Advent Calendar of Castles: 7th of December: Helmsley Castle

helmsley3helmsley-2helmsley1The original castle at Helmsley was built in the early 12th century by Walter Espec who also founded the spectacular Rievaulx abbey which you can see nearby. The original castle would have most likely been a wooden and earth structure. It was built in stone later in the 12th century, and the de Roos family modernised it. The earth works you see today date largely from the original castle and are unusual in that they are surviving medieval ring works, as in they literally ring the castle and continue to do so today.

The exceptionally tall east tower was built by Robert de Roos at the end of the 12th century, although it was added to in the 14th century to make it taller and more of a status symbol. Also in the 14th century the rooms on the first floor were probably converted into a private chamber, possibly for the use of the visiting Edward III.  The castle passed briefly into the hands of Richard III, when he was Duke of Gloucester, when the de Roos family sold it to him in 1478. When he died at Bosworth in 1485 Henry VII gave it back to the de Roos.

Helmsley faced its greatest challenge during the civil war when it was held for King Charles and endured a three month siege. Ultimately Crowell’s men were victorious and they blew up the east tower, literately splitting it in half. This is the state it remains in today. The east tower is only part of the castle as more domestic buildings have been added as the years went past.

The castle came into the hands of the Duncombe family and they lived there until the 18th century when they abandoned it. During the 18th and 19th century they used the remaining buildings for a manor court and social functions, including renting part of it to the local lawn tennis club. The castle came into the hands of the State in 1915.

 

References:

Site visit 2012

http://www.yorkshire.com/view/attractions/helmsley/helmsley-castle-660807

https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1009963

The photos are all mine

 

Advent Calendar of Castles: December 5th: Pickering Castle

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Pickering Castle was established by William the Conqueror in c. 1070. It was built in response to the northern revolts against his rule. William’s stamping of authority on the north is known was the Harrying of the North. Such an innocuous name sounds like it was a minor irritation, however this couldn’t be further from the truth. William the Conqueror led a brutal pillaging of the north, killing people and destroying crops and food. Tens of thousands of people starved to death in the aftermath.

The original castle would have been earth and timber and the motte on which it was built still stands today. The rebuilding of the castle in stone began around 1180 and continued into the 13th century under successive kings. Within the walls there is also a chapel dedicated to St Nicholas which dates to roughly 1227. Until the mid 16th century the castle would have had a resident chaplain.

By the early 14th century the castle has passed into the hands of Thomas Earl of Lancaster, the grandson of Henry III. He married heiress Alice de Lacey and using her money introduced more stone buildings, including building a new hall for the family to live in, within the walls of the castle. In the mid 14th century Edward II ordered the outer walls to be built in stone, including stone towers as part of the walls. He used the castle for raising horses. He established a stud at the castle and often used it as a hunting lodge.

By the time of the civil war the castle had fallen too much into disrepair to be used for defence and in the 17th century parts of the castle were used as a court house. The castle came into the hands of English Heritage in 1926.

References:

Site visit 2012.

http://www.britainexpress.com/counties/yorkshire/castles/pickering.htm

The Harrying of the North: http://www.historyextra.com/article/bbc-history-magazine/battle-of-hastings-aftermath-consequences-harrying-of-the-north

 

The photos are all mine.

 

 

 

 

 

Advent Calendar of Castles: December 4th: York Castle

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The castle you see in the photos is all that remains of York’s once much larger castle. The current structure, known as Clifford’s Tower, was built in the 13th century and served as the heart of government in York and was also used to house the royal treasury. That is not to say that there was not a castle on the site prior to the construction of Clifford’s Tower. A wood and earth Norman tower was built on this site in the 11th century and suffered much damage and rebuilding during these tumultuous times, but it probably survived largely intact until the 12th century. The castle was then the setting for one of the most infamous incidents in York’s history. In 1190 tensions between the York Jewish community and the largely Christian population came to a head and roughly 150 Jews were given protective custody in the wooden castle that stood on the current site of Clifford’s Tower. Something went terribly wrong though and the royal officials found themselves shut out of the castle. They summoned reinforcements to retake the castle and these reinforcements joined with a local mob. The mob and the reinforcements were soon out of control and the Jews in the castle were besieged. On the 16th of March the Jews inside realized there was no way out and they committed suicide and set the tower alight rather than face the wrath of the mob. According to some accounts some Jews did survive and came out under an amnesty to then be massacred by the mob.

The tower burnt down but it was rebuilt, in wood and stone, but it wasn’t until the mid 13th century that the tower you see today was constructed. Henry III ordered a new stone tower to be built in roughly 1245 to help deal with the threat of the Scots. The tower was finished by the end of the 13th century and would have likely stood surrounded by a moat of some description and an outer bailey and walls were added in the 14th century. Over the years the tower and castle acted largely as an administrative centre rather than a royal residence. The first recorded use of the name “Clifford’s Tower’ dates to the mid 16th century but it is possible that the name comes from the rebel Roger de Clifford who was executed in 1322 and whose body was displayed on a gibbet at the castle.

