Tag Archives: King John

Pilsbury Castle, Derbyshire

Pilsbury castle.JPGThe village of Pilsbury in Derbyshire is what experts call a “shrunken Medieval village,” to the rest of us it’s a hamlet. Pilsbury is the start of a new fascination (sorry).  Obviously Derbyshire has Peveril Castle in Hathersage and there’s Haddon Hall which may indeed rejoice in the name ‘manor’ but which looks decidedly castle-ish but where are the rest of Derbyshire’s castles?  They seem to have gone missing.  Apparently there’s a site for a castle in Bakewell but its hardly on the tourist trail. Some ten miles from Bakewell, to the north of Pilsbury along the Dove Valley lies the village of Crowdecote which may have a motte, or large man-made mound upon which to stand a castle. Unlike so many other counties in England the castles of Derbyshire appear to be transient commodities.  Not even the Earl of Shrewsbury’s castle at Sheffield survived the test of time.  So, I’ve added castle spotting to my list of peculiarities.

Pilsbury Castle, which does at least rejoice in the name ‘castle,’ lies between Crowdecote and Pilsbury.  It is inaccessible by road.  You can’t hear any traffic, just the gurgle of the River Dove as it winds around the spur of land on which the earthworks that were once a de Ferrers motte and bailey castle stand.

pilsbury castle 2.JPGThe name Pilsbury gives a clue as to how old the defensive site may be – “pil“ comes from the Celtic, ‘bury,” from the Saxon and “castle” from the Norman – and they all mean much the same thing. Whatever the name of Pilsbury may tell us the archaeology is determinedly Norman with its one wall built into a natural outcrop of rock that was once a reef and its many green banks and mounds that depict a motte and bailey castle – actually its a two bailey castle as the helpful guidance board provided by the Peak District authorities illustrates.

 

dscf2692There are several theories as to how Pilsbury came to be built in the upper Dove Valley. The first is that it came into being during the so-called ‘harrying of the North’ between 1069-1070. The idea is that the Normans having destroyed people’s homes and livelihoods found themselves in a situation where those Saxons who survived took to the hills and turned to outlawry in order to survive. If this was the case it then follows that the Norman landowners had to build defences to keep the Saxons firmly under control especially somewhere like Pilsbury which stands near a ford and a packhorse route and is in terrain ideal for fugitives. It’s not too hard to imagine the dangers of an attack in this isolated spot.

 

There is a problem with this though, as elsewhere in the country.  Hartington and the Dove Valley were in the hands of the de Ferrers’ family. It is unlikely that William the Conqueror would rampage with fire, sword and salt across lands belonging to powerful favourites as the yield from those lands would fall rather drastically as a result making their acquisition somewhat pointless. The same may be said of landholdings, notably in Yorkshire, belonging to Alan the Red for example.

 

So if that theory doesn’t appeal, how about the Normans turfing hardworking Saxons off their lands in order to create a wilderness where they could hunt. The disposed Saxons may well have taken to the hills and caves in the Dove Valley,  again turning to outlawry just to survive. Alternatively maybe the de Ferrers simply wanted to stamp their authority on their land with one of those new fangled castles just to remind the locals who was in charge or to extract “tax” as pack-horses laden with salt and other goods crossed the ford.

A further theory derives from the years of the so-called “Anarchy” when King Stephen and Empress Matilda were slogging it out to see who would rule England. The Rive Dove marks the boundary between lands belonging to the Earl of Derby and lands belonging to the Earl of Chester. Let’s just say that between 1135 and 1153 the pair were not the best of friends with the Earl of Derby backing Stephen and the Earl of Chester backing Matilda. Under those circumstances with a ford just down the valley a fortification becomes rather a sensible idea. Actually come to think of it, the two earls weren’t terribly friendly at other times in history so the castle may simply have been built as part of a neighbourly dispute.

 

The written record after its construction is somewhat vague too. Pilsbury is mentioned in the Doomsday Book but not the castle. Pilsbury is mentioned again in 1262, again the land not the castle, when the Earl of Derby, Robert de Ferrers, granted land to Henry of Shelford. Four years later the Earl of Derby was up to his neck in rebellion and his land was promptly confiscated.  By the thirteenth century the land on both sides of the river was in the hands of the Duchy of Lancaster so there was no need for a defensive structure. And that as they say, is that – though I think we can safely say that the History Jar will be sporadically peppered with images of grassy knolls and hummocks purporting to be Norman mottes.

 

So far as Pilsbury Castle is concerned, it is possible that the castle was used as a hunting lodge during later times but it ceased to be a centre of administration after Hartington received its market charter in 1203 from King John.

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Hart, C.R., 1981, The North Derbyshire Archaeological Survey to AD1500 (Derbyshire Archaeological Trust)

Millward, R. and Robinson, A., 1975, The Peak District (London: Eyre Methuen) p. 115, 121-2

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Croxden Abbey- Dissolution, William Cavendish and King John…

croxden-abbey-hero.jpgThe Cistercian abbey of Croxden, in the care of English Heritage, is in Staffordshire, one of approximately thirty religious houses across the county. Its story is similar to many other monasteries. It built its wealth on sheep in the twelfth century and then ran into debt as the political landscape of the countryside changed. By the late thirteenth century it was considerably poorer as a consequence of Edward I’s wars with Scotland and the loans it was forced to make to the warrior monarch. Murrain, plague and poor harvests didn’t help. It never recovered. It’s income in 1535 was given as £103 6s. 7d. which was substantially less than its early income and provided Cromwell with evidence, if he needed it, of the decline of the monasteries.

