Constance of York

Conisburgh Castle – An English Heritage property.

Constance was the only daughter of Edmund of Langley and Isabella of Castile. She was born at Conisburgh Castle – probably in 14374. Four years later she was betrothed to Edward le Despenser – who inconveniently died so she promptly became the betrothed of his brother Thomas. The pair were the great-grandson’s of Isabella of France’s lover – the ones who toppled Edward II from power – despite this they were still one of the wealthiest families in the country. Richard II gave Thomas the title Earl of Gloucester but this was stripped from him by Henry IV – leaving him as Baron Despenser of Glamorgan.

In 1392 Isabella of Castile died and Edmund of Langley married a bride who was younger than his daughter – Joan Holland (I’m starting to think that there must be at least one Holland in every post.) And just so we’re clear about this she was the daughter of Thomas Holland, Earl of Kent but the niece of John Holland who I mentioned in the previous post as being Isabella of Castile’s lover…not sure how that’s covered by papal dispensation.

The couple had several children but not all survived until adulthood. Richard survive to marry a cousin – Eleanor Neville the daughter of Joan Beaufort and the Earl of Westmorland – who I have posted about previously: https://thehistoryjar.com/2018/04/03/joan-beauforts-descendants-eleanor-neville-countess-of-northumberland/ He died without heirs. His title passed to his sister Isabella (a posthumous child) who was married twice, firstly to the Earl of Worcester and secondly to the Earl of Warwick – both men were called Richard Beauchamp. The latter marriage produced a daughter Anne. Anne was a wealthy heiress with both Despencer and Beauchamp lands. She married one of her Neville cousins who took the title of Earl of Warwick by right of his wife. History knows him as the Kingmaker. Constance’s great grand daughter Anne became queen of England when her husband the Duke of Gloucester (yet another cousin) became Richard III.

Just as Edmund of Langley and his sons were loyal to Richard II, so was Constance and her husband Thomas le Despenser. Unfortunately this meant that when Henry of Bolingbroke deposed his cousin that Constance’s family were left rather disgruntled. Thomas took part in the Epiphany Rising of 1400 and was executed in Bristol where he was captured as he attempted to flee – leaving Constance as the wife of an attainted traitor and totally reliant on her cousin Henry IV. There was also the fact that Constance’s brother Edward of Norwich was probably the person who betrayed the plot to Henry IV.

In 1405 Constance who had attained a position as governess to her Mortimer relations (Edmund Mortimer the young 5th Earl of March and rightful king in the eyes of many and his younger brother) absconded with them from Windsor to take them to their uncle in Wales.The refugees were recaptured a week later and the Earl of March found himself in closer confinement. Constance also implicated her brother Edward of Norwich in the plot – he was imprisoned for seventeen weeks. Again, this is recapping events which readers of the History Jar may well remember from earlier posts: https://thehistoryjar.com/2014/09/16/edmund-mortimer-5th-earl-of-march-from-the-house-of-mortimer-to-the-house-of-york/

There is another child – Constance had an affair with Edmund Holland the 4th Earl of Kent – her step-mother’s brother. A daughter resulted. Eleanor, was born at Kenilworth Castle in about 1405. She later married James Touchet, Lord Audley. Throughout her life she insisted that she was legitimate – that Constance and Edmund had married just as Joan of Ken had married by a verbal exchange of vows followed by consummation. The Holland family utterly refused to accept this.

I’ve posted about Constance before: https://thehistoryjar.com/tag/constance-of-york/

Next the descendants of Thomas of Woodstock. As for the descendants of Edmund of Langley it is apparent from their histories that the Wars of the Roses in the Fifteenth Century which people at the time called the Cousins War had been simmering for three generations.

Edmund of Langley – Duke of York – Plantagenet family ties

Richard of Conisburgh

Edmund was born the year after John of Gaunt at Langley in Hertfordshire. When he was twenty-one he was created the Earl of Cambridge. He was created Duke of York by his nephew in 1385.

Edmund married twice. His first marriage was to Isabella of Castile. She was the sister of Constanza of Castile who was John of Gaunt’s second wife – he claimed the kingdom of Castile by right of his wife who was the elder of the sisters. Edward III had sought to marry Edmund into the royal house of Flanders during the period when he was looking to provide wealth and title to his sons but in 1372 Edmund married Isabella. By that time he was about 31 and Isabella was about 16.

It doesn’t appear to have been a very happy marriage if Isabella’s will is anything to go by. She died in 1392. She left property to her children, to Richard II and to the Duke of Lancaster but nothing to her husband. Despite this the pair had three children: Edward of Norwich born in 1373, Constance born in 1374 and Richard born in 1375 at Conisburgh Castle.

The chronicler Thomas of Walsingham was rather sniffy about Isabella’s morals. The reason for this is that Isabella had an affair with John Holland (they do get everywhere don’t they?) John Holland was the Duke of Exeter and Richard II’s half brother (executed in 1400). The affair appears to have started in 1374 which raised an interesting question about the legitimacy of Richard of Conisburgh who was the grandfather of Edward IV and Richard III. Remember though that even if he wasn’t Edmund’s son, and indeed Edmund left him nothing in his will, the Yorkist claim to the throne came from Richard’s marriage to Anne Mortimer – a descendant of Lionel of Antwerp rather than the York connection which was the junior line because Edmund of Langley was a younger brother.

Perhaps I’d better go back to the start with this one. John Holland has cropped up in a recent post because he had to marry John of Gaunt’s daughter Elizabeth when she became pregnant by him. This caused a scandal because her first marriage had to be annulled, her husband was too young to have consummated the marriage, so that she could marry John. John’s affair with Isabella was before he seduced Elizabeth. Even Chaucer wrote about about the affair – he describes Mars (John) kissing Venus (Isabella) but it would seem that whilst it was an open secret Edmund did acknowledge his youngest son and the affair fizzled out.

