Friday, 2 November 2018

Piers Gaveston 's First Exile

Piers Gaveston's first exile came during the reign of Edward Ist.   Initially the King was delighted with Piers being in his son's service, thinking perhaps that the chivalrous and graceful young man would be an excellent role model for his son - a chronicle of the time says Piers was chosen was his 'fine manners...he was courteous'.   Piers entered the household of Prince Edward late 1300.   Piers began to rise in Prince Edward's household, seemingly with the blessing of the King, who had ultimate control.    Fast forward to 1307, and we have a very different scenario.   It was then that the King demanded Piers be exiled, and Piers and the Prince were made to swear an oath to uphold this command.

Piers had been removed from the Prince's household in 1305, along with Gilbert de Clare, but this was carried out to punish the Prince, rather than anything Piers or Gilbert had done, for both were allowed to return.   If Piers had angered King Edward, he surely would not have allowed him to return.   Yet return he did, and continued his rise.    The only chronicle to go into detail about Piers' first exile is by Walter of Gainsborough.    He tells the highly dramatic story of Prince Edward asking his father to give Piers the county of Ponthieu.    Suspecting his father might not find the idea palatable, he asked treasurer Walter Langton to ask for him!    It seems Prince Edward had done all he could for Piers, and now wanted his father to give him his own land.    Not surprisingly, King Edward was furious, and demanded the prince appear before him and explain himself.  The prince didn't stand a chance, and we have the image of the King grabbing his son by the hair and calling him 'a whoreson should never enjoy your inheritance ' if he wanted to give away lands he'd never earned.  It's a scene played out in many fictional accounts.   If true, it shows the terrible rage of Edward 1st - calling his son 'a whoreson' suggests he lost all control of himself - and the prince's infatuation with Piers.    There's no indication Piers asked the Prince for Ponthieu.   He may have had no idea of Prince Edward's plan - for surely he would have known of the King's reaction?   Certainly Piers bore the brunt of the incident and was exiled.  However, he was exiled on seemingly good terms.

To begin with, Piers was not instantly banished, but was given 2 months to prepare himself.  This gave him time to prepare his household to take them with him and put his affairs in order.   Neither was Piers banished indefinitely.  Piers 'shall remain there without returning until he shall be recalled by the King and his permission '.   So the banishment was not permanent.    Piers was even to receive 100 marks per annum as long as he remained overseas.   Considering Edward 1st had violently assaulted his son and cursed him, Piers came off well in the incident.   There's no evidence that the King took out his violent temper on Piers.   Both Piers and Prince Edward were made to swear a sacred oath they would obey the King's orders.   Was Edward 1st actually far more concerned with his son's infatuation with Piers, and seeking to put an end to it?   And by making Piers exile quite comfortable, was his rage directed at Prince Edward, and that in fact, he did not hold Piers responsible?   Did the King hope the infatuation would burn itself out, and in a few years Piers could return and the past forgotten?

We will never know if the violent scene between father and son is true but there must have been an incident - or a series of incidents - that caused the King to fear the direction the Prince and Piers' relationship was heading, whether it was sexual, or whether Piers would become too influential on his son and become the dreaded 'over-mighty' subject.    However, it seems like the King blamed his son, not Piers.

Source:  'Piers Gaveston: politics and patronage in the reign of Edward II' by J.S. Hamilton

Monday, 8 October 2018

A visit to Hereford

This summer I visited Hereford for the first time in many, many years.  Hereford is famous for it's cathedral, first started in the 8th century (made of wood, and which the Welsh burned to the ground).  The oldest part of the cathedral dates from the 11th Century.  It is most famous for the Mappa Mundi, a medieval map of the world that dates from 1300.   There is a charge to see the Mappa Mundi, but it is well worth seeing, as is the 'chained library', containing many books hundreds of years old.

Hereford Cathedral

The chained library at Hereford Cathedral.  Books are hundreds of years old.

