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Trial by combat attended by the King of England….

Rory Kinnear as Bolingbroke, and James Purefoy as Mowbray. From The Hollow Crown.

On 16th September 1398, at Gosford Green near Coventry, there was a tournament involving a trial by combat between Henry of Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford and Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk. Almost the entire nobility of England attended this event, including the king, Richard II, who had ordered the trial to settle a dispute (concerning treason) between the two magnates. It was to be a glittering occasion, everything our modern minds think of when it comes to medieval pageantry and jousting.

Medieval tournament

The two lords would appear in their most dazzling armour and colours. Mowbray’s armour was German, and his horse was “barded with crimson velvet embroidered richly with silver lions and mulberry trees”. His shield was the white lion of Mowbray on red ground. Bolingbroke’s armour was from Milan, and he was “mounted on a white courser, barded with green and blue velvet embroidered sumptuously with golden swan and antelopes. But all this glamour was beside the point, because danger was the order of the day, and death was to be the arbiter.

From the Tournament Book of King Rene of Anjou

But first, some background. Thomas Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk, died in Venice in 1399. His full clutch of titles was 1st Duke of Norfolk, 1st Earl of Nottingham, 3rd Earl of Norfolk, 6th Baron Mowbray, 7th Baron Segrave, Knight of the Garter and Earl Marshal (I know of no more) and he was born on 22 March 1366, making him 32 in 1398. His activities during the later years of the reign of RII contributed to the eventual downfall of that unfortunate king.

Thomas Mowbray’s arms as Earl Marshal, 1395

Mowbray had once been close to Richard, a favourite, but became estranged, even going over to mix with the king’s enemies, known as the Lords Appellant. It is thought that his defection was born of jealousy over Richard’s clear preference for another favourite, Robert de Vere, Duke of IrelandMarquess of Dublin, and 9th Earl of Oxford, also a Knight of the Garter. De Vere raised an army for Richard against the Appellants, and was trounced at the Battle of Radcot Bridge. He fled into exile, and died on 22nd November 1392, in Leuven in what is now Belgium. Richard was distraught.

Battle of Radcot Bridge, by the Thames in Oxfordshire,
19th December 1387

Mowbray had found himself on thinner and thinner ice, and then a quarrel arose between him and the king’s first cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford, son and heir of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the greatest magnate in the realm.

The Arms of Bolingbroke

Bolingbroke (once a Lord Appellant himself) was 31, and would, of course, eventually see to Richard II’s downfall (and probably his demise as well). He would usurp Richard’s throne for himself, as Henry IV.

The gauntlet is thrown down in front of the King

The two men accused each other in the King’s presence, and Richard ordered a trial by combat. Bolingbroke was generally reckoned to be the innocent party, and received more support than Mowbray. The protagonists were to meet in single combat on Monday, 16th  September, 1398, at Gosford Green, near Caludon Castle, which was Mowbray’s Coventry residence.

Artist’s impression of Caludon Castle in the 16th century.
By English Heritage artist, Pete Urmston
.

Richard II was generally frowned upon for allowing the matter to reach such a point, and his closest advisers felt that great ill could result if it went ahead. But, it seemed, the king was determined to let the two lords slug it out in the lists.

The following is paraphrased from the Chronique De La Traison Et Mort De Richart Deux, Roy Dengleterre, 1846 translation by Benjamin Williams:-

At daybreak on the 16th September, Mowbray took leave of the king and after hearing three masses at the Carthusian monastery of St Anne’s, near Coventry, rode to his tent, near the lists at Gosford Green.,

Part of the original St Anne’s Monastery, Coventry

The world and his wife would be present, for it was an amazing occasion, news of which had been proclaimed far and wide.

Proclamation of a Tournament 1843
antique engraved hand-coloured medieval print

At the tent, his esquire, Jacques Felm of Bohemia, began dress him in his armour.

by Jan Provoost, 1515
Gosford Green still exists. Picture taken from Stoke Property Guide

The Constable and Marshal, with 20 followers, all armed and wearing livery of short doublets of red Kendal cloth, with silver girdles bearing the motto: “Honniz soit celluy qui mal pense”. They entered the lists at eight o’clock, together with many who can come from overseas to witness the duel.

