Royal mistresses since 1066, this week, if you please. We’ll leave Elizabeth I’s romantic attachments to one side and Queen Anne’s as well. Some monarchs are remarkably discreet, others less so. Henry VII for example was not known for his mistresses – but his account book reveals payment to “dancing girls” …they may just have been dancing. Other mistresses have achieved notoriety and in the case of Henry VIII’s mistresses, in many instances, the Crown itself. You may find yourself dealing with potentially bigamous monarchs as well this week. Good luck.
Tag Archives: Henry II
Three French Hens – Queens of England from France
I did consider titling this post “three foul french fowl”but decided it was an alliteration too far.
Richard I, a.k.a. the Lionheart, should have married Alys of France – the dispensation for that marriage would have been interesting given that Richard’s mother Eleanor of Aquitaine and Alys’ father, Louis VII of France had once been married. Alys arrived in England aged eight as Henry II’s ward following a treaty agreed in 1169. However, the marriage never progressed which didn’t help Richard’s relationship with fellow monarch Philip II of France who was Alys’ brother.
In 1175 Henry II began to seek an annulment from his marriage to Eleanor. It has been suggested that rather than marrying Alys to his son Richard, that he intended to marry her himself. Certainly it is thought that he began an affair with her after the death of Fair Rosamund in 1177. All things considered it is relatively easy to see why Alys didn’t become one of England’s French hens.
On the other hand, Alys’ sister Margaret should be on the list of French hens because she married Henry II’s oldest son also named Henry in 1162. Technically she became a royal consort when the Young King as he became known was crowned in 1172. Henry II and his son being the only occasion when there have been two official monarchs on the English throne (excluding the Wars of the Roses and the joys of the Anarchy when Stephen and Matilda both claimed the Crown – and Matilda never had a coronation.)
I am not including women who would be defined as French by today’s geography but were daughters of independent or semi-independent realms in their own times: Matilda of Boulogne who was King Stephen’s wife or even Eleanor of Aquitaine who was Henry II’s wife come under this category of consort.
Which brings us to our first indisputable French hen – Margaret of France who was the second wife of Edward I. She was swiftly followed by Isabella of France who is better known as a “she-wolf” on the grounds that she and her lover Roger Mortimer deposed Isabella’s husband Edward II and according to official histories arranged for his dispatch – purportedly with a red hot poker.
French consort number three was Isabella of Valois who was married to Richard II after his first wife Anne of Bohemia died. She was married to Richard at the age of seven in 1396. Four years later Richard was deposed by his cousin Henry of Bolingbroke. Richard was fond of his young wife and she returned the feeling. She refused to marry Henry IV’s son and went into mourning. She died aged nineteen in childbirth following her return to France and second marriage to Charles of Orleans.
Henry V ultimately married Catherine of Valois in 1420 following his victory at Agincourt. After Henry’s death Catherine went on to be associated with Edmund Beaufort but when the laws changed specifying that if the dowager queen married without her son’s consent that the new husband would loose his lands, Beaufort swiftly lost interest. Catherine went on to make an unequal marriage with Owen Tudor.
In 1445 Catherine’s son, Henry VI, married Margaret of Anjou as part of a policy to bring the Hundred Years War to an end. Margaret had no dowry and was plunged into a difficult political situation which resulted in her ultimate vilification by the winning Yorkists. Her hopes for the Lancaster Crown ended on 4 May 1471 when her son, Prince Edward, was killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury. Henry VI was killed in the Tower shortly afterwards. She eventually returned to France.
Isabella of France and Margaret of Anjou are the two consorts that popular history remembers most clearly. The third of English history’s three foul French fowl arrived in 1625. Henrietta Maria married Charles I shortly after he became king. Initially she had to contend with Charles’ reliance upon the Duke of Buckingham. Her Catholicism made her an unpopular choice in England despite Charles’ insistence that she be known as Queen Mary, as did her ability to buy armaments and mercenary forces on her husband’s behalf during the English Civil War. She also decided on a new title for herself – Her She-Majesty, Generalissima.