 

References:

Site visit 2012

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/cliffords-tower-york/history/

 

The photos are all mine.

 

Advent Calendar of Castles: December 2nd Lincoln Castle.

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Lincoln Castle was begun by William the Conqueror in c.1068 making it one of the first Norman castles built. It was part of the Conqueror’s plan of the domination of England through a network of castles. It was through castles like Lincoln that he administered and controlled his new territory. Lincoln Castle stands on the site of an old roman fort and when it was built 166 Saxon houses were demolished to make way for it.

In the early medieval period Lincoln castle was the site of two decisive battles. The first was in 1141 during the time period known as the Period of Anarchy (1136-1154). King Stephen and the Empress Matilda were fighting for control of the country. It was a time which the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle described as “people openly said that Christ slept, and his saints.” In 1141 the Earl of Chester and his brother William of Roumare had rebelled against King Stephen and taken Lincoln Castle by deceit. Oderic Vitalis’ version says that they sent their wives in on the pretext of a friendly visit and the Earl arrived to collect the women with only three knights and then, “Once inside the castle they suddenly snatched crowbars and weapons which lay to hand and violently expelled the king’s guards. Then William burst in with a force of armed knights, according to a pre‑arranged plan, and in this way the two brothers took control of the castle and the whole city.”

Regardless of how they took the castle they held it and King Stephen arrived to besiege the castle. The Earl of Chester escaped and alerted Robert of Gloucester, Empress Matilda’s brother and the head of her campaign for the crown. Gloucester arrived in Lincoln with an army and there was a pitched and bloody battle, unusual in a war that was mainly looting and skirmishes, Gloucester’s forces were victorious and King Stephen was captured.

The other key battle at Lincoln was in 1217. It was so bloodless that it was soon known as the Fair of Lincoln. William Marshal headed forces fighting for the newly crowned Henry III. Marshal was the young Henry’s regent. They were fighting the remains of the barons who had forced King John to sign the Magna Carta in 1215. The majority of barons had returned to the royal fold after King John’s death, but there were a few hold outs who were still supporting Prince Louis of France as their candidate for king. Prince Louis’ forces were besieging Lincoln which was held by the remarkable Nicola de la Haye (who I hope to write more about later), Marshal’s forces came to relieve the siege. They had help from the inside the castle and the battle was a route. Prince Louis’ forces were demolished and the battle was pretty much the end of the baronial revolt, though it was the Battle of Sandwich and paying off Louis that got rid of him completely.

Outside of these two key battles Lincoln continued to be both a prison and court for centuries to come. It is also the location of one of the only four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta as well as a copy of the 1217 Charter of the Forest.

References

Site visit 2012

Lincoln castle information leaflets.

https://www.lincolncastle.com/content/history

Anglo Saxon Chronicle: http://www.britannia.com/history/docs/1137.html

Battle of Lincoln 1141: http://deremilitari.org/2014/03/the-battle-of-lincoln-1141-from-five-sources/

The Fair of Lincoln 1217: Tout, T.F, ‘The Fair of Lincoln in the ‘Histoire de Guillaume le Maréchal’, The English Historical Review, 18, 1903, pp. 240-265.

The photos are all mine.

 

Peveril Castle

Peveril Castle perches dramatically on the edge of a craggy hill  looking over the town of Castleton and Hope Valley in the Peak District.img_0519

Peveril Castle

Castleton grew up around Peveril castle and and was first documented in royal accounts in 1196, but was probably there from around 1155 at least. By 1215 it had its own trade fair and it continued on through the centuries to survive as a local hub, even after the demise of the castle.

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The view over Castleton and Hope Valley.

Peveril castle itself was originally built, most likely of stone, by William Peveril shortly after 1066. However its most striking feature, the keep, was the work of Henry II. The castle came into Henry II’s hands in 1155 and is an excellent example of the common square keeps that he had built up and down the country.  Peveril came into royal hands after William Peveril’s son, also called William, firstly made an enemy of the powerful Earl of Chester and then of Henry FitzEmpress, who shortly became Henry II. In 1153 Henry had already promised to dispossess the younger William of his estates for treachery and plundering and give them to Chester. By 1155, when he carried out the threat, Chester was dead so Henry kept the castle for himself. The name however survived. Henry II used Peveril as a base to oversee the local area and keep the local barons, who had been used to more autonomy during the period of anarchy, in check. Even when he wasn’t there, and there were only a few guards left to man it, Peveril was a potent symbol of royal authority. It also served as an administration point for the Forest of the Peak.

