Shrouded effigies at Fenny Bentley

thomas beresford fenny bentlyThomas Beresford died some ten years after his wife, Agnes. They were buried in St Edmund’s  Church, Fenny Bentley opposite their home in Fenny Bentley Old Hall.  Their tomb tells us quite a bit  about the couple – they had sixteen sons and five daughters – all of them in their shrouds, as indeed are Thomas and Agnes.

The Beresfords provided a troop of horsemen for Henry V and Thomas’s sons took part in the Wars of the Roses fighting on the side of Lancaster.  This is perhaps not unexpected as the Beresfords are listed as part of the Lancaster Affinity.  Having said that John Beresford managed to get on the wrong side of Henry IV when he refused to go to France.  The screen in the church was given by the Beresfords in the aftermath of the Wars of the Roses – presumably in grateful thanks for surviving.

Interesting as that may be it doesn’t explain why Thomas and his wife are chiselled as top knotted bundles.  The reason that is often given is that Thomas, who fought at Agincourt, and his wife died in 1473 and 1463 respectively but that the tomb was carved during the Tudor period meaning that no one knew what Thomas and Agnes looked like so the mason was forced to come up with his own solution to the problem of how they might have appeared.

A more plausible alternative is that the shroud tomb is a cheaper alternative to the cadaver tomb – this was a late fifteenth century fad to have your life like “before” effigy on the top of the tomb and a cadaver “after” effigy directly underneath complete with bones, worms, rigor mortis and a spot of light torment depending on the mason’s preferences. As if the fact that the monument wasn’t enough of a reminder of death the so called “trans” of cadaver tombs were designed to remind folk how transient life and its achievements really are. The shroud tomb is the model down from the full on skeleton.  If you couldn’t afford a full length alabaster likeness of your loved one in their shroud – or even your own likeness- there was always a shroud brass.

In Thomas Beresford’s case there is also the promise of salvation because there’s a painted ceiling above the tomb showing the Beresford coat of arms and winged angels. Except if course that the ceiling is rather later – being made from aluminium and being added in 1895.

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There is always the third option, if the first two don’t appeal, that the sculptor wasn’t much good at faces which accounts for why the whole family are decked out like sacks of spuds.

And yes for regular followers of the History Jar – this means that the season of  ecclesiastical peregrinations has commenced!

Bills of Mortality 1665-1666 …charting the Great Plague

Plague scenes Wellcome.jpgBills of Mortality , or the weekly list of deaths and their causes, were published in London during the final years of Queen Elizabeth I. Then from  1603 they were published continuously by the Worshipful Company of Parish Clerks.

2378023r_page_011There were 130 parishes in London.  The weekly list gives historians an insight into the statistics of the period not to mention some of the mechanisms of the Grim Reaper.  In the week commencing August 15 1665 8 people died from “winde,” another from “lethargy” whilst 190 were carried away by “fever and purples” which sounds downright unpleasant not to mention suspiciously like the bubonic plague. A total of 3880 souls were listed as having died from Yersinia pestis as the bacilli carried by fleas should be more correctly known.

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From the Bills of Mortality it is possible to chart the progress of the disease.  The earliest outbreak was in the parish of St Giles in the Fields.  It was a poor parish so no one paid a great deal of attention.  Gradually the numbers increased and the plague moved inside the city walls.

London lost roughly 15% of its population with the numbers peaking during the hottest months of the year.  In one week in September the number of deaths from bubonic plague was listed as 7,165.

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While a total of  68,596 deaths were recorded in the city, the true number was probably over 100,000.

 

Those who could left the city and took the disease with them. Charles II and his courtiers left in July for Hampton Court and then Oxford.  Court cases were also moved from Westminster to Oxford. The poor had no option but to remain, shut in to their homes by officials if they or a member of their family caught the disease; discovered by searchers when they died and buried in pits such as the one unearthed by the construction of Crossrail.

As for the Bills of Mortality it turns out that the Guildhall Library in London holds the most complete collection of the documents.  They, along with the story of the plague, can be viewed at the City of London’s online exhibition about the Great Plague which can be found by clicking on the link and opening a new window. https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/guildhall-library/events-exhibitions/Pages/great-plague-online-exhibition.aspx

Bills of Mortality may be viewed on line at https://wellcomecollection.org/

https://www.historytoday.com/great-plague-1665-case-closed

Bills of Mortality August 15 -22, 1665. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

Chart of distribution of the Great Plague, 1665. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

Title page to a statistical analysis of mortality during the plague epidemic in London of 1665. Etching, 18–. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

Plague in London, 1665. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

Comets in English history and beyond -harbingers of disaster, disease and death

Bayeux_Tapestry_scene32_Halley_comet_closeup.jpgHalley’s Comet made an appearance in 1066.  Chinese scholars had been noting its appearance since 240BC so Western Europe was a bit late to the party.  The Babylonians were in on the act as well.

