Mute swans swimming

richard the lionheartThe swans are a swimming because most of us haven’t been allowed to tuck into one since 1482 when a law was passed saying that only some landowners could keep and eat swans.  They all had to be marked by nicks in their beaks. The Queen  and the Worshipful Company of  Dyers  and also Vintners own mute swans –  if they’re unmarked and in open water in England and Wales.  So if you caught and ate an unmarked swan until 1994 you were  technically committing treason. Since then they have been protected by the 1981 act which protects wildlife from the predation of the culinary adventurous.

 

In 1189, Richard I, gave the worshipful companies joint ownership along with the Crown of unclaimed swans – though given my understanding of Richard I, I would guess that there was a hefty fee for the privilege.  According to legend he brought the swans home with him from Cyprus following the third crusade. Other sources mention the Romans – who get everywhere.   However if we want to see documentary evidence of the mute swan in royal hands then we have to wait for the reign of Edward I who mentions them in his wardrobe accounts.  There’s a cook book dating from the reign of Richard II which detail how to cook one.

The one thing that is clear is that mute swans were much prized and apparently prone to being stolen from their rightful owners in medieval times – there’s even a mention of a swanherd or ‘swonhirde’ if  you prefer spelling 1282 style. And quite frankly I’m going to stop on that delightful thought.

 

https://britishbirds.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/article_files/V17/V17_N08/V17_N08_P174_182_A038.pdf

http://sciencepress.mnhn.fr/sites/default/files/articles/pdf/az1995n22a5.pdf

Berwick upon Tweed, Richard of Gloucester and the fate of a princess

Berwick upon tweedAccording to the Scotsman Berwick Upon Tweed changed hands some thirteen times in its turbulent history.  So, it was originally part of the Kingdom of Northumbria and these are the key changes of occupier.

henry iiiIn 1018 following the Battle of Carham the border moved to the Tweed and Berwick became Scottish which it remained until William I of Scotland became involved in the civil war between Henry II and his sons in 1173.  After his defeat Berwick became English.  In all fairness Henry II had rather caused bad feeling between the Scots and English when he forced the Scots to hand Carlisle back to England – which given how supportive King David of Scotland had been to him seems rather ungracious.  William I of Scotland (or William the Lion if you prefer) had simply taken advantage of the family fall out between Henry II and his sons.  Unfortunately for him he was captured in 1174 at the Battle of Alnwick.  He was released under terms of vassalage and made to give up various castles as well as Berwick.

 

220px-Edward_III_of_England_(Order_of_the_Garter)Henry II’s son, Richard the Lionheart, who, as I have mentioned previously, would have been more than prepared to sell London to the highest bidder to finance his Crusade sold the town back to the Scots where it remained until 1296 and the Scottish Wars of Independence. Needless to say it was Edward I who captured the town for the English at that time after the Scots had invaded Cumberland under the leadership of John Baliol who was in alliance with the French.  There were executions and much swearing of fealty not to mention fortification building.

 

In April 1318 during the reign of Edward II (who was not known for his military prowess) Berwick fell once again to the Scots.  By 1333 the boot was on the other foot with Edward III now on the throne.  Sir Archibald Douglas found himself inside the town and preparing for a siege – no doubt making good use of the fortifications built on the orders of Edward I.  Douglas was defeated at the Battle of Halidon Hill in September 1333 and Berwick became English once more.

 

And thus it might have remained but  for the Wars of the Roses.  In 1461 Edward IV won the Battle of Towton leaving Henry VI without a kingdom. Margaret of Anjou gave Berwick and Carlisle to the Scots in return for their support to help when the Crown once again.    I should point out that the citizens of Carlisle did not hand themselves over to Scotland whilst those in Berwick found themselves once more under Scottish rule. Not that it did Margaret of Anjou much good nor for that matter diplomatic relations between Scotland and the new Yorkist regime although there was a treaty negotiated in 1474 which should have seen 45 years of peace – as all important treaties were this one was sealed with the agreement that Edward’s third daughter Cecily should marry James III’s son also called James.  Sadly no one appears to have told anyone along the borders of this intent for peaceful living as the borderers simply carried on as usual.