The Valor Ecclesiasticus reveals that money was paid out to seven laymen who fulfilled essential roles including stewards and bailiffs including the steward of Croxden, Ashbourne, and Caldon, the bailiff of Ashbourne and Caldon. The document for its suppression identifies its full estates of which several were in Derbyshire. Not that the division of land was always simple. Take Trusley, near Derby, for instance. Some of the land around the village belonged to the monks of Croxden whilst other parts belonged to some of Derby’s community of nuns.

By rights Croxden should have been suppressed in 1536 along with the rest of the smaller monasteries but the abbot paid a £100 and received a licence to continue. Two years later on the 17 September 1538 Dr Legh – an infamous abbey visitor and William Cavendish, equally well known at the time but less mentioned in this blog until now, received the surrender of the abbey. Along with the abbot, Thomas Chawner, who received a pension of £26 per annum there were twelve other monks. As with the other abbeys the building was stripped of everything valuable whilst the abbey’s water-mill, its lands and the rectory at Croxden were rented to Francis Bassett who just happened to work for the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer. The archbishop wrote to Cromwell on December 14 1538 asking him to “accomplish his suit.”

250px-William_Cavendish_c1547.jpgWilliam Cavendish had been a servant of Cardinal Wolsey.  He also seems to have been very efficient at taking the surrenders of abbeys.  According to Bess of Hardwick’s biographer, Mary Lovell, there was a point in 1538 where he was overseeing ten surrenders a week. He’d begun by auditing the abbey at St Albans and gone on to gain a job with the Court of Augmentations when it was set up in 1536 by Cromwell specifically to oversee the transfer of Church land to the Crown. He earned twenty pounds a year in addition to the ‘profits of office.’ As Lovell observes, the Cavendishs were not alone in making their fortunes from the reformation but Cavendish seems to have been rather good at it. As for William, these days he is more famous for his third wife – Bess of Hardwick, the foundation of Chatsworth House and his role as Mary Queen of Scot’s jailer.

 

The monks received their pensions and were required to sign for them. There is a receipt dated May 28 1541 for one Robert Clarke. Another of the monks, a man called John Stanley, became Vicar of Alton in 1546 until his death in 1569. We know this because along with three other men we have the records of his pensions in 1557-58.

A swift search on the Internet revealed the interesting fact that King John’s heart is rumoured to be buried in the grounds of Croxden Abbey whilst the rest of him was buried in Worcester (http://www.farmonthehill.co.uk/local-history.html accessed 4 November 2016 19:45). This information completely sidetracked me from monks being kicked out of their home by Henry VIII, Cromwell and Cavendish.  It sent me off down the side alley of Croxden’s relationship with King John.

Apparently John awarded the monks of Croxden an annuity of £5.00 each year from the Irish Exchequer in 1200. An English Heritage research report shed that much light on the assertion of John’s heart but what about something more academic than a legend? The Gentleman’s Magazine (volume 38) asserts that the descendants of Bertram de Verdun were buried there – so far so good, he was the founder after all and the same sentence references King John’s ticker. In fact Victorian tomes trip over themselves in their desire to identify Croxden as the last resting place of at least one bit of King John. The Antiquarian and Architectural Year Book for Staffordshire explains that John’s physician was also the abbot of Croxden – which would account for the grisly souvenir.  Another text dating from 1829 identifies the abbot as Ralph de Lincoln but misidentifies Croxden as being in Leicestershire. A book dating from 1844 references a British Museum text from the Cotton collection which looks at the Chronicle of William de Shepesheved who details the fact that John’s bowels were buried at Croxden. The whole thing is starting to sound decidedly offal.

 

Have I been there? No, not yet – but trust me when I say that I shall shortly be finding a reason for being in the vicinity and I shall be studying English Heritage’s interpretation boards with great interest.

 

Graham Brown, Barry Jones Croxden Abbey and Its Environs London: English Heritage

Lovell, Mary S. (2006) Bess of Hardwick:First Lady of Chatsw0rth. 

G C Baugh, W L Cowie, J C Dickinson, Duggan A P, A K B Evans, R H Evans, Una C Hannam, P Heath, D A Johnston, Hilda Johnstone, Ann J Kettle, J L Kirby, R Mansfield and A Saltman, ‘Houses of Cistercian monks: The abbey of Croxden’, in A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 3, ed. M W Greenslade and R B Pugh (London, 1970), pp. 226-230. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/staffs/vol3/pp226-230 [accessed 13 October 2016].

 

‘Henry VIII: December 1538 11-15’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 13 Part 2, August-December 1538, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1893), pp. 438-455. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol13/no2/pp438-455 [accessed 23 October 2016].

 

‘Henry VIII: May 1541, 26-31’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 16, 1540-1541, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1898), pp. 409-429. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/letters-papers-hen8/vol16/pp409-429 [accessed 18 October 2016].

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Rochester Cathedral

DSC_0466.jpgIts that time of year again when my mind turns to teaching.  This term I’m back with Henry VIII and his wives and mistresses; the Norman Conquest and the English Reformation so that should keep me out of mischief for a while, though thankfully Henry’s love life is rather closely bound to the progress of the English Reformation.  Today though I’m sticking with cathedrals: Rochester Cathedral to be specific – it has links with all the courses I have just mentioned one way or another.

In the aftermath of the conquest Rochester found itself in the hands of Bishop Odo, William the Conqueror’s half-brother. Once Lanfranc of Bec was created Archbishop of Canterbury the territory around Rochester was wrested from Odo’s control and given to the newly appointed Bishop of Rochester, who at this stage we could think of as a kind of deputy to the Archbishop of Canterbury, not that the influence or power lasted very long.

