The childhood of a prince

john of gauntJohn of Gaunt was born in March 1340 whilst Edward III was on campaign in France trying to claim the French throne through his mother’s, Isabella of France, bloodline – someone hadn’t explained salic law to him.  John was probably born in St Bavo Abbey in Ghent.  In later years the rumour would arise that he was no true son of Edward’s but was instead a Ghentish butcher’s brat – no one ever paused to wonder how Philippa of Hainhault might have met this butcher given that queen’s aren’t prone to popping out to do the shopping for the evening meal.

Froissart states that Gaunt’s godfather was John, Duke of Brabant, a reminder of the shifting tides of political affiliation in Europe.

In November the royal family returned to England.  We know very little of John’s early year’s although, as ever, it is the accounts that give us some insight.  We know for instance from Edward III’s wardrobe account for 1340-41 that the baby was provided with some rather snazzy red and green bedding, that he had silken robes and a household of servants.  As well as his nurse there was a female cradle-rocker.   And, as if this wasn’t enough, there were two esquire of the body, six chamber servants and three “domicelli.” Domicelli are also servants but they are of a higher social status.

John probably found himself in the royal nursery with his sisters Isabella and Joan and his older brother Lionel as well as the new baby Edmund.  At the age of seven he would have been deemed old enough to leave the nursery and begin his training as a knight.  We also know, thanks to the accounts again, that Edward set aside £1000 a year for his children and that Philippa of Hainault of seems to have been a very hands on royal mother was granted their guardianship in 1342 whilst Edward was busy across the Channel.

John was also  created the Earl of Richmond. This may have been because his father was already scouting around for prospective brides for his young son.  The earldom was reconfirmed in 1351.

Ecclesiastical documents also reveal that the young John was admitted to the confraternity at Lincoln and later to St Mary’s in York.  The later took place in 1349 just after the Princess Joan had died from the plague.

John’s next step towards adulthood was being placed in the care of his brother, Edward, the Black Prince.  John was probably in his brother’s household between 1350 and 1355 – the accounts tell us this because there were purchases of knightly accoutrements for the young prince.

It was in 1350 that John found himself in the middle of the Battle of Winchelsea.  He was too young to take part in the fight but according to Froissart John was on board the ship with his father because the king was very fond of his son.  Edward III was attempting to intercept the Castilian fleet of Pedro I who had become an ally of France rather than England – despite Edward III attempting to negotiate a marriage between England and Castile.  Edward III won the battle but it was touch and go.  He knighted his son immediately afterwards according to some versions of Gaunt’s history although others think that the narrator was confused in remembering events that had taken place thirty years previously and that Lionel and John were both knighted in 1355.  In either case Philippa of Hainhault spent an unpleasant afternoon with a good view of a sea battle.

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This particular image is from Froissart’s Chronicle.  It depicts the Battle of Sluys which was fought in 1340 between england and France but it gives a good idea that a sea battle was really about getting the ships alongside one another and then being engaged in hand to hand fighting.

In 1355 John was old enough to join his father and older brother on their military campaigns in Normandy and from Calais.  Whilst Edward was occupied in France the Scots took the opportunity to capture Berwick-Upon-Tweed but that’s a different story.  The key thing is that John was part of the winter campaign to recapture the town which surrendered on 13 January 1356.

The following year John was granted the  lordship of Liddel – John was going to be a northern lord getting to grips with those pesky Scots.  The next step in securing John’s future would be his marriage to Blanche of Lancaster.  Childhood – such as it had been- was over.

Goodman, Anthony. (1992) John of Gaunt. London: Longman.

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.

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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

 

 

Stained Glass window glossary

This is me going off on a tangent before writing up a post on Worcester Cathedral.  I’ve spent quite a lot of the past few weeks staring at stained glass one way or another, though not taken many photographs of whole windows because I can’t do them justice.  Aside from a crick in my neck, time spent waiting for the sun to come out and a fascination with Thomas Denny windows  I’ve learned a whole new vocabulary.  This is by way of a glossary for future reference.

Cartoon -A full scale drawing of each panel of glass or light. The cartoon follows on from the vidimus.

Catherine window – another name for a rose window or wheel window because of its symmetrical pattern, containing tracery that makes the ‘rose’. They are usually Gothic in origin and must contain the radiating wheel spokes to be Catherine, wheel or rose windows depending upon your choice of name.DSCF2437.jpg

Cinquefoil– five lobed shape.  Usually to be found within the tracery (fancy  lace-like stonework) elements of a window.

Clerestory – the upper part of the wall within the church, cathedral or abbey containing windows.

Diaper- a decorative pattern added to the glass with paint.

