Tuesday, 2 December 2008
The motives of these people are not hard to understand - for a beginning, a long suppressed desire for a ruler of Welsh blood, indeed a Welsh state. At a more practical level, they were hard pressed by financial exactions, lived more often or not at the mercy of the corrupt officials of absentee English lords, and were oppressed by laws that treated them virtually as enemy aliens in their own land.
What is perhaps more interesting is the fact that, even from the beginning, Owain attracted a number of English followers. In some cases (especially when he looked like winning) these probably included 'colonists' who wanted to secure their future within an independent Wales. For others though the decision seems to have been a political one, as much rooted in hostility to Henry IV's government as in any interest in 'freedom for Wales'.
Owain was also able to form alliances with English nobles opposed to King Henry, the most obvious cases being the Earl of Northumberland and Sir Edmund Mortimer. Whether these alliances would have survived a victory for the combined opposition it's impossible to know. My guess is that they wouldn't have survived very long.
Conversely, and quite contrary to modern myth, not all the Welsh supported Glyn Dwr. For example, the Welsh tenants of Pool (now Welshpool) remained loyal to the Charlton family throughout the rising, and were subsequently rewarded with an enhanced charter of liberties. Another case is the famous Davy Gam (Dafydd Gam) who remained steadfastly loyal to Bolingbroke (His feudal lord as Lord of Brecon) and was prominent in arms in the King's service against Owain. For many, loyalty to a lord was still more important than loyalty to the concept of a 'nation'.
Unfortunately for Owain, his support was what modern pundits would call 'flaky'. As long as he was successful people flocked to his banner, but as soon as the tide turned decisively against him most hurriedly submitted to Henry and bought pardons.
Sunday, 30 November 2008
Owain was around 40 in 1400, which was well beyond youth in the 14th century - given that the average age of the population was nearer 20. He appears to have served the Arundel family in various roles, and he fought in Richard II's Scottish campaign of 1385. In terms of relationships he was connected to other Welsh gentry families, to people who might be called Anglo-Welsh, like his wife's people, the Hamners, and to English gentry such as his brother-in-law, Robert Puleston.
The spark for his rising appears to have been a quarrel with his neighbour, Lord Grey de Ruthin, who lived just over the hill from Owain. Some say it was a dispute over land, others that Grey held back a summons from Henry IV for Owain to join the king's invasion of Scotland. My impression of Grey is that he was an aggressive bully, and not particularly bright, but unfortunately (from Owain's point of view) he was also a close associate of the King. (I'm reluctant to say 'friend' as I think even Bolingbroke had better taste.)
Either way between 18th and 23rd September 1400, Owain's supporters attacked Ruthin, Denbigh, Flint, Holt and Oswestry. Henry's response was rapid (he had an army available, having just attacked Scotland) and after eight of those involved in the attack on Ruthin were executed the government felt strong enough to start issuing pardons to those involved and during October to disband most of the forces assembled to deal with the revolt.
Owain and a few supporters made off for the hills, neither pardoned nor reconciled. It must have seemed to Henry IV that this was just a minor local difficulty that had been sorted. His next parliament (otherwise busy with attainting Richard II's supporters) re-enacted penal statutes against the Welsh and added a few bells and whistles for good measure, just to show who was boss. To some extent at least this was prompted by the English minority communities in Wales, who had just had a very nasty scare. But it was scarcely an enlightened piece of statecraft, and it probably served as a wonderful recruitment sergeant for Owain. He was to be back.
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
The monument is on the site of St.Swithin's Church, where they were buried, and is also supposed to represent the suffering of women and children in warfare, which is a noble enough aim.
Catrin was buried with her daughters at the expense of Henry V's government, four years after her capture at the fall of Harlech. The cost was a massive £1, apparently. What happened to her son, Lionel, is unknown. He simply disappeared. Many people conveniently 'disappeared' while in Tower custody over the years, notably during Henry VIII's time, but, with two exceptions, this tends to get overlooked.
Saturday, 15 November 2008
From what little is known about Earl Roger, it appears he was both generous and popular. Indeed it was alleged that the reception he received from the common people at the time of the Shrewsbury Parliament was a factor in turning Richard II against him. Whether this is so or not, it is a fact that soon after Richard recalled him from Ireland, substituting Thomas Holland, Duke of Surrey as Lieutenant of Ireland. Mortimer was killed (in somewhat mysterious circumstances) before this decision could be put into effect.
From the point of view of the Welsh, the most significant fact about Mortimer (apart from the trivial detail that he owned around a third of the country!) was his descent from Llywelyn the Great (Llywelyn Fawr) through Llywelyn's daughter, Gwladus Ddu. In the 1390s it was quite reasonable for the Welsh to look forward to the possible crowning of a King of England with this lineage. (As an aside Adam of Usk claimed that Gwladus's mother was Joan, daughter of King John. This has sometimes been questioned, but it seems to me that Usk is as good a source as any other.)
The death of March and the accession of Bolingbroke killed this dream stone dead. However, as many of you will be aware, the descent from Gwladus was eventually transferred to the House of York in the person of Richard, the third Duke, through his mother Anne Mortimer. This blood descent from the House of Gwynedd was not overlooked in early Yorkist propaganda and was used in an attempt to attach Welsh support to Edward IV, with somewhat mixed success. This is rather ironic in the light of later history, and the Tudors making so much of their Welsh origins, which were, when properly examined, rather less impressive than blood succession to the great Llywelyn.
As far as I am aware Richard III made no attempt to highlight his Welsh ancestry, and in that regard at least he may have missed a trick.
Monday, 10 November 2008
Anyway, Jean Stubbs deserves at least some credit for taking the unpromising character of Henry Tudor and centring the tale on him. I don't think it's exactly a secret that I'm no great fan of Henry VII, in fact I think he's one of our more horrid sovereigns, albeit several lengths behind his son in those stakes. Apparently the inspiration for the novel was that someone mentioned that Mr Tudor had an interesting early life, and, almost like The Adventures of Alianore Audley, the action more or less starts with his birth. There's a fair segment about his boyhood and youth, but nevertheless half the book covers the reign of Richard III.
There's a fair bit of description in here, and indeed odd pages read a little like a guide to Yorkist-era social history and customs, but the story is reasonably paced. One very obvious source used is The Song of the Lady Bessy and when the dialogue grows a tad clunky in places I suspect it's where the author has followed her sources a little too closely.
Most people with an interest in the era will enjoy this novel - the ones who won't will be those who cannot stomach the Tudor viewpoint! Personally I think that looking at history from different angles is a Good Thing, whatever your own opinion on an era may be.
Sunday, 9 November 2008
First, it's important to realise that Wales at this time was not a unified whole, more a geographical and cultural expression. It was divided into a large number of marcher territories, each of which was in effect a small kingdom with its own customs. These lordships did not have representation in Parliament, nor did they pay central taxes or receive visits from the King's justices. The King's writ did not run there. The royal territories in Wales were organised in a similar fashion, under local (usually English but sometimes Welsh) officers.
In the 1390s the marcher lords had become extremely efficient at squeezing money out of their tenants and at the same time tended to be absentee landlords who lived on their English manors.Though, as mentioned above, the Welsh did not have to pay parliamentary taxes, they were far more heavily burdened than their equivalents in England. Between 25% and 80% of the lord's income arose from the proceeds of justice - or what passed for it. The remainder came from various levies - for example communal fines, 'aids' raised when a lord entered his inheritance, and a sort of protection money paid by criminals immigrating from other lordships. Bolingbroke's relatively modest lordship of Brecon produced an income of £1500 a year on this basis. (For comparison the qualification for an earldom at this time was, theoretically, an income of about £667.)
