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Dismal Sewage

They say every writer should find a niche. Unfortunately, certain ‘popular historians’ seem to have leapt onto  ‘gimmicks’ than a niche and write all or most of their books in similar vein, often to the detriment of their work and a growing lack of credibility with each further tome.

A trend amongst several notable authors seems to be the cynical and sarcastic slagging off of the historical figures they write about, most likely to stir up controversy in the hopes of making sales—who knows? Any sense of being non-partisan or unbiased is thrown out the window pretty much on page 1.

 ‘Jack of All Trades’ history writer Desmond Seward (Demon Sewer? Dismal Sewage?) is a prime offender. Most of us will remember Demon’s jaw-dropping book on Richard III, titled, so menacingly…’The Black Legend’. (Oooh, shades of Sauron and Mordor!) Without tramping over old turf, this totally unbiased (choke) book contains such wonderful remarks as (paraphrasing here), ‘If he was two fingers shorter than Richard, Von Poppelau must have been a dwarf…’ In his updated version of the same tired tosh he chides Ricardians for seeking the truth about Richard because “…the White Legend continues to appeal to every Anglo-Saxon lover of a lost cause and, in particular, to lady novelists.” (Very odd application of ‘Anglo Saxon’ as well as showing an unpleasant Starkey-esque strain of sexism.) He also is a true believer in the words of the sainted Thomas More because he was, after all, a SAINT, so presumably infallible—yes, the ‘saint’ who burned people at the stake and poetically wrote long insulting tracts containing multiple references to faeces. True story. What a scholar. What a charmer.

Recently Sewer returned to the Wars of the Roses period with a new book, THE LAST WHITE ROSE, and continued in the same vein, with a combination of vitriol and errors. Edmund de la Pole was apparently haughty, pompous and unintelligent (the latter deduced apparently from his bad handwriting!) John, Duke of Suffolk was called a nonentity and given the wrong date of death. John of Lincoln was saupposedly devious, and even accused of abducting the young, hapless Lambert Simnel from his family! (Sewer appears to believe there really WAS a child ridiculously named after a cake, even although the surname is rarer than a blue moon and there is no record of any family by that name). Worst of all, however, is a supposed quote from Croyland about Elizabeth of Suffolk, complete with page number. It does not exist in Croyland, if anywhere at all, yet is masquerading as a quote from a primary source!!

I haven’t read all of Demon Sewer’s books, needless to say, but some of the customer reviews are noteworthy and often rather hilarious. Apparently any strong women in history are described as ‘viragos’ or worse. In his Eleanor of Aquitaine bio, not only does he seem to dislike Eleanor herself, he has a bit of a fixation with Richard the Lionheart’s homosexuality. Which is a bit odd, as there is no actual evidence that Lionheart WAS homosexual, and that theory of the mid-20th century is pretty much discredited today. In fact, there is some evidence that Lionheart, in his misspent youth, ravished his enemy’s wives and then gave them to his men!

Perhaps the funniest error Dismal made, though, was found in one of his other books, The King over the Water, which is about the Jacobites. Apparently, he wrote that  the maternal grandparents of Lord Derwentwater were Charles II and Moll Flanders. MOLL FLANDERS? She is a character in a novel by Daniel Defoe!

Maybe Dismal should write a book on Moll next. Non-fiction, of course.

A Demon Sewer and…Desmond Seward. Purportedly…but might not be….

The mystery of the vanished manor of Ostenhanger….

 

Westenhanger Castle – showing part of Folkestone Racecourse in the foreground
https://images.historicenglandservices.org.uk/flight/england-air/westenhanger-castle-33328-002-14884418.html

There once was an Anglo-Saxon manor in the south of Kent called Berwic, which became known as Le Hangre, and was then split into two manors, Westenhanger and Ostenhanger. Westenhanger is still very much in evidence (see illustration above) but Ostenhanger as such has disappeared entirely. It’s still there really, of course, but was incorporated into Westenhanger in the 16th century and now no one seems to know where the now invisible dividing line was placed. It can’t be to the south, or surely we’d have Northanger and Southanger. So, if present-day Westenhanger is the west, then Ostenhanger has to be…well, east. Right?