Mediaeval Marshal – origin of image not known

At nine o’clock, Bolingbroke arrived, with followers on six chargers. He presented himself at the barrier of the lists, and the Constable and Marshal went to meet him, to formally request that he identify himself. He replied that he was the Duke of Hereford, come to prosecute his appeal in combatting the Duke of Norfolk, who ‘is a traitor, false and recreant to God, the King, his realm, and me’.

Jousting at Calais in the 1390s

The Constable and Marshal required him to swear an oath, and asked if he would enter the lists at that point. He said he would and ‘placed forward’ his shield, silver with a red cross, like that of St George. Then he closed his visor, crossed himself, called for his lance, and rode through the opened barrier to his pavilion, which was covered with red roses. Then, as was the custom, he alighted and went inside to await his opponent’s appearance.

Next, Richard II arrived, accompanied by all the nobles of England, Archbishop Walden of Canterbury, and the Count of St Pol. The king had with him full 20,000 archers and men-at-arms in great number.

Henry VIII arriving at the Field of Cloth of Gold, 1520

The king ascended to the royal stand, which was very handsomely adorned in royal array, and once he was seated, the king of the heralds cried out, ‘Oyez, oyez, oyez! Behold here Henry of Lancaster, Duke of Hereford, appellant, who is come to the lists to do his duty against Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, defendant; let him come to the lists to do his duty, upon pain of being declared false.’ This proclamation was called out three times.

Herald, from the Tournament Book of King Rene of Anjou

When this was done, the Constable and Marshal went to Mowbray, who had made his appearance before the barrier of the lists. He was sworn to his oath, they opened the barrier and he entered the list, saying ‘God speed the right!’

A very unlikely long-haired, thick-bearded Richard II presiding at a tournament. From the St Albans Chronicle

It was ordered that the contestants’ lances be brought and checked, to be sure they were the same length. When the lances had been returned, it was announced that the men’s chargers should be loosed, and that each man should perform his duty. Bolingbroke advanced seven or eight paces, but Mowbray remained motionless.

from Froissart

At that breathless, heart-stopping moment, the King rose and cried a halt. This amazing snapshot-in-time is a favourite subject for artists.

The crowds cried out in astonishment as he ordered the bemused contestants to their seats. There they remained for two hours, until it was decreed that although both men had appeared valiantly, prepared to defend their honour, the King had decided that Bolingbroke should quit the realm for ten years. There was uproar, but eventually it was also announced that Mowbray was to be banished from England for the rest of his life.

Mowbray and Bolingbroke before Richard II
from The Hollow Crown

Unlike the above illustration, the two men were not permitted to meet, but had to come separately into the King’s presence, where they swore to obey his command. And obey they did, which is how Mowbray came to die in Venice. Bolingbroke hadn’t long left the country when his father, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster died, and Richard seized all Lancastrian property lands. Thus he gave Bolingbroke a cast-iron reason to come back to England and demand the return of his heritage. Then he, Bolingbroke, took all Richard’s lands…and his crown, throne and life as well.

Richard II is forced to abdicate

So, those far-off events on 16th September 1398 had far-reaching consequences, and led to the usurpation of the House of Lancaster.

Coronation of Henry IV, from BL Royal 18 E II, f. 404
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Sir Roger of Clarendon

It is not widely know that Richard II had a half-brother on his father’s side. This was Sir Roger of Clarendon, son of Edward of Woodstock ‘the Black Prince’ by one Edith de Willesford.

Roger was almost certainly older than Richard II. In 1372 he received an annuity from Edward III of £100. He was also married, but unfortunately his wife died in 1386, and there were no children. He does not appear to have married again.

Roger was left a silk bed in his father’s will. After the accession of Richard II, he became a Knight of the King’s Chamber. However, he does not appear to have attracted the attention of the King’s enemies in the upheavals of 1386-1388, so perhaps he was seen as a moderate, or was not regarded as a threat.

In 1398 a duel with another knight led to Roger being imprisoned. He obtained bail, but ran off when his opponent subsequently died, presumably because he thought he might be convicted of murder. This train of thought suggests he was not particularly close to Richard II, because a man in his position might reasonably expect a royal pardon for practically anything.