Both the cathedral with its Benedictine abbey and the early castle at Rochester, an important crossing point for the Medway,  were the work of this bishop.  Bishop Gundulf was a Norman appointment well known to Archbishop Lanfranc.  Like Lanfranc, Gundulf was a monk at Bec before being summoned across the Channel to help reform the English Church along Norman lines.  Gundulf turned out to have been a bit of a builder having a hand in the building of the Tower of London as well as the castle and cathedral at Rochester. He began work on Rochester Cathedral in 1080 using imported stone from the quarries at Caen. By 1083 his workmen had started on the nave which still stands despite a fire in 1138 which saw the monks made homeless for a time. The crypt is also a good example of the Romanesque or Norman style of architecture.

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The problem for later Bishops was that the cathedral’s powerful neighbour in Canterbury owned more of the land around Rochester than Rochester did.   Not only was Rochester a cathedral being the seat of the bishop it was also an abbey.  Inevitably with the passage of time there were ructions between the needs of the more worldly bishops and the more inward looking monks and their prior especially when the bishop was not selected from one of their number.

The first instance of this occurred in 1124 when the monks, fearful of their position, did a spot of creative thinking and miraculously discovered some long lost saintly relics and Bishop Gundulf who was by then a saint was remembered in a new book, the contents of which did’t bother unduly with the actual facts. Whilst they were at it, the monks set about creating a dossier of charters and rights that resulted in the monks and the bishops barely being on speaking terms. Nor did it go down well in Canterbury.  Words like forgery were bandied around.

However, the death of Thomas Becket improved the relationship between the monks and the bishops of both Rochester and Canterbury primarily because the monks now discovered that they were on a booming pilgrim route – think of Rochester Abbey as offering a medieval ‘good night guarantee’.

Just when things couldn’t have been more eye-brow raising a pilgrim who’d managed to get all the way to Jerusalem and back without mishap was murdered in Rochester.  William of Perth arrived in 1201, got himself murdered by his servant and then performed a miracle by curing a woman who touched the body.  She was mad before but apparently became completely sane afterwards. William of Perth, a baker by trade, became an overnight success and a saint. The money that accrued from pilgrims flocking to William’s shrine paid for a new gothic east end to the cathedral.

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We’ll move on from King John who looted the cathedral in 1215.  Things went from bad to worse. In 1264 the cathedral and abbey fell victim to England’s civil war with soldiers stabling their horses in the cathedral.

The later monks didn’t seem to have the same inventive spirit of the earlier ones and by the end beginning of the thirteenth century the abbey was very badly in debt.  Fortunately Prior Hamo came along and gave the monks and the cathedral a badly needed injection of energy.  He launched a new period of building work in 1320.

There remains one more Bishop of Rochester who is impossible to ignore.  He was executed on Tower Hill in June 1535 for failing to accept the supremacy or the fact of his monarch’s new marriage.  His name was John Fisher. The monks at Rochester had all taken the oath of supremacy in 1534.

The following year Dr Layton arrived to visit the abbey as part of Thomas Cromwell’s Visitation of the Monasteries.  In 1539 the monks of Rochester Abbey were shown the door and then allowed to return as the dean and chapter of six canons of one of Henry VIII’s new cathedrals.

 

Cannon, Jon. (2007) Cathedral: The Greatest English Cathedrals. London: Constable

‘Houses of Benedictine monks: The cathedral priory of St Andrew, Rochester’, in A History of the County of Kent: Volume 2, ed. William Page (London, 1926), pp. 121-126. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/kent/vol2/pp121-126 [accessed 17 August 2016].

Edward Hasted, ‘The city and liberty of Rochester: The priory and cathedral church’, in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 4(Canterbury, 1798), pp. 86-110. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-kent/vol4/pp86-110 [accessed 16 August 2016].

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Worcester Cathedral

DSC_0102Bishop Wulfstan became a saint much admired by King John.  He was also a canny politician.  He’d been appointed bishop by Edward the Confessor  in 1062 and is said by his biographer a monk called Colman to have advised King Harold. This didn’t stop him from being one of the first bishops to offer his oath to William. The Worcester Chronicle also suggests that Wulfstan was at William’s coronation.

William set about reforming English Bishoprics, generally by removing Saxon clerics and appointing Normans. He demanded that Wulfstan surrender Worcester.  According to its chronicle Wulstan surrendered the staff to the king who appointed him – i.e. Edward the Confessor. No one else could shift it so William was forced to confirm Wulfstan as bishop.  King John trotted this legend out as an example of the way in which the king had the right to appoint English bishops rather than the pope having the right.

DSC_0114Wulfstan ensured that the Benedictine monks at Worcester continued their chronicle and he preached against slave trading in Bristol.  Meanwhile the priory at Worcester was growing (It was a priory rather than an abbey because it had a bishop as well as its monastic foundation- that’s probably a post for another time).  Not much remains of the early cathedral building apart from the crypt with its forest of  Norman and Saxon columns. Wulfstan’s chapter house draws on its Saxon past and is, according to Cannon, one of the finest examples of its time. In 1113 it suffered a fire rebuilding began immediately. Wulfstan’s canonisation in 1203 helped  Worcester Abbey’s and the cathedral’s economy although the Barons’ War ensured that Wulfstan’s shrine was destroyed on more than one occasion although when Simon de Montfort sacked Worcester he spared the priory.

On a happier note, King John was buried there  partly because of his veneration of St Wulfstan.  He’s one of the saintly bishop’s whispering in the John’s ear (see first image). Henry III crowned at Worcester aged nine with a circlet belonging to his mother because the crown was too big and John had famously just lost rather a lot of bling in The Wash (assuming you don’t think there’s a conspiracy behind the whole story).  Simon de Montfort’s daughter Eleanor (whose mother Eleanor was Henry III’s sister) married Llewelyn ap Gruffudd, Prince of Wales there in 1278 having been held prisoner for three years by her cousin Edward I.DSC_0102

A building programme was required for the final resting place of a monarch not least because in 1175 the central tower had collapsed possibly because of dodgy foundations. In 1202 there was yet another fire and in 1220 a storm blew down part of the edifice.  In 1224 the rebuilding began ensuring that Worcester is a good example of early English gothic. The building continued to expand.  By the fifteenth century new windows were being added.

