Monday, September 1, 2008

The Murder of Thomas of Woodstock, 1397

Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester:

“Orgueilleux & presompteux de maniere” *

*Proud and presumptuous of manner [J. Froissart, Chronicles]


Thomas, 1st Duke of Gloucester, was born 7 Jan. 1354/5 at Woodstock Manor in Oxfordshire, seventh son (fifth surviving) of Edward III and his queen, Philippa of Hainault. Sometime before 24 Aug. 1376, he married his child-bride, Eleanor de Bohun, elder daughter of Humphrey de Bohun, Earl of Hereford, Essex and Northampton. Thomas de Hatfield, Bishop of Durham, was one of Thomas’ godfathers, as was John de la Moote, Abbot of St. Albans [1].

Typical of most offspring of the medieval royalty and nobility, little is known of the youth of Thomas. In his sixth year, he was deemed sufficiently important enough in his princely person to have marshals appointed for the management of his own household [2].

Though perhaps not as well-known to history as his older brothers, Edward the Black Prince and John of Gaunt, Thomas’ role in the governance of England had far-reaching effects on the life and reign of his nephew, Richard II. Political events first set in motion by Thomas, in fact, produced a chain reaction of regal depositions and fractious family in-fighting that culminated in the “Wars of the Roses:” that bloody family feud that leaves most historians, and family genealogists, slightly dazed from trying to follow the various thrashings the Yorkists and the Lancastrians meted out to each other.

Chivalrous Author

Thomas’ first adult honor was his appointment as Constable of England in June 1376. He was knighted by his aged father on 23 Apr. 1377; among other gifts received on the day of his knighting, the old king presented Thomas with ten ells of scarlet cloth [3]. As expected of a royal prince, Thomas suited up his armor and soon attempted a bit of military conquest. He captured eight Spanish ships off Brest in 1378, but beyond this act of military daring, Thomas’ military career could best be described as lackluster. In July 1380, assisting the Duke of Brittany, Thomas moved his forces across France but was unable to coax the French into fighting. The Duke of Brittany refusing to join in the action, Thomas led an unsuccessful siege against Nantes, returning home “in disgust” in April 1381 [4]. Turning his attentions to home, Thomas dispersed the peasant insurgents in Essex later that year and led an English force of 1,000 lances and 2,000 arches against the Scots, who refused to do battle—surrendering instead [5].

An undated letter from Thomas, Duke of Gloucester to his nephew, Richard II, contains the text of a treatise written by Gloucester “On the manner of conducting judicial duels” [6]. The letter sets out, in intimate detail, the rules of the duel and the role of the constable as overseer of these bloody conflicts. The king having picked the field, at the appointed time the monarch, constable and marshal are seated upon a scaffold, the king’s seat being raised. Both the appellant (accuser) and the defendant had their arms and weapons assigned to him by the court, “that is to say, a long sword, short sword, and dagger.” The parties to a duel swear on oath that they will not bring any “magical power” to the duel “by which thou trusteth the better to overcome thine adversary…Nor that thou trusteth in any other thing, but only in God and thy body and on thy rightfull quarrel, help thee God and these saints.” The aforementioned forbidden magical powers included so-called “stones of virtue” and “herbs of virtue” (e.g., charms) [7].

Lords Appellant

The chain of events that resulted in Thomas’ death and attainder commenced with the baron’s hatred of the King’s favorites. Thomas was possessed of a headstrong temper, demonstrated in his heated defense of his brother, the Duke of Lancaster, against charges of treason (“he burst into the King’s presence and challenged all who might venture to support the charge”) [8]. Thomas led the opposition to Michael de la Pole, earl of Suffolk, and was chiefly responsible for Suffolk’s condemnation and murder. Richard was furious, but he could do nothing to avenge his friend as the “Lords Appellant” (Thomas of Woodstock, Richard de Arundel, Thomas Beauchamp, Henry Bolingbroke, and Thomas Mowbray) had seized control of the government. At Radcot Bridge, near Oxford, the Lords Appellants won a civil war in December 1387 against an army led by the king’s favorite, Robert de Vere, duke of Ireland. These political and military actions resulted in the “Merciless Parliament” of 1388. At this parliament, the powers of the king were severely limited, reducing Richard to a figurehead. The king was humiliated, but would wait out his time...


Richard chose as his second wife a child bride princess of France, Isabel, whom he married in 1396 when Isabella was six years of age. A calculated political marriage, Richard nonetheless treated the tiny Isabella with respect. The advantages of this marriage allowed the king to build a continental power base and with French support he quickly regained full regal powers. Thomas, bold, emotive, and indiscrete, complained about this new order of things to one of his knights, John Lackinghay:

“I am the youngest of King Edward’s sons, but if I was listened to I would be the first to renew the wars [with France] and put a stop to the encroachments we have suffered and are still suffering every day, thanks to our simplicity and slackness. I mean particularly the slackness of our leader the King, who has just allied himself by marriage with his principal enemy. That’s hardly a sign that he wants to fight him. No, he’s too fat in the arse and only interested in eating and drinking. That’s no life for a fighting man, who ought to be hard and lean and bent on glory. I know he spends plenty, but it’s on silly and futile things, and his people have to pay the bill. There will soon be serious trouble in this country. The people are beginning to grumble and say that they won’t stand it much longer.” [9]

Heedless of the danger to his life, the Duke’s blind hatred of his nephew the King leading him on, rumors soon spread that Gloucester had approached his great-nephew, Roger Mortimer, earl of March (grandson of Lionel of Clarence, Thomas’ older brother) with a plot to place March on the throne and imprison Richard and Isabella. Shocked by the boldness of his uncle’s plans, Mortimer responds that he needs time to think it over, swears to secrecy, and departs for Ireland [10].

In July 1397, the jittery King having gotten wind of his uncle’s supposed plot, Gloucester, Arundel, and Warwick are arrested and subsequently condemned as traitors in the September Parliament. Arundel was executed on the same day of his arrest, on Tower Hill. Warwick’s life was spared, but he and his wife were exiled to the Isle of Man. Bolingbroke and Mowbray (now the dukes of Hereford and Norfolk) escape Richard’s wrath until the following year, when they were exiled.

Rumor Mill

The fate of Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester, hung in the balance. The king arrived unannounced at his uncle’s manor at Pleshy, Essex about five o’clock in the afternoon on a very hot day. The duke, his wife, and their children greeted the king in the customary regal manner. Richard dined cordially with his uncle. On a pretext of Gloucester being required at a meeting of the nobles in London the next day, the King convinced Thomas to accompany him, the duke bringing with him three of his esquires and four yeomen; the king and Gloucester chatted as they rode together when, suddenly galloping ahead, the King had Woodstock arrested near Stratford. The Earl Marshal, with his band, came galloping after, and overtaking the Duke, said “I arrest you in the King’s name.” [11] Richard rode fast to the Tower of London, ignoring the duke’s calls to him in the distance [12].

After ten years of waiting for the right moment to strike, the king had his revenge.

Gloucester’s arrest was accomplished “about ten or eleven of the clock in the night: whence he was forthwith carried into a barge, and so into a ship, which lay in the Thames, wherein they conveyed him next day to Calais. Being thus brought thither, he askt [sic] the Earl Marshal the cause thereof; saying, ‘Methinks you hold me here as a prisoner: let me go abroad, and see the fortress,’ but the Earl Marshal refused” [13].

Gloucester’s death appears to have been widely circulated in August. It seems odd that the king would send William Rickhill to Calais (where the duke was housed in prison) to obtain Gloucester’s confession—unless his plans to triumph over Gloucester included an elaborate ruse of concealment. Why should Richard have allowed Gloucester to survive the announcement of his death? And granting that he did, why, in the name of common sense, should he have left the taking of the confession at so late a date (8 Sept.; see below). Rickhill’s commission was dated 17 August and was received in his hands on 5 September [14]. However, it is clear that the parliamentary rolls were tampered with after Richard II’s deposition, in an effort to discredit the previous regime by making it appear that Richard was directly responsible for his uncle’s murder [15, 16]. The new regime probably needn't have gone to all that trouble to show what must have been obvious. Rickhill went to great pains to convince the new regime that he was unaware of the exact nature of his commission prior to his departure to Calais. There is no reason to expect that Rickhill was stretching the point to save his neck; the public announcement of the duke’s death having been made, no contingencies were planned in the event that a confession could not be speedily obtained from Gloucester. The duke was a strong-willed man and it's not likely that he was immediately defeated by the pressure to obtain a forced confession. In the matter of the timing of events, Richard's plans had to be amended...


At last, seeing that his situation was desperate, at the castle of Calais and in the presence of John Lancaster and John Lovetot, the duke dictate his "confession." Once the document was in royal hands, the king tampered with the confession in order to justify Gloucester’s supposed guilt. This tampered version, read in the September Parliament, is familiar to most historians. However, the duke’s actual confession (in reality not a confession at all), along with two complete copies of the same, was found in the papers of Richard’s eleventh regnal year (the king’s obvious intent was to bury both the Duke and the truth) [17]. Italics in the abstract below indicate portions of the duke’s “confession” that were expunged by Richard:

“I, Thomas of Woodestoke, the viii day of September, the year of my lord the Kyng the on and twentie, be the vertu of a Commission of my lord the Kyng the same yeer directed to William Rykhyll Justice, the which is comprehended more pleynly in the forseid Commission, knowleche that I was on wyth steryng of other men to assente to the makyng of a Commission. In the which Commission I amonges others restreyned my lord of hys freedom, and took upon me amange other power real (i.e., royal), trewly naught knowing ne wyting that tyme that I dede ayens his estate ne his realtie, as I dede after and do now. And forasmuch as I knew afterward that I hadd do wrong, and taken upon me more than I owght to do, I submettede me to my lord and cryed hym mercy and grace, and yet do als lowlych and as mekely as any man may, and putte me heygh and lowe in his mercy and in his grace, as he that hath always been ful of mercy and grace to all other.