Peveril was part of the Lordship of the Peak and it was given by Richard I to his brother John when Richard came to the throne in 1189. John however was forced to surrender it due to his rebellion. When John came to the throne himself in 1199 William Ferrers, the Earl of Derby, paid the huge sum of 2000 marks to claim much of the lordship for himself. John however refused to hand over the castles of Peveril and Bolsover, which he saw as the symbols of the authority in the area. He only conceded Ferrers’ right to them in 1216 when his authority was crumbling. However his castellan refused to hand them over and John told Ferrers he could take them by force, if he could. John died in 1216 and Ferrers managed to take Bolsover by force during the first year of the reign of Henry III, however he never attacked Peveril and the castellan moved out by negotiation. Ferrers, however had only been given lordship of Peveril until Henry III came of age. Initially, though, he refused to hand it over. He finally gave up and surrendered it to royal hands in 1223.

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Peveril Keep

Peveril stayed in royal hands until the 1372 when it was given to John of Gaunt, who was the Duke of Lancaster and the third son of Edward III. He was one of the most powerful lords of his time and he possessed many castles. As such he never saw Peveril as being a residential centre and began to strip lead from it to use in other castles. Slowly  the administrative functions of the castle began to drift elsewhere too and by the 16th century the castle was derelict.

The castle was never besieged, so the ruinous state you see it in now is due to decay through time and the stone being repurposed for Castleton below.

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looking down on Castleton from the keep.

Peveril stands on a steep natural hill with the precipice-like Cave Dale to the back and one side and Cavern Gorge to the right. It commands the main high ground over Hope valley and was a symbol of authority for all the lords who held it. img_0530

a model of what Peveril would have looked like in around 1300.

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The landscape around the outcrop on which Peveril stands.

The path that you take up to the castle now leads you through the remains of what would have been the east gate. It was most likely built under Henry II in the late 1100s. It would originally have been a simply decorated arch.

img_0539This path is most likely the route through which Peveril would have been accessed for the majority of its existence. It is very steep but it would have just about been accessible to horses.  Upon entrance to the castle precinct it is the keep which immediately dominates the view.

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It stands at approximately 15m high. It would originally have had a parapet. It is less than 12m square and as such is much smaller than other similar keeps that Henry II had built all over the country. It is said to have cost around 184 pounds and to have been built of stone quarried locally. The spiral stair you can see in the photo above is roughly in the same spot that the original medieval stair, built of either stone or wood, would have stood. The keep would have housed a main public space on the first floor entry, and a basement storage area below. You can see the entrance door in the photo below, it is taken roughly where the floor of the main hall would have been. img_0566

You can see the line of the original pitched roof of the main hall still visible in the outline of the stone in the photo below.img_0558

You can see the basement in the photo below. The stair down still survives.

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The keep at Peveril was not the only hall. In the photos below you can see the view down from the keep to the area where the new hall and the west gate would have stood.img_0556img_0563

It is not known exactly when the new hall was built, but it was probably in the mid 13th century. It would have had a fire place and a kitchen and been where important people dined. Henry III stayed at Peveril in 1235 and if this hall was complete in time it would have been here that he held court. This area is also the site of the west gate. It would have led to a bridge over the gorge outside, but there are sadly no remains to be seen today. This would have been the other main access point to the castle, apart from the east gate.

Below you can see the area where the old hall and the chapel probably stood.

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There was also a small circular tower in this section which was built partly of roman stone, repurposed from a nearby Roman site. This was probably a 13th century addition and may not have had much functional defensive use.  The hall itself was most likely in this area in one form or another since the beginning of the castle, the remains today date to roughly the same time as the keep because it was built using the same stone. While it is not certain where the chapel was, we know there was one because of a document from 1264 which mentions it. There is a structure next to the hall that has Norman masonry and is facing roughly east west and has no other known purpose, so it has been interpreted as being the chapel.

This does not cover all of Peveril castle and it is a site well worth a visit. Although it is not one of the largest castles in the country it is certainly one of the more atmospheric and the position it commands is extremely dominating.

References: English Heritage Peveril Castle book and a site visit in 2012.

The photos are all mine.

The King’s Champion

This is a post of ongoing research. It began with a conversation between my brother and me. He mentioned a podcast he’d been listening to which had discussed the modern existence of the position of a ‘king’s champion’, a hereditary role that was apparently part of the coronation ceremony. The champion was intended to challenge in combat anyone who disputed the monarch’s right to the throne. The modern holder of the position was apparently an accountant by training. My brother quickly Googled it when I said I was interested and according to Wikipedia it is a role that goes back to the time of William the Conquerer. Now Wikipedia is a great quick reference source, but as everyone knows it should be taken with a grain of salt.

