Insurrections Under Henry IV

Henry Delivers Richard to Londoners-Harley 1319 f53v, British Library

It goes without saying that any usurper will have to deal with resistance. Considering the wave of popularity that thrust Henry Bolingbroke onto the throne, I imagine he never would have suspected the number of rebellions he would have to confront in the first five years of his reign. Some were major, others were minor. Two nearly condemned him as the shortest reigning monarch in English history. All must have been disheartening to the man who saw himself as an honorable, chivalric knight.

What could possibly have gone wrong?

The first rebellion wasn’t much of a surprise—though the timing was shocking. Only three months after his coronation, King Richard II’s favorites launched the Epiphany Rising of January, 1400. Their aim was to capture and kill the king and his family on the eve of a tournament at Windsor Castle. Unfortunately, they were in too much of a hurry; Henry was still at the height of his popularity. At the very last minute, King Henry was warned and he made a frantic escape to London. Nonetheless, the ringleaders were committed; after they found their prey had flown they continued with their revolt, though they weren’t able to attract as much support as they expected. Rather, most of them suffered the indignity of being killed by the citizenry, who took the law into their own hands.

Needless to say, the Epiphany Revolt put an end to Richard. Or did it? Although he was reported dead by February 14 and a very public funeral was held, rumors spread that he had escaped to Scotland and was going to return at the head of an army. Disgruntled rebels were quick to challenge the usurper in his name, and the spectre of a vengeful Richard haunted Henry for the rest of his life. Or, if Richard was dead, the young Earl of March—considered by many the true heir to the throne—served the same purpose. As far as the rebels were concerned, one figurehead was as good as the other.

During most of Henry’s reign, the country was bankrupt—or nearly so—and the first few years were the worst. It didn’t take long for the populace to cry foul, for as they remembered it, he promised not to raise taxes (untrue). Things were supposed to get better (they didn’t). Mob violence was everywhere. Even tax collectors were killed. Meanwhile, a fresh source of rebellion reared its head: the Welsh.

On his way back to London after his first (and only) campaign into Scotland, the king learned of a Welsh rising led by one Owain Glyndwr, who visited fire and destruction on his recalcitrant neighbor Reginald Grey of Ruthin. Turning immediately to the west, Henry led his army into Wales, chasing the elusive enemy deep into the mountains. Unfortunately, lack of funds and terrible weather forced them to turn back. But this just added fuel to the proverbial fire. Repeated Welsh raids unsettled his border barons, who were quick to complain. During parliament—only one year after Henry’s coronation—the Commons insisted on enforcing the most repressive anti-Welsh legislation since Edward I. None of these laws would have been enacted in Richard’s reign. The Welsh were in no mood to acquiesce, and their rebellion gained steam for the next several years, sapping an already exhausted exchequer.

Royal MS 14e iv f.14v, British Library

Then there were the Percies. The Earl of Northumberland and his son, Harry Hotspur were instrumental in putting Henry on the throne. They also ruled the north as though it was their own kingdom. This would not do, and Henry followed his predecessor’s strategy of raising up other great families as a counter to their ambitions. Disappointed that Henry did not appreciate them as much as they expected—especially after they won Homildon Hill, the most significant battle against the Scots since Edward I days—the Percies launched a totally unexpected assault in 1403. It was Harry Hotspur who drove this insurrection, using Richard II’s imminent return as a means to raise the restive Cheshiremen to his cause. Once his soldiers realized that Richard wasn’t coming, they fought to avenge him instead. The resulting Battle of Shrewsbury was a very close call; if Henry hadn’t unexpectedly traveled north from London that week to join Henry Percy, he never would have been close enough to intercept the rebels when he learned about the uprising. The fighting was ferocious; it was only Hotspur’s death on the battlefield that determined which side had won the day. As it was, Percy’s ally, the Earl of Douglas, allegedly killed two knights who wore Henry’s livery, giving their lives to save the king in the confusion of battle.

The Earl of Northumberland was still in the North when the Battle of Shrewsbury took place. Historians can’t decide whether Percy’s failure to assist his son was planned or unplanned. But one thing was for sure; Henry Percy was still a force to be reckoned with. Although the king reluctantly pardoned him (with the urging of the Commons), he was back two years later, leading another rebellion in conjunction with a rising led by Richard Scrope, the Archbishop of York, and Thomas Mowbray, son of Henry Bolingbroke’s old rival. Northumberland’s thrust was repelled before he gained much speed, yet Scrope’s forces waited at York for three days before being tricked into disbanding by the Earl of Westmorland, Percy’s nemesis. Poor Archbishop Scrope became the focus of King Henry’s rage. Despite resistance from all sides, the king ordered him to be executed, creating a huge scandal and a new martyr.

Henry Percy suffered outlawry at that point, but he returned three years later, fighting one last battle, so pathetic one wonders whether he had a death wish. He was killed on the field and subsequently decapitated.

These were the major rebellions. Other disturbances were usually dealt with without Henry’s presence. In 1404, Maud de Ufford, Countess of Oxford—mother of the ill-fated Robert de Vere, Richard’s favorite—organized an uprising centered around the return of King Richard. This was in conjunction with Louis d’Orleans, the French duke who planned to invade the country in December. Alas, he was held up by the weather and Richard failed to materialize. In 1405, Constance of York, sister of Edward (Rutland), Duke of York concocted a plot to kidnap the young Earl of March (remember him, the other heir to the throne?) and his brother from Windsor Castle. She was taking them to Owain Glyndwr but got caught before they entered Wales. She implicated her brother who was imprisoned for several months, but no one knows for sure whether he was complicit or not (he probably was).

Bad weather, failed crops, an empty exchequer, regional disorders, piracy that disrupted the wool trade, all contributed to general unrest that plagued the fragile Lancastrian dynasty. Henry’s willingness to accept criticism from friends and supporters—and sincerely try to act upon it—could well be one of the reasons he survived and King Richard failed.

Author’s Inspiration: THE USURPER KING

      Henry IV, MS Harley 4205 f. 7, British Library

For a long time my only knowledge about Henry IV came from Shakespeare. How typical! I suspect he would have been amazed at how literally we took his memorable characters. Interestingly, although Shakespeare wrote two plays about Henry IV, the king played a minor role in both. It is thought that because Henry was a usurper, the great bard didn’t want to ruffle Queen Elizabeth’s feathers by giving him prominence; too many of his fellow playwrights ended up in prison. Besides, it was much more diverting to give the spotlight to Falstaff! And of course, Prince Hal was safe, since he wasn’t responsible for his father’s actions.

