Tag Archives: Joan Beaufort

Katherine Swynford

KatSwynfordKatherine de Roet was probably born about 1350 in Hainault.  As is often the case we have no exact records of her birth.  What we do know about Katherine’s early life is found in the accounts of chronicler Jean Froissart who was also from Hainault.  He talks of Katherine as a ‘Hainaulter’ so its a reasonable assumption to make. 

The family headed by Katherine’s father  Paon de Roet arrived in England as part of Philippa of Hainault’s entourage when she married Edward III in 1328.  Paon served in the royal household. Historians think he died in the early 1350s.  Katherine  and her sister Philippa served in the queen’s household  and received their education there as well as developing links with some of the most important people in the country.  Philippa married the poet Geoffrey Chaucer whilst Katherine found herself looking after the daughters of John of Gaunt and his first wife Blanche of Lancaster; Elizabeth and Philippa.  

Blanche died in 1368, most historians think from the Black Death.  By this time Katherine was married to Sir Hugh Swynford of Kettlethorpe in Lincolnshire. It was considered an advantageous marriage for Katherine at the time. Blanche of Lancaster and John of Gaunt held many estates in the area. Historians tend not to think that Katherine had begun her affair with John of Gaunt before Blanche of Lancaster’s death.  Certainly Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess suggests that the duke deeply mourned the wife that gave him seven children and made him the wealthiest man in the kingdom.

Katherine and Hugh appear to have had three children who survived infancy.  The oldest child was a boy called Thomas, the second was a girl called Blanche presumably named after Blanche of Lancaster.  John of Gaunt was Blanche’s god-father and when the time came for John to make his union with Katherine legal and also to legitimise his children this would cause a degree of problem as the papacy deemed that there was a degree of prohibited relationship on account of John’s role as godfather. Blanche grew up with Elizabeth and Philippa of Lancaster. The third child probably grew up to be a nun.  Her name may have been Margaret. Katherine swore her affair with John of Gaunt did not begin until after Sir Hugh Swynford died but Froissart says differently.

Hugh died in 1372 and Katherine’s first child by John of Gaunt was born the following year. John Beaufort was named after the french castle that Gaunt owned and where John was possibly born.  The  couple went on to have three more children who survived infancy; Henry, Thomas and Joan who had her own dramatic love story.  John had married his second wife Constance of Castile in  1371.  It was a state marriage that gave John a claim to the throne of Castile but the existence of a much loved mistress in John’s life cannot have helped the relationship nor the fact that it is known that during some periods Katherine lived quietly in the home of John’s son, Henry of Bolingbroke (Henry IV). During the Peasants Revolt of 1381 the lovers parted company or they became more secretive about their liaison possibly because John was so hated or because John wished to pursue his claim to the Castilian throne.  Not that this prevented Katherine from being made a Lady of the Garter in 1388.

Wife number two died in 1394.  There followed a flurry of letters to the pope and two years later John of Gaunt took the unusual step of marrying his mistress.  They were married on  13 January 1396 at Lincoln Cathedral.  This had the effect of putting rather a lot of noses out of joint. Not only did Katherine become the duchess of Lancaster  but because the king, Richard II, had no queen and John was the next most important man in the country Katherine automatically became the first lady to whom all others had to give way… I should imagine that some very stiff necked ladies muttered rather a lot about that particular turn up for the books. 

John and Katherine’s children were not only legitimised by the pope but also legitimised by Act of Parliament on the command of their cousin Richard II on 9th February 1397.  Later Henry IV would add a note in his own hand to the effect that whilst the Beauforts might be legitimate they couldn’t inherit the throne.  This didn’t stop Henry IV from making effective use of his Beaufort half-siblings.

katherine swynford coat of arms.jpg

Katherine Swynford’s coat of arms – after her marriage to John of Gaunt

Katherine died on the 10th May 1403 having outlived John of Gaunt by four years.  She’d survived a period of plague, seen the Peasants revolt and the Hundred Years War as well as having caused a national scandal.  She and her daughter Joan are buried in Lincoln Cathedral having lived quietly in Lincoln in her final years.  We can still identify her house.

There was a brass of the dowager duchess but it was destroyed or certainly very badly treaded by the Roundheads in 1644 so we have no certain primary source image of the woman who stole the heart of the most powerful man in England despite the fact that there is now a brass over Katherine’s tomb it is not the original and she’s wearing a widow’s veil which doesn’t help matters but it is an effective way of the engraver dealing with the fact he didn’t know what the duchess looked like.  Froissart describes her as young and pretty in his chronicles. The image at the start of this post comes from a fifteenth century edition of Chaucer’s work and it shows the key people of Richard II’s reign. John of Gaunt is identifiable.  It’s possible that the girl in blue is Katherine.

