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Archive for the tag “Edward III”

The Central Line Consort?

Kathryn Warner has been Edward II’s main chronicler for a few years now, writing about the King himself, his times, his great-grandson Richard II, several other relatives the roots of the “Wars of the Roses”. This book is about Edward’s daughter-in-law, although he tried a little to prevent his eldest son’s marriage during his own reign and apparent lifespan.

However, Edward III did marry Philippa of Hainault and the marriage lasted for over forty years, during which time they had twelve children. Edward and their sons, particularly their eldest Edward the “Black Prince“, played a full part in victories at Crecy and Neville’s Cross. In a parallel with Richard III and his siblings, a thirteenth child, one “Thomas of Windsor”, has been added by modern writers serving as posthumous surrogate mothers, although not the same writer who gave Richard an elder sister, “Joan”, and added an “Edward” to Mary de Bohun’s sextet of children by the future Henry IV.

This is one of the relative few biographies I have purchased of a royal woman and feels very much like another one in particular. The first chapter, just like Ashdown-Hill’s best tome, explores the subject’s family in great detail but, unlike Eleanor and Paul Johnson’s Elizabeth I, Philippa of Hainault becomes pregnant regularly and has children, their ages are regularly mentioned and she, with Edward, formulates marriage plans for them, not all of which come to fruition.

This is a fascinating book, delineating a veritable matriach. As for our subtitle, peruse the above map. Hainault is on the eastern loop of the Central line, near Newbury Park. Elephant and Castle, on the Northern Line and near the Thames, is reputedly named after Edward II’s mother, although probably in error.

Weir(d) Babies

A while ago, I talked about the non-existence of  a short-lived child of Richard Duke of York and Cecily Neville  called Joan of York, who mysteriously made it into Alison Weir’s  royal genealogies,  despite only ever appearing in someone’s self-made family tree from the 1960’s.

Since then I have come across yet another non-existent child named by Weir, who frequently also appears in online genealogical tables and potted biographies. ‘Edward’, the child of Henry IV and his first wife, Mary de Bohun, is frequently described as having been born when his mother was only  12 and hence lived only a few days. In fact, it appears that Mary was, as one might expect, still living with her mother at the time she was supposed to be carrying this baby.  The non-existent child perhaps has  been confused with  a son of Mary’s sister, Eleanor, who was born that same year (though Humphrey died as a teen rather than a baby.)

A ‘Thomas of Windsor’ has also been attributed to Edward III and Philippa of Hainault in several sources. Again, there seems to be no evidence of his existence. According to historian Kathryn Warner, Philippa was in Calais, not Windsor, at the time this fictional baby was supposed to have been born. His tale seems to have grown out of a story by several French chroniclers that Philippa was pregnant when in Calais. Philippa’s last son, who was named Thomas of Woodstock, may also have contributed to the confusion.

I have also recently come across some entries for ‘extra’ children of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence. Besides the children we know about, there are FOUR more occasionally listed in biographies: Richard (1247–1256), John (1250–1256), William (1251–1256) and Henry (1256–1257). Despite the  birth and death dates listed for these supposed children, there are no contemporary records that mention any of them, and it is unlikely that a 9 year old prince, at the very least,  would not get a mention somewhere in the chronicles of the time.

Here’s pictures of ‘Ugly Medieval Babies’ looking at YOU, lazy historians!

uglybabies

Why was Elizabeth of York’s coronation really delayed….?

 

 

 

Image taken from https://www.thoughtco.com/family-tree-elizabeth-woodville-3528162

The following passage is taken from RITES OF PASSAGE: Cultures of Transition in the Fourteenth Century, edited by Nicola F. McDonald and W. M. Ormrod

“….to become ‘mature’ (in every sense of the word) demanded the achievement of progeny. And this, of course, is what Edward III and Queen Philippa had done – ultimately, indeed, spectacularly so. Their case emphasizes most particularly the point I am making about the birth of children in the coming to power of youthful kings, for it was precisely the public disclosure of Philippa’s first pregnancy in 1330 that created an effective fracture in Queen Isabella’s assumed powers of regency. It was held imperative that Philippa be crowned before she gave birth (an interesting perspective worthy of discussion in its own right); and her elevation to the full rank of crowned and anointed royal consort inevitably raised issues about the basis on which Isabella herself continued to exercise royal power….”

While reading the above paper, it occurred to me that maybe there was a little more to the delay in Elizabeth of York’s coronation than I at first thought. Granted, the quoted passage concerns an earlier century, and a more youthful king and queen, but I couldn’t help thinking of Elizabeth’s case.