It seems that other scholars followed Shakespeare’s example and gave Henry IV short shrift—possibly because his reign was sandwiched between two much more dynamic kings. Fortunately, modern historians have taken another look and discovered there is plenty to talk about (though much credit is due to the Victorian historian James Hamilton Wylie who wrote a four-volume biography about him. Try finding it!).

Originally, I had only planned to write my first two volumes about Richard II’s life. But I got caught up in the whole usurpation story and realized that Henry’s point of view was just as interesting as Richard’s. It was too much to include in volume two; in fact, Henry’s story covers two books on its own. Naturally, I soon realized that I might as well take the Plantagenets all the way to the end. Every one of them had a story to tell—even Henry VI (we forget that he reigned 40 years).

I found Henry IV’s story to be very sympathetic. Although it was more than a little unethical for him to break Thomas Mowbray’s confidence and start the whole brouhaha that got them exiled (see THE KING’S RETRIBUTION), the punishment was certainly disproportionate to the offense. What was the crime? Why was he declared a traitor? It was all so unfair! Once he returned to reclaim his lost inheritance, he realized that he had to go “all the way” or else risk losing his head to a vindictive Richard. There were to be no half-measures here. Luckily for him, practically the whole country rallied behind his banner.

But that’s only part of the story. All the good-will built up between him and the populace was exhausted pretty quickly. Promises were broken, expectations disappointed, the exchequer was empty, law-and-order disintegrated. Repressive measures led to even more discontent. Poor Henry was quick to learn that that that having the kingship was much less rewarding than striving for it.

But the proverbial die was cast. Once he had established the Lancastrian dynasty, Henry was determined to make it stick. However, on more than one occasion he nearly came to disaster, and his reign might have become the shortest-lasting kingship in English history. The Epiphany Rising—a mere three months after his coronation—and the Battle of Shrewsbury were only two of the rebellions he had to face in the first four years of his reign. And all this happened before the infamous execution of Richard Scrope, Archbishop of York, and Henry’s subsequent attack of leprosy (or so everyone thought). More to come in The Accursed King which I am working on as we speak.

 

The slippery Edward, Earl of Rutland Part 2: Henry IV

     MS BL Harley 1319 f.50, Wikipedia

In Part I, Edward Earl of Rutland abandoned King Richard’s cause after the forsaken monarch left his rapidly declining army in South Wales and dashed north to join the Earl of Salisbury in Conwy—where he expected to find another army waiting for him. Richard was too late, for Salisbury couldn’t hold his force together. Frantic, the king sent for Rutland to bring the southern army, only to learn that his cousin had deserted to Bolingbroke. The rest, as they say, is history.

Edward could congratulate himself on joining the winning side. But his trials were far from over. During Henry IV’s first parliament, he was among the six surviving Counter-Appellants brought to task for the murder of the Duke of Gloucester. There was quite a ruckus as lord after lord threw their hoods on the floor and challenged him to a duel until King Henry put a stop to the disturbance. All the Counter- Appellants suffered the loss of their new ranks—awarded by King Richard after the Revenge Parliament—but further retribution was avoided. Henry didn’t want to start his reign with a blood bath. After a brief imprisonment, all were released.

Unfortunately for Henry, their rancor had not diminished as a result of his leniency. Within three months of the coronation, they were plotting to kill the usurper and put Richard back on the throne. Their plan was to infiltrate Windsor castle during the Epiphany tournament, where they would dispatch the king and his family. They might have succeeded except at the last minute, someone told Henry and he fled Windsor just hours before the assassins showed up. Who betrayed the conspirators? No one knows for sure. Some thought an indiscrete accomplice told his mistress who passed it on. But most contemporaries point the finger at Rutland. Did he only pretend to be part of the conspiracy so he could tell the king? Did he change his mind at the last minute and tell his father? Or, as Shakespeare portrayed, did he give himself away by accident, whereas his father forced him to confess to the king? He apparently confirmed his guilt by abandoning his confederates later on, when King Henry showed up with his army. One thing’s for sure: he wasn’t punished. The rest of the rebel leaders were lynched by the mobs, showing their loyalty to the king. Whatever Henry felt about Rutland’s participation has been lost to history.

Though apparently the king trusted him, or at least found him useful. Soon afterwards he was sent to Guyenne as lieutenant for two years. On his return he was made Duke of York, for his father had died in his absence. Then the king made him lieutenant of South Wales, where he worked closely with Prince Henry. But this was certainly not a favor! The exchequer was out of funds and Rutland had to dig deep into his pockets to pay his men (he was still owed money from Guyenne). This could well have stretched his loyalty to King Henry.

In February, 1405, his sister Constance abducted the two Mortimer boys, kept hostage at Windsor Castle; the eldest was considered by many the true heir to the throne and kept in close confinement. Since she was apprehended taking them to Wales, there was no doubt that she was planning to deliver them to Owain Glyndwr (and their uncle Sir Edmund Mortimer, who had joined the rebellion). Constance immediately implicated Rutland, who initially denied any knowledge of her plot, but later he confessed and was imprisoned for seventeen weeks at Pevensey Castle. By October the king showed signs of forgiveness and two months later Rutland received his lands back. A year later he was made Constable of the Tower, landing on his feet again!

Battle of Agincourt by John Gilbert – Wikipedia

Apparently the Prince favored Rutland as well, for after Henry IV’s death he was involved in diplomatic matters for the new king. He accompanied Henry V to Agincourt in 1415, where he was killed on the battlefield.

One can only assume he was a man of considerable ability, which would help explain why he was given so many positions of responsibility despite his dubious reputation among his contemporaries.  As an aside, Rutland was an authority on hunting and made an English translation of Gaston Phoebus’ Livre de Chasse, with the addition of several chapters he wrote, himself.

Dual identities of some Exeter Cathedral carvings, Guest Post by John Ramsden

Exeter Cathedral Nave, Source: Wikipedia

In this post I present detailed evidence to support my contention that, surprisingly, the corbel carvings in the nave of Exeter Cathedral have represented, at various times and different places over the centuries, two lots of people.

I believe they were originally of Norman and Angevin monarchs and were in Old Westminster Abbey, but were salvaged from there when this started being demolished in 1245 prior to its rebuild over the following twenty or so years by Henry III. Presumably they then languished in some depot or in the Tower of London for some years while people wondered what to do with them, or more likely almost forgot about them.

