Month: April 2016

Richard II

Richard II as the young boy single handedly brought an end to the peasant’s revolt and as the tyrannous King brought an end to the Plantagenet reign.

The country had suffered under Edward III with the country in disarray and in 1377 on his death Richard II, the grandson of Edward II, was crowned King of England at the age of ten. The country rejoiced and saw Richard as its saviour.


However after four years there was further unrest and the peasants stormed London and on the 11th June 1381 two boys Richard and his cousin Henry Bolingbroke and Richards councillors were surrounded in the Tower of London. Henry was sent out into the town hoping this would cause a distraction and allow them to escape. However, the rebels were more angry with Richard’s councillors than he himself and as soon as they knew Richard was out they broke through the gates and took the chancellor and the treasurer and beheaded them in the street. Henry Bolingbroke during the time the rebels had entered the tower had hidden and was later able to escape unharmed.

Richard agrees to meet with the rebels at Smithfields and rides out and speaks to Wat Tyler, the rebel’s leader, a struggle breaks out between Tyler and one of the King’s soldiers that ends up with Tyler being killed. There is a fear that all the other rebels would now join in but with Richards’s self-belief in himself an amazing event happens. Richard rides towards the rebels on his own and shouts out that ‘He is the king and for them to lay down the weapons’. And, unbelievable they all do.

The king agrees to meet with the rebels and discuss terms, when they do all the terms are in the king’s favour. Over the next few weeks the king’s men ride out and kill and hang a large number of those that rebelled as an example to others who may think of rising against the king.

Richard surrounds himself with young nobles such as Robert de Vere that creates a split between the king and his councillors. In 1386 the French plan an invasion that the king and de Vere ignore and the Duke of Gloucester and Archbishop tell the king to do something about it or they will. Richard accuses them of treason and even threatens to seek help from the French.

Gloucester and his allies set out to raise an army against Richard. Robert de Vere raises his own army to protect the king and this means all the nobles have to decide on which side they are on.

Henry Bolingbroke, now a seasoned and hardened soldier after many years of campaigning, joins Gloucester. When Bolingbroke and de Vere clash, in Oxfordshire, Bolingbroke’s soldiers are to strong for de Vere and he turns and runs off to France never to be seen on English lands again. Richard now has now defence and Henry negotiates with Richard on who is to run the country. After several days of talks Henry emerges that he pledges his allegiance to Richard. It is unknown exactly why the decision was the result of the talks but it is suggested that it was to avoid the country being pulled into a civil war.

In 1390 Henry goes off on crusade leaving Richard effectively on his own to do what he wants. There now comes a time of peace with France and England is in a time of stability. However Richard decides to create his own private army known as the White Hart.

When Henry returns three years later the symbol and soldiers of the White Hart dominate the country with fear.  However there remains peace in the country.

Richard is a loose cannon and the death of his wife Anne of Bohemia pushes him over the edge. Richard loses it and starts to take revenge on all those that opposed him when de Vere was around.  He re-introduces a law he had created that says anyone who opposes the king can be tried for treason. This law basically meant Richard can do whatever he liked and no one could stop him.

Richard II - Anne of Bohemia

His uncle, the Duke of Gloucester is arrested and taken prisoner on the grounds of treason. Before he faces trial he dies, mysteriously, however this is not before he has signed a full confession. Henry is exiled to France with Mowbray another of those who opposed Richard.

Then the Duke of Lancaster dies, Henry’s father, and Henry was due to inherit his entire father’s lands and castle. Richard had other plans and decided to take them for himself. Henry could not accept this and he waited for his moment to take back his lands.

Henry IV
Henry IV

In 1399 Richard leaves the country to go to Ireland, this Henry realises is his opportunity. He returns to England and with Richard away all the barons and their armies side with Henry. Richards White Hart army are wiped out and on Richard’s return he surrenders.

Richard is locked up in the Tower of London and Henry of Lancaster is crowned King Henry IV. This brings to an end the Plantagenet dynasty.

Richard dies whilst in captivity and although it is not known for sure how he died it would be a good guess that he died of starvation, leaving no blood on Henry’s hands.

Quercy – Treaty of Paris 1259

Quercy is a county in south-west France with Cahors as its capital. Henry II inherited Quercy as part of the Plantagenet domination within France following his marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine.

