Marlborough is a quaint little town in Wiltshire. It has a rather famous College (once attended by Kate Middleton) but no buildings dating much before Tudor times other than two heavily restored churches. However, it used to have a castle, and a rather important one too.
The first castle was built by William the Conqueror in timber, and he raised it on Marlborough’s most famous landmark–a huge mound (sometimes called Merlin’s Mound) that stands in the middle of the college grounds. This mound is not the usual motte and bailey but in fact a neolithic mound that is a smaller ‘sister’ to nearby Silbury Hill, the largest artificial mound in Europe. Later the wooden castle was replaced by stone; it held out for King Stephen during the Anarchy. King John made many changes and repairs, having been presented the castle while his brother, Richard Lionheart, was king. His second wife the infamous Isabella of Angouleme spent some time there and some of his children may have been born within its walls. It was a strange arrangement–Isabella was under the care of Hugh de Neville, whose wife had been one of John’s many mistresses. After John died in the early 1200’s, political prisoner Eleanor of Brittany, whose claim to the throne equalled or surpassed that of Henry III, was kept there for a while before being shunted off to another stronghold. After Henry died, however, it became a Dower House, used by the Dowager Queen, Eleanor of Provence, and then was held by a series of Queen after her.
By 1370, Marlborough was unused, and in ruins by 1403. Edward VI passed it to his relatives, the Seymours, who built a grand house that is now part of the College. All traces of the castle vanished, save for the mighty mound with had already stood for thousands of years before the Conqueror built his castle.
However there is a rumour that one item from the castle survived–a huge ornate stone font which had come from the freestanding chapel of St Nicholas. Local legend says several of King John’s children were baptised in this font.
And sure enough about a mile away, a massive stone font sits, seeming slightly out of place, in the tiny, remote church of St George at Preshute (an old name meaning Priest’s Hut.). It is an enormous block of polished black stone imported from Tournai, and would hardly be likely to have originally belonged to such a small, out of the way church. A few similar fonts of Tournai stone do exist in England, but they are in much grander buildings that St George’s–including Worcester Cathedral.
As a writer of medieval fiction, and therefore stuck with a preponderance of Johns, Edwards, Richards, Edmunds and so on, I’m only relieved not to have been asked to write a history of St Stephen’s Chapel. SO many Johns? Of the human variety, I hasten to add!
This article: Where did all the Johns come from? – An Oddity in the History of St Stephen’s Chapel is both interesting and amusing.
One such is William Marshall. Called by some the greatest ever knight, he is one of my direct ancestors and also the direct ancestor of Richard III.
William had an eventful life. He was born in 1146 or 1147 and, as a young boy, he was used as a hostage by King Stephen when William’s father, who was supporting Matilda against Stephen, was besieged by the king in Newbury Castle. William’s father, John, when told that William would be hanged if he didn’t surrender, was reported to have said: “I still have the hammer and the anvil with which to forge still more and better sons!” The King made as if he was going to fire the young William at the castle from a pierrière (a type of trebuchet), but could not bring himself to harm the boy and he survived.
Later, he was sent to Normandy to learn the business of becoming a knight, to be brought up in the household of William de Tancarville, a great magnate and cousin of young William’s mother. He was knighted on campaign in Normandy in 1166 and the next year was taken to his first tournament where he found his true calling. In 1168 he was injured in a skirmish and captured, but one of his captors aided him by smuggling clean bandages (for the wound in his thigh) to him inside a loaf of bread, which may have saved his life. He was ransomed by Eleanor of Aquitaine, remaining a member of her household for the next two years.
A supporter of Young King Henry, son of Henry II, he travelled with him to Europe where they participated in knightly tournaments. From 1176 to 1182 both Marshall and the Young King gained prestige from winning tournaments. These were dangerous, often deadly, staged battles in which money and prizes could be won by capturing and ransoming opponents, their horses and armour. Marshall became a legendary champion in the lists: while on his deathbed, he claimed he had beaten five hundred knights during his tournament career.
When the Young King died on 11th June 1183, he asked Marshall to fulfill the vow he (the Young King) had made the year before, to go on a crusade to the Holy Land, which William did, returning two years later and vowing to join the Knights Templar on his deathbed.
He rejoined the court of Henry II and aided him when Henry’s son, Richard, rebelled against him. Marshall unhorsed Richard in a skirmish and killed his horse to demonstrate that he could have killed the man. He was said to have been the only one ever to have unhorsed Richard, later to become Richard I, the Lionheart. Richard nevertheless welcomed Marshall to his court, after he became king, knowing his legendary loyalty and military prowess would be useful to him.
