Tag Archives: Battle of Towton

Sir Andrew Trollope

sir andrew trollope.pngWe know that Sir Andrew Trollope was a bit of a hero so far as the Hundred Years War is concerned.  He was probably part of Sir John Falstaff’s company in the 1430s.  We also know that he did a bit of nifty side changing at the Battle of Ludford Bridge in 1459 from the Yorkist to the Lancastrian side – nothing too surprising there; everybody seems to have swapped sides at some point in the proceedings.  It is actually a bit surprising he was on the Yorkist side in the first place as he had become associated with the Beauforts during his time in France.

It is explained by the fact that Trollope began the period of the Wars of the Roses in Calais  as Master Porter, a position he was appointed to in 1455, where the Earl of Warwick held the position of captain.  When Warwick returned from France, Trollope came with him to beef up the Yorkist position at Ludlow.  Unfortunately on the 12 October 1459 Trollope availed himself of the offer to swap sides and receive a pardon from Henry VI.  He duly took his men across the lines and spilled the beans about Richard of York’s plans.  York was forced to flee in the night and the people of Ludlow experienced first hand the problems of being on the losing side of a conflict .

We know that Trollope spent some time in France during the following year when the Lancastrians received a set back and we know that by December 1460 he was in Yorkshire. He and Somerset led the forces that defeated York at the Battle of Wakefield on the 30th December 1460.  We don’t know whether he tricked York into believing that he had more loyal men than he thought or whether he lured York out into open ground as the chronicler de Waurin recounts before revealing his true colours.

What we do know is that he fought at the second Battle of St Albans where he was knighted. An account of his role was given in Gregory’s Chronicle. He was injured by a caltrop (a spiky device left on the ground to injure animals and men) so stood and fought on the same spot killing fifteen men.  Six weeks later he was himself killed at the Battle of Towton in 1461 – Edward had specifically identified him as someone to be extinguished with the additional incentive of a reward of £100.

We also know that Trollope is an example of a man who benefitted from the Hundred Years War.  Historians think that he came from County Durham originally and that his background was the dying industry.  He rose because he distinguished himself on the battlefield, probably helped himself to any loot that was available and married well.  His wife was further up the social ladder than him being the sister of Osbert Mundeford one of his superior officers. Elizabeth and Sir Andrew had two children that we know of – one, David, was killed at Towton with  his father  (he’s sometimes identified as Andrew’s brother) whilst the other, Margaret, married Richard Calle was was the Pastons’ bailiff (as in the Paston Letters).

Wagner, John A. (2001) Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses.

 

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Margaret Beaufort’s other family

Stained_glass_in_the_Burrell_CollectionDSCF0301_07.jpgThe Wars of the Roses or The Cousins War as it was called at the time is complicated enough without looking too closely at the relationships that existed between the women of the period and the links forged by marriages often arranged to secure family alliances and extend land holdings. Yet, to do so gives a new insight into the power dynamics, politics and family relationships of the period and also of the Tudor period given that Henry VIII emulated his father when he approached mid-life by starting to execute members of his nobility with too much Plantagenet blood in their veins.

 

Margaret Beaufort and her assorted extended family is typical of the far reaching links that often seem to run counter to what might be expected from the overarching political affiliations depicted in history books. Her mother was Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe. Margaret Beauchamp was married three times. She had children by all three of her husbands. These children were Margaret Beaufort’s half-siblings and thus aunts and uncles of Henry Tudor, thought much less publicized than Jasper Tudor. Margaret Beaufort’s youngest half-brother, John born sometime around 1450, was the child of Margaret Beauchamp’s third marriage to Lionel de Welles, the sixth baron Welles.

 

Lionel died at the Battle of Towton in 1461 fighting on the Lancastrian side. Barons number seven and eight (Lionel Welles’ son and grandson from a previous marriage) had their heads chopped off for plotting against Edward IV in 1470. This resulted in an Act of Attainder and the removal of titles and estates most of which were situated in Lincolnshire. John Welles, not put off by the severing of heads from shoulders, continued the family tradition of loyalty to Lancaster by becoming involved with Buckingham’s rebellion against Richard III in 1483. He then scarpered across the Channel where he joined his nephew Henry Tudor.

 

So far so good – though I admit a family tree would help. He returned to England in 1485 by his nephew’s side, was knighted and got his lands back. He also acquired a bride some nineteen years his junior and who tied him more closely than ever to the royal family.

 

His bride was Cecily Plantagenet, the second daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville to survive to adulthood (her elder sister Mary died young). She had been offered as a bride to King James III of Scotland’s heir in 1474 – and in 1482, the year before Edward IV’s death, to the Duke of Albany although there was the slight problem of Albany already having a wife.