The men of Wales often 'went as soldiers' and Richard II's peace policies created unemployment among this pool of men, and probably added to the discontent. In addition, at the turn of the century, many of the lordships underwent regular changes of ownership as their lords were forfeited, restored, or, as in the important case of the Earl of March, died a natural death. The effect was further disruption of a society that was already far from stable.
It was a case of tinder awaiting a spark, and that spark was soon to be struck.
Source - The most useful single source is The Revolt of Owain Glyn Dwr by R.R. Davies. A very highly recommended book.
Monday, 3 November 2008
So what went wrong?
1.) He picked a number of officers who, if not actually inept, were certainly very far from being ept. These were largely former Lancastrian retinue people with no prior knowledge of running a government and its finances. (c.f Richard III and his use of northerners he could trust. Henry did the same sort of thing eighty years earlier.) It took him years to get the right men into place.
2.) Probably to seem as different from Richard II as possible, he started wars on several fronts. Scotland was invaded early in the reign, and thereafter was a running sore. Wales rose under Owain Glyndwr, and kept on rising until after Henry's death. Ireland continued in chaos - no great change there, but it still needed treasure, blood and toil. Fighting with France and Brittany, much of it unofficial, much at sea, became endemic.
3.) He personally retained vast numbers of men - as mentioned in an earlier post, he was soon spending more on his retinue than Richard II. (However this was not a Bad Thing, apparently, as historians never criticise this spending, though they give Richard hell for spending a lesser sum on his personal retainers.)
4.) He gave a ridiculously large dower to his wife, Joanna of Navarre.
5.) He faced a regular programme of domestic uprisings, right through to 1408. Considering what a lousy king Richard II was supposed to be, and how unpopular, it's amazing how many people (ranging from ploughman to princess, pauper to prelate) were willing to risk their lives and property to avenge his memory. Had Henry died at Shrewsbury in 1403 (as he very nearly did) one wonders what history would have said about him. Tyrant and regicide perhaps? Maybe Shakespeare would have given him a hunchback.
Financial crisis was to become the leitmotif of the Lancastrian dynasty - they were never able to square the circle of an ambitious foreign policy and an inadequate financial base. Private individuals may have grown rich on the French wars of Henry V and Henry VI, but for the national treasury, and for taxpayers, these wars were a disaster. It was no plucking of roses in a garden that brought down the dynasty, nor yet the ambitions of Richard of York and Richard Neville. It was the 15th century credit crunch, with its roots in the dire financial management of Henry Bolingbroke's government.
Sunday, 19 October 2008
Don't expect to be able to read a single word of it unless your screen is a damn sight bigger and better than mine, but at least you can see what a medieval petition looked like, and there is a summary to tell you what it's all about. Isn't it amazing that you can get something like this on your computer, on a Sunday, within minutes, free, gratis and for nothing? And for a modest fee they'd send you a printed copy through the post.
This book covers just about every imaginable aspect of life in fourteenth century England, and indeed some that are pretty unimaginable. To quote from the blurb: 'How do you greet people in the street? What should you use for toilet paper? How fast - and how safely - can you travel? Why might a physician want to taste your blood? And how do you test to see if you are going down with the plague?' It's all this and a lot, lot more.
For anyone newly aspiring to write novels about late medieval England it's an invaluable source that will save you days and weeks of research. For those of us who thought we had done that research, it's a reminder that we didn't know everything, and a useful insurance against future bloops. Sharon K. Penman would never have put that famous grey squirrel in Sunne In Splendour if she had had this book.
Don't mess about - just buy it!
Friday, 17 October 2008
The work dates from early Tudor times and the costumes depicted reflect this, but the extensive heraldry is well worth careful study. For example on Thomas Despenser's page you will find his marital impalement with Constance of York ** and also an illustration of the short-lived impalement of Edward the Confessor's arms with the royal arms used by Richard II from circa 1397-99 as a mark of his devotion to the Saint.
**At least that's what I take it to be - the one that Thomas is more or less pointing at with his right hand. But oddly, the artist has placed Constance's arms at heraldic right (the left as we look at it) and Despenser's at heraldic left. Which is the wrong way round. Theoretically this coat represents a marriage between Edmund of Langley or Edward of York and one of Thomas's sisters! You see, you can't even trust prime manuscript sources completely.
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
Edmund of Langley had established himself as a loyal supporter of Henry IV, though Richard's deposition had naturally cost him the Lancastrian properties and offices he'd been granted. He was in ill health, in particular he had severe skeletal problems, and after this point he seems to have retired from active public life.
Edward of York had lost his Aumale title, and was probably lucky not to have lost his life, being more culpable than most members of Richard's government. He suffered severe financial losses because of the resumption of his 1397 grants, but on the other hand Henry was already showing him limited favour (for example the grant of the Isle of Wight) and was to continue to employ him in various offices, albeit none as lofty as those he had enjoyed under Richard.
Richard of Conisbrough still had his annuities and his position was theoretically unchanged. He was not to know that Henry IV was soon to become effectively bankrupt and unable to honour annuities.
Constance of York had lost her husband and was notionally penniless because although Despenser had not been attainted (yet) everyone proceeded on the assumption that he had been. Widows of attainted men were not entitled to dower, and the jointure she had was in lands granted in 1397 and taken back. Fortunately for her, Henry IV was quite generous in providing for her, starting with the gift of £30 found on Despenser's body. It appears (if my understanding of the process is correct) that she kept submitting petitions, and as each one was granted went back and petitioned for a bit more. Forfeits of treason apart (most of Despenser's moveable property* and certain lands granted quickly away to others) she eventually ended up with the whole of the Despenser lands (bar her mother-in-law's dower) and the wardship of her son. She had to pay a rental (farm) for this, but that was par for the course, and she even had a protection written in that the wardship was not to be taken away if someone else offered to pay more! In the case of the manor of Bawtry (Yorkshire) she was in dispute with someone who had been granted it by the King, but it seems she won this fight as she certainly died possessed of Bawtry.
(*I should mention that some part of Despenser's property went missing, and the King sent out a commission to discover what had happened to it. Presumably it was either stolen or hidden away by well-wishers.)
The only widow the King treated with similar kindness was his sister, Elizabeth of Lancaster, and as I have mentioned before, it seems to me that Henry Bolingbroke had due respect for Plantagenet blood. He was very much less generous to the countesses of Salisbury and Wiltshire, for example, who received the next thing to damn all.
This Burford, at the end of the 14th century, belonged to Sir John Cornwall. Cornwall was sometimes known as 'the Green Cornwall' because he was born at sea - presumably from the colour of his mother's face at the time. He claimed descent by an illegitimate line from Henry III's brother, Richard, Earl of Cornwall.
Anyway, this Cornwall married Elizabeth of Lancaster, John of Gaunt's daughter, and her tomb is the gem of this obscure church. It isn't quite as classy as Richard Beauchamp's at Warwick (what tomb is?) but it has a very attractive painted effigy of Elizabeth and if you are ever in that part of the world I recommend a visit. The only thing is, you must go at weekend as the church only seems to be open on Saturdays and Sundays, as I discovered when I arrived midweek, camera in hand, only to be disappointed. Chance later got me back there on a Saturday but the camera was sadly not with me so I can't post a picture of the tomb, and sadly, nor can I point you to one on the web as there doesn't seem to be one. (I do have a photo, but it's copyright and so would be rather naughty for me to post! Sorry!)
John and Elizabeth had two children together, John and Constance. The latter was eventually to marry the Earl of Arundel. The name 'Constance' was rare in England at that time but Elizabeth obviously liked it as she had a daughter by John Holland with the same Christian name. Constance Holland may well have been named for her step-grandmother, Constance (aka Constanza) Duchess of Lancaster. As for Constance Cornwall, we may speculate that her godmother was none other than Constance of York, which gives me (at last!) a tenuous link back to the House of York.