I’ve been reading about the medieval period for a long time and I’d never even heard of the position. Especially in the period I know the most about, the early Plantagenets. I’m always a little suspicious of anything that is blithely labeled as going back to the Conquerer. Also, the king’s champion is such a romantic sounding notion that to me it felt like something you’d find in later eras of romance and chivalry. So I decided to investigate.

It immediately became clear that the position certainly exists today and many secondary sources report that it goes back to the Conquerer. Not many, however, provide any proof of this except to say that the position was, and still is, attached to the Manor of Scrivelsby and was originally held by the Marmion family. So I decided that the Domesday Book was probably a good place to start.

For anyone who doesn’t know the Domesday Book dates to 1086 and was created at the orders of William I, otherwise known as William the Bastard or to a modern audience William the Conquerer. It was essentially a census of Britain, basically who held what land and what they held on it. A facsimile copy can be seen below.

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In the Domesday Book the owner of Scrivelsby manor is listed as Robert Despenser.  It has never been suggested that Despenser was the champion, so it appears the position was not tied to the manor from the beginning. However, I quickly discovered that the Marmions inherited the Manor from Despenser through marriage.

I haven’t, however, been able to find a source definitively confirming that the Marmions came over to England with William I. The closest I’ve found is the Encyclopedia Brittanica  from 1911, which mentions a charter from the reign on Henry I in which Robert Marmion is listed as king’s champion. I haven’t been unable to find the actual charter as the Encyclopedia doesn’t give any more information. [1]

The Marmions were definitely in England during the period of Anarchy, 1136-1154, though because Henry of Huntingdon lists a Robert Marmion as fighting with rebel, and many would say bandit, Geoffrey Mandeville. Robert Marmion is described as being one of the only people killed in a fight at a monastery. According to Huntingdon as he died excommunicated he is still “being devoured by eternal death”.[2]

The Marmions themselves are an interesting family. According to tradition they were the hereditary champions of the Dukes of Normandy. While I haven’t been able to find any primary sources confirming this I have found several secondary sources, including an 1800s work on the heritage of the Marmion family.[3] The Marmions certainly were close to the Dukes of Normandy as various Marmions were witnesses to a number of charters of the Dukes of Normandy and the Kings of England. For anyone unaware the Dukes of Normandy became the Kings of England when William I conquered England, though it was not a title held by all of his descendants. The Calendar of the Documents of France 918-1206 lists a Marmion, usually Robert which seems to be a family name, as a witness to charters of Henry II, Robert Duke of Normandy and Richard I. Marmions are also listed  in a writ of Geoffrey of Anjou, when he was Duke of Normandy, as holding property from the Bishop of Bayeux in c. 1150. [4]  Roger de Torigni who was Abbot of Mont St Michel also describes Fontanetum, which he says was the home of Robert Marmion, as one of the places in Normandy conquered by Geoffrey of Anjou.[5] Therefore the Marmions did hold land and have influence with the Dukes of Normandy, so the tradition that they were the hereditary champions of the Dukes is not impossible. Also if the name Marmion is familiar it is because one particular Marmion is the subject of a Walter Scott poem. It can be found at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/5077 and seems to be a largely romantic and fictionalised account of a Marmion at Flodden Field.

It is also not beyond the realm of possibility that the concept of a royal champion was in existence in this time period. The concept of a non royal champion certainly existed in this time period. Champions were, to an extent, part of the judicial system. They were usually used by those who could not fight for themselves; either due to age, gender, infirmity, religious position i.e a monk, or the fact that they were an entity i.e a town or monastery. Not many contracts for these sorts of champions survive, but they did exist. For more information on the role please see Trial By Battle in  France and England by Ariella Elemma. [6] The concept of a judicial champion is more documented in France, but it did happen in England. As Elemma says the earliest known record of a champion contract in England is the pipe roll from the ninth year of the reign of Henry II which lists a payment of what amounts to a year’s wage to a Thomas as ‘king’s champion’. [7] This may or may not have been a Marmion. As far as I can find the head of the Marmion family at the time was Robert Marmion. It is therefore possible that the ‘Thomas’ who is listed here is a champion for the king in another matter entirely apart from the role the Marmions played in the coronation and as official king’s champion.

The earliest definite listing of the role of the king’s champion in a coronation is Richard II’s coronation, but that isn’t to say that it didn’t happen earlier. For example Henry III’s second coronation. He had more than one coronation because he was only nine years old at his first and the country was in the midst of the Baron’s War of which the Magna Carta was part. During this coronation Phillp Marmion bore “sable, an arming sword, the point in chief, argent.” [8] This is possibly for his role as king’s champion.

The best described coronation from the time period is the first coronation of Richard I, also known as Richard the Lionheart. Chronicler Roger of Hoveden described it in detail. An excerpt can be seen below.