 

Cecily’s grand Scottish match came to nothing. Instead her father died and she found herself in sanctuary for the second time in her short life and no longer a princess. Her parents’ marriage was declared invalid on account of her father’s alleged pre-contract with Lady Eleanor Butler making his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville bigamous and Cecily and her siblings illegitimate.

 

Richard III arranged for his niece to marry Ralph Scrope the younger brother of a northern baron. The marriage was swiftly brought to an end once Henry VII gained the throne. Cecily was required at court and in the hands of a good Lancastrian rather than a supporter of Richard III. In 1486 she carried Prince Arthur to his baptism and in 1487 she accompanied her sister Elizabeth, Henry VII’s wife, to her coronation. By the following year she was married to Henry VII’s less well-known uncle John Welles. This was a clever move on Henry’s part. It rewarded his uncle for his loyalty and ensured that Cecily didn’t acquire an overly ambitious husband.

 

It was, however, a marriage that makes for complicated family ties. Cecily as well as becoming Henry Tudor’s sister-in-law also became his mother’s (Margaret Beaufort) sister-in-law; something of an irony bearing in mind that Margaret Beaufort in the red corner and Elizabeth Woodville in the white corner (Cecily’s mother) were consummate rivals and only united in 1483 against a common foe in Richard III (if popular history is to be believed and we set aside the fact that Elizabeth Woodville not only accepted Margaret Beaufort at court whilst Edward IV was alive but asked her to be godmother to one of her daughters at a time when both women might reasonably have supposed that their positions were established and secure…I did say it was complicated).

 

Cecily and John had two daughters both of whom died in childhood. John died in 1499 and Cecily continued with her duties at court where she seems to have been something of a favourite. She was part of Prince Arthur’s marriage to Katherine of Aragon. Records state that she carried the bride’s train and danced with Prince Arthur at the festivities afterwards. Jones and Underwood note that during this time she and Margaret Beaufort spent time together and seem to have grown to like one another.

 

She was also financially secure. Welles having died without children left a will giving Cecily an interest in his estates for her lifetime. He named her as executor of his will along with Margaret Beaufort’s, and now Henry VII’s, long trusted henchman Sir Reginald Bray.

 

Behind the scenes Cecily was taking her life in her own hands. History knows relatively little of the arrangements behind her first marriage to Ralph Scrope but in all likelihood it was arranged by Richard III who’d promised his nieces marriages to gentlemen (but not nobility of the first order). Her second marriage was obviously political. In that Cecily’s life was no different from countless other women of the period but she was about to break the rules. In 1502, Cecily married Thomas Kyme of Friskney, a Lincolnshire esquire, without royal license and socially far below her in rank.

 

Henry VII was not amused.

 

However, Cecily and Thomas had an unexpected ally in Cecily’s sister-in-law, Margaret Beaufort. Margaret permitted Cecily, of whom she appears fond, to stay in her house at Collyweston until the king’s anger had time to simmer down. She also began negotiations on Cecily’s behalf. As you might expect much of Henry’s anger was about loss of prestige, something important to the parvenu Tudor. But, almost as important to Henry VII was his treasury. As soon as the marriage came to light Henry set about removing the Welles’ estates from his sister-in-law but Margaret, canny negotiator, ensured that Cecily retained some of her lands and was able to pay her way out of trouble though not back into royal favour which may explain why she didn’t attend her sister, Elizabeth of York’s funeral – a noticeable absence after all the other key events she’d played an important role in.

 

Cecily appears to have continued to be often in Margaret Beaufort’s company and when Cecily died in 1507 it was Margaret Beaufort who paid most of her funeral expenses.

 

Jones, Michael K and Underwood, Malcolm G.(1992) The King’s Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

 

 

 

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Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe

beauchamp.jpgWho?  Well, she’s the maternal grandmother of Henry Tudor. In the great scheme of things John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset could have looked for a more prestigious marriage but he’d been a prisoner of the french for seventeen years and was hugely indebted on account of the ransom that had to be paid for his release.

Margaret, the daughter of Baron Beauchamp, was something of an heiress.  He brother had died young and without children. She married Sir Oliver St John who fathered several children and then died in France as a result of being involved in the Hundred Years War freeing Margaret up to marry the Duke of Somerset who was swiftly got his new bride pregnant and went back to fighting the French. A girl child duly arrived called Margaret.  The day before little Margaret Beaufort’s first birthday which fell on the 31 May 1444 her father died, in all probability by his own hand as a result of not doing terribly well in his campaign against the French.