“Also, in that tyme that I came armed into my lordes presence and into his Palais, howsoever that I dede it for drede of my lyf, I knowleche for certain that I dede evyll and ayeyns his regalie and his estate: wherefor I submett me lowly and mekely into his mercy and to his grace.

“Also, in that, that I took my lordes lettres of his messagers and opened hem ayeyns his leve, I knowleche that I ded evyll: wherfor I putt me lowly in his grace.

“Also, in that, I sclaundred my loorde, I knowleche that I dede evyll and wykkedly, in that, that I spake it unto hym in sclaunderous wyse in audience of other folk. But, by the wey that my sowle schall to, I mente none evyll therein. Nevertheless I wrote and I knowleche that I dede evyll and unkunnyngelych: wherefor I submett me heygh and lowe in his grace.

“Also, in that, that I among other communed for feer of my lyf to yive up myn hommage to my lord, I knowleche wel that for certain that I among other communed and asked of certain clercs, whethir that we myght yive up our hommage for drede of our lyves or non; and whethir that we assentyd thereto for to do it, trewlych and by my trowth I ne have now none full mynde thereof, bot I trowe rather ye than nay: wherefor I submit me heygh and lowe evermore in his grace.

“Also, in that, that I was in place ther it was communed and spoken in manere of deposyl of my liege loord, trewly I knowleche wel that we were assented thereto for two dayes or three, and than that we for to have done our homage and our oothes, and putt him as heyly in hys estate as ever he was. Bot forsothe there I knowlech that I dede untrewely and unkyndely as to hym that is my lyege loord and hath bene so gode and kynde loord to me. Wherefor I besech to hym naghtwythstondyng myn unkyndenesse, I beseche hym evermore of his mercy and of his grace as lowly as any creature may beseche it unto his liege loord.

And as of any newe thyng or ordenaunce that ever I shuld have wyten or knowen , ordeyned or assentyd, pryve or apert, that schuld have bene ayeyns my loordys estate or his luste or ony that longeth abowte hym, syth that day that I swore unto him at Langeley on Goddys body; trewly and be that oothe that I ther made, I never knew of gaderyng ayeyns hym, ne none other that longeth unto hym.

“And as touchyng all this poyntes that I have made Confession of tofore William Rykhyll Justyce, in the which I wote wele that I have offendyd my loord unkyndely and untrewly as I have seyde befor how that I have in all this poyntes offendid hym and done ayeyns hym; trewly and as I wyll answere before Godd it was my menyng and my wenyng for to have do the best for his psone and for his estate. Nevertheles I wote wel and know wel nowe that my dedes and my werchynges were ayenys myn entente. Bot, be the wey that my sowle schall to, of this poyntes and of all othir the which that I have done of neclygence and of unkunnyng,it was nev’ myn entent ne my wyll ne my thoght for to do thynge that schuld have been distresse or harmyng ayeyns the salvation of my lyege loordys psone as I wyll answer tofor Godd at the day of Judgement.

“And therfor I beseche my lyege and souverayn loord the Kyng, that he wyll of his heygh grace and benyngnytee accepte me to his mercy and his grace, as that I putt my lyf, my body, and my goode holy at hys wyll as lowlych as mekelych as any creature kan do or may do to his lyege loord. Besechyng to hys heygh lordeschipp that he wyll, for the passion that God soffred for all mankynde and for the compassion that he hadde of hys moder on the cros and the pytee that he hadde of Mary Maudelyne, that he wyll vouchesauf for to have compassion and pytee; and to accepte me unto his mercy and to his grace, as he that hathe ever bene ful of mercy and of grace to all his lyeges and to all other that have naght bene so neygh unto him as I have bene, thogh I be unworthy
” [18].

Princes Inn

Depending on which account you read, it is variously stated that Woodstock died a natural death in July or August, or was strangled with a cloth or suffocated under a mattress. The facts of his confession now being known, it is clear that Thomas was still alive on the 8th of September—two months after first being arrested. Later that night, Woodstock was dead.

An inquiry into the death of the Duke of Gloucester was held in the first year of the reign of Henry IV (1399); the accounts are of high interest as there is little evidence, in particular, to doubt the testimony given at that session of Parliament:

Sir John Baggot, then a prisoner in the Tower, was brought to the bar of the house, and there examined on the affair of that murder [Gloucester]; who there declared “That it was by the advice and instigation of the duke of Albemarle…that the duke of Gloucester was inhumanly murdered at Calais. That the duke of Norfolk did keep the duke of Gloucester alive 3 weeks against the king’s will; but, for fear of the king’s displeasure, the said duke and himself, with several of the king’s servants, went over to Calais, and saw him put to death.” The duke of Albemarle rose up and said, “That he utterly denied the charge to be true against him, and offered to justify his innocence by combat, in such a manner as should be thought requisite.” The king denied Albemarle’s application for judicial duel.

Baggot, in one of his examinations before Parliament, mentioned one John Hall, then a prisoner in Newgate, who could say much more than he, relating to the death of the duke of Gloucester. Which Hall, being sent for and examined, confessed the whole matter.

“John Hall, a servant of the duke of Norfolk, being examined by Sir Walter Clopton, chief justice, confessed upon his oath, that in the month of Sept. 21 Rd. II the duke of Norfolk charged the said John, among others, to murder the duke of Gloucester, there being present one John Colfox, an esq. of the said duke of Norfolk; and that they two then being at Calais, went together to Our Ladies church, where they found Wm. Hempsley, esq., ---Bradshaw, esq., Wm. Searle, of the chamber of the late king Rd., --- Fraunces, valet of the chamber of the duke of Albemarle, Wm. Rogers, Wm. Dennice, and --- Cockle, servants to the said duke of Norfolk; all whom were sworn upon the body of Christ, before one Sir William Chaplain, of St. George’s, in the church of our lady, that they should not disclose the said fact or murder. That after this oath made, they altogether went with the duke of Norfolk, towards the house called the Princes Inn, and when they were come, the said duke of Norfolk caused the persons aforesaid to enter into a lodging within the same house, and so departed. After which John Lovetofte, with sundry other esqrs. brought the duke of Gloucester, and delivered him to t he said Searl and Francis, in an inner parlour, and said, ‘There is Searl and Fraunces;’ whereupon the duke of Gloucester said, ‘Now I see I shall do well’ and so asked Searl how the king did? who said ‘well;’ and sent to him commendations, and so the said John Lovetofte departed. Whereupon the said Searl and Fraunces, took the said duke of Gloucester into an upper chamber, saying, That the king’s will was, that he should be slain;’ the duke answered thereto, ‘If it be so it is welcome;’ that Searl and Francis willed to the duke to take a chaplain, whom the duke there took, and was confessed. After which confession they caused the duke to lye upon a bed, upon whom so lying, the said Searl and Fraunces threw a feather-bed, the sides whereof the said Wm. Rogers, Dennice, and Cockle of the chamber, held; and Searl and Francis lay on the mouth of the said duke until he was dead; Colfox, Hempsley, and Bradshaw, sat that night by the duke on their knees, weeping, and praying for the soul of the said duke; and Hall, this examinant, kept the door until the duke was slain. After the death of which duke, the duke of Norfolk came in, and seeing him dead, said, ‘It were a great matter to have the said duke living again.’ By whose confession it seemed to the lords, that he the same Hall should be drawn from Tower Hill to Tyburn, his bowels to be burned before him, his body to be hanged, [be]headed, and quartered, and his head to be sent and set upon Calais, and his quarters to t he king’s pleasure; and the marshal the same day did execution accordingly” [19].

It’s a pity that Hall, having made his confession, was so soon hurried out of this world--avoiding any further cross-examination. In any case, I don’t think there is much reason to doubt the veracity of his statements to Parliament. Dugdale provides us a glimpse of the fate of some of the other assassins: Searle was arrested in Scotland in 1404 by the English, sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered. The Earl Marshal (Norfolk) was sentenced early in the reign of Henry IV to perpetual banishment [20].

Unto Dust

His life tragically taken from him, Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester, lies buried in the Chapel of St. Edmund, Westminster Abbey, under a marble slab. His widow, Eleanor de Bohun, joined him in death in October 1399, being buried beside her late husband. Soon after Gloucester’s murder, the king, in a magnanimous gesture, returned to Eleanor in Feb. 1398 all her own wearing apparel and two “chariots,” which had been seized by the Mayor of London. The total appraised value of these goods was given at nineteen pounds, four shillings and four pence [21].

Worldly Goods

From the moment of Thomas of Woodstock’s arrest on the road to Stratford in July 1397, Richard II’s escheator for Essex, Clement Spice, began to take control of the liquidation of the duke’s estates—which included Pleshy, principal residence of Gloucester by inheritance of his wife, Eleanor de Bohun. Spice, having taken an exact inventory of all the duke’s moveables, proceeded to auction off these goods and by January 1398 over £1,500 in sales had passed through his hands. “Faced with the prospect of having her household stripped bare, Duchess Eleanor bought back large amounts of her late husband’s property. In 1398, she redeemed goods worth a total of £1,136. Her expenditure included £260 at an auction conducted in London by Richard Whittington, and she also spent £436 on buying back silverware from Clement Spice” [22].

