Tag Archives: Eleanor of Aquitaine

William Marshall makes a name for himself

WilliamMarshalWilliam Marshall had his first taste of real battle at Neufchatel in 1166 when he demonstrated his bravery but failed to take any of his opponents for ransom. Once peace was restored to Normandy Marshall, now a knight, found himself without a mesnie or household.

He was permitted to join his cousin the Lord of Tancarville entourage as it travelled to Sainte Jamme for a tournament.  Marshall having had his horse killed from under him at Neufchâtel was in desperate straits.  Ultimately Tancarville permitted him the last horse remaining in his stables.  By the end of the day Marshall was the owner of four destriers or warhorses.

Between 1167-68 Marshall travelled the tournament circuit.  He soon gained a reputation for strength and valour on the field.  This wasn’t always to his advantage. At one tournament Marshall was attacked by five knights- who managed to turn his helm so that until he was finally captured he could not see a thing.  On another occasion a smith was required to remove his helm at the end of the tournament because it was so badly battered.

Tournaments were banned in England so when Marshall returned home in 1168 he was forced to give up what had become a lucrative income for him but by 1170 having been taken into his uncle, Patrick of Salisbury’s mesnie, he’d seen conflict in Poitou, been held captive by the de Lusignans and ransomed by Eleanor of Aquitaine he was part of the household of Prince Henry, eldest son to Eleanor and King Henry II.  The king had his son crowned in London in 1170 so that for the once and only time in English History there were two officially recognised monarchs in England – King Henry II and the so-called Young King.

Unfortunately the Young King may have had a title but he didn’t receive the income he felt he deserved or the power. Bitter words escalated into rebellion. There followed a “war without love” – that ended with Eleanor a prisoner for having encouraged her sons to rebel against their father.

After that rather unpleasant interlude it was probably with some relief that Marshall found himself drawn back into the world of the tournament from 1176 onwards.  The Young King had been out manoeuvred by his father so the tournament became a way of gaining the respect of his peers and annoying his father who did not approve of tournaments. 1176 was not a shining example of knightly success for Marshall.  He and the Young King had to learn tactics in much the same way that any team learns how to play their opponent to best advantage.  Marshall watched and learned – most notably from Count Philip of Flanders- and before long Team Young-King was going from strength to strength with Marshall as their tournament organiser.

At Anet the tournament spilled over into the town with one of Marshall’s captives hoisting himself out of his saddle onto an overhanging gutter so that although Marshall gained a horse and harness is lost a valuable ransom. At Pleurs, Marshall won the accolade of most valiant knight but this was also the occasion that his helm had been so badly battered that he had to seek a blacksmith in order to escape his own headgear. At Eu he captured ten knights and twelve horses in a single day and at Epernon a thief tried to steal his horse under cover of darkness but was foiled by Marshall’s determined pursuit.

Later Marshall formed a partnership with Roger of Jouy so that they could benefit more fully from the loot available on the tournament field.  Marshall may have gained a reputation for being an honourable man but his early experience at Neufchatel had taught him that a man was only so good as what he owned. They kept a carefully tally of their victories.

By the time that the tournament of Lagny-sur-Marne took place in the autumn of 1179 with 3,000 knightly participants. both William Marshall and the Young King had reputations  as elite warriors.  The Young King is sometimes described as the “father of chivalry” so great was his reputation.

However, the glory years were nearly over.  Men within the Young King’s household had grown jealous of Marshall and they spread the rumour that not only had Marshall grown too big for his boots but that he was carrying out an affair with the Young King’s wife – Queen Margaret.  One of the men  responsible was called Adam Yquebeuf, another was Thomas of Coulonces whilst the third was the Young King’s seneschal.  Marshall’s biographer knew of two other plotters but didn’t name them as their descendants were alive and well in the 1220s when Marshall’s biography was written. During the Christmas festivities of 1182 at Henry II’s court at Rouen, Marshall demanded the right to a trial by combat which was forbidden.  He was once again without a mesnie…until the Young King had need of him once again.

