Kett’s Rebellion

On July 8th 1549, only just over two years into the reign of the young Edward VI, a A_group_of_dissenters_in_Norfolk_during_Robert_Kett's_rebellion_of_1549rebellion started in Norfolk, primarily as a response to enclosure of common land, to a large extent a result of the high demand for English wool, the farmers owning the sheep valuable sheep turning arable land into pastures for their sheep, as well as depriving peasant farmers of land where they could graze their own cattle.

The geographical starting point of the rebellion was Wymondham where the rebels went about destroying fences put up by landowners, one of which was the yeoman farmer Robert Kett, a tanner with extensive landholdings who had been prosecuted at the manorial court for putting up enclosure.

The prime target for the rebellion was however Sir John Flowerdew, who had earned the dislike of the population not only through enclosing land but also for having been the overseer of the demolition of Wymondham Abbey during the dissolution.

Flowerdew, however, sent them to another target; Robert Kett, no doubt without having even the slightest idea how that could possibly end.

Robert Kett, or Keet, a tanner with extensive landholdings who had been prosecuted in the manorial court of Wymondham for enclosing lands. It may have been that Robert Kett took the rebels a bit by surprise, but rather than being intimidated by them, he offered to be their leader.

Robert Kett was born in 1492, the son of the butcher and landowner Tom Kett and his wife Margery. In 1515 he had married Alice Appleyard who had born him five sons.

Even though Robert Kett most likely had a comfortable life, he in 1549 all of a sudden found himself heading a rebellion. Disturbances over the previous months – tearing down of fences – had most likely been committed in good faith as Edward Seymour, brother of the late queen and protector of the young king, had issued a proclamation against illegal enclosures.

Mousehold HeathThe rebels, now under the leadership of Kett, marched on Norwich, making the “The oak of Reformation” on Mousehold Heath between Hethersett and Norwich their base and the oak itself a symbol for rebellion.

After movements around Norwich, where they were refused entry, they once again set up camp on Mousehold Heath and stayed there for the coming six and a half weeks.

Setting up headquarters in St. Michael´s Chapel – later, in its ruined form known as Kett´s Castle – Robert Kett formed a council consisting of representatives of the Hundreds of Norfolk* as well as a representative from Suffolk.

As days passed, people streamed to join the rebels, and the camp on Mousehold Heathkett´s oak eventually consisted of more people than the city of Norwich itself which at the time was the second-largest city in England with a population of 12 000 inhabitants, one number which is mentioned is 20 000 rebels, and allegedly even though having been a tanner and landowner, Kett was perfectly suited as a commander of disgruntled peasants.

A list of grievances was put together, signed by Kett himself, representatives of the Hundreds as well as the mayor of Norwich, Thomas Codd, the former mayor Thomas Aldrich and the preacher Robert Watson who all three had – as a part of the negotiations between the rebels and the city of Norwich – had accepted an invitation to be a part of the rebel´s council.

The list was to be presented to the Protector, Somerset.

