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Britain’s Most Historic Towns (2)

This excellent Channel Four programme, presented by Professor Alice Roberts, with Dr. Ben Robinson in the helicopter, has returned for a new series. The early venues were Dover (World War Two, visiting the underground base, concentrating on the retreat from Dunkirk and subsequent Channel defence, meeting some survivors, wearing ATS uniform and riding in a tank), her home city Bristol (Georgian, with slavery, gin, chocolate and great architecture featured) and Cardiff (where coal and the Marquess of Bute brought much prosperity in the Edwardian era, before it could supplant Machyllenth as Wales’ capital).

The series then moved on to Oxford to illustrate the Civil War sieges, where Alice Roberts’ Worsleyesque love of dressing up saw her in New Model Army uniform, playing real tennis and viewing Charles I’s ersatz capital. Episode five illustrated Plantagenet Canterbury, featuring St. Augustine, Becket, Chaucer, the Black Death and Peasants’ Revolt. We were also shown a copy of the Magna Carta. The last show was about Stewart Stirling, where she visited the Castle and walls, brewed beer, played with a replica antique football and visited a well, illustrating how individual Stewart monarchs were vulnerable, even to internal opposition, but the line was secure.

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The Rise of the Clans

Neil Oliver‘s

latest history series has been shown through December on Monday evenings (BBC1 Scotland) and twenty-four hours later on BBC4.

The first part, of three, showed how the power vacuum caused by the sudden deaths of Alexander III and his granddaughter was resolved through the clan system and John Balliol’s abdication so that alliances were formed behind the remaining claimants Robert Bruce and John “Red” Comyn, culminating in a brawl in the Dumfries Greyfriars, during which Comyn was fatally stabbed. Robert I’s reign, including his strategic triumph as he unexpectedly arranged a pitched battle at Bannockburn is also explored.

The second part explores how, after the reign of David II, Robert I’s son, Clan Stewart evolved from a branch of the (Norman) Fitzalans, who are now Dukes of Norfolk through their Howard marriage, to supply every Scottish monarch from 1371 and every English monarch from 1603, now through the Bohemian marriage of James VI and I’s daughter. The reigns of the first three Stewarts were narrated, the weaknesses of Robert II and Robert III, the absence and the authoritarian – Lancastrian? – royal style of James I together with the conflict between Robert III‘s sons were used to show how James’ assassination and the ensuing executions, organised by his widow Joan “Beaufort”, resolved this before the end of 1437. Gradually, from James I’s time, the Stewarts succeeded in gaining power from the MacDonalds, who held the Lordship of the Isles.

Finally, we focus on Mary, simultaneously the last Stewart and the first Stuart, through her marriage to Henry, Lord Darnley (of the Lennox Stuarts), and his mysterious death at Kirk o’Fields, up to her dethronement and exile. The clan chieftains played a significant part in her initial downfall, as they plotted to reverse Knox’s organic Reformation that had taken place during her absence. At this time, her half-brother the Earl of Moray allied himself to the Earl of Morton, the leading Douglas. Then, after marrying the (Hepburn) Earl of Bothwell, Mary fled south – and her life ended at Fotheringhay where Richard III’s had begun.

As usual, this evocative series features realistic dramatisations in which Oliver appears almost as a witness in some scenes. The detail exceeds that of his A History of Scotland and, as usual, nobody featured in the episodes is beyond reproach.

Edward Bruce, Ill-Starred King of Ireland

On the Hill of Laughart,near Dundalk, Co. Louth, in Ireland,  lies a large, speckled stone slab  covering the remains  of a man called Edward Brus…thebrother of the rather more famous Robert the Brus, KING OF Scotland. (The actual ‘Braveheart’.)

Little known, Edward was, briefly, the High King of Ireland, but ended up dying in battle and having his remains quartered and sent across the country to various Irish towns. His head was shipped to King Edward II in England, destined for London Bridge. Later, what remained of Brus was gathered and hastily  buried in the churchyard on the Hill of Laughart in a simple grave.

Edward Brus was one of several younger brothers of Robert; his exact date of birth is unknown, as is his birth position in the family. There were three other brothers too, Niall , Thomas and Alexander,  but all of them were  captured  by English and executed, so Edward,  as the surviving younger brother, was temporarily heir presumptive to the Scottish throne.

However, when Robert’s wife, Elizabeth de Burgh, was freed from captivity and rejoined her husband, it was speculated that soon the Brus would have an heir. Edward Brus began to look for different ways to gain a crown for himself. He turned his gaze to Ireland, where he may have been fostered by the O’ Neill clan as a boy, and with Robert funding and assisting his campaign, mounted an invasion, with the ultimate goal being to drive out the Anglo-Irish lords…and claim sovereignty himself His first battle on Irish soil was against Sir Thomas de Mandeville; Edward was victorious in his effort and stormed on to take Carrickfergus. Once it was in his hands,  many  of the local chieftains gathered in council and agreed that the Brus should become High King of Ireland.