I shall pick up Marshall’s story again in the new year.  Tomorrow will be the start of The History Jar’s advent calendar – no chocolates on offer just people and events linked, somewhat tenuously, by the theme of “Deck the hall.”

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Henry II, Richard de Lucy and three pike.

de-lucy-coat-of-arms19 December 1154 – Henry II, also known as Henry FitzEmpress  was crowned at Westminster Abbey along with his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine. Young Henry ascended to the throne after King Stephen’s death according to the agreement made at the Treaty of Wallingford that marked the end of the civil war that had raged between Stephen and Henry’s mother the Empress Matilda for nineteen long years. Henry’s coronation brought with it the promise of peace and incorporated England into a vast empire which Henry’s youngest son John would ultimately lose.

Henry was the first of the Plantagenets to rule England and in common with Stephen and his great grandfather William the Conqueror he issued a coronation charter promising to uphold English liberties.  This document was virtually the same as the one published by his grandfather King Henry I:

Henry, by the grace of God, king of England, duke of Normandy and Aquitaine and count of Anjou, to all the earls, barons, and his faithful, French and English, greeting.

Know that, to the honour of God and of the holy church and for the advantage of my whole kingdom, I have conceded and granted, and by my present charter confirmed  to God and to the holy church, and to all the earls and barons, and to  all my men all the concessions and grants and liberties and free customs which King Henry, my grandfather, gave and conceded to them.  Similarly also, all the evil customs which he abolished and remitted, I remit and allow to be abolished for myself and my heirs. Therefore, I  will and strictly require that the holy church and all the earls and  barons, and all my men should have and hold all those customs and grants and liberties and free customs, freely and quietly, well and in peace, and completely, from me and my heirs to them and their heirs,  as freely and quietly and fully in all things as King Henry, my grandfather, granted and conceded to them and by his charter confirmed them.  Witness, Richard de Luci, at Westminster.

Richard de Lucy would become the Chief Justicar of England.  He’d already proved himself as Sheriff of Essex.  It was Richard who cared for England whilst Henry was elsewhere in his empire.  Henry spent most of his life on the road travelling from one place in his kingdom to the next so it was essential that he had someone in England that he could trust.  It was de Lucy who worked with Henry against Thomas Becket and managed to get himself excommunicated for his pains. It was also de Lucy who administered English legal reforms of the period.

In 1179 de Lucy resigned his office and retired to Lesnes Abbey near Bexley in Kent which he had founded as part of his penance for his role in Becket’s murder.  He died there a few months later.

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Initial letter of Carlisle Charter showing Sir Andrew de Harcla

The de Lucy or de Luci family arrived with William the Conqueror and grew in importance during the medieval period.   They originated from the town of Luce in Normandy.  They would also became a key family in Cumberland.  Fans of Edward II’s  hero of the Siege of Carlisle Andrew de Harcla will remember it was a de Lucy who arrested him for conspiring with the Scots and brought about his execution at Harraby for treason.  One of Richard’s family called Reginald- after I posted I received a lovely comment informing me that Reginald was Richard’s son (see comments for text), but he almost certainly was related- married into the de Rumilly family from Skipton gaining lands at Egremont and from there it was a few short steps to Anthony whose father had married a Lucy heiress.  For a fuller description access Alexander Grant’s paper on the subject: http://eprints.lancs.ac.uk/67271/1/GRANT_04_LUCY_LINEAGE_NEW_EPRINT_REF_4_.pdf

The coats of arms for the Lucy family is three fish – which initially bewildered me as I discovered fairly swiftly that the fish in question are pike.  In Latin though, the pike is a Esox Lucius –  Lucius meaning ‘light’ and being a pun on the de Lucy name.

http://www.lucey.net/webpage4.htm

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Christmas with Henry II and his sons.

feastChristmas at the court of Henry II probably became increasingly fraught as his sons grew to adulthood. They revolted at various times against their father and feuded with one another. Vincent and Harper-Bill reference in particular the Christmas of 1182.  Eleanor of Aquitaine was not in attendance having been kept a prisoner since she’d sided with her three elder sons in their first revolt against Henry in 1173.  The one thing that Christmas 1182 wasn’t, was the season of peace and goodwill to all men.

