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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hicks, Michael.  Whose who in Medieval History

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

 

 

 

 

 

Lords Appellant leaping

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Croxden Abbey, Staffordshire

DSC_0016In 1176 the Cistercians arrived in Cotton but three years later relocated to nearby Croxden.  The land was given by Bertram de Verdun, the lord of nearby Alton.  He was concerned not only for his own soul but also for those of his predecessors and also his descendants. Bits of Alton Castle (not open to the public) date to the twelfth century so are also part of Bertram’s building schemes.   Croxden is the oldest of Staffordshire’s Cistercian houses.  There were twelve monks and their abbot, an English man known as Thomas of Woodstock. They acquired endowments in Staffordshire, Leicestershire and in Hartshorne in Derbyshire amongst other locations from Bertram.  The land at Hartshorne was known as Lees and measured as a carucate. A carucate is of Norse origin and it signifies the amount of land that can be ploughed by one plough team of eight oxen in a season. Carucate is my word of the day! The monks also held Riston and Trusley in Derbyshire.

DSC_0015The choice of Croxden fits with the site selection that is almost uniform to Cistercian monasteries:

  1. by a river – River Churnet.  Usually the monks looked for a bend in the river where they had been granted land.  This method of siting the monastery meant that on most occasions the land was level and that there was agricultural land nearby as well as the opportunity for fish and the creation of fish ponds.
  2. in a valley (aren’t most rivers in a valley or on a plain?)
  3. remote – Staffordshire moorlands.

The Cistercians arrived in England in 1128 in Waverley.  Their foundations demonstrate a simplicity of design in harmony with the idea of obedience to their conformity to the Rule of St Benedict.  Most Cistercian churches for example have a “square” end of the kind that most medieval parish churches exemplify.  However, Croxden doesn’t.  It has an apse- not that much remains aside from the footprint and it has been separated from the main body of the church by the road that was driven through the village after the suppression of the monasteries.  I don’t think that any Cistercian Church survives in tact – possibly because of their habit of building in the middle of nowhere, thus there benign population in need of a parish church at the time of the dissolution – but I could be wrong.

DSC_0017The other feature of Croxden’s architecture to often appear in commentaries is the abbot’s lodging.  The first lodging appears between 1270 and 1290 but the following century Abbot Richard rebuilt a much more splendid dwelling – demonstrating the inevitable shift from poverty and simplicity.

 

In 1199 they  received lands in Ireland from King John  – the following year the abbot persuaded him to swap the lands for an annual annuity of £5.  In 1205 this was swapped again for land in Shropshire and in 1287 it was swapped for Caldon Grange near Leek.

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The thirteenth century saw Croxden at its most prosperous.  There may have been as many as forty monks at one time.  Revenues came from sheep and charcoal burning.  As a result there was extenisve building work as well as other purchases in William of Over purchased a house in London for £20.00.  However, the fourteenth century saw significant changes. As well as the Hundred Years War, Edward II and the Scottish levy there was also the fact that the abbey lost their key patrons.  The de Verdun family had supported them from the time of their foundation but in 1316 the last male of the family died so the title and estates were inherited by Joan de Verdun and her husband Thomas de Furnivalle.  He didn’t appear to understand the role of a patron and instead insisted on stabling his hoses and hounds at the abbey – not to mention the necessity of the abbey feeding seven of his bailiffs every Friday.  He also confiscated livestock and a cart.  Alton became a no go area resulting in the monks barricading themselves into Croxden for sixteen weeks beginning in March 1319. Eventually matters settled down – in 1334 Joan was buried at Croxden when she died in childbirth.  Stone coffins remain in the apse of the ruins.

 

In 1349 the plague arrived in Croxden.  It is recorded in the abbey’s chronicle but not how many of the monks succumbed.  Let us not forget famine and sheep moraine to add to the general joy of the fourteenth century.