Crowning the Young King
Prince Henry was born on 11 Feb 1155, the second of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine’s sons. Five years later he married the daughter of King Louis of France – Marguerite, her dowry was the Vexin region and Henry’s father King Henry II was keen to extend his empire. At seven Prince Henry was sent off to the household of Thomas Becket – the arrangement didn’t last long.
On 14 June 1170, Henry II had Henry crowned king of England at Westminster. The Archbishop of York did the honours as Thomas Becket, by then Archbishop of Canterbury, was in exile. From that point forward Henry is known in history as the Young King. He is the only English monarch, even if he doesn’t feature on most lists of kings and queens, to be crowned during his father’s lifetime. And in all honesty the problems that followed between father and son were largely because the title was an empty one.
King Henry II wasn’t doing anything politically innovative but he was avoiding potential disputes about the succession, remember Henry was the second son, and making a statement about how unimportant Becket actually was. This wasn’t helpful as there was a bit of a tug of war relating to whether York or Canterbury was more important. Becket was furious because he believed that Canterbury crowned English monarchs. York basically stuck his tongue out at Canterbury by waving a letter around from Pope Alexander III which gave the King of England the right to have Prince Henry crowned by whoever he wanted. Becket upped the ante by excommunicating the Bishop of York and the other bishops who had assisted in the coronation. So much for Henry II trying to curb the power of the Church.
After Becket’s death there was a second coronation – on 27thAugust 1172 at Winchester for the prince and his princess. This coronation wasn’t unusual either – medieval kings where in the habit of reminding their subjects who was in charge by being crowned on more than one occasion but in this instance Henry II was remedying a perceived slight to King Louis of France in not having Marguerite crowned alongside her husband at Westminster. With Becket dead – the Bishop of Rouen crowned the pair.
Unfortunately the Young King expected power and finances to go with the title. When this was not forthcoming he revolted against his father in 1173. Henry II was ultimately victorious in the family dispute but one of the consequences was the imprisonment of Eleanor of Aquitaine who had sided with her sons. The Young King got more money out of the deal but no more power although he was sent to fulfill various ceremonial duties on his father’s behalf. Instead of political power the Young King turned to the tournament and jousting.
Henry was supported in his new role by a knight in his household – William Marshall. The pair travelled around Europe gaining reknown at the tourney. They fell out in 1182 when Marshall was accused of being a little too close to Marguerite.
By the end of the year the Young King was in rebellion once more and in 1183 he died having taken to pillaging monastic houses to finance his campaign. He died from dysentery and as a result of his death William Marshall, who had reconciled with his young lord and received permission to rebel against the king, went to the Holy Land to lay the Young King’s cloak in the Holy Sepelchre.
Berwick upon Tweed, Richard of Gloucester and the fate of a princess
According to the Scotsman Berwick Upon Tweed changed hands some thirteen times in its turbulent history. So, it was originally part of the Kingdom of Northumbria and these are the key changes of occupier.
In 1018 following the Battle of Carham the border moved to the Tweed and Berwick became Scottish which it remained until William I of Scotland became involved in the civil war between Henry II and his sons in 1173. After his defeat Berwick became English. In all fairness Henry II had rather caused bad feeling between the Scots and English when he forced the Scots to hand Carlisle back to England – which given how supportive King David of Scotland had been to him seems rather ungracious. William I of Scotland (or William the Lion if you prefer) had simply taken advantage of the family fall out between Henry II and his sons. Unfortunately for him he was captured in 1174 at the Battle of Alnwick. He was released under terms of vassalage and made to give up various castles as well as Berwick.
Henry II’s son, Richard the Lionheart, who, as I have mentioned previously, would have been more than prepared to sell London to the highest bidder to finance his Crusade sold the town back to the Scots where it remained until 1296 and the Scottish Wars of Independence. Needless to say it was Edward I who captured the town for the English at that time after the Scots had invaded Cumberland under the leadership of John Baliol who was in alliance with the French. There were executions and much swearing of fealty not to mention fortification building.