Very early hand-drawn map showing Westenhanger, but no Ostenhanger

At the period of the novel I’m working on, the late 14th century, the medieval castle at Westenhanger was just emerging like a phoenix from the crumbling remains of an earlier incarnation.  The then occupant, the knight banneret Sir John Kyriel (numerous spellings)*, had in 1343 obtained a licence to crenellate, and set about the long, costly business of turning a fortified manor house into a proper castle. After all, it was the Hundred Years War and Kent was very definitely in the French firing line. Sir John was involved in decades of ongoing work.

Crioll/Kyriel

No one knows what the original manor house had been like, except that in Anglo-Saxon times it was on the large manor originally called Berwic. There’s a myth that a palace stood here, belonging to King Orric/Oeric, son of Hengist, although whether this is based in fact, I don’t know, but certainly the site itself, as a manor, was in existence in that period.

Apparently the word Hangre can stem from either hunger or a wooded slope. My money’s on the latter, because I wouldn’t have thought the rich well-watered meadows around the East Stour river would ever allow hunger. But that’s my guesswork. The now defunct Folkstone Racecourse, which closed in 2012, still stands among these meadows, most of which are well drained in this modern age.

Folkestone Racecourse – picture from shepwayvox.org
Showing Westenhanger mid-left. Was Ostenhanger the land at the top, beyond the racecourse? Stone Street is visible horizontally just the other side of the trees at the far edge of the racecourse.

In the twelfth century Le Hangre was held by another John Kyriel (the family was then known as de Crioll, various spellings), and it’s said that during the reign of Henry II one of the round towers housed Fair Rosamund Clifford, Henry’s beautiful mistress. From there he moved her to her bower at Woodstock where, as the legend goes, she was poisoned by his jealous queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Well, Rosamund may indeed have been at Westenhanger, but the round tower was built since then. As for Eleanor’s part in the lady’s demise…I have no idea.

Present-day Westenhanger, showing Rosamund’s (Round) Tower

But that’s beside the point for my purposes here, because this 12th-century John Kyriel’s grandsons inherited. Their names were Nicholas and another John, but the latter’s only surviving heir was a daughter, Joan.  This meant that when the time came, Nicholas and his niece Joan were joint heirs. Le Hangre had to be divided. Nicholas’s portion was named Westenhanger, and Joan’s became Ostenhanger. She then married Sir Richard Rokesley, a very important Kent man, who gained her portion. So, at this point it’s abundantly clear there were two separate manors.

Joan and Rokesley had one daughter, no sons, and this daughter (another Joan) married Michael de Poynings, 2nd Baron Poynings. Thus Ostenhanger (which I’ve seen written rather delightfully as Ostywhanger) came to the Poynings family, who remained in possession for a long time – well, more or less for the rest of its existence as a separate entity, becaus the Fogge family did intrude for a while.

Poynings

Sir Edward’s rather ancient mansion at Ostenhanger was abandoned, and both manors were united as Westenhanger, the castle of which Sir Edward rebuilt. But the present-day mansion, which nestles within the medieval castle ruins, is Georgian from the 18th century. And what remains now is but a shadow of the castle as it was rebuilt by Sir John Kyriel in the 14th century.

Original medieval stonework visible on right
from www.ecastles.co.uk

The last Kyriel of Westenhanger, Sir Thomas, was summarily executed after supporting the Yorkist cause at the second battle of St. Albans, which took place on 17th February 1461 and during which the great Earl of Warwick, known to posterity as the “Kingmaker” was slain. The Yorkists had earlier captured King Henry VI and during the battle they placed him in the care of Lord Bonville and Sir Thomas Kyriel. Once the battle was lost, Bonville and Kyriel escorted the king to the victorious queen, Margaret of Anjou, and the story goes that she asked her (apparently obnoxious) son—the boy Edward, Prince of Wales—how the two Yorkists should be treated and he replied that they should be executed. So they were beheaded, even though they’d behaved with honour throughout. And even though Henry VI himself wanted them spared. Kyriel left two daughters, the elder of whom married a Fogge, and thus the male line of the ancient de Crioll/Kyriel line of Westenhanger was no more.

The Fogge family became ensconced there (Westenhanger) until a Sir John Fogge apparently II don’t know the details) demised it to Sir Edward Poynings in the reign of Henry VIII. Oh, but whoa! One of the Fogges referred to Ostenhanger in his will as one of his manors…! Groan. So who held what, pray? Of course, I could take the easy way out and pretend that some scribe or other simply made an error….

