Tag Archives: Middleham Castle

Jacquetta and Sir Richard Woodville – Yorkists

Plate 4--Garter Stall Plate earl riversSir Richard Woodville (Lord Rivers) and his eldest son Sir Anthony were men in trouble in the aftermath of the Battle of Towton fought at Eastertide 1461.  They were Lancastrians who within six weeks of the battle found themselves attainted of treason and their lands confiscated.

By July 12 1462 Lord Rivers was pardoned.  It would appear from the correspondence of the time that Jacquetta had a hand in the changing state of affairs.   By 1463 Lord Rivers had found a place in the Privy Council.

Even more unexpectedly perhaps the new king married the couple’s eldest daughter the recently widowed Elizabeth Grey – who history knows as Elizabeth Woodville in May 1464.  Presumably Edward knew that marrying a penniless Lancastrian widow wouldn’t go down well with Warwick, especially as Edward had been in Calais in 1460 when Lord Rivers had been paraded through the town and rated as a “knave.”  Perhaps this was why Edward failed to mention the fact of his marriage to his cousin.

Elizabeth was crowned on May 26 1465.  There was a lot of emphasis placed upon Elizabeth’s maternal pedigree. In February 1466 the couple’s first child was born.    Between 1463 and 1483 the Woodvilles would rise in power and political dominance.    The earl of Warwick realised this would be at the expense of the Nevilles within week’s of Elizabeth Woodville’s public acknowledgement as between 1464 and 1466 Elizabeth arranged the marriage of many of her siblings into the richest and most powerful families in the land starting with the marriage of Elizabeth’s sister to the heir of the earl of Arundel.  Personally Warwick would not have been amused when the match he arranged between his nephew George and Anne Holland, heiress to the earldom of Exeter was overturned so that Anne could marry Elizabeth’s oldest son Thomas Grey.  Warwick’s aunt the dowager duchess of Norfolk (Katherine Neville) found herself married to nineteen year old John Woodville.  The duchess would have qualified for her bus pass at the time.  I could go on but you get the gist – there were a certain number of heirs and heiresses available and the Woodvilles swamped the market.

It was undoubtedly the rise of the Woodvilles that contributed to Warwick’s decision to turn against Edward in 1469. Not only had the family married above themselves so far as he was concerned but Sir Richard had ousted Lord Mountjoy (who just so happened to be the earl of Warwick’s uncle by marriage) from the position of treasurer in 1466.  Matters probably weren’t helped when the following year he was elevated to being Constable of England.

Warwick broke away from Edward in 1469 giving his association with low born men like earl (yes that’s right there was a promotion as well) as one of his reasons.  The two had apparently reconciled their differences earlier but a northern rebellion led by Robin of Redesdale was actually the earl of Warwick’s doing.  In addition the earl was plotting with Edward’s brother George duke of  Clarence.  The whole thing only came into the open when George married Isobel Neville (Warwick’s oldest daughter) on 11 July in Calais.  Edward suddenly discovered that not only was he facing an army of rebels from the north but that Warwick and Clarence had arrived in Sandwich and were marching with a second army having been allowed into London and “borrowed” some money from the City.  Edward was caught between two armies and became reliant on the earls Pembroke and Devon to raise an army on his behalf.

It didn’t go well for Edward or his earls for that matter.  On 26th July 1469   The earl of Pembroke’s army was intercepted by Warwick at Edgecote near Banbury and bested at the river crossing there.   The army might have fought on but Pembroke’s men seeing more of Warwick’s forces arriving assumed that the earl’s army was much larger than it really was.   William Herbert, the earl of Pembroke was captured and executed the following day.  The earl of Devon was also executed as were a number of Edward IV’s other key supporters.

Edward was happily oblivious to all of this being ensconced in Nottingham at the time when he left the city on the 29th July he was captured by Bishop George Neville at Olney and now found himself in the situation of Henry VI – i.e. in need of protection from bad advisers – or more correctly a prisoner.  By August he was resident in Warwick’s castle at Middleham and Elizabeth Woodville was firmly situated in Westminster with her children in sanctuary.

Where were the Woodvilles in all of this?  Sir Richard and his second son John were in Edward IV’s army.  They fled the went into hiding.  They were found in August at Chepstow and executed on the 12th August 1469 at Kennilworth.

That same month one Richard Wake accused Woodville’s widow Jacquetta of being a witch.  The earl of Warwick had Jacquetta arrested and taken to Warwick Castle.  Jacquetta did not panic.  Instead she wrote a letter to the mayor and aldermen of London calling in a favour.  George duke of Clarence became involved and Warwick for whatever reason seemed to get cold feet about the whole business and released her.  She very sensibly joined Elizabeth claiming sanctuary in Westminster Abbey.

