Tag Archives: Scarborough Castle

Locating King John

marketcharterAngevin kings spent a lot of time on the road. Henry II travelled widely across his vast empire administering justice, fighting with the neighbours, avoiding the lady wife, seducing his wards and hunting. Richard spent most of his short reign in foreign parts – fighting someone or other- and consequentially became a hero. King John also travelled frequently. It has been calculated that he only spent 7% of his time in Westminster. In 1205 there are 228 changes of location recorded which means that he moved 19 times a month! His problem was that he didn’t have such a vast empire to travel around – essentially he had England having lost the rest of his father’s empire and gained the nickname ‘Softsword’ into the bargain. Amongst the locations he favoured were Marlborough where he’d held the castle since 1186 as a gift from brother Richard; Nottingham which he’d held since his childhood and Winchester where his son Henry was born.

150608_itinerariesjohnandhenryaskingKing John’s itineraries can be traced through his letters which reveal his location. There are currently several interesting sites on the Internet outlining John’s jaunts. One charts John’s movements in the run up to Magna Carta whilst the other charts his location on a map throughout his seventeen-year reign. http://neolography.com/timelines/JohnItinerary.html.

This image of John’s itinerary was accessed from http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/features/on-the-trail-of-king-john-before-and-after-the-signing-of-magna-carta (13/10/2015 @ 23:42) and shows how extensively John travelled in comparison with his son.  Interestingly John believed that the king was there to administer justice ‘even if it were to a dog’ – the same justice also happened to be a handy implement to bludgeon his barons with.

Other evidence of John’s involvement in English affairs can be seen in the charters he issued which, incidentally, offer an interesting counterpoint to the stereotype of King John with dodgy sheriffs in tow. Sheriffs undoubtedly have a bit of a bad reputation so far as the reign of King John is concerned what with all that taxation and general Anglo-Norman nastiness – oops sorry, I’ve moved out of history and into the realms of Hollywood. In reality King John sometimes did away with sheriff power and opted for ‘people power.’ Take York for example. In 1212 King John decreed that York’s citizens, rather than the sheriff, should collect and pay the annual tax to the Crown. Their charter also allowed them to hold their own courts and to appoint a mayor. John also granted a charter to Grimsby offering similar arrangements for taxation, law and administration.

Clearly if the king spent more time in England (there wasn’t a great deal of choice) then there are also more bricks and mortar locations with a link to that particular Plantagenet. In Knaresborough John took over the castle and Honour of Knaresborough on account of the fact that he was keen on the hunting. It was here that he distributed the first ever Maundy Money. John gave away forks and clothes in 1210. Knaresborough must have been one of John’s favourite castles because he spent rather a lot of time there. His accounts, another source, offer an insight into feasting, drinking, gambling and hunting.

John is known to have particularly enjoyed hunting – as did his father and before him his Norman forebears. It is not surprising therefore that the country seems to be littered with King John’s hunting lodges. Time Team did a dig a John’s hunting lodge in Clipstone. In Axbridge King John’s hunting lodge was a fourteenth century wool merchant’s house – so don’t get too excited about treading in John’s footsteps. Though in Romsey not only can you encounter his hunting lodge you can also smell the roses in his garden (a much later addition but it sounds good.)

Elsewhere in Yorkshire John visited Scarborough Castle on several occasions; made it across the county boundary into Cumbria and Carlisle where he administered justice and on to Corbridge where he did a spot of treasure hunting (without success). He received the submission of the Scots at Norham Castle ( a lovely little fortress). In a more Midlandish direction he managed to lose his jewels (of which he was an ardent collector) in the Wash allegedly near to Sutton Bridge; expired in Newark Castle and got himself buried in Worcester Cathedral.

I feel exhausted just looking at the list so I’ve no idea how John managed to travel so widely, hunt so extensively and chase, allegedly, so many women after hurtling around the English countryside in all sorts of weather with scarcely a break year in and year out.

