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THE LOST FONT OF MARLBOROUGH CASTLE

Marlborough is a quaint little town in Wiltshire. It has a rather famous College (once attended by Kate Middleton) but no buildings dating much before Tudor times other than two heavily restored churches. However, it used to have a castle, and a rather important one too.

The first castle was built by William the Conqueror in timber, and he raised it on Marlborough’s most famous landmark–a huge mound (sometimes called Merlin’s Mound) that stands in the middle of the college grounds. This mound is not the usual motte and bailey but in fact a neolithic mound that is a smaller ‘sister’ to nearby Silbury Hill, the largest artificial mound in Europe. Later the wooden castle was replaced by stone; it held out for King Stephen during the Anarchy. King John made many changes and repairs, having been presented  the castle while his brother, Richard Lionheart, was king. His second wife the infamous Isabella of Angouleme spent some time there and some of his children may have been born within its walls. It was  a strange arrangement–Isabella was under the care of Hugh de Neville, whose wife had been one of John’s many mistresses. After John died in the early 1200’s, political prisoner Eleanor of Brittany, whose claim to the throne equalled or surpassed that of Henry III, was kept there for a while before being shunted off to another stronghold. After Henry died, however, it became a Dower House, used by the Dowager Queen, Eleanor of Provence, and then was held by a series of Queen after her.

By 1370,  Marlborough was unused, and in ruins by 1403. Edward VI passed it to his relatives, the Seymours, who built a grand house that is now part of the College. All traces of the castle vanished, save for the mighty mound with had already stood for thousands of years before the Conqueror built his castle.

However there is a rumour that one item from the castle  survived–a huge ornate stone font which had come from the freestanding chapel of St Nicholas. Local legend says  several of King John’s children were  baptised in this font.

And sure enough about a mile away, a massive stone font sits, seeming slightly out of place, in  the tiny, remote church of St George at Preshute (an old name meaning Priest’s Hut.). It is an enormous block of polished black stone imported from Tournai, and would hardly be likely to have originally belonged to such a small, out of the way church. A few similar fonts of Tournai stone  do exist in England, but they are in much grander buildings that St George’s–including Worcester Cathedral.

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Marlborough castle Font

 

 

All the Johns of St Stephen’s Chapel….

St Stephen's Cloister Garth

As a writer of medieval fiction, and therefore stuck with a preponderance of Johns, Edwards, Richards, Edmunds and so on, I’m only relieved not to have been asked to write a history of St Stephen’s Chapel. SO many Johns? Of the human variety, I hasten to add!

This articleWhere did all the Johns come from? – An Oddity in the History of St Stephen’s Chapel is both interesting and amusing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fabulous discovery of more coins, but alas, none from the reign of Richard III….

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“…A spectacular hoard of centuries-old coins found in a brook in the borough [Atherton] gives a small but perfectly-formed window into the past…”

Fancy that. Thomas Jackson was poking around in a brook when he found a small rusty box, containing…43 old coins! How wonderful. The coins are apparently not that valuable. The earliest is from the reign of Henry III, the latest from the time of the Civil War.

It makes me want to don my wellies and set off for the nearest stream! Well done Mr Jackson.

For more about this, see here.

 

 

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

The wrong Philippa for Reading….!

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Reading in Berkshire is apparently famous for, among other things, five varieties of potato. Nine other items for which Reading is renowned are listed here, and I presume that eight of them are correct. But the last one definitely is NOT! I quote:

“Philippa Gregory, the woman who found the body of Richard III under a car park in Leicester, believes the grave of Henry I is also under a car park in Reading.”

Um, Philippa Who? Rather a boo-boo, methinks.

PS: The error has now been corrected, but I promise that the wrong Philippa was indeed there originally!

A numismatic error

 

You have heard of badly minted coins or those prepared for a monarch who doesn’t reign for much longer but these Henry III gold pennies were worth more as bullion than currency.

Of the eight that are known to remain in existence , one of them will be auctioned in the new year

AVELINE de FORZ – AN EARLY PLANTAGENET BRIDE

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Aveline de Forz tomb and effgy.  One of the earliest tombs in Westminster Abbey.

