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It’s Alice Perrers’ biography, but the author puts the boot into Lionel of Clarence….!

Given her huge notoriety at the time, it’s odd that Edward III’s mistress, Alice Perrers, has (as far as I can ascertain) only garnered one biography. This is Lady of the Sun by F George Kay, 1966 (and seemingly never reprinted). There are no surviving contemporary likenesses of Alice, nor even a description of her. Her birth and death dates are not known, except that her will was dated 20th August 1400. She was buried at an Upminster church which has now disappeared, courtesy of Oliver Cromwell. All of which seems very strange, given her importance at the end of Edward III’s long reign.

The title of the book is due to an event on 9th May 1374, when Edward put his mistress on full, inordinately expensive display. The occasion was a tournament at Smithfield, when Alice, dressed entirely in gold as the Lady of the Sun, was driven through the streets of London on a golden chariot. All the knights and ladies of court were there too, including Edward’s sons and their wives. They all swallowed their fury and displayed fixed smiles.

Detail from ‘Chaucer at the Court of Edward III’ by Ford Madox Brown

I had great hopes of finding a lot of new information about Alice in Lady of the Sun, and certain incidents in which she was involved, but I fear the hope was vain. It was soon clear why this was the only biography. There is simply not enough known about her, so a lot of the book is just a retelling of the history of England at the time, and in particular Edward III’s marriage to Philippa of Hainault, who had Alice as one of her ladies.

Philippa of Hainault

Now that I’m about halfway through the book, I have paused to consider whether it is worth finishing it. I have also paused because of an astonishing attack by F George Kay upon Lionel of Clarence. I confess, I had never found anything before that suggested Lionel was all but a monster—and I’m not talking his height, which was indeed great.

Lionel, Duke of Clarence, 2nd son of Edward III

Here is what the author has to say about Lionel:-

“…Lionel was the least attractive of all Philippa’s (the queen) children. He was lazy, cruel and vain. His good looks had ensured from childhood that there was always a woman to spoil him—first his mother and later his wife and various mistresses. King Edward sent Lionel to Ireland in 1361 as Lord Lieutenant. He envisaged his son becoming a sort of vassal king of the country, thereby settling once and for all the troubles of keeping Ireland in order.

“…Lionel personified a type of Englishman who have so regularly in history sown the seeds of hatred among the Irish. He ruled with all the ruthlessness of his elder brother, the Prince of England [Edward of Woodstock—Prince of Wales to most of us!] in the English dominions of France, but without the latter’s chivalry and quirks of generosity.

“…No native Irishman was permitted to approach his person either in the Castle of Dublin or when he moved around the town. He lede the country white with taxes and never appeared without a massive bodyguard, which he permitted to rape and pillage as they wished. They were, indeed, almost forced to loot to maintain themselves. The generous revenues apportioned to Lionel for the maintenance of an armed forced were largely directed into the pockets of his cronies and himself.

“…The Statute of Kilkenny, passed by a special Parliament held in Ireland, represented Lionel’s most infamous—and fortunately final—act of repression. It prohibited every kind of connexion through marriage, the care of children, or in other ways, between the English and the Irish. It was a policy of complete separation between the rulers and the ruled.

“…Lionel returned home soon afterwards, fearful for his life. His father greeted him with scarce-concealed contempt; his mother, of course, was full of comforting excuses for his disastrous actions…”

Then, a little later:-

Violante Visconti and her brother Gian Visconti, pre 1380

“…Nonchalantly Lionel set off to wed his second wife [Violante Visconti]. He left Windsor with a vast and expensive retinue of knights. The Queen and her ladies watched from the great round tower of the castle while the horsemen rode along the banks of the Thames toward London and the Kent coast. Philippa was never to see her son again. He indulged himself in feasting and excessive drinking on a leisurely, spectacular progress across France and married Violante in Milan Cathedral on June 5 [1368 – and maybe it was May 28]. He was dead four months later, having ‘addicted himself overmuch to untimely banquetings’.”

Right.

I have not been able to find out much about F George Kay, except that he was born in 1911 and is now 108. I don’t know his nationality or place of birth, but his other works include books about the Royal Mail and railway locomotives. The covers for the latter books show British locomotives, so I imagine he is British. The F apparently stands for Frederick.

What I do know is that where Lionel of Clarence is concerned, this author comes out with all guns blazing. All I can say is that I’ve never come across Lionel in this light before. Is it true? Well, if so, why has no one else leapt upon it?

As for poor Alice… It is her biography after all. She gets a good press from F George Kay. Her avarice and spite was down to fear and self-protection, and the story of her stealing the rings from the dying Edward’s fingers is just a myth. The general opinion of her affair with Edward is that it commenced when poor Philippa of Hainault was still alive. F George Kay rather glosses this, with the suggestion that it began only after the queen’s death. I don’t know, of course, not having been a fly on the royal bedchamber wall.

True? Or a myth?

Alice eventually died in obscurity, having been one of those comets that light the sky for a while and then disappear. She certainly made the old king’s last years far happier than he could otherwise have hoped, but it’s sad to think that she might have been with him solely for her own gain. He was fading, a shadow of the great king he had once been, and his mind was beginning to fail him. I do hope she loved him as he deserved.

