Tag Archives: Coventry

Woman’s lover kills husband with axe! William Lucy,his wife Margaret and the king.

margaret lucyBy 1460 rivalries between Richard of York and Henry VI’s favourites had descended from political hostility into open warfare.  Having fled to Calais in 1459 in the aftermath of the Ludford Bridge disaster, the earl of Warwick, his father the earl of Salisbury, his uncle Lord Fauconberg and his cousin Edward earl of March arrived back in England at Sandwich with 2,000 men in June 1460. Their numbers snowballed.  The city of London fell to the Yorkists with only the Tower of London remaining in Lancastrian hands.

The Lancastrians moved out of their stronghold at Coventry intent upon confronting the gathering white rose host whilst the Yorkists came north with their artillery along Watling Street.  Jean de Waurin, the  Burgundian chronicler, explained that the Lancastrian army awaited their foes outside Northampton, in a park by a little river (the Nene).  The English Chronicle identified the battle as taking place between Hardingstone and Sandyford near Delapre Abbey. The problem for the Lancastrians was that their back was to the river.  On one hand no one could creep up on them on the other, there was no where for them to go if they needed to leave quickly.

 The Yorkists, having been denied the opportunity to meet with Henry VI, attacked the Lancastrian army in three divisions.  One was led led by Edward, earl of March.  The second by the Earl of Warwick, and the third by Lord Fauconberg.  The attack was successful according to Whethamstede due to the treachery of Lord Grey of Ruthin who ordered his men to lay down their weapons when the earl of Warwick’s men reached the Lancastrian left flank – which Grey commanded. Warwick’s men simply  waltzed through the line: game over. The London Chronicle mentions the fact that many of the Lancastrians drowned as they attempted to flee. However, for the purposes of this post the sentence of most interest in the London Chronicle is as follows:

And that goode knyght Syr Wylliam Lucy that dwellyd be-syde Northehampton hyrde the gonne schotte, and come unto the fylde to have holpyn ye kynge, but the fylde was done or that he come; an one of the Staffordys was ware of hys comynge, and lovyd that knyght ys wyffe and hatyd hym, and a-non causyd his dethe.

Sir William was born in 1404 of Dallington in Northamptonshire. He  was a loyal Lancastrian. According to the story outline above he heard the artillery’s opening salvoes and hurried to join his monarch. He arrived at his king’s side as the battle reached its conclusion. It does beg the question that if he was that loyal why wasn’t he with the army in the first place and if he could hear the guns he certainly should have been on the scene before the end of the battle. Payling in Hicks observes that these discrepancies are for narrative purposes. They underline the fact that Sir William Lucy was minding his own business when he was unfairly murdered – on a battlefield. He also explains that the writer deliberately allows his readers to believe that both Sir William and his killer were Lancastrian to emphasise the magnitude of the act.  In reality Sir William was a Lancastrian and his murderer was a Yorkist.  Its a reminder that in the midst of national warfare individuals took the opportunity to settle local disputes and personal scores.

It turned out that Sir John Stafford, or his henchmen, took the  opportunity to kill Lucy because he happened to be the husband of the woman with whom he was having an affair.  John Stafford married Lucy’s widow the following year. It’s not a pleasant tale.  Stafford it would appear had taken the opportunity to do murder on the battlefield hoping that no one would notice – except of course the account turns up in two different chronicles.  Sir John gained a young bride and became a wealthy man into the bargain. Unfortunately for Sir John he had a nasty accident at the Battle of Towton (March 1461)- so if he did commit murder it didn’t do him much good for very long.

Margaret Lucy, the lady in question, was young enough to be Sir William Lucy’s granddaughter.  Her stepfather was the earl of Exeter and she was related to the Montagu family through her mother – the earl of Warwick was the executer of her mother’s will and Margaret’s cousin.  William Lucy, a veteran of the Hundred Years War had been married before but was childless. His young bride offered the chance of a family to inherit his wealth as well as a shove up the social ladder. In the event of anything happening to her elderly spouse Margaret was well provided for financially through her marriage contract.

