Tag Archives: Henry V

The Hungerford family and the house of Lancaster

Seal_WalterHungerford_1stBaronHungerford_KG_Died1449.pngSir Thomas Hungerford is generally recognised as the first Speaker of the House of Parliament (Sir Peter de la Mare actually did the job first but no one at the time bothered to give him a job title so technically its Sir Thomas).  His family had all represented Parliament for Wiltshire so it is unsurprising that Sir Thomas should have taken the mantle on his shoulders in 1376 having been knighted the previous year – more unexpected, to the modern way of thinking at least, is the fact that he held the constituency of Wiltshire and also Somerset in the parliaments of 1384 and 1389.  He was already part of the Lancaster Affinity when he sat in his first parliament. He was an member of parliament during the so-called Bad Parliament of 1377 when he fulfilled the role of Speaker. In all, he would serve as a member of parliament sixteen times.

Sir Thomas’s career path is typical of the period – he married well; twice and on both occasions secured lands and political credit.  He represented John of Gaunt within Wiltshire/Somerset and he benefitted from that link to the extent that on his death he was the holder of twelve manors.  Thus on a regional level through family roles and local administration he was a man of importance – sheriff and member of royal commissions.  This in turn was enhanced by his links to the Lancaster Affinity.  And as with other knights I have written about in the last couple of weeks, the arrangement was reciprocal.

Evidence for the growth of Hungerford’s status is best seen in the form of Farleigh Hungerford Castle which started off life as a manor house and which was turned into a castle by Sir Thomas as his power and wealth increased.

And, as with other members of Gaunt’s retinue, Hungerford was associated not only with the father but also the son.  In 1387 he was linked with the so-called Appellants, of whom Henry of Bolingbroke was one,  who sought to muzzle Richard II. However, he was not a member of the Merciless Parliament.  Even so once Richard II regained his power Hungerford lost some of his regional influence which was not restored until John of Gaunt returned from Spain.

 

In addition to serving the Lancaster Affinity within his region he also served as Lancaster’s steward and can be found also  in the role of bailiff to the Bishop of Salisbury.

 

Sir Thomas died at the end of 1397 and was replaced by his son – another Sir Walter who was the only one of his sons to outlive him (his seal is pictured at the start of this post.)  Sir Thomas had three son by his first wife and two by his second.  Sir Walter, who at the time of his father’s death had only just come of age, would become a baron and like his father would maintain his loyalty to the house of Lancaster – and this was demonstrated in 1399 when he supported Henry of Bolingbroke during his return from exile to claim John of Gaunt’s title and estates.  Walter became a knight just before Henry of Bolingbroke was crowned and would continue to serve Lancaster through the reigns of Henry IV and Henry V – he was an executor of Henry V’s will as well as also being a Speaker in Parliament. He was also Chief Steward for all the duchy lands south of the River Trent. By the time Sir Walter died, the Hungerford family owned fifty manors – perhaps making him into an example of a magnate with too much power and cash.

Inevitably the wheel of fortune turned as Lancaster’s fortunes declined with the reign of Henry VI. Sir Thomas’s grandson, Robert was executed in 1464 in the aftermath of the Battle of Hexham.The same fate befell Sir Thomas’s great grandson in 1469. It is perhaps unsurprising to discover that a member of the Hungerford family fought at Bosworth on the side of Henry Tudor – which helped to reverse the attainder that the House of York in the form of Edward IV had passed against the Hungerford family.

The Lancaster Affinity is hugely important to the period and to England’s changing political landscape.  The career patterns of John of Gaunt’s retinue echo one another in more ways than one- so no doubt I shall come back to the Lancaster Affinity and John of Gaunt’s retinue one way or another but its time to look more closely at Katherine Swynford.

 

Roskell, John Smith. (1981) Parliament and Politics in Late Medieval England, Volume 2

Roskell, John Smith. (1965) The Commons and Their Speakers in English Parliaments, 1376-1523. Manchester: Manchester University Press

 

 

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Margaret Holland – troubled royal

margaret holland.jpgMargaret Holland, duchess of Clarence was born in the later part of the fourteenth century, the daughter of Thomas Holland.  He was the fifth earl of Kent and his half-uncle was Edward II through his mother Joan the Fair Maid of Kent, meaning that Margaret Holland was the great granddaughter of Edward I if I’ve counted back right. This is important because Margaret Holland whose family had a bit of a torrid time when Richard II was deposed had married John Beaufort, earl of Somerset, the eldest illegitimate son of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford meaning that she was the other more famous Margaret Beaufort’s granny.