Margaret Beauchamp widowed for a second time now spent three years without a husband at her home in Bletsoe where her daughter seems to have enjoyed a brief but happy childhood amongst her five half-siblings although she was given in wardship to William de la Pole, Earl -later Duke- of Suffolk. History isn’t entirely sure when Margaret Beaufort left her mother’s care although we do know that Margaret Beaufort remained loyal to her wider St John family throughout her life.  We also know that Suffolk arranged for his ward to marry his own son only for the whole  house of cards to come tumbling down when Henry VI became involved, ordered Margaret Beauchamp to bring her daughter to court in 1453 and gave Margaret who was a significant heiress as a bride to his own half-brother despite the fact that the child was already married to John de la Pole.  This childhood marriage was swiftly annulled and Margaret Beaufort always spoke of her marriage to Edmund Tudor as her first marriage.

 

Margaret Beauchamp married for a third time to one Lionel, Lord Welles who managed to survive longer than husbands one and two but who carelessly got himself killed at the Battle of Towton in 1461.

Lord Welles was a supporter of Margaret Beauchamp’s brother-in-law Edmund Beaufort (now Duke of Somerset – the one rumour said may have fathered Margaret of Anjou’s son rather than Henry VI). Lionel was part of the extended Clifford and Greystoke families for those who like a northern link. He was also an unsuccessful Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and served as deputy  Lieutenant for Calais on behalf of Edmund Beaufort who got himself killed in 1455 at the First Battle of St Albans.

We know very little else about Margaret Beauchamp except that she had a book of hours because it passed into the hands of her daughter Margaret Beaufort.  It is often referenced in texts because of Margaret Beaufort’s habit of annotating it. Double click on the image at the start of this post to open the British Library page with information about the Beaufort/Beauchamp Book of Hours.

Margaret Beauchamp of Bletsoe died in 1482 and was buried in Wimbourne Minster – so we also have a good idea what she may have looked like from her effigy which lays alongside that of her second husband – John Beaufort, Duke of Somerset.

 

Jones, Michael K. and Underwood, Malcolm G. (1993) The King’s Mother: Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and Derby. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

 

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Lord Dacre and Henry VIII

thomas fiennes.jpgThis post is slightly convoluted due to an explanation about family links which results in two men bearing the same title (I know, first its generations of men with the same name all of whom seem to take a delight in swapping sides if they were alive during the Wars of the Roses, then there’s the Pastons with John the father and then two living sons called John  and now I’m presenting you with two different people with the same title) but bear with me I’ll make my point at some point in proceedings!

The Dacre family, having arrived in 1066, made their home in Gilsland.  It was their barony.  In short they were border barons doing what border barons did: fighting the Scots, stealing cattle, extorting blackmail, feuding and all those other violent border pastimes that MacDonald Fraser describes with such panache in his book The Steel Bonnets.

So far so simple.  However, in 1457 Joan Dacre inherited the title from her grandfather.  She married into the Fiennes family. She did however have uncles who may not have been terribly pleased with the arrangement of Sir Richard Fiennes becoming Baron Dacre by right of his wife.  The matter was somewhat protracted not only because of the legalities of the situation but because it all took place during a period when the Wars of the Roses were rather warm.  Whilst Joan held the title her uncle Ralph or Ranulph depending on the source you read (another common cause for complaint on the name front), also styling himself Lord Dacre, held most of the family manors in the north.  In 1461 matters resolved themselves somewhat when Ralph managed to get himself killed, allegedly by an arrow fired by an archer perched in a tree, at the Battle of Towton. Ralph was on the Lancastrian side having commanded the left wing of the Lancastrian army.  He was buried upright on his horse in Saxton churchyard. The Victorians discovered this wasn’t just a legend when they dug both skeletons up.

Obviously Ralph was on the losing side which meant that when Yorkist Edward IV finally came to resolving the situation in 1473 he had his own reasons for doing what he did next which was to create Ralph’s younger brother Lord Dacre of the North (it was one of his descendants who managed to become embroiled with Mary Queen of Scots and find himself attainted for treason) whilst, and presumably he did this just to confuse historians, he created Joan’s husband as Lord Dacre of the south.  Both families made use of the famous Dacre red bull on their standards and as supporters for their coats of arms.

Phew!  I’m nearly at the main point of the post. Thomas Fiennes, Lord Dacre of the South born in 1517 was seventeen the year he succeeded his grandfather to be come the ninth Lord Dacre.  By the time he was nineteen he’d been part of the jury that condemned Anne Boleyn of incest, adultery and treason and that same year he’d had the sense to avoid becoming involved with the rebels of the Pilgrimage of Grace but had taken the opportunity to continue a family feud with Lord Clifford when he was sent with two hundred men to help quell the uprising in the north.  William, Lord Dacre of the North had already indulged in a bout of fisticuffs with the Clifford faction in Carlisle – so its nice to know that that family had bonded in some form or other after their falling out.

