Wednesday 1 November 2023

The Marriage Contract of Edward II and Isabella of France

 The story of Edward II's marriage contract to Isabella of France is a fascinating one.  It's been held in the archives in Swansea Council/University of Swansea.   It's never been on show at any of the museums in Swansea.   The story of the document is quite fantastical, I think.  It was given to a Doctor in the 19th Century by a farmer in lieu of money for treatment.  The mystery is, how did the farmer get it?  The story says he has had it in his family for many years, but unable to explain how it came into his family.  At long last, Swansea Council has put up an article on the document - click on the links below to read all about it.

The Marriage contract         

It's place in the archives    

The document and translation

You can also download the document and translation.    Although the article says Edward sent his goods and documentation to Swansea Castle, it's my understanding they were kept at Neath Abbey, a couple of miles from Swansea Castle.  Over the years, many coins from Edward's time have been discovered hidden away.  It's also been established that many of his goods were stolen when he fled Neath Abbey.

A photo from  the Victorian era which shows the document with seals attached.

Wednesday 4 October 2023

The Fate of Edward II by Kathryn Warner

 This Saturday, October 7th, the author Kathryn Warner will be in Ludlow, at the assembly rooms, to discuss what may have been the fate of Edward II.   Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend this event, but I believe it will be available on Zoom or possible appear online at some point.  Kathryn will be the guest speaker of The Mortimer Society.   One thing for sure, there will be no mention of red hot pokers, thankfully!  For more information, click on this Link

Friday 1 September 2023

Palace Lives by Michael Long


This month sees the publication of a fabulous and informative book about the palace of Kings Langley.  It's called 'Palace Lives' and is written by Michael Long.  I was very fortunate to be a sent a copy of the book by the author.   It’s an excellent read, revealing how the Palace came to be built and its use as a royal nursery.  The property and land came into the hands of Edward 1st’s wife and Queen, Eleanor of Castile, and her influence growing up in Castile was found at the Palace at Langley.  It was due to Eleanor that the Dominican friars were able to establish themselves - she favoured them and employed them as tutors to her children.  Langley was chosen as the royal nursery because of its proximity to London.  It was a day’s ride from the Palace of Westminster.   

Eleanor had 14 children, and her first born son was called Alfonso, and if he had lived, we would have had King Alfonso 1st.   He didn’t, and it was Eleanor and Edward 1st’s fourth son, called Edward of Caernarfon, with him Langley is most associated.  Long gives a sympathetic account of Edward, who was gifted the Palace after the death of his mother.  We learn the surroundings at Langley meant that Edward was able to indulge his rustic pursuits such as digging ditches and thatching, alongside those whose profession it was.  It was also at Langley that Edward was able to be free to enjoy the company of his favourite, Piers Gaveston.  It was at Langley that we have the first recorded mention of them being together, when accounts show that Edward granted Piers oats and cheese.  Even after Edward became King Edward II, he continued to spend time at King’s Langley and with Piers Gaveston.  They even spent Christmas there.

Long gives detailed descriptions of how the palace was constructed- the King and Queen’s royal apartments, the solar, the chamber for Alfonso, a huge moat, and main hall.  There was also a vineyard and hunting park.  We also find out about those who constructed the Palace, and those who worked there.  What their duties were and how their lives were lived.  It makes fascinating reading.

So important was King’s Langley that Edward II chose it as the final resting place for Piers Gaveston and built him a fine tomb there.  Edward arranged for masses to be said for his soul regularly, and continued to visit.  It was also chosen as the resting place of another king, Richard II, and Long gives an incisive account of his reign.  The Palace then passed into the hands of Edmund of Langley, born there  to Edward III and his Queen Philippa of Hainault.  Edmund of Langley would go on to be the first Duke of York.

It’s such a shame that King’s Langley was allowed to deteriorate and disappear bit by bit.  What Michael Long has done is to bring it back to life, with a well researched book on a once splendid palace , with the royal family and the people who lived there.  I am also pleased to say, his research into the Palace and priory goes on,  and who knows what he may uncover?

Wednesday 23 August 2023

Battle of Bosworth August 22nd 1485

 August 22nd is the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.   It’s often called the last battle of the so called Wars of the Roses, although it was the battle of Stoke in 1487 that truly ended it.  I have been very lucky to visit the battlefield centre twice.  It is well worth a visit, offering a fascinating insight of what happened that day.   It even addresses the problem of actually pin pointing where the battle took place.  It’s amazing to think that the actual site of a battle of such importance, which saw the death of a king and the start of the Tudor dynasty,  is unknown.  Research is still taking place to identify the precise area of the battle.   If you visit the battlefield centre, you’ll understand why.  It’s very difficult to visit unless you have a car and the area is vast.  To find out more about the site of the battle, visit the centre’s website here

One of the most important finds at Bosworth, a silver boar, badge of Richard III.

Wednesday 12 July 2023

Kings, car parks.........and Piers?