In the early 1350s the then Bishop of Exeter, John de Grandisson, needed a set of carvings to complete the nave and the splendid barrel roof of the rebuilt cathedral. To save money and, very likely because no stone carver of sufficient skill was available following the Black Death, which had ravaged the Kingdom only a couple of years earlier, he decided it would be easier to reuse existing carvings by adding suitable extra layers of plaster and paint. The revamped carvings would represent Edward III and members of his family, including the Black Prince, and the bishop himself and his wife.

I suggest that de Grandisson learned of the Norman carvings put aside and was able to acquire them. In positioning them, he ingeniously managed to preserve the order of succession of their original Norman identities, from West to East along the nave, perhaps out of respect for who he knew they had been, while achieving a felicitous arrangement of their new identities, given the choice he had to make of who would best correspond to who from their physical similarities.

Corbel of King Stephen. Source: Alamy

Three hundred years later, in the 1650s, when richly ornate and gilt carvings were no longer fashionable or even tolerated, de Grandisson’s surface alterations were scrubbed and scraped away, leaving the original Norman identities. By then few would have guessed who these were, or in the unlikely event they did were (luckily) symathetic and kept quiet about the new identities uncovered, because carvings of monarchs would not have been welcome in Cromwell’s republic! Perhaps they were presented as Old Testament characters such as Saul, David, and Samuel, etc.

The carvings remained a drab grey and indistinct, and anonymous, until modern times when they were repainted once more, only a few years ago I gather. The lady entrusted with this task did a splendid job and really brought them to life. But, not knowing the carvings’ identities, she understandably chose the wrong colours for the hair and beards of some.

My evidence mostly relates to their present (and thus original) appearance, based on comparisons with contemporary descriptions of the monarchs I claim they represent, and the few surviving representations of them, which are mostly copies of originals. The evidence for their intermediate identities, between c 1350 and 1650, is ably provided in [Ottery]. So I have little to add to that.

Tying the two together is solely my conjecture, although I hope a well-disposed reader will agree in the end that it is plausible, and that in fact it would be hard to find any other explanation that accounts for all the features, including a couple of strange anomalies, of their present disposition.

A corollary of this, if true, is that for once the mighty Wikipedia is wrong! Its article on William the Conqueror states that “No authentic portrait of William has been found”. However, as I hope to convince the reader, an accurate carving of him, very likely the last that still exists, looms over the western door of the cathedral as large as life!

Corbel of William the Conqueror

Besides the corbel carving, which I claim is his, and very likely the most accurate, I am aware of only four surviving representations of William I’s face, in increasing order of likely accuracy:

  • Contemporary coins (hardly accurate at all, but a few may be vaguely suggestive)
  • Bayeux tapestry (maybe slightly more accurate than coins, but not much)
  • 17th century copy of earlier wooden face mask in Tower of London
  • Engraved copy of now lost painting of him and family on chapel wall in Abbey of St Stephen, Caen

The Tower of London houses a copy of earlier wooden mask of William I. This copy was produced in the 1680s from an original that was by then in very poor shape and (to my knowledge) no longer exists. The facial features are likely a fairly accurate reflection of the original, but the same certainly cannot be said of the head shape.

It seems new copies of several masks of former sovereigns were produced for a public exhibition planned by King James II somewhat similar to a waxworks display. His aim was a foolish and outdated desire to extol the merits of absolute monarchy and try to restore it. He had evidently learned nothing from the then recent grim fate of Charles I, who had also tried to maintain the divine right of kings past its sell by date!

17th century copy of contemporary wooden carving of WIlliam I

In those days people had firm ideas about what constituted an aristocratic head shape, and that was a narrow head. So, given the propaganda aims of the exhibition, if William’s original mask had an embarrassingly broad and robust face shape and lantern jaws, like a peasant’s by the refined standards of the day, then they would have thought nothing of making those of the copy much narrower and flatter, with a suitably delicate small jaw! Also, in fairness, the original may have eroded and shrunk, or lost outlying parts, to a point where the overall head shape was no longer obvious.

The superficial features of this face include: prominently arched eyebrows, a straight nose, full mouth, and cold supercilious eyes. But (predictably!) the head shape is narrow, with no prominent cheekbones nor a lantern jaw nor even jowls. This is not the face of the corpulent person William I became in his final years, possibly letting himself go somewhat and comfort eating following the death of his wife Matilda in 1083, three years before William’s death.

12th century carvings v 14th century rebuild

On the face of it, the fact that the barrel roof was not built until the 1350s is a conclusive objection to a claim that carvings which are an integral part of it can be from the 1100s, because the foliage above the carved heads definitely follows the present curved ceiling arches and thus could not have been present in the original Norman cathedral.

However, again, my proposal explains this if the carved heads were taken from elsewhere and reused at the time the roof was rebuilt.

A keen researcher, willing to root through old parchments in Exeter Cathedral library or in the records of Westminster Abbey (a task I have neither time nor skill to undertake), could perhaps confirm whether a stonemason was paid for the relevant corbel carvings as part of the cathedral rebuild. If not then, like “the dog that didn’t bark in the night”, that would tend to support my contention that these already existed from earlier times.

But note that the foliage adornments would have needed freshly carving. These carvings are exquisitely done, and to the uninitiated (such as myself) this achievement looks hideously difficult and complicated, more so even than carving faces, given the deep and convoluted 3D structures required. But it may be one of those skills that are actually fairly simple and routine with practice, and the carving of accurate life-like faces that is the more subtle and demanding task.

There’s much more to read on this subject.  Click HERE for the full article.

 

A Traitor’s death is a hard one, Guest Post by Anna Belfrage

Being a medieval king came with all sorts of challenges, chief among them how to stop people from rebelling and in general causing unnecessary upheaval in your country. Sheesh: couldn’t they just accept that the one in charge was the king? Only the king? Clearly, something had to be done to keep people on the straight and narrow, which is why – or so the story goes – late in the 13th century, Edward I decided he needed to up the death-penalty somewhat, make it even more of a deterrent. Specifically, Edward I wanted people considering treason to think again – which was why, on October of 1283, he had the last Prince of Wales, Dafydd ap Gruffydd, subjected to horrific torture before the poor man finally died. Dafydd thereby became the first recorded person to be executed by the gruesome means of being hanged, drawn and quartered. I’m guessing Dafydd would have preferred being remembered for something else… It is still a matter of dispute whether Edward I is responsible for the introduction of this terrible punishment. There are indications Henry III, Edward’s generally rather mild father, condemned someone to die like this for an attempted assassination. I imagine that had Simon de Montfort not lost his life at Evesham, he’d have been a prime candidate for being the first ever nobleman to die thus. Fortunately (well relatively speaking: Montfort’s death was no walk in the park) Montfort did die on the battlefield, and so instead here we have Dafydd as the eternal poster boy for dying slowly and very, very painfully. To be thus executed involved a lot of stages. First, you were tied to a horse (or in some cases several horses) and dragged through the town. Doesn’t sound too bad, you may think, but imagine being dragged over uneven cobbles, over gravel and stones, mud and slime, while the spectators lining the road pelt you with stuff – hard stuff, mostly. By the time the victim arrived at the gallows, he was a collection of bruises and gashes, his garments torn to shreds. Chances were, the man couldn’t stand, but stand he had to, and soon enough he was hoisted upwards, to the waiting noose.

