~ the battle for England between Stephen of Blois and Matilda The Empress ~


31 July 2010

Biographies: Other Persons of Interest - Aubrey de Vere; Hugh Bigod; The Clergy

Some brief notes on other persons of interest during the period of 'The Anarchy' to conclude this section of the blog ~

• Aubrey de Vere II - Alice FitzRichard de Clare

Aubrey de Vere II
Birth: -
Death: 1141
Burial: Colne Priory, Essex
Father: Aubrey de Vere
Mother: -
Marriage: Alice FitzRichard de Clare
Aubrey de Vere, 1st Earl of Oxford m. (1) 1139 Beatrice de Guises, daughter of the Comte de Guises. He and Beatrice de Guises were divorced c.1146. (2) c.1162 Agnes of Essex, daughter of Henry of Essex, Lord Rayleigh and Haughley
Rohese de Vere, m. Geoffrey de Mandeville II, 1st Earl of Essex
Juliane, m. Hugh Bigod, 1st Earl of Norfolk
William, Bishop of Hereford
Gilbert, Prior of the Knights Hospitaller in England
? daughter m. Roger de Ramis

NOTES: Aubrey de Vere was appointed Lord Great Chamberlain by Henry I in 1133 and served both him and Stephen as well as being appointed Sheriff of several Shires. In 1139 when Stephen was summoned to a church council to answer for the seizure of castles held by Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, it was Aubrey who represented the King. His son would eventually be created 1st Earl of Oxford, and it was the de Vere family who built the still well preserved Keep, Hedingham Castle, in Essex. Matilda of Boulogne, Stephen's wife, died at Hedingham on 3 May, 1152.

• Hugh Bigod, 1st Earl of Norfolk - Juliane de Vere and Gundreda

Hugh Bigod, 1st Earl of Norfolk
Birth: 1095
Death: 1177
Father: Roger Bigod
Mother: Alice (Adeliza) de Tosny
Marriage: (1) 1140 Juliane de Vere
Roger Bigod, 2nd Earl of Norfolk
Marriage: (2) Gundreda
Hugh Bigod
William Hugh Bigod

NOTES: Infamous as the man who swore an oath that Henry I had disinherited his daughter Matilda in favour of Stephen on his deathbed, Hugh Bigod had become heir to his father's estates in East Anglia after the death of his elder brother, William Bigod, in the White Ship disaster of 1120. Hugh was married twice. His first marriage was to Juliane de Vere, daughter of Aubrey de Vere II and Alice FitzRichard de Clare, and produced a son, Roger. His second marriage was to Gundreda, daughter of Roger de Beaumont, 2nd Earl of Warwick which produced two sons, Hugh and William. Hugh Bigod was another baron who seems to have frequently changed his loyalties between Matilda and Stephen depending on which way he thought the 'wind was blowing' in his own best interests.


• Roger, Bishop of Salisbury

Roger, Bishop of Salisbury
Birth: -
Death: 11 December 1139, Salisbury

NOTES: Although he was uneducated, Roger had a great talent for administrative business and was an effective bureaucrat. Henry I appointed him Chancellor in 1101, an office which he held until late 1102. Roger devoted himself to the administrative business of the realm, The Court of Exchequer, and became its chief minister or Justiciar. He received the bishopric of Salisbury on 29 September 1102 and held this until his death in 1139. Although Roger, along with the rest of the clergy and nobility, had sworn allegiance to Matilda, he supported Stephen's claim to the throne after Henry's death. Stephen relied on him and the bishops of Ely and Lincoln yet at the same time was irritated by Roger's overwhelming influence. At a council held in June 1139, Stephen found a pretext for demanding the surrender of their castles. When they refused Stephen had them arrested and after a short struggle all Roger's wealth and possessions were seized. Stephen's attack on Roger incensed the clergy, including his brother Henry the Bishop of Winchester, who perceived it as an attack on the church itself. It proved to be a poor decision that would come to cost Stephen dearly.

