Tag Archives: York

The Northern borders during the Wars of the Roses-an overview of 1461-64

images-17images-9In March 1461 Edward of York won the Battle of Towton and became Edward IV of England and Wales. The great northern earls of Northumberland and Westmorland died during the battle as did many other men from the northern marches including Lord Dacre of Naworth Castle whose title and lands were inherited by his brother – though for limited time because he too had fought at Towton on the losing side.

Meanwhile Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou seeing which way the wind was blowing, fled into Scotland handing over Berwick-Upon-Tweed to the Scots on April 25 1461 which rather helped the Lancastrian cause in Scotland as did the fact that Margaret of Anjou got on famously well with the dowager Queen of Scotland, Mary of Guelders.  For a while a marriage was proposed between Prince Edward of England (Henry and Margaret’s son) and Mary, the eldest sister of young James III who was nay eight at the time that Margaret of Anjou first arrived in Scotland.

Meanwhile Edward IV marched as far as Newcastle, where the Earl of Wiltshire (Sir James Butler) was executed on May 1. H Edward’s journey back to the south left several large castles in Lancastrian hands.  He left the borders in the care of the earl of Warwick.  Warwick was also given the power to negotiate with the Scots who sent ambassadors to speak with the new English king, clearly being of the opinion that it was a good idea to hedge their bets.  Edward commissioned Sir Robert Ogle from the eastern marches to work on a truce with Scotland. Rather confusingly, and unsurprisingly, another branch of the family were firmly Lancastrian in their sympathy.   He also set about negotiating a treaty with the Lord of the Isles who became Edward’s liegeman with a pension, as did several of his cronies, and permission to  hold as much of the northern parts of Scotland as he could get his hands upon.  The earl of Douglas was also in receipt of a pension from Edward, suggesting that Edward felt that if the Scots were busy fighting one another they wouldn’t be fighting him.

Meanwhile Margaret of Anjou went to France to raise support from Louis XI in order to regain her husband’s kingdom.  He wasn’t really that interested but gave her a small body of men and a noble called Breze to be her general. Breze who wasn’t terribly popular with the new french king.  In fact, he was let out of prison in order to command the little force that set off for Northumberland.  He took control of the castle at Alnwick where he and his five hundred men were besieged by Lord Hastings, Sir Ralph Gray and Sir John Howard.

They in their turn were troubled by George Douglas, earl of Angus who had received grants of land from Henry and Margaret during their time in the Scottish court.  Angus was a Scottish border warden so was able to gather a body of men to ride to Breze’s rescue in July. Breze and Angus returned to Scotland.  Ridpath makes the point that the reason Breze was able to exit from the postern gate of Alnwick without any trouble was that there was an agreement between the Scots and the Yorkist besiegers army.

Margaret of Anjou arrived in Northumberland in October.  The North did not rise but Alnwick became Lancastrian once more.  This was either because Sir Ralph Gray had a change of heart after time spent as Yorkist governor of the castle or because there was insufficient food to withstand siege.

Edward IV marched north with an army again.

Margaret fled into Scotland. This description is beginning to feel like a large scale game of game of snakes and ladders for poor Margaret.    She went north by sea, taking  Breze with her.  Luck was not on her side. A storm blew up dispersing the Lancastrian vessels.  Margaret finished up in Berwick whilst Breze foundered off Holy Island.  His boats were, quite literally, burned. Four to five hundred of his men were either killed or captured at the hands of John Manors or the rather descriptively named, Bastard Ogle; both of whom I need to find more about. Breze managed to hail a fishing boat and get away to Berwick where he joined Margaret.

Edward and his army arrived in Durham where Edward promptly caught measles. Warwick took command of the army but since there was now no Lancastrian force  in the field he besieged Alnwick, Bamburgh and Dunstanburgh which were in the hands of Lancastrians and had been since 1461. Bamburgh surrendered on Christmas Eve 1462. The other two were in Yorkist hands by the new year.

It is worth noting that one of the Yorkists besieging the Lancastrians was a certain Sir Thomas Malory who had done considerable amounts of porridge during Henry VI’s reign for breaches of the peace. He would write the Morte d’Arthur during another stint in prison.