Spice’s inventory, published in The Archaelogical Journal [23], makes interesting reading. Written in French, with occasional notations in English, the contents include cloths of arras, tapestries, beds of gold and silk, beds of worsted, vestments for the chapel, books for the chapel, plate for the chapel, the duke’s library, robes and vestments, and arms and armor.

Subjects of the 15 inventoried tapestries include the history of Charles the Great, Godfrey of Boulogne, the taking of Jerusalem, and the battle between Gawayn and Lancelot. Others are of a more miscellaneous character, such as the Story of St. George, an assault upon ladies in a castle, the story of a wodewose and a lion, and the Nativity of Our Lord. The tapestries vary in width from 2 ½ yards to 4 yards, and in length from 6 to 24 yards. The largest piece was valued at £1,000.

There were 16 beds of gold and silk. The word “bed” does not refer to the mattresses, but to the hangings, often the most splendid character with which the beds were furnished. The first on this list is described as “a great bed of gold, that is to say, a coverlet, a tester (canopy), and a cedure (or valance) of fine blue satin wrought with Garters of gold, and three curtains of tartaryn beaten to match. Also two long and four square pillows of the set of the bed.” Total valuation of this assemblage was £182. 3s. One great bed was of white satin embroidered in the midst in Cyprus gold with the arms and helm (i.e., crest) of the Duke of Gloucester. Another was of green double samite with a blue pale or stripe of chamlet embroidered with a gold pot of blossoming lilies worked in silver. Including the usual coverlet, tester and valence, with pillows, this set was valued at £20.

The beds of worsted (Lit de Worsted) were of lesser value, but appear to have been just as beautiful. One was a blue bed embroidered with a yellow stag; another of red with a crowned lion, two griffins, and chaplets and roses; another blue bed was embroidered with a white eagle. A red one was covered with falcons. There was a coverlet of red embroidered with a unicorn, a blue one with lions and roses, another red one with a white greyhound. A tester and coverlet of blue worsted embroidered with a white hart were probably ornamented out of compliment to Richard II.

The largest section, containing nearly one-third of the inventory, is that describing the vestments for the chapel (Vestimenta pro capella). Vestments included chasuble, amices, stoles and fanons, a corporal, a towel, a pillow or cushion for the mass-book, the front, counterfront and frontlet of the altar and the two curtains that hung at its ends. One cope appears to have been particularly beautiful and is described as “a fine cope of blue worked with divers beasts and birds with frets of pearls with Garters inscribed hony soit qi mal pense, with orphreys of cloth of gold of Cyprus embroidered with images, lined with satin.” The value of this piece was £60.

The duke’s library contained eighty-four volumes of romances; only three works appear to have been written in English: a Bible in two large volumes bound in red leather, a Book of the Gospels similarly bound, and “a new Book of the Gospels glossed in English.” The majority of the books were written in French and Latin. Among the historical and other romances in French were the Romance of the Rose, Hector of Troy, Merlin, Bevis of Hampton, Tancred, the Romance of Lancelot, and of Alexander, the Battle of Troy, Godfrey of Boulogne. Other French books included the Miracles of Our Lady, the Passions of divers Saints, and the Life of St. Thomas of Canterbury. The Latin works included the Chronicles of the Pope, two large books of Civil Law.

The duke’s wardrobe included eight gowns lined with miniver or other fur, a blue gown furred with miniver and wrought with Garters. A long gown of red velvet and a mantle of the same stuff furred with miniver, valued at £13.8s.8d., may have been the duke’s parliament robe.

Of the duke’s body armor, the five pairs of plates include some especially noted as for jousts of peace, others for jousts of war. One pair of the latter were gilt: the others were covered with velvet. Another pair are described as having formerly belonged to King Edward III, and these were covered with blue baudekyn, woven of silk with threads of gold. The four breastplates are not mentioned as covered with any material.

The weapons comprise several Bordeaux blades more or less richly mounted and scabbarded. There is a also a Scottish sword. There were several daggers, and an Irish short knife with a roebuck horn handle with silver gilt. A large lance head of Bordeaux steel is mentioned, along with one for boar hunting.

Among the miscellaneous items, a beaver hat is mentioned, as is a small lavender sachet.

[1] G.E.C. Cockayne, Complete Peerage 5:719-20
[2] ibid, note (c)
[3] ibid, 5:720 note (j)
[4] ibid, 5:722 note (b)
[5] ibid note (e)
[6] Harold Arthur, Viscount Dillon, “On a MS collection of ordinances of chivalry of the fifteenth century, belonging to Lord Hastings,” Archaelogia, 57 (1902):62-66.
[7] ibid
[8] G.E.C. Cockayne, Complete Peerage 5:722 note (j)
[9] Geoffrey Brereton, ed., Froissart Chronicles. Penguin (1968), 422-29
[10] ibid
[11] William Dugdale, The baronage of England. London (1676), 2:171
[12] ibid
[13] ibid
[14] G. C. Macaulay, The complete works of John Gower. Clarendon Press, Oxford (1902), note 85ff.
[15] T. F. Tout, Chapters in the administrative history of mediaeval England. Manchester University Press (1937), 4:25 note (1)
[16] A. E. Stamp, Richard II and the death of the Duke of Gloucester. English Historical Review 39 (1924): 240-41.
[17] James Tait, Did Richard II murder the Duke of Gloucester? Historical essays first published in 1902 in commemoration of the jubilee of the Owens College, Manchester. Manchester University Press (1907), 193-216.
[18] ibid
[19] William Cobb, The Parliamentary history of England from the earliest period to the year 1803. T. C. Hansard, London (1806), 1: 284-286.
[20] William Dugdale, The baronage of England. London (1676), 2:171
[21] ibid, 2:172
[22] Michael A. Hicks, ed., Revolution and consumption in late medieval England. Woodbridge, UK: The Boydell Press (2001), 31-32.
[23] Harold Arthur, Viscount Dillon, Inventory of the goods and chattels belonging to Thomas, duke of Gloucester, and seized in his castle at Pleshy, co. Essex, 21 Richard II (1397); with their values, as shown in the eascheator’s accounts. The Archaelogical Journal vol. LIV, second series vol. IV (1894), 275-308.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

A Mother's Lament: Alienor of Aquitaine, 1122-1204

Alienor with her son, John "Lackland" (Chapelle Sainte Radegonde de Poitiers)

Alienor, queen of England, widow of Henry II, to Pope Celestine III (1193):

To the reverend Father and Lord Celestine, by the Grace of God, the supreme Pontiff, Eleanor, pitiable and hoping in vain to be pitied, the Queen of England, Duchess of Normandy, Countess of Anjou, entreats him to show himself to be a Father of mercy to a pitable mother.

O holiest Pope, a cursed distance between us prevents me from speaking to you in person, but I must give vent to my grief a little and who shall assist with me with my words? I am all anxiety, both within and without and as a result my words are full of suffering. There are fears which can be seen, but hidden are the disputes, and I cannot take one breath free from the persecution of my troubles and the grief caused by my afflictions, which beyond measure have found me out. I have completely wasted away with torment and with my flesh devoured, my bones have clung to my skin. My years have passed away full of groans and I wish they could pass away altogether. I wish that the blood of my body, already dead, the brain in my head and the marrow of my bones would dissolve into tears, so much so that I completely melt away into sorrow. My insides have been torn out of me, I have lost the staff of my old age, the light of my eyes; if God assented to my prayers he would condemn my ill-fated eyes to perpetual blindness so that they no longer saw the woes of my people. Who may allow me to die for you, my son? Mother of mercy, look upon a mother so wretched, or else if your Son, an unexhausted source of mercy, requires from the son the sins of the mother, then let him exact complete vengeance on me, for I am the only one to offend, and let him punish me, for I am the irreverent one--do not let him smile over the punishment of an innocent person. Let the one who is striking me crush me, lift up his hand and kill me; let this be consolation--that in burdening me with grief he does not spare me. I am pitiable, yet pitied by no-one; why have I, the Lady of two kingdoms, reached the disgrace of this abominable old age? I am the mother of two kings.

My insides have been torn out of me, my family has been carried off, it has rolled past me; the Young King and the earl of Brittany sleep in the dust--their mother is so ill-fated she is forced to live, so that without cure she is tortured with the memory of the dead. As some comfort, I still have two sons, who are alive today, but only to punish me, wretched and condemned. King Richard is detained in chains; his brother John is killing the people of the prisoner's kingdom with the sword, he is ravaging the land with fires. In every respect the Lord has become cruel to me, turning his heavy hand against me. His anger is so against me that even my sons fight against each other, if indeed it can be called a fight when one is imprisoned and crushed in chains while the other heaps grief upon grief by trying to usurp the former's kingdom for himself with his cruel tyranny.

Good Jesus! Who will grant me thy protection in hell and hide me until your fury passes away, until your arrows stop, the arrows which are in me, the arrows whose anger my whole spirit is drunk on? I long for death, I am weary of life. Though I am thus continually dying, I still want to die more completely; unwilling, I am compelled to live--my life is the food of death and is a means of torture. Blessed are those who do not know the capriciousness of this life, who do not know of the unpredictable events in our inconstant fate because of a blessed abortion! What do I do? Why do I yet live? Why do I, a wretched creature, delay? Why do I not go to see the man my soul loves, chained in beggary and iron? At such a time as this, how could a mother forget the son of her very womb? Affection appeases tigers, it even appeases the more fierce witches.