• William of Corbeil, Archbishop of Canterbury

William of Corbeil
Birth: -
Death: 21 November 1136, Canterbury, Kent
Burial: Canterbury Cathedral

NOTES: Elected in 1123 to succeed Ralph d'Escures, William is best known as the builder of the keep of Rochester Castle and for his decision to crown Stephen king. In this the Archbishop was persuaded by Henry of Blois and Roger of Salisbury, who argued that the oath Henry had made the clergy and barons swear to recognise Matilda had been forcefully imposed, and by the statement of Hugh Bigod, who claimed that he had been present at Henry's deathbed and the dying king had released the barons and the bishops from their oath of fealty. The claim was untrue but no one present was willing to dispute it.

• Theobald of Bec, Archbishop of Canterbury

Theobald of Bec
Birth: -
Death: 18 April 1161, Canterbury, Kent
Burial: Canterbury Cathedral

NOTES: Theobald was elected to fill the vacant archbishopric of Canterbury in 1138, a move which earned him the enmity of Stephen's brother Henry, Bishop of Winchester. He is best known for refusing to consecrate Stephen's son and heir Eustace, and as the patron of his successor Thomas Becket.

Biographies: Robert D'Oyly

• Robert D'Oyly - Edith Forne

Robert D'Oyly
Birth: -
Death: possibly c.1142
Father: Nigel D'Oyly
Mother: -
Marriage: Edith Forne
Henry, d.1163

NOTES: Robert D'Oyly the younger was the son of Nigel D'Oyly, Lord of Oxford Castle, and nephew of his namesake Robert D'Oyly d.1091 who was Lord of Wallingford, High Sheriff of Berkshire, builder of Oxford Castle, and one the largest landholders in England.

Robert D'Oyly the younger's marriage to Edith Forne, a former mistress of Henry I, brought him the Manor of Cleydon, Buckinghamshire.

In 1141 Robert declared his support for Matilda, The Empress, against King Stephen, and gave her protection in Oxford between 1141 and 1142. Stephen besieged the castle for three months, and it was during the winter that Matilda is said to have escaped by being lowered down the castle walls and, dressed in white as a camouflage against the snow and fleeing across the frozen ground, made her way to the safety of Wallingford in a story that has now became legendary.

30 July 2010

Biographies: Geoffrey de Mandeville

• Geoffrey de Mandeville II, 1st Earl of Essex - Rohese de Vere

Geoffrey de Mandeville II
Birth: -
Death: 1144
Burial: Temple Church, London
Father: William de Mandeville
Mother: Margaret, daughter of Eudo de Rie also called Eudo (Dapifer) and Rohese de Clare
Marriage: Rohese de Vere, daughter of Aubrey de Vere II
Ernulf, disinherited, exiled for supporting his father in rebellion
Geoffrey III, 2nd earl of Essex (d.1166)
William II, 3rd earl of Essex and Count of Aumale (d.1189)
Robert (d. c.1189)

NOTES: It seems Geoffrey was not only a bit of a rogue but he also took great delight in playing both Stephen and Matilda, The Empress, until he met his demise in 1144. He changed sides more than once and his prime objective, at least in the beginning, seems to have been the restoration of his family's estates which had been seized by Henry I after his father, William de Mandeville, fell foul of the king. He at first supported Stephen who duly made him Earl of Essex in late 1139 or during 1140 and then in 1141 appointed him custodian of the White Tower in London.

He, like many barons, supported Matilda after Stephen's defeat at the Battle of Lincoln and she reconfirmed his possessions and granted him the Norman lands of his paternal grandfather, Eudo de Rie (Dapifer), and appointed him sheriff of Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex and London. After Stephen's release he turned his support back to the King but it must have been shortlived because he rebelled and Stephen confiscated his castles in 1143.

During 1143 and 1144 Geoffrey set up his headquarters in the fen country of East Anglia and used the Isle of Ely and Ramsey Abbey as a base for his rebel operations. From this position it was difficult for Stephen to effectively contain Geoffrey's activities, although he was eventually besieged by Stephen. Geoffrey died in September 1144, the result of an arrow wound he had received in a skirmish while attacking Burwell Castle in August 1144.