 

 

Richard_III_of_EnglandAugust 24 1482 Berwick became English once more having fallen into the hands of Richard, Duke of Gloucester who strengthened his army with assorted European mercenaries until there were somewhere in the region of 20,000 men in his force.  Richard marched north from York in the middle of July. Once at Berwick Richard left some men to besiege the town whilst he went on to Edinburgh where he hoped to meet with King James III of Scotland in battle (it should be noted that one of James’ brothers was in the English army). It wasn’t just James’ brother who was disgruntled.  It turned out that quite a few of his nobles were less than happy as they took the opportunity of the English invasion to lock James away.  It became swiftly clear to Richard that he would not be able to capture Edinburgh so returned to Berwick where he captured the town making the thirteenth and final change of hands.

 

Meanwhile the Scottish nobility asked for a marriage between James’ son James and Edward IV’s daughter Cecily to go ahead.  Richard said that the marriage should go ahead if Edward wished it but demanded the return of Cecily’s dowry which had already been paid.

 

Just to complicate things – James’ brother, the one fighting in the English army proposed that it should be him that married Cecily.  He had hopes of becoming King himself.  Edward IV considered the Duke of  Albany’s proposal and it did seem in 1482 that there might be an Anglo-Scottish marriage but in reality the whole notion was unpopular.  The following year,  on 9th April, Edward died unexpectedly and rather than marrying royalty Cecily found herself married off to one of her uncle’s supporters Ralph Scrope of Masham. This prevented her from being used as a stepping-stone to the Crown.  This particular marriage was annulled by Henry VII after Bosworth which occurred on 22 August 1485 and Cecily was married off to Lord Welles who was Margaret Beaufort’s half-brother and prevented Cecily, once again, from being used as a stepping-stone to the Crown.

Meanwhile Berwick remained relatively peacefully until 1639 when the Scottish Presbyterian Army and Charles I’s army found itself at a standoff.  The Pacification of Berwick brought the so-called First Bishops’ War to an end.  Unsurprisingly Charles broke the agreement just as soon as he had gathered sufficient funds, arms and men. The Second Bishops’ war broke out the following year with the English Civil War beginning in 1642.

 

 

 

Geoffrey of Brittany – “son of perdition.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Much Wenlock Priory

DSC_0011Huzzah – I have Internet connectivity after more than a week holding my laptop sky-high in an offering to the gods of wifi and grotty weather and I’m back to priories. Wenlock Priory was the only one in Shropshire before 1066 and it started off as a nunnery before becoming a monastery. Then somewhen in the late eleventh century Roger, Earl of Shrewsbury, re-founded the house as a Cluniac priory – very definitely for monks.

The Cluniacs like all monks followed the rule of St Benedict but their twist on the rule was that their work was related to books – writing them, binding them etc and to living a life of poverty in the midst of huge religious ornament and ceremony.

From small beginnings the monks built up land and rights. They also ensured that St Milburga, who’s bones were conveniently found as the monks started to build their own church became an important regional cult figure. During the reign of Kimg Richard the Lionheart the monks of Much Wenlock acquired the rights to administer justice within their Liberties – ie their manors.

Henry III stayed at Wenlock and gifted timber from the royal forests for the re-building of a church and lady chapel. The prior of the period Prior Humbert seems to have been popular with the king and energetic in his efforts on behalf of the priory. He was also often sent abroad on ambassadorial missions – he didn’t have far to go, just into Wales.

Unfortunately politics rapidly got in the way of religious life. Humbert’s successor Aymo was promoted from the priory at Bermondsey and he also did a stint as Prior of Lewes. Problematically for Aymo it wasn’t the king who made the Lewes appointment but Simon de Montfort.

Of course, during all this time the monks of Much Wenlock looked to their mother house for guidance and sent funds home to the mother abbey – which was Cluny. Indeed most of the priors of Wenlock were French. It was an alien priory. This was all fine and well while England and much of modern France were part of the same empire but it wasn’t such a good policy once the Hundred Years War kicked off and Cluny became ‘the enemy.’  Interestingly although Much Wenlock was well within the circumscribed distance of the navigable River Severn it wasn’t forced to relocate or close its gates when other sea-board alien priories were penalised for their loyalties.