In 1402 he was arrested, accused of plotting against Henry IV. 1402 was a difficult year for Henry. Not only was the Glyndwr rising in full swing in Wales, but Edmund Mortimer had defected to the rebels. Henry even felt obliged to temporarily imprison a number of ladies on suspicion of treason – a rare event that hints at paranoia. Roger was linked to a conspiracy of certain friars to restore Richard II, who was still supposed to be alive in Scotland. His crime may have been nothing more than to believe his half-brother was alive and broadcast his opinion.

Roger was executed at Tyburn. So almost certainly by hanging, and quite possibly by the full sentence of hanging, drawing and quartering.

Sources:

Plantagenesta

The Lion Rampant

History of England Under Henry IV, James Hamilton Wylie.

The Royal Household and the King’s Affinity 1360-1413, Chris Given-Wilson.

THE TOMB OF THOMAS COCKAYNE, YORKIST

DSCF1250

In my many travels I once came upon a very fine effigy in Youlgrave Parish church, high in the Derbyshire Peak District. Exquisitely carved from alabaster, with great attention paid to detail, it shows the small figure (only about three or four feet long, crafted in such a manner because Thomas died before his father) of a young man with shoulder length hair and a moustache— wearing plate armour and, most interestingly, a Yorkist collar of suns and roses. Even more interestingly, the date of the effigy was 1488, three years after Richard III’s death at Bosworth and in a time, presumably, when it would not be particularly politic to be seen supporting the ruined House of York, especially as Stoke Field had only been fought the year before.
The Cockayne family appear to have been quite notable in the Peak district and not always in a good way. Initially at least, they also appear to have been Lancastrian and in the service of the Duchy of Lancaster. The earlier Cockayne tombs in Ashbourne church clearly show Lancastrian collars.
John Cockayne, who lived a long life into the early 16th C, despite having a propensity for raiding and violence, was the father of Thomas. John had a reputation for brawling since at least 1449, when he and a gang of ‘bully boys’ would attack their neighbours, the Okeovers and the Bassets. With one Nicholas Longford, he even raided the manor of Elvaston, not far out of Derby, in 1454.
By the time Edward IV came to the throne in 1461, John Cockayne was still rampaging out of control, leading a band of marauders through the wild countryside of the Peak. Orders were sent for his arrest on at least two occasions.
He seems to have suffered no punishment however, and eventually his exploits ceased. Possibly, he began to support the House of York at this time.
His son Thomas seems to have taken after his father in personality and been rather fractious. Born in 1451, he married a woman called Agnes Barlow and had several children with her. He was killed at the age of 37 after a fierce quarrel and subsequent duel with his friend, Thomas Burdett, at Polesworth, Warwickshire. (Some say the death was accidental; that Thomas stumbled and fell onto his friend’s blade.) His body was returned to Youlgrave for burial. At least one source refers to Thomas Cockayne as being a ‘staunch Yorkist’, along with his brother in law, Robert Barlow.
However, the effigy of Sir Henry Pierrepoint at Holme Pierrepoint also wears a Yorkist collar, and yet he supported Henry Tudor at Bosworth and thereafter. Perhaps his loyalty was with Elizabeth of York, and this may have been the same with Thomas Cockayne. However, it must have taken some courage or foolhardiness to wear such an obvious emblem in a time that was still unsettled, and I wonder how it would have been viewed had Thomas lived some ten years longer into the time of Perkin Warbeck’s arrival?

