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Richard III and Harold II

We all know that Richard is directly descended from William the Conqueror, who is his eleven times great grandfather. Here is Richard’s pedigree to William in three parts – follow the yellow dots left to right. (N.B. the first few generations have the yellow combined with red and blue which lead to other ancestors).

But did you know that he is also directly descended from William’s enemy, Harold Godwinson, also Harold II, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England and Richard’s twelve times great grandfather? This time follow the blue dots.

So, who did he have more in common with?  Looking into this, I found that there are many similarities between Richard and Harold.

Battles and Death

Obviously, both died in battle, valiantly defending their country. In fact, Richard was the last English king to die in battle and the first (and only other) was Harold himself. Richard was the last Plantagenet king and Harold the last Anglo Saxon one.

Both could be impatient and impetuous. Richard charged Henry Tudor to try to end the battle and refused to take a horse and leave the battle. Harold joined battle with William quite hastily. He might have succeeded if he had waited a little while. Also, both men did not attempt to wait for contingents of their armies who were late arriving; Richard’s York men did not reach the battlefield until the battle was over and Harold’s brothers-in-law, the Earls of Mercia and Northumbria had not yet arrived when the battle of Hastings began.

Battle of Bosworth, 1485

Both were hacked to death fighting their enemies, Henry “Tudor” and William of Normandy respectively. Both of these enemies were of bastard stock and both invaded from France. Neither of them had any legal right to the throne of England. And both Henry Tudor and William of Normandy had attempted a previous invasion, only to have been thwarted at that time. The battles of 1066 and 1485 were both pivotal in English history and, arguably, in both cases, England would have been much better off had the defending king prevailed.

Battle of Hastings, 1066

Family

Richard was the youngest son of the Duke of York, with no expectation of becoming king. Many of us believe he took the throne out of duty, not ambition. One of the reasons may have been the fact that Edward V was just a boy of thirteen and no-one wanted a king who was a minor.

Harold, too, was a younger, if not the youngest, son of his family. He never expected to be king either – when he was young, Edward (the Confessor) was on the throne and was expected to have heirs.

Edward the Confessor

As it happens he did not, but there was another claimant, Edgar Ætheling (sometimes known as Edward Ætheling), Edward’s nephew, who was, at the time of the Confessor’s death, aged about thirteen. Sound familiar? The Witenagemot (English assembly of nobleman and clergy, etc) decided that Harold was the better prospect as king to defend the country, since it was known that William of Normandy was also planning to claim the crown. So, both Richard and Harold were elected king, after an Edward had died and by putting aside thirteen-year-old claimants, possibly both also called Edward.

Brothers

Both Richard and Harold had troublesome brothers. Richard had his older brother, George, with whom he had to debate to claim a share of the Neville sisters’ inheritance and whom Edward IV ended up executing for treason.

Harold had Tostig, a younger brother, who rebelled against both Edward the Confessor and Harold himself and ended up siding with Harald Hardråda, a Norwegian claimant to the throne, thus also committing treason. Harold had to take his army up to York to oppose them and won, taking the Norwegians and Tostig by surprise. Tostig was killed in the battle of Stamford Bridge, but this battle was probably one reason for Harold losing at Hastings a few day later. It seems both George and Tostig were ‘problem’ middle children.

Exile

Richard had to twice go into exile with members of his family; with George when he was eight and with Edward when he was eighteen.

Harold accompanied his father, Earl Godwin, into exile in 1051, and helped him to regain his position a year later.

Power

In 1483, Richard, as Duke of Gloucester, was the most powerful noble in the country and the senior adult male heir. He also held many titles such as Constable of England, Admiral of England, Ireland and Aquitaine, Chief Justice of North Wales, Great Chamberlain of England, Steward of the Duchy of Lancaster and Lord Protector.

Richard III

Likewise Harold was, by 1066, the most powerful man in the country after the king. As well as being Earl of East Anglia from a young age, he became Earl of Wessex after the death of his father in 1053 and later Earl of Hereford. In addition, his sister (another Edith!) was Edward the Confessor’s queen.

Harold Godwinson

Health

Richard is known to have suffered with scoliosis, which would have been the source of great challenges for him. Perhaps partly because of this, he was very pious and is known to have founded and built many religious houses and chapels.

