Elizabeth Hungerford, prisoner of her husband

When you look around in archives, be it browsing through them physically or, as is possible today, searching through them on the internet, looking for a particular subject or person, it´s always the possibility of stumbling on something completely different which catches your imagination and empathy. One such case is the (fragmented) story of Elisabeth Hungerford;

Sometime in or around 1536 a letter arrives for the Lord Privy Seal, Thomas Cromwell,800px-Farleigh_Hungerford_East_Gate a letter which with our view on such things would have seem deeply disturbing.

The signatory is Lady Elizabeth Hungerford, and she asks Thomas Cromwell to do right by her, and let her have a divorce.

She writes that she for several years has been kept a prisoner at her husband´s castle, and that he on one hand makes sure that no one that can be considered friendly to her ever comes into her presence, but that he on more than one occasion has had his men trying to poison her. This has made her afraid to eat and the only reason that she is still alive is that kind women from the village bring her food at night.

She has however no way of paying them back, as her husband has not given her any money for a long time.

Farleigh_Hungerford_Castle_from_the_south_east_-_geograph_org_uk_-_438798She states “that she could tell, if she dared, many detestable and urgent crimes on the part of her husband, as he well knew,” and especially of his notorious cruel conduct “always to his wives.”

Her letter ends by her saying that she “Wishes to be divorced upon reasonable causes, or else her husband to be required to let her out of prison. Would then come up on foot with some poor body to Cromwell for the security of her life. Will not longer continue this wretched life with him. Had rather destroy herself or beg her living from door to door.”

The letter is signed Eleisbet Hor´ford, but she was born Elizabeth Hussey, and she was one of four daughters of John Hussey, 1st Baron Hussey of Sleaford and his second wife, Lady Anne Grey.

Her husband´s name was Walter Hungerford, squire of the body of Henry VIII, and as Elizabeth hints in her letter to Cromwell, she was not his first wife, nor the first one to be treated appallingly by him.

At first he was married to Susan Denvers, with whom he had a son, also named Walter450px-Farleigh_Hungerford_Castle_tower_remains Hungerford. I haven´t been able to find any information on what year they were married, but already in 1527 when he himself, being born in 1503, was only 24 years old, he married for a second time, to Alice Sandys, the daughter of William, 1st Baron Sandys.

Here I find information that I really need to look further into, because it seems that William Hungerford the elder managed to get his second wife executed for his own murder, at least that is what the Grey Friars Chronicle as interpreted by Camden Society in 1862 suggests (They have traced the family trees of the Hungerford´s at the time and only found one ever married to an Alice; Walter Hungerford, later husband of Elizabeth), and in all honesty, they are as baffled as me. In any event, an Alice Hungerford was executed at Tyburn;

“And this yere in feverelle the xxti. day was the lady Alys Hungrford was lede from the tower un to Holborne and there put into a carte at the church-yard with one of her servanttes, and so caryed unto Tyborne, and there both hongyd, and she burryd at the Greyfreeres in the nether end of the myddes of the church on the north syde.”

In any event, Walter clearly wasn´t murdered, and he would move on to marry Elizabeth sometime after 1527.

There is reasons to believe that Cromwell didn´t act on Elizabeth´s plea, already in 1532 her own father had written to Crowell and stated that his son in law wished to be introduced to him, as well as desired the position as Sheriff of Wiltshire.

The request was granted, and apparently the work carried out to Cromwell´s satisfaction, because in 1535 he suggests that Walter Hungerford should be rewarded for his service, and just a year later Walter was created 1st Baron Hungerford of Heytesbury (not to be confused with Baron Hungerford).

800px-Farleigh_Hungerford_Castle_Inner_CourtWalter Hungerford´s fortune was however to come to a swift ending only four years later, in 1540 he was executed on July 28th, the very same day as Thomas Cromwell himself, accused and sentenced for treason, witchcraft (allegedly trying to have find out the life span of Henry VIII) and buggery. He was executed, like – if we assume that that´s who she was – his wife Alice, on Tyburn.

While I at the moment haven´t been able to find out what happened to Elizabeth during the years between her letter to Cromwell and the execution of her husband, she did move on to a new life, marrying Robert Throckmorton, courtier and first cousin of Katherine Parr in or around 1542.

