Tag Archives: Watling Street

Woman’s lover kills husband with axe! William Lucy,his wife Margaret and the king.

margaret lucyBy 1460 rivalries between Richard of York and Henry VI’s favourites had descended from political hostility into open warfare.  Having fled to Calais in 1459 in the aftermath of the Ludford Bridge disaster, the earl of Warwick, his father the earl of Salisbury, his uncle Lord Fauconberg and his cousin Edward earl of March arrived back in England at Sandwich with 2,000 men in June 1460. Their numbers snowballed.  The city of London fell to the Yorkists with only the Tower of London remaining in Lancastrian hands.

The Lancastrians moved out of their stronghold at Coventry intent upon confronting the gathering white rose host whilst the Yorkists came north with their artillery along Watling Street.  Jean de Waurin, the  Burgundian chronicler, explained that the Lancastrian army awaited their foes outside Northampton, in a park by a little river (the Nene).  The English Chronicle identified the battle as taking place between Hardingstone and Sandyford near Delapre Abbey. The problem for the Lancastrians was that their back was to the river.  On one hand no one could creep up on them on the other, there was no where for them to go if they needed to leave quickly.

 The Yorkists, having been denied the opportunity to meet with Henry VI, attacked the Lancastrian army in three divisions.  One was led led by Edward, earl of March.  The second by the Earl of Warwick, and the third by Lord Fauconberg.  The attack was successful according to Whethamstede due to the treachery of Lord Grey of Ruthin who ordered his men to lay down their weapons when the earl of Warwick’s men reached the Lancastrian left flank – which Grey commanded. Warwick’s men simply  waltzed through the line: game over. The London Chronicle mentions the fact that many of the Lancastrians drowned as they attempted to flee. However, for the purposes of this post the sentence of most interest in the London Chronicle is as follows:

And that goode knyght Syr Wylliam Lucy that dwellyd be-syde Northehampton hyrde the gonne schotte, and come unto the fylde to have holpyn ye kynge, but the fylde was done or that he come; an one of the Staffordys was ware of hys comynge, and lovyd that knyght ys wyffe and hatyd hym, and a-non causyd his dethe.

Sir William was born in 1404 of Dallington in Northamptonshire. He  was a loyal Lancastrian. According to the story outline above he heard the artillery’s opening salvoes and hurried to join his monarch. He arrived at his king’s side as the battle reached its conclusion. It does beg the question that if he was that loyal why wasn’t he with the army in the first place and if he could hear the guns he certainly should have been on the scene before the end of the battle. Payling in Hicks observes that these discrepancies are for narrative purposes. They underline the fact that Sir William Lucy was minding his own business when he was unfairly murdered – on a battlefield. He also explains that the writer deliberately allows his readers to believe that both Sir William and his killer were Lancastrian to emphasise the magnitude of the act.  In reality Sir William was a Lancastrian and his murderer was a Yorkist.  Its a reminder that in the midst of national warfare individuals took the opportunity to settle local disputes and personal scores.

It turned out that Sir John Stafford, or his henchmen, took the  opportunity to kill Lucy because he happened to be the husband of the woman with whom he was having an affair.  John Stafford married Lucy’s widow the following year. It’s not a pleasant tale.  Stafford it would appear had taken the opportunity to do murder on the battlefield hoping that no one would notice – except of course the account turns up in two different chronicles.  Sir John gained a young bride and became a wealthy man into the bargain. Unfortunately for Sir John he had a nasty accident at the Battle of Towton (March 1461)- so if he did commit murder it didn’t do him much good for very long.

Margaret Lucy, the lady in question, was young enough to be Sir William Lucy’s granddaughter.  Her stepfather was the earl of Exeter and she was related to the Montagu family through her mother – the earl of Warwick was the executer of her mother’s will and Margaret’s cousin.  William Lucy, a veteran of the Hundred Years War had been married before but was childless. His young bride offered the chance of a family to inherit his wealth as well as a shove up the social ladder. In the event of anything happening to her elderly spouse Margaret was well provided for financially through her marriage contract.

Margaret would turn out to be a popular lady given her connections and her dower manors.  She had at least two more suitors and if you follow these things there’s every chance she had an affair with the young king Edward IV.  Sir Thomas More in his account of Richard III became somewhat sidetracked with Edward IV’s mistresses, in particular Jane Shore who was actually an Elizabeth which just goes to show that you can’t trust everything you read even if it is written by a saint.  Anyway, More mentions a Dame Lucy. History usually gives the dame the forename Elizabeth along with the additional fact that she was Arthur Plantagenet, Lord Lisle’s mother. Hicks and the author of the blog murreyandblue https://murreyandblue.wordpress.com/tag/margaret-lucy/  present the facts that Edward also had an illegitimate daughter with a lady by the surname of Lucy.  It is usually supposed that the children have the same mother despite the fact there is a long gap between the conception of the siblings with Arthur being born much later in Edward IV’s reign than his daughter.

