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

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The formidable Bess of Hardwick

Bess_of_Hardwick_as_Mistress_St_LoIt is often noted, and not without reason, that history mainly belong to the men in it. But there are a number of strong and impressive women who to a large extent shaped their own destiny, and one of those was without a doubt Elizabeth Talbot, known to history as Bess of Hardwick, which is what she will be called in this post.

Her exact birthdate is not known, and suggestions are made with in the wide range of 1521 to the last part of 1527, the latter more commonly accepted. She was the daughter of John Hardwick of Derbyshire and his wife Elizabeth Leeke who belonged to the minor gentry. Not much is known in detail about Bess’ early years, but she had four sisters of which one would later die at quite a young age, and a brother who would be heir to the family’s holdings when her father passed away around the age of 40.

It has been suggested that Bess at the age of 12 got to know both London and the Tudor court through the influence of Anne Gainsford, Lady Zouche, who was lady-in-waiting of Anne Boleyn (and the one who introduced Anne B to the writings of William Tyndale), but there is no contemporary evidence to back this up.

What is clear though is that Bess, like so many other girls of her time, married very early, at “a tender age” which suggests she was younger than 16 and her first husband was the 13 year old Robert Barley. This marriage didn´t last long, due to Robert dying just a year or two later, and there is no evidence that they ever lived together as husband and wife. After his death Bess was denied her dower, which resulted in a court battle which lasted for years, but eventually was won by Bess.

By the time it was won she was already remarried, this time to the twice-widowed 593px-William_Cavendish_c1547William Cavendish, who had two daughters and was appointed Treasurer of the King´s Chamber. This marriage took place on August 20th 1547, the very last year of Henry VIII´s life. It would only last 10 years, as William Cavendish died in 1557, but the marriage resulted in eight children of which six survived. The death of Cavendish however left Bess heavily indebted to the Crown.

As the prospects for an unmarried woman was next to none in 16th century society, Bess remarried a second time in 1559 to her third husband, this time to William St Loe, making her Lady St Loe. By this time Elizabeth was on the throne, and William St Loe was captain of the Queen´s guards as well as Chief Butler of England, an appointment which basically included what the title suggests, but primarily at coronation banquets.  He held large estates in Somerset and Gloucestershire, and when he after only around six years of marriage died, something that seems to have been due to poisoning, the lack of male heirs (he had two daughters) made his worldly goods pass on to his widow Bess.

While the previous husband had left Bess in financial difficulties, William St Loe did the exact opposite, and made Lady St Loe one of the absolutely wealthiest women in the country with an annual income of £60 000, a sum which today would equal £ 16,8 million. To that should be added that she was also a Lady of the Bedchamber which gave her close and daily contact with Elizabeth I, something which undoubtedly gave her a certain amount of influence, and there is no wild guess to think that that in combination with her fortune and good looks was what made prospective husbands flock around her.

Maybe it was the knowledge that she was financially secure in her own right that kept her from rushing into a fourth marriage, as it took around three years, maybe slightly more, for her to remarry.

800px-George_Talbot_6th_Earl_of_Shrewsbury_1580Her last husband was George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, and before going into his life with Bess -or rather, her life with him – I just as a curiosity feel the need to mention that there a couple of generations back in his family tree is to be found a certain Eleanor Talbot, later Butler, who is no other than the female party in the alleged and oh so discussed pre-contract with Edward IV. But that´s all that will be said in regards to that matter in this post.

It´s maybe not easy to say who benefited most from what, but clear is that both Bess and George saw advantages in really tying their families together, because not only did the two get married, Bess 12 year old daughter Mary Cavendish was married to George´s 16 year old son Gilbert, while George´s 8 year old daughter Grace was married to Bess´s 18 year old son Henry Cavendish in a double ceremony.

Whether these two unions was to be happier than that of their parents I cannot say, but fact is that Bess and her husband George Talbot would eventually have a falling out, allegedly fuelled by no other than Mary Queen of Scots. When the Scottish queen had been driven into exile by her disgruntled lords and sought out the protection of her cousin Elizabeth I, we all know what happened, she ended up in an 18 yearlong house arrest, which for the greater part, 15 years, took place in the home of Bess of Hardwick and her husband.

It seems the Mary and Bess must have found some kind of friendship bond, andoxburgh together they spend hours at needlework, something they were both proficient at. The result is now known as the Oxburgh Hangings and can be found at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Bess´s tapestries marked by the initials BS, and part of Mary´s other embroideries were to become part of Bess´s extensive collection which can now be seen at Hardwick Hall. But there were downsides to the arrangement as well, Mary seems to have played out the Talbots against each other, with the result that Bess started rumours of her husband having an affair with the deposed queen. The marriage was falling apart, and even Elizabeth herself tried to act as a kind of marriage counsellor, but to no avail.

Hardwick_Hall_in_Doe_Lea_-_DerbyshireGeorge Talbot died in 1590, making Bess of Hardwick the Dowager Countess of Shrewsbury. Bess, now in her 70´s, did not marry again, but she did continue another “hobby”, she after having built Chatsworth House in 1560, she now embarked on Hardwick Hall, in the vicinity of the old Hardwick Hall where she lived as a child. The new hall was given it´s very own rhyme due to it´s design with an unusual amount of windows; “Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall”.

