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The Castle of Leicester and St Mary De Castro

Leicester Castle

leics castle

Leicester Castle as it appeared in 1483

 

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The Castle gardens

Since 2015 going to Leicester is the equivalent of going to visit the tomb of the last Plantagenet King who died in battle: Richard III. Everything there speaks of him from the Visitor Centre named after him, to The Last Plantagenet Pub not to mention attractions and shops that display his portrait or sell items with the name of the king. Of course, the Medieval Cathedral where the warrior king was buried in 2015 is the most visited place in Leicester but if you go there, don’t forget to pay a visit to the remains of Leicester’s Castle and its church St Mary De Castro. It is difficult today to imagine how the Castle could be at the time of Richard III but it is still there indeed even in a different shape. 

IMG_2840The Castle was probably built immediately after the Norman Conquest so around 1070. The Governor  at that time was Hugh de Grantmensil one of the companions of William the Conqueror. The Castle was the favourite residence of John of Gaunt, first Duke of Lancaster and the fourth son of Edward III. From the north end of the hall, it was possible to access the lord’s private apartments whilst from the south end there was access to a kitchen above an undercoft called John of Gaunt’s cellar where beverage and food were stored. Some people erroneously think it was a dungeon. 

The castle today looks totally different. What remains are the Castle’s Mound (Motte) located between Castle View and Castle Gardens. The Motte was originally 30-40 feet Prince Rupehigh topped with a timber tower. Unfortunately no buildings survived  and the motte was lowered in Victorian times to form a bowling green.

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The Castle House

The Great Hall is the oldest surviving aisled and bay divided timber hall in Britain. Even though the exterior is Victorian, the building still retains some of its original 12th century timber posts. The criminal court in the castle’s Great Hall was the scene of Leicester’s “Green Bicycle Murder” trial 1919 so exactly 100 years ago.

Other things are still visible of the ancient castle. The wall, the remains of the castle especially the Turret Gateway also known as Prince Rupert’s Gateway, the Castle Gardens (once used for public executions) the Castle House and the stunning church of St Mary De Castro.

St Mary De Castro

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St Mary De Castro

Close where the Castle stood, there is an ancient church called St Mary De Castro. It is a very special place especially for Ricardians. In this church Geoffrey Chaucer married her second wife, Philippa de Roet and 44 people were knighted in just one day among them Henry VI and Richard Plantagenet Duke of York, Richard III’s father. He was just 15 years old. However, the most famous event to be remembered today is that it is said that Richard III worshipped there before leaving for Bosworth and prepared himself for his last battle.

St Mary De Castro means St Mary of the Castle. It was built in 1107 after Henry I gave the

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The Chapel in St Mary De Castro ground to Robert de Beaumont 1st Earl of Leicester. It was the chapel of the castle and a place of worship within the bailey of the castle. It is assumed but there is no proof of evidence, that Ethelfleda, daughter of King Alfred the Great, had founded a church on the very spot where today is St Mary. It also seems that there was a college of priests called the College of St Mary De Castro founded before the Norman Conquest.

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The tower of St Mary was built not beside the church but inside of it so visitors can see 3 sides of it while still in church. The medieval spire, rebuilt in 1783 was declared dangerous in 2013. Following the unsuccessful attempt to raise money to save it, it was demolished in 2014. The church’s structure is quite odd because in ancient times there were two churches. One was the mentioned chapel of the castle, the other a church for common people. This explains why there are two sedilias and two piscinas both from medieval times.

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Henry VI and Richard III

Curiosities

It is said that King Richard III’s mistreated body was brought to this church to be washed before being displayed for the world to see he was actually dead. Considering the evident haste he was buried in and the lack of respect showed by the Tudors, it is unlikely this ever happened.

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The Nave of the Church

Philippa de Roet, Chaucer’s wife, was the lady-in-waiting of Philippa of Hainault one of Richard III’s ancestors.

In this church Edward of Lancaster and John of Lancaster are buried. Both died in infancy.

 

 

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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.

Murder and mayhem in medieval London…

IMG_5516.jpgHere is a link to an interesting map and article on the murder hotspots of medieval London.  Click on a dot and details pop up of that particular murder.

Most of the culprits either just simply disappeared pronto or skedaddled into sanctuary and  frustratingly the outcomes are not shown.  The vast majority of the victims were male,  sadly one a small  child,  John de Burgh, aged 5 years old who died after being ‘cuffed’ after he stole a small amount of wool which he had hidden under his hat.    One of the more audacious was the murder of the gatekeeper of Newgate Gaol, Nicholas at Mill, who was stabbed to death by two men who broke into Newgate to do so.

