Here is a question that has bugged me for some time now. If, during medieval centuries, a journey could be made around the English coast, rather than across country, was the sea option likely to be chosen?
I will take a particular example. It’s from the 14th century, but could be from the 13th or the 15th. A high-ranking aristocrat, who was accustomed to sailing (he was at one time Admiral of the Fleet in the Western Seas – I think that is the correct title) wished to go from London to Dartmouth on the south coast of Devon. It was a journey he would have made fairly frequently, because his country seat in Devon was his favourite residence, some of his children were born there and he clearly like to escape to its peaceful acres.
Now, medieval journeys fascinate me, and I wonder what governed the choice of route. For instance, when Richard II made his two visits to Ireland, he travelled across country and then along through Glamorgan and Pembroke to Haverford, from where he set sail for Ireland. The voyage took two days. But many of his men/ships/horses/equipment and so on were sent by ship from Bristol.
Why didn’t Richard leave from Bristol as well? It would certainly have been easier than all the way through South Wales. Was it simply to show himself to the people of Wales and the southern Marches? He went from castle to abbey to castle and so on. Quite a long way to be in the saddle. Yes, all medieval aristocrats and royalty showed themselves around the country, but they liked their comfort too, and surely a few extra days’ voyage from Bristol would be preferable to a couple of weeks on indifferent roads?
Which brings me back to my particular nobleman in Devon. When he joined the king in Ireland in 1394, he sailed from Bristol on 7th March. He certainly didn’t go up to Gloucester, across the Severn and then all the way through South Wales to Haverford. No indeed. But why not from Dartmouth, which was only a few miles from his residence? His wife had just given birth to a son there, and it seems fairly certain (not confirmed) that her husband had been there with her just prior to leaving on the Irish campaign?
Back to London. Let me provide a particular scenario. There has been a lot of rain and the roads are appalling, but the weather is otherwise calm. Would he choose to labour to Devon by road? Or take a vessel and sail along the south coast?
It seems to me that surely he would prefer to go by sea, but apart from international travel, or travelling along navigable rivers, I have yet to come across a definite reference to sailing around the coast from one part of the mainland to another. Sometimes there is simply a statement that one town was left and another reached. If the towns are in the middle of the country, then it’s obvious the journey was by road. But if close to the coast…? What then? Traders did it, of course, but did other travellers do the same?
Postscript: Since I first composed this article, I have come upon the interesting thoughts of prominent historian, Ian Mortimer, on the very subject of whether travel would have been by water or road. In Appendix Five of The Fears of Henry IV, he ponders the speed of Henry’s movements around the country, and whether or not roads would have been the natural route. As places like Nottingham and Pontefract are mentioned, it makes me wonder about some of Richard III’s journeys. I have always imagined that he travelled by road, but might he have actually gone by river?
Here is an extract from Mortimer:
“The distances. . .all presume Henry travelled by road, and it needs to be stressed that some of the journeys were probably by water. In fact, Douglas Biggs has suggested that Henry moved mostly by water in 1407.* With regard to his journey from York (5 September 1407) to Beverley (11 September): he sailed down the River Ouse, pausing at Faxfleet, and up the River Hull to Beverley. Similarly Henry could have travelled by water from Nottingham to Pontefract (via the rivers Trent and Calder), and from Bishopthorpe to Cawood (via the Ouse). However, he did not always move by water. His journey from Nottingham to Pontefract via Newstead and Worksop. . .must have been by road, and his presence at Kilham indicates that, although he probably sailed from Beverley to Bridlington, he returned to Bishopthorpe by road.”
*Syllabus: T.D. Hardy (ed.), Syllabus. . .of Rymer’s Foedera (3 vols, 1869-85). Vol ii, p.544. Also Douglas Biggs. ‘An Ill and Infirm King: Henry IV, Health and the Gloucester Parliament of 1407’ – paper delivered at Nottingham 2006).
What did Richard do? Did he always ride on horseback or take to his barge or cog? Over to you, ladies and gentlemen.
As Ricardians, we know very well now, history can be twisted to suit. The matter of those strawberries and what happened next, for instance. I mean, the different versions are legion, even to the point of whether or not Thomas, Lord Stanley was ever present at all, let alone injured in a scrap and obliged to hide under a table. So delightful and worthy an image.
Anyway, while researching an earlier event (1377) I have come upon another did-he?/didn’t-he? scenario, this time involving the Duke of Lancaster/King of Castile, John of Gaunt. He from whom the Beauforts, the House of Lancaster and the Tudors are descended. I have never been very fond of him, not even after reading Anya Seton’s Katherine.