 

Aside from the local bigwigs there was also the issue of dodgy royalty and the Scottish wars of independence. In 1310 the Crown required loans for a Scottish expedition and the abbey also had duties with respect to its landholdings.   In 1322 for example the abbot was taken to court for refusing to pay his share for the maintenance of  foot soldiers. By 1368 the abbey owed £165.  Nor did it help that the church roof had been releaded and the abbot’s house rebuilt (nice to know he got his priorities right.)  The following year the section of the abbey adjoining the church collapsed.  The list of problems facing the abbey continued to be chronicles.  There were also floods and storms.  By 1381 the abbot was in charge of six monks.

 

Somewhere along the line – the abbey was able to acquire more land on the Derbyshire/Staffordshire border. Hulton Abbey sold  90 acres of waste ground at Bradnop in the middle of the fourteenth century.  They also managed to acquire Sedsall. In 1402 they gained a house in Ashbourne from Henry Blore.  All these transactions are recorded in the form of royal licences.  Despite these new land acquisitions Croxden struggled to maintain its former wealth and it probably didn’t help that there were a series of law suits.

 

The visitation of 1535/36 valued them at less than £200 a year so they should have been suppressed with the smaller monasteries but the abbot paid a fine of £100 for a licence to continue.  Their income placed them as 67thout of  75 Cistercian houses according to Knowles and Hadcock cited in Klemperer. None the less in August 1538 Archbishop Cranmer wrote to Cromwell asking for a commission to be sent to Croxden, and on 17 September Dr. Thomas Legh and William Cavendish received the surrender of the abbey from the abbot and twelve other monks. One of the reasons that Cranmer was so interested in the fate of Croxden was because the much of the site of Croxden including the watermill was leased to his servant Francis Bassett (who assisted with the destruction of St Anne’s Well in Buxton.) In 1545 the estate was sold to the Foljambe family.

 

As for the monks, they all received their pensions. One of them became the vicar of Alton and he was still in receipt of his pension during the reign of Queen Mary.

 

Cromwell was always on the look out for tales of naughty monks but it seems that for much of Croxden’s history aside from the land deals and court cases that the abbots ran a tight ship. Tompkinson records that when in 1274 a lodger called Thomas Hoby was killed in a fight between grooms the entire household of the abbot’s servants were dismissed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA.

 

The Victoria County history details its landholdings:  the manor and grange of Oaken, Lee Grange in Crakemarsh, and granges at Musden, Caldon, and Trusley; lands and rents in Croxden, Combridge, Great Gate, Ellastone, Alton, ‘Whytley’ in Leek, Onecote, Cotton, Dog Cheadle, Uttoxeter, Denstone, Calton, Caldon, Stafford, Orberton (in St. Mary’s, Stafford), Walton (Staffs.), Ashbourne, Doveridge, Derby, Hartshorne, Thurvaston (in Longford), Langley (Derb.), Burton Overy, Tugby, Mountsorrel (in Barrow-upon-Soar and Rothley, Leics.), Casterton, Stamford, Misterton (? Leics.), London, and ‘Sutton Maney’; the appropriated churches of Croxden, Alton, and Tugby and the tithes of Oaken, Lee, Musden, Caldon, and Trusley Granges; and a ‘wichehouse’ in Middlewich and Hungarwall smithy in Dog Cheadle.   The list doesn’t include the mills and fish ponds nor the saltpan in Cheshire by which method the monks added to their self sufficiency.

 

G C Baugh, W L Cowie, J C Dickinson, Duggan A P, A K B Evans, R H Evans, Una C Hannam, P Heath, D A Johnston, Hilda Johnstone, Ann J Kettle, J L Kirby, R Mansfield and A Saltman, ‘Houses of Cistercian monks: The abbey of Croxden’, in A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 3, ed. M W Greenslade and R B Pugh (London, 1970), pp. 226-230. British History Onlinehttp://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/staffs/vol3/pp226-230 [accessed 30 July 2018].

 

William D. Klemperer  Excavations at Hulton Abbey, Staffordshire 1987-1994

Tomlinson, John L. (2000). Monastic Staffordshire. Leek: Churnet Books

 

 

Edward of Norwich

edward of norwich.jpgSome of you will be relieved that I’m moving away from Henry VIII for a short while. Today I’ve landed on the 8th of December 1405 and the figure behind the door is Edward of Norwich. So we’re slap bang in the middle of the reign of Henry IV and almost inevitably Edward is a Plantagenet related to Edward III. Edward III is Edward’s grandfather.