Harold was also known to have had an illness of some kind which must have been quite serious, resulting in a form of paralysis. He was apparently cured and founded an Abbey at Waltham, in thanks for his life.

Wives

Richard married Anne Neville and thus helped to secure the North for his brother, Edward IV, since the Nevilles were well-respected there.

Harold had been married more Danico ‘in the Danish fashion’ (i.e. not in a way recognised by Christianity) to Edith Swannesha for many years and had at least six children by her. This may have partly been to gain influence in his new Earldom, when he became Earl of East Anglia, as she had land in the area. He later married another Edith, sister of Edwin, Earl of Mercia and Morcar, Earl of Northumbria, probably in order to ensure their loyalty to him and secure the North, so all these marriages were probably at least partly politically motivated.

In addition, when Richard married Anne she was the widow of Edward of Lancaster, who opposed Richard and the Yorkists at Tewkesbury.

Edith, Harold’s second wife had also been previously married to his opponent, the Welsh king, Gruffydd ap Llywelyn.

Reputations

Both Richard and Harold had previous good reputations. Harold was described by chronicler, Orderic Vitalis, as being:

‘distinguished by his great size and strength of body, his polished manners, his firmness of mind and command of words, by a ready wit and a variety of excellent qualities’.

Richard was of course of no great size but Archibald Whitelaw described him thus:

‘Never has so much spirit or greater virtue reigned in such a small body.’

Warriors

They were also both proven warriors. Richard had been involved in the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury with his brother, Edward, and had also been successful in repelling the Scots and retaking Berwick.

Harold had quelled the Welsh in a series of effective campaigns against Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, and was later victorious at Stamford Bridge.

Battle of Stamford Bridge

Coronation

Richard was crowned on 6th July 1483. Harold was also crowned on 6th, but of January, in 1066, both in Westminster Abbey. It is thought that Harold was the first to be crowned there. Both of them were criticised for being crowned with unseemly haste, although both had good reason, since in both cases the nobles, clerics and others who needed to be present were already there. In Richard’s case, they had assembled for the coronation of Edward V and in, Harold’s, for the funeral of Edward the Confessor.

Harold’s Coronation

Burials

Both men had mysteries surrounding their burials. Richard’s we know about – it had been thought by some that his bones had been dug up and thrown into the River Soar, but they were located successfully in 2012.

After the Battle of Hastings, Harold’s mutilated body was identified by his first wife, Edith Swannesha, through marks known only to her, but his final resting place is unknown.

Edith Swannesha identifies Harold’s body

The traditionally accepted location is Waltham Abbey, but this is disputed. Another candidate is Bosham, because of Harold’s strong association with it as his birthplace, and the discovery in 1954 of an Anglo-Saxon coffin in the church there. Also, it is near the sea and William was said to have wanted him buried near the Channel for his impudence in opposing him.

Left: Harold’s supposed burial at Waltham and right: Church at Bosham

A third, more recent, suggestion is St Michael’s Church, in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire. This theory stems from the fact that the ‘remains’ believed to be Harold’s that were found at Waltham Abbey could not have been human bones as they had turned into dust. It is possible that he could have had a ‘heart burial’ there – common for high status individuals – where their heart was buried at a separate location to the rest of their body.

Harold’s first wife is known to have lived in Bishop’s Stortford and the team behind this theory found four surviving, intact Norman stone coffins in a vault under the church, which have not been examined in modern times. The coffins seem too unusual to be for commoners.

Challenges

After their deaths, both kings had family members who tried to wrest the crown back from the two usurpers, Henry and William. In Richard’s case, these were ‘Lambert Simnel’ and Perkin Warbeck’, probably actually his nephews, Edward and Richard.

Two of Harold’s sons, Godwine and Edmund, invaded England in 1068 and 1069 with the aid of Diarmait mac Máel na mBó (High King of Ireland). We know that Ireland also supported the Lambert Simnel attempt. However, all of these bids for power sadly failed.

Finally…

I recently read the following as a description of a Facebook page in support of king Harold:

Redressing the balance of Norman propaganda against King Harold Godwinson and the Anglo-Saxons, and the blinkered hagiographies for Duke William…

You could substitute Tudor for Norman, Richard III for Harold Godwinson, Yorkists for Anglo-Saxons and The Tudors for Duke William and there we have our own aims. It’s so true that history is written by the victors.