We all know that ultimately Henry VII’s marriage was a successful one, and probably happy, but it wasn’t necessarily like that in the beginning. Setting aside all the whispers that the birth of their son Arthur only eight months after the wedding meant the pair had anticipated their vows, and that Henry was simply loath to give Elizabeth the position she warranted at his side in case it diminished his own claim to the throne, might there have been another reason for the delay? They were married on 18 January 1486, their first son was born on 20 September 1486, and Elizabeth’s coronation took place on 25 November 1487, almost two years after the marriage.

What if the names in the quoted passage were changed, and it referred to Henry, Elizabeth and Margaret Beaufort, a lady who most certainly didn’t want to give any ground whatsoever to her daughter-in-law. What if it wasn’t Henry who was loath to fully acknowledge his Yorkist wife, but his strong, influential, bitterly determined mother, who at that time was undoubtedly the most important woman in the realm?

It seemed to take Henry a very long time to finally stand up to Margaret and take his wife’s side. Was he a hen-pecked son, too timid to overrule his formidable mother? Margaret would obviously be pleased that a son would cement her son’s hoped-for dynasty, but might she also be jittery because the baby enhanced Elizabeth’s standing? Maybe the last thing Margaret would want was Elizabeth’s coronation, in case the new queen turned out to be stronger than expected. Margaret thoroughly enjoyed being queen in all but crown.

I’m not an expert on these things, but after reading this exceedingly interesting paper, I have to wonder if Margaret’s spoon was at work in this particular royal soup. After all, she knew all about usurpation.

Shadow King: the Life and Death of Henry VI


Shadow King: The Life and Death of Henry VI by Lauren Johnson

Head of Zeus Publications, 2020, paperback, 700 pages, £12.00
ISBN 978-1784-979645

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Henry VI has gone down in history as one of England’s worst kings. Not for being cruel or despotic; on the contrary, his nature was kindly and pliant, peace-loving and deeply devout – qualities that made him likeable as a person but hopeless as a monarch, a faint wavering shadow of his shrewd, martial father. His life would have been very different, and he may have become a better ruler, had he grown to manhood under the guidance of Henry V, this perfect model of the medieval warrior-statesman. Instead, by the latter’s untimely death in 1422 with his French kingdom far from pacified, the infant Henry only received the dire legacy of an unwinnable war, and perpetual bitter conflict between members of his family over the implementation of the late king’s will and their respective powers on the minority council.

Such is the context for the opening chapters of Lauren Johnson’s sympathetic new study, which sets out to ‘explore Henry VI as an evolving individual struggling in an extraordinary situation. In short, to consider him as a man.’ Recently released in paperback, Shadow King is a handsome volume, illustrated with 24 colour plates, family trees of the Houses of Lancaster, Beaufort and York, and three helpful maps, (France 1415 – 53; Wars of the Roses battles 1455 – 71; and 15th century noble landholding in England and Wales).

The well-referenced text falls into logical sections: Henry’s minority 1422 – 37; adult rule to 1453, including his marriage to Margaret of Anjou; political and mental breakdown, culminating in his deposition by Edward IV at Towton in 1461; his fugitive years, short-lived re-adeption, and eventual fate in the Tower of London. A brief ‘Afterlife’ and epilogue conclude the sad, strange stories of this unfortunate king and his queen, followed by two appendices, ‘Where did Henry VI die?’ and ‘Key Characters’, 68 pages of notes, and an extensive bibliography of primary and secondary sources.

Stylistically, some passages read like an historical novel: ‘The inky waters of the River Thames rippled and slid beneath the wherrymen’s oars. In places the peaks of the waves glistened, light falling from the windows of Winchester Palace as bursts of laughter and music echoed out.’ (Page 45). Such imaginative touches bring the text to life for many readers, although my own preference is for Johnson’s straight prose, which I found admirably clear and refreshing. Why gild the lily?

As for content, I particularly enjoyed the first two sections. Johnson makes excellent use of some seldom-used sources to paint a convincing, detailed picture of Henry’s early life. Her exposition of the complex political situations in England and France, (riven by its own civil war between the Armagnacs and Burgundians), and the equally complex personal war between Henry’s kinsmen, is lucid and easy to follow; and she offers some perceptive analyses of the likely effects on an impressionable child of having to perform the rituals of royalty surrounded by such constant conflict and tension. Theoretically wielding absolute power but practically powerless to control his feuding councillors, it’s no wonder that Henry grew up hating discord, and wishing only to please and appease the people closest to him, emotionally or literally.

