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Richard III wasn’t the only dog to be given a bad name….

We all know how Richard III’s reputation has been besmirched over the centuries. He was turned into a monster because the likes of More and Shakespeare pandered to the Tudors’ need to justify their seizure of the throne. Thus he became a creature of misshapen body and mind, capable of putting his own child nephews to death, and disposing of righteous opponents who only stood up for the truth.

Hmm, yes. Well, in this present day and age, people are becoming more enlightened about Richard, who has an army of supporters prepared to stand up and be counted on his behalf.

King John is another monarch with a bad reputation, although in his case it is more deserved, I think. Yet something that first happened in his reign has come down in history as being the work of a 14th-century nobleman, John Holand, 1st Duke of Exeter, half-brother of King Richard II. What was this horrible crime? The instigation of the bloody sport of bull-running in the Lincolnshire town of Stamford.

Stamford 2015

Bull-running was a St Brice’s Day (13th November) fixture in the town for centuries, although it has disappeared now, ending up as a colourful nod toward something akin to a carnival.

Records state quite categorically, that it originated in the 12th century, in the time of King John. So how did King Richard II’s 14th-century half-brother get the blame? Simply because John Holand is another bogeyman. It is almost a tradition to point accusing fingers at him and denigrate him, à la Richard III. If there is a connection between John Holand and Stamford, it appears to be the burial of his parents at Greyfriars, i.e. Princess Joan of Kent and Sir Thomas Holand, 1st Earl of Kent.

 

Gatehouse of Stamford Greyfriars

John Holand had his faults, and in his youth was a hothead, passionate and hasty, but that appears to have only applied to his youth. Later on he was a steadfast supporter of Richard II, and eventually lost his life in the first half of January 1400 (the actual date of his summary and illegal execution isn’t known) while rebelling in Richard’s favour against the Lancastrian usurper, King Henry IV.

 

John Holand is said to be one of the two riders on the right

There are two murders in which his name is involved, that of a Carmelite friar who was tortured most cruelly because of a supposed plot against the king. The other, in 1385, occurred when Richard II’s army was moving north toward the Scottish border. One of John Holand’s favourite squires was murdered during a quarrel with men of Sir Ralph Stafford, son and heir of the Earl of Stafford. John Holand’s mercurial temper burst forth, and he took some men to ride to be avenged on Stafford’s men. On the way, in the dark, he came up against Stafford himself. What happened next is uncertain, except that the outcome was Stafford’s death at the end of John Holand’s sword. Some accounts say he simply killed Stafford without warning, others that there was an argument that got out of hand. Whatever the truth, John Holand fled into sanctuary at Beverley.

‘Beverley Minster, (across the rooftops)’ by Ian Appleyard

He was eventually received back at court, and obliged to make abject apologies, etc. etc. But one sad result of the whole incident was said to have been the death of Joan of Kent, who could not withstand the state of affairs when one of her sons (Richard II) swore to severely punish another (John Holand, who was said to be Joan’s favourite, perhaps because he reminded her so of the husband she had loved so much – but that’s another story).

 So, these are the two bloodthirsty crimes that have come down through history to attach to his memory. I defend neither of them. He didn’t or couldn’t control his temper. Today he’d receive treatment for anger management. But, to his credit, he does seem to have overcome this flaw in his character, for I have found no further evidence of it.

His other sins appear to be have been of an amorous nature. He is said to be the actual father of Richard of Conisburgh, from whom the House of York descended. And he seduced John of Gaunt’s daughter, Elizabeth of Lancaster, putting her in the family way, as the quaint expression goes. They were married hastily, and bundled off to Castile with John of Gaunt’s expedition to claim the crown of that land.

John Holand was a fiery but devastatingly charming man who was said to have been charismatic, and I am prepared to believe this describes him well. He was also a famous and flambuoyant jouster, a regular rock star of the tournament circuit, who always put on a great display of skill and theatre.

But as for introducing bull-running to Stamford. . . Well, it had been going on for a century or more before he came along, so it would be a miracle indeed if he had anything to do with it. Yet, he has been given the blame. So, like Richard III, he has been given a bad name. Yes, he was a sinner at one time, which Richard III never was, but even so, he’s being castigated for things he couldn’t have done.

For further examples of John Holand being accused of starting the bull-running, go here, here and here.

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When, exactly, was Elizabeth of Lancaster’s first marriage dissolved….?

Elizabeth of Lancaster

A source at the National Archives says that John of Gaunt’s daughter Elizabeth was married to the boy, John Hastings, Earl of Pembroke, on 24th January 1380. She was about 17, he was about 8. She then “disagreed” with the marriage, because of her husband’s youth and inability to consummate the marriage, and the source says that the marriage was dissolved on 24th February 1383. A very specific date.

The source was The Account Rolls of the Household of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (1340-1399) ([These] were found acting as backing to the Waleys Cartulary [MS. GLY/1139] when this was repaired. They consist of items from various classes of household accounts and were placed haphazardly when employed as backing. Each roll of the cartulary had ten membranes, which were heavily mutilated in their secondary function.):-

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/c36349b9-701c-4cb2-94b3-96329c78ebed (4) Mon. 1-31 [July 1381]. Roll A.7. This “Mentions the Countess of Pembroke. Lancaster’s daughter Elizabeth married John, Earl of Pembroke, on 24 Jan. 1380 and the marriage was dissolved on 24 Feb. 1383.”

John Hastings, Third Earl of Pembroke 

However, on 24th September that same year, 1383, she was still terming herself Countess of Pembroke:

Proof of EofL's continuing use of Pembroke title

So, would she still do this even though the marriage had been ended? In other words, would she remain Countess of Pembroke until she remarried? Or, were proceedings to disagree with and dissolve the marriage commenced in the February of 1383, but not finalised until after the September?