 The story of the search and discovery for the remains of Richard III in a Leicester car park is the stuff of dreams.  It's already creating it's own legend, that Richard was found in a carpark under the letter R - which is not true (the R bit).  Much of the painstaking research was carried out by the late historian, and Ricardian fanatic, John Ashdown Hill, although much of the praise is given to Philippa Langley.  I had been brought up to believe that Richard's remains were dug up, and thrown into a nearby river, and his stone coffin used as a water rough for horses in the 1700s.  Ashdown Hill, though, was convinced otherwise and his research showed he was right.  In a simple sentence, there was confusion over 'Grey friars' and 'Black friars' and the reading of a Leicester map.  It has of course led others to wonder about the remains of other lost royal tombs.  Although in my case, I was intrigued by the lost tomb of Piers Gaveston.

I have always wondered about Piers Gaveston' s lost tomb since my University days in Reading.  I knew that the old palace of King's Langley was near Reading, and that there had been a Dominican priory nearby.  Edward II had strong memories and an attachment to King's Langley.  It's where his parents established the royal nursery, and where Edward probably met Piers for the first time, when he was sent to serve as a squire to Edward, chosen for his chivalrous nature and graceful manners.  When Piers died, Edward built him a fine tomb at the established Dominican priory.  At University, I discovered that neither the palace or friary existed.  All that was left was the name of the village, King's Langley, and some ruins.  Subsequently, a school was built on the site.  I've always had a feeling that the tomb of Piers, or rather the remains, lay undiscovered somewhere around that school.  And if I ever won the lottery, I would definitely set out to try and find it.  Below is a sketch of the priory ruin in the 1840's and a photograph from today - both from Wikipedia.

The remains for Edward II's Queen, Isabella, are also lost, as are those of King Stephen.  At Reading, there was always talk of the remains of Henry Ist lay undiscovered.  Henry had built a magnificent abbey at Reading, and it was hugely important at it's time.  Of course Henry VIII put paid to it's survival during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.  It's somehow satisfying to learn that none of Henry's children carried out his plans for an elaborate tomb for him at Windsor Castle, and he lies underneath a marble slab in a vault in St George's Chapel. 

Henry Ist was buried near the front of the high altar at Reading, with his Queen, Adeliza.  During the summer months, a team calling themselves the Hidden Abbey Project, will attempt to map out the Abbey and locate the high altar and hopefully Henry's remains.  Built on most of the site is yet another school, and Reading Gaol and it's car park.  Will lightening strike twice?  and if so, will there be other projects launched to find other lost royal or important tombs?  I certainly hope so!  

Monday 19 June 2023

June 19th 1312 - the end for Piers Gaveston

 June 19th marks the anniversary of the death of Piers Gaveston.  Was it an execution or murder?  In my opinion it was a murder dressed up as execution.   Having surrendered at Scarborough Castle in May, Piers was put into the custody of the Earl of Pembroke, who swore on his honour to protect Piers.  But for Guy, Earl of Warwick, and Edward II's cousin Thomas of Lancaster, only the death of Piers would suffice.  We don't know whose idea it was - whether Warwick acted alone and then alerted Lancaster, or whether they plotted it together, but Piers was snatched from Pembroke's custody and taken to Warwick Castle.  Warwick did everything he could to humiliate Piers on the way, making him walk with his hands tied, and then put him on a mule the rest of the way.  He was stripped of his Earl's belt, and jeered by the crowds.  Once at Warwick he was thrown into a dungeon.  He was given a hasty trial - if you could call it that - and Piers was forbidden to speak.  There could only be one verdict, as Lancaster swore there could be no peace in England while Piers lived.  Warwick must have relished telling Piers the outcome.  According to one chronicle,  he sent a sharp-tongued message to Piers, telling him to look to his soul, because this was the last day he would see on earth.   (Piers replied)  'Oh! Where are the presents that brought me so many intimate friends, and with which I had thought to have sufficient power?  Where are my friends, in whom was my trust, the protection of my body, and the whole hope of my safety.......They has promised to stand by me in war, to suffer imprisonment, and not to shun death.  Indeed my pride, the arrogance that one single promise of theirs is nourished, the king's favour and the king's court, have brought me to this sorry plight.  I have no help, every remedy is vain, let the will of the earls be done'.

Hmmm, can't quite imagine Piers saying that.   He knew his downfall was due to the jealousy of the likes of Warwick and Lancaster, and they were hastening his death before Edward II could try and either rescue Piers or make a yet another deal to keep Piers safe.  Edward himself lamented that he had warned Piers not to fall into Warwick's hands, but he could hardly have avoided it.

Monument to Piers Gaveston at Blacklow Hill, Leek Wootton

Thursday 1 June 2023

Anne Boleyn’s Coronation

 June 1st 1533 Anne Boleyn is crowned Queen of England.  At last my Anne Boleyn rose has come into bloom.  Very late this year.