 

Edward’s father was Edward III’s fourth surviving son Edmund of Langley a.k.a. the first duke of York – from whence the name York of the House of York stems though rather confusingly by the time the Wars of the Roses started much of their land holdings were in the south whilst the Lancastrians held lands in Yorkshire (you know you’d be disappointed if it was straight forward).   Edward’s mother was Isabelle of Castille, the sister of John of Gaunt’s wife Blanche and there’s a tale to tell about Isabelle and her husband because there were rumours (aren’t there always?) that Edward’s younger brother Richard of Connisburgh wasn’t necessarily the child of Edmund of Langley.

 

Any way enough of that.  Edward died at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 having lived through the reigns of Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V. His death without heirs would mean that his nephew would become the 3rd duke of York and he would be at the heart of the Wars of the Roses.

 

Edward was born, oh dear, in Kings Langley, Norwich or York as it is possible that Norwich is a mispronunciation of the Latin form of the name York…it’s always nice to be clear about these things, don’t you think?

 

Edward was knighted at Richard II’s coronation in 1377 when he was about four years old. He was younger but close enough in age for the two boys to grow up together and  to be close to Richard II throughout Richard’s life. He benefitted accordingly becoming the earl of Cork and the earl of Rutland, as well as, duke of Aumale and eventually second duke of York. He became warden of the West March, Constable of the Tower, Governor of the isle of White. In fact if you can think of a well known role chances are that Edward will have held the office at some point during Richard II’s reign. He even gained control of Anne of Bohemia’s lands after her death and benefited from them financially.

 

In 1397 following the arrest of Thomas of Woodstock a.k.a. the duke of Gloucester (the youngest son of Edward III) and his subsequent nasty accident with a mattress it was Edward who became Constable of England ultimately accusing his uncle and the earl of Arundel of treason. It was widely suggested that Edward had assisted with the practicalities of the mattress related incident in Calais when his cousin suggested it would be a good idea if their uncle was removed from the scene.

 

So, Edward is at the key event in 1398 when Henry of Bolingbroke (John of Gaunt’s son and later Henry IV) took on Thomas Mowbray, duke of Norfolk, in armed combat. Edward was the constable in charge of overseeing fair play. Of course the combat didn’t go ahead and both Mowbray and Henry were exiled.

 

Edward went off to Ireland with Richard II who on John of Gaunt’s death had seized his estate and changed Bolingbroke’s exile from a temporary affair to one of life. Edward seeing which way the wind was blowing swiftly changed sides when Henry landed at Ravenspur. This about-face didn’t save Edward from the wrath of the people who’d risen up against Richard II.  It was only the intervention of Henry IV which saved him from prison and worse.  He did lose the title of Aumale.

 

In October 1399 Edward was a prisoner but by the end of the year he was back on the king’s council. Henry IV was troubled by plots throughout his reign. Henry V (then Prince Henry) would describe Edward as a ‘loyal and valiant knight’ demonstrating that Edward’s personality was such that he managed to survive being implicated in any of them over the long term unlike his brother Richard of Connisburgh got himself executed for his role in the Southampton Plot of 1415 or their sister Constance who had tried to put the earl of march on the throne in 1405.

The 1415 plot also sought  to place Edmund Mortimer a descendant of Lionel of Antwerp – the second surviving son of Edward III so legally the correct claimant of the crown after Richard II- in place of Henry V who was, of course, descended from John of Gaunt – the third surviving son of Edward III and Henry Iv who had of course usurped his cousin’s throne, albeit by popular demand.

 

Edward of Norwich died at Agincourt having placed himself in danger to protect Henry V. Edward was replaced as duke of Norfolk by his nephew, Richard of York – the son of Richard of Connisburgh who’d been executed for treason at the start of the French campaign for his role in the Southampton Plot.

 

And welcome to the Wars of the Roses. Richard of York would eventually attempt to claim the throne in December 1460 through his descent from Lionel of Antwerp rather than Edmund of Langley but fail to gain popular support. On the 30th December 1460 he would be killed along with his son the young earl of Rutland in the aftermath of the Battle of Wakefield.