  1. We pray your grace that where it is enacted for enclosing that it be not hurtful to such as have enclosed saffron grounds for they be greatly chargeable to them, and that from henceforth no man shall enclose any more.
  2. We certify your grace that whereas the lords of the manors have been charged with certain free rent, the same lords have sought means to charge the freeholders to pay the same rent, contrary to right.
  3. We pray your grace that no lord of no manor shall common upon the common.
  4. We pray that priests from henceforth shall purchase no lands neither free nor bond, and the lands that they have in possession may be letten to temporal men, as they were in the first year of the reign of King Henry VII.
  5. We pray that all the marshes that are held of the king’s majesty by free rent or of any other, may be at such price as they were in the first year of King Henry VII.
  6. We pray that reed ground and meadow ground may be at such price as they were in the first year of King Henry VII.
  7. We pray that all bushels within your realm be of one stice, that is to say, to be in measure VIII gallons.
  8. We pray that priests or vicars that be not able to preach and set forth the word of God to his parishioners may be thereby put from his benefice, and the parishioners there to choose another or else patron or lord of the town.
  9. We pray that the payments of castle ward rent, blanch farm, and office lands, which hath been accustomed to be gathered of the tenements, whereas we suppose the lords ought to pay the same to their bailiffs for their rents gathering, and not the tenants.
  10. We pray that no man under the degree of a knight or esquire keep a dove house, except it hath been of an old ancient custom.
  11. We pray that all freeholders and copyholders may take the profits of all commons, and there to common, and the lords not to common nor take profits of the same.
  12. We pray that no feodary within your shores shall be a counselor to any man in his office making, whereby the king may be truly served, so that a man being of good conscience may be yearly chosen to the same office by the commons of the same shire.
  13. We pray your grace to take all liberty of leet your own hands whereby all men may quietly enjoy their commons with all profits.
  14. We pray that copyhold land that is unreasonable rented may go as it did in the first year of King Henry VII. And that at the death of a tenant, or of a sale the same lands to be charged with an easy fine as a capon or a reasonable sum of money for a remembrance.
  15. We pray that no priest shall hold no other office to any man of honour or worship, but only to be resident upon their benefices, whereby their parishioners may be instructed within the laws of God.
  16. We pray that all bond men may be made free, for God made all free with his precious bloodshedding.
  17. We pray that Rivers may be free and common to all men for fishing and passage.
  18. We pray that no man shall be put by your Feudatory to find any office, unless he holdeth of your grace in chief, or capite above 10 by year.
  19. We pray that the poor mariners or fishermen may have the whole profits of their fishings such as porpoises, grampuses, whales, or any great fish so it be not prejudicial to your grace.
  20. We pray that every proprietary parson or vicar having a benefice of 10 or more by year, shall either by themselves, or by some other person teach poor men’s children of their parish the book called the catechism and the primer.
  21. We pray that it be not lawful to the lords of any manor to purchase lands freely, (i.e. that are freehold), and to let them out again by copy or court roll to their great advancement, and to the undoing of your poor subjects.
  22. We pray that no proprietary parson or vicar, in consideration of avoiding trouble and lawsuit between them and their poor parishioners, which they daily do proceed and attempt, shall from henceforth take for the full contents of all the tenths which now they do receive, but 8.
  23. We pray that no lord, knight, esquire, nor gentlemen do graze nor feed any bullocks or sheep if he may spend forty pounds a year by his lands but only for the provision of his house.
  24. We pray that no man under the degree of [word missing] shall keep any conies (rabbits) upon any freehold or copyhold unless he pale them in so that it shall not be to the commons’ annoyance.
  25. We pray that no person of what estate degree or condition he be shall from henceforth sell the awardship of any child, but that the same child if he live to his full age shall be at his own choosing concerning his marriage the King’s wards only except.
  26. We pray that no manner of person having a manor of his own, shall be no other lord’s bailiff but only his own.
  27. We pray that no lord, knight, or gentleman shall have or take in form any spiritual promotion.
  28. We pray your grace to give license and authority by your gracious commission under your great seal to such commissioners as your poor commons have chosen, or to as many of them as your majesty and your counsel shall appoint and think meet, for to redress and reform all such good laws, statues, proclamations and all other your proceedings; which hath been hidden by your Justices of your peace, Sheriff, Feudatories, and other your officers, from your poor commons, since the first year of the reign of your noble grandfather King Henry VII.
  29. We pray that those your officers, which have offended your grace and your commons, and [are] so proved by the complaint of your poor commons, do give unto these poor men so assembled 4d. every day so long as they have remained there.

 

Portrait_of_Edward_VI_of_EnglandIn the meantime, the city had sent messengers to London, and on July 21th the truce ended when a messenger from the King´s Council, the York Herald Bartholomew Butler arrived to offer the rebels a pardon. Robert Kett refused the pardon, stating that he, or the rebels, had not committed any crime and therefore needed no pardon.

This put the end to the, in the circumstances, so far amicable relationship between the men who were now officially declared rebels and the city of Norwich which now closed the city gates.

As it doesn´t seem to have been an option to disperse the camp, the rebels now decided to take the city, something which was necessary in order to keep the thousands of men that had gathered at the camp from starvation.

After a night of exchanged fire between the rebel camp and the city of Norwich, the rebels took control of it on July 22nd.