Matters hadn’t been helped when the monks managed to end up in debt to a notorious money lender on account of one prior who was angling to become the Bishop of Rochester. He fiddled the books in ways that were legal but left the monks in dire straits. He sold the wool of the priory for seven years in advance – making life very difficult for his successor – but which no doubt helped to fund his bid to become a bishop. It was during this time as well that one of the monks took to the hills with a band of armed men as an outlaw.

DSC_0018Of course, the issue of being an alien priory became thornier and thornier – a local lord had to testify that the prior wasn’t in the power of the King of France and the monks were forbidden from sending money back to Cluny. Ultimately though the crown started to confiscate land from the priory and the monks found themselves torn between their loyalty to the English crown and the mother house at Cluny which still demanded their presence at chapter meetings – which they couldn’t attend. This problem eased slightly in 1378 when the Great Schism (more than one pope) occurred. The monks of Cluny supported the unofficial pope meaning that the Archbishop of Canterbury who happened to be a papal legate (the official pope) could legally take charge of the monasteries which had once looked to Cluny. After that Englishmen were appointed as priors. Roger Wyvel became prior of Much Wenlock in 1388.

The great days of Much Wenlock were over though. There may have been as many as forty monks for much of the fourteenth century but the numbers dwindled steadily thereafter and the prior had to contend with lawsuits from tenants who didn’t want to work for the monks and landowners looking to increase their own landholdings at the expense of the monks. By 1536 there were only twelve monks – even so they had a net income in excess of £400.

Today very little remains of the church but the cloisters and the chapter house yield some interesting remains. There is a rare washing fountain in the middle of the cloister and the remnant of the library. Inside the cloister interlaced tracery patterns give some indication of the splendid ornament that Much Wenlock must have once exhibited. Looking up it is possible to see the doorway that led from the dorter into the church. At Much Wenlock the monks continued to sleep in a long dormitory until virtually the end of monasticism in England and Wales – wooden paneling was a later concession to privacy.

DSC_0005

B Pugh (London, 1973), pp. 38-47 https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/salop/vol2/pp38-47 [accessed 5 September 2015].

Of Kings and family ties…

king-john-570Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk -whose father rebelled against Henry II and lost his title- managed to scrape his lands and his titles back from Henry II and Richard the Lion-heart despite a dispute with his step-mother and two half-brothers. He was known for his hard work as a lawyer travelling the country on the business of both kings. He is mentioned on the boarding list of noble hostages going to join Richard the Lion-heart in Captivity. Yet he appears on the Magna Carta as one of the twenty-five barons, along with his oldest son, who would ensure that John stuck to the deal that was made at Runnymede.

He got excommunicated for his pains in 1215 and it was only in 1217 that he made his peace with the guardians of young King Henry III, which must have made things difficult for his son who was married to William Marshall’s daughter. Marshall famously managed to serve his Plantagenet masters loyally from the ‘Young King’ through to King Henry III.

Bigod’s difficulties with King John were complicated by yet another family factor. William Longspee, King John’s illegitimate half-brother was Bigod’s step-son. William remained loyal to John throughout the period. One woman – Ida de Tosny, links the two men on opposite sides of the Barons’ War.

History does not tell us exactly when Ida de Tosny was born nor are we totally sure about her parents. It is generally accepted that her father was Ralph de Tosny who died in 1162 and her mother was Margaret de Beaumont.   After her father’s death she became a royal ward.

We know that she attracted the attention of King Henry II who had a bit of a reputation for seducing young women including Alice of France who was to have married Henry’s son Richard (the Lionheart). The fact that Henry was Ida’s guardian did not stop him from making her his mistress. We do not know what Ida thought of the proposition and we certainly don’t have a portrait of her.

It was only in 1979 that a letter written from William Longsword or Longspee was discovered and which identified his mother as Countess Ida pinning the position firmly on the wife of the Earl of Norfolk, Roger Bigod. Ida was married to Roger four years after William’s birth in 1176.

It was at about the same time as the marriage that Henry II granted Roger a number of disputed manors that had been confiscated at the time of his father’s rebellion but not his father’s title. Roger had to wait for that until the reign of Richard the Lionheart. History does not tell us how Ida and Roger came to be married. All we can say is that young William stayed with the royal court while Ida went with her husband to his main seat at Framlingham Castle in Norfolk.  She went on to have at least seven more children.

We cannot even say with any certainty when she died but there is no mention of her made in Roger Bigod’s will, so in all probability she died before 1221.