To me, at this 1377 point in history, he was a scheming heap of double standards, arrogance, blatant dishonesty and unworthiness. (Don’t hold back viscountessw, tell it how it is!) He was bungling, a lousy military commander, and quite determined to prevent the bloodline of the sole female offspring of his older brother, Lionel, from getting anywhere near the throne. Oh, no, dear John of Gaunt wasn’t having any of that! A right to the throne through a woman? Heaven forfend. Besides, Johnny-boy wanted the throne for himself and his own descendants, even though he was lower in the pecking order than Lionel had been. What a hypocrite! He himself was claiming the throne of Castile through his second wife! And he was even Duke of Lancaster in right of his first wife. Yet, suddenly, the throne of England had to be different. No female intrusions, pul-eeze!
Edward III was no better, because he claimed the throne of France through his mother, but he developed a very convenient memory when he was persuaded by Gaunt to sign an entail that excluded women from the succession. Mind you, I do wonder if Edward would have signed any such thing if he had not been put under extreme pressure by Gaunt. Edward was elderly at the time, perhaps in his dotage, and very, very tired. He was a mere shadow of the great king he had once been, and still bereft from the loss of his beloved queen, Philippa of Hainault. He was now becoming doddery, and was reliant for comfort on his disliked mistress, Alice Perrers, whom it suited Gaunt to support because she gave him more access to his father. Some might say Edward III was a sitting duck when it came to Gaunt’s overweening ambition.
In early 1377, Gaunt was strongly suspected of wanting the throne for himself, and old rumours were resurrected (presumably by his supporters) that called into question the legitimacy of Joan of Kent’s marriage to the Black Prince. And therefore also questioning the legitimacy of her son by the prince, the future Richard II. The Black Prince was not known by that name then, of course, he was Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales (or, as I’ve recently seen him identified, the Prince of England). Joan had a chequered history, it’s true, but she was lawfully married to the Black Prince.
Well, the Pope said Joan was the Black Prince’s wife, so she had to be, right? I won’t go into the whys and wherefores of her story, just that legally, at this point in time, she was the wife/widow of the Black Prince, and her little son by him, Prince Richard, was trueborn. Anyway, two-faced Gaunt was prepared to secretly sponsor attacks her reputation one day…and the next rush off to seek her protection when a mob was (justifiably) out for his blood. If I’d been her, I’d have thrown him to the wolves!
I believe it was with all pips squeaking that Gaunt swore to protect his nephew, the boy who would become Richard II. Protect the child? Hmm. Back in those days the lives of youngsters were notoriously delicate and at risk, and I do not doubt that Gaunt’s fingers were crossed behind his back as he made his vow. With Richard out of the way, or childless—although waiting for such to prove the case was an unknown risk, and could mean a long period of impatient thumb-twiddling and foot-shuffling for Gaunt and his family—and Lionel’s Mortimer descendants forbidden the crown, there would be no argument when a Lancastrian backside was plonked upon the throne. Which, of course, happened in due course when Gaunt’s eldest son stole Richard II’s crown and probably murdered him.
Where is all this invective leading? Well, simply to a scene at St Paul’s, at the trial of Gaunt’s friend and protégé. Wycliffe/Wyclif (and other spellings) who was believed by many to be a heretic. Or verging on it. There was a confrontation between Gaunt and the man who had hauled Wycliffe before a Church trial, William Courtenay, Bishop of London, who was also a son of the Earl of Devon.
The Church had been provoked by some of Gaunt’s activities, and did not like the rumours, so another rumour (or an old one resurrected) began to circulate, that Gaunt was a changeling. It was claimed that his mother, Philippa of Hainault, had confessed as much to William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, telling him to only let the truth be known if it seemed Gaunt was about to become King of England. Gaunt, needless to say, was livid, and deprived Wykeham of all manner of things. Mind you, in Gaunt’s place, I’d have been livid, too, but handsome is as handsome does, and (to use the language of the school playground) he started it! Courtenay and the bishops were intent upon getting at Gaunt through Wycliffe—punishing the duke himself being out of the question.
Wycliffe was escorted to the trial by Gaunt and the Earl Marshal, Henry Percy, who was a man capable of putting force before common sense. He angered the onlookers outside St Paul’s by clearing the way through them with much more strength than necessary. The trial opened with Courtenay telling Wycliffe to stand throughout the proceedings, and Gaunt declaring Wycliffe should be allowed to sit. Gaunt and Courtenay couldn’t bear the sight of each other, and the disagreement got out of hand. When Gaunt was heard to mutter something about dragging the bishop out by his hair, there was uproar that would to lead to the riots from which Gaunt had the brass neck to expect Joan of Kent to save him.