 

We shift now to the Tudor period.  In 1502 Prince Arthur died at Ludlow after only a few months marriage to Catherine of Aragon.  His heart in buried in Ludlow but the rest of him was interred in Worcester Cathedral. His tomb and chantry will be posted about separately.  The Tudor propaganda machine provided symbolism with bells and whistles.

In 1535 Latimer was made Bishop of Worcester.  He visited his see in 1537 by which time Cromwell’s commissioners had carried out the Valor Ecclesiasticus. Its income was £1,260.  It was the fourth richest of the monastic cathedrals behind Canterbury, Durham and Winchester (Lehmberg: 46). Holbeach had sent Cromwell “a remembrance of his duty” in the form of an annuity to the tune of some twenty nobles a year – presumably in the hope of being left alone.  Latimer found that the monks were sticking to their old ways of dressing the Lady Chapel with ornaments and jewels rather than new more austere Protestant approach. He laid down the law but three years later Worcester Priory was surrendered by Prior Holbeach on 18 thJanuary 1540.

Two years later it was re-founded as the Cathedral of Worcester. Holbeach became the first dean of the  cathedral. As with many other religious buildings it suffered during the English Civil War – lead was stripped from its roof valued at £8000. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were a time of renovation for Worcester Cathedral.

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DSC_0151Somehow, thirty-nine fifteenth century misericords survive at Worcester.  There are also some fine spandrels (triangular bits between arches) depicting various scenes including a crusader doing battle with a lion not to mention the crypt and Arthur’s chantry with its tomb of Purbeck marble.

‘The city of Worcester: Cathedral and priory’, in A History of the County of Worcester: Volume 4, ed. William Page and J W Willis-Bund (London, 1924), pp. 394-408. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/worcs/vol4/pp394-408 [accessed 27 August 2016].

Cannon, Jon. (2007). Cathedral: The Great English Cathedrals and the World that Made Them. London: Constable

Lehmberg, Stanford. E. (2014) The Reformation of Cathedrals: Cathedrals in English Society. Princetown: Princetown University Press.

 

 

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Brough Castle

DSCN0958You can see Brough Castle as you travel into Cumbria through Westmorland along the A685.  For years it was a key landmark meaning we ‘were nearly there.” Having said that it was many years before I discovered that the name of the little river that runs past Brough is Swindale Beck – and no that’s the moat in the first photograph rather than the beck.

The river runs alongside the flat open space that is very obviously Roman.  In fact Brough used to be the Roman fort of Verterae.  Unsurprising then that William Rufus chose the site for his own fortifications.

DSCN1031From there the tale of Brough Castle is very similar to many others in the region with the perennial seesawing between the English and the Scots.  It was a handy stopping off point as well for English monarchs on their way north to administer justice in Carlisle or to do a spot of Scot-bothering.  Edward I and Edward II both stayed in Brough; though clearly the Scot-bothering skills of father and son were markedly different.  The village of Brough was burned by the Scots in the aftermath of Bannockburn in 1314.

CNV00005-5In terms of ownership, the Castle left royal hands in 1204 when King John granted it to Robert de Vipont along with Appleby Castle and shortly after that gave Robert the title Lord of Westmorland – with the right to be held in perpetuity by his heirs which was of key importance to Lady Anne Clifford’s claim to her estates.  Robert’s son was a minor when he died so for a while the castle was held by Hubert de Burgh.  De Vipont’s grandson, also named Robert died at the Battle of Lewes in 1264 fighting alongside Simon de Montfort against the Crown which was fine until the following year when the monarchy headed up by Henry III (King John’s son) won the Battle of Evesham and demonstrated how underwhelmed he was by people demanding parliaments by seizing Robert de Vipont’s estates even though he was already dead.

DSCN1033Leaving aside legal wrangles, reforms and negotiations the estates and title were ultimately returned by the Crown to Robert’s two daughters who were co-heiresses. Their names were Isabella and Idonea.  Isabella was the younger.  Her husband was Roger de Clifford. Idonea was about nine when her father died and she went on to have two husbands but spent most of her life in Yorkshire.  Her son pre-deceased her so when she died  and was buried in Roche Abbey her entitlement to the lands and estates of Westmorland reverted to her sister and the de Clifford family.

CNV00016-8The Clifford family spent time and money making Brough more secure.  They built a tower and a hall block.

The Wars of the Roses saw the Ninth Lord Clifford die at Dintingdale the day before the Battle of Towton, Easter 1461, with an arrow in his throat and the flight of his young son and heir into obscurity.  During this time the Clifford properties were held by Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick.  Once Henry Tudor defeated Richard III the Tenth Lord Clifford came out of hiding and the Cliffords regained their estates.

Then in 1521 there was a very merry Christmas party – so merry in fact that Brough Castle caught fire and was ruined.  I suppose it makes a change from the Scots burning places down for the owners to do it themselves.

CNV00013-8Brough was only restored in 1659 when Lady Anne Clifford came into the inheritance she’d been fighting for most of her life.  She rebuilt Clifford’s Tower – only for it to burn down again in 1666 which must have been rather irritating for Lady Anne who didn’t die until ten years later. After that and because Lady Anne’s descendants weren’t as keen on old castles as she was it swiftly returned to being a ruin having been used as a sort of quarry to repair Appleby and Brough Mill at various times.