Margaret would turn out to be a popular lady given her connections and her dower manors.  She had at least two more suitors and if you follow these things there’s every chance she had an affair with the young king Edward IV.  Sir Thomas More in his account of Richard III became somewhat sidetracked with Edward IV’s mistresses, in particular Jane Shore who was actually an Elizabeth which just goes to show that you can’t trust everything you read even if it is written by a saint.  Anyway, More mentions a Dame Lucy. History usually gives the dame the forename Elizabeth along with the additional fact that she was Arthur Plantagenet, Lord Lisle’s mother. Hicks and the author of the blog murreyandblue https://murreyandblue.wordpress.com/tag/margaret-lucy/  present the facts that Edward also had an illegitimate daughter with a lady by the surname of Lucy.  It is usually supposed that the children have the same mother despite the fact there is a long gap between the conception of the siblings with Arthur being born much later in Edward IV’s reign than his daughter.

There is evidence to suggest that the daughter, a much less well documented child, who was originally thought to have the name Elizabeth was actually called Margaret. Furthermore, evidence reveals that Arthur’s mother may not have had the surname Lucy at all but was actually Elizabeth Wayte and that the two children, usually assumed to be siblings were in fact the result of liaisons with two different women – which goes to prove that Edward’s love life must have been rather complicated and either secretive or not thought to be worth keeping track of – either way it certainly keeps current historians occupied.  The suggestion is that over the course of time Edward’s various paramours became confused and that it was actually Margaret Lucy nee FitzLewis, the widow of Sir William who produced a daughter  who would one day marry and turn into Lady Lumley, having her first child in about 1478.

images-17Part of the difficulty with Edward IV’s Dame Lucy is that her title identifies the fact that she is of the landowning class but there are no records of an Elizabeth Lucy in the early years of Edward’s reign.  In 1462 Margaret, now twice widowed, was in the household of the earl of Warwick. Polydore Vergil mentions that Edward had a bit of a fling with someone in Warwick’s household. As is often the case with the murkier bits of history conclusions are drawn from fragments scattered across the primary sources.  None of it is particularly conclusive and the number of women and children don’t always add up – for example could the child Elizabeth really be Margaret or are there two different daughters? I’ve posted about Edward IV’s various lady loves and illegitimate children in a earlier post which can be accessed by clicking on his picture to open a new window.

However, back to Sir John Stafford- the axe wielding murderer of our story.  He was related to the duke of Buckingham but only distantly. Whereas Margaret Beaufort married Sir Henry Stafford the second son of the duke of Buckingham for protection after the death of Edmund Tudor the same cannot be said of Margaret Lucy.  Sir John was not an influential man who could offer her protection in a volatile world – the earl of Warwick was a better bet as her protector.  This suggests that she married for love.  Thanks to Margaret’s wealth Sir John briefly became the MP for Worcestershire.

If Margaret went on to have an affair with the king in the aftermath of Towton  she was being courted  by other men at the time. Payling identifies Thomas Danvers as one candidate for her hand.  He was an Oxfordshire lawyer with Lancastrian tendencies.  He took Margaret to Chancery about a loan for £300 and a breach of promise to marry. Danvers claimed that Margaret had been directed by her half-brother Sir Henry FitzLewis and that she had lied to the earl of Warwick about her marital status.  Money did change hands between FitzLewis and Danvers but then Margaret entered a contract to marry Thomas Wake.  Danvers wanted his down payment back as well as £1000 on account of the fact that he argued that his contract was a bond, so if the FitzLewis family reneged on the provision of his bride he should be compensated.

The other side of the argument was that Sir Henry had taken twenty marks from Danvers to forward his case to his half sister but that she just wasn’t interested. Sir Henry, it was claimed, continued to press the suit and Margaret continued to refuse.  It could be argued that Margaret, despite her second marriage to Sir John Stafford, was much higher up the social ladder than Danvers and that why, in a time of Yorkist supremacy, would she want to marry a Lancastrian in any event?