 

catherine howard.jpgAt court Thomas Fiennes attended the baptism of Prince Edward, bore the canopy of state at Jane Seymour’s funeral and he met Anne of Cleves along with the Duke of Norfolk on New Year’s Eve 1540. Henry wasn’t keen and there was a divorce within six months besides which Henry had fallen in love with a woman some thirty years his junior- another Howard girl. Thomas Fiennes must have been quite pleased when his cousin, Katherine Howard married the king on 28 July 1540.  Thomas’s mother, Anne Bourchier, was the step-daughter of Thomas Howard at that time Earl of Surrey but now Duke of Norfolk.  The world spread out before him, although having said that his cousin Anne Boleyn had already been queen, disgraced and executed.

Then it all went hideously wrong for Thomas Fiennes. For reasons best known to themselves on the 30th April 1541 Dacre together with a party of his friends decided it would be a good idea to go poaching in the park of Mr. Nicholas Pelham at Laughton. There is a letter sent to Thomas Cromwell a few years earlier which demonstrates that Thomas was prone to a spot of poaching – clearly he didn’t know that what was acceptable for his family on the Borders wasn’t acceptable in Kent!  Apparently this happy little party became separated before they arrived at Mr Pelham’s park or could nobble any of his deer.

 

Half the party was intercepted by Mr Pelham’s servants. There was an affray and one of the gamekeepers was killed in the brawl. Reasonably everyone involved was charged with murder. But so were the group of men who hadn’t taken part in the fisticuffs because they’d been notable by their absence, Lord Dacre (the southern one) amongst them.

 

The reason that the Privy Council charged Dacre’s party who’d blatantly had nothing to do with the death of the man was because Henry VIII said they must. So Dacre found himself up before the king’s bench on 27th June 1541.   Dacre, not unreasonably, pleaded ‘not guilty.’ However, he listened to what turned out to be some very bad advice indeed. Record states that he was ‘over persuaded.’ He changed his plea to guilty. He must have hoped for, or expected, leniency. There was only one result – death. The judges 
and Dacre then tried to get the king’s mercy. It wasn’t forthcoming.

 

Dacre was executed at Tyburn by hanging on the afternoon of the 29 June having been given false hope when a stay of execution arrived in the morning. Three other of Dacre’s party were also executed.

 

And why am I choosing to blog about Thomas at this point in proceedings? Well, it seems to me, that if Katherine Howard had King Henry VIII suitably embroiled in love or lust then she should have been able to persuade her spouse to show some mercy for her step-cousin and if she couldn’t have done that she perhaps ought to have thought to herself that it wasn’t a terribly good idea to be carrying on with another distant cousin of hers, a certain Master Culpepper. She had another five months of life left to her when Thomas Fiennes was strung up much to the disgust of the London citizens who witnessed his death.

 

 

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Henry Percy, Fourth Earl of Northumberland

museumbossThis particular Earl of Northumberland is an unusual one in that he was the only one of his family to appear on the Yorkist side of the battle listings during the Wars of the Roses which of course means that a bit of back story is required for his actions to make sense.

Essentially the two great northern families were the Percys and the Nevilles (think Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick a.k.a. the Kingmaker). Had Henry VI been a little bit more effective it is possible that the two families wouldn’t have reached such a state of animosity that when Henry VI broke down in 1453 that the two sides came to blows.  A force of more than seven hundred Percys and their retainers, led by Lord Egremont (the Earl of Northumberland’s second son), attacked a wedding party of Nevilles on Heworth Moor near York.  Quite clearly this did not bode well for wide political implications as it was almost inevitable that if the Percys were favoured by Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou that the Nevilles would look to the other side for support.

The Nevilles affiliated themselves with the Richard of York. The Earl of Salisbury (the Kingmaker’s father) also called Richard Neville was Richard of York’s uncle.  His sister, Cicely Neville a.k.a. ‘The Rose of Raby’ was married to Richard of York.