While she spent over a decade basically being a guarding an heir presumptive to the Lady_Arabella_Stuartthrone, Bes would in time herself raise one herself, her granddaughter Arabella, or Arbella, Stuart. Arabella was the daughter of Bess daughter Elizabeth Cavendish and Charles Stuart, younger brother of Henry, Lord Darnley, second husband of Mary Queen of Scots.

This made Arabella great great granddaughter of Henry VII, and yet another possible heir to the throne. While Bess indeed had such ambitions for her granddaughter, Arabella herself was less than inclined, something which would eventually lead to a complete break between the two. Seven year after her grandmother´s death, Arabella would herself die as a prisoner in the Tower due to her own actions, but more about that in a separate post.

Due to Arabella´s refusal to stake her claim to both the Scottish and the English throne, Bess never got to see a descendant as monarch, but she does in fact have one right now; Elizabeth II

While no date of birth exist for Bess, the information on her death is more specific, and this formidable woman passed away at 5 pm on February 13th, which was a Sunday, 1608 at the age of 81. She was put to her final rest in All Saint´s Parish Church, Derby, today´s Derby Cathedral.

Over the past years a large number on letters, to and from Bess of Hardwick has been found and compiled in an online database by the University of Glasgow. The letters has helped change the view of Bess and I will return to them in a later post.

 

Sources:

Mistress of Hardwick – Alison Plowden

The Life of Elizabeth I – Alison Weir

Bess of Hardwick; Portrait of an Elizabethan Dynasty – David Durant

Bessofhardwick.org

Images:

Oxburgh Hanging – Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum

Hardwick Hall in Doe Lea, Derbyshire/Wikimedia

Arabella Stuart – Robert Peake/National Galleries of Scotland

Lady of the English – Empress Matilda

Empress_MathildaEmpress Mathilda (or Maude, both names are used) isn´t the most well-known of the English regents, at least not outside England. But as granddaughter of William I – better known as William the Conqueror and victor at the Battle of Hastings 1066 – and grandmother of both Richard the Lionheart and the reluctant signer of Magna Carta, King John, as well as a participant in the civil war known as The Anarchy, she´s an interesting acquaintance.

She was born on this day, February 7th, 913 years ago, 1102.

While still a child she moved to Germany to be wed to the future emperor of the Great Roman Empire in 1114, Henry V. Matilda participated in the ruling of the empire and also acted as regent in Italy in her husband´s name. He was almost 20 years older than her, and the marriage was to be childless. Henry V died in 1125, five years after the White Ship disaster in which Mathilda´s brother William Adelin, heir to the throne, had died and left England in a vulnerable situation.

Matilda hurried to her father Henry I in Normandy where he made his court swear fealty to Matilda and her future children. She also entered a second marriage, this time with Geoffrey of Anjou, count of Anjou, Toulouse and Maine, to defend the southern borders of the empire. The marriage was reputedly unhappy, both due to age difference and cultural barriers. The realm of the English regent at this time consisted of large lands in France as well. Together with Geoffrey she had the son Henry Curtmantle, later Henry II.

Geoffrey of Anjou deserve a special mentioning, not least due to his habit of wearing a broom flower in his hat, a PlantaGeoffrey_of_Anjou_Monument Genista in Latin, from which the house he helped found, The Plantagenet’s, derive its name. The first monarch to actually use the name was his son by Matilda, Henry, and the last one was Richard III

But back to Matilda; a female heir to the throne was nothing that was relished in 12th century Europe and the resistance among the barons, whose support was needed, was strong and Matilda was prevented from being crowned after the death of Henry I. Instead she called herself the Lady of the English (the empress title came from her position as empress in the Holy Roman Empire 1114 – 1125). Instead Mathilda’s cousin, Stephen of Blois, assumed the throne with the backing of the church

Together with her half-brother Robert of Gloucester and the backing of her maternal uncle, the Scottish king, David I, Matilda invaded England from Normandy in 1139, and action that initiated the civil war known as the Anarchy. This period will at a later point get a post of its own.

Henry_II_of_England_croppedMatilda never won the war against Stephen, instead it would be her son, who at the time of the invasion had stayed behind in France. Henry Curtmantle, however, never defeated Stephen in battle, but instead made a peace agreement with him after Stephen´s son and heir Eustace had died, which meant that Henry would take the English throne after the death of Stephen which occurred in October 1154. Henry Curtmantle began his reign as Henry II in December that same year.

Henry would become a sometimes ruthless king that spent a great deal of his reign in the saddle, riding back and forth through his vast realm on both sides of “the narrow sea” (the English channel) in an effort to keep it together. I have written briefly about him in my previous post about the murder of Thomas Becket (yet to be translated). He was the first to use the name Plantagenet and would later become dad to the latter day legend Richard the Lionheart.

Matilda herself withdraw to Normandy in 1148 but to a high extent functioned as a political advisor for her son, not least did she try to mediate in the conflict between Henry and Becket

She died in 1167, 65 years old and was put to her final rest in Bec Abbey in Normandy.

 

Sources: The Plantagentes; the warrior kings and queens who made England – Dan Jones

A History of Britain 3000 BC-AD 1603 – Simon Schama

For a fictional account of Mathilda, I recommend the book Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet, or for that matter the tv-series with the same name based on said book.