Richard fulfilled his father’s promise to Marshall of the hand in marriage and estates of Isabel de Clare and the marriage happened in August 1189, when William was 43 and Isabel just 17. He acquired great wealth and land from the marriage, including the castle of Pembroke, becoming one of the richest men in England. He also became the Earl of Pembroke eventually and the couple had five sons and five daughters.
Marshall was part of the council of regency for Richard while the king was on crusade and later supported King John although there were many fallings out over the years. However, he remained loyal to him despite their differences and was one of the few English earls to remian loyal to John during the first Barons’ War. King John trusted him to ensure the succession of his son, Henry III, and it was Marshall who was responsible for the kings’ funeral and burial at Worcester Cathedral. He was named as protector of the young king Henry III, who was aged nine, and acted as regent for him. He was now about seventy but he still fought for the young king at the head of his army and defeated Prince Louis and the rebel barons at the Battle of Lincoln.
When he realised his health was failing and he was dying in 1219, he called a meeting and appointed the Papal Legate, Pandulf Verraccio, as regent. In fulfillment of his vow, he was invested into the order of the Knights Templar on his deathbed and is buried in the Temple Church in London, where his tomb can still be seen.
Tomb of William Marshall
During his life he served under five kings and lived a rich and full life. He founded Cartmel Priory and there is a memorial to him there:
Through his daughter, Isabel, William is ancestor to both the Bruce and Stewart kings of Scotland. Through his granddaughter Maud de Braose, daughter of his daughter, Eve, William is ancestor to the last Plantagenet kings, Edward IV through Richard III, and all English monarchs from Henry VIII right up to the present day queen. Actually, William is also the ancestor of Richard et al through another, older, daughter, Maud. See the family trees below. I have marked all the descendants of William Marshall with a green dot – you can see that Richard FitzAlan, the father of Lady Alice FitzAlan, was descended from Marshall on both sides.
I wonder whether Richard inherited some of his heroic qualities from his illustrious ancestor – what do you think? And do you notice some other things they had in common?
Pierrière by Jean-noël Lafargue (Jean-no) (Self-photographed) [FAL], via Wikimedia Commons
Jousting [Copyrighted free use], via Wikimedia Commons
Tomb of William Marshall by Richard Gough (Sepulchral Monuments in Great Britain. Vol 1.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Sign at Pembroke Castle by Andrewrabbott (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Am I alone in always having imagined that John de la Pole’s wife, Margaret Fitzalan, Countess of Lincoln, was a woman of childbearing age? Somehow I just took it as read, and thus that their apparent lack of heirs was a nasty trick of nature.
Chance caused me to check for more information about this daughter of Thomas Fitzalan, 12th/17th Earl of Arundel and his wife Margaret Woodville.
Given Lincoln’s staunch support of Richard III, I can’t help wondering how he felt about his wife’s strong Woodville connection. Oh, he probably didn’t care. After all, the prolific Woodvilles had managed to marry into half the noble families in the realm. In fact, we don’t know anything at all about Lincoln’s attitude to his marriage or his wife. He is Sir Enigmatic de la Pole when it comes to that.
What we know of Margaret is that her father bequeathed her a ‘great ring with a turquoise’, and that she died in 1493, apparently never having remarried. (Horrox in ODNB states that Margaret lived until 1524.) We also know, or it seems generally accepted, that she was born in 1475. Now then, if this last point is true, then she was still only 10 at the time of Bosworth, and 12 when Lincoln was killed at Stoke Field. Suddenly the barrenness of the marriage takes on a different hue. There were no children because the bride was too young to consummate the match, and her husband died before she was the accepted age for such to take place.
Now we come to the myths. Well, fake news, as the present saying goes. Maybe they’re not as important as the untruths attached to Richard III, but certainly they’re the sort of thing that worm their way into history as fact.
I will begin with the son that Lincoln and Margaret are supposed to have had, but who died very young. His name was Edward de la Pole, we’re told. Well, even if he had been born posthumously, I still cannot accept that it could have happened. Was Lincoln no better than King John, Henry IV and Edmund Tudor? Did he bed his little bride before she was fully developed? No, I do not think so. Richard III wouldn’t have had any of that! Even if Lincoln himself was ready to do it, which I doubt very much indeed. In fact, I do not think Lincoln and his wife would have seen anything much of each other until her sexual majority, by which time Lincoln was dead at the age of 25 maximum, probably only 23. She would still have been at home with her Fitzalan family. Perhaps at Arundel Castle itself.