The duke of Somerset and Sir Ralph Percy were both pardoned by Edward IV in an attempt to bring old animosities to an end. Other Lancastrians were not afforded the same generosity.  The earl of Pembroke and Lord Roos escaped or were escorted back to Scotland depending on which account you read. The earl of Pembroke a.k.a Jasper Tudor was supposed to have gathered a force to land in Beaumaris, Anglesey in 1462 having tried to rally support in Ireland in the early part of the year but had failed to do this.  Instead ‘Plan B’ involved him joining with the conflict in the north of England  travelling via Brittany and Scotland whilst the three Lancastrian castles mentioned above were being besieged.  His job was a to lift the sieges. The Yorkists had more men than him so he’d been forced to take a place inside Bamburgh Castle.

Meanwhile earlier in the year, on the other side of the country, Margaret of Anjou, slightly foiled but not deterred, had turned her attention to the West March.  She, a group of Lancastrians and some over-optimistic Scots arrived in the outskirts of Carlisle in June 1462.  Margaret had told the Scots that if they could take Carlisle they could have it.  There was the inevitable siege and a fire that burned down the suburbs which did not win friends for the Lancastrian cause in the city. John Neville, Lord Montagu (Warwick’s kid brother) arrived later that same month and raised the siege by July.

Humphrey Dacre, whose elder brother had  been killed at Towton and  to whom Neville was related through Dacre’s mother, was now required to hand over Naworth Castle near Brampton to the Yorkists having been attainted for his own role fighting the Yorkists at Towton.

1463 saw Margaret experience another rear disaster when she encountered Neville’s Yorkist forces near Hexham.. She and Prince Edward “by the aid of a generous robber,” (Ridpath: 295) reached the coast and safety. It was said that Margaret fled with only her son and a single squire into Dipton Wood where the outlaw probably intent on mischief was duly inspired to provide assistance and hiding in a cave.  Sadler, who does not trust the story of the ‘Queen’s Cave’  and  notes that Margaret trusted this man so much that she left Prince Edward in the man’s care whilst she attempted to locate her husband. He quotes for Chastellain whose account came from Margaret herself. She was transferred to the coast and from there took ship to the Continent to plead for more cash to try again.

By the spring of 1464 it was all over for the Lancastrians so far as a Scottish alliance was concerned.  Margaret no longer had the ear of the dowager queen who had died in 1463.  The Scots preferred to make a truce with Edward IV. It is worth noting that Edward wasn’t ruling a peaceful kingdom counties across the country were up in arms.

Margaret of Anjou on the other hand didn’t take no for an answer and was able to do a spot of rabble rousing with the promise of loot.  She entered Northumberland along with her husband and son though the accounts do not always agree as to whether Henry was with her or was in Northumberland all along.  Once more Sir Ralph Gray, who seems to have changed sides more often than he changed his doublet and hose, was on hand to take Alnwick for Margaret and once more the duke of Somerset and Sir Ralph Percy who’d been pardoned by Edward IV upon receipt of sizeable amounts of dosh changed sides back to their original Lancastrian red. It didn’t look good for the Yorkists.

Sir John Neville (the earl of Warwick’s kid brother) stepped into the breach. He wasn’t terribly amused in any event.  He’d been sent north to escort James III of Scotland to York to sign a peace treaty with Edward.  En route he encountered the earl of Somerset near Alnwick at Hedgely Moor on April 21 1464.  Somerset’s forces blocked the road.  There was the usual fisticuffs. Sir Ralph Percy found himself encircled and was killed.  Three weeks later, on May 15, Sir John confronted Somerset at Hexham. Somerset ad Lord Roos were captured. Both men were taken to Newcastle where they were executed as were other Lancastrians.

Back at Bamburgh, Sir Ralph Gray perhaps realising that another change of side wasn’t really an option attempted to hold out until he realised it would avail him little and attempted to negotiate surrender.  He was executed at Doncaster.

Sir John Neville, Lord Montagu received his reward in York where the English and the Scots finally signed their peace treaty.  Montagu became the earl of Northumberland which perhaps did not take into account the loyalty of the men of the east marches to their ancestral overlord.