“First came the clergy in their robes, carrying holy water, and the cross, tapers, and censers. Next came the priors, then the abbots, and then the bishops, in the midst of whom walked four barons, bearing four candlesticks of gold ; after whom came Godfrey de Lucy, bearing the king’s cap [of maintenance], and John Marshal by him, carrying two great and massive spurs of gold. After these came William Marshal, earl of Striguil, bearing the royal sceptre of gold, on the top of which was a cross of gold, and by him William Fitz-Patrick, earl of Salisbury, bearing a rod of gold, having on its top a dove of gold. After them came David, earl of Huntingdon, brother of the king of Scotland, John, earl of Mortaigne, the duke’s brother, and Robert, earl of Leicester, carrying three golden swords from the king’s treasury, the scabbards of which were worked all over with gold ; the earl of Mortaigne walking in the middle.[9]

This is only a small segment of the detailed description. The office of champion is not mentioned which does argue for the fact that it might not have been as integral a part of the coronation as it became. That being said, Hoveden does say that there were other officials and the champion may simply have been counted as one of those.

The existence of a champion who played a key role in the coronation of the king can not be disputed by the time of the coronation of Richard II. Richard II was crowned in 1377. In this case it was John Dymoke who undertook the position because he had inherited it, along with Scrivelsby, through marriage. [10] By the reign of Charles II Edward Dymoke was champion and he was very much part of Charles’ coronation. His role is described below.

The champion, The lord high-constable on his right hand, both likewise on horseback. At the lower end of the hall, York-herald proclaimed the challenge, in these words following “ If any person, of what degree soever, high or low, shall deny, or gain-say our sovereign lord King Charles the Second, King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, son and next heir to our sovereign lord Charles the First, the last king deceased, to be right heir to the imperial crown of this realm of England, or that he ought not to enjoy the same; here is his champion, who saith, that he lieth, and is a false traitor, being ready in person to combat with him, and in this quarrel will adventure his life against him, on what day soever he shall be appointed.”

Thereupon the champion threw down his gauntlet, which lying some small time, and no body taking it up, it was delivered unto him again by York-herald. Then all advanced forward, until the champion came to the middle of the hall, where York-herald made the like proclamation, and the gauntlet was again thrown down, taken up, and returned to the champion; who advanced to the foot of the ascending steps to the state, and at the top of the said steps, the said herald proclaimed the said challenge the third time; whereupon the champion threw down his gauntlet again, which nobody taking up, it was delivered unto him. This being done, the earl of Pembroke and Montgomery (assisted as before) presented on the knee to the king a gold cup with a cover, full of wine, who drank to his champion, and by the said earl sent him the cup ; and he, after three reverences drank it all off, went a little backward, and so departed out of the hall, taking the said cup for his fee, according as had been adjudged him by the said Court of Claims. [11]

Edward Dymoke’s son Charles performed the office of champion for the coronation of James II and this time he came in clad in fully white armour on a white charger. [12] A nice little poem written before the coronation of George II sums up the romance of the role quite clearly:

“When first the new-crown’d King in splendor reigns,
A golden cup the loyal Champion gains.
With gesture fierce, his gauntlet stern he throws,
And dares to mortal fight, his absent foes.
Where no brave Quixote answ’ring to his call,
He rides triumphant thro’ the guarded hall.
Thrice happy conqu’ror, that the laurel wears
Unstain’d by warrior’s blood, or widow’s tears. .
Arm’d at all points should he a foe behold,
Say, would he keep the field, or quit the gold ?[13]

The role of champion in full splendour, including riding in on the horse and throwing down the gauntlet, continued until the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838. The ritual was suspended, but Henry Dymoke was made a baronet in compensation.[14] Another John Dymoke was hereditary champion for Elizabeth II’s coronation, and while he did not ride into the banquet on a white charger he did carry the Union Standard as part of the coronation ceremony. He died at the start of 2015 at the age of 88.[15] The current champion is Francis Marmion Dymoke, and he is a chartered accountant. What role, if any, he plays in the coronation of the next king remains to be seen.

What my research has shown me so far is that I was right to be suspicious of secondary sources blithely declaring that the title of king’s champion went back to the Conquerer. While it is possible that kings’ champions played roles in Norman and early Plantagenet coronations, and it certainly seems to be what tradition says, there is little primary proof. I will continue to have a dig around and I’ll update this post if I find anything new. If anyone reading this has a source of information I haven’t found, please feel free to let me know. I would like to say quickly that I have looked at the peerage book from the 1800s that Wikipedia references, it provides no sources for the sweeping statements it makes so I deliberately have not included it. 

Ellen

P.S I have done some more research and managed to track the champion definitively to the coronation of Richard II and to a court case which makes it clear that the Marmion family were at least thought to have been the champions then. I’ve written it up in a seperate post and it can be found here.