Its seems you were quite vulnerable if you were a clerk in holy orders, several of them being bumped off.  Although priests seemed to be susceptible to ending up as murder victims  they could actually give as good as they got with one priest, Alan de Hacford murdering Walter de Anne, the man he shared his lover, Alice de York with,  after finding Walter and Alice sitting together.  For reasons unknown Alice aided and abetted Alan, the pair of them fleeing afterwards.

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Loud music then as now could lead to altercations with fatal results.   In May 1324, Thomas Somer,  a minstrel.   incensed Thomas of Lynn, by playing outside his home after dusk.  The householder Thomas chased Somer intending to bash him with a door-bar.  After Thomas caught Somer and struck him, the musician pulled out a knife and fatally injured Thomas.

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In this picture its the turn of musician to get it…

A few of the culprits were female including a fishmonger stabbed to death by his mistress.  Surprisingly she didn’t batter him to death  with a piece of cod!… joking.. .. while another woman, a prostitute by the name of Agnes ‘Houdy Doudy’ killed another woman, Lucy,  the pregnant wife of Richard de Barstaple, by ‘striking her on the belly with fists and knees’.  Yet another woman, a beggar known as Nicola from Cardiff,  drowned her 3 month old baby,  Alice,  while ‘surreptitiously pretending to wash the child’ in a ditch.

Reasons for people getting murdered varied quite a bit from a suicidal man, John Pentyn,  bashing his would be rescuer over the head  with an iron stave to Roger Styward,  who as a result of throwing eel skins in the street,  received a fatal kicking.  Servants died protecting their masters belongings.  A violent altercation about a horse led to a murder while a planned gang rape ended in complete and utter mayhem.

Royalty was not exempt from the fallout of murder – John Gremet a groom of the kitchen of Queen Philippa – was murdered by another royal servant, Peter Tremenel.

A total of 142 murders are detailed sourced from the Coroners’ Rolls and credit and thanks to Prof Eisner at the Institute of Criminonology, University of Cambridge.   Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Edward III, Sir John Kyriel and the French invasion that didn’t happen. . .

 

 

Edward III drawing

Edward III was a great king. No doubt about that. And a forceful leader who knew his mind. The same went for his son, who has gone down in history as the Black Prince. So it came as a surprise to me when, on glancing through my new copy of The Black Prince by Michael Jones, I came upon a little story that reveals Edward III to have not always known his mind when it came to “Should I go over to Calais in person to show the French I mean business?”

It was in the summer of 1369, there was a fear of French invasion, and Edward was still in mid-debate with himself about how to react, when his beloved queen, Philippa of Hainault, died. Her death on 15th August finally decided him not to go, and perhaps her failing condition affected Edward’s clarity of mind, because immediately before she passed away, at least one of his captains kept getting conflicting messages from him.

The following is paraphrased from the book:-

On 7th August, Kent-based Sir John Kyriel received a letter from Edward, telling him the king planned to cross the Channel, and instructing him to join the army in two weeks’ time. Edward wrote that he had decided to respond personally to the French threat “which greatly affects our dignity”.

pointing knight - 3

 

Then, on 13th August, when Kyriel would have been busy preparing his men and so on, another letter arrived from the king, countermanding the first letter because the king “had now learned for certain that the enemy intended to invade”.

pointing knight - 4

 

So Kyriel stood down, as the saying goes. At least, he began to, because the very next day, 14th August, no fewer than two royal letters plopped through his letterbox. In the morning, the first said that Edward had decided to cross the Channel after all, but wouldn’t assemble his army until the beginning of September.

royal letter

Kyriel was told to aim for that date. But in the afternoon, another one came with completely different instructions. Kyriel was ordered to proceed to Sandwich immediately because enemy galleys were planning an attack there.

Off to war

The bemused Kyriel was galvanised into action, and headed off to Sandwich without delay. Not a French ship was in sight when he got there.

14508932-confused-knights

On 15th August, the day of the queen’s death, poor Kyriel received his fifth royal letter in eleven days. Edward now wanted him to cross the Channel at once, because battle with the French was expected the following week. Kyriel did as he was told, but no such clash materialized when he got to Calais. The French had retreated, and in the process had left behind large supplies of wine and beer. So Sir John Kyriel and his men had at least some compensation.

Kyriel celebrating

 

 

 

The 10 greatest medieval royal romances? Some, maybe….