What I can say for certain is that in the early 16th century Sir Edward Poynings held both Westenhanger and Ostenhanger, and that on his death the now-single manor went to the Crown, i.e. Henry VIII, who started doing it up to suit. I’m not sure of what happened next, because it’s too far “out of period” for my wip.

Sir Edward seems to have somehow made Ostenhanger disappear entirely. Well, clearly the land didn’t disappear, but which land it is remains unknown. There isn’t so much as an Ostenhanger Farm or Ostenhanger Brook lingering sneakily somewhere in the landscape. Zilch. There’s an engraving that’s said to show the remains of Ostenhanger (see below). However, this same print is also sometimes labelled Westenhanger, and occasionally the caption sits firmly on the fence and claims it’s either one or the other. I don’t know anything for certain, and the more I try to find out, the less I seem to know.

Ostenhanger – GROSE – 1776

The Westenhanger Charter of 1035 takes us right back to the beginnning, and is very interesting, explanatory and detailed.

The following map has been drawn from the known Anglo-Saxon boundaries of the original Berwic/Le Hangre, and Westenhanger manorhouse/castle is shown close to the eastern boundary. It wasn’t known by that name in 1035, of course, but has been shown as an indication to the modern reader. Something stood there in Anglo-Saxon times, maybe even Orric’s palace. So, if Ostenhanger was east of Westenhanger, it must have been somewhere in the direction of Saltwood and Hythe.

As you can see quite clearly on the right, the Roman road Stanstraete (Stone Street leading north-south on its way from Lympne on the coast to Canterbury) divides Westenhanger from whatever was to the east. Ostenhanger? But if Westenhanger and Ostenhanger are what used to be Berwic/Le Hangre, as shown on this map, these ancient boundaries don’t leave much room to the east for Ostenhanger to be situated. Surely there must have been more Berwic/Le Hangre land to the east of Stone Street? Otherwise, Ostenhanger must have been a very skinny strip! I can’t see a man of Sir Richard Rokesley’s standing putting up with his wife having been short-changed when Le Hangre was divided between her and her uncle Nicholas Kyriel, so something, somewhere, is wrong.

Below is another map of the area, this time an old OS map, showing Stone Street slicing vertically through the middle. There’s Westenhanger, top left, clearly drawn…so was Ostenhanger somewhere around where Hilhurst or Little Sandling are shown?

It’s all a huge puzzle. The fiction writer in me needs to know if Ostenhanger was visible from the towers of Westenhanger. Maybe even from the curtain walls of the outer bailey? Were the two residences separated by Roman Stone Street? Indeed, was Stone Street the actual boundary between the two? All I know is that, because I’m writing about the 14th century, when the Kyriels occupied Westenhanger, and the Barons Poynings were in Ostenhanger, I need to learn these infuriatingly elusive details.

So, if anyone reading this desperate crie de coeur knows anything more about the two manors or can correct me on what I’ve already included in this article, please, please let me know!

*Oh, dear. Here’s a major stumbling block for me. I’ve found the will https://www.kentarchaeology.org.uk/Research/Libr/Wills/Lbth/Bk24/page%20449.htm of the Sir John Kyriel (in which he spells his name Kiriel) who had the licence to crenellate Westenhanger in 1343. Except that throughout he refers only to “Ostringhanger”! Where’d Westenhanger go? Now what am I to think?

SARUM LIGHTS–A COMMEMORATION

2020 is the 800th Anniversary of the founding of Salisbury Cathedral. Before ‘New Salisbury’ came into existence, the town stood on the windy cone of Old Sarum, a huge iron-age hillfort with massive earthen ramparts. There was a particularly forbidding Norman castle on the height, with a windswept bridge over a deep moat–here, Henry II kept his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine imprisoned for some sixteen years,  served by a single loyal lady-in-waiting. The old town also had a cathedral, begun somewhere after 1075. It was rather an ill-fated building, however, being severely damaged in a storm just five days after consecration.  Sometime in the late 12th century, it was decided to move the cathedral from the height due to the lack of water. The cathedral was dismantled and much of the stonework taken down to the new site near the river, where the town of Salisbury as we know it would grow around it. The first stones of the English-style Gothic building were laid in 1220, in the reign of Henry III, with foundation stones being laid by, among other notables, the King’s half-uncle, William Longespee and his wife Ela, Countess of Salisbury, a remarkable woman who later became Sheriff of Wiltshire.