Alice Perrers has been blackened across the centuries (oh, we Ricardians know about that, do we not?) but whether such condemnation is deserved or not, we may never know.

PS: F George Kay doesn’t like Joan of Kent either. According to him she was ‘a hot-tempered, intolerant snob’. Really? Another first-time-I’ve-read-that moment for me. She always seemed the very opposite to me.

The great house Richard III granted to John Howard….

Tower Royal - AGAS Map

Location of Tower Royal on the AGAS Map, circa 1570 – indicated by blue arrow

There was once a royal house, sometimes referred to as a palace, in the street named The Riole in London’s Vintry Ward, and Richard III granted it to his good friend and ally, John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk. The great house was called the Tower Royal, and, like so much of medieval London, it was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666.

The name Tower Royal was new to me, so I began to investigate. As a matter of interest, there is still an area in the city of London called Tower Royal (EC4N), to which, I am informed, the nearest station is Cannon Street.

Tower Royal area of modern London

This map source has the following to say (and good luck if you’re not dizzy after trying to picture it all!):-

“On the South ſide of this ſtreete from Budge Row, lieth a lane turning downe by the weſt gate of the Tower Royall, and to the ſouth ende of the ſtone Wall beyond the ſaid gate, is of this ward, and is accounted a part of the Royall ſtreete, agaynſt this weſt gate of the Tower Royall, is one other lane, that runneth weſt to Cordwainer ſtreete, and this is called Turnebaſe lane: on the ſouthſide whereof is a peece of Wringwren lane, to the Northweſt corner of Saint Thomas Church the Apoſtle.”

Got it? Well, it is clear enough as far as the second comma. Tower Royal is indeed south, just down Royall Street from Budge Row, on the left, behind a high stone wall. You can see the location clearly on the top illustration on this page, shown by the suitably royal-blue arrow.

As far as the nearby churches, in the medieval period, are concerned, see the illustration below. Number 84 in the illustration below is St Michael Paternoster Royal, and number 63 is St Martin Vintry, which is at the southern end of The Riole. This street appears under a variety of names, including Whyttyngton Colleage, as in the illustration at the beginning of this article, which is taken from The A to Z of Elizabethan London, published by the London Topographical Society.

location of Tower Royal

According to The London Encyclopaedia, edited by Weinreb and Hibbert, The Tower Royal:-

“…[was] first heard of in the 13th century, [and] was named after the wine merchants from Le Riole, near Bordeaux, who lived in the area. In 1320 it came into the possession of Edward III, who granted it in 1331 to Queen Philippa, who enlarged it and established her wardrobe here. On her death, the King gave it to the Dean and Canons of Westminster. But in 1371 Joan, Princess of Wales, mother of the future Richard II, was living there. In 1381 her son rode here to tell her of the suppression of the Peasants’ Revolt. By 1598 it was, according to Stow, neglected and used for stabling the King’s horses. It was burned down in the Great Fire…”

So, no mention of Richard III or John Howard. But then, there’s a long span between 1381 and 1598!

And then I found the following in John Strype’s Survey of London :-

“At the upper end of this Street [The Riole], is the Tower Royal, whereof that street taketh name. This Tower and great place was so called, of pertaining to the Kings of this Realm: but by whom the same was builded, or of what Antiquity continued, I have not read more, than in the Reign of King Edward I. second, fourth, and seventh years, it was the tenement of Simon Beawmes. Also, that in the 36th of Edward III. the same was called the Royal, in the Parish of Michael de Pater noster: and that in the three and fortieth of his Reign, he gave it by the name of his Inne, called the Royal, in his City of London, in value twenty pounds by year, unto his Colledge of S. Stephen at Westminster. Notwithstanding, in the Reign of Richard II. it was called, The Queens Wardrobe, as appeareth by this that followeth.

“King Richard, having in Smithfield overcome and dispersed the Rebels, he, his Lords and all his Company, entred the City of London, with great joy, and went to the Lady Princess his Mother, who was then lodged in the Tower-Royal, called the Queens Wardrope, where she had remained three days and two nights, right sore abashed. But when she saw the King her Son, she was greatly rejoyced and said, Ah Son, what great sorrow have I suffered for you this day! The King answered and said; Certainly, Madam, I know it well, but now rejoyce, and thank God, for I have this day recovered mine heritage, and the Realm of England, which I had near-hand lost.

“This Tower seemeth to have been (at that time) of good defence, for when the Rebels had beset the Tower of London, and got possession thereof, taking from thence whom they listed: as in my Annals I have shewed; the Princess being forced to flye came to this Tower Royal, where she was lodged, and remained safe as ye have heard. And it may be also supposed, that the King himself was at that time lodged there. I read, that in the year 1386. Lyon King of Armony, being chased out of his Realm by the Tartarians, received innumerable gifts of the King and of his Nobles, the King then lying in the Royal. Where he also granted to the said King of Armony, a Charter of a thousand pounds by year during his Life. This for proof may suffice, that Kings of England have been lodged in this Tower, though the same (of later time) hath been neglected, and turned into stabling for the Kings horses, and now let out to divers Men, and divided into Tenemens.

