When Did Bolingbroke Decide to Take the Crown?

Coronation of Henry IV, BL MS Harley 4380, F.186V

Bolingbroke’s decision to go for the crown has puzzled historians for the last 600 years. Certainly his contemporaries were led astray by his declaration that he was only returning from exile to recover his inheritance. Or were they? Many of them probably were—at first. After all, an outlaw ran the risk of losing his head if caught returning illegally, and anyone supporting him ran the same risk. So when Bolingbroke landed at Ravenspur around July 4, 1399 accompanied by a small but faithful retinue, the outlawed Archbishop of Canterbury, and the son of the executed Earl of Arundel, all were fair game to any loyalist looking to stop them. Nonetheless, the insistence that he was only seeking to regain his Lancastrian patrimony garnered  a tremendous amount of sympathy from anyone who had something to lose. No one was safe from a king who could destroy their inheritance on a whim. But landowners weren’t the only ones who worried about their status. All Lancastrian retainers and servants stood to lose their positions. They could expect to find themselves replaced by vassals of new royal appointees who were to manage the estates until Bolingbroke’s eventual return—if he was ever allowed back.

Henry wasn’t about to let that happen. Once Richard left the country for Ireland, the time was ripe for Lancaster’s return. The first big encounter—and it happened very soon after Bolingbroke’s landing—was with Sir Henry Percy, known as Hotspur, the son of Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland. This happened at Bridlington, a town about thirty miles north of Ravenspur on the coast. Hotspur had a manor nearby, and it was thought he was in the area to collect payment for his services as Warden. His appearance was a big surprise, and if he had been so inclined, Bolingbroke’s expedition could have come to a screeching halt. But he was not so inclined. Over the last several years, Richard II had been steadily attempting to diminish the Percies’ influence in the North by removing them from key positions, and they were already disgruntled. They were quick to anticipate a golden opportunity by supporting the cause of this new opportunist—especially since Henry assured Hotspur that he only wanted his inheritance back. It is thought by some that Hotspur promised his support on the spot.

And so it began. Bolingbroke quickly garnered more support from the Northerners, making a wide berth around York and stopping off at Pontefract, his family’s stronghold. By now he was sure of his strength and moved on to Doncaster, where he met the earls of Northumberland and Westmorland among many other powerful local magnates. Northumberland had brought with him a large contingent—some said 30,000 men—which gave Bolingbroke the army he needed to challenge the royalist forces. In a very public ceremony he swore an oath that he had only returned to claim his inheritance, and did not have any designs on the crown. This wouldn’t be the last oath he was to make before changing his mind. It’s more than probable that at this point he also declared—at least privately to his closest adherents—that they would put the king under their control and impose a continual council, as they had in 1386.

Did his followers believe him? Historians conjecture that even if Henry had already decided to go for the crown (some think he did even before he landed, though there is no solid evidence), it was too soon to declare his intentions to a guarded populace. They had just barely recovered from Richard’s recent burst of tyranny; would they be willing to expose themselves to another series of threats? But if Bolingbroke came to assert his own rights, unfairly trampled upon, surely this was not treason?

Richard II detained by Percy, BL Harley 1319 Histoire du Roy d’Angleterre

And so, bolstered by a strong army that grew as he marched south, Bolingbroke solidified his credibility when he convinced the regent, Richard’s uncle the Duke of York, to come over to his cause. All along the regent was sympathetic to Henry’s grievances and was seriously distressed by this conflict of interest. After all, he was Henry’s uncle, too. Once again, it is thought that Bolingbroke repeated the same oath to York, convincing him to change sides.

The first action Bolingbroke took that indicated a possible change of intention came along shortly thereafter when they subjugated Bristol and executed three of King Richard’s close advisors—an action quite illegal unless ordered by the king. Afterwards, on their way north to Chester, he appointed Percy Warden of the West Marches toward Scotland—another custom reserved for the king. Yet still, Bolingbroke professed that he had no designs on the crown.

When Percy was chosen to approach King Richard who was by then holed up at Conwy Castle, again it was said that Henry swore the same oath. Did Percy really believe him? He certainly repeated this oath to Richard over a consecrated host, convincing the king to meet Bolingbroke in person. Too bad for Richard! He hadn’t traveled far from his sanctuary when Percy’s hidden soldiers surrounded him and and escorted his little party to Rhuddlan then on to Flint Castle, prisoners in fact. When meeting the humiliated king in person, according to the eye-witness Jean Creton, Henry said, “My Lord, I am come sooner than you sent for me: the reason wherefore I will tell you. The common report of your people is such, that you have, for the space of twenty or two and twenty years, governed them very badly and very rigorously, and in so much that they are not well contented therewith. But if it please our Lord, I will help you to govern them better than they have been governed in time past.” And Richard answered mildly, “Fair cousin, since it pleaseth you, it pleaseth us well.” If this wasn’t an acquiescence, I don’t know what more would have been needed!