This plaque in the centre of Hereford commemorates the execution of Owen Tudor.
Owen Tudor was the father of Edmund and Jasper Tudor, grandfather of  the future Henry VII.  He was married to the widow of Henry V, Catherine of Valois.  It was a love match, with the couple marrying secretly in 1429.  He was a former squire in her household.  There are 2 legends associated with the courting couple - one has it that Owen was drunk and whilst dancing, fell into Catherine's lap, whilst another legend says that Catherine saw him bathing in a nearby river - and liked what she saw!  It was a shocking and controversial marriage - Catherine was still very young and the mother of the infant Henry VI.   Fortunately, the couple managed to ride out the storm, and Henry VI was close to his 2 step-brothers, making Edmund Earl of Richmond and Jasper Earl of Pembroke.   Edmund went on to marry the richest heiress in the kingdom - Margaret Beaufort.  Margaret was very young, but despite this found herself pregnant - and widowed - at the age of 13.  That is another story.  As for Owen, he supported his stepson Henry VI, fighting for the Lancastrian cause.  He was captured at the Battle of Mortimer's Cross.  Possibly expecting to be ransomed, he became a victim of the vengeance of the Yorkists, who executed him in the town centre.  The Duke of York, father of the future Edward IV, had recently been killed and his head stuck on the Micklegate Bar in York.  Becoming aware that he was to be executed, Owen is quoted as saying "that hede shalle ly on the stocke that wass wonte to ly on Quene Katheryns lappe".  Owen's head was placed on the market cross, where it was washed and cleaned by an unknown woman who lit candles around it.  His body was buried in Greyfriars Church in Hereford.  

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Another visit to Ludlow Castle

I first went to Ludlow Castle in my teens, and after absence of almost 25 years, I find myself going 3 times in the last 2 years.  During my last visit, I explored and blogged about the apartments of Prince Arthur and Katherine of Aragon, and was intrigued by this -

A platform had just been opened and led to the private apartments of the Prince.
This door prevented climbing the staircase to Prince Arthur's bedchamber.
I'm delighted to stay that this door is now open and the narrow, steep stairway leads to Prince Arthur's private bedchamber/apartments.  It certainly pays to keep going back to these places!  Well done to all at Ludlow Castle for their continued renovations.  Here's my pictures of the private apartments.

Some parts are still a no go area.

And once again, I ask myself 'if only walls could talk........'

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Anniversary of the battle of Bosworth, August 22nd 1485

During my visit to the Cotswolds, I had the opportunity to visit the Bosworth Battlefield Exhibition Centre.  I would recommend a visit to the Battlefield Centre, even if it can be a bit tricky to find.  It's a fascinating exhibition, giving equal status to Richard III and Henry VII.  Both their stories are told really well, without bias.  There's also an explanation about the difficulty in identifying where exactly the battle was fought, as well as an explanation of what happened.   There's also a superb memorial to all those involved on that day.

Dramatic reconstruction of the crown allegedly found in a bush after the battle.

Calculating where the battle took place.

Examples and explanation of weapons used in the battle.

How the battle panned out.

Memorial to all those involved in the battle.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Tall Tales from Warwick Castle

I've just returned from a long holiday in the Cotswolds, visiting plenty of history places.   Finding myself in Warwick once again, I couldn't resist visiting the castle yet again.  It's one of the finest castles in Britain.  Plus of course, it's where Piers Gaveston was kept prisoner by Guy of Warwick and given a joke of a trial before being taken for 'execution' to Blacklow Hill.  I've visited Warwick a number of times, but there's never really been any mention of Piers, despite the great hall in which he was tried still standing, and the dungeon in which he may have been kept.  This year, the castle has introduced mini history talks, and I attended the tour/talk on 'prisoners and executions' in the hope Piers may get a mention.   And he did - but I wish he hadn't!