Hamelin de Warenne

DSCN6677Hamelin was an illegitimate son of Geoffrey of Anjou born in approximately 1129, so half-brother of Henry II.  He was married by order of the king to Isabella de Warenne, in her own right Countess of Surrey.  She was the only surviving child of the third earl who’d died whilst he was on crusade.  He first husband was the fourth earl.  It just so happened that Isabelle’s husband was King Stephen’s son William of  Blois – a real strategy to bring all that lovely land and loot into the family orbit.  William must have been quite happy with the arrangement because he didn’t bat an eyelid when his father disinherits shim and made Henry Fitzempress, the son of his cousin Matilda, the heir to the throne and in so doing brought the years of anarchy and civil war to a conclusion.  William who was several years younger than Isabel served Henry II until his death in 1159.

Henry II cast his eyes over all of Isabel’s considerable charms (that’ll be all those Yorkshire estates) and decided that they ought to be kept in the family.  Enter Hamelin. After the marriage, in 1164, he was recognized as Earl of Warenne – or the fifth Earl of Surrey. Hamelin, unusually, took the name of his wealthy bride.  Hamelin remained loyal throughout his life to his brother even though ultimately he did not agree with the end that befell Thomas Becket especially as he came to believe in the archbishop’s saintliness. He was supposed to have been cured of an eye problem by the cleric.  He went with his niece Joan to Sicily when she married its king and his nephew, Richard the Lionheart, recognised his uncle’s trustworthiness when he became co-regent with William Longchamp whilst Richard was away on crusade and then found himself having to count the gold in order to ransom his nephew from the clutches of his enemies.

The de Warenne’s held lands across Yorkshire and it was Hamelin who built Conisborough Castle near Doncaster around about 1180.

 

His eldest son, William went on to marry William Marshal’s daughter Matilda who was at that time the widow of Hugh Bigod. One of Hamelin and Isabella’s daughter apparently got a little too close for comfort to her royal cousin Prince John, who had a reputation for liking the ladies, and bore him a child.

 

 

When history becomes mystery – or perhaps its the other way round. A brief look at Robin Hood.

P2101335So much for a catchy title!  Before we begin I need to admit that Robin Hood is my all time hero.  My father used to read me the tale of Robin Hood, at my request, again and again.  I visited Nottingham when I was seven and was disappointed with the castle in the way that only a seven-year-old can be.  I was expecting Hollywood turrets, battlements and assorted drawbridges.  Even worse, so far as fair Nottingham was concerned, what the bombing raids of Luftwaffe didn’t destroy, the city planners had mangled.  I can still remember my Dad going round the one way system getting progressively more irritated.  Things only really got better when we arrived in Sherwood Forest and we went in search of the Major Oak.  But enough of my personal history – just be aware that I have a not altogether unbiased viewpoint as to whether Robin existed or not.

Legend, film versions at any rate, places  Robin Hood and his merry band firmly in the reign of Good King Richard and Bad King John.  Other versions place him in the reign of Henry III, possibly dying with Simon de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham.

In some respects it doesn’t really matter.  The fact is that The Lyttell Geste of Robin Hood was set in print by William Caxton.  This is a version of an oral tradition that must have been handed down over the generations. And here its worth a moment’s digression. If we look at the ballads of the border reivers such as the tale of Kinmont Willie it is possible to see where history has become embroidered by the needs of a good story and the formula of the  ballad.  There’s also a little bit of a hint that Sir Walter Scott may have tidied the whole thing up somewhat.  It is possible to see a sixteenth century historical event turning into a story.  The same, perhaps, can be said for Robin Hood excepting the fact that there isn’t anywhere near as much paper based evidence for Robin Hood as there is for William Armstrong of Kinmont who took for himself rather than anyone else irrelevant of the wealth of his victims but still seems to have managed to stay one step ahead of the law.  And yes, Sir Walter Scott did embroider the Robin Hood story – who could forget Ivanhoe?