 

The Young King had semi-revolted against his father by waging war with brother Richard over Poitou. In the spring of the following year his brother Geoffrey of Brittany would join up with Young Henry against their father and brother as well. William Marshall, widely accepted as the hero of the age and all round trustworthy chap on account of his loyalty to a succession of Plantagenets, was facing accusations of adultery with none other than the Young King’s wife, Princess Margaret of France. And, just because things come in threes rather like buses, William de Tancarville was insisting on his right to wash the king’s hands.

 

The great and the good were summoned to Caen for the celebrations. More than a thousand knights attended. William Marshall took the opportunity to challenge the Young King to bring out Marshall’s accusers – the non-too-subtle implication being that Marshall would then proceed to thrash them soundly. He volunteered to fight three accusers on three successive days and if he lost any of the knightly bouts then he would be deemed guilty of adultery through trial by combat. Young Henry did not accept the challenge. So Marshall then suggested that if no one would fight him they could cut off one of his fingers and then have the fight. Unsurprisingly this resulted in a stunned silence. Now, what should have happened is that Marshall should have been declared innocent of the crime that no one was naming on the spot because quite clearly his accusers weren’t prepared to put themselves in dangers way. However, the Young King didn’t do what protocol required, it should also be added that some historians believe that Marshall’s biography makes much of the accusation because he was actually guilty of being ambitious and greedy and he was trying to make the adultery smear into a scandalous smokescreen for his real activities (think more along the lines of Game of Thrones than Sir Walter Scott). Marshall announced that he was being denied justice. Henry II gave the knight safe conduct and Marshall left in what can only be described as a bit of a righteous huff…it also gave him an excuse to leave his lord…yes, that’s right…the same lord who was just about to rebel against his father. Marshall did not rejoin the Young King until he was dying of dysentery and he’d sought permission not only from Henry II but also Philip of France.  Make of it what you will.

 

Meanwhile William de Tancarville, who was a hereditary chamberlain, insisted on his hand washing rights. Apparently the king was just about to have his hands washed when Tancarville pushed his way to the front and grabbed at the silver basin that the chamberlain was using. The person who had been about to wash Henry’s hands kept hold of the basin and I suspect that much sloshing about ensued until Henry told the bloke with the basin to hand it over to Tancarville who then made a great show of ensuring that Henry had clean hands – ceremonially speaking of course. And then he proceeded to pocket the basin that had held the water for the king’s clean up as well as the basins employed for the handwashing of the princes. It turns out that the silver basins were a perk of the job, which would perhaps account for why the first handwasher-in-chief wasn’t keen on letting go of it in the first place.

 

Good will at the Christmas Court at Caen in 1182 seems noticeable only by its absence. By January the king and his sons were heartily fed up of one another and took themselves off for a spot of perennial Plantagenet family fisticuffs – de Tancarville siding with the Young King.

Click on the image of the festive feast to open up a new tab and a post about the Young King at Christmas including 1182.

Christopher Harper-Bill, Nicholas Vincent Henry II: New Interpretations

William M. Reddy  The Making of Romantic Love: Longing and Sexuality in Europe, South Asia and Japan 900-1200 CE

 

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Richard the Lionheart, Duke of Aquitaine

imagesRichard was born in Oxfordshire at Beaumont Palace in September 1157.  Records reveal that the cost of Queen Eleanor’s laying in was accounted at 20 shillings.

Though born in England, the second of four surviving sons, he was destined to inherit Queen Eleanor’s duchy of Aquitaine. He grew up in an atmosphere of courtly love, speaking the langue d’oc.  Today we think of him as a warrior but he was an accomplished musician thanks to his early years in Eleanor’s court.  Ralph of Coggleshall, records the fact that he ‘conducted’ the clerks of the Royal Chapel in song.