28 July 2010

Biographies: William, Count of Boulogne and Earl of Surrey

• William, Count of Boulogne and Earl of Surrey - Isabel de Warenne, 4th Countess of Surrey

William, Count of Boulogne and Earl of Surrey
Birth: c.1137
Death: 11 October 1159, Toulouse, France
Burial: Poitou
Father: Stephen of Blois
Mother: Matilda of Boulogne
Marriage: 1148 - Isabel de Warenne, 4th Countess of Surrey
Children: Nil

NOTES: William was the third son of King Stephen and assumed the title Count of Boulogne after his elder brother's death in 1153. He had married Isabel de Warenne, 4th Countess of Surrey, in 1148. They had no children before his death in 1159. Stephen's surviving son had never expected to be King, and provision was made for him to inherit all of Stephen's baronial lands in the Treaty of Wallingford. When Henry II came to the throne he confirmed William's status as Earl of Surrey by right of his wife. In Boulogne, William was succeeded by his sister Mary as Countess of Boulogne after his death.

25 July 2010

Biographies: Eustace, Count of Boulogne

• Eustace, Count of Boulogne - Constance of France

Eustace, Count of Boulogne
Birth: c.1130-35
Death: 17 August 1153, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Burial: Faversham Abbey, Kent
Father: Stephen of Blois
Mother: Matilda of Boulogne
Marriage: c.1140 - Constance of France
Children: Nil

NOTES: Eustace was the second son of King Stephen and assumed the title Count of Boulogne by right of his mother, Matilda of Boulogne, in c.1146. He paid homage for Normandy to Louis VII of France in 1137 and married the French king's sister, Constance, in c.1140. Eustace was knighted in 1147 and in 1151 he joined Louis in an abortive raid on Normandy. Meanwhile Stephen was attempting unsuccessfully to have Eustace crowned in his own lifetime. Backed by the Pope, Theobald of Bec steadfastly refused to perform the ceremony. Eustace died unexpectedly in August 1153 and was buried at Faversham Abbey in Kent which had been founded by his parents. Legend tells he was struck down (or choked on his food) after plundering church lands near Bury St Edmunds. His death greatly increased the possibility of a peaceful settlement between Stephen and Henry of Anjou. The negotiations concluded with the Treaty of Wallingford (also called Treaty of Westminster) of 1153, in which Henry was finally named Stephen's heir.

The chronicler's assessment of Eustace weren't kind - from The Peterborough Chronicle, "He was an evil man and did more harm than good wherever he went; he spoiled the lands and laid thereon heavy taxes."

22 July 2010

Biographies: Reginald, Earl of Cornwall

• Reginald, 1st Earl of Cornwall - Beatrice FitzRichard

Reginald de Dunstanville
Birth: c. 1110, Kent
Death: 1175, Surrey
Burial: Reading Abbey
Father: Henry I
Mother: Sybil Corbet
Marriage: Beatrice FitzRichard
Hawise (Denise)

NOTES: Reginald was another illegitimate son of King Henry I and had married Beatrice FitzRichard, the daughter of William FitzRichard, who held fiefdoms in Cornwall. He was granted the title of Earl of Cornwall in April, 1141, and was present at the rout of Winchester, during which Robert of Gloucester was captured, and led the advance guard which protected Matilda, The Empress.

20 July 2010

Biographies: The Beaumonts

• The Beaumonts - Waleran, Count of Muelan and Robert, Earl of Leicester

Waleran, Count of Meulan, 1st Earl of Worcester
Birth: 1104
Death: 9 April, 1166
Burial: St Peter of Préaux, Normandy
Father: Robert, Count of Meulan and 1st Earl of Leicester
Mother: Elizabeth de Vermandois
Marriage: 1141/2 - Agnes de Montfort
Robert, Count of Meulan

... and his brother

Robert, 2nd Earl of Leicester
Birth: 1104
Death: 5 April, 1168
Father: Robert, Count of Meulan and 1st Earl of Leicester
Mother: Elizabeth de Vermandois
Marriage: 1121 - Amice de Montfort
Robert, 3rd Earl of Leicester
Isabel, m. Simon II of St Liz (Simon II de Senlis), Earl of Huntingdon and Northampton

NOTES: The brothers were taken into the royal household of Henry I shortly after their father's death in June 1118. Despite Waleran's rebellion in 1122 (in which Robert appears to have played no part) and his imprisonment until 1129, the twins were present at Henry's court after this date and at his deathbed in 1135. More information with regards to their involvement in the struggles between Stephen and Matilda to follow soon.