In April 1318 during the reign of Edward II (who was not known for his military prowess) Berwick fell once again to the Scots. By 1333 the boot was on the other foot with Edward III now on the throne. Sir Archibald Douglas found himself inside the town and preparing for a siege – no doubt making good use of the fortifications built on the orders of Edward I. Douglas was defeated at the Battle of Halidon Hill in September 1333 and Berwick became English once more.
And thus it might have remained but for the Wars of the Roses. In 1461 Edward IV won the Battle of Towton leaving Henry VI without a kingdom. Margaret of Anjou gave Berwick and Carlisle to the Scots in return for their support to help when the Crown once again. I should point out that the citizens of Carlisle did not hand themselves over to Scotland whilst those in Berwick found themselves once more under Scottish rule. Not that it did Margaret of Anjou much good nor for that matter diplomatic relations between Scotland and the new Yorkist regime although there was a treaty negotiated in 1474 which should have seen 45 years of peace – as all important treaties were this one was sealed with the agreement that Edward’s third daughter Cecily should marry James III’s son also called James. Sadly no one appears to have told anyone along the borders of this intent for peaceful living as the borderers simply carried on as usual.
August 24 1482 Berwick became English once more having fallen into the hands of Richard, Duke of Gloucester who strengthened his army with assorted European mercenaries until there were somewhere in the region of 20,000 men in his force. Richard marched north from York in the middle of July. Once at Berwick Richard left some men to besiege the town whilst he went on to Edinburgh where he hoped to meet with King James III of Scotland in battle (it should be noted that one of James’ brothers was in the English army). It wasn’t just James’ brother who was disgruntled. It turned out that quite a few of his nobles were less than happy as they took the opportunity of the English invasion to lock James away. It became swiftly clear to Richard that he would not be able to capture Edinburgh so returned to Berwick where he captured the town making the thirteenth and final change of hands.
Meanwhile the Scottish nobility asked for a marriage between James’ son James and Edward IV’s daughter Cecily to go ahead. Richard said that the marriage should go ahead if Edward wished it but demanded the return of Cecily’s dowry which had already been paid.
Just to complicate things – James’ brother, the one fighting in the English army proposed that it should be him that married Cecily. He had hopes of becoming King himself. Edward IV considered the Duke of Albany’s proposal and it did seem in 1482 that there might be an Anglo-Scottish marriage but in reality the whole notion was unpopular. The following year, on 9th April, Edward died unexpectedly and rather than marrying royalty Cecily found herself married off to one of her uncle’s supporters Ralph Scrope of Masham. This prevented her from being used as a stepping-stone to the Crown. This particular marriage was annulled by Henry VII after Bosworth which occurred on 22 August 1485 and Cecily was married off to Lord Welles who was Margaret Beaufort’s half-brother and prevented Cecily, once again, from being used as a stepping-stone to the Crown.
Meanwhile Berwick remained relatively peacefully until 1639 when the Scottish Presbyterian Army and Charles I’s army found itself at a standoff. The Pacification of Berwick brought the so-called First Bishops’ War to an end. Unsurprisingly Charles broke the agreement just as soon as he had gathered sufficient funds, arms and men. The Second Bishops’ war broke out the following year with the English Civil War beginning in 1642.
Bamburgh Castle – red rose or white – its changing ownership in the aftermath of Towton.
Bamburgh Castle perched on the edge of Budle Bay is another of the Percy castles but its history is much longer than that. It was home to Gospatrick Earl of Northumbria at the time of the Norman Conquest. He was eventually forced to submit to the Conqueror. Bamburgh was handed over to the Bishop of Durham. Sources differ as to whether it was William the Conqueror who built the first castle on the site or the bishop. Suffice it to say that by the reign of Henry II after several changes of ownership it was in Crown hands – Henry II funded the great keep and it became a venue for a number of Plantagenet visitors.
