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Latin inscriptions are a mystery to me….

 

My mastery of Latin was gleaned at the age of 13, when for one dizzying year I was elevated to the “A” stream of King Edward VI’s Grammar School for Girls, Louth, Lincolnshire. Then they realized I wasn’t that bright, after all, and down I went!

The result of this demotion is that I have never been able to decipher Latin inscriptions. No, not the ones from Ancient Rome, but those of the medieval period here in England, where there was a very annoying (to me) habit of writing things in Latin. I can limp by in Old French, but not Latin.

My difficulty right now is a need to know what a particular inscription means. Here it is:-

Militis o miserere tui, miserere parentum
Alme Deus regnis gaudeat ille tuis.
(

I’m afraid I was low enough to try my hand with the Google translation service. While I could pick out words, what I could not do was string them together satisfactorily. So I appealed to my friends on Facebook, and they have been splendid. In advance, I thank Julia, Susan, Erik, Brian, Mary, Heather and last, but by no means least, Eileen!

Before I go on, I must point out that the o on its own in the inscription, is, of course, topped by something that I cannot make out. I thought, incorrectly, that it is an ö, but I’m told that an o with a little wiggle over it usually indicates an abbreviated word.

Then it seemed likely that the o might be short for ossis, which would make the first phrase “have mercy on the bones of your soldier” (As the knight in question died abroad on campaign and was brought back to England for burial, it would have been  only his bones that were returned, not the rest of him!)

Another offered translation is:-

O, have mercy on your knight, have mercy on (his) parents;
Dear God, may he rejoice in this, your kingdom
!

And another:-

Oh, pity your soldier, pity the parents. Dear God, may he rejoice in your kingdom.

So, I now know what the inscription means, and it makes sense!

Finally, let me identify the occupant of the vanished tomb  from which the inscription has been taken. It was that of 19-year old Sir Edward Holland, Count of Mortain, the youngest son of John Holland, 1st Duke of Exeter. John was executed in 1400, and buried as a traitor at Pleshey, having taken part in the Epiphany Rising to remove the usurper Henry IV and return Richard II to the throne. Richard was John’s half-brother. According to Weever’s Ancient Funeral Monuments, Edward—who adhered to Henry V—was buried close to his father, and Edward’s wife (whom I have not been able to identify yet) was buried there as well. None of the tombs at Pleshey have survived, and were it not to Weever’s Ancient Funeral Monuments, no record would have remained. Edward died at the Siege of Rouen in 1418, fighting for Henry V, and that king paid for his remains to be brought home to England, buried and entombed.

Sadly, it would not be all that long before Henry V himself was brought home in such a way.

The Epiphany Plot of 1400

Following the deposition of Richard II, his leading supporters among the nobility were put on trial before Henry IV’s first parliament. Well, all apart from the Earl of Wiltshire who had – in plain terms – been murdered at Bristol on Henry’s orders before Henry became king. (As a Lancastrian, Henry was of course allowed to do this sort of thing without receiving any criticism from historians.)

Some brief pen-pictures of the men in question may be helpful, since they will be unfamiliar to many readers:-

Edward, Duke of Aumale, highest ranking of the accused, was the elder son of the Duke of York, and was thus first cousin to both Richard II and Henry IV. Despite his relative youth (26 in 1399) he had been high in Richard’s counsels since the early 1390s and had received an astonishing array of offices from the king, being, among other things, at one point both Lord High Constable and Lord High Admiral. A devious man of considerable ability, described by one chronicler as a ‘second Solomon’, his contribution tends to be underrated by historians. He was also a survivor. Despite involvement – or alleged involvement – in several plots against Henry IV, he was to survive long enough to be the leading English casualty of Agincourt. Nevertheless, in the Parliament of late 1399 he had a most torrid time. It is likely that Richard II intended Edward to be his heir.

John Holland, Duke of Exeter was King Richard’s half-brother – they shared the same mother, Joan of Kent. He was married to Henry IV’s sister, Elizabeth of Lancaster. Exeter was at this time in his late 40s. He had not always been a strong supporter of Richard, and had at one point been quite closely associated with his father-in-law. However, during the 1390s he had become increasingly important as a member of Richard’s inner circle.

Thomas Holland, Duke of Surrey was Exeter’s nephew, the eldest son of Thomas Holland, late Earl of Kent. Another relatively young man, he had recently replaced his deceased brother-in-law, Roger Mortimer, Earl of March (killed 1398) as Lieutenant of Ireland. He had also replaced Aumale as Lord High Admiral.