 

[1]  http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/CAU_CHA/CHAMPION_Fr_champion_Late_Lat_c.html

[2] Henry of Huntington. The History of the English People 1000-1154, translated by Diana Greenway. ISBN970199554805. P.83

[3]  History of the ancient noble family of Marmyun; their singular office of King’s champion, by the tenure of the baronial manor of Scrivelsby, in the county of Lincoln: also other dignitorial tenures, and the services of London, Oxford, etc. on the coronation day. The whole collected at a great expense from the public records … by T. C. Banks. esq.https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=njp.32101073399535;view=1up;seq=27 p. 6

[4] Calendar of Documents from France https://archive.org/details/cu31924028043663

[5] Roger de Torigni Chronicles of the reigns of Stephen, Henry II and Richard I. Volume 4 https://archive.org/stream/chroniclesofreig04howl#page/138/mode/2up/search/marmion p. 139

[6]https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/bitstream/1807/67806/3/elema_ariella_m_201211_PhD_thesis.pdf

[7] Elemma, p. 211

[8] An historical and critical enquiry into the nature of the kingly office and how far the art of coronation with the oath established by law, is a solemnity indispensable to the exercise of the regal dignity; shewing, the origin and antiquity of inunction, the ancient and modern forms of the coronation ceremony, and setting forth divers peculiar services claimed to be performed on that grand occasion; particularly the singular office of King’s champion… / by T. C. Banks. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.31158008333139;view=2up;seq=132;size=150 p. 110

[9] Roger of Hoveden Volume II. https://archive.org/details/annalsofrogerdeh02hoveuoft p. 117.

[10] Banks p. 117 https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=njp.32101073399535;view=1up;seq=27

[11] Banks 74-45 https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.31158008333139;view=1up;seq=97

[12] Banks p. 96 https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=njp.32101073399535;view=1up;seq=124

[13] Banks p. 112 https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.31158008333139;view=1up;seq=134

[14] John Plunkett Queen Victoria p. 23 https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=b8HVrM5LES0C&pg=PA23&dq=&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false

[15] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/11512352/Lieutenant-Colonel-John-Dymoke-Queens-Champion-obituary.html

 

 

 

Winchester Cathedral

IMG_4366IMG_4150Winchester Cathedral has a long history. A Saxon cathedral was begun on this site in c. 648, but was slowly replaced by the Norman Cathedral and finally demolished in 1093 when the old and new building converged. You can see the outline of the original Saxon cathedral laid out below.

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It is possible that there was the intention to later rebuild and extend the western structure in a more ‘modern style’ but the black death in 1348, which halved the population of Winchester and the population of monks, put a stop to any ambitious rebuilding plans. In the late 14th century the three west porches and the great west window were created to close off a cathedral that had been truncated by necessity. Henry IV and Joan of Navarre were married in the cathedral as were Mary Tudor and Phillip of Spain. Henry III may have been baptised there, he was born in the castle, and the ill fated Prince Arthur, the older brother of Henry VIII, certainly was.

Winchester Cathedral contains many fascinating and often surprising historical features and I thought it would be worth exploring a few.

Much of the cathedral was refurbished in the gothic style in the early 1400s though some romanesque elements remain. When you view the interior of the cathedral these remaining romanesque elements are in stark contrast to the gothic majority. The nave below is an excellent example of the gothic majority.IMG_4280IMG_4288The romanesque style of the earlier cathedral can still be seen, specifically in the north transept (see below). The roof, in the Tudor style, in the photos below was inserted in 1819. The figure of Christ you can see in the first photo is by contemporary sculptor Peter Eugene Ball and was gifted to the cathedral in 1990.

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There are other remnants of the earlier style of the cathedral. In fact Winchester has a surprising number of exceptional survivals.

The Holy Sepulchre Chapel retains some of the finest 12th century wall paintings in England. They survived by chance because the vaulting was changed in the 13th century and the paintings were covered by plaster and the design was replicated on the new layer. These new designs did not survive, as is the case with the majority of wall paintings. It wasn’t until the 19th century, when some plaster fell, that the original paintings underneath became visible. In the 20th century modern restoration techniques allowed these paintings to be finally uncovered.  The paintings depict the deposition and entombment of Christ.

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The Holy Sepulcher Chapel is not the only surviving medieval painting in the cathedral. Another is the ceiling of the Guardian Angels Chapel. It was painted between 1225 and 1220 and repainted between 1260 and 1280. IMG_4331Another beautiful surviving element found in Winchester is the font. It dates to c.1150-1160 and is thought to be a result of the patronage of Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester.  It’s made of Tournai marble, which is in fact a dark limestone, and is carved with scenes from the life of St Nicholas.IMG_4294IMG_4293

IMG_4287IMG_4292The scene you can see in the image above is thought to depict the story that St Nicholas slipped money into a house to stop a nobleman from being forced to put his daughters onto the street.