The English thought that the comet was an omen for war in 1066.  William the Conqueror was much more optimistic he called it a “wonderful sign from Heaven” but then he’d taken the precaution of giving a daughter to the Church and persuading the Pope to call his invasion of England a crusade.

As luck would have it I am also in the midst of the seventeenth century at the moment so was mildly delighted when I came across Samuel Pepys account of a comet in 1664 seen above London.

So to the Coffeehouse, where great talke of the Comet seen in several places; and among our men at sea, and by my Lord Sandwic, to whom I intend to write about it to-night.

Sir Isaac Newton, a student at the time, searched the skies for the comet and Pepys hoped to see it for himself, not least because it had caused a plethora of prophesies – oddly none of them positive!

Mighty talke there of this Comet that is seen a ’night; and the King and the Queene did sit up last night to see it, and did, it seems. And to-night I thought to have done so too, but it is cloudy and so no stars appear. But I will endeavor it (December 17).

My lord Sandwich this day writes me word That he hath seen (at Portsmouth) the Comet, And says it is the most extraordinary thing that Ever he saw. (December 21)

Daniel Defoe mentions it as well in his Journal of a Plague Year – which despite appearances to the contrary is a secondary rather than a primary source.

 

120px-Tiger_Tail_Star_1665-01-10Essentially the Normans and the Londoners who saw the comets in 1066, 1664 and 1665 (there were two rather than one prior to the plague and Great Fire of London) believed that they were fiery messengers of the heavens – a direct line from God.  They were an indication of his irritation with humanity and a heavy hint that something extremely unpleasant was bound to follow.  If it wasn’t fire, war and plague then someone important was bound to die.

It wasn’t long before the doom mongers were proven correct in both 1066 and 1064.  In 1066 Harold Hardrada and William of Normandy both took the opportunity to launch an invasion of England.  In 1064 people started dying rather unpleasantly from the plague and let’s not forget that there were two comets so that covers the Great Fire of London as well.

Bill+Of+Mortality+From+1665+London.jpegThe plague began in Yarmouth in the winter of 1064.  By Christmas the disease had spread to London.  The weekly Bills of Mortality were about to become extremely depressing. Not that it was a surprise.  In 1065 the plague was endemic in England.  On average it put in an appearance every couple of decades.  There had been an outbreak in 1603 which rather quelled James I’s coronation celebrations.  In 1625 – the year James had died approximately twenty percent of London’s population had succumbed to the disease. The first official mortality of the 1665 outbreak was in St Giles in the Fields – plague and typhus started to take their toll the numbers recorded on the Bills of Mortality began to rise.  The Great Comet prophecy had been fulfilled – plague had arrived.

And just so we’re clear that fiery stars caused panic amongst the population here are a few more examples.  In 1456 the Ottoman Empire invaded Hungary –  their arrival pre-ordained by Halley’s Comet.  Pope Callixtus III ordered prayers to be said in an effort to counter-act the comet.

Halley’s Comet turned up in 1910 – slightly early for World War One and even the sinking of the Titanic.  Despite the fact that by the beginning of the twentieth century scientists had given the world a better understanding of what a comet was they could still cause chaos.  In 1908 for example panic broke out in Chicago because people thought that the comet they saw (Moorhouse’s Comet) signalled the end of the world and in 1910 when Halley’s comet arrived you could purchase an umbrella to protect you from the comet – which was slightly optimistic as some scientists believed that the tail of the comet was filled with poison gas that would kill everyone when the Earth passed through it.

Obviously Halley’s comet didn’t kill everyone – that would be silly.  No, it was just a sign that Edward VII was going to pop his clogs on 6th May in Buckingham Palace – not from comet miasma but from bronchitis.  He was a man in his seventies  who had over indulged for most of his adult life and who smoked heavily.  It probably didn’t require a comet to predict his death.

And finally Giotto managed to paint Halley’s Comet as the Star of Bethlehem in 1305 – always nice to see a more positive construction of its appearance. The painting can be seen at the Scovegni Chapel in Padua.