However, they were fickle in their loyalties and swiftly broke their oaths to Edward, with several of the chieftains who had bent knee at Carrickfergus trying to attack by stealth as he rode with his forces through the Moiry Pass. Again, he managed to defeat his foes and marched onwards, burning and  pillaging in his wake, until he reached Dundalk. There he besieged the town and brought it to its knees, slaughtering both the Anglo-Irish and the native Irish residents in the bitter aftermath.

Opposition forces were quickly mustered, with the leaders being the de Burghs (who were relatives of Robert the Brus via marriage) but Edward refused to give battle and eventually the de Burghs, and their ally Butler of Ormonde had to retreat from their positions through lack of supplies. Once they had retreated, Edward Brus pushed forward again, this time defeating the soldiers of Thomas de Burgh and capturing Thomas’ cousin, William Liath de Burgh. Edward II hurriedly called a parliament in Dublin to discuss the crisis, but no further move was taken by the king to  stop Brus at that time.

 By November of the same year, Brus was marching doggedly toward Kells.  Sir Roger Mortimer arrived to confront him, bearing  a  missive from the pope bidding  the Irish chieftains and the clergy to reject Edward Brus’ claim to kingship and to cede to the rule of Edward II.  The Battle of Kells was fought was fought in which Mortimer was defeated; after fleeing to Dublin, he returned to England seeking aid from the king. The triumphant Brus went on a spree of looting and sacking local towns, and even raided a Cistercian monastery.

In 1316, Brus was finally crowned Ard Ri--the High King of Ireland. This appointment brought no peace to either side, as that dread spectre, famine, struck Ireland the very next year. The weather turned, foul with frigid temperatures and incessant rain sweeping across the land and  destroying essential crops. Edward II could not get supplies to his men, people on both sides of the conflict died of starvation, and the situation with Brus continued to fester

The end came for Edward Brus when a knight called Sir John de Bermingham joined forces against him with Edmund Butler. Vengeance was foremost on Bermingham’s mind; Brus had hung his uncle from the walls of Ardee Castle. A vicious battle was fought at Faughart, and this time, Edward Brus’ luck ran out–he was defeated and killed, reputedly by an English soldier called John Maupas, and his body mutilated for display in Ireland and England.

Brus’s short, troubled reign was not looked on favourably by either the native Irish or the Anglo-Norman aristocracy of Ireland, although he is the ancestor of a current Duchess. He was described as the ‘destroyer of Ireland’ and it was written that during his tenure there came only ‘death and loss’ and that due to the famine that arrived with his ill-starred reign ‘people used to eat each other throughout Ireland.’

 

Treason from a Scottish perspective

This article tells the story of Scottish treason in the time of William Wallace, Robert I and afterwards, through the tradition of oral history. The image below is supposedly of Hugh le Despenser the Younger, although there must be some cases more relevant to Scotland.

execution-of-hugh-despenser-the-younger-1

PEDRO I, THE CRUEL OR THE JUST?

Pedro I, Peter the Cruel, was the great great grandfather of Richard III and Edward IV, through Peter’s daughter, Isabella, wife of Edmund of Langley.(Another daughter, Constance of Castile, married John of Gaunt.)

Pedro or Peter has an interesting story—his life, his death and his subsequent reputation.
Born August 30, 1334, Peter was the last of the House of Ivrea, coming to the throne at age sixteen after the plague-related death of his father, Alfonso XI. Standing around 6 foot tall, he was muscular and handsome, with blond hair, fair skin and pale blue eyes. A patron of the arts, Peter was well read and learned…but he had a familiar vice: he ‘loved women greatly.’

He had a powerful and influential mother, Maria, who King Alfonso had seemingly ignored for his mistress, Eleanor or Leonor of Guzman. Maria perhaps imbued young Peter with hatred for his many bastard half-brothers and their mother Eleanor—and when Alfonso died, Queen Maria ordered her rival Eleanor put to death.

Peter did break free of his mother’s influence, however, and took a mistress, the beautiful     Maria Padilla…who he then married in secret. Maria Padilla influenced Peter greatly, causing a fall-out between the young King and one of his top ministers and supporters, Juan Alonso de Albuquerque.

Queen Maria, thinking that Maria Padilla was only her son’s mistress, pressed upon the young man to make a worthy alliance by marrying Blanche of Bourbon. …He reluctantly agreed but this meant he had to deny ever marrying Maria. Almost immediately after the wedding, he abandoned his new Queen, and a few years later Blanche, imprisoned in various castles,  died—reputedly at Peter’s command, though the circumstances are sketchy and controversial, ranging from poison by herbs to being shot with a crossbow. (Removing the unwanted Blanche did not stop Peter’s penchant for bigamy; later, he began another bigamous marriage with Juana de Castro, whom he also promptly deserted. Maria Padilla remained his love throughout all, and they had four children including Isabella and Constance.)

