Tag Archives: Thomas of Lancaster

Margaret Holland – troubled royal

margaret holland.jpgMargaret Holland, duchess of Clarence was born in the later part of the fourteenth century, the daughter of Thomas Holland.  He was the fifth earl of Kent and his half-uncle was Edward II through his mother Joan the Fair Maid of Kent, meaning that Margaret Holland was the great granddaughter of Edward I if I’ve counted back right. This is important because Margaret Holland whose family had a bit of a torrid time when Richard II was deposed had married John Beaufort, earl of Somerset, the eldest illegitimate son of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford meaning that she was the other more famous Margaret Beaufort’s granny.

Margaret Holland’s husband seems to have been a bit more on the ball that her Holland brother and uncle who managed to get themselves executed in a plot in 1400 to remove Henry IV from the throne. John Beaufort benefited from his half-brother’s rise to power by becoming Constable of England before he died in 1410 leaving his wife a wealthy widow with a royal pedigree and a title.

Margaret now married her husband’s half nephew – Thomas of Lancaster, the second son of Henry IV- just in case the waters weren’t already muddy enough. Thomas, in the way of younger sons, wasn’t terribly well off and there was a fairly complicated dispensation required before the marriage could go ahead because, of course, they were related twice over in that they were both descended from Edward I – i.e. consanguinity and they were related through marriage – i.e. affinity.

Thomas when the marriage finally received papal dispensation became the duke of Clarence.  History now enters the glory days of the Hundred Years War with Henry V being all martial thus allowing Shakespeare the opportunity to write dramatic speeches on the subject in the sixteenth century.  Unfortunately despite the fact that Henry V ended up married to Katherine of Valois in the aftermath of Agincourt and the Treaty of Troyes he ultimately failed in his bid to rule France successfully because he died leaving his infant son Henry VI on the throne for a lengthy minority and the Wars of the Roses.

Thomas of Lancaster managed to die at the Battle of Baugé on 22 March 1421.  As though this wasn’t bad enough Margaret’s sons John and Thomas Beaufort were captured. John Beaufort would remain in captivity for the next seventeen years and when he did get out he was heavily in debt thanks to the ransom he was required to pay. This John Beaufort would become Duke of Somerset and he would also be the father of Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry Tudor.

Meanwhile Margaret Holland decided that two husbands were enough for any woman and decided that she wouldn’t marry again.  She didn’t need to.  She was wealthy in her own right.  She spent a lot of time trying to negotiate for her sons’ release.  She also, as many wealthy widows did at this time, developed close links with a monastic community. She is particularly associated with Syon.  When she died in 1439 she was buried in Canterbury Cathedral.

BeaufortJohnTomb.jpg

R. L. J. Shaw, ‘Holland , Margaret, duchess of Clarence (b. in or before 1388, d. 1439)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Oct 2008; online edn, May 2009 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/98133, accessed 22 April 2017]

PS Apologies for lack of posts – wifi is erratic to put it mildly at the moment!

1 Comment

Filed under canon law, Fifteenth Century, Law, The Plantagenets

Edward II and his favourites

edwardiiPiers Gaveston was the son of a Gascon lord. When Edward I chose suitable persons for his eldest surviving son’s household young Piers was selected on account of his father’s loyalty and the fact that Edward thought he’d make a good role model – Piers was apparently a bit of a charmer.

The Prince of Wales and Piers were both about 16 when they met. They certainly took to one another though how close their friendship was is a matter of speculation. After all, Edward went on to have four children with his wife Isabella. Many at the time thought Edward and Piers were having a homosexual relationship (it explained why Edward could refuse Piers nothing), but some modern historians see it as more like close brotherly love. Edward referred to Gaveston as ‘my brother Piers’. Whatever the exact nature of the relationship, it was a disaster for the kingdom.

In 1307 Edward I banished Gaveston from England, though he was to be paid an allowance. The king asked the men gathered round his death-bed to ensure that Gaveston did not return (one of them was Robert Clifford) unfortunately for England all the men gathered around Edward at the time appear to have had their fingers crossed when they promised Edward that Gaveston wouldn’t be allowed back.