Weir, Alison.(2007) Katherine Swynford: The Story of John of Gaunt and His Scandalous Duchess. London: Jonathan Cape

 

 

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The Battle of Wakefield – perfidy, trickery and spin.

sandal1-300x199Yes, I know I’ve covered this before but it is the 30th December which is, of course, the anniversary of the battle which took place in 1460. Today’s post is as good a time as any to deal with some of the confusions of the battle resulting from lack of clear primary sources and underhanded trickery which, in all probability, the parties involved didn’t want widely advertised, not to mention confusion and misplaced optimism  on the part of Richard of York.

Richard of York arrived in Sandal with 5,000 to 6,000 men just before Christmas.  The castle wasn’t big enough for that number so a large number would have had to camped outside the castle walls (sounds like an invitation to pneumonia to me). Some historians point to this as evidence of a festive truce between York and the Lancastrian Duke of Somerset. If there was a Christmas Truce it would have lasted until the 6th January.

The Lancastrians kept Christmas at Pontefract Castle whilst the Yorkists ate through Sandal’s meagre supplies.  It is reasonable to assume that both sides sent out for their tenants and supporters in addition to scouring the land for additional supplies (bet that went down well with the locals).  Richard also sent out a commission of array.  This demonstrates that he saw himself as the king’s representative because this was what monarchs did when they wanted to raise an army. After all the Act of Accord had identified him as the heir to the throne.  Somewhat bizarrely  Lord  John Neville, brother of the Earl of Westmorland presented himself at Sandal in answer to the commission of array that had been served on him saying that he wanted  rebels against the king’s will to be suitably punished (according to a Yorkist chronicle). He is also said to have arrived with a substantial army at his back.

The reason this is bizarre is that Lord Neville was the brother of the Earl of Westmorland. Ideally this should be nice and straight forward. Unfortunately he came from a branch of the family at loggerheads with the side of the family represented by the Earl of Salisbury  and the Earl of Warwick who were also Nevilles – or more correctly, the Nevilles of Middleham and key Yorkists.  There was a rift between the Nevilles dating back to the reign of Richard II.  The problem had arisen when Ralph Neville (the first Earl of Westmorland) married Joan Beaufort the daughter of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford.  It was a second marriage and a love match. The eldest son of Ralph’s first wife Margaret Stafford inherited the earldom of Westmorland but the vast majority of the money and estates were bequeathed to Joan Beaufort’s children leaving Ralph’s first family feeling somewhat aggrieved – just to add to the general confusion of the Wars of the Roses.  The Earl of Salisbury, the Earl of Warwick and, of course, Cecily Neville – Richard of York’s wife were all descended from Ralph’s second family (the ones what got the money) so there was no love lost between Lord John Neville  who now came knocking on Sandal’s doors (metaphorically speaking) and Richard of York’s extended family even though technically John Neville was the nephew of the Earl of Salisbury.  Inevitably a track back up various northern family trees reveals that the enmity between the two branches of the Neville family had its part to play in the sides that many of the aforementioned northern families chose to take in the conflict.

So – to get back to the matter in hand – keep Lord John Neville and his army in mind. They’re going to be important.

On the 28th December 1460 the Lancastrians- Somerset, Lord Clifford, the Earl of Wiltshire, the Earl of Devon, Lord Roos, Lord Dacre (who was related to the Earl of Westmorland Nevilles) and the Earl of Northumberland- left Pontefract and arrived on the outskirts of Wakefield the same day. Amongst their number was Sir Henry Holland the Duke of Exeter (York’s own son-in-law) .They didn’t have siege weapons which meant that had the Duke of York stayed inside Sandal then there would not have been a Lancastrian victory and it would have given York’s eldest son – Edward, the Earl of March time to journey from Wales to Yorkshire to provide reinforcements for his father.

It has often been suggested that Richard was rash in leaving the castle. Historians speculate that he supposed that his numbers were far superior to the Lancastrians or that he was taken by surprise when foraging for food believing that he was safe during a period of truce.  If there was a truce,  Richard of York should have been suspicious on account of the fact that that Act of Accord which identified him as the heir to the throne also stipulated an end to the warfare and that had been undermined on the road north when Somerset had accosted some of Richard’s men at Worksop.  Also why would you go foraging with every able bodied man?  In truth, Richard may have believed that he was about to inflict a crushing defeat upon the Lancastrians and simply couldn’t resist the opportunity.