There is, however, a faint trace of a historical paper trail for the man in green.  The Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield; the Contrarient Rolls of King Edward II and the Household Expenses Account of Edward II reveal an archer by the name of Robin Hood. The key thing is though, not whether he existed or was fabricated by disgruntled over-taxed peasants, but that he became a national hero – and was sung about in English.  Robin reflects the fact that during the Plantagenet period the English were beginning to get a sense of themselves as a nation.  In part, this was because King John lost his continental empire and was forced to concentrate on England – not that the barons were terribly grateful for the favour. The accession of Henry III, the first child monarch in English history, saw a time of some weakness for the monarchy and the reissue of Magna Carta; the concept of shared power (well shared if you were a baron); a rising group of free men and a somewhat fairer legal system.  It is perhaps not surprising then that Robin’s story should be associated with a period in history when the English were beginning to evolve as a nation.

Of course, the Black Death killing one-third of the British population between 1349-50 helped matters along rather nicely as the English-speaking hoi-poloi suddenly found that they had more economic clout than previously but the fact that  English was reinstated in schools that same year, although the universities of Oxford and Cambridge continued to use Latin, reflects the growing importance of the English language and the changing perspectives of the ruling classes.  They were beginning to see themselves as English rather than Norman.  In 1362 English replaced French as the language of law by the Statutes of Pleading but records continued to be kept in Latin and English was used in Parliament for the first time.

Now if you don’t mind, I’m off to re-watch Errol Flynn being heroic in the green wood. If you want to find out more about the history of Edwinstowe where Robin Hood is supposed to have married Maid Marian, click on the image at the beginning.  It will take you to an article I wrote and had published a couple of years ago.  You might be surprised to discover that even Henry II gets in on the act as well.

Richard the Lionheart – King of England- preparing for crusade.

On the 3rd September 1189 King Richard was crowned in Westminster Abbey.  That autumn he began to gather the resources he required for his crusade and put into places measures that would keep his kingdom secure, he hoped, in his absence.  At home he needed to decide who would be the de facto regents in his absence, secure the Welsh Marches, keep the Scots quiet and his brother John and his half-brother Geoffrey and resolve the ongoing dispute between Church and State as to issues such as benefit of the clergy.  He also needed cash to buy ships, weapons, men and food.

 

With those ends in mind he levied taxes, sold off royal estates and castles.  He is supposed to have said that he would have sold London if he could have found someone to buy it.

He appointed four new bishops including his brother Geoffrey who was already Bishop of Lincoln but who had not been ordained.  Richard made him Archbishop of York and ensured that he was priested. Geoffrey had to be carried protesting to the ordination.  Henry II’s illegitimate son was the only one who’d remained loyal to Henry throughout his life and rumour speculated that he saw no reason why illegitimacy should prevent him from seizing the crown.  Whatever the truth Richard’s swift actions ensured that Geoffrey was no longer a contender for the throne.  Prince John was Lackland no longer.  Richard showered him with lands and titles as well as the rich heiress Isabella of Gloucester in an attempt to keep John content.  Just before he set off on crusade, Richard required both his brothers to swear a solemn oath that they would not set foot on English soil for the next three years.  As a further disincentive to John he also named his young nephew Arthur of Brittany as his heir.

Arthur was the son of Richard and John’s legitimate brother Geoffrey who had been made Count of Brittany by their father but who had died during one of the sons intermittent rebellions at the court King Philip of France during a jousting tournament.

Richard also ensured that there were strong regents in place.  He appointed Hugh, Bishop of Durham and following the death of the Earl of Essex his chancellor William Longchamp who was also the Bishop of Ely.  Richard had barely set sail for Sicily on the 4th July 1190 en route to Outremer and the Third Crusade when John, disgruntled by Richard’s choice of regents, started to plot against him.

One thing Richard did not do was to marry the Princess Alys to whom he’d been engaged since 1169.  This fact was one of many that caused the relationship between Richard and King Philip of France to deteriorate.  The atmosphere between the two kings soured even further upon Richard’s arrival in Sicily.

Richard the Lionheart, Duke of Aquitaine

imagesRichard was born in Oxfordshire at Beaumont Palace in September 1157.  Records reveal that the cost of Queen Eleanor’s laying in was accounted at 20 shillings.

Though born in England, the second of four surviving sons, he was destined to inherit Queen Eleanor’s duchy of Aquitaine. He grew up in an atmosphere of courtly love, speaking the langue d’oc.  Today we think of him as a warrior but he was an accomplished musician thanks to his early years in Eleanor’s court.  Ralph of Coggleshall, records the fact that he ‘conducted’ the clerks of the Royal Chapel in song.