A King under a Post Office?

Edward Balliol was crowned King of Scotland at Scone Palace, today in 1332. He, alongside Edward III, had won the Battle of Dupplin Moor and was able to supplant the eight year-old David II, although he was removed shortly later. He was also at the Battles of Halidon Hill and Neville’s Cross – the first saw him briefly restored and the second saw David II imprisoned but there was no second restoration and Balliol retired to Yorkshire, where he died twenty-one years later.

This article, dating from just nine days after Richard III’s remains were officially identified, speculates on where Balliol, son of a Scots king like his rival, is likely to be buried in or around Doncaster. Just as first a school, then a car park, was built over Richard’s tomb and a car park over that of John Knox, does a post office at Priory Park lay over Balliol? If so, he is barely a mile from Lister Avenue, Balby, made famous by someone else (right).

The alternative venues include Conisbrough Castle, the birthplace of Richard’s paternal grandfather, Doncaster Minster and yet another car park that was once … a Greyfriars!

 

A contemporary of the House of York

James III of Scotland’s reign overlaps the whole of Yorkist rule in England, succeeding on 3rd August 1460, more than seven months before Edward IV’s first coronation, to 11th June 1488. almost three years after Richard III’s death at Bosworth and including Henry VI’s re-adeption. His uninterrupted reign spanned the decisive battles of Mortimer’s Cross and Stoke Field and was to end at the hands of his own countrymen, led by his eldest son, but it could have terminated six years earlier and the future Richard III would have been at or near the scene. He became King of Scotland in his minority, as did his successor, reigned in an era when the later “British Isles” consisted of only two nations (following Alexander III’s victory at Largs in 1263) and was killed a mere four miles from a Scottish triumph at Bannockburn.

James III’s reign began as his father was blown apart at Roxburgh by an exploding cannon and he was crowned at Kelso a week later. By most accounts, although Norman MacDougall disagrees, he was almost nine at the time. His mother was Regent for three years, during which Roxburgh Castle was dismantled and Berwick reconquered, before she too died prematurely, to be succeeded by the Kennedy brothers and then Lord Boyd. James’ 1469 marriage to Margarethe of Denmark was arranged by the Boyds, bringing the Orkneys and Shetland Islands to the Scottish realm and ending payment to Norway. James attained his majority and the Boyd influence continued, although some of their number were executed.

James established good relations with England and contracted his eldest son, James Duke of Rothesay, to Edward IV’s second daughter Cecilia. At the same time, he moved against the (MacDonald) Lord of the Isles and fell out with both his brothers – the Duke of Albany and the Earl of Mar. Mar died in suspicious circumstances and Albany left for France.

Edward IV then launched an invasion under the Duke of Gloucester, accompanied by Lord Howard and Albany. Berwick fell and has been part of England ever since. James sought to resist but was arrested at Lauder Bridge, near Thirlstane Castle, by some Scottish rebels, who hanged some of James’ favourites there and imprisoned him at Edinburgh Castle. The English army had made their point and left for home, taking Albany back into exile, eventually to France, where he died in a duel in August 1485. His son was later regent for James V and fought at Pavia.

James III had re-established his authority by that year, as Richard III and Norfolk died in battle that very month. James executed another Albany supporter, but the end was in sight as Margarethe died in 1486. By spring 1488, his sons were fifteen, twelve and eight. Another revolt evolved and this time the Duke of Rothesay was involved. A battle took place to the west of Stirling and James was either killed during the conflict or in flight. Rothesay succeeded him but this Stewart minority was to be mercifully short.

So Master Porker picked up his bagpipes and let rip….!

taken from the site below

We’re all accustomed to the wonderful gargoyles adorning our churches, abbeys and cathedrals, illuminations on manuscripts and the beautiful carvings on misericords, but sometimes they are truly amusing.

On this occasion the apparently comedial figures are pigs playing the bagpipes. Yes, really. And not only in Scotland, I hasten to point out, because bagpipes are not the sole preserve of that country.

Thank you to the Facebook British Medieval History group for drawing attention to  this site which deals at delightful length with these highly intelligent, astonishingly talented pigs! Do they all derive from a living original? It’s a thought. Perhaps one day there strolled into town a Master Porker, complete with pipes, who proceeded to entertain everyone with his delightful music.