The game was up, and although Bolingbroke treated the king like a prisoner, he still did not declare himself. With the king in tow, they all returned to Chester where Henry sent out summonses for a Parliament—in the king’s name—to be held the 30th of September. This would be about a month-and-half later. While in Chester, he received emissaries from London, who declared that the people renounced their allegiance to Richard and pledged their loyalty to Henry. It was said they even demanded that Henry put the king to death, but of course he refused. Three days later, Bolingbroke returned to London with his prisoner king, who rode a nag rather than his own horse, and was still dressed in the clothes he was wearing when arrested. When they reached London, Henry turned Richard over to the mayor and another delegation. By now the citizens must have come to their senses, because the officials escorted the king to the Tower, guarding him from the menacing crowd.

Richard was out of his hands. Now Bolingbroke could concentrate on finding a legal way to stage the deposition. By the time he reached London he had undoubtedly decided to go all the way.

The County Palatine (or Palatinate): A threat to the king?

Palatinates of Lancaster and Chester, saved from heritage-history.com

A Palatinate (coming from palace) is one of those words bantered around that I never gave much thought to, until I realized how important it was. In Richard II’s reign, there were actually three Palatinates: Lancaster, Durham, and Chester. And what distinguished them from the rest of the country? They were nothing less than a kingdom inside of a kingdom, metaphorically speaking.

Palatinates date back to the Norman Conquest, and the earls and bishops, essentially, were given “princely” powers over their own jurisdictions — to help the king rule the marcher territories. Although other counties were given Palatinate powers, by the fourteenth century they had fallen into abeyance, leaving the big three. Durham was ruled by the Bishop of Durham. Lancaster (created in 1351) was ruled by the Duke of Lancaster, then united with the crown after Henry IV’s accession — though still administered separately. Chester was put under the control of the heir to the throne after Henry III, though Richard II promoted it to a Principality in 1398 (he entitled himself Prince of Chester). Henry IV returned it to a Palatinate in short order.

Palatanate of Durham, saved from heritage-history.com

What does all this mean? It was put eloquently by James Wylie in his “History of England Under Henry the Fourth”: “…the County Palatine of Durham, which sent no representatives to the parliament at Westminster, but was governed by its own Prince Bishop, who exercised royal rights and jurisdiction, held his own courts, appointed his own judges, and might assert an actual independence when the central government was weak and distracted.” The Palatinate had its own chancery, its own seal, its own sheriffs and justices. Its own laws. Revenues stayed within the Palatinate. Bottom line: the king’s writ had no power there. Parliamentary representation came later: Chester in 1543; Durham in 1654, and Lancaster in 1873.

Needless to say, the Palatinate of Lancaster was a huge concern to Richard II. Although the Duke of Lancaster swore fealty to the king, Richard couldn’t touch much of his territory. The Palatinate encompassed Lancashire, but the duke also controlled other territories and castles as far north as Pickering (north Yorkshire) as far south as Pevensey, and as far east as Gimmingham, in Norfolk. These territories were the jurisdiction of the duke under the rule of the king. Nonetheless, when all put together, the Duke of Lancaster was the most powerful noble in the land, and if he chose to rebel, the strength from his Palatinate could present a formidable block.

The Palatinate was a gift from the king; John of Gaunt did not obtain its rule in Lancashire until 1377 (Edward III’s last Parliament), and this grant was only for life. However, in 1390, after achieving his majority, Richard II was so eager to bind his uncle to his cause that he awarded the Palatinate to Gaunt’s heirs male. It wasn’t until the king was firmly in control, seven years later, that he realized his serious error. He was no longer friendly with his cousin Henry of Bolingbroke—if he had ever been—and once Gaunt died there was every possibility that Henry would become a formidable threat. No king wanted that kind of challenger in his own backyard. This goes a long way toward explaining why Richard seized Bolingbroke’s inheritance after Gaunt’s death. What exactly he planned to do about it will never be known, for his usurpation followed a few months later.

When Henry IV became king, he chose to maintain the Duchy of Lancaster as a separate entity; he didn’t want the Duchy to be absorbed into the crown’s possessions. The Palatinate eventually morphed into a parcel of the Duchy and soon the same officers administrated both. This separate status of the Duchy of Lancaster lasted all the way until 1971.

Clashing cousins: Richard II and Bolingbroke

Richard II and Henry at Flint, MS BL Harley 1319 f.50

Even though Richard II and Henry Bolingbroke were first cousins and born only a few months apart, their personalities were total opposites. Whereas Richard had little interest in marshal activities and did not participate in tournaments, Henry began his training at fourteen and was a champion at jousting. Richard’s early childhood was spent mostly in his own household with a father who was slowly dying; Henry was surrounded by siblings and cousins and given a first-rate education; he could write in French, Latin, and English.  Richard was crowned at age ten with all the accompanying ceremony and formalities; Henry was free to come and go as he pleased. In May of 1390, while Richard was struggling to establish his own rule after proclaiming his majority, Henry was making a name for himself at the famous Tournament at St. Inglevert in France. After that, he took a huge contingent of knights on crusade, first to Tunis, then to Lithuania—all funded by his father. Oh, and he traveled all over Europe, the honored guest of kings and dukes. In between all this traveling, Henry managed to sire six children, whereas Richard had none. Surely Richard must have envied his lifestyle!

