22 September, 2017

22 September 1345: Death of Henry, Earl of Lancaster

Today marks the 672nd anniversary of the death of Henry, earl of Lancaster and Leicester and steward of England, on 22 September 1345. Via his father Edmund of Lancaster, Henry was a grandson of Henry III and thus the nephew of Edward I and first cousin of Edward II, and via his mother Blanche of Artois he was the great-nephew of Louis IX of France,  half-brother of Joan I, queen of Navarre, brother-in-law of Philip IV of France, and uncle of Louis X, Philip V, Charles IV and Edward II's queen Isabella. Henry's date of birth is not known but is usually estimated around 1280 or 1281, following his elder brother Thomas's birth in c. 1278. A younger brother, John, followed, sometime before May 1286 when the three Lancaster brothers first appear on record. (John of Lancaster spent almost all his life in France and very rarely appears in English sources. He died in 1317, and Henry was his heir to the lordships he held in France.)

Henry was restored to (most of) the inheritance of his executed and childless brother Thomas after Edward II's deposition in 1327; Edward had allowed him the earldom of Leicester in 1324, but not Lancaster. Henry is the forgotten member of the Lancaster dynasty in many ways - I've even seen a few people confusing him with his son and heir Henry of Grosmont, the first duke of Lancaster - but it was he who restored the prestige and reputation of the Lancasters after Thomas's execution, and who fought for his and his family's rightful inheritance. In the 1320s Henry was mostly ignored by his cousin Edward II and brother-in-law Hugh Despenser the Younger, and therefore joined his niece Queen Isabella in the autumn of 1326. As Isabella also shunted him out of power and his rightful position during Edward III's minority, Henry led a brief rebellion against the regime in late 1328 and early 1329, which failed when (according to the later Leicester chronicler Henry Knighton) Roger Mortimer sacked his main power base of Leicester in early 1329. Yet Henry survived Edward II's turbulent reign and its aftermath and died peacefully in his bed, aged about 65, as many other earls including his own brother Thomas and cousin Edmund, earl of Kent did not.

Henry of Lancaster married the heiress Maud Chaworth on or before 2 March 1297 when she was fifteen and he probably sixteen, and their marriage produced one son, Henry of Grosmont, and six daughters, Blanche, Isabella, Maud, Joan, Eleanor and Mary. Five of Henry's children had children of their own - the exceptions were his two eldest daughters Blanche, Lady Wake and Isabella, prioress of Amesbury - and Henry was the ancestor of much of the English nobility of the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. His grandchildren included Henry Percy, the first earl of Northumberland, who died in rebellion against Henry IV (Henry of Lancaster's great-grandson) in 1408; Richard Fitzalan, the earl of Arundel executed by Richard II in 1397; Elizabeth de Burgh, duchess of Clarence, who married Edward III's second son Lionel of Antwerp; and Joan de Bohun, countess of Hereford, Henry V's grandmother. Maud Chaworth died in 1322, and Henry never remarried; a previous generation of historians believed erroneously that he married the French noblewoman Alix Joinville, but she was in fact the widow of his brother John.

Henry's Wikipedia page claims that he spent the last fifteen years of his life at his castle of Leicester. From my own research I know this is not the case: he travelled extensively around his estates in the 1330s and 1340s, even in 1345, the year he died. One of his favourite residences was Kempsford in Gloucestershire, part of his late wife Maud Chaworth's inheritance. He was at Kenilworth in Warwickshire in the summer of 1345, and wrote his will at Leicester on 8 September. Two weeks later, he died there, and was buried four months later in the church of the hospital he had founded in Leicester in 1330. His son Henry of Grosmont, earl of Derby, was in Gascony at the time leading a brilliantly successful military campaign and so could not attend the funeral, but Edward III, his wife Queen Philippa and his mother Queen Isabella, Henry of Lancaster's niece, were all present at the interment of one of the greatest of medieval English noblemen.

18 September, 2017

Fourteenth Century England X

The tenth edition of the excellent series Fourteenth Century England*, a collection of academic essays which comes out every two years, will be published in April 2018, and it's on the Boydell and Brewer website now. I'm delighted to announce that the latest edition features an article by me, titled ''Bought by the King Himself': Edward II, his Chamber, his Family and his Interests in 1325/26'. I gave a paper based on my research for this article at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds in 2016. There are lots of insights into Edward and his household in his last chamber account of 1325/26, now held by the Society of Antiquaries in London, which I used to write the article.




Can't wait to see it in print! Also really looking forward to the rest of the articles, especially the one by Professor Seymour Phillips.

