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The Greatest Knight and Richard III

I have previously posted about my family history connections with Richard III here and I have since found out more interesting links.

One such is William Marshall. Called by some the greatest ever knight, he is one of my direct ancestors and also the direct ancestor of Richard III.

William had an eventful life. He was born in 1146 or 1147 and, as a young boy, he was used as a hostage by King Stephen when William’s father, who was supporting Matilda against Stephen, was besieged by the king in Newbury Castle. William’s father, John, when told that William would be hanged if he didn’t surrender, was reported to have said: “I still have the hammer and the anvil with which to forge still more and better sons!” The King made as if he was going to fire the young William at the castle from a pierrière (a type of trebuchet), but could not bring himself to harm the boy and he survived.

Photo of a Pierrière

Pierrière

Later, he was sent to Normandy to learn the business of becoming a knight, to be brought up in the household of William de Tancarville, a great magnate and cousin of young William’s mother. He was knighted on campaign in Normandy in 1166 and the next year was taken to his first tournament where he found his true calling. In 1168 he was injured in a skirmish and captured, but one of his captors aided him by smuggling  clean bandages (for the wound in his thigh) to him inside a loaf of bread, which may have saved his life. He was ransomed by Eleanor of Aquitaine, remaining a member of her household for the next two years.

A supporter of Young King Henry, son of Henry II, he travelled with him to Europe where they participated in knightly tournaments. From 1176 to 1182 both Marshall and the Young King gained prestige from winning tournaments. These were dangerous, often deadly, staged battles in which money and prizes could be won by capturing and ransoming opponents, their horses and armour. Marshall became a legendary champion in the lists: while on his deathbed, he claimed he had beaten five hundred knights during his tournament career.

Picture of mediaeval jousting

When the Young King died on 11th June 1183, he asked Marshall to fulfill the vow he (the Young King) had made the year before, to go on a crusade to the Holy Land, which William did, returning two years later and vowing to join the Knights Templar on his deathbed.

He rejoined the court of Henry II and aided him when Henry’s son, Richard, rebelled against him. Marshall unhorsed Richard in a skirmish and killed his horse to demonstrate that he could have killed the man. He was said to have been the only one ever to have unhorsed Richard, later to become Richard I, the Lionheart. Richard nevertheless welcomed Marshall to his court, after he became king, knowing his legendary loyalty and military prowess would be useful to him.

Richard fulfilled his father’s promise to Marshall of the hand in marriage and estates of Isabel de Clare and the marriage happened in August 1189, when William was 43 and Isabel just 17. He acquired great wealth and land from the marriage, including the castle of Pembroke, becoming one of the richest men in England. He also became the Earl of Pembroke eventually and the couple had five sons and five daughters.

Marshall was part of the council of regency for Richard while the king was on crusade and later supported King John although there were many fallings out over the years. However, he remained loyal to him despite their differences and was one of the few English earls to remian loyal to John during the first Barons’ War. King John trusted him to ensure the succession of his son, Henry III, and it was Marshall who was responsible for the kings’ funeral and burial at Worcester Cathedral. He was named as protector of the young king Henry III, who was aged nine, and acted as regent for him. He was now about seventy but he still fought for the young king at the head of his army and defeated Prince Louis and the rebel barons at the Battle of Lincoln.

When he realised his health was failing and he was dying in 1219, he called a meeting and appointed the Papal Legate, Pandulf Verraccio, as regent. In fulfillment of his vow, he was invested into the order of the Knights Templar on his deathbed and is buried in the Temple Church in London, where his tomb can still be seen.

Photo of the tomb of William MarshallTomb of William Marshall

During his life he served under five kings and lived a rich and full life. He founded Cartmel Priory and there is a memorial to him there:

Memorial in Cartmel Priory

Through his daughter, Isabel, William is ancestor to both the Bruce and Stewart kings of Scotland. Through his granddaughter Maud de Braose, daughter of his daughter, Eve, William is ancestor to the last Plantagenet kings, Edward IV through Richard III, and all English monarchs from Henry VIII right up to the present day queen. Actually, William is also the ancestor of Richard et al through another, older, daughter, Maud. See the family trees below. I have marked all the descendants of William Marshall with a green dot – you can see that Richard FitzAlan, the father of Lady Alice FitzAlan, was descended from Marshall on both sides.

Family tree of Richard

Family tree of Richard 2

Richard family tree 3

I wonder whether Richard inherited some of his heroic qualities from his illustrious ancestor – what do you think? And do you notice some other things they had in common?

 

 

Picture credits:

Pierrière by Jean-noël Lafargue (Jean-no) (Self-photographed) [FAL], via Wikimedia Commons

Jousting [Copyrighted free use], via Wikimedia Commons

Tomb of William Marshall by Richard Gough (Sepulchral Monuments in Great Britain. Vol 1.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Sign at Pembroke Castle by Andrewrabbott (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Richard is at Sudeley again soon….

Richard's at Sudeley soon

A weekend of Richard-themed festivities will soon be taking place at Sudeley again, from Saturday, August 20 to Sunday, August 21.

http://tinyurl.com/je35gag

England versus Scotland, mediaeval style (did Richard encounter any of this sort of thing?)….

