Sunday, 23 May 2010

Henry's Brothers

Henry III's mother, Isabella of Angouleme, was betrothed when still a child to Hugh of Lusignan. Soon after John became King of England, he annulled his marriage and effectively kidnapped the 12 year old Isabella who was already considered a beauty. John married her and they had five children. The oldest was Henry and the second child was named Richard. A daughter, Joan, was betrothed to her mother's erstwhile suitor and she was sent to live at his court.
 However, when John died, Isabella returned to her lands in Angouleme and soon after married Hugh - her daughter instead being promised to Alexander of Scotland. Isabella proceeded to have another nine chidren. All fourteen of her offspring survived to adulthood - her daughters married a variety of notables including the Emperor Frederick II, Alexander II of Scotland, Raymond of Toulouse and Simon de Montfort.

Her second son, Richard, was from the age of 16 Count of Poitou and Earl of Cornwall. His Cornish lands provided a considerable amount of wealth and he became one of the richest men in Europe. He would later build his property portfolio through some shady purchases of debts. He also made a rich marriage and was paid off by the King on several occasions after rebelling.

One way in which he spent his money was on the reconstruction and expansion of the fortifications at Tintagel. This was an era which was fascinated in the stories around King Arthur and it seems that the castle was built because of the legend rather than for any strategic purpose. It is an interesting place to visit - unless you dislike heights! 

Richard went on Crusade from 1240-3 although he fought in no battles. On the way home, he met his soon to be second wife, Sanchia. She was one of four sisters - the others married Henry of England, Louis IX of France and Charles of Anjou. Soon after, the Pope offered to sell Richard the throne of Sicily. Matthew Paris says that he replied by saying "You might as well say 'I make you a present of the moon - step up to the sky and take it down'." His brother Henry had less sense, purchasing the right for his son which accomplished nothing except to strain the royal finances.

However, Richard was more tempted by the title of Emperor and bribed various Electors to acquire the crown. However, his title was challenged by Alfonso of Castile and neither could enforce their will on the Empire. Contemporary historians refer to Richard as King of the Germans and his son was known as Henry of Almain.

Richard had opposed Simon de Montfort at various points and joined the King when war broke out. He commanded a battle at Lewes but when things went badly he tried to take refuge in a windmill, coming out when the rebels threatened to set it aflame, calling "Come out you bad miller!" He remained in captivity until after Evesham.  See for a roughly contemporary windmill.

Richard's son, Henry of Almain, was later murdered by two of the de Montforts while journeying through Italy. This earned them a place in Dante's Inferno - I'll add more when I get around to posting pictures of the de Montforts.

A possible link between Richard of Cornwall's arms and those of Richard I is covered here - go to the section on 'tricky arms'. This may also explain the lion of the de Joinville/de Geneville arms (I've painted a couple of figures in variations of these arms).

Henry's ties with his Lusignan brothers were one of the causes of the Barons' War. The English nobility resented the foreigners gaining land and influence - though French was still their main language and many held French lands. The ultimate leader of the barons, Simon de Montfort, was of course of French birth himself.
Henry does seem to have favoured his half-brothers excessively - he made Aymer de Valence Bishop of Winchester despite him being decidely unqualified for the job.
Another brother was William de Valence who acquired the title of Earl of Pemboke in right of his wife. He fought at Lewes and fled into exile. He returned the following year, landing with various other Royalists and a sizeable force in William's Welsh territory. They seem to have been in communication with Gilbert de Clare and soon met up with him. He fought at Kenilworth and at Evesham. One of his postwar gains was the manor of Inkberrow which is just under ten miles from where I live.

The picture of my figures at the top of the page shows the arms of Richard and of William. The other armigerous figure bears the arms of Oddingseles. They held land at Solihull and the arms are still part of the badge of Solihull School.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The Beauchamps

Well over a decade ago I took part in my one and only archaeological dig at my local abbey's ruin. After a few days washing industrial slag, they asked if I would mind helping to clean some skeletons as this was the last dig for a few years and they wanted to get quite a few up.
 I then spent a couple of weeks cleaning bones, including a number of skulls. From the context, they were believed to be 13th century - as it happens the same period that I now cover in this blog. The preservation varied according to the soil - the boundary between two types passes through the site so in some cases half of the bones were very well preserved while the other half instantly crumbled.
 I think I dealt with about half a dozen skulls and some were so well preserved that even the ear bones survived, washing out as I swilled the skulls round like some kind of macabre Tom-Cruise-in-Cocktail. One particular skeleton stays in my memory. It was a man and going by his long bones he was probably around 6 feet tall. He had marks on his bones showing that he'd had a lot of muscles - the on-site experts said that they showed he had probably been a rider and likely a knight which would explain his presence in a high status part of the abbey. A number of bones had broken at some stage in his life, including a leg, some ribs and one arm I think. They had all healed very well.
 The most impressive injuries were to his head. There were two cuts in the skull, probably from a blade. One went from front to back along the top left of his skull and the other went from side to side across the upper back of his head. Although some healing had begun, the experts thought they were serious enough to have led to his death. A possible victim of Kenilworth or Evesham perhaps - the abbey lies within easy reach of both. Of course, it may have been some kind of accident or a local brawl, but I can daydream!

 What does this have to do with the Beauchamps? When I was helping there, a couple of people mentioned that the Black Dog of Arden was buried there. I knew nothing of the period then and only recently found out that he was one of the Beauchamp Earls of Warwick, dubbed with that name as an insult by a favourite of Edward II. His grave had been discovered years ago, but it was nice to know that one of the great magnates had apparently chosen to be buried in my hometown.

 The Beauchamps made their mark under Edward I, acquiring the Warwick title by marriage. Various branches gained land in the area, including at Alcester. It seems that the Beauchamp arms were originally a simmple gules, a fesse or but cross crosslets or martlets were adopted as differences - the crosses being taken from the traditional arms of the Earls of Warwick.

In the photo, Beauchamps are second, fifth and seventh from the left. I haven't worried too much about whether the arms are suitable for the Barons' War. Others in the line up include Hastings and Mortimer. Mortimer was an especially major player in the war.
One of the branches of the d'Abitot family is to the extreme left. I haven't found out much about them except that they had various branches holding lands in my area of the country and that they had some nice looking coats of arms!

Incidentally, my output of Medieval figures is on hold for a while as I'm working through a backlog of Classical period stuff (Simon de Montfort sits on my painting table half-finished!). I may set up a different blog to cover some of this stuff but continue to update Dante's Wars in my current lacksdaisical manner.