Henry V

Henry V was the warrior king whose reputation his unfortunate son never could live up to, and against whom Henry VIII would allegedly measure himself, but he wasn´t born an heir to the throne.

Instead his cousin once removed, Richard II, was on the throne, and Henry himself was quite far from succession. Due to his “insignificance” in the succession line, the date of his birth was never officially recorded, but set as August 9, 1386. He was born in the gatehouse of Monmouth Castle in Wales – a fact that has led to him sometimes being referred to as Henry of Monmouth – the first child of a 20-year-old Henry of Bolingbrook and 16-year-old Mary de Bohun.

When Henry was 12 years old, in 1498, his father who had a tumultuous relationship to Richard II was banished from the country by the king, but the younger Henry himself was taken under the wings of the king, but only a year later the Lancastrian usurpation brought his own father to the throne, and suddenly Henry of Monmouth was the heir to the throne.

Henry has, with the aid of Shakespeare, received a rumour of having been a carefree and irresponsible youth, more interested in drinking and cavorting with a merry band of similar minded men, but nothing in actual history suggest this to be true.

His father soon put him to what would have been considered good use as commander of part of the English forces, and as such he led his army against Owain Glyndwr in Wales as well as joined his father in the battle of Shrewsbury against Henry Percy, also known as Harry Hotspur, in 1403 when the future Henry V was only 16 years old.

This battle could have been the end of the future king as he is said to have been shot in the face by an arrow which got lodged and had to be removed surgically.

The removal of the arrowhead is considered to be a remarkable piece of battlefield surgery, an art that didn´t have much in common with any kind of modern day surgery. The man who probably saved the life of the young prince was a John Bradmore who had been in royal service since 1399, and his own description of how he went about removing the arrowhead has survived;

“…..was struck by an arrow next to his nose on the left side during the battle of Shrewsbury. The which arrow entered at an angle (ex traverso), and after the arrow shaft was extracted, the head of the aforesaid arrow remained in the furthermost part of the bone of the skull for the depth of six inches.”

Bystanders had been yanking at the arrow before Bradmore arrived, but instead of just pulling, he enlarged the wound to remove the arrowhead easier;

First, I made small probes from the pith of an elder, well dried and well stitched in purified linen [made to] the length of the wound. These probes were infused with rose honey. And after that, I made larger and longer probes, and so I continued to always enlarge these probes until I had the width and depth of the wound as I wished it. And after the wound was as enlarged and deep enough so that, by my reckoning, the probes reached the bottom of the wound, I prepared anew some little tongs, small and hollow, and with the width of an arrow. A screw ran through the middle of the tongs, whose ends were well rounded both on the inside and outside, and even the end of the screw, which was entered into the middle, was well rounded overall in the way of a screw, so that it should grip better and more strongly.”

The wound was treated with honey for its antiseptic qualities and flushed out with alcohol, healing but leaving a scar that no doubt would have kept this day in the memory of Henry for the remainder of his life.

Henry IV started suffering from poor health at the beginning of the 15th century, resulting in the prince in practical control over the government from 1410, something that changed in 1411, due to disagreement between father and son on both domestic and foreign policies. This was only a political disagreement, but may very well be on what Shakespeare built the conflict in his play.

Henry IV died on March 20, 1413 and prince Hal was crowned Henry V just over two weeks later, on April 9, at Westminster Abbey.

Henry´s reign at home was relatively free from trouble, but he had a couple of occasions to demonstrate that he was not to be crossed, such as the execution of his old friend, the Lollard sympathizer John Oldcastle (believed to be one of at least two people merged into Shakespeare´s Falstaff, originally called Oldcastle) as well as the handling of the men behind the alleged Southampton Plot.

What Henry primarily have come to be remembered for are his campaigns in France, starting in 1415, when he sailed from England on August 12 after which his forces besieged the fortress at Harfleur, finally taking it on September 22. Henry then decided to lead his men to Calais, and it was on the way there they were intercepted by a French army on October 25, not far from the village of Agincourt.

Henry´s men were exhausted, but even so he led them into battle, thoroughly defeating the French and gaining a victory which would be seen as Henry´s greatest, bringing the English closer to recovering lost French territory as well as Henry himself closer to the French throne. The battle however left the king with a dark shadow as he ordered all prisoners, even those of noble birth who normally would have been released for ransom, to be killed.