However, as the story moved into more familiar territory, I felt some disappointment. Plainly no fan of Richard, Duke of York, Johnson gives short shrift to his justifiable reasons for expecting a primary place on Henry’s council/in his confidence, and justifiable chagrin at being passed over for lesser men. York’s assumption of pre-eminence was based on his royal pedigree: descended from the second and fifth sons of Edward III via his mother and father respectively, he was one of England’s wealthiest magnates with a claim to the throne arguably stronger than Henry’s. This was not lost upon the king’s beloved Beaufort kin, a legitimated line sprung from John, Duke of Lancaster’s affair with Kathryn Swynford, who, (along with sundry other jealous rivals), persistently undermined York in Henry’s malleable affections. Had Henry managed to keep his powerful cousin on-side, the Wars of the Roses might never have happened; instead, he progressively alienated York, and wounded his pride, by showing an unfair and obvious partiality for the base-born Beauforts . It seems a shame that Johnson doesn’t extend her even-handed approach to Duke Richard, or treat him as another ‘evolving individual struggling in an extraordinary situation’ who, no less than Henry VI, deserves to be viewed ‘as a man’ trying to do his best for his country, his family and himself.

I was also disappointed by the brief, conventional accounts of the battles of Wakefield and Towton, the great Lancastrian victory followed shortly by the catastrophic defeat which cost Henry his crown, changing his life – and the course of English history – forever. In a work of this magnitude, it’s inevitable that some areas will be less well researched than others; nonetheless, for such a crucial episode, it was frustrating to see some old Wakefield myths perpetuated and enlarged. Like other commentators unfamiliar with the place, Johnson describes Sandal Castle as ‘majestic’ when, as castles go, it’s quite small (Sandal would fit inside the truly majestic Pontefract Castle several times over) and utilitarian. Interestingly, the ‘meagre’ household expenditure of £4 6s 7d for the Christmas – New Year period is cited to show that the castle was poorly provisioned, whereas to me it says precisely the opposite: it was already so well provisioned that little further spending was required. (I say ‘little,’ but the sum in question represents around 18 months – three years’ pay for a labourer, or six months’ pay for a liveried archer – it’s all relative!). This debatable interpretation is then used to present a version of the battle of Wakefield which simply doesn’t make sense: York, Salisbury, Rutland and their men, driven by hunger to hunt in the deer-park ‘north of the River Calder,’ ambushed by the Lancastrian army and slaughtered. Said deer park wasn’t just north of the river – it was the Outwood, some three miles north of Sandal and two miles north of Wakefield city, with its chantry chapel of St Mary perched on the Calder bridge; an unnecessarily long way to go when Sandal Castle had its own deer-park to the south, literally on its threshold, and miles of nearby river for fishing and wild-fowl hunting. (For my personal take on the battle, see this article ) I also found her treatment of Towton somewhat superficial, and lacking reference to more recent studies such as those by George Goodwin and Tim Sutherland.

Suffice to say, if I wasn’t such a pro-Yorkist anorak about this period in Wars of the Roses history, these criticisms wouldn’t have occurred, and I would have read the whole book with the same relish as I devoured the earlier sections! So, on the whole, I’m happy to recommend Shadow King as a worthwhile read, an enthralling tragedy which left me moved and thoughtful, and which will make a valuable addition to my bookshelves.

A model of the royal palace at Havering-atte-Bower….

 

Model of Havering Palace at Havering Museum

It seems to me that for a royal palace and hunting lodge much frequented by royalty, and within easy reach of London, there is a paucity of illustrations of Havering {link to 29 February?}. Edward III was particularly fond of retreating there, and so was Henry VIII, who even held court there and considered the hunting to be excellent.

In 2018, however, a model of the palace (see above) in its heyday was put on display at Havering Museum. Maybe it is still there. Anyway, here is the relevant link. to the Museum website

A modern reconstruction of Havering Palace as it would probably have appeared in 1578, viewed from the north-east. From Wikipedia.
Village sign at Havering

Margaret Beaufort married John of Gaunt….!

 

wood carving of Sir Christopher Urswick in Urswick School’s musuem

I always thought Starkey was a waspish prig (his public opinion of those who support Richard III is just as derogatory!) but having read this article, I think he’s slap-dash as well. Certainly he can’t be checking what goes out to herald the latest of his lectures – this one will no doubt manage to be another anti-Richard diatribe. It’s based around Christopher Urswick, and here’s a quote from the above link:-

“Born in Furness, Cumbria, in 1448 Christopher Urswick had a remarkable life….He was a priest but and [sic] became a confessor of Margaret Beaufort. She had married King Edward III’s son, John of Gaunt, when she was just 13. Not long after she gave birth to his child, Henry, she was widowed.”

I had no idea that Margaret and her son were that old…or that such an extra skeleton lurked in their capacious cupboard. Henry VII would have been cock-a-hoop to claim Gaunt as his father! But I wonder if Gaunt was aware of this extra wife and son?

Visit to Rayleigh and Hadleigh – 20th July 2019

via Visit to Rayleigh and Hadleigh – 20th July 2019

Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Kingmaker and Richard II: the eyes have it….!