In between doing what Plantagenets did i.e. being a soldier, ruling various realms and plotting against his family, Edward of Norwich  also managed to find time to write the oldest known book on hunting.

You might be wondering whether Edward married.  The answer is yes, he did.  Phillippa de Bohun who was twenty years his senior.  She must have been an heiress I hear you yell. Well actually no.  Although Phillippa was a de Bohun her mother had sold the family estates leaving her daughters with no lands and no noticeable dowry.  Intriguingly Edward’s bride was not only twenty years older than him she was also no great catch and having already been twice widowed but still childless not particularly fertile…leaving us with the possibility that the pair loved one another.

 

http://www.englishmonarchs.co.uk/plantagenet_70.html

http://www.shakespeareandhistory.com/duke-of-aumerle.php

Edward III, Danny Dyer and the Emperor Charlemagne

220px-king_edward_iii_from_npgEdward III is sometimes described as “The Father of the Nation.” According to one of my old copies of Who Do You Think You Are magazine approximately four million people along with the likes of Danny Dyer are descended from King Edward III. Ian Mortimer’s book on Edward III suggests that the actual figure is somewhere between 80 and 95% of the population of England- perhaps ‘Father of Millions’ would have been a better name.

(And wasn’t it a brilliant opening episode of Who Do You Think You Are?– I hope there’re more episodes this series that go back up a family tree as far as possible but I doubt anyone will look quite as stunned as East Enders’ actor Danny when he found himself sitting in Westminster Abbey with a pedigree as long as your arm in his hand – and then there’s the Cromwell link!)

So, where to start if you want to know more about Edward III? Edward III was rather helpfully the son of Edward II. Edward II was married to Isabella of France – the warmly named “She-Wolf” who arrived in England aged twelve to discover that her spouse had a preference for his male companions, in particular Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despencer. Chroniclers of the period are disapproving of Edward’s friendships. To cut a long and complicated story down to size Edward II was deposed by Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer when young Prince Edward was just fourteen.   Edward II disappeared from the scene via Berkeley Castle and a helping hand; though there are some interesting theories that his death was somewhat exaggerated.

 

Young Prince Edward became King Edward III though the power behind the throne was in the hands of his mother and Roger Mortimer. Edward III became increasingly concerned about his perilous position vis a vis Mortimer who behaved as though he was king. Edward, aged just seventeen in 1330 seized his opportunity in Nottingham when his men were able to sneak into the castle through a network of tunnels, surprise Mortimer and take back power. Edward III went on to reign until his death in 1377; some fifty years plus a few months.

 

Edward married Philippa of Hainault in York Minster in 1328 and proved a most uxorious monarch though that didn’t stop him having several illegitimate children with his mistress, the avaricious Alice Perrers, after Philippa’s death. The royal pair had thirteen children of whom nine survived to adulthood – I’m not sure what the maths is but to expand from nine (plus a hand full of illegitimate children) to at least four million descendents is jaw dropping. If you want to understand the maths better double click on the picture at the start of this post to open up a new page and an article in the National Geographic which also explains how come you might be related to the Emperor Charlemagne even if you don’t have the family tree and paper trail to prove it.

 

What do we know of Edward’s children? Let’s deal with the boys first. Edward of Woodstock, the so-called Black Prince and the hero of Crecy was born in 1330. He made a love match with his cousin Joan of Kent (who had a dodgy marital past of her own). They had two sons but the eldest died when he was just six. The second boy, Richard of Bordeaux, became Richard II when his grandfather died – the Black Prince having pre-deceased his father. Richard II had no children. So far so straight forward and no sign of the four million.

