Sunday, 21 May 2017

Remembering May 19th

May 19th is of course the day Piers Gaveston surrendered to Amyer de Valance at Scarborough Castle on very favourable terms.  From a Tudor point of view, it's also the anniversary of the execution of Anne Boleyn - my heroine from very early childhood.  A remarkable woman, who had flaws and many virtues.   I've been to the Tower of London on May 19th previously, to see the famed basket of roses that have appeared for many, many years and the other bunches of flowers that have begun to appear over the years.   This year there were many more bunches of flowers than I've ever seen.  Here's a selection of photos from May 19th.   

And in my own garden, my Anne Boleyn rose bush was in bloom!


Sunday, 14 May 2017

The Royals magazine

The new issue of The History of the Royals has a fabulous article about Edward II by Kathryn Warner.    It's a 2 page article and focuses on the possible survival of Edward II.   It's a forerunner to Kathryn's book 'Long Live the King', out on June 1st.   Can't wait!

Monday, 1 May 2017

Gaveston Cross Update

 

As promised, here is an update on the Gaveston Cross.  And it's not good news, I'm afraid.   I contacted the Leek Wootton and Guy's Cliff History Society, who were very helpful.  Bertie Bertie Greetheed was responsible for the monument, completing it in 1821.  The Greatheed family had purchased the land in 1720 from Dame Charlotte Beaufoy.  Samuel Greatheed was a Whig politician and married Lady Mary Bertie, daughter of the Duke of Ancaster.  Bertie Bertie Greatheed was their son.   It was his ambition to build the Gaveston Cross, inspired it seems by a previous commemoration carved into a rock.  The original inscription was:

1311
P GAVESTON
EARL OF CORNWALL
beheaded here.


There is evidence of this inscription being here from at least 1656.    It could well have been there many, many years before.  So does this mean that the spot where Piers was killed was well known?  Bertie Bertie Greatheed was obviously keen to commemorate the historical event that happened on his family's land, rather than having a personal interest in Piers Gaveston.  Blacklow Hill was known to be the site of ancient settlements, with coins dating from Roman Britain found there.  From the picture above, you can clearly see how the surrounding trees and wood that have now grown around it.    The Gaveston Cross remains the property of Greethead's descendants and is on private property.   It is a Grade II listed  monument, but it is up to the landowner, not the local council, to maintain it.  So it seems it has been left to decay.   Such a shame!



Friday, 14 April 2017

Cardiff Castle


Cardiff Castle consists of 2 main buildings - an old, Norman Keep and a Victorian Gothic mansion, very much influenced by the history of the Norman keep.  The original castle was a wooden motte and bailey castle, built by Robert Fitzhamon at the command of William the Conqueror.  The castle's most famous prisoner was Robert of Normandy, the eldest son of William the Conqueror, who was held in custody by his nephew Robert the Consul.  Robert the Consul built the current stone keep in 1135.  Inside the Victorian building is a superb fire place telling the story of the 2 Roberts.



Robert the Consul is shown on his horse, whilst Robert of Normandy, or 'Robert Curthose' as he is known, is shown in his prison cell.  As the eldest, it might have been expected that Robert Curthose would inherit the crown of England from his father.  However, typical of the times, Robert had fallen foul of his father after a quarrel with his 2 younger brothers, William Rufus and Henry.  He openly rebelled against his father, meeting him on the battlefield and even unseating him.  There were attempts to reconcile, and when William I died, Robert was made Duke of Normandy, William Rufus the crown of England, and the youngest, Henry, was given money to buy lands.  Both Robert and William eyed each other with suspicion, and made a pact to name each other as the other's heir.  Robert was considered the more pliable of the brothers, and allowed himself to be drawn into plots and proved himself untrustworthy to all. Robert went to fight in the first crusade, and it was then that his brother William Rufus died - and younger brother Henry was there to seize the throne.  Worse was to follow when Henry captured Robert after a decisive battle and seized Normandy from him.  Robert was imprisoned in Cardiff castle for over 20 years, and died in 1134, when he was in his 80's.   he was buried in the church of St. Peter in Gloucester - later re-named Gloucester Cathedral.  His tomb is very striking, with the effigy dated to be put in place about 100 years after his death.

 Of course he lies in the same cathedral as Edward II.   Being buried in Gloucester Cathedral, I used to confuse him with the illegitimate son of Henry Ist, Robert of Gloucester, who later added to the Norman keep at Cardiff.


Saturday, 18 March 2017

The Gaveston Cross

Having read Rob's comment on the previous post - as to whether there is a way of raising funds to restore the Gaveston Cross - I had a quick look back through my notes and photos on the day I found it.  I was reminded of the difficulty I had searching from it, being armed with a map and a very patient friend who saw it as some sort of quest!  We left Warwick by bus and soon arrived at the village of Leek Wootton.  On arrival, we soon discovered there were no signposts or any information on the Gaveston Cross.  Thankfully, we were able to ask some of the locals, who initially seemed puzzled and then asked 'do you mean the old monument?'  They did their best to direct us, and I was excited as I found a sign with Gaveston Lodge.   We trekked along a path.  And here's what we were greeted with - yes, somewhere, in that wood, was the Gaveston Cross!
 We walked across the field - luckily it wasn't raining!   The wood was fenced off but there were gaps in the fence.  It was these gaps that gave us a clue.   The monument used to be a local place for gangs of youngsters to meet.
 This was my first glimpse of the Gaveston Cross.  I can't tell you the excitement I felt.
 The monument is very tall, so the cross on the top is undamaged.