Oh, alright, that’s probably complete fantasy, but someone somewhere associated pigs with bagpipes. And other animals with other strange activities too, of course. But we’ll start with the pigs!

“Braveheart” at Falkirk – a great spectacle?

The Battle of Falkirk was fought on 22 July 1298. The English army, co-commanded by the Earl of Norfolk, defeated the Scots, led by Sir William Wallace, who resigned as Guardian of the Realm shortly afterwards. This setback for Wallace, following victory at Stirling Bridge the previous year, where Sir Andrew Moray was mortally wounded, formed a significant scene in the film Braveheart. Mel Gibson, as Wallace, was accompanied by a few thousand troops in tartan and woad but at least two of them wore glasses.

Now Murrey and Blue have dealt with historical anachronisms before – showing that “Friar Tuck” could not have rebelled during Richard I’s reign because there were no friars in England until 25 years after Richard’s death. Similarly, Victoria was British-born and raised, just like her father and grandfather, and would not have spoken with a German accent.

So what of the evidence here?

i) Roger Bacon, incidentally a friar, wrote about using lenses in 1262 but that doesn’t refer to an actual pair of glasses with frames.
ii) In spring 1306, Giordano da Pisa, yet another friar, preached that “”It is not yet twenty years since there was found the art of making eyeglasses, which make for good vision… And it is so short a time that this new art, never before extant, was discovered. … I saw the one who first discovered and practiced it, and I talked to him”.

So 1286, a mere dozen years before the Battle of Falkirk was the earliest that a pair was constructed.

What really happened in 1385, when the Earl of Stafford’s son and heir was killed on a Yorkshire road…?

from Shutterstock

On Sunday, 16th July 1385 (maybe 18th) there was an incident at Bustardthorpe, which is south of York on the road to Bishopthorpe, where King Richard II was staying at the (arch)bishop’s palace. A large portion of his army and nobles were encamped close by because the English were en route for Scotland, intending to sort out (or try to!) those pesky folk beyond Hadrian’s Wall. The English encampments were spread across the fields south of York.

From Roman du Roy Meliadus de Leonnoys, c. 1360, British Library

 

Bishopthorpe Palace on the Ouse, where Richard II was staying

Richard II’s half-brother, Sir John Holand (aged thirty-three or so, his actual date of birth isn’t known for certain) was camped with his portion of the English forces at a place called Catton, six miles east of York across the Ouse (and across the Derwent) from Bishopthorpe. On 18th July he was responsible for the brutal death of 18-year-old Ralph Stafford, son and heir of the Earl of Stafford (whose actual birthdate isn’t known either). Many call it murder, but it’s always sounded more like manslaughter to me, something done in the heat of a violent quarrel. This notorious incident almost brought the king’s expedition against the Scots to an end before it began.

Old OS Map showing Catton, top right, where John Holand had camped. At mid-left is Bustardthorpe, where Ralph Stafford was killed, and at bottom left is Bishopthorpe, where the king and most of the army was encamped.

According to my research, two of Holand’s men (supposedly his favourite squires) were murdered by two of the Earl of Stafford’s men (or variations of this theme) and maybe a foreign knight was involved as well. Some say the initial murders took place at Beverley Minster, where the earl’s men promptly took sanctuary. What did or didn’t happen at Beverley is really beside the point, because Holand’s knee-jerk reaction—he had a very short fuse—culminated in the sword-thrust that put an end to the earl’s son and heir.

Beverley Minster from Crump’s Timberyard

When Holand learned of his esquires’ murders, he fell into a red rage, and set off to seek vengeance. He took around ten of his men, probably all armed, and he himself was certainly armed, for he had the fateful sword with him. If the murder had been at Beverley, that wasn’t the direction he took. Instead of going south-east, he went west for the area of York, Bustardthorpe and Bishopthorpe on the west/opposite bank of the River Ouse.

Bishopthorpe Palace bottom left, showing flat land on both sides of the Ouse

Maybe he knew that the Earl of Stafford’s camp was close to the king? And maybe, to be fair to him, his initial purpose was to seek redress from his half-brother, King Richard II. He wanted the earl to pay dearly for his men’s misdemeanors. If this was his intention, the audience didn’t cool his fury, which was still raging afterward, when he encountered Ralph at Bustardthorpe.