By the time Richard was ten his father (Henry II) had betrothed Richard to the daughter of Count Richmond of Barcelona.  Nothing came of this engagement but in 1168 when Richard was formally invested with the Duchy of Aquitaine he was betrothed to Princess Alys of France, the daughter of King Louis VII – his mother’s ex-husband- by his second wife. Presumably the laws of consanguinity did not account for such things.  What they did account for though was a father ‘knowing’ his son’s bride.  Alys came to Henry II’s court and eventually Henry made her his mistress which goes some way towards explaining Richard’s reticence when it came to honouring the engagement.

By 1173 Henry II’s relationships with all his sons had reached breaking point.  Henry expended huge amounts of energy creating an empire that stretched from the Welsh Marches to the Pyrenees.  He did not wish to do homage to King Louis VII so he gave his European lands into the keeping of his sons Henry, Geoffrey and Richard.  He even went so far as to have Henry crowned king of England while he was still living.  However, they were rulers in name only.  Henry retained the power.  His sons rebelled.  Queen Eleanor, perhaps tiring of Henry’s infidelities, her own lack of power and a mother’s need to protect her sons joined in the rebellion. Fortunately for Henry, Eleanor was swiftly captured and then subjected to fifteen years of captivity. Monarchs on the edge of his kingdom added their armies to the fray.

Young Prince Richard battled on, attempting to besiege La Rochelle despite the fact that King Louis unable to capture Rouen had sued for peace.  King William of Scotland had been roundly beaten at Alnwick.  Was it stubbornness?  Was it anger at his mother’s treatment?  Or was it simply because his father excluded him from the peace that he negotiated with King Louis?  In any event, it was 23 September 1174 before he threw himself on his father’s mercy.

In 1175 Henry set his son the task of quelling the Aquitanian nobles who had risen with Richard two years earlier.  Richard set about subduing nobles and towns one by one.  Limoges fell having been besieged for only two days.  He was accused, in Aquitaine, of being ‘evil to all men.’ Yet he succeeded where his father could not.  He went on to make the road through to the Pyrenees safe for travellers, thus furthering his father’s diplomatic allegiances with Spain.  In 1179 Richard sided with his father when his brothers Henry (the Young King) and Geoffrey (Count of Brittany) rebelled once more. Four years later Henry was dead of dysentery and Richard was heir to the English throne.

King Henry ordered Richard to hand over Aquitaine to Prince John.  Richard refused.  He held an ostentatious Christmas court at Talmont where he gave generous New Year gifts to his nobles.  He’d fought long and hard for the kingdom that was his mother’s and he had no intention of handing it over to his little brother despite the fact that allocating inheritances between sons in this manner was a normal procedure.  He showed no sign of backing down even when Henry openly toyed with the idea of marrying Princess Alys off to John and bypassing Richard altogether. Roger of Hoveden’s account shows that King Philip of France (Louis VII’s much long for son) would not agree to this. Eventually King Henry informed John that he could have Aquitaine if he could take it.

Inevitably these family tensions led to Richard coming to terms with the King of France.  It was this coming to terms that has given history pause for thought about Henry’s sexual orientation despite the existence of two illegitimate sons.  It was reported that Philip and Richard shared the same bed following a day of negotiations.  It was not regarded with the raised eyebrows of today and suggests instead a symbolic sealing of an agreement.

Richard was not the callow youth he’d been last time he’d rebelled against his father, nor was his father a well man.  Neither for that matter was Philip much like his father in matters of warfare.  Eventually the city of Le Mans was captured and Henry was forced to flee.

The king sued for peace.  He came to terms with the french king and Richard during a thunder-storm.  He was so shattered that his men had to hold him upright on his horse.  Some accounts describe a tear in Henry’s back passage that bled so much during the hours of negotiation that the blood streamed down his horse’s flanks.   Henry, vanquished and in pain, returned to Chinon a broken man having learned that John, the son for whom he’d gone to war, had betrayed him.  Henry died on the 6th July 1189.