There is a LOT of confusion about the ending of Elizabeth of Lancaster’s first marriage, with talk of passionate seduction, pregnancy, and a shotgun wedding to swiftly hitch her to her seducer. This was Sir John Holand, Richard II’s colourful half-brother, the future Earl of Huntingdon and Duke of Exeter; a man to whom Lady Caroline Lamb’s opinion of Lord Byron could be applied, i.e. that he was “mad, bad and dangerous to know”. He was flambuoyant, passionate and capable of cold-blooded killing, but he was also devastatingly charming. This second marriage took place in Plymouth on 24th July 1386. (24th again?)

JH - WordPress

Sir John Holand being led into tournament

 

It’s always claimed that the annulment of her first marriage had to take place hastily so that she could marry the father of her unborn child. But the dates above suggest she was no longer married to Pembroke when she was seduced by Holand, who was fervently in love with her. And, presumably, she with him.

How did this widespread story of marital infidelity and hasty remarriage come about? Because she was still called the Countess of Pembroke, and assumptions were made that she was still married to Pembroke? Or because the sources I have quoted above are wrong? Should I ignore the dates that contradict the salacious traditional tale of adultery and a “shotgun wedding”?

Being a Ricardian, I am always mistrustful of “traditional” tales….

PS: There is also a very strong suggestion that Sir John Holand was the father of Richard of Conisbrough. father of Richard, 3rd Duke of York…and thus the grandfather of Edward IV and Richard III. Sir John is believed to have had an affair with Richard of Conisbrough’s mother, Isabella, Duchess of York, wife of Edmund of Langley. No one knows for sure, of course, but Edmund of Langley left Richard of Conisbrough out of his will, and it was down to Isabella to do all she could to protect her son. It does indeed smack of Richard of Conisbrough not being York’s offspring. Good Sir John Holand certainly seems to have left his mark on history!

He was reputedly very tall and handsome…might this be why Edward IV was too? Just a thought.

 

 

Who’s the great-granddaddy then…?

Following on from the blog A Big Development below….

john holland - duke of exeter - with the duke of alisbury John Holland I Medieval tournament

It is interesting that the latest scientifically gleaned results to come out from the tests made on the remains of King Richard III, have raised in a question mark over the line of legitimacy on his paternal side. Someone, somewhere, somewhen committed adultery, and the resultant child was presented as legitimate. Hardly surprising. People will be people.

In this instance, however, I am curious that the name of John Holland, 1st Earl of Huntington, 1st Duke of Exeter, has cropped up as a possible culprit. Holland was the younger of Richard II’s two half-brothers. They were the offspring of Joan of Kent’s first marriage, Richard II being by her second husband, the Black Prince.

John Holland came to a sticky end at Pleshey, being captured after the unsuccessful Epiphany Rising of 1399, and was beheaded without trial in January 1400. His resting place has now vanished. The rising had been against Henry IV, who had usurped the throne of Holland’s half-brother, Richard II. Henry IV was also Holland’s brother-in-law, Holland having married Henry’s younger sister, Elizabeth of Lancaster.

As a young man, Holland had been quite a lad with the ladies. He had to marry Elizabeth because he got her into trouble when she was already married to a boy who was not old enough to consummate the marriage. John of Gaunt, Elizabeth’s father, had to hastily put things right. But such was Holland’s charm, that he and his father-in-law got on well. Holland was also known for his fiery temper, and had killed when in a rage, so he was certainly not a dull figure around the court.

He was a fine warrior and jouster, one of the best, and appeared at international tournaments such as those depicted in the film “A Knight’s Tale”, which happens to feature the Black Prince, who was Holland’s step-father. How intricately it all links together . . .

So, here we have a tall, handsome lord, depicted in the few illustrations of him as having red-gold hair and the short forked beard that was the fashion then. He is shown wearing the beautiful houppelandes that were so very much admired at Richard II’s court, and were worn by men and women alike. Holland was, quite literally, a knight in shining armour, dashing, passionate, charming, seductive, dangerous . . . and therefore irresistible to many women. Including, it seems, Isabella, Duchess of York.

She had been Isabella of Castile (not the Isabella of Castile) and had accompanied her sister Constance to England when Constance became John of Gaunt’s second wife. Isabella was married to Gaunt’s younger brother, Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York. Edmund was not likely to set Isabella’s blood on fire, but when she met John Holland, the flames started.

The affair, which pre-dated Holland’s marriage, caused a scandal at court. Chaucer wrote about it in “The Complaint of Mars”, which relates that the Candle of Jealousy (York) is approaching when Holland (Mars) and Isabella (Venus) are canoodling. The affair eventually ended, but there is a strong suggestion that her second son, Richard of Conisburgh, Earl of Cambridge, was Holland’s child, not the 1st Duke of York’s.

IF this is true, then Richard of Conisburgh’s son, Richard, 3rd Duke of York (father of Edward IV and Richard III) was not descended from Edmund of Langley, and it makes John Holland Richard III’s great-grandfather.

The thing that occurred to me, however, is that I have always wondered where the looks of Edward IV and Henry VIII originated. Both were tall, strong, handsome men of great charm (when they chose), and both are depicted as having red-gold hair, although whether that is artistic fashion-following is uncertain, for such hair colour was admired. So who do they sound like? Yes, John Holland. So, maybe the rumour about Richard of Conisburgh’s parentage is true after all.

I am only speculating, of course, and those tall, handsome looks may well have come from elsewhere. There is also the thought that Richard III was not like that in appearance, but was said to be more like his father, the 3rd Duke of York. Which makes me think that if Isabella had been small and darkish, then Richard III and his father probably inherited their looks from her.

Yes, all guesswork, but interesting.

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