By the time the King sent the Marquess of Northampton (William Parr, brother ofWilliam Parr Katherine Parr, last Queen of Henry VIII) with his 1 500 men, including Italian mercenaries, Robert Kett had already realised the difficulties of defending the city against the King´s forces and had retreated to higher ground outside the city, preferring to besiege it instead.

In the night between July 31st and August 1st fighting began between the rebels and the King´s army led by Northampton, but fighting in the streets of a city was not to the advantage of a trained army, and after having a senior commander, Lord Sheffield, bludgeoned to death by one of the rebels, Northampton and his troops retreated as far as Cambridge.

By August 24th the Earl of Warwick – John Dudley, who within just a few years would be in deep trouble and executed himself – had arrived with an army consisting of about 14 000 men, among which were mercenaries from Wales, Spain and Germany. It´s impossible to know what went through the heads of the rebels in the face of this increased force, but it´s clear that they weren´t prepared to abandon Kett or their cause, and fighting continued.

In the night between the 24th and the 25th, the rebels who once again had entered Norwich burnt the city.

On the 26th more 1 500 more German mercenaries arrived, and the King´s army could no longer hide in the city. The final, and for the rebels devastating, battle took place on the 27th, seeing thousands of rebels killed and the rest running for their lives.

According to sources 3 000 rebels lay dead after the battle while Warwick had lost around 200 men.

Robert Kett was captured at the village of Swannington and his brother, who had joined the rising was brought to the Tower. After having been found guilty of treason, Robert Kett was hanged from the walls of Norwich Castle in December that same year while his brother was hanged from the west tower of Wymondham Abbey.

 

“Warwyke was sent thyther wt ye kynges power, who did so handell the matter yt aboute the

begynnynge of September, bartellmewtyd, he ouer came them, & toke ther capitayn, called

Keet ye tanner, whome he sent to London to ye kynge, by whos commaundement ye same Keet was broughte throughe London ye last of September, & wt hym a brother of hys also, wh. were both broughte vnto ye Tower.

ffor ye which offence ye sayd Keet ye tanner was hanged vppon ye toppe of ye castell of Norwytche, and his brother also.”

 

 

Sources:

Kett´s Rebellion, the Norfolk rising of 1549 – S.K Land

Robert Kett and the Norfolk rising – Joseph Clayton

‘A London Chronicle: Edward VI’, in Two London Chronicles From the Collections of John Stow, ed. Charles Lethbridge Kingsford (London, 1910), pp. 17-27. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/camden-misc/vol12/no1/pp17-27 [accessed 9 July 2016].

 

 

*Norfolk was from Anglo-Saxon times to the 19th century divided into hundreds for administrative purposes.

 

 

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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 many virtues of Katherine of Aragon

On the night between 15-16th December 1485, Catalina de Aragón was born in Alcalá KatherineofAragonde Henares in Spain. She would of course in time become more known as Katherine of Aragon, princess of Wales and eventually Queen of England, as we all know ironically not married to the same man while being the princess as when she became queen.

For some reason, there is a tendency to bring up the tragic parts of Katherine´s life when her name is mentioned, she lived in misery between the death of her first husband prince Arthur and the marriage to her second husband, Arthur´s younger brother Henry VIII. She lost a heartbreaking number of children and she was eventually cast aside when Henry in a combination of successional panic and desire for Anne Boleyn decided he wanted the marriage annulled.

But there was more to Kathrine of Aragon than just the victim she often is portrayed as, born as the youngest surviving child of “Los Reyes Catholicos”, Ferdinand and Isabella – whose actions in defeating the Moors, the Spanish inquisition and role in the conquest of the Americas one can say a lot about but this is not the place – she had a mother who was a Queen in her on right, and who herself had taken part in battle.

No doubt she raised a strong daughter in whose corner she would be until she, Isabella, died. Through Isabella Katherine herself had a claim to the English throne as she just as Henry (and Arthur) was a descendant of John of Gaunt, but unlike them not through the Beaufort line which had been barred from inheriting the crown by Henry IV (the legitimacy of that decision has been questioned). She received a thorough education in arithmetic, canon and civil law, classical literature, genealogy and heraldry, history, philosophy, religion, and theology by her tutor Alessandro Geraldini, as well as languages. Apart from the obvious Spanish she also spoke French and Greek, as well as mastering Latin. No doubt her own education played a part when she years later would insist that her own daughter Mary receive the same education as if she had been a prince in line for the throne (which she in reality was).