The witchcraft case only failed ultimately because Edward was able to escape his cousin’s clutches in 1470 and the family disagreement patched up (for the time being).  On the 10th February 1470 it was added to the record books that the dowager duchess of Bedford was not in fact a witch and that her accusers were malicious trouble makers.  The story came out of the woodwork again in 1484 when Richard III wanted to use the tale against the Woodvilles – it can be seen in the Titulus Regulus.

Since then much has been made by fiction writers of Jacquetta’s magical abilities from blowing up storms to arranging for a nasty fog.  However, in reality the lady’s biggest mistake was to be an educated woman at a time when being able to read was suspect and being the mother of the most hated family in England (by some powerful factions in any event) did not help.  In the previous generation Good Duke Humphrey’s wife, Eleanor Cobham, was accused of witchcraft as a ploy to bring down Humphrey whilst Henry IV’s second wife Joan of Navarre was also accused of witchcraft – by her step-son no less- as a method of controlling her dower lands.

England did not remain long at peace.  By September 1470 Warwick and Clarence were in Lancastrian colours and Margaret of Anjou had invaded.  Jacquetta returned to sanctuary with Elizabeth and her grandchildren whilst Edward IV and Jacquetta’s son Anthony fled abroad.

Jacquetta died on the 30 May 1472.  She was fifty-six and like Katherine Swynford – her descendents would be English monarchs to this day.

Gregory, Philippa, Baldwin, David and Jones, Michael. (2011) Women of the Cousins’ War.  London: Simon and Schuster

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Monastic fragments- the Jervaulx Screen

IMG_8232.jpgThe Cistercian monks at Jervaulx Abbey in Wensley Dale were renowned for their horse breeding. Their skill brought great wealth which was a tad tricky for a group of people who’d taken vows of poverty.

Jervaulx’s last abbot, Adam Sedbar, was a sensible man.  He did not wish to rebel against Henry VIII.  When news reached him that the so-called pilgrims of the Pilgrimage of Grace were heading in his direction in 1536 he fled the abbey and went into hiding on Witton Fell. He only came out of hiding when the pilgrims threatened to destroy the abbey – somewhat contrary to their avowed intention of restoring them. Sedbar eventually made his way to Castle Bolton and Lord Scrope where he took no further part in events.

Despite his best attempts to remain uninvolved it was too good an opportunity for Cromwell to miss. Sedbar was implicated in the Pilgrimage and found himself in the Tower of London on treason charges. His name can still be found carved into the masonry of his prison.  The main witness against him was Ninian Staveley, one of his own monks, who was up to his neck in rebellion.  He informed on his abbot in an attempt to save his own life. The abbey and the abbot were both erased in 1537; the abbey and its estates being passed to the crown through the attainder passed against Sedbar.

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img_8224These days Jervaulx is a picturesque ruin but there is one other remarkable survival to see in St Andrew’s Church, Aysgarth.  The rood screen, so the handy guide in the church tells me, is from the Ripon School of Carving.  In fact when I looked closer I recognised the elephant on the Jervaulx screen as an old friend from Ripon Cathedral. The screen, renovated by those pesky Victorians, is beautiful but it does rather question the Cistercian rule of austerity.  The screen must have been even more spectacular when it was first installed. There’s a frieze of foliage and animals running the length of the screen – that’s where the elephant can be found- as well as a dragon, a fox, a boar, an antelope, an eagle and a lion.  The message is clear if you’re a medieval church goer.  You’re being reminded of all those sins out there waiting to trip you up.  Apparently the antelope is a warning against drink and lustfulness on account of the fact that his horns are entangled in the foliage around him. Oddly enough I wouldn’t have known that unless I’d read it in the handy guide – clearly the medieval mind was much more switched on to visual symbolism.

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IMG_8237.JPGSymbolism was the least of Aysgarth’s worries. As Tudor England became more Protestant it became more dangerous for the parishioners to keep the Jervaulx screen and the original loft and statues which accompanied it.  In 1567 several churchwardens were required to do penance  for having hidden old papist relics.  The screen inevitably was badly damaged in the ensuing centuries.  It was once part of a much larger edifice.  The statues that belonged with it were burned.