Together with Robert he had four daughters; Muriel (who would later have a son, Francis Tresham, one of the members of the Gun Powder Plot), Anne, Elizabeth and Temperance.

Elizabeth Hungerford, later Throckmorton, died in 1554, approximately 44 years old.

I will return to her and her life.

 

Sources:

‘Henry VIII: Addenda, Cromwell Period Papers’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 15, 1540, ed. James Gairdner and R H Brodie (London, 1896), pp. 510-568. British History Online

 ‘Additional notes’, in Chronicle of the Grey Friars of London Camden Society Old Series, Volume 53, ed. J G Nichols (London, 1852), pp. 99-104. British History Online.

 ‘The Chronicle of the Grey Friars: Henry VIII’, in Chronicle of the Grey Friars of London Camden Society Old Series, Volume 53, ed. J G Nichols (London, 1852), pp. 29-53. British History Online

 ‘Henry VIII: April 1536, 11-15’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10, January-June 1536, ed. Ja

 ‘Henry VIII: April 1536, 11-15’, in Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 10, January-June 1536, ed. James Gairdner (London, 1887), pp. 259-274. British History Online

 Images;

Due to the lack of images of Elizabeth and Walter Hungerford, the post is illustrated by images of Farleig-Hungerfod Castle where Elizabeth was held prisoner by her husband.

 

  • Photpgraph by nicksarabi/flickr
  • Graham Horn/Creative Commons
  • Ian Knox/Creative Commons
  • Aegidian/flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

On the Trail of the Yorks – new book by Kristie Dean

To visit places where people you´ve only read about once lived or visited during important frontcoverbooktimes of their lives can give a new understanding both of the individuals and the period in which they lived and died. 

In her book Kristie Dean takes her readers to the places that in different ways helped to shape the House of York. Below an excerpt from the book which will be out for sale today, March 15th 2016:

On the Trail of the Yorks – Amberley Publishing.

Grafton Regis, Northamptonshire

This tiny village, amid the breathtaking scenery of the hills of Northamptonshire, seems too small and peaceful to have been the scene of one of the more momentous events in the history of England. Prior to King Henry VIII’s changing its name, Grafton was known by Grafton Woodville and was home to the Woodville family. Here in Grafton manor, Edward IV’s future queen was born. The eldest child of Jacquetta, Dowager Duchess of Bedford, and Richard Woodville, Elizabeth was born soon after her parents’ marriage.

Elizabeth first married Sir John Grey, a Lancastrian supporter. Following his death at the second battle of St Albans, Elizabeth tried to gain control of her jointure, but was unsuccessful. From here, the story takes on legendary quality.

churchofstmaryat grafton (2)One variation of the story is that Elizabeth stood by an oak tree with her two young sons and begged Edward to help her. Hall says that Elizabeth was with her mother when Edward, out hunting, stopped by the manor.

She pressed her suit to him, and he was fascinated. He thought her to be an ‘excellent beautie’ and neither too ‘wanton nor to humble’. Impressed by her body and her ‘wise and womanly demeanour’, he asked her to be his mistress. Elizabeth rebuffed him, saying that if she was not good enough to be his wife, she would not be his mistress.

Mancini pushes the image further, having Edward pull a dagger, with Elizabeth coolly churchofstmaryat grafton (1)resisting his advances. Impressed by her character and enflamed with desire, Edward decided that she would make a fitting royal spouse.

The most accepted date for the marriage is 1 May 1464. Edward left Stony Stratford and hurried to Grafton. Here, Edward and Elizabeth were married, quietly and privately, with only the bride and groom, her mother, the priest, two gentlewomen and a young man who assisted the priest in singing. Whether this happened at the manor, the Hermitage or in the parish church is unclear, but Edward and Elizabeth did marry before she was publicly proclaimed his queen in September of that year.

Grafton Manor

The manor at Grafton officially came to the Woodville family in 1440, but it is believed they had been tenants there prior, since the family had lived in the village for years. After Earl Rivers was killed, the manor passed to his son, Anthony, who was executed after King Edward’s death. His brother, Richard, inherited, and once he died, the estate came to his nephew Thomas Grey, Elizabeth’s son by her first marriage. His son gave up the property to Henry VIII, who largely extended and renovated the existing manor home. The house was set on fire and ruined during the Civil War.

churchofstmaryat grafton (3)Visiting Today

Sadly, there is little to see of the Grafton Elizabeth would have known. The manor lands are not open to visits. It is possible to visit the parish church of St Mary, however. Some historians speculate that Elizabeth and Edward were married at the Hermitage, which was a small friary. However, the parish church was adjacent to the manor and would have offered a more private venue, especially at an early hour.