Her promotion of learning was praised by the scholar Desiderius Erasmus who in a letter 1518 mentions Henry´s court as more of an academy than a court, but also describes Katherine as astonishingly well read, far beyond what would be surprising in a woman, and [she is] as admirable for piety as she is for learning”.

Katherine was also the patron not only of Erasmus, but of the Spanish scholar Juan Luis Vives who dedicated two of his books to the queen, De Institutione Feminae Christianae (The Education of a Christian Woman) as well as De Ratione Studii Puerilis (The Plan of Study for Children), both written in 1523 while he was tutoring princess Mary.

But let´s go back slightly in time, and re-connect to the fact that Katherine was the daughter of a female ruler, Isabella of Castile more than once proved her ability as a monarch, it may not be surprising that Katherine herself proved to be a very competent governor of the realm and captain-general of English army while Henry campaigned on the continent against the French, fighting the relatively minor Battle of Spurs.

Back home, on the other hand his wife won a devastating victory over the invading Scottish army at the battle of Flodden. I won´t go as far as to say that it´s a fact that has been ignored, but it´s certainly far too often over-shadowed by the image of the miserable Katherine.

Maybe I haven´t shared something you didn´t already know, but I think that as her 530th birthday is upon us, Katherine of Aragon should be remembered for her knowledge and strengths instead of her failures and misery instead.

 

Sources

The correspondence of Erasmus – R.A.B Mynors and D.F.S Thomson

“Catherine of Aragon.” Female Biography; or Memoirs of Illustrious and Celebrated Women of all Ages and Countries

projectcontinua.org/catherine-of-aragon/

The wives of Henry VIII – Antonia Fraser

The wives of Henry VIII – Alison Weir

The battle of Hastings

william-the-cOn October 14th, 949 years ago, Duke William of Normandy accompanied by a Norman-French army met the Anglo-Saxon king Harold Godwinson just outside Hastings and on that Saturday morning the battle commenced.

Duke William, also known as William the Bastard, had landed at Penvensey on September 28th with a force that contemporary sources claims consisted of over 700 ships, a number which is most likely exaggerated. The invasion was a result of the succession crisis that had been raging in England since the passing of Edward the Confessor in January that same year. The accession to the throne by Harold Godwinson, Earl of Wessex and the richest and most powerful man in England, had been contested by Duke William – who claimed king Edward himself had promised him the throne – and the Norwegian king Harald III who claimed that there had existed an agreement between his predecessor Magnus and the earlier English king Harthacanute that if either one died without an heir the other would inherit both England and Norway.

As far as Harald – also known as Harald Hardrada – was concerned, England belonged to him. This prompted Harald as well to launch an invasion force which reached the north of England, where they were strengthened by the forces of Tostig Godwinson, exiled brother of Harold and supporter of the Norwegian bid for the throne.

They met Harold at the battle of Stamford Bridge in East Riding of Yorkshire in a battle that often is considered to mark the shift from the Viking age to the early Middle Ages. Like most battles, it was bloody and horrific, and left most of the Norwegian army wiped out. This however also meant that when Harold´s army met that of William at Hastings, they were already quite worn down.

The contemporary sources is contradictory, and the only thing that is known as a fact is that the battle started at 9 am on a Saturday morning and lasted until dusk 11 kilometres north of Hastings, at the location of the modern day town of Battle, but already in the Domesday Book 21 years later, in 1087, it was referred to as the Battle of Hastings.

As we all know, the victory of the day was Norman. The outcome has a lot to do with not least the fact that Harold´s army had only days before fought off the Norwegian invaders, along with the fact that Duke William was a more experienced military commander.

Tapisserie de Bayeux - Scène 51 (partielle) : la bataille d'Hastings, chevaliers et archers normands.

Tapisserie de Bayeux – Scène 51 (partielle) : la bataille d’Hastings, chevaliers et archers normands.

The Norman dead was buried in graves, while the English soldiers was left lying where they fell, with no one really knowing what happened to the remains of Harold Godwinson. One account states that William himself threw the body of the former king in the sea, while there also started to circulate legends that Harold did not in fact die at all, but withdrew the Chester to live out the remainder of his days as a hermit.

