16 July, 2020

The Support Group for People Maligned in Historical Fiction Meets Again!

Another meeting, years after the first one! This one was written partly by me and partly by Michèle Schindler, author of a great biography of Francis, Lord Lovell, who also writes a blog dedicated to Francis. Thanks for your great contributions, Michèle!


Edward II: Welcome to the latest meeting of the Support Group for People Maligned in Historical Fiction, everybody! I'm delighted to see so many of you here! Well, actually, I'm not, because it means that your posthumous reputations have been suffering because of the rubbish certain writers have been saying about you. A lot has happened since our last meeting, and regarding depictions of myself, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that most writers and documentary makers are now backing off the claim that I was murdered by red-hot poker, because they realise that the vile, sadistic little tale is no longer tenable. The bad news is, they don't really want to let go of it, so we get YouTube documentaries where the presenter goes 'right, let's see an enactment of what it might have looked like if Edward really had been tortured to death like that!' and the camera lingers lovingly on the agonised and screaming face of the actor playing me. And if that wasn't bad enough, the presenter chortles and says something like 'why don't we watch that again, in slow motion?' I worry about these folks, I really do. Anyway, anyone else need to vent about what's been written or said about them?

Margaret Beaufort: Lots and lots and lots of people have decided that I murdered the Princes in the Tower in 1483, despite having no access to the Tower and, let's face it, no motive either, unless you count wanting to put Richard III's young son, or one of his nephews, on the throne.

Edward II: Weird, that one, isn't it? As though you could have predicted in advance that Richard's son would die the following year. Did you have the gift of foresight, Margaret? I'm guessing not.

Margaret Beaufort: Well, I'm the most ambitious and evil person who ever lived, you know, who spent every second of my life cackling evilly and calculating how I was going to put my son on the throne one day, even when there were about 67 people in the succession ahead of him. Apparently I was planning to murder them all.

Anne Lovell: Margaret dear, that's because they imagine you were unnaturally and weirdly obsessed with your son. And with Joan of Arc as well, hahaha, as if. You didn't have a normal maternal relationship with Henry, because somehow, only my cousin Anne Neville is allowed to love her son. Or her husband, apparently. I'm not sure what else I should have done to make it clear that I loved my husband Francis. Commit treason for him? Refuse to remarry after he vanished? Oh wait, I did. Not that you'd ever know it from novels.

George of Clarence: I feel your pain, dear cousin. I also suffer from the need in novels to make my sister-in-law Anne Neville the absolute centre of everything. Several novelists have me mistreat my wife Isabel when our first baby died, so Anne could watch horror-struck. This was my and Isabel's baby who died, but somehow novels think it was all about Anne. Those novels also insist I wanted to murder her to keep her from marrying my brother. And you know what this is based on? A later source saying I sent her somewhere to hide her. I didn't even do that, but it'd still be a million miles from trying to murder her!

Elizabeth Woodville: Not only do lots of people dismiss me as not the rightful queen of England at all, and blather on and on and on and on waaaaay beyond tedium about freaking Melusine and my and my mother's amazing witchy powers, I've now been called - wait for it - an 'Essex Girl'. And have been accused of murdering half my husband's court, including his supposed first wife Eleanor Talbot, her brother-in-law the duke of Norfolk, and who the heck knows who else.

Joan Geneville: That's awful, Elizabeth. I've never been accused of murder, but most writers carry on as though I didn't even exist. I'd been married to Roger Mortimer for just under thirty years when he was executed in November 1330, and we had a dozen kids together. He's now been written up everywhere as the greatest romantic hero of all time because he formed an alliance with Isabella of France. Amazing how Edward II cheating on Queen Isabella is the most unforgivably appalling thing ever, and makes her the most tragic neglected victim who ever lived, but when she supposedly has an affair with my husband, no-one seems to bother about me or even notice the double standards.

Constanza of Castile: Ohhhh, I know exactly what you mean, Joan. To be honest, I wasn't all that bothered about my husband John of Gaunt having a long-term affair with Katherine Swynford, and actually, just between you and me, I kind of liked Katherine. She was good fun. And after all, my father had affairs and fathered children with just about every woman he ever laid eyes on, including his cousin and at least one of my mother's cousins, and my mother was his chief mistress and not his wife. Come to think of it, his real wife was kept in prison. But you know what, I do seriously object to being depicted as a smelly religious zealot, who offends my husband's nostrils with my unpleasant body odour because I don't wash enough. I mean, come onnnnn. And worshipping my dead dad? I loved my father, but obviously I do not worship him. That is so offensive to my religious sensibilities.