The second stage involved the hanging as such. In medieval times, hanging rarely resulted in a broken neck. The condemned man didn’t drop several feet. Instead, the victim was set to swing from his neck and slowly strangled to death. A painful and extended demise, with the further indignity that when a man dies, his bowels and bladder give. However, the unfortunate sod who’d been condemned to being hanged, drawn and quartered, never got to the bladder and bowels part. He was cut down before he died and placed before the executioner and his big, sharp knife. The horror was just about to begin.

In some cases, the executioner started by gelding the man. Loud cheers from the spectators – or not, depending on who was being executed. Executions generally drew huge crowds, people standing about and snacking on the odd fritter or two while watching the condemned die. Nice – but hey, we must remember this was before the advent of TV and stuff like Counterstrike 4. People have always enjoyed being entertained with violence – which says a lot about the human race in general.

Once the condemned man had been relieved of his manhood (not something he’d ever use again anyway), he was cut open. A skilled executioner would keep him alive throughout the process, ensuring the dying man saw his organs being pulled from his body. And then, once the poor unfortunate finally expired, they chopped him up, sent off selected parts to be displayed in various parts of the kingdom, and buried what little was left over.

Not, all in all, a nice way to die. Men condemned to die that way must have swallowed and swallowed, knowing full well that no one could bear such indignities and die well. Before he drew his last breath, he’d have cried and wept, suffered horrific pain, hoped for the release of unconsciousness, only to be brought back up to the surface so as to fully experience what they did next to him. A truly demeaning death – most definitely a deterrent!

Edward I was quite fond of his new method of execution. Other than the unfortunate Dafydd, Edward had several Scottish “rebels and traitors” – in itself a strange label to put on men fighting for the freedom of their country – hanged, drawn and quartered, notably among them William Wallace and some of Robert Bruce’s brothers.

It is unlikely that any man subjected to such a gruesome death would be in a position to inhale and yell “FREEDOM!” as William Wallace does in Mel Gibson’s interpretation. It is far more likely that by the time the cutting began, the victim was in severe shock, incapable of uttering more than high-pitched shrieks and grunts.

There were exceptions, though. Well at least if we’re to believe some of the “eye-witness” accounts that have made it down the centuries to us. Take, for example, the case of Thomas Blount, ond of the men who conspired to murder Henry IV and his young sons on Twelfth Night. The conspiracy failed, the rebels were brutally punished, and Thomas was drawn, hanged and was watching his entrails burn when he was asked by one of his guards if he needed a drink. Thomas Blount politely declined the offer, saying that he did not know where to put it…

Back to Dafydd. He too, supposedly, died as well as one can die such a terrible death. No frantic screaming, no begging, although I imagine the poor man could not suppress the odd groan, gasp or whispered prayer.  

My recent release, His Castilian Hawk, is set in Wales during those tumultuous years when Edward I crushed the Welsh underfoot. Below, a little excerpt detailing Dafydd’s final hours on this earth as seem through the eyes of my female protagonist, Noor, who has quite the dollop of Welsh blood running through her veins.

Excerpt:

They emerged into a cold and crisp autumn day. People were drifting in the direction of the castle, there were men-at-arms everywhere, and Noor shivered, pulling her cloak tight round her shoulders. A scaffold had been erected at the top of the slope that led to the castle. To the far right stood the church of St Mary; beyond the platform rose the walls of the castle, the royal banner unfurling in the wind.

“This is close enough,” Noor said, coming to a halt. To her surprise, Marured did not protest. She was rocking the babe, eyes lost in the bright blue sky above. Soon enough, they were hemmed in, Nicholas adopting a protective stance behind them. The majority of the spectators chattered and laughed; there were wineskins passed back and forth, pies and pasties shared.

Some stood silent, little groups of mostly men who looked grim and tired. Welshmen, Noor thought, biting back a surprised gasp when she recognised one of them as Rhys, one of the men who had accompanied Dafydd when he’d visited Orton Manor. Rhys inclined his head slightly in Noor’s direction before looking at Marured and lifting a hand in a greeting. She returned the gesture, flitting behind Noor so that she stood close to Rhys, her voice low and intense as she said something to him.

“Do you think Lord Robert is here?” Nicholas asked, narrowed eyes scanning their surroundings.

“Robert?” Noor stood on her toes, craning her neck as she turned this way and that, hoping for a glimpse of a familiar leather surcoat. “I wish—”

She was interrupted by a group of men-at-arms, yelling at them to make way, make way for the traitor. Behind them came a horse, and dragged behind it was a man. A roar rose from the assembled people. Eggs, stones, offal, rotten apples—the half-naked man tied to the horse was pelted from every direction.

“Dear God,” Noor whispered.

“This is but the beginning,” Nicholas muttered in response.

The horse was brought to a halt by the scaffolds. Two men-at-arms hauled Dafydd ap Gruffydd to his feet and ripped his tattered tunic from him. They made as if to manhandle him up the ladder, but he shook off their hands and climbed up on his own. Naked, dirty, bruised and bleeding, the former prince still carried himself with dignity.

Dafydd stared straight ahead as a noose was placed round his neck. The executioner called out an order, and the rope was tightened. Noor did not want to look but could not tear her gaze away as the naked man was lifted off his feet. Limbs jerked, all of him shook, and Noor prayed and prayed that the executioner would miscalculate, thereby saving Dafydd from the coming indignities. One last twitch. The body hung still. The executioner barked instructions, the rope was released, and Dafydd tumbled onto the scaffold.

He hadn’t died. A staggering Dafydd was heaved up and tied to a ladder. The executioner held up a blade, and the mob bayed in response. From Marured came a strangled sob. From the man tied to the ladder came a high-pitched squeal, like the sound one of the pigs made when it was butchered. In difference to the pig’s squeal, this sound was abruptly cut short, as if the man being tortured had somehow regained control of himself.

