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.  

CONNECT WITH ANNA: 

website www.annabelfrage.com
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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 Nobles and Gentry in late Medieval England

Medieval Parliament, Royal Collection, RCIN 1047414: Source, Wikipedia

As I alluded to in my previous article about Different Layers of Knighthood, the gentry was an evolving class in the fourteenth century that was starting to find its own voice. There are no hard and fast distinctions for nobility and gentry, and no legal definitions. Naturally, there are exceptions to every convention.

But before we go there, it would help to define nobility, a term also subject to interpretation. The most common definition was put forward by K.B. McFarlane. He defined a noble as a man who was summoned to parliament. Ideally, he would have inherited this privilege, or achieved his title by marriage to a daughter of a noble. The nobles became peers of the realm, a wealthy and exclusive membership that continually decreased during the fourteenth century due mostly to extinction. Nobles who didn’t have a title (duke, earl, etc.) were referred to as barons. Below the baronage ranked the knights bannerets; some were given special preference by the king and summoned to parliament through having distinguished themselves militarily rather than by feudal tenure. By 1425 the distinction between barons and bannerets had disappeared.

In the house of lords, the nobles were summoned; in the house of commons, the members were elected locally or assigned by a sheriff. This is where the gentry comes in, also known as the ‘knightly class’. This class was composed of three groups of landholders: knights, esquires, and gentlemen (in that order); the term ‘gentleman’ was first documented in 1384. By the late fourteenth century, the knight’s main focus was less military and more administrative. He was certainly a landowner and was “regularly involved in the judicial and financial administration of their shires… For the magnates, they served as stewards and councilors”.*  Lineage was an important aspect of knighthood, as well as financial worth; most held land worth between £20 and £40 per annum.  This is opposed to an earl, who was required minimally to possess a revenue of £1000; lesser peers were expected to command £250 per annum. “Around 1300, the ‘knightly’ or gentry class consisted of between 2,500 and 3,000 landholders, roughly half of whom were real (that is, dubbed) knights, while the other half (generally styled esquires) were men who for various reasons had decided not to assume actual knighthood.” *

As the gentry became more influential in parliament and exercised control in local shire offices, both Richard II and Henry IV began to retain knights more frequently so as to directly influence local politics. Richard’s behavior was more obviously manipulative, and tended to alienate the commons; Henry’s immediate popularity after his coronation made it easier to appoint his own men as sheriffs and JPs, and he often did so regardless of their experience. This created its own set of problems, but as far as he was concerned, their loyalty was more important than their productivity. Ironically, Henry succeeded in stacking parliament in his favor, whereas Richard was condemned for doing the same thing.

FURTHER READING:
* Given-Wilson, Chris, THE ENGLISH NOBILITY IN THE LATE MIDDLE AGES, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1987

Given-Wilson, Chris, THE KING AND THE GENTRY IN FOURTEENTH-CENTURY ENGLAND, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Vol. 37 (1987), pp. 87-102

McFarlane, K.B., THE NOBILITY OF LATER MEDIEVAL ENGLAND, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1973

Different Layers of Knighthood

Jousts Between Knights on Horses and on Foot- Brussels, KBR, ms. 10218-19, f. 141r

I’ve been wanting to write this article for a long time, but the topic is so complicated that I’ve been afraid to tackle it. Why? The personification of a knight has changed over the centuries and most scholars don’t go there. I don’t need to reinvent the proverbial wheel; we all recognize the classic knight from the crusades and jousting tournaments. My aim in this article is to fine-tune the different layers of knights in the fourteenth and fifteenth century (which is the period of my study) who served the king.

This all started for me when I kept reading about chamber knights in Richard II’s household. Already I was baffled. What exactly was a chamber knight? Ever since then I’ve been piecing together bits and pieces of historical tidbits, until finally I stumbled across an article written by my favorite Richard II historian, Chris Given-Wilson. The title threw me: “The King and Gentry in Fourteenth-Century England”. (There’s another conundrum: how to define Gentry. I’ll save that for another article.) Thanks to his explanations here (and elsewhere), I’m ready to take the plunge. If you know something I’ve missed, please jump in!