Brough remained in the hands of Lady Anne Clifford’s descendants until 1923.  Lord Hothfield handed it over to the Ministry of Works who placed helpful signs on the building:

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Salter, Mike. (2002) The Castles and Tower Houses of Cumbria. Malvern: Folly Publications

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King John’s Christmas gift…

King_John_from_De_Rege_JohannePrince John, youngest son of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine was born on or around Christmas Eve 1166 or 1167. The fact that the date of his birth is so poorly recorded reflects how unimportant he was in the great scheme of things at that time. Henry II had three other sons who had survived the perils of childhood – Young Henry, Geoffrey and Richard- John nicknamed ‘Lackland’ by his father could have little expected that he would one day become king.

 

What follows is not, by any stretch of the imagination, history. It’s a poem by A.A. Milne. However, what it does do is demonstrate the fact that popular culture is incredibly important when it comes to our perception of key historical figures.  The Victorians were not keen on John and it’s a viewpoint that has endured.  John has certainly had some bad press over the centuries. I’ve posted several accounts linked to King John and with the best will in the world he certainly did have ‘his little ways’ – with nephews, white satin, jewels, women and barons.  The fact remains though, given the behaviour of other medieval kings, that the old A level question is valid – was John a bad king or an unlucky one?

 

King John’s Christmas

King John was not a good man —

He had his little ways.

And sometimes no one spoke to him

For days and days and days.

And men who came across him,

When walking in the town,

Gave him a supercilious stare,

Or passed with noses in the air —

And bad King John stood dumbly there,

Blushing beneath his crown.

 

King John was not a good man,

And no good friends had he.

He stayed in every afternoon…

But no one came to tea.

And, round about December,

The cards upon his shelf

Which wished him lots of Christmas cheer,

And fortune in the coming year,

Were never from his near and dear,

But only from himself.

 

King John was not a good man,

Yet had his hopes and fears.

They’d given him no present now

For years and years and years.

But every year at Christmas,

While minstrels stood about,

Collecting tribute from the young

For all the songs they might have sung,

He stole away upstairs and hung

A hopeful stocking out.

 

King John was not a good man,

He lived his life aloof;

Alone he thought a message out

While climbing up the roof.

He wrote it down and propped it

Against the chimney stack:

“TO ALL AND SUNDRY – NEAR AND FAR

Christmas in particular.”

And signed it not “Johannes R.”

But very humbly, “Jack.”

“I want some crackers,

And I want some candy;

I think a box of chocolates

Would come in handy;

I don’t mind oranges,

I do like nuts!

And I SHOULD like a pocket-knife

That really cuts.

And, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all,

Bring me a big, red, india-rubber ball!”

 

King John was not a good man —

He wrote this message out,

And gat him to this room again,

Descending by the spout.

And all that night he lay there,

A prey to hopes and fears.

“I think that’s him a-coming now!”

(Anxiety bedewed his brow.)

“He’ll bring one present, anyhow —

The first I had for years.”

“Forget about the crackers,

And forget the candy;

I’m sure a box of chocolates

Would never come in handy;

I don’t like oranges,

I don’t want nuts,

And I HAVE got a pocket-knife

That almost cuts.

But, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all,

Bring me a big, red, india-rubber ball!”

 

King John was not a good man,

Next morning when the sun

Rose up to tell a waiting world

That Christmas had begun,

And people seized their stockings,

And opened them with glee,

And crackers, toys and games appeared,

And lips with sticky sweets were smeared,

King John said grimly: “As I feared,

Nothing again for me!”

“I did want crackers,

And I did want candy;

I know a box of chocolates

Would come in handy;

I do love oranges,

I did want nuts!

And, oh! if Father Christmas, had loved me at all,

He would have brought a big, red,

india-rubber ball!”

 

King John stood by the window,

And frowned to see below

The happy bands of boys and girls

All playing in the snow.

A while he stood there watching,

And envying them all …

When through the window big and red

There hurtled by his royal head,

And bounced and fell upon the bed,

An india-rubber ball!

AND, OH, FATHER CHRISTMAS,

MY BLESSINGS ON YOU FALL

FOR BRINGING HIM

A BIG, RED,

INDIA-RUBBER

BALL

A. A. Milne

 

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King John Crossword

knigh2King John has been much talked and written about in this eight hundredth anniversary of Magna Carta.  The British Library held an exhibition. It’s website still has videos, interviews and documents.  What more could you want?  Click here to open a new window http://www.bl.uk/magna-carta/videos/800-years-of-magna-carta.  His effigy, along with various bones and his will, can be viewed at Worcester Cathedral whilst one of the original copies of the Magna Carta is on display in Salisbury.  There have been articles about him in History Today and several of the broadsheets have considered just how bad John actually really was…the conclusion being not as bad as Shakespeare might have liked.  Marc Morris’s book Treachery, Tyranny and the Road to Magna Carta offers a clear oversight into the derailment of Henry II’s youngest son from monarch to man who lost his baggage. For younger readers of history, much to my delight, the Ladybird Adventure from History about King John is once again available – although possibly not presenting him in a particularly balanced light.

Lack of balance is certainly true of the Jean Plaidy novel about King John entitled ‘The Prince of Darkness’ which gives an unfortunate hint of the direction of John’s character as interpreted by Ms Plaidy. John was undoubtedly a much more complex man than that of out and out villain.  Those complexities and ambiguities can be found, for those folk who like their history in novel form, in Sharon Penman’s books about Justin de Quincy – the first in the series is called The Queen’s Man.  Inevitably novels containing Robin Hood feature John somewhere along the line – for fans of the outlaw, Angus Donald books are not to be missed.  I know that there are many more – there is something about John that draws writers in, perhaps because he is much more than a cardboard villain.