As for the suggested son, the only Edward de la Pole I can find was Lincoln’s brother, who became Archdeacon of Richmond. He lived 1466–1485, so was born nine years before Margaret Fitzalan. A non-starter. He was Lincoln’s sibling, not offspring.
All of which makes the suggestion of Lincoln and Margaret having a daughter as well even less likely. The daughter was (we are told) another Margaret, who went on to marry Sir John Hardy, Senior, and had a son, John Hardy, Junior, who became Mayor of London. https://www.geni.com/people/Sir-John-Hardy-Jr-Lord-Mayor-of-London/6000000001444501215 I can’t say this site is gospel, of course. Anyway, this new Margaret is identified as the daughter of Lincoln and Margaret Fitzalan, and was (wait for it!) born in 1490. Really? Well, she might have been Margaret’s, because Margaret could indeed have lived on until 1524. But a child born in 1490 could not have been Lincoln’s because he definitely died in 1487.
Another curiosity that has crept into the records is that Lincoln himself married twice, his second bride being the daughter and heir of Sir John Golafre. Again, it’s impossible. Lincoln’s first wife lived for at least six years after his demise, so how he managed to take a second bride I do not know. There’s no record of an annulment or any such thing (that I can find), nor can I trace this new bride’s Christian name, or which Sir John Golafre it could possibly be, as the last one appears to have died in 1442! This would make any daughter of his a little too old to marry Lincoln and present him with children. She would have been at least 43 in 1485, and in those days surely coming to the end of her childbearing days.
This Sir John Golafre married a few times. One wife was Margaret, the daughter of Sir John Heveningham, and widow of Sir Walter de la Pole of Dernford in Sawston, Cambs. Another was Elizabeth Bruyn, the widowed cousin of Michael de la Pole, 2nd Earl of Suffolk. So there are definitely connections between the de la Poles and Golafres, but not with our Earl of Lincoln.
All of which makes me wonder and regret that Lincoln married Margaret. He was the son and heir of the 2nd Duke of Suffolk and Elizabeth of York (Richard’s sister), and most probably Richard’s intended heir as well, but with such a young bride, it was impossible for him to father legitimate children until she was old enough. We don’t know exactly when the marriage took place, but he was always heir to the dukedom of Suffolk, if not of Richard. Oh well, these political matches are a tangle, and presumably it was very advantageous indeed for Lincoln to be united with a daughter of the Earl of Arundel.
Whatever the reason/s, it resulted in Lincoln, like Richard himself, dying without legitimate issue.
Aha, but did it? Maybe all the above is wrong. There is an interesting article about Lincoln in Volume XIII (2003) of The Ricardian. It is by Wendy Moorhen, and considers the earl’s life and career in general, but also his marriage. She states that Margaret Fitzalan was indeed his wife, but makes no mention of Margaret’s youthfulness. She too mentions the great ring with a turquoise, which her father bequeathed to his daughter, Lady Lincoln, in 1524.
The thing of particular significance to me, with regard to my present article, is a suggestion that Lincoln’s youngest brother, Richard de la Pole, was in fact his son. The concealing of this fact was due, it is suggested to protect an infant or posthumous son of an attainted traitor. It would seem that Richard’s career tends to give credence to this tale. It would also raise the question about the mysterious son Edward, some sources claim was born to Lincoln and Margaret, but who died young. Perhaps he didn’t die at all, but merely had his name changed.
He was born in 1480, as far as I can discover, which means when Lincoln himself was somewhere between 14 and 16, depending on whether his year of birth was 1462 or 1464. This means that Margaret Fitzalan was only around five – totally ridiculous, of course. So if Richard de la Pole was Lincoln’s son, he was surely born on the wrong side of the blanket.
Yet Richard was to lay claim to the dukedom of Suffolk, become known as the White Rose, and be fêted by Louis XII as the king of England. This, in spite of older brothers still alive. This could be explained if he was indeed Lincoln’s son, and therefore of the senior line. But if he was illegitimate. . .? The French would enjoy mischief-making, of course, yet there was a very strong suggestion about Richard de la Pole’s true lineage being through the Earl of Lincoln, and therefore one generation removed from the 2nd Duke of Suffolk,.
But there is cause to wonder if Margaret Fitzalan wasn’t a mere five but 14 in 1480, when Richard de la Pole was born. It is possible. The 17th Earl of Arundel’s marriage to Margaret Woodville took place “shortly before 17th February 1466″, which means that the earliest a child could have been born to them was around November of that year. The earl’s successor, the 18th earl, was born in 1476. Apart from him and Margaret Fitzalan, there were another brother and sister, Edward and Joan, whose dates of birth I have not been able to ascertain. If Margaret was that first child, born around November 1466, she would of course, have been old enough to consummate her marriage to Lincoln, and bear him children. But the earlier date of 1475 seems fairly fixed in place for her.