Isabella gave the bulk of her estate to Richard II when she died but asked that her youngest son should be provided by the king with a pension. Richard of Conisburgh was the king’s godson as well as being a royal cousin. The allowance that was granted was £500 but it was only paid occasionally and after the deposition of Richard II, Richard of Conisburgh was reliant on the generosity of another cousin Henry of Bolingbroke who was now Henry IV. Unfortunately Edmund of Langley and his children were counter appellants and had benefited from Richard II banishing Henry. They had been granted some of his lands for example.

Not only was this impecunious younger son not mentioned in Edmund of Langley’s will but Edward of Norwich also failed to mention him in his will either – Richard had been executed shortly before Edward’s death due to his part in the Southampton Plot which sought to depose Henry V. Richard was executed on 5th August 1415 for his part in the plot. Edward of Norwich was killed on 25 October 1415 at the Battle of Agincourt (he had no heirs.)

The Black Prince – children and heir

black princeThe Black Prince, Edward of Woodstock, did not get married until 1361 when he was thirty.  He chose to marry his first cousin once removed – Joan of Kent who was a few years older than him.  She had already been married twice before, once bigamously.  The pair married and had two children: Edward of Anglôume born in 1365 who died when he was five and Richard of Bordeaux born in 1367.

Richard_II_King_of_England

Richard of Bordeaux became Richard II when he was ten-years-old.  He was married twice; first to Anne of Bohemia and secondly to Isabella of Valois. His second marriage was very unpopular as it was part of a long term truce with the French and his new queen was still a child so unable to fulfil the essential crate for a medieval queen – namely to provide an heir.  Neither wife bore Richard a child. The legitimate line of the Black Prince comes to an end.

There is a theory that most of us are related somehow or other to Edward II. From the legitimate family tree it is clear that the Black Prince was not responsible for the proliferation of Plantagenets but he also had a number of illegitimate children. His mistress Edith of Willesford gave him a son Roger of Clarendon (1352-1402). Other women also gave birth to his sons: Edward and John.

Roger of Clarendon was regarded favourably, as many other illegitimate sons have been throughout royal history.  He received an annuity of £100 from Edward III. He married the heiress of the Baron de la Roche which should have set him up rather nicely but unfortunately she died without children and her land was distributed between her cousins. Meanwhile Roger managed to get himself imprisoned in Wallingford Castle by his half-brother Richard II for killing someone in a duel.  He escaped and was only recaptured once Henry IV was on the throne. Rather then being executed for murder he was executed for treason having attempted to depose the new monarch and reinstall Richard II (who popular rumour placed as being alive and well in Scotland) so was executed along with his squire, valet, eight Franciscan Friars and the prior of Laund  in 1402.  They are identified in Foxes Book of Martyrs and also in Holinshed’s Chronicle. Murreyandblue makes the point he might not have been actively attempting to depose Henry IV he might just have been rash enough to repeat rumour at a point when Henry IV was feeling a tad beleaguered.

Edward is listed by Weir as dying young. Weir along with the Journal of Medieval History identify Sir John Sounder who claimed to be the son of the Black Prince.  France makes the point that Froissart isn’t confidant of Sir John’s surname and provides two alternatives leading him to wonder whether the figure is representative rather than actual.

Next Lionel of Antwerp’s descendant and things become slightly more complicated!

France, John.  Journal of Medieval Military History, Volume 10 (pp95-96)

Marchant, Alicia. The Revolt of Owain Glyndwr in Medieval English Chronicles

Weir, Alison. (1999)  Britain’s Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy London: The Bodley Head

Sir Roger of Clarendon

Untangling family links between the Lords Appellant and Richard II

Richard_II_King_of_England

King Richard II

The relationships between the children of Edward III, their spouses and their descendants ultimately resulted in the Wars of the Roses.  During the reigns of Richard II and Henry IV various families with royal blood in their veins jockeyed for power, position and wealth.  Some of this vying for power was through political negotiation.  There were the inevitable marriages for land and to tie families together and of course there were rebellions.

There are so many strands that it’s difficult to know where to start.

 

This evening  I shall take a “random” look at the Lords Appellants who sought to impeach  Richard II’s favourites in 1386 and ultimately managed to control the king as a figurehead without any real power until Richard’s uncle John of Gaunt returned to England in 1389 having been absent during the period of turmoil.  There were five Lords Appellant.  The three primary appellants were Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester; Richard FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel and Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick.

ThomasWoodstock

Thomas of Woodstock: London, British Library Cotton MS Nero D.VIII, f. 0

Thomas of Woodstock was the youngest surviving son of Edward III and Philippa of Hainhault – Richard II’s uncle.  He was also the uncle of the fourth Appellant Henry of Bolingbroke Earl of Derby and Hereford.  Henry was John of Gaunt’s son.  He and Richard were first cousins.  Indeed there was only three months between them so as Ian Mortimer says in his biography of Henry IV the two of them must have been well acquainted.

 

Richard FitzAlan, the Earl of Arundel‘s mother was Eleanor of Lancaster, a great grand-daughter of Henry III.  He was also related though the maternal line to the Beauchamps.  His wife was Mary de Bohun’s aunt.  Mary de Bohun was married to Henry of Bolingbroke, Earl of Derby.    I’m not going to work out the exact relationship but there’s a tangled knot of cousinship and in-lawship – so best to describe him as part of the extended kinship of Richard II.