Margaret Holland’s husband seems to have been a bit more on the ball that her Holland brother and uncle who managed to get themselves executed in a plot in 1400 to remove Henry IV from the throne. John Beaufort benefited from his half-brother’s rise to power by becoming Constable of England before he died in 1410 leaving his wife a wealthy widow with a royal pedigree and a title.

Margaret now married her husband’s half nephew – Thomas of Lancaster, the second son of Henry IV- just in case the waters weren’t already muddy enough. Thomas, in the way of younger sons, wasn’t terribly well off and there was a fairly complicated dispensation required before the marriage could go ahead because, of course, they were related twice over in that they were both descended from Edward I – i.e. consanguinity and they were related through marriage – i.e. affinity.

Thomas when the marriage finally received papal dispensation became the duke of Clarence.  History now enters the glory days of the Hundred Years War with Henry V being all martial thus allowing Shakespeare the opportunity to write dramatic speeches on the subject in the sixteenth century.  Unfortunately despite the fact that Henry V ended up married to Katherine of Valois in the aftermath of Agincourt and the Treaty of Troyes he ultimately failed in his bid to rule France successfully because he died leaving his infant son Henry VI on the throne for a lengthy minority and the Wars of the Roses.

Thomas of Lancaster managed to die at the Battle of Baugé on 22 March 1421.  As though this wasn’t bad enough Margaret’s sons John and Thomas Beaufort were captured. John Beaufort would remain in captivity for the next seventeen years and when he did get out he was heavily in debt thanks to the ransom he was required to pay. This John Beaufort would become Duke of Somerset and he would also be the father of Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry Tudor.

Meanwhile Margaret Holland decided that two husbands were enough for any woman and decided that she wouldn’t marry again.  She didn’t need to.  She was wealthy in her own right.  She spent a lot of time trying to negotiate for her sons’ release.  She also, as many wealthy widows did at this time, developed close links with a monastic community. She is particularly associated with Syon.  When she died in 1439 she was buried in Canterbury Cathedral.

BeaufortJohnTomb.jpg

R. L. J. Shaw, ‘Holland , Margaret, duchess of Clarence (b. in or before 1388, d. 1439)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Oct 2008; online edn, May 2009 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/98133, accessed 22 April 2017]

PS Apologies for lack of posts – wifi is erratic to put it mildly at the moment!

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Henry VI – King of France and his bishop of Bath and Wells

images-9On this day, December 16th 1431 nine-year-old King Henry VI of England was crowned King of France in the Notre Dame de Paris succeeding his maternal grandfather, the English claimed, through right of his father’s (Henry V) victory at the Battle of Agincourt.  The Treaty  of Troyes- or ‘final peace’- that resulted from the victory saw Henry V married to Katherine of Valois, the daughter of King Charles VI, and nominated King of France once Charles VI died, a treaty that by-passed Charles’ son also called Charles and which left the french somewhat out of sorts with themselves.

However,  Henry V died in August 1422 from dysentry leaving his infant son to ascend to the English throne and Henry’s brother the duke of Bedford nominated as regent in France with the job of keeping the french in line which proved rather difficult once Joan of Arc offered her own inspiration to the campaign.

The party that arrived in France to crown Henry V’s son in 1430 – a whole year before the coronation- included three bishops, one of whom was John Stafford, Bishop of Bath and Wells. For a more detailed description of the coronation and the politics surrounding it click on the image at the start of the post to open a new page.

Stafford is a famous name in late medieval history and the Bishop of Bath and Wells was related to the duke of Buckingham – possibly on the wrong side of the blanket, though the evidence is flimsy.  His patron was Cardinal Beaufort the king’s great uncle.  He became Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1424.  By 1443 Stafford rose to the rank of Archbishop of Canterbury, in all probability a reward for his work as Lord Chancellor.  He held the post until 1452 when he died. He seems to have held fast to Beaufort’s policies which made him a figure of continuity in English politics at the time and thus of stability.