On this day, 10 November, 1274, died Aveline de Forz, Countess of Lancaster and Edmund ‘Crouchback’ Plantagenet’s first wife.  Aveline was the daughter of William de Forz , count of Albermarle, Lord of Holderness and Isabella de Fortibus, Countess of Devon.  and having been born on 20 January 1259, at Burstwick in Holderness was 10 years old when she married Edmund, famously nicknamed Crouchback in Westminster Abbey.  Initially, in 1268 Edmund had been granted royal permission to marry Aveline’s widowed mother, Isabella, a very rich lady,  after the death of her husband William de Forz but the following year he married the young Aveline instead (1).  Theirs was the first recorded marriage in Henry lll’s new Gothic abbey shortly after the translation of the relics of the Confessor and on her death, only five years later, she was buried there in the Sacrarium on the north side of the altar (2). Her tomb was amongst the first of many in the Abbey and her heavily worn effigy on top depicts a rather maturer lady than Aveline actually was.    However it is still very beautiful and was drawn by Stothard in the 18th century when it still retained some of its original decoration and colouring.  It had once been richly gessoed and heavily gilded and   Stothard recorded the mantle green, the surcoat red with purple lining and the kirtle blue.  He also drew Edmund’s tomb and effigy.

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Aveline’s effigy as drawn by Charles Alfred Stothard ‘The Monumental Effigies of Great Britain’.

It has been speculated that Aveline may have died in childbirth but I have been unable to verify this and there were certainly many other causes that could have carried her off.  Its interesting that her five sibings all died young and all before Aveline herself.

On his death in June 1295 Edmund was first buried in the Minories also known as the Abbey of the Minoresses of St Clare without Aldgate,  which he had founded jointly with his second wife Blanche of Navarre.  Four years after his death he was reburied in Westminster close to Aveline (although his heart remained at the Minories) their tombs being separated by that of Aymer de Valence.  His Second wife Blanche was buried elsewhere so perhaps he had requested to be buried close to Aveline.

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Edmund Crouchback’s  effigy as drawn by Stothard.

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Another view of Crouchback’s effigy as drawn by Stothard 18th century.

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Edmund’s tomb and effigy today.

 

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The tombs of Aveline, Aymer de Valence and Edmund.  A  drawing by Herbert Railton 1910

 

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The three tombs as they are today making one range of breathtakingly beautiful sepulchral monuments

Aveline died in Stockwell, which is now a busy South London suburb and I presume her death took place in the medieval Manor House,  which once stood to the east of Stockwell Road, and facing the north of Stockwell Green, the green disappearing a long time ago.  No traces of this manor house, the gardens and orchards of which were contained in about  4 acres ,  have survived, and the area is now covered by a housing estate, garages and wheelie bins  but traces still linger in the name of nearby Moat Place.  Remains of this moat, alleged to have been 40-50 foot wide could still be seen as late as  19th century (3)    .

(1) Royal Tombs of Medieval England Mark Duffy pp81.82

(2) Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey Dean Stanley 1869 p140

( 3) Survey of London Vol. 26 Lambeth: Southern Area 1956 pp88-95 Originally published by London County Council

 

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.

 

 

Tintagel-More Kings Than Just Arthur

Tintagel in Cornwall is best known for its connections to King Arthur. However, the castle, although reputed in folklore to be Arthur’s birthplace, does not date from the Dark Ages but from medieval times, being first built by Earl Reginald, the illegitimate son of Henry I, then later remodelled by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, younger brother of Henry III.  Earl Richard built most of what we see today, including the ‘Iron Gate’ which guards the cove, as well as the curtain walls, the buttresses augmenting the great hall, and the grand entranceway leading out into the nearby valley.

At one time  a chapel to St Julitta stood within the castle walls; although Tintagel was described as ‘ruinous but still strong’ in the 1470’s, King Richard III appointed a chaplain, John Leicrofte to St Julitta’s in 1483. A few years later, not long after Richard’s defeat at Bosworth, Henry VII made one John Upcoate captain of the castle for his ‘services beyond the sea.’