To commemorate the founding of Salisbury cathedral, a light show recently took place within the great building  with projections of  charters, drawings, stained glass, saints and rulers who played a part in Salisbury’s history. On the bleak ruins of Old Sarum, beams of light were shot high into the night sky so that they were visible from Salisbury town centre.

There are many interesting monuments inside the cathedral, including that of founder William Longespee (who was thought to have been poisoned–and a RAT found in his skull when his tomb was opened was full of arsenic!), Sir John Cheney, the 6ft 6 giant who was unhorsed by Richard III at Bosworth, and possibly Lionel Woodville, who was Bishop there until Buckingham’s rebellion, when he fled to Brittany hearing of  Buckingham’s failure. Salisbury also has one of the copies of Magna Carta and the tallest spire in England. The building of the cathedral was fictionalised in the best-selling novel ‘PILLARS OF THE EARTH’ by Ken Follett, which recently was made into a TV series.

 

SARUM LIGHTS VIDEO

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?

Joan Plantagenet Queen of Sicily

joan_of_england

Joan Plantagenet Queen of Sicily

Being a Sicilian living in the UK, I am fond of both countries’ history. I have often wondered if there was a link between these two islands and I soon found one: Joan Plantagenet Queen of Sicily.

The story of this woman is so interesting and compelling especially because Joan was a very strong and determined person, a well-known characteristic predominant in the Plantagenet ancestry.

During her short life, Joan went through a series of events worthy of an adventure movie. She lived for just 33 years but so intensely and enough to be still one of the most important characters in the turbulent history of Sicily.

Daughter of Henry II and Eleonor of Aquitaine, Joan was also the sister of Richard I better known as the Lionheart. She was born in October 1165 (the day is unfortunately unknown) at Château d’Angers in Anjou. She was the seventh child of her family and she spent her youth both in Winchester and Poitiers. She received an excellent education as she was a princess so she was expected to marry a royal person. Apart from studying French, Latin and English, she also learned music, sewing, singing and horseriding, one of her favourite pastime.

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La Cuba, the royal palace of the Plantagenets in Palermo

She was so beautiful and intelligent that William II of Sicily married her when she was only 12. On 27th August 1176, Joan left England to sail for Sicily where she married and was crowned Queen of Sicily in Palermo Cathedral on 13th February 1177. Her voyage was dreadful but Joan soon forgot it as she enjoyed both her marriage and the warm climate of Sicily.

Very soon, her life started to meet the first obstacles. She was unable to produce an heir for the throne of Sicily so she was in danger of being refused by her husband but William was a very good man and rejected the idea of annulling their union as he truly loved her. Unfortunately, William died in November 1189 and Sicily fell in the hands of the bastard cousin of William, Tancred who seized the dowry of Joan including many lands. In 1190, Richard the Lionheart, the favourite brother of Joan, arrived in Italy on his way to the Holy Land. He warned Tancred to give back the dowry and when he refused, Richard took Messina and put the city on fire. Tancred was obliged to return the dowry.

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Palermo Cathedral

Sadly, the adventures of Joan were not over. Richard put her and his future wife Berengaria on a ship to send them back to England but it seems that travelling by sea was not the best way for Joan. A terrible storm stranded the ship to Cyprus while Richard’s ship landed in Crete. At that time Cyprus was in the hands of the despot Commenus who immediately tried to take advantage of his unexpected luck. He tried to capture the two women but once again the valiant Richard saved his sister imprisoning Commenus.

The link between Richard and Joan was a very strong one. She loved him and he was always ready to save her from perils. Notwithstanding this though, Richard tried to arrange a wedding between Joan and Saladin’s brother to put an end to the Holy War but he had to come to terms with the Church. The high ranks of it warned Richard he would have been excommunicated so the wedding never took place. Eventually, Joan married Raymond VI, Count of Toulouse. This union was blessed with the birth of children.

Joan had all the qualities and the spirit of the Plantagenets. After she recovered from the birth of her last child, she decided to make right all the wrong done to her husband and she put Les Cassés under siege. Unluckily, traitors started a fire and she had to abandon the camp. She was pregnant again and she decided to ask his brother for help but she soon discovered he had aready died.

fontevraud3

Fontevrault Abbey

She asked and obtained to have a tomb granted in Fontevrault Abbey. This was not a place suitable for women especially if pregnant but Joan could have it. Tired for the effort of the siege and devastated by the death of her beloved brother, Joan died in childbirth on 4th September 1199. The child was born thank to a Cesarean section after Joan’s death. He was named Richard and died soon after being baptized.