Thomas Beauchamp, the 12th Earl of Warwick was the son of Katherine Mortimer.  His grandfather was Roger Mortimer, the Earl of March who became Isabella of France’s lover and deposed her husband King Edward II.  So far so good, however, the Mortimers had married into the Plantagenet family when Edward III’s granddaughter Philippa, Countess of Ulster married Edmund Mortimer.  Edmund was the grandson of Roger Mortimer mentioned earlier in this paragraph.

Feeling slightly dizzy?  Well just to knot the families even more firmly together Philippa and Edmund Mortimer had four children.  One of these children (the great grandchildren of Edward III),  was a daughter also called Philippa (she was first cousin once removed of Richard II if you want to be picky). She became the second wife of  Richard FitzAlan, the Earl of Arundel…yes, the Lord Appellant.  Elizabeth de Bohun died in 1385.  The marriage to Philippa took place in 1390 after the Lords Appellant had been forced to allow Richard to regain his power.  The marriage was without royal licence and the earl was fined for not asking the king for Philippa’s hand first.

richard2mowbray2.jpg

Richard II creating Thomas Mowbray Earl Marshal in 1386. British Library Cotton MS NERO D VI f.85r

For neatness sake the fifth Lord Appellant was Thomas Mowbray, the Earl of Nottingham.  He was descended from Edward I – so another cousin of sorts. His wife was the Earl of Arundel’s daughter Elizabeth by his first wife Elizabeth de Bohun – making her a first cousin of Henry of Bolingbroke’s wife Mary de Bohun. You might find it helpful to draw a diagram!

If nothing else it becomes apparent that everyone powerful during this period was related to the other leading families in the land either through blood or through marriage.  Interactions between historical figures of this period lay in the overlap between familial interaction and political interaction – the one influencing the other.

With that in mind I shall spend the period between now and Christmas exploring familial Plantagenet links – preferably with diagrams and possibly a large gin!  You can read the posts with a drink of your choice in hand!

Mortimer, Ian. The Fears of Henry IV

Weir, Alison.  British Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy

 

The Holland family -from medieval gentry to dukes – part one.

220px-Thomas_Holland_1430.jpgThe story of the Holland family begins with Robert de Holland from Upholland in Lancashire.  He was born about 1283. He was a trusted part of Thomas of Lancaster’s household.  He benefitted from being within the Lancaster affinity by acquiring land as well as a wife in the form of Maud de Zouche – a co-heiress.

He fought at Boroughbridge in 1322 but not on the side of the earl who was in rebellion against his cousin the king.  This may well have been because Edward II was holding one of Robert’s daughters hostage at the time. However, the Lancaster faction were not quick to forgive the fact that the second earl was executed in Pontefract soon after the battle and that Robert, one of his most trusted men, had been a traitor to the earl’s cause.

Thomas of Lancaster was succeeded by his younger brother – Henry of Lancaster. Time passed.  On 15 October 1328 Robert Holland, or Holand, was at Borehamwood.  Unfortunately so were a number of Lancaster supporters.  There was an argument.  Robert was beheaded.

Thomas, Robert’s eldest son pictured at the start of this post in his garter robes, served Edward III. He was a man of no substantial wealth.  His mother Maud had to borrow money so he could be outfitted as a knight. However, it would appear that Thomas had a great deal of charm, not to mention nerve and persistence.  He wooed and won Edward III’s young cousin Joan of Kent.  They married in a secret exchange of vows when she was eleven or twelve.  He was more than ten years older than Joan.  It would take another nine years, a bigamous marriage and a papal decree before he was allowed to live with his bride.

Thomas’s fortunes really changed when Joan’s brother died.  He had no other heirs so Joan became the Countess of Kent in her own right (suo jure).  Thomas effectively became an earl through the right of his wife.  Thomas who had a proven military  track record by this time now had the money and the position in society to fulfil a leading military role in the Hundred Years War. Thomas and Joan’s eldest son another Thomas became a baron after his father’s death but did not become the 2nd Holland Earl of Kent until Joan died in 1385.

wiz33vab_medium.jpgThomas died in December 1360.  The following year his widow married her cousin Edward, the Black Prince.  The Holland children now had access to patronage with a very heavy clout.  Thomas (Joan’s son) gained a wealthy and aristocratic bride from the FitzAlan family.   More importantly it was the Hollands’ half-brother, Richard, who ascended the throne after Edward III died in 1377.

Thomas and John Holland were loyal to their half brother, Richard II, and benefited from their close ties – John even managed to get away with murder.  The Holland family found themselves spouses from some of the wealthiest families in the country, had the ear and trust of the Crown and continued to thrive whilst Richard II was on the throne.  The second earl’s son, another Thomas not only became the 3rd Earl of Kent but from 1397 the 1st Duke of Surrey.  This was a reward for loyalty.  Thomas had arrested his FitzAlan uncle on behalf of his royal uncle Richard II.   Perhaps because he felt a bit guilty about it he the founded of Mount Grace Priory in Yorkshire the following year.