By the time Richard was ten his father (Henry II) had betrothed Richard to the daughter of Count Richmond of Barcelona.  Nothing came of this engagement but in 1168 when Richard was formally invested with the Duchy of Aquitaine he was betrothed to Princess Alys of France, the daughter of King Louis VII – his mother’s ex-husband- by his second wife. Presumably the laws of consanguinity did not account for such things.  What they did account for though was a father ‘knowing’ his son’s bride.  Alys came to Henry II’s court and eventually Henry made her his mistress which goes some way towards explaining Richard’s reticence when it came to honouring the engagement.

By 1173 Henry II’s relationships with all his sons had reached breaking point.  Henry expended huge amounts of energy creating an empire that stretched from the Welsh Marches to the Pyrenees.  He did not wish to do homage to King Louis VII so he gave his European lands into the keeping of his sons Henry, Geoffrey and Richard.  He even went so far as to have Henry crowned king of England while he was still living.  However, they were rulers in name only.  Henry retained the power.  His sons rebelled.  Queen Eleanor, perhaps tiring of Henry’s infidelities, her own lack of power and a mother’s need to protect her sons joined in the rebellion. Fortunately for Henry, Eleanor was swiftly captured and then subjected to fifteen years of captivity. Monarchs on the edge of his kingdom added their armies to the fray.

Young Prince Richard battled on, attempting to besiege La Rochelle despite the fact that King Louis unable to capture Rouen had sued for peace.  King William of Scotland had been roundly beaten at Alnwick.  Was it stubbornness?  Was it anger at his mother’s treatment?  Or was it simply because his father excluded him from the peace that he negotiated with King Louis?  In any event, it was 23 September 1174 before he threw himself on his father’s mercy.

In 1175 Henry set his son the task of quelling the Aquitanian nobles who had risen with Richard two years earlier.  Richard set about subduing nobles and towns one by one.  Limoges fell having been besieged for only two days.  He was accused, in Aquitaine, of being ‘evil to all men.’ Yet he succeeded where his father could not.  He went on to make the road through to the Pyrenees safe for travellers, thus furthering his father’s diplomatic allegiances with Spain.  In 1179 Richard sided with his father when his brothers Henry (the Young King) and Geoffrey (Count of Brittany) rebelled once more. Four years later Henry was dead of dysentery and Richard was heir to the English throne.

King Henry ordered Richard to hand over Aquitaine to Prince John.  Richard refused.  He held an ostentatious Christmas court at Talmont where he gave generous New Year gifts to his nobles.  He’d fought long and hard for the kingdom that was his mother’s and he had no intention of handing it over to his little brother despite the fact that allocating inheritances between sons in this manner was a normal procedure.  He showed no sign of backing down even when Henry openly toyed with the idea of marrying Princess Alys off to John and bypassing Richard altogether. Roger of Hoveden’s account shows that King Philip of France (Louis VII’s much long for son) would not agree to this. Eventually King Henry informed John that he could have Aquitaine if he could take it.

Inevitably these family tensions led to Richard coming to terms with the King of France.  It was this coming to terms that has given history pause for thought about Henry’s sexual orientation despite the existence of two illegitimate sons.  It was reported that Philip and Richard shared the same bed following a day of negotiations.  It was not regarded with the raised eyebrows of today and suggests instead a symbolic sealing of an agreement.

Richard was not the callow youth he’d been last time he’d rebelled against his father, nor was his father a well man.  Neither for that matter was Philip much like his father in matters of warfare.  Eventually the city of Le Mans was captured and Henry was forced to flee.

The king sued for peace.  He came to terms with the french king and Richard during a thunder-storm.  He was so shattered that his men had to hold him upright on his horse.  Some accounts describe a tear in Henry’s back passage that bled so much during the hours of negotiation that the blood streamed down his horse’s flanks.   Henry, vanquished and in pain, returned to Chinon a broken man having learned that John, the son for whom he’d gone to war, had betrayed him.  Henry died on the 6th July 1189.

Prince Richard, Duke of Aquitaine was now King  Richard I.  One of the first things he did was to give orders setting Eleanor free from her captivity.

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Talmont

Resources:

For a full account of Henry II’s final campaign and encounter with his son visit: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1189hoveden.asp

Jones, Dan. (2012). The Plantagenents. London: Harper Press

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Berengaria of Navarre

berengaria_tombDaughter of Sancho the Wise of Navarre, Berengaria was related to the royalty of Spain, England and France.

