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A puzzle from the reign of the Richard before ours…


Here is a writer’s dilemma, concerning an incident from the reign of Richard II. So, not our Richard, but the one before him.

At Christmas 1389, which the court celebrated at Woodstock, there was a tournament. Or at least, jousting. One of those taking part was 17-year-old John Hastings, 3rd Earl of Pembroke. He was very popular, and was married to Philippa Mortimer, sister of Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March. She was just a month past her fourteenth birthday.

Tragedy ruined those Christmas festivities when John Hastings was killed by an opponent’s lance that slipped and pierced his groin. It was a horrible way to die, and the shocked court mourned his loss. How Philippa felt we will never know.

Right, all is clear so far, but what is not so clear is the name of the man who wielded that fateful lance. He has been identified as Sir John Des . . . but also as Sir John St John of Paulerspury, Northamptonshire and Fonmon, Glamorgan. Which one was it?

Here is information about Sir John St John:…/st-john-sir-john…

And this is Sir John Des:…/texts/histvit.htm

There are other links, of course, but I have only given one for each man. And it has to be said that Sir John St John seems to have had a pardon for the crime, but that still leaves the mysterious Sir John Des, of whose existence I have found nothing at all, except in connection with the Earl of Pembroke’s demise. That is, of course, on the understanding that Des was a stand-alone name, and wasn’t just a part of one, e.g. Sir John des Barres. Does anyone know anything about him?

And is there an absolutely incontrovertible source that proves, once and for all, which of the two gentleman it was? My instinct is with Sir John St John, but . . . .

PS: Another writer’s dilemma . . . .all those Johns!



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One thought on “A puzzle from the reign of the Richard before ours…

  1. sighthound6 on said:

    I always understood it was Sir John de St.John. I *think* it is in the Westminster Chronicle.

    Liked by 2 people

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