Lionel of Antwerp was Edward’s third son but only the second to survive to adulthood. Lionel was married twice. His second bride was Violante Visconti of Piedmont. Lionel died shortly after arriving in Italy and definitely before he had the chance to go doing any begetting. The word ‘poison’ was bandied around at the time and it should be noted that Violante’s second husband was also murdered.  Lionel did have a child from his first marriage– a girl called Philippa who found herself married into the Mortimer family in the person of Edmund Mortimer (a difficult opening conversation might have been “your grandfather was my grandma’s lover and then my dad had him dragged off and executed!”) The House of York would one day base its claim to the English throne on its descent from Philippa. That line was also descended from Lionel’s younger brother Edmund of Langley hence the York bit. There are rather a lot of girls in Lionel’s strand of descent through the family tree.  Reason enough for bloodlines getting lost over time as younger daughters of younger daughters gradually tumbled down the social ladder and that’s before warfare, treachery, bad luck as well as just being plain unimportant get involved in the equation.

 

The next son to arrive in Edward III’s and Philippa of Hainhault’s nursery was John of Gaunt. John, the duke of Lancaster, through his first marriage to his distant cousin Blanche fathered the Lancastrian line of kings – Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI. He had two daughters with his second wife Constance of Castile but they married royalty on the Iberian Peninsula. It is through one of them that Katherine of Aragon is descended from Edward III.

 

John of Gaunt also had a third family with his mistress Katherine Swynford. This family was later legitimised by the pope and by parliament. This family were called Beaufort after one of John’s castles in France. It is through the Beaufort line that Henry Tudor would one day make his claim to the throne. Students of the Wars of the Roses know that the problem for the House of Lancaster was that there was a shortage of males by 1485, hence the rather dodgy claim of Henry Tudor. However, there were plenty of girls in the distant family tree when you look at it closely – all of them, well at least the ones who didn’t die in infancy or become nuns, contributing to the projected four million descendants of Edward III.

 

The next prince was Edmund of Langley who became the duke of York. He married the younger sister of John of Gaunt’s second wife Constance of Castile and there were offspring. Edward III had three more sons after that, Thomas and William who both died in infancy and then came Thomas of Woodstock who was created duke of Gloucester. He’s the one who ended up murdered in Calais on the orders of his nephew Richard II – a mattress was involved – but not before he’d fathered a number of children.

 

Now – for the girls who, it would have to be said, are much more straightforward. Edward III’s eldest daughter was called Isabella. She had two daughters, one of whom married in to the de Vere family – meaning that the earls of Oxford can trace their ancestry back to Edward III as well as to other Plantagenets. The next girl was called Joan and she was one of the first victims of the Black Death that struck in 1349. Her sister Blanche died in infancy in 1342. The next two sisters weren’t particularly long lived either. Their names were Mary and Margaret. So far as history is currently aware none of the last four had offspring.

 

Edward III also had a number of known illegitimate children. Alison Weir lists them as John Surrey, Joan, Jane and possibly Nicholas Lytlington who became the Abbot of Westminster but there is uncertainty as to his paternity. He could also have been a Dispenser. I should like to say that as an abbot it isn’t really an issue, except of course being in clerical orders doesn’t seemed to have prevented rather a lot of the clergy from fathering children.

 

And those are the key names if you’re one of the four million. Of course, it turns out that if you’re from Western Europe and understand mathematics (its true apparently even if you don’t understand the maths) you’re also related to the Emperor Charlemagne – which is mildly disconcerting. If you just want to find out more about Britain’s royal genealogy then the most comprehensive place to look is at Alison Weir’s  Britain’s Royal Families published by Vintage Books.

I’m off to find my gateway ancestor… though I must admit to never having seen a genealogical expert just sitting around, waiting for me to turn up in order to point me in the right direction. Ho hum!

 

 

 

Richard II – birthday boy

tumblr_m94jocf45j1qeu6ilo1_500Richard, son of the Black Prince and Joan of Kent was born on January 6th 1367. Ten years later the Black Prince died pre-deceasing his aged and increasingly infirm father Edward III. It says something about the changes in society that a child was successfully able to inherit his grandfather’s throne. It probably also says rather a lot about Richard’s uncles, particularly John of Gaunt that there was no take over bid.

 

Richard’s reign tends to be remembered, in popular imagination at least, for two things. The first event was the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. Richard demonstrated personal bravery in order to ride out to Smithfield to meet Wat Tyler – and remember that Richard’s chancellor, even though he did resign shortly before, Simon of Sudbury had been brutally murdered by the mob and that John of Gaunt’s palace, The Savoy, had been utterly destroyed.