Now is not the time to discuss the politics of the English East March or the rivalry between the Nevilles and the Percies. Suffice it to say that Bamburgh was a Lancastrian Castle during the Wars of the Roses. Following the Battle of Towton in 1461 Bamburgh, Alnwick, Warkworth and Dunstanburgh remained in the hands of the Lancastrians. This meant that Edward IV was not secure from Scottish incursions or from Lancastrian forces landing along the coast.
Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick , a.k.a. The Kingmaker besieged Bamburgh and it surrendered in July 1462. Unfortunately for the Yorkists Margaret of Anjou landed with troop in October with french mercenaries – the Yorkist garrison now promptly handed themselves and Bamburgh over to the Lancastrians. Edward IV now came north and Margaret decamped to Scotland leaving Sir Ralph Percy and Henry Beaufort (Duke of Somerset) in charge of the castle. There was another short siege and in December the castle was once again in Yorkist hands.
Ralph Percy, the garrison commander, was allowed to swear allegiance to Edward IV. Edward wanted the Percy family on his side but by the new year Ralph had concluded that he preferred the Lancastrian cause to that of the Yorkists and the Nevilles who were, after all, long time enemies of the Percies. In March 1463 Bamburgh was back in the hands of Margaret of Anjou. In the North East of the country 1463 was a year of sieges and intermittent warfare orchestrated by Margaret and her Scottish allies but by the end of the year the politically savvy Scots had organised a truce with the Yorkists.
It says something that during 1462-1464 Henry VI was at Bamburgh at various times. In 1464 looked as though the Lancastrians might be on firmer ground when the Duke of Somerset changed sides once again. John Neville, the Kingmaker’s younger brother now came north and a battle was fought at Hedgeley Moor in April 1464 followed dup by the Battle of Hexham the following month. Neville defeated the Duke of Somerset who was captured and promptly executed. Henry VI left Bywell Castle the day after the Battle of Hexham and went into hiding in the uplands of Northumbria and Cumberland.
The Northumbrian castles that had remained Lancastrian now surrendered but Bamburgh in the hands of Sir Ralph Grey remained obdurate. In part this was because he had been Yorkist in 1463 and having changed sides permitted the Lancastrians back into Alnwick – making this post feel rather like a game of musical castles. The Yorkists told him that they would execute him just as soon as they could – oddly enough this did’t encourage him to surrender nor did the information that one man would be executed for every cannon ball fired at the castle – Nine months, many canon balls and a collapsing tower later Bamburgh had no choice but to capitualte making it the first castle in England to be defeated by the power of artillery. And it wouldn’t have surrendered even then, had Sir Ralph not been knocked senseless and his second in command taken the opportunity to surrender whilst Sir Ralph was out for the count.
The Earl of Warwick didn’t carry out his threat to execute one man per cannon ball but Grey was executed in July. After the fall of Bamburgh the Yorkists more or less controlled the whole country with the exception of Harlech Castle and a few isolated pockets.
Alnwick, like most of the great castles, has had a succession of owners beginning with Ivo de Vesci who married the granddaughter of Gilbert Tyson, a Saxon killed at Hastings in 1066. The zigzag moulding on the arch in the arch that leads to the inner courtyard reminds visitors that Alnwick has been a fortification for the better part of a thousand years. The barony of Alnwick and its castle continued in the de Vesci hands until the fourteenth century with intermittent lapses into the hands of David of Scotland and William the Lion although it should be noted that during the reign of Henry I Eustace FizJohn was the castle’s owner. He married the de Vesci heiress of the period and their son William assumed his mother’s name.