The above is the gist of the ‘facts’ as I have always understood them, but now, in a book entitled Lady of the Sun (a biography of Alice Perrers, by F George Kay) I find a much more colourful account of the flashpoint in St Paul’s:-
“…Gaunt lost his temper, knocked off the Bishop of London’s cap and started to drag him out of the way by his hair…”
Um, that’s slightly different from a mere heated exchange of words and a sotto voce threat. So, which is the right version? Something muttered? Or a violent laying-on of ducal hands?
F George Kay goes on to say that:-
“…The onlookers surged to the rescue of the Bishop. Gaunt and Percy [Earl Marshal and Gaunt’s sidekick, whose heavy-handedness had started the proceedings on the wrong foot] fled for their lives…and went by boat to Kennington. [Where Joan of Kent was residing with the little prince.]…)
Even with the missing words, this account implies that Gaunt and Percy fled from the scene of the trial, across the Thames and into Joan’s protection in one fell swoop. They knew she was popular with the people, and respected. The presence of the little prince was an added plus. One fell swoop? Not quite true. After the scene involving the Bishop of London’s hair, Gaunt and Percy went on their way in their own time, taking Wycliffe with them. The onlookers in the streets were shocked and angered by the quarrel, but were not, as yet, a rampaging mob.
It was the next day that things escalated and the rioting began, when London was informed that Percy had high-handedly imprisoned a man at the Marshalsea prison in Southwark for (apparently) no good reason. This imprisonment was the touch-paper.
When the mob went into action, Gaunt and Percy were sitting down to dine at the inn of a friend, a rich merchant named Sir John d’Ypres.
The hors d’oevres had just been served (neat touch in the account of the eternally spiteful Walsingham) when a frightened messenger arrived to tell them the Marshalsea had been attacked and prisoners (or the prisoner) freed, Next, Percy’s house in Aldersgate had been ransacked as the mob looked for him (presumably with some dire punishment in mind). From Percy’s abode, the dissatisfied, frustrated, even angrier mob marched upon Gaunt’s fortress-like palace, the Savoy, broke in, and began another ransacking. Had either Gaunt or Percy been found, would they have been killed there and then? I don’t know, but it seems likely. What a difference to English history Gaunt’s early demise would have made!
Anyway, on learning the awful news, Gaunt and Percy took to their highborn heels, bolted from d’Ypres’ house for the Thames, and then took a boat across the river to Kennington to throw themselves on her mercy. Joan was clearly nobler than them, because she took them in and defended them! Eventually—and no doubt very smugly—it was William Courtenay, Bishop of London, who calmed the mob and dispersed them. And he still had his hair!
So, here is another famous occasion for which the accounts are mixed. Maybe February 1377 isn’t of as much interest to Ricardians as anything that went on between 1483 and 1485, but I find it fascinating that such different slants can be extracted from brief accounts. Historians then adopt their preferred version, and claim it as the truth.
Oh, and F George Kay doesn’t say Gaunt allowed the rumours about Joan’s marriage to be spread, he says that Gaunt stood up in Parliament and suggested the succession should be discussed! Parliament was shocked. What was there to discuss? Until then they’d all been satisfied that the succession would go to Prince Richard. Gaunt was clearly reminding them all about the doubts concerning the Black Prince’s marriage. Did Gaunt really make such a suggestion? Would he do it? Would he stand there and publicly dig up doubts and questions about the marriage of the heir to the throne, and the legitimacy of the next king? He was already very unpopular, and widely suspected of having designs on the throne. Well, I am perhaps not the best person to ask. I’m not exactly unbiased! But then, nor was Gaunt. And Parliament’s response was to invite the prince to come before them, so they could acknowledge him and see that all his father’s estates, etc. were bestowed upon him forthwith. This was, perhaps, not what Gaunt had planned. Certainly it was a very public a rejection of any designs and ambitions he nurtured for himself.
It will by now be very clear that I have no time for John of Gaunt. Maybe he became a steadying influence in later years, but at the time of which I now write, he was a dangerously ambitious, scheming magnate who was prepared to do whatever it took to get his own way. He didn’t give a fig who he hurt, or about family loyalty—except when it suited, and especially when it came to sucking up to and manipulating his elderly, worn-out father, Edward III. He ‘persuaded’ Edward to disinherit his son Lionel of Clarence’s daughter, and her son (Roger Mortimer, the future Earl of March) from the succession, in order to insert himself in the nicely cleared slot. And he wasn’t above permitting his supporters to spread whispers about the Black Prince’s marriage and the legitimacy of the future Richard II.