Stafford was a moderate man who helped maintain the balance of Henry VI’s court.  Although he supported the hugely unpopular William de la Pole, earl of Suffolk who managed to get himself banished and then murdered (1450), Stafford did not get tarred with the same brush. In the aftermath of Cade’s rebellion which stemmed partially from Kentish fears of being held responsible for de la Pole’s death the archbishop was found in Kent investigating the rebellion and trying the rebels. Stubbs in his Constitutional History said of the bishop Bishop Stubbs- ‘if he had done little good he had done no harm’ – hardly a ringing endorsement.

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Edward of Norwich

edward of norwich.jpgSome of you will be relieved that I’m moving away from Henry VIII for a short while. Today I’ve landed on the 8th of December 1405 and the figure behind the door is Edward of Norwich. So we’re slap bang in the middle of the reign of Henry IV and almost inevitably Edward is a Plantagenet related to Edward III. Edward III is Edward’s grandfather.

 

Edward’s father was Edward III’s fourth surviving son Edmund of Langley a.k.a. the first duke of York – from whence the name York of the House of York stems though rather confusingly by the time the Wars of the Roses started much of their land holdings were in the south whilst the Lancastrians held lands in Yorkshire (you know you’d be disappointed if it was straight forward).   Edward’s mother was Isabelle of Castille, the sister of John of Gaunt’s wife Blanche and there’s a tale to tell about Isabelle and her husband because there were rumours (aren’t there always?) that Edward’s younger brother Richard of Connisburgh wasn’t necessarily the child of Edmund of Langley.

 

Any way enough of that.  Edward died at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 having lived through the reigns of Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V. His death without heirs would mean that his nephew would become the 3rd duke of York and he would be at the heart of the Wars of the Roses.

 

Edward was born, oh dear, in Kings Langley, Norwich or York as it is possible that Norwich is a mispronunciation of the Latin form of the name York…it’s always nice to be clear about these things, don’t you think?

 

Edward was knighted at Richard II’s coronation in 1377 when he was about four years old. He was younger but close enough in age for the two boys to grow up together and  to be close to Richard II throughout Richard’s life. He benefitted accordingly becoming the earl of Cork and the earl of Rutland, as well as, duke of Aumale and eventually second duke of York. He became warden of the West March, Constable of the Tower, Governor of the isle of White. In fact if you can think of a well known role chances are that Edward will have held the office at some point during Richard II’s reign. He even gained control of Anne of Bohemia’s lands after her death and benefited from them financially.

 

In 1397 following the arrest of Thomas of Woodstock a.k.a. the duke of Gloucester (the youngest son of Edward III) and his subsequent nasty accident with a mattress it was Edward who became Constable of England ultimately accusing his uncle and the earl of Arundel of treason. It was widely suggested that Edward had assisted with the practicalities of the mattress related incident in Calais when his cousin suggested it would be a good idea if their uncle was removed from the scene.

 

So, Edward is at the key event in 1398 when Henry of Bolingbroke (John of Gaunt’s son and later Henry IV) took on Thomas Mowbray, duke of Norfolk, in armed combat. Edward was the constable in charge of overseeing fair play. Of course the combat didn’t go ahead and both Mowbray and Henry were exiled.

 

Edward went off to Ireland with Richard II who on John of Gaunt’s death had seized his estate and changed Bolingbroke’s exile from a temporary affair to one of life. Edward seeing which way the wind was blowing swiftly changed sides when Henry landed at Ravenspur. This about-face didn’t save Edward from the wrath of the people who’d risen up against Richard II.  It was only the intervention of Henry IV which saved him from prison and worse.  He did lose the title of Aumale.

 

In October 1399 Edward was a prisoner but by the end of the year he was back on the king’s council. Henry IV was troubled by plots throughout his reign. Henry V (then Prince Henry) would describe Edward as a ‘loyal and valiant knight’ demonstrating that Edward’s personality was such that he managed to survive being implicated in any of them over the long term unlike his brother Richard of Connisburgh got himself executed for his role in the Southampton Plot of 1415 or their sister Constance who had tried to put the earl of march on the throne in 1405.