It is perhaps unsurprising that when Richard II was deposed by Henry of Bolingbroke – Richard’s first cousin and the Hollands’ first cousin once removed- that they found themselves being demoted.  The dukedom had to be handed back.  As a consequence Thomas Holland the 3rd earl of Kent became involved with the Epiphany Rising of 1400.  He was executed.  He had no children.

holland1exeter.jpg0bea27da411458b11f502fb7d52aad65.jpgThomas’s uncle John (Joan’s second son) was executed at the same time.  John Holland had married another wealthy royal cousin, Elizabeth of Lancaster (John of Gaunt’s daughter).  This may have been because of the Black Prince’s patronage and it may have been because his mother Joan of Kent got on well with her cousin John of Gaunt.  John became Earl of Huntingdon in 1388 and in 1397 became the Duke of Exeter.  He was also involved in removing Richard II’s enemies.  In John’s case not only had he arrested his uncle Richard FitzAlan (the 11th Earl of Arundel) he has gone to Calais to arrest Thomas of Woodstock, Richard’s youngest Royal uncle. Thomas had died whilst in Calais as pictured in Froissart – the story involves a mattress…

When Richard II fell from power John was stripped of his dukedom but was allowed to retain his earldom by his brother-in-law the new king Henry IV.  This double relationship did not stop John from being involved in the Epiphany Rising of 1400 nor did it prevent his execution.

For the moment the fortunes of the Holland family looked bleak. It would continue to be dubious until 1415 when John Holland’s son, another John, would be able to regain the dukedom of Exeter from Henry V after the Battle of Agincourt. He would also continue the family tradition of marrying someone who was a cousin in a degree that required papal dispensation and which kept his family close to the line of succession!

Hicks, Michael.  Whose who in Medieval History

P.S. A family tree will be forthcoming at some point soon.

 

 

 

 

 

Lords Appellant leaping

Richard_II_King_of_EnglandTo leap is to make a sudden movement it can also mean to swiftly provide help or protection.  Neither, if I am honest is very helpful in terms of my leaping lords for this post!  So, there’s no help for it I shall have to cheat:

 

The five lords who made a sudden move against Richard II in 1387 to control his tendencies towards tyranny were called the Lords Appellant because they called upon parliament through legal procedure called an appeal of treason to prosecute Richard II’s favourites – the first three were the Duke of Gloucester (the king’s uncle known as Thomas of Woodstock), Richard FitzAlan Earl of Arundel and  Thomas de Beauchamp Earl of Warwick.  They were joined in their desire to restrain the king’s behaviour by Henry Bolingbroke who was Earl of Derby at that time and also Thomas de Mowbray the Earl of Nottingham.

These men successfully formed a commission for a year to rule the kingdom and at the end of that year they fought a battle with Robert de Vere, the earl of Oxford and the most influential of Richard’s despised favourites. As a result of the Battle of Radcot Bridge Richard II found himself a medieval monarch without much in the way of power and his other favourites found themselves in something of a tight spot. And so it might have continued had Henry Bolingbroke’s father John of Gaunt not returned to England in 1389 from Spain breaking the power of the Lords Appellant.  It took Richard until 1397 to regain all his kingly powers and to begin to exact his revenge.

Where men have more than one title they are known by the most senior title from duke via marquess, earl and viscount to baron.  If a member of the nobility inherits or is granted a superior title to the one he already holds he is known by the more important title hence forth but keep any others he has accrued – think of it as a form of  “top trumps.”  This can be a little bit on the confusing side when reading around a subject as historically people are known by their title e.g. Henry of Bolingbroke is known as Derby.  When their title changes, their name is recorded differently e.g. Hereford. The person is the same but it isn’t immediately obvious. It is a useful method of dating a primary source but it can take some getting used to.

thomas mowbray.jpgLet us begin.  The earl of Nottingham, Thomas de Mowbray, managed to eventually find his way back into Richard II’s good books by helping to get rid of another  Lord Appellant.  It is likely that Mowbray helped with the murder of the Duke of Gloucester in 1397 – he had a nasty accident in Calais.  As a result of this Richard elevated him from being the Earl of Nottingham to the first Mowbray Duke of Norfolk – so we’ll count him as two lords for the time being given his key titles.  It didn’t end well for de Mowbray though as he had an argument with Bolingbroke presumably about killing off co-conspirators. Bolingbroke reported de Mowbray’s comments to the king  and there was another argument. They were due to fight a duel in Coventry to resolve the matter but Richard banished them both in 1398. De Mowbray was exiled for life.  He died in Venice in 1399 of Plague.

Henry IVHenry of Bolingbroke initially got away with his involvement with the Lords Appellant after Richard regained power because of the importance of Henry’s father John of Gaunt.  Bolingbroke can also be counted a second time because Richard made him the Duke of Hereford during the lull in proceedings.  Upon the death of John of Gaunt Richard changed Henry ‘s sentence to life in exile and he kept John of Gaunt’s land for himself rather than allowing Henry the revenue.  It was for this reason that Henry returned to England, ostensibly to reclaim the duchy of Lancaster which had been his father’s.  From there it was one short step to becoming Henry IV.

Thomas de Beauchamp Earl of Warwick had only the one title so we shall leave him alone and be grateful for small mercies.  FitzAlan was not only earl of Arundel, he was also earl of Surrey – so he counts twice giving us seven titles thus far.

It is perhaps not surprising that as a king’s son the Duke of Gloucester had more than his fair share of titles.  He was also the first earl of Buckingham and the first earl of Essex – bringing us to a nice round ten.

Unsurprisingly many of the men listed above have other titles as well.  I have not counted the fact that de Mowbray became the earl of Norfolk after his grandmother died because he was already the duke of Norfolk. He would have been known by the senior title of duke rather than the more junior earl.

Equally I have not counted the fact that Henry of Bolingbroke was also the Earl of Northampton.  He acquired this title through his wife Mary de Bohun in 1384 and demonstrates rather nicely the matrimonial method for collecting a title. but his own title Earl of Derby was more likely to be used rather than the title of Northampton which was of the same value as the one he already held- remember that aristocratic game of top trumps I mentioned earlier.

