Maud Marshal’s son – Roger III Bigod, 4th Earl of Norfolk – revolutionary grandson of William Marshal.

Dlkeller999 at the English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons. Bigod coat of arms (or, a cross gules)

The death of Ansel (Anselm) Marshal just eleven days after his brother Walter ended the Marshal line of earls of Pembroke. The division of the estates which followed was not straight forward – there were three widows with dower rights. Ansel’s widow could not claim the rights of a dowager countess of Pembroke because her husband was not licensed to enter the estates and had not paid the necessary fees but it still complicated matters. Of Isabel de Clare’s five daughters only Maud Marshal was still alive in 1245 but in total there were thirteen co-heirs of whom Roger Bigod stood to gain most. Maud was the eldest and therefore the senior of the co-hieresses. To her came one fifth of her parents’ estates. With the land came the role of marshal which was a hereditary title – a title which Maud transferred to Roger the following year. Now is not the time to discuss the profits that could be accrued from this job or what else it entailed although when Roger was sent off to campaign in Gascony it was regarded as part and parcel of a marshal’s duties.

Maud died on 28 March 1248. Roger inherited the estates. Whilst he may have been very sad about his mother’s demise he now regained her dower lands as well as her portion of the Marshal inheritance including Chepstow and the county of Carlow in Ireland as well as other scattered manors the most valuable of which was Ross and the port of New Ross. Maud had already used some of the estate to provide for her younger sons as well as giving grants to various monastic houses to secure a speedy passage through purgatory with masses said for her soul. But essentially Roger was now a very wealthy and thus very powerful man-not as powerful as the de Clare- but still the most powerful man in East Anglia as well as being related by marriage through his Marshal connections to King Henry III. Having secured his inheritance Roger doesn’t seem to have spent much time at court. It was his younger brother who was the courtier.

As well as his inheritance Roger was also trying to ensure the future of his line by getting his marriage annulled. He and his wife Isabella of Scotland, a daughter of William the Lion, had been married for about twenty years since he was thirteen years old- he spent the rest of his childhood in Scotland. But the couple still had no children. He visited Rome himself in 1249 but he remained married to Isabella as there were no grounds for an annulment. It perhaps didn’t help that he had previously complained about papal taxes.

Roger served Henry in France, did what marshals were supposed to do and that might have been the end of the matter until Robert de Ros got into King Henry III’s bad books because he was a guardian of King Alexander III of Scots who was married to henry’s daughter Margaret. In 1255 Henry received word that Margaret was complaining that de Ros and his co-guardian John Balliol were mistreating the royal couple. Henry promptly confiscated de Ros’s land and fined him and Balliol. Roger did not think that the king was being fair and he argued with the king who called Roger a traitor. Roger was unamused and said that the king was wrong. ‘If you are just’ he said, ‘how can you harm me?’

The king’s response was that essentially he could seize the earl’s corn, thresh it and sell it.

Roger retorted that the king could try but that Roger would send the threshers back to the king sans their heads.

Henry responded by calling in Roger’s feudal scuttage (shield tax). There was inevitably a disagreement about what the correct dues might be and the matter of the dower owed to Eleanor, William Marshal the Younger’s widow was also raised. Eleanor was Henry III’s sister now married to Simon de Montfort. The king ordered that the exchequer should extract every last penny that Roger was supposed to owe to both the Crown and his sister (it was true that Roger hadn’t paid up his share of Eleanor’s dower for several years).

The row was about to escalate. Roger was not alone in feeling that the king’s justice was not everything it was cracked up to be. By 1258 Roger was involved in the reform movement agitating against the various misdeeds of King Henry III’s half brothers and their influence over Henry’s heir the young Prince Edward. It was Roger who told Henry that his Lusignan favourites had to go – it helped that he was backed up by many other barons and knights. And it was Roger who told the king that he and Edward should in future swear to follow the advice of their barons. The king’s decisions were going to be perused by twenty-four ‘prudent’ men according to the Tewkesbury Chronicle. He wasn’t the most important baron present at the gathering which brow-beat the king but he was the king’s marshal and it was the culmination of the Marshal family’s various opposition to some of King Henry III’s policies.

Oh yes – he died in 1270 without heirs and was succeeded by his nephew – another Roger who was just as stroppy as his uncle. It was this Roger- the 5th Duke of Norfolk- who refused to go to Gascony on King Edward I’s orders arguing that feudal tenure meant he only had to serve overseas in the company of the king rather than on the king’s orders. Edward threatened to have Roger hanged and Roger responded – ‘I will neither go nor hang.’

Marc Morris – The Bigod Earls of Norfolk in the Thirteenth Century (which is incidentally a fascinating read)

Joan Plantagenet, Queen Consort of Scotland

JoanEnglandPrincess Joan was the eldest legitimate daughter of King John and Isabella of Angouleme was born in 1210. She was originally destined to marry Hugh of Lusignan. This was politically tactful as Joan’s mother Isabella should have married Hugh but John virtually stole the bride – ensuring war with France and a deeply unpopular Queen of England.