The new king, Edward II, immediately brought Gaveston back to his side, made him Earl of Cornwall and bestowed on him an aristocratic wife, land  and money. Edward II was not like his father – medieval kings were supposed to be successful warriors. Edward II was more interested in digging ditches and chatting to ordinary men – preferably burly ones with a good set of biceps if some accounts are to be credited. He was also prone to doing slightly silly things such as burning Wetheral Priory on an evening out (well it saved the Scots a job) and it was swiftly becoming clear to all around him that he was not a good judge of men.

 

In 1308 Edward allowed Gaveston a prominent role in his coronation and later at his wedding banquet, at which he paid so much attention to the favourite that Queen Isabella’s French relatives walked out. It probably didn’t help that Gaveston had ordered tapestries for the occasion – they depicted the king’s arms quartered with his own. There was also the matter of Piers wearing the queen’s jewelry ‘for safe keeping.’

The king was forced to send Gaveston away to Ireland later that year, but he was back in 1309 and resumed his position at court as Edward’s principal adviser. This effectively meant that if you wanted to get the king you had to go through Piers. He controlled royal patronage and used his position to get rich.

By March 1310 opposition had mounted to such a point that the king had to agree to the appointment of the Lords Ordainers, a committee of 21 earls, barons and bishops who were to draw up rules for the management of the royal household and the realm. At the forefront of this drive to curtail Edward’s power was his cousin Thomas of Lancaster.

Gaveston was exiled by the Lord Ordinancers in November 1311. He returned without permission in January 1312 and was captured. He was effectively kidnapped on his journey south by Thomas of Lancaster at Warwick. He sentenced Gaveston to death and had the sentence carried out as soon as possible. The problem was that the execution wasn’t entirely legal. Lancaster had exceeded his authority. This caused a rift between some of the Lord Ordainers and although Edward II couldn’t act against them immediately he stored up his anger and took his revenge at a later date when he felt that he was in a position of strength.

 

Meanwhile the king led a military campaign in Scotland that failed to subdue Robert the Bruce. It would eventually culminate with a crushing defeat for the English in 1314 at the Battle of Bannockburn. Edward had no idea of strategy or good positioning for an army.   He thought that it was enough to turn up with lots of men.  The north of England found itself open to wave after wave of Scottish invaders and raiders. Skipton Castle came under attack in 1317, 1318, 1399 and 1322. It was partly because of this that Sir Roger Clifford, second Lord of Westmorland joined with the king’s enemies.

 

It didn’t help either that the harvest failed in 1315. The famine was not the king’s fault but it was symptomatic of the problems besetting his realm. The country was descending into chaos and just to make matters worse Edward found himself a new best friend. Hugh Despenser and his dear old dad also called Hugh Despenser. Hugh Despenser the Younger was married to Edward II’s niece so he was already part of the family.

Edward was clearly attracted to arrogant and greedy men. The Despensers made Gaveston look positively mild in comparison. They seized castles that didn’t belong to them, bullied women (by which I mean breaking their legs) and were probably unkind to small animals.  Things came to a head when they took possession of land in the Welsh marches that definitely didn’t belong to them. It was at this point that court politics erupted into open rebellion. Parliament caused the two men to be banished in 1321 but Edward called them home the following year.

 

At first Edward was victorious. His army quelled the Mortimers and then another army loyal to him was victorious at the Battle of Boroughbridge. The army was led by Sir Andrew de Harcla who knew that Thomas of Lancaster had called upon the Scots for support. Lancaster is supposed to have said that Sir Andrew would find himself in a position similar to that of Lancaster before the year was out. It turned out to be true. Roger Mortimer found himself in the Tower of London and Thomas of Lancaster found himself without a head. The following year Sir Andrew de Harcla, who had lost confidence in his king’s ability to protect the people of the north following the Battle of Byland in 1322, was found guilty of treating with the Scots. He was hanged, drawn and quartered in Carlisle. Ironically Edward was forced to make terms with the Scots shortly afterwards because he’d had his best warriors executed.