Enter the skulduggery element of our tale.  Sir Andrew Trollope, a professional soldier who’d gained a reputation during the Hundred Years War agains the French,  is said to have arrived with more soldiers during the Christmas period  and it was given that this was the reason Richard may have thought that his force was superior. If this was the case Richard should have remembered that the previous year at Ludford Bridge after the Battle of Blore Heath Trollope had switched from his side to that of the Lancastrians.

The Yorkist commanders were Richard of York, the Earl of Salisbury and his son Sir Thomas Neville.  Sir David Hall, a long time servant of York’s was also there.  Hall’s Chronicle, a sixteenth century account, records that Davy counselled discretion but that York regarded this as a dishonour. It has also been suggested that the Lancastrians taunted Richard into leaving the safety of his castle.

In any event off he went to meet his foes on Wakefield Green – Lancastrians emerged from the woods on both sides of York’s men and Sir Andrew Trollope promptly changed sides as he had planned all along. A chronicle by Jean de Waurin gives a detailed account of Trollope’s perfidy. However, it’s not a straight forward case of dastardly behaviour – it could be a question of Yorkist spin. Haigh observes that de Waurin’s is the only chronicle with this account of events and that the man was a friend of the Earl of Warwick.  In short his evidence is unsubstantiated and not overly reliable. Another account suggests that Trollope’s men arrived wearing the Earl of Warwick’s colours to avoid raising York’s suspicions which again has issues of credibility and this part of his plan succeeding he then played an instrumental part in luring York out of the castle into the open.  Haigh hypothesises that what actually might have happened is that Trollope’s forces approached and York simply got the wrong end of the stick about whose men they were.

It is also plausible that Lord Neville wasn’t quite as underhand as I have just suggested.  It is possible that he arrived at Sandal  just when York considered taking on the Lancastrians. York seeing a Neville banner behind the Lancastrians simply thought he’d got them surrounded in his desire to do battle.  He didn’t stop to consider that some of the Nevilles didn’t feel very warmly to their Salisbury relations.

For an early History Jar account of the Battle of Wakefield, click here.

We’ll never know what prompted York to exit from the safety of Sandal castle or the real roles played by Sir Andrew Trollope and Lord John Neville (who incidentally, made no murmur about the execution of his uncle the Earl of Salisbury.)

Haigh, Philip, A. The Battle of Wakefield 1460. Sutton Publishing

 

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Sir Edward Neville

640px-Cromwell,Thomas(1EEssex)01I should really be exploring England’s only Pope.  Nicholas Breakspear was made pontiff on the 4th December 1154 becoming Pope Adrian IV.  However, I’ve got myself well and truly sidetracked flicking through Henry VIII’s letters and papers.

 

A quick perusal of Henry’s letters and papers yielded up today’s advent personality Sir Edward Neville who was tried and executed for treason along with Sir Geoffrey Pole in 1538. In this instance there isn’t a letter to read but there is an index of documents relating to the trial of the two gentlemen dating from the 4th of December – an insight into the process of bringing someone to trial and the administrative flair of Thomas Cromwell. The file, just an an aside, contains the signed copy of the reply sent by Sir William Kingston the Constable of the Tower confirming that he would have the parties in question in the dock on time.

 

Sir Edward Neville was a younger son of baron Bergevenny and it proprably won’t come as a great surprise to discover he was vaguely related to Henry VIII whom he resembled so greatly that there was a rumour that Edward was actually Henry’s son (this was an impossibility). In addition to having a drop of Plantagenet blood he was also related through the Beaufort line. His great grandfather was Ralph Neville, earl of Westmorland and his great grandmother was Joan Beaufort the daughter of Katherine Swynford and John of Gaunt. As well as the name Neville which certainly conjures up the old aristocracy, Edward could also, if he chose, boast names such as Despenser, Fitz-Alan and Beauchamp in his family tree (I told you they were all related one way or the other!)

 

Pedigree aside Edward did all the usual Tudor gentlemanly things (there should be a check list). He was a soldier as well as a courtier and he played the game of courtly love with aplomb. He went to France in 1514 with Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk and Arthur Plantagenet Lord Lisle to see Princess Mary married – they did this in disguise (ahh, I hear you cry how romantic.)

 

Cross-Channel lads’ weekends aside Edward rose in importance during the early period  of Henry’s reign when he was married to Katherine of Aragon and all, though not  always rosy, was relatively pleasant in the royal garden. He’d also been part of the 1512-1513 military expedition and he was at the Field of Cloth of Gold.  He even seems to have kept that favour as late as 1537 having sensibly played a role in 1533 for Anne Boleyn’s coronation. He was made Constable of Leeds Castle in Kent in 1535 and carried the canopy at Prince Edward’s christening in 1537.