Whether he went first to the king and was on his way back toward York, or was still on his way to the king from York, halfway along the road, at Bustardthorpe, he apparently didn’t at first recognise Ralph, yet he must have known the young man well. Ralph had been in Richard II’s household since childhood, and had always been around at court. Holand was older, of course, so he’d certainly have witnessed Ralph growing up alongside the king. Maybe the encounter at Bustardthorpe took place in the dark? Maybe there was a mist from the Ouse? Whatever, there was a violent set-to-which must have included an argument of some sort. Maybe Ralph even sneered that Holand’s men had deserved what they got? Whatever, it ended with Holand drawing his sword and running Stafford through.

I doubt very much if either man was in armour or even helmet, so the main illustration above gives a false impression. It’s much more likely that both were dressed a little like this photograph below, of James Purefoy as Mowbray, from the Richard II episode of The Hollow Crown, and therefore the same period as the incident in 1385.

It’s always possible, of course, that the two men didn’t like each other anyway, which would add an extra edge to the confrontation. One wrong word from Ralph would ignite Holand’s already smouldering blue touchpaper, and that would be that. Afterward, when his alarmed men told him who he’d just killed, Holand is reported to have said he’d rather have killed the earl’s firstborn son than any number of the earl’s men, because it was fitting recompense for the loss of his favourite squires. Then, like the Earl of Stafford’s men before him, he too fled for Beverley Minster’s sanctuary, thirty or so miles away to the south-east.

The Killingwoldgraves Cross beside the York road (A1174) Wikimedia Commons

Ralph was buried temporarily at Blackfriars in York, and Richard II attended the funeral. Then Ralph’s remains were removed to King’s Langley Dominican Priory. His father went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem shortly afterward, but died at Rhodes before reaching his destination.

The only thing we can be sure of in this whole sorry affair is that Sir John Holand did indeed kill Ralph, and did indeed haul his guilty hide to Beverley. His actual words in the heat of the moment of killing Ralph can never be known. I have to concede though, that given what I’ve gleaned about Holand’s temperament, it wouldn’t surprise me if the sentiments reported were accurate.

Right then, now you have the bare bones of the matter. The impression is always given that Holand heard what had happened in Beverley, leapt on to his horse, dashed to seek revenge, bumped into Stafford, killed him and that was that. All virtually in the blink of an eye. But his actual route from Catton to Bustardthorpe had to be more involved.

Catton, from Old OS Map

Catton is on the east bank of the Derwent. The nearest bridge—wooden with stone piers—is a mile or so upstream at Stamford Bridge. This was once the tidal reach of the Derwent, and was originally a ford, where Roman roads converged. I understand that the name Stamford originates from “stone-paved ford”.

The 1727 bridge at Stamford Bridge, from Britain Express

But now I’ve discovered that according to the Petworth House Archives “…Catton village stands along a single street roughly parallel with the Derwent. From its northern end a lane runs towards the river and the church. On the other side of the manor-house site Wath Lane formerly led to the river bank where there was once a ford…”

Google aerial view showing Wath Lane leading to the Derwent

So Catton had a ford too! This means that if Holand’s camp was on the Catton village side of the river, he could simply have ridden across the ford and then on toward the Ouse. Or maybe his encampment was already in the meadows to the west. Whatever, we can discount the Derwent as being a hurdle. All he had to do was cross it on horseback, ride like the wind the six miles or so over the flat land to the Ouse. Now, to cross the Ouse by a bridge, he’d have to go to the old stone bridge in York, then south on to the road to Bustardthorpe and Bishopthorpe.

The six-arched masonry bridge of c.1155, as it was in 1564. From https://ffhyork.weebly.com/uploads/8/2/0/5/8205739

Well, it’s perfectly possible that this was the route Holand chose, but it involved two sides of a triangle, whereas the crow flew along only one side. Rivers can be forded (he’d already forded the Derwent) and maybe the Ouse could be too, when the conditions were right, of course. Even the mighty Severn Estuary was once forded by a man who walked chest-high in the water. Completely nuts! But it goes to show that if a large, rather wild estuary, with the second highest tidal reach in the world, can be forded at the right time by a single man, on foot, then surely the Ouse could be too? The weather of 1385 was perhaps helpful in this respect. According to my research, January and February were unusually wet, February to July was unusually warm, and June to July was unusually dry.