As expected, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the knight and his relationship with the king was primarily military. According to Given-Wilson, the household knights (familia regis) were kept on retainer: “They were the core of the king’s retinue, his nucleus of shock-troops, a force in itself, and capable of rapid expansion whenever necessary.” Apparently this last statement was important; the number of household knights was modest—somewhere around 30-70—but as soon as military action was demanded, their numbers jumped considerably—maybe as high as 120—then back again. These household knights were divided into two groups, depending on their military rank: the simple knight (also knight bachelor, who fought under someone else’s banner) and the banneret. The knight-banneret led his own contingent of knights and esquires and was entitled to carry a square banner instead of the triangular pennon for regular knights. He was also paid double the wages of a simple knight.

Roland pledges fealty to Charlemagne. Source: Wikipedia

Around 1360, the knights gradually evolved into chamber knights who were “trusted royal servants valued by the king for their counsel, their administrative ability, and their domestic service as much as for their strong right arms”. Naturally their military function was important, but from then until the end of the century the king was—for the most part—inactive militarily. He just didn’t need a core of fighting knights around him (until the last three years of Richard’s reign, his so-called tyranny).  The chamber knights were closely attached to the king, and sometimes served as diplomats, special commissioners, and companions; they were given castles and manors to administer, and sent as ambassadors to foreign powers and even to negotiate the king’s marriages. Their numbers were much more limited: “under Edward III, between 1366 and 1377, they number between three and five; under Richard II and Henry IV, they number between eight and thirteen. During the fifteenth century, they came to be known as ‘knights of the body’.”

From 1377 (the beginning of Richard II’s reign) through 1413 (the end of Henry IV’s reign) most knights retained by the king primarily served a different function outside the household and were known as the king’s knights (milites regis). Their job was to exert influence and authority in their shires. They didn’t receive robes and fees through the wardrobe like the chamber knights, but they were granted annuities. The king’s knights were sheriffs and justices of the peace, or represented their shires in parliament. The important aspect of this is that these knights were not separate from the gentry; for the most part, they were the gentry. Many knights were also landowners and belonged to that class, ranking just below the baronage. “The knightly class,” he tells us, “was the nobility”. And the gentry were rapidly becoming a key element in national politics.

Just to complicate things further, the king also started to retain king’s esquires for considerably less money than the knights (many, but not all of them were esquires of the household). According to Given-Wilson, “If for the moment we exclude the years 1397-99, the over-all figures for king’s knights and king’s esquires during the two reigns are not dissimilar: under Richard II, there were about 150 knights and 105 esquires; under Henry IV, about 140 of each.” The esquires’ careers were similar to the knights but with less prestige and importance, though sometimes this was a stepping stone to becoming knights of the chamber. Nonetheless, most esquires actually possessed the lineage to become a knight, but the fee for their equipment and the cost of the dubbing ceremony deterred them from taking that step. So by this time, the gap in status between knights and squires was narrowing. By the mid-fourteenth century esquires were even permitted to bear coats of arms. So Given-Wilson places them squarely into the knightly class. More on this when we get to the gentry!

FURTHER READING:
Given-Wilson, Chris, THE ENGLISH NOBILITY IN THE LATE MIDDLE AGES, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1987

Given-Wilson, Chris, THE KING AND THE GENTRY IN FOURTEENTH-CENTURY ENGLAND, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Vol. 37 (1987), pp. 87-102

Given-Wilson, Chris, THE ROYAL HOUSEHOLD AND THE KING’S AFFINITY, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1986

 

 

 

The History of the Tomato: Guest Post by Gerard Paul

The history of your favorite (mainly) red nightshade involves a long and intricate tale that traces back to the Aztecs around 700 AD. Yes, the tomato hails from the Americas, although it took a trip to Europe – and a fight over its reputation as a poisonous killer – before it became the globally embraced veggie you know today. And before that, it left its (scary) mark on the European consciousness, global tax laws, dietary guidelines – and even the Supreme Court of the United States.

Yes, it’s been a strange journey. The tomato has had a wildly varying reputation over the years, considered everything from poison to aphrodisiac(!). I’ll explore all these fascinating tomato facts – and many more – in this history of the tomato.