Interestingly, a year before Edward III’s death, the king created an entail that ordered the succession along traditional male lines. This meant that John of Gaunt was the next heir to the throne, and after him, Henry Bolingbroke. Because of Gaunt’s unpopularity at the time, the entail was kept quiet; few even knew of its existence. I can only assume that Richard and Henry were among the few, and this must have impacted on their relationship. Later in life Richard vehemently opposed the idea of Henry following him, though he never formally declared an heir. Many of his countrymen, unaware of the entail, assumed that the Earl of March, descended from Edward III’s second son Lionel though his daughter, would be next in line.

Henry Bolingbroke spent much of his time away from court, although he was present with the king in the Tower during the Peasants’ Revolt. Since Henry’s father was one of the primary targets of the revolt, it made sense to leave him behind in safety while Richard ventured out to meet the rebels at Mile End. No one expected the insurgents to breach the Tower defenses and pour into the fortress, dragging out the Archbishop of Canterbury and Treasurer Hales and decapitating them on the spot. Henry surely would have met with the same fate except for the quick thinking of one John Ferrour, who managed to hide him from the intruders; they obviously didn’t know he was there.

Arundel, Gloucester, Nottingham, Derby, and Warwick, Before the King Source: Wikimedia

The first major breach in Richard and Henry’s relationship came about as the Lords Appellant organized their fight against the king in 1387, leading to the Merciless Parliament. At first there were only three Appellants: the earls of Arundel and Warwick and the Duke of Gloucester (Richard’s uncle). But when they discovered that the king had sent his favorite Robert de Vere to Chester so he could bring back a royal army, Henry Bolingbroke and Thomas de Mowbray joined them. Bolingbroke personally blocked de Vere at Radcot Bridge, precipitating an easy defeat on the king’s forces. Although the new newest Appellants kept a low profile and broke ranks with their elders over the execution of Sir Simon Burley, the proverbial die was cast and Richard never forgave his cousin.

But things were complicated. Once the king declared his majority, Richard relied on his uncle to support his throne—a reliance that was well placed, for Gaunt proved his champion for the rest of his life. Naturally, this meant that Henry would be treated well; Gaunt’s protective cloak shielded him from Richard’s revenge against the senior Appellants. All might have gone well, except that Thomas de Mowbray lost his nerve and blew things wide open. He spilled his guts to Henry who told his father who told the king, and voila! Richard had the opportunity to get rid of his last two enemies. Rather than let one of them kill the other in a trial by combat, the king stopped the tournament and outlawed them both. Shakespeare gave us the perfect depiction of this pivotal event in his play Richard II.

Richard presiding at a tournament, from St. Alban’s Chronicle. Source: Lambeth Palace Library, MS6 f.233

Richard almost got away with his revenge. Had he not confiscated Henry’s inheritance after Gaunt died, perhaps his cousin would have respected his outlawry. That’s one of the big “What ifs” in medieval history. But the king went too far and precipitated his own downfall. Henry’s popularity in England and Richard’s perceived tyranny against his own people brought about an almost bloodless revolution. At some point during his return, Henry decided to go all the way and claim the crown that he was destined to inherit, according to Edward III’s entail. Valorous, handsome, chivalrous, robust, well-educated, and popular, Henry held all the advantages, and poor Richard didn’t stand a chance.

Getting to know my protagonist, Richard II

British Library: MS Harley 4205 f.6V

For a long time my only knowledge about Richard II came from Shakespeare. How typical! The great bard established many historical figures in our mind that didn’t match reality (how about Richard III?). I suspect he would have been amazed at how literally we took his memorable characters. So when I decided to take on King Richard, I thought of him as tragic, naturally. I also thought, before he came to a bad end, that he was flippant, arrogant, inconsiderate, and self-centered. It was a tribute to Shakespeare’s skill that I felt sorry for him at the end.

I’m still not sure why I needed to write his story, but thirty some-odd books’ worth of research later, I’m glad I made the journey. My conception of Richard changed along the way, and it’s still probably incomplete. He was a complicated character, and once I found out what Shakespeare left out, I was more amazed than ever.