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Danish and Saxon Kings of England before the Norman conquest – an eleventh century game of thrones

Ethelred_the_UnreadyWe think of England before 1066, if we think of it at all,  as being Anglo Saxon with a large Danish contingent in the north.  Simple perhaps,  that’s the story most of us learn as children in primary school.  Unfortunately for the Anglo-Saxons and their Norse descended neighbours things were not that straight forward. England was a wealthy country and its inhabitants might have been forgiven for thinking that they were a tasty bone being pulled first one way and then the other by  opposing forces.

Æthelred the Unready, pictured at the start of this post,  ruled England from 996.  His predecessor was Edward the Martyr.  Edward died in uncertain circumstances in Corfe Castle- Suffice it to say that Edward’s death didn’t enhance the reputation of Æthelred’s mother. Æthelred was the three times great grandson of King Alfred.  He ruled until 1013.  During that time his biggest problem were the Danes.  Thanks to bad advice Æthelred’s response was to pay them to go away and when they kept coming back he ordered the massacre of all Danes in England in 1002.

The event is known as the St Brice’s Day Massacre. It wasn’t an unmitigated success Æthelred could only really expect the order to be carried out in the southern parts of England.  In addition to which Swein, or Sweyn, Forkbeard’s sister was amongst the victims of the massacre along with her husband and child,

sweyn-forkbeard-invade-englandSwein seeking revenge and revenue committed himself to invading England. The Chroniclers do not have much good to say about Swein.  Suffice it to say he became the first Dane who could claim to be king of all England in 1013.  The following year he fell off his horse and died.

There were now two possible contenders for the crown. Æthelred who had made himself scarce on the Isle of Wight during Swein’s period in power and Swein’s son Cnut (yup – the one who allegedly demonstrated that he couldn’t hold back the tide.) Æthelred now promised the nobility all sorts of things so that Cnut found that he didn’t have as many allies as he previously thought meaning that Cnut’s territory dwindled quite rapidly.

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If this seems straight forward Æthelred’s son Edmund known as Ironside because of his warrior like tendencies now decided to revolt against his father.  It was only when Cnut came back to England in 1016 that Edmund returned to his father’s side.  By then Æthelred’s chief ally a Norwegian called Olaf Haroldson had taken himself off for a spot of light raiding in Europe. Æthelred died in April 1016.  The battle for England continued between Edmund and Cnut.  Cnut won a decisive battle in October 1016 and Edmund Ironside died at the end of November.

cnutCnut was now king of England.  He married Æthelred’s widow Emma.  Cnut the Great ruled England for the better part of two decades.  He died on 12th November 1035.  In Denmark he was replaced by his son with Emma – Harthacnut.

England was a less straight forward proposition.  Cnut had two sons by two different women – Harold Harefoot and Harthacnut.  The former found support in the north of the country – by which I mean north of the Thames- whilst the latter had more support in Wessex.  Eventually Harefoot was acknowledged king but not until 1037.  He died in 1040.

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Harthacnut_-_MS_Royal_14_B_VIHarthacnut then returned to England and became king without any difficulty.  Harthacnut celebrated his arrival by having Harefoot dug up, beheaded and dumped in a handy marsh.  He ruled until 8th June 1042 when he died having celebrated the wedding of Cnut’s standard bearer Tovi the Proud at Lambeth.  Harthacnut stood to drink a toast to the bride and promptly died.

 

England had been under Danish rule since 1016.  The House of Wessex now regained the upper hand.  Emma’s sons by Æthelred, Edward and Alfred, had grown up in Normandy.  They had attempted to regain the Crown in 1036 when Harold Harefoot and Harthacnut were at a standoff after their father’s death.  Edward had arrived at Southampton and then taken himself back to Normandy.  His brother Alfred had landed in Dover, been greeted by Earl Godwin, tricked into believing that Godwin sided with Æthelred’s sons, captured, blinded and left to died from his injuries at Ely.

Edward the confessor drawn

Now, in 1042, Godwin the most powerful of the earls supported Edward’s claim to the throne. It wasn’t long before Godwin’s family began to benefit from their father’s decision. Then in 1045 Godwin’s daughter Edith married Edward.  When Edward died on 5th January 1066 he had not children of his own.

Anyone with the blood of the Royal House of Wessex could have been king if they had sufficient support. Edward Ætheling, the son of Edmund Ironside, had returned to England from Hungary in 1057 but died, somewhat suspiciously, almost as soon as he arrived back in England with his three children.  Edward is also known in history as Edward the Exile.

Edward’s son Edgar was an Ætheling – i.e. throne worthy but he was not really old enough when Edward the Confessor died in 1066 to become king. The man who wielded the most political power in the country was Godwin’s son Harold, although Harold’s brother Tostig also fancied his chances.