The Harvesters, 1565 – Pieter Bruegel the Elder 

One source states quite specifically that the summer of that year was “one of excessive heat from May to 5th September (the Nativity of the Virgin)”. I imagine the heavens must have really opened on 5th September for a note to be made of it!

Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Fall of Princes
taken from https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2014/01/i-cant-stand-the-rain.html

If the summer was indeed warm and dry, it would mean that the Ouse was probably lower than usual too, and perhaps it was known among the locals that the Ouse could be ridden across quite easily in various places in such conditions. I rather think this would appeal to Holand, who was impatient to seek redress. He was hot-tempered and justifiably so in this case. His men had been killed, and he wasn’t about to take it lying down! He was nothing if not loyal to his men and would want to make a beeline to complain to the Earl of Stafford, not a tiresome meander around the countryside.

But I don’t even really know if I have the right Catton, only the nearest one that I can find. Yorkshire isn’t a county I’m well acquainted with (a weekend stay at Leyburn in 1959 is my limit!) I even managed to confuse myself today by muddling this Catton with another one on the banks of the River Swale, further north. A friend has now told me there are Cattons all over the county – well, not all that liberally, of course, but certainly more than just the two I’ve mentioned. Someone else has suggested that Catton might actually be a medieval contraction of Catterton, which is some five miles or so west of Bishopthorpe. Maybe it is.

What would really make my day would be for some long-forgotten Catton to be in the close vicinity of Bishopthorpe and on the same western bank of the Ouse. After all, Bustardthorpe has now virtually disappeared. On Google Maps it’s only detectable by some allotments that bear its name. To see a realy interesting zoomable view of the allotments, go to https://www.flickr.com/photos/davidhopley/26438359595. There used to be a cross at Bustardthorpe, paid for by Holand, saying that it was the place of Stafford’s violent death, but the cross too has gone. (BTW, does anyone know what happened to it? It was once important regarding marking the boundary of Micklegate) The cross is recorded as follows: “…In the early eighteenth century this cross, quaintly described as the ‘Staffherd’ Cross, still helped to mark the boundary of Micklegate Ward. Though the cross has disappeared, it is possible to locate its original site reasonably accurately. From Skaife, ‘Extracts from the House Books of the Corporation of York’, p.  448; Royal Commission, South-West of the Ouse, p. 118…” The Stafford Cross is mentioned in the text.

Bustardthorpe Entry in English Place Name Society vols for the West Riding (Vol 33 p229) 
Showing Bustard Lane marked in red – from https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/yorks/city-of-york/pp311-321

In the aftermath of Ralph’s death, Richard II promised the outraged Earl of Stafford that he’d punish Holand as if he were a common felon, but then time went on a little, Holand returned to court, did penance, paid for a memorial cross at the place of Ralph’s death, endowed a chantry for Ralph’s soul and so on. But he went on to become Earl of Huntingdon, marry John of Gaunt’s daughter, be raised to Duke of Exeter. Then he was reduced to Huntingdon again by his brother-in-law Henry IV, against whom he then took part in the Epiphany Rising of 1399, intending to restore Richard II to the throne. Holand fled when the rebellion failed, was captured on the storm-swept coast of Essex, hauled off to Pleshey Castle and summarily executed, watched by the late Earl of Arundel’s sister and son. Holand had witnessed the late Earl of Arundel’s execution, and had also been present at Pleshey when the king’s uncle, Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, had been arrested (to be done away with shortly afterwards in Calais). So for John Holand it was time to pay the ultimate price.

Pleshey Castle reconstruction

He was a passionate man who led a fiery life, and history condemns him as a violent murderer of little worth, but he was of considerable consequence, and possessed of a fatal charm. One of the top jousters of the day, he could be guaranteed to not only win but provide a theatrical display second to none, and the ladies certainly liked him. He was never boring, and he’s a major character in my wip (which threatens to go on forever, and I’m more than content to let it do so!) I certainly don’t see him in quite the same light as all the historians. Ah, but then I see Richard III in his true light as well.

We all have our favourites, and John Holand, sinner or not, is one of mine.