 

Richard, married to Anne of Bohemia introduced the word Majesty to court circles, no doubt helping his uncles and relatives to remember who was in charge. It was this period that saw curly toed footwear, Geoffrey Chaucer and the building of Westminster Hall. Despite these things which seem on their own to indicate a period of culture and learning (shoes aside) but Richard failed to live up to his early promise.  In addition to not being particularly keen on fighting the french he liked bathing, reading and clothes as well as getting his own way. The death of Anne of Bohemia in 1394 didn’t help matters very much nor did his second marriage two years later to Isabella of Valois who was a child so unable to curb his despotic tendencies or desire to have his entire court on their knees:

 

‘After this on solemn festivals when by custom [Richard II] performed kingly rituals, he would order a throne to be prepared for him in his chamber on which he liked to sit ostentatiously from after dinner until vespers, talking to no one but watching everyone; and when his eye fell on anyone, regardless of rank, that person had to bend his knee towards the king …’

Continuatio Eulogii, pp. 371-9

 

 

To cut a long story short Richard didn’t look to his relatives for support once he reached adulthood – a fact which irritated them immensely. One of Richard’s uncles (Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester) waited until John of Gaunt (yet another of Richard’s uncles) was out of the country and then used the law to curb Richard’s increasingly authoritarian practices. Many of Richard’s favourites were executed. The event is recalled by the title that the 1388 Parliament is known by – the Merciless Parliament.

 

Richard had to wait nearly a decade to get his own back and during that time he ensured that there was a cohort of men loyal to him as well as a crack troop at his command. In 1397 Richard arrested and banished his opponents including his cousin Henry of Bolingbroke who was also John of Gaunt’s son. The Duke of Gloucester having been arrested and sent to Calais had a fatal ‘accident’, allegedly involving a mattress, on his nephew’s orders.

 

When John of Gaunt died, Henry of Bolingbroke thought that his banishment would be over. Instead Richard made the banishment permanent and stripped Henry of his lands. Henry landed at Ravenspur with the intent of reclaiming the Duchy of Lancaster. Which leads to the second event of Richard’s reign which most folk know – his usurpation and death from starvation at Pontefract. No wonder Shakespeare found plenty of material to write about.

Froissart’s Chronicles, somewhat sympathetic to Richard, gives an account of the period but ultimately seems to indicate that Richard brought his own downfall upon himself through his authoritarianism and failure to make war on the French.

 

Two generations on, problems resulting from Richard’s removal would arise when the Lancaster line failed to produce a strong king. Henry IV as Henry Bolingbroke became held on to his crown though in constant fear that someone would do to him what he had done to Richard.  Henry V was probably the most martial king of the period and then there was Henry VI.  That would be the time when a swift investigation of the family tree would remind the nobility that the Lancaster line was descended from Edward III’s third surviving son.  Unfortunately for England, Lionel of Antwerp, Edward’s second surviving son, had a child Philippa who had married into the Mortimer family.  Richard II had named Philippa’s son (Roger Mortimer) his heir. At a time when the Lancaster line weakened this inconvenient fact would become very important indeed. And it would be another Richard – Richard of York – descended on both his mother and father’s side from Edward III who would demand that attention be paid to the previously ignored rights of the Mortimers.

Thomas – a crusading, jousting Clifford

IMG_3926Thomas Clifford, the sixth baron, was born in approximately 1365.  He became a royal favourite at the time of Richard II – he was noted, apparently, for his “dissipation and indulgence” by which we can assume his shoes had very curly toes.  Quite what the inhabitants of the borders would have made of a court favourite dressed in the height of fashion is left unrecorded but Thomas found himself in the role not only of Warden of the West March but also the East March – making him a very busy man.  In 1384 he was granted custody of Carlisle Castle for life along with John Neville.  Presumably they took turns visiting.

 

One of the features of Thomas’s tenure was the knightly habit of jousting- hence the repetition of the picture in this post.  Thomas travelled widely in Europe with a retinue of knights who attended tournaments.  In fact, he even crossed into Scotland for the odd tournament and gave Lord Douglas permission to come into England for the same reason.  Think of these tournaments as the equivalent of medieval football matches crossed with the arrival of your favourite pop star.