Henry of Blois, who probably commissioned the font, was also responsible for commissioning the Winchester Bible, a fantastically decorated illuminated manuscript dating to the early 12th century. It is four volumes and was worked on for twenty years by scribes and illustrators. Bishop Henry of Blois was the younger brother of King Stephen, and it is thought that he is buried in the cathedral.

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The above tomb was for many years thought to be that of William Rufus, but more modern scholarship has argued that it is in fact Henry of Blois. William Rufus’ remains are thought to lie in mortuary chests in the cathedral along with, probably, those of King Canute.

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Winchester Cathedral is also the resting place of the remains of other important figures. These include St Swithun and Jane Austen. St Swithun’s shrine was destroyed by Henry VIII’s men in 1538, but a modern memorial now stands in its place. It was installed in 1962 on the 1100th anniversary of the saint’s death.

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Jane Austen was brought to Winchester in May 1817 by her brother Henry and sister Cassandra in the hope of obtaining help for her fading health. Sadly they were not successful and Jane died in Winchester on July 18th 1817. Her brother Henry used his contacts to have her buried in the cathedral.

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Some of the surviving tombs in Winchester can be found on a remarkable expanse of tiled floor. Medieval tiles don’t often survive in large quantities and I have written about some surviving Welsh tiles here. The tiles in Winchester date to the 13th century and carry a number of designs from the heraldic to the purely decorative. They are the largest area of medieval tiles to survive in England.

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The medieval tiles border an exceptionally interesting area of Winchester; the crypt. Unlike most cathedral crypts Winchester’s has never really been used to house bodies or monuments. This is due to the fact that since the cathedral was built the crypt has flooded regularly. Today you can see the contemporary sculpture Sound II by Antony Gormley reflected in the flooded crypt. It is a surprisingly haunting place. It feels in an odd way as if the silence has seeped into the stone. IMG_4302

Winchester Cathedral’s survivals from the early medieval period are all the more remarkable because it has suffered attack on a number of occasions.

Henry VIII’s men for example destroyed all the sculptures depicting the cathedral’s benefactors, old testament saints and the crucified Christ which was originally populated the Great Screen. The Screen was constructed in the late 15th century. The sculpture you can see on it now dates to the 19th century.

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The Puritans also did extensive damage to the cathedral when they came through Winchester. They stole all the treasures and used the bones of kings and prelates to break the main windows. The west window was, unusually, not reconstructed with a new image or a replica of the destroyed image. In fact the remnants of the broken glass were used, creating a fascinating mosaic affect which survives today.

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These are by no means the only treasures of Winchester Cathedral. It is well worth a visit, if possible, to see these and the other treasures. The Winchester Bible is worth it alone, unfortunately photos aren’t possible. Even after having visited a significant number of cathedrals Winchester remains one of my favourites largely because it holds so many remarkable survivals of an earlier time.

Source: Winchester cathedral booklet. ISBN: 9781857593990

http://www.janeausten.org/jane-austen-biography-page-2.asp

For more information: http://www.winchester-cathedral.org.uk/

The photos are all mine.

An Easy to Evil Medieval British Quiz.

The way this quiz works.

It’s pretty simple. You see the question with a photo underneath and underneath the photo you’ll find the answer. There’s twenty five questions so keep track of how many you get right and how many you get wrong and see how you do at the end. There’s also a poll at the end so you can see how you compare to everyone else if you’re interested.

As the title suggests, it starts off easy and gets much more complicated. There are five sections: Easy, Medium, Hard, Difficult and Evil.

Enjoy.

Easy

1. What year was the Magna Carta sealed?

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Answer: 1215.

Photo: Part of Runnymede the water meadow where Magna Carta was signed.

2. What year was the Battle of Hastings?

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Answer: 1066

Photo: The Battle of Hasting in the Bayeux Tapestry.

3. Henry II fought with which Archbishop of Canterbury?

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Answer: Thomas Becket.

Photo: Henry II at Fontevraud Abbey.

4.  Eleanor of Aquitaine was the mother of which Kings of England?

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Answer: Richard I and John I. You get a bonus point if you said Henry the Young King as well.

Photo: Eleanor of Aquitaine Fontevraud Abbey.

5. William the Conquerer commissioned which survey in 1086?

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Answer: Domesday Book

Photo: A recreation of the Domesday Book from in the National Archives.

Medium

 6. Which crusade did Richard the Lionheart fight in?

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Answer: Third Crusade

Photo: Richard the Lionheart and Isabel of Angouleme. 

7. King John married his daughter Joan to which Welsh Prince?

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Answer: Llywelyn Fawr or Llywelyn ap Iorwerth. Either is correct

And I wouldn’t be deducting points if you spelt either wrong.