Meanwhile Henry VI who’d sought shelter at Bywell Castle escaped into the hills where he remained for a considerable time sheltered by loyal Lancastrians until he was captured and taken to London.

jaspertudor.jpgI must admit to being interested in Jasper Tudor’s peregrinations in the north of England. The details of his route to and from Scotland are sketchy other than for his presence in the East March. I am also intrigued by  the sides taken by the various border families, although I suspect as with the battles between England and Scotland, men such as the Grahams were Yorkist when they wished and Lancastrian at other times but on all occasions men who looked after their own cares first.

Breverton, Terry. (2014) Jasper Tudor: Dynasty Maker. Stroud: Amberley

Ridpath, George. (1970). Border History. Edinburgh: The Mercat Press

Royle, Trevor. (2009).  The Wars of the Roses. London:Abacus

Sadler, John. (2006). Border Fury. London: Pearson

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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Wars of the Roses

The Constable brothers and The Pilgrimage of Grace

pilgrimage-of-grace-banner2My last post on Katherine Parr got me thinking about the fate of the gentry involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace and the way in which events are often more complicated than we first suppose.  Take the Constable brothers, though some texts identify them as an assortment of brothers and cousins.  They weren’t young men.  Two of them were veterans of Flodden. Sir John Constable of Burton Constable and Sir William Constable of Great Hatfield, one of the brothers at Flodden, lived some of the time in the wapentake of Holderness. Both of them were in residence in October 1536.

That month Anthony Curtis arrived in the area with the news that had spread through Lincolnshire and was now making its way through Yorkshire. The King, it was said, was going to limit the number of churches to one every five, or seven miles depending on the source, and was about to raise fees for marriages, christenings and funerals.  Bad enough that the new articles of faith denied there was any such place as Purgatory. Soon the area was up in arms as the Commons answered the call to join the Pilgrimage of Grace. Those who were less than enthusiastic either fled or were ‘persuaded.’

John and William Constable took themselves off to Hull and remained behind the town’s walls. They, together with the two Sir Ralph Ellerkers (which must have been uncomfortable as there was something of a feud going on between the two families) were the leading gentry of the area and it wasn’t long before the pilgrims arrived at Hull’s gates demanding the town and the gentry to lead them. Burton reveals that their brother Sir Robert Constable who’d been knighted by Henry VII after the Battle of Blackheath in 1487 was already in Pontefract Castle and that their other brother Sir Marmaduke, another veteran of the Scottish wars, went into hiding where he remained a loyal man of the king…always easier to achieve when you haven’t got a mob threatening to do very nasty things to you or your family.

On the 19th of October Hull capitulated when it started to run out of food.  The rebels forced the men behind its walls to take their oath.  Sir John Constable after initially refusing to submit to the rebels found himself in charge of Hull whilst Sir William, together with the pilgrims, headed in the direction of Pontefract.

Pontefract Castle fell to the rebels on the 21st and the Constable family found another of their number sworn to the pilgrim oath. Sir Robert now began working with Aske to organise the host of men who’d answered the call to arms or had been forced into rebellion. Later Sir Robert would negotiate with the various captains and commons for negotiation with the Duke of Norfolk rather than battle although it is evident there was a time when he wanted to continue beyond Doncaster towards London.  This did not endear him to Henry VIII.  Moorhouse reveals that Henry had a little list of men he wished to make an example of including Robert Aske and Lord Darcy.  Sir Robert Constable’s name also featured on the list.

In the aftermath of the rebellion Sir John managed to talk his way out of the situation. In 1537 he oversaw the trials and executions of Hull’s pilgrims. Sir William also sat on the trial commission.

King Henry VIII did not forget his little list of men who did not deserve pardon in his opinion.  Sir Robert was at Templehurst (Temple Newsam) , home of Lord Darcy, when Robert Aske arrived there on January 10, 1537.  He’d been wined and dined over Christmas by the king so had no idea that Henry was after vengeance as he was now trying to damp down renewed calls for rebellion.  Notices had been stuck on church doors across the area demanding a return to the old format of service. The three men decided the best thing to do was to try and keep the north calm until the Duke of Norfolk arrived.  The problem was that all three of them would soon be summoned to London.  Sir Robert received his politely worded note on the 19th February.  By Easter  he was in the Tower. The men went voluntarily believing that the king would treat them fairly.    They didn’t understand that Sir Francis Bigod’s rebellion in January 1537 nullified the agreement that Henry had reached with them…in Henry’s mind.  It didn’t matter that Robert Aske even had a letter of recommendation from the Duke of Norfolk.