 

In between governing the whole of the north and keeping the Scots under control and generally being knightly Thomas also rose to the role of Master of the King’s Horse.

It’s worth mentioning that while Thomas was busy doing all of this that England was having a spot of bother. The Lords Appellant were not keen on the way Richard II was ruling his kingdom.  Having come out of the Peasant’s Revolt with a reputation for personal bravery Richard developed a sense of his own importance.  It was this monarch who introduced the word ‘majesty’ into the descriptors to be used and also came up with an elaborate protocol involving repeated bowing on approaching the royal presence.  Unsurprisingly this did not go down particularly well with the aristocracy who were just as well bred as Richard.  Nor were they terribly impressed with Richard’s best friend, Richard de Vere, Earl of Oxford.  Inevitably, de Vere was  sent packing following the Battle of Radcot Bridge in 1387 and then expired whilst in exile.  Richard was forced to submit to the so called Merciless Parliament in 1388 (the year Thomas became Master of the King’s Horse)  and then spent a good number of years biding his time while he gained sufficient power to show everyone exactly who was in charge.

 

Thomas was treading an aristocratic tightrope along with every other noble in the country.  Not only did the nobility owe their land and their allegiance to the monarchy but they were increasingly connected by ties of blood.  For example Thomas’s wife, Elizabeth de Roos was descended from King Edward I. De Roos was the Lord of Helmsley – a reminder that national politics were interwoven with marriages and family relationships at a local level.  Feudalism was giving way to bastard feudalism.  In part this was a consequence of the Black Death but it was also the result of family sponsorship and patronage that lent itself to close knit community ties but also to feuding.

 

Little wonder that Thomas took himself off on crusade to Lithuania with Thomas of Woodstock, Earl of Gloucester in 1395.  Unfortunately he got into a bit of a fight with a son of the Earl of Douglas – and killed him.  Filled with remorse Thomas decided to go on another crusade to Jerusalem.  Somewhere (don’t you love it when history fails to provide all the details?) between Lithuania and Jerusalem he died, missing out on the joys of Richard II’s deposition by Henry Bolingbroke (a.k.a. Henry IV, cousin of Richard II, member of the Lords Appellant and king in Shakespeare’s Hollow Crown cycle of plays) but leaving a two-year-old to inherit the title who in turn would grow up to be one of Henry V’s warriors as well as assorted other offspring who were married into leading northern families.  But more of them anon.

 

Henry Bolingbroke

Henry IVYoung Henry Bolingbroke was just eleven years old when he carried the ceremonial sword at his cousin Richard II’s coronation. The king was a year younger than Henry.

Henry, named after one of his father’s (John of Gaunt) Lincolnshire castles was also known as Henry of Lancaster. His mother was Blanche of Lancaster and as his father’s heir the title is one that makes sense. However, just to confused things he was also created the Earl of Derby and upon his marriage to Mary Bohun he was created Earl of Hereford – oh yes, then he deposed his cousin and became known as King Henry IV.

 

Henry’s variety of names is confusing enough but his familial relations look like spaghetti rather than a tree. Henry’s grandfather was King Edward III, his father John of Gaunt and his mother Blanche of Lancaster. So, far so good. However, when Henry married Mary Bohun, who was just eleven at the time and remained at home with her widowed mother after the wedding, Henry’s aunt became his sister-in-law! Edward III’s youngest son Thomas of Woodstock was already married to Mary’s older sister Eleanor. They were the co-heiresses of the Earl of Hereford. Henry’s mother-in-law was the widow of the earl and the daughter of Richard FitzAlan third Earl of Arundel.

 

As Richard II grew to manhood he became convinced about the authority of kings. It was this king who introduced the terms ‘Majesty’ and ‘Highness’. It was this king who demanded that anyone entering his presence should bow three times before they approached him. This high handed attitude, not to mention failure to go to war with France, didn’t win him friends within his family. Nor did his preference for ‘new men’ such as his chancellor Michael de La Pole help matters very much.