Born in Bordeaux, Richard didn’t move to England until he was four; apparently he didn’t speak a word of English. He was the second son; his brother, England’s heir, died just before they left France. From what I understand, he did not grow up with a support group since his youth was spent in the household of a dying man—his father, the Black Prince. Crowned king at age ten, the lonely boy started out at a disadvantage. No child should have that kind of responsibility thrust upon him, even if he was only a figurehead. Did he realize he was a figurehead? Or did he take his responsibilities seriously? Since he alone had to face the ringleaders of Peasants’ Revolt at fourteen, I’d say the young king took on more than his share of authority. Did any of his elders give him credit when the crisis was over? It appears not; they were quick to blame him when it came time to suppress the aftermath. I imagine this was the beginning of his “attitude” toward his alleged advisors.

Court of the King’s Bench, MS Illum. from Inner Temple Library. Source: Wikipedia

Not willing to suffer the reproaches from his council, he sequestered himself with the men he did trust: Sir Simon Burley, his tutor, Robert de Vere, his childhood friend from Edward III’s court, and Michael de la Pole, his chancellor, among others. These were the very men singled out for destruction by the Lords Appellant—led by the Duke of Gloucester and the earls of Warwick and Arundel. Once their patience ran out with Richard’s “bad government”, the Appellants decided it was time to clean house and get the king under their control (more of this in A KING UNDER SIEGE). As far as the Appellants were concerned, Richard was badly advised by his friends; they had to be eliminated—permanently. To say that the Lords were thorough would be an understatement! By the time the Merciless Parliament was over, Richard had lost his inner circle of friends to either judicial murder or outlawry, and his household members were all dismissed. The reins of power were wrested from his hands. His humiliation was complete. One can only imagine what that trauma would do to a young mind.

So, in 1389 when Ricard declared his majority at age twenty-two, he was a changed man. In fact, for the next seven years he behaved himself so well that everyone thought he had learned his lesson. It was a rare time of peace and prosperity. Chroniclers had nothing to talk about except the weather. Richard had proven that he knew how to rule well. Alas, when Queen Anne died in 1394, he lost his only remaining attachment from his youth. Theirs was a love match and he was devastated. Was she responsible for keeping him under control? When her restraining hand was removed, did he give vent to the rage that was simmering inside? It’s tempting to think so.

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

But he didn’t strike back until three years later. Historians are in disagreement as to the catalyst, but by 1397 he arrested the three original Lords Appellant and tried them for treason. One was his uncle, the Duke of Gloucester; the other two were the Earls of Arundel and Warwick. These arrests came as a complete surprise to everyone except his new circle of friends, soon known as the Counter-Appellants. All three Appellants were soon dead, and the other two, Henry Bolingbroke and Thomas de Mowbray, had a sinking feeling they were next.

What drove Richard to these acts of revenge? Had he planned them for seven years, just waiting until the timing was right? Did he carry around this terrible hatred for years, which surely would poison the most rational mind? Or did new acts of lese-majesty by the Appellants (never proven) set him off on his destructive path? Nobody knows. What seems to be the case is that he was so terrified that the whole thing would happen again, he decided to launch a pre-emptive strike against his enemies. And when that wasn’t enough, he insisted on sworn oaths to uphold Parliament’s new laws, again and again. Even worse, seventeen southern counties and London were deemed complicit with the Appellants, and he required that they sue for pardons—except that fifty unnamed accomplices would be excepted. Nobody knew if they were among the fifty condemned traitors, and over five hundred immediately came forward to secure their clemency.

Ultimately, I see Richard as someone who never had a sense of security. On the one hand, he was able to instill loyalty with his close friends. Both his wives loved him. His court was among the most cultured in Europe; he patronized men of letters such as Geoffrey Chaucer and John Gower, as well as Oxford University. For the first seven years after he achieved his majority, he reigned quietly and efficiently. England experienced a rare time of peace and prosperity. Chroniclers had little to talk about except the weather. Then, all of a sudden, it seemed that his pent-up anger and frustration burst forth. His enemies, who had been lulled into a false sense of security, were unexpectedly arrested and tried for treason. For a few short months, the Wheel of Fortune raised him to the top. Alas, in the end, his retribution wasn’t enough and he didn’t know when to stop; he felt that the whole country was against him, and took measures accordingly. What would Richard require to feel safe again? I don’t think he ever found out.

Review for THE KING’S RETRIBUTION by Mary Anne Yarde

“When I was young and powerless, they saw fit to manipulate Parliament to achieve their selfish ends. Those days are over. It’s my turn, now. I mean to bring the Crown back to the splendor and magnificence it possessed in the days of Edward I—when the Crown ruled Parliament, not the other way around…”

They had demanded pardons, and he had given them for there had been no other choice. But things were different now. The son of Edward, The Black Prince, would see justice served. Richard II would have his revenge, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it.

At least, Richard II had thought there was no one to stand in his way. But the Wheel of Fortune was forever turning, and fate was not done with Richard yet…
From the death of Queen Anne to the utter despair of a vanquished king, The King’s Retribution: Book Two of The Plantagenet Legacy by Mercedes Rochelle is the story of the tyranny of Richard II and his subsequent fall from grace.