“This great House, belonging antiently to the Kings of England, was inhabited by the first Duke of Norfolk, of the Family of the Howards; granted unto him by King Richard the Third. For so I find in an old Ledger Book of that Kings. Where it is said, “That the King granted unto John Duke of Norfolk, Messuagium cum Pertinenciis, voc. LE TOWER infra Paroch. Sancti Thomæ Lond.” where we may observe, how this Messuage is said to stand in S. Thomas Apostle tho’ Stow placeth it in S. Michaels.”

John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk

John Howard, 1st Duke of Norfolk

The Gatehouse Gazeteer has more to say:- http://www.gatehouse-gazetteer.info/English%20sites/4620.html

Royal Tower, dating from before Edward I (possibly from Henry I), used, at times as the Queens Wardrobe, as guest lodgings and sometime let out as a lodging. Was near to St Michael Paternoster.

“Tower Royall was of old time the kings house, king Stephen was there lodged, but sithence called the Queenes Wardrobe: the Princesse, mother to king Richard the 2. in the 4. of his raigne was lodged there, being forced to flie from the tower of London, when the Rebels possessed it: But on the 15. of June (saith Frosard) Wat Tylar being slaine, the king went to this Ladie Princesse his mother, then lodged in the Tower Royall, called the Queenes Wardrobe, where she had tarried 2. daies and 2. nights: which Tower (saith the Record of Edward the 3. the 36. yeare) was in the Parish of S. Michael de Pater noster, &c. In the yere 1386, king Richard with Queene Anne his wife, kept their Christmasse at Eltham, whither came to him Lion king of Ermony, vnder pretence to reforme peace, betwixt the kinges of England and France, but what his comming profited he only vnderstood: for besides innumerable giftes that he receyued of the King, and of the Nobles, the king lying then in this (Tower) Royall at the Queenes Wardrobe in London, graunted to him a Charter of a thousand poundes by yeare during his life. He was, as hee affirmed, chased out of his kingdome by the Tartarians. (Stow p. 44-)

“At the vpper end of this streete, is the Tower Royall, whereof that streete taketh name: this Tower and great place was so called, of pertayning to the kinges of this Realme, but by whome the same was first builded, or of what antiquity continued, I haue not read, more then that in the raigne of Edward the first, the second, fourth and seuenth yeares, it was the tenement of Symon Beawmes, also that in the 36 of Edward the 3. the same was called the Royall, in the parrish of S. Michael de pater noster, & that in the 43. of his raigne, hee gaue it by the name of his Inne, called the Royall in the cittie of London, in value xx.l. by yeare, vnto his Colledge of S. Stephen at Westminster: notwithstanding in the raigne of Richard the second it was called the Queenes Wardrope, as appeareth by this that followeth, king Richarde hauing in Smithfield ouercome and dispersed his Rebels, hee, his Lordes and all his Company, entered the Citty of London, with great ioy, and went to the Lady Princes his mother, who was then lodged in the Tower Royall, called the Queenes Wardrope, where shee had remayned three dayes and two nightes, right sore abashed, but when shee saw the king her sonne, she was greatelie reioyced and saide. Ah sonne, what great sorrow haue I suffered for you this day. The king aunswered and saide, certainely Madam I know it well, but now reioyce, and thanke God, for I haue this day recouered mine heritage, and the Realme of England, which I had neare hand lost.

“Frosarde.; King Richard lodged in the Tower Royall.

“This Tower seemeth to haue beene at that time of good defence, for when the Rebels had beset the Tower of London, and got possession thereof, taking from thence whome they listed, as in mine Annales I haue shewed, the princesse being forced to flye came to this Tower Royall, where shee was lodged and remayned safe as yee haue heard, and it may bee also supposed that the king himselfe was at that time lodged there. I read that in the yeare 1386. Lyon king of Armonie, being chased out of his Realme by the Tartarians, receyued innumerable giftes of the King and of his Nobles, the king then lying in the Royall, where hee also granted to the saide king of Armonie, a Charter of a thousand poundes by yeare during his life. This for proofe may suffice, that kinges of England haue beene lodged in this Tower, though the same of later time haue been neglected and turned into stabling for the kinges horses, and now letten out to diuers men, and diuided into Tenements. (Stow p. 238-)

“This great House, belonging antiently to the Kings of England, was inhabited by the first Duke of Norfolk, of the Family of the Howards; granted unto him by King Richard the Third. For so I find in an old Ledger Book of that Kings. Where it is said, “That the King granted unto John Duke of Norfolk, Messuagium cum Pertinenciis, voc. LE TOWER infra Paroch. Sancti Thomæ Lond.” where we may observe, how this Messuage is said to stand in S. Thomas Apostle tho’ Stow placeth it in S. Michaels. (Stype Bk3 p. 6)”

That, I am afraid, is about all I have been able to find about this long-lost once-royal residence. There are no illustrations, except for the old maps. Unless someone out there knows otherwise…?

Why I dislike John of Gaunt….

Wycliffe on Trial, by Ford Madox Brown

As Ricardians, we know very well now, history can be twisted to suit. The matter of those strawberries and what happened next, for instance. I mean, the different versions are legion, even to the point of whether or not Thomas, Lord Stanley was ever present at all, let alone injured in a scrap and obliged to hide under a table. So delightful and worthy an image.

Anyway, while researching an earlier event (1377) I have come upon another did-he?/didn’t-he? scenario, this time involving the Duke of Lancaster/King of Castile, John of Gaunt. He from whom the Beauforts, the House of Lancaster and the Tudors are descended. I have never been very fond of him, not even after reading Anya Seton’s Katherine.