Robert of Leicester's son in law, Simon II of St Liz (de Senlis), who was the son of Simon I of St Liz (de Senlis), 1st Earl of Huntingdon and Northampton and Matilda (Maud), Countess of Huntingdon, was also prominent figure in The Anarchy. He fought for Stephen at the Battle of Lincoln in 1141 and despite the King's defeat continued to loyally support Stephen's side. He died in 1153.

18 July 2010

Biographies: David of Scotland

• King David of Scotland - Matilda, Countess of Huntingdon

David of Scotland
Birth: 1085
Death: 23 May 1153, Carlisle
Burial: Dunfermline Abbey
Father: Malcolm III
Mother: Saint Margaret of Wessex
Marriage: 1113 - Matilda (Maud), Countess of Huntingdon
Henry of Scotland, Earl of Northumbria

NOTES: After the death of Henry I, David supported the claim of Matilda, his niece, to the throne of England. This brought him into conflict with Stephen and despite his defeat at the Battle of the Standard in 1138, David was able to expand his power in northern England. It was he whom later knighted her son, the future Henry II, in 1149. More information about David's role in the civil war and disputed succession between Matilda and Stephen will be forthcoming in the detailed discussion of Stephen's reign.

14 July 2010

Biographies: Henry of Blois

• Henry of Blois

Henry of Blois
Birth: c.1101
Death: 8 August 1171
Burial: Winchester or Cluny
Father: Stephen II, Count of Blois, Chartres, and Champagne
Mother: Adela, daughter of William the Conqueror

NOTES: Henry, Abbot of Glastonbury 1126-1171, Bishop of Winchester 1129-1171, Papal Legate 1139-1143, and younger brother of King Stephen. Henry was educated at Cluny and adhered to the principles of Cluniac reform, and is known for his passion for literature and architecture. Except for a few brief months in 1141 when he changed his alliance to Matilda when he thought he was on the winning side, Henry supported and advised Stephen and is credited as one of the clergy who helped convince William of Corbeil, the Archbishop of Canterbury, to crown Stephen. More information to follow on Henry in the forthcoming discussions of the civil war and disputed succession between Matilda and Stephen.

12 July 2010

Biographies: Miles of Gloucester

• Miles of Gloucester - Sybil de Neufmarché

Miles of Gloucester
Birth: c.1100
Death: 24 December 1143
Burial: Llanthony Priory
Father: Walter of Gloucester
Mother: Bertha
Marriage: Sybil de Neufmarché
Roger, 2nd Earl of Hereford

NOTES: Miles of Gloucester, 1st Earl of Hereford was the son of Walter Fitz Roger and the grandson of Roger de Pîtres. He held the office of hereditary Sheriff of Gloucester after the death of his father in 1121. He married Sybil de Neufmarché, who was the daughter of Bernard de Neufmarché, Lord of Brecon and Nest in 1121 and with her had eight children. He was in the service of Henry I between 1130 and 1135 and held the office of King's Constable. After Henry's death he, like many of the barons, at first declared for Stephen but when Matilda arrived in England in 1139 he declared for her and put Gloucester at her disposal. He remained loyal to her cause and was created Earl of Hereford by Matilda on 25th July 1141 and retained as her Constable. Miles died on 24th December 1143 in the Forest of Dean, the result of a hunting accident, and was buried at Llanthony Priory in southeast Wales.

11 July 2010

Biographies: Brian Fitzcount, Lord of Wallingford

• Brian Fitzcount, Lord of Wallingford - Matilda de Wallingford

Brian Fitzcount
Birth: -
Death: -
Burial: -
Father: Alan IV, Duke of Brittany
Mother: -
Marriage: Matilda de Wallingford
Children: Nil

NOTES: Brian Fitzcount (Brien), Lord of Wallingford and Baron Abergavenny, was the illegitimate son of Alan IV Fergant, Count of Brittany. He was sent to the court of King Henry I as a child and like Robert gained high favour, and almost certainly a good education, at court. The letters he exchanged with Gilbert Foliot indicate that this is the case. He married Matilda de Wallingford who brought him the lands of her father, Robert D'Oyly, and those of her late husband, Miles Crispin.

Brian declared for the Empress Matilda in 1139 and was a staunch supporter of her claim. Stephen unsuccessfully laid siege to Wallingford, which would become a recurring irritation throughout his reign. Brian's later years are shrouded in mystery and because he and his wife had no heirs their lands and titles reverted to the crown after their deaths. Although an authentic charter of 1141/2 proves that he held Abergavenny by right of his wife, the story in the 'Abergavenny Chronicle' that he went on crusade is unreliable.