There was also the small matter of a promise made to Duke William of Normandy by Edward the Confessor possibly in the winter of 1051-52 when he had been able to rid himself, albeit briefly, of the Godwin clan.  In 1064 Harold Godwinson had made a trip to Normandy and had not been allowed to return home until he had sworn to support Duke William’s claim to the throne.

And then there was the claim of  King Magnus I of Norway who said that Harthcnut had left the throne to him not to Edward the Confessor. He had been crowned king of Denmark in 1042 after Harthacnut’s death honouring the agreement made between the two men that which ever one of them who outlived the other would inherit the dead man’s kingdom.  Magnus had not pursued his claim to England but in 1066 his son Harold Hardrada in alliance with Harold Godwinson’s brother, Tostig, would make an attempt to secure the throne.

 

 

Before the Normans – the formation of a kingdom to conquer

submap900.jpgThere is an argument to be made that historians shouldn’t talk about the Anglo Saxon period as though it was one “lump” of political cohesiveness given that the number of kingdoms and sub-kingdoms evolved throughout the period.

Basically there were initially seven kingdoms in England – Wessex, Sussex, Essex, Kent, East Anglia, Mercia and Northumbria.  There was also Wales with its own kingdoms.  Cumbria was initially part of the Kingdom of Strathclyde.  Sometimes it was in Scottish hands, sometimes English – depending on the power and the politics of the period. Then there was Dumnonia – which we know as Devon and Cornwall. In 838 the men of Cornwall allied themselves with the Vikings against the kingdom of Wessex and lost.  By the end of the ninth century it is apparent that King Alfred held estates in the region.  Gradually the boundaries were pushed back to the River Tamar and the area we know as Cornwall today before it also became part of the kingdom of the Anglo-Saxons.  Historians debate how the independent kingdom may have become a sub-kingdom before being coalesced.

So, in terms of Saxon kingdoms start off by thinking of seven for the seventh century and  the so called Heptarchy of kingdoms listed above.  These were first identified in the twelfth century by Henry of Huntingdon when he wrote his history.  The seven kingdoms rapidly dwindled to five – Wessex, Mercia, Kent, East Anglia and Northumbria. Kent also becomes less independent over time. By 829 the Kingdom of Wessex was dominant and the royal family of Wessex held the hereditary right to rule – the Witan, or council, could choose from anyone who could prove their bloodline.

The Vikings also need to be added into the mix. By 900 AD (Anno Domini) or CE (Common Era), depending on your preference, there’s a line demarcating the boundary between Saxon rule and Danelaw which runs at an approximate diagonal from Chester to Kent.

cnut.pngBy the beginning of the tenth century there was something that looked more like a country as we might recognise it today with regions and a more centralised administration – regions being governed by powerful families.  Even so it was only at the start of the eleventh century with the Danes in charge that the Anglo Saxon Chronicle refers to “all the kingdom of the English.”  Or put another way King Cnut was able to dominate all the factions and make them do what he wanted. Even Cnut stuck to the geographical boundaries of the four dominant earldoms of England as the Anglo- Saxon Chronicle explains.

 

A.D. 1017. This year King Knute took to the whole government of England, and divided it into four parts: Wessex for himself, East-Anglia for Thurkyll, Mercia for Edric, Northumbria for Eric. This year also was Alderman Edric slain at London, and Norman, son of Alderman Leofwin, and Ethelward, son of Ethelmar the Great, and Britric, son of Elfege of Devonshire. King Knute also banished Edwy etheling, whom he afterwards ordered to be slain, and Edwy, king of the churls; and before the calends of August the king gave an order to fetch him the widow of the other king, Ethelred, the daughter of Richard, to wife.

thumb.phpThe chronicle repeats the information that Cnut was the king of all England in 1035 when he died at Shaftesbury (he was buried in Winchester.)  He is pictured below giving Winchester Abbey a large gold cross along with his wife Emma of Normandy who had previously been married to Aethelred the Unready.

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For more on Cnut open a new window https://www.bl.uk/people/cnut

 

 

 

 

Dr Nicole Marafioti, review of Formation of the English kingdom in the 10th century, (review no. 1890)
DOI: 10.14296/RiH/2014/1890
Date accessed: 2 May, 2019

 

The Babingtons of Dethick before the reign of Elizabeth I

Babington, Thomas d.1519The Babington family of Dethick arrived in Derbyshire in 1420 when Sir Thomas Babington, who was born in the mid 1370s, married Isabel Dethick the daughter of Robert Dethick,  heiress to the Manor of Dethick. Prior to that time the Babingtons were a Nottinghamshire family who had moved south sometime before from Babington in Northumberland.  There are records of thirteenth century Babingtons in Northumberland during the reign of Henry III. By the reign of Edward III there are records of Babingtons in East Bridgeford.