 

It was just after this in 1325 that Queen Isabella took the opportunity to go home to France for a holiday along with her son where she wreaked havoc upon her family as well as meeting and falling in love with Roger Mortimer who had managed to escape from the Tower.

 

Isabella and Mortimer invaded England from the Continent in 1326 with only 1500 men. Such was the unpopularity of the king and his favourites that people flocked to join them. The Despensers suffered unpleasant deaths. Hugh Despenser the younger was taken to the market place in Hereford covered in tattoos outlining his many sins which included rape (Alison Weir has a theory that Despenser raped the queen) before being hanged, drawn and quartered.

 

Edward was forced to abdicate in January 1327, in favour of his son another Edward. Edward II was murdered at Berkeley Castle. He is the king purported to have been killed with a red-hot poker shoved somewhere unmentionable. However Dr Ian Mortimer presents an intriguing theory that the king’s death was feigned.

 

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Fourteenth Century, Kings of England

Roger de Clifford – the Second Lord Clifford.

IMG_3982Roger Clifford, the 2nd Baron Clifford born in 1299 at Appleby Castle inherited the title, estates and inherited role of Sheriff of Westmorland upon the death of his father at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 at the age of fourteen. It was never a good idea to inherit as a minor as it could play havoc with estate income but 1314 was a particularly bad time to inherit property in the North of England. The Scots took advantage in the military ineptitude of Edward II to raid the borders, into Durham and on into Yorkshire. Skipton Castle was soon withstanding Scottish marauders.

 

Little wonder then that Roger, when he attained his majority, found himself drawn towards Thomas of Lancaster, Edward II’s cousin (His father was Edmund Crouchback, Edward I’s brother) a man of sound military experience. Through a complicated series of manoeuvres King Edward II was forced to form a council with Thomas of Lancaster at its head. The goal was to try to make some sense out of the chaos that followed Edward’s policies and reliance upon his favourites – Piers Gaveston and then Hugh Despencer.

 

Not that the council’s policies did much good. Berwick was lost to the English in 1318 and Edward’s favourite, the avaricious Hugh Despencer, so successfully irritated the nobility (who were already a tad tetchy about Edward II’s whole management style) that they revolted. The flames were first fanned into open revolt on the Welsh Marches where nobles including the Earl of Hereford and Sir Roger Mortimer found that their land was prey to Despencer and his father.

 

The Earl of Hereford was, according to the Lannercost Chronicle, Roger Clifford’s father-in-law so it was almost inevitable that he should have been drawn in to the conflict. As is always the case, history is not necessarily clear-cut. Another source states that Roger Clifford was unmarried at the time of his death, his marriage having been annulled but more of that shortly. It should also be added that Despencer had helped himself to some land belonging to Roger’s mother the heiress Maud de Clare giving Clifford more than enough reason to take up arms.

 

 

Edward realizing that he was on the verge of loosing his kingdom exiled Despenser and called on his loyal subjects to tackle Thomas of Lancaster and his cronies. Mortimer and the Welsh marches were subdued in January 1322. A northern army led by Thomas of Lancaster posed more of a threat.

 

Of key importance to Edward II’s victory over his subjects in 1322 was Sir Andrew de Harcla, the hero of the Siege of Carlisle, who marched south with an army of borderers upon hearing that Lancaster had turned to the Scots for support. The Lannercost Chronicle contains an account of the Battle of Boroughbridge:

 

 

On Tuesday, then, after the third Sunday in Lent, being the seventeenth of the kalends of April [16 March 1322], the aforesaid Earls arrived in force, and perceiving that Sir Andrew had anticipated them by occupying the north end of the bridge, they arranged that the Earl of Hereford and Sir Roger de Clifford (a man of great strength who had married his daughter) should advance with their company and seize the bridge from the pikemen stationed there, while the Earl of Lancaster with the rest of the cavalry should attack the ford and seize the water and ford from the pikemen, putting them to flight and killing all who resisted; but matters took a different turn.  For when the Earl of Hereford (with his standard‑bearer leading the advance, to wit, Sir Ralf de Applinsdene) and Sir Roger de Clifford and some other knights, had entered upon the bridge before the others as bold as lions, charging fiercely upon the enemy, pikes were thrust at the Earl from all sides; he fell immediately and was killed with his standard‑bearer and the knights aforesaid, to wit, Sir W de Sule and Sir Roger de Berefield; but Sir Roger de Clifford, though grievously wounded with pikes and arrows, and driven back, escaped with difficulty along with the others.