The 1415 plot also sought  to place Edmund Mortimer a descendant of Lionel of Antwerp – the second surviving son of Edward III so legally the correct claimant of the crown after Richard II- in place of Henry V who was, of course, descended from John of Gaunt – the third surviving son of Edward III and Henry Iv who had of course usurped his cousin’s throne, albeit by popular demand.

 

Edward of Norwich died at Agincourt having placed himself in danger to protect Henry V. Edward was replaced as duke of Norfolk by his nephew, Richard of York – the son of Richard of Connisburgh who’d been executed for treason at the start of the French campaign for his role in the Southampton Plot.

 

And welcome to the Wars of the Roses. Richard of York would eventually attempt to claim the throne in December 1460 through his descent from Lionel of Antwerp rather than Edmund of Langley but fail to gain popular support. On the 30th December 1460 he would be killed along with his son the young earl of Rutland in the aftermath of the Battle of Wakefield.

In between doing what Plantagenets did i.e. being a soldier, ruling various realms and plotting against his family, Edward of Norwich  also managed to find time to write the oldest known book on hunting.

You might be wondering whether Edward married.  The answer is yes, he did.  Phillippa de Bohun who was twenty years his senior.  She must have been an heiress I hear you yell. Well actually no.  Although Phillippa was a de Bohun her mother had sold the family estates leaving her daughters with no lands and no noticeable dowry.  Intriguingly Edward’s bride was not only twenty years older than him she was also no great catch and having already been twice widowed but still childless not particularly fertile…leaving us with the possibility that the pair loved one another.

 

http://www.englishmonarchs.co.uk/plantagenet_70.html

http://www.shakespeareandhistory.com/duke-of-aumerle.php

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December 1st – a historical advent

henry-iIt’s that time of year again.  Sadly for me Cromwell appears to have received no interesting mail on December 1 1535 which is probably just as well for the rest of Tudor England.  I would have to say that in 1532 Sir Anthony Willoughby was suffering with the gout so sent his wife to talk to Cromwell because he wanted Cromwell to speak to the king on his behalf.  Whilst in 1533 Sir Christopher Garneys wrote to Cromwell thanking him “For his loving letters. Is eased of the unquietness he had by reason of a stroke given to a lewd person. Did it not out of malice, but for due correction. Cannot recompense Cromwell’s kindness, but will send him by next ship “a piece of wine of Gravys.”

Consequentially I have had to look a bit further afield for the historical equivalent of a chunk of chocolate.

Henry I died on December 1 1135.  He’s the king who popped off having indulged in a surfeit of lampreys. He’s also the chap with the huge number of illegitimate children but only one legitimate son who inconveniently drowned when the White Ship sank.  Henry then forced his barons to recognise his daughter Matilda as the heir.  Of course they promptly changed their minds upon his demise and selected her cousin Stephen.  This resulted in England’s first civil war. The war raged for nineteen years – the years “when Christ and his apostles slept.”  Cheery or what.

300_2511351Coming forward in 1420 this was the day when Henry V marched into Paris – good for the English less amusing for the French.

More positively  and somewhat outside my usual period but rather more positively the first female British MP, Lady Nancy Astor, took her place in the House of Commons. In America, in 1955, Rosa Parks famously started the bus boycott when after a long day she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a non-coloured passenger.

‘Henry VIII: December 1533, 1-10’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 6, 1533, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1882), pp. 599-613. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol6/pp599-613 [accessed 19 November 2016].

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Owain Tudor

Katherine of Valois was widowed at just twenty-one years of age when Henry V, victor of Agincourt, died of dysentery. Her infant son’s protectors-he uncles and great-uncles- could see that she might wish to marry again. However, they don’t appear to have been terribly keen on the idea given some of the strictures that they imposed. Firstly Katherine’s prospective spouse had to be prepared to give up his titles and his lands. Secondly she had to get her son’s permission and in order for young Henry VI to give it he had to have reached his majority – so sixteen. These rules seem to have been proposed by Duke Humphrey of Gloucester who became concerned in 1428 that Katherine was showing a bit too much interest in Edmund Beaufort, Earl of Somerset.