John Montagu (or Montacute) Earl of Salisbury, who was in his late 40s, had only succeeded to his uncle’s earldom in 1397, having been for many years merely Sir John Montagu. His uncle had alienated many of the family estates – there was bad blood between them – and Salisbury was by some way the least wealthy of the accused. Nor had he received any particular rewards in land from King Richard. Acting as Richard’s ambassador to France, he had been unfortunate enough to earn Henry Bolingbroke’s personal enmity because of the message he had brought to Charles VI on Richard’s behalf – which was essentially that Henry should be treated as persona non grata. Salisbury was known to be a Lollard – an early Protestant – and attracted some hostility for that reason. King Richard himself was generally hostile to the Lollards but nevertheless tolerated Salisbury and a few other followers of that movement at his court.

Thomas Despenser, Earl of Gloucester was married to Constance of York and was thus Aumale’s brother-in-law and the Duke of York’s son-in-law. 26 years old at this time, he had commanded King Richard’s rearguard in the 1399 campaign in Ireland and been one of the king’s strongest supporters during the upheaval of 1397. Even without the rewards given to him in 1397, he was a very wealthy man, in terms of landed income much more so than his father-in-law. The jewel in his crown was the very valuable Marcher Lordship of Glamorgan.

They had all served as ‘counter-appellants’ in 1397, when Richard II had taken his revenge on his uncle, Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester and the earls of Arundel and Warwick. All, except Salisbury, had received generous grants of forfeited lands. All except Despenser (Gloucester) and Salisbury had also participated in the partition of the Lancastrian estates earlier in 1399. As a group, they were very much Richard’s ‘Party’ and it cannot be denied that most of them had been very handsomely rewarded for their loyalty. Apart from Salisbury they were all closely linked to Richard by blood or marriage or both.

The outcome of the trial – to cut a long story short – was that the accused lost the lands granted to them in 1397 and those who had received upgraded titles (everyone except Salisbury) lost them and reverted to their pre-1397 status. For the purpose of this article, I shall continue to refer to them by their Ricardian titles, to avoid unnecessary confusion.

The group were placed into the temporary custody of the Abbot of Westminster, who was a Ricardian himself. It appears that they immediately began to conspire against Henry, although on the face of it the King meant to rehabilitate them fairly quickly. With the exception of Salisbury – against whom Henry maintained a rather obvious grudge – they were, for example, very quickly restored to the Council. Edward of Aumale even received confirmation of some valuable land grants, including the Lordship of the Isle of Wight. Of course, Edward was rather a special case, being the King’s cousin, and perhaps more importantly, York’s son. The Duke of York (who had been Richard’s Keeper of England during the King’s absence in Ireland) had given Henry quite strong support, almost from the minute he surrendered to him near Berkeley Castle a few months earlier.

In addition, Edward had not been aligned politically in quite the same way as the others. Richard divided his army in Ireland – allegedly on Edward’s advice – sending the smaller portion to North Wales under Salisbury while returning himself to South Wales with the remainder. When Richard broke up his army near Carmarthen he actually left Aumale behind, possibly fearing that his cousin was no longer reliable in view of the defection of the Duke of York at Berkeley. It seems likely that this defection was a principal cause – if not the main cause – of the King’s panic and his decision to join Salisbury in North Wales. (This decision led to the collapse of his cause and his eventual capture by Bolingbroke.) The other lords involved were all with the King to the bitter end.

A note on sources. The main sources for the Epiphany Rising are Walsingham and Traison et Mort. Both have their issues. Walsingham (though used as a principal source for the reign) is hopelessly biased against Richard II, and frequently reports rumours, however ridiculous, if they tend to Richard’s discredit. He can not infrequently be caught out in direct falsehoods. Traison, on the other hand, was written by a French member of Queen Isabelle’s household. He is heavily biased towards Richard, tends to blame Edward of York for the King’s downfall, and reports details of matters of which he cannot possibly have had direct knowledge, such as the manner of Richard’s death.

The key to the plot was an attempt to assassinate Henry IV (and perhaps his sons) at Windsor Castle. The great army that Henry had assembled to place himself on the throne had, for the most part, gone home. Therefore the King was vulnerable to an attack from a small force, which was all the conspirators could assemble. (Many of their retainers had found alternative patrons by this time, or were otherwise unreliable, and in any event, for obvious reasons, only the most loyal could be trusted in a scheme of this kind.)

At the same time, a number of risings were to be provoked across England, and King Richard was somehow to be released. (His exact location was almost certainly not known to the conspirators.) Richard was to be represented, in his absence, by his clerk and double, Richard Maudelyn, who was probably either a half-brother or cousin of the deposed monarch.