Ulitmately Payling reveals that Margaret chivied by various bishops and excommunicated was forced to seek a ruling from Pope Paul II because Danvers wouldn’t let the matter rest, even after she was married to Thomas Wake who was most definitely a Yorkist and most definitely identified the earl of Warwick as his patron. If Margaret was having an affair with the king it would perhaps be best if she was married and to someone loyal to the Yorks.

Margaret died on 4 August 1466.  It is likely that she died of complications following the birth of her child. Her brass, depicting her wearing a butterfly head dress identifies her husbands through their coats of arms, can now been seen in St Nicholas Church, Ingrave near Brentwood in Essex.

Payling concludes with a final tantalising detail.  Sir Thomas More wrote that Dame Lucy was a virgin – if this is the case it is hard to see how a twice widowed Margaret could meet the criteria for being More’s Dame Lucy – but then this post has already discussed the difficulties of keeping tabs on Edward IV’s private life through the medium of chronicle fragments and sifting through the archives.

 

Carson, Annette. (2008) Richard III: The Maligned King Stroud: The History Press

Payling, S.J.  Widows and the Wars of the Roses: The Turbulent Marital History of  Edward IV’s Putative Mistress, Margaret, daughter of Sir Lewis John of West Hornden Essex.  in Clark, Linda (ed.) (2015) The Fifteenth Century: Essays Presented to Michael Hicks Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer

Plantagenet Ancestry: A Study In Colonial And Medieval Families, 2nd Edition

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Two Scandalous Bishops at Lichfield Cathedral – Leofwin and Walter Langton

DSC_0049.jpgLichfield, in pre-Conquest times was a great see covering most of Mercia, these days its very much smaller and well worth a visit with its beautiful gospels and carved angel.

 

The first of this post’s scandalous bishops to reside in Lichfield, according to Cannon, was minding his own business when he was accused, fairly promptly after the Norman Conquest, of being married and forced to resign.   In fact, a quick glance at Bell’s entry for Lichfield suggests that not only did the Bishop Leofwin resign but that he also died in 1066 suggesting a convenient stratagem for removing the incumbent Saxon.  The next bishop was William the Conqueror’s own chaplain, Peter, and it was during his tenure that the seat of the see was moved from Lichfield to Chester and from there to Coventry where there was an abbey until in 1189 Lichfield was restored to its role of cathedral although there appears to have been some pretty unpleasant vying for power between the inhabitants of Lichfield and Coventry for several centuries afterwards.

 

The second scandalous bishop rocked up in 1296. Rejoicing in the nickname of ‘the king’s right-eye,’ treasurer Walter Langton was given the bishopric as a reward by King Edward I and nominated as Edward’s executor. He got down to some serious building work in Lichfield which including building houses around the cathedral precincts for the vicars and canons.

 

Four years later Walter was up to his neck in trouble. He was accused of adultery with his step-mother, of murdering his father, witchcraft and corruption. These charges were without foundation but they reflect the way in which medieval political smear campaigns  sometimes ran.  In 1307 with a new king on the throne in the form of ditch digging Edward II (that really was one of his hobbies) Walter found himself under arrest and his income handed to royal favourite Piers Gaveston. Now whilst Langton may have been corrupt and greedy the other charges had rather more to do with the dislike of Edward II and the Archbishop of Canterbury for the former treasurer than anything else.  Not that Walter appears terribly popular with anyone else either. When the Lords Ordainers, so called because of the ordinances or regulations that they (there were 21 of them) imposed on Edward II, took power in 1311 and booted Piers Gaveston out of his position as royal favourite Walter continued to languish in prison.  He did ultimately regain his position as treasurer having cleared his name but no one appears to have trusted him very much.

 

It was Langton who constructed (presumably not personally) the West front and also the three spires. Lichfield is the only cathedral in England to have a triple spire arrangement. The grotesques adorning the cathedral are rather more Victorian in design.  Unfortunately the cathedral had a rather unpleasant time during the English Civil War but more of that anon.