John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster

John of Gaunt and Blanche of Lancaster

Well, my opinion only, of course, but where are John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford/de Roët? I don’t believe his first wife, Blanche, was his greatest love. That honour went to Katherine, for love of whom he went to extraordinary lengths, enduring scandal and opprobrium, but eventually making her his third duchess. And managing to legitimize his Beaufort children by her.

As for Edward II and Piers Gaveston. No, they don’t warrant inclusion, I’m afraid. Not because it was gay, but because it became dangerously spiteful, petty, posturing and not a little ridiculous. It ultimately destroyed all concerned. Then Edward II showed even less judgement by moving on to the dreadful Despensers. There was nothing great or romantic about his conduct in allowing his favourites such enormous power. I find his reign fascinating, but always want to shake him until his royal teeth rattle.

Edward II and Piers Gaveston

Edward with Gaveston

Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn? Hmm. That gross man always thought with his codpiece, not his heart. The same goes for his maternal grandfather, Edward IV, the contents of whose codpiece appear to be overactive in the extreme.

Katherine of Valois and Owen Tudor? I have grave misgivings about this one. I believe she was more interested in Edmund Beaufort, 4th Earl of Somerset, and that when she became pregnant and he wouldn’t/couldn’t marry her, lowly Owen Tudor was hastily drummed up to “do the honours” of claiming to be the unborn child’s father. Maybe Owen already had a good and understanding relationship with Katherine? This might have made him acceptable to her in her hour of need. I may be wildly wrong about this, of course, but (once again) it’s my opinion.

Edward III and Philippa of Hainault? Yes. The Black Prince and Joan of Kent? Yes. Richard, Duke of York, and Cecily Neville? Yes. Mary Tudor and Charles Brandon? Yes. Edward I and Eleanor of Castile? Yes.

Who else is missing, apart from Katherine Swynford? Well, Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. Theirs was another political royal match, but they fell deeply in love. He was utterly distraught when she died suddenly.

Richard III and Anne Neville

Richard III and Anne Neville

Richard III and Anne Neville? George of Clarence and Isabel Neville? I think both couples are strong contenders. Whatever else may be said, about the brothers only wanting the Warwick inheritance, and so on, it seems to be an irrefutable fact that the Neville sisters won their York husbands’ hearts. Maybe it can be argued that their father’s inheritance was a great big carrot to both men, but the fondness/love that eventually came into being was real enough. Both men were heartbroken by their wives’ deaths, and George could not cope with Isabel’s loss. Richard, perhaps stronger emotionally, was equally as broken, but did not fall apart as George had done. Am I misjudging these marriages as well? No. I stick to my opinion!

No doubt, you will stick to yours too!

https://e-royalty.com/articles/the-ten-great-medieval-royal-romances/

 

 

A tale of John of Gaunt and two sisters….

Chaucer_BellScott - reading to Philippa and Katherine with Gaunt

The above painting by William Bell Scott depicts Chaucer reading to an aging John of Gaunt. The ladies are the two men’s wives, Philippa and Katherine, born de Roët.

Everyone knows that John of Gaunt (1340-1399) had three wives, the last of whom was Katherine Swynford (nee de Roët, 1350-1403), who had been his children’s governess. She then became his mistress (during his second marriage to Costanza of Castile) and finally, in 1396, his third duchess. The last move, was very unpopular at the time, for it was felt Gaunt, a king’s son, had demeaned himself by marrying well below his station…and that she had reached up well above hers.

John of Gaunt

Katherine, married at twelve to a Lincolnshire knight, Sir Hugh Swynford, had a sister, Philippa (c. 1346–c. 1387) who was a damoiselle of the queen, and who by the end of 1366 had been married to Geoffrey Chaucer. Yes, the Geoffrey Chaucer, who was a very close friend of John of Gaunt. Was the Chaucer marriage a love match? After all, at the time he was a mere squire, whereas she was relatively highborn, the daughter of a prominent Hainault family of rich landowners, or so I understand the de Roët sisters’ background to be. The Chaucer union is subject to a lot of speculation.

Let us go back before 1366, before Philippa became Geoffrey’s bride. John of Gaunt is renowned for his interesting private life, as described above, and seems to have been a Plantagenet charmer par excellence. By inheriting the huge wealth and status of the Duchy of Lancaster (through his first wife, Blanche) he was the richest, most influential man in England, especially when his father, Edward III, began to descend into senility. Gaunt had an eye for a beautiful woman, and the suggestion is that the de Roët sisters were both beautiful. I don’t know if they warranted the description, but I doubt very much that they were plain, stodgy dumplings. Men like Gaunt are not drawn to the nondescript.