Well, I have to say that the above carving is very startling. It is believed to be of Eleanor of Aquitaine, and has just been discovered at Bradwell Abbey, Milton Keynes. There is nothing in this article to say why they are so certain it’s Eleanor, but they seem in no doubt.

The first thing that occurred to me, however, was that the eyes reminded me very forcibly of the carving of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, the “Kingmaker”, as a mourner on the tomb of his father-in-law, Richard Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick.

There is also a likeness of the Beauchamp tomb of the Kingmaker’s sister, Cecily Neville, Duchess of Warwick, and she too has these striking eyes. I’m told by a friend that in his biography of the Kingmaker, Professor Pollard decided there had been a real attempt to create a true likeness, so I imagine that these eyes must indeed be a trait in the Neville family.

There is an odd little story about Edward III, in which he apparently gave credence to the story of his family being descended from Melusine, the Devil’s daughter. The king claimed that the House of Plantagenet was descended from Melusine, and that slanting eyes appeared to be evidence of this. There is one member of that house who definitely had slanting eyes, Richard II.

So, where did those eyes originate? Or was it all mere coincidence that the likes of Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Kingmaker and Richard II appear to have shared such a memorable feature?

Was the younger Despenser buried in two places at the same time….?

Execution of Hugh Despenser the Younger – Hereford, 24 November 1326

We Ricardians know all about the problems, if not to say mysteries, that can arise from the final resting places of famous figures from the past. It doesn’t help that in the medieval period especially a person’s remains could be moved from place to place. Edward IV had his father and brother moved from Pontefract south to Fotheringhay, and Richard III had Henry VI moved from Chertsey Abbey to St George’s Chapel, Windsor. And, of course, for centuries there was the puzzle as to whether the remains of Richard III himself were thrown contemptuously into Leicester’s River Soar, or actually buried at Greyfriars. The latter eventually and very famously proved to be the case.

Now I have happened on another “where was he buried?” mystery, this time from the end of the reign of Edward II. While researching a few details about the later-in-the-14th-century marital goings-on of the 10th/3rd Earl of Arundel, Richard Fitzalan, known as “Copped Hat”, I found myself reading about his first wife, Isabel le Despenser, whom he married on this day, 9 February, in 1321. She was the daughter of Hugh Despenser, 1st Lord Despenser, known to history as Despenser the Younger, to distinguish him from his father, who was, yes, Despenser the Elder. Both were favourites of Edward II, and came to the fore after the abduction, trial and execution of another of the king’s favourites, Piers Gaveston. All three came to nasty ends, as (probably) did Edward II himself, and there is there is a famous illustration of the hanging, drawing and quartering of the younger Despenser in Hereford, see above.

Because of her father’s attainder and shameful execution, Isabel became an inconvenience to Copped Hat. Besides which his lustful and ambitious eye had fallen upon Eleanor of Lancaster, who’d be a much more advantageous Countess of Arundel. As Copped Hat was one of the richest and most influential magnates in the England of Edward II’s son, Edward III, he didn’t have any trouble at all in gaining the Pope’s permission to annul his first marriage, thus clearing the way for Eleanor to slip into the earl’s marital bed.

Where is all this leading? Well, to the fact that the younger Despenser’s widow was apparently granted her husband’s remains (well some of them – ‘the head, a thigh bone and a few vertebrae’) and she had them buried in a lavish tomb at Tewkesbury Abbey.

But in 2004 there were reports that Despenser’s remains had been found during archaeological excavations at Hulton Abbey in Staffordshire. These “new” remains lacked the very bones that had been returned to the younger Despenser’s widow and buried at Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire.

So, if the Hulton Abbey remains are indeed those of the younger Despenser, why wasn’t all of him returned to his widow? Why send her some of him, and then bury the rest at Hulton Abbey? He died in Hereford, and was then buried in Staffordshire and Gloucestershire?

To read more about this medieval mystery, go to  the Reading University website and here 

The Isle of Dogs is NOT named after Edward III’s hunting dogs….

An old map of Millwall and the Isle of Dogs, with the seven windmills clearly visible on the western side of the peninsula. The outline of the ‘wall’ is also seen along the river bank.

My recent endeavours to find out various things about medieval stag hunting have led me anywhere and everywhere, except to the particular facts I’ve been seeking. Typical!

But in the process, I did happen upon this site/, which is very interesting. I am not even vaguely a Londoner, but I do love finding out about our capital’s history…and the history of its near neighbours. The article is informative about the famous if strangely named “isle”, and in turn it led me to another interesting article (from which the above illustration has been taken).

Millwall and the Isle of Dogs go together, so to speak, and the history of both is certainly intertwined. So, to learn more about Millwall, please go here

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