Had she been 21 or so at the time of Lincoln’s death at East Stoke, everything would change of course. She might indeed have given birth to Richard de la Pole, who would thus be legitimate. There are so many mysteries surrounding the enigmatic Earl of Lincoln, who has left a tantalisingly brief trail through his short period of history. Brief, but filled with intriguing questions about his marriage and possible offspring.
A wall painting at St Mary the Virgin church in Lakenheath which depicts King Edmund
“November 20 is St Edmund’s Day, the feast day of the ‘last king of East Anglia’ and – some would say – England’s proper patron saint. But where do his bones lie? Trevor Heaton explores the twists and turns of a centuries-old mystery…” Is he under a tennis court? Read on for another take on Edmund the Martyr, who was almost certainly not a Wuffing.
Eleanor of Aquitaine was the daughter of a provincial Duke in France. Twice she married Kings and had many children, although she outlived most of them and several grandchildren, living into her ninth decade, suffering annulment and internal exile. Two of her sons became King of England and, through John “Sansterre”, she is the ancestress of every subsequent monarch.
In this book, Robert Fripp does for Eleanor what Graves did for Claudius, as she dictates her “memoirs” to a younger secretary. Most of us know much less about Eleanor than we would like and this is our opportunity to make amends.
Philippa Langley has recently been on the road with ‘The Missing Princes Project’ making inquiries in Lincolnshire as to any local legends or folklore (such stories can often hold a tiny grain of folk memory) relating to King Richard or the two boys.
Interestingly, author Sandra Heath Wilson in her novels has the princes hidden at Friskney, which is in Lincolnshire. There is more to her choice of location than a random place name chosen by an author ( but I will leave Sandra to do the telling, if she wishes to reveal!)
During Philippa’s recent talk, it was also mentioned that Richard, as Duke of Gloucester, overruled the choice of a mayor in Grimsby during 1474, and replaced the incumbent with his choice, Robert More. An unusual tidbit, as we do not generally think of Richard as being ‘active’ in this area of Britain. Where was this More in 1483 or 84?
Several legends from different parts of the country seem to be emerging. Could this be because one or both of the princes were frequently moved to different locations, perhaps remote and unlikely ones, to avoid detection or possible rescue? Although mostly held in Sarum, Eleanor of Aquitaine was moved to other castles during her imprisonment; even more frequently shunted about was the unfortunate Eleanor, Fair Maid of Brittany, first prisoner of King John and then his son Henry III. Her exact whereabouts were hard to trace throughout her long years of imprisonment, though we know she may have been at Corfe castle and she definitely spent some time at Gloucester. It was only when she was too old to bear children and was allowed to enter a convent that her location became generally known. Later on, Mary Queen of Scots had many different places of imprisonment before her final date with destiny at Fotheringhay.
Another intriguing site I stumbled upon is that of Coldridge, a small village in Devon. In the church is a chantry chapel to one John Evans, who was keeper of the park and yeoman of the crown. Beyond that, nothing is known of his origin, although his name appears to be Welsh. Evans leased the local manor from Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset, the half brother to the princes, in the reign of Henry VII. In his own chapel, Evans lies in effigy, gazing towards a particularly rare stained glass window depicting Edward V with the crown suspended over his head as a symbol to acknowledge he was never crowned. Some guidebooks wrongly describe this glass as being of Edward VI, Henry VIII’s son, but it is clearly from an earlier period by clothes and hair, and then there is the matter of the crown. Although not confirmed, some sources state that Evans, whoever he was, attended the funeral of Henry VIII’s first son, Henry, which is intriguing indeed.
(There is also a fragmentary section of a scowling man’s face just below the glass of Edward V, which has been thought to represent an evil Richard, but that is possibly a more recent attribution, and it may have been part of another scene completely unrelated to the Edward V one.)
Postscript from viscountessw (Sandra Heath Wilson):- I lighted on Friskney in Lincolnshire for two reasons. Firstly, research revealed it to have been held by the Earl of Lincoln, and secondly it was occupied by the Kymbe family, one of whom, Thomas, became the third husband of Cicely/Cecily, younger sister of Elizabeth of York. This marriage was apparently a love match – if it wasn’t, I can’t think why she would have risked losing everything in order to make such a “low” marriage.