To me, at this 1377 point in history, he was a scheming heap of double standards, arrogance, blatant dishonesty and unworthiness. (Don’t hold back viscountessw, tell it how it is!) He was bungling, a lousy military commander, and quite determined to prevent the bloodline of the sole female offspring of his older brother, Lionel, from getting anywhere near the throne. Oh, no, dear John of Gaunt wasn’t having any of that! A right to the throne through a woman? Heaven forfend. Besides, Johnny-boy wanted the throne for himself and his own descendants, even though he was lower in the pecking order than Lionel had been. What a hypocrite! He himself was claiming the throne of Castile through his second wife! And he was even Duke of Lancaster in right of his first wife. Yet, suddenly, the throne of England had to be different. No female intrusions, pul-eeze!

Edward III was no better, because he claimed the throne of France through his mother, but he developed a very convenient memory when he was persuaded by Gaunt to sign an entail that excluded women from the succession. Mind you, I do wonder if Edward would have signed any such thing if he had not been put under extreme pressure by Gaunt. Edward was elderly at the time, perhaps in his dotage, and very, very tired. He was a mere shadow of the great king he had once been, and still bereft from the loss of his beloved queen, Philippa of Hainault. He was now becoming doddery, and was reliant for comfort on his disliked mistress, Alice Perrers, whom it suited Gaunt to support because she gave him more access to his father. Some might say Edward III was a sitting duck when it came to Gaunt’s overweening ambition.

Edward III, tomb effigy

In early 1377, Gaunt was strongly suspected of wanting the throne for himself, and old rumours were resurrected (presumably by his supporters) that called into question the legitimacy of Joan of Kent’s marriage to the Black Prince. And therefore also questioning the legitimacy of her son by the prince, the future Richard II. The Black Prince was not known by that name then, of course, he was Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales (or, as I’ve recently seen him identified, the Prince of England). Joan had a chequered history, it’s true, but she was lawfully married to the Black Prince.

Joan of Kent and her son, Richard II
Tomb of the Black Prince, Canterbury Cathedral

 

Well, the Pope said Joan was the Black Prince’s wife, so she had to be, right? I won’t go into the whys and wherefores of her story, just that legally, at this point in time, she was the wife/widow of the Black Prince, and her little son by him, Prince Richard, was trueborn. Anyway, two-faced Gaunt was prepared to secretly sponsor attacks her reputation one day…and the next rush off to seek her protection when a mob was (justifiably) out for his blood. If I’d been her, I’d have thrown him to the wolves!

I believe it was with all pips squeaking that Gaunt swore to protect his nephew, the boy who would become Richard II. Protect the child? Hmm. Back in those days the lives of youngsters were notoriously delicate and at risk, and I do not doubt that Gaunt’s fingers were crossed behind his back as he made his vow. With Richard out of the way, or childless—although waiting for such to prove the case was an unknown risk, and could mean a long period of impatient thumb-twiddling and foot-shuffling for Gaunt and his family—and Lionel’s Mortimer descendants forbidden the crown, there would be no argument when a Lancastrian backside was plonked upon the throne. Which, of course, happened in due course when Gaunt’s eldest son stole Richard II’s crown and probably murdered him.

Old St Paul’s Cathedral

Where is all this invective leading? Well, simply to a scene at St Paul’s, at the trial of Gaunt’s friend and protégé. Wycliffe/Wyclif (and other spellings) who was believed by many to be a heretic. Or verging on it. There was a confrontation between Gaunt and the man who had hauled Wycliffe before a Church trial, William Courtenay, Bishop of London, who was also a son of the Earl of Devon.

John of Gaunt and the Bishop of London arguing at St Paul’s.

The Church had been provoked by some of Gaunt’s activities, and did not like the rumours, so another rumour (or an old one resurrected) began to circulate, that Gaunt was a changeling. It was claimed that his mother, Philippa of Hainault, had confessed as much to William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, telling him to only let the truth be known if it seemed Gaunt was about to become King of England. Gaunt, needless to say, was livid, and deprived Wykeham of all manner of things. Mind you, in Gaunt’s place, I’d have been livid, too, but handsome is as handsome does, and (to use the language of the school playground) he started it! Courtenay and the bishops were intent upon getting at Gaunt through Wycliffe—punishing the duke himself being out of the question.

Wycliffe was escorted to the trial by Gaunt and the Earl Marshal, Henry Percy, who was a man capable of putting force before common sense. He angered the onlookers outside St Paul’s by clearing the way through them with much more strength than necessary. The trial opened with Courtenay telling Wycliffe to stand throughout the proceedings, and Gaunt declaring Wycliffe should be allowed to sit. Gaunt and Courtenay couldn’t bear the sight of each other, and the disagreement got out of hand. When Gaunt was heard to mutter something about dragging the bishop out by his hair, there was uproar that would to lead to the riots from which Gaunt had the brass neck to expect Joan of Kent to save him.

The above is the gist of the ‘facts’ as I have always understood them, but now, in a book entitled Lady of the Sun (a biography of Alice Perrers, by F George Kay) I find a much more colourful account of the flashpoint in St Paul’s:-

“…Gaunt lost his temper, knocked off the Bishop of London’s cap and started to drag him out of the way by his hair…”

Um, that’s slightly different from a mere heated exchange of words and a sotto voce threat. So, which is the right version? Something muttered? Or a violent laying-on of ducal hands?