Confident in his newfound power, Richard is determined to right an injustice. He may have given those involved in the Lords Appellants’ rebellion their pardons, but he has not forgotten such a gross betrayal. And now was the time to right that wrong. Besieged with paranoia, Richard travels along a path that will ultimately end in his demise. With her enthralling narrative, Rochelle has given us a Richard who is determined to assert his personal will upon the baronial challenges that plagued his early reign. But in doing so, Richard abuses his divine powers which leads to dire retribution seemingly from the heavens. Why did Richard do this? Rochelle goes some way to explain. Richard is left totally undone by the death of his beloved wife — he loses the one person who understands his fears and can console him. Beset with grief and desperate to gain a sense of control in his life, Richard forgoes the fragile peace that was so hard-won in order to consolidate his power. Rochelle does not give us a Richard who has lost his mind, as some historians argue, but instead one who is governed by fear which leads him down a road of forced confessions and even the murder of his uncle, Gloucester.

But that is not his only crime. Richard is seemingly out of touch with the common people, and he mismanages the country’s finance. He is also apt at creating friction between the nobles, but especially between members of his family. This Rochelle describes in all its glorious yet sometimes ugly detail.

As Richard loses control over his country and his own destiny, Rochelle presents her readers with a despairing king. Richard’s desperate attempts to hold onto his honour and dignity despite Henry’s efforts to humiliate him was masterfully drawn. One could only feel sympathy for this dejected King as he is betrayed by almost everyone around him. And yet, with quiet dignity, Richard endures the hecklers on the streets as he is ushered into a world of uncertainty and despair.

Rochelle presents two very different sides to Richard — the paranoid statesman whose own personal bodyguard, the Chester Archers, causes disquiet and concern, but also Rochelle depicts a devoted husband. I thought Rochelle’s depiction of Richard II was utterly sublime, and his desperation really drove this story forward and made it unputdownable.  Read More

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New Release! THE KING’S RETRIBUTION

If you read A KING UNDER SIEGE, you might remember that we left off just as Richard declared his majority at age 22. He was able to rise above the humiliation inflicted on him during the Merciless Parliament, but the fear that it could happen again haunted him the rest of his life. Ten years was a long time to wait before taking revenge on your enemies, but King Richard II was a patient man. Hiding his antagonism toward the Lords Appellant, once he felt strong enough to wreak his revenge he was swift and merciless. Alas for Richard, he went too far, and in his eagerness to protect his crown Richard underestimated the very man who would take it from him: Henry Bolingbroke.

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Usury in Medieval England: Lending Money to the King

Detail from Death and the Miser by Hieronymus Bosch, National Gallery of Art, Source: Wikipedia

It’s pretty much a given that usury was considered a sin by almost all Christians; even Dante put usurers in the seventh circle of hell. However, the degrees of sinning and the exact definition of usury is debated to this day, so I am merely a novice dipping my big toe into the ocean of discourse. Nonetheless, I always wondered how people got away with it. After all, no one would take the risk of lending money without some sort of recompense, would they?

Since medieval Christians were forbidden to practice usury, it fell upon the Jews to engage in this unsavory profession—as long as they didn’t lend to other Jews. After all, in England Jews were not allowed traditional trades; they were marginalized into socially inferior professions like tax or rent collection or money changing. Unfortunately for them, their practice made the Jewish moneylender the first victim whenever it was convenient for those in authority—or mobs—to rid themselves of their pesky creditors. Again and again we hear tales of their murder, arrest, torture, or expulsion, and I wonder how that behavior could possibly encourage the next generation to continue lending?

But in this article, I’m interested in how the crown got its loans. After all, war was an expensive business and the taxes approved by Parliament took months to collect—and they usually didn’t cover all the bills. In fact, it is widely believed that Edward III was responsible for giving Parliament the idea that they could force their agenda on the king in exchange for the next round of taxes—first one, then the other. My research tells me that the money needed by the king was borrowed in advance, with the provision that the lenders would be paid off with the proceeds from the next tax collection, or sometimes “on the customs of the ports”.

BL Add. 27695, f.8. Cocharelli of Genoa. Bankers in an Italian counting house in the 14th cent. Source: Wikipedia

The first three Edwards borrowed money from Italian banking-houses, but they were notorious for not paying back their loans. At first, the bankers were motivated by profit, but soon they needed to keep lending money to ensure they didn’t lose what they had already invested. The two largest bankers, the Peruzzi and the Bardi, collapsed in the 1340s, and most historians believe that Edward III’s nonpayment of colossal loans was the main contributing factor.

Some of the wealthier magnates, bishops, merchants, or corporations were tapped again and again for royal loans. They were issued tallies by the king’s commissioner that they could later redeem when the exchequer was solvent—in theory. It was more reliable to advance loans to be credited against their own future taxation. Coercion was not unheard of: according to K.B. McFarlane, a contemporary writer told us that in Henry V’s day, “Italian merchants had been given a choice between lending and going to prison and had in some cases preferred prison”. (Richard II wasn’t the only king guilty of “forced loans”! But that’s another story.)