Ivo built a motte and bailey castle from timber – by which we can suppose some hapless Saxons found themselves moving soil and digging ditches. There were two baileys – one to the east and one to the west. Over the years fortifications were added to the central shell keep and to de Vesci’s two baileys. By 1135 it was one of the strongest castles in Northumberland. In actual fact when William the Lion besieged the castle in 1172 he was unable to capture the castle from William de Vesci. In 1174 the Lion had another go at it and was captured by the English. Part of the reason why William spent so much time hammering on Alnwick’s doors was that he had originally been the Earl of Northumberland but Henry II had removed it from him some twenty years earlier. Perhaps that was why William joined in the revolt by Henry II’s sons and his queen against Henry II in 1173. William found himself bundled off to Newcastle and from there to Normandy. William was forced to recognise Henry II as his feudal overlord and in so doing sewed the seeds of the Scottish Wars of Independence when Edward I insisted on the right to naming the Scottish king and to being the feudal overlord of Scotland.
The de Vescis who did not get on terribly well with King John. It was only luck that the castle wasn’t razed in 1213. William de Vesci died at the Battle of Bannockburn the following century without heirs so the king sold it to Anthony Bek, Bishop of Durham who sold it to Henry de Percy. De Vesci did have an illegitimate son and was able to hand his Yorkshire lands to his natural son.
The Percys did rather a lot of rebuilding based on the income from the Scottish wars; either loot or ransoms. The two huge octagon towers that tower above the inner gateway were built sometime around 1350 and this phase of rebuilding included the rebuilding of the keep with seven U shaped towers. The castle had been successively strengthened by all its owners but this was the time when the Percy family were most wealthy and the reality of having a bellicose neighbour meant that fortifications were a good investment.
The outer wall, around those two baileys encloses something like five acres of ground. The wall contains several towers and turrets. One of them houses a water tower and very sensibly it was here that the castle’s laundry was done. There is also a rather fine well in the inner court yard near the entrance to the keep. The Constable’s Tower is open to the public
The fortunes of the Percys declined with the Wars of the Roses and the accession of the Tudors. Margaret of Anjou had garrisoned Alnwick with three hundred french troops in the aftermath of Town in a bid to retain a toehold on her husband’s kingdom. It was a Scot who rode to the garrison’s rescue on that particular occasion so that Margaret’s troops could make good their escape from the forces of the Earl of Warwick.
Put simply they were the over mighty subjects that a strong monarch needed to keep firmly in check. They continued to fulfil their role on the borders however. The Alnwick Muster Roll dating from 1513 identifies the men who fought under the Percy colours at Flodden and survived the encounter with the Scots. When not at war with Scotland there was intermittent raiding. In 1528, for example fourteen Scottish reivers were hanged in Alnwick. However, not even their hereditary role of warden was secure any longer nor were the earls necessarily cut out for border warfare.
The Percy family were not as wealthy as they had once been and in 1567 when George Clarkson was commissioned to assess the castle it was deemed unfit for purpose. Perhaps lack of cash was something that the earl should have considered before conspiring with the Earl of Cumberland and Leonard Dacre to raise the north in rebellion against Elizabeth I.
In 1569 matters came to a head with the Earl of Northumberland revolted along with the Earl of Cumberland in a bid to return England to Catholicism. The people of Alnwick were caught up in the rebellion. Although numbers of rebels dwindled rapidly after the initial success of capturing Durham and celebrating the Mass there before marching into Percy’s Yorkshire estates Alnwick Castle did prepare to withstand the Queen’s forces. Hartlepool was also captured by the rebels with the intention of providing a safe harbour for the Duke of Alva to land Spanish troops. The Spanish Ambassador it should be noted had already told the conspirators that they had not chance of succeeding in their venture.
The arrival of Sir John Forrester (or Forster depending on the source) the Warden of the English Middle March on the East side of the country was sufficient for earl’s tenants to hand over the castle and hurry to their own homes. Forrester also blocked the passes so that men who might have joined the rebels could not join with the earls whose thoughts swiftly turned to flight.
There was much rebuilding during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to transform the medieval fortress into a stately home. It was in the 1750s that it became the main residence for the Duke of Northumberland who commissioned Robert Adam to make the castle more habitable not to mention fashionable. In the Nineteenth Century Salvin was appointed to create more modifications – the fourth duke liked his castle with a romantic tinge. It remains the second largest inhabited castle in England and reflects a gothic Italian styles admired by the family at that time.