This shadow became even stronger during his second campaign between 1417 and 1520 when he during the siege of Rouen let women and children starve to death. Arriving at the gates of Paris in August 1419 he eventually secured the Treaty of Troyes which recognized him as the heir to the French throne and not even a year after arriving in France, he married Catherine of Valois, daughter of the French king.

During a third campaign to France, starting in March 1421 with the king sailing over in August that same year, his forces besieged and captured both Dreux and Meaux. This would however be the last campaign for the warrior king who died from presumed dysentery on August 31, 1422, leaving behind an only 8 months old heir to the throne, Henry VI.

 Sources;

John Bradmore´s account of the removal of the arrowhead is “borrowed” from the Medievalist.net website, and originally taken from a paper by Michael Livingstone, associate professor at The Citadel.

Henry V (1386–1422) – Christopher Allmand, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

The Life and times of Henry V – P. Earle

Henry V. The Practice of Kingship – Leslie Gerald Harris

Half-penny image – Rasiel

The Grey Friars of Canterbury

When seen from a distance, as for example through the window of the Canterbury 20160716_103054Heritage museum, which was the way I saw it for the first time two years ago, it doesn´t necessarily look much, the old stone house standing alone in the field.

But it is what remains of the very first Franciscan house in England, founded at a time when Francis of Assisi himself was still alive (although he had only two years left to live).

It was on September 10th, 1224, that nine Franciscan Friars, Grey Friars, landed at Dover and from there made their way to Canterbury where they stayed at the priory of the Holy Trinity for two days before four of them continued on their way to London.

The remaining five stayed at the hospital of Poor Priests in Stour Street, the same street on which one today can see what remains of their time in Canterbury.

20160716_103645It seems they won the favour of the Archbishop Stephen Langton, and with the support of him, and the good will of Alexander, the master of the Hospital of Poor Priests, who gave them a plot of land on which they could build a chapel of which one unfortunately has found no trace during excavations. As it was part of the rules for the order that the Friars could hold no property, the chapel was owned by the citizens of Canterbury, and the Friars used it at the will of those citizens.

Other important benefactors during these early years included Simon Langton, Archdeacon of Canterbury and brother of the Archbishop as well as Loretta de Briouze (sometimes spelt Braose), countess of Leicester and daughter of William de Briouze, at one-time close associate to King John.

Loretta had been exiled in association with the plot to dethrone John in favour of her nephew by marriage, Simon de Montfort, but she returned sometime between 1211 and 1214, and had all previously confiscated lands restored to her.

Even so, she chose later to become a recluse or anchoress at Hackington north of 20160716_103449Canterbury, from where she worked in favour of the Friars by using her contacts with influential individuals even though she was a recluse.

They seem to have stayed in the Hospital for Poor Priests and their chapel until 1268 when the alderman, and later bailiff of Canterbury, John Dygg (or Diggs) bought them the small island of Binnewith situated between two branches of river Stour – the location where the lone chapel now stands – as well as “the place of the gate on Stour Street” where one still today enter the compound of Grey friars even if the original gate is since long gone.

About 10 years later they were granted a license to enclose a road that formed the western border of their land, and the friary began to grow.

Grey Friars

The remaining house is the one standing across the river

In 1309, they acquired a road leading from the highway leading to river Stour, and also obtained license to build a bridge across the river from said road leading up to their house “for the benefit of people wanting to attend service in their church, with the bridge built in such a way that boats could pass under it.

In 1325 the new church and cemetery were consecrated by Archbishop Reynolds in 1325, and it seems, from royal grants, that it at the time was 35 friars in the house, a number that in 1336 had risen to 37.

Only two years later, two of the friars, John Noke of Newington and John of20160716_103333 Bromesdon, received a royal pardon for rescuing to felons on their way to execution in Canterbury.

This was only one of the times when members of the house can have been said to have been in trouble, but they also seem to have been popular. When they for unknown reason refused to pay rent to Christchurch and the monks there in turn withdrew an annual grant, the dowager queen Isabella intervened, to no avail though.

They both received bequeaths and buried prominent people of the area and time, and they survived through the centuries.

In 1498 Henry VII included the house among the convents of the Observant Friars, something which was confirmed by Pope Alexander VI a year later. When the king died in 1509, he left the friars 100 marks, and entrusted another £200 with the prior of Christchurch for the use of the Observant Friars of Canterbury.

They also received £13 6s 8d from Henry VIII to pray for the soul of his father.