It’s an outside possibility that people lent money to the crown out of the kindness of their hearts—expecting no return—anxious to serve their country. It’s more likely that at the very least, the creditor stood to gain trading concessions or licenses, or some kind of preference. But the most convincing explanation of all, considering everyone wanted to skirt the illegality of usury, was that they were compensated, but in a way that made it difficult to prove. Fortunately, some evidence has survived that has enabled historians to track the clever devices used to conceal usury. For instance, in the case of royal tallies, they were often taken at a large discount: it was recorded that “one Robert Worsley, mercer of London, took two royal tallies for a total of £500 in settlement of a debt of £400 owed him by John, Duke of Bedford”¹. That’s a pretty hefty markup!

The Usurers by Quentin Metsys, Galleria Doria Pamphilj (Rome) Source: Wikipedia

Enter the word chevisance or chevance: essentially a form of disguised usury. This term was used regardless of the size of the loan. Contemporary literature is full of rebukes concerning this damnable practice, which they often referred to as bastard usury. To leave no trace, the sum recorded in the exchequer was the amount that was to be repaid, not what was loaned (the loan was known as mutuum). Often, the money that was loaned did not even go to the treasurer; he was only responsible for paying the debt and nothing more. Rarely was the documentation more precise than that. However, there was one incident that demonstrated how ruinous the rate could be. In 1376, the London merchant Richard Lyons was impeached with the charge that he took a 50% markup against the exchequer. It was said that he lent 20,000 marks and received back £20,000; a mark was 2/3 of a pound (not exactly 50%, but who knows?). John of Gaunt defended him, saying “that the rate was nothing out of the ordinary for a royal loan”.² No wonder the exchequer was always broke! Cardinal Beaufort—one of the wealthiest men of his time—is said to have lent the crown an excess of £200,000 during his career (he survived well in to Henry VI’s reign); there were times he was the only bulwark between the country and bankruptcy. It can only be assumed he didn’t get rich on his benefices alone, and he was accordingly castigated by his detractors.

Although the official ban on usury wasn’t lifted until the eighteenth century, in practice everyone pretty much looked the other way. After all, even the pope needed to borrow money. As long as it was for a good cause, usury could be rationalized…somehow.

 ¹ McFarlane, K.B., Loans to the Lancastrian Kings, the Problem of Inducement, from England in the Fifteenth Century, Collected Essays, The Hambledon Press, 1981, p.72
² ibid, p.77

Review for HEIR TO A PROPHECY by Mary Anne Yarde, The Coffee Pot Book Club

“I’ve come to help avenge Banquo’s death.”
Malcolm smiled sadly. “Then you shall not leave my side until it is done.”

Walter knew nothing of his ancestry, only that he was illegitimate and his grandfather, Gruffydd ap Llewelyn, had cast out his daughter, Walter’s mother, Nesta, and murdered Fleance, Walter’s father. Walter knew nothing of his father’s past until he was visited by three mysterious old women, who spoke of prophecy and destinies and other such dangerous things.

Walter has two choices. He could ignore the old hags and live the life he wanted. Or, he could take heed of their warning and follow the path they laid out before him and become The First Stuart of Scotland.

From a desperate escape from assassins to the crowning of the rightful King of Scotland, Heir to a Prophecy by Mercedes Rochelle is the utterly compelling story of how Banquo’s grandson paved the way for a generation of kings.

Those who have read Shakespeare’s infamous Scottish play will be familiar with brave and valiant Banquo, who like Macbeth failed to understand the cost of the weird women’s prophecy, nor was he prepared for the ugly realisation that if he were indeed the father of kings then Macbeth, his dearest friend, would become a dagger hidden in the shadows of the night. *”Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly, fly,” Banquo cried if you recall, for the instruments of darkness so often tell the truth, and thus Banquo dies. Rochelle has picked up the story from that remarkable play and has taken her readers with good Fleance as he flees for his life. But how did Banquo’s son go on to father the Stuart dynasty? In this remarkable work of Historical Fiction, Rochelle has presented her readers with a plausible answer but without losing the essence, the superstition and the mythical element that is so prevalent in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Rochelle has stuck with tradition and allowed the Three Witches to control the narrative and, of course, toy with the protagonists. By doing this, Rochelle has not only captured the very essence of Shakespeare’s play, but she has given us a story that is rich and vibrant and utterly compelling from start to finish. Heir to a Prophecy is the type of book that one will forego sleep to finish, and it is also one that would be next to impossible to forget.
Read more…

That’s no way to say ‘Goodbye.’ Guest Post by Judith Arnopp

Henry VIII, att. to Joos Van Cleve, Royal Collection. Source: Wikipedia

Although Henry VIII is famous for abandoning, beheading and divorcing his wives it seems he didn’t enjoy ‘goodbyes.’ Each of his marriages ended suddenly, without discussion.  In most instances he simply left the palace, mounted his horse and rode away. End of relationship. End of marriage.