If you wonder what did happen with the succession, read Appendix Two of Ian Mortimer’s The Fears of Henry IV, which explores and explains it all in great detail. Throughout Richard’s reign, Gaunt endeavoured to persuade him to name Gaunt’s son, Henry, as heir presumptive. Richard resisted, and seemed to regard the Earl of March’s son as heir. Richard made an entail of his own, superseding that of his grandfather, Edward III. In the end, of course, the entails were useless, because Gaunt’s son and heir usurped the crown and did away with Richard. Job done. Except that Gaunt never knew how successful his line finally became, because he died before Richard, and thus before Henry’s Lancastrian backside graced the throne.
I don’t just dislike Gaunt, I loathe him! His machinations were the root cause of the bloody Wars of the Roses. But I know that he has many supporters, and they will not agree with anything I’ve said. They will probably regard me as being guilty of the very things I’ve commented on: fake news and twisted facts!
l’Erber is shown in the centre of this map extract, below the original place of the London Stone in Candlewick Street
We’ve all heard of l’Erber (various spellings), but perhaps its history and location are not as easily recalled. The following article is from The History Geeks. I tried to give a direct link, but Facebook tells me the article is no longer available. I had found it through a Google search, and have copied it below, word for word.
“L’Erber: Warwick’s lost London house.
“L’Erber or the Herber was the London home of the Nevill family. Probably its most famous owner was Richard Nevill, 16th earl of Warwick, known to history as Warwick the Kingmaker. There are numerous portrayals of him in historical fiction, sailing up the Thames on his barge, his banners of the Bear and the Ragged Staff fluttering behind him. He’d get off at the jetty and the inhabitants of L’Erber would be excited to welcome their lord.
“Except, this is wrong. L’ Erber was nowhere near the River Thames, indeed it was some distance from the river, laying to the north and is often mixed up with Coldharbour which was a completely different house on the banks of the Thames. Unfortunately for us, L’Erber no longer exists. But we can uncover its exact location, what it might have looked like and what the immediate area around was like.
“The house itself was located on Elbow Lane a little to the south of the church of Saint Mary Bothaw on the Dowgate Ward. Dowgate Street ran north from Thames Street to Candlewicke Street with Elbow Lane running west from Dowgate Street to Bush Lane. Le Erber was located on the north side of Elbow Lane next to the turning for Bush Lane, Elbow lane itself made a sudden south turn to Thames Street. (The bend to the south giving it the ‘elbow’ appearance.) The church of Saint Mary Bothaw was also known as Saint Mary by the Erber and like so many others, was destroyed in the Great Fire of London and never rebuilt. Amongst others Robert Chichele Lord Mayor of London and brother to the Archbishop of Canterbury Henry Chichele, was buried there.
“L’Erber was therefore located slightly south of the modern day Cannon Street, more likely around the area now known as Scott’s Yard just south of Cannon Street Station. Three of the nearest streets located very close to the house still survive in modern day London. These are Thames Street, Candlewicke Streete- now known as Cannon Street, and Dowgate Streete, now known as Dow Gate Hill. The basic layout within modern day London is pretty much the same although Elbow Lane has been built over. However you would still be able to find the above mentioned streets and Bush Lane. Looking at the 16th century Agas map and modern day London on map, Cannon Street Station now stands where St Mary Bothaw Church was located and L’Erber is beneath a modern construction called the Atrium Building.
“Within walking distance and just north of the house was the London Stone, the scene of much excitement during the rebellion of Jack Cade in 1450. It appears however that L’Erbers famous resident was not in London at the time. In 1450 the London stone did not resemble the chunk of stone that hides behind a fancy grille set into a wall on Cannon Street. The stone itself was much larger and stood opposite St Swithins Church. When Jack Cade entered London he is believed to have struck the stone with his sword and claimed to be Lord of the City.
“The house itself was near surrounded by churches. As well as the aforementioned St Mary Bothaw, there was the church of Saint Swithin on Candlewicke Street, All Hallows the Great was located on Thames Street which lay off Dowgate Lane, All Hallows the Less a little further along and Saint John the Baptist on Walbrook Street, although the east end of this church extended onto Dowgate. The ringing of church bells must have been a constant and very loud feature for the inhabitants of L’Erber. Following Dowgate Lane to the south you would come to Thames Street and from there, walking west, Baynard’s Castle was on the bank of the river Thames, its walls rising up from the water of the river. A little further on to the west was Bridewell Palace and slightly north from Baynard’s Castle was the old Saint Paul’s Cathedral.