10 July 2010

Biographies: Robert, Earl of Gloucester

• Robert of Gloucester, Earl - Mabel of Glamorgan

Robert of Gloucester
Birth: -
Death: 1147
Burial: The Priory Church of St James, Bristol
Father: Henry I Beauclerc, King of England
Mother: uncertain, possibly Sybil Corbet
Marriage: c.1107 - Mabel FitzHamon, Countess of Gloucester
William Fitz Robert, 2nd Earl of Gloucester
Roger, Bishop of Worcester
Maud, m. Ranulf, Earl of Chester
Philip, Castellan of Cricklade

Robert also had an illegitimate son with Isabel de Douvres: Richard, Bishop of Bayeux 1135–1142.

NOTES: Robert, the eldest of Henry I's many illegitimate children, would become an important figure during the The Anarchy in the reign of King Stephen. He was a loyal supporter of his half sister Empress Matilda who made him the chief commander of her army. He was highly educated and literate in Latin, and was one of his father's principal aides. Robert was both highly esteemed and rewarded at court. He fought at the Battle of Bremule in 1119, and in 1122 his father created him 1st Earl of Gloucester. His marriage to Mabel, the wealthy heiress and daughter of Robert FitzHamon, Lord of Gloucester and Glamorgan, had brought him the honours of Gloucester, Glamorgan in Wales, and Evrecy and Creully in Normandy. By right of his wife, he became the 2nd Lord of Glamorgan, and gained possession of Cardiff castle in Wales. Robert Curthose, the elder brother Henry had defeated and deposed as Duke of Normandy in the Battle of Tinchebrai in 1106, was confined at Cardiff under Robert's custody in 1126 and remained there until his death in 1134. In 1126 Robert was one of the first magnates to swear an oath to recognise Matilda as queen after Henry's death. Robert was also at Henry's side when he fell ill and died in December 1135, and was also one of the magnates who swore to stay with the King's body until it was buried at Reading Abbey. Lots more information to follow on Robert in the forthcoming posts about the civil war and disputed succession between Matilda and Stephen.

09 July 2010

Biographies: Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine

• Henry II - Eleanor of Aquitane

Henry II, Curtmantle
Reign: 1154-1189
Birth: 25 March 1133, Le Mans
Death: 6 July 1189, Chinon
Burial: Fontevrault (Fontevraud) Abbey
Father: Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou
Mother: Matilda
Marriage: 18 May 1152, Bordeaux, France - Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine
Henry the Young King, King of England d.1183
Matilda (Maud)
Richard I Coeur de Lion, King of England
Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany
John Lackland, King of England

NOTES: The first of the Angevin kings, Henry II became not only King of England, Duke of Normandy, and Count of Anjou and Maine, but also Lord of Brittany, Aquitaine, Poitou, and Guienne (all of western France from Normandy to Gascony and the Pyrenees). His restoration of order in England was swift. Firstly he had hundreds of unlicensed castles built in Stephen's reign demolished. Then instead of military service he demanded money from the barons, which enabled him to hire mercenaries responsible to himself alone. To keep order at home he raised a militia composed of all freemen, and prescribed how they were to be armed.

Of lasting importance were Henry's legal reforms. He transformed the Curia Regis into a regular court of trained officials and lawyers, dismissing most of the feudal sheriffs and replacing them with these men. Others were made into a special court of justice, the King's Bench, and most important of all, he sent out travelling judges - Justices in Eyre - who carried a 'common law' into every Shire Court of the country. A national system of law and local government and a civil service were beginning to take shape. He also established some order in Ireland, invaded for the first time and was recognised, at least in name, as its King.

In one thing Henry II failed. His Archbishop, Thomas Becket, opposed his attempt to bring clergy who had been convicted of crime in the church courts before the king's court for sentencing. He also wished to ensure the peaceful transition of his eldest son Henry (the young king, who died before Henry himself) by having him crowned in his own lifetime. The ceremony was eventually performed by the Archbishop of York. As a result of this quarrel four knights, apparently overhearing Henry's lament to be rid of his troublesome archbishop, murdered Becket in his cathedral. Becket quickly became a martyr, then a saint, while Henry was humiliated and made to do a public penance and submit to the Pope.