She was brought from Navarre to Sicily by her future mother-in-law, Eleanor of Aquitaine, in 1190 to marry King Richard I of England.  She was in her twenties at the time.

Richard was in Sicily on his way to the Holy Land to join with the Third Crusade having taken the cross in 1187.  He had been prevented from fulfilling his vow because of a Plantagenet power struggle with his father King Henry II and younger brother Prince John over control of Aquitaine.  His ally in his rebellion against his father was the French King Philip but by the time Berengaria arrived on the scene relations were souring between the two monarchs, not least because Philip expected Richard to marry the french princess Alys, a bride-to-be of some twenty years.  Unfortunately, Philip’s half-sister was an unsuitable match in Richard’s eye – not least because she had been Henry II’s mistress, not that this stopped Philip from pocketing some 10,000 marks in compensation.

Berengaria accompanied Richard and Richard’s widowed sister Queen Joanna of Sicily to the Holy Land.  Before their ship could reach Outremer it was separated from the main fleet and the royal women were ship wrecked off Cyprus.  The ruler of Cyprus, Isaac Comnenus, whose only redeeming feature seems to have been the love he bore his daughter, attempted to take them hostage.  This resulted in Richard leading an attack on Cyprus and capturing the island in less than a month.  As well as demonstrating his prowess in battle, Richard also captured a useful staging post.  Berengaria and Richard were married in May 1191 at Limassol. Berengaria was also crowned at this time and Richard gave her dower rights to all territories in Gascony south of the River Garonne.  The marriage had been delayed thus far because of it being Lent.

Why marry Berengaria?  Richard was the Duke of Aquitaine before he became King of England.  An alliance with Navarre went some way to off setting the expanding power of Castille and Count Raymond of Toulouse who was undoubtedly a thorn in Richard’s side.  It could also be that Berengaria’s reputation was spotless, a direct contrast to Alys.  Chroniclers of the time were generous in their praise of a queen who never came to England.  William of Newburgh described her as prudent and beautiful.

Both royal women accompanied Richard to the Holy Land.  They were at the Siege of Acre and remained there while the crusaders pushed in land and it was from here that they sailed when Richard and Saladin agreed their truce in 1191.  Berengaria and Joanna sailed to Brindisi and from there they travelled to Rome while Richard travelled home a different route and found himself a captive of the Duke of Austria.

Following his release, Berengaria did not join her husband.  The estrangement between husband and wife was never fully reconciled.  Perhaps because Richard needed to secure his empire from the machinations of Philip of France or possibly because Berengaria’s father was now dead and her brother, Sancho VII, had succeeded to the throne.  The Navarre alliance served Richard well during his crusading years.  Certainly he’d never bothered to demand the two castles that were Berengaria’s dowry.  Now however, Richard set about gaining what the marriage treaty guaranteed.  He even involved Pope Innocent III. The couple remained childless and spent very little time in one another’s company.  As he lay dying he sent for his mother, not his wife. Berengaria did not attend Richard’s funeral and remained in a small castle near Angers -in effect a penniless princess having failed to provide Richard with an heir.

Berengaria now entered into a long struggle with King John for her dower lands which were all in France.  In addition to her own dower lands in Gascony she was supposed to receive Eleanor’s lands in England, Normandy and Poitou after Eleanor’s death.  John, once named Lackland, was not forthcoming.   Fortunately, her sister, Blanche of Champagne took in the widowed queen and later King Philip gave her the city of Le Mans to rule. It was only in 1214 that John said he would settle the claim. This was, in part, due to Magna Carta and the fact that the Pope had excommunicated him but he never did pay what was owed.  King Henry III settled Berengaria’s claim when he came to the throne.

Berengaria lived in Le Mans and ruled there from 1204 until her death in 1230.  She ruled well and with determination, even tackling corrupt clerics.  The Bishop of Le Man once closed the door of the cathedral in her face as she arrived for a Palm Sunday service.  She also founded the abbey of L’Epau

 

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