Eleanor de Bohun: I don't think any of us ladies come out very well in that novel, Constanza, except Katherine, oh, and Blanche of Lancaster as well, who exists in a kind of cloud of perfect gorgeous saintliness. It describes me as having a fish mouth, and then later, a mouth like a haddock. I can't even visualise what kind of mouth a haddock actually has, to be perfectly honest - can anyone? - but I'm pretty sure I'm not being complimented. And Joan of Kent is nothing but a 'mound of flesh' at her son's coronation, apparently.

Anne Lovell: I feel you, ladies! One novel describes me as having "skin the colour and consistency of porridge". I'm trying to imagine human skin that's the same consistency of porridge, and not getting very far. What the hell, people? I can also offer some absolute horror at seeing the fact that Francis and I had no children used against me in horrifying ways. The nicest of that was still one book that had me worrying that I was lesser than my cousin Anne Neville, who had a child despite "everyone thinking she was too frail to carry a child to term". Just why everyone would be so worried about my cousin's childbearing ability is a mystery, but at least that particular novel didn't blame my childlessness on the fact that I am too ugly or too repulsive for my husband to touch. 

Blanche de Bourbon: Coming back to Constanza's point, the real wife of King Pedro would be me. Obviously not blaming you for this, Constanza, sweetheart, because you weren't even born yet, but your dad Pedro put me in solitary confinement while he went off with your mum. And he had affairs with plenty of other women, as you point out. But me, I just get completely ignored. Imprisoned by my husband two days after my wedding and kept there for eight years until he finally had me bumped off, and does anyone care? Nope! All they do is weep and wail about Edward II supposedly ignoring Isabella at their coronation banquet, like that's the worst thing that's ever happened to anyone. Quite honestly, I'd settle for being maligned in historical fiction if writers ever even remembered that I existed!

Joan Geneville: I'm with you there, Constanza. When I'm not being ignored as though I never even existed, despite decades of loyalty to my husband, I'm written as grossly overweight and hopelessly unattractive, or so cold and frigid in bed that Roger is forced to look elsewhere for affection and intimacy, the poor lamb. Did I mention that Roger and I had twelve children?

Anne Beauchamp, countess of Warwick: Good evening, fellow maligned people! Not only did I suffer the indignity of being declared legally dead so that my sons-in-law could take my lands, I see that one novel condemns me as a bad mother as well, so besotted with my dear Richard that I ignored our daughters and only cared about saving my own skin after my daughter Anne Neville was widowed and in potential danger. So that's nice.

William Stanley: I feel your pain. Just because I kind of, eh, suddenly betrayed my Yorkist leanings at the Battle at Bosworth field does not mean I spent my entire life victimising everyone around me. Do you know that at least three novels insist I abused my dear first wife Joan? The horror of that being printed! And based on what, me switching sides in the civil war nearly twenty years after her death? Joan and me were very happy! And since we're on the subject, I never sat on the fence. You're looking for my brother Thomas. And I never molested anyone. That I even have to say this!

Edward II: Astonishing how so many writers confuse you and your brother Thomas, William, as though you were clones of each other, or even one person shared between two bodies. So weird. And sorry to hear you've been accused of abusing your wife. Poor William Hastings joined us once, to tell us about being painted as a child rapist and murderer in one series of novels, the poor man. And there's this one novel that has my father-in-law and all three of my brothers-in-law sexually abusing my wife when she was a child. I mean honestly. I can't stand any of those French gits - well, Louis is bearable, I suppose, and the younger Philip and I get on pretty well as long as we keep the Channel between us - but what a thing to invent about them! Far worse even than the voyeuristic dwarf spying on me and Isabella consummating our marriage in one novel. I shudder at the memory.

William Stanley: Is that the novel with 'passion' in the title that has you being 'noisily buggered' by Piers, Edward? That description is about as erotic as cholera.

Edward: *shudders again* Do. Not. Remind. Me.