Over the years Henry's family life became fraught with problems and he fell out with his wife. In addition his sons, ambitious for their inheritance, rebelled in various combinations often at the urging of Eleanor. Overall however, Henry II was one of England's most successful kings and it is to his credit we owe the fact that the English are governed by English Common Law rather than by Roman. Henry died on 6th July 1189 in Chinon and was buried in Fontevrault Abbey.

Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine
Birth: c.1122, Bordeaux
Death: 1 April 1204, Fontevraud
Burial: Fontevrault (Fontevraud) Abbey
Father: Duke William X of Aquitaine
Mother: Aenor de Châtellerault
Marriage: (1) 1137 - Louis VII the Younger, King of France
Margaret of France
Alix of France
Marriage: (2) 18 May 1152, Bordeaux, France - Henry II, King of England
Henry the Young King, King of England d.1183
Matilda (Maud)
Richard I Coeur de Lion, King of England
Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany
John Lackland, King of England

NOTES: Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of England, Queen of France, Duchess of Aquitaine, Countess of Poitiers was one of the most powerful women of her time. After the annulment of her marriage to the French King Louis VII, Eleanor had the audacity to marry Henry of Anjou, some 11 years her junior, in 1152. Over the next thirteen years she bore Henry five sons and three daughters. In their later years Henry and Eleanor fell out with each other, and Eleanor supported their sons in the various plots and rebellions against their father. Eventually Henry confined Eleanor from 1173 to 1183. From 1185 onwards Eleanor became more active in the ruling of Aquitaine. Eleanor died in April 1204 and is buried in Fontevrault Abbey.

08 July 2010

Biographies: Matilda and Geoffrey of Anjou

• Matilda - Emperor Henry V and Geoffrey of Anjou

Birth: c.1102/1104, Winchester
Death: 10 September 1167, Rouen
Burial: Fontevrault (Fontevraud) Abbey?; Rouen Cathedral
Father: Henry I Beauclerc, King of England
Mother: Edith (Matilda) of Scotland
Marriage: (1) 7 January 1114, Mainz - Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor
Marriage: (2) 22 May 1127/8, Le Mans - Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou
Henry II Curtmantle, King of England
Geoffrey VI of Anjou, Count of Nantes
William, Count of Poitou

NOTES: Matilda was sent as a child to be raised in Germany and marry the Emperor, Henry V. There were no children produced during the course of this marriage, and after his death in 1125 she was recalled to the English court. She was declared heiress presumptive by her father in 1126, and he made his barons swear their fealty to her and to uphold her claim to the English throne. In 1127/8 Henry married her, apparently against her will, to the youthful Geoffrey of Anjou, nicknamed "the Handsome". She was possibly a twin with her brother William, who perished in the White Ship disaster of 1120, and after Henry I's death she disputed the throne with Stephen (an indepth look at the events of 1135-1154 is still to come). Although spurned by the English and ultimately defeated in her campaign to inherit the throne, in her latter years Matilda proved to be an able and just ruler in Normandy as Regent during her son Henry's frequent absences. Matilda, The Empress, died in September 1167 in Rouen. Some sources state she was buried at Fontevrault Abbey while others give her burial place as the Abbey of Bec. In the mid 1800's her remains were apparently moved to Rouen Cathedral.

Geoffrey V, Count of Anjou
Birth: c.1113
Death: 7 September 1151, Chateau du Loir
Burial: Saint Juliens, Le Mans
Father: Fulk V, Count of Anjou
Mother: Ermengarde of Maine
Marriage: 22 May 1127/8, Le Mans - Matilda

NOTES: Geoffrey, The Handsome, succeeded his father Fulk V as Count of Anjou, Maine and Touraine in 1128, when Fulk went to the Holy Land to marry Melisende of Jerusalem, the daughter of King Baldwin II. Henry I negotiated the marriage of his daughter and heir Matilda to Geoffrey in order to secure peace between England, Normandy, and Anjou. Their marriage was said to be an unhappy one however it produced three sons including the future Henry II. Geoffrey fought staunchly for Normandy and secured the Duchy in 1144, assuming the title Duke of Normandy until he and Matilda ceded it to their son, Henry in 1149. In 1151 Geoffrey fell ill with fever and died at the relatively young age of 38 years old. It was Geoffrey's habit to wear a sprig of broom, planta genista, on his hat and his badge became the origin of the family name Plantagenet.