His battle for a divorce from Katherine of Aragon, his wife for more than twenty years, was a protracted affair, ending with Henry breaking his ties with the Pope and the excommunication of England from the Roman Church. By the time he finally removed himself from the marriage, he was already committed to Anne Boleyn. For months the king and his two ‘wives’ had lived in a sort of Ménage à trois with Catherine trailing in the wake of Henry and Anne. But in June 1531 Henry and Anne rode away from Hampton court, leaving the queen behind. For a few weeks the couple visited several hunting lodges with Anne playing the part of consort. It had long been Catherine’s habit to write to Henry every few days when they were apart, enquiring after his health but this time her letters also expressed her regret that he had not bid her farewell when he departed. Henry’s response was pitiless, informing her he ‘cared not for her adieux.’ Catherine’s reply illustrates admirable restraint but Henry didn’t not bother to answer; instead she received a letter from the Council which, for the first time failed to address her as ‘Queen.’ A further order demanded that she remove herself to The More in Hertfordshire, and ordered the Princess Mary to go to Richmond. Henry was not only abandoning Catherine but also their daughter Mary, who was never allowed to see her mother again.

Henry’s marriage to Anne was very different his first. Whereas Catherine had turned a blind eye to the king’s romantic indiscretions, Anne treated the matter very differently. This made his marriage to Anne a roller coaster ride of arguments, fights and reconciliations. There are, and always have been, plenty of marriages like this, so it wasn’t necessarily a sign that they were no longer in love. Since their life together was peppered with disputes, when Anne fell out of favour in May 1536 she had no reason to suspect that it was any more than another tiff. But, after signing the order for her arrest, Henry refused to see or communicate with Anne again. It is tempting to wonder if things would have turned out very differently had she been given the chance to talk her way out of it, as Henry’s sixth wife, Katherine Parr, did in the final years of his reign.

Jane Seymour has always been described as the ‘one he loved best’ yet when she died they had not been married long enough for him to tire of her and since she had just provided the longed for heir she was in high favour at the time of her death. He does seem to have grieved longer for Jane than any other of his wives and did not remarry straight away but we don’t really know if that was the case. Henry delayed his planned departure to Esher by several days while Jane lay on her deathbed and Cromwell was told, ‘If she amend (recover), he will go, and if she amend not, he told me this day, he could not find it in his heart to tarry.” (David Starkey in Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII  p. 608) In other words, Jane’s death did not interfere with the king’s itinerary but perhaps it is wrong of us to expect it to have. Jane died at 8pm on the same day this message was written. We do not know if Henry was with her but it is unlikely.
I have always questioned Henry’s love for Jane. We tend to think that because he was still in love with her (or at least had not yet found a replacement) he must have loved her more than the others. But, suppose she had survived, who is to say whether or not he would have tired of her and found an excuse to rid himself of her?

I think we are safe to assume Henry had no love for his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. Before the marriage had even taken place, Henry wanted an end to it. He raged to his councillors that she did not please him but hampered by the political ties of the union, he was trapped, like a caged lion. The wedding went ahead and the honeymoon night was reputedly a disaster. All over London jousts and celebrations were under way but the king was far from happy. Before the bells had stopped ringing he was already paying court to Catherine Howard at the home of Stephen Gardiner, Bishop of Winchester in Southwark. ‘Anne herself probably understood little of the political storm which raged round her and of which she was the all-too passive cause. She was shrewd enough, however, to notice the King’s attentions to Catherine Howard, and, on 20th June, complained vigorously about them to the Cleves agent in London, Karl Harst. Two days later, she was in better spirits, because Henry had spoken to her kindly. It was the last time she saw him as her husband.” (Starkey) Ordered to leave the court and take up residence at Richmond Palace, Anne was not made aware of the king’s decision to reconsider the marriage until July. Although she was often at court after the annulment, Anne and Henry did not meet again until after the separation was legally finalized.

Catherine Howard, as we all know, was accused of adultery and treason. As sad as it is, the charges were probably just. The legend of the little queen running screaming for Henry along the corridors of Hampton court sound as if they are straight from the pages of fiction, and they probably are but the image is a powerful one. For Catherine, coming at the end of a long line of dispatched spouses, there can have been little doubt as to her fate. But, if the story is true, it was a futile attempt to reason with the king. Henry had already fled. Hurt and humiliated, the king lost no time in leaving. On the 5th of November, on the pretext of hunting he ‘dined in a little pleasure-house in one of the parks around Hampton Court. Then, under the cover of night, he left secretly for London.’ (Starkey, p. 671) Catherine never saw him again. After her death, the Spanish ambassador described Henry as suffering ‘greater sorrow and regret at her loss than at the faults, loss of divorce of his preceding wives.’ (Starkey. P. 685) The picture of an ageing broken king mourning his faithless bride is touching but it has to be said his sorrow was more likely to have been of the self-pitying kind.