Elizabeth was almost certainly christened in the Norman font that still stands in the church today. The family was unquestionably active in church affairs, and Elizabeth’s grandfather, John Woodville, built its tower. The church warden speculates that a Woodville chapel may have stood to the left of the high altar. John Woodville’s alabaster altar tomb may still be seen in the church.

Grafton Regis is located just off the main Northampton road. If headed north, take the second right into the village; if headed south, take the first left. Park near the village hall and walk down the quiet country lane. After a short stroll through beautiful scenery, the church will be on the left, just past the entrance to Grafton Manor. Prior arrangements should be made by email to see the interior.

 

kristiesmallpic (2)About the Author

For as long as she can remember, Kristie has had her nose buried in a book about history, especially medieval history. It was this passion that led her to earn her master’s degree in history. Today, she writes about the medieval period at night and teaches history to students during the day. In her rare spare moment, she can be found at home with her husband, three dogs and two cats.

Lady Arbella Stuart

On January 21st 1582 Walshingham receives a letter from George, Earl of ShrewsburyStuart,Arabella00 where he asks Walshingham to inform the Queen of the death of his daughter – Elizabeth Cavendish, Countess of Lenox – and that she “commend to her royal favor her infant and orphan daughter” and that the little girl now was destitute and her grandmother “taketh her daughter’s death so grievously, and so mourneth and lamenteth, that she cannot think of aught but tears”

The grandmother in question was the Countess of Shrewsbury, known to history primarily as Bess of Hardwick, and the young girl who now lacked both her parents was Arbella Stuart, second cousin to the Queen and cousin of James IV of Scotland, later also to become James I of England.

Bess_of_Hardwick_as_Mistress_St_LoHer grandmother would be prepared to fight for what she believed was Arbella´s rights, and on the 28th that same month she turned to Walshingham asking him to solicit for the same portion (pension) that had been previously been granted her daughter, to secure the young girl´s education and training in good virtues. It seems her request goes unheard this first time around, because she returns in May that same year, again making that same request, stating that the young girl´s mother on her sickbed….

Arbella was 7 years at the time, and instead of becoming a ward of the crown which was the usual for heiresses, she would stay with her grandmother at Hardwick Hall, from where she seems to have gone for occasional visits to court during the years to follow. She would eventually fall out with her grandmother whose ambition to see Arbella on the throne was greater than those of Arbella herself.

Arbella did get her education through tutors, and 10 years after the death of her Portrait_of_Christopher_Marlowemother, her grandmother Bess writes to Lord Burghley, William Cecil, of one of her grand-daughters attendants, a Morley who “hath attended on Arbell & red to hyr for the space of thre yere & a half”. The fact that he had read to her, and a later reference to him studying at the university, has led some – among others the author Charles Nicholl – to believe that Morley was the playwright Christopher Marlowe who at times has his name spelt in that way.

The Countess of Shrewsbury goes on to explain that the man in question apparently has been waiting to receive some kind of annuity from Arbella as his work there had been damaging to his university studies, and that he due to this, and due to the fact that the formidable Bess finds him suspicious, not least because of his “forwardness in religion (though I can not charge him with papistry)” she took the opportunity to fire him.

While this post really isn´t about Christopher Marlowe, it is highly interesting that Bess of Hardwick still seems to have found *something* catholic about this man, as Christopher Marlowe would at one point be suspected for being catholic.

But back to Arbella; as a great-grandchild of Henry VII through his daughter Margaret Tudor in her second marriage to Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus, she had a claim to the throne – which she herself didn´t seem much interested in pursuing – and for a while she was considered as a successor to the childless Elizabeth I who was drawing towards the end of her reign and life, but it seems that from the beginning of the 1590´s, the Cecil´s preferred her cousin, James IV of Scotland (Arbella´s father had been the brother of Lord Darnley, murdered husband of Mary Queen of Scots).