It was from this family that the Babingtons of Dethick descended.  Sir John Babington of East Bridgeford had five sons and a daughter called Sidonia who was born in 1374. Thomas was John’s eldest son and therefore his heir. There were also Sir William Babington of Chilwell; Arnold Babington who moved to Norwich and became a Merchant of the Staple; Norman who remained in East Bridgeford and who can be found in the records as the Sheriff of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire in 1428.  Norman did rather well for himself because he married a daughter of the Duke of Norfolk.The fifth son was called John and he settled in Devon.

 

Sir Thomas Babington who married Isabel should, of course, have inherited the East Bridgeford property but it appears that he sold his inheritance to William prior to going on campaign to France.  When Thomas returned from the Hundred Years War having fought at Agincourt in 1415, he purchased the manor of Kingston-on-Soar in Nottinghamshire. He did the things required of fifteenth century gentlemen.   He became a member of parliament, was appointed to administrative jobs and produced sons and married into the Derbyshire landed gentry.

He was also a pious man and spent money on the church at Ashover.  The tower was built to mark his safe return from the Hundred Years War.   He died in 1464 and he was buried at Ashover rather than Kingston.

Sir John Babington, Thomas’s son married Isabel Bradbourne, ensuring links with another local family.  He was the High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and the Royal Forests in 1480 – demonstrating that public roles were semi-inherited, in this case from his Uncle William.  He was a Yorkist supporter and had fought for Edward IV at the Battle of Barnet in 1471.  On 22ndAugust 1485 he fought for Richard III and died at Bosworth a the hands of Sir John Blount who was Henry Tudor’s Provost Marshal.  Isabel seems to have died the following year.

 

Evidently  Henry Tudor didn’t harbour a grudge against the Babingtons because the records show that Thomas’s grandson, another Thomas pictured at the start of this post, inherited the estates and the job of Sheriff despite the fact that in 1498 he married Editha or Edith Fitzherbert of Norbury.  One of the interesting things about the Norbury FitzHerberts’ is that their effigies bear the insignia of the white boar – Richard III’s personal symbol.

Thomas-Babington-of-Dethick-d-300x275.jpgThomas died in 1518 and was buried in Ashover where his grandparents were buried.  It was the first thing he identified in his will.  His wife had already died and the monument already built.  The figures around the tomb included members of his family. He did not want it broken so that he could be interred. He stipulated where he wished to be interred, that candles were to be burned around his body and alms given to the poor. He asked that his debts be paid and that if he had offended anyone that they should have restitution.  He asked for masses and prayers to be said.  In short it was a good pre-Reformation will with attention being paid for departing purgatory for Heaven as soon as possible.

 

He left behind him a family of nine sons and six daughters.  His oldest son was called Anthony.  His grandson was also called Anthony and whereas Sir Anthony Babington senior is remembered for building the church tower at Dethick, his grandson is remembered for the so-called Babington Plot which saw him attainted and executed for treason in 1586.

Antony Babington having been attainted a traitor and executed in 1586 didn’t lose the Babingtons all their property.  His brother Francis inherited Kingston-on-Soar but he sold it to Gilbert Talbot – the Earl of Shrewsbury and so the manor passed from the hands of the Babington family.  Anthony’s other brother George sold the Manor of Dethick into the hands of the Blackwall family.

Kerry, C. (1887) ‘Babington family (from Report of the Hon. Secretary).’ Derbyshire Archeological Journal :9. (pp. XXI-XXVIII).

Babington, T. (1897) ‘The will of Thomas Babington, of Dethick, Derbys.’ Derbyshire Archeological Journal :19. (pp. 080-093).