20160716_103918While the first decades to have run smoothly between the new king and the Observant Friars of Canterbury, this was eventually to change. When Elizabeth Barton, the Nun of Kent, appeared in the 1530´s, two of her chief supporters, Hugh Rich and Richard Risby, were friars of this house. They stood by her side at the scaffold at St. Paul´s Cross on November 23rd, 1533, for which they were denounced by Dr Capon for having suborned and seduced their companions to maintain the false opinion and wicked quarrel of the queen against the king.”.

For this they were taken to Canterbury to do penance, and then to executed at Tyburn together with the Nun of Kent on April 20th 1534. All three were buried at Grey Friars in London.

Around this time, which coincided with the demand for the Oath of Allegiance and Supremacy, the Friars of Canterbury seems to have begun to disperse. Some died, others were whisked away to safety and others yet fled to the continent.

But when the time came to take the oath, only two are noted as having refused to do so, Father Mychelsen and Father John Gam.

Henry VIII didn´t chose to have the Grey Friars supressed at this time, but instead he20160716_103352 put them in what must have been a house arrest. A John Arthur was appointed as warden, who is said to have treated the Friars with severity, sometimes imprisoning them for “rebelling against the king”. He seems however to have been outsmarted by the Friar Henry Bocher, who managed to accuse John Arthur of speaking against the king, and also making it stick through a sermon held by Arthur helf on Passion Sunday in 1535, where he objected to “new books and new preachers discouraging pilgrimage”, with the result that Bocher went free and John Arthur was imprisoned at the command of Thomas Cromwell. He doesn´t however, have been prepared for the treatment he was willing to subject others to, and fled to France.

The friaries of Canterbury were dissolved in December 1538. At the time this friary consisted of the house and two messuages, two orchards, two gardens, 3 acres of land, 5 acres of meadow, and 4 acres of pasture in the parishes of St. Peter, St. Mildred, and St. Margaret.

Sources:

‘Friaries: The Franciscan friars of Canterbury’, in A History of the County of Kent: Volume 2, ed. William Page (London, 1926), pp. 190-194. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/kent/vol2/pp190-194

Briouze, Loretta de, Countess of Leicester (d. in or after 1266) – Susan Johns/Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

All photos are taken by me, apart from the map, which belong to East Bridge Hospital, Canterbury.

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

The White Ship

When the White Ship – la Blanch-Nef – sank on November 25th 1120, it was not only a220px-WhiteShipSinking tragedy in lives lost at sea, it was the spark that would linger long enough to be behind the civil war that would start in 1135 and rage for almost 20 years.

The passengers aboard the long ship – which was owned by Thomas FitzStephen, son of Stephen FitzAirard who had been the captain of Mora, the ship which brought William the Conqueror over the channel to England for the first time – was not only the cream of the young Norman nobility, it also carried William the Aetheling, only legitimate son if Henry I and therefore the heir to the crown and after his mother´s death sometimes referred to as rex designatus, king designate, as he had taken over her role as regent when Henry was in Normandy. On the ship was also Henry´s two illegitimate children Richard of Lincoln and Matilda FitzRoy, Countess of Perche.

There was cause for celebration because not only was young William relatively newly-wed, in 1119 he had married Matilda whose father was Faulk V, Count of Anjou and the future king of Jerusalem, he had also only weeks before been made the new Duke of Normandy.

The Dukedom had been handed over to him by his father Henry I, and was a step towards becoming the next king, and also a sign that William was one of the important political powers in Europe of the time.

BL_Royal_20_A._ii_f._6v._Henry_I__White_Ship1-e1369118927870So celebrated they did. Not only the young heir to the throne and his nobles, but also the crew of the ship, which at least with modern eyes seems insane. But the fact remains, that while the ship still was lying at the harbor of Barfleur, everyone aboard got heavily intoxicated. Some of the passengers on board clearly got worried and left the ship, not even in those days everyone thought it a wise idea to travel over open water with heavily drunk people. One of those who was better safe than sorry was Stephen of Blois, cousin of William and the one who would turn out to be the actual king once Henry I passed.

As the party went on, a group of clerics who arrived to bless the ship before it went on its journey was sent away, something which to some became the explanation to what later happened.

But the disaster was the result of alcohol in combination with youthful stupidity. King Henry had left ahead in another ship, and all of a sudden someone, some say prince William himself, others say someone in the entourage, dared the skipper that even though hours had passed, the White Ship was fast enough to not only catch up with the king´s great warship, but also outrun it and arrive first in England.  Most likely it was the alcohol which made this pass as a good idea. It wasn´t. But the skipper accepted.