F George Kay goes on to say that:-

“…The onlookers surged to the rescue of the Bishop. Gaunt and Percy [Earl Marshal and Gaunt’s sidekick, whose heavy-handedness had started the proceedings on the wrong foot] fled for their lives…and went by boat to Kennington. [Where Joan of Kent was residing with the little prince.]…)

Even with the missing words, this account implies that Gaunt and Percy fled from the scene of the trial, across the Thames and into Joan’s protection in one fell swoop. They knew she was popular with the people, and respected. The presence of the little prince was an added plus. One fell swoop? Not quite true. After the scene involving the Bishop of London’s hair, Gaunt and Percy went on their way in their own time, taking Wycliffe with them. The onlookers in the streets were shocked and angered by the quarrel, but were not, as yet, a rampaging mob.

It was the next day that things escalated and the rioting began, when London was informed that Percy had high-handedly imprisoned a man at the Marshalsea prison in Southwark for (apparently) no good reason. This imprisonment was the touch-paper.

When the mob went into action, Gaunt and Percy were sitting down to dine at the inn of a friend, a rich merchant named Sir John d’Ypres.

Small medieval dinner

The hors d’oevres had just been served (neat touch in the account of the eternally spiteful Walsingham) when a frightened messenger arrived to tell them the Marshalsea had been attacked and prisoners (or the prisoner) freed, Next, Percy’s house in Aldersgate had been ransacked as the mob looked for him (presumably with some dire punishment in mind). From Percy’s abode, the dissatisfied, frustrated, even angrier mob marched upon Gaunt’s fortress-like palace, the Savoy, broke in, and began another ransacking. Had either Gaunt or Percy been found, would they have been killed there and then? I don’t know, but it seems likely. What a difference to English history Gaunt’s early demise would have made!

Marshalsea Prison, Southwark, newly built in 1373
The house of Henry Percy, Earl Marshal, was somewhere near here.
The Savoy, Gaunt’s palace on the Thames

Anyway, on learning the awful news, Gaunt and Percy took to their highborn heels, bolted from d’Ypres’ house for the Thames, and then took a boat across the river to Kennington to throw themselves on her mercy. Joan was clearly nobler than them, because she took them in and defended them! Eventually—and no doubt very smugly—it was William Courtenay, Bishop of London, who calmed the mob and dispersed them. And he still had his hair!

Kennington Palace, but later than 14th century

So, here is another famous occasion for which the accounts are mixed. Maybe February 1377 isn’t of as much interest to Ricardians as anything that went on between 1483 and 1485, but I find it fascinating that such different slants can be extracted from brief accounts. Historians then adopt their preferred version, and claim it as the truth.

Oh, and F George Kay doesn’t say Gaunt allowed the rumours about Joan’s marriage to be spread, he says that Gaunt stood up in Parliament and suggested the succession should be discussed! Parliament was shocked. What was there to discuss? Until then they’d all been satisfied that the succession would go to Prince Richard. Gaunt was clearly reminding them all about the doubts concerning the Black Prince’s marriage. Did Gaunt really make such a suggestion? Would he do it? Would he stand there and publicly dig up doubts and questions about the marriage of the heir to the throne, and the legitimacy of the next king? He was already very unpopular, and widely suspected of having designs on the throne. Well, I am perhaps not the best person to ask. I’m not exactly unbiased! But then, nor was Gaunt. And Parliament’s response was to invite the prince to come before them, so they could acknowledge him and see that all his father’s estates, etc. were bestowed upon him forthwith. This was, perhaps, not what Gaunt had planned. Certainly it was a very public a rejection of any designs and ambitions he nurtured for himself.

It will by now be very clear that I have no time for John of Gaunt. Maybe he became a steadying influence in later years, but at the time of which I now write, he was a dangerously ambitious, scheming magnate who was prepared to do whatever it took to get his own way. He didn’t give a fig who he hurt, or about family loyalty—except when it suited, and especially when it came to sucking up to and manipulating his elderly, worn-out father, Edward III. He ‘persuaded’ Edward to disinherit his son Lionel of Clarence’s daughter, and her son (Roger Mortimer, the future Earl of March) from the succession, in order to insert himself in the nicely cleared slot. And he wasn’t above permitting his supporters to spread whispers about the Black Prince’s marriage and the legitimacy of the future Richard II.

If you wonder what did happen with the succession, read Appendix Two of Ian Mortimer’s The Fears of Henry IV, which explores and explains it all in great detail. Throughout Richard’s reign, Gaunt endeavoured to persuade him to name Gaunt’s son, Henry, as heir presumptive. Richard resisted, and seemed to regard the Earl of March’s son as heir. Richard made an entail of his own, superseding that of his grandfather, Edward III. In the end, of course, the entails were useless, because Gaunt’s son and heir usurped the crown and did away with Richard. Job done. Except that Gaunt never knew how successful his line finally became, because he died before Richard, and thus before Henry’s Lancastrian backside graced the throne.

I don’t just dislike Gaunt, I loathe him! His machinations were the root cause of the bloody Wars of the Roses. But I know that he has many supporters, and they will not agree with anything I’ve said. They will probably regard me as being guilty of the very things I’ve commented on: fake news and twisted facts!