The talk started in the Great Hall, and the guide had quite a crowd.  What followed was basically history at it's worst!  We were introduced to Piers as 'Edward II's boyfriend' and how their bad behaviour upset the nobles and Edward's wife Isabella.  Piers was captured by Guy and taken to Warwick, where in the very hall in which we stood, he was forbidden to speak while all the nobles discussed the horrible ways in which they wanted to kill Piers for 3 days, and he had to sit and listen to all this.  Finally, after 3 days, he was stripped naked and marched in a great procession to the nearest hill by Guy and his followers to be executed.  Guy wanted him to really suffer so told the headsman to find the bluntest sword, and whilst Piers was held by 2 soldiers, another took 6 attempts to cut off his head to the cheers of Guy and his followers.  Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, the guide continues that Edward soon found other 'boyfriends' and Isabella decided she'd had enough and would make her son king instead.  So, one day, when Edward was bending over the fire, poking it with a poker, she had the great idea to........well, you can guess the rest!   The guide assured everyone it was true, and I could hear people saying 'oh my God, that really happened'  and plenty of sniggering etc.  I could take no more, left the tour, and walked over to 2 other guides, standing in the corner.  I asked them who had written this 'stuff', and they told me it wasn't the guide himself, but a local historian.  Really?!   I told them it as one of the worst history talks I'd ever heard, littered with inaccuracies passed off as facts, and that the story of Edward II and Piers was fascinating enough without 'embroidering' the story.  They thanked me for my feedback and said they'd report it back to the powers that be.  Somehow, I doubt that very much.

I know castles need to attract a variety of audiences, and Warwick usually does it's best.  The Kingmaker exhibition is excellent, and for younger visitors there is knight school, and everyone seems to enjoy the jousting and birds of prey activities.  The history tales seem like a great idea, and the basic facts about Piers being imprisoned there, given no trial and then executed on Blacklow Hill are correct - but why tell blatant falsehoods about the execution itself, and then add all the nonsense about Edward II and the red hot poker!  Guy of Warwick came across as very heroic, when in fact he hid in his castle and let Thomas of Lancaster take responsibility for what happened to Piers - he wouldn't even allow the 'execution' to take place on his land! Take a tip from the Yeoman Warders at the Tower - they tell a really good story, and yes, at times exaggerate, but the basic facts of their stories are correct.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Anne Boleyn - Live at the Tower - until 30th of August

I am a regular visitor to the Tower of London - have been for years.  I never tire of the place.  Also, the Tower regularly changes exhibits and hosts events, which keeps me coming back.  Showing from every Friday to Tuesday, twice a day, is a short drama about the last days of Anne Boleyn, until August 30th. It's included in the ticket entrance price and takes place at the side of the White Tower - which eerily in Anne's time would have been the site of the Queens lodgings and the Great Hall, where Anne's trial took place.  It features a group of talented actors and musicians, 4 of whom play atmospheric music and double up as the co-accused with Anne.  There is also a fabulous female classical singer, which adds to the drama and almost eerie atmosphere.  As it is held outdoors, showings are at the mercy of the weather, so check out the Tower's website daily.

Tower website

The White Tower where the play takes place,

The very talented musicians taking part.

'Anne Boleyn' laments her fate.

Anne and the very talented classical singer.

Anne prepares for her execution.

This is a fantastic production, with actual quotes/speeches made by Anne when she was imprisoned in the Tower, including the speech made at her execution.  It's all the more dramatic when you think the actual events took place either on or near the site of the play.  Not to be missed!

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

June 19th - death of Piers Gaveston

'But I am certain the king grieved for Piers.......for the greater the love, the greater the sorrow.  In the lament of David upon Jonathan, love is depicted which is said to have surpassed the love of women'.

The above quote is from the chronicle, Vita Edwardi Secundi.   Whatever the relationship between Edward II and Piers Gaveston, there was genuine love between them.  Jealousy from the nobles led to hatred, and having been snatched from Deddington  Priory by the Earl of Warwick, Piers was given a farce of a trial.   Warwick refused to try him as an Earl in an act of spite and malice.  He was joined at Warwick Castle by Thomas of Lancaster, and the Earls of Arundel and Hereford.  In the great hall at Warwick, which still stands, Piers was 'tried' and given no right to speak in his own defence.   He must have known the verdict before the trial even started.  But did he hope the sentence of death would be revoked?  Cowering in his castle, Warwick handed Piers over to Lancaster to march him 2 miles from the castle to Blacklow Hill, land belonging to Lancaster, and there Piers was handed over to two Welshmen.  One ran him through with a sword, whilst the other then cut off his head to show Lancaster the bloody deed had been done.  Hardly an execution, more of a murder.  Not one of the Earls would take responsibility for the body of Piers, Warwick even refusing to admit it when it was returned by local shoemakers.  He stayed hidden in his castle, awaiting the terrible wrath of the King Edward, which would surely follow.

The wood surrounding Blacklow Hill.
The monument marking the site of the 'execution' of Piers Gaveston.