George_Brooke,_9th_Baron_Cobham,_after_Hans_Holbein_the_YoungerArbella´s own seeming disinterest in the throne, and the fact that another successor was in the end chosen, did not prevent others from wanting to see her on the throne. In 1603, after the death of Elizabeth I, she allegedly was the focus point in The Main Plot in 1603. The plot is thought to have been funded by Spain, and led by Henry Brook, Lord Cobham and was only discovered during investigation into the Bye Plot – a plot striving to force the implementation of religious tolerance and headed by Lord Cobham´s brother George Brooke.

The members of both conspiracies where tried together, and one of the accused wasSir_Walter_Raleigh_oval_portrait_by_Nicholas_Hilliard Sir Walter Raleigh, at the time governor of Jersey. It was alleged that the money provided by Spain would be brought here and divided between Lord Cobham and Raleigh to be used in the plot as they saw necessary. It has on one side been suggested that it´s utterly ridiculous that Raleigh, who had fought Spain during the reign of Elizabeth, not least during the defeat of the Spanish Armada, would all of a sudden turn on England in this fashion and during many years Raleigh´s involvement in the plot was considered marginal* at most, but it did send him to the Tower for the next 13 years.

Arbella herself had early on reported the invitation to join the plot to her cousin the King.

Throughout her childhood, possible marriage candidates had been discussed, and among those suggested or interested in securing her hand was Edward Seymour, 1st Earl of Hertford (a potential match infuriated the Earl´s father), Ludovic Stuart, 2nd Duke of Lennox as well as the king of Poland, Sigismund III Vasa, son of the Swedish King John III.

2ndDukeOfSomersetWhen she did eventually marry, it was after a betrothal entered in secret. In 1610, news reached the king that Arbella was planning to marry the 13 years younger William Seymour, Lord Beauchamp. This worried the King, as Arbella was fourth in line for the throne and William – being the grandson of Lady Katherine Grey and therefore descendant of Henry VII through Mary Tudor (with Charles Brandon) – sixth in line and it´s no wonder if he thought this was a prelude to an attempt at taking the throne.

Both of them however denied that any agreement existed between them, which was clearly a lie as they got married in secret on June 22nd 1610 at Greenwich Palace. This led to their arrest once the king had found out, and Arbella was kept at Sir Thomas Perry´s house at Lambeth while Seymour was brought to the Tower.

Like her grandmother, Arbella wrote letters that has survived, some of them from this period, and sometime after her arrest, Lady_Arbella_Stuartmost likely from Lambeth, she petitioned the King, asking for his forgiveness;

“May it please your most excellent Majesty

To regard with the eyes of your royal and gracious heart, the unfortunate estate, your Majesty´s handmaid, who, knowing your Majesty´s gracious favour to her to be the greatest honour, comfort and felicity that this world can afford, doth now feel any part of the contrary to be the most grievous affliction to her that can be imagined. Whereinsoever your Majesty will say I have offended I will not contest but in all humility prostrate myself at your Majesty´s feet; only I do most humbly on my knees beseech your Majesty to believe that that thought never yet entered to my heart to do anything that might justly deserve any part of your indignation……”

 However, Arbella did not only write numerous letters and petitions to the King, she did also write to her husband, and when this came to the King´s attention, he arranged for her to be moved from Lambeth into the care of the Bishop of Durham. The move was delayed due to Arbella claiming to be sick, and during this delay she and her husband attempted to escape.

The plan was to meet up at Lee in Kent, there to get on a ship heading for France. Arbella was during her escape dressed as a man to avoid detection, and it has been suggested that Shakespeare based the character of Imogen in Cymberline on Arbella. Lady_Arabella_Stuart (1)When she arrived her husband was nowhere to be found, while he had managed to get out of the Tower, he arrived too late and the two boarded different ships.

Arbella´s ship was intercepted by the King´s men just as it was about to reach Calais, and she was brought to the Tower.

Arbella would never see her husband – who would go on to be a commander during the Civil War – again or even leave the Tower.

On September 25th 1615 Arabella Stuart died from illness and malnutrition due to refusing to eat, at the age of 40.