 

But how did the screen get to Aysgarth?  The right to present the living of the church and take an income or advowson to give it it’s correct name belonged to Jervaulx up until the suppression of the monasteries.  One theory is that the monks seeing which way the wind was blowing transported the choir screen to the church in an attempt to save something of their abbey.  Perhaps the screen was the most beautiful thing they had in their monastery and they wished to preserve it – but that is speculation.  In the second version of the story the parishioners of Aysgarth purchased the screen upon Jervaulx’s suppression.  Either way a thing of great beauty from the days of  England’s monasteries survives tucked away in the Yorkshire dales.

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As for the rest of the monks, well their reputations as breeders of horses saw them provided with employment in Middleham Castle as well as in receipt of their monastic pensions.

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Richard III windows Leicester Cathedral

IMG_7218It’s more than a year since King Richard III was reinterred at Leicester Cathedral in March 2015 after famously being discovered under a car park.

In addition to the rather large slab of Swaledale stone fashioned to represent a sarcophagus there are two fine new windows in the north side of St Katherine’s chapel designed by artist Thomas Denny which are truly beautiful.

The reds and golds are particularly eye-catching.  The more you look; the more you see. There’s even a football in the window for those who look carefully enough – a reminder of Leicester’s successful 2015-2016 football season.

I love the window depicting Leicester’s archeology including mosaics, Saxon treasure and  a skeleton – presumably Richard’s.IMG_7242The window on the left shows women tending to bodies in the aftermath of battle – Bosworth, although it could, of course, be any Wars of the Roses field. Above the women a window depicts a body slung over a horse reflecting Richard’s last undignified journey back to Leicester. Study of his skeleton revealed that his body was not treated honourably in the aftermath of his death.

The central panel depicts the road to Emmaus.  Above this scene young man learns to ride a horse at Middleham Castle and three children play at Fotheringay. Richard was born in Fotheringay Castle in 1452 and grew up in Middleham in the care of his Neville relations who held Middleham at that time.  Later it would become his own home.

IMG_7243The window on the right depicts Richard and Anne Neville mourning the death of their son Edward of Middleham who died on April 9 1484.  Richard’s journey through the shadow of the Valley of Death continued with the death of Anne in March 1485.  Richard was dead five months later.  Above the main panels there’s a boar – Richard’s emblem; the Battle of Tewkesbury and Kirkby Muxloe built by Lord Hastings.  There’s an oak and a castle representing a kingdom.  Richard became king in 1483 after serving his brother Edward IV loyally throughout his life.  Richard’s motto was “Loyalty binds me.”

Richard  reigned for two years. He was the last Yorkist Plantagenet king of England. It is the events leading up to his claiming the kingdom and the disappearance of his two nephews which focus people’s attention away from the loyal and good service that he fulfilled on his brother’s behalf. There’s a discarded crown as well in the main panel on the right as well as an orb and sceptre. Richard can be seen riding across Leicester’s bridge on his way to battle.

Half a millennia after Shakespeare’s hatchet job on the last Plantagenet kingIMG_7244, Richard III has acquired a breath taking monument which seeks to redress the balance.  I’m not saying the man was a saint – he was a medieval king and generally speaking they probably weren’t the type of people you’d wish to meet down a dark alley but neither was he the monster that the Tudors portrayed. Politics was a bloody and brutal affair-just ask Lord Hastings who was summarily executed for reasons we don’t fully understand even today and equally consider Francis, Lord Lovell who remained loyal to Richard when all hope was lost.

DSC_0055.jpgI’m not sure it it was intentDSC_0055.jpgonal or not but knowing the story of Richard III and his missing nephews I found it impossible to look at the Emmaus scene without pondering on the fates of King Edward V and his brother Richard of York – although the two young men are too old to be the princes their presence is something that continues to haunt Richard’s history.  Whether the question as to what happened to the princes will ever be answered is another matter – and generally speaking there’s nothing like a conspiracy theory to keep writers and academics in employment.

 

But that’s not to say the truth won’t eventually surface. We now know that Richard III wasn’t the hunchbacked monster of Tudor propaganda but that he did have scoliosis which developed as he grew to maturity – so a sort of middle ground between two differing historical views. Perhaps more than anything Richard III was the one thing which no medieval king could afford to be – ultimately unlucky.  He was the last English king to die on the battlefield.  Henry Tudor dated his reign to the day before Bosworth to ensure an act of attainder hung over the heads of all the nobility who’d been loyal to Richard.

But for all that, the one medieval king who most people can name whether they’re interested in history or not is King Richard III.

A trip to Leicester can also involve a visit to Bosworth Field and Kirkby Muxloe Castle.  There’s even a Richard III experience opposite the cathedral though I must admit I didn’t avail myself of that particular facility. I was more than happy with Thomas Denny’s windows.