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Cannon, Jon. (2007) Cathedral: The Great English Cathedrals And The World That Made Them London: Constable

Clifton A. (1900) Bell’s Cathedrals: The Cathedral Church of Lichfield A Description of Its Fabric and A Brief History of the Espicopal See. Edinburgh: White and Co

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Henry Bolingbroke

Henry IVYoung Henry Bolingbroke was just eleven years old when he carried the ceremonial sword at his cousin Richard II’s coronation. The king was a year younger than Henry.

Henry, named after one of his father’s (John of Gaunt) Lincolnshire castles was also known as Henry of Lancaster. His mother was Blanche of Lancaster and as his father’s heir the title is one that makes sense. However, just to confused things he was also created the Earl of Derby and upon his marriage to Mary Bohun he was created Earl of Hereford – oh yes, then he deposed his cousin and became known as King Henry IV.

 

Henry’s variety of names is confusing enough but his familial relations look like spaghetti rather than a tree. Henry’s grandfather was King Edward III, his father John of Gaunt and his mother Blanche of Lancaster. So, far so good. However, when Henry married Mary Bohun, who was just eleven at the time and remained at home with her widowed mother after the wedding, Henry’s aunt became his sister-in-law! Edward III’s youngest son Thomas of Woodstock was already married to Mary’s older sister Eleanor. They were the co-heiresses of the Earl of Hereford. Henry’s mother-in-law was the widow of the earl and the daughter of Richard FitzAlan third Earl of Arundel.

 

As Richard II grew to manhood he became convinced about the authority of kings. It was this king who introduced the terms ‘Majesty’ and ‘Highness’. It was this king who demanded that anyone entering his presence should bow three times before they approached him. This high handed attitude, not to mention failure to go to war with France, didn’t win him friends within his family. Nor did his preference for ‘new men’ such as his chancellor Michael de La Pole help matters very much.

 

Inevitably there were plots. Eventually in 1387 the Lords Appellant, as they became known, forced Richard to tow the line. He spent some time in the Tower – possibly on the naughty step. Amongst the Lords Appellant were Thomas of Woodstock (Henry’s uncle and brother-in-law) and Richard Fitzalan, the fourth Earl of Arundel (Henry’s uncle-in-law), Thomas Beauchamp (Earl of Warwick), Thomas Mowbray (Earl of Nottingham) and Henry himself.

 

Of course, Richard didn’t take kindly to being told what to do by the nobility even if he was related to most of them. Eventually he regained his power and had Thomas of Woodstock sent to Calais where he ordered his royal uncle to be murdered. The man who organized this was another of Thomas’s nephews ….it’s always nice to see a happy extended family, isn’t it?

Henry’s uncle-in-law, Arundel, was given a show trial and executed. The Earl of Warwick must have heaved a huge sigh of relief when he found himself on a slow boat to the Isle of Man with instructions not to come back. The king seized the estates of all three of these Lords Appellent. Henry and Mowbray seemed, at least for the time being, to have escaped Richard’s wrath.

 

However, Mowbray suggested that the king would do to him and Henry what he’d done to the other three lords. The conversation was not a particularly private one and inevitably word got back to the king that Mowbray was plotting again. Henry denounced Mowbray before he could be accused of being involved.  He went on to challenge Mowbray to trial by combat. The two men were to have met at Coventry on the 16th September 1398. They were just about to attack one another when Richard banned the combat and exiled its combatants: Mowbray for life, Henry for ten years – demonstrating that Mowbray had been right all along.

 

Then John of Gaunt died. Richard changed Henry’s exile to life and claimed Lancaster’s estates as his own.

 

Henry landed at Ravenspur in July 1399. Men flocked to his banner. Richard, who was in Ireland at the time, hurried to meet his cousin but by the time he reached Conway Castle it was evident that Richard had lost his kingdom to his cousin.