 

The problem for Sir Edward was that in 1538 he fell foul of Thomas Cromwell over the small matter of Moatenden Priory. Edward wanted the lands but, unfortunately, so did Thomas.

 

From there it was a simple matter  for Cromwell to implicate Edward in the Pilgrimage of Grace along with the Pole family irrelevant if where his sympathies might have lain. His niece’s husband was Henry Pole, Lord Montagu. The Pole family found itself guilty of treachery largely because Reginald refused to agree with Henry’s divorce and had written a book on the subject which displeased his kingly cousin enormously and because Margaret Pole, countess of Salisbury was the daughter of the duke of Clarence (brother of Edward IV). The Poles were the personification of the Plantagenet white rose branch of the family tree. Put plainly, Edward Neville was related to the wrong people at the wrong time.

sir-georgeIt probably didn’t help that his brother, George Neville (pictured right in a sketch by Hans Holbein), had been married to Mary Stafford, the daughter of the duke of Buckingham and been arrested in 1521 along with his father-in-law. Edward’s brother was released without charge at that time but it may well have lingered in Henry’s mind and made it easier for Cromwell to present Sir Edward Neville as a traitor. And if Henry did count George as a traitor, he wasn’t alone. Eustace Chapuys the Imperial Ambassador identified George Neville as pro-Pole as a result of his arrest and the tarnishing of his reputation which never fully recovered.

 

As for Edward, he was arrested on the 3rd of December, notices for the trial were published on the 4th and from there it was a short step until his execution on the 8th December 1538.

 

‘Henry VIII: December 1538 1-5’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 13 Part 2, August-December 1538, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1893), pp. 409-426. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol13/no2/pp409-426 [accessed 17 November 2016].

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Lady Katherine Gordon – Mrs Perkin Warbeck

ch23_Warbek.jpgThe Beauforts get everywhere during the Wars of the Roses and Tudor history as well, so lets just get the Beaufort link out of the way at the start. Katherine Gordon’s grandma was supposed to be Joan Beaufort who was, of course, the daughter of John Beaufort, Earl of Somerset making John of Gaunt Joan’s granddad…possibly. History being what it is there are other sources, including the coat of arms above Katherine’s monument in Swansea, which identifies clearly in her coat of arms that her mother was actually the third wife of George Gordon, Elizabeth Hay.  This removes the Beauforts from the picture entirely but who am I to interrupt a good story not that Lady Katherine Gordon’s story needs spicing up.

 

Lady Katherine Gordon met Richard,Duke of York‘ in 1495, pictured at the start of this post, when he arrived in Scotland having decamped from Ireland where he’d failed to convince the citizens of Waterford of his identity. He’d spent years wandering around Europe garnering support from crowned heads who wanted to irritate Henry VII.

 

The Duke, who I shall refer to from now on as Warbeck because that’s the name history knows him by (nor am I delving into the depths to investigate whether he might have been the youngest of the two Princes in the Tower), was welcomed with full honours as a prince by King James IV to Stirling Castle.

 

Apparently Warbeck’s marriage to the beautiful Lady Katherine in January 1496 was a love match but it also meant that James was able to demonstrate to Henry Tudor that he was serous in his support for Warbeck because he’d given him the hand of his cousin. James’ support extended to a raid on behalf of Warbeck. Unfortunately the attack on England only lasted three days on account of the fact that the people of Northumberland did not rise up in support of the so-called Duke of York. After that Warbeck and, sadly for her, his wife began to wear out their welcome at the Scottish court.

 

The little family; Warbeck, Lady Katherine and their son Richard boarded a boat at Ayr and headed to Ireland where Warbeck met with resounding indifference. He decided to try his luck in Cornwall where the locals were up in arms about Henry VII’s taxes.

 

When Warbeck invaded Cornwall and marched north to Bodmin and from there to Exeter Lady Katherine initially remained at St Michael’s Mount. As it became apparent that their venture was unlikely to succeed Warbeck moved his wife to St Buryan which was rather bleak but had the benefits of sanctuary.

 

After Warbeck’s 3000 men had finally melted away and he’d been taken captive Henry VII sent for Katherine. On the morning of October 7th 1497  the Earl of Shrewsbury arrived at St Buryan to find her in mourning. Historians think that she had lost a second child, brother to young Richard who was alive at this time. Henry VII provided her with a complete travelling outfit of black. She travelled slowly to Exeter and from there to Sheen. Polydore Vergil notes that Henry fell in love with Lady Katherine Gordon – how his wife felt about that is not recorded.

