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The Battle Of Shrewsbury, 1403

In order to appease (as he hoped) the Percy family Henry IV granted them all those parts of southern Scotland that they could conquer. Despite advice from Northumberland that royal assistance was not needed he set out in the summer of 1403 to march to the borders with a small army to support their siege of Cocklaws Castle.

On reaching the Midlands, Henry received news that the Percys were in revolt; after some initial hesitation he summoned the levies of several counties to his banner and force marched to Shrewsbury, arriving there just before the rebels.

At Shrewsbury was Henry’s son the Prince of Wales, who was responsible for defending the English marches from Owain Glyndwr. The Prince, who was aged about 16, had until recently enjoyed the advice and support of Hotspur’s uncle, Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester, a very experienced soldier who had served John of Gaunt and been steward of Richard II’s household. However, Worcester had deserted, taking with him more than half the Prince’s men. Unfortunately it does not appear how many men we are talking about – the state of royal finances was such that it was probably hundreds rather than thousands.

Hotspur had come south to Chester with an advance guard of two hundred men, presumably mounted. These included the Scottish Earl of Douglas, captured at Homildon the previous year, but now an ally. At Chester he denounced Henry IV as “Henry of Lancaster” and proclaimed Richard II, whom he promised would appear at a rendezvous at Sandiway in a few days. This was sufficient to raise a considerable army in Cheshire itself. It is likely that other recruits came from Flint and other parts of North East Wales and from Shropshire. To these of course were added Worcester’s contribution. Northumberland remained in the North. Either he genuinely fell ill, or he was blocked by Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland, or he simply moved too slowly.

Hotspur’s strategy is not clear. Glyndwr, with whom he was presumably in alliance, was many days march away in the south west of Wales. The most likely explanation is that he decided to seize Shrewsbury, which could then have served as a gateway to England for Welsh forces. There is also reason to believe that Hotspur expected reinforcement (that he did not receive) from various English peers. (The chronicler Hardyng reports that some years later Henry IV discovered a casket of letters sent by his nobles to Hotspur at this time. ) After the battle the Duke of York and others were accused of complicity, but absolved from blame by Henry himself. The men of Chester mustered at Sandiway as promised, but needless to say, Richard II did not join them.

It’s a straight road from Sandiway, through Tarporley and Whitchurch to Shrewsbury. Arriving on the outskirts Hotspur realised that Henry IV had forestalled him.

Hotspur chose a good defensive position about three miles north of the town. The ground sloped slightly upwards towards the north, meaning that the King’s men would have to advance uphill against some of the finest archers in England. There were also a number of small ponds, complicating offensive movement.

The sizes of the forces are not known; one source says that there were 20,000 dead. This is obviously absurd. Nevertheless everyone seems agreed that it was an exceptionally hard fought battle, and there were significant casualties

A guesstimate of mine would be that Hotspur had around 5000 men and the King a few more, maybe 7000. By and large the Percy army would be of better quality – more “professional” because it recruited from areas noted for warriors. Many of the King’s men would be amateur county levies from relatively peaceful shires.

Hotspur’s principal known commanders were his uncle, Worcester, and the Earl of Douglas. These were both experienced warriors, particularly Worcester. The important Cheshire knights, Vernon and Venables seem to have been next in rank.

As far as men of rank were concerned, apart from himself Henry IV’s most experienced commander by far was the renegade Scot George Dunbar, the Scottish Earl of March, a personal enemy of Douglas. The Prince of Wales and the earls of Kent, Arundel, Stafford and Warwick were all inexperienced young men in their teens and early twenties.

The Earl of Stafford was the husband of Henry’s cousin, Anne of Gloucester. Just prior to the battle he was created Constable of England (replacing Northumberland) and given command of the van.

The likely line up of the royal army being:

Prince of Wales     King         Stafford

(Left)                    (Centre)      (Right)

The battle opened with the traditional exchange of arrows, the shooting of the men of Cheshire being particularly devastating. Stafford was killed very early in the battle and the Prince was severely wounded in the face – though he continued to fight after treatment.

Hotspur and Douglas led an attack on the royal standard. Their objective was simply to kill the King. Fighting around Henry was bitter, and his standard bearer, Sir Walter Blount, was killed. It is known that Henry himself was engaged personally in the fighting.

Hotspur’s men thought that they were winning. A cry of “Henry Percy -King” rose from them. But then Hotspur was struck down – possibly by a stray arrow and the cry changed to “Henry Percy – dead”. The rebels routed off the field, pursued for miles by relentless royalists.