Even from this view, it looks in good condition.  It's the bottom of the monument that has suffered, where people have sat at it's base and scrawled graffiti on it.  There were lots of drinks cans around it.

On contacting the local council, to complain that there were no signposts/information on the monument, I was sent an e-mail with a link about trespassing!  Whilst the monument is a Grade II listed monument, the land on which it stands belongs to a farmer who I've since discovered is not a local.   It is not his responsibility to maintain the monument.     It's a strange situation - a monument dedicated to Piers some 500 years after his death - it was erected in 1821 - but officially no-one can access it and no-one has to maintain it - and neither can it be demolished.  It makes me wonder just how many other such monuments exist, hidden away.  Of course, we can't know whether this is exactly the spot on which Piers was killed, but it must have been nearby.  I would like to know why the person who commissioned the monument, Bertie Greatheed, actually did so.  Why was he so keen to have the killing of Piers commemorated?   Especially with that awful inscription - 

'In the Hollow of this Rock, was beheaded, On the 1st Day of July, by Barons lawless as himself, Piers Gaveston, Earl of Cornwall;  The Minion of a hateful King:  In life and death, A memorable Instance of Misrule'

Greatheed didn't write the inscription, the local curate did, but he agreed to it.  No doubt Piers would be delighted to be remembered as Earl of Cornwall.  The day I visited the monument, it was a pleasant summer's day, and looking around at the greenery of the wood, it was hard to believe that such a violent crime has been carried out there.


Thursday, 23 February 2017

A Tale of 2 History magazines

Over the last few years, there has been a surge in History magazines.  'History Today' is firmly established, and has what I would term more 'academic' articles.  The BBC History magazine is always a good read with a mix of academic and family articles.  The newer titles include 'History Revealed' and 'All About History', that cover popular subjects such as the Tudors and in my opinion give you lots of glossy 'artist impressions' of historical characters and the basic background of people and events.  

BBC History also provides 'specials' - and the latest is on Medieval Kings and Queens.  I was delighted to find an article by Kathryn Warner, (Website Edward II  )featured inside with an excellent article on Isabella, wife and Queen of Edward II.  Those who have read Kathryn's book, 'Isabella, Rebel Queen', will know how meticulous Kathryn's research is, and how hard she has worked to show that Edward and Isabella had a reasonably happy marriage, with Isabella tolerating Edward's favourites, such as Piers Gaveston and Roger Damory, before falling foul of Hugh Despencer.  So many myths were debunked.  So it was a real shame to see another new history magazine, 'The History of the Royals', feature an article on Isabella cast in her role as the she-wolf.  And of course, with that, the old myths are repeated - namely that -


  • Edward gave his wedding presents to Piers Gaveston, thus humiliating Isabella.
  • Isabella 'endured' years of humiliation by her husband and Piers.
  • Edward gave Piers Isabella's lands!
  • Despencer/Edward deprived Isabella of her 4 children.(I know Kathryn is particularly dismayed about this myth).
  • Isabella and Roger Mortimer were lovers - no doubt about it.
  • They met in the Tower of London earlier, and Mortimer escaped.  
  • Edward blamed Mortimer for putting his marriage in jeopardy!  
Worst of all, the article is called 'The Royal Lovers' Conquest'.   Throughout the article, Isabella and Roger Mortimer are presented as lovers.   Their behaviour scandalises  the French and English courts.  The article does not make it clear that this is one interpretation of their relationship, with little supporting evidence, and of course, Mortimer's wife and children fade into the background.    The best thing that can be said about this article?  At the end,  for further reading, is recommended Kathryn's book.  What a shame the author of this article didn't read it first.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

February 1312

February 1312 saw Piers Gaveston reunited with Edward II - and his wife, Margaret de Clare.  Piers was returning from his third exile.  It was his shortest exile - a matter of a couple of months.    There were even rumours he had not left the country at all, and was in fact in hiding.  Was this because he expected Edward to defy his nobles and gain the upper hand and allowing him back as soon as possible?   More likely is the fact that Piers was expecting his first child with his wife Margaret.   It may have been that because of her condition that Margaret could not follow Piers into exile - she had certainly accompanied him when he had been sent to Ireland.   We don't know if the pregnancy was a difficult one, but surely Piers would have wanted to be as close to his wife as possible, so that when she went into labour, he could quickly reach her and see his child.   It would make sense for him to lie low in England.   It's doubtful he would have been safe in France, and Flanders may have just been too far.

Piers and Margaret's daughter was born in mid-January.   Piers was quickly at her side - after meeting up with Edward first, naturally.   Edward had taken Margaret North in late pregnancy.   There must have been a plan in which Edward thought the North would be the safest place for Piers to return.   There was surely great celebrating when Joan Gaveston was born - named for Margaret 's mother, Edward's sister.  Joan would never know her father, for within months of Piers return from his third exile disaster would strike - Piers would fall into the hands of his enemies and face death.   Whether Edward had a genuine plan/idea to ensure the safety of Piers or they both acted recklessly, we'll never know.   However, February 1312 would be a time of celebration for Piers, his wife and Edward.