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Robert, First Lord Clifford

IMG_4008Robert Clifford was born in 1274. He was the son of Isabella de Vieuxpont and Roger Clifford. The Cliffords were an old Norman family who took their name from their main seat in Herefordshire meaning that the Lords of Skipton were distantly related to Rosamond Clifford (Fair Rosamond) who was Henry I’s mistress. On his mother’s side – Isabella and her sister Idonea were coheirs to the lordship of Westmorland which, together with Edward I’s campaign to subdue Scotland, would ultimately change the marches upon which the Cliffords prowled.

 

Young Robert lost his father early so the vast lands (including Brough, Brougham and Appleby) that would one day be his passed into other hands for the time being. When he reached his majority Robert would spend years trying to regain property which had been stolen during his minority.  He ultimately grew to maturity under the care of Edward I from whom he learned the art of warfare in North Wales before making a name for himself in Scotland. By 1297 he was responsible for Edward’s castles in Cumberland as well as taking part in the perennial border warfare of the period. The following year, according to Summerson, he became Keeper of Nottingham Castle and the justice in the royal forests north of the River Trent. That same year Edward I gave Robert Clifford Caerlaverock Castle and all the lands that belonged to Sir William Douglas as a reward for his work. On one hand this was very nice for Robert on the other hand the Douglas family were not best pleased. Edward’s grant triggered a feud between the Douglasses and the Cliffords that lasted for the next hundred years.  It probably didn’t help that Robert’s actions in Dumfries and Annan were recorded in the Song of Caerlaverock. Clifford was undoubtedly a capable as well as loyal officer to the crown – it certainly helped him to build an extensive power base on which to build his family’s fortunes.

He attended Edward I until his death and from his appointment as Marshall of England by Edward II whom Clifford had served during the Prince of Wales’ time on campaign in Scotland. He didn’t hold the job for long. He also gave up his role of Justice and Keeper of Nottingham Castle.  In October 1309 he was appointed keeper of the English West March with Carlisle as its headquarters, and was ordered to act as Warden of Scotland, with a force of 100 men-at-arms and 300 foot soldiers – so he probably didn’t have much time to sit around in Nottingham.

 

It was at about this time Robert came to an accommodation with his childless aunt (Idonea) which ultimately resulted in the Lordship of Westmorland being granted to him. Robert Clifford already held Brough Castle and Appleby and now he was granted Skipton Castle making him a force to be reckoned with in the north.

 

Unfortunately the business of the Scottish Wars of Independence were somewhat sidelined by Edward II’s relationship with Piers Gaveston. The King’s favourite was greedy for wealth and power. In October 1310, just as Clifford was building a substantial power base for himself in the north-west the king granted the Honour of Penrith to Gaveston – a bit of a fly in the ointment so far as Clifford was concerned but not sufficient to make him join with many of the other English barons who formed a commission against Edward II to reform the way in which Edward governed his household and the realm.  The barons issued ordinances from which they gained the name Lords Ordainers.  One of the ordinances made Edward II take back into royal custody all the land which he’d given away.  This meant that Robert having gained Skipton was forced to return it to the crown.  A bizarre game of pass the castle then followed in which Skipton was then handed back to Clifford.  The reason behind this probably lies in the fact that Clifford had given his lands in Monmouth in exchange for the Honour of Skipton – so he wasn’t depriving the crown of its revenue. Clifford resumed his building work on the outer defences of the castle.

 

This uncertainty and his previous record for loyalty didn’t mean that Clifford wasn’t sympathetic to the demands of the Lords Ordainers. In 1312 he prevented Gaveston from receiving Scottish help, besieged him in Scarborough Castle and recovered royal jewels from Newcastle when they were abandoned by the king and his favourite. Later he acted as a go-between for the Earls of Lancaster and Warwick who sought a pardon when Edward II regained control of his realm. The earls received a pardon and so did Robert Clifford.

 

The pardons signaled a resumption of the Scottish War of Independence. In June 1314 Clifford was summoned to Berwick and the start of the campaign that ended in disaster for the English at Bannockburn. Clifford was killed in action. His body was taken to Carlisle and from there to Shap Abbey where he was buried.