 

 

 

 

 

Murder in the Abbey- John of Gaunt style

john of gauntIn 1378 Westminster Abbey had to be closed for several months after  an unfortunate interlude.  Murder had been done in the choir and John of Gaunt was implicated.  It didn’t help his reputation as the abbey had to be reconsecrated.

The back story is important. Two knights called Schakell and Hawle or Hauley had taken a Spanish Count prisoner whilst fighting with the Black Prince during the Hundred Years War – the capture took place in 1367 at the Battle of Najera. A ransom was required for the release of the Count of Denia from Aragon.  This was normal procedure and one of the reasons why going to war was so popular as men were able to make a fortune on the battlefield by capturing wealthy men. The Count was allowed to return to Spain to organise the ransom but had to leave his son, Alphonso, as a hostage. Ten years later Alphonso, who was the count’s eldest son was still in England.

Unfortunately for Schakell and Robert Hawle, who was actually Schakell’s squire John of Gaunt was negotiating for the Crown of Castile.  The fact that a Spanish noble was being held hostage until his pa sent back large sums of cash was not good press. Pressure was applied.  Remember this was only a year after Richard II had become king.  John’s power whilst not absolute was non the less impressive.

The two knights refused to release their prisoner. John had them arrested and sent to the Tower of London to focus their minds.   They managed to escape from the Tower and fled to Westminster Abbey where they claimed sanctuary.

You can probably see where this is going.  Sanctuary was ignored by a group of by the Constable of the Tower, Alan Boxhall. Schakell was captured but Hawle and a monk were murdered in the Choir.  All of which sounds as though it was a mad chase through the street and an action which took place in the heat of the moment.

Unfortunately a royal letter made its way to the Abbot of Westminster demanding that Schakell and Hawle be handed over.  The abbot refused.  And that’s when the Constable made his move – so not the heat of the moment. And he didn’t go with a few men.  He took fifty men into the abbey.

The upshot of this was that Bloxhall and all who were involved were excommunicated apart from the young Richard II, his mother Joan of Kent and of course John of Gaunt which seems a bit rich as it’s not a wild leap of deduction to work out who the plan’s mastermind might have been.

The Wykeham Incident

WilliamOfWykehamEngland, until the Reformation, always had its share of clever clerics – think Cardinals Beaufort and Wolsey for example.  Not only did they hold important places in the Church’s hierarchy they also held the reins of power in State matters as well.  Whilst I’m at it, the other two clerics who people may immediately identify are Thomas Becket who became Henry II’s bête noire and Simon of Sudbury who managed to get himself beheaded by revolting peasants in 1381 – his head is still in Sudbury’s parish church if you’re of a ghoulish turn of mind.

So just who is Wykeham? William  Wykeham is Edward III’s leading cleric and statesman and like the above named gentlemen he had the knack of irritating folk – well mainly John of Gaunt.  Wykeham’s story is an interesting one in that he was not the second son of aristocracy or even a member of the gentry.  Generally his family are described as poor.  His father could afford for him not to labour on the land but it would have been a sacrifice as would the education that replaced manual labour. William’s natural talent was recognised and he must have had a sponsor who helped pay for his education.  William was educated in Winchester and then found employment as a clerk (in minor orders) in Winchester.  By 1349 (just in time for the Black Death) Wykeham was in the employ of the Bishop of Winchester.  This would have brought him into the royal orbit as the bishop was Edward III’s treasurer. Winchester also has close associations with the court so it was a place of opportunity for a gifted young man.

 

Wykeham continued working for the bishop until the mid 1350s at which point he suddenly accrued a number of official roles at court.  He was also made surveyor of the works for Windsor Castle and its park.  He had arrived – the long path to overnight success had been trodden and from now on he made rapid advances in royal service.  He turns up in Calais negotiating the terms of the Treaty of Bretigny in 1360.

Wykeham became more and more influential as the 1360s progressed.  It did not make him very popular with the rest of Edward III’s advisors not least because having decided to undergo ordination he also squirrelled away some very lucrative livings at a point when there was peace with France and the rich pickings of earlier years were not so readily available.  in 1366 on Edward III’s orders he was elected Bishop of Winchester.  He also went on to become Edward’s chancellor.

john of gauntIt seemed as though there would be no stopping him but as ever the currents of political power eddy and swirl.  Parliament ultimately petitioned the king to stop the practice of ecclesiastics having positions of power and not being liable to account for their actions, and that non-clerical laymen should replaced them. An important supporter of this action was John of Gaunt who was not keen on Wykeham – which is a bit rich coming from the man who used Edward III’s increasing infirmity as an opportunity to take control of the court and to reverse reforms made by the king.

In 1371 Gaunt had his way and Wykeham found himself transformed from one of the wealthiest men in the kingdom to being utterly reliant on the charity of his friends when he was kicked out of the See of Winchester and forced to resign the chancellorship. John of Gaunt tried to have Wykeham charged with corruption.

In 1377 when Richard II became king Wykeham received a full pardon although it should be noted that initially Wykeham was specifically excluded from the pardon and it was only after an ecclesiastical uproar that his name was added to the list. He went on to be one of the king’s councillors demonstrating that John of Gaunt did not control the regency council in the way that is often suggested given that he and Wykeham were at loggerheads with one another.  Between 1389 and 1391 Wykeham was Richard II’s chancellor. In 1391 he was back on the case of the war with the French – by now the war was sixty years long on and off.

He died in 1404 having welcomed Henry of Bolingbroke to Winchester in 1400 as king.