Photo: Llywelyn’s coffin.

8. William Marshal married which heiress, the daughter of Richard Strongbow?

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Answer: Isabel de Clare.

Photo: William Marshal’s effigy.

9. King John lost his baggage train in which inlet?

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Answer: The Wash

Photo: Part of The Wash as it looks now.

10. Empress Maud purportedly escaped through King Stephen’s army and the snow from which Castle?

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Answer: Oxford Castle.

Photo: 1800s drawing from Cardiff Castle of the escape.

Hard

11. William the Conquerer is buried in which town?

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Answer: Caen.

Photo: William the Conquerer’s tomb.

12. Which King was born in Winchester Castle?

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Answer: Henry III.

Photo: Great Hall of Winchester Castle.

13. How did the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle famously describe the Period of Anarchy 1136-1154?

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Answer: It was a time “that Christ and His saints slept.”

Michael Swanton, (ed) & trans, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, London: Phoenix Press, 2000, p. 265. You get the point if you got a variant of this, there’s different translations.

Photo: The current tomb of Empress Maud, one of the antagonists of the Period of Anarchy.

14. Name the children of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

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Answer: William, Henry, Matilda, Richard, Geoffrey, Eleanor, Joanna, John.

If you got all of them but not in order have a point, but you get a bonus point if you got them in order.

Photo: Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

15. What year did Henry the Young King die?

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Answer: 1183.

Photo: Henry’s non contemporary tomb at Rouen Cathedral.

Difficult

16. Name the three places which hold the only four existing copies of the original Magna Carta.
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Answer: Lincoln, Salisbury Cathedral and The British Library (the British Library has 2).

Photo: Part of Lincoln Castle.

17. Ida de Tosny, the wife of Roger Earl of Norfolk, had a son out of wedlock before she married the Earl who was he?

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Answer: William Longsword Earl of Salisbury and bastard son of Henry II.

Photo: His tomb.

18. Which castle did William Marshal, according to the Brut y Tywysogion, subdue with a “vast army” in 1204?

The Rev. John Williams, (ed), Brut y Tywysogion, London: Longman, Green, Longman & Roberts, 1860, p. 261

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Answer: Cilgerran Castle.

Photo: Recent wicker statue of Marshal at Cilgerran

19. How much was King Richard’s ransom?

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Answer: 100,000 silver marks and 200 hostages. You get the point if you got the monetary amount.

Photo: Riveaux Abbey, a Cistercian foundation. Cistercian foundations had to contribute part of their wool clips to the ransom.

20. Canterbury Cathedral was begun in which decade?

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Answer: 1070s

Photo: Canterbury Cathedral

Evil

21. Which illustrious figure ‘processed’ through the Temple Church in London for its consecration in 1185.

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Answer: Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem.

Photo: Temple Church in London.

22. According to the History of William Marshal what three things did King Stephen threaten to do to the young William Marshal while he was the King’s hostage?

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Answer: Hang him, catapult him at the walls of his father’s castle and crush him with a millstone.

A.J Holden & David Crouch (eds) S. Gregory, trans, History of William Marshal, Volume I, London: Anglo-Norman Text Society, 2002, p. 31.

You can have the point if you got these in any order but you have to have all three to get the point.

Photo: William Marshal

23. The Bayeux Tapestry is how many metres long?

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Answer: 70.34m, but you can have the point if you said 70.

Photo: My favourite scene in the Bayeux Tapestry with the Hand of God coming out of the sky.

24. Which papal legate played a significant role in the Magna Carta negotiations and in the Regency of Henry III?

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Answer: Guala Bicchieri. You can have the point if you only got Guala, or said Gualo. It is a variation of the spelling and often only Guala or Gualo is written.

Photo: Facsimile of Salisbury’s Magna Carta in the Temple Church.

25. Who did Geoffrey of Monmouth describe as “an accomplished scholar and philosopher, as well as a brave soldier and expert commander”?

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Answer: Robert Earl of Gloucester and oldest illegitimate son of Henry I. The passage is from Geoffrey’s dedication of his work History of the Kings of Britain.

http://www.yorku.ca/inpar/geoffrey_thompson.pdf pg 2.

Photo: Monmouth Castle. Geoffrey was born somewhere in the region of Monmouth

The End

So that’s it. How did you do?

1-5: Well you’ve got some basics down pat. Good start.

6-10: You know more than basics, well on your way.

11-15: Good work, beginning to build a wealth of obscure facts.

16-20: Impressive. You know you stuff.

21-25: Incredible effort. You may know more about this period than is sensible 🙂

26-27  remember the two bonus points: Speechless. Incredible. You definitely know more than you need to about this specific period and area.

27: If you got them all… Sure you didn’t write the quiz?

Now if you feel like it put your results in the poll below.

The photos are all mine.