But doubt remains and I waver. If I go, I desert my son's kingdom, which is being plundered from every direction with formidable hostility, and in my absence it will have no common counsel, no relief. But if I stay, I will not see what I most want to see, the face of my son, and there will be no-one to concentrate on procuring the release of my son, but what I am more afraid of is that the most fastidious of young men will be tortured for some impossible sum of money and yet impatient of so much affliction will be easily tortured to death. O wicked, cruel, impious tyrant who is not afraid to lay his hands on the Lord's Anointed, nor has a royal anointing, nor a reverence for the holy life, nor a fear of God restrained you from such inhumanity.

In addition to this, the Prince of the Apostles still rules and reigns in the Apostolic See, and his judicial steadfastness is set up for the people; it rests with you, Father, to draw the sword of Peter against these criminals, for it was for this reason that Peter set the sword above peoples and kingdoms. The cross of Christ soars ahead of the eagles of Caesar, the sword of Peter is a higher authority that the sword of Constantine, the Apostolic See higher than an Imperial power. Is your power derived from God or from men? Did not the God of God's speak to you through his apostle Peter, saying 'Whatever you have bound on earth will be bound also in heaven and whatever you have freed on earth will also be freed in heaven'? Why then have you, so negligent, so cruel, done nothing for so long about the release of my son or is it rather that you do not dare? Perhaps you will say that this power entrusted to you was over souls, not bodies: so be it, I will certainly be satisfied if you bind the souls of those who keep my son bound in prison. It is in you power to release my son, unless the fear of God yields to a human fear. So restore my son to me, man of God, if indeed you are a man of God and not a man of mere blood. If you are slow in releasing my son, then the Most High will require my son's blood from your hand. Alas, it is a sorry time when the chief shepherd turns into a mercenary, when he flies from the face of the wolf, when he abandons in the jaws of a bloodthirsty beast a lamb put into his care, or even the chosen ram, the leader of the Lord's flock. A good shepherd instructs and informs other shepherds not to run when they see a wolf approaching but rather to lay down their lives for their sheep. Please, I beg you, may you save your own soul while you apply yourself to procuring the release, not of your sheep, but I will say of your son, using numerous embassies, beneficial advice, thunderous threats, general injunctions and severe sentences? Though late, you should give your soul for him, the man for whom you have refused to say or write one word. We know from the testimony of the prophet, the Son of God came down from heaven to bring the chained out of the lake in which there was no water; what was fitting for God is surely fitting for God's servant. My son in tortured in chains, but you do not go down to him, you do not send anyone, you are not even moved by the sorrow which moved Joseph. Christ sees this and is silent, but in the final judgment retribution will be severe for those who are negligent in doing God's work.

Legates have now been promised to us three times, yet have not been sent; in fact they are servants rather than legates. If my son were in a prosperous position, they would hurry rather more quickly to his simple call, expecting plentiful rewards for their embassy from his splendid generosity and the public profit of his kingdom. But what profit could they consider more glorious than the freeing of a captive king and restoring of peace to the people, of tranquillity to the religious and of joy to everyone? But now the sons of Ephraim, who aimed, who fired their bows, have turned round on the day of battle and in the time of stress; while the wolf comes upon his prey, the dogs are mute--either they cannot, or they will not, bark. Is this the promise you made me at the castle of Ralph, with the great authority of love and good faith? What benefit did you gain from giving my simple nature mere words, from mocking the prayers of the innocent with a hollow trust? So once King Achab was forbidden to form a friendship with Ben-hadad, and we have heard what disastrous effects their mutual love had. Divince providence blessed the wars of Judas, John, Simon and the Maccabaean brothers with felicitous auspices; but when an embassy was sent to secure the friendship of the Romans, they lost the help of God, and their corruptible friendship was more than once the cause of bitter regret. You alone forced me to despair; after God, you have been my hope, the trust of our people. Cursed be he who trusts in man--so where is my refuge now? You are, my Lord, my God. The eyes of your maidservant are turned to you, O Lord, for you recognise my distress. You, the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, look upon your Christ's face, grant sovereignty to your Son, and save the son of your maidservant; do not bring on him the crimes of his father or the wickedness of his mother.

We know from a certified public report that after the death of the bishop of Liege whom the emperor is said to have killed with a death-blow from his sword, though wielded by a distant hand, he confined in prison-like misery the bishop of Ostia, four of his provincial bishops and even the Archbishops of Salerno and Trieves; and the Apostolic authority ought in no way to deny that unlawfully and tyranically he has also taken possession of Sicily, to the perpetual detriment of the Roman Church--for from the times of Constantine it has remained the patrimony of St Peter, and it was seized despite embassies, petitions and threats from the Apostolic see. The emperor's fury is not satisfied with all these gains, but his hand is still stretched out. Certainly he has done dreadful things, but most surely you can soon expect worse. For those who ought to be pillars of the Church are as light as reeds and every wind sways them. If only they would remember that the glory of the Lord was transferred from Israel because of the negligence of Eli, the priest ministering in Shiloh. That is not a parable applying only to the past, but to the present; for the Lord banished the Tabernacle from Shiloh, his own Tabernacle where he dwelt among men and he left their virtue to remain in captivity, their excellence in the hands of the enemy. The fact that the Church is being trampled upon is attributed to their timidity, as is also the fact that faith is being put to the test, liberty oppressed, trickery being fostered by compliance, wickedness by impunity. Where is the promise the Lord made to his Church: 'Thou shalt suck the milk of the Gentiles and shall suckle the breasts of Kings; I shall make thee the pride of ages, a joy from generation to generation'? Once, the Church trod upon the necks of the proud and lofty with its own strength and the laws of emperors obeyed the sacred canons. But now things have changed--not only canons, but the makers of canons are restrained by base laws and profane customs. No-one dare murmur about the detestable crimes of the powerful, which are tolerated, and the canonical rule applies merely to the sins of the poor. So Anacharsis the philosopher had good reason to compare the laws and canons with spider's webs, which trap the weaker animals but let the stronger go.

The kings of the earth have set themselves and the rulers have all agreed to be against my son, the Lord's Anointed. One tortures him in chains, another destroys his lands with a cruel enmity, or to use a common phrase: 'one shears, another plunders, one holds the foot, another skins it.' The supreme Pontiff sees all this, yet keeps the sword of Peter sheathed, and thus gives the sinner added boldness, his silence being presumed to indicate consent. For the man who can rebuke, who ought to rebuke, but does not do so seems to consent, and the man who pretends to be patient will not be without a hidden alliance. The time of dissension is upon us, just as the Apostle predicted and the son of eternal damnation shall be revealed; dangerous times are at hand when the seamless tunic of Christ is torn, when the net of Peter is broken and the solid unity of the Catholic Church is dispersed. These are the initial stages of evil things--we perceive oppressive times, we fear worse. I am no prophetess, nor the daughter of a prophet, but my grief has made many suggestions about the troubles to come; yet it also steals the very words it suggests, for my writing is interrupted by my sobbing, my sadness saps the strength of my soul and it chokes my vocal chords with anxiety. Farewell.

Crawford, A., ed. Letters of the queens of England (UK: Sutton Pub., 2002, pp. 39-43)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Thomas, Lord Berkeley (1353-1417)

Image credit: Nigel Saul

Monumental brass (1392) of Thomas, Lord Berkeley and his wife, Margaret Lisle. Purbeck marble tomb chest in the north aisle of the church of St. Mary the Virgin, Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire.

Thomas Berkeley ("the Magnificent"), son of Maurice, Lord Berkeley and Elizabeth Despencer, at his birth in 1353 brought together the blood of the baronial families of Berkeley, Despencer, Mortimer and Clare--four of the principal dynasties central to the struggle, a generation earlier, between the barons and Edward II. His maternal great-grandmother was Joan of Acre, daughter of Edward I. In November 1367 at Wingrave, Buckinghamshire, Thomas married Margaret, Baroness of Lisle & Teyes. Their only child, Elizabeth, married Richard de Beauchamp, earl of Warwick (d. 1439).

Thomas' resume included an extensive military service, by sea and by land, under Richard II; this service was continued and enhanced under Henry IV. Dugdale says that he was appointed Admiral of the King's Fleet in the 5th year of Henry IV: "He was likewise retained by Indenture to serve the King with three hundred Men at Arms, upon the Sea, for one quarter of a year, himself accounted, with eleven Knights, two hundred eighty five Esquires, six hundred Archers, seven Ships, seven Barges, and seven Ballingers, double manned with Marriners," having command to sail to Bordeaux.

By the terms of his will (1415, cited by Dugdale), Thomas bequeathed "unto the Fabrick of that Church, wherein his body should happen to be buried, a Cross gilt, with all the Relicks included therein. To his Daughter, the Countess of Warick, he thereby gave his best pair of Mattins, as also one gilt Cup with twenty pound contained therein. To James his Nephew (viz. his next Heir-male, being son of James, his brother, already deceased) his best Bed, and great Cup of Jet; as also twenty Coats of Male, twenty Brest-plates, twenty Helmets, and twenty Lances."

About the monumental brass (Monumental Brass Society,

Thomas and Margaret's brass was commissioned in 1392 on the death of Margaret, daughter and heiress of Warin, Lord Lisle. It was conceived as a joint memorial, to the Berkeleys as a couple, although Thomas himself was to live for another 25 years. Thomas’s choice of a brass for his wife is a measure of the high status enjoyed by brasses at this time. Earlier members of his family had all been commemorated by relief effigies – most of them of freestone but in one case of alabaster; and this tradition was to resume under his successors. Brasses, however, enjoyed particular favor with the aristocracy in Thomas’s lifetime.