Just above the ruins, standing alone and isolated from the village, is an ancient church dedicated to a very obscure Cornish Saint called  Materiana. William of Worcester, journeying through Cornwall in 1478, wrote that she ‘performed a miracle on a man out of his mind, and on one woman and a certain girl upon the Feast of St James.’

In the 15th c, the patronage of Tintagel and St Materiana’s church was entailed to Alice Chaucer, and upon her third marriage to William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, the advowson was given to the couple for life.

Eventually this passed to their son John de la Pole (father of John, earl of Lincoln, Richard III’s designated heir after the death of his son). John’s wife was Elizabeth of York, sister to Edward IV and Richard III, and it was likely that Edward asked John and Elizabeth to relinquish rights of patronage. This was done by letters patent in June 1480.

At this particular time, Edward was busy remodelling the Chapel of St George at Windsor, and therefore the remote the Cornish church of St Materiana was assigned to the dean and canons of St George’s ‘to hold to them and their successors forever.’

Even today, whenever a new priest is needed for the parish, the appointment is made by St George’s chapel. The ties between Windsor and Tintagel, created by Edward IV, have never been broken in 500 years.

(Photos show the ruined castle with St Materiana’s church on the cliff, sections of the ruins, and a tile with the eagle of Richard of Cornwall.)

Llanthony Secunda Priory, one of Gloucester’s great treasures….

Llanthony Secunda is so-called because the Augustinian monks of the Vale of Eywas in the Black Mountains of Wales were driven from their original home, beautiful Llanthony Priory, and retreated to Gloucester, where they built this second priory.

I have taken the following from a page at http://www.llanthonysecunda.org/:

“Gloucester was an important city in medieval England and several kings visited the city; five of these are also thought to have visited Llanthony. Eleanor of Provence, widow of Henry III and mother of Edward I, lived at Gloucester castle in 1277 but was granted permission to build a bridge over the river so that she and her ladies-in waiting could exercise in the prior’s garden at Llanthony.*

“A century later when Richard II held a parliament in Gloucester, he too used the Priory’s gardens. In 1500 and 1501 Henry VII stayed at the Priory which at the time was under the control of its most famous Prior, Henry Deane. Henry Deane was one of the most important men in the kingdom in his latter years, but he seems to have begun his clerical career as a student at Llanthony Secunda. After studying at Oxford he returned to Llanthony and was elected its prior aged about 27.

“He also had some Royal favour early on and was a royal chaplain to Edward IV; he was even closer to the first of the Tudor monarchs, Henry VII, after he obtained the throne in 1485. Granted papal permission to retain his post as Prior whilst taking on other appointments, he obtained both temporal and clerical influence.  In 1494 he was appointed Chancellor of Ireland and was briefly Deputy Governor two years later; he was responsible for building the defences of the English Pale.

“Resigning his post, he was made Keeper of the Great Seal in 1500 and involved in peace treaties between England and Scotland. He was briefly Bishop of Bangor and was responsible for the rebuilding of the cathedral and reorganising its finances, then translated to Salisbury for a year before finally being made Archbishop of Canterbury in 1501; it was only then that he relinquished his post at Llanthony Secunda. He officiated at the marriage of Arthur, Prince of Wales, and Catherine of Aragon in 1501.”

* I do not quite understand this reference to a bridge over the river, because both the castle and the priory are on the same bank of the Severn, as can be seen on the map below, on which the castle and the priory’s grounds are clearly shown at the south of the city. Another point (imagining the gardens to be on the other side of the river) is that a fixed bridge at this point would interfere with the “port” of Gloucester, i.e. the quay that was situated from the castle riverbank bank northwards. So any bridge would have to be capable of being opened, to allow masted sea-going vessels to pass freely to and fro. However, a little further delving makes me think it wasn’t the river that Queen Eleanor’s bridge spanned, but the enlarged ( in 1267) ditch that went around the southern portion of Gloucester, and was fed by water from the Twyver stream.  The 13th-century enlarging work apparently destroyed some of the priory’s property. It seems this ditch was still partly filled with water in the 1700s.

For more information about the history of Gloucester, see

http://www.historictownsatlas.org.uk/sites/historictownsatlas/files/atlas/town/gloucester_text.pdf

 

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