 

 

The Holland family -part 2

msharley1319f25Yesterday’s post covered all of points 1-3 and most of 4:

  1. Robert Holland who married Maud de Zouche and managed to get himself beheaded by some irate Thomas of Lancaster supporters in 1328.
  2. Sir Thomas Holland who married Edward I’s granddaughter Joan of Kent in a secret marriage.  He became the first  Holland Earl of Kent. He died in 1360.
  3.  Sir Thomas and Joan had two sons – Thomas and John. Thomas became the 2nd Holland earl of Kent after his mother’s death in 1385.  He was married to Alice FitzAlan the daughter of the Earl of Arundel. the 2nd earl died in 1394.  I’ll come back to John shortly.
  4. The 2nd earl and his wife Alice had two sons, another Thomas and Edmund.  Thomas, the elder of the two brothers became the 3rd earl but was elevated by his half-brother Richard II to the title 1st Duke of Surrey. He was demoted back to being an earl when Henry of Bolingbroke usurped the throne from his cousin Richard II.  In January 1400 Thomas plotted with his uncle John to overthrow Henry IV and return Richard II to power.  Both Thomas and John were executed.  Thomas did not have any heirs so the title of 4th earl went to Thomas’s brother Edmund.  Edmund was killed in 1408 during one of the intermittent skirmishes of the Hundred Years War.  The Holland Earldom of Kent was extinct as he had no heirs.holland1exeter

So let’s go back to John, the second son of Joan of Kent.  John benefited from the patronage of his step father the Black Prince.  He married Elizabeth of Lancaster, the daughter of John of Gaunt, was elevated to the earldom of Huntingdon and then to the title 1st Duke of Exeter.  When Henry IV gained the throne John was demoted back to his earldom, plotted to kill Henry and his sons and was promptly executed.

Effigy_John_Holland_died_1447He and Elizabeth of Lancaster had three sons.  The eldest and youngest died without heirs whilst the middle son, conveniently called John regained the dukedom from Henry V following the victory at Agincourt.  John, the second Duke of Exeter, married the widow of Edmund Mortimer and had two children.  The boy was called Henry and he was born in 1430 so we have now arrived at the Wars of the Roses generations.

Henry became the 3rd Duke of Exeter in 1447.  He was an important political figure.  So it is not surprising that he married Richard of York’s young daughter Anne. On December 30th 1460 he was one of the Lancastrian commanders at the Battle of Wakefield – where his father-in-law was killed.  He was at Towton and fled to Scotland to continue serving Margaret of Anjou.  He wasn’t caught by the Yorkist king Edward IV until he was injured at the Battle of Barnet on the 14th April 1471.  The following year his wife, who had already separated from him, sought a divorce.  In 1475 he was let out of the Tower having volunteered to go to France with Edward IV.  Henry Holland, 3rd Duke of Exeter and Joan of Kent’s great grandson.  On the way back from France Henry fell mysteriously overboard and drowned – probably on the orders of Edward IV.  I’ve posted about the 3rd duke before. Click on the link to open a new window: https://thehistoryjar.com/2017/02/07/duke-of-exeter-was-he-murdered-or-did-he-slip/ Henry’s only child, a daughter called Anne had predeceased him a year earlier.

And that’s the end of the Holland males.  There are, of course, assorted female Holland descendants – married as  you might expect into some of the most important families in the country.  I shall begin to look at the female line in part three of this series.

 

 

The Holland family -from medieval gentry to dukes – part one.

220px-Thomas_Holland_1430.jpgThe story of the Holland family begins with Robert de Holland from Upholland in Lancashire.  He was born about 1283. He was a trusted part of Thomas of Lancaster’s household.  He benefitted from being within the Lancaster affinity by acquiring land as well as a wife in the form of Maud de Zouche – a co-heiress.

He fought at Boroughbridge in 1322 but not on the side of the earl who was in rebellion against his cousin the king.  This may well have been because Edward II was holding one of Robert’s daughters hostage at the time. However, the Lancaster faction were not quick to forgive the fact that the second earl was executed in Pontefract soon after the battle and that Robert, one of his most trusted men, had been a traitor to the earl’s cause.

Thomas of Lancaster was succeeded by his younger brother – Henry of Lancaster. Time passed.  On 15 October 1328 Robert Holland, or Holand, was at Borehamwood.  Unfortunately so were a number of Lancaster supporters.  There was an argument.  Robert was beheaded.

Thomas, Robert’s eldest son pictured at the start of this post in his garter robes, served Edward III. He was a man of no substantial wealth.  His mother Maud had to borrow money so he could be outfitted as a knight. However, it would appear that Thomas had a great deal of charm, not to mention nerve and persistence.  He wooed and won Edward III’s young cousin Joan of Kent.  They married in a secret exchange of vows when she was eleven or twelve.  He was more than ten years older than Joan.  It would take another nine years, a bigamous marriage and a papal decree before he was allowed to live with his bride.