Due process of the law now kicked into play.  The Duke of Norfolk put together a jury to hear the accusations against the men.  This was held in York.  Moorhouse notes that the jury was composed of a large number of relatives of the three men.  This effectively ensured that there would be an indictment, or as Moorhouse observes, the three men would have been joined in the Tower by some of their nearest and dearest. There were three men prepared to turn evidence against Constable.  Moorhouse details it (p298-99) and the fact that it was undoubtedly a fix – not least because one of the prosecution witnesses was a certain Sir Ralph Ellerker (you’ll remember him from Hull where he also signed the pilgrim oath).  Ellerker was either buying his own safety or taking the opportunity to take out a member of the Constable family with whom the Ellerkers were feuding.

Lord Darcy was executed in London but Sir Robert Constable, Robert Aske and Lord Hussey, another leader of the pilgrimage, were sent back to the places where they’d rebelled against the king.  It must have been an unhappy convoy that set off from London.  Lord Hussey was dropped off at Lincoln where Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk awaited him with an executioner.  The convoy continued north.  Aske would die in chains in York but Sir Robert was destined for Hull.  When he arrived there was time to spare as his execution was set for market day (plenty of spectators).  He was executed on the 6th of July 1537 and his body was hung in chains.

As for Sir Marmaduke – he purchased Drax Priory from the Crown because of it’s links to his wife’s family.

To find out more about the history of the Pilgrimage of Grace double click on the image to open up a new webpage.  Rather alarmingly I have added to my list of posts for this week – there’re Sir Nicholas Tempest who was hanged at Tyburn for his part in the pilgrimage as well as Sir John Bulmer and his wife Margaret Stafford.  She was burned at Smithfield for her treason.  It’s not that I’m turning this blog into a series of posts about who Henry VIII executed – although there’s enough material for it- it’s more that I’ve become curious about who escaped and who paid the ultimate penalty and why.

 

Bush, M.L. (1996) The Pilgrimage of Grace: A Study of the Rebel Armies of October 1536 Manchester: Manchester University Press

Lipscomb, Suzannah. (2006) 1536: The Year That Changed Henry VIII Oxford: Lion Hudson

Moorhouse, Geoffrey. (2002). The Pilgrimage of Grace. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson

 

 

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Filed under Sixteenth Century, The Tudors, Uncategorized

1486- an assassination attempt, plots and a prince

henryviiKing Henry VII worked to secure his kingdom in a way that was different to that of his predecessors.  With the exception of William, Lord Catesby (the ‘cat’ in the couplet ‘the rat, the cat and Lovell our dog/All rule England under the hog) who was executed at Leicester on the 25th August 1485, three days after the Battle of Bosworth, Henry showed remarkable magnanimity to his foes offering them pardon if they laid down their arms.  Of course, not all of them did as is recounted by Seward in his book The Last White Rose.

As the timeline for the year shows Henry began by honouring the promise he made in Christmas 1483 to marry Elizabeth of York.  he continued the process of appointing advisors whom he could trust and he set about a progress to be seen in his kingdom.  It is perhaps significant that he headed north into Richard III’s heartland where men still retained loyalty to a monarch they regarded as a fair one.  It almost seems that he couldn’t quite believe that die-hard Yorkists would be so stupid as attempt another round of the vicious civil war less than six months after Bosworth.  As it is, it looks as though the majority of people were either worn out or fed up with the constant strife because the 1486 plot against Henry was decidedly lack lustre.

January 16- Papal dispensation for Henry VII to marry Elizabeth of York. They were third cousins so their match was prohibited within the four degrees of consanguinity.  In order to legally marry they needed the pope to agree.

January 18- Henry VII marries Elizabeth of York but she is not crowned.  He is making the statement that he is king in his own right.  He is not going to be Elizabeth’s consort and this delay in her coronation ensures no one forgets.  The delay will possibly also antagonise the Woodville faction.elizabeth of york

March 2- Papal dispensation is confirmed by Rome.

March 6- John Morton, Bishop of Ely becomes Henry VII’s Lord Chancellor.