Worcester was taken alive, and executed next day in the town of Shrewsbury. As were Vernon and Venables. Douglas was treated as a POW and eventually allowed to return to Scotland. Northumberland was tried, but eventually released having been found guilty only of ‘trespass’ by Parliament – he was to rebel again, and be killed in battle like his son. (Henry was careful never to give another political opponent a Parliamentary trial.)

One King’s side many knighthoods were given, and there were also grants of confiscated lands. Edmund Earl of Kent was apparently created a KG on the field, a distinction so unusual that it suggests some act of exceptional personal bravery.

Not a book to be taken seriously….

King Edward IV

Would you like a few sniggers and outright guffaws? Yes? Then I have just the book for you—Lives of England’s Monarchs by H. E. Lehman. I was searching for something specific, and for some reason Google took me first to page 182…

“…Edward [IV] was a large man possessed of great leadership ability and personal charm. But in many ways he lacked foresight, and was impulsive to his own hurt. He alienated many of his strongest supporters by seducing their wives. In Edward’s behalf, it should be added that, in those cases, it was the husbands, not the wives, who complained most strenuously…”

He alienated many of his strongest supporters by seducing their wives???? Where have I been? This is the first I’ve heard of these mass seductions and furious husbands. Does anyone know any more?

And from page 181 of the same book…

“…Edward’s youngest brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III) was always loyal. King Edward trusted and made Richard vice-regent for all the northern provinces of England. In reward for his loyalty, Edward gave Anne Neville, Countess of Northumberland, to Richard as his bride. (If that name sounds familiar, it is because she is the same Anne Neville, who briefly, was married to Queen Margaret’s Edward, Prince of Wales, near the end of Henry VI’s tragic reign.) Richard defended England against Scottish invasion, and secured the northland throughout Edward’s reign…”

Countess of Northumberland? Wouldn’t Harry Percy have noticed when his wife turned up as Richard’s queen? Was that the reason for Percy’s ill attendance at Bosworth? Oh, and the author also declares that Warwick Castle was in Northumbria.

saucy-lady

More from page 181…

“…Fourteen year old Henry Tudor (later Henry VII) was a trouble-maker in Northumberland, but bastardy in both his parent’s lines of descent (i.e. bastard Tudor and bastard Beaufort) made his royal connections seem too remote ever to be a real threat to the Yorkist line…Even so, just to be on the safe side, Edward exiled him from England. Henry Tudor went to live with his paternal uncle, Jasper Tudor, in Brittany, France…”

King Henry VII

Edward exiled him? Then spent years and year trying to lure him back? I think not! Edward would have grabbed the little varmint there and then, no messing about. (Oh, if ONLY!)And Brittany wasn’t in France at that point. You couldn’t make it up. Well, H.E. Lehman has, clearly.

For more entertainment, you should look at the book itself. http://tinyurl.com/hchylqp. If the link doesn’t work, Lives of England’s Monarchs by H. E. Lehman is available in Google books.

 

I sentence you to death by acquittal?

HenryVIIIArthur Waite, Viscount Lisle was released from the Tower of London in March 1542, having been held on suspicion of high treason for two years. This illegitimate son of Edward IV, as were they all, died of a heart attack the same week.

Sir Geoffrey Pole was arrested with some cousins, his brother and his nephew, both named Henry, in November 1538. His brother and his adult cousins were executed either in December or January, whilst his nephew is unaccounted for after 1542. Sir Geoffrey twice tried to kill himself in custody but gave evidence against Lord Montagu after his servants were threatened with torture. He lived on until November 1558, a broken man.

Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, was betrothed to Anne Boleyn before her marriage service with Henry VIII. In spring 1536, the latter annulled his marriage on the grounds of a Boleyn-Percy pre-contract, before she was executed. Northumberland had been a juror at her trial and died just over a year later.