Gardeners among you may care to visit the adjoining garden centre (which specialises in Clematis) or tour the nearby Burford House Gardens, which are more or less or exactly on the site of the Cornwall manor house. A grand day out, as they say.
Friday, 3 October 2008
I am really puzzled by this because as far as I know the last two male Beauforts died at Tewkesbury in 1471, and even if they had a legitimate daughter (which I'm virtually certain they didn't) she would scarcely be a 'girl' in 1536. Their elder brother, Henry, Duke of Somerset, had an illegitimate son, Charles, from whom the present Duke of Beaufort descends, but the surname was and is 'Somerset' not Beaufort.
There's very little about this lady on the internet but that little says she was maid-of-honour to Catherine of Aragon and eventually married her true love. Potential for a novel, maybe, but not for me as I could not bear to write about the ogre Henry VIII. Does anyone know anything about Isabella, particularly who her father was?
Thursday, 2 October 2008
These last few days I have been reading it again. With novels, as with places and employers, it's not always a good idea to go back; sometimes the memories do not stack up with the reality. Sometimes tastes have changed.
But in this case - I still rate it. OK, there's the odd bit of head hopping, which my literary advisers tell me is a Bad Thing, but on the whole it's beautifully crafted - I think I appreciate the writing technique more than when I first had it in my hands, circa 1971. It's not everyone's cup of tea (someone once told me that she absolutely hated the book) but if you fancy reading a Richard III novel, you could do a lot worse than try this one.
A few years ago I was in touch with Marian Palmer through one of the Lists, and it was a great pleasure to tell her how important her book had been to me. In a sense, it was life-changing.
Thursday, 18 September 2008
Other people involved included Lord Lumley (interestingly a retainer of the Earl of Northumberland!) the Abbot of Westminster, the Bishop of Carlisle and Sir Thomas Blount.
Henry was planning to spend Christmas at Windsor. Most of his friends had gone home, especially the big batallions from the North, so he would be there with his household and maybe the odd close friend - though none are mentioned so it was possibly a bit quiet chez Bolingbroke. The basic idea of the conspiracy was to show up mob-handed at Windsor for a proposed tournament, bump off Henry (and possibly his sons) and make Richard king again. Various subsidiary risings were organised, notably one in Cheshire, and Richard Maudelyn, the king's double and likely cousin, was recruited to play the part of Richard until they could get their mitts on the genuine article. (He was locked up in Pontefract Castle with the grim Sir Thomas Swynford, but they probably didn't know it.)
There are three versions of how the plot was betrayed:
1. Elizabeth of Lancaster (Huntingdon/Exeter's wife) told her brother Henry.
2. One of the people involved told a prostitute, who 'peached them.
3. Edward of York bottled it at the last minute and told his father, who told Henry.
It is certain that Henry got his warning very late, and got out of Windsor, slipping through the rebel lines back to London, where he quickly raised an army of supporters. Shortly after the rebels took Windsor, and probably did a fair bit of jumping up and down in their armour when they realised all had gone to pot.
Edward of York meanwhile was leading the van of Henry's forces against men who had been his friends until maybe hours earlier! Some accounts have him parleying with them, but it's certain that they fought him at Maidenhead Bridge, and held him off until after dark.
Thomas Holland and maybe others visited Queen Isabelle who was lodged at Sonning, and some accounts have her leaving with them - if she did she must have soon parted again, as the rebels, hopelessly outnumbered, were in flight. Plan B seems to have been to get to Despenser's Glamorgan. John Holland (Exeter/Huntingdon) had been left behind to raise Richard's supporters in London. Having failed miserably he fled to Essex where he was eventually 'executed' - murdered by a mob in fact.
The others rested at Cirencester, and found themselved assailed by a mob that had been prompted by one of Henry's agents. Thomas Holland (Kent/Surrey) and Salisbury was captured, while Thomas Despenser escaped by legging it over the roofs. At this point someone, accidently or on purpose, set the town on fire.
Holland and Salisbury were taken into custody by Lord Berkeley, who had conveniently arrived on the scene, but it appears that the townsfolk were so miffed by the damage (none of them were insured after all!) that they insisted on taking the pair from Berkeley and beheading them on the spot.
Thomas Despenser got as far as Cardiff, but there made the mistake of getting onto a ship. He and his men were overpowered and taken to Bristol, where there was another piece of lynch justice. Various lesser men were tried at Oxford, and there were a number of full-blown official executions with the full process of hanging, drawing and quartering. A lucky minority received pardons, including one fellow who had saved Bolingbroke's life during the Peasant Revolt of 1381.
The consequence of this was that Henry IV issued an order for Richard II to be murdered. He probably thought that would put an end to any future plots against him. He was seriously mistaken.
Wednesday, 17 September 2008
I haven't got the time or the inclination to do a full review at this time, but if you're at all interested in Henry Bolingbroke it's certainly worth buying. Frankly, it doesn't have much competition as decent books about him are rare. When I was working on Fetterlock my principal source for Henry's reign was History of England under Henry IV by J.H.Wylie. This was written in the late 19th century, and although it contains many details you're unlikely to find anywhere else it gives the impression it was hurriedly thrown together from sheafs of rough notes and chucked straight at the printer without benefit of editor. Ian Mortimer's book is much more suited to the needs of the 21st century reader, or indeed anyone who isn't a total history obsessive.
What I will say about Fears of Henry IV is it does come over as a bit of a hagiography. Mortimer makes no bones about the fact he is telling the tale from Henry's POV, and that's fair enough - probably a lot better than the pretended impartiality of so many historians. But do not open it with the expectation that Richard II will be cut any slack whatsoever, because he isn't. Mortimer clearly thinks he was worse than a thousand Hitlers.
Tuesday, 16 September 2008
By the way, if you ever fancy visiting Philippa, her tomb is in Westminster Abbey. (Arguably, the best tomb of the whole family in that generation. Constance's is destroyed, Edward's is a crummy Elizabethan replacement at Fotheringhay, and poor old Richard of Conisbrough having been executed as a traitor never had a proper tomb as far as I know.)
So passing gently on, we come to Henry IV's first Parliament which definitely was of interest to the House of York, not least because Edward of York was not far off being lynched. There was a lot of flak flying around concerning the execution of Thomas of Woodstock - everyone seems to have forgotten that Henry IV himself had been a star witness for the crown in 1397! To cut a long story short, Edward was challenged to mortal combat by Lord Fitzwalter (his own wife's stepson!) and as he tried to justify himself half the Parliament seems to have thrown down their gages on one side or the other - nearly all against Edward.
Henry cooled the situation by having John Hall, a valet who was 'only obeying orders' in taking part in Gloucester's death, hanged, drawn and quartered for the amusement of the Parliament.
He put the rest of the debate on ice, but then had Edward, Thomas Despenser, Surrey, Exeter and Salisbury put under arrest. They were split up, some to the Tower, others to Windsor.
Their trial followed shortly afterwards - to summarise, they all claimed they had done what they did out of fear of Richard II. They were sentenced to lose all lands gained since 1397 (which was inevitable given that most/all had been taken from Henry's supporters or Henry himself) and also to forfeit the new titles they had been given. Those they had 'oppressed' were encourged to come forward and ask for redress - the odd thing is that no one ever did. It appears that these favourites of a tyrant had been remarkably liberal in their dealings. By medieval standards almost incredibly so.