On John’s death Isabella returned to Angouleme and naturally wanted to see her daughter who was being raised in the court of Hugh X. Somehow or other Isabella ended up married to Hugh and Joan became a hostage to the return of Isabella’s dower. The Regency Council of Henry III were not very happy that Isabella had married without their permission but a princess in the hand is worth a volatile queen dowager on the loose so Isabella got her dower back and England received it’s princess which was just as well because the council were already in mid negotiation for another marriage.

Joan’s new marriage was negotiated on a promise made as early as 1209 by King John to William of Scotland that there should be a royal wedding of a Plantagenet princess to the Scottish heir to the throne- Alexander. If Joan had not been retrieved, Henry III’s other sister Isabelle would have been in the frame to become Queen of Scotland. There had also been some suggestion that a Scottish princess might have travelled south. However, the originally negotiations begun by King John had become somewhat unravelled during the Baron’s War and it probably didn’t help that Magna Carta safeguarded the rights of the Scottish king – a fact which John ignored. After John’s death Henry III’s regency council slowly regained order once more. In 1217 Alexander, now King Alexander II of Scotland made his terms with the English. He kept hold of Tynedale and there would be a royal marriage to help cement the peace. Joan and Alexander were married in 1221 in York Minster. There was a thirteen-year age gap between the happy couple – Joan being all of ten-years-old at the time.

Scotland was not a peaceful location. Alexander’s hold on the throne was threatened by a number of families with claims dating to the reign of Duncan II. One of these families – the MacWilliams- rose in rebellion once to often. It resulted in the family being hunted down – the youngest member of the family a baby girl was to have her brains dashed out on the market cross at Forfar in 1230.

The royal marriage was not without its difficulties either. Joan did not arrive laden down with loot. Alexander claimed that Joan should have come with Northumbria. The English weren’t having any of it and for the first ten years of their marriage Joan was financially dependent upon her husband. It was only in later years that Henry III gave his sister several substantial manors for life so that she had an income which didn’t go into Alexander’s coffers – but the Scots didn’t get Northumbria which caused a fair amount of grumbling and bad feeling between the brothers-in-law.

The other problem was that Joan failed to do what queens were expected to do – she did not produce an heir.

Joan died, childless, in 1238 at the age of twenty-eight during a visit to England. She’d gone on pilgrimage to Canterbury, spent Christmas at her brother’s court and then began to make plans to return to Scotland in later January 1238. Before she could do so she became ill and died. Mathew Paris noted in his chronicle that it was inappropriate for Joan to spend so much time away form Scotland – to modern eyes it looks as though Joan was not particularly happy in her marriage- but that is speculation and has nothing to do with the medieval concept of royal matrimony.

She was buried in Tarrant Crawford Abbey, Dorset rather than in Scotland by her own wish as stated in her will. Nothing remains thanks to the dissolution of the monasteries.

Alexander II died ten years later having married Marie de Coucy who duly presented him with a bouncing baby boy who was to become Alexander III.

Netley Abbey

IMG_5242A Bishop of Winchester called Peter des Roches wanted to found an abbey for Cistercian monks. The bishop died in 1238 having purchased land for this purpose, not only for its building but to support it financially. King Henry III completed the project in 1239 and went on to make them other gifts including a tun of wine each year. A group of monks came from the Cistercian abbey of Beaulieu.  Three of the four remaining crossing pillars contain inscriptions dedicated to Henry III relating to his foundation of the abbey.  Building continued during the thirteenth century.  The days of Cistercian austerity had passed and this is, in part, reflected in the size of the church.

Disaster struck in the fourteenth century. The abbey was too close to The Solent. Passing mariners demanded hospitality and in 1338 stole large numbers of the abbey’s flock of sheep. The days of the abbey’s financial prosperity were over. It struggled with debt thereafter.

The Valor Ecclesiasticus of 1535 estimated Netley’s annual income at £160 2s. 9½d but the income it received was only £100 12s. 8d.; it was a lesser monastery. On 30 May, 1536, Sir James Worsley and the other commissioners presented their report. Netley was ‘A hedde house of Monkes of thordre of Cisteaux, beinge of large buyldinge and situate upon the Ryvage of the Sees. To the Kinge’s Subjects and Strangers travelinge the same Sees great Relief and Comforte.’ In addition the commissioners listed seven monks with whom no fault could be found as well as thirty-two servants who worked the abbey estate.

The king gave to Sir William Paulet, the comptroller of his household the site and buildings of the abbey. Paulet turned the abbey into a Tudor mansion. The nave of the church became his hall while the eastern range became his living-rooms. The cloister was turned into a courtyard.

It was only in the eighteenth century the abbey/mansion was to be demolished by a builder from Southampton. The enterprising chap was crushed to death beneath some falling masonry at which point everyone else decided it was a sign not to knock the building down. In 1922 it passed into the hands of the delightfully named Ministry of Works.

Of the ruins that remain today the abbot’s house retains evidence of the abbot’s own personal convenience whilst the drainage system for the reredorter (the monks toilet) is a work of engineering excellence. It should also be added that Netley Abbey is today the largest Cistercian ruin in the south of England – it’s not as grand as Rievaulx or Fountains but it’s story is still very interesting as are the narrow Tudor bricks that show where Paulet made some of his alterations.