Prince Richard, Duke of Aquitaine was now King  Richard I.  One of the first things he did was to give orders setting Eleanor free from her captivity.

tal3

Talmont

Resources:

For a full account of Henry II’s final campaign and encounter with his son visit: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1189hoveden.asp

Jones, Dan. (2012). The Plantagenents. London: Harper Press

Berengaria of Navarre

berengaria_tombDaughter of Sancho the Wise of Navarre, Berengaria was related to the royalty of Spain, England and France.

She was brought from Navarre to Sicily by her future mother-in-law, Eleanor of Aquitaine, in 1190 to marry King Richard I of England.  She was in her twenties at the time.

Richard was in Sicily on his way to the Holy Land to join with the Third Crusade having taken the cross in 1187.  He had been prevented from fulfilling his vow because of a Plantagenet power struggle with his father King Henry II and younger brother Prince John over control of Aquitaine.  His ally in his rebellion against his father was the French King Philip but by the time Berengaria arrived on the scene relations were souring between the two monarchs, not least because Philip expected Richard to marry the french princess Alys, a bride-to-be of some twenty years.  Unfortunately, Philip’s half-sister was an unsuitable match in Richard’s eye – not least because she had been Henry II’s mistress, not that this stopped Philip from pocketing some 10,000 marks in compensation.

Berengaria accompanied Richard and Richard’s widowed sister Queen Joanna of Sicily to the Holy Land.  Before their ship could reach Outremer it was separated from the main fleet and the royal women were ship wrecked off Cyprus.  The ruler of Cyprus, Isaac Comnenus, whose only redeeming feature seems to have been the love he bore his daughter, attempted to take them hostage.  This resulted in Richard leading an attack on Cyprus and capturing the island in less than a month.  As well as demonstrating his prowess in battle, Richard also captured a useful staging post.  Berengaria and Richard were married in May 1191 at Limassol. Berengaria was also crowned at this time and Richard gave her dower rights to all territories in Gascony south of the River Garonne.  The marriage had been delayed thus far because of it being Lent.

Why marry Berengaria?  Richard was the Duke of Aquitaine before he became King of England.  An alliance with Navarre went some way to off setting the expanding power of Castille and Count Raymond of Toulouse who was undoubtedly a thorn in Richard’s side.  It could also be that Berengaria’s reputation was spotless, a direct contrast to Alys.  Chroniclers of the time were generous in their praise of a queen who never came to England.  William of Newburgh described her as prudent and beautiful.

Both royal women accompanied Richard to the Holy Land.  They were at the Siege of Acre and remained there while the crusaders pushed in land and it was from here that they sailed when Richard and Saladin agreed their truce in 1191.  Berengaria and Joanna sailed to Brindisi and from there they travelled to Rome while Richard travelled home a different route and found himself a captive of the Duke of Austria.

Following his release, Berengaria did not join her husband.  The estrangement between husband and wife was never fully reconciled.  Perhaps because Richard needed to secure his empire from the machinations of Philip of France or possibly because Berengaria’s father was now dead and her brother, Sancho VII, had succeeded to the throne.  The Navarre alliance served Richard well during his crusading years.  Certainly he’d never bothered to demand the two castles that were Berengaria’s dowry.  Now however, Richard set about gaining what the marriage treaty guaranteed.  He even involved Pope Innocent III. The couple remained childless and spent very little time in one another’s company.  As he lay dying he sent for his mother, not his wife. Berengaria did not attend Richard’s funeral and remained in a small castle near Angers -in effect a penniless princess having failed to provide Richard with an heir.

Berengaria now entered into a long struggle with King John for her dower lands which were all in France.  In addition to her own dower lands in Gascony she was supposed to receive Eleanor’s lands in England, Normandy and Poitou after Eleanor’s death.  John, once named Lackland, was not forthcoming.   Fortunately, her sister, Blanche of Champagne took in the widowed queen and later King Philip gave her the city of Le Mans to rule. It was only in 1214 that John said he would settle the claim. This was, in part, due to Magna Carta and the fact that the Pope had excommunicated him but he never did pay what was owed.  King Henry III settled Berengaria’s claim when he came to the throne.

Berengaria lived in Le Mans and ruled there from 1204 until her death in 1230.  She ruled well and with determination, even tackling corrupt clerics.  The Bishop of Le Man once closed the door of the cathedral in her face as she arrived for a Palm Sunday service.  She also founded the abbey of L’Epau