Salisbury did not have a 'new' title to lose but he had been challenged to a mortal combat by Lord Morley (one of Thomas Despenser's brothers-in-law.) This was arranged, but the Fitzwalter/Edward of York fixture seems to have been cancelled. As it happens the Morley/Salisbury duel was not to take place either.
The accused were released into the custody of the Abbot of Westminster (a Richard II supporter of the first rank) and most were shortly afterwards appointed to Henry's Council! Edward of York (who was almost certainly the most guilty of the bunch, given that Mowbray had died in exile) was actually awarded a number of tasty grants, not least the Lordship of Wight with the office of Constable of Carisbrooke. Henry, it must be said, had a very proper regard for his cousin's royal blood.
Anyway, I have found something strange. Given that Richard III has had more written about him than almost anyone - with the possible exception of Hitler - there are periods in his life when he just vanishes!
Take (as I am trying to do) 1469. He apparently parts from Edward IV when the king is captured at Olney in late July and pops up again in late September when he and others turn up in force at Pontefract and effectively rescue Edward from his Babylonian captivity. Where was he in the interim? No one seems to know for sure, though I've come across a couple of hints he was in Yorkshire. But Richard doesn't seem to have lands there in 1469, and I'm sure he wasn't just aimlessly wandering about. Especially as he was so seriously short of brass that he'd had to borrow a hundred quid off Lord Saye just a few weeks earlier. Very odd. I may have to invent something, but am sure that if I send him off to East Anglia I shall discover (day after publication!) that there's proof he was in Scarborough all along!
On an almost totally unconnected point I was googling the other day and found that Elizabeth Woodville has a School named after her. If you visit their site, try clicking on the school badge - guaranteed to delight all fans of the noble greyhound.
Monday, 25 August 2008
Anyway, I thought I'd offer a Richard II bibliography. It may be of interest to someone. Until quite recently I'd have said that there was too much focus on the Appellant era and not enough on the events of 1397-99, but Saul and Given-Wilson have sorted that problem.
Richard II, Nigel Saul. Highly recommended.
Chronicles of the Revolution, Chris Given-Wilson. Ditto.
Who Murdered Chaucer, Terry Jones. This guy is so pro-Richard II he makes me look like Bolingbroke's best mate. However, there are some interesting aspects in here and it's well worth a look if only to balance some of the negative stuff.
The Hollow Crown, Harold F. Hutchinson. A relatively positive account.
Richard II and the Revolution of 1399, Michael Bennett. Wider coverage of the reign than the title suggests and some interesting details that are not given in other accounts.
The Court of Richard II, Gervase Mathew. What it says on the tin. Mainly about court culture and politics.
The Age of Richard II, (ed) James L. Gillespie. Collection of interesting articles.
Richard II and the English Nobility, Anthony Tuck.
John of Gaunt, S. Armitage-Smith.
The Royal Household and the King's Affinity, Chris Given Wilson. This covers Edward III and Henry IV and is full of interesting stuff.
The Loyal Conspiracy, Anthony Goodman. Vital reading if you want to know about the Appellants.
The Deposition of Richard II: “The Record and Process of the Renunciation and Deposition of Richard II” (1399), (ed) David R Carlson. (Thanks to Dr Gillian Polack for mentioning this one.)
For anyone interested in the House of York in this era, your best bet by far is:
Henry V and the Southampton Plot, by T.B. Pugh. Otherwise it's a case of getting out the Patent Rolls, etc.
Within the Hollow Crown, Margaret Campbell Barnes. Rather old-fashioned but one of the few that is wholly about Richard II.
A Summer Storm, Jane Lane. Focuses on the Peasants' Revolt.
The Unravished Bride, Terry Tucker. Does not live up to its rather risque title. If I recall correctly it covers all Richard's reign and a lot is packed into a few pages.
There are quite a few novels set wholly or partly in the era. Most have Richard down as a villain. Some suggestions:
Katherine, Anya Seton. (If there's anyone out there who hasn't read it.)
My Lord John, Georgette Heyer.
The Crowning City, Jennifer Lang.
The Dice in Flight, Martyn Whittock.
Passage To Pontefract, Jean Plaidy.
Monmouth Harry, A. Maughan. (Mainly about Henry V but does feature Richard. To say nothing of 'Elizabeth of York' Edmund of Langley's otherwise unknown second daughter.
Within the Fetterlock, Brian Wainwright. (You thought I was going to write a list like this and not mention this one?? Yeah, right.)
The White Rose of Langley, Emily S Holt. Extremely Victorian in tone - may be read if you are really, really interested in Constance of York. Otherwise probably best avoided.
Under One Sceptre, Emily S Holt. Another Victorian novel with the same health warning, except this is for people with a burning interest in Roger Mortimer, Earl of March.
Richard tried to save the 'mystic' side of his kingship, which he claimed he could not resign if he wanted to, but eventually had to settle for the sole concession of being allowed to keep the lands he had earmarked as a source of funds for continual masses for his soul after his death.
In addition the Parliament was persuaded to depose him. This seems a tad superfluous given that he had supposedly abdicated 'willingly' but I suppose it gave the MPs something to discuss. A long list of his 'crimes' was drawn up, the overwhelming majority of which could have been offered as justifications to depose any medieval king. A commission was appointed to inform him of his deposition and withdraw homage.
Those of you who studied Chaucer at school may remember that Henry had a threefold claim to the throne - by conquest, inheritance and 'free' election. The greatest of these was inheritance.
You may think that he had definitely conquered England, and so he had, but if this had been accepted it would theoretically have put everyone's property into Henry's gift. Chief Justice Thirning pointed out this small detail to Bolingbroke, and said something in lawyer-speak that amounted to 'bog off'. Nor was there any election, and Henry wouldn't have wanted one either, as it would have implied he could be unelected.
So that left inheritance. You may recall from an earlier post that Edward III had issued an entail that supposedly gave the crown to John of Gaunt after Richard II, assuming the latter had no heirs. I just can't believe Gaunt did not mention this little gift to Bolingbroke one evening while they were roasting chestnuts together at Kenilworth. It's not the sort of thing that's likely to slip your mind, is it? The inheritance of a crown? People in families remember what Aunt Maud said in 1956 about which cousin should have her gold watch!
In the 1390s it was increasingly common to entail estates and titles on the heir male, and Bolingbroke was undoubtedly Richard II's heir male. If Henry had put this claim forward it would have been respectable, and at least arguable. The odd thing is he didn't. Instead (and apparently reading from a prepared statement like a modern politician) he claimed through his mother and her line back to Henry III.
It is usually said that this trumped the claims of Richard II and the Mortimers. Well so it does, if you really believe that Edmund, Earl of Lancaster was Edward I's elder brother. Otherwise it's pretty weak and (apart from implicitly discarding England's claim to France via Edward III's mother, Isabella) also recognises that the Crown can be inherited through a woman!
In other words, knowing what we know, Henry was declaring that the Mortimers were the rightful heirs to Richard II! It's incredible, but that's effectively what his claim implies.
Why on earth was Henry so chary of claiming through John of Gaunt? Well, some of you may know that back in the 1370s Gaunt had been slandered as a changeling - he was said to be the son of a Flemish butcher. It's an incredible tale, and let me be the first to say that I think it's total nonsense. However this tale was still remembered in the early 1400s. The equivalent, I suppose of the modern conspiracy theories, Diana killed by the Martians and so on. Is it just possible that Henry believed it himself? Surely not!
Yet it would explain why he came up with an hereditary claim that was a nonsense when he had a perfectly reasonable and viable alternative he could have used. It might also explain why he went to the trouble of explicitly excluding his Beaufort half-brothers and sister from the succession.
I apologise to the sane among you for the extreme speculation in this post. Alternative explanations for Henry's bizarre hereditary claim are welcome.