Skipton Castle was about to face Scottish invasion and be plunged into civil war – life wasn’t going to be very restful for the Clifford family either.

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Sir Ralph Eure, a murder and a castle.

DSCN6689What more could anyone want – a knight, a murky sort of murder and a Yorkshire castle – Scarborough Castle to be precise.

Sir Ralph Eure or Evers came from an old Yorkshire family that had originally arrived with William the Conqueror.  His ancestors had been Sheriffs of Yorkshire as well as wardens of the marches. One of them died at the Battle of Towton.  Our Sir Ralph’s moment of history came during the reign of Henry VIII.  He had temporary charge of Scarborough Castle at the time of the Pilgrimage of Grace. As a result of his loyalty to the king he was made constable of the castle for life.  When the castle was besieged in 1536 he kept the gates firmly shut despite the fact that the king had failed to send him supplies for fear that they should fall into rebel hands.   Though this appointment was not without a whiff of scandal as Sir Ralph was accused very early in his tenancy of taking the lead off the towers and turrets for his own profit: some of the lead was exchanged for French wine. Despite his inability to read and write Sir Ralph overcame the accusations that he faced and was able to  pursue a claim to Sir Francis Bigod’s lands.

 

Sir Francis had been involved in the second part of the Pilgrimage of Grace which occurred against Robert Aske’s advice in January 1537 and which gave Henry the excuse he needed to execute all the leaders of the pilgrimage including Robert Aske.  Sir Francis paid with his life and Sir Ralph benefitted in April 1538 when was he appointed chief steward of Sir Francis Bigod’s lands in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.  All straight forward so far.  Sir Ralph was on the winning side while Sir Francis gambled and lost.

 

Except, of course, there was more than the Pilgrimage of Grace between Sir Francis and Sir Ralph.  The year before the uprising a man named Davy Seignory was murdered by a group of 10 men from Settrington took place in Malton. Seignory was Eure’s servant.  The murderers rode to Scotland where they were safe but returned to England sometime later.  However, they remained outside the reach of the law because they stayed in the Bishopric of Durham – at this time the whole county was effectively a sanctuary.  Cromwell, apparently, tried to persuade Bigod that although the king could do nothing about this unfortunate situation that Bigod could and indeed should take matters into his own hands.  Bigod said that sanctuary was more important than the murder and that was that…well apart from the fact that one of the murderers was related to Thomas Cromwell and also the fact that Bigod was in debt at a time  and was in effect Cromwell’s man.  Let’s just say that the paperwork necessary to bring the murderers before the court in York was incorrectly completed.

Strangest of all, Sir Francis Bigod had written a treatise recommending the reform of the monastic system – he was a Protestant, a reformer and Cromwell’s man.  Yet somehow he ended up taking the side of the Pilgrims.  A  fact which enabled Sir Ralph to exact revenge, it would appear, for Sir Francis’s part the shadowy events surrounding his servant’s death.  A national event but also a question of neighbours vying for power and perhaps – and this is entirely supposition- a matter of personal dislike.  Sir Francis’s version of events and his letters can still be read in the National Archives while Sir Ralph did not have the skills to save his thoughts for posterity.

Sir Ralph’s lack of literacy didn’t stop him from becoming  in 1542,  on the Duke of Suffolk’s appointment, keeper of Redesdale and Tynedale.  He took part in many raids and was part of the Earl of Hertford’s ‘Rough Wooing’ in 1544.   His actions during this campaign won him the hatred of the Scots.  In addition to the usual pillaging of the border he managed to distinguish himself by burning Brumehous Tower- not unusual – but on this occasion the lady and her children were still inside.

Eure, a commander of the army, died at the battle of Ancrum Moor on 27 Feb. 1545, where the Earl of Angus ‘revenged the defacing of the limbs of his ancestors at Melrose upon Ralph Evers.’  The Earl of Arran is said to have wept when shown the body and said, according to Henry VIII’s state papers:

“God have mercy on him, for he was a fell cruel man and over cruel, which many a man and fatherless bairn might rue, and wellaway that ever such slaughter and bloodshedding should be amongst Christian men.”

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