Thomas’s fortunes really changed when Joan’s brother died.  He had no other heirs so Joan became the Countess of Kent in her own right (suo jure).  Thomas effectively became an earl through the right of his wife.  Thomas who had a proven military  track record by this time now had the money and the position in society to fulfil a leading military role in the Hundred Years War. Thomas and Joan’s eldest son another Thomas became a baron after his father’s death but did not become the 2nd Holland Earl of Kent until Joan died in 1385.

wiz33vab_medium.jpgThomas died in December 1360.  The following year his widow married her cousin Edward, the Black Prince.  The Holland children now had access to patronage with a very heavy clout.  Thomas (Joan’s son) gained a wealthy and aristocratic bride from the FitzAlan family.   More importantly it was the Hollands’ half-brother, Richard, who ascended the throne after Edward III died in 1377.

Thomas and John Holland were loyal to their half brother, Richard II, and benefited from their close ties – John even managed to get away with murder.  The Holland family found themselves spouses from some of the wealthiest families in the country, had the ear and trust of the Crown and continued to thrive whilst Richard II was on the throne.  The second earl’s son, another Thomas not only became the 3rd Earl of Kent but from 1397 the 1st Duke of Surrey.  This was a reward for loyalty.  Thomas had arrested his FitzAlan uncle on behalf of his royal uncle Richard II.   Perhaps because he felt a bit guilty about it he the founded of Mount Grace Priory in Yorkshire the following year.

It is perhaps unsurprising that when Richard II was deposed by Henry of Bolingbroke – Richard’s first cousin and the Hollands’ first cousin once removed- that they found themselves being demoted.  The dukedom had to be handed back.  As a consequence Thomas Holland the 3rd earl of Kent became involved with the Epiphany Rising of 1400.  He was executed.  He had no children.

holland1exeter.jpg0bea27da411458b11f502fb7d52aad65.jpgThomas’s uncle John (Joan’s second son) was executed at the same time.  John Holland had married another wealthy royal cousin, Elizabeth of Lancaster (John of Gaunt’s daughter).  This may have been because of the Black Prince’s patronage and it may have been because his mother Joan of Kent got on well with her cousin John of Gaunt.  John became Earl of Huntingdon in 1388 and in 1397 became the Duke of Exeter.  He was also involved in removing Richard II’s enemies.  In John’s case not only had he arrested his uncle Richard FitzAlan (the 11th Earl of Arundel) he has gone to Calais to arrest Thomas of Woodstock, Richard’s youngest Royal uncle. Thomas had died whilst in Calais as pictured in Froissart – the story involves a mattress…

When Richard II fell from power John was stripped of his dukedom but was allowed to retain his earldom by his brother-in-law the new king Henry IV.  This double relationship did not stop John from being involved in the Epiphany Rising of 1400 nor did it prevent his execution.

For the moment the fortunes of the Holland family looked bleak. It would continue to be dubious until 1415 when John Holland’s son, another John, would be able to regain the dukedom of Exeter from Henry V after the Battle of Agincourt. He would also continue the family tradition of marrying someone who was a cousin in a degree that required papal dispensation and which kept his family close to the line of succession!

Hicks, Michael.  Whose who in Medieval History

P.S. A family tree will be forthcoming at some point soon.

 

 

 

 

 

Alice of Norfolk – granddaughter of Edward I murdered by her own husband

220px-Edward_III_of_England_(Order_of_the_Garter)Alice of Norfolk, was born about 1324.  She was the daughter of Thomas of Brotherton and Alice Hales.  She was the youngest of their three children.

Her story  begins for the purposes of this post in October 1330 when Edward III pictured at the start of this post staged a coup to rid himself of the regency of Roger Mortimer and Isabella of France.  The band of men who crept through the tunnels beneath Nottingham Castle were led by William Montagu or Montacute. In 1337 he was created Earl of Salisbury and remained a key influence on Edward III throughout his life.

Thomas was Edward II’s  oldest half-brother but had been swift to align himself with his sister-in-law Isabella of France and her lover Roger Mortimer.  Now he had a problem.  In October 1330 Edward III had regained control of the kingdom and Thomas, despite being Earl Marshal, was not what you might describe as a central political figure.  It is evident from Edward III’s letters that Thomas was not his favourite uncle – that place had been reserved for Thomas’s younger brother, Edmund Earl of Kent whose execution may have decided Edward III to claim what was his.

Thomas_of_Brotherton,_1st_Earl_of_NorfolkIt is perhaps not surprising then that Thomas used his youngest child as a political pawn and married her into the Montagu family in 1333. William Montagu had been raised alongside Edward III and had married into the extended royal family in the person of thirteen year old Joan of Kent.  Unfortunately it had turned out to be a bigamous marriage.  Joan having already married Thomas Holland before the knight went on crusade in Prussia. Eventually, after much wrangling, the pope told Joan to return to Thomas Holland.