Thomas Becket: Good evening, my fellow maligned men and women. Can someone explain to me why writers of the 20th and 21st century, always seem to want to explain everything with sex? My friend Henry was no prude, but even he would think it ridiculous. I took a vow of chastity in my youth and kept it, and no one in my own time doubted it. This has not stopped novelists from insisting I sexually desired Henry, and only stood up for the rights of the church as ploy for revenge because he rejected me. Because somehow, that's not far-fetched or ridiculous at all, while the idea that I stood up for ideals that were widely shared during my lifetime because I actually believed in them is considered unlikely. I don't expect I will ever understand this.

Francis Lovell: Hello, everyone, Anne Lovell's husband here. I'm King Richard III's annoying stupid friend whom he lets tag along, so it appears, and I'm always sleeping with every available woman, up to and including Margaret of York, only not with my wife. I'm not very intelligent but I exude misplaced confidence. Or I could introduce myself as simply Francis, Viscount Lovell, but I doubt if anyone would even recognise me without these novel tropes. All of which are naturally untrue, but that's what novels have drummed into people's heads I was.

Edward II: I don't understand it either, Thomas, and Francis, sorry to hear you've also been a victim of everything being reduced to sex. What gets me as well is the novelist who moaned on social media and blogs about how horribly over-sexualised modern historical fiction is, while writing a series of novels where my dad tries to seduce the young girl who is, in this bizarre fictional universe, his own half-sister. Because my great-aunt's husband Simon de Montfort had an affair with my grandmother, supposedly, and was the real father of my father. Simon was hundreds of miles from my grandmother when she and King Henry conceived my father, but hey, let's not let that minor detail spoil the story. When films can make William Wallace the real father of my son even though he'd been dead for seven years, and when novels and social media can make Roger Mortimer the real father of my son even though he was in Ireland at the time, anything is possible. Right, that's all we've got time for today, folks! Hope you've found this venting session cathartic and helpful. Until the next time!

06 July, 2020

6 July 1332: Birth of Elizabeth de Burgh, Duchess of Clarence

Elizabeth de Burgh, duchess of Clarence and countess of Ulster, a daughter-in-law of Edward III and Queen Philippa, was born on 6 July 1332. Her mother was Maud of Lancaster (c. 1310/12-1377), third of the six daughters of Henry, earl of Lancaster and Leicester and one of the sisters of Henry of Grosmont, first duke of Lancaster. Via her mother, Elizabeth de Burgh was a great-granddaughter of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence, and thus was a second cousin of Edward III. Elizabeth's father was William de Burgh, earl of Ulster (b. September 1312), whose mother Elizabeth de Clare (b. September 1295) was a granddaughter of Edward I and one of Edward II's nieces. Elizabeth de Burgh's grandmother was, therefore, a much older first cousin of Edward III, making Elizabeth the king's first cousin twice removed as well as his second cousin. As the daughter of Maud of Lancaster, Elizabeth had a large number of relatives among the higher English nobility: her first cousins included the great heiress Blanche, duchess of Lancaster, the Percy earls of Northumberland and Worcester, the earl of Arundel, the countesses of Kent and Hereford, and Lords Mowbray and Beaumont, and her younger half-sister was the countess of Oxford.

William's father, Elizabeth's grandfather John de Burgh, died in 1313 when William was a baby, and he succeeded his grandfather Richard de Burgh as earl of Ulster after Richard's death in July 1326. William de Burgh and Maud of Lancaster married sometime between 1 May and 16 November 1327 when William was fourteen or fifteen and Maud about the same age, perhaps a little older. William's marriage had been granted to Maud's father on 3 February 1327. [1] It's interesting to me that six of Henry, earl of Lancaster's seven children married (the exception was his second daughter Isabella, who became prioress of Amesbury Priory), and five of them became parents (his eldest daughter Blanche, Lady Wake had no children), and in all cases, there was a delay of a few years before they had children. Henry of Grosmont married Isabella Beaumont in 1330, and their first surviving child was born in April 1340, though another daughter is mentioned in 1338/39 who must have died young; Maud and William de Burgh's daughter was born five years after their wedding; Joan, the fourth daughter, married John Mowbray in 1328 and gave birth to her only son in 1340, though her two daughters were probably older; Eleanor the fifth daughter married John Beaumont in 1330 when they were both about twelve or thirteen, and had her only Beaumont son in late 1339; and Mary the youngest Lancaster child married Henry Percy in 1334 when they were also both about twelve or thirteen, and gave birth to her first child in 1341.