So far so good. The Earls of Northumberland then proceeded to drop like flies and of course they all rejoiced in the name Henry thus making remembering them easy or difficult depending on what you’re trying to remember. The Second Earl of Northumberland didn’t make it beyond the first official battle of the Wars of the Roses.  He was killed at the First Battle of St Albans on 22 May 1455.  He was succeeded by his eldest son Henry Percy (just to confuse matters he’s also known as Lord Poynings on account of gaining the title when he married his wife) who became the Third Earl of Northumberland. The third earl was definitely Lancastrian.  The feud was in full swing now as the noble families of England merrily took turns slaughtering on another. He died in his turn on 29 March 1461 at the Battle of Towton.  This battle was won by Richard of York’s son Edward who was now Edward IV of England, his father having fallen victim to a sharp weapon at the Battle of Wakefield the previous year.

The death of earl number three finally brings us to our Henry Percy.  He did not automatically become the Earl of Northumberland. His father’s earldom was forfeited at the Battle of Towton by the victorious Yorkists who naturally declared everyone fighting on the wrong side of the battle field traitors and promptly confiscated anything of value as well as lopping off a few heads.  In that sense Henry Percy was lucky.  He was imprisoned in the Fleet Prison and from there he was sent to the Tower in 1464.  During this time John Neville, the Kingmaker’s brother  was created Earl of Northumberland – I don’t even want to imagine how that went down with the locals.

In 1469 after swearing fealty to Edward IV  Henry Percy was released.  He then set about trying to get his estates returned. He petitioned for the reversal of his father’s attainder though this was not granted by Parliament until 1473.  For various reasons including his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, Edward IV began to find his Neville cousins rather wearing and ultimately Henry Percy gained Edward IV’s support.  John Neville found himself kicked out of his newly acquired earldom whilst Henry Percy regained the family title.  Ta dah! Henry Percy, Fourth Earl of Northumberland and Ta dah! John Neville, Marquess of Montagu.

Unsurprisingly John Neville wasn’t best pleased and promptly changed sides along with his brother the Earl of Warwick who was displeased with having been made to look a fool whilst negotiating for Edward IV’s marriage to a french princess only to discover that he’d married Elizabeth Woodville. After that the Nevilles found that dominating court became rather tricky with the best perks going to a huge extended Woodville clan.  Both brothers were killed at the Battle of Barnet in 1471

Henry Percy went back to doing what the Earls of Northumberland had been doing for a very long time – i.e. ruling vast tracts of land and skirmishing with the Scots. He held many of the important government posts in the north of England which were traditional in his family including from 10 May 1483, as protector, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, confirmed the fourth earl of Northumberland’s appointment as warden-general of the east and middle marches ‘during the space and time of a whole year’, after which it was renewed for five months but perhaps it would appear not as much power from Richard III as he had hoped. Naturally enough  he fought at Bosworth where he commanded the right wing of Richard III’s army.

And now for the twist.  The Percys were naturally Lancastrian by inclination. Percy’s father and grandfather had died for Henry VI. Some historians says that Percy betrayed Richard III by holding his forces back from action.  Percy’s northern levies weren’t committed to the battle.

If Northumberland had been a metaphorical spoke in Richard’s wheel he wasn’t very well rewarded by Henry Tudor who now became Henry VII. Northumberland, along with the earls of Westmoreland and Surrey was taken into custody and kept in prison for several months, being released only under strict conditions of good behaviour.  He was restored to his position as warden but with curtailed powers.  Henry may not have trusted him but Percy knew how to protect England’s northern border. He was also at hand to help defeat the Yorkist forces that gathered during the Lambert Simnel rebellion in 1487.

In 1489 Northumberland was part of the king’s administration gathering £100,000 of tax. This led to the Yorkshire Rebellion.  Northumberland had to deal with the resistance of Yorkshiremen to the tenth of incomes demanded for Henry’s Breton war and for the raising of a force against the Scots.  Things can’t have gone well for the Earl  as his own tenants were up in arms.  He was so alarmed that on Saturday, 24 April, he wrote to Sir Robert Plumpton from Seamer, close to Scarborough, ordering him to secretly bring as many armed men as he could to Thirsk by the following Monday. It didn’t do him much good.

On  Wednesday, 28 April, having gathered a force estimated at eight hundred men, he came into conflict with the commons, whose ringleader was one John a Chamber, near Thirsk, at a place variously called Cockledge or Blackmoor Edge, and was killed.

It was at first reported that he had gone out unarmed to parley with the rebels. It rapidly became clear that another reason for the earl’s death was that the good men of Thirsk who had been loyal to Richard III held the earl partly responsible for their king’s death.  The rebellion was  ultimately suppressed by the Earl of Surrey (the son of the Duke of Norfolk and yet another noble who’d been on the wrong side at Bosworth).  Surrey  took on Northumberland’s lands whilst the newest Henry Percy  was a minor.