The Angevin monarch is not without a future either.  King John, is taught at Key Stage Three in schools and is also currently part of the AQA A level history syllabus (HIS3A: The Angevin Kings of England: British Monarchy, 1154–1216) as well as an OCR A level history qualification which will be examined for the first time in 2017.

Having recently taught a day school on King John I finished with a crossword.  Here it is along with the answers:  Click on the word puzzle to open up a new window.  Some of the clues are straight forward, others require slightly more knowledge.  None of them are too difficult.

puzzle

Across

2) Pope who tore up Magna Carta and triggered civil war (8).
6) Adrian IV’s surname before he became pope (10).
9) Fine issued by the court at the will of the king (10).
10) Chronicle which probably tells the tale of the death of John’s nephew accurately (6).
12) Keep where Eleanor of Aquitaine was besieged by her grandson (8).
13) Powerful Lower Poitou family (8)
14) Niece from Castile to be married to Prince Louis and fetched for that purpose by Queen Eleanor (7).
15) Prior sent by Canterbury monks to Rome as archbishop. (8)
17) John’s tutor (9).
18) John had two daughters by this name (4).
20) Place of John’s birth (6).
29) Scottish king who joined with the barons (9).
30) John sent ship loads of corn to Norway in return for these (7).
31) John was prone to demanding these of his enemies and his barons (8).
32) The son of John’s brother Geoffrey (6).
33) Count who dined with John on the same day that he switched to the french (7).
36) One of the causes of the dysentery said to have killed John (5)
41) As a consequence of the fall of the Angevin Empire John built one of these (4).
42) There was a Bishop of Durham and a Bishop of Lincoln who played active roles in John’s life (4).
43) Nickname of John’s early years (8).
44) What did Roger de Cressi do that earned him a fine of 12,000 marks and 12 palfreys in 1207 (7).
45) Matilda FitzWalter is said to have been poisoned by one of these having spurned John’s advances (3).
46) Town where John died (6).
Down

1) Abbey founded by John (8).
3) Castle where 22 Bretton captives were starved to death (5).
4) Castle given to John by Henry II and where Welsh hostages were executed (10).
5) Bishop of Norwich selected by John as Archbishop of Canterbury (4, 2, 4).
6) 1214 battle that saw John defeated in France (8).
7) Chronicler writing many years after John’s death who was hostile to John (5).
8) Gossipy chronicler who travelled with John to Ireland (6).
11) Unfortunate chap called Henry whose wife was John’s mistress and who was used as an excuse to fine another man for the same offence.
12) Castle where John married his first wife (11).
16) Earl of Essex who paid 20,000 marks for his second wife (8, 2, 10)
19) Ambitious Justiciar (9).
21) Abbey where John stayed after losing his baggage in The Wash (10)
22) Castle besieged by John in 1215 (9).
23) Isabella of Angouleme’s father (5).
24) Cathedral where John is buried (9).
25) John’s daughter who married Simon de Montfort (7).
26) Eustace d’_ _ _ _ _ substituted another woman for his wife when John demanded her in his bed (5).
27) Hugh de Neville was responsible for administering it and it extended during John’s reign until Magna Carta (6, 3).
28) Another word for excommunication when applied to a region or country (9).
31) Anglo Norman baron granted kingdom of Meath (4,2,4).
34) 1200 treaty that saw John accept the overlordship of the French (2, 6).
35) 1209 treaty that saw peace between England and Scotland on John’s terms (6).
37) Lands in Normandy by which John was known after Richard’s accession (7).
38) Marcher earl who was often the victim John’s paranoia about treachery in 1203 and 1204 (7).
39) Dacus, danish merchant, who sailed tax free on condition he bring one of these whenever he came to England (4).
40) King who succeeded John (5).

To reveal the answers click on the word puzzle below.

puzzleanswers

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King John’s grandson murdered…by King John’s grandsons.

Henry-Almain-Guy-DeMontfort-It’s an interesting fact, and it must be true because it was mentioned by Jeremy Paxman on University Challenge, that Isabella of Angouleme – wife first to King John and then to Hugh X de Lusignan, Count of La Marche had sixteen children, all of whom lived into adulthood. Not that all of her children and grandchildren lived very happy lives and at least one was murdered …by his own cousins. It’s always nice to see the Plantagenets getting along well.

Isabella’s second son to John was Richard of Cornwall. He in his turn married Isabella Marshal, daughter of William Marshal. Their third child was a boy called Henry who was born in Suffolk in 1235. He was murdered thirty-six years later by two of his cousins.

Henry, known as Henry of Almain (Allemagne) on account of his father’s links with the Holy Roman Empire had a problem. He was nephew to both Henry III and also via his aunt Eleanor to Simon de Montfort. Eleanor was married to Simon. The barons didn’t simply shrug their shoulders and return to ‘business as usual’ on the death of King John and accession of  Henry III they continued to seek additional liberties and changes to the feudal system – things such as accountability for actions.  Henry’s problem when the Second Barons’ war kicked off – was which uncle should he support?

After some indecision he ultimately he sided with the royal connection. It is possible that he was bribed by Edward to change sides but one thing is for sure Henry was troubled by taking up arms against his family. He told Simon de Montfort that he wouldn’t turn against his uncle the king but neither would he take up arms against de Montfort…Simon told him to bring his arms along – which suggests that Henry wasn’t terribly intimidating. After the Battle of Lewes in 1246, which de Montfort won a provisional government was set up, the royal family were effectively imprisoned whilst Henry became one of many hostages and was held captive in Wallingford Castle. It is also probable that Henry became an intermediary between the various members of the warring family.