Blood. So much blood. Dafydd sagged in his ropes, blood staining his upper thighs. The executioner held something up, and the crowd went wild. Marured wailed. One of the men beside her took hold of her and pulled her close.

Tied to his ladder, Dafydd was still alive. It was not over yet.

“Mother Mary, help him,” Noor groaned. “Give him strength in these his last moments.”

The crowd fell silent. When the executioner yet again approached Dafydd with the blade, Nicholas took hold of Noor and pressed her to his chest. She did not protest, hiding her face against the rough fabric of his tunic. It was as if all the assembled people held their breath, waiting. Other than the odd scuffing of shoes against the cobbles, it was so quiet she could hear her own breathing. Nicholas’ arm tightened round her. More silence, and then she heard Nicholas groan, “God save his soul.” The air filled with the faint scent of burning innards. But from Dafydd, there came not a sound, and some moments later the decisive sound of an axe cleaving flesh and bone had Noor crumpling, hot tears scalding her cheeks.

She straightened up. “May the Lord receive you into his kingdom,” she whispered, making the sign of the cross.

“Amen,” Nicholas said in a low voice. He shook himself. “Not even an accursed traitor deserves to die like that.” He nudged her and nodded in the direction of Marured, standing as if carved from stone some feet away. Her face was awash with tears, her gaze on the men still busy on the scaffold.

Rhys made the sign of the cross and muttered a soft, “Farewell, our prince.” He gestured for his companions to come with him, and they headed in the direction of the Welsh gate, a group of men who walked straight and unseeing, ploughing a path through the people still assembled. No one challenged them. Instead, they moved aside.

“He died well!” someone called out. The Welshmen came to a halt. Rhys turned in the direction of the speaker.

“All Welshmen know how to die,” he said. “It’s a lesson the English king has been kind enough to teach us over and over again.”

Amazon link: http://mybook.to/HISHAWK

MEET ANNA BELFRAGE: 

Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England. 

More recently, Anna has published The Wanderer, a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense trilogy with paranormal and time-slip ingredients. While she loved stepping out of her comfort zone (and will likely do so again ) she is delighted to be back in medieval times in her September 2020 release, His Castilian Hawk. Set against the complications of Edward I’s invasion of Wales, His Castilian Hawk is a story of loyalty, integrity—and love.  

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The Quandary of Public Domain Photos


I could just about guarantee that I’m not the only underpaid indie author who has wondered about using a public domain photo on the cover of their new novel. Well, I finally decided to push this question to its logical conclusion, and I thought I’d share the process with you. I am not a lawyer, so don’t take me at my word! But I have at least one experience to pass on.

For me, the picture in question was from a manuscript in the British Library. The image is all over the Internet and, most importantly, on Wikipedia, a kind of the clearinghouse for public domain images, as I see it. For the record, Wikipedia tells us “the copyright term is the author’s life plus 70 years or less.” Since I am using a manuscript illumination, that’s not a problem. I knew I could use these pictures on the Internet: a blog post, social media, and my webpage. But when it comes to something like a book, I knew somehow that the rules were different. First of all, copyright laws tend to cover the country of origin. Even if I could use it in the United States, what about Europe? I wouldn’t (or couldn’t) limit my distribution to just one country.

So I went to the British Library site (https://imagesonline.bl.uk/) where you can purchase a license. That was the easy part. Below the image you can click on an icon to determine the price. First they ask you a question: is this for personal use, advertising, editorial, or products? For personal use, the price is £7.50, for advertising the price is £691.20. I’m already confused, because if I take the image from Wikipedia for my personal use, it doesn’t cost anything.

Which category does my book cover fall into? I’m not a publisher or a business, so my book is being published personally. Isn’t it? What is the definition of advertising? Do they mean a picture on a coffee cup or a magazine advertisement, or something of that ilk? Is a book cover considered advertising? When I checked out the Terms and Conditions, it tells us, “Reproduction (allowed): includes any form of publication or copying of the whole or part of any Image whether altered or not, and derived from any Image whether by printing, photography, slide projection, xerography, artists’ reference, artists’ illustration, layout or presentation, electronic or mechanical reproduction or storage by any other means.” OK, my book is covered by “any form of publication”, I suppose.

So, taking this as permission, I paid my £7.50 and proceeded to fret about it for a couple of days. Finally, just to be sure, I sent an email to the support people and gave them a working copy of my cover with an explanation. They were very responsive. The next day I received an answer, telling me, “The licence you have purchased is only for personal use. Please let us know the print run and language territory rights required for your book. For front cover use the fee is much higher but we would deduct or refund the fee you have paid.” Well, that was that. Expecting the worst, I explained to them that my book was Print on Demand and I had no way of knowing how many were going to sell; it could be 10, or 100, or 500. I was already prepared to scrap the whole idea, having resigned myself to the worst. Imagine my surprise the next day to hear from them again: “The permission fee will be an additional £46.45.” That’s a far cry from £691 and change! Needless to say, I jumped on it (and printed a copy of the email for my records). And now I am the happy licensee of a public domain image that assuredly was inaccessible before the days of the Internet.


When it came time to publish my second book (a year or so later), I was expecting more of the same, since I used British Library again. I noticed that my “contact” was someone different and the procedure had changed somewhat. I told them I expected to sell about 500 copies, again Print on Demand. This time, the charge was £150—considerably more, needless to say! I was afraid to object so I paid it and considered myself lucky. Now, I’m about do it a third time (another year later). Who knows what I’ll come up with?

I have absolutely no idea how they arrived at a price. What I did learn is that in this new world, it behooves us not to assume anything. Had I not written that letter, I might have gotten myself into a lot of trouble. On the other hand, my image of choice was not out of reach after all.

The Percies and the Battle of Shrewsbury

Froissart Chronicles by Virgil Master, Source: Wikimedia

My short story in the BETRAYAL anthology, Family or Fealty?, is about Thomas Percy, probably the most able—if the least flamboyant—member of the Percy clan in this period. But, Shakespeare notwithstanding, I don’t really think he was the motivating force behind the rebellion that led to the Battle of Shrewsbury. He had much to lose, and nothing to gain. So what led to this disastrous conflict?

The Percies were such a powerful force in the North they practically acted like rulers in their own kingdom. For much of Richard II’s reign and the beginning of Henry IV’s, Earl Henry Percy and his son, Sir Henry (nicknamed Hotspur) alternated between the wardenships of the East Marches and the West Marches toward Scotland. They were experienced in dealing with the tempestuous Scots, and their retainers were fiercely loyal. When Henry IV returned from exile and began his campaign that led to the throne, the Percies were his staunchest supporters; they provided a large portion of his army. Henry Percy was directly responsible for persuading King Richard to turn himself over to Henry Bolingbroke—the beginning of the end of Richard’s fall.

