan Beaufort.

Joan married for a second time to James Stewart the Black Knight of Lorne with whom she had three sons. The youngest became the Bishop of Moray but the eldest became the ancestor of the Dukes of Atholl.

Weir, Alison. Britain’s Royal Families.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Stewart,_Earl_of_Atholl