Elizabeth de Burgh was just eleven months old when her twenty-year-old father was murdered near Belfast on 6 June 1333, and she was his sole heir and, ultimately, also the sole heir of her grandmother Elizabeth de Clare, who lived until November 1360. As well the earldom of Ulster, she inherited the third of the earldom of Gloucester which passed to her grandmother Elizabeth after her brother Gilbert fell at Bannockburn in 1314. As for her mother, Maud of Lancaster remained a widow for ten years and married her second husband, the earl of Suffolk's younger brother Sir Ralph Ufford, in or before August 1343. Maud's only child from her second marriage, Maud Ufford, married Thomas de Vere, earl of Oxford and was the mother of Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford (1362-92), Richard II's favourite. After she was widowed from Ralph Ufford in 1346, Maud of Lancaster became a canoness in Suffolk for the remaining thirty years of her life.

Elizabeth was named as William de Burgh's sole heir in his inquisition post mortem of August/September 1332. The Buckinghamshire jurors gave her exact date of birth, whereas all the other jurors, in England and Ireland, merely estimated that she was a year old, or a year and a half, or even (wrongly) two years old. This might, emphasis on the might, mean that she was born in Buckinghamshire or at least spent time there in infancy. [2] Several years ago, I found possible references to one and perhaps even two further daughters of William de Burgh and Maud of Lancaster. On 16 July 1338, there is a reference on the Patent Roll to 'Isabella, daughter and heir of William, late earl of Ulster'. It's entirely possible that this means Elizabeth, as Isabella was a variant form of the name Elizabeth and they were sometimes used interchangably, though by this stage they seem to have been considered separate names, and Elizabeth de Burgh was otherwise always called 'Elizabeth'. And on 6 April 1340, Edward III granted the marriage of 'Margaret, daughter and heir of William de Burgo, earl of Ulster' to his sister Eleanor of Woodstock and her husband Reynald for the use of their second son Eduard of Guelders (b. 1336). [3]

Assuming William and Maud did have other daughters, they must have died young, as Elizabeth was certainly William's sole heir. This means that if Maud did give birth to two more daughters, she must have been pregnant with twins when William was killed and the IPM jurors did not know of her pregnancy. Possibly, though, 'Isabella' simply meant Elizabeth, and 'Margaret' was a clerical error and also referred to Elizabeth - and for some reason she did not marry into the county of Guelders.

Elizabeth de Burgh was related to Edward III and his children via both her parents, but they were not *that* closely related, and Edward snapped up the great heiress for one of his and Queen Philippa's sons. Lionel of Antwerp was the royal couple's third son after Edward of Woodstock (b. June 1330) and William of Hatfield (b. January 1337), but was their second eldest surviving son, as William died shortly after his birth. Born on 29 November 1338, Lionel was nearly six and a half years Elizabeth's junior.

Elizabeth and Lionel of Antwerp married on 15 August 1342 in the Tower of London; the date is recorded in the Plea and Memoranda Rolls of the city. [4] Lionel was still only three years old to her ten on their wedding day. Their only child, named Philippa after her paternal grandmother and godmother Philippa of Hainault, queen of England, was born on 16 August 1355 thirty-seven weeks after Lionel's sixteenth birthday, and thirteen years almost exactly to the day after Elizabeth and Lionel's wedding. [5] Elizabeth was twenty-three when her daughter was born, but was to have no more children. She came into her grandmother's large inheritance when Elizabeth de Clare died at the age of sixty-five in late 1360, but only outlived her by three years, and died in Ireland in December 1363 when she was only thirty-one years old, just over a year after Edward III celebrated his fiftieth birthday by making his second son duke of Clarence (and his third son John of Gaunt duke of Lancaster). Lionel held all her lands for the rest of his life - he himself died in October 1368 a few weeks before his thirtieth birthday - by the custom called the 'courtesy of England', and they then passed to Elizabeth and Lionel's only child Philippa of Clarence, countess of March and Ulster, and then to her son Roger Mortimer, earl of March (1374-98).


1) Kenneth Fowler, The King's Lieutenant: Henry of Grosmont, First Duke of Lancaster 1310-1361 (1969), p. 256 note 16; Calendar of Patent Rolls 1327-30, p. 8.
2) Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem 1327-36, no. 537.
3) CPR 1338-40, pp. 115, 445.
4) Calendar of Plea and Memoranda Rolls of the City of London, vol. 1, p. 153.
5) CIPM 1365-69, no. 385.