Joust of Betanzos in 1387 between Reginald de Roye and John Holland, which took place in Spain before John of Gaunt; illustration from Jean Froissart’s Chroniques
From Wiki Commons

Late 1400’s portrayal of a joust between John Holland and Regnault de Roye in 1386-7 Jean Wavrin, Chronique d’ Angleterre; BM, MS Royal 14 Ed. IV, f. 293v.

PS: I wish to thank the many members of the British Medieval History group for their help regarding the Yorkshire locations in this article.

The Central Line Consort?

Kathryn Warner has been Edward II’s main chronicler for a few years now, writing about the King himself, his times, his great-grandson Richard II, several other relatives the roots of the “Wars of the Roses”. This book is about Edward’s daughter-in-law, although he tried a little to prevent his eldest son’s marriage during his own reign and apparent lifespan.

However, Edward III did marry Philippa of Hainault and the marriage lasted for over forty years, during which time they had twelve children. Edward and their sons, particularly their eldest Edward the “Black Prince“, played a full part in victories at Crecy and Neville’s Cross. In a parallel with Richard III and his siblings, a thirteenth child, one “Thomas of Windsor”, has been added by modern writers serving as posthumous surrogate mothers, although not the same writer who gave Richard an elder sister, “Joan”, and added an “Edward” to Mary de Bohun’s sextet of children by the future Henry IV.

This is one of the relative few biographies I have purchased of a royal woman and feels very much like another one in particular. The first chapter, just like Ashdown-Hill’s best tome, explores the subject’s family in great detail but, unlike Eleanor and Paul Johnson’s Elizabeth I, Philippa of Hainault becomes pregnant regularly and has children, their ages are regularly mentioned and she, with Edward, formulates marriage plans for them, not all of which come to fruition.

This is a fascinating book, delineating a veritable matriach. As for our subtitle, peruse the above map. Hainault is on the eastern loop of the Central line, near Newbury Park. Elephant and Castle, on the Northern Line and near the Thames, is reputedly named after Edward II’s mother, although probably in error.

A tale of monarchs and national anthems

Anyone who has watched a Scottish rugby or association football match will be familiar with the Corries’ folk song O Flower of Scotland, which is played before their matches. The second line of the chorus (“Proud Edward’s army”) refers to Edward II, defeated at Bannockburn so that he never actually ruled Scotland although he may have technically been their King by marriage. I have chosen Barbara Dickson’s version.

The Netherlands’ national anthem, the Wilhelminus, is named after William the Silent, a Protestant monarch assassinated in 1584 during an ongoing independence war against the Spanish forces. Paradoxically, perhaps, it is sung lustily among a sea of orange flags at football internationals.

Can you think of any other monarchs mentioned in anthems?

How would Thetford Priory have looked?

(see here for more about Robert II)

Mid Anglia Group, Richard III Society

Thetford Priory was, of course, a Cluniac Priory. Whilst some walls stand away from the entrance, in other areas only the foundations remain and the Mowbray tomb locations are no longer marked, although those of the Howards, moved to Framlingham, remain.

If only, I hear you say, some kind of restoration could take place. That would be extremely expensive but there is a comparable building, although it suffered less dilapidation in the first place. Paisley Abbey was also a Cluniac priory and constructed in the twelfth century, although it had to be rebuilt in 1307 after an Edward I visit. Just nine years after that, on March 2nd, Marjorie Bruce, the king’s daughter married to Walter the Steward, fell off her horse nearby, whilst heavily pregnant. Although she died, her son was born alive and survived to 74, eventually succeeding his uncle as Robert II, the first Stewart King and…

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Plus ca change …

Here is an Evening Standard article about Clauvino da Silva (left), a Brazillian gang leader who tried to escape from prison disguised as his own daughter, but his “feminine walk” was unconvincing and he didn’t leave the prison. He seems to have hanged himself the following day.

Things turned out differently for William Maxwell, the 5th Earl of Nithsdale, who proclaimed James “VIII/III” at Dumfries and Jedburgh but was captured at the Battle of Preston in 1715 and sentenced to death by beheading, to be carried out on 24 February. With the help of his weeping Countess, he escaped from the Tower disguised as her equally lachrymose maid, the day before his execution had been set. Both lived on in Rome, he until 1744 and she until 1749.

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