So why is Wykeham important? Firstly he isn’t of noble birth – which no doubt caused quite a lot of resentment at the time.  In an age when blood line was all important Wykeham is a role model for the self made man.  He’s symptomatic of changing times.  War and plague as well as some effective patronage opened up possibilities for his advancement. Second, we are used to hearing that Gaunt was all powerful.  In 1377  Gaunt was unable to continue his campaign against Wykeham despite the fact that he is usually depicted as the leading member of the regency council.  And thirdly, the reason usually given for Gaunt’s unrelenting campaign against Wykeham is that allegedly Wykeham spread the rumour that Gaunt was actually the son of a Ghentish butcher rather than Edward III – and well all know how history loves a good conspiracy theory.

 

 

Warkworth Castle, Hotspur and Rebellion against Henry IV

DSC_0030.jpgWarkworth Castle was not always in the hands of the Percy family.  It was presented to them in 1332 by Edward III.  Our interest today is in the 1st earl of Northumberland who was so created at the coronation of Richard II.  The earl’s mother was Mary of Lancaster, a granddaughter of Henry III.  Ultimately the 1st earl sided with his cousin Henry Bolingbroke and helped to topple Richard II from power in 1399.  Henry, who had been exiled by Richard II returned to Ravenspur after his father’s death ostensibly to claim the Duchy of Lancaster which Richard had decided to confiscate upon John of Gaunt’s death.  Richard II was in Ireland at the time of Henry’s arrival at Ravenspur.  Richard returned to England via Wales.  He found himself in Conway Castle having a discussion with the Earl of Northumberland and the Archbishop of Canterbury.  From there he found himself in the Tower of London, deposed by Parliament on an assortment of charges agains this realm and from there sent to Pontefract where he died- either because he was starved, forgotten about or refused to eat.   Henry IV did not see himself as a usurper because legally the throne became vacant when Richard was deposed by Parliament. He had merely stepped up to take the role.

As is the way of these things relations soured between the Earl of Northumberland and Henry IV. Given that there were family links as well as ties of affinity and education it is perhaps unexpected. However, this is where the story becomes more complicated and not just in terms of the politics of power.  Hotspur was married to Elizabeth Mortimer.  The Mortimers were descended from Lionel of Antwerp who was John of Gaunt’s older brother – thus even though the throne may have been legally vacant Henry Bolingbroke really and truly shouldn’t have become king. The title should have gone to the earl of March – Edmund Mortimer- who was the son of Elizabeth Mortimer’s brother Roger who had been killed by the Irish in 1398.  Edmund who was a rather youthful eight at the time. Realpolitik must have noted that Richard II’s minority hadn’t been without its issues. Better a grown man than a youth.

DSC_0042.jpgNow in 1403 the initially pro-Lancastrian Percies needed a reason to turn against Henry IV as they discovered that their courses were not running in parallel.  They had initially supported Henry Bolingbroke to regain what was rightfully his but he had then taken matters further and toppled Richard II from the throne – or so they said- demonstrating the History is about stories and that one person’s story is another person’s work of fiction.  Having been badly disappointed in Henry IV who had taken what was not his, the Percies now decided that it was only right and proper that they help put Mortimer on the throne.

It should be noted that Henry IV had not treated Mortimer or his younger brother badly. They were in receipt of a good education and were, for part of the time raised with the king’s own children.  Matters became complicated when Hotspur’s brother-in-law, Sir Edmund Mortimer, managed to get himself captured by Owen Glyndwr and then changed sides – or was at least accused of changing sides by Henry IV.  It probably didn’t help when Glyndwr married his daughter to Sir Edmund and that Sir Edmund wrote that his nephew, young Edmund Mortimer was actually the correct king of England rather than Henry IV.

The truth is that it was during the fourteenth century that the North of England saw the Percy family expand their territory and their power. The accession of Henry IV saw Percy being made Constable of England. This bred much resentment both nationally and locally. The start of the fifteenth century was a time when the monarch wished to curtail the Percy power base.  Meanwhile there were the local politics to contend with  – the Nevilles of Raby were snapping at Percy heels. The Percies became increasingly aggrieved. They were irritated because they had not been properly paid for their protection of the Scottish borders, Henry IV had confiscated their Scottish captives after the Battle of Homildon Hill and thus deprived them of rich ransoms, Henry IV was offering favour to men like Neville and also to George Dunbar who had sought exile in England after a slight to his family honour in Scotland. Sir Edmund had been captured in 1402 and had not been ransomed. It could be argued that Sir Edmund had taken steps to gain his freedom when he reached an understanding with Glyndwr.

It was at Warkworth that the earl plotted the rebellion that led to the death of his son Henry “Hotspur” at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 and his own exile and loss of title and lands. The key conspirators were related to the Mortimers by marriage: Elizabeth Mortimer was married to Hotspur.  Sir Edmund Mortimer was married to Glyndwr’s daughter Catherine.  They decided to divide the kingdom in three – Mortimer would rule the south, Glyndwr would rule Wales and the Percies would take control of the North.  The earl sent his son Henry and his brother Thomas (the earl of Worcester) on ahead of the earl. They raised their standard at Chester.

Dunbar, loyal to Henry IV raised an army as he marched after his Percy adversaries. Hotspur was killed at the battle of Shrewsbury whilst Thomas was executed two days later. Hotspur was initially buried in Whitchurch but when Henry IV heard rumours that Hotspur was still alive he had the body disinterred and then placed between millstones so that it could be viewed.  He then had the head displayed on the Micklegate in York. Eventually Hotspur’s remains were entombed in York Minster.

Dunbar was created the Earl of the March of Scotland  and given Thomas Percy’s estates as a reward by Henry IV.

DSC_0047.jpgThe grief-stricken earl of Northumberland made his peace with Henry IV on that occasion but it was not long before he rebelled once again, fled to Scotland with his grandson and finally returned to die at Bramham Moor.

