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

Barking Abbey, part II

While the women of the poorer classes have been working since the beginning of time,hildegard_of_bingen_and_nuns “work” was not an option for women of the higher classes of society and in many cases the options were two: get married or join a convent.

The fact that some women either by their own will or by the will of the family became nuns has sometimes inspired thinking in the terms of at what rate it was religious convictions that made people join a nunnery, but I feel that in using those words, we are beginning to apply our secular way of thinking to people living in an age when “not believing in God” was as unlikely an option as finding work was for an Earl´s daughter.

This alone was not the reason for the number of daughters from the nobility choosing, or being expected to, to join a convent. Both Power and Barnes point out that doing so what not necessarily an undertaking done for free, something which is indicated already in the paying of a dowry by John of Gaunt to Barking Abbey for the admittance of Elizabeth Chaucer. Just as a wedding, the joining of the monastic life was a cost that often needed to be covered by, if possible, the bride´s family regardless of the groom was a man of flesh and blood or God.

Another factor that speaks to the advantage for women of the nobility was that the woman wanting to become a nun was expected to have some level of education. Among the lower classes, the literacy among men was lower than 20 percent England in the 1550´s, and far lower among women. Literacy among women could be found among the gentry, the mercantile class and the nobility, which obviously in most cases excluded for example the thatcher´s daughter from a life as a nun.

In 1527 they had seen Dorothy Barley, when she would have been around 37 years old, become elected abbess, a process that required a license from the patron of the order, in this case the king as Barking Abbey was a royal monastery and once that was achieved four scrutineers were chosen. Their task was to appoint candidates for the role as abbess and then the election would be held on a feast day.

medieval-nunsAll nuns would cast their vote, and to be an eligible candidate the minimum requirement was that the nun in question was at least 21 years old, of legitimate birth and of good reputation. While her popularity among the other nuns no doubt played some part, and it has been suggested that the social standing of her family outside the monastery also played its part, what was most important was her merit and capability, or as expressed in the Benedictine Rule chapter 64 requires that a nun be chosen for wisdom and doctrine.

As Abbess Dorothy Barley had her own household away from the rest of the nuns, and most likely it was also here that the children staying as wards lived. From 1437 to 1440 the two small boys Jasper and Edmund Tudor stayed here under the supervision of Katherine de la Pole, and in the last decade leading up to the surrender of the Abbey, Sir John Stanley dedicated his son to the care of the Abbess of Barking Abbey, where the boy would stay until the age of 12.

Possibly was that the same John Stanley who was an illegitimate son of the Bishop of Ely, and if so, the boy in question would only have been four at the time he joined the Abbess of Barking Abbey. For the upbringing and education of the young boy, the abbess received £20 per year. There are in some documents signs that other children may have been boarded in the household of the abbess, but unfortunately the names of their families does not remain.

She, the abbess, would also have had the responsibility for both the financial and the judicial sides of the monastery. The financial matters included the administration of the abbeys funds, which derived from leases of demesne land of the 15 manors that was in the possession of the abbey, the lease for the mill in Barking as well as rents and taxes. Added to that there was an inflow of grain, produce, hay and wood from the manors.

The ones belonging to Barking at the time of the dissolution was basically the same that hed belonged to the abbey since the 13th century: Barking, Abbes Hall, Bulphan, Caldecoates, Cokermouth, Down Hall, Great Warley, Hanley Hall, Hewkesbury, Highall, Hockley, Ingatestone, Leaden Roding, Mucking, Tollesbury, Wangey Hall, Westbury, Wigborough and Wood Barns.

Both products and cash were used by the Obedentiaries, such as the Cellaress, the Sacrist and the Infirmaress, for the upkeep of the monastery and the sustenance of the nuns and those living in the monastery, not always just the nuns, which I will return to, it seems as if the different offices had their “own” manors from which they received the revenue to make the economy of their “department” go round financially.

