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Recently it hit the news that the  key to Lumley Castle’s ancient banqueting hall had been returned after it was stolen during an event 40 years ago. Lumley Castle is currently a hotel (so another one to add to the list of interesting castles you can stay in!) and the family who lived there had some interesting connections to various personages  during the Wars of the Roses.

The castle, which stands at Chester-le-Street, not far from Durham, was built in 1389 by Sir Ralph Lumley, replacing an earlier manor house. Unfortunately Ralph got involved in a plot to topple Henry IV and ended up on the block, leaving his widow Eleanor Neville, a daughter of Lord Neville of Raby Castle, in an almost destitute position. The castle was handed over to the Earl of Somerset, although Ralph’s son John was permitted to live in it. In 1421, however, when John died fighting for Henry V in France, the castle was granted back to Ralph’s grandson, John’s son Thomas.

Thomas Lumley was a Yorkist, and was at the seige of Bamburgh castle in 1464, when Warwick blased the walls with cannonfire, making it the first English castle to fall to gunfire.

His son, George,  became an MP and Sheriff of Northumberland. He served Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and was one of his commanders when he took the town of Berwick-on-Tweed back for England. Richard knighted him, along with many other notables, in the Scottish Campaign. He also fought for Richard at Bosworth and survived.

George managed to make the transition to the new regime and accompanied Henry VII on his first progress in the north.  He also once accompanied the Princess Margaret Tudor to Scotland. He seems to have been a feisty sort and slew his own wife’s bastard brother, Giles Thornton, in a duel in a ditch at Windsor Castle.

It is said that George’s son, Thomas, who predeceased his father, married an illegitimate daughter of Edward IV , “Elizabeth”, supposedly the daughter of Elizabeth Wayte, but this is a matter of debate.


the lost key of Lumley Castle




More Royal marital irregularity

Edward IV was not the only British late mediaeval king to play fast and loose with canon law. The other case dates from a century and a quarter before 8 June 1461 and had consequences for that king’s heirs; in particular his grandson:

Today in 1337, a first son, John, was born to Sir Robert Stewart, the Paisley-born High Steward of Scotland, and Elizabeth Mure at Scone. Sir Robert was heir presumptive to his uncle, David II, but David was eight years younger and widely expected to have children of his own. He was, indeed, to marry twice but failed to leave any heirs – although being imprisoned in the Tower for eleven years after the 1346 battle of Neville’s Cross didn’t help much, Sir Robert couldn’t have predicted this in 1336, when he undertook a marriage of sorts to Elizabeth Mure.

In the aftermath of Neville’s Cross, as Guardian of the Realm to his absent uncle, Sir Robert and Elizabeth sought to regularise their position under canon law through a dispensation and married properly in 1349. By this time, many of their four sons and six daughters had already been born and they were, arguably, legitimised by the marriage, which ended six years later when Elizabeth, now formally Lady Stewart, died. Sir Robert swiftly married Euphemia Ross, by whom he had two more sons and two daughters and is reckoned to have had eight illegitimate children as well. Jean Stewart, a daughter from his first marriage, married Sir John Lyon of Glamis, from whom the late Queen Mother was descended.

Shortly after this second marriage, David II was ransomed under the Treaty of Berwick, which was a Scottish town until Richard of Gloucester’s 1482 invasion. Joan “of the Tower”, his first wife and Edward III’s sister, died in 1362 and David married Margaret Drummond in 1364, whom he “divorced” in 1370 although this was reversed by the Pope. Although they had been on bad terms, David II died in 1371 and Sir Robert succeeded him as Robert II, to reign for nineteen years.

John, the eldest of his fourteen children, was created Earl of Carrick and was influential during his father’s reign and succeeded him as Robert III in 1390, to be crowned on his birthday. His reign was largely dominated by his brothers, Robert Duke of Albany and Alexander Earl of Buchan. His elder son, David Duke of Rothesay, died in 1402 in Albany’s custody at Falkland Palace. In 1406 he sent his younger son, James, to France only for English pirates to capture him.

Robert III died when he heard this and the new prisoner in the Tower succeeded as James I. He was held there for about seventeen years and returned with Joan “Beaufort”, Henry V’s apparent cousin, as his queen. Albany’s son and successor, Murdoch, two of his sons and his father-in-law were executed for delaying James’ release and the Lancastrian policy of religious persecution was adopted.

From 1436, a plan to depose or kill James was formulated and it involved Walter, Earl of Atholl and Caithness, a septuagenarian son of Robert II’s Ross marriage. It seems highly likely that he was motivated by a disbelief in the validity of the Mure marriage and thus the legitimacy of the offspring of it. The “Avignon” conspirators killed James I at the Blackfriars in Perth during February 1436/7 but his son was crowned and the House of Stewart survived. The surviving Robert_II_of_Scotland Robert_III,_King_of_Scotlandplotters, including Atholl, were tortured and executed.

So were John of Carrick, his siblings and descendants legitimate? It seems never to have been determined by the Church except through the 1347 dispensation. Carrick’s line has ruled Scotland ever since and England from 1603, except for the interregnum whilst Henry VII, a scion of bastardy himself, married his daughter Margaret to the senior Mure-Stewart: James IV.

That petition:
“The kings of France and Scotland, bishops William of St. Andrews, William of Glasgow, William of Aberdeen, Richard of Dunkeld, Martin of Argyle, Adam of Brechin, and Maurice of Dunblane. Signification that although Elizabeth Mor and Isabella Boutellier, noble damsels of the diocese of Glasgow, are related in the third and fourth degrees of kindred, Robert Steward of Scotland, lord of Stragrifis, in the diocese of Glasgow, the king’s nephew, carnally knew first Isabella, and afterwards, in ignorance of their kindred, Elizabeth, who was herself related to Robert in the fourth degree of kindred, living with her for some time and having many children of both sexes by her; the above king and bishops therefore pray the pope that for the sake of the said offspring, who are fair to behold (aspectibus gratiose), to grant a dispensation to Robert and Elizabeth to intermarry, and to declare their offspring legitimate.

To be granted by the diocesan, at whose discretion one or more chapelries are to be founded by Robert.

Avignon, 10 Kal. Dec. 1347

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,_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

There is an interesting site by the Heraldry Society of Scotland at

Richard of Gloucester as Lord of the North and the siege of Berwick 1482

Giaconda's Blog

Having recently visited some of Richard’s holdings in the north of England such as Penrith Castle which he was given after the death of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick in 1471, I wanted to write a short piece about his role as Lord Warden of the West Marches and Sheriff of Cumberland (1476-1482) and his involvement in the complicated story of the border town of Berwick-on-Tweed which led to its thirteenth and final change of hands when he successfully took the castle on 24th August 1482.

DSCF8877 Plan of Penrith Castle showing the phases of building by the lords who owned it in their preparation for ‘effectual measures against the Scots.’ (Ferguson, A History of Cumberland, 1898, p.238) The blue areas were built during Richard’s tenure when he used Penrith as a base as Lord warden of the West Marches.

Richard seems keen to take on his duties as the principle magnate…

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