William Marshall – loyal knight and crusader
Already a week into 2018 – where on earth did 2017 go? But now that we have arrived at Twelfth Night the time has come to refill the History Jar. Before I meandered into the halls of England I was waxing lyrical about William Marshall. It turns out that I have even more reason to be interested inhume than I had first thought. It turns out that my spouse – “He Who Is Occasionally Obeyed- HWIOO” is a direct descendant of the aforementioned.
However, back to the man in question. Serving Henry II and his sons was not an easy option. By February 1183 Henry II and Prince Richard found themselves facing a rebellious army headed up by the rest of the royal brood. The Young King soon found himself in an uncomfortable position and sent for William. Interestingly Henry II gave Marshall leave to rejoin his rebellious son.
History doesn’t say what William thought of the Young King’s looting of the abbey at La Couronne near Limoges but when the Young King succumbed to dysentery it didn’t take folk long to point at his desecration of the abbey rather than poor hygiene as the cause of the problem.
On the 7th June 1183, at Martel Castle, The Young King realised that he was dying. On the 11th of June he made his confession in public. William Marshall was one of the knights who heard Prince Henry’s sins described and saw him receive the last rites. One of the last things he did aside from asking to be buried with his ancestors and for mercy for his household was to give William his cloak and ask him to take it to the Holy Land “and with it pay my debts to God.” Chroniclers writing afterwards described Henry as a bit of a wild playboy. Gerald of Wales described him as ungrateful.
Whatever the truth, bearing mind that no one was too keen on reminding Henry II of any links they might have had with his rebellious offspring, Marshall now stepped away from his role within the royal household and set off on pilgrimage. It was probably a very sensible thing to do. By this time he’d been accused of all kinds of naughtiness with the Young King’s wife and had taken part in two rebellions against Henry II as part of the mesnie (household) of the Young King. What is more interesting is that Henry II promised to keep Marshall’s job open for him and gave him money for the journey. Henry had, despite everything, loved his son.
We know that Marshall spent two years in the Holy Land but we don’t know what he got up to because although his biography mentions many exploits in passing it doesn’t go into any detail. Certainly Marshall didn’t arrive at an auspicious time. The forces of Saladin were victorious across the region nor did it probably help that the man who was in part responsible for his uncle Patrick’s murder was in charge militarily -Guy de Lusignan who would eventually marry Sybilla of Jerusalem and inherit a very troubled kingdom after the death of the boy king Baldwin V. Guy would be taken prisoner within two years by Saladin and Jerusalem would fall triggering the Third Crusade.
By the spring of 1186 Marshal was back in England with a length of silk cloth which would one day become his shroud. The Young King’s cloak was left in Jerusalem – Marshall’s last service to Henry II’s eldest son complete. Marshall was ready to resume his service to the Crown and as he came to the brink of his fourth decade it was time to take a wife.
Marshall’s life would continue to be intertwined with the lives of Henry II’s sons. He would serve them with loyalty and also the boy king Henry III but ultimately in 1219 he would lay down his secular burden, retire to his estates in Caversham. His own loyal knight John of Earley – a man who contributed much to Marshall’s biography – would be sent to collect a simple length of white silk which had lain in store throughout Marshall’s rather eventful life. He revealed that he had taken a vow to join the Knights Templar in the 1180s -so perhaps during his time in the Holy Land. In return for them burying him as one of their own he gave them the manor of Upleadon. He’d even arranged for the stitching of a robe of the knights’ order.
Marshall was buried in the church of the Knights’ Templar in London on 20 May 1219. It would appear that Marshall may have spent only two years in the Holy Land but that part of his heart had been there ever since.