“The Inholders Hall was also on Elbow Lane, but it should be remembered that it was not known as such until 1473 when a successful petition was made to use the name. Prior to that they were called hostelers or hospitalers and served pilgrims, travellers and traders. One might imagine that on Elbow Lane at night time it was quite rowdy. Despite this, the area was home to several “faire houses” and so many stables that Bush Lane was once known as Carters lane. Just west to the house was the River Walbrook, a tributary river of the Thames. Some of this rover had already been culverted into sewers as early as 1440 so how much of the river remained above ground during Warwick’s time is not known. It is now completely underground, one of London’s lost rivers.
“Le Erber itself is described as “a great stone house”, and “very fair.” From the existing map of circa. 1561 it can be seen as being twice the size of neighbouring houses with a tower and crenelated. The very name suggests that it had its own garden, probably an extensive herb garden for the kitchen and medicinal purposes and this garden was almost certainly walled, a small green space amongst the bustling streets. We know from the description that it was built entirely of stone and was not half timbered like many houses at the time and indeed, many of the neighbouring houses were built entirely of timber. From descriptions we also know that it had a very large great hall. The earliest mention of the house I have been able to find is during the reign of Edward III c.1368 when he gave it as a present to Geoffrey Scrope and afterwards appears to have passed to or bought by a John de Hatfield, a citizen and ‘pepperer’ of London. His widow passed the house onto William, Lord Latimer at some point after 1373.
“Eventually the house became the property of John Nevill, Lord Raby (although this cannot be verified, it may well have come into the hands of his son Ralph Nevill, earl of Westmorland in 1399) and then on through the Nevill family to Warwick, probably being rebuilt and refashioned many times over the years. After Warwick’s death it passed through his eldest daughter Isabel to her husband George, duke of Clarence and probably after his execution remained in crown hands. In the early 17th century the house was described as a “great old house” having been rebuilt circa 1564 by Thomas Pullyson, a mayor of London. After this Sir Francis Drake lived there during the closing years of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign. It was either demolished in the 17th century or like its neighbouring churches, completely destroyed in the Great Fire of London.”
“There was nothing at Westminster Abbey yesterday to alert visitors to the renewed speculation that one of its most revered sites may not be what it seems. To the unwary, King Richard II still lies in the south aisle of the Lady Chapel just where he has for nearly six centuries. A sign points out the tomb, wedged snugly between those of Edward III and of Anne Neville, Richard III’s queen. It is topped by a gilded effigy of the monarch, whose remains were moved to the Abbey from Hertfordshire in 1413. But all that glisters is not gold, and there are fresh claims that the remains of one of England’s most tragic kings may not rest at Westminster at all. In fact they may be 400 miles away, under a pedestrianised shopping centre near Stirling railway station.
“Legend and Shakespeare say that the last of the Plantagenets was murdered by Sir Piers of Exton in Pontefract Castle in early 1400, only weeks after he was forced to resign in favour of Henry of Lancaster, who then crowned himself Henry IV. But that story has always been disputed. Almost immediately after the king’s death,there were rumours that the body which was so openly brought south was not thatof Richard but a lookalike, perhaps his chaplain Richard Maudelyn. From as early as 1402 there were claims that the real Richard had escaped to Scotland, where he supposedly died in 1419 (six years after being reburied at Westminster). Now the archaeologist Ron Page is leading an effort to get to the truth of what would be one of English history’s greatest cover-ups.
“If Mr Page is right, then Shakespeare’s Richard, who offered “my large kingdom for a little grave, a little, little grave, an obscure grave,” may indeed have had his wish these many years. But then whose remains have been at Westminster for so long? And how can we be sure which of them is Richard? “Not all the water of the rough rude sea can wash the balm from an anointed king,” says Shakespeare’s Richard. If only it was that simple.”
It is a very intriguing thought that here we have another medieval King of England who may not be where he is supposed to be. I’m thinking of Edward II, and the dispute over whether he really did die when he was said to have, and whether he was laid to rest in Gloucester Abbey on the date he is supposed to have been. And I also think, of course, of Richard III, who really was where he was said to have been, and not lost in the River Soar as a legend claims.
If it was a cover-up, it was a Lancastrian one! What a surprise. Well, there is one thing to be said of poor Richard II, a railway station is a refreshing change from car parks. Since Richard III, there has been a positive rash of burials found or suspected under car parks. But then, his predecessor, Richard II, always did like innovation and being different.