BUCKINGHAM’S MYSTERIOUS BURIAL

Where lies Harry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham?
No one can say for sure, his final resting place is as elusive and entwined with myth and legend as Richard III’s once was.
Stafford, leader of the October 1483 rebellion against Richard, was turned in by one of his own men while hiding in a cottage, apparently in peasant dress, after heavy rain and the flooding of the Severn caused his uprising to fail. He was taken to Salisbury, where on November 2, he was beheaded in the Market Square.
He supposedly begged to speak with Richard, who was staying either at the King’s House in the cathedral close or at the priory at nearby Wilton. Buckingham insisted he had important information for the King. Richard refused to see him, this man he had called ‘the most untrue creature living’ and the execution took place as planned. It was unusual, as it took place on a Sunday, and on All Souls…and it was also the birthday of Edward V (which just may be significant considering Buckingham was named in regards to the Princes’ murders, if murdered they were, in documents both in England and on the Continent.
But what happened to the remains of this great traitor, himself of royal descent, who had perhaps even dreamed of wearing the crown of England himself?
A near contemporary report says he was buried in the church of the Greyfriars in Salisbury. This Franciscan Friary has now completely vanished and stood near to St Anne’s street and Brown street; a commemorative plaque has been set into a building near the presumed spot. This is the only document that mentions his resting place, and there is always the vague possibility they are confusing him with his grandfather, who was buried in Greyfriars in Northampton.
However, a mile outside of the city centre, in the sleepy village of Britford, another tomb claims to be Buckingham’s. A Victorian plaque above it declares that it is his grave. It is the only large memorial in the church—comprising the top of a large canopied tomb, which stands above a smaller tomb-chest capped by Purbeck marble. The chest does in fact bear a shield bearing one of the devices of the Staffords.
But the top of the tomb is probably a hundred years too early, and the chest may be too early as well…although the lid has some features that suggest it was 15th century. Perhaps the tomb was reused for Buckingham’s burial?
Certainly both the canopy and chest came from elsewhere, probably from one of the ruined friaries after the Dissolution. They were not always situated in tiny Britford church. So it could have been taken from Greyfriars.
A good case for the chest actually being Buckingham’s last resting place can be made by one fact—his daughter Anne’s husband, George Earl of Huntingdon, actually owned the manor at Britford. It may well have been Anne who had the tomb removed from the friary at the Dissolution and transported for safety to the village church.
However, it appears to be empty…
So where are Buckingham’s bones?
If you go to Debenham’s, the site of the Blue Boar Inn where Buckingham spent his last night alive, you can have a nice cream tea whilst looked at Buckingham’s not-very-flattering portrait and read a little information the tea room has written on him. They claim that a skeleton was found many years ago under the kitchen flagstones, missing a head and a hand, and that these bones were thought to be the remains of Henry Stafford. They also claimed that the decapitated Duke’s head was sent to London to be placed on ‘Traitor’s Gate’ hence the skeleton found had no skull.
These two stories are problematic. It is highly unlikely even a traitor of the calibre of the Duke would be given a lowly burial in an inn’s kitchen…and goodness knows what the innkeeper would have said! Richard tended to give his slain enemies proper burials, and no doubt he did likewise with Buckingham. There is also no evidence that Buckingham’s head went anywhere other than into the grave with its owner, albeit separated from his shoulders. I believe Traitor’s Gate did not even have this name in Richard’s era. This skeleton, if it existed at all, was probably an Anglo-Saxon or even prehistoric resident of Salisbury.
Another distant possibility is that Stafford was buried in a chapel out at Old Sarum castle, a mile or so beyond Salisbury. This once mighty castle was already ruinous at the time of the execution, but there was one chapel still in use in the 15th century, mainly for wayfarers. In Victorian times the chapel was excavated and a skeleton found  either near the high altar or in the ambulatory–of a man who had been beheaded, but who was also wearing a prisoner’s manacles. His head lay between his knees. This unusual burial was never mentioned as a candidate for Buckingham but was rather mysteriously thought to be William of Eu, who lost a duel at Sarum in the reign of William Rufus. However, it is  is unlikely to be William, for it would be very hard to fight a duel wearing irons…and, besides that, William of Eu did NOT die at Sarum, but although hideously mutilated after losing the fight, retired somewhere near Hastings and lived on for some years….
So there was a mysterious medieval burial at Sarum, high status by its position in the church but decapitated and wearing criminals’ irons …which, sadly, has now gone missing (the bones, that is; the irons are still owned by Salisbury Museum.)
Maybe in a lab somewhere there is a battered box marked ‘Sarum’ that could contain the elusive Duke. Or maybe he is still under the floor of the destroyed Salisbury Greyfriars like Richard was in Leicester Greyfriars, with roads and buildings above him. Perhaps one day someone will open that dusty box or discover a likely burial, decide to take a closer look and do some tests.
Any Staffords out there who can donate some dna?
duke

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