Saving The Prince of Wales

henry the fifthbradmore's extractorOne of the most intriguing stories of the English medieval ages – and like most good stories this one is upfront and personal – involves Prince Hal (the future Henry the Fifth) and the Battle of Shrewbury that took place on July 21, 1403.  For whatever reason, this particular story is overlooked in Shakespeare and completely ignored in the poet Robert Nye’s great novel “Falstaff.”  The tale involves a highly bloody battle fought by King Henry IV against the legendary rebel Henry “Hotspur” Percy and the usual warlike nobles and the brave sixteen year old Prince of Wales.  The main instrument of destruction in the battle was the vicious long bow that caused soldiers to “fall like leaves in autumn” and “so fast and thick that it seemed to the beholders like a thick cloud, for the sun, which at that time was bright and clear then lost its brightness so thick were the arrows.”  So thick in fact, that later on in this brutal episode, Hotspur was killed by merely thrusting back his visor for a moment and took a direct hit to his face.  This was the bloody act which led to the end of the battle and victory for Henry IV.  The estimates were that 3,200 men died and 3,000 more were injured.

Prince Hal was luckier than Hotspur – although, he too, took an arrow to the face.  The arrow, called a bod or bodkin, was designed to penetrate mail and armor.  Happily, it was a narrower type of weapon than the broadmore which was a far more destructive arrow.  The bodkin struck Prince Hal on the left side of his face, next to his nose, boring into the back bone of his skull six inches deep.  With typical English bravado that always seemed to reach magical proportions in medieval wartime, Prince Hal determined to continue fighting, despite the long wood shaft protruding from his face.  It is possible that this particular arrow ricocheted and its speed was cut considerably.  In any case, The Prince, or someone else, pulled out the wooden shaft but the wound made by the lodged arrowhead began to fester and he was eventually evacuated to Kenilworth Castle.  Barber surgeons tried various methods but could not help the young man.

It was from there that a message was sent to the surgeon/metal worker and jeweler, John Bradmore, who was currently imprisoned in the county of Oxford on a charge of counterfeiting coin.  Many surgeons at this time were metalworkers, trained to make their own medical instruments.  Dr. Bradmore also seemed have run a side line in jewelry-making and perhaps counterfeiting the King’s treasury.  In any case, he was soon released from prison and dispatched to Kenilworth to see the young Prince.

It is then that Dr. Bradmore’s medical book “Philomena,” written in Latin and eventually translated into Middle English later in the 15th century, takes over the story.  Once arriving at the castle, the good doctor examined the patient and proceeded to create an instrument for removing the arrowhead.  (This can be seen in the recreation at the top of the page.)

“First, I made small probes from the pith of an elder, well-dried and well-stitched in purified linen.  These probes were infused with rose honey and after that, I made larger and longer probes and so continued to always enlarge these probes until I had the width and depth of the wound as I wished it.  And after the wound was enlarged and deep enough so that the probes reached the bottom of the wound, I prepared some little tongs, small and hollow, and with the width of an arrow.  A screw ran through the middle of the tongs, whose ends were well-rounded both on the inside and outside and even the end of the screw which was entered into the middle was well-rounded overall in the way of a screw, so that it should grip better and more strongly.  I put these tongs in at an angle in the same way as the arrow had first entered, then placed the screw in the centre and finally the tongs entered the socket of the arrowhead.  Then by moving it to and fro, little by little (with the help of God) I extracted the arrowhead.  Many gentlemen and servants of the aforesaid prince were standing by and all gave thanks to God.  And then I cleansed the wound with a syringe (squirtillo) full of white wine and then placed in new probes made of wads of flax soaked in a cleansing ointment.”

The cleansing ointment appeared to be made of flour, barley, honey and flax.  This procedure was repeated for the next twenty days.  Each time, the probe became smaller and smaller until the wound naturally closed.  Prince Hal’s recovery period took perhaps a year and we do not know whether any opiate was given to the young man.  Some historians place this incident in the life of the King as a turning point that changed a young wastrel given to wine, women and bad companions to a cold, aloof King, who although seriously pious, was ruthless towards his enemies.  Some writers question whether this personality change could have been caused by an impairment of his temporal lobe due to his battlefield injury.  Another outcome of this terrible wound is that Henry would never have a portrait painted in anything but profile – the left side of his face being badly disfigured by scarring.

For his unique services, Bradmore was paid an annuity of ten sovereigns a year and continued in the King’s service (such as devising and delivering medication) while also covering other duties for the Kingdom.  If indeed he was guilty of counterfeiting, let’s hope that his annuity was sufficient to cure him of this small failing on his part!

Many thanks to the following articles:

“Prince Hal’s Head-Wound:  Cause and Effect” by Michael Livingston; Medievalist.Net.

Bows, Blades and Battles – Another Arrow Which Changed History? By Ken Goodman

Infospigot: The Chronicles “Further Inquiries into the Process of Extraction.”

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