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King Henry VI

images-17It was possible for medieval kings to be too nice; too pious and too scholarly. Henry VI was the last Lancastrian Plantagenet king. The chaos that spiralled out of control during his reign came about, in part, because of the king’s inability to control his nobility.

In October 1421 Catherine of Valois, wife of Henry V became a mother for the first time at Windsor. Nine months later the infant boy became King Henry VI although he was not crowned in Westminster until 1429. According to the treaty that the French signed after the Battle of Agincourt the boy, following his maternal grandfather’s death was King of England, Wales, Ireland and France.

Indeed, the boy was crowned in Paris on 16th December 1431 to popular acclaim in Paris but much disgust that the English form of coronation was used rather than the French form. Unfortunately most of the rest of France wanted the dauphin, the son of Charles VI, to rule. The future Charles VII had luck on his side in the form of Joan of Arc; the death of the Duke of Bedford’s wife (Anne of Burgundy) resulted in the Duke of Burgundy changing sides; the death of the Duke of Bedford and faction politics back in England. It probably also helped Charles that Henry VI loathed bloodshed and felt that it was his Christian duty to make peace. This duly occurred in 1445 when Henry married Margaret of Anjou and handed back huge tracts of land to the French.

The Duke of Gloucester was furious but his fall from power was just round the corner. His wife Eleanor was found guilty of witchcraft. Ultimately Gloucester would be accused of treason and then found dead in his bed a couple of days later. It wasn’t long before people were whispering that ‘Good Duke Humphrey’ had been murdered and that the queen had somehow been involved.

Henry, who had no mistresses and had an abhorrence of nudity in both men and women, was unlucky in his queen. He thought she was one of the wisest people that he knew but his people never came to love her. She was French and her marriage, without much in the way of dowry, had cost them hard won lands in France. In later years she headed south with a band of ferocious northerners at her back, something that London never forgave her for.

Money, which had flowed readily enough when the English were winning the Hundred Years War, became a problem the older Henry got. It wasn’t helped that when he achieved his majority he gave away approximately two hundred manors and insisted on spending £2,000 on endowing his colleges at Eton and Cambridge. Before long the crown was in debt to the tune of £400,000.

Inevitably the peace in France could not be sustained and before long the roads were filled with English refugees fleeing the French. It didn’t go down well with the English. Henry V, the victor of Agincourt, successful charismatic warrior king was a hard act for his son to follow. As is usual in these occurrences the people blamed the king’s ‘bad advisers’ for the king’s own failings and bad luck. In 1450 Adam Moleyns, the Bishop of Chichester, managed to get himself lynched by an angry mob in Portsmouth who blamed him for the fall of Normandy. The mob’s wrath then turned on the Duke of Suffolk who found himself on the wrong side of the law for pursuing the policies that Henry wanted him to pursue. Henry insisted that Suffolk was set free but he was forced to leave the country. It didn’t help him. Suffolk, on his way to Calais, was hijacked and beheaded.

In June 1450 Kent revolted. This was Jack Cade’s rebellion. The name Mortimer was tangled up in proceedings. People were reminded that Henry IV, our Henry’s grandfather had usurped the throne from his cousin Richard II, and that actually the Duke of York through his mother Ann Mortimer had a much better claim to the throne – it helped that he had a reputation as an effective warrior.

After the rebellion was quelled, Henry VI turned to the Duke of Somerset for guidance. The peer was very unpopular and York, who was owed huge sums of money for his work in France, felt excluded from his rightful role in government. It didn’t help that Somerset used resources in France that might have enabled York to maintain his garrisons. He returned to England from France with an army. On this occasion Henry VI had a larger and better-led army. The enmity that York felt towards Somerset and Margaret of Anjou would become progressively more bitter as did the in-fighting between the various factions which sought to gain power through the king or his wife. However, this is not a post about the Wars of the Roses.

One of Henry VI’s chaplains wrote that the king was a simple man, incapable of lying. This was not necessarily the best news for the English. Medieval kings needed guile and they needed to be strong. Henry was aware of this and perhaps it was why he chose the advisors he did. He appointed bishops, often men he knew personally and who had reputations as theologians; he administered the law diligently. He spent much of his year on progress dispensing justice.

He was also an intensely pious man. On state occasions he wore a hair shirt. Part of the role of Eton was that it should be a chantry for priests to say Masses for his soul. His end of the deal was to provide the foundation and the money to educate poor boys.

Unfortunately for Henry being a likeable man wasn’t going to help rule a country riven by faction and suffering from a dearth of ready cash due to the on-going problems in France which became much worse. At Clarendon, August 1453, Henry VI received news that his army had been defeated in Gascony. The king fell into a coma where he remained until Christmas 1454, missing his son’s birth in the process.