Joan was buried in Fontevrault Abbey close to her brother Richard as she had always desired.

Biggest Lies of the Middle Ages

There are many, many  false ideas and funny beliefs about the Middle Ages and  some of the notable figures  who lived in those times. Alfred and the cakes, Edward II and the hot poker, Eleanor of Aquitaine flinging poisoned toads on Fair Rosamund… And of course, almost everything you can think of about Richard III.  In popular ‘myths’ of the middle ages, still clinging on with remarkable tenacity, everyone was  hobbit-sized, had bad teeth, burned witches and bathed once a year under duress.

Some of these  ideas have come from folklore or from popular fiction, like certain famous plays we know (COUGH); others have been handed down by the good old Victorians who wrote history THEIR way, just as they ‘improved’ on real medieval churches by rebuilding them in a NEW, ‘improved’ cod-medieval style, often obliterating real ancient artifacts and chucking out effigies and tomb slabs in the process.

Recently I was rather pleased to  find this interesting little ‘myth buster’ article–link below.

I was particularly happy to see not only a positive re-assessment of Richard but  a mention of his scoliosis which showed an understanding of the condition. It is really not that rare, that obvious, or that debilitating, unlike the way certain parties STILL  like to portray it.

http://historycollection.co/getting-medieval-6-biggest-lies-middle-ages/

 

yoda-quote-star-wars

The Greatest Knight and Richard III

I have previously posted about my family history connections with Richard III here and I have since found out more interesting links.

One such is William Marshall. Called by some the greatest ever knight, he is one of my direct ancestors and also the direct ancestor of Richard III.

William had an eventful life. He was born in 1146 or 1147 and, as a young boy, he was used as a hostage by King Stephen when William’s father, who was supporting Matilda against Stephen, was besieged by the king in Newbury Castle. William’s father, John, when told that William would be hanged if he didn’t surrender, was reported to have said: “I still have the hammer and the anvil with which to forge still more and better sons!” The King made as if he was going to fire the young William at the castle from a pierrière (a type of trebuchet), but could not bring himself to harm the boy and he survived.

Photo of a Pierrière

Pierrière

Later, he was sent to Normandy to learn the business of becoming a knight, to be brought up in the household of William de Tancarville, a great magnate and cousin of young William’s mother. He was knighted on campaign in Normandy in 1166 and the next year was taken to his first tournament where he found his true calling. In 1168 he was injured in a skirmish and captured, but one of his captors aided him by smuggling  clean bandages (for the wound in his thigh) to him inside a loaf of bread, which may have saved his life. He was ransomed by Eleanor of Aquitaine, remaining a member of her household for the next two years.

A supporter of Young King Henry, son of Henry II, he travelled with him to Europe where they participated in knightly tournaments. From 1176 to 1182 both Marshall and the Young King gained prestige from winning tournaments. These were dangerous, often deadly, staged battles in which money and prizes could be won by capturing and ransoming opponents, their horses and armour. Marshall became a legendary champion in the lists: while on his deathbed, he claimed he had beaten five hundred knights during his tournament career.

Picture of mediaeval jousting

When the Young King died on 11th June 1183, he asked Marshall to fulfill the vow he (the Young King) had made the year before, to go on a crusade to the Holy Land, which William did, returning two years later and vowing to join the Knights Templar on his deathbed.

He rejoined the court of Henry II and aided him when Henry’s son, Richard, rebelled against him. Marshall unhorsed Richard in a skirmish and killed his horse to demonstrate that he could have killed the man. He was said to have been the only one ever to have unhorsed Richard, later to become Richard I, the Lionheart. Richard nevertheless welcomed Marshall to his court, after he became king, knowing his legendary loyalty and military prowess would be useful to him.

Richard fulfilled his father’s promise to Marshall of the hand in marriage and estates of Isabel de Clare and the marriage happened in August 1189, when William was 43 and Isabel just 17. He acquired great wealth and land from the marriage, including the castle of Pembroke, becoming one of the richest men in England. He also became the Earl of Pembroke eventually and the couple had five sons and five daughters.