Donor window – the people who paid for the window feature in the window.

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Gothic – style of architecture evolving from Romanseque during the late medieval period – pointed arches, vaulted ceilings, flying buttresses and fancy tracery.

Grisaille– monochrome painting on glass.

Jesse Window – window depicting Christ’s ancestors beginning with Jesse, father of King David. Wells Cathedral has a fourteenth century Jesse Window.

Light – the posh term for the complete vertical panel of glass within the stone framework of the window.

Medallion– circular panel of glass.

Mullion – vertical stone shafts between the panes (lights) of the window.

Murrey – colour ranging from pink through to reddish brown.

Quarry– small diamond shape pane of glass.  Quarries are prone to bulging with the passage of time.

Rose window – The most common name for a Catherine window or wheel window derived from the French name rosace.  The window is formed from symmetrical patterns, containing tracery that makes the ‘rose’ or ‘spoke’. They are usually Gothic in origin and must contain the radiating wheel spokes to be Catherine, wheel or rose windows depending upon your choice of name. The Rose Window in York Minster is one of, if not the, best in the country.  It is certainly the most famous after the fire of 1984 which saw all 7000 pieces of glass cracked by the heat of the blaze but remained in tact.  The painstaking conservation that followed ensured that the window was back on display by 1987.  The ‘Bishop’s Eye’ window in Lincoln is not a rose window despite often being called such because although it is round it is not created with ‘spokes.’  An article on the development of rose windows and their symbolism can be found here. There is also an interesting article on the geometry and number involved in the creation of rose windows as well as their symbolism here.

Saddle bar – a horizontal iron bar running across a pane (light) to which the glass panels are tied.

Spandrel– in window terms they are the small openings between the corner of the arch of a window and the horizontal stone bar (transom).

Tracery – intricate stonework at the top of the window.

Transom– the horizontal bar of stone that runs across the middle of the window giving it strength.

Trefoil – three lobed shape.

Vidimus – literally meaning “we have seen”. A sketch of the window to be shown to the people who have paid for it or want it created.

Wheel window – another name for a rose window or Catherine window because of their symmetrical patterns, containing tracery that makes the ‘rose’ or ‘spoke’. They are usually Gothic in origin and must contain the radiating wheel spokes to be Catherine, wheel or rose windows depending upon your choice of name.

 

Here is a link to the York Glaziers Trust with a bigger glossary and much better illustrations. Double click to open a new window. The Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi (CVMA) of Great Britain is a project devoted to recording Britain’s medieval stained glass. They have a very large archive. Double click to open a new window and possibly a whole new set of days and weekends out!  As you might expect given it’s medieval heritage there is a Worshipful Company of Glaziers which dates back to 1328. Part of their story is told by the Stained Glass Museum which is based in Ely.

 

 

Monasteries- 1066 +

DSCN2029William the Conqueror was committed to a programme of monastery building in his new kingdom.  The invasion of England, complete with papal banner, was after all a crusade.  However, in comparison to the twelfth century when monastic foundation and building reached an apex the first Normans on English shores were relatively slow off the mark.  Chester, Colchester and Shrewsbury were early establishments as were Tewkesbury and Lewes which housed monks from Cluny.  All of the above mentioned were funded by Norman barons eager to emulate their monarch and no doubt to give thanks for doing so very nicely out of the English venture.

In addition to these new foundations and, in the North, refoundation of early sites such as Whitby there was another significant change in the Church.  Leading Anglo-Saxon abbots and bishops with a few notable exceptions such as Wulfstan of Worcester were shown the door and replaced by William’s men headed up by Lanfranc of Bec who promptly reorganised and reformed the Church.

Lanfranc did use some of the earlier Anglo-Saxon administrative structure including the incorporation of cathedrals into monastic foundations.  Given-Wilson lists them: Bath ( & Wells), Canterbury, Carlisle (hence my interest), Coventry, Durham, Ely, Norwich, Rochester, Winchester and Worcester.  Both Canterbury (pictured at the beginning of this post) and Worcester had been founded before 1066 and may have acted as the models which Lanfranc chose to emulate. Carlisle was home to an order of Augustinian Canons the other nine were Benedictine.  These cathedrals were at the heart of their dioceses with a bishop at their head.  The monastery would have been headed up by an abbot or a prior – the two posts need not be held by the same person which could, and in deed did, lead to some lively disagreements.

Not all cathedrals were staffed by monks.  Some cathedrals were ‘secular’ – which means that the clergy who ran the cathedrals were not attached to a religious order.  Lincoln Cathedral was never associated with a monastery and neither bizarrely, given the number of monasteries in the vicinity, was York.