 

 

The Chronicle records the overnight armistice between Lancaster and de Harcla, who had once served Lancaster. It continues:

 

But during that night the Earl of Hereford’s men deserted and fled, because their lord had been killed, also many of the Earl of Lancaster’s men and those of my Lord de Clifford and others deserted from them.  When morning came, therefore, the Earl of Lancaster, my Lord de Clifford, my Lord de Mowbray and all who had remained with them, surrendered to Sir Andrew, who himself took them to York as captives, where they were confined in the castle to await there the pleasure of my lord the King.

 

Roger had been seriously wounded but it didn’t save him from Edward II’s wrath. In March 1322 the motte and bailey castle at York gained a new name when Roger Clifford was hanged in chains from its walls. Clifford may have given his name to Clifford’s Tower but his lands from Hartlepool to Westmorland were confiscated by the crown.

 

A man found guilty of treason not only forfeited his life but also the wealth of his family.  In this case the third lord was Roger’s brother, Robert (the good news is that everything was restored in 1327). The king played fast and loose with the laws of the land when he confiscated many of the Clifford estates. There were rules about dower lands and entails which should have resulted in Robert, who was a minor, keeping more than he did but wars cost money and besides, Edward II had favourites to please. Two thirds of the Clifford estates were bagged by the crown. The third that remained had come into the family along with Maud de Clare.

 

Roger died without legitimate heirs although folklore, as recorded by William Wordsworth (yes – the William Wordsworth) notes that Roger had a mistress by whom he had a number of children (allegedly). Julian of the Bower (yes I know it’s a boy’s name) is supposed to have been so beloved of Roger that he had a house built for her near Penrith in the Whinfell Forest. Julian’s Bower is not without controversy. The name is given to turf mazes across the country and Julian’s Bower near Penrith may or may not be the remnants of a medieval love nest given that Nicholson and Burn in their county history identify its origins as Roman.  There is no reason given for Roger’s marriage being annulled but then much of Roger’s personal life seems to be as nebulous as will o’ the wisp.

My next post will take an overview of Edward II’s reign which is convenient as I have just started a book called ‘The Cup of Ghosts’ by Paul Doherty about Matilda of Westminster, a fictional confidante of Isabella of France – Edward II’s wife and personal ‘She-wolf.’

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Fourteenth Century

Pontefract Castle

DSC_0001Wolsey, on his way back to London in disgrace commented of Pontefract Castle, “Shall I go there, and lie there, and die like a beast?”  Perhaps he was thinking of King Richard II who starved to death in the great fortress.

The Normans built their motte and bailey on the Anglo-Saxon Royal Manor of Tanshelf.  It’s builder was Ilbert de Lacy.  Ilbert and his brother arrived in 1066.  The new Lord of Pontefract had done well out of the conquest and didn’t forget to show his gratitude by making gifts to both Selby Abbey and St Mary’s Abbey in York.  DSC_0004

As the centuries progressed so did the castle until its eight towers dominated the town and the landscape beyond. Edward I described it as ‘the key to the north’.  The de Lacy’s continued to be its custodians until Henry de Lacy  (Earl of Lincoln) lost his male heir when he fell off the battlements in 1310.  His daughter Alice an important heiress was married to Thomas, Earl of Lancaster so it was he who became the next custodian of the castle.  He was Edward II’s cousin and it would be fair to say that they didn’t see eye to eye.  By 1318 Alice and Thomas were separated – possibly because of the fraught political situation of the period or perhaps because they just didn’t like one another.  Alice spent most of her time in Pickering while Thomas lived a bachelor life.  Thomas eventually revolted against his cousin on account of the Despencers, made an alliance with the Scots and then rather unfortunately lost the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322.  He was taken back home to Pontefract and unceremoniously executed looking towards Scotland which was the direction of his treachery.  DSC_0021

