William Longspée the Younger who did not become an earl of Salisbury

Sir William Longspée the Younger was born in about 1212. His father, William Longspée, was an illegitimate son of Henry II, friend of William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke and husband of Ela of Salisbury, the suro jure countess.

William’s father was an influential man and chivalrous man but the earl died not long after he was shipwrecked in 1225. Rumour whispered that Hubert de Burgh, Earl of Kent had a hand in his death through poison but by then Hubert was not a popular man. Unfortunately for William II, his mother Ela held the title in her own right so William the Younger could not legally carry the title although he did attempt to claim it.

In 1233 he sailed close to rebellion because of his friendship with Richard Marshal who took the Marches to war when one of Gilbert Basset’s manors in Wiltshire was unlawfully seized on the kings orders. Another of Marshal’s adherents Richard Siward was wrongfully imprisoned at about the same time. The king was accused of listening to the advice of his advisor the Bishop of Winchester, Peter des Roches who advocated that kings could do as they wished.

The so-called Marshal War was largely a March affair but it resulted in Shrewsbury being burned and Henry III experiencing the embarrassment of the Welsh routing his army – who were sleeping soundly in their tents at Grosmont Castle when Llewelyn’s army arrived. Longspee did not become involved but he was required to hand over his daughter as a hostage for his good behaviour when he threatened to join the rebellious barons. The Crown perhaps recognising that they were on thin ice placed the girl in the custody of her grandmother.

By 1240 William decided to go on Crusade in the service of Richard of Cornwall, Henry III’s younger brother, who sailed for the Holy Land via Marseilles. Two other groups of nobles set off at the same time including Simon de Montfort. Cornwall’s party included his own extended family, of whom Longspée was a part. William didn’t see action, returning with Cornwall in the spring of 1241.

He returned to the Holy Land in 1247 on a second crusade with the French king, Louis IX against the Egyptian mamlukes. To raise the funds for the endeavour he sold a charter to the town of Poole. It was during this crusade that he gained renown for his daring and ultimately his death as reported by the chronicler Matthew Paris which, in the long term, did nothing to help Anglo-French relations. It was reported that the Count d’Artois tricked Longspée into making an attack before the French king was in place with his own troops. Longspée, his men and 280 knights templars were killed during the encounter.

An effigy was erected in Salisbury Cathedral although his remains were buried in the Holy Land at Acre.

Although William was married and had several children, his own heir, another William, also predeceased Ela of Salisbury who died in 1261. William the even younger’s (sorry couldn’t think of anything snappier) only child, Margaret, married Henry de Lacy, 3rd Earl of Lincoln. Margaret became suo jure Countess of Salisbury in her own right following her grandmother’s death.

The female line continued to hold the earldom of Salisbury. Margaret’s daughter Alice de Lacy became the suo jure countess of Lincoln and Salisbury after one of her brothers fell down a well and the other one fell off a parapet at Pontefract Castle. Alice was unhappily married to Edward I’s nephew Thomas of Lancaster from childhood. The inheritance, when it fell into Thomas’s lap, made him the wealthiest man in the kingdom. Alice’s turbulent life is well worth the retelling: it includes two kidnaps and imprisonment demonstrating that, on occasion, life as an heiress wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Alice died without children in 1348.

The earldom of Lincoln fell into abeyance but the earldom of Salisbury had already been forfeited in 1322. The lands which had once belonged to the Longspée dynasty passed back up the collateral line to James Audley who was descended from William Longspée the younger’s eldest daughter Ela who was married into the Audley family.

The title would be recreated for Edward III’s friend William Montagu or Montacute depending upon your preference. And from there it’s a hop and a skip to Richard Neville Earl of Warwick (a.k.a. The Kingmaker).

If you would like to find out about William Longspée, Earl of Salisbury’s mother she can be found in Medieval Royal Mistresses and Alice Montagu, 5th Countess of Salisbury appears in my forthcoming book about The Kingmaker’s Women.

A tale of Alice two Earls, kidnap, murder and the Elland by-pass

sirjohn ellandThomas, Earl of Lancaster is  most often known in history as the earl who was executed at Pontefract Castle for treason in 1322. He was led to a hill outside the castle, turned to face Scotland because his treachery came not only from his rebellion against his cousin Edward II but also from the fact that he had made a pact with the Scots.


His wife was Alice de Lacy. She was the daughter of the Earl of Lincoln and was espoused to Thomas when she was just twelve years old. The marriage was not a happy one. She spent much of her time at Pickering Castle. In 1317 she was kidnapped by John de Warren, Earl of Surrey. There is no evidence as to Alice’s view of the matter but historians speculate that she was agreeable to the idea – hardly surprising given Lancaster’s reputation as a womaniser. Lancaster did eventually divorce her but Alice did not find happiness with Surrey who already had a wife. Alice later married Eubolo Lestrange but not before she’d had an unpleasant encounter with Edward II’s favourite Hugh Despencer, who like the other powerful men in her life were more interested in her estates than in her.


So far so good – or not, as the case may be. The conflict rapidly escalated beyond Alice’s marital relations and into West Yorkshire. Lancaster and de Warren were sworn enemies; hence the kidnap. The ensuing fisticuffs was not something that was readily resolved and it involved many households who owed their allegiance to one or other of the parties. In Elland, tragic events unfolded and were even recorded in a ballad running to one hundred and twenty four verses  first written down in the Tudor period but which, it is agreed by some historians, date from much earlier.  As with the way of these things while some historians regard the ballad as authentic others have their doubts.