 

Sources:

Calendar of State Papers Domestic of Elizabeth I, 1581 – 1590

Bessofhardwick.org – collected letters of the Countess of Shrewsbury

Life of Lady Arabella Stuart, Volume 1 + 2 – Mrs A. Murray Smith

Lexscripta.com

The Letters of Lady Arbella Stuart – Sarah Jayne Steen

 

*History changes as new evidence is put forward and the view on Raleigh´s part has somewhat changed, but that is clearly for another post.

Bringing history to life: Reenactment

There are several ways to get involved in history, and a more hands on one is to participate in historical reenactment. Here Tim Bedcote, who is a member of the reenactment group committed to the Wars of the Roses give an insight to what it´s like.

 Sometimes reenactment is confused with roleplaying. Would you care to explain the difference?

Live-action roleplaying (LARP) is like a dress-up version of Dungeons and Dragons – you have a named character that you play, in a game with winners and losers. In re-enactment it’s more like a theatrical scenario in which we present a battle, knowing in advance who wins and who loses (Richard III never gets to win Bosworth, however much most of the crowd there would like him to!). Of at least equal importance with the battle re-enactment for many of us is the living history aspect, when we demonstrate more everyday aspects of period life – carpentry, spinning, weaving and so forth, to small groups of Members of the Public (MOPs) wandering around the camps.

Battle_of_Tewkesbury_reenactment_-_clashWould you say reenactments play an important part in making people interested in, and understanding, history?

I hope so. While the battle event pulls in the big crowds, you are more likely to get through to people in one-to-one or small group chats in the living history camps. My personal ‘crusade’ is to restore respect to the common perception of medieval surgery, one person at a time. The best moments are when you hear MOPs saying things like “I never realised…” Then you know you’ve got through to people, and that may spark them to find out more.

What part does it play in your own interest in history?

I have always been more interested in the lives of ordinary people than in the “poshBattle_of_Tewkesbury_reenactment_-_holding_the_line soap opera” approach to history. I can never experience what it was like to be the king (or his lover, given some people’s obsessions), but I can gain insights into ordinary life. Many reenactors start off being attracted by the battles, but move away from the big spectaculars because they don’t offer an authentic ‘immersion’ experience.

The most exciting thing in re-enactment is the feeling sometimes known as ‘period rush’ – a euphoric experience almost like a drug high (I would imagine, not being a drug user myself), which comes from the feeling of being entirely immersed in the past an out of touch with any 21st century input. The first time I felt it was seeing my first arrow cloud going overhead; I had a wonderful moment of it at Bosworth last year when walking down from the visitor towards the authentic camp on the Friday night (before any public came in) the only thing visible was a whole sea of period tents. It gave a momentary appreciation of what a genuine medieval army camp would have looked like.

But that connection can come from simple things too – threading a bone needle, lighting a fire with a flint and steel, or sleeping on straw.

Does it ever happen that someone is actually injured during a reenacted battle?

Occasionally, but as a rule re-enacting is somewhat safer than rugby and a lot safer than riding a motorbike. When it does happen it’s almost always accident or misjudgement personally I’ve never ha anything worse than bruises. People who like injuring others and getting injured themselves tend to gravitate towards a full-contact medieval fighting sport called Battle of the Nations. Like LARPers, I wish them all the best in their chosen hobby, but it’s not for me.

Roman_cavalry_reenactment_Carnuntum_2008_15How much time does it take to be a good reenactor? Do you get together and practice for example the battle of Bosworth?

Off-season training is worthwhile if you’re going to do anything ‘enhanced’ like working with the horses (something that’s a big feature of Bosworth). Generally though it’s not something you ever ‘finish’ – every reenactor has goals of their own to achieve, kit they could improve or replace, skills they could acquire… the whole thing is gloriously open-ended like that. It’s always best to ‘start small’ and aim low with your first kit. I sometimes encounter people on FB history groups – usually women, for some reason – who express a desire to join a re-enactment group “as the queen, with lots of gorgeous gowns!”

Well, I’m sure you’d like to, but could you carry it off? Can you afford that sort of kit, or800px-Bataille_Waterloo_1815_reconstitution_2011_3 make it yourself? Can you afford, as starter kit, to have a fully-furnished pavilion with carpets and high-status furniture? Will you be bringing your own servants? Starting as a peasant woman is far more achievable.

