Thursday, 18 September 2008

The Epiphany Rising or 'Rebellion of the Earls'

Richard's friends almost inevitably started to plot together. The two Hollands (formerly Exeter and Surrey but now busted down to Huntingdon and Kent respectively) and Salisbury were definitely involved. Thomas Despenser was almost certainly involved, although there is just a small chance that he wasn't as he doesn't get much of a mention in most accounts. As for his brother-in-law, Edward of York, now Earl of Rutland again, if he was involved (and it's not absolutely certain that he was) he betrayed the conspirators.

Other people involved included Lord Lumley (interestingly a retainer of the Earl of Northumberland!) the Abbot of Westminster, the Bishop of Carlisle and Sir Thomas Blount.

Henry was planning to spend Christmas at Windsor. Most of his friends had gone home, especially the big batallions from the North, so he would be there with his household and maybe the odd close friend - though none are mentioned so it was possibly a bit quiet chez Bolingbroke. The basic idea of the conspiracy was to show up mob-handed at Windsor for a proposed tournament, bump off Henry (and possibly his sons) and make Richard king again. Various subsidiary risings were organised, notably one in Cheshire, and Richard Maudelyn, the king's double and likely cousin, was recruited to play the part of Richard until they could get their mitts on the genuine article. (He was locked up in Pontefract Castle with the grim Sir Thomas Swynford, but they probably didn't know it.)

There are three versions of how the plot was betrayed:

1. Elizabeth of Lancaster (Huntingdon/Exeter's wife) told her brother Henry.
2. One of the people involved told a prostitute, who 'peached them.
3. Edward of York bottled it at the last minute and told his father, who told Henry.

It is certain that Henry got his warning very late, and got out of Windsor, slipping through the rebel lines back to London, where he quickly raised an army of supporters. Shortly after the rebels took Windsor, and probably did a fair bit of jumping up and down in their armour when they realised all had gone to pot.

Edward of York meanwhile was leading the van of Henry's forces against men who had been his friends until maybe hours earlier! Some accounts have him parleying with them, but it's certain that they fought him at Maidenhead Bridge, and held him off until after dark.

Thomas Holland and maybe others visited Queen Isabelle who was lodged at Sonning, and some accounts have her leaving with them - if she did she must have soon parted again, as the rebels, hopelessly outnumbered, were in flight. Plan B seems to have been to get to Despenser's Glamorgan. John Holland (Exeter/Huntingdon) had been left behind to raise Richard's supporters in London. Having failed miserably he fled to Essex where he was eventually 'executed' - murdered by a mob in fact.

The others rested at Cirencester, and found themselved assailed by a mob that had been prompted by one of Henry's agents. Thomas Holland (Kent/Surrey) and Salisbury was captured, while Thomas Despenser escaped by legging it over the roofs. At this point someone, accidently or on purpose, set the town on fire.

Holland and Salisbury were taken into custody by Lord Berkeley, who had conveniently arrived on the scene, but it appears that the townsfolk were so miffed by the damage (none of them were insured after all!) that they insisted on taking the pair from Berkeley and beheading them on the spot.

Thomas Despenser got as far as Cardiff, but there made the mistake of getting onto a ship. He and his men were overpowered and taken to Bristol, where there was another piece of lynch justice. Various lesser men were tried at Oxford, and there were a number of full-blown official executions with the full process of hanging, drawing and quartering. A lucky minority received pardons, including one fellow who had saved Bolingbroke's life during the Peasant Revolt of 1381.

The consequence of this was that Henry IV issued an order for Richard II to be murdered. He probably thought that would put an end to any future plots against him. He was seriously mistaken.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

The Fears of Henry IV

Now I have stopped looking for it and don't need it I've found The Fears of Henry IV. Predictably it was within three feet of where I am sitting to write this, in a location where my eyes should fall at least once a day. Yesterday, mysteriously, it was there. I am sure it was not there before and yet logic tells me that it must have been. Spooky!

I haven't got the time or the inclination to do a full review at this time, but if you're at all interested in Henry Bolingbroke it's certainly worth buying. Frankly, it doesn't have much competition as decent books about him are rare. When I was working on Fetterlock my principal source for Henry's reign was History of England under Henry IV by J.H.Wylie. This was written in the late 19th century, and although it contains many details you're unlikely to find anywhere else it gives the impression it was hurriedly thrown together from sheafs of rough notes and chucked straight at the printer without benefit of editor. Ian Mortimer's book is much more suited to the needs of the 21st century reader, or indeed anyone who isn't a total history obsessive.