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.

How and why the House of York laid claim to the throne….

Richard, 3rd Duke of York

Here is an article from English Historical Review, 1st June 1998, telling of how and why Richard, 3rd Duke of York, laid claim to the throne of England. The root cause was an entail to the will of Edward III, who was admittedly in his dotage at the time. The entail, which excluded a female line from ascending the throne, spoils that otherwise excellent king’s legacy as far as I’m concerned. But then, I’m a modern woman who doesn’t hold with the denying of rights simply because the ones being denied are the female of the species! Or the denial of anyone’s true and honest rights, come to that. True and honest being the operative words.

The mastermind behind this entail was Edward’s 3rd son, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, who sought to eliminate any claim from the descendants of his 2nd eldest brother, Lionel. Those descendants were, of course, through the female line, which line happened to be the one from whom Richard, 3rd Duke of York, was descended. Gaunt’s purpose was to see that his own line took precedence. It did in the end, but not in a way old Edward III could have foreseen, and not through the entail. Instead it took the form of Gaunt’s son and heir usurping and murdering his first cousin and rightful king, Richard II, heir of the great Black Prince. Gaunt’s son took the throne and became Henry IV, the first Lancastrian monarch.

John of Gaunt

So it seems that gallant Gaunt leaned on his dying father to achieve his own ambitious ends. But that’s the House of Lancaster for you! And it was Gaunt’s double-dealing chicanery that eventually led to Richard, 3rd Duke of York, claiming the throne that was his by right. And it all led to what we know as the Wars of the Roses.

However, there just might be some doubt about the entail’s existence. According to Penny Lawne’s biography of Joan of Kent: “…In preparation for his [Edward III’s] death he drew up his will, one of the witnesses being Sir Richard Stury, and in an entail specifically designated Richard (II) as his successor…” There is no mention of excluding any female line, but then, Lawne is very pro-Gaunt throughout, so I suppose the nitty-gritty of such an entail was better omitted. Unless, of course, all the entail ever really did was designate Richard of Bordeaux as the old king’s successor. In which case, where did the story of Gaunt’s pressure and interference come from? Ah, well, later in her book, Lawne lays the blame at the feet of Walsingham, who “held Gaunt in particular contempt, convinced he wanted the throne for himself, and repeated virulent gossip and rumours current about the duke…” Walsingham, it seems, even went so far as to portray Gaunt trying to persuade the Commons to discuss the succession, and was so intent upon removing opposition that he requested a law be passed to forbid a woman from inheriting the throne, “which would obviate the claim of Lionel’s daughter Philippa, who arguably held the most legitimate claim to the throne after the prince’s son”. So, this business of excluding females’ claims was due to Gaunt browbeating the Commons, not to Edward III’s entail?

Well, not being a fan of John of Gaunt, I am quite prepared to believe he put the screws on his dying father, in order to ensure the House of Lancaster becoming heir to Richard II’s throne, in the event of Richard childless demise. But I can also believe he’d go to work on Parliament. Gaunt was ruthless when it came to furthering his own family, and how better to achieve this than paving the path to the throne? Either way, he tried to see the succession go to the House of Lancaster.

Richard, 3rd Duke of York, quite rightly, did not think the House of Lancaster had any business wearing the crown. He was descended from Lionel, Duke of Clarence, and truly believed his (senior) line had precedence. I believe so too. Maybe it was through the female line, but it was perfectly legitimate, and until the demise of Edward III and that pesky entail (or Gaunt’s other forceful activities), there had not been a bar on women taking the throne. Yes, they had to stand back while their brothers took precedence, but if those brothers died, then they themselves had every right to be crowned. Lionel of Clarence only had one child, a daughter. His right passed to her, not to his conniving next brother, Gaunt.

Richard of York WAS the rightful king.

Now, of course, it has all been changed, and women can take precedence even if they have a younger brother(s). The line goes through age, not gender. And about time too!

The Da Vinci Pre-Contract….?

No, no – do not be put off by this dry old illustration, for it but masks the workings of an over-active mind. Mine!

mezeray

Does anything about the following sound familiar?

“…The nickname John of London, given to Richard [II], alludes to a report spread by Henry that Richard was the illegitimate son of the Princess of Wales [Joan of Kent] by a canon of Bordeaux; (see Froissart;) but Mezeray remarks, that that reproach might have been cast upon Henry [IV] with more reason, seeing the queen his mother, on her death-bed, had confessed to a bishop that she had substituted him [Henry] in the place of her own true son, whom she had suffocated by accident, charging him [the bishop] to discover the secret if he [Henry] were likely to inherit the crown. (Mezeray, 983, fo. Paris, 1643)” Taken from Chronique de la Traison et Mort de Richart Deux, Roy Dengleterre.

OK, so the story was related by a Frenchman 250 years or so after the death of Richard II, whom the Black Prince certainly acknowledged as his son. And when it comes to Henry IV…his mother was never Queen. Blanche of Lancaster was Duchess of Lancaster.