Leaving aside the various tooings and froings of the Wars of the Roses the Battle of Towton on 29th March 1461 was the bloodiest battle fought on English soil if the figures are correct. Henry’s men fought to the death and when the remaining men finally broke and fled they were slaughtered on the road. Those who were captured faced execution. The king and his immediate family fled to Scotland. In payment Berwick was ordered to surrender itself to the Scots. Lancastrian forces began to take over key fortifications in Northumberland but in May 1464 Henry was almost caught following Lancastrian defeat at the Battle of Hexham. By that time Margaret of Anjou and Prince Edward were in France.

Henry spent almost a year on the run hiding in the hills and moors of Westmorland and Lancashire. We know that he found a welcome at Muncaster Castle. But in June 1465 he was betrayed and taken south to London and the Tower where someone tried to assassinate him but where he was able to spend time in prayer and contemplation.

The Earl of Warwick – the Kingmaker had expected that King Edward IV would be extremely grateful for being given a crown. Edward made a bit of a fool of Warwick who was trying to arrange an advantageous foreign match by secretly marrying the widowed and impoverished Elizabeth Woodville, then proceeding to shower all kinds of goodies on her family. Warwick was not amused.

On the 6th October 1470 Henry VI discovered that he was king again on the say so of the Kingmaker who promptly married his youngest daughter off to Prince Edward having already married his oldest daughter off to Edward’s younger brother, the Duke of Buckingham (possibly known as having your cake and eating it.) After the service in St Paul’s, where he was re-crowned, Henry was rarely seen in public.

DSC_0049-47In March 1471 Edward returned and Henry was led by the hand through the streets of London by Bishop Neville in a bid to raise London’s loyal support. Edward swiftly took London, secured Henry and took him with him to Tewkesbury. After the Yorkist victory which saw the death of Henry’s son, Prince Edward, Henry was returned swiftly to the Tower where the Edward claimed he died of melancholy but in reality where the pious, scholarly, likeable and weary man was murdered by the Yorkists. He was forty-nine years old and had been on a troubled throne for thirty-nine years.

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Sir John Neville

ralphneville2earlSir John Neville, 1st Lord Neville was born in the first decade of the fifteenth century. His father, conveniently for memory, was John Neville and his grandfather was the first Earl of Westmorland.   John Neville senior had been the keeper of Roxburghe Castle and had been a warden of the West March – based in Carlisle. Lord Neville’s mother was Elizabeth Holland the daughter of the Earl of Kent – so ultimately descended from King Edward I. The reason for the Neville’s links with the royal family came from the fact that Ralph Neville, First Earl of Westmorland had been married twice. His second wife was Joan Beaufort – the only daughter of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt.

 

Aside from an introduction to the royal household for the relatively new member of the aristocracy the marriage to Joan Beaufort sewed discord in the Neville family. Ralph favoured his second crop of children rather than those by his first wife (Lady Margaret Stafford). John Neville and his son were descended from Margaret Stafford. John’s older brother Ralph became the Second Earl of Westmorland – but a rather impoverished one. It was Joan Beaufort’s family who got their hands on the money – which did not make for a very happy family at all -a fact that the Duke of York should have remembered as should his half uncle, the Earl of Salisbury (a son of Joan Beaufort, otherwise known as the side of the family that got the cash.)

Just as an aside, brother Ralph pictured at the start of this post, didn’t become actively involved in the Cousins war although his only son died at the First Battle of St Albans in 1455 which meant that it was John’s son Ralph (not the most imaginative family when it came to naming their off-spring) who eventually became the third Earl of Westmorland.

 

Anyway, back to the story – Richard, Duke of York and the Earl of Salisbury spent Christmas 1460 in Sandal Castle near Wakefield. It was slightly foolish as the castle was surrounded by Lancastrian loyalists but had Richard sat tight he might have been safe enough. In one version of events he and his men were running low on their supplies, in another version he accepted the terms offered by the Duke of Somerset, which offered peace throughout the festive season but Somerset reneged on his word. For whatever reason York found himself engaged in battle thinking that Sir John Neville would arrive to reinforce him.

 

Instead of coming to his half uncle and the duke’s aid Neville promptly changed sides and became a Lancastrian. His reward was to become Constable of Middleham Castle and Sheriff Hutton. Unfortunately Neville didn’t have long to enjoy his newfound favour. He was one of the Lancastrian commanders at the Battle of Ferrybridge but was killed the following day at Towton. King Edward IV had Sir John declared a traitor and his estate confiscated by act of attainder…another happy fifteenth century family story.