His pilgrimage to the Holy Land was the second pilgrimage that he had made. His first one had been to Cologne when he had been accused in 1182 of indiscretions with the Young King’s wife. Marshall had demanded trial by combat to prove his innocence and been refused. He had taken himself off to Cologne to the shrine of the Three Kings. The relics had been taken from Milan in 1164 but it was only in the 1190s that an impressive golden shrine was constructed – which seems an appropriate way to end a post the day after Epiphany, the day when the three kings or magi were supposed to have arrived in Bethlehem following “yonder star.”
It’s all looking very festive around here – and dangerous. The road hasn’t been gritted so it currently looks and feels just like an ice rink. On the plus side I have finished some writing today. On the minus side not only am I not going out for a Christmas meal tonight but I shalln’t be following Buckingham’s rebellion tomorrow or killing off the Princes in the Tower – nor for that matter shall I be allowing either one of them to turn into a conspiracy theory. All of which is very irritating and I can only extend my apologies to any of my students who may be reading this.
Halls – right at the start of December I mentioned the fact that halls were where their owners dispensed justice. And of course, there’s a hall with a rather long pedigree that has done exactly that over the last nine hundred years or so. Westminster Hall was built in 1097 by William Rufus – it was the largest hall in Europe at the time, or so Historians think. Richard II had the hall rebuilt because it was looking somewhat battered by the time he came to the throne. The medieval hammer beam roof was one of his modifications. The hall gradually evolved into the administrative seat for the kingdom. It was here that Henry II crowned his eldest son Henry in Westminster Hall in June 1170. There was a second coronation in Winchester.
It is as a law court though that Westminster Hall echoes down the pages of history. William Wallace was tried here and by the time of the Tudors the hall is knee deep in well-known names from the duke of Buckingham tried for treason in 1522 based on his Plantagenet blood and probably having irritated Cardinal Wolsey. Sir Thomas More was tried here in 1535, so were Anne Boleyn and her alleged lovers the following year. Protector Somerset had judgement passed down here and so did the father of Lady Jane Grey for his part in Wyatt’s Rebellion. Jesuits faced english law here during the reign of Elizabeth I and the Earl of Essex was tried in Westminster Hall following his rebellion. A few years later Guy Fawkes stood in his place. Later Charles I was tried for crimes against his own people and following the Restoration the regicides were also tried here.
The only man who successful escaped the headsman or the noose following a trial for treason during Henry VIII’s reign was also tried at Westminster Hall. Lord Dacre of the North was found innocent in July 1535. His accusers were described as “mean and provoked Scottish men” – Sir Ralph Fiennes and his co-accuser a man named William Musgrave were not particularly Scottish but there’s nothing like being damned by association. Dacre’s wife tried to intercede on her husband’s behalf but was told by the monarch to button it until after her husband’s trial. Apparently Dacre refuted his accusers in a “manly” and “witty” sort of way for seven hours before being declared innocent.
William Dacre (a.k.a. Baron Greystoke) was married to the earl of Shrewsbury’s daughter and held down a number of responsible border posts such as Deputy Warden of the West March. This led to a falling out with the earl of Cumberland (Clifford family) who was given a role in 1525 that Dacre believed to be his by right of blood. Unsurprisingly there was some border high jinks resulting in Cumberland only being able to rule with Dacre at his side. To make matters worse when Dacre did get his hands on the job his counterpart in the East March was given a pay rise whilst he was given the old rate. Its easy to see that hostilities and resentments were not particularly veiled. Unfortunately for Dacre he did what Border Wardens do – i.e. talk to the Scots. This was in 1534. He was accused of treason because this conversation took place during a time of hostility. He was hauled off to London where he was put on trial for treason. The chief witness against him was his former servant – William Musgrave.
Dacre was acquitted but as with all things Tudor there is a sting in the tale. Henry VIII fined him none-the-less. It is perhaps surprising therefore that in 1536 Dacre demonstrated his loyalty to Henry VIII throughout the Pilgrimage of Grace. His feud with the Musgrave family was not so easily settled and it is known to have continued into the 1550s.