So, Katherine Swynford was governess to his daughters. At this time her sister Philippa was unmarried, and also the queen’s lady. The queen, another Philippa, was from Hainault too, so I imagine this was a very good reason to have Philippa de Roët close to her. And then there was John of Gaunt, master seducer. The suspicion is that his eye fell upon Philippa first. It wasn’t the done thing to deflower unmarried ladies, and maybe this precluded such an affair in his eyes, except that there are suspicious signs that he broke the rule.

John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford

He was not a dishonourable man, and took his responsibilities seriously. Dates fit for him to have bedded Philippa and got her in the family way. In September 1366, before leaving for a campaign in Spain, Gaunt granted Philippa a lifetime annuity. It was very generous, and surely he had no reason for doing such a thing. Some present-day thinking is that Gaunt protected her by paying his good friend Chaucer a great deal to marry her. She was to give birth to a daughter, Elizabeth, the appropriate number of months later. Elizabeth would become a nun and enter the prestigious royal Abbey of Barking.

BarkingAbbey-1500- royal abbey

For the rest of his life, Gaunt was especially kind to Elizabeth, who might well have been his daughter. His particular favour to her suggests he knew she was. There were also more gifts, opportunities and annuities to the Chaucers.

Was Gaunt Katherine Swynford’s lover at the same time he was bedding Philippa? That we’ll never know, just as we will never know the truth about his dealings with the latter. All those gifts and favours are suspicious though. Why would Gaunt bestow such bounty upon Philippa? Why continue to be so concerned about her? She was by then a married women. Did the affair continue after she became Chaucer’s wife? Was Chaucer a complacent husband, paid well enough to say nothing and just let his wife get on with it?

Chaucer

Or, as some of you will no doubt tell me, Gaunt did no such thing. The Chaucer marriage was a love match and Gaunt was merely a generous lord. Possibly. Possibly, too, Elizabeth Chaucer was of royal blood.

 

 

Beads of gold with buckles….?

thomas-beauchamp-11th-earl-of-warwick

Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, KG, from the Bruges Garter Book, 1430/1440, BL Stowe 594.

This started out as my first crie de coeur of 2017, and things did not bode well from the outset because I muddled my Thomas Beauchamps. Father and son, both Earls of Warwick, but it turns out to be the father I must refer to, not the son. As I now know thanks to the kind help of Susan Troxell.

Thomas Beauchamp, 11th Earl of Warwick is perhaps most famous to the layman because of his portrait as a Knight of the Garter. It is not a true likeness, of course, because this renowned sequence of drawings dates from the 15th century. His real appearance is a mystery, but we do know he was very close to King Edward III, and served loyally during the Hundred Years War.

My quest concerning him arose because I was puzzled by a passage on page 1 of Goodman’s The Loyal Conspiracy: The Lords Appellant under Richard II:-

“…In 1369 Earl Thomas bequeathed ‘an ouche [clasp/brooch], called the eagle, which the Prince [Black Prince] gave me…” and then “…a set of beads of gold with buckles which the Queen [Philippa] gave me…”

The eagle clasp/brooch I can picture, but not the set of beads of gold with buckles. I sought help from my friends on Facebook, and among the many who replied (thank you to them all) was Susan, who (with her husband) not only realized I was chasing the wrong earl (that’s me all over, I just can’t leave earls alone!) but was of the opinion that the buckles would be the gold filigree around each bead, fastening it to the next.

The crux of it is, of course, what the beads actually were. Rosaries are referred to as beads, and the wills of both Thomas Beauchamps mention “rosaries with buckles”, the son being more specific with “a pair of paternosters of coral, with buckles of gold”. Might this be the answer?

Erik Michaelson has very kindly sent me Lambeth Palace Archive links to the wills of both Beauchamps:-

http://archives.lambethpalacelibrary.org.uk/CalmView/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=V%2FA%2F6Whittlesey%2F110

http://archives.lambethpalacelibrary.org.uk/CalmView/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=V%2FA%2F9Arundel1%2F179a

Maybe someone can read them? I cannot, I fear, but if the translation is at the heart of the matter, it might be very interesting to find out what, exactly, their wills specified.

Over to you, ladies and gentlemen…

 

More of Richard’s ancestors

Although they are regarded as loose ends, the last Anglo-Saxon and last Norman kings of England are both Richard’s ancestors, via Edward III’s marriage.

This document demonstrates Phillippa of Hainault’s descent from Harold II, via Kiev and Hungary, and Stephen, via the Low Countries. There seems to be little news from Faversham Abbey, where Stephen was originally buried.

{Additional research by Ky White}

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