PS: As the above article was written in 2002, and I haven’t heard anything more of a great discovery in Stirling, I can only imagine that Richard II does, after all, lie at rest with his beloved Queen Anne in Westminster Abbey. Unless, of course, someone else knows something the rest of us do not….?
PPS: Um, when did they locate Anne Neville’s tomb so precisely? I thought the whereabouts of her last resting place were only vaguely known…? The actual location has been lost.
Many of you will remember the episode of “Who do you think you are” in which Danny Dyer was revealed as a descendant of Edward III. In this new two part series, he “meets” a few prominent ancestors, some even more distant.
The first episode began with Rollo, ancestor of the Dukes of Normandy, which saw Dyer visit Sweden, although Danes and Norwegians also claim that Viking dynast, to learn sparring with a sword and shield. Then he went to the Tower to talk about William I and Dover Castle for Henry II, discussing his rebellious sons and his mixed relationship with Becket. At every stage, riding a horse, jousting or dyeing (Dyeing?), he was accompanied by a professional genealogist (Anthony Adolph, in a cafe opposite Buckingham Palace) or a historian, if not one of television’s “usual suspects”. At the end, Dyer visited France to learn of a slightly different ancestor – St. Louis IX, although Margaret of Wessex is another canonised forebear.
The second episode did feature some real historians: Elizabeth Norton, Chris Given-Wilson, Tobias Capwell and Tracy Borman. The opening scene had Isabella on the Leeds Castle drawbridge shouting at Edward II (Dyer): “Git aht ov moi carsel” (you may need Google Translate, but not from French). We were shown an image of Hugh le Despencer’s grisly execution, without pointing out that there were two of that name, followed by Edward’s confinement in Berkeley Castle, forced abdication and the legend of his even grislier end. Henry “Hotspur” Percy, who died in battle at Shrewsbury, followed as Dyer tried on late mediaeval armour. The next scenes concerned Sir John Seymour at Wolf Hall, inveigling his daughter into Henry VIII’s world, as Dyer dressed up and tried “Tudor” dancing. We then moved on to Helmingham Hall as Catherine Cromwell married Lord Tollemache, whose successor met Dyer, his cousin, again. The series concluded with a “sugar banquet” as the star’s family joined in, dressed as Elizabeth I’s contemporaries.
Both programmes were informative about mediaeval life, such as the “silver pennies” bearing Dyer’s image and the West Ham badge, although his stereotypical East London patois grates a little. It brought to mind Ray Winstone as Henry VIII (“I have been betrayed!”) or Nick Knowles‘ egregious Historyonics.
Has the Black Rood of Scotland been hiding in plain sight, indeed? Well, David Willem think so and is speaking about it in Edinburgh on Wednesday, how Margaret of Wessex took this cross to Scotland in 1068, how Edward I removed it along with the Stone of Destiny but it was returned and relocated again, to Durham, after David II’s defeat at the nearby Neville’s Cross. It is known to have been there until about 1540.
At Durham Cathedral, a similarly jewel-encrusted gold cross was found in St. Cuthbert’s grave in 1827. Is this the missing part of the Scottish Crown Jewels?
Natural disasters were not to only thing to bring chaos to the great Benedictine abbey at beautiful Winchcombe in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds. Not just the 1091 lightning strike on the tower of the Abbey church of St Mary, which opened up “a huge crack in the walls, large enough for a man to pass through and destroyed one of the beams: major reconstruction became both inevitable and pressing”. Not even the 1363 “whirlwind [that] damaged the Abbey church”. Indeed not, because humankind created rather large disturbances of its own.
“During the late 13th/early 14th century, the abbots of Winchcombe had spent greatly on enlarging and improving the east end of the Abbey church, as well as taking out expensive loans to purchase more lands. As a consequence the Abbey urgently needed to raise more funds. The Bishop of Worcester conducted a formal visitation in 1329 and his injunctions show that he found extravagance and inadequate self-discipline within the community. They also hint at financial corruption, abuse of power and general mismanagement. (Me: Oh, dear!)
“Worse was to follow as the 14th century moved forward. In 1318 the Bishop was called upon to arbitrate in a dispute between the abbot and William de Preston the Vicar. In 1337 Edward III went to war with France and to pay for this he demanded loans from land owners as well as higher taxes. This increased the demands the Abbey made on the townspeople and their tenants. From 1340 – 1388 there are reports of armed men, including chaplains, breaking into the Abbey’s precincts and outlying manors, holding the monks captive and making off with their goods.