In the civil wars that troubled Spain, Peter soon became ‘notorious’ for a number of murders, including slaying a contingent of Moors at a banquet in order to replace their leader with someone more in line with his cause. Meanwhile, his half-brothers from his father’s relationship with Eleanor Guzman assailed him with armies composed mainly of mercenaries. Eventually, driven from his lands, he fled to Galicia, where he ordered the murder of an Archbishop and a Dean who opposed him. While there, he also met with one of his half-brothers, Fadrique, who had supposedly come looking for reconciliation. Apparently as they spoke, he had Fadrique hit over the head with a mace by an assassin…and then Peter sat down calmly and ate his lunch overlooking the cooling body.

Peter’s main rival was his half-brother Enrique (Henry). Henry liked to insult Peter by calling him such names as ‘King of the Jews’ to foment unrest against him through anti-Semitic feeling. Peter himself was known to be quite fair to Jews, and took measures against any activities harmful to Spain’s Jewish population.

Edward the Black Prince threw in his lot with the exiled Peter and used his strength and military prowess to return him to the throne. However, Peter was unwilling or unable to repay the debts he owed Edward after the campaign, and, as his health declined, the Black Prince left him and returned to England.

Henry continued to wage war against Peter. Eventually, Peter holed up in the fortress of Montiel, where he attempted negotiations with a well-known ‘double dealer’, Bertrand du Guescelin. Bertrand promptly fared to Henry’s camp and informed him of all Peter’s plans, and asked Henry for additional funds if du Guescelin would betray the King.

Henry agreed to his terms, and du Guescelin persuaded Peter to come to his tent on a matter of importance. When he arrived, Henry was hiding inside. Peter’s rival half-brother pulled a dagger, fell upon the king and promptly stabbed him to death. His body was left lying on the ground for three days, and was abused and mocked by his foes—similar to the fate off his descendant, Richard III, after the battle of Bosworth.

So was the ‘terrible tyrant’ Peter, deposed by the supposedly ‘noble Henry’, a thoroughly evil and universally hated man who eventually got his just deserts? Certainly Peter was a hard King, a fierce and uncompromising warrior who carried vengeance to an extreme; however the civil wars of the Iberian peninsula did have a particularly bloody character, even beyond those that took place in England, with personal vendettas carried to extreme levels …and certainly not all of those vendettas were carried out on Peter’s behalf.

Some time after his demise, Peter received another name besides Cruel—Peter the Just. Many said that he only killed those who would not submit to the law, and that he ruled fairly over common men. The main source of the evil legends about him came from one work—that of the Chronicler Pero Lopez de Ayala, who was serving under King Henry, Peter’s usurping bastard half-brother. Naturally, he had to bolster his new master’s rather shaky claim to the throne by ramping up the crimes of the former king.

As with some of chroniclers writing about Richard III, even Ayala’s essentially hostile tract does in fact mention positive points about the king—in Peter’s case, that many of his subjects regretted his death, especially the merchant classes.

Some of the more lurid tales about Peter seem, just as with Richard, somewhat folkloric and apocryphal in nature. Did he kill his unwanted wife Blanche by poison or by crossbow? The question might actually be, did he kill Blanche at all…the circumstances of her death remain an unproven legend, and contemporary accounts other than the biased Ayala’s state she died of ‘natural causes.’ The other macabre story of Peter calmly eating lunch over his murdered half-brother Fadrique’s body also smacks of legend rather than reality—it is similar in tone to Shakespeare’s lines in his play, Richard III, when Hastings is dragged away for execution and Richard says; Off with his head! Now, by Saint Paul I swear,
I will not dine until I see the same.

Interestingly, the English remembered Peter the Cruel in a much more positive light than the nobles of  Henry of Trastamare’s court—Chaucer even mentions Peter in The Monk’s Tale and recalls him as noble and honourable, rather than cruel.

peter

SOURCES:
NNDB
Clara Estow—Peter the Cruel of Castile
Barbara Tuchman—A Distant Mirror

Another DNA case

The father of James Duke of Monmouth is usually assumed to be the future Charles II, who freely acknowledged his resonsibility. There exists a scientific proof, as published on p.36 of Beauclerk-Powell and Dewar’s Royal Bastards, through Y-chromosome tests comparing Monmouth’s male line descendants the Dukes of Buccleuch with the Dukes of Grafton, St. Albans and Richmond, from Charles’ other illegitimate sons.