1390 joust on London Bridge

Throughout history, relations between England and Scotland have been somewhat rocky, and this was evident in the ‘noble’ sport of jousting. They had countless very strict rules, and chivalry was supposedly uppermost in every knightly mind, but it all went by the board when the armour was on and the lists awaited. And in pavilions while resting!

At Haddington in 1242, after a tournament between the English and Scots, Walter Biset murdered Patrick, Earl of Atholl as he slept. The reason? Atholl had unhorsed him during the fighting. During a melée, perhaps, for that form of the sport was very popular then. One wonders if Biset would have resorted to the same extreme had the offender been another Englishman. Perhaps, but being unhorsed by a Scot was probably too much of a dent on his vanity.

Almost constant warfare between England, Scotland and France gradually gave rise to a new variation of the knightly sport, border feats of arms called ‘hostile combat’ or ‘jousts of war’. War wasn’t going to come between these men and their passion. Jousts of war were first fought between English and Scottish knights at the sieges of Cupar, Perth and Alnwick Castle. At Alnwick the occasions were described as ‘great jousts of war on agreed terms’. One is rather reminded of that famous Christmastide football match between British and German troops during World War I, which, incidentally, has been described as a melée!

In 1341 Henry, Earl of Derby, a noted tourneyer, held two important border combats. At Roxburgh he and three companions jousted à l’outrance (combat fought under war conditions with the normal weapons of war, fought under personal or national enmity and usually resulting in death or serious injury). Their opponents were William Douglas and three Scottish companions. Douglas was mortally wounded.

The next border combat was a larger affair at Berwick, when twenty English knights challenged twenty Scottish knights to three days of jousting à l’outrance. It resulted in three deaths and many casualties, including the Englishman Richard Talbot, who would have been killed had he not been wearing protective armour, contrary to the agreed terms of the combat. Naughty Talbot, but what a stroke of good fate for him! Strangely, at the end of the occasion, the heralds awarded prizes to the best performance on each side!

The successful conclusion of the Scottish campaign provided the excuse for a series of elaborate jousting festivals, held under the king’s (Edward III) aegis, culminating in 1342 when a fifteen-day long festival was held in London, which was proclaimed throughout Europe and attracted many foreign knights.

Well, England and Scotland being England and Scotland, it wasn’t all that long before hostilities broke out again, and after 1386 there were many applications to the king for licences to perform ‘feats of arms’ against various named and unnamed Scottish knights. There were many border combats as a result, culminating in perhaps the most famous encounter of all, held in 1390 on London Bridge itself. Four Scots, led by David Lindsay, fought single combats against four Englishmen, first with lances of war and then on foot with daggers. The Scots were triumphant, and were awarded with costly gifts by the king, Richard II. Three years later, in 1393, the combat was repeated, and this time the English carried the day. Honour was satisfied.

For an anecdote about this famous duel, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Lindsay,_1st_Earl_of_Crawford

If the link doesn’t work, just Google Lindsay-Welles-London Bridge-1390.

Maybe the duels on London Bridge were sorted to mutual satisfaction, a draw 1-1, but it didn’t stop England and Scotland from viewing each other with mistrust. Ask Richard III who (as Duke of Gloucester) was still taking on the Scots in 1482, when he recaptured Berwick. Then he entered Edinburgh and eventually a truce was agreed. Now, whether that resulted in any jousts I do not know, but knights being knights, I hazard a guess that there were a few. . . .

Most of the above information has been taken from Tournaments – Jousts, chivalry and pageants in the Middle Ages by Richard Barber and Juliet Barker. The illustration is from skyscrapercity.com.

There is an interesting site by the Heraldry Society of Scotland at http://www.heraldry-scotland.co.uk/joust.html

A puzzle from the reign of the Richard before ours…

knightly-duel-15717674

Here is a writer’s dilemma, concerning an incident from the reign of Richard II. So, not our Richard, but the one before him.

At Christmas 1389, which the court celebrated at Woodstock, there was a tournament. Or at least, jousting. One of those taking part was 17-year-old John Hastings, 3rd Earl of Pembroke. He was very popular, and was married to Philippa Mortimer, sister of Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March. She was just a month past her fourteenth birthday.

Tragedy ruined those Christmas festivities when John Hastings was killed by an opponent’s lance that slipped and pierced his groin. It was a horrible way to die, and the shocked court mourned his loss. How Philippa felt we will never know.

Right, all is clear so far, but what is not so clear is the name of the man who wielded that fateful lance. He has been identified as Sir John Des . . . but also as Sir John St John of Paulerspury, Northamptonshire and Fonmon, Glamorgan. Which one was it?

Here is information about Sir John St John: http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/…/st-john-sir-john…

And this is Sir John Des: https://faculty.nipissingu.ca/muhlberger/…/texts/histvit.htm

There are other links, of course, but I have only given one for each man. And it has to be said that Sir John St John seems to have had a pardon for the crime, but that still leaves the mysterious Sir John Des, of whose existence I have found nothing at all, except in connection with the Earl of Pembroke’s demise. That is, of course, on the understanding that Des was a stand-alone name, and wasn’t just a part of one, e.g. Sir John des Barres. Does anyone know anything about him?

And is there an absolutely incontrovertible source that proves, once and for all, which of the two gentleman it was? My instinct is with Sir John St John, but . . . .

PS: Another writer’s dilemma . . . .all those Johns!

 

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