In 1196 Richard I gave it to Raymond VI the count of Toulouse as his sister’s dowry. It was then awarded to Henry III from LouisIX of France as part of the Treaty of Paris in 1259 but was never actually controlled by Henry III. Edward I gave up his claim to Quercy.

Quercy Treaty of Paris 1259

It was again handed over to the Edward III King of England England in 1360 but was finally retaken by the French 1440.

The fortified medieval bridge over the river Lot at Cahors
The fortified medieval bridge over the river Lot at Cahors

Plague – The Black Death or Bubonic Plague 1348 – 1350

The plague, commonly known as The Black Death, reached England in June 1348, it originated in from Asia, most likely Mongolia in 1320’s and then spread across China. Europe was then covered with the unstoppable plague before eventually getting to England.

Blackdeath2             black_death 1

The country was completely unprepared and medieval medicine inadequate to deal the disease and ignorance on how it was spreading. In a time when religion was so powerful people would look to the God for the answer and salvation. Within a year the plague had covered the country and people were being carried from the cities and buried in huge dug mass graves.

There was no single safe place even the most remote village if there was one case of a member of that village contracting the plague it would then spread throughout and wipe out the enire village.

Peasants were very vulnerable to catching and spreading the plague due to their living conditions. They tended to be confined to small and dirty spaces. Due to so many peasants dying fields were left unfarmed and as a consequence those who had not contracted the plague then faced starvation.

There are varied estimates of the death toll caused by the plague but it was somewhere in the region of 2.5 million people. The population of England was roughly halved from before and after the plague.

After the plague there was a shortage of labour to farm the lands and one of the benefits for the peasants due to the shortage of labour was an increase in wages and living conditions.

black_death 2

The Black Death of 1348 to 1350 was not the only outbreak it continued to come back and kill up to the 18th Century.

Oxford – Provisions of Oxford

The Provisions of Oxford is probably of more importance for the free man under the rule of the realm than the better known Magna Carta, although without the latter the former would probably not have happened. The Provisions made way for greater fairness with royal authority retrenched and reduced. The Provision of Oxford were imposed in 1258 on the then King Henry III at the Oxford parliament.

Oxford 1

This followed disputes and unrest with the baron’s led by  Simon de Montfort who were enraged by the Kings incompetence and excess spending for overseas aggressions. To enforce the Provisions fifteen councillors were appointed.  They were chosen by twenty four men, twelve of whom were from the reformers and twelve from the King’s men. They would control the chancellor and treasury and without their approval the King was restricted in his control on the country.

Henry accepted the terms as his hand was forced as he needed funds for his son Edmund’s claim to the Sicilian crown although this never came to fruition. In true  Henry style although he had agreed to the terms it was something had he had never intended to adhere too. The unrest and the rule of government continued and eventually led to the Second Baron War of 1264 to 1267.



Nuns and Infamous Military Campaign of 1379

There were in the region of 3,300 nuns and 256 convents during the years between 1216 and 1350. Remember the population between 1300 to 1400 was at the beginning of the century circa of 4 million falling to 2 million by the end due to the plague. Women in medieval times were categorised as: maidens, wives, nuns and widows.The status of a maiden or wife will depend on the man who supports her. A young girl will be supported by her father a wife by her husband and nuns, who is considered to be the brides of Christ, supported by the nunnery she belongs to.



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A girl would become a nun in medieval England generally for the reasons it was the family’s wishes and way of gaining an education or she had a true belief and wanted to serve God.

A nun normally took her vows at the age of 16 although those of more noble birth may be younger.Wealthy women often retired to convents and paid nuns for their hospitality. They were however consider a bad influence but the cash struck nunneries were poorly funded and were unable to refuse.

Women were not considered important and nuns were to a man considered no more higher in standing. The story of Sir John Arundel emulates this vividly. Planning to sail to Brittany in the autumn of 1379, Arundel and his men took refuge in the convent when the seas were too rough to set sail . The winds changed and Arundel and his soldiers are relayed for a greater amount of time. This leads to boredom among the young men who then start drinking and teasing the nuns. The nuns as things get worse lock themselves in their rooms where the men then break in and rape the nuns several times. This then leads to looting the nunnery. The soldiers then move on to a church where a wedding is taking place and they then take the bride and each of the soldiers takes it in turns to rape her.