My first kit was as a common archer (a role I am still happy to take on the battlefield), but as I have got more into living history my civilian kit has improved beyond peasant bowman to something more middle-class, with a chaperon and fur-trimmed robe (both of which I’ve made myself), demonstrating surgical instruments and the making of potions and ointments.

There’s one legendary guy within medieval re-enactment who did a complete pilgrimage to Canterbury last winter, who comes to events as a pedlar with his own cart. That’s ‘low status’ but he does it so well, and in such detail. I had a conversation with one lady who was keen to get into re-enactment and suggested that a really good role that nobody else was really doing in detail would be that of washerwoman. A good, knowledgeable washerwoman would be a better asset for any group than a poorly-researched queen.

Is re-enactment something which is growing in terms of people participating or forming groups of their own?

Reenactment covers so many periods and groups it’s very difficult to say for certain; some individuals and groups join and others drop out almost every season. but my perception is that for my period (Wars of the Roses) as a whole it’s not only expanding but getting better in quality. Re-enactment of any period tends to start off with homemade and adapted kit, but over the years craftsmen start researching the period kit and producing better items. I blush to think of the gear I wore in my first-ever c15th re-enactment 30 years ago! ‘Authenticity’ is less a goal at which you arrive than a philosophical or ideological approach to getting deeper and deeper into the period.

 

Images, in order, from Wikimedia Commons. Photographers name/Alias below

(included images are from different groups, reenacting different periods)

Battle of Tewkesbury – Antony Stanley

Roman cavalry reenactment – Matthias Kabel

Battle of Waterloo – Myrabella

Battle of Grunwald, Poland – Wojsyl

 

The Southampton Plot

Only last year was the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt where the EnglishHenry5 troops defeated the French, and firmly made Henry V go down in history as the warrior king, the type of king the men around his son, Henry VI would later want him to be.

But often overlooked when discussing the battle is the incident that maybe could have put a halt to the triumphant expedition; the Southampton Plot.

There are historians who argue that the case may be that there never was a lot at all, only political moaning from noblemen not quite content with their lot in life, but whatever the case may have been, it didn´t matter much to the King once he was informed of what was said to be going on.

The three men behind the alleged plot were Richard of Conisburgh, 3rd Earl of Cambridge, Henry Scrope, 3rd Baron Scrope of Masham and Sir Thomas Grey

Richard_of_Conisburgh,_3rd_Earl_of_CambridgeRichard of Conisburgh was a grandson of Edward III through his fourth surviving son Edmund of Langley and his wife Isabella of Castile, but his immediate descendants would come to be even more interesting for the upcoming decades in England; in 1415 he had left behind a four-year-old son, he too called Richard, who would grow up to become the Duke of York and father among other children the three boys Edward (IV), George and Richard (III). Not least was he a cousin of the King.

When his father passed he left nothing for Richard, nor did his brother and this has by some historians been taken as a sign that he was in fact not the son of Edmund, but of John St. Holland 1st Duke of Exeter, who allegedly had had an affair with Richard´s mother Isabella. She how ever had made requested that Richard´s godfather, King Richard II, granted her younger son an annuity of 500 marks, a request that was granted. The sum was further increased over the years.

But when Richard II was deposed in 1399, his successor Henry IV was less inclined toRichard_II_King_of_England pay the annuity, and Richard would receive it either irregularly or not at all. As Richard of Conisburgh owned no lands, this was his only source of income.

The only significant appointments Richard of Conisburgh received in the years leading up to those days in Southampton was as commander over a force defending Hertfordshire against Welsh rebels and to escort princess Philippa to her wedding to king Eric of Denmark in 1406, prior to which he was knighted, so it isn´t hard to imagine that even though Henry IV died in 1413, there was some resentment brewing which may have been the reason for the assumed plot.

During his stay in Demark, he is believed to have become acquainted with Lord Scrope, who would later (in 1411) marry Joan Holland who for a few years after the death of Isabella of Castile had been married to Edmund of Langley.

Henry Scrope had at least seemingly a much better relationship to Henry V, in fact, he was considered to be a royal favorite who had been knighted in 1403 and fought alongside Henry IV at the battle of Shrewsbury that same year. Between 1406 and 1413 he had a number of diplomatic missions, and in 1410 he had been appointed Treasurer of England as well as Knight of the Order of the Garter. It is hard to see why he would get involved in plot at all, and historian Anne Curry suggests that he was simply fed up with Henry V and his French campaign.