Events continued to unfold. Young Prince Edward escaped his ‘house arrest,’ raised an army and took on the barons in the second key battle of the Second Barons’ War. The Battle of Eveham (4 August 1265) saw Fortune favour the royalists. It is unlikely that Henry was at Evesham. Uncle Simon lost the battle and lost his head. Simon’s eldest son (another Henry) was killed at the same time. Guy de Montfort was badly wounded and imprisoned. He bribed his captors and escaped abroad in 1266. He became an officer in the forces of Charles of Anjou. Simon de Montfort the Younger arrived in Evesham just in time to see his father’s head on a pike. Prince Edward had effectively saved his cousin from the wrath of the royalists.

In 1268 Henry, took the cross with his royal cousin Edward who would become King Edward I of England. The pair set off but when they arrived in Sicily they received word of problems in Gascony. Edward sent Henry home to deal with them but Henry got only so far as Italy. Whilst in Vitebo he attended mass and was murdered by Simon de Montfort the younger and his brother Guy de Montfort in revenge for their father’s death. It was such a shocking murder that Dante wrote about it over forty years later. Henry clutched the altar and begged for mercy as his cousins attacked him and then dragged him from the cathedral to finish the job off. Guy is purported to have said that Henry gave his father and brother no mercy and could expect to receive none himself.

The two brothers were swiftly excommunicated for their crime whilst Henry’s body was transported back to Hailes Abbey for burial. Edward, on his return from Palestine two years after the murder, told the pope that Henry had been on a peace mission. The problem was that the de Montfort’s thought that Henry had turned out just like the rest of the royal family in that he had been implicated in ceasing land some of which had belonged to the de Montforts before their fall and he had married Constance de Bearn in 1269.

Constance’s father had caused problems for de Montfort whilst he was Governor of Gascony. De Montfort had put de Bearn on trial (the Gascons were troublesome but de Montfort wasn’t very pleasant in his approach). Henry III had freed de Bearn and put de Montfort on trial. This didn’t help relations between de Montfort and Henry III. For the sons of de Montfort it must have seemed that Henry of Almain was up to his neck in the royalist cause.

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Matilda Fitzwalter a.k.a. Maid Marian

57457680_1404498519This effigy can be seen in Little Dunmow Church – It is said to be the effigy of Matilda Fitzwalter.

Robert Fitzwalter, holder of Castle Baynard and Lord of Little Dunmow was a revolting baron during the reign of King John and little wonder if the stories are anything to go by.

Robert’s daughter Matilda was a bit of a stunner– men threw themselves at her feet, jousted for her favours etc and dear old King John fell head over heels in lust. Matilda, being a good girl and not having heard that when a medieval king does his best Lesley Philips impersonation that all the usual rules are out of the window told him to be on his way.

John did not take personal rejection well – his penchant for white satin, large collections of jewels and regular bathing, not to mention him being a king, should have made him a hit with the ladies but at no more than five foot five inches, having an inclination to fat as he got older, and an interest in the wives and daughters of his barons was not always as well received by the aforementioned ladies as he might have hoped. Rather than chalk Matilda’s refusal up to experience he tried to cajole Robert Fitzwalter into handing his daughter over: Robert refused. Perhaps John should have had a word with Matilda’s husband rather than her father but more about him shortly. In the stories John sets about destroying Fitzwalter and his property. Fitzwalter was indeed banished in 1212 but was later reconciled to John only to revolt in 1215 as a leader of the ‘Army of God’ that massed against the king. Fitzwalter is one of the Magna Carta barons and Matilda’s sad story is often given as part of the rationale for Fitzwalter’s rebellion.

Presumably because he could, John imprisoned Matilda in The Tower before sending her a message reminding her that all she need to do was to look upon him more favourably. When Matilda persisted in rejecting his advances John sent Matilda a poisoned egg, in some versions of the story a poisoned bracelet, which she promptly ate/put on and expired as a result presumably because she was a) hungry or b) it was a very nice bracelet. The corpse of Fair Matilda was then sent home for burial (very considerate). Elizabeth Norton’s book addressing the life of Isabella of Angouleme says that John forced Matilda to become his mistress – and you would have to say why go to all the bother of locking her up in the Tower to force compliance? Norton uses Matilda as but one example of John’s rapacious tendencies.  What is clear is that by 1212 Matilda was dead.

Matilda Fitzwalter’s story is told by Mathew Paris and the Anonymous Chronicler of Bethune. The criticism of John made by the chroniclers was not that he didn’t know how to take no for an answer but that he had dishonoured the fathers and husbands of the women concerned in the tales of lust that they recounted. Anonymous makes the point that John was devoted to good food and to pleasure – if he’d taken an interest in serving wenches then no one would have batted an eyelid.

From the threads of truth, of which very little actually remains to history, the tale of Matilda becomes steadily more romantic. According to lore Matilda Fitzwalter spurned King John’s advances because she was actually smitten with another – a chap called Robert, Earl of Huntingdon a.k.a. Robin Hood who was at that time away on crusade – making Matilda the fair Maid Marian. The chronicler Mathew Paris called her “Maud the Fair” or “Maid Marian.”  It wasn’t until a couple of centuries later though that Matilda Fitzwalter escaped to the Greenwood to live happily ever after…making Maid Marian an Essex girl.

In this case, however, truth is even stranger than legend. Matilda had actually been married to Geoffrey de Mandeville, the Earl of Essex. After her death de Mandeville married, at vast expense, Isabella of Gloucester – none other than King John’s first wife.