It is noteworthy that Thomas' sword belt was adorned by a jewel inlay, now lost. Margaret's figure would also have been eye-catching; the crespine headdress had inlaid jewels and the brocade cushions on which her head rest would have had coloured mastic inlay to enhance the design. The collar of mermaids which he is wearing – not a known Berkeley device – may allude to the office of admiral to which he was appointed in 1403. In Thomas’s lifetime the estates of the Berkeley family reached their greatest extent. His wife, an heiress, whom he had married in 1367, brought him the wide Lisle estates in Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. On Thomas’s death in 1417 without male issue, however, the Berkeley inheritance was divided between the heir male and the heir general, and the great lawsuit began which was to last for nearly two centuries.


Cockayne, The Complete Peerage, 2:130-31
Dugdale, The Baronage of England, 1:360-61

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Elizabeth de Burgh, Lady of Clare

Pictured: Caerphilly Castle, South Wales, seat of the Clare family in Wales. Built 1270 by Gilbert de Clare, son-in-law of Edward I and father of Elizabeth de Burgh, the castle became the inheritance of Elizabeth's sister, Margaret, countess of Gloucester [picture credit: Jeffrey L. Thomas].

Elizabeth de Burgh (1295-1360), "Lady of Clare" (Domina Clare), niece of Edward II, ranked among the higher nobility. Youngest daughter of Gilbert de Clare and Joan of Acre (daughter of Edward I), she was co-heiress, with her two sisters (Eleanor and Margaret), to one-third of the inheritance of the Clare earls of Gloucester. Married in 1308 to John de Burgh, oldest son of the earl of Ulster, Elizabeth was widowed in 1313. Their son, William, the last earl of Ulster, was killed in Belfast in 1333, leaving a daughter, Elizabeth.

The death at Bannockburn of her childless brother, Gilbert de Clare, meant that Elizabeth came under considerable pressure from fortune hunters as well as her uncle, Edward II, who, under medieval law, controlled the rights to her marriage. This attraction seems to have been the reason for her runaway marriage in 1316 to Thebaud (Theobald) de Verdun, who is alleged to have abducted her from Bristol Castle. Theobald denied this charge, stating that he had been betrothed to Elizabeth in Ireland and that she willingly came out to meet him at Bristol. The marriage lasted five months, Theobald dying in July 1316 at Alton Castle, Staffordshire. Nonetheless, their brief union produced an only daughter (ancestor of this author), Isabel de Verdun, born at Amesbury in Wiltshire in March 1317.

Elizabeth married for a third time to Roger Damory, who, condemned to death as a traitor by Edward II in 1321, though soon pardoned, died in March 1322 without heirs. Elizabeth now entered a period of long widowhood; her status as a widow was assured by her canny decision to take religious vows while still a young woman. This strategy allowed her to escape the fate of another arranged marriage, while at the same time allowing her complete control of her vast estates.

The "Lady of Clare" died in November 1360, age 65, at the Minoresses Convent, Aldgate, London. Some sources erroneously claim that Elizabeth was buried beside her third husband at St. Mary's, Ware, Hertforshire; however, her will shows that she was buried at the Minoresses Convent, originally inside the Abbey Church. By the 16th century, her tomb had been moved to the Cloister [Medieval London Widows, p. 44]. By the provisions of her will, dated 25 Sept. 1355 at Clare, Elizabeth, re-founder of "Clare Hall" in 1338, further endowed the Hall (now Clare College, Cambridge) with money, plate, and books. A year before her death, Elizabeth wrote the statutes of Clare Hall:

Preamble to the Statutes of the Foundress, 1359

Elizabeth de Burgh, Lady of Clare, to all children of Holy Mother Church who read these words: greeting and remembrance of our deed! Experience, the universal guide, plainly shows that learning is no mean advantage in every rank of life, ecclesiastical or civil. Though many people seek it in many ways, it is best acquired in a recognised university community; and when its pupils have acquired it and tasted its sweets, it sends them out well qualified to rise according to their merits to different ranks in church and state. But so many men have been swept away by the ravages of the plague that learning has lately suffered a sad decline in numbers. We, therefore, desiring to assist true religion and to further the public good by promoting learning so far as God has put it in our power to do so, have turned our attention to the University of Cambridge in the diocese of Ely, where there is a body of students. Our purpose is that through their study and teaching at the university they should discover and acquire the precious pearl of learning, so that it does not stay hidden under a bushel but is displayed abroad to enlighten those who walk in the dark paths of ignorance. And to enable the scholars residing in our said college to live in harmony under the protection of a firm discipline and so enjoy greater freedom to study, we have with the advice of experts made certain statutes and ordinances, set out below to stand in perpetuity.
[Clare College History,]

Dugdale, in his Baronage of England (London: 1675), v. 1, pp. 474-75, transcribes and extracts portions of Elizabeth's substantial will:

She bequeathed her body to be buried in the Monastery of Nunns, called Minoresses, without Aldgate, in the Suburbs of London; and gave a Legacy of an hundred and forty pounds to pray for the Souls of Sir John de Burgh, and Sir Theobald de Verdon her former Husbands; as also for Sir Roger Damorie, her last Husband; and all her honest servants which were either dead, or should die in her service; and this to be done with all possible speed after her decease. Moreover she gave an hundred marks to five Souldiers, who would be content within seven years next after her decease, to make a journey to the Holy-Land, for the service of God, and destruction of his Enemies. And likewise farther bequeathed to those Minoresses without Aldgate, twenty pounds in money, with a Relique of Christal, a great Chalice of Silver, gilt; and two Cruets; one Vestment of white Cloath of Gold, with what belonged thereunto, three Clasps, with a thousand Pearls; and a Robe of Russet, with its appurtenances. Furthermore, to her Daughter Elizabeth Countess of Ulster, she gave all the debt, due from her Son, Father to the said Elizabeth, at the day of his death. To her young Daughter Isabel Bardulf, a Cup of Gold; To Agnes her Sister's Cross of Silver: And to the Countess of Atholl, her Daughter, two Beds of Tauney.

For further reading:
Barron, Caroline M. & Anne F. Sutton, eds. Medieval London widows, 1300-1500 (UK: Hambledon & London, 2003), pp. 29-45.
Underhill, Frances A. For her good estate: the life of Elizabeth de Burgh (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Lady Margaret Holand and the Poet's Muse

The tomb of the Lady Margaret Holand (1385-1439) and her two husbands, John Beaufort, duke of Somerset (d. 1410) to her left and on her right, Thomas, duke of Clarence (d. 1421). This Canterbury tomb once inspired the great American poet, Emma Lazarus ("give me your tired, your poor..."). Margaret, great-great-granddaughter of Edward I, married for her first husband a descendant of Edward III; her second husband was a son of Henry IV.

The Warrior's Chapel: construction was started on the Chapel between 1428 and 1437, although no exact date is available, and was dedicated to St. Michael on 18 December 1439. The chapel was designed by Richard Beke, who was the Priory’s architect between 1432 and 1458. It is often referred to as the “Holland Chapel” on account of the tomb it was built to house for Margaret Holand and her two soldier husbands. These figures rank among the most accomplished English alabaster effigies of the 15th century.

St. Michael's Chapel (Emma Lazarus)

When the vexed hubbub of our world of gain
Roars round about me as I walk the street,
The myriad noise of Traffic, and the beat
Of Toil's incessant hammer, the fierce strain
Of struggle hand to hand and brain to brain,
Ofttimes a sudden dream my sense will cheat,
The gaudy shops, the sky-piled roofs retreat,
And all at once I stand enthralled again
Within a marble minster over-seas.
I watch the solemn gold-stained gloom that creeps
To kiss an alabaster tomb, where sleeps
A lady 'twixt two knights' stone effigies,
And every day in dusky glory steeps
Their sculptured slumber of five centuries.

"In this same chapel (St. Michael's) is a monument of marble and alabaster, very fine to look upon, to the memory of Lady Margaret Holland and her two husbands. She lies in full-length effigy between her two lords: one, the earl of Somerset; the other, the duke of Clarence. At their feet, as usual, animals are sculptured. These generally indicate the characteristic of the deceased; e. g., an eagle, courage; a hound, fleetness; and a dog, fidelity." [Merrie England: In the Cathedral,]

Friday, January 18, 2008

Henry III's Elephant

Matthew Paris, c1255. Parker Library, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, UK

An African elephant arrived at Whitsand, on the coast of England, in late November 1254, a gift from the king of France, Louis IX, to Henry III of England. The elephant was said to have been acquired by Louis during a crusade to Palestine. A mandate in the Close Rolls, dated 7 January 39 Henry III (1255), orders the Sheriff of Kent “with John Gouch, to provide for bringing the King’s elephant from Whitsand to Dover, and if possible to London by water” [The New York Times, 11 June 1882].

A royal menagerie was established at the Tower of London in 1235, when Henry III received a wedding gift of three leopards from Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor. Henry was presented a bear in 1246 by the mayor of Northampton. A Norwegian polar bear joined the menagery in 1252; it was controlled by a muzzle attached to an iron chain and, when secured by a strong rope, was allowed to catch fish in the Thames.

In 1255, Henry ordered elaborate arrangements to be made for the accommodation of his elephant at the royal menagerie in the Tower of London. “We command you,” he wrote to the Sheriff of London, “that ye cause without delay, to be built at our Tower of London, one house of forty feet long and twenty feet deep, for our elephant.”

Matthew Paris (1200-1259), a Benedictine monk of St. Alban’s Abbey, said of the beast, “We believe that this was the only elephant ever seen in England.” He drew the animal twice; the illustration posted here shows the elephant being fed by its keeper, “Henricus de Flor.”