 

Inevitably there were plots. Eventually in 1387 the Lords Appellant, as they became known, forced Richard to tow the line. He spent some time in the Tower – possibly on the naughty step. Amongst the Lords Appellant were Thomas of Woodstock (Henry’s uncle and brother-in-law) and Richard Fitzalan, the fourth Earl of Arundel (Henry’s uncle-in-law), Thomas Beauchamp (Earl of Warwick), Thomas Mowbray (Earl of Nottingham) and Henry himself.

 

Of course, Richard didn’t take kindly to being told what to do by the nobility even if he was related to most of them. Eventually he regained his power and had Thomas of Woodstock sent to Calais where he ordered his royal uncle to be murdered. The man who organized this was another of Thomas’s nephews ….it’s always nice to see a happy extended family, isn’t it?

Henry’s uncle-in-law, Arundel, was given a show trial and executed. The Earl of Warwick must have heaved a huge sigh of relief when he found himself on a slow boat to the Isle of Man with instructions not to come back. The king seized the estates of all three of these Lords Appellent. Henry and Mowbray seemed, at least for the time being, to have escaped Richard’s wrath.

 

However, Mowbray suggested that the king would do to him and Henry what he’d done to the other three lords. The conversation was not a particularly private one and inevitably word got back to the king that Mowbray was plotting again. Henry denounced Mowbray before he could be accused of being involved.  He went on to challenge Mowbray to trial by combat. The two men were to have met at Coventry on the 16th September 1398. They were just about to attack one another when Richard banned the combat and exiled its combatants: Mowbray for life, Henry for ten years – demonstrating that Mowbray had been right all along.

 

Then John of Gaunt died. Richard changed Henry’s exile to life and claimed Lancaster’s estates as his own.

 

Henry landed at Ravenspur in July 1399. Men flocked to his banner. Richard, who was in Ireland at the time, hurried to meet his cousin but by the time he reached Conway Castle it was evident that Richard had lost his kingdom to his cousin.

 

Henry Bolingbroke became Henry IV by popular acclaim. If Richard’s abdication was real rather than forced – and the deposed king was to die very soon afterwards in Pontefract Castle.  The next rightful heir was eight-year-old Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March- and no one wanted another child on the throne.   Henry however, did not claim his right to rule exclusively from his grandfather. He claimed his right to rule through his mother Blanche of Lancaster. Blanche was descended from Edmund Crouchback, the second surviving son of Henry III. Henry IV allowed it to be known that rather than being the second born, Edmund Crouchback was actually the first born child but had been set aside in favour of his brother Edward (King Edward I) on account of his ‘crouchback’.   Given that crouchback meant cross-back it was probably a reference to his crusading zeal rather than any physical deformity.

 

Henry did not have a peaceful reign. Owen Glendower rose with the Welsh in rebellion and the Earl of Northumberland joined in with his son ‘Hotspur’. Hotspur was the husband of Ann Mortimer and therefore uncle to Edmund Mortimer (the child with a better claim to the throne than Henry). It would be nice to think that he was outraged that his nephews Edmund and Roger Mortimer were being imprisoned simply because of their ancestry but it is much more likely that he, together with his father Northumberland, was furious that they hadn’t received what they perceived to be their dues for supporting Henry when he arrived at Ravenspur. They were also expected to guard the border with Scotland more efficiently now that Henry was on the throne.

 

In any event, Henry had to quell rebellions, assassination attempts, deal with financial difficulties, his own heir’s apparent waywardness and his poor health. It was widely reported that he became a leper- he certainly suffered from an unpleasant skin disease of some description. He had difficulty walking and had a fit whilst praying in Westminster Abbey before dying on the 20 March 1413.

 

He left a warrior son to become King Henry V. Unfortunately for England, King Henry died when his own son by Katherine of Valois was an infant.

The Mortimers had not forgotten their claim to the throne (though Edmund and Roger died without children- their sister Ann had married and had children).  Their claim to the throne was  better than baby Henry VI’s. The stage was set for The Cousins War or as we know it, thanks to Sir Walter Scott, the Wars of the Roses – which strange though it may seem given that I’ve cantered through the reigns of both Richard II and his cousin Henry IV,  is what I’m warming up for with this post.