The third of the plotters was Sir Thomas Grey, through his mother Joan Mowbray a descendant of Edward I. His father, also named Thomas Grey, had been one of the allies chosen by Henry Bolingbroke, the future Henry IV, to witness the abdication of Richard II. Thomas Grey the younger had been treated favourably by Henry IV in the sense that he himself had been granted the wardship of his inheritance before he came of age. He was connected to Richard of Conisburgh through the betrothal of his 12-year old son Thomas to Conisburgh´s 3-year old daughter Isabel. Thomas Grey´s involvement in the plot came from, by his own admission, the fact that he wanted to be more rich and “famous” than he was.

If we assume that this was an actual plot, and not only discontent being voiced in an extremely unwise way, the goal was to execute Henry V and his son, the future Henry VI, and replace the king with his own cousin Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March and brother of Conisburghs wife Anne Mortimer who had died in 1411.

Edmund was the great-great-grandson of Lionel of Antwerp, second surviving son of Edward III, through Lionel´s daughter Philippa. The “positioning” of his great-great-grandfather among Edward III´s great number of children actually gave him a stronger claim to the throne than that of Henry V, as he only descended from the third surviving son.  Added to this came the fact that Edmund Mortimer and his father, Roger Mortimer (dead 1398), in turn had been considered heir presumptive to Richard II who had had no children of his own.

King_Henry_IV_from_NPG_(2)There had been turbulence between the Mortimer´s and Henry IV. When he had deposed Richard II in 1399 and consequently had parliament proclaim him king and his own son heir apparent, he took the then 8-year old Edmund and his brother Richard into custody with Sir Hugh Waterton at Windsor Castle. Allegedly they were treated good and is said to, during periods, have been brought up with the king´s own children John and Philippa.

It wasn´t a positive turn of events, however, when Edmund´s uncle and namesake, Sir Edmund Mortimer in 1402 was captured by the Welsh rebel leader Owain Glyndwr. Instead of sending men to his rescue or paying a ransom, Henry IV accused Sir Edmund of siding with the rebels voluntarily and confiscated his property.

Sir Edmund then went on to marry Glyndwr´s sister, write a proclamation that declared his nephew the rightful king of England and proceeded to, in collaboration with Glyndwr and the Percy´s (his sister had been married to Henry Hotspur) hatch a plot to free his two nephews from Windsor Castle, something which happened in early 1405. They were quickly apprehended and kept under stricter confinement for the remainder of Henry VI:s reign.

Despite the eventful years of his youth, Edmund Mortimer came to be on good terms with Henry V, who gave him his full freedom when he ascended to the throne in 1413, and maybe that is why, when Edmund Mortimer became aware of the new plot being formed with him as the man to be put on the throne, he went to his king and informed him of everything he knew. No doubt he was also doing his best to avoid ending up on the block.

He revealed the plans to the king on July 31st  at Portchester and within day the Portchester_castle_04accused were brought to Southampton to stand trial.

Sir Thomas Grey, who wasn´t a peer, received the trial of a common criminal on August 2nd and was sentenced to being hanged, drawn and quartered. After it was all over, his head was sent to Newcastle.

As they were peers, Henry, Lord Scrope and Richard of Conisburgh was tried by their peers, but it didn´t do them much good as they too were sentenced to death and Red_Lion_Inn_Southamptonexecuted on August 5th. Conisburgh was spared being hanged before being beheaded, and was also the only one of the three who was allowed to be buried together with his head. The head of Lord Scrope was sent to be displayed in York.

Henry V then sailed off to eventually fight the battle of Agincourt at which the older brother of Conisburgh, the Duke of York, was killed. As he had no children of his own, his title went to Conisburgh´s for years old son, as well as the claim held by the Mortimer´s. This he would, years later, when he as Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, attempted to depose Henry VI.

In 1461, Conisburgh´s grandson, Edward IV, had the parliament declare the sentence against Conisburgh “irregular and unlawful”.

Edmund Mortimer himself was pardoned for nominal involvement in the plot on August 7th and followed the king to France. After the death of Henry V in 1422, Mortimer was appointed to the Council of Regency for the nine month old Henry VI. Mortimer died from the plague in Ireland in 1425, at the age of 33.