Saturday, 23 August 2008
The one man excluded from Henry's bounty was John Montagu (or Montacute) Earl of Salisbury. Apparently when Henry first arrived at the French court he was well received, but when Salisbury appeared there as Richard's ambassador to give the French the full SP, the atmosphere chilled somewhat. Among other things it seems to have stopped Henry making a useful marriage. As a result he was more than a little cheesed off with Lord Salisbury and treated him with icy contempt. (Another factor may have been that Salisbury was a Lollard*. Henry, under the influence of Archbishop Arundel, was to prove himself very much more hostile to the Lollards than Richard had been.)
* See my post of 8 March if you're not sure what a Lollard was.
Another little thing was that at this time Henry was making use of the Duchy of Lancaster seal to appoint men to offices - for example Northumberland was made Constable in lieu of Edward of York. Technically such appointments had no validity whatsoever, as (legally) Henry held no office himself. The reality of course is that during a revolution naked force is the only law. Now he had Richard in his power, Bolingbroke was able to summon a Parliament in the King's name, and indeed issue various orders under Richard's seal.
On at least one occasion on the journey to London the men of Chester (or the Welsh - take your pick) tried to rescue King Richard. It's the sort of thing that Robin Hood would have accomplished at the drop of a feathered hat, but these guys messed up and it just led to Richard being more carefully guarded.
It was about this time that Henry sent off for monastic chronicles, with a view to finding precedents for deposing the King. From subsequent evidence, it appears he was also hoping to find some backing for the absurd 'legend' that Edward I was not Henry III's eldest son! Henry affected to believe Edmund Earl of Lancaster (his ancestor on his mother's side) was the real eldest son, but had been passed over because of some imaginary defect. I need hardly add that this 'legend' was total poppycock, and if Bolingbroke truly believed it, he must have been deranged. I doubt he did, but perhaps thought the mugs might swallow it.
And to think some people say Richard III's claim to the throne was dodgy!
Friday, 22 August 2008
However, I feel like making an exception this year, and it's a lot cheaper than putting an advert in the Times.
King Richard III, passed over 22 August 1485.
Killed by a bunch of traitors and mercenaries.
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
Nigel Saul argues that he made the decision quite late in the process, indeed towards the end of August 1399. Ian Mortimer in his near-hagiography of Henry, Fears of Henry IV is confident that Henry had decided to take the throne before leaving France. (That reminds me, that book is still missing! Can the mice have eaten it? Is Henry's spirit playing tricks on me? Nah, he wouldn't have that much imagination or sense of humour.)
I incline more towards Saul's opinion, and that's the line I more or less followed in Within the Fetterlock. It doesn't mean I'm right of course, but here's my reasoning.
1. Henry subsequently quarrelled with his former ally, the Duke of Orleans over the matter. Clearly Orleans, who supported Henry's invasion, had been given the idea that Henry's ambitions stopped short of taking the throne. Orleans was outraged by Henry's accession.
2. Henry made a very public vow at Doncaster that he was not going to take the throne.
Now, you may say, Henry may just have been lying through his teeth all along. And you may be right. After all, if England had been selecting an Olympic Lying Team in 1399, Bolingbroke would have at least made the heats. But I have a feeling he was being honest as he saw it at the time. He didn't have a plan, but responded pragmatically to circumstances as they unfolded before him. (Rather as Richard III did in 1483, but that's a tale for another day.)
I think what changed his mind were the following factors:-
1. He was utterly amazed by the ease with which England dropped into his hands. This gave him an exaggerated impression of his own popularity. (He was soon to be cruelly disillusioned.)
2. The likes of Archbishop Arundel, who hated Richard II with a passion, were persuading him to take the throne.
3. He gradually realised (partly by being persuaded by the likes of the good Archbishop) that the only way to secure his own safety was to take the throne. Richard had a track record of making come-backs, and another of taking revenge. If Richard had somehow managed to regain power Henry would have been a dead man walking, and he wouldn't have been walking for very long.
Tuesday, 12 August 2008
You will note that in the last post Bolingbroke addressed Richard merely as 'my lord'. I doubt he was being disrespectful, it's just that forms of address at this period had not been codified. So alternate usage was permissible.
Next morning Richard rose early and lingered over his breakfast. (He's said to have had little appetite, but maybe by sitting long at the table he allowed his companions to eat at their leisure?) After hearing mass he climbed to the battlements and watched with some alarm as Bolingbroke's army (or whatever part of it was deployed) approached along the shore. Three men spurred ahead of the others - Archbishop Arundel, Edward of York and the Earl of Worcester (Thomas Percy). Richard met this deputation in the keep, but unfortunately we're not told what they said to each other. The transcript would be fascinating, but I think we can take it they didn't talk about the weather or the price of fish. Meanwhile, the Lancastrian forces disposed themselves around the castle, but did not enter.
At this point Richard climbed the battlements again and protested against the show of force. A bit late for that you may think, but it does sort of suggest he was expecting a peaceful settlement. Northumberland went out of the castle and persuaded Bolingbroke not to enter until Richard had eaten - so we can probably assume it was now dinner time. (That's to say round about noon or an hour or two earlier.)
Bolingbroke was literally standing outside the gate. Creton and his companion were introduced to him by Lancaster Herald. Henry told them to have no fear. 'Keep close to me, and I will answer for your lives,' he said. Interesting form of words. By implication, if they wandered about, they could get hurt.
A little later Henry got fed up hanging about and entered the castle. At Northumberland's request Richard, who had been eating in the keep, came down to meet him. Henry immediately bowed low to the ground, then bowed a second time, cap-in-hand, as the King came closer. Richard took off his hood, and welcomed him.
After this show of manners, Henry bowed yet again. 'My lord, I have come sooner than you sent for me and I shall tell you why. It is said that you have governed your people too harshly, and that they are discontented. If it is pleasing to the Lord, I shall help you govern them better.'
'If it pleases you, fair cousin, then it pleases us well,' said Richard.
This is a good example of how one should never take public speeches too literally!
This account is based on Creton, who was an eye witness, as reported by Nigel Saul in his excellent Richard II. The last few posts have also made use of The Royal Household and the King's Affinity by Chris Given-Wilson. For anyone interested in the 1397-1399 period I highly recommend Chronicles of the Revolution 1397-1399, also by Chris Given-Wilson.
Sunday, 10 August 2008
In other words, a fairly uncomfortable lodging. Although, as I mentioned in an earlier post, there were ships in the harbour and if Richard had had a grain of sense he would have climbed into one and sailed away. There is no disgrace in running away when you cannot win - see the career of Edward IV for details.
Instead he sent off Surrey and Exeter to Chester, where Bolingbroke promptly imprisoned them. (The fact Exeter was his brother-in-law apparently cut no ice whatsoever.) The Earl of Northumberland was sent to Conwy to talk terms.
Northumberland was a good choice in many ways. He had been a moderate during Richard's reign, siding (until now) neither with the King nor his extreme opponents.
The terms Northumberland offered were quite generous, on the face of it. Henry wanted his lands back and a parliament held over which he would preside as Steward of England. He wanted treason trials for Salisbury, Surrey and Exeter, the Bishop of Carlisle and Richard Maudelyn. (Richard Maudelyn was one of Richard II's clerks, and probably an illegitimate cousin, since he strongly resembled the King and was to act as his double. He may even have been Henry's brother as his mother appears to have been Katherine Swynford's waiting-woman, Hawise Maudelyn.)
As an aside, it's interesting that what might be called the 'York connection' was quite safe on this basis, neither Edward of York nor Thomas Despenser being named.