Joan’s cousin, Alice, married Edward, William Montagu’s brother.  The couple had five children of whom four were daughters.

Twenty years after her marriage Alice died as a result of injuries sustained during a violent assault by her husband and some of his retainers. They had a bit of a reputation in and around Bungay which is saying something given that this story unfolds against the backdrop of the Hundred Years War.  Montagu fought at Crecy (1346) as did his more famous older brother.

After Alice’s death at the end of January 1352   Montagu and some of his retainers, no doubt heroes of Crecy, were charged with her murder but only one, William Dunche of Bungay, was convicted in and he was eventually pardoned in 1361.

Montagu eventually died in July 1361 having got away with the murder of his wife.

 

Thomas of Brotherton – a king’s son

Thomas_of_Brotherton,_1st_Earl_of_Norfolk.pngThomas of Brotherton was the oldest son of Edward I’s second wife Margaret of France. Margaret was never crowned.   Her son Thomas was born on 1 June 1300  near Pontefract.  It was a difficult labour which is why Thomas is named after Thomas Becket.  Margaret and her ladies prayed that the sainted bishop would intercede on Margaret’s behalf for a safe delivery. Marguerite_of_france copy.jpg

A year after he was born Thomas had his own household. When he was two years old Edward I created  his new son the Earl of Norfolk.  As readers of the History Jar have probably come to expect by now, there isn’t much information about Thomas’s childhood other that what can be gleaned from the account books.

On the 7th July 1307 Edward I died and Thomas’s half brother, Edward, became king in their father’s stead.  Thomas was just seven years old but he was heir tot he throne. Not that Edward II lavished titles and estates upon his little brother.  Edward I had meant to make Thomas the Earl of Cornwall – that particular title went to Piers Gaveston.  It didn’t impress Margaret of France (pictured above) or other members of the royal family that such an important title should be wasted on a favourite like Gaveston.

edwardiiEventually, in 1312, after the birth of his own heir, Edward II confirmed his half brother as Earl of Norfolk and Earl Marshal of England. He also appears in the legal record as being an executor of his mother’s will. We also have records of Thomas’s half sister Mary visiting him regularly when he was a child.  Mary was a nun at Amesbury.

The conformation of Thomas as Earl of Norfolk  would normally have made him politically important. It was confirming his seat on the royal board.  However he was still only twelve years old at the time. As he grew to maturity the barons became increasingly restive.  Political uncertainty ultimately gave rise to rebellion.  Interestingly as a young man he was at the funeral of Piers Gaveston.  Edward II clearly felt that his brother should be seen to side with him at that point in time.  As Thomas grew up he demonstrated the Plantagenet temper.  He also fell victim to Hugh Despenser’s greed – he was required to hand over valuable land to the Royal favourite including Chepstow which had a lucrative taxation on imported wine.  It is perhaps not surprising that he allied himself to his sister-in-law Isabella of France and took the opportunity to do a spot of looting from the Despensers along the way.  Thomas was one of the judges that found both the Despensers guilty.  He then settled into the new regime with the bonus of several large grants and estates.

The ties that held Thomas to Isabella and Mortimer were further strengthened when Thomas’s son Edward married Beatrice Mortimer, the daughter of Isabella’s lover Roger. However, within three years Norfolk had changed his allegiance to his nephew who was of age to rule without the regency of his mother and Roger Mortimer.

Ultimately Thomas became on of his nephew’s advisors when in 1330 Edward III reclaimed the throne for himself.  Thomas was after all, the Earl Marshal of England.  However, it appears that his nephew preferred other advisors than his uncle.

Sometime between his sixteenth and twentieth birthdays Thomas married Alice Hales of Harwich.  Her father was the coroner for Norfolk.  It seems odd that the son of a king would marry so far down the social ladder. They had three children – a boy and two girls.   Their son Edward died without children so the earldom of Norfolk was passed to Thomas’s daughter Margaret who is know in history as Margaret Marshal because the Dukes of Norfolk hold the title of Earl Marshal of England. Two of Margaret’s descendants would marry Henry VIII.

As for Thomas’s other daughter, she was called Alice. Alice was married to Edward Montagu.  His brother,  William, was one of Edward III’s favourites.  It may have been that Thomas was trying to rebuild his political capital.  She died in 1352 – murdered by her own husband.

Thomas died on the 20th September 1338 and is buried in the abbey of Bury St Edmunds.  He does not appear to have been very popular or very successful for that matter.