John was able to get his marriage to Isabella annulled because they were half-second cousins which was well within the prohibited degree of consanguinity. At the time of his marriage the Pope had been furious and Archbishop Baldwin of Canterbury had placed John and all his lands under an interdict until an ecclesiastical council reversed the decision. At no point in time did John apply for a papal dispensation and it soon became clear that he was looking for a better placed wife with plans afoot fir him to marry Alice, sister of Philip Augustus – rejected fiancée of brother Richard and if stories are true mistress of Henry II and mother of his child. The divorce occurred almost as soon as John became king. Isabella led a half-life for many years neither a captive nor free until John, desperate for cash for a continental war effectively sold Isabella to the highest bidder – Geoffrey de Mandeville. It will perhaps come as no surprise to find out that Geoffrey and Isabella revolted against King John as well.

Norton, Elizabeth. She Wolves: The Notorious Queens of England

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Geoffrey of Brittany – “son of perdition.”

Geoffrey2I’ve blogged about John’s brother Geoffrey in a much earlier post.  However, as I’m looking at John I thought it would be useful to reappraise myself of his siblings. Geoffrey Plantagenet was the fourth son of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine (third surviving son). Henry’s problem was that he had too many sons to provide for when they grew to maturity. Geoffrey’s oldest surviving brother Henry was to have the lands that belonged to Henry – the patrimony- so Anjou, Maine, Normandy and England. Richard, the second surviving son, was to have his mother’s inheritance – Aquitaine. Henry also had plans for Geoffrey.

Henry, being an astute sort of monarch and land-grabber, arranged a marriage between Geoffrey and Constance of Brittany. Constance was, conveniently for Henry, the only child of Conan IV, Duke of Brittany. Her mother Margaret of Huntingdon was William the Lion’s sister. The problem for Conan was that he was also the Earl of Richmond and the Britons were a pretty bolshie lot so needed a firm hand. In short, Conan needed Henry more than Henry needed him. Henry claimed to be Brittany’s overlord and Conan was required to make his vassals see sense. The Bretons disagreed. Henry simply went to war and won in 1169 forcing Conan to abdicate and the Bretons to accept eight-year-old Geoffrey as the new Count by virtue of being Constance’s spouse. They ultimately married in 1181 when she was twenty-one.

Hapless Conan died in 1171. Geoffrey, aged all of eleven-years-old, became not only Count of Brittany but also Earl of Richmond. Henry, naturally, wielded all the power until his son came of age.  The problem was that Henry II was not good at giving up power once it was in his grasp.

This fermented resentment as Young Henry, Richard and Geoffrey grew older. It was all very well having titles but they wanted power as well. In 1173 when Geoffrey had reached the ripe old age of fifteen he rebelled against his father along with his brothers. Ironically it was little brother John who triggered the family row. Henry sought to provide territory for his youngest son and granted John three castles in Young Henry’s territory to demonstrate that John had property to bring to a proposed marriage. Young Henry was furious, refused to yield the castles, demanded to be allowed to rule one of the territories that he would one day inherit and took himself off to the French court where his brothers joined him.  Eleanor attempted to join her sons but was caught and found herself locked up for many years- though she was allowed to come to court for Christmas more often than not.

The following year,1174, Geoffrey and his father were reconciled, only for him to fall out in 1183 with his brother Richard over who should control Aquitaine. The Young King having died. Henry rearranged the family assets moving Richard up the pecking order to receive the patrimony and young John to receive Aquitaine. Presumably Geoffrey was left out of the equation because Brittany was his through marriage – to give Geoffrey any of the other lands would have left John as ‘Lackland’ still.  Richard wasn’t keen on handing over Aquitaine having won over his vassals by an uncompromising mix of determined presence in the duchy and brute force. Geoffrey for reasons best known to himself sided with teen-age John and provided an army to try and take Aquitaine from Richard by force.  The next thing that he knew Richard was invading Brittany rather effectively.   Peace was eventually re-established with a public kiss of peace and Geoffrey briefly found himself in his father’s good books being left in charge of Normandy for a while both that it lasted.  Henry II didn’t let any of his sons step into the Young King’s shoes.  After that Geoffrey allied himself with the King of France against his father and his brother – the Plantagenets were not a model for a happy family at this time.

Geoffrey’s relationship with his father was not a good one but he wasn’t overly popular with anyone else for that matter – Roger of Howden described him as a “son of perdition.” Roger was one of Henry II’s clerks and he was also one of the king’s Justices of the Forest – so not altogether unbiased in his approach. Gerald of Wales commented on Geoffrey’s ‘readiness to deceive others.’ And then proceeded with a rather complete character assassination:

He has more aloes than honey in him; his tongue is smoother than oil; his sweet and persuasive eloquence has enabled him to dissolve the firmest alliances and his powers of language to throw two kingdoms into confusion.”

 

It has been suggested that one of the reasons for Geoffrey’s increasing animosity towards his father and Richard was that Henry II didn’t identify Geoffrey as his heir. The French king, Philip Augustus, made him a senschal of France, encouraged Geoffrey in his discontent – he’d gone to Paris in 1179 to witness Phillip’s coronation and to give homage to the French king.

On 19th August 1186 Geoffrey was in Paris for a tournament – and possibly some heavy duty plotting against his family- when there was a tragic accident and he was trampled to death although some chroniclers also mention a stomach ailment and one chronicler had Geoffrey being struck down by heart failure after daring to conspire against his father.

Geoffrey and Constance had three children. Eleanor who became known as the Fair Maid of Brittany; Matilda who died before the age of five and an heir called Arthur who was born posthumously in 1187. Arthur, being the son of John’s older brother, had a better claim to the throne than John did.  England did not have a salic law so in theory Eleanor also had a strong claim to the throne.  It was for this reason that John held her captive throughout his reign as any marriage would have created a contender to his throne.

https://archive.org/stream/annalsofrogerdeh01hoveuoft/annalsofrogerdeh01hoveuoft_djvu.txt

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