Naturally, this was not done out of sheer kindness. Henry Percy expected to be amply rewarded for his services, and at the beginning he was. But the king was uncomfortable about the potential threat of this overweening earl. He soon began to promote his brother in-law, Ralph Neville the Earl of Westmorland as a counterbalance, chipping away at Percy’s holdings and jurisdictions. Additionally, the Percies felt that they were not being reimbursed properly for their expenses; by 1403 they claimed that the king owed them £20,000. But even with all this going on, it’s likely that the earl may have contained his discontent, except for the belligerence of his impetuous son.

One possible catalyst was Hotspur’s refusal to turn over his hostages taken at the Battle of Homildon Hill. This battle was a huge win for the Percies in 1402, where so many leaders were taken—including the Earl of Douglas—that it left a political vacuum in Scotland for many years to come. Once he learned of this windfall, King Henry insisted that the Percies turn over their hostages to the crown. It was his right as king—even if it was against the code of chivalry. Though his highhanded demand was probably not the wisest choice, considering the circumstances. There were many possible reasons he did so. He was desperately short of funds—as usual. It’s possible he may have wanted to retain the prisoners as a means of ensuring Scottish submission. Earl Henry agreed to turn over his hostages, but Hotspur absolutely refused to surrender Archibald Douglas, letting his father take the blame. One can only imagine that all was not well in the Percy household, either.

Statue of Harry Hotspur, Alnwick Castle

There was more at stake. The king had just returned from a humiliating fiasco in Wales, where he had campaigned in response to the English defeat at Pilleth, where Edmund Mortimer was captured by the Welsh. Mortimer was the uncle of the eleven year-old Earl of March, considered by many the heir-presumptive to the throne (and in Henry’s custody). Edmund was also the brother of Hotspur’s wife. By the time Henry demanded the Scottish hostages, it was commonly believed that the king had no intention of ransoming Mortimer; after all, he was safely out of the way and couldn’t champion his nephew’s cause. This rankled with Hotspur, and it is possible that he thought to use Douglas ransom money to pay for Mortimer’s release himself.

Hotspur finally rode to London in response to the king’s demands, but he went without Douglas. Needless to say, this immediately provoked an argument. When Hotspur insisted that he should be able to ransom his brother in-law, Henry refused, saying he did not want money going out of the country to help his enemies. Hotspur rebutted with, “Shall a man expose himself to danger for your sake and you refuse to help him in his captivity?” Henry replied that Mortimer was a traitor and willingly yielded himself to the Welsh. “And you are a traitor!” the king retorted, apparently in reference to an earlier occasion when Hotspur chose to negotiate with Owain Glyndwr rather than arrest him. Allegedly the king struck Percy on the cheek and drew his dagger. Of course, attacking the king was treason and Hotspur withdrew, shouting “Not here, but in the field!” All of this may be apocryphal, but it is certainly powerful stuff.

The whole question of Mortimer’s ransom became moot when he decided to marry the daughter of Glyndwr and openly declare his change of loyalties on 13 December, 1402. No one knows whether Hostpur’s tempestuous interview with King Henry happened before or after this event; regardless, a bare minimum of eight months passed before Shrewsbury. Were they planning a revolt all this time? It is likely that early in 1403 one or both of the Percies were in communication with the Welsh. Owain Glyndwr was approaching the apex of his power, and a possible alliance between him, Mortimer, and the Percies could well have been brewing. It would come to fruition later on as the infamous Tripartite Indenture (splitting England’s rule between them), but by then Hotspur was long dead.

No one has been able to satisfactorily explain just why the Percies revolted against Henry IV. If they were so supportive of young Mortimer—as was stated in Hotspur’s manifesto before the battle—why did they work so hard to put Lancaster on the throne? All evidence points to their self-aggrandisement. And looking at the three years following his coronation, it became evident that King Henry was not willing to serve as their puppet, nor was he willing to enhance their power at the expense of the crown. The Percies’ ambitions were thwarted by the king’s perceived ingratitude, and the consensus of modern historians is that they hoped to replace him with someone more easily manipulated.

Where did Thomas Percy fit into all this? His family’s fortunes were his own. Win or lose, there’s a better-than-even chance that he would rise and fall along with them, whether he participated in the rebellion or not. In the end, I suspect he couldn’t conceive of fighting against his own kin.

Who was Thomas of Woodstock, the Duke of Gloucester?

The Lords Appellant Before the King Source: Wikimedia

King Edward III had eight sons—five of whom survived to adulthood. The eldest, Edward (later known as the Black Prince) predeceased the king in 1376; he was the father of Richard II. The next in line was Lionel; the Mortimers were descended from him through his daughter Philippa—and later, Edward IV. The third surviving son was John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and father of the future Henry IV. The next son was Edmund of Langley (later the first Duke of York), and the last son was Thomas of Woodstock.

Thomas was the youngest of all thirteen known children; there were seven years between him and the next older sibling. So by the time he came along, he must have been a surprise! He was fourteen years old when his mother died. Because of his late arrival, it would be safe to say that pretty much all the income-producing royal possessions had been divvied out between his elder brothers. He was predominately reliant upon the exchequer for his annuities—when the money was available, that is. It wasn’t until he married the wealthy heiress Eleanor de Bohun that he acquired some property: the great Castle of Pleshey. So it wouldn’t be a huge stretch to say this may have contributed toward his irascibility.

Even his prospects through marriage were upset. His wife was co-heiress of her great fortune; why not pressure her younger sister Mary into joining a convent, in which case the whole fortune would default to Eleanor? Alas for Thomas, his older brother John had other ideas. Waiting until Thomas was on the continent serving the king, Gaunt concocted a plot with Mary’s aunt to spirit the girl away and marry her to his own son, Henry of Bolingbroke. Finding his plans in ruins, Thomas was hard put to forgive his older brother for cheating him.

Thomas was created Earl of Buckingham at Richard II’s coronation. He had little use for his royal nephew who was only ten at the time, and he always treated the lad with scorn. Even when Richard made him Duke of Gloucester in 1385 (along with his brother Edmund, who was made Duke of York), relations did not improve between them. The following year, when John of Gaunt sailed to Spain to claim his crown of Castile, the main impediment to Gloucester’s ambition was removed. The road was clear to put his nephew in his place and get some control over his troublesome favorites—as he saw it. First, it was time to impeach the chancellor Michael de la Pole, then he and his allies would force the young king to submit to a Great and Continual Council who would implement necessary reforms.