The abbess would also be involved in handle litigations, a not a too uncommon occurrence for the abbey as a major landholder with tenants. For these instances she had the assistance of stewards, two during the last years of the existence of Barking Abbey. They also were in employ of the monastery to keep an eye on the manors and lands belonging to the abbey, and from the 13th century it was common practice that these stewards had a legal education.

While the abbess in modern day terminology in many ways would have been seen as the public relations officer, spending most of her time dealing with the monastery´s contacts with the outside world – requiring her to be respected in a society run by men – she also had assistance by people who, to continue the modern day terminology, was in charge of the HR-department.

This was the work of the prioress, second in command to the abbess and a position held in the last years of Barking Abbey by Thomasina Jenney who had been at the abbey since the late 15th century and up until 1508 had held the position as sacrist. In 1508 she was elected prioress, a position she held for the remainder of the abbey´s existence. She was assisted by a sub-prioress and due to the wealth and power of Barking Abbey, a third prioress, and their work was to oversee the work of the obedentiaries who all held different offices within the monastery.

While the abbess was elected, the prioress and the obedentiaries were appointed, and this was a process that took place every year on the first Monday of Lent in the Charter House after Mass.  The work of the nuns holding the offices during the previous year was evaluated by the abbess and those who had excelled at their tasks might be in for a promotion while those who had performed a less than satisfactory work could be demoted from their positions and return to the life of an ordinary nun. One example of promotion is that of Margaret Scrope who had been made precentrix in 1527, lady of the pension in 1535-36 and promoted to sub prioress some time before 1539. Another example of someone who had clearly managed her office very well is Thomasina Jenney who, as previously mentioned, held her office as prioress for 30 years.

On this day positions which had become vacant due to for example the death of the previous holder was filled.

Sources:

House of Benedictine Nuns: Barking Abbey in “A history of the County of Essex: Volume 2, ed. William Page and J Horace Round (London 1907) British History Online

A nun´s life: Barking Abbey in the late-medieval and early modern periods – Theresa L. Barnes, Portland State University, 2004.

Barking Abbey: A study in its external and internal administration from the conquest to the dissolution – Winifred K. Sturman, University of London, 1961.

Dugdale Monasticon, Vol 1, part 15: Charthe longynge to the Office of the Celeresse of the Monasterye of Barkinge. 1655.

Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic of Henry VIII, August-December 1539.

Barking Abbey, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, Museum and Heritage, Local History Resources.

Essex Record Office

 

 

 

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.

Prince Arthur: The Tudor King who Never Was – Review

Sean Cunninghamthe king that never was

Amberley Publishing

Publication: 15th July, 2016

I have had the honour to read the new book by Sean Cunningham about the son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York that we rarely hear about; Prince Arthur, the intended heir to the crown.

When the name Tudor is mentioned, I dare say that it isn’t the name “Arthur” that pops up in the head of most people, but rather those of either his father, the Henry who won the Battle of Bosworth and became “the seventh” or – and probably the most likely candidate – one thinks of Arthurs younger brother, Henry, who should never have been king but still became maybe the most famous and infamous king throughout British history as Henry VIII.

But in between the two Henry´s, father and son, was the firstborn: Prince Arthur, the Tudor King who never was, which is exactly the title of Sean Cunningham´s book about the nearly forgotten son of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York.

He was born in September 1486, and would live for only 15 years, dying after falling ill in the damp caste of Ludlow, only months after his marriage to the Spanish princess Katherine of Aragon who would later be his brother´s first wife of six, whereby Henry not only took the throne which should have been Arthur´s, but also his queen.

Sean Cunningham travels through these 15 years, exploring the hopes of Arthur´s father when the boy was born, Arthur was a name the came with expectations, taken as it was from the mythical Arthur, and speculate how England might have evolved differently if this firstborn son would have been allowed by the powers that be to live to an old age and have children of his own to inherit the crown.

Arthur was not only a son to Henry, he was the anchor that tied him down to the English throne that up until then could be lost just as easily as he had won it, through conquest. With an heir, that also was the grandson of Edward IV, his claim was strengthened.