Sir John Eland of Eland was de Warren’s steward for the Manor of Wakefield and Sheriff of Yorkshire. He wanted vengeance from Robert Beaumont who was held accountable for the death of another of Warren’s men – possibly Sir John’s nephew. Beaumont owed his fealty to Lancaster. Robert Beaumont was shielding the real culprit of the murder, a man called Exley. As was the way of the time it also appears that compensation was paid for the death of Sir John’s kinsman. The matter should have ended there. The blood money having paid the debt.


However, Sir John was in no mood for forgiveness.  There was also much unrest in the county as a result of Edward II’s incapacity to rule and the greed of his favourites – the Despencers.  Sir John and his henchmen took the opportunity to kill Robert Beaumont in his own home, Crossland Hall near Huddersfield, then sat down to breakfast in the dead man’s stead. He forced Robert’s sons to partake of the meal. The eldest boy, Adam, refused and was threatened by Sir John.


Sir John had good reason to be hungry. He’d been up most of the night committing murder. On the way to Crosland Hall he’d stopped off at Quarmby Hall where he’d killed Sir Hugh de Quarmby before detouring to Lockwood Hall where he’d finished off John de Lockwood. Lockwood is recorded in the Wakefield Court Rolls as being found guilty of evicting an innocent man from his home.


The Beaumont family and the sons of Lockwood and de Quarmby fled to Lancashire but returned fifteen years later to exact their revenge. They stayed with a branch of the Lacy family while they plotted and awaited their opportunity. They killed John Eland on his way home from court in Brighouse in 1354.  Again, that might have been the end of the matter but for the fact that Sir John Eland’s son, another Sir John petitioned the king to pursue his father’s killers. Quarmby, Beaumont and Lockwood decided that their safety rested upon the end of Eland’s plans. The following year they killed Sir John’s son and grandson.   Only Isabel Eland remained and she married Sir John Savile. Eland’s home, Eland Hall overlooking Eland Bridge remained until 1976 when it was torn down to make way for the Elland By-pass according to the Halifax Courier.


The three vengeful sons fled the scene. They were followed and there was a fight in Ainley Wood. Quarmby was killed. Adam de Beaumont was able to flee the country. He reached Rhodes where he joined the Knights Hospitaller. Lockwood remained in the area because he was in love. His location was betrayed and he was killed by the under sheriff. According to the ballad he was betrayed by the lady he loved.

Sir John Eland’s home, Elland Hall overlooking Elland Bridge remained until 1976 when it was demolished to make way for Elland By-pass.


Click on the picture to open the Midgley Webpage to find out more about the Elland Feud.





Pontefract Castle

DSC_0001Wolsey, on his way back to London in disgrace commented of Pontefract Castle, “Shall I go there, and lie there, and die like a beast?”  Perhaps he was thinking of King Richard II who starved to death in the great fortress.

The Normans built their motte and bailey on the Anglo-Saxon Royal Manor of Tanshelf.  It’s builder was Ilbert de Lacy.  Ilbert and his brother arrived in 1066.  The new Lord of Pontefract had done well out of the conquest and didn’t forget to show his gratitude by making gifts to both Selby Abbey and St Mary’s Abbey in York.  DSC_0004

As the centuries progressed so did the castle until its eight towers dominated the town and the landscape beyond. Edward I described it as ‘the key to the north’.  The de Lacy’s continued to be its custodians until Henry de Lacy  (Earl of Lincoln) lost his male heir when he fell off the battlements in 1310.  His daughter Alice an important heiress was married to Thomas, Earl of Lancaster so it was he who became the next custodian of the castle.  He was Edward II’s cousin and it would be fair to say that they didn’t see eye to eye.  By 1318 Alice and Thomas were separated – possibly because of the fraught political situation of the period or perhaps because they just didn’t like one another.  Alice spent most of her time in Pickering while Thomas lived a bachelor life.  Thomas eventually revolted against his cousin on account of the Despencers, made an alliance with the Scots and then rather unfortunately lost the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322.  He was taken back home to Pontefract and unceremoniously executed looking towards Scotland which was the direction of his treachery.  DSC_0021

Eventually the castle passed into the hands of John of Gaunt and from there to his son Henry Bolingbroke who became Henry IV when he usurped his cousin’s throne.  Richard II found himself locked in one of Pontefract;s dungeons and that was the end of him.  Pontefract was now a royal castle and its prisoners reflected its importance and its security.  In 1405, Richard Scrope, Archbishop of York was imprisoned here before his execution.  James I of Scotland spent some time here as an unwilling guest as did the Dukes of Bourbon and Orleans after their capture at Agincourt.  Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury was executed here in 1460 and in 1483 Richard of York had Earl Rivers and Lord Richard Gray imprisoned here and executed – which was one way to reduce the Woodville influence at court but hasn’t reflected well on the man who became Richard III mainly because the two half brothers of the boy king Edward V were executed without trial.

The castle had a grim reputation which is perhaps something that Catherine Howard (Henry VIII’s Fifth wife) ought to have reflected upon before she started her affair with Thomas Culpepper during a Royal Progress.DSC_0011

Pontefract Castle’s days of greatness  and terror drew to a close with the English Civil War.  After the Battle of Marston Moor the castle became a Royalist stronghold.  Parliamentry forces besieged it and when it finally fell in 1648 the mayor of Pontefract petitioned on behalf of the townspeople that the castle should be destroyed.  Work began  in April 1649.

Today a few fragments of the castle remain.  The curtain wall encloses a park which hides a grim secret.  Some thirty-five feet beneath the grass there lurks a network of  cellars and magazines which were once Pontefract Castle’s dungeons.