“Then, to add to all these problems, in 1348/9 the Black Death swept across the country, reducing the population by about one third. Farms and animals were left uncared for, further reducing the income available to both the Abbey and to St Peter’s. By 1351 there are reports of dilapidations, alienation of property and complaints by some monks to the Bishop and Archbishop. Two years later in 1353, the Abbey was, in effect, declared bankrupt and a royal commission appointed to manage it.
“Ten years later, in 1364, a whirlwind damaged the Abbey church and in 1366 the abbot and prior were found guilty of making fraudulent claims to property in the town. John Brightman, who was the Perpetual Vicar of St Peter’s from 1366-89, sued the abbot for repairs to the chancel of St Peter’s. On at least one occasion he took the law into his own hands, and with his curate and a party of townspeople he broke into the Abbey and assaulted some of the staff. (Me: How very Christian!)
“John Brightman was succeeded by Thomas Power (1389-1415), who continued the struggle to get the abbot to pay for the maintenance of the chancel. Thomas took his case first to the Bishop of Worcester and lost with costs, then to the Archbishop’s court and lost with further costs. Finally Power appealed to the Papal courts in Rome and lost for the last time. Pope Urban’s ruling in 1389 not only confirmed the decisions of the lower courts but also removed of the vicar’s security of tenure, granting authority to the abbot and the monastic community to appoint and remove vicars at their pleasure (although there is no record that this power was ever used). “Having failed to obtain legal redress, Power, like his predecessor, took the law into his own hands and began ringing the church bells at times designed to disturb the monks’ sleep and their prayers.
The abbot appealed to the Pope, who ruled the bells should not be rung after the evening curfew nor before Prime, the morning act of worship, and should always be rung moderately. In 1400 the Archdeacon found that the papal ruling was being ignored, so he excommunicated both vicar and parishioners.”
It was, of course, Henry VIII who had the final say.
I have never been to Waterford in Ireland, but having just browsed at leisure through their museum’s wonderful website, I feel as if I know the city intimately. There are virtual tours that really do make the viewer feel present. Thoroughly recommended!
This figure is from one of the virtual tours, and depicts an incredibly lifelike, believable Edward III, copied from the medieval illustration to (our) right.
I have a theory that a lot of what we call “history” arises from the “hospital pass”. (For those who don’t know, this term comes from Rugby. It’s where the ball is passed to you at a moment or in a situation where the opposition is bound (or at least likely) to recover the situation with a violent tackle.)
A good example of this are the events arising from the Hundred Years War. Now yes, there were genuine issues arising between England and France. These mostly arose from the status of Guienne, which the kings of England held as vassals of the kings of France. (Though it is ironic that some of the issues were the very issues that the English imposed on their Welsh and Scottish* vassals.)
*To avoid response from angry Scots, during the time when the Scots accepted vassalage, for example the reign of John Balliol.
The fact remains that France had about five times the population Of England and was (almost) correspondingly more wealthy. For the English to take on France in a major war (as opposed to a small one) was always going to be a stretch.
Ah, but you say, Edward III and the Black Prince succeeded! Did they not have glorious victories at Crecy and Poitiers? Did they not actually capture the French king and impose a humiliating peace on him? (Treaty of Bretigny.)
Yes, they did, with the benefit of novel tactics, excellent leadership and, let’s be honest, some help from Lady Luck.
BUT! (And it’s a very big but.) The French were not stupid. They soon figured out new tactics to defeat the English, the most important of which was “Don’t meet the English in pitched battle.” It doesn’t sound very impressive, does it, but the effect was remarkable. The English armies that went to France in the later 14th Century did a fair bit of damage (especially to poor people and their property) but they failed utterly to enforce the treaty or cause the French government to collapse. Moreover, these campaigns were costly in cash and lives.
What is too often forgotten by English historians (who are all too apt to pleasure themselves silly over Edward III’s “greatness”) is that by the end of his reign England was practically bankrupt, in a fair degree of political chaos and under regular attacks from French raids along the south coast.
At which point poor Richard II and his advisers took over this legacy of “glory”.
The English (or more particularly their ruling class) were frankly deluded. Yep, they wanted to carry on with the war. Why, they wanted to enforce the Treaty of Bretigny. Did they want to pay for it? Did they heck as like.
So, make peace instead? What, are you a traitor, sir!
There were of course truces. As the century dragged on, these were to become more regular. But the cost of the war led to desperate measures in the treasury. Which led to the introduction of the Poll Tax. Do I need to spell out how that went down?
Richard II actually offered to lead an army to France. Yes, really. Would Parliament pay for it? Would they heck!
So we come to 1386, with the French poised to attack across the Channel. Make no mistake, this was a serious threat. Probably more of a genuine threat than anything prepared by Napoleon or Hitler, hard though that may be to believe. The King goes to Parliament to ask for money to defend the nation. Does Parliament pay up? No, it goes spare, and forces on Richard a commission to run the country for 12 months.