The chronicler William of Malmesbury claimed that once the ship had weighed anchor,

she “flew swifter than the winged arrow”, but speed didn´t do much in bringing the large party closer to England, in fact they barely got out of the harbor. Just at the mouth of it, there was, and still is, a sharp rock – still visible just under the surface still today – which the ship crashed into. One of all the things we will never know is if this was a result of the oars men´s intoxication or something else, but it left a huge hole in the ship´s side, and water started pouring in.

As they were expected to, the main concern of everyone was to get the heir to the throne to safety, and William the Aetheling did get into a small dinghy.

For anyone who has read the novel Pillars of the Earth where the White Ship disaster sets the scene for the story, or seen the mini-series based on the book, it may be considered a fact that William the Aetheling was murdered during his attempt to get away from the ship. The actual fact is in a way even more tragic.

Among his following was his half-sister Matilda – obviously not the Matilda who would fight Stephen of Blois in the Anarchy for decades later – and as William was being rowed away from the scene of the disaster, he supposedly heard his drowning sister cry for help and ordered the boat to turn around to save her.

But Matilda was not alone in the cold November water, and as the boat reached the spot where she was, panic erupted among the other people desperate to save their lives. The small boat turned over, and instead of being brought to land and safety, William the Aetheling drowned not far from the harbor.

William´s wife had been rescued in another boat and made it safely to shore. She went on to become a nun and eventually the Abbess at the monastery of Fontevrault.

Henry_II_of_England_wlWhen the news reached England a day or so later, no one dared to tell the king, knowing full well the force of his rage. Eventually a servant boy couldn´t keep the dreadful secret anymore, but fell to his knees at the king´s feet and told him of the tragedy. Allegedly the king fainted and had to be carried to bed. It is said that Henry I didn´t smile again after having received the news of the death of his son.

Apart from the grief of his father, the death of William the Aetheling also threw England into a crisis of succession which would at the time of Henry´s death in 1135 lead to the civil war known as The Anarchy.  As the contemporary historian William of Malmesbury wrote; “….No ship ever brought so much misery to England”

 

Sources:

The Plantagenets – The Warrior Kings and Queens that made England – Dan Jones

Thomas Becket, Warrior, Priest, Rebel, Victim  – John Guy

History of England – Simon Schama

William (1103–1120)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography/J. F. A. Mason

Henry I: King of England and Duke of Normandy – Judith A. Green

William of Malmesbury’s Chronicle of the Kings of England – J.A. Guiles

 

Isabella of Angoulême

Isabella of Angoulême was crowned Queen  consort of King John, at which time she 800px-IsabelledAngoulemewas only 12 years old on this day, October 8 1200.

She was the daughter of Aymer, the last Count of Angoulême of the House of Taillefer. After having been Queen of England for two years Isabella became Countess of Angoulême in her own right as her father died.

Isabella is said to have been a great beauty, but allegedly had a temper which was comparable to that of her husband, causing the marriage to deteriorate over time (even if the marriage had been a political coup for John, there are suggestions that he was infatuated with her at least for a time).

In relation to children, Isabella was fortunate compared to many other women of the period in the was that she got to see them all reach adulthood, and there was quite a few, in her marriage to John, five children were born, the oldest becoming Henry III at the time of John´s death.

After becoming the Queen dowager, she married Hugh X of Lusignan, the son of her former fiancée to who she had been betrothed when she´d been married to John and had another nine children. The plan had been to marry her eldest daughter to Hugh, but when he saw the beauty of his future mother-in-law, things took quite another turn.

Through this marriage she angered the King´s Council as she had not asked for their consent, and chances are, as they could make the decision, is that they may not have allowed her to remarry at all. As a punishment, they confiscated all her dower lands, with the result that she threatened to keep Princess Joan, promised in marriage to the Scottish king, in France. This escalated the conflict to the point where the council started sending letters to the Pope in the name of the young king, demanding that Isabella was excommunicated. The two parties managed however to reach an agreement.

After not being shown sufficient respect as Queen Dowager of England by the French Queen Blanche, for whom she had nothing but hate going back to 1216 when Blanche had encouraged an invasion of England in support of the Barons, she set plans in motion to create an English confederacy in France, something that came to nothing. After her second husband had made peace with the French king, Isabella´s resentment continued to simmer, and in 1244 she was accused of having bribed to royal cooks to poison the king.