In 1258, about three years after it began its captivity in the Tower, the elephant died—apparently the result of being given too much red wine to drink. Additionally, the chilly climate and cramped quarters likely did nothing to ensure the creature's longevity.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Household Ordinance of Edward II, 1318

Here's a fascinating glimpse into the daily comings and goings of the king's household. This ordinance (here considerably abridged) was drawn up at Edward's request by the steward, the chamberlain, the treasurer, and the comptroller of the wardrobe, to define the duties of the various officials and to establish needed reforms in the administration of the household.

The king should have a fit steward of the household, who, if he is a banneret,[2] is to have a knight, three squires, and a clerk for the pleas that pertain to the stewardship, [all of them] eating in the hall. And each night he shall receive for his chamber a sester of wine, twelve candles, two tortis pur viu,[3] and one torch, and more when he needs them. And [he is to have] bedding for the whole year and wood for the winter season — from the eve of All Saints to the eve of Easter — [to be obtained] from the usher of the hall. And [he is to have] a livery for his chamberlain: namely, a portion of bread, a gallon of ale, and a general serving (messe de gros) from the kitchen. And [he is to have] dinners and suppers when he wants them; and as fees 20m. a year, in equal instalments on the feasts of Christmas and Pentecost. And if he is a simple knight, he shall receive fees and robes like the other simple knights of the household, and shall have two squires and his clerk eating in the hall.

A treasurer of the wardrobe, who is to have a chaplain, a clerk, and two squires eating in the hall....[4]

A chamberlain, who, if he is a banneret, is to have a knight and three squires eating in the hall....

Item, a comptroller, who is to keep a counter-roll against the treasurer of the wardrobe for all receipts and issues pertaining to the same wardrobe; and he is to witness them in the exchequer in connection with the account of the said treasurer. And he shall attend the receipt of wines in gross and shall supervise all the offices of the household, such as the pantry, butlery, cellar, larder, spicery, dispensary of oats (avenerie) and other offices, [to see] that the wines and victuals that he finds in the said offices are good and suitable for dispensing in the said household.... And he is to go into those same offices every Monday to examine the remainders [of supplies] and to see that they, with the amounts dispensed in the past week, agree with the receipts of the aforesaid week. And he shall be in the kitchen for the cutting of meat and the division of fish.... And every day, if he sees reasonable cause, he shall be present at the account,[5] together with the steward and the treasurer. And this same comptroller of the wardrobe is to have a clerk and a squire eating in the hall....

Item, a cofferer, who shall be appointed for the treasurer and shall have a clerk eating in the hall....

Item, two clerks of the counting table, well able to write and perform all duties touching the wardrobe and its account under the [direction of the] cofferer....

Item, a fit clerk keeper of the privy seal, who is to have a squire eating in the hall....[6]

Item, a clerk purveyor of the great wardrobe,[7] who should sleep on guard when he is at court. And he shall have a squire eating in the hall....

Item, a clerk of the spicery, chief usher of the wardrobe, who shall receive from the clerk purveyor of the great wardrobe the wax, napery, linen, cloth, canvas, spices, and the other things of all sorts that pertain to his office, [and this] by indenture expressly mentioning price, yardage, weight, and cost.[8] And he shall cause to be weighed the wax which the chandler is to have worked, and shall reweigh it after it has been worked. And he shall oversee and cause to be recorded by his under-clerk the liveries of chandlery made each day in the wardrobe, and on the next day he shall supervise the putting away of the torches, the great candles, and the mortars.[9] Each day he shall record the parcels of all sorts of things delivered and dispensed from his office, as counted since the day before, and he shall answer concerning them at the account of the household. And he shall oversee the carriages belonging to the wardrobe, as well for the coffers and other things of his office as for the beds of the wardrobe clerks which ought to be carried. And he shall make allowance in his roll for the carriage and transportation reasonably used in connection with the king's journeys....[10]

Item, a serjeant under-usher of the wardrobe, who shall live in the wardrobe, sleeping within its door to safeguard all the things inside it. And he shall be answerable if peril is incurred by his default. And he shall obtain from the offices the liveries for all men of the wardrobe, and he shall carry out their orders....

Item, a porter of the wardrobe, who shall carry the coffers and the other furnishings of the wardrobe to the carts, and shall load and unload them. And he shall be on the cart [while it is] on the road. And at night, if the cart is outdoors wandering through the country, he shall remain on watch....

Item, a squire fruiterer, who shall receive and take from the clerk of the spicery confections and other spiceries, and figs and grapes for the king's mouth. And each day he shall record for the said clerk what has been expended on the previous day: as well the said spiceries and fruit, thus received from the said clerk, as apples, pears, cherries, and other fruits which the said fruiterer shall purvey....

Item, a serjeant chandler, who shall receive the wax and candlewicks by weight from the clerk of the spicery, and shall have them worked according to the assize contained in the statute....[11]

Item, a confessor of the king and his companion....[12]

Item, a chief chaplain, who is to have a squire eating in the hall ... and five chaplains ... and six clerks....

Item, an almoner chaplain, who is to have a squire eating in the hall....[13]

Item, a physician....

Item, a surgeon....

Item, a clerk of the market, coroner of the king's household, who shall enforce the assize of bread, wine, and ale; also the assize of all sorts of measures, weights, and yards within the verge of our lord the king's presence. And he shall have wrongdoers who have broken the assize, or who are found with false measures, punished by imposition or fine....

Item, the king shall have a squire inspector and keeper of viands for his mouth, and an inspector of his table; also a squire to carve before the king and a squire to serve him with his cup....

Item, the king shall have two squires ushers of the chamber, one of whom shall be serjeant purveyor of wood and bedding for the office of the chamber.... And the serjeant purveyor shall have a servingman to help him in making purveyance....

Item, eight footmen of the chamber, who shall serve in the chamber making beds, holding and carrying torches, and [doing] various other things according to the commands of the king's chamberlain....

Item, the king is to have thirty serjeants-at-arms, properly armed and mounted ..., who shall daily ride armed before the king's person while he is journeying through the country, unless they have other commands from the king or the steward....

Item, a knight chief usher of the hall, who shall have charge of the door of the hall, [seeing] that it is well kept by the serjeants and valets of the usher, as is fit. And he shall take care that the hall is well and honourably served, and that no one eats there except those who rightfully should, saving always that strangers are received and honoured as they ought to be. And each day he should enter and inspect the offices of the household, [to see] that the things sent by the purveyors are sufficient according to the purchase, and that no one is permitted in the same offices except those who ought to be there. And he shall have a squire eating in the hall....

Item, two serjeants ushers of the hall, of whom one shall be purveyor of wood and of bedding for the service of the hall.[14]...

Item, two knights marshals of the hall, of whom one shall have charge of lodgings and the other shall be on duty in the hall....

Item, two serjeants marshals of the hall, of whom one shall have charge of lodgings and the other shall be on duty in the hall....

Item, a serjeant overseer of the sideboard for the hall, who is to advise concerning the places that he serves, according as persons of high estate and others may be seated in the hall....[15]

Item, a chief clerk of the pantry and butlery, who ought to keep the records of his office. And he is to respond each day at the account of the household.... He shall be present at the receipt of bread, wine, and ale; and he shall inspect and examine [them, to see] that they are of the proper weight, measure, and value....[16]

Item, a serjeant chief pantler, who shall receive the bread in gross by view of the clerk or the under-clerk, and shall each day be answerable to the chief clerk for the enrolment of what has been dispensed....[17]

Item, a serjeant pantler for the king's mouth, who each day shall receive from the great pantry the bread for the king and for his chamber, and for no other place....[18]

Item, a waferer, who shall serve the king, the hall, and the chamber with wafers, as pertains to him....

Item, a serjeant baker, who shall bake all sorts of bread for dispensing in the king's household — as well round loaves for all the commonalty as demeine loaves for the king's mouth....[19]

Item, a serjeant naperer, who shall perform his office in the king's chamber and in the hall. And he shall receive the napery from the clerk of the spicery and shall be responsible for it at the account whenever he is asked....[20]

Item, a ewerer for the chamber, who shall perform his office in the said chamber....[21]

Item, a launderer for the king's chamber, who shall wash all sorts of linen cut for the king's body ...[22] and the covers used in the service of the chamber....

Item, a launderer of napery, who shall wash all sorts of cut linen pertaining to the said office of napery, and the covers from offices connected with the hall....

Item, a chief butler, serjeant purveyor of wines.... And he shall do that which pertains to him according to the content of the statute concerning his office below.[23]

Item, a serjeant butler of the household, who shall receive and dispense all wine and ale that are dispensed in the household....

Item, a serjeant butler for the king, who shall receive from the butler of the household all the wine and ale that are dispensed in the king's chamber....[24]

Item, a chief clerk of the kitchen, who ought to make the enrolments pertaining to his office. And every day at the account in the wardrobe before the steward and the treasurer he shall be responsible for the parcels delivered [in the kitchen] and for all other matters pertaining to his office. And he shall be present at the cutting of meat and the division of fish. And he shall oversee the purchase and the cost of meat and fish and of all other things pertaining to his office, with the aid of the comptroller, the knight usher of the hall or the knight marshal, and the sewer of the king's table....[25]

Item, two serjeants cooks for the king's mouth....[26]

Item, two serjeants cooks for the hall....