Needless to say, Richard was incensed, though he conceded when Gloucester threatened him with usurpation like his great-grandfather Edward II. The king’s solution was to absent himself from London and travel around the country trying to drum up support. At the same time he had the clever idea to consult with eminent judges and determine whether Gloucester’s actions were treasonous. Under pressure, they agreed. In the end, this gave Richard’s enemies enough ammunition to denounce his evil advisors (they couldn’t go after the king directly) during the Merciless Parliament. Gloucester was the principal mover; he was one of five Lords Appellant, as they were called, who managed to kill or eliminate all of Richard’s friends and allies. I wrote about this at length in my novel, A KING UNDER SIEGE:

But the Lords Appellant weren’t really interested in running the country. Once they had their revenge against the king’s supporters, they quickly lost interest and failed to pursue their advantage, leaving their (illegal) Continual Council in charge. Almost exactly a year later, the king summoned a Great Council and reminded them that he had reached his majority. He declared that he was in charge now, and that the chancellor, Gloucester, Arundel, and Warwick were relieved of their duty, thank you very much. It was as simple as that!

Arrest of the Duke of Gloucester BL, Harley 4380, f. 181v

For the next seven years, thing went pretty smoothly. The country was prosperous, there were no major disturbances, and Gloucester kept a fairly low profile, seemingly content to annoy the king on occasion just to stay in practice. But something was apparently going on behind the scenes, though historians are far from certain exactly what happened. Nonetheless, in early 1397 Richard began to suspect the Appellants were stirring up trouble again—and his natural paranoia took over, with dire consequences. Without warning, he decided to take his long-delayed revenge on his enemies, arresting Gloucester, the Earl of Arundel and the Earl of Warwick. They were to be tried by Parliament and declared traitors. The other two Appellants—Henry Bolingbroke and Thomas Mowbray—were off the hook, for the moment. Bolingbroke was protected by his father, and Mowbray had managed to worm himself back into Richard’s good graces.

Gloucester provided a bit of a dilemma. After all, he was John of Gaunt’s younger brother, and Richard knew it would be next to impossible to get a condemnation from the Duke of Lancaster. While deciding what to do, he sent Gloucester across the Channel to Calais, where he was safely out of sight. Mowbray, who was Captain of Calais, was sent as his jailer. It was all very cleverly arranged; Gloucester was persuaded to write his confession, and when it came his time to appear in Parliament, Mowbray declared that he had died in prison.

The Duke of Gloucester murdered, Froissart BnF MS Fr 2646, fol. 289.

Did it look sufficiently suspicious? I’m sure it did, but Richard got away with it anyway—at least, until his usurpation. During Henry IV’s first Parliament, the truth came out and everybody learned that the Duke of Gloucester had been murdered. The only witness who told the story was immediately hustled to his execution, though he claimed he was only guarding the door. Someone had to pay!

All of this is described at length in THE KING’S RETRIBUTION. If Richard hadn’t sent Bolingbroke into exile and appropriated his inheritance, he might have really gotten away with the whole irregular coup. There wasn’t a tremendous outcry at the time; the condemned Lords Appellant had been out of the public eye for many years. Gloucester still managed to stir up trouble, but for the most part he was yesterday’s news. It seemed that nobody gave him much thought except for Richard, who was so traumatized that he just couldn’t let go. In the end, Gloucester’s fate became a rallying cry for Bolingbroke’s rebellion, and the duke’s long shadow overtook his nemesis.

The King Just Won’t Stay Down

Funeral of Richard II from BL Royal 18 E II, f. 416v

When Henry Bolingbroke took the crown, he was beset on all sides by well-wishers who urged him to put Richard II to death. After all, it was understood that disgruntled nobles and troublemakers could easily stir up rebellions in favor of an ex-king. And it didn’t take long for that to happen. Just three months after Henry’s coronation, the first revolt nearly cost him his life. Richard was secretly isolated in Pontefract Castle, a Lancaster stronghold in the north, but his favorites—generously pardoned by Henry IV—planned to kill the king and his family during the tournament scheduled for the Epiphany (Jan. 6) at Windsor Castle. They would use Richard’s look-alike cleric as a figurehead until the real Richard could be released. Only a last-minute betrayal derailed their plans.

Alas for Richard, this revolt sealed his fate. Or did it? In reality, no one knew what happened to the ill-fated ex-king.  Rumors abounded. Finally, the first week of February, the great council attempted to resolve the question once and for all (or were they making an oblique suggestion?). They said, “that if he was still alive—as it is supposed that he is—he should be secretly guarded, but that if he were dead this should be demonstrated to the people”. Since Richard was already secretly guarded, it seems a little strange to me. All of a sudden, by February 17, it was announced that he was dead and on his way back to London. Just for the record, Richard’s death was recorded on February 14, though this seems to be a convenient date lacking any confirmation. Why? No one even knows how he died. If there were any witnesses, their lips were sealed.

Francis Wheatley. The Death of Richard II, Memorial Art Gallery, Univ.of Rochester

There are at least four stories regarding this crucial event—and they are as far apart as you can get. The first, recounted by Shakespeare, was that King Henry sent an assassin, the otherwise unknown Sir Peter Exton with seven henchmen. The murderers burst into Richard’s cell and the king grabbed one of their weapons and put up a good fight, killing four of them before Exton smashed him in the head with an axe. Most historians disbelieve this story, especially since, upon exhumation in the 19th century, Richard’s skull was not damaged. The second story was that, hearing of the failure of the revolt and the death of his friends, Richard fell into a depression and stopped eating. At the very end, a priest convinced him that suicide was a mortal sin, and he tried to eat; but his condition was so far gone that he was unable to swallow and so expired. The third story is that Henry ordered him to be starved to death and he lingered for fifteen days in agony. Needless to say, the new king didn’t appreciate being called a regicide!

The fourth story is the most controversial of all. It was said that Richard escaped before the rebellion started and made his way to Scotland, where he was kept in honorary confinement for the next nineteen years, first by Robert III, then after the Scottish king’s death by the Duke of Albany. Needless to say, King Henry and the government scorned this assertion, but the fact remains that somebody played the part of the king in exile. Whether it was Richard himself or a pretender called Thomas Ward of Trumpington, his presence in Scotland was to harass Henry IV for the rest of his reign and into the next. According to this story, King Richard died at Stirling Castle in December 1419 and was buried at Black Friars in the same town.