 

Sources:

Agincourt: A New History – Anne Curry

Richard, Earl of Cambridge (1385-1415) – G.L. Harriss/Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Henry V and the Southampton Plot of 1415 – T.B. Pugh

Scrope, Henry le (1376?-1415) – James Tait/Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Scrope, Henry, third Baron Scrope of Masham (c.1376–1415) – Brigette Vale

Mortimer, Edmund (V), fifth earl of March and seventh earl of Ulster (1301-1425) – R.A Griffiths/Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Images:

Portchester Castle – Matthew Folley/Wikimedia Commons

The Red Lion – site of where the trial of the plotters was held

Clare Priory, resting place of Edmund Mortimer – Mym/Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately images of the actual plotters are less then scarce

Interview with Amy Licence

Recently I reviewed Amy Licence book “Edward IV & Elizabeth Woodville – a trueAmy love story”, and now I have had the pleasure of asking her a few questions

 How did your interest in history start?

I don’t really remember a time before I was interested in history. It came from reading and visiting old castles with my parents. I do recall a book I got out of the library when I was about 5 or 6, about cavemen, and being so frustrated when I finished reading it, wanting to go back to the library and get another but the library was closed. By the time I was 14, I’d read all their Tudor books.

AmyAt what point did you realise it was primarily the women’s stories you wanted to highlight?

I’ve always been interested in looking at the women’s side of things; I remember reading biographies of men and spotting these fascinating figures in the margins and thinking that their stories deserved to be told in their own right. There were occasions too, when I thought some historians were unfair to women and I refused to accept their portrayals and interpretations of female motivation and actions. I think the salient moment, though, was when I became a mother, and began to see a discrepancy between my own experience and the way certain books portrayed and valued it. Then, I found that researching childbirth in the past opened up all sorts of other questions about gender relations that I wanted to pursue.

How important is history to C21st people and do you personally feel that lack of In bedknowledge influences the modern man?

I think history is important in ways that aren’t obvious. It’s important to learn about the past, so we can see the present in context and there’s always the old adage about us being doomed to repeat the past, but I think the lessons we learn are more subtle than that. Studying historical figures, particularly weighing conflicting sources and assessing bias, constantly reminds me there are more than one way of looking at something, that no one person is entirely “this” or “that.” When I’m trying to piece together the experience of someone living five centuries ago, at the remove of time and cultural distance, it makes me understand how difficult it is to interpret people from the outside and how they must be assessed within the mores of their own beliefs. This is so relevant to today, when we interact with people from different generations, countries and religions; these historical lessons are transferrable across other boundaries. This is the most valuable knowledge that comes from my work, studying the lives of people in the past.

sixWhat determines who you will be writing about when you prepare for a new book?

It’s a negotiation. Sometimes my publisher has something specific in mind they’d like me to do and sometimes I’m keen, or I might say that individual doesn’t particularly interest me. On other occasions, there will be something that I’m burning to write about and, so long as I submit a valid proposal, I’m lucky that my publisher usually agrees. Quite often an idea comes to me while writing a previous book and I want to follow that through but it demands a book of its own.

What will you be working on next?

I’m working on a biography of Catherine of Aragon for Amberley Publishing, as I want All about Richard IIIto set her in the context of a Renaissance, Humanist queen, not just a wife who failed to produce sons. I’m also continuing to write children’s books for MadeGlobal; my book on Henry VIII will be coming out with them soon.

 

Amy Licence is a historian, journalist and teacher who to date has published 10, soon to be 11, books on the history of late 15th and early 16th century, focusing on women´s history.

Published books: In Bed with the Tudors (2012), Elizabeth of York – the forgotten Tudor Queen (2013), Anne Neville – Richard III´s Tragic Queen (2013), Royal babies 1066-2013 (2013), Richard III: The Road to Leicester (2014), Cecily Neville – Mother of Kings (2014), The six wives and many mistresses of Henry VIII – the women´s stories (2014), Living in Squares, Loving in Triangles – The lives and loves of Virginia Wolf and the Blomsbury Group (2015), Edward IV & Elizabeth Woodville – a true love story (2016), Red Roses – Blanch of Gaunt to Margaret Beaufort (2016).

Amy Licence is also working on a book series for children; “All about..” featuring Richard III, Henry VII and Henry VIII