Item, a serjeant larderer, who shall receive the meat and fish that the buyers cause to be brought to the larder, or which comes as a present; also the venison which comes thither from the king's huntsmen or from any other source. And he shall deliver the aforesaid meat and fish to be dispensed for the household in parcels, and [this] under the inspection of the comptroller, the knight usher of the hall or the knight marshal of the hall, the clerk of the kitchen, the sewer of the king's table, and the chief cook. And he shall keep the food on the sideboard and each day he shall give to the said clerk a record of the parcels of the aforesaid meat and fish dispensed in the manner aforesaid....[27]

Item, a serjeant poulterer, who shall attend to purchases and purveyance of all sorts of things pertaining to his office....[28]

Item, a serjeant of the scullery, who shall buy and purvey wood, charcoal, and all sorts of vessels of brass, iron, and wood that belong to the kitchen; also the pots and various other things pertaining to his office....[29]

Item, a [second] serjeant of the scullery, who shall receive the silver vessels from the wardrobe by number and weight ..., and shall keep them and be responsible for them by number and weight in the same wardrobe at the end of the year....

Item, a serjeant of the saucery, who shall buy and purvey flour for all manner of sauces and other things needed for the office of the saucery and the king's household....[29]

Item, a serjeant porter, who shall guard the door where the king sleeps, so that none may enter except those who by right should do so....[29]

Item, a chief clerk of the marshalsea....[30]

(French) Tout, Edward II in English History, pp. 270 f.


[1] On the general significance of the document, see Tout, Place of Edward II in English History, ch. v, and Chapters in Mediaeval Administrative History, II, pp. 242 f.
[2] The banneret, as opposed to the simple knight or bachelor, had the right to bear a square pennon on his lance.
[3] Large candles "for view (? display)"; see Oxford English Dictionary under tortis. Henceforth the expression will be translated merely as "great candles."
[4] All the greater officials received liveries similar to that of the steward, but with considerable variation in the particular items. Besides, each normally had his own chamberlain, who was entitled to food and drink.
[5] Drawn up in the wardrobe; see no. 52C.
[6] Also four under-clerks with liveries.
[7] See above, p. 171, n. 8.
[8] This was a newly established reform, as is explained in the next paragraph of the text.
[9] Bowls of oil with floating wicks. [10] Also an under-clerk to assist him.
[11] I.e., a separate ordinance dealing with these matters. Two serving-men under the chandler worked the wax.
[12] With four horses and three grooms.
[13] Also a clerk and a serving-man.
[14] Under the serjeants were two serving-men; under the knight was a sewer, who had charge of setting the table.
[15] He was assisted by two squires sewers, who served the meals in the hall. Besides, twenty-four squires were on duty in the hall, to carry out the commands of the high officials.
[16] Also an under-clerk, who kept tallies for all bread, wine, and ale received.
[17] Also a serving-man and two porters.
[18] Assisted by a serving-man for the chamber, and one for the rest of the household.
[19] Cf. above, p. 66, n. 3. The baker was assisted by two serving-men, one for the oven and the other for the mill.
[20] Also a serving-man.
[21] Also a serving-man, who acted as ewerer for the hall.
[22] This portion of the text is very corrupt.
[23] A separate ordinance added at the end of the survey.
[24] Also enumerated in the service of the butlery: a serving-man of the cuphouse two drawers of ale and wine, a purveyor of ale, two serving-men of the pitcher-house, and two porters.
[25] As assistants he had an under-clerk and two buyers, who were to give money or tallies for anything taken by purveyance.
[26] Under each pair of cooks were five serving-men.
[27] Under him were an usher of the larder and two porters.
[28] Three serving-men assisted him in obtaining poultry and preparing it for the kitchen.
[29] Also two serving-men.
[30] Here the text gives a detailed account of all the services connected with the king's stables. The chief clerk, assisted by a purveyor of oats, had charge of all records pertaining to the office, including tallies given for oats, hay, straw, harness, etc. The actual care of the king's horses — palfreys, chargers, pack-horses, draught-horses, etc. — devolved on two serjeants harbingers and three serjeants marshals, under whom were numerous serving-men, porters, and grooms. The record then describes the officers in charge of the king's hunting, fishing, and fowling, and lists his trumpeters, musicians, messengers, and archers. It ends with a group of particular ordinances to regulate the duties of the chief butler, the arrangement of lodgings for the court, the daily account in the wardrobe, the exclusion from the household of undesirable persons, and many other matters.

Sources of English constitutional history: a selection of documents from A.D. 600 to the present, eds. Carl Stephenson & Frederick George Marcham, Cornell University. Harper & Row, 1937, ch. 57.

Coronation of Edward II, 25 February 1308

Example of a 14th-century coronation

The Oath:

The archbishop of Canterbury put the questions before the king was crowned; and, after he had given his oral responses, he personally swore on the altar that he would keep all his promises.

"Sire, will you grant and keep and by your oath confirm to the people of England the laws and customs given to them by the previous just and god-fearing kings, your ancestors, and especially the laws, customs, and liberties granted to the clergy and people by the glorious king, the sainted Edward, your predecessor?" "I grant and promise them."

"Sire, will you in all your judgments, so far as in you lies, preserve to God and Holy Church, and to the people and clergy, entire peace and concord before God?" "I will preserve them."

"Sire, will you, so far as in you lies, cause justice to be rendered rightly, impartially, and wisely, in compassion and in truth?" "I will do so."

"Sire, do you grant to be held and observed the just laws and customs that the community of your realm shall determine, and will you, so far as in you lies, defend and strengthen them to the honour of God?" "I grant and promise them."

(French) Statutes of the Realm, I, 168

Edward II's coronation oath demonstrates the barons' distrust of Edward from the beginning. Edward was thus compelled to accept an addition to his coronation oath in which the king swore that he would observe 'the rightful laws and the customs which the community of the realm shall determine.' The interpretation of the oath has led to much debate concerning who constituted the 'community of the realm' and how it was to choose or decide.

In their declaration at Boulogne in January 1309, the barons quoted the controversial clause of the coronation oath to reinforce their demand that Gaveston be exiled—the king they said being bound by his oath to obey their decision. I suspect the enemies of Gaveston knew full well they had an ace up their sleeve with these new provisions in the coronation oath. They need only await the proper moment to make their demands. The moment was not long in coming.

'The doctrine of capacity' declared that homage was not due to the king in person but only to the crown as an institution. The Declaration distinguished between the person and the office of ruler to justify violent opposition to one if it was in the best interests of the other, and stressed the barons' loyalty to the crown.

The Ceremony and Banquet:

The Pauline annalist, claiming to be an eyewitness, gives a vivid impression of Edward’s coronation ceremony. According to his story there was some problem about the barons’ carrying of the regalia of St. Edward by virtue of their “ancient service,” since these were relics that only clergy should handle. As for the choice of Gaveston to carry the crown, this predictably aroused indignation among laymen and clerics alike. The press of people was so great that a strongly constructed internal plaster wall collapsed, bringing down in its wake the high altar together with the royal staging, and crushing to death a certain knight, John de Bakewell, who on account of his reputation as an “enemy” of the monastery was accorded little sympathy by the chronicler. In consequence the ceremonies were concluded with irreverant haste.

The same source records that the subsequent banquet, which continued late into the night, was likewise mismanaged. There was a superabundance of food but insufficient supervision of its distribution. Worse still, the banquet gave occasion for conflict. Gaveston sought to outshine the king himself by appearing in purple garments resplendent with pearls. One of the earls wished to reprove him in public but was urged not to spoil the feast by creating a disturbance. Their day would come, he was told. As for the queen’s uncles, perceiving that the king preferred Gaveston’s couch to that of the queen they returned with great indignation to France.

Haines, King Edward II. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2003, p. 55

Monday, January 7, 2008

Last Testament of Joan, "Fair Maid of Kent," 1328-1385

Beauty is as perennial as the grass, and just as transitory...

Joan of Kent [1328-1385], commonly called the "Fair Maid of Kent," was the daughter of Edmund of Woodstock, earl of Kent, the latter who was executed by Roger Mortimer and Queen Isabella for his alleged role in the plot to restore his half-brother, the deposed Edward II. Joan's marital history seems to confirm the fact that men, or rather certain men, found her simply irresistible. Joan's second marriage to William Montacute, earl of Salisbury, was declared bigamous after Thomas de Holand, returning from military service overseas, discovered that Montacute had taken advantage of his absence and appropriated his wife. The Pope ordered Joan returned to her rightful husband. Having perhaps learned an important lesson in matrimonial politics, Joan waited until Thomas was actually dead to marry husband number three: Edward, "the Black Prince," eldest son of Edward III. Whatever Joan may have thought of the interlude in her marriage to the earl of Kent, she nonetheless chose to be buried next to him.

Dugdale, in his Baronage (2:117), says "that in 8 Richard II [1384], the King being young, and guided by ill council, conspired the death of the Duke [John of Gaunt], but that having private intimation thereof from one of them who were of the plot, he [Gaunt] retired to his castle at Pontefract and used the best means he could, by manning and victualling it, to stand upon his guard. Likewise, that the Princess Joane [mother to the King], discerning the ill consequence which might be of this breach, though she was very corpulent, spared neither for pains nor charge in journeying too [sic.] and fro, till she had made a perfect reconciliation betwixt them."

This reconciliation was Joan's final act of diplomacy. Dugdale here cites a passage from the Chronicon Angliae of Thomas Walsingham, a Benedictine monk of St. Alban's. Walsingham remarks that Joan was "devoted to pleasure, and so fat from eating she could scarcely walk." Walsingham was not an unbiased witness of the habits and peculiarities of the Plantagenets: vitriolic in his condemnation of Gaunt, he may have granted himself license in his description of the middle-aged Joan, but his literal meaning cannot be misconstrued. Nonetheless, it is difficult to imagine that, in her 57th and final year, Joan could still be seen as a ravishing beauty--even by medieval standards. A lifetime of fine dining may well have faded her bloom.