Rather than accepting the consequences, she fled to Fontevraud Abbey where she died two years later, in 1246, 30 years after her first husband.

 

Sources:

King John and the road to Magna Carta – Stephen Church

The Magnificent Century – Thomas B. Costain

King John – Treachery, Tyranny and the road to Magna Carta – Marc Morris

 

Wulfhilda

This is not only NOT a text about the Renaissance history. We´re not even still in medieval times.  This time we´re going further and this blog can be said to have returned from summer vacation.

When going back as far as to before the beginning of the last millennium, say to around 940, sources and information may be a bit scarce, even more so if the information you´re looking for is pertaining to a woman.

Even so, I will try to write a few lines about Wulfhilda, at one point in time abbess atwulfhilda Barking Abbey.

She was born around 940, presumably the daughter of a wealthy Wessex nobleman by the name of Wulfhelm. During her childhood, she was raised and educated by Benedictine nuns at Wilton Abbey, and when she came of age she herself took the vows to live as a nun.

According to legend, she caught the eye of king Edgar the Peaceful who ruled between 959 and 975, and he decided to woo her, something that proved not to be easily done, and while it´s difficult not to at least smile at the description that has survived of the peaceful Edgar, that “he was extremely small in both stature and bulk”, I do hope that this was not the reason to why Wulfhilda rejected him – which she did – but for her vocation to her life as a nun.

It is however said that after several attempts to win her love, Edgar decided to enlist her aunt Abbess Wenflaeda of Wherwell who by faking an illness managed to lure Wulfhilda to where the king was waiting instead of her aunt. Not even the prospect of becoming a queen could change Wulfhilda´s mind, and on this special occasion she is said to have fled through the drains, leaving only her glove behind. Faced with this kind of resistance the king eventually made her Abbess of Barking Abbey and in time also Horton Abbey.

Something else he eventually also did was to get married, and one version of this story states that he the woman who became his queen, AElfthryth, was so jealous of Wulfhilda that she after the death of Edgar deposed Wulfhilda from her position as Edgar the peacefulAbbess at Barking Abbey.

It is said that Edgar´s and Ælfthryth´s son, Æthelred the Unready, restored her to her former position.

Like so many other stories old enough to make it difficult to say if they are just legends, if even with a grain of truth as so often in legends, or if they are plain truth, there are of course two versions to Wulfhilda´s fall from the role as Abbess, which maybe can be taken as a sign that we at least can be sure of that much: she was in fact disposed and retired to Horton Abbey

In this second version, it is indeed the queen who remove Wulfhilda from her role as Abbess, but not due to her own jealousy, but instead as a result of complaints from the nuns. It is also queen Ælfthryth who reinstates Wulfhilda 20 years later.

When reading the section about Wulfhilda her section in the Oxford Index, it is stated that her reign was “not peaceful nor uneventful”. What is that supposed to mean? I have a feeling Wuldhilda may get another visit from me.

Regardless of the reason for Wulfhilda losing her position, it seems that during the 20 years she was absent, it was in fact Ælfthryth – now a widow – who assumed the role as Abbess.

Wulfhilda died in or around the year 1000, and would later be beatified for performing some miracles, one that I have been able to find was that of multiplying drinks at a time when king Edgar and his retinue was visiting the abbey.

St. Wulfhilda´s Day is celebrated on September 9th

Sources:

Gesta Regum Anglorum – William of MalmsburyOxford Dictionary of National Biography – Anne Williams, Barbara Yorke

A dictionary of saintly women – Agnes Dunbar

 Oxford Index/Oxford University Press.

 

 

Joan – The Fair Maiden of Kent

We may not realise it, as history is to a very large extent dedicated to men, their lives and their deeds, but the very samejoan history is full of strong, fascinating women whose acquaintance is well worth making.

One of these women is Joan of Kent, the wife of Edward the Black Prince in my previous post.

She was born in 1328 as one of two daughters (she also had two brothers) of Edmund of Woodstock, 1st Earl of Kent and Margaret Wake, 3rd Baroness Wake of Liddell.

Edmund wasn´t just “any” Earl, he was the son of Edward I through his marriage to Margaret of France, and thereby also the half-brother of Edward II, the paternal grandfather of the Black Prince.