The winds change and they are able to sail they take the newly wed bride and a large number of  nuns on board the ship with them for their continued pleasures. Shortly after they set sail they hit bad seas again and water starts to leak into the ship and is slowly going down due to the excess cargo (the nuns and newly wed bride). The solution was to throw the no longer needed cargo overboard. Around 60 women were thrown over left to drown or eaten by the fish and sea monsters as they would have it in those days.

Nuns Arundel

These events were recorded by the chronicler Thomas Walsingham and although not an everyday occurrence provides evidential support to the value that was put on a woman or a nun’s life.

Further recommended reading if you would like to learn more:

The Chronica Maiora of Thomas Walsingham (1376-1422)

The Marshal – William Marshal

William was one of the most influential men throughout the Plantagenet dynasty. He served under four Plantagenet kings and was born in 1146 circa during in the anarchy years of King Stephen’s reign. William was the son of John Marshal who supported King Stephen but later changed sides to back Empress Matilda in her claim for her son Henry as successor to the throne.

Jousting the perfect training for a knight
Jousting the perfect training for a knight

William was made guardian of Henry the Young King by Eleanor of Aquitaine after she had watched and been impressed with his skills in jousting. He rebelled with Eleanor and Henry the Young King in 1173 against Henry II.

In 1183 following Henry the Young Kings death William went on crusade and on his return in 1185 he served the court of Henry II and the Plantagenet dynasty loyally for many years. He was at Richard I coronation and got his earldom in 1189 through his marriage to Isabella the 17 year old daughter of Richard de Clare. This was arranged by the old king shortly before he died but confirmed by Richard to retain William’s loyalty.

He helped deny John when he revolted whilst Richard was away on crusade but later backed John’s claim in 1199 to the throne over his cousin Arthur. On John’s death in 1216 William became regent to Henry III who was 9 years old when he became King. William took a lot of important decisions during this time and calmed the baron’s unrest and led the English into battle against the French in Lincoln.

Marshal coat of arms
Marshal coat of arms

He died in May 1219 and was buried in Temple church, London. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit Temple church the other day and William Marshal Effigy as shown below.

Me with William Marshal effigy at Temple Church, London.
Me with William Marshal effigy at Temple Church, London.

Temple church is well worth a visit. And if you enjoy historical fiction I would recommend books by Elizabeth Chadwick, my favourite historical fiction writer. I have added some links below.

The Scarlet Lion (William Marshal)

The Greatest Knight: The Story of William Marshal

Longshanks – Edward I

Edward was the son of Henry III and became King of England following his father’s death in 1272.

He was tall, over 6ft tall that earned him the nickname Edward Longshanks, and handsome and was known for his devious nature and bravery. He married Eleanor of Castille (another Eleanor) in 1254 and before her death in 1290 she have provided Edward with 16 children which 7 survived. Edward was truly in love with Eleanor and his children something that is covered on day X of my A to Z Challenge.

edward-i A
In 1277 he mounted a campaign into Wales, this a campaign that saw a Welsh rebellion that lasted to 1283. Eventually to satisfy the Welsh, they would only accept terms if the appointed Prince of Wales was someone who did not speak English. Edwards agreed to the Welsh terms to keep them happy, but Edward was smart and devious and appointed his infant son who spoke no English being only a few months old.

edward_I B
Problems arose in Scotland in 1290 when he appointed John Balliol to the Scottish throne. There was widespread opposition from the Scottish believing that Balliol was just a pawn for the English. A number of Scots rebelled led by William Wallace against the English. Edwards’s military skill and bravery led to Wallace and the rebellion being crushed and an example of Wallace was made where he was hung drawn and quartered.

In 1294 a war with France over Gascony broke out and already under financial pressures from the military campaigns in Scotland meant Edward needed to claim funds from parliament where there was strong opposition. Eventually a settlement was agreed with Phillip IV of France in 1299 with the marriage to his sister Margaret in 1299 who bore Edward three further children.

Edward I Tomb at Westminster Abbey
Edward I Tomb at Westminster Abbey

Edward died in 1307 on his way to Scotland. Buried at Westminster Abbey with the words inscribed ‘Here lies Edward I the hammer of the Scots.