In the year of our Lord 1385, and of the reign of my dear son Richard, King of England and France, the 9th; at my Castle of Walyngford, in the Diocese of Salisbury, the 7th of August, I Joan Princess of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Countess of Chester, and Lady Wake. My body to be buried in my chapel at Stanford, near the monument of our late lord and husband, the Earl of Kent. To my dear son the King, my new bed of red velvet, embroidered with ostrich feathers of silver, and heads of leopards of gold with boughs and leaves issuing out of their mouths. To my dear son Thomas Earl of Kent, my bed of red camak [sic.] paled with red and rays of gold. To my dear son John Holland, a bed of red camak. And I appoint the Venerable Father in Christ, my dear friend and cousin, Robert Bishop of London; William Bishop of Winchester; John Lord Cobham; William de Beauchamp, William de Nevill, Simon de Burlee, Lewis Clifford, Richard Atterbury, John Clanvow, Richard Stury, John Worthe, steward of my lands, and John le Vache, Knights; together with my dear chaplains, William de Fulburn and John de Yernemouth; and my loving esquires, William de Harpele, and William Norton, my executors. Witnessed by the Prior of Walyngforde and John James. Proved 9th December 1385.

Testamenta Vetusta, Being Illustrations from Wills, of Manners, Customs, &c., vol. 1, pp. 13-14. Nicholas Harris Nicolas, Barrister at Law, Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. London: Nichols & Son, 1826.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Description of Henry II

Peter of Blois: Description of Henry II, 1177

To Walter, by the grace of God archbishop of Palermo, once associate, now lord and dearest friend in Christ, Peter of Blois sends greeting and wished continual success of your desires.

[Lengthy religious preamble snipped]

Since however you have demanded from me with all insistence that I should send to you the shape and habits of the lord king of England in an accurate description - which exceeds my faculties, and for which indeed the vein of Mantuan genius would seem insufficient enough - I nevertheless will communicate to you what I know without envy and detraction.

About David it was said [I Kings 16] to the commendation of his beauty, that he was red-haired; however you will know that the lord king has been red-haired so far, except that the coming of old age and gray hair has altered that color somewhat. His height is medium, so that neither does he appear great among the small, nor yet does he seem small among the great. His head is round, just as if the seat of great wisdom, and specially a shrine of lofty counsel. Such is the size of his head, that so it matches with his neck and with the whole body in proportionate moderation. His eyes are round, and white and plain, while he is of calm spirit; but in anger and disorder of heart they shine like fire and flash in fury. His hair is not in fear of the losses of baldness, nevertheless on top there is a tonsure of hairs; his leonine face is rather square. The eminence of his nose is weighed to the beauty of the whole body with natural moderation; curved legs, a horseman's shins, broad chest, and a boxer's arms all announce him as a man strong, agile and bold; nevertheless, in a certain joint of his foot the part of the toenail is grown into the flesh of his foot, to the vehement outrage of the whole foot. His hands testify grossly to the same neglect of his men; truly he neglects their care all the time; nor at any time, unless carrying birds, does he use gloves. Daily in mass, in counsels and in other public doings of the realm always from morning until vespers he stands on his feet. And, he never sits, unless riding a horse or eating, although he has shins greatly wounded and bruised with frequent blows of horses' hooves. In a single day, if necessary, he can run through four or five day-marches and, thus foiling the plots of his enemies, frequently mocks their plots with surprise sudden arrivals; he wears boots without a fold, caps without decoration, light apparel. He is a passionate lover of woods; while not engaged in battles, he occupies himself with birds and dogs. For in fact his flesh would weigh him down enormously with a great burden of fat, if he did not subdue the insolence of his belly with fasts and exercise; and also in getting onto a horse, preserving the lightness of youth, he fatigues almost every day the most powerful for the labor. Truly he does not, like other kings, linger in his palace, but traveling through the provinces he investigates the doings of all, judging powerfully those whom he has made judges of others. No one is more cunning in counsel, more fiery in speech, more secure in the midst of dangers, more cautious in fortune, more constant in adversity. Whom once he has esteemed, with difficulty he unloves them; whom once he has hated, with difficulty he receives into the grace of his familiarity. Always are in his hands bow, sword, spear and arrow, unless he be in council or in books. As often as he is able to rest from cares and anxieties, he occupies himself by reading alone, or in a crowd of clerics he labors to untangle some knot of inquiry. For while your king knows his letters well, our king is more literate by far. Truly I have judged the abilities of both in learned matters. You know that the king of Sicily was my student for a year, and had had from you the basic arts of versification and literature; he obtained more benefit of knowledge through my industry and solicitude. However as soon as I had departed the kingdom, that one turned himself over to abject books in imperial leisure. But yet in the household of the lord king of the English every day is school, in the constant conversation of the most literate and discussion of questions. No one is more honest in speech than our king, more polite in eating, more moderate in drinking; no one is more magnificent in gift-giving, no one more munificent in alms-giving: and therefore his name is like poured oil, and the entire church of saints describes the alms of such a one. Our king is peaceable, victorious in war, glorious in peace: he is zealous for the things to be desired in this world and he procures peace for his people. He considers whatever pertains to the peace of the people, in whatever he speaks, in whatever he does; so that his people may rest, he incessantly takes on troubled and enormous labors. It aims to the peace of his people that he calls councils, that he makes laws, that he makes friendships, that he brings low the proud, that he threatens battles, that he launches terror to the princes. Also that immensity of money aims at the peace of his people, which he gives out, which he receives, which he gathers, which he disperses. In walls, in ramparts, in fortifications, in ditches, in enclosures of wild beasts and fish, and in palaces there is no one more subtle, and no one more magnificent to be found.

His most powerful and most noble father the count [of Anjou] extended his borders greatly; but the king added to his paternal lands with abundance in his strong hands the duchy of Normandy, the duchy of Brittany, the kingdom of England, the kingdom of Scotland, the kingdom of Ireland, the kingdom of Wales; he increased inestimably the titles of his magnificent inheritance. No one is more mild to the afflicted, no one more friendly to the poor, no one more unbearable to the proud; he always strives to oppress the proud with the semblance of divinity, to raise up the oppressed, and to stir up against swelling of pride continual persecutions and deadly troubles. When however he may according to the custom of the kingdom have had roles in making elections of most important and most powerful, he nevertheless always had his hands pure and free from all venality. I merely touch upon, I will not describe these and other endowments of soul as much as body, with which nature has marked him out before others; truly I confess my insufficiency and would believe that Cicero and Virgil themselves would sweat under such a labor. I have briefly tasted this little morsel of his appearance and habits at your request; truly I shall seem either to have undertaken an unbearable work, or to have cut back much about the magnificence of so great a man through jealousy. Nevertheless I, serving your charity, do what I can do, and what I know without envy and without detraction, I communicate with most prompt good will, and also among other great men, who write in praise of my lord, I put my might of devotion in a treasure chest along with the poor widow.

Because however you asked about the death of the blessed martyr Thomas, I say in the word of the Lord and in the order of deacon to you, that in conscience I believe in no way that the king was guilty of this thing; and the most complete confirmation of this the lord Theodinus, bishop of San Vitale and the lord Albert the chancellor [the future Pope Gregory VIII] will make to you, who because of this matter investigated in our regions performing the office of legate; they confirmed the innocence of the man: and also they will assure you that this deed was done by certain men under his shadow, that all this iniquity came out from the sanctuary. For in fact, the canonical purgation having been accepted by them, they pronounced a judgment publicly by order of the highest pontiff, that he was free of this crime before God and men, and they bent back the mark of infamy on those very magnates, whose malice they had clearly proven in this matter.

Also you will have learned that the lord king has made the glorious martyr his chief patron in all his needs. For in fact on the very day when he first visited the tomb of the martyr, he subjected the king of Scots, persecutor and attacker most strong in prison chains. Thereafter he has triumphed most gloriously with the continual favor of successes by the help of the martyr over all his enemies. You know therefore most certainly what kind of love it was, by which once king and martyr loved each other mutually, which neither death nor the sword has abolished: For "love is strong as death"; [Song of Solomon 8:6] and while everything passes away, "love never faileth." [I Corinthians 13:8] This is the beautiful gate, which remained whole and intact in the destruction of Jerusalem; and while all is destroyed in death, love does not perish in death, to whose strength death itself succumbs.

Indeed the kingdom of England, which he won by the sweat of war from King Stephen, most strong in arms, although but a youth and of no account, his sons, with the counsel and aid of the neighboring princes, have thrown into confusion by grave sedition. That one however, destitute of his men, and attacked by foreigners, with the martyr helping him, in whose virtue one alone has put to flight ten thousand, prevailed over all, and the Lord delivered into his hands his enemies, "To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron". [Psalm 149:8] That one therefore, who turned the hearts of the sons toward their father, himself stirred up or sent filial and devoted affection to the sons of our king; may he himself establish the seat of our father for a long time, and may he bring peace. For I know that if they stir up wars against their parents, the Lord will mow them down. For by the judgment and fatal law of God it is sanctified, that whenever they presume to assault that one from their own blood with wars, he will not even have half his days. This however we read in the book of experience now about many people, and we know it by visible proof.

Peter of Blois: Description of Henry II [Letter no. 66: to Walter, archbishop of Palermo, 1177]. Translated by Scott McLetchie.