Mezeray is therefore a hardly reliable source, but the scenario he paints is thought-provoking to someone like me. He wrote after the 15th century, when proof of some sort had come to light of Edward IV’s bigamy . Was a version of the Mezeray scenario then enacted? Was Stillington, or someone else in the know, charged to only reveal the proof of the Eleanor Talbot marriage if there was a chance of Edward V being crowned? And if so, who charged him? Who was in a position to make such a decision? How many of them were there? I know, I know, it sounds like The da Vinci Code, with some manipulative and arcane secret society pulling strings.

Perhaps whoever it was had hope that fate would step in and remove the need for such a revelation? The natural deaths of the boys, perhaps? Premature death was a common enough fate back then. And so was murder, of course. And the girls might well have been safely married to husbands no one would accept on the throne of England? International royal marriages were all very well when it was an English prince marrying a foreign princess, but not the other way around. Elizabeth of York, for instance, was at one time betrothed to Charles, the Dauphin of France. And Cecily was betrothed to the future James IV of Scotland. Grand contracts, but unsuitable for the English crown. If those marriages had taken place, I cannot believe either gentleman would be rapturously greeted in London. Another James of Scotland would eventually be crowned in Westminster Abbey, but not in the 15th century. So, if not the boys or the girls…who then?

Was the pre-contract being kept hidden as a contingency plan? Something to produce if and when the need arose? I do not know who might be behind such a thing. Certainly not Richard, who was in Yorkshire and did not even know Edward was on his deathbed until it was all over. If he’d been in on a secret masterplan, he’d have been ready and waiting in London. Maybe he wasn’t even the one the masterplanners had in mind. He just got in the way when the masterplan suffered a hiccup, and he was most inconveniently ended up as Richard III, which was NOT in the script. I don’t think Henry VII was the intended monarch either. When push came to shove, he was too lowly and unroyal, and so was another very inconvenient intrusion. The whole masterplan began to go pear-shaped when Edward IV died so suddenly, and from then on things did not go as the conspirators intended. Then, after Bosworth, I think they ripped up the whole idea up in disgust, walked away and let history take its Tudor course. Thank you, chaps.

Right, ladies and gentlemen, I can’t think why anyone conspire to such patient and determined lengths, or what their purpose might have been, but if there was a masterplan, who might they have intended to be the ultimate King of England? And who might have been the masterplanners?

On the understanding that there are holes in my reasoning (or lack of it), and that the above could be a suggestion for a movie, please let me know your suggestions for the actual identities of all these mysterious, shadowy figures. Answers on a postcard, please…

Anne Neville was a boar too….

Anne Neville's Boar

We always hear about the badges of medieval families, e.g. Richard III’s white boar, the Warwick bear and ragged staff, the Stafford knot, Richard II’s white hart and so on and so on, but what about the ladies? Maybe they didn’t ride into battle with the banners streaming (well, there were some notable exceptions, of course), and mostly they seem to have used their family’s badges, but they also had their private personal badge or device, perhaps on a ring to seal their private letters.

It’s possible to identify some of these badges. Richard II’s queen, Anne of Bohemia, had a sprig of rosemary, which is why such sprigs appear along with Richard’s device on the Wilton Diptych. His mother, Joan of Kent’s badge was a white hind, and it was from this that Richard II, derived his white hart, also adding the crown and chain around its neck. (See Richard II and the English Royal Treasure by Jenny Stratford.)

Joan of Navarre, the second queen of Henry IV, used ‘an ermine collared and chained, with the motto ‘à tempérance’. Elizabeth Talbot, Duchess of Norfolk, was believed to have chosen the blue borage flower as her badge. (See Eleanor, The Secret Queen by John Ashdown-Hill.) Her mother, Margaret Beauchamp, Countess of Shrewsbury, chose to play upon her name, and had the daisy/marguerite. Margaret of Anjou had a swan (see Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses by John A. Wagner) and a daisy (see The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, by Sir Bernard Burke, page lvii.

I have now learned that according to the same page of the latter book, Anne Neville’s badge was a variation of the white boar of her husband, Richard III.

Anne Neville's Badge

Anne’s cognizance is interesting, and I wonder if she chose it by chance before her marriage (after all, it was a badge of the House of Warwick), or whether she only adopted it once she was Richard of Gloucester’s wife. Or, indeed, whether Richard himself decided to use it because it was a Warwick badge and he wished to honour the great lord whose daughter he was to marry.  Those who deride Richard, will no doubt claim that such was Anne’s subordination to her cruel husband, that it was her only way of showing how confined and bullied she was. On the other hand, those who know Richard was nothing whatsoever like the fictional monster, may see it as her way of stating her love and faith in him. I am of the latter persuasion, of course.

Finding an instance of Anne’s boar has defeated me. I can’t even find a boar that has been assigned to Richard, yet might actually be Anne’s. Maybe someone out there knows all this and can point directly to such an illustration? In the meantime, I will confine myself to the boar you see at the top of this article. It has a crown around the neck, if no muzzle and chain.

As a source of information about badges and so on, the great work by Sir Bernard Burke is a gold mine. See it at Amazon. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Scotland-Comprising-Registry-Armorial-Bearings/dp/0788437216/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1471783806&sr=1-1&keywords=sir+bernard+burke+armory

I have just ordered it, and am looking forward to a great deal of delving.