 

Andre’s account of the meeting between Henry, Warbeck and Lady Katherine Gordon spells out that Katherine was to be regarded as the victim of an abduction or rape on account of the deception that had been perpetrated. In Andre’s account Katherine reviles Warbeck and turns to Henry VII as the personification of kingly heroism. From that time on she is referred to as Lady Katherine Huntly. She reverted once more in official documents to being her father’s daughter yet there was no divorce and assorted ambassadors reported that the couple remained a couple even though they were not permitted to cohabit. No doubt Henry had no desire for more little Warbecks to muddy the waters of his security, not to mention his knightly passion for the fair Lady Katherine.

 

Katherine was sent to live with Elizabeth of York – how strange a meeting that must have been. She was after all married to the man who had claimed to be Elizabeth’s brother.  No public or recorded meeting ever took place between Elizabeth and Warbeck.  As for Katherine she was descended from kings and held a high place at court. It must have been an odd half-life for Lady Katherine who must also have been mourning her son Richard who came to London with her but who disappears very quickly after that into obscurity. Wroe records that a family on the Gower claim descent from one Richard Perkins, son of Perkin Warbeck. Co-incidentally when Katherine lived in Wales with her third husband she lived eight miles from Reynoldston where it is just possible that her son grew up.

 

On 23 Nov 1499 Lady Katherine was made a widow when Warbeck was hanged at Tyburn. He’d been convicted of plotting with Edward, Earl of Warwick to burn down the Tower, flee to Flanders and set Warwick up as a claimant to the throne. Katherine continued to live in England. She was no longer a prisoner. Henry not known for his generosity paid for her wardrobe and made her several presents over the years. She was the chief mourner at Elizabeth of York’s funeral in 1503. Henry VIII granted her lands in Berkshire which had once been owned by John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln on the proviso she didn’t travel abroad without royal licence. She remained at court. In Scotland the chronicler Adam Bell speculated that Katherine was married to Henry. The reality as Wroe considers must have been much more complicated. In 1510 she became an English citizen.

 

Katherine married several times although she remained a widow for eleven years after Warbeck’s death. There was James Strangeways; Matthew Craddock – a Welshman so licence had to be granted for her to travel to Wales; finally there was Christopher Ashton. She died in 1537 and is buried in Fyfield Church.

 

Many of Perkin Warbeck’s confessions survive. It was after all in Henry VII’s best interest that they should exist and evidence suggests that he kept picking at the story of the pretender like a scab that wouldn’t heal.  The problem was that he could find no reference to Warbeck before the age of nine.  Much more poignant  is Perkin’s letter to Lady Katherine:

 

“Most noble lady, it is not without reason that all turn their eyes to you; that all admire love and obey you. For they see your two-fold virtues by which you are so much distinguished above all other mortals. Whilst on the one hand, they admire your riches and immutable prosperity, which secure to you the nobility of your lineage and the loftiness of your rank, they are, on the other hand, struck by your rather divine than human beauty, and believe that you are not born in our days but descended from Heaven.

 All look at your face so bright and serene that it gives splendour to the cloudy sky; all look at your eyes so brilliant as stars which make all pain to be forgotten, and turn despair into delight; all look at your neck which outshines pearls; all look at your fine forehead. Your purple light of youth, your fair hair; in one word at the splendid perfection of your person:—and looking at they cannot choose but admire you; admiring they cannot choose love but you; loving they cannot choose but obey you.

 I shall, perhaps, be the happiest of all your admirers, and the happiest man on earth, since I have reason to hope you will think me worthy of your love. If I represent to my mind all your perfections, I am not only compelled to love, to adore and to worship you, but love makes me your slave. Whether I was waking or sleeping I cannot find rest or happiness except in your affection. All my hopes rest in you, and in you alone.

 Most noble lady, my soul, look mercifully down upon me your slave, who has ever been devoted to you from the first hour he saw you, Love is not an earthly thing, it is heaven born. Do not think it below yourself to obey love’s dictates. Not only kings, but also gods and goddesses have bent their necks beneath its yoke.

 I beseech you most noble lady to accept for ever one who in all things will cheerfully do as your will as long as his days shall last. Farewell, my soul and consolation. You, the brightest ornament in Scotland, farewell, farewell.”

Wroe, Ann. (2003). Perkin A Story of Deception London: Jonathan Cape 

 

 

 

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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Fifteenth Century, The Plantagenets, The Tudors