Isabella_and_Roger_MortimerEdmund, all though loyal to his brother, found himself – due to Edward II´s favouritism of the Despenser´s – forced into the arms of Isabella and Roger Mortimer in France. Participating in their invasion of England, the deposing of his own half-brother and a later plot against the new monarchy cost him his life in 1330 when his daughter was two years old when he was executed for treason in March.

When Roger Mortimer himself was executed later the same year, one of the charges was procuring Edmund´s death, and all charges against Edmund himself was lifted.

But now back to his precocious daughter Joan, later to be known as The Fair Maiden of Kent. She seemed to have known what she wanted already early on in life, and at the age of 12 she secretly married Thomas Holland of Upholland, Lancashire, who was around 14 years older than herself. Not only did Joan not bother to seek royal consent, which was required for a noblewoman, not least as she was of royal blood herself, it seems she didn´t bother to seek the consent of her immediate family either.

This resulted in, when Thomas Holland shortly after their marriage was sent on a military expedition part of the ongoing Hundred Years War, her family demanded Joan to contract another, in their eyes more suiting, marriage this Joan_of_Kenttime to William Montague, 2nd Earl of Salisbury who was born the same year as Joan.

Apparently Joan did not say anything of her already existing marriage, and she would later state that it was due to fear that Thomas Holland would be executed for treason upon his return to England. When he returned he however appealed to the Pope who in time annulled Joan´s current marriage by the time she was 21 and allowed to return to the husband she had apparently chosen herself.

Joan of Kent and Thomas Holland went on to have four children before Thomas died 11 years after their reunion, and through one of her sons Thomas Holland´s daughter Margaret Holland, she was the ancestor of Margaret Beaufort ( Margaret Holland was Margaret Beaufort´s paternal grandmother). Other descendants of Joan include Edward IV, Elizabeth of York and Anne Neville.

Edward the Black PrinceBeing a widow, older than the heir apparent, the Black Prince, she was not the choice of daughter in law Edward III and Philippa of Hainault would have made. Just the fact that he didn´t marry until the age of 31 most likely had earned their disapproval. It seems that Joan was already at an early stage the target of the prince´s affection, as he presented her with a silver cup which was a part of his war loot early on in his military career.

Edward the Black Prince and Joan of Kent took place on October 10th 1361. Allegedly they had already married secretly in 1360 but due to the lack – at the time – of a papal dispensation, Edward and Joan were first cousins once removed, there was a risk of the first marriage, in the event it took place, would be declared invalid.

On the king´s request, the Pope however granted the dispensation needed.

The year after the marriage, the Black Prince was invested Prince of Aquitaine, where they would live for nine years. Here Joan of Kent assembled an army to fight of threats while her husband was drawn into war on the side of Pedro of Castile.

Something which is interesting is Joan´s association with the Lollards, the religious and political movement formed in mid-14th century by the theologian John Wyclif. Both in the household of Edward and that of Joan could be found men who were clearly associated with Lollardy. David Green, author of the book “The Black Prince – power in medieval Europe” states that considering Joan´s reputation of extravagance and fame for primarily being beautiful, the association is weird, but to me that´s a slightly sexist remark hinting that when it comes to a beautiful woman, there is not more than what meets the eye.

The Lollards would come even more into prominence during the reign of Richard II, the only surviving child of Joan and Edward (another son, Edward of Angouleme, died at the age of six).

At the end of the 1360´s, the Black Prince´s health had started to decline rapidly, and the small family returned to Wallingford_castle_ruinsEngland. At the age of 48, Joan of Kent became a widow for the second time.

While she would continue to take a part in her son´s life when he the year after Edward´s death, when Edward III died, became king at the age of 10 – she was in the Tower with her son with the rebels of the Peasant´s Rebellion broke through the gates – she chose to spend a large part of her time at her favourite home Wallingford Castle in modern day Oxfordshire where she died in 1385 at the age of 57.

 

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Joan of Kent is not buried beside Edward the Black Prince at Canterbury Cathedral. In accordance with her will, she instead rest at the side of her first husband, Thomas Holland, at Grey Friars in Stamford, Lincolnshire..

The Black Prince had planned to rest in a crypt which had had its roof embossed with the face of Joan of Kent. His request was not however granted.

Sources:

The Black Prince – Power in Medieval Europe – David Green

The Plantagenets, The kings and Queens that made England – Dan Jones

 A History of Britain – Simon Schama