March 10- Henry VII begins a royal progress to the north of England. He journeys to Waltham, Cambridge, Huntingdon and Lincoln where he spends Easter. He washes the feet of twenty-nine men reflecting his age.  Whilst he is at Lincoln, Sir Reginald Bray- Margaret Beaufort’s man-warns him that Francis, Lord Lovell (and Richard III’s right-hand man) is going to leave sanctuary at Colchester where he fled after the Battle of Bosworth.  He’s holed up with Sir Humphrey Stafford of Grafton and his brother Thomas.  Bray’s informant, Hugh Conway is summoned but Henry doesn’t believe him, not least because Conway won’t reveal who his informant is. The plot will become known as the Sanctuary Plot or the Lovell Rebellion.

April 20- Henry VII enters the city of York.  Whilst he is in York rumours of a Yorkist stirring up trouble reach the city.  The man is known only as  Robin of Redesdale.  He is raising support for the Yorkists in Ripon and Middleham – which is, in any event, a Yorkist stronghold.  The next rumour is that Lord Lovell and an army are marching on York.

April 23- There is an assassination attempt on Henry VII’s life whilst he is in York. In one source he is saved by the Earl of Northumberland. Henry  deals with the threat with seeming unconcern and promises of pardon all round.  Lovell ends up fleeing from Yorkshire to Broughton Tower in Furness as the rebellion fizzles to a stand-still but with King Henry’s men in hot pursuit.

There is also a Worcestershire rising led by Humphrey Stafford – there is very little support.  He and his brother quickly flee having spent rather a lot of time hiding in a wood.

May 5- Riots in London in support of Edward, Earl of Warwick.

May 11- The Stafford brothers arrive at Culham in Berkshire.  They claim sanctuary in the church which belongs to Abingdon Abbey.

May 13- The Staffords are dragged from Culham Church on the orders of Henry VII.

May 19- Lovell journeys under cover to Ely and from there he looks for sanctuary or a boat to take him to Flanders. He is probably hidden by the de la Pole family – the Duchess of Suffolk is Edward IV and Richard III’s sister.

June 20- Sir Humphrey Stafford appears before the King’s Bench and demands to be returned to sanctuary.  The Abbot of Abingdon is unamused that the ancient rights of sanctuary have been violated. Sharply worded notes are sent to Pope Innocent VIII who sends a Papal Bull in August validating Henry VII’s actions – not that it matters much to Sir Humphrey.

July 5- Sir Humphrey Stafford’s judges decide that from now on – including Humphrey- no one can claim sanctuary for treason.  He’s condemned to a traitor’s death.

July 8- Sir Humphrey Stafford is hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn but Thomas Stafford is pardoned on the grounds that Humphrey being older must have misled him.

September 19-Prince Arthur is born at Winchester.

The birth of Arthur, symbolically born in King Arthur’s Camelot, the child of the red and white rose means that Henry has a male heir which strengthens his hold on the kingdom. However Francis, Lord Lovell who has been skulking around Cambridgeshire- presumably wearing a large cloak and false beard in order to avoid capture finally makes it to Flanders in January 1487.  Inevitably Henry VII’s crown won’t rest easy on his head for very long despite his best efforts to convince the population otherwise.

Seward, Desmond. (2011) The Last White Rose: The Secret Wars of the Tudors.  London: Constable and Robinson.

Wagner, John A. (2001) Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. Oxford: ABC Clio

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Filed under Fifteenth Century, Kings of England, The Plantagenets, The Tudors, Wars of the Roses

Locating King John

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Black-Faced Clifford

'The_Murder_of_Rutland_by_Lord_Clifford'_by_Charles_Robert_Leslie,_1815John Clifford, aged twenty-one, at the First Battle of St Albans in 1455 buried his father in St Albans Abbey. It was agreed, according to Holinshed, that at the Duke of York, the Earls of Warwick and Salisbury should pay the monastery of St. Albans for masses for the souls of Thomas Clifford and the other notable Lancastrians who died during the battle and that the Earl of should pay a fine to be shared between Thomas’s children – no doubt the Vikings would have recognized it as weregeld. The new Lord Clifford wasn’t particularly interested in gold and John, according to Shakespeare, was much more interested in revenge.