By one means or another, the plot was revealed to Henry at the last moment. Traison blames Aumale, who accidentally revealed the plot to his father, York. The pair of them then hurried to warn the King, Edward being immediately pardoned. Walsingham merely says that Henry was ‘forewarned’ but does not disclose the method. Another source, Continuatio Eulogii, says that one of the King’s squires picked up the intelligence from a prostitute who had previously slept with someone involved in the plot. A final possibility must be that Elizabeth of Lancaster got wind of her husband’s dealings and sent warning to her brother.

Most modern historians tend to dismiss Aumale’s ‘serious’ involvement in the plot. Even so, it is hard to see how he, with his connections, could have remained innocent of what was going on. On the other hand, it must be recognised that many in England (and even more in France!) were deeply suspicious of his motives throughout, and accusations or mutterings of treason against him continued regularly for some years. It is hard to discern how much of this was smoke and how much fire.

Be this as it may, the fact remains that Henry and his sons escaped from Windsor with only hours to spare, so whatever warning was received came at the last minute, in true dramatic style.

The King’s escape was, in effect, equivalent to the defeat of the conspiracy, as the rebels did not have the forces to match those which Henry was soon to raise from London and the surrounding counties. According to Traison they held the bridge at Maidenhead for some hours, which was probably as good a fight as they could make of it. They also sought to recruit from the various towns and villages they passed, and according to Walsingham also visited Queen Isabelle (Richard’s very young wife) at Sonning, seeking her support and that of her household.

Unfortunately, the news that Henry was not far behind them with a large and growing army could not be long concealed, and tended to put a damper on recruitment. The rebels’ retreat rapidly turned into flight, which came to an end at Cirencester, where, exhausted, their ‘army’ camped in the fields while the lords took up lodgings in various inns. What happened next is unclear, but it appears the inhabitants of the town realised that the lords were fugitives, and besieged them in their lodgings. A fire started, and Surrey and Salisbury surrendered, and were initially lodged in the abbey. However, when the townsfolk of Cirencester grasped the measure of the damage done to their town by the fire, they dragged the two lords out again, and summarily executed them without legal authority. Walsingham states that Salisbury, who was a Lollard, refused to make confession before his death.

The mystery of Exeter and Gloucester.

According to Traison these two lords were at Cirencester, escaped their burning inn by climbing out of the window, and fled in different directions. In the case of Exeter in particular this seems most unlikely. Walsingham states that he remained in London, which makes sense if his role was to raise the Ricardian element among the citizens. Such men were in a minority, but they certainly existed, and if Henry had not escaped they might well have put themselves forward. Exeter was eventually captured in Essex. He was also murdered by the local population without lawful authority, at Pleshey Castle, seat of the late Duke of Gloucester, the uncle Richard II had (possibly) had murdered in 1397. The location was, of course, highly significant.

Had Exeter been in Cirencester, he would surely have been wiser to flee towards Devon, where he had extensive land holdings, than eastward, directly into the teeth of Henry’s forces. I therefore conclude it is most unlikely he was at either Windsor or Cirencester. Though, as an experienced warrior and tough fighter he would have been something of an asset if he had been.

Thomas Despenser, Earl of Gloucester, is barely mentioned by Walsingham at all, except in the matter of his escape and capture. Again, there is at least a possibility he was not at Windsor or Cirencester and that he never left Cardiff. Indeed, it may be he was guilty of nothing more than misprision of treason at worst. Hearing that the King’s men were on their way to arrest him, he took ship from Cardiff, carrying a considerable amount of portable wealth. However the ship’s captain refused to take him anywhere but Bristol, where the citizens chose to prove their loyalty to Henry by murdering him.

If Despenser was indeed innocent of any active involvement in the plot, it might help explain his widow’s bitter hatred of Henry, which culminated in her plot, in 1405, to remove the Mortimer heirs from Windsor Castle and place them in the protection of Owain Glyndwr.

Many of the lesser supporters of the plot were assembled at Oxford for trial. Maudelyn, Sir Bernard Brocas and William Feriby were brought to London, to be hanged and beheaded at Tyburn. Sir Thomas Blount and twenty-five others from Cirencester were hanged, drawn and quartered at Oxford. Another thirty-seven received pardons, and at least one, Salisbury’s stepson, was actually acquitted. Roger Walden (the deposed Archbishop of Canterbury), the Bishop of Carlisle and the Abbot of Westminster were all imprisoned for a short time, and Henry Despenser, Bishop of Norwich, fell beneath an uncomfortable level of suspicion, but was not proceeded against.

A number of small risings broke out across England in support of the plot, but all subsided with little fuss. The one in Chester was perhaps the most serious and led to a brief siege of the castle. Ironically the man who put it down, the Bishop of St. Asaph, was soon to number among Henry’s enemies as a firm supporter of Owain Glyndwr.