Now this in turn (to cut a long story short) leads on to the Appellant Crisis and the judicial murder – for that was what it was! – of many of the King’s friends and advisers and the banishment of others. Do the Appellants do a better job? Do they somehow magically cut taxation and give the French a damn good thrashing? Do they heck as like. They prove just as clueless in government – if not more clueless – than the people they replaced.
Eventually, largely because John of Gaunt comes home and supports King Richard in his policies, and after a whole lot of haggling and abortive proposals, a peace of sorts is achieved. Not until late 1396 though, and it is in fact a 28 year truce, that leaves some of the awkward issues unsolved.
You might thing people would be delighted. But many of them weren’t. No, they wanted to carry on the war that they didn’t want to pay for. It’s one of the issues that makes Richard unpopular and leads to his downfall. Next post will relate the Lancastrian aftermath.
While trawling around looking for information about Marshalsea courts in the time of Richard II, I came upon this WordPress blog (by Mercedes Rochelle) that covers the subject. I quote the article in full:-
“Today when we hear about the Marshalsea we think of the infamous 19th century Southwark prison with all its associated tortures. But come back with me to the 14th century and you’ll see that the word has a totally different meaning—at first, anyway. Originally, the marshalsea (not capitalized—also known as the avenary) was the largest department of the household, in charge of taking care of the horses: feeding, grooming, and stabling. At the same time, the Marshal was a great officer of the royal and noble household, who functioned as the enforcer—the policeman, if you will—and the jailer. Where the Marshalsea (capitalized) came into play was in relation to the court of the verge (or the court of the steward and Marshal of the household). The steward presided over the court of the verge and the Marshal enforced its will.
“The Marshalsea court can be traced back to the second half of Edward I’s reign; it was the legal arm of the household. In practice it tried cases involving servants of the crown, whether sinning or sinned against: theft, debts, contracts, acts against the royal dignity, and trespassing—anything short of murder. This involved activity that took place within the verge, which was a twelve mile radius from the king’s presence. If anyone refused to cooperate with the king’s servants—such as Purveyors—they could be tried at the Marshalsea court. Interfering with Purveyors was one of the bigger offenses. Their job was to gather supplies for the itinerant court, such as food, wood for heating, oats and hay for the horses, etc. and these purchases were almost always a bone of contention. They rarely paid in cash; instead, they often gave the long-suffering supplier a note to be cashed at the exchequer—when the funds were available, that is. The supplier could wait months to get paid, if he got paid at all. But if that long-suffering merchant refused to contribute, the penalty could be severe. At the same time, the steward investigated complaints of extortionate behavior by the king’s servitors, though one can only wonder how often they decided in favor of the offended party.
“Cases tried in the Marshalsea court were exempted from the common law courts; it became a separate tribunal, free from the technicalities and costs of traditional courts. Because of the itinerant nature of the king’s household, cases had to be tried quickly. Pleas of trespass and debt concerning outsiders often reverted back to the common law courts if the king moved on, taking the verge with him. Within the verge local officials were forbidden to trespass on the duties of the king’s officers; at the same time, they were found guilty of “contempt of the king” if they permitted the escape of suspected felons. There were plenty of conflicts between the local municipalities who wanted to try their own cases and who temporarily fell within the verge, and the government which didn’t always mind the boundaries.
“Needless to say, the Londoners were often within the influence of the Marshalsea since the king was frequently in or near the city. Criminals were known to have crossed the Thames to Southwark to avoid punishment, since they could not be brought before the city authorities when the Marshalsea was present. The government tried to extend the Marshalsea’s jurisdiction into the city of London, but this was violently resisted and eventually dropped. Nonetheless, many formal protests were raised in successive Parliaments well into Henry IV’s reign. In 1373 Edward III ordered a building 40 feet long and 30 feet wide to be constructed “in the high street” for his own convenience, to hold pleas, keep prisoners, and hold other king’s courts. It was one of the first of London’s symbols of oppression to suffer the wrath of the Peasant’s Revolt, though it was rebuilt the following year. The king’s sergeant-at-arms and keeper of the Marshalsea, Richard Imworth, was brutally murdered by the rebels two days after they destroyed the prison.
“As time went on, reportedly by 1430, the Marshalsea became known as a debtor’s prison, and was notorious by the 18th century, when it was rebuilt about 130 yards south of its original site. You can learn all about it from Charles Dickens whose father was imprisoned there in 1824.”