Tomatoes have become a global tour de force today, but originally they were limited to only one pair of continents — the Americas. One study traces the earliest ancestor of the fruit to South America, where the grandfather of all tomatoes — Solanum Pimpinellifolium L., was known to have been first domesticated. This species gave rise to the S. Lycopersicum L var. Cerasiforme (S. l. Cerasiforme), which, in turn, birthed the most common tomato species known on the planet today — Solanum Lycopersicum L. var. Lycopersicum (SLL – the one you chop to put on your salad). It first made its way into Mesoamerica before finding its way to the rest of the world.

That’s just the tomato, though – nightshades, particularly the tomatillo, have an even longer history. A few years ago, scientists found a tomatillo fossil in Patagonia, Argentina they dated to roughly 52 million years old!

As mentioned in my introduction, as far as we know, the Aztecs were primarily responsible for first understanding the fruit’s versatility and using it as an ingredient in their cooking. We even derive the word tomato from the Aztec word “xitomatl” (pronounced as ji-tomatel). By the early sixteenth century, the Aztecs had domesticated a reasonably modern version of their tomatoes and had created at least 50 unique recipes using the red wonder as a base. Early Aztec writings reveal recipes for a dish that uses tomatoes, peppers, and seasoning – yes, recipes for salsa have been around for an extremely long time! We now know that the Aztecs of Mexico were a source for tomatoes that were taken to Spain and the Mediterranean by the Spanish conquistadors – likely Columbus or Cortés. We even have a record of the fruit entering Europe with the earliest mention of them being seen on the continent by Mattioli in 1544. (At the time, he essentially called it an eggplant).

Before making it to Europe, tomatoes had a good stint in Pueblo culture and had a reasonably influential touch on their customs and beliefs. The journey from South America to Europe featured a noteworthy stop in Central America where the tomatoes interacted with Native American culture. While the Pueblos certainly used tomatoes in their cooking, they did not explore it as deeply as the Aztecs in their culinary style. Instead, there were a few noteworthy associations between the Pueblos and the tomato. This included the belief that those who consumed tomato seeds would be blessed with the powers of divination.

Hernán Cortés is the Spanish explorer who is credited with introducing the tomato to Europe. He did this after successfully capturing Tenochtitlan’s city in 1521, and he used the Spanish colonial system to spread the fruit successfully across the rest of the world.

Before reaching Europe, tomatoes first made their way to the Caribbean islands. And after Europe, the naval path to the Philippines was used to take the plant to Asia. Its path to Europe, and specifically Italy (where tomato’s culinary popularity first took off), is harder to trace, but there have been several handwritten accounts to read. The first of these dates to 1548 in Tuscany, where the fruit was improperly thought to be a type of eggplant, and it was named “Pomodoro” or pomi d’oro.  You might think the “Pomodoro” caused shock waves across the country and transformed the landscape of Italian cuisine as soon as it entered the market – alas, this was not the case. Many of the Italian tomato dishes that we know and love today are quite recent. It wasn’t until the late nineteenth century that the modern-day tomato had firmly cemented its roots in Italian culture. Pasta and pizzas were around for quite some time by this point, but they depended on base ingredients such as cheese and olive oil for flavor until someone had the bright idea of adding tomato sauce.

The Chinese and Europeans eventually whole-heartedly embraced tomatoes in their cuisine. After the tomato’s travels to Europe, the fruit was also making the rounds in Asia, where it continues its popularity to this day. In Chinese culture, written records of tomatoes date back to 1621 during the Ming dynasty. Much like Italian culinary culture, China took a fair amount of time to warm up to the fruit. In fact, the tomato’s first records read more like a precaution – written records tell of a Western-originated fan persimmon. Although tomatoes never rose to culinary prominence in the same way as they did in Italy, several regions of China became quite reliant on the use of tomatoes in their dishes. By the turn of the nineteenth century, tomatoes had officially migrated to most parts of Asia. During this period, they also found their way into Syria and Iran. There though, they were widely used almost immediately.

To read more about the mighty tomato, click HERE

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.