Eventually the castle passed into the hands of John of Gaunt and from there to his son Henry Bolingbroke who became Henry IV when he usurped his cousin’s throne.  Richard II found himself locked in one of Pontefract;s dungeons and that was the end of him.  Pontefract was now a royal castle and its prisoners reflected its importance and its security.  In 1405, Richard Scrope, Archbishop of York was imprisoned here before his execution.  James I of Scotland spent some time here as an unwilling guest as did the Dukes of Bourbon and Orleans after their capture at Agincourt.  Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury was executed here in 1460 and in 1483 Richard of York had Earl Rivers and Lord Richard Gray imprisoned here and executed – which was one way to reduce the Woodville influence at court but hasn’t reflected well on the man who became Richard III mainly because the two half brothers of the boy king Edward V were executed without trial.

The castle had a grim reputation which is perhaps something that Catherine Howard (Henry VIII’s Fifth wife) ought to have reflected upon before she started her affair with Thomas Culpepper during a Royal Progress.DSC_0011

Pontefract Castle’s days of greatness  and terror drew to a close with the English Civil War.  After the Battle of Marston Moor the castle became a Royalist stronghold.  Parliamentry forces besieged it and when it finally fell in 1648 the mayor of Pontefract petitioned on behalf of the townspeople that the castle should be destroyed.  Work began  in April 1649.

Today a few fragments of the castle remain.  The curtain wall encloses a park which hides a grim secret.  Some thirty-five feet beneath the grass there lurks a network of  cellars and magazines which were once Pontefract Castle’s dungeons.

1 Comment

Filed under Castles, Wars of the Roses

A warrior-bishop who collected taxes.

precinctsJohn Halton, or de Halton, was an Augustinian Canon in Carlisle.  He was elected the ninth Bishop of Carlisle on 23 April 1292 making him bishop during the reigns of Edward I and then Edward II – and putting him on the front line for the First Scottish War of Independence.

 

As well as caring for the spiritual concerns of his flock- his Register of the incumbents of the diocese still exists- he was also a busy diplomat and entertainer of royalty. The Magna  Britannia records him entertaining the king at Rose Castle (the principle residence until recently of the Bishops of Carlisle) in 1306 from 28 August until 10 September.

He was sent to Scotland in 1294 by the king and was a papal tax collector in Scotland (which possibly didn’t enhance his popularity with the locals and may account for why the Scots burned Rose Castle down at the first available opportunity – though obviously that’s my own personal spin on events).  On a more factual level, he was Governor of Carlisle Castle at one point, so had custody of Scottish prisoners and hostages – little did he realise that five hundred years later there would be so many Scottish Jacobite captives in Carlisle that the cathedral would have to be used as a prison.

 

It was Halton together with the Archbishop of York who excommunicated Robert Bruce in 1305 after the killing of John Comyn  and in 1306 he absolved everyone of their offences against the King’s enemies in Scotland which must have pleased the English borderers no end as they could then steal and kill with neither fear of hellfire and damnation nor, at the very least, a long time in Purgatory.  For his pains he was involved in the Seige of Carlisle in 1314 when Edward Bruce attempted to take the city.  He fled the border for large chunks of time enjoying the peace and quiet of Lincolnshire.  He was one of the king’s representatives in the treaty signed between England and Scotland in 1320.

 

The following year he turned up at a meeting held by Thomas of Lancaster which was the first indication of the barons uprising against Edward II.  There’s no evidence that Halton was involved any further but trouble and the bishop seemed to have gone hand in hand.  He died in 1324 having lived through some turbulent times on the border.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Border Reivers, Carlisle, Cathedrals, Fourteenth Century, Thirteenth Century

The Battle of Boroughbridge

DSC_0006Thomas of Lancaster was not Edward II’s favourite cousin.  After all, it was Thomas who was responsible for capturing Edward’s favourite Piers Gaveston and it was Thomas who handed Piers over to the Earl of Warwick and it was Thomas who sat with Warwick in judgement on the favourite.  It wasn’t a happy outcome for Gaveston who found his head separated from his shoulders.