Charles II was, of course, not unique in his Y-chromosome. In June-August 1648, when Monmouth was probably conceived in France, he was one of three brothers with a father still alive. Charles I was a prisoner in Carisbrooke Castle and Henry Duke of Gloucester was in England so they can be eliminated as Henry was also too young. Charles I was his father’s only surviving son and James VI/I had been his father’s only child.

From the attached document, you will observe that Henry Lord Darnley had one brother, who died without issue, and that his father (Matthew, Earl of Lennox) had two other sons but one was a childless Catholic Bishop. The other son was Jean Stuart, Seigneur d’Aubigny, whose French son Esme Duke of Lennox was known as James VI/I’s “favourite”. Esme’s male line grandsons all fought for the Royalist cause and three were killed between 1642-5.

There were two others, James and Ludovic, although they were more likely to have been in England than France in summer 1648. Together with the future Kings Charles II and James II, they share a common Y-chromosome with nobody except fourth or more distant cousins. Despite James II’s reputation for promiscuity, similar to that of Charles II in many ways, this more rigorous analysis tends to support the traditional view, for once.

The document also now shows the origin of the Stewarts and how Matthew of Lennox’s Y-chromosome should have matched that of James V, before his son married that King’s daughter:
Monmouth

Mixed feelings for a Welsh Ricardian….

Richard and Undercroft

Being half Welsh (and proud of it!) but also a Ricardian through and through, I don’t know whether to watch this with huge interest…or bare my teeth.

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/welsh-history-suffers-teaching-being-10400295

The programme should have English subtitles.

Quite an unfortunate family

Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, cannot be called unlucky. The story of his revolt against Richard III, ending in Salisbury at the start of November 1483 is so well known that even Shakespeare has the right end of this particular stick. However, his family suffered fates that they didn’t always deserve so obviously:
1) His son Edward, the 3rd Duke, was beheaded in May 1521 having expressed the view that he was a claimant to the throne, Henry VIII being almost childless at the time. Despite Shakespeare’s portrayal, evidence that he was engaged in a plot of any kind is very thin on the ground.
2) His granddaughter, Margaret Bulmer *, was burned in May 1537. Together with her late husband, Sir John, she had been involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace and a later revolt.
3) His great-grandson, Thomas, was beheaded in May 1557 as the ringleader of the Scarborough Rebellion.

After Thomas’ time, the Stafford surname became somewhat safer. His nephew Sir William rebelled against Elizabeth I but was merely imprisoned. The Stafford barony was restored in 1548 and it eventually passed to one of the last remaining members of the family, Mary. As a ward of the Howard family, taking a ninety year enforced holiday from their Norfolk duchy, she was married to William Howard, descended from Edward Stafford’s daughter, who was created Viscount Stafford. On the third last day of 1680, as one of five Catholic peers arrested over the “Popish Plot”, the aged Viscount met his death at Tower Hill although none of the other four were actually convicted. Mary Stafford was created a Countess five years later, which didn’t quite compensate her adequately.
The final example came just over a century later – the victim didn’t bear the Stafford surname even by marriage and he wasn’t executed in England.  William Jerningham was posthumously agreed to have been a Baron Stafford and Frances, nee Dillon, his Baroness. General Arthur Dillon, her brother, was an English-born Irish officer in the French army and was beheaded in April 1794 as an alleged counter-revolutionary.

* Stephanie Mann on Lady Bulmer:
http://supremacyandsurvival.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/ladys-not-for-hanging-margaret-bulmer.html

Use of the Salic Law

A Salic Law (dating from c.507-11) stated, among other things, that a kingdom must be inherited agnatically. Women are to be excluded from the Crown, as are men who would only inherit through the male line. How did this affect different European countries?

FRANCE: applied more rigidly as time went on, precedents being created in 1316 and 1328. Retained.
SCOTLAND: operated a system of tanistry until the Dunkeld restoration (1057), whereby a male representative of one branch or other was preferred. However, Alexander III’s fatal accident in 1286 left only a granddaughter – her death in 1290 left a series of claimers (or Contenders), all through the female line. Abolished.
ENGLAND: had exclusively male monarchs until 1553 although there was a female claimant from 1135-54. Edward III’s large family was almost extinct in the male line by late 1485 – thus Henry VII also claimed through his mother and wife. Abolished if ever applied.
HANOVER: rigidly applied. In 1837, Victoria’s uncle Grand Duke Ernst became its elector. Retained.
SPAIN: applied until shortly after the end of the Bonapartist occupation but the Carlist wars saw it reversed.
RUSSIA: had no Salic Law until c.1800. Catherine, having deposed her husband, was one of several female monarchs. The ill-health of the Tsarevitch Alexis, in contrast to his four sisters, required unorthodox care – this could be argued to have precipitated the end of Romanov rule. Retained, with tragic results.

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