There is evidence to suggest that the daughter, a much less well documented child, who was originally thought to have the name Elizabeth was actually called Margaret. Furthermore, evidence reveals that Arthur’s mother may not have had the surname Lucy at all but was actually Elizabeth Wayte and that the two children, usually assumed to be siblings were in fact the result of liaisons with two different women – which goes to prove that Edward’s love life must have been rather complicated and either secretive or not thought to be worth keeping track of – either way it certainly keeps current historians occupied.  The suggestion is that over the course of time Edward’s various paramours became confused and that it was actually Margaret Lucy nee FitzLewis, the widow of Sir William who produced a daughter  who would one day marry and turn into Lady Lumley, having her first child in about 1478.

images-17Part of the difficulty with Edward IV’s Dame Lucy is that her title identifies the fact that she is of the landowning class but there are no records of an Elizabeth Lucy in the early years of Edward’s reign.  In 1462 Margaret, now twice widowed, was in the household of the earl of Warwick. Polydore Vergil mentions that Edward had a bit of a fling with someone in Warwick’s household. As is often the case with the murkier bits of history conclusions are drawn from fragments scattered across the primary sources.  None of it is particularly conclusive and the number of women and children don’t always add up – for example could the child Elizabeth really be Margaret or are there two different daughters? I’ve posted about Edward IV’s various lady loves and illegitimate children in a earlier post which can be accessed by clicking on his picture to open a new window.

However, back to Sir John Stafford- the axe wielding murderer of our story.  He was related to the duke of Buckingham but only distantly. Whereas Margaret Beaufort married Sir Henry Stafford the second son of the duke of Buckingham for protection after the death of Edmund Tudor the same cannot be said of Margaret Lucy.  Sir John was not an influential man who could offer her protection in a volatile world – the earl of Warwick was a better bet as her protector.  This suggests that she married for love.  Thanks to Margaret’s wealth Sir John briefly became the MP for Worcestershire.

If Margaret went on to have an affair with the king in the aftermath of Towton  she was being courted  by other men at the time. Payling identifies Thomas Danvers as one candidate for her hand.  He was an Oxfordshire lawyer with Lancastrian tendencies.  He took Margaret to Chancery about a loan for £300 and a breach of promise to marry. Danvers claimed that Margaret had been directed by her half-brother Sir Henry FitzLewis and that she had lied to the earl of Warwick about her marital status.  Money did change hands between FitzLewis and Danvers but then Margaret entered a contract to marry Thomas Wake.  Danvers wanted his down payment back as well as £1000 on account of the fact that he argued that his contract was a bond, so if the FitzLewis family reneged on the provision of his bride he should be compensated.

The other side of the argument was that Sir Henry had taken twenty marks from Danvers to forward his case to his half sister but that she just wasn’t interested. Sir Henry, it was claimed, continued to press the suit and Margaret continued to refuse.  It could be argued that Margaret, despite her second marriage to Sir John Stafford, was much higher up the social ladder than Danvers and that why, in a time of Yorkist supremacy, would she want to marry a Lancastrian in any event?

Ulitmately Payling reveals that Margaret chivied by various bishops and excommunicated was forced to seek a ruling from Pope Paul II because Danvers wouldn’t let the matter rest, even after she was married to Thomas Wake who was most definitely a Yorkist and most definitely identified the earl of Warwick as his patron. If Margaret was having an affair with the king it would perhaps be best if she was married and to someone loyal to the Yorks.

Margaret died on 4 August 1466.  It is likely that she died of complications following the birth of her child. Her brass, depicting her wearing a butterfly head dress identifies her husbands through their coats of arms, can now been seen in St Nicholas Church, Ingrave near Brentwood in Essex.

Payling concludes with a final tantalising detail.  Sir Thomas More wrote that Dame Lucy was a virgin – if this is the case it is hard to see how a twice widowed Margaret could meet the criteria for being More’s Dame Lucy – but then this post has already discussed the difficulties of keeping tabs on Edward IV’s private life through the medium of chronicle fragments and sifting through the archives.

 

Carson, Annette. (2008) Richard III: The Maligned King Stroud: The History Press

Payling, S.J.  Widows and the Wars of the Roses: The Turbulent Marital History of  Edward IV’s Putative Mistress, Margaret, daughter of Sir Lewis John of West Hornden Essex.  in Clark, Linda (ed.) (2015) The Fifteenth Century: Essays Presented to Michael Hicks Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer

Plantagenet Ancestry: A Study In Colonial And Medieval Families, 2nd Edition

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