The royal cousins patched things up in the short-term but following the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 when Edward was a rather inglorious runner-up – or perhaps that should be runner away. Lancaster was able to take the moral high ground and wrested power from the king’s hands.  Matters weren’t helped by the fact that the barons were resentful of the king’s bad governance, his failure to beat the Scots and the fact that moderate nobles such as the Earl of Gloucester died at Bannockburn.  It was inevitable that there would be some form of civil conflict.  The trigger was Edward’s new favourite, Hugh Despenser – a particularly unpleasant individual if the chronicles are to be believed.  He acquired land that had belonged to Gloucester on the Welsh Marches and then took the opportunity to help himself to a bit more as well.  Men such as the Mortimers, Cliffords and even the Earl of Hereford found their land holdings in Wales threatened by Despenser and Lancaster found himself with several very enthusiastic supporters.  The time seemed ripe.  He elicited support from the Scots and gathered his army.

Luck, however, was not on Lancaster’s side.  First he lost many of his stores while trying to ford a flooded river.  The king’s army, under the command of the Earls of Surrey and Kent, was larger than expected and Lancaster found himself moving north rather than south.  He wasn’t blessed with particularly talented scouts either.  No one spotted the King’s northern army under the command of Sir Andrew de Harcla heading south to join with the main army.  Lancaster found himself trapped between two forces loyal to the king.

The rebels had no choice but to take the bridge at Boroughbridge if they wished to escape but when they arrived they discovered that de Harcla had got there first. The bridge was guarded by his knights and men-at-arms while the river banks were lined with his archers.   At first, the exchange was limited to arrows singing across the river. It was stalemate, until that is, the Earl of Hereford attacked the bridge in heroic style.  It was unfortunate that armour did not protect the lower regions because Hereford was disembowelled by one of de Harcla’s spearman who’d climbed under the bridge.  There was a moment of panic that saw Roger de Clifford the heir to the castles of Appleby, Pendragon and Brougham felled by an arrow.  The rebels withdrew but in good order.

Thomas of Lancaster was forced to parley with de Harcla.  He reminded the knight that he’d gained his spurs from Thomas himself.  He promised that if de Harcla changed sides that there would be other and greater rewards.  De Harcla refused.  Finally Thomas agreed that he would surrender the next day or suffer the consequences.  Thomas went off for a good night’s sleep in Boroughbridge. De Harcla and his men spent an uncomfortable night watching the bridge.  Personally, I like to think that de Harcla wanted his old mentor to slip through the lines and make his escape because the next morning hostilities didn’t recommence until the arrival of the Sheriff of Yorkshire.

De Harcla began his attack on the town (the image of the battle with the burning houses gives some indication of Boroughbridge’s plight).  There was no more choice in the matter.  Lancaster’s army fled.  Lancaster himself sought sanctuary in a chapel just off the market square.  His sanctuary was not respected.

DSC_0004These days Boroughbridge is much more peaceful I’m pleased to say and the ramshackle wooden bridge that crossed the River Ure is decidedly more solid these days.  Where de Harcla’s men once lined up to stop Lancaster’s army there’s a picnic area.  There are some handy interpretation boards with some delightful illustrations along the way and at Aldborough there’s an opportunity to view Boroughbridge’s Battle Cross.  Up until the Victorian period it had stood in the market square for five hundred years – one of the country’s earliest war memorials perhaps?DSC_0003

When we set off on the four mile walk around the site of the battle the sun even shone – it was the beginning of June and although we didn’t realise it at the time but it was one of the few hot summer days of 2012.  Having said that we did have to pick up our pace over the last mile or so on account of the rather heavy storm cloud that threatened.  Better a soaking  though than the fate that befell Thomas of Lancaster.  He was dressed in his servant’s clothes, paraded through the streets of York, pelted with mud and then tried in his own castle – Pontefract.  When they executed him – they made him face in the direction of Scotland.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Fourteenth Century, The Plantagenets