 

Tales of a Ricardian Traveler – Debunking a Myth at Dartington Hall

RICARDIAN LOONS

Lady on Horseback Lady on Horseback, mid-15th c., British Museum

Dartington Hall, near Totnes in Devon and just southeast of Dartmoor National Park, represents a uniquely British form of historical contradiction. It is both medieval, having parts of a Grade I-listed late 14th century manor house, and modern, being the current home of the Schumacher College and formerly the site of a progressive coeducational boarding school which broke all the molds of English education and even attracted the attention of MI5. Today, it operates a hotel, restaurant and conference center, and has Grade II* listed gardens.

Our visit was prompted by the prospect of staying briefly in the house built between 1388-1400 by John Holland, first earl of Huntingdon and duke of Exeter. The Holland dukes of Exeter were themselves highly controversial figures and their history is closely intertwined with that of the Houses of York and Lancaster. We didn’t…

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Mediaeval women who got the man they wanted . . . .

 ©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

There was an interesting Facebook post on 2nd May, by Lyndel Grover, drawing attention to a blog about Joan of Acre, who lived in the 13th century. http://historytheinterestingbits.com/2015/04/30/rebel-princess/. It made me think about other mediaeval women who had done what Joan did. By that I mean, marry the man they wanted, not the choice of their families.

Joan was the daughter of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile, and took as her second husband Ralph de Monthermer, who eventually became 1st Baron Monthermer. But he was a commoner who had been in the household of her first husband, Gilbert de Clare, 7th Earl of Gloucester, so King Edward was furious that Joan had made such a misalliance. He eventually relented, however, and Joan kept her chosen husband. She might be said to have got away with it. And so did Ralph, who could have paid a very high price for crossing Edward Longshanks.

In the 14th century, another princess, Joan of Kent, known as ‘the Fair Maid of Kent’, was also determined to have the husband of her choice. And she decided this at the age of only twelve, when she secretly married Thomas Holland of Upholland in Lancashire, who was seneschal in the household of William Montacute, 2nd Earl of Salisbury. It was a love match, as was proved when Thomas went off to the Crusades and her family immediately forced her to married Montacute instead. He apparently had no idea she was already married to his seneschal. She fought against this marriage, and on Thomas Holland’s return, she went back to him. She was allowed to keep him, too. Well, this is all a potted version, of course, but the result was the same, Joan retained the husband she wanted. On Thomas’s death, she married the Black Prince and became the mother of Richard II.

Moving to the 15th century, another very highborn lady who got away with a commoner ‘husband’ was the French princess, Catherine of Valois, widow of Henry V. A very warm lady from all accounts, she was not content to remain the widowed Queen Mother, and if contemporary rumours are true, she took as her lover her late husband’s cousin, Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset. But legislation was passed, preventing a widowed Queen Consort from remarrying.

The next we hear—and rather quickly at that—she had a new lover a handsome Welshman named Owen Tudor, whom we are told she married, and by whom she certainly had a very prompt baby boy, Edmund Tudor. But there is no proof of an actual marriage. Yet again, Owen was a commoner who might have paid a very high price, but got away with it by the skin of his teeth. He was eventually beheaded, not for Catherine, but for being on the wrong side at the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross.

It was from Catherine and Owen that the Tudor dynasty descended . . . although there is a persistent whisper that Edmund Tudor, their firstborn, was actually the son of the Duke of Somerset. So Edmund Tudor might well have actually been another Edmund Beaufort, and as he was also the father of Henry VII, the first Tudor monarch, it might well be that we should have had a House of Beaufort. But it’s a question of conflicting evidence, of course.

Another 15th century princess who rebelled and married a commoner was Cicely Plantagenet, daughter of Edward IV. She was the sister of Henry VII’s queen, Elizabeth of York, and also Henry’s aunt because she was married to his half-uncle, John, Viscount Welles. When the viscount died, Cicely upped and married a true commoner, one Thomas Kymbe, a gentleman of Lincolnshire. I can only imagine it was a love match, because she must have known what would happen when Henry found out. He went ballistic, and was so beside himself that he snatched her lands and did just about everything else except imprison her and her new husband. Henry’s mother, Margaret Beaufort, who was John Welles’s half-sister, protected the newlyweds and interceded on their behalf, she and Cicely being on close terms. Margaret managed to calm Henry down sufficiently to persuade him to restore Cicely’s property. They were left alone after that, to live in obscurity, and Cicely never resumed her former high status. When she died, Thomas remained in obscurity. But at least she died married to the man she chose.

Interestingly, Margaret Beaufort, who was surely the most important woman of Henry VII’s reign, did not get her way at the end. Her first husband was the Edmund Tudor mentioned above as the apparent firstborn of Catherine of Valois and Owen Tudor, and by him Margaret had Henry when she was in her very early teens. She was very small, and the birth was so difficult that she never had another child, so you might expect her to abhor Edmund for what he had done to her. He was in the wrong, even by 15th-century standards, and should not have consummated the marriage until she was at least fourteen. However, even though she had a further three husbands after him, it was with Edmund that she wished to be laid to rest. Was it simply because he was Henry’s father? Or had she loved him? We will never know. But when she passed away, she was denied her desire, and was buried close to her son and daughter-in-law in Westminster Abbey. So Margaret, the most powerful woman in England, did not have her wish honoured.

We are all so used to hearing of aristocratic mediaeval women having little choice in the matter of husband, but a few pioneering spirits went after and got what they wanted.

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