Prince Arthur – the Tudor King who never was is an expose of the years leading up to a reign that never took place, and the result of which we can only piece together from the ambitions Henry VII drew up, and from which one can see the contours of maybe a different kind of monarch than his younger brother came to be. And Sean Cunningham does a good job.

He also recounts the point where Arthur´s ghost return to the English court he never was head of, when the doubts of whether or not Arthur´s marriage to Katherine was ever consummated, a doubt which was highlighted in the process which is known as Henry´s great matter, his strife for annulment of the years he had spent with his Spanish queen.

We also meet Henry himself in relation to the brother he barely knew, as Arthur at a young age moved to his own household at the castle where he far too early met his death.

But most importantly, and unlike in many other books, here Arthur becomes an individual of his own, built on an extensive research a work rarely done previously by historians who has had a tendency to view Arthur as nothing more than a parenthesis between the two Henrys.

The book is important, and well worth the read both for those who are completely unfamiliar with this part of Tudor history, which in other respects is so accessible and for those who has made the acquaintance of Arthur before.

 

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.

 

 

Will Kempe – Shakespeare´s clown

When William Shakespeare wrote his plays, he didn´t do it for any random actors, but 800px-Will_Kemp_Elizabethan_Clown_Jigspecifically for his own company – first called The Lord Chamberlain´s Men and after the accession of James I The King´s Men – and most likely with the different actors in mind for specific parts in each plays.

In the company there was also a “clown”, the one to get the particularly comical parts, and the first one of these was William – or Will – Kempe.

It isn´t known for certain where Will Kempe was born, or who his parents were, but there are theories that he may have belonged to the Kempe family of the manor Olantigh in Kent.

Will Kempe started his career as an actor in Leicester´s Men, the company receiving its patronage from the Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley, and he is first mentioned performing at Leicester House in May 1585 together with the company and he toured with them in the Netherlands and Denmark.

Already in 1583 Leicester´s Men had begun to be slightly depleted when several of it´s members jumped ship to instead join the newly formed Queen Elizabeth´s Men, which had been created on the direct order of the Queen herself. In 1588 the Earl of Leicester died, and the theatre company, which he had endorsed, ceased to exist all together. In 1593 Will Kempe resurfaced in Lord Strange´s Men which consisted of retainers of the household of Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange. It the very same year the company changed its name to Lord Derby´s Men, as Ferdinando Stanley came into his father´s title.

By this time Will Kempe had started to become known, both to the audience and his fellow actors as a great comical talent, and he stayed with Lord Stange´s/Lord Derby´s Men for only a year, and joined The Lord Chamberlain´s Men in 1594 where just that talent was put to good use in roles such as Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing, Peter in Romeo and Juliet and, as already mentioned, Falstaff and most likely Lancelot Gobbo in the Merchant of Venice as well as Bottom in A Midsummer Night´s Dream.

He may also have been the original Falstaff, but this is less certain. In the introduction to the 19th century print of Kempe´s own book, “Kemps Nine Daies Wonder Performed in a Daunce from London to Norwich”, which there will be more about later in his post, the Reverend Alexander Dyce also states that he most likely played the parts of Launce in “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”, Touchstone in “As you like it”, one of the grave-diggers in “Hamlet”, Justice Shallow in “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and he supposedly also had a part in “Every Man in his Humour” by Ben Jonson, written in 1598 and performed by The Lord Chamberlain´s Men.

Will Kempe stayed with Shakespeare and The Lord Chamberlain´s only until 1599, and while the reason for him leaving isn´t documented, scholars have suggested that it was a result that William had had enough of his improvising on stage, and it has been said that Shakespeare made a reference to this conflict in Hamlet, where the following lines can be found in act 3, scene 2;

“And let those that play  your clowns speak no more than is set down for them; for there be of them that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh  too.”

Others suggest that he left because he had been denied a role in Hamlet.