Andrew de Harcla

Andrew de Harcla or Harclay was knighted in 1303 by Thomas of Lancaster.  As the fourth of six sons he would have to make his own way in the world and by 1312 he was on his journey to success.  He was sent to Parliament as a knight for Cumberland.  It wasn’t long before he became the ‘custos’ for Carlisle and the castle.  He started to hold other castles for the king, including Pendragon Castle.  Following the death of Robert de Clifford in 1314 at the Battle of Bannockburn he also found himself responsible for Appleby and Brougham Castle while Roger de Clifford was deemed too young to hold the castles in his own name.

images-18De Harcla found himself responsible for the security of the north at a difficult time.  Robert Bruce seeing the difficulties that Edward II managed to get himself into with his assorted favourites and bolshy barons (the Lord Ordainers) decided to snaffle some territory.  The lifestyle of raiding and warfare was on its way to being endemic by the end of the period. Prior to Bannockburn in the year 1313 Edward Bruce raided the land around Carlisle and following Bannockburn de Harcla found himself besieged for some ten or elven days in 1315 by the Scots with siege engines.  Only the rumour that the Earl of Pembroke was on his way with a relieving army and that Edward Bruce had been killed in Ireland sent the Scots on their merry way once more.   This initial letter from the Carlisle Charter shows Sir Andrew defending the castle.

King Edward II initially recognised the importance of de Harcla as a stabilising force in the north of the country.  In 1320 he gave de Harcla the right to help conserve a recently made truce with the Scots.  This meant that there was a degree of interchange between the two sides to ensure that justice was met according to the treaty.  This was reinforced in 1322 when Edward gave Sir Andrew power to treat with the Scots – again, initially this seemed to be of benefit to the King.  Letters from Thomas of Lancaster to the Scots revealed that the king’s cousin was fermenting rebellion.

In 1322 de Harcla found himself taking the field against Thomas of Lancaster at the Battle of Boroughbridge.  Thomas knew that he had to cross the river but when he arrived at the bridge it was held by the king’s men.  After a ferocious battle the two leaders made terms.  Lancaster tried to remind de Harcla that he owed his knighthood to him and that if he joined the rebellion against Edward II he would be further rewarded.  Andrew said no and the two armies settled down for a sleepless night – although unusually it was de Harcla who spent the night out in the cold guarding the bridge while Lancaster and his men were billeted in Boroughbridge.  Lancaster is said to have cursed de Harcla saying he would die a traitor’s death within the year.

At first this seemed unlikely, Edward loaded Sir Andrew with rewards for his service including making him the first Earl of Carlisle.  Unfortunately de Harcla was not left in peace to enjoy his new title.  Before long the Scots were on the march.  They laid siege to Norham Castle in the East and pushed south to Byland where an English army were soundly beaten.  Edward II did what he did best – he ran away.  The Scots plundered Ripon and did nasty things to Beverley.

It was the final straw for de Harcla, despite the fact that his permission to make treaties with the Scots had probably expired by that point he had a cosy little chat in Lochmaben Castle about the possibility of recognising King Robert Bruce and bringing the war to an end.  The Lanercost Chronicle roundly denounces de Harcla as a traitor- as indeed did the king- but at least the Chronicle makes the point that the ordinary people would have been very grateful for a bit of law and order and the chance to grow things without the Scots coming along and causing chaos.

Edward had de Harcla arrested in the great hall of Carlisle Castle by Sir Anthony de Lucy.  De Lucy was probably quite gleeful about this as he’d had a bit of a land dispute with de Harcla and now got all the property that he wanted…think Monopoly but a bit more dangerous.  Sir Andrew was stripped of his earldom and his knighthood and then he was taken out to the gallows at Harraby Hill where he was hung, drawn and quartered and all without the benefit of a trial beforehand.  His decapitated head was, apparently, taken to Knaresborough Castle for Edward to inspect before it was placed on a spike with a nice view over London Bridge.