Duke William, from this day known as William the Conqueror rather than William the Bastard, had of course expected the surviving English soldiers, and in time the rest of the country, to acknowledge him as the new king. It didn´t quite work out that way, and instead Edgar the Ætheling was proclaimed king.

After a number of clashes between Norman and Anglo-Saxon forces during the fall, William was finally crowned king of England at Westminster Abbey on December 25th 1066.

Sources:

William the Conqueror – David Douglas

Death of Anglo-Saxon England – Nick Higham

The Norman Conquest – Hugh Thomas

Birthday of Richard III

On this day in 1452 Richard III was born at Fotheringhay Castle in Richard_III_earliest_surviving_portraitNorthamptonshire.

It is safe to say that no other medieval king has stirred such emotions over the centuries as Richard, first known as the black king who killed his nephews and over the last few years, the tide has turned drastically in Richard´s favour.

The truth of who the man was can most likely be found somewhere between the “black” Richard and the “white” Richard. The fact is, however, that he all through his brother´s, Edward IV, reign was a trusted and loyal Lord of the North and known as an excellent soldier.

The events about which opinions will most likely differ forever took place after Edward´s death:  the arrests of the lords Rivers and Grey at Stoney Stratford and their subsequent executions, the confinement of young king Edward V and his brother Richard at the Tower, the alleged pre-contract and the following Titulus Regius which made all children of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville illegitimate, the very dubious execution of lord Hastings and finally the disappearance of the princes from the Tower.

These are the things we know happened, even if we may never fully find out the answers to why and how. What kind of king Richard would have made in the long run is almost impossible to say as he only held the throne for two years before being killed at the Battle of Bosworth where he met Henry Tudor, the future Henry VII in 1485.

As we all know, the remains of Richard was found under a carpark in Leicester in September 2012, on the site where the Grey Friars church once stood. He was put to his final rest in Leicester Cathedral earlier this year.

Today we wish him a happy birthday!

Lambert Simnel – pretender

It was only two years into the reign of Henry VII that the first pretender to the throneLambert_Simnel,_Pretender_to_the_English_Throne,_Riding_on_Supporters_in_Ireland appeared on the “scene”, somewhat ironically trying to put himself off – or rather, being manipulated by others to do so – as the young Earl of Warwick, the son of George of Clarence, brother of Edward IV and Richard III, the original intention had been to pass him off as one of the princes in the Tower. The man behind the scheme was John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln and nephew of Richard, and seemingly named as heir to the throne when his own son had died at a young age, even if this was never announced publically. Involved in the plot was also Bishop Stillington, who as a result of this – when all was said and done – would be kept in house arrest for the remainder of his life.

de la Pole had originally made peace with the Tudor regime after the battle of Bosworth, but only two years later he orchestrated the rebellion which had Lambert Simnel as its figurehead. Most likely it was the intention of de la Pole to take the throne himself, had the rebellion succeded. It seems a clergyman named Symond introduced de la Pole to Simnel, who appears to have had some resemblance with the real son of Clarence, who was in fact imprisoned in the Tower, and who had also lost the right to inherit the throne through the attainder against his father.

When it comes to the boy Lambert Simnel, very little is known by his background. It seems that the earlier mentioned clergyman had trained him in some courtly manners, but allegedly he was the son of a baker, and contemporary sources does not, before the actual events, refer to him as Lambert, but John, and in the attainder later passed against de la Pole, Simnel is described as the son of an Oxford joiner and organmaker.

At the time Lambert Simnel was crowned as Edward VI in Dublin and put forward as the rightful heir to the throne of England, he was not much older than ten years old, and could obviously not be “credited” with being the initiator of the rebellion that followed, a fact that most likely proved significant for his later fate.

de la Pole won the backing of the Irish lord Gerald FitzGerald, who was eager to return to the state of relative Irish self-rule that had been the case under the Yorkist kings. He also managed to convince Margaret of Burgundy that he had been part in aiding her nephew Warwick´s escape from the Tower – later she would also happily identify Perkin Warbeck as another one of her nephews, young Richard who had been put in the Tower together with his brother Edward – and she contributed to de la Pole´s rebellion with 2 000 Flemish soldiers.