Marshall was part of the council of regency for Richard while the king was on crusade and later supported King John although there were many fallings out over the years. However, he remained loyal to him despite their differences and was one of the few English earls to remian loyal to John during the first Barons’ War. King John trusted him to ensure the succession of his son, Henry III, and it was Marshall who was responsible for the kings’ funeral and burial at Worcester Cathedral. He was named as protector of the young king Henry III, who was aged nine, and acted as regent for him. He was now about seventy but he still fought for the young king at the head of his army and defeated Prince Louis and the rebel barons at the Battle of Lincoln.

When he realised his health was failing and he was dying in 1219, he called a meeting and appointed the Papal Legate, Pandulf Verraccio, as regent. In fulfillment of his vow, he was invested into the order of the Knights Templar on his deathbed and is buried in the Temple Church in London, where his tomb can still be seen.

Photo of the tomb of William MarshallTomb of William Marshall

During his life he served under five kings and lived a rich and full life. He founded Cartmel Priory and there is a memorial to him there:

Memorial in Cartmel Priory

Through his daughter, Isabel, William is ancestor to both the Bruce and Stewart kings of Scotland. Through his granddaughter Maud de Braose, daughter of his daughter, Eve, William is ancestor to the last Plantagenet kings, Edward IV through Richard III, and all English monarchs from Henry VIII right up to the present day queen. Actually, William is also the ancestor of Richard et al through another, older, daughter, Maud. See the family trees below. I have marked all the descendants of William Marshall with a green dot – you can see that Richard FitzAlan, the father of Lady Alice FitzAlan, was descended from Marshall on both sides.

Family tree of Richard

Family tree of Richard 2

Richard family tree 3

I wonder whether Richard inherited some of his heroic qualities from his illustrious ancestor – what do you think? And do you notice some other things they had in common?

 

 

Picture credits:

Pierrière by Jean-noël Lafargue (Jean-no) (Self-photographed) [FAL], via Wikimedia Commons

Jousting [Copyrighted free use], via Wikimedia Commons

Tomb of William Marshall by Richard Gough (Sepulchral Monuments in Great Britain. Vol 1.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sign at Pembroke Castle by Andrewrabbott (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Robert S.P. Fripp’s “Power of a Woman”

Eleanor of Aquitaine was the daughter of a provincial Duke in France. Twice she married Kings and had many children, although she outlived most of them and several grandchildren, living into her ninth decade, suffering annulment and internal exile. Two of her sons became King of England and, through John “Sansterre”, she is the ancestress of every subsequent monarch.
In this book, Robert Fripp does for Eleanor what Graves did for Claudius, as she dictates her “memoirs” to a younger secretary. Most of us know much less about Eleanor than we would like and this is our opportunity to make amends.

 

THE MISSING PRINCES-LOOKING IN LINCOLNSHIRE & DEVON

Philippa Langley has recently been on the road with ‘The Missing Princes Project’ making inquiries in Lincolnshire as to any local legends or folklore (such stories can often  hold a tiny grain of folk memory) relating to King Richard or the two boys.

Interestingly, author Sandra Heath Wilson in her novels has the  princes hidden at Friskney, which is in Lincolnshire. There is more to her choice of location than  a random place name chosen by an author ( but I will leave Sandra to do the telling, if she wishes to reveal!)

During Philippa’s recent talk, it was also mentioned that Richard, as Duke of Gloucester, overruled the choice of a mayor in Grimsby during 1474, and replaced the incumbent with his choice, Robert More. An unusual tidbit, as we do not generally think of Richard  as being ‘active’ in this area of Britain. Where was this More in 1483 or 84?

Several legends from different parts of the country seem to be emerging. Could this be because one or both of the princes were frequently moved to different locations, perhaps remote and unlikely ones, to avoid detection or possible rescue? Although mostly held in Sarum, Eleanor of Aquitaine was moved to other castles during her imprisonment; even more frequently shunted about was the unfortunate Eleanor, Fair Maid of Brittany, first prisoner of King John and then his son Henry III. Her exact whereabouts were hard to trace throughout her long years of imprisonment, though we know she may have been at Corfe castle and she definitely spent some time at Gloucester. It was only when she was too old to bear children and was allowed to enter a convent that her location became generally known. Later on, Mary Queen of Scots had many different places of imprisonment before her final date with destiny at Fotheringhay.