Eventually de Harcla’s sister was allowed to collect up the scattered body parts from their various locations – Carlisle, Newcastle and London to name but three and his remains were interred in the church at Kirkby Stephen.

Ironically Edward was eventually forced to recognise King Robert of Scotland – in part because he’d had his best commander in the north executed for trying to protect Edward’s subjects.

1 Comment

Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Border Reivers, Carlisle, Fourteenth Century, The Plantagenets

Thomas of Lancaster, Second Earl of Lancaster

 

Thomas_Earl_of_Lancaster_kneels_before_the_executioner_who_has_his_sword_raisedThomas of Lancaster was the son of Edmund Crouchback who was the second surviving son of King  Henry III.  Crouchback refers to the fact that he fought in the ninth crusade so was entitled to wear a cross stitched onto the back of his clothes – no Richard III tendencies.  But I digress, Thomas of Lancaster is the grandson of Henry III, just as Edward II is the grandson of Henry III – making them cousins; though they clearly weren’t the kissing variety by the end of Thomas’s life as this rather graphic image from the Luttrell Psalter demonstrates.

 

He was one of the richest and most powerful men in the country.  He held five earldoms, was the Sheriff of Lancashire, the Steward of England and held several key strategic castles in the North including Pontefract. He fought in Scotland during Edward I’s wars and when Edward II was crowned he carried Edward the Confessor’s sword during the coronation ceremony.

 

The main problem was that Thomas and Piers Gaveston, the king’s favourite could not stand one another.  It didn’t help that the upstart Gaveston was given a more important role during the coronation or that he referred to Thomas as ‘the churl’ or ‘the fiddler’. Despite this Thomas was initially loyal to his cousin. But as time went by it became apparent that Edward was blind where his favourite was concerned.  Thomas was part of the group of barons who saw Gaveston banished- for the third time it might be added- but when the royal favourite returned to England in 1311 to spend Christmas at court despite Edward II agreeing to his banishment hostility was almost bound to break out into violence.

In Spring 1312 Edward and Piers were forced to flee York when they heard that Thomas of Lancaster was leading an army in their direction.  They fled to Newcastle, leaving the pregnant Queen Isabella to deal with the irate earl as best she could.  Unfortunately for the king and his friend, Thomas of Lancaster swiftly changed direction and surprised the monarch in Newcastle.  Apparently the king and Piers fled with little more than they wore.  It took Lancaster four days to catalogue everything that had been left behind while the king and his crony found a ship to take them south to Scarborough.

 

 

Edward demanded his fortress of Scarborough back from the control of the Percy family which they obligingly handed over and Edward left Piers Gaveston in charge.  Once Thomas ascertained that the king wasn’t in residence, he besieged the castle and Piers surrendered being more of a courtier than a warrior.  Thomas took Piers south for trial but the Earl of Warwick – nicknamed the ‘Black dog of Arden’ by Gaveston  (and who definitely wasn’t one of Gaveston’s admirers) took the royal favourite out of Thomas’s hands, tried and executed him.

 

 

Following the disaster of Bannockburn in 1314 Edward was forced to submit to his cousin and it was Thomas who tried to rule for the next four years.   It would have to be said that Thomas was a bit of a thorn in Edward’s flesh prior to this period.  He refused to attend parliament and there is some evidence that he didn’t send enough men to aid his cousin against the Scots.  It was during this time that Scottish raiding along the borders became prevalent and in 1318 Thomas fell from power.  In 1321 Thomas was at the head of a rebellion once more.  He met with forces loyal to the king at the Battle of Boroughbridge where he was taken prisoner, tried and finally executed at Pontefract Castle – for treason and rudeness towards Edward…which certainly puts a whole new meaning on the naughty step…oh yes, and for plotting with Scotland.

 

 

 

He was buried in Pontefract Priory (a Cluniac monastery).  All that remains of the Priory is the name Monk Hill.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Fourteenth Century, The Plantagenets