 

John’s opportunity came five years later on the 30th December 1460. Five years had seen the polarization of England’s nobility while Richard, Duke of York ultimately overplayed his hand. Richard having been named Lord Protector during Henry VI’s illness in 1453 had been sidelined by Henry VI’s queen, Margaret of Anjou, once Henry regained his facilities. This led to the fisticuffs at St Albans. In the aftermath of the First Battle of St Albans, although the Yorkists had been victorious Richard had reaffirmed his loyalty to the king and an uneasy peace achieved mainly by shipping Richard off to Ireland where he was out of the way.

 

Relations between the different factions reached breaking point in 1459 when Richard arrived home without asking permission first and the Earl of Warwick arrived in Sandwich from Calais backed up by an army. Without going through the frenetic events of the next twelve months it is sufficient for the purposes of this post to say that Richard eventually rocked up in Parliament and said he wanted to be king. If he’d asked to be made Lord Protector folk might have agreed but Richard was carried away by his own spin and seems to have forgotten that when Henry Bolingbroke did the same thing in order to become Henry IV that not only had the whole thing had been carefully orchestrated but that King Richard II was in ‘safe’ custody. In Richard of York’s case neither of these precautions had been taken and even his closest allies were somewhat taken aback. There was a bit of an embarrassed silence followed by the Act of Accord which essentially said that Henry VI could be king while he lived but his successor would be Richard of York – a resolution which satisfied no one – especially Margaret of Anjou whose son Prince Edward had just been cut out of the succession.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing but it seems quite obvious that it wasn’t going to end well.

 

Richard of York took himself North and spent Christmas at his castle in Sandal just outside Wakefield. This was not necessarily the most clever thing he’d ever done as it was in enemy territory. Nor was it very sensible of Richard to emerge on the 30th to give battle to a party of Lancastrians. Sandal was a well-protected castle. All he had to do was sit tight and wait for reinforcements. This isn’t a post about the reasons behind Richard’s decisions to give battle or the rights and wrongs of them but I am finally back on track with John Clifford as he was one of the Lancastrians waiting outside Sandal.

 

The Battle of Wakefield was a vicious affair. John Clifford is purported to have come across the body of Richard of York, resting against an ant hill, and hacked off the corpse’s head. It was not a very knightly deed.  Richard’s head ended up with a paper crown facing into the city of York from Micklegate Bar having first been presented to Margaret of Anjou by way of a gift. Richard’s sons Edward, George and Richard would not forgive the insult.

 

Even worse, popular rumour stated that John Clifford killed Richard of York’s other son Edmund, Earl of Rutland in the aftermath of the battle. There is no specific evidence that John did the deed, Edmund may have been killed during the battle itself and not by John. History shows the lad was about seventeen. Shakespeare makes him a boy- as illustrated in this picture dating from 1815. Edmund, the son of a nobleman, would reasonably have expected mercy in the event of his capture for two reasons. Firstly and most importantly he could be ransomed and secondly despite the events at Agincourt when chivalry went out the window there was still an expectation of respecting ones opponents. So, to tell the tale, which probably isn’t history but definitely makes a good story; Edmund fled the battle and arrived at the bridge crossing the River Calder at Wakefield.  Some versions of the story say that he sought shelter in some nearby houses but that no one would take him in, other versions say that he was captured but anonymous.  John Clifford noticed the boy’s clothes and asked who he was. Edmund’s tutor told Clifford adding that he would be well rewarded for keeping the boy safe, thinking that it would ease Edmund’s situation – talk about misreading the situation!  John wanted revenge for his father’s death so killed the boy  saying ‘your father slew mine so now I kill you,’ or words to that effect.  Edmund’s brother Edward, George and Richard would have their own revenge in due course.

 

John’s actions at the Battle of Wakefield gained him the name “Butcher Clifford” or “Black-Faced Clifford.” The Wars of the Roses became a much bloodier affair thereafter with both sides killing one another in the aftermath of battles reflecting personal feuds running parallel to the desperate power struggle between the various Plantagenet scions.

 

The rest of John’s story is best summaries by Leland:

Next year he met with his own end. On the day before the Battle of Towton, and after a rencontre at Ferrybridge, having put off his gorget, he was struck on the throat by a headless arrow out of a bush, and immediately expired.