In order to convince the people that Richard was truly dead, King Henry staged an elaborate procession where the body—encased in lead except for his face from the eyebrows to the throat—was set on a bier and drawn on a carriage from Pontefract to London, exposed for all the populace to see. A solemn funeral was held for two days at St. Paul’s Cathedral which was attended by the king. Afterwards, the corpse was taken to the royal manor of Chiltern Langley and handed over the Black Friars, who privately buried him in the church; the only witnesses were the Bishop of Lichfield and the Abbots of Waltham and St. Albans. Richard’s tomb at Westminster Abbey was finished and waiting for his royal body, but the usurper didn’t want to draw attention to such a royal setting for a deposed king.

So if Richard was still alive, whose face was on the funeral bier? Why, Maudeleyn, of course, his look-alike cleric who had been decapitated after the rebellion. From a distance, who would have been able to tell the difference?

Funeral effigies of Richard and Anne at Westminster Abbey

Almost immediately, reports of Richard’s escape proliferated throughout England. Repercussions were quick to follow. In 1402, a priest from Ware was drawn and quartered for spreading such rumors. Not long afterwards, eight Franciscan friars were hanged in London for asserting that Richard was still alive. But the most damaging to Henry came in 1403, when Sir Henry Percy, aka Hotspur, raised a rebellion predominately from Chester, swearing that King Richard was returning from Scotland to lead his army. At the last minute he admitted that Richard was dead, but apparently he was able to rely on the soldiers’ fondness for the late king—or maybe he used coercion—because they went on to fight a horrific battle at Shrewsbury that nearly toppled Henry from his throne. The potential for Richard’s return continued to inspire disgruntled rebels, though eventually, the cry was that they fought for Richard if he was still alive, or else the Earl of March if he was dead. (March was the heir presumptive and kept in Henry’s custody for years.)

When Henry IV died in 1413, the first thing his successor did was transfer Richard at great expense from Langley to his real tomb at Westminster Abbey, thus symbolically putting Richard to rest and establishing Henry V as the rightful successor to the throne. Rumors were to follow him for the next couple of years, but by then they had lost most of their influence. The last time Richard was invoked was during the Southampton Plot in 1415, and it was March himself who exposed the conspiracy.

The slippery Edward, Earl of Rutland Part 1: Richard II

Edward of Rutland-Detail from “Bolingbroke Claiming the Throne” in Froissart, BL Harley 1319 f. 57

OK, it’s only fair to call him by his full title, Edward, 2nd Duke of York. But, for the purposes of this article, he wasn’t Duke of York yet; his father died in 1402. So, during most of Richard II’s reign he was the Earl of Rutland, and for a short time, from 1397-1399, he was Duke of Aumale (or Albermarle). Of course, that came to an end after Richard’s deposition. How much did he contribute to his king’s downfall?

Edward was undoubtedly Richard’s favorite. It was even rumored that the king was considering announcing Edward as his heir, which would have shoved Henry Bolingbroke and Edmund Mortimer aside. The king certainly showered his cousin with titles and responsibilities; Edward was admiral of the northern fleet, constable of Dover castle, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, constable of the Tower, and Lord of the Isle of Wight. And these were just some of his greatest honors. On the down side, he was obliged to do much of the king’s dirty work, such as being held responsible for dispatching the Duke of Gloucester (to put it judiciously). Even that didn’t really come to light until after Richard’s deposition, though a few insiders knew about it.

When Richard decided to wreak revenge on the three senior Lords Appellant he recruited his most intimate followers to accuse them; historians have called them the Counter-Appellants. Rutland was among their number. During the Revenge Parliament of 1397, Richard Earl of Arundel, Thomas Duke of Gloucester, and Thomas Earl of Warwick were convicted of treason for their actions during the Merciless Parliament ten years previously. Warwick’s death sentence was remitted because he begged for mercy, but the other two were not so lucky. After a lively defense Arundel was dragged off to the scaffold, and the Duke of Gloucester died in prison—after he wrote a confession. Was he murdered? Most everyone thought so, but who was going to accuse the king? It was much easier to point to the finger at Richard’s accomplices.

Most of the Counter-Appellants were given new titles; all were rewarded with lands forfeited by the traitors. Rutland was doing pretty well for himself. He had just been appointed Warden of the West Marches toward Scotland and was busy doing his duty when the king crossed over to Ireland on his second expedition. For the first few weeks, Richard looked anxiously for his cousin; Edward was running very late. When he finally showed up in Dublin, Rutland claimed he had needed more time to ensure that the Scottish border was quiet. Was this really the case, or was he up to something suspicious? No one knew for sure. But shortly after Edward’s arrival, Richard received word of Henry Bolingbroke’s invasion, which threw him into a panic. The king was all for dropping everything and immediately returning to England, but Rutland was the main dissenter to this plan; they needed time to reorganize the troops, and recall the scattered ships. Why not send the Earl of Salisbury ahead to gather an army in Cheshire and North Wales, and the king could join him later? Let Richard return via Milford Haven in South Wales and join the Duke of York—the acting regent—who was planning to wait for him in Bristol. Then together they could march north and join forces with Salisbury.

Percy captures King Richard BL Harley 1319 Histoire du Roy d’Angleterre

Reluctantly, Richard agreed to his suggestion, which turned out to be an utter disaster. Unbeknownst to him, the Duke of York had already gone over to Bolingbroke. There was no army waiting for the king in the south. In fact, he was denied entrance to Bristol altogether. Worse than that, Salisbury was unable to hold his recruits together for as long as it took Richard to get to Conway. Of course, the king didn’t know that, either, until it was too late.

As soon as Richard landed at Milford Haven with as many ships as he could muster—more were still to come—his army started to desert. Attempts to recruit more Welshmen failed miserably, and once Richard discovered that York had abandoned his cause, he decided to make a dash for Conway and Salisbury’s army. He traveled along the coast of Wales, accompanied by only a handful of men in an attempt to disguise himself and move as quickly as possible. Edward stayed behind to take command of the forces that were left. Apparently Richard still trusted him.

Later, it was reported that Rutland had received a letter from his father, telling him that all was lost and that he had changed sides. This would certainly account for the sudden reversal, for the morning after Richard disappeared, Rutland and Thomas Percy—steward of the royal household—announced the king’s abandonment to the army. In tears, Percy disbanded the royal household and broke the baton of office. Richard’s army dispersed and Rutland and Percy rode north and joined Bolingbroke.

This was Richard’s worst betrayal and he afterwards suspected Rutland of collusion all along. Did Edward intentionally give him bad advice in Ireland, thus stalling him and giving the Duke of York enough time to change sides? No one ever knew.