After a day or so of consideration, Richard agreed to accept the terms, and Northumberland swore an oath on the sacred Host that they would be fulfilled and Richard allowed to continue to reign. In view of subsequent events, I think it highly likely Nothumberland was sincere; it's hard to believe such a man would risk damning his soul for Bolingbroke's benefit.
In all fairness I must record that it appears Richard had no intention of keeping faith with Henry - he was swift to tell his companions there would be no parliament, that he would mobilise Wales, and he would have his enemies put to a shameful death. He probably thought that given a year or two he could regain his power in roughly the same way he had after the Appellant episode.
Anyway, they set off from Conwy, and a little way along the road came across the bulk of Northumberland's men, who had been left out of sight. Richard balked at this, and wanted to return to Conwy, but Northumberland said there was no need to question his honour and, according to one source, repeated his formal oath.
However, with Northumberland's men around him, Richard was now a prisoner.
Saturday, 9 August 2008
Then there were modes of address. One minute a woman was Lady Elizabeth, the next Mistress Somethingorother. Lord above, she's either one or the other! She can't be (censored) both! And whichever she was, belonging to the court and all that, it's highly likely that she would wear something under the top half of her dress!!! To say nothing of something on her head, not least because she was supposed to be going to mass.
Even Anne Boleyn got addressed in this sloppy style, one minute Lady Anne, the next minute Mistress Anne Boleyn. FFS - Lady Anne Rochford!! She's the daughter of an earl at this point.
I could go on. Indeed I feel like sending the people responsible Alianore Audley's Guide to Court Etiquette. But as Hamlet said, my wit's diseased. And anyway, it's only making a mockery of the Tudors, so it's no big deal. If they did this to the Yorks, I'd be round there with my axe sharpened...
Tuesday, 5 August 2008
Anyway, thinking about Bolingbroke and his scummy tricks is doing nothing for my mental health, so I'm taking a hint from the excellent Lady Despenser's Scribery wherein it is suggested that bloggers might usefully describe the content of their bedside table. This sounds fun, so here's my write-up:
It's a redundant TV stand, actually, wedged incongruously between our gigantic medieval-style bed and the desk where I write. Value 50p. Its main qualification for the duty is that it just about fits into the space available.
I just grab a book and try to get comfortable, and read until I'm too tired to carry on.
Reading at the moment:
A somewhat nominal statement. More true to say they are there. Some have been hiding!
The Three Richards - Nigel Saul
The Heron's Catch - Susan Curran.
Locomotives of the LNER- Tender Engines Classes J1-J11 - RCTS
The Poem of the Cid - (Trans. Hamilton and Perry.)
The White Rose of Langley - Emily S. Holt
The Church of St Mary, Burford - (Official Guide)
J.G. Robinson, A Lifetime's Work - David Jackson
Malory - Christina Hardyment
This is an extraordinarily eclectic collection, but it does actually summarise me quite well. (For anyone interested J. G. Robinson was locomotive engineer of the Great Central Railway, the best of our old pre-grouping companies. The White Rose of Langley is a Victorian novel about Constance of York, obtained for me at great trouble and expense in the USA by Rania Melhem, a debt I can never repay!)
Couldn't Put Down
Four books that absolutely gripped me and I would re-read again and again are:
The Heron's Catch - (See above). One of the most realistic and down-to-earth novels of the 15th Century I have read. And, trust me, I've read a lot!
The Reckoning - Sharon. K. Penman. Very bleak indeed at times, but possibly Penman's finest.
Drif's 1992-3 Guide to the Secondhand Bookshops of the British Isles - Drif Field. A surprise choice you may think, but one of the funniest books I have ever read.
The Scarlet Lion - Elizabeth Chadwick. An excellent novel.
Books I've not been able to get into for one reason or another.
War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy. I'm not proud of it, I know it's a great book and all that, but I've never got past page 150.
Having the Builders In - Reay Tannahill. I think it was meant to be funny. If so, it wasn't.
The Lords of the North - Bernard Cornwell. I usually like Cornwell's work, but the hero of this series cheesed me off, and I kept hoping he'd get an axe through his over-sized head. Unfortunately, he didn't.
Crown of Roses - Valerie Anand. Just didn't like it. Odd, as I've read other books by Anand that were just fine.
A subscription to Model Railway Journal and an annual purchase of the latest Wisden. I'm not 100% medieval in my tastes!
Sunday, 3 August 2008
However according to the Dieulacres and Short Kirkstall Chronicles, the non-tyrant Bolingbroke had no sooner crossed the Cheshire boundary than he declared 'havoc'.
'Havoc' for those of you who don't know, was a licence for soldiers to burn, steal, rape, kill, and generally do as they liked; it was normally practised when English armies were let off the leash in France. Even there it was used sparingly, because by its very nature it damaged discipline.
So, in an English county, they were 'trampling down...the corn and the meadows throughout most of the county...and having killed many of the local inhabitants and confiscated numerous goods from them, the Duke accomplished what he set out to do.' (Short Kirkstall Chronicle.)
Oh, and non-tyrant Henry also had Sir Piers Legh of Lyme beheaded for 'oppressing the people.' Well, you should know Henry boy, because you sure as hell were good at it yourself.
Can you imagine what historians would have said of Richard III if he had done something like this to (say) Wiltshire in the aftermath of Buckingham's revolt? There would be whole books written about it!
But Lancastrian kings can do no wrong. It was a bloodless revolution, apparently.
The problem was this involved hanging around - by 29 July Richard was no further on than Whitland Abbey, still west of Carmarthen! Here he met some of York's messengers. It took him two days more to get to Carmarthen, and there he got word of York's surrender. It's possible he also had word of the fall of Bristol. Despenser had returned by this time, with little or no reinforcement.
At this point Richard completely lost his bottle. He fled at midnight, disguised as a poor priest, taking with him only fifteen companions. These included his half-brother, Exeter, his half-nephew, Surrey, Thomas Despenser, and the bishops of Carlisle, Lincoln (Henry Beaufort!) and St David's. He apparently believed there was a plot to seize him. He objective was to join Salisbury with his portion of the army in the north.
Among those left behind (and probably very cross!) were Edward of York, Duke of Aumale and Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester. These two were probably suspected of conspiracy, given their close blood ties to York and Northumberland respectively.
Worcester (Northumberland's brother) was the steward of the king's household. Weeping bitterly (if we are to believe Walsingham) he broke his staff of office and told the King's followers they were free to disperse. Then he and Edward (and probably quite a few others!) cut off across country to submit to Henry. What else were they to do?
Richard and his small band of brothers set off on a journey of about 200 miles across what was then very rough country indeed. Those of you who know Wales will be aware of the hills and estuaries in between Carmarthen and Conwy. Imagine that journey with no decent roads, no proper maps, and probably little local knowledge among the party. It took them a good 10 days, and when they got to Conwy it was to find that Salisbury had not been able to keep his men together!
At this point, Richard should have had an Edward IV moment. There were ships in the harbour and they could have sailed straight back to Ireland, where they had left 1500 men and most of the artillery in charge of the 16 year-old Edmund Holland, Surrey's brother. At worst they could have got from there to France and sought assistance. Instead, with absolutely no cards in his hand, Richard decided to negotiate. He sent Surrey and Exeter off to Chester, to parley with Henry.
Wednesday, 30 July 2008
Together they moved on to Bristol, where the freedom-loving Henry announced that anyone who came out of the city in peace would be spared, but anyone who stayed within the walls and resisted would be killed. This led to a pretty prompt surrender of the city, with some citizens even climbing over the walls in their haste to survive. The castle followed suit. Within, among others, were the Earl of Wiltshire (William Scrope), Sir John Bushey and Sir Henry Green, all prominent councillors of King Richard. Bushey had acted as Speaker of the Commons.