Warkworth did not immediately hand itself over to the Crown.  It was briefly besieged although just seven canon shots were required to bring its surrender and then handed into the custody of Henry IV’s younger son John who history would best know as the Duke of Bedford.  Eventually when Henry IV died the earl’s grandson who had lived in exile in Scotland was restored to his property although a marriage to Eleanor Neville, the daughter of Ralph Neville and Joan Beaufort was negotiated first – in part to keep Ralph sweet as he had acquired much of the Percy lands and offices in the intervening time.

For more information on Warkworth follow this link: http://www.gatehouse-gazetteer.info/English%20sites/2879.html

The earldom of Northumberland and the Percy family part 2 of 4

Harry Hotspur AlnwickI had thought three parts to this little series but having written today’s post which is largely about the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries I shall be extending it to four parts.

Generation 10 of Topcliffe/2 of Alnwick:

Henry Percy Junior was only sixteen when his father died in 1314.  Initially John de Felton held his lands in ward but by the time he was twenty Edward II had granted Henry more lands in Northumbria than his father held.  These had been part of Patrick Earl of March’s territory.  Patrick was Scottish and the land offer reflects the way in which northern territories fluctuated between Scotland and England during troubled times.  Henry was no more impressed with Edward II’s choice of male favourite than his father had been nor with the foreign policy and military prowess that saw the Scots raiding deep into Yorkshire.

In no particular order, Percy  conspired against the Despensers and was made governor of both Pickering and Scarborough Castle.  The northern Percy powerhouse was further built upon when he married into the Clifford family and Edward III granted him Warkwarth Castle.  In 1346 he was one of the English commanders at the Battle of Neville’s Cross near Durham against the Scots which must have been a bit irritating given that he had gone to Scotland in 1327 to help negotiate a peace treaty with them.

Generation 3 of Alnwick:

The next generation Henry Percy was at the Battle of Crecy – so should probably be regarded as the Hundred Years War Percy.  His correct title was the 3rdBaron Percy of Alnwick.  His first wife was Mary of Lancaster – the best way of thinking of her is as Blanche of Lancaster’s aunt.  Blanche was the first wife of John of Gaunt who is commemorated in the Book of the Duchess by Chaucer and whose land ensured that Gaunt was the wealthiest man in the country.  Mary was a daughter of Henry III.  With each marriage the Percy family made the wealth and the prestige of the family rose, as did the amount of land that they held and their proximity to the throne.

Generation 4 of Alnwick – 1st Earl of Northumberland:

The Percy family now found itself elevated to the earldom of Northumberland – after all Mary of Lancaster was a Plantagenet princess so it is only reasonable to suppose that her first born son should have a sufficiently impressive title.  The first earl, yet another Henry Percy, was born in 1341. He supported Edward III and then he supported Richard II in his various official capacities on the borders.  It was Richard who created him an earl at his coronation in 1377.  Unfortunately despite being having been married to Margaret Neville, Percy was distinctly un-amused when his power base was eroded by Richard II who created his rival (and nephew-in-law) Ralph Neville the earl of Westmorland.  The First Earl of Northumberland now had a hissy fit because of the creation of the First Earl of Westmorland. He swapped sides. Instead of backing Richard II against his enemies he supported Henry of Bolingbroke, John of Gaunt’s son, against Richard II. Bolingbroke duly became Henry IV and Percy found himself swaggering around with the title Constable of England.

Unfortunately in 1403 the earl swapped sides once more.  He was slightly irritated by the outcome of the Battle of Homildon Hill in 1402.  It was an English-Scots match that the English won.  Percy stood to make rather a lot of cash from ransoming his Scottish prisoners.   Unfortunately Henry IV was feeling the financial pinch and besides which felt that the Percys had too much power in the north.  So he demanded all the hostages and gave Percy a fraction of their value.  The earl was underwhelmed but didn’t immediately voice his irritation.

Having been given the task of subduing the Welsh in 1403, Percy and his son Harry Hotspur now joined with Owain Glyndwr.  Hotspur died at the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 but Henry IV couldn’t pin anything on the earl who hadn’t taken part in the battle.  The most that Henry IV could do was remove the office of constable from Percy who didn’t learn the lesson and continued to conspire against Henry IV. In 1405 Percy decided to take a long holiday in Scotland for the sake of his health. He took Hotspur’s son with him. The earl returned to England in 1408 where he managed to get himself killed at the Battle of Bramham Moor near Tadcaster.  This was the final battle in the Percy family rebellion against cousin Henry IV.

 

2nd Earl of Northumberland:

Joan BeaufortHotspur’s son another Henry had spent most of his childhood in Scotland because both his father and grandfather were at loggerheads with the monarch.  Very sensibly after his grandfather was killed the second earl remained safely in Scotland.  It was only when Henry IV died that Henry Percy took the opportunity to be reconciled with the Crown.  He was officially recognised as the 2ndearl in 1413.

He arrived back in England and settled down to a spot of feuding with his Neville relations. The Nevilles, particularly Richard Neville (aka the Kingmaker) and his father the Earl of Salisbury were associated with Richard of York so naturally the Percy family supported Henry VI and the Duke of Somerset.  Ironically the 2ndearl’s mother was Elizabeth Mortimer, the grand-daughter of Lionel of Antwerp, so you would have thought that he would have been more sympathetic to Richard of York who based his claims on his descent from Lionel.  Not only that but his return to the earldom had been smoothed by Joan Beaufort, Countess of Westmorland. She also arranged his marriage to Eleanor Neville – her second daughter with the Earl of Westmorland – making the Earl of Salisbury Percy’s brother-in-law and the Kingmaker his nephew.  Talk about a tangled family web.