 

As luck would have it the lonely young woman did encounter a man that she wished to marry, her Keeper of the Wardrobe – one Owain Tudor as he would eventually become known. Depending upon which version of events you read she either spotted him whilst he was swimming or he fell into her lap whilst dancing. There is, it would have to be said, no historical evidence for either.

 

Owain ap Maredudd was born, we think, the same year his father Maredudd’s cousin Owain Glyndwr raised a rebellion against English rule- so about 1400. Maredudd’d brothers were heavily involved in the conflict. Owain Glyndwr had vanished by the time young Owain was six – another subject for legend despite his uprising against the English being quelled.   Maredudd’s fortune was in a state of parlous repair so, in one history, he went to London to make his fortune. Other accounts say that he murdered someone and fled into Snowdonia…so take your pick. In any event young Owain did not have a settled childhood.

Maredudd and his brothers claimed a line of descent from Cadrod of Calchfynedd and were relations of the Princes of  Deheubarth (South-West Wales). Maredudd himself held land inAnglesey.  Prior to Glyndwr’s rebellion he’d served both Welsh and English kings in important posts. In 1392, for example,  he  was Escheator of Anglesey.  He was also the Bishop of Bangor’s  steward.

Despite his rebellious father, cousin and uncles by the time he was seven Owain was at the court of Henry IV – the very man that his family were revolting against on their native Anglesey.

It is possible that Owain was at the Battle of Agincourt as a squire but we cannot be certain. He turns up in the records in 1421 in the service of Sir Walter Hungerford and then he must have entered the household of Katherine of Valois but we can only guess that Hungerford recommended him for the post. Equally we only have the two romanticized tales of how a dowager queen and her keeper of the wardrobe fell in love.

 

Inevitably Tudor ‘spin’ was bought to bear on proceedings by Henry VII. His historian Polydore Vergil wrote of “Owen Tyder” that he was “a gentleman of Wales, adorned with wonderful gifts of body and minde, who derived his pedigree from Cadwalleder, the last King of the Britons.” Henry VII needed to bulk his ancestry out a bit and since he was rather short on Plantagenet genes had to look back into the mists of time in order to garner some shreds of royalty.

 

Of course, Henry’s desire to justify his right to the crown by blood rather than right of conquest- was somewhat thwarted by the fact that Owain and Katherine couldn’t exactly publicise their nuptials so had married in secret and the problem with secrets is that there are no records. Katherine certainly hadn’t got Henry VI’s consent and she’d married beneath her another issue that the parliamentary act regarding any marriage she might have made had issue with– but at least Owain didn’t need to worry about losing his titles and his lands. He may perhaps have been a bit more concerned about losing his life when the various uncles of Henry VI’s protectorate found out what the dowager queen had been up to.

 

We can surmise that the couple married somewhere between 1428 and 1430 when Edmund Tudor was born.  We know that they went on to have at least four children – Edmund, Jasper, Owen and Margaret. There may have been others. We also know that Humphrey of Gloucester wasn’t terribly amused when he found out that Katherine had not only married but was producing the king’s half-siblings who were to be treated, according to the parliamentary act which had laid so many stipulations upon Katherine’s remarriage, as members of the royal family.

In 1436 politics caught up with Katherine and Owen, despite their quite life it is ultimately quite difficult to hide such a rapidly growing family.  The children were removed and Katherine retired to Bermondsey Abbey where she gave birth to her last child- Margaret.  The dowager queen died on January 3rd 1437.

Owain was ordered to come to court but he very sensibly refused without a letter of safe conduct.  He did set out for London but decided that it would be better for his safety if he took sanctuary in Westminster rather than throw himself on the Protectorate’s mercy.

Ultimately Owain was acquitted of all charges against him but the establishment can be a spiteful thing.  Owain was retrieved from Wales and imprisoned by Lord Beaumont who handed him over to the Earl of Suffolk.  He spent time in Newgate Prison and in 1438, following his escape from Newgate and recapture was sent to Windsor.  In 1439 he was finally released.

By that time Henry VI was of age.  He pardoned Owain for any crime that may have been committed, took Owain into his own household and welcomed his half-brothers.  Owain, unlike some more nobly born Englishmen remained loyal to Henry for the rest of his life. He must have dreamed of returning to his home in North Wales because in 1460 Henry VI made him Keeper of the Parks at Denbigh.