The next day, these three were summarily executed; at best they might have had a drum-head trial before Northumberland and Westmorland, acting as constable and marshal. Either way it was unquestionably an illegal act, and one that was intended to strike terror into Henry's opponents.
Reams of print have been used up condemning Richard III for executing Rivers, Grey and Vaughan. However, Richard was at least established as Protector when he gave the order and had the pretext that they'd been plotting against him in that role. Strangely, it is rare to find a single word of criticism for Henry's outright murder of these three men. Lancastrian kings, it appears, can do no wrong.
Sir John Russell, the King's Master of Horse, would also have been executed, except that he lost his mind. Temporarily, it seems, but effectively, because he was spared. Russell had been briefly married to Thomas Despenser's very young niece, Margaret Hastings, but she must have died within a year or so, probably through the hazards of childbirth, as by 1399 he was remarried to a wealthy widow. He was also a personal enemy of the Earl of Warwick, whose retainer he had been before defecting to Richard. By the way, if you want to visit Sir John he's got a nice brass in Strensham Church, which is now in care of the Churches Conservation Trust.
Tuesday, 29 July 2008
In addition, according to the Chronicler Creton, Archbishop Arundel was preaching a crusade against Richard II and claiming he had a Papal Bull to that effect! He was lying through his teeth - indeed technically he was not even an archbishop, having been deprived by the Pope. Not that you will pick this last detail up from your average Richard II textbook...
The likelihood is that the Duke of York picked up news of Henry's strength, and decided he couldn't meet him in battle. Anyway, he moved to Oxford, where it appears certain people deserted him. These were the earl of Wiltshire, and Bushey and Green of the King's council. It's possible they left with his agreement as he seems to have decided to move Queen Isabelle from Windsor to Wallingford, the latter being considered safer, and someone would have had to organise this. To cut a long story short, these three ended up in Bristol Castle. Bristol being a port and all that they may have hoped, or even have expected, that Richard would land there.
York meanwhile moved on into Gloucestershire. Henry had picked up on his change of direction and tracked him, moving from Leicester to Coventry, Warwick and Evesham. (I told you you might need that map.) On 24 July Richard landed in Wales.
York sent some of his people into Wales to meet the King, but for whatever reason he didn't follow himself with what was left of his army. He had suffered desertions, morale was probably low, and Bolingbroke was now uncomfortably close. None of these reasons seem to be a particularly good argument for a further change of direction, this time towards Bristol. If there was a plan at this point it can only have been to hole up in Bristol with those who had already made their way there ahead of him.
Instead, Bolingbroke caught up with his uncle outside Berkeley Castle on 27 July. There was actually some fighting because Bishop Despenser and Sir William Elmham were captured and disarmed. However, in view of Henry's superior numbers there was no realistic alternative to capitulation, this taking place in Berkeley parish church. The Chronicler Walsingham says that York was reluctant to stand in the way of a nephew who had come for his rightful inheritance. This may be a rare case of Walsingham telling the truth. In any event, York had painted himself into a corner, and there was not really anything else he could have done at this point. (Suicidal charges were not in the family tradition at this time.)
As late as 20 June York's government paid a sum of £1586 to two of Bolingbroke's squires, towards the £2000 a year allowed to Henry in his exile. (That's an annual salary of more than £800,000 modern money. Some tyrant that Richard II, eh? Right up there with Marshal Stalin!)
Anyway, the point is that the English government's intelligence service, if it had one, failed miserably on this occasion. Henry's preparations to invade were well advanced by this time, and by 28 June news had clearly reached York as he wrote to various sheriffs asking them to bring armed men to a rendezvous at Ware. On 4 July, or thereabouts, Henry landed at Ravenspur, having also arranged an attack on Pevensey Castle as a diversion.
By this time York was writing to bishops, nobles, knights and esquires ordering a general mobilisation, and by 12 July some seventy knights and squires had responded with their retinues. Among them were king's retained knights such as Hugh Despenser (Thomas Despenser's cousin) and William Burcester (who was lined to the Despensers by marriage.) At least five sheriffs brought in their posses. Magnates to show up included the earls of Wiltshire and Suffolk and the Marquis of Dorset - John Beaufort, Henry's own half-brother. Several bishops turned out, including Henry Despenser, Bishop of Norwich, a man more noted for fighting than praying. The estimate for York's army is between 2000 and 3000. Small but potentially useful. There was plenty of money available to pay recruits. Richard's Exchequer at this time was full of cash, and indeed the King had gold stacked in barrels up at Holt Castle.
Edmund of Langley had a respectable war record in France, and his standing up to bullying by Gloucester in 1388 showed that he didn't lack courage in a cause. However, when it came to generalship he was no Robert E. Lee or Oliver Cromwell. More like Gypsy Rose Lee or Oliver Hardy. He marched his men north with the obvious intention of interdicting Henry's advance. Then he stopped, dithered, and marched west. Away from Henry, leaving London and Westminster wide open. The best interpretation is that he hoped to join Richard when the latter landed in Wales.
(Main source for this post is The Royal Household and The King's Affinity by Chris Given-Wilson. A specialist work, but very useful, and highly recommended to anyone interested in this era.)
Sunday, 27 July 2008
It was probably not a good idea for Richard to hare off to Ireland at this time. There was nothing going on there that was an immediate threat, and it seems he was merely fired up by the breakdown of order in the country. He may have thought he'd settled things in his successful campaign of 1394/95. If so he was deluded.
He may also have doubted Henry would be able to mount a successful invasion. This is not as crazy as it sounds, as Henry was in France, and France was supposed to be Richard's ally.
Edward is criticised for being late to arrive for the muster. He had a good excuse. Richard had sent him up to the Scottish Border to settle some details of the truce. The Scottish Border was a long way, there and back, and presumably he then had to put his retinue in order. It's possible, even likely, that while he was up there he gained some idea of how disgruntled the Percy and Neville clans were. We know he advised Richard to create another wardenship as a means of placating them. However there's nothing to indicate that he got into treasonable discussions.
Was he in correspondence with Bolingbroke? Again, we can't be sure, however it's perfectly possible. He was later to develop a strange love/hate relationship with Henry IV, but nothing Henry did in 1399 suggests that he thought of Edward as a supporter. On the contrary, he was swift to strip Edward of his most important offices, even before he became king.
Over in Ireland they were slow to hear of Henry's landing, and then unable to react because of contrary winds. It's at this point that Richard split his forces, allegedly on Edward's advice. They were in Dublin, and there weren't enough ships to embark the whole force. The decision was to put Lord Salisbury and part of the army into what ships were available, with the object of landing in North Wales and mobilising Chester.
The rest of the army marched to Waterford, and embarked there for South Wales.
Splitting the army was possibly not a good plan, but ships couldn't be created by magic out of thin air, and they were propelled by the wind, not steam, so they were to a large extent at the mercy of the elements. Assembling all the ships in one place would surely have delayed Richard's return even further.
In short, the decision may have been mistaken, but even if it was made on the basis of Edward's advice, that advice was not necessarily treasonable.
Thursday, 24 July 2008
Anyway, back to the York family circa 1398.
It's highly likely that Richard II expected John of Gaunt to live for several years. Gaunt was only in his fifties, not the near-skeleton of Shakesperean myth. OK, I don't suppose he got too many offers of life insurance, but there's no reason to think he was in particular ill-health. Richard allowed Bolingbroke to appoint proctors to receive his inheritance if Gaunt were to die during the time of his son's banishment.
When Gaunt did die, in February 1399, it threw onto Richard II's plate one of those awful quandries that every government has to face at some time or another. He could either let Bolingbroke inherit (in which case he would have a dangerously over-mighty subject coming home in a few years) or he could block the inheritance, grab the Lancastrian estates and resources, and, with a bit of luck, keep Bolingbroke permanently excluded.