 

Henry Bolingbroke became Henry IV by popular acclaim. If Richard’s abdication was real rather than forced – and the deposed king was to die very soon afterwards in Pontefract Castle.  The next rightful heir was eight-year-old Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March- and no one wanted another child on the throne.   Henry however, did not claim his right to rule exclusively from his grandfather. He claimed his right to rule through his mother Blanche of Lancaster. Blanche was descended from Edmund Crouchback, the second surviving son of Henry III. Henry IV allowed it to be known that rather than being the second born, Edmund Crouchback was actually the first born child but had been set aside in favour of his brother Edward (King Edward I) on account of his ‘crouchback’.   Given that crouchback meant cross-back it was probably a reference to his crusading zeal rather than any physical deformity.

 

Henry did not have a peaceful reign. Owen Glendower rose with the Welsh in rebellion and the Earl of Northumberland joined in with his son ‘Hotspur’. Hotspur was the husband of Ann Mortimer and therefore uncle to Edmund Mortimer (the child with a better claim to the throne than Henry). It would be nice to think that he was outraged that his nephews Edmund and Roger Mortimer were being imprisoned simply because of their ancestry but it is much more likely that he, together with his father Northumberland, was furious that they hadn’t received what they perceived to be their dues for supporting Henry when he arrived at Ravenspur. They were also expected to guard the border with Scotland more efficiently now that Henry was on the throne.

 

In any event, Henry had to quell rebellions, assassination attempts, deal with financial difficulties, his own heir’s apparent waywardness and his poor health. It was widely reported that he became a leper- he certainly suffered from an unpleasant skin disease of some description. He had difficulty walking and had a fit whilst praying in Westminster Abbey before dying on the 20 March 1413.

 

He left a warrior son to become King Henry V. Unfortunately for England, King Henry died when his own son by Katherine of Valois was an infant.

The Mortimers had not forgotten their claim to the throne (though Edmund and Roger died without children- their sister Ann had married and had children).  Their claim to the throne was  better than baby Henry VI’s. The stage was set for The Cousins War or as we know it, thanks to Sir Walter Scott, the Wars of the Roses – which strange though it may seem given that I’ve cantered through the reigns of both Richard II and his cousin Henry IV,  is what I’m warming up for with this post.

 

 

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The Mad Priest of Kent

John-ball-rebel-1John Ball was an English priest and one of the leaders of the Peasants Revolt of 1381. The revolt started in Essex at Brentwood.  It was only when the revolt spread to Kent that John Ball became involved but he quickly, according to folk-lore and the chroniclers of the period, became one of the revolt’s leaders.  He was certainly one of the most eloquent representatives of the Peasants Revolt.

Ball probably began his career in St Mary’s Abbey, York where he was ordained as a priest.  He next appears in Colchester in 1366 when he was arrested for heretical preaching and forbidden from preaching.  John Ball was not deterred. He attacked the wealth of the church and preached for equality between social classes. In 1376, he was arrested by the new archbishop of Canterbury, Simon of Sudbury because he preached that people need not pay their tithes to unworthy priests.  Even more inflammatory he said that all property should be shared in common among all people.

He was in prison at the outbreak of the Peasants’ Revolt in June of 1381. He wrote many letters from prison to his supporters continuing to urge them to break free from social injustice. When the revolt reached Maidstone one of the first things that Wat Tyler did was to free Ball.

Ball gave a sermon at Blackheath saying “When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?”  The peasants were so inflamed by his words that they demanded the heads of King Richard II’s bad advisors— Richard returned to the Tower with the men who the commons wanted to kill and the next day the commons rampaged through London.

Ball survived the death of Wat Tyler, there is no further reference to him after the famous sermon speech at Blackheath “When Adam delved and Eve span – who then was then the gentleman?” He escaped London and went into hiding.  He got as far as Coventry where he was discovered, captured and dragged back to face the king.

He was hanged, drawn and quartered on July 15 1381 at St Albans after judgment by Richard II.  His head ended up on a spike on London Bridge.  In the city itself people began to rebuild their homes and their lives where they could.  Many Flemings and Lombards had been killed during the unrest and now the King and his council ordered Englishmen to leave London if there had not lived there for a year and a day.

It was said by chroniclers of the period that Ball was a supporter of Wycliff and the Lollards but it is thought that this was an attempt by the authorities to implicate them in the events of the revolt.

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