* I have to admit that the missing hyphen irritates me. Mentally I insert one every time I type the name.

08 September, 2017

The Murder of Sir Robert Holland, October 1328

Sir Robert Holland or de Holand was a knight of Upholland, Lancashire, born sometime around 1280. He was the steward of Edward II's first cousin Thomas, earl of Lancaster, and his close ally and perhaps friend, for many years. Thomas gave Robert lands and arranged his marriage to Maud la Zouche, one of the two daughters and co-heirs of Alan la Zouche (d. 1314). Robert and Maud's eldest son Robert the younger was born around 1312, and their second son Thomas, who married Edward II's niece Joan of Kent, in about 1314. They had a third son, Sir Otto Holland, a Knight of the Garter, and several daughters including Isabella, mistress of John de Warenne, earl of Surrey (d. 1347).

Robert Holland's long and close association with Thomas of Lancaster did not include following him into treason during the Contrariant rebellion in 1322, and instead he joined Edward II on or before 4 March, bringing men, horses and arms. To be fair to Robert, the king was holding one of his daughters - not named - at the Tower of London by 26 February 1322, almost certainly as a hostage. [CCR 1318-23, 525; CPR 1321-4, 75] By joining Edward before the battle of Boroughbridge on 16 March 1322, Robert saved himself from execution, but was imprisoned at Dover Castle and "charged with diverse excesses." He remained in prison for most of the rest of Edward II's reign, though at some point escaped from Northampton. [CPR 1327-30, 17] Robert was pardoned in 1327 by the new regime and restored to his lands, despite protests by Thomas of Lancaster's brother and heir Henry, now earl of Lancaster.

On 15 October 1328, a group of Lancastrian knights and adherents including Sir Thomas Wyther, John Tebbe, John le Irissche, John le Walsshe, Thomas Polgrom and Thomas de la Panetrie encountered Sir Robert Holland at Borehamwood in Essex, quarrelled with him, and decapitated him.They sent the severed head to Henry, earl of Lancaster, at Waltham Abbey before fleeing to High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire. It is not impossible that Henry ordered Robert Holland's execution – he was only fifteen miles away at Waltham when it happened – though it is perhaps more probable that the death occurred during an angry and violent row with Lancastrians furious at Robert's betrayal of Earl Thomas and that they had not planned to kill him. Still, there seems little doubt that Henry protected and sheltered the killers, and the macabre gift of the head sent to him suggests his men knew he would be pleased at the death of the man who had abandoned and betrayed his brother. Jurors appointed to inquire into the murder claimed rather suspiciously and implausibly not to know anything whatsoever about the circumstances of it or who had promoted it ("We dunno nuffin, guv, honest"). Henry was surely an accessory after the fact if not before, and the jurors likely did not think it wise to point a finger at the wealthy, powerful and royal earl of Lancaster or to investigate too closely a murder he was apparently condoning. John Tebbe was imprisoned for Robert's murder, but escaped, and went on campaign to Gascony with Thomas of Lancaster's nephew and Henry of Lancaster's son Henry of Grosmont in 1345/6 before he had been pardoned for the murder and his escape. [CPR 1345-8, 87] I suppose that means that Henry of Grosmont didn't exactly shed a tear over the death of the man who had abandoned his uncle.

So that was the end of Sir Robert Holland, though his widow Maud née la Zouche outlived him for many years, and went through a legal battle with Henry of Lancaster over the manor of Melbourne in 1330 (a battle won, not surprisingly, by Henry). Robert and Maud's second son Sir Thomas Holland (c. 1314-1360) really raised the family to greatness via his marriage to Joan of Kent: his sons, Robert's grandsons Thomas, earl of Kent (1350/51-1397), and John, earl of Huntingdon and duke of Exeter (c. 1352/55-1400), were half-brothers of King Richard II. Thomas, earl of Kent, married Henry, earl of Lancaster's granddaughter Alice Fitzalan in about 1364 when they were both still very young, and they were the parents of the duke of Surrey, the duchess of York and the countesses of March, Somerset and Salisbury, among others, and the ancestors of Edward IV, Richard III and Henry VII. When Henry of Lancaster received Robert Holland's severed head in October 1328, he can hardly have have imagined that one day his granddaughter would marry Robert's grandson, and Robert surely cannot have imagined that he would be the ancestor of kings.

Sources
Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous 1308-1348, no. 1093
Annales Paulini, p. 342
Knighton's Chronicle 1337-1396, vol. 1, p. 449
The Brut, vol. 1, p. 257.