 

It is thought that his body was thrown into a burial pit after Towton.

 

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Rebellion in the North

Clifford's TowerWilliam faced a rebellion each year for the first five years after his conquest of England in 1066.  The problem for the Saxons was that their uprisings from the West Country to Northumbria via Herefordshire were localised.  There was no one central figure to unify and organise resistance.

Earls Morcar of Northumbria and Edwin of Mercia were powerful and politically dangerous men.  In part their failure to march south to support King Harold in 1066 had led to his defeat. They’d submitted to William along with Edgar the Atheling in late 1066 at Berkhamstead but they swiftly became dissatisfied with their new lord and rebelled against him in 1068.  It couldn’t have come as much of a surprise to William given that he’d taken them with him to Normandy in 1067 amongst the hostages he demanded. Perhaps it was his suspicions about the northern earls that led to him not promoting a marriage between Edwin and one of his daughters and perhaps (that’s many perhaps’s) it was for this reason that Edwin and Morcar decided to revolt, although it could have been William’s new taxes that did the trick.

In any event, William marched north via Warwick and Nottingham.  Resistance crumbled and the two earls submitted again. There is no evidence that the two men took part in any further uprising in the north.  Edwin managed to get himself killed by his own men in 1071 when he left William’s court once more and headed off towards Scotland.  Morcar took part in the uprising in Ely and ended his days a prisoner of the Normans.

The inhabitants of York seeing which way the wind was blowing in 1068 sent hostages and the keys to the city before William could arrive to express his irritation.  William  did what he always did when he wanted to stamp his authority on an area.  He built a motte and bailey castle in York and left a garrison of five hundred men to guard it.

The north did not remain at peace for long.  In January 1069 William’s man Robert de Commines  was burned to death in the Bishop of Durham’s house by an angry mob who had already slaughtered his men according to the Orderic Vitalis.  The people of York were not slow in getting in on the act.   The garrison withstood the attack. The Victoria County History for York records,  “Edgar and his supporters began an attack on the castle, whence the sheriff William Malet reported to the king that in default of assistance he would be driven to surrender.”

If one castle is good then two must be better!  William had a second castle built (Bailes Hill) which he gave into the care of William Fitz Osbern (the Earl of Hereford) before heading back south to Winchester.

There was a brief third uprising that was swiftly suppressed by Fitz Osbern.

At this point you’d think that the citizens of York would have had enough but in August 1069 King Sweyn of Denmark,  who had formed an alliance with Earl Waltheof of Northumbria, anchored his  fleet of 240 vessels on the Humber. This was a much more sustained and serious attack upon William’s rule.

The Normans facing the combined forces of the Danes and the northerners took refuge in their two new castles.  They attempted to clear a field around the castles by burning the nearby houses.  It has to be said that it doesn’t seem wildly clever to believe that in a city of wood and straw that fire can be controlled.  It certainly wasn’t in this case.  Even the Minster found itself being scorched.  According to Florence of Worcester the town was still burning two days after the initial conflagration.

 

But then again the Normans knew that they were fighting for their lives.  One of the castles sheltered the sheriff’s wife and children.  The slaughter was terrible.  Waltheof  was remembered by later generations in song for slaying Normans one after another with his battle-axe. William of Malmesbury’s account is according to the Cambridge History of English Literature taken from a ‘ballad’ or rather from a professionally worked song written by a Scandinavian scald or storyteller. William’s nice new castles were both destroyed.

Quite what the alliance of Danes and Saxons expected William to do next is unclear.  The Danes took themselves back to their boats with their booty and then set about a spot of ‘viking’ – William found one party of them plundering Lindsey but sent them scuttling back across the Humber.

What followed next wasn’t particularly pleasant if the chroniclers are to be believed and although William kept Christmas on 1069 in York there was little cause for celebration amongst the locals.  However, the North had been put in its place.

Not that their problems were over, far from it.  Malcolm Canmore, King of Scotland, took the opportunity to do a spot of his own harrying in the summer of 1070 and would return several times more before his death at the Battle of Alnwick.

For a chronology, which remains ongoing – I add dates as I come across them- double click on the picture.

 

 

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Filed under Anglo-Scottish history, Eleventh Century, Norman Conquest

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.

 

 

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