 

I’ve blogged about Eleanor Neville and the Battle of Heworth Moor before so there is no need to write about it again. Enough to say that it demonstrates the depths to which the feud had sunk.  And things were about to get worse.  The earl was born in 1393 and died on 22 May 1455 at the First Battle of St Albans.  It was a comprehensive victory for the Yorkists and according to the chronicles of the time an opportunity for Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, to settle some personal scores – the death of the Earl of Northumberland being on his “to do” list.  Obviously it didn’t help the relations between the Percy and Neville families as the Wars of the Roses spiralled towards the bloodiest battle in English history.

 

3rd  Earl of Northumberland:

Another Henry Percy, swearing vengeance for his father’s death was one of the commanders of the army that surrounded Richard of York and the Earl of Salisbury at Wakefield. The deaths of Richard, his son Edmund and the Earl of Salisbury on the 30 December 1460 were part of the  continuing vendetta.

The victors of Wakefield were now joined by Margaret of Anjou’s army.  They marched south and won the Second Battle of St Albans but stopped short of taking London.  Various armies marched back and forth but for the purposes of this post the next time we need to focus is at the Battle of Ferrybridge – 27 March 1461. Northumberland was supposed to stop the Yorkists from crossing the River Aire at Castleford whilst Lord Clifford held Ferrybridge for the Lancastrians. Lets just say that Northumberland arrived at Castleford late allowing Lord Fauconberg and his men to cross the river and come around behind the Lancastrians who retreated to Dintingdale (28th March) where Lord Clifford was killed by an arrow.

On the 29thMarch 1461, blinded by a snowstorm the 3rdEarl commanded the van of the Lancastrian army.  Closing with the enemy he was killed.

Edward IV was now the only king in England and issued an act of attainder against all the Lancastrian nobility who had fought at Towton.  Edward now rewarded the Nevilles who supported the House of York and punished the Percys who supported the house of Lancaster.

 

John Neville, Earl of Northumberland.

John was the Kingmaker’s younger brother. He was created Earl of Northumberland in 1464 after he had spent three years finishing off the Lancastrian threat in the north. Unfortunately for John, the Kingmaker became increasingly dissatisfied with Edward IV who, in return, became increasingly suspicious of his cousin.  In 1470 Edward removed John from post and gave him the tile the Marquis of Montagu and assorted lands to compensate for the loss of the earldom of Northumberland. It did not go down well with the Neville family who did not see any need for the balance of power  in the North to be restored by the return of the Percy family.

 

Edward was forced to flee his realm in October 1470 but returned in 1471.  John had not regained his title to Northumberland despite his brother effectively ruling England with a puppet king in the form of Henry VI on the throne.  Rather than attack Edward when he landed at Ravenspur, Neville simply shadowed the returned Yorkist king.  Ulitmately Neville would died at the Battle of Barnet along with his brother.

4th Earl of Northumberland:

Henry Percy (what a surprise) was imprisoned in the Fleet Prison in the aftermath of Towton (he was about 12 at the time) and from there he was sent to the Tower in 1464. In 1469 after swearing fealty to Edward IV he was released.  He then set about trying to get his estates returned. He petitioned for the reversal of his father’s attainder though this was not granted by Parliament until 1473.

Interestingly his wife was Maud Herbert, the  girl who Henry Tudor should have married had events not unfolded as they did in 1470.  They had eleven children.

Henry Percy went back to doing what the Earls of Northumberland had been doing for a very long time – i.e. ruling vast tracts of land and skirmishing with the Scots. He held many of the important government posts in the north of England which were traditional in his family including from 10 May 1483, as protector, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, confirmed the fourth earl of Northumberland’s appointment as warden-general of the east and middle marches ‘during the space and time of a whole year’, after which it was renewed for five months but perhaps it would appear not as much power from Richard III as he had hoped. Naturally enough he fought at Bosworth where he commanded the right wing of Richard III’s army.  The Percys were naturally Lancastrian by inclination. Percy’s father and grandfather had died for Henry VI. Some historians says that Percy betrayed Richard III by holding his forces back from action.  Percy’s northern levies weren’t committed to the battle.

If Northumberland had been a metaphorical spoke in Richard’s wheel he wasn’t very well rewarded by Henry Tudor who now became Henry VII. Northumberland, along with the earls of Westmoreland and Surrey was taken into custody and kept in prison for several months, being released only under strict conditions of good behaviour.  He was restored to his position as warden but with curtailed powers.  Henry may not have trusted him but Percy knew how to protect England’s northern border. He was also at hand to help defeat the Yorkist forces that gathered during the Lambert Simnel rebellion in 1487.

In 1489 Northumberland was part of the king’s administration gathering £100,000 of tax. This led to the Yorkshire Rebellion.  Northumberland had to deal with the resistance of Yorkshiremen to the tenth of incomes demanded for Henry’s Breton war and for the raising of a force against the Scots.  Things can’t have gone well for the Earl as his own tenants were up in arms.  He was so alarmed that on Saturday, 24 April, he wrote to Sir Robert Plumpton from Seamer, close to Scarborough, ordering him to secretly bring as many armed men as he could to Thirsk by the following Monday. It didn’t do him much good.

On  Wednesday, 28 April, having gathered a force estimated at eight hundred men, he came into conflict with the commons, whose ringleader was one John a Chamber, near Thirsk, at a place variously called Cockledge or Blackmoor Edge, and was killed.  Popular history claims it wasn’t so much the tax collection that irritated the locals as the fact that as good Yorkshire men their loyalty lay with Richard III.