William Cobbett, David Jardine (1809) Cobbett’s complete collection of state trials and proceedings for high treason and other crimes and misdemeanors from the earliest period to the present time accessed from https://archive.org/details/acompletecollec03cobbgoog
William Marshall makes a name for himself
William 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.”
Medieval mêlée or tournament
Popular imagination paints tournaments as knightly types in plate armour on horses galloping at one another armed with lances trying to unseat their opponent. Hollywood offers up a dish of fluttering banners, pageantry, ladies wearing hennins (pointy princess hats) and much fanfare.
History, as you might well expect, is somewhat different. For a start tournaments were a continental activity. They didn’t happen in England until the reign of Henry II and even then he banned them again as they encouraged unrest. For the Church tournaments were “detestable military sports.” And lets face it the Church had a point. Tournaments were battles without the casualties – or at least not so many casualties (Marshall’s own son Gilbert died during a tournament.) Under those circumstances it is perhaps telling that William Marshall’s biographer only mentions ladies “inspiring” the competitors on one occasion. The image showing William Marshall also shows the fact that the knights of the twelfth century wore mail rather than plate.
Essentially knights such as William Marshall fought as though they were on the battle field. The main difference was that they did not intend to kill one another, though obviously that happened on occasion. What they wanted to do was capture as many of their opponents as possible so that they could claim their horse and armour not to mention ransoming the knight. A man could alter the state of his finances quite dramatically on the tournament field – William Marshall being a very good example.
Powerful barons and rulers such as Henry II’s eldest son, also called Henry, would send a team of knights to demonstrate their prowess on the tournament circuit. The tourneyers may have gained a place in a noble household based on their ability on the tournament field and young knights wishing to make a name for themselves would try to gain employment in such households as war horses were expensive items. William Marshall famously tagged along to a tournament once he had been dismissed from the household of his distant cousin William de Tancaville who allowed William to become part of his team but only on the proviso that William took the last available horse. Marshall went on to cement his reputation and to become Henry, the Young King’s “tournament manager.” When the Young King fell out with Marshall (because trouble makers said that Marshall was getting too big for his boots and hinted rather heavily of an affair between Marshall and the Young King’s wife) Marshall was inundated by offers of employment from enthusiastic tournament “sponsors” who wanted a star on their team in much the same way that modern football owners want a big name either as a manager or a player.
Knights without a team to attach themselves to were called “bachelor” knights and in the days leading up to the tournament there would be a series of paired events so that individual knights could demonstrate their skills and talents. Knights belonging to a mesnie or household would also partake in these events, especially if they had not yet made their reputations.
The tournament field was set up with lists around its edges. Lists were where the audience stood as well as each knights squires. The rules of the mêlée allowed a knight up to three lances.
Essentially the knights formed teams. The first part of the tournament involved the teams of knights parading onto the field side by side. This might be followed by some of the pairs of knights jousting with one another – think of it as the “warm up.”
A herald would blow a bugle to indicate that round one of the mêlée was about to begin a cheval. This part of the mêlée involved mounted knights with lances charging at one another. Once the lances broke or knights were unhorsed the mêlée continued a pied with round two of the tournament on foot with swords and maces. Obviously not all knights were unhorsed at the same time so the mêlée could be somewhat chaotic.
The best tournament knights didn’t necessarily dive straight in but held back and waited until the keener elements of the event had tired themselves out and then swept in and took plenty of prisoners. This technique was developed by Philip of Flanders.
The event was followed with wine, women and song – not to mention prizes.
In 1292 a Statute of Arms improved on the rules to allow a fallen knight to be assisted to his feet by his squire and to legislate for weapons with safety features e.g. no points.
The image at the start of this post depicts William Marshall and can by found in Matthew Paris’s History Major. Paris, a Benedictine monk, living in St Albans wrote a history of the world ending with his death in 1259. Its chronicling of King John, the Barons’ War and the invasion of Prince Louis is of key importance to our understanding of the period – and its beautifully illustrated.