Kemp's_Men,_Chapelfield_Gardens_-_geograph.org.uk_-_167501After the departure of Will Kempe from the company, Shakespear´s comical roles are said to have changed, and there are indications that Will Kempe had a physical way of acting which may have been hard for his successor to follow.

His ambition was to find another outlet for his comical talent, and one way of doing so was to, in 1599, embark on a Morris dance from London to Norwich, a distance of almost 100 miles which took nine days spread over several weeks (23 days all in all) from start to finish, and resulted in a book penned by Kempe himself; Kempe´s Nine Daies of Wonder.

If searching for information of Kempe´s Morris Dance, it should be noted that the year varies between 1599 and 1600, which allegedly has to do with differences between the Julian and Gregorian calendar, and that notes may have been changed after the fact.

In 1599 Ben Jonson wrote a sequel to his Every Man in his Humour, called “Every Man out of his Humour”. This too was played by The Lord Chamberlain´s Men, the irony being that while Will Kempe was missing from the cast, he was very much present through a line in the play, alluding to his Morris dancing that very same year;

“Would I had one of Kemp’s shoes to throw after you!”

A year later he supposedly left England to tour Europe, returning in 1602, when he joined the acting company Worcester´s Men, but at the same time, he is said to during 1601 have borrowed money from the theatrical entrepreneur Philip Henslowe.

Just as only assumptions can be made when it comes Will Kempe´s background, this is also the case for when and where he died. He is mentioned one last time in Philip Henslow´s diary from 1602, and after that there is “silence”.

Some scholars believe him to have died in the plague in 1603, when one of the biggest outbreaks occurred, but no sources exist to really substantiate this. In parish records for St. Saviour in Southwark, there is a mentioning of “A man, Kempe” which died in late 1603. There is however no way of knowing that this is the right Kempe, but facts remain that he was never heard of again after this year.

 

Sources:

 

William Kempe – Amanda Mabillard, Shakespeare Online, May 31, 2016.

http://www.shakespeare-online.com/biography/willkempe.html

 

A Shakespeare Companion 1564-1964 – F.E. Halliday

 

The Elizabethan Stage – E.K. Chambers

 

Shakespeare A to Z – Charles Boyce

 

The Shakespearan Stage 1574-1642 – Andrew Gurr

 

literarynorfolk.co.uk

Will Kempes Nine Daies of Wonder : Performed in Daunce from London to Norwich – Will Kempe/Camden Society/Gutenberg Project

Images;

Wood carving of Will Kempe in Chapelfield Gardens, Norwich – Graham Hardy/Wikimedia Commons

Will Kempe. Nine Daies of Wonder – Wikimedia Commons

Music and Richard III; Ian Churchward unites interests

Ian Churchward, who has a musical  background in groups such as Chapter 29, The Morrisons, Stone Reaction and The Psycho Daisies to mention but a few, has, as Theclock man legendary ten seconds Legendary Ten Seconds, found a way to incorporate not only his interest for history and Richard III into his music, but also to use it to support a scoliosis charity. 

When did your interest in Richard III start?

I  am not really sure. For almost as long as I can remember I have been interested in history. It was before the early 1990’s that I must have had an interest in Richard III because I remember visiting Middleham castle around about that time when I was on holiday in Yorkshire and it was one of the places I wanted to visit because of my interest in the period of the Wars of the Roses. Probably like most people it must have been whenever I first read about the mystery of the missing princes in the Tower of London. When I was a young boy one of my favourite books was a Ladybird children’s book about Warwick the Kingmaker. I didn’t really pursue my interest in English late 15th century history until I saw the documentary about the discovery of the grave of Richard III in the car park in Leicester a few years ago.

What gave you the idea to incorporate him and his times in your music?

It was after watching the documentary about the discovery of the grave of Richard III in the car park in Leicester a few years ago when it was first shown on English TV. I  was in the middle of composing a song with a friend. We had a good idea for a tune but no idea for the words and after watching the documentary I  decided to make the song idea into a song about Richard III. It started off as one song and then ended up with more songs than I could fit onto 3 albums.