The result of the rebellion was the battle of Stoke Field – considered to be the very last battle of the Wars of the Roses – which took place on June 16, 1487. The rebels had arrived in Lancashire on June 4 after which they grew to number around 8 000 men.

After a couple a skirmishes and a clash with Lancastrian troops on the 10th at Bramham Moor, when the victory belonged to the Yorkists, they finally met the army of Henry VII on the 16th. The royal army far outnumbered the Yorkists, and was also led by two skilled commanders, the king´s uncle Jasper Tudor and John de Vere, 13th Earl of Oxford.

John de la Pole was killed in the battle, which the Yorkists lost, and the boy Lambert Simnel captured. It is sometimes claimed that Henry VII made the process short with the pretenders to his throne, but Lambert Simnel put that claim to shame, as the boy was pardoned, most likely just because he was a boy who and been manipulated by adults.

He was given a position as a spit-turner in the royal kitchens, and later went on to be promoted to the king´s falconer. Just as there is little known about the first 10 years of Lambert Simnel´s life, very little is known about his later in life. He seems to have gotten married, and may have been the father of Richard Simnel, canon of St Osyth´s Priory in Essex.

Lambert Simnel died around 1525, at the estimated age of 48 years.

 

Sources:

The Tudor Age – James A. Williamson

The Tudors – G. J. Meyer

Pole, John de la – Oxford Dictionary of National Biography/Rosemary Horrox

Lambert Simnel and the battle of Stoke – Michael J. Bennett

The Princes in the Tower – Alison Weir

Edward the Black Prince

 

There are certain names that can intrigue you, people, present or historic, it can be places, sometimes even things, or Edward the Black Princefor me, in this case; The Black Prince.

The truth is that the name the Black Prince did not come into use until about 200 years – during the Tudor Era – after the death of Edward of Woodstock, the eldest son of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault.

But this is the day on which he was born in 1330, during a calamitous time of his father´s reign. For the past three years, England had been de facto ruled by the lover of Edward III´s mother, Roger Mortimer who – supported by Isabella (the queen of Edward II and mother of Edward III – after a lengthy war had imprisoned Edward II and allegedly had him murdered at Berkley Castle in 1327, only months after Edward III had been crowned king.

This year, after the birth of Edward of Woodstock, the actual name of the Black Prince, things started to turn around. Accused of a number of crimes, one of which was assuming the Royal power, Roger Mortimer was hanged at Tyburn on November 29th 1330.

But this post isn´t about Roger Mortimer, Edward II or Edward III, who undoubtedly DO deserve a line or two on the blog. But this one is about, as earlier mentioned, another Edward; Edward the Black Prince.

King_Edward_III_from_NPGEdward III and Philippa of Hainult would have several children – without being able to really verify this straight up, it is said that the majority of the English people are actually decedents of this fertile royal couple – but Edward was the one meant to carry the dreams of a continued dynasty, the heir to the crown, and at the age of sis he was made Duke of Cornwall. This was actually the first time that the English word “Duke” was used, as up until now the French wording of “Duc” had been used.

Another one of Edward´s titles was of course the Prince of Wales.

During his entire life, the Hundred Years War would be raging, and he turned out to be a highly talented soldier who took part in the invasion of Normandy already at the age of 16, on which occasion he was knighted as he got off the ship in France, maybe slightly ironical it took place side by side of another Roger Mortimer, the grandson of the man Edward III had seen executed 16 years before. Only days after, the English army engaged in the Battle of Crecy of August 26th 1346, in which Edward of Woodstock led the vanguard, but considering his – at the time – limited military experiences, it is likely he was advised by more experienced military commanders such as the Earl of Warwick and the Earl of Northampton.

The Battle of Crecy, which the English won not least through the force of the English longbows, came to be a definingBattle_of_crecy_froissart point of the young Prince, and came not only to determine how the English would execute the war in France, would influence his household, most likely his view of himself, and not least his reputation which would live on through the centuries.

From Crecy the army marched on towards Calais to embark on an almost year-long siege after which the French surrendered due to the French king Philip VI failing to deliver aid. This was part of a recapture of France after king John had lost most of the vast territory held by his father, and England would hold Calais until 1558 when it was finally lost by Mary I.