As for the widows, Henry treated Elizabeth of Lancaster and Constance of York with considerable generosity – of course they were his sister and first cousin respectively. These two remained very rich ladies indeed, and did superbly well compared to the widows of ‘traitors’ in the Tudor period or even the Yorkist era. The other widows had less kindly provision, although the worst treated of all, the Countess of Wiltshire, had suffered from Henry murdering her husband before he even became king, and had no connection to the plot.

In the aftermath of the plot it appears that Henry (and almost certainly his Council) decided that King Richard’s life should be cut short to discourage any further rebellions in his favour. Richard died at Pontefract on 14th February 1400. Various explanations are given, but the most likely seems to be that he was starved to death. Despite this, and the public display of his body in St. Paul’s, rumours that he had escaped and was alive and well in Scotland continued to plague Henry – and indeed his son. That a ‘Richard’ was living at the court of Scotland is an undoubted fact – whether he was the real Richard is quite another matter.

Sources

The most useful source by far is Chronicles of the Revolution 1397-1400 by Chris Given Wilson.

Other sources:

The Usurper King – Marie Louise Bruce

Fears of Henry IV – Ian Mortimer

Richard II – Nigel Saul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We know Richard III’s mottos, but what about other nobles….?

Cartoon Knight

Is anyone out there hot on chivalric mottos? Everyone knows Richard III’s motto, “Loyaulte mie lie”, and we even know of more he used, but it’s not so easy to find other mottos belonging to lesser known English figures of the 14th-century. Well, one gentleman in particular.

I am trying to discover what “Rendere Vero”. It’s Italian, or maybe Latin, but online translators do not give me an acceptable answer in either language. At least, nothing a Mediaeval knight would wish to boast in front of his peers. To me, it seemed to simply mean “Render the truth”, as in “give only the truth”. But that might not be the nitty-gritty of it at all.

To begin with, let me admit to being only 95% sure the motto is “Rendere Vero”. It appears almost complete on a site dealing with accurate, hand-painted diecast models of various times, including the 14th century. I can no longer find the particular model that has set me off on this quest, only an out-of-date picture of it. Its figures are holding aloft the windblown banner of Sir John Holland, Earl of Huntingdon and Duke of Exeter, the younger of Richard II’s two half-brothers. The banner is correct to show Sir John’s wheatear emblem, but I have never come across the motto before. Did he use it? Did he use any motto? I haven’t come across even one.

John de Holande's banner on left - wheatear badge

Paul Martin Remfry has kindly suggested that ‘Rendere’ means [You] Think, Believe, Deem, Reckon or Suppose, and that ‘Vero’ means Yes, Truly, In truth, However and Certainly. Thus he arrives at “Believe in Truth”. Which sounds promising to me. Thank you, Paul.

Sandy Swanson wonders if it’s “Return truly” or “Pay back in kind”. Diana Whitty suggests “Bring the truth”, and Frances Quinn offers “Give only the truth” or “Render the truth”. Regarding the latter, Frances – snap! <g>

And I am very grateful to Merlyn Macleod for going to the trouble of investigating at http://dictionary.reference.com/, which, at the bottom of each translation, gives the origins of words and their original meaning. For “Render” it has:-

Late 14c., “repeat, say again,” from Old French rendre “give back, present, yield” (10c.), from Vulgar Latin *rendere (formed by dissimilation or on analogy of its antonym, prendre “to take”), from Latin reddere “give back, return, restore,” from red- “back” (see re- ) + comb. form of dare “to give” (see date (n.1)).

Meaning “hand over, deliver” is recorded from late 14c.; “to return” (thanks, a verdict, etc.) is attested from late 15c.; meaning “represent, depict” is first attested 1590s. Irregular retention of -er in a French verb in English is perhaps to avoid confusion with native rend (v.) or by influence of a Middle English legalese noun render “a payment of rent,” from French noun use of the infinitive. Related: Rendered ; rendering.

It seems there are endless possibilities!

Now Brian Wainwright tells me of a 1988 illustrated book called Knights at Tournament by Christopher Gravett, ISBN: 9780850458367.

Elite book cover

It apparently contains an illustration of Sir John Holland, mounted, in jousting armour, being led to a tournament by his lady. Possibly his wife, Elizabeth of Lancaster? Needless to say, that particular picture does not appear when I “Look inside”. Fortunately I have been able to find a copy, and eagerly await its delivery tomorrow. Fingers crossed that his motto is shown. Too much to hope for? Probably. But I will keep trying. To use another motto: “Nil desperandum”!

So, if anyone knows anything more, or of a site that deals in some depth with mediaeval mottos, please, please let me know.

 

 

 

 

Who’s the great-granddaddy then…?

Following on from the blog A Big Development below….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, all guesswork, but interesting.

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