The following year Owain took part in the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross.  The old man was captured and executed in Hereford market square on the orders of Edward IV who was furious about the death of his own father.  Owain believed that he would be ransomed until the moment that he was faced with the executioner’s block.  Owain’s head was put on display at the market cross where a young woman combed his hair and washed his face before placing lit candles around it.  Contemporary sources describe her as mad but Leanda de Lisle contemplates the possibility that the young woman was the mother of Owain’s illegitimate son Daffyd who was about two in 1461.

 

de Lisle, Leanda. (2013) Tudor: the family story London: Chatto and Windus

 

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More complicated family trees – and a link to the Plantagenets.

IMG_3953John Clifford, the Tenth Lord, maintained the reputation for jousting that his father had bequeathed to him. Like his father he met with the Douglas family in tournament at Carlisle and like his father he was established as a favourite at court.  He was present at the coronation of Henry V and following the victory at Agincourt at the coronation of Katherine of Valois.

The Cliffords were definitely  on the up. It helped that their experiences on the Scottish borders made them warriors.  John maintained his role in the north and added to the family homes by extending Appleby Castle – the gatehouse which stands today was commission by him.  John aside from his parochial responsibities in the north and job as MP for Henry IV and Henry V’s parliaments also managed to find time  to gain a reputation for thrashing the french during the Hundred Years War.

 

Edward III’s mother was Isabella of France (the one married to Edward II and known in history as the ‘she wolf’’). Upon the death of her brothers she was the last remaining member of the family so logically the French throne should have passed to her son King Edward III of England. Certainly that was what had been promised. However, the French were not keen on the English and also had a salic law in place which prohibited women from claiming the throne so handed the crown straight to a male cousin causing the English to become very irritated indeed and spend slightly more than a hundred years trying to prove their point with varying amounts of success.

 

Edward III carried his claim into war against France and it continued intermittently thereafter through the reigns of Richard II, Henry IV , Henry V and Henry VI. In its early years when the English were successful it was an opportunity for knights to make a fortune in loot and ransoms. It was also an opportunity to gain influence and power. Yerborough records of John Clifford:

 

Henry V retained him in his service for one year for the war with France. The contract was to this effect, that the said John, Lord Clifford, with fifty men-at-arms well accoutred, whereof three to be knights, the rest esquires, and one hundred and fifty archers, whereof two parts to serve on horseback, the third on foot, should serve the king from the day he should be ready to set sail for France, taking for himself 4s.for every knight, for every esquire is., for every archer 6d. a day.

P29 Yerborough, Some Notes on Our Family History

 

John was by Henry V’s side at Agincourt and at the Siege of Harfleur, then the inevitable happened. He got himself killed. He was thirty-three years old in 1422 when he was killed at the Siege of Meaux.  Again according to Yerborough and the Chronicle of Kirkstall he “was buried at Bolton Abbey apud canonicos de Boulton.’ Elizabeth his wife outlived him and married, secondly, Ralph, Earl of Westmorland.”  The moral of the story being that if you were sufficiently important someone would pickle you and send you home to your grieving wife who would promptly marry someone just as important as you even if you were a knight of the garter.

 

Marrying someone important was rapidly becoming a family pass time for the Cliffords.  Elizabeth Clifford started out as Elizabeth Percy. She was the daughter of Shakespeare’s Earl of Northumberland – Harry Hotspur- meaning that not only was she a scion of the most powerful border family in the country but she was also a Plantagenet. Her grandfather had been Edward Mortimer, Earl of March and her grandmother Philippa was the only child of Lionel Duke of Clarence, the second son of King Edward III.

Ties to the Plantagenets were even deeper and even more complicated than the Elizabeth Percy link. John’s sister Matilda (or Maud depending on the text) married Richard, Duke of Cambridge. Richard’s first wife Ann had been a Mortimer (a daughter of the fourth Earl of March– so definitely some kind of cousin of Elizabeth Percy) but Ann had died in childbirth leaving children and brothers who would find their Plantagenet bloodline and claim to the throne increasingly problematic.