The battle of the Hundred Years War in which Edward of Woodstock played a prominent role did not, however, only take part on dry land.

In 1350, he and his father Edward III engaged the kingdom of Castile in the Battle of Winchelsea, a bloody confrontation at sea in which the English captured somewhere between 14 and 26 Castilian ships while they themselves lost two during the battle.

The mentioned battles and siege would only be the beginning of a long line of battles, negotiations, victories and losses during the Black Prince short life, and I will not list them all here, after all, the blog is not intended to be a dictionary, but aim to inspire those of you who hopefully read the posts to find out more about what may interest you.

But I´m not quite done with Edward yet. Amidst all the fighting, he built up a reputation which almost can be seen as dual, and of course, which version would be told depended on one which side the one telling the story would find themselves.

His troops where noted for an extreme brutality in the sacking of Limoges in September 1370, when men, women and children were said to have been killed indiscriminately.

After a period of siege, the town was stormed on September 19th, when the commander in charge of the town, the Duke of Berry, had left it with only 140 men to defend it left in the town.

Siege_of_LimogesThe English forces was led not only by Edward the Black Prince, but also by his brothers John of Gaunt – through whom Margaret Beaufort would have her claim to the throne – and Edmund of Langley.

At this point the illness which would later claim his life already struck Edward, and he was carried on a litter.

The account of how over 3 000 people died in a massacre after the town of Limoges had fallen comes from the French author and court historian Jean Froissart, and has been claimed to be French bias, but the fact is that at the time of the massacre of Limoges, Froissart was at the service of Philippa of Hainault, mother of Edward, Edmund of Langley and John of Gaunt. The recent discovery of a letter in Edward´s own hand in a Spanish archive by the French historian Dr Guilhem Pepin sheds a different light on the story. Combined with other evidence, it seems that 100 soldiers and 200 civilians died.

Regardless, the sack of Limoges has been seen as the absolute opposite of chivalry, something for which Edward the Black Prince had otherwise been noted. He is however said to let expediency override the chivalry on a number of occasions.

Edward married Joan, countess of Kent and baroness Wake of Liddell, a widow two years older than Edward and Joan_of_Kentknown for her beauty; so much so that she was called by already mentioned Froissart “the most beautiful woman in all the realm of England, and the most loving”. She had five children from a previous marriage, and also already at the age of 12 had married without the Royal consent needed for a woman of her station.

Needless to say, Edward III and Philippa of Hainault was less than thrilled by their oldest son´s choice of consort. Two sons were born, one of whom – Edward of Angouleme –  only lived until the age of six and Richard, who after the death of his grandfather, only a year after the Black Prince, would be crowned Richard II.

After having been invested Prince of Aquitaine the royal couple lived there, to return to England only when Edward´s ill health prevented him from performing his duties in the territory.

The Black PrinceEdward the Black Prince died in his bed at Westminster Palace on June 8th 1376, only a week before his 46th birthday.

By request he was buried at the cathedral of Canterbury, and his tomb can be seen on the south side of where the shrine of Thomas Becket used to be. Above the tomb, replicas of his heraldic achievements can be seen, and not far from the tomb, one can still see the actual originals behind a glass pane

The poem below can be seen on his tomb;

Such as thou art, sometime was I

Such as I am, such shalt thou be

I thought little on th´our of Death

So long as I enjoyed breath

But now a wretched captive I am,

Deep in the ground, lo here I lie.

My beauty great, is all quite gone,

My flesh is wasted to the bone

One last word, well, quite a few, about the name the Black Prince; as said before, it didn´t appear until 150-200 yearsComplete_Guide_to_Heraldry_Fig478 after his death, and of course there has been speculations as to where and why it originated. One suggestion has been made that it was due to his brutality in the field, other  suggestions has been that it is related to his black shield (posted above), and maybe also that his armour could be perceived as black, as it has been described  as being of dark brown metal.

 

Sources;

Edward the Black Prince, power in Medieval Europe – David Green

The Plantagenets; the warrior kings and queens that made England – Dan Jones

Article: Was Edward the Black Prince really a nasty piece of work – BBC Magazine 2014-07-07