Another intriguing site I stumbled upon is that of Coldridge, a small village in Devon. In the church is a chantry chapel to one John Evans, who was keeper of the park and yeoman of the crown. Beyond that, nothing is known of his origin, although his name appears to be Welsh. Evans leased the local manor from Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset, the half brother to the princes, in the reign of Henry VII. In his own chapel, Evans lies in effigy, gazing towards a particularly rare stained glass window depicting Edward V with the crown suspended over his head as a symbol to acknowledge he was never crowned. Some guidebooks wrongly describe this glass as being of Edward VI, Henry VIII’s son, but it is clearly from an earlier period by clothes and hair, and then there is the matter of the crown.  Although not confirmed, some sources state that Evans, whoever he was, attended the funeral of Henry VIII’s first son, Henry, which is intriguing indeed.

(There is also a fragmentary section of a scowling man’s face just below the glass of Edward V, which has been thought to represent an evil Richard, but  that is possibly a more recent attribution, and it may have been part of another scene completely unrelated to the Edward V one.)

http://www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk/news/grimsby-news/link-lincolnshire-missing-princes-15th-316618#ICID=sharebar_facebook

Postscript from viscountessw (Sandra Heath Wilson):- I lighted on Friskney in Lincolnshire for two reasons. Firstly, research revealed it to have been held by the Earl of Lincoln, and secondly it was occupied by the Kymbe family, one of whom, Thomas, became the third husband of Cicely/Cecily, younger sister of Elizabeth of York. This marriage was apparently a love match – if it wasn’t, I can’t think why she would have risked losing everything in order to make such a “low” marriage.

 

 

What do Matilda and Margaret, Eleanor and Elizabeth, plus two Henrys, add up to…?

To my mind, it adds up to two very similar situations that are two centuries apart.

Henry I deathbed - stand-in pic

Let us begin in the 12th century. On his deathbed, Henry I of England named as his successor his only surviving child, his daughter, the Empress Matilda. He obliged the nobility to agree. They reneged, of course. A woman as queen in her own right? Cue mass hysteria among the male upper classes and uncontrollable fits of the vapours in the Church. And cue a sharp move by her cousin, Stephen, who promptly had himself crowned before she could even return to England.

To cut a long story short, Matilda fought first for herself, supported by her powerful half-brother, Robert of Gloucester. When it became clear she would never be accepted because she was a woman, Matilda fought on behalf of her eldest son. He, thanks to her tireless efforts, eventually became Henry II—and yes, he is one of the two Henrys.

There was nothing Matilda would not have done to see her son on the throne, and her aim came to fruition. And when he was crowned, she became the highest woman in the realm. She wasn’t monarch in the own right, but came darned close!

Then came the time when Henry II chose a queen. Not just any queen, but beautiful, spirited Eleanor of Aquitaine, who was not only a powerful, troublesome lady with a mind very much of her own, but was also prepared to scheme and manipulate on behalf of her sons by Henry. Against Henry.

Eleanor’s reputation was not squeaky clean. She had been married to the King of France, only for the marriage to be annulled and custody of their two daughters given to Louis. She had been on a Crusade with her husband, and halted at Antioch, where she encountered her uncle, Raymond of Poitiers, who was described by William of Tyre as “a lord of noble descent, of tall and elegant figure, the handsomest of the princes of the earth, a man of charming affability and conversation, open-handed and magnificent beyond measure“. There were whispers because Raymond and Eleanor spent such a great deal of time together and seemed so very intimate. She quite clearly found her uncle preferable to her husband. The whispers increased when she declined to leave Antioch with said husband, who eventually took her away by force. She was a lady to whom scandal seemed drawn, but it is only her ‘acquaintance’ with Raymond that is of interest for this article.

Raymond of Poitiers

Raymond of Poitiers

The difficulties between Henry and Eleanor commenced when the latter came up against Matilda, who was not about to surrender the position of First Lady. As far as Matilda was concerned, Eleanor was simply Henry’s wife, with no claim to any power. A baby-making machine, no more or less. Open warfare threatened.

fighting women

Was Henry caught in the middle? Well, in a way, but he loved his mother because of all she had done to put him on the throne. Then (so the story goes) he fell for one of his many mistresses, a lady known as Fair Rosamund Clifford. It was too much for Eleanor. Already furious about playing second fiddle to Matilda, she now had to endure his immense infatuation for younger  woman. Eleanor stormed off to her lands in Europe, there to plot with her sons against their father.

the lion in winter

If you have seen the film The Lion in Winter, you will know that Eleanor and Henry were played by Katherine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole. Oh, how the sparks and flames flew when they were on screen together. Eleanor was indeed very beautiful, but I don’t think Henry resembled O’Toole. According to Gerald of Wales [he had} “a reddish complexion, rather dark, and a large, round head. His eyes were grey, bloodshot, and flashed in anger. He had a fiery countenance, his voice was tremulous, and his neck a little bent forward; but his chest was broad, and his arms were muscular. His body was fleshy, and he had an enormous paunch, rather by the fault of nature than from gross feeding.” Definitely not the gorgeous Peter.