Katherine Parr, Henry’s last queen, was a scholar and a reformer, publishing books and entering the male world of theological debate. This, together with her influence over the ageing king, won her enemies among the conservative faction. Just as with several of her predecessors, moves were made to bring her down. It is possible that Katherine was just too clever, perhaps she irritated Henry with her polished arguments, perhaps she reminded him just a little too much of Anne Boleyn. Whatever the reason, after several years of marriage, Henry came to resent her and this provided her enemies with the opportunity they needed. When Henry complained, in Gardiner’s presence, of the nature of the queen’s conversation Gardiner lost no time in convincing the king to agree to turn against her. Her women were questioned and her books seized, and the queen was to be arrested and sent to the Tower. Luckily for Katherine, a sympathiser got wind of the plan and tipped her off. Katherine went straight to the king but had the sense not to remonstrate with him outright. Instead, when the subject turned to religion, she pretended ignorance, preferring to ‘defer my judgement in this, and all other cases, to our Majesty’s wisdom, as my only anchor Supreme Head and Governor her in earth, next under God.’  (Starkey. P.763) When he questioned her honesty, she went on to claim that she had only ever disputed with Henry to take his mind from his pain, and to try to learn from his own great wisdom. His ego salved and his faith in women restored, Henry and Katherine kissed and made up. Wriothesley came to arrest Katherine while she and Henry were walking in the garden but when he drew out the warrant Henry furiously berated him, calling him a knave and a beast. Wisely, Wriothesley fled the royal presence. On this occasion the queen remained in the King’s favour but as Henry’s health began to deteriorate the couple spent more and more time apart. Henry spent his last Christmas in London, while Katherine was at Greenwich.
He died in January 1547, without saying ‘Goodbye’ to the queen.

 



Judith Arnopp is the author of award winning historical fiction. Her novels are written from the perspective of historical women from all walks of life, prostitutes to Tudor queens. Her non-fiction articles feature in various historical anthologies, magazines and historical blogs.

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The Queen’s Seal: Isabella of Angoulême, Guest Post by Erica Lainé

Isabella had a gold matrix, or seal-die, which was used to make her seal as Queen of England. The seal is the wax impression; the matrix is used over and over again to make the impression. Isabella’s seal is oval as all medieval queen’s seals were, and shows the full length queen standing with her hair flowing, a cross with a bird above it in one hand and a lily in the other. Each of these are symbols of purity and also fertility. At that time, once married, a woman could not be shown with her hair down or indeed uncovered. The other side would have shown her crowned but I have never seen that and suspect it is badly damaged. The wax impression was threaded onto the parchment documents with strips of ribbon or cord. The gold matrix is about 1 1/2 inches long and just under an inch wide and would have been stored in a special pouch or richly embroidered bag. The one illustrated is from 1280 and is the seal bag for Edward 1st, her grandson.

Queens generally did not seal in matters of state but restricted the use of their seals to their own affairs and the disposition of their often considerable wealth. However while Queen of England between 1200-1216, Isabella rarely used her seal and she did not have the wealth usually given to a queen. King John treated her in a mean-spirited way! But when she returned to France she used it always. She also had a smaller, more personal seal that she kept with her at all times. All the records of her using the seal show that it was pressed into green wax, not the red that is so often associated a with wax impression.

The gold matrix is in the archives in Angoulême a tangible connection with Isabella of Angoulême, Queen of England

She stamped the letter with her great seal, and there she is standing, facing front, robed and crowned, her hair falling in ringlets around her face. In her right hand she holds a flower, in her left a bird. Isabella, by the grace of God, Queen of England, Lady of Ireland. Isabella, Duchess of the Normans, of the Men of Aquitaine and of Anjou.

 

Isabella of Angoulême (The Tangled Queen Book 1)

Set in the thirteenth century, the kingdoms of England and France continue to struggle over territory. King John’s widow, Isabella of Angoulême, Queen of England is ignored and unwanted by the English court. She moves back to France to claim her inheritance. The English councillors expect her to be biddable to them and to guard these lands for King Henry III, her nine-year-old son.

But in the Poitou, a region far from Paris and London, local fiefdoms ignore all forms of authority.

The Tangled Queen is the story of Isabella’s determination to forge her own powerful domain. She has to face forceful men who would stop her at every turn. She intrigues and plots to make her dream a reality and she learns to play all sides against each other. Isabella’s second controversial marriage is one full of passion, pride and politics. Treachery becomes second nature as her ambitions soar. She must be unassailable.

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Isabella-Angoulême-Tangled-Queen-Book-ebook/dp/B079NSY9J4

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Isabella-Angoulême-Tangled-Queen-Book-ebook/dp/B079NSY9J4/

 

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