 

 

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Lady Margaret Courtenay nee Beaufort

MargaretCourtenay_ColytonChurch_DevonThe prelude to the Wars of the Roses and the wars themselves are notable by the role of a number of ambitious and dynastically important women who even managed to get their portraits painted in an age when it wasn’t done to waste paint on the female of the species. There are other women though, wives, mothers and sisters who were part of the Plantagenet tangle but who remain largely in the shadows – leaving modern observers to wonder what they felt about the feuds and wars that saw their families at one another’s throats – and of course to wonder what they looked like. Lady Margaret Beaufort is one such  woman… not the mother of Henry Tudor – the aunt of the much more famous Lady Margaret Beaufort.

 

 

Our Lady Margaret Beaufort was born at the turn of the fifteenth century, the daughter of the First Earl of Somerset, John Beaufort. This means, that her paternal grandparents were John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford. Her mother was Margaret Holland, a daughter of the Earl of Kent – so descended from King Edward I through his second wife and the niece of King Richard II.

 

She married Thomas Courtenay the Fifth Earl of Devon in 1421.   Their son was Thomas Courtenay, the sixth Earl of Devon. He was executed in the aftermath of the Battle of Towton in April 1461 an attainted traitor. He was succeeded by his brother John who died in 1471.

 

Margaret’s husband contributing to the growing antoganism between the Houses of York and Lancaster during Richard, Duke of Lancaster’s first protectorate in 1453. He’d been conducting a feud with Lord Bonville which spread disorder through the southwest since he came of age.  As you might expect, the feud was to do with territory and position – both of which required patronage.   Despite his marriage to Margaret Beaufort he felt sidelined from his rightful position by Lord Bonville. Matters didn’t improve when Bonville married the Earl of Devon’s aunt nor indeed when Cardinal Beaufort died and the power at court transferred into the hands of the Duke of Suffolk (de la Pole) who Bonville looked to for support.

 

One thing led to another. The Earl of Devon, despite his marriage into the Beaufort, and therefore Lancaster clan – sidelined from the court party, found himself drawn ever closer to Richard, Duke of York who represented the opposition.   Ultimately the Earl of Devon spent some time considering the error of his ways in Wallingford Castle – no doubt his wife uttered the immortal words ‘I told you so’…

 

The  next problem for the Earl of Devon and his friendship with Richard of York was that Richard was drawn into an ever closer alliance with the Nevilles who in their own turn had their own alliances; one of which was with…you’ve guessed it – that pesky Lord Bonville. In fact Bonville’s son married one of Richard Neville’s (Earl of Salisbury) daughters.  I wonder if the Earl of Devon gnashed his teeth and wailed when he thought about the way that events in distant London conspired to set him at a disadvantage against his enemy who seemed to have a knack of making important friends.

 

On the eve of the First Battle of St Albans it was the Earl of Devon who, despite his increasing alienation from York, who carried the Duke’s letters for him and handed them to the king.

 

As the kingdom unraveled into civil war things in Devon weren’t going any better between the Earl of Devon and Lord Bonville. A man was murdered, the Earl’s son Thomas was implicated. It was a national scandal reported in the Paston Letters. The Earl found himself in the Tower, not because of the murder, but after a nasty  incident involving the citizens of Exeter. And that might have been that had it not been for Margaret of Anjou – one of those significant women of the Wars of the Roses- who became the Earl’s patroness; married his son and heir off to one of her own kinswomen, provided him with status and put Bonville in his place – ensuring that the earl was loyal to the Lancaster cause thereafter– something that Margaret Beaufort hadn’t been able to achieve during her marriage to the earl.

 

Margaret Beaufort’s husband died almost ten years after his wife at Abingdon Abbey in 1458 and was succeeded by his son who’d been cleared of the murder of Nicholas Radford.

 

It is thought that Margaret Courtenay nee Beaufort, Countess of Devon is buried in St Andrew’s Church Colyton. The effigy at the start of this blog was identified as belonging to Margaret by the Courtenay and Beaufort arms.  So although we don’t know what the lady thought about the feuding which lasted throughout her life time we can hazard a guess as to what she looked like.  Having said that, as you might expect, things aren’t quite as cut and dried as could be desired.  The Courtenay Monument, as it is known, was named for Margaret Courtenay, the daughter of Princess  Catherine,  daughter of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, who married Sir William Courtenay, the tenth Earl of Devon  in 1495.  The earl may have regretted his liaison with a Plantagenet sprig when his brother-in-law a.k.a. Henry VII hustled him and his son off to the Tower of London.

 

 

 

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