 

 

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Nicholas and Ralph Fitzherbert – a glimpse of the Wars of the Roses.

DSCF1562Norbury in Derbyshire is mentioned in the Domesday Book. By 1125 it was in the hands of the Fitzherbert family who initially rented the estate from Tutbury Priory. The remains of the Fitzherbert’s medieval hall stands next door to the church. It was in this building, according to George Elliot’s imagination that milk maid Hetty Sorrel could be found. Historically speaking the building is a mishmash of reconstruction including a beam dated to 1483. One side of the beam is beautifully worked the other, not meant for public view, is still covered by bark.

The Fitzherberts built a fine hall and an even finer church. The glass dated originally from the beginning of the fourteenth century – not much of it remains but the chancel is a beautiful ‘lantern’ flooded by light on three sides. Three alabaster tombs dominate the church. The stone came from just nine miles away and with the right camera traces of the original paints can still be glimpsed.

IMG_6007Nicholas Fitzherbert, shown left, died in 1473. He was the eleventh lord. He’s wearing a collar decorated with suns and roses. The suns are representative of the sun in splendor reflecting Edward’s victory at Mortimer’s Cross in 1461 when a parhelion, which could have struck mortal dread into his army, was used by Edward as a sign of forthcoming victory – each one of the suns represented one the Earl of March’s surviving sons – Edward, George and Richard. The roses are, of course, the white roses of York. At the bottom of Nicholas’s collar, a pendant can be glimpsed beneath marble hands raised in prayer. It is a pendant of a lion. The white lion is representative of the House of March – and Edward’s Mortimer descent: a reminder that the House of York came from a line senior to that of the House of Lancaster. Anne Mortimer, Edward IV’s grandmother, was the great-granddaughter of Lionel of Antwerp. He was the second son of Edward III.IMG_5997

So Nicholas, even in death, is declaring his allegiance to the House of York. He is also fully dressed in plate armour and his head rests on his helm but as Mercer states in The Medieval Gentry: Power, Leadership and Choice During the Wars of the Roses history does not know what Nichols’s role was during the Wars of the Roses or how he demonstrated his loyalty to Edward IV.

One thing is sure, livery badges as these collars are often known were important indicators of political affiliation during the Wars of the Roses. It is known that King Richard III gave away huge numbers of his livery badges made from cloth at the time of his coronation in 1483.   Richard’s personal badge – the white boar- a play on the Latin ebor  meaning York and a reminder of Richard’s northern powerbase has been found on pendants and hat badges across the country including Richard’s home at Middleham Castle in Yorkshire.

IMG_5973In Norbury, on the opposite side of the chancel from Nicholas there is a second alabaster tomb. It depicts Nicholas’s son Ralph, shown left and in the first picture in this post, and his wife. Like his father Nicholas is wearing a collar depicting suns and roses but the pendant is different. Nestled under Ralph’s hands is a tiny boar. Ralph died in 1483 shortly after making his will requesting that he should be buried in Norbury Church so he could not know that a mere two years later the white boar would be evidence of untrustworthiness so far as the new Tudor kings of England were concerned.

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The Fitzherberts did not thrive under the Tudors; not because of their Yorkist fealties but because of their Catholicism. Like many of the old established families the Fitzherberts were conservative in their religious beliefs.  By the reign of Elizabeth I the Fitzherberts faced severe financial penalities for their continued beliefs and Sir Thomas Fitzherbert would spend thirty years in prison because of his faith.

Mercer, Malcolm. (2012). The Medieval Gentry: Power, Leadership and Choice During the Wars of the Roses. London: Continuum Books.

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Filed under Church Architecture, Fifteenth Century, Kings of England, Wars of the Roses

Ribald of Middleham

388a8dd5ca26ea292479e9883b0a69caThe land around Middleham was given to Alan The Red. Alan built a wooden motte-and-bailey castle, 500 yards to the south-west of where the present castle stands, on a site known as William’s Hill. It can be seen from the current keep. It was built to guard Coverdale and to protect the road from Richmond to Skipton.

By the time of the Domesday Book in 1086 Middleham had been granted to Alan the Red’s brother Ribald. Two generations later Alan’s grandson, Robert FitzRibald built a new castle which featured a massive stone keep . The keep, one of the largest in England, had twelve-foot thick walls and three floors; for its time, this would have provided palatial accommodation. It contained a great chamber, large kitchen, chapel, dovecot, cellars and the living rooms of the lord of Middleham.  No wonder it was so popular with one of its later inhabitants – The Duke of Gloucester a.k.a. Richard III.  The castle came to be known as The Windsor of the North.