 

Richard and Maud had one daughter Alice – about whom I’m currently quite upset as I thought I knew the House of York family tree rather well on the grounds that knowing who was related to whom becomes very important if you study the Wars of the Roses and now there’s someone new for me to worry about. Maud, on the other hand, was not in the least bit worried by the looks of it. She outlived Richard who managed to get himself executed in 1415 in the aftermath of the Southampton Plot.

 

The Southampton Plot had been designed to depose Henry V and replace him with Edward Mortimer – Richard’s young brother-in-law by his first wife Ann Mortimer. Edward Mortimer had a very good claim to the throne being descended from the second son of Edward III. Henry V didn’t take very kindly to Richard and his friends pointing out that Henry’s dad (Henry IV) had stolen the throne from his cousin (Richard II).  Aside from the fact that usurping thrones is generally not very nice, Henry IV and V were descended from John of Gaunt who was the third son of Edward III. Neither of them really should have been king at all – the descendants of the second son having a better claim than the descendants of the third son.  Henry demonstrated that family trees are all very well but actually being a medieval king was largely about having a large sword, an even larger army and a reputation for winning.  Had Henry V lived to see his son grow to adulthood Richard of Cambridge may well have ended up as a footnote in history as it was Henry V failed to do the one other thing that a medieval king needed to do – provide the kingdom with a strong adult male to succeed him.

 

Maud spent a lot of time at Conisborough Castle after Richard’s death and became a founder an patron of Roche Abbey.  She must have seen the various members of the Plantagenet family and their associated noble scions taking sides after Henry V’s death as to who should wield power in England – the House of York to which the Cliffords were allied through marriage or the House of Lancaster. Her will, dated 1446 (just nine years before the First Battle of St Albans), makes no mention of her troublesome step-children who would feature heavily in the Wars of the Roses.

 

Just to complicate matters that little bit further Matilda/Maud had already been married once to John Neville, the Sixth Baron Latimer. The divorce documents still remain – “casusa frigiditatis ujusdem Johannis Nevill  Now there’s a story to be told in those few words!  Who needs soap operas when the Plantagenets and the Cliffords are in town?

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Dick Whittington

DSC_0089DSC_0089Just exactly what, you might be asking, is a pantomime character doing in a history blog?  Except of course, that  Sir Richard Whittington really was the Mayor of London – not once, twice or even thrice but four times…okay three and a half if you’re being picky about it.  He first became mayor in 1397 having been asked by Richard II to fill in for a defunct mayor (hence the half prior to the election), 1406 and 1419.  He even went on to become one of London’s members of Parliament. So far so good.

However, he was not a penniless orphan. He was the son of a Gloucestershire knight born in 1350.  When Richard’s father died, young Dick – who was by way of the spare in the phrase an heir and a spare- was apprenticed to Ivo Fitzwarren, a wealthy mercer.

In reality Richard did marry Alice Fitzwarren and he did become a wealthy and influential man though that’s about as far historically as anyone can go.  There is no historical record of worldly goods being tied up in a red handkerchief, no historical record of informative city bells and no account of the cat which helped secure his fortune. Though one does feature in the window of St Michael Paternoster church on College Hill which Whittington helped to fund. Oh yes – and when excavation work was carried out in the church in 1949 a mummified cat was discovered during a search for Dick’s missing tomb- not really surprising given the amount of demolition work and rebuilding that the church has experienced over the centuries. The idea of a real cat is rather more intriguing and definitely more appealing than the suggestion that the cat originated like a game of chinese whispers from the more merchantish preoccupation with ‘achats’ or purchases.

Cat owner or not,  in reality Richard Whittington was a canny and influential mercer who sold his cloth to the royal court and lent Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V money.  In 1399 for example, Richard II owed Dick Whittington £1000. It was Richard II who chose Whittington to be mayor when the mayor at the time died, very inconveniently, mid way through his term of office. He also appears to have been able to export cloth without paying taxes – a perk of lending money to kings.

Dick died, childless, in 1423.  Alice was already dead.  He was buried by her side.  He left most of his money to charity including for St Bartholomew’s Hospital.  It should be added at this point that the original St Michael Paternoster Church burned down during the Great Fire of London in 1666 and was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren (the last of his London churches).  The new church didn’t fare too well during World War Two.  Trouble arrived in the form of a flying bomb which left the church a derelict shell.  It was rebuilt in the 1960s.

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