What I will say about Fears of Henry IV is it does come over as a bit of a hagiography. Mortimer makes no bones about the fact he is telling the tale from Henry's POV, and that's fair enough - probably a lot better than the pretended impartiality of so many historians. But do not open it with the expectation that Richard II will be cut any slack whatsoever, because he isn't. Mortimer clearly thinks he was worse than a thousand Hitlers.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Philippa's Will

That reference to Carisbrooke reminded me that in her widowhood Philippa Duchess of York described herself as 'Lady of the Isle of Wight'. That in turn prompted me to do a bit of googling, and find her will. It's quite interesting for a short will - I'm pretty sure the man she describes as her 'son' was actually her stepson, and probably the guy who challenged Edward to single combat.

By the way, if you ever fancy visiting Philippa, her tomb is in Westminster Abbey. (Arguably, the best tomb of the whole family in that generation. Constance's is destroyed, Edward's is a crummy Elizabethan replacement at Fotheringhay, and poor old Richard of Conisbrough having been executed as a traitor never had a proper tomb as far as I know.)

Henry IV's first parliament

I was going to write about Henry IV's coronation, but given that it's not actually all that relevant to the House of York which after all this Blog is supposed to be about, I decided not to bother. Though it is intriguing that Philippa, Duchess of Aumale does not seem to have received coronation robes. (The relevant papers are published in, of all places, The Coronation of Richard III - the extant documents edited by Anne F Sutton and P W Hammond; a publication I highly recommend if you can get your mitts on a copy. It's a rare book, and no, you are not having mine, it's too bloody useful!)

So passing gently on, we come to Henry IV's first Parliament which definitely was of interest to the House of York, not least because Edward of York was not far off being lynched. There was a lot of flak flying around concerning the execution of Thomas of Woodstock - everyone seems to have forgotten that Henry IV himself had been a star witness for the crown in 1397! To cut a long story short, Edward was challenged to mortal combat by Lord Fitzwalter (his own wife's stepson!) and as he tried to justify himself half the Parliament seems to have thrown down their gages on one side or the other - nearly all against Edward.

Henry cooled the situation by having John Hall, a valet who was 'only obeying orders' in taking part in Gloucester's death, hanged, drawn and quartered for the amusement of the Parliament.

He put the rest of the debate on ice, but then had Edward, Thomas Despenser, Surrey, Exeter and Salisbury put under arrest. They were split up, some to the Tower, others to Windsor.

Their trial followed shortly afterwards - to summarise, they all claimed they had done what they did out of fear of Richard II. They were sentenced to lose all lands gained since 1397 (which was inevitable given that most/all had been taken from Henry's supporters or Henry himself) and also to forfeit the new titles they had been given. Those they had 'oppressed' were encourged to come forward and ask for redress - the odd thing is that no one ever did. It appears that these favourites of a tyrant had been remarkably liberal in their dealings. By medieval standards almost incredibly so.

Salisbury did not have a 'new' title to lose but he had been challenged to a mortal combat by Lord Morley (one of Thomas Despenser's brothers-in-law.) This was arranged, but the Fitzwalter/Edward of York fixture seems to have been cancelled. As it happens the Morley/Salisbury duel was not to take place either.

The accused were released into the custody of the Abbot of Westminster (a Richard II supporter of the first rank) and most were shortly afterwards appointed to Henry's Council! Edward of York (who was almost certainly the most guilty of the bunch, given that Mowbray had died in exile) was actually awarded a number of tasty grants, not least the Lordship of Wight with the office of Constable of Carisbrooke. Henry, it must be said, had a very proper regard for his cousin's royal blood.

Where is Richard of Gloucester???

Not been posting much as I've been busy with the novel. About time too, did I hear someone say? Couldn't argue if you did.

Anyway, I have found something strange. Given that Richard III has had more written about him than almost anyone - with the possible exception of Hitler - there are periods in his life when he just vanishes!

Take (as I am trying to do) 1469. He apparently parts from Edward IV when the king is captured at Olney in late July and pops up again in late September when he and others turn up in force at Pontefract and effectively rescue Edward from his Babylonian captivity. Where was he in the interim? No one seems to know for sure, though I've come across a couple of hints he was in Yorkshire. But Richard doesn't seem to have lands there in 1469, and I'm sure he wasn't just aimlessly wandering about. Especially as he was so seriously short of brass that he'd had to borrow a hundred quid off Lord Saye just a few weeks earlier. Very odd. I may have to invent something, but am sure that if I send him off to East Anglia I shall discover (day after publication!) that there's proof he was in Scarborough all along!

On an almost totally unconnected point I was googling the other day and found that Elizabeth Woodville has a School named after her. If you visit their site, try clicking on the school badge - guaranteed to delight all fans of the noble greyhound.