But what of Ribald?  He appears to have been born circa 1050 and died in 1121 in St Mary’s Abbey York where he had withdrawn after the death of his wife, Beatrix de Tallebois in 1110.  He lived the final years of his life as a monk in Benedictine habits – hence the illustration. His lands, and he benefitted from being Alan’s brother – click on the image to see a list of lands he owned at the time of the Domesday Book- were passed to his son Ralph FitzRibald.  Four generations later the family line ended but not before the daughters of the family had married into the Percy and Bigod families.

Incidentally, the word ‘ribald’ referring to a coarse or vulgar person doesn’t make an appearance in the language until the thirteenth century and it came from the French word ‘riber’ meaning to live licentiously; it seems to have almost referred to a certain kind of henchman when it was first used.

 Ribald was almost a class name in the feudal system . .
      . He was his patron's parasite, bulldog, and tool . . .
      It is not to be wondered at that the word rapidly
      became a synonym for everything ruffianly and brutal.
                                               --Earle.
http://www.hyperdictionary.com/dictionary/ribald

Sadly, my Oxford Dictionary of Baby names doesn't offer any 
clue as to the origins or meaning of the name Ribald.

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Alan of Brittany

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Richmond Castle is exceptionally impressive, towering at over 300 ft, it is also one of Britain’s oldest stone keeps.  There has been one on this site since 1088 . Richmond was granted to Alan the Red, Count of Brittany in 1071.  Alan was a relation of William the Conqueror, a second cousin.  His father was Count Odo of Brittany. He was part of Duke William of Normandy’s household and was at the Battle of Hastings commanding the Breton contingent.

As a consequence, Alan was an extremely rich and powerful man – a position that he improved upon when he helped to quell the rebellion in the North in 1069.  Click on the image of Richmond Castle to open a new page listing all of Alan’s lands in the Domesday Book. He founded St Mary’s Abbey in York.  His power base was the north and his building work demonstrates how important it was for him to make his mark upon the landscape.  He also built the first castle at Middleham which was in the hands of his brother.  By the time of his death he was the fourth largest landowner in England.5-alan-rufus

His ambitions included marriage to the King of Scotland’s daughter Edith also known as Matilda.  William the Conqueror saw this as a step too far but somehow or other Alan had become entangled with another royal lady during this time.  Edith was living at the nunnery of Wilton.  It appears that King Harold’s daughter Gunnhild was living there as well.  She may well have been sent there for her education as well as her own protection.

Alan’s plans for Edith fell through but apparently Gunnhild took herself off to Richmond to be with Alan.  Seems straight forward?  Well, it would be if there was only one source involved – did she go willingly or was she abducted?  Was she a nun or was she simply living in a nunnery as many well-born women did? Was it love or was it a match between a Saxon and a Norman to secure for Alan the lands that came to Gunnhild via her mother (Edith Swanneck)?  If the latter was the case, then Alan was seeking to secure some of his lands not just by conquest but also by union with the woman whose lands they rightfully were.

When Alan died in 1093, shortly after he carried off Gunnhild, his estates went first to his brother, the imaginatively named, Alan the Black and then to their younger brother Stephen.

As for Gunnhild, having eloped from her nunnery, she was in no hurry to return so she took up with Alan the Black and earned a stinging rebuke from Archbishop Anselm.

There is also the intriguing possibility that the dates given above are not the correct ones and that the correct story occurs much earlier. She and Alan eloped in the 1070s rather than just before Alan’s death.  This isn’t as far-fetched as it seems.  After all there are different accounts as to when he died – one gives the date as 1089 when he was very much alive.  If the dates for the match are earlier then it is possible that the couple had a daughter called Matilda who was married to Walter d’Agincourt. Matilda gave large gifts of land at the time of her marriage to Lincoln Cathedral – these were all the property of Alan the Red. This version would, perhaps, also account for the seemingly dramatic swapping of one Alan for another.

Gunnhild is a chance discovery when I was researching Alan the Red to find out more about the man who built Richmond Castle.  She’s sitting on the margins of history and once again the moth-holed accounts are tantalizingly incomplete.

Sources:

Sharpe, Richard. “King Harold’s Daughter”  The Haskins Society Journal 19: 2007. Studies in Medieval History

 edited by Stephen Morillo, William North.  This can be accessed via Google Books and makes for fascinating reading.

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