Richard jumped for the latter option, and it was to prove fatal. However, it's worth noting that the alternative might have proved equally fatal in the long run.
From the point of view of the York family, it seems that at this time they were suddenly shot up in the pecking order to heirs to the throne. Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, had died in Ireland, out of royal favour and apparently in danger of arrest; his heir was a child. Bolingbroke was crossed off the list. Had Richard II been run over by a horse that weekend, it appears likely Edmund of Langley would have succeeded. Or maybe Edward of York, given that Richard had apparently told Bagot that Edward was the man for the job!
Both Edmund of Langley and his elder son were among those who received grants of Lancastrian lands and offices. It's worth mentioning though that the grants were not absolute but had a saving clause - until Henry, Duke of Lancaster shall sue for the same. Which is a bit odd, if Richard envisaged outright confiscation.
Monday, 23 June 2008
The battle is always the highlight. Though you should be warned, the Yorkists don't always get to win!
If anyone fancies moving, I understand they want offers over £500,000, and that some remedial work is needed. It'd certainly be a nice place to live, but I don't quite have that kind of cash in my Post Office Account and I'm afraid that a Certain Lady wouldn't let me move there if I had. So if there are any wealthy Ricardians out there, I say good luck to you!
Oh, and a link to a page about the Metcalfe Family
Sunday, 22 June 2008
Richard was in a dilemma. If Thomas Mowbray had won, how would old Gaunt have reacted? Let's just imagine Henry Bolingbroke, defeated but not killed, going up for the chop. Would Gaunt have sat there and let it happen? Assuming he did, it wouldn't exactly do much for his relationship with the King, would it? Moreover, Mowbray had proved himself a bit of a loose cannon. Lord knows what he would have done - vindicated in this quarrel - for an encore.
What if Bolingbroke had won? Well, that would give a massive boost to an individual who in Richard's books was already far too popular. Plus it would open up the question of Thomas of Woodstock's death/murder/private execution, which Bolingbroke obviously saw as a Bad Thing. Whereas Richard undoubtedly saw it as a Good Thing, and wanted it forgotten. Preferably yesterday.
So Richard stopped the fight and banished them both, Mowbray for life, Bolingbroke for 10 years. In effect he decided they were both guilty, but Bolingbroke not quite as guilty as Mowbray. Lots of people, then and subsequently, thought this harsh on poor old Henry. In terms of justice they were probably right, but then again, medieval justice, especially in the area of high politics, was not noted for being fair and reasonable.
Bolingbroke was told that if his father died during his absence he would be allowed to inherit, and he was even given power to appoint attorneys to act for him in that event. It appears Gaunt was in reasonable health at this time, and his early death was not anticipated.
Monday, 16 June 2008
On 23 February, Mowbray was brought before the Council at Oswestry (right up on the northern border of Wales) and denied everything. This led to both men having to attend a further meeting at Bristol in March, this time appearing before a Committee of Parliament. Given that neither of the parties was going to back down, and there were no witnesses, it was pretty inevitable the quarrel was going to have to be decided by combat, and this was what the Committee decided. The combat to be under the auspices of the Court of Chivalry - Edward of York, Duke of Aumale, Constable, and Thomas Holland, Duke of Surrey, Acting Marshal, presiding.
It was widely felt at the time time that the King should have reconciled the pair - this was apparently the advice of the French King to his new son-in-law, while John of Gaunt was allegedly angry about his son having to fight over 'a thing of naught.' All very well, but easier said than done. Far from coming to terms, Bolingbroke chose to add fresh charges. He said that Mowbray was behind all the treasons of the last eighteen years, as well as pinching funds from the Calais garrison and being responsible for the death of the late Duke of Gloucester.
Arrangements were made for a combat outside Coventry on 16 September, and both parties sent off for mail-order armour for the occasion. Edward of York, as Constable, had the job of organising the Big Fight. If only sponsorship had been invented in those days, they could have made a fortune!
Tuesday, 3 June 2008
Although I am getting slightly ahead of myself, there's one passage I must quote before I forget:
Richard could be forgiven for thinking...that his ascendancy over the realm was complete. Gloucester and Arundel were dead; Warwick was in prison; and Hereford and Norfolk had been condemned to exile. Financially he was secure. His wife's dowry and the confiscated wealth of the former Appellants had replenished his coffers. Parliament had shown itself agreeably compliant in enacting his will; and the nobility, and political society more generally, had been reshaped in his image. Never before had the power of the crown been raised to such dizzy and exalted heights.
Richard II, Nigel Saul, pp 402-3. (My emphasis on the final sentence.)
I put it to you, ladies and gentleman of the jury, that we are talking here about a king who is generally regarded as incompetent, inept, out of touch, or just a plain fruitloop. So taking that into account, this was not a bad achievement, was it? Just think what he might have achieved if only he'd been clever, effective, and sane!
Sunday, 1 June 2008
One day in December 1397, near Brentford on the outskirts of London, Henry Bolingbroke was riding along the road, quietly minding his own business. Along came Mowbray, who took him aside, and told him of a massive conspiracy that was going to ruin them both.
This is according to Bolingbroke, and, annoyingly, we only have his side of the story. As usual with historians, when there is only one side to a story available they tend to accept it as being true. I put it to you, Dear Reader, there is a possibility that it could all be a steaming pile of BS.
Anyway, according to Mowbray (according to Bolingbroke) the King was still out to get them for the events of 1386-88. Moreover, there was a court conspiracy to dig up the judgement on Thomas of Lancaster (Edward II's reign, please refer to the excellent Alianore blog for detail) and use it to forfeit the Lancastrian inheritance. The Duke of Surrey (Thomas Holland the King's youngish nephew) and the earls of Wiltshire (Scrope) and Salisbury (John Montagu) had drawn the Earl of Gloucester (Thomas Despenser, York's son-in-law) into a plot to destroy Gaunt and, while they were at it, take out Aumale (Edward of York) Exeter (John Holland, the King's half-brother) and Worcester (Thomas Percy). These last three, plus Norfolk, had taken an oath to resist this. Oh, and the King was trying to bring March into the plot too.
If there was truth behind all this, it would have made the night of the long knives look like a Sunday picnic! What it perhaps does demonstrate was that there were a lot a frayed nerves out there, and that men were looking for friends and fearing potential enemies.
It is true that there was a degree of hostility to and jealousy of John of Gaunt. This was nothing new, it had being going on for almost the whole reign. Something particular was developing in early 1398 because Sir William Bagot was bound over in the sum of £1000, which he would have to forfeit to the King if he was shown to have brought about the disinheritance of Lancaster or his family. A couple of days later he submitted to be executed without further process if he were to kill or put to death Gaunt or any of his family! (If you're interested you can find these amazing documents in the Calendar of Close Rolls 1396-7 pp 291-2). It's worth mentioning that although Bagot was at this point a favoured servant of the King, it was not that much earlier that he had been a retainer of Lancaster.
It seems likely that someone, maybe even the King, was behind Bagot's apparent plotting. However, it does beg the famous question posed by Charles II to his brother. Who would kill me, to have you? King Richard had achieved a modus vivendi with Gaunt. Why on earth would he want to get rid of Gaunt and have Bolingbroke in his place? I don't have a simple answer. Of course, potentially, if you could take out the whole of the House of Lancaster, there would be a huge amount of land and patronage to redistribute. Some ambitious lords may have dreamed of this possibility, but it was, as they say, a Big Ask.
Ironically it was Henry Bolingbroke who, by broaching this story, set in train a series of events that almost did destroy his House.