* * *

Now we must fast forward to the fifteenth century, and Lady Margaret Beaufort, yet another mother who would stop at nothing to see her son on the throne. Meet that son, Henry VII, the second Henry concerned in this article. Unlike Henry II, who was a direct blood heir, Henry VII’s forebears descended through a rather convoluted and weak line that included the bastard strain of the Beauforts (illegitimate offspring of John of Gaunt and his mistress, Katherine de Roët.

When Henry, taking for himself the role of legitimate heir of the House of Lancaster, was helped to Richard III’s throne by traitors, his formidable mother became First Lady—she was known as the King’s Lady Mother. Like Matilda, Margaret also had a helpful half-brother, John Welles, Viscount Welles, but he was hardly in the same class as the mighty Robert of Gloucester.

I could not find an illustration of John Welles, but this is his father, Lionel, Lord Welles, who died at Towton.

Henry always supported whatever Margaret did. She was, perhaps, the only person he ever trusted completely. His was a suspicious, secretive, paranoid character. He was not a mother’s boy, but came pretty close.

Then he too took a wife. He had to, he’d promised it in order to win the support of discontented supporters of the House of York (to which his defeated predecessor, Richard III, had belonged). If Henry had tried to wriggle out of it, there would have been uproar, because the promise entailed marrying the eldest Yorkist princess, Richard III’s niece, Elizabeth. Henry VII did not like having to do as he was told, but wasn’t given much of a choice.

Elizabeth of York - for WordPress

It is hard to imagine anyone less like Eleanor of Aquitaine. Elizabeth of York was reportedly lovely, but was mostly so quiet and apparently inactive that she barely offered a defiant squeak when Henry and his mother belittled her. She must have loathed Margaret, who swanned around almost as if she were the king, not Henry.

However, like Eleanor before her, Elizabeth had also been caught up in a scandal. It too involved an uncle, Richard III. There were strong rumours that something went on between uncle and niece—so strong that Richard was forced to deny it all in public. Whether there was any truth in it all will never be known, although I doubt very much that Richard returned any incestuous affection. That falls into the realm of fiction. He was intent upon arranging a foreign match for her. But the story clings to Elizabeth’s memory. Maybe she did love Richard, who, unlike his Shakespearean namesake, was actually a handsome young widower at the time in question.

Richard III for WordPress

Henry VII may have come to feel affection for his queen (perhaps because she was so unlike his domineering mother!) but she always took second place to Margaret. There is no known equivalent of Fair Rosamund in Henry’s life, so Elizabeth was never challenged on that score. Even if she had been, I doubt if she would have flounced off in a fury as Eleanor did. Perhaps Henry’s problem with his marriage was that he could not forget the rumours about Richard.

Maybe Elizabeth was one of those people who work quietly in the background, getting her own way when she wanted, but never openly defying either Henry or Margaret. Well, she did once, and Henry was so startled at the unexpected stamping of her Yorkist foot, that he backed down. I’d love to have been there, just for the joy of seeing his face.

So, there we have it. Two grimly determined mothers-in-law, two daughters-in law touched by rumours of incest and consigned to second place. And two Henrys who were loath to take on their mothers. Two M’s, two E’s and two H’s!

Matilda and Margaret could not have the throne in their own right, but were prepared to fight tooth and nail to put their sons there. Eleanor was another in the same mould, but Elizabeth of York was not. Neither daughter-in-law was afforded proper prominence in the eyes of her husband.

As for the Henrys, well, while their mothers could not rule alone as the true monarch (heaven forfend!) these sons were quite happy to lay claim the throne through the female line. So, a woman’s blood was good enough pass on to a son who would be crowned, but was next to worthless if she tried to assert herself by becoming “king”.

 

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