GoldAngels paintingThe music you play, is it the same kind of music that would have been heard in the time of Richard himself?

I don’t think it is although it almost sounds like it could be. Some of the instrumentals sound like the kind of music that might have been heard during the Tudor period.  The songs on the Richard III albums are a bit like historical novels that have been written in the modern era. For instance the Sunne In Splendour novel by Sharon Penman takes you back in time so that you feel like you are in late 15th century England but the characters in the novel speak using modern English so that we can understand the story.  I have tried to make my music about Richard III sound like it is  taking you back in time by giving it a medieval flavour but to make it accessible I am using modern musical instruments.

How come you have dedicated yourself to supporting scoliosis issues?Loyualte final FRONT COVER

Because Richard III had scoliosis and so did a member of my family. I felt it was a good opportunity to help raise awareness of this medical condition and so I decided that I would donate a percentage of any profit to a scoliosis charity in the UK called S.A.U.K.

How has it been received?

The majority of the people who have purchased my music about Richard III appear to have enjoyed listening to the songs and the Richard III society have been supportive. I have been disappointed that the Leicester Richard III visitor centre, Bosworth Heritage Centre and the English Heritage shop in Middleham castle have not been prepared to sell my CDs in their shops.

Do you have plans for another album?

So far I have released 3 album about the life and times of Richard III. I  am currently in the middle of recording an album which will include songs about Richard III but will be less focused on his life and hopefully cover other aspects of the Wars of the Roses. I am hoping that the album will also include a song I have composed about a medieval re-enactment group and another one about the modern medieval fair that is held in Tewkesbury. I have so far composed 13 songs with lyrics and 6 instrumentals that could be used for the next album. I want to call the album Sunnes and Roses. A play on the famous band Guns and Roses. I got the idea from a website that is  called Sunnes and Roses.

The lyrics of one of the songs of Ians upcoming album;

TEWKESBURY MEDIEVAL FAIR

 

THE REENACTORS IN THEIR FINE CLOTHES

OF THE LATE FIFTEENTH CENTURY I DO SUPPOSE

GO BACK IN TIME YES YOU COULD BE THERE

ALL FOUND AT TEWKESBURY MEDIEVAL FAIR

 

A POT OF HERBS OR ARMOUR FOR SALE

IN THE MARKET MUSIC, DANCING AS WELL

A FABULOUS GOWN THAT YOUR LADY COULD WEAR

ALL FOUND AT TEWKESBURY MEDIEVAL FAIR

 

ENTERTAINMENT THROUGHOUT THE DAY

AND A DRAGON KEEPER DID I HEAR YOU SAY

DISPLAYS OF COMBAT I DO DECLARE

ALL FOUND AT TEWKESBURY MEDIEVAL FAIR

 

MANY COME FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD

ACROSS THE FIELD THE BANNERS UNFURLED

FAIR MAIDENS AND KNIGHTS YOU WILL FIND THERE

ALL FOUND AT TEWKESBURY MEDIEVAL FAIR

 

Gold coin painting – Graham Moore

Loyaulte me lie cover – Red Fox Illustrations

Lady Arbella Stuart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“May it please your most excellent Majesty

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sources:

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

Bessofhardwick.org – collected letters of the Countess of Shrewsbury

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

Lexscripta.com

The Letters of Lady Arbella Stuart – Sarah Jayne Steen

 

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

Bringing history to life: Reenactment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Battle of Tewkesbury – Antony Stanley

Roman cavalry reenactment – Matthias Kabel

Battle of Waterloo – Myrabella

Battle of Grunwald, Poland – Wojsyl

 

The Southampton Plot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sources:

Agincourt: A New History – Anne Curry

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

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

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

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

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

Images:

Portchester Castle – Matthew Folley/Wikimedia Commons

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

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

Unfortunately images of the actual plotters are less then scarce