07 July 2010

Biographies: Stephen and Matilda of Boulogne

• Stephen - Matilda of Boulogne

Reign: 1135-1154
Birth: c.1096, Blois, France
Death: 25 October 1154, Dover Castle, Kent
Burial: Faversham Abbey, Kent
Father: Stephen II, Count of Blois, Chartres, and Champagne
Mother: Adela, daughter of William the Conqueror
Marriage: 1125, Westminster, England - Matilda of Boulogne
Eustace, Count of Boulogne
William, Count of Boulogne and Earl of Surrey
Mary, Countess of Boulogne

NOTES: Grandson of William the Conqueror and nephew and favourite of Henry I, who became the wealthiest landowner under Henry's patronage - Count of Mortain in Normandy and estates in Lancaster, Suffolk, and Essex in England - and from his marriage to heiress Matilda of Boulogne he added the important port of Wissant and title Count of Boulogne to his estates.

Stephen was the son of French Count Stephen II (sometimes called Stephen Henry) of Blois who participated in the First Crusade. His mother was the formidable and pious Adela, daughter of William the Conqueror, who after her husband's death in 1102, chose to administer Blois and settle her children's futures herself. She bypassed her eldest son William and appointed Theobald as heir of Blois, arranged for Stephen to be sent to Henry's court to make his own good fortune, and younger son Henry was sent to Cluny and the monastic life. It is not certain exactly when Stephen arrived at the court of Henry I but he was in attendance by c.1113.

After Henry's death in 1135 Stephen convinced the clergy to crown him as King of England, effectively usurping the throne and breaking his oath of fealty to his cousin Matilda. This plunged England into frequent civil wars between the King's supporters and Matilda's forces led by Robert of Gloucester. Much of the land was ravaged and England plunged into almost complete chaos. Later, Matilda's son Henry waged war against Stephen until 1153, and following the death of his eldest son Eustace, Stephen was forced to name Henry his heir.

King Stephen died in October 1154 and was buried alongside his wife, Matilda of Boulogne, and his son Eustace in their foundation church, Faversham Abbey in Kent. Like so many others this church fell into disrepair at the time of the Dissolution during Henry VIII's rulership, and their bones were apparently thrown into a nearby river or creek. A Victorian era inscription on a tomb in a local parish church states that it is the final resting place of Stephen and his wife, but without opening the tomb who can say for sure? The original abbey is gone and the area is now a school sports field. An indepth look at Stephen's reign is still to come.

• Henry of Huntingdon on: King Stephen

Matilda of Boulogne
Born: c.1105 Boulogne, France
Died: 3 May 1152 Hedingham Castle, Essex
Burial: Faversham Abbey
Father: Eustace III, Count of Boulogne
Mother: Mary of Scotland
Marriage: Stephen of England

NOTES: Matilda Countess of Boulogne, Queen of England and wife of King Stephen - and through her maternal grandmother descended from the pre conquest English kings. Matilda was the daughter of Count Eustace III of Boulogne and his wife Mary of Scotland, daughter of King Malcolm III of Scotland and Margaret, and therefore also a cousin to Matilda The Empress, whose mother was Edith of Scotland.

Matilda married Stephen of Blois, Count of Mortain, in 1125. Stephen was a son of the Conqueror's sister Adela and had been sent to be raised at his uncle's court. Matilda had succeeded as Countess of Boulogne after the death of her father and ruled this area jointly with her husband until it was passed onto to her eldest son Eustace.

On the death of Henry I in 1135 Stephen, acting with great haste, crossed the channel and convinced the clergy to crown him as king, usurping the claim of his cousin and rival the Empress Matilda the daughter and heir of Henry I. In the civil war that followed, often known as The Anarchy, Matilda of Boulogne proved to be her husband's strongest supporter. Indeed, Stephen owed much to the loyalty and courage of his wife.

After his capture at the Battle of Lincoln in 1141 she rallied the king's supporters and raised an army with the help of William of Ypres and advanced on London. The Londoners took up arms and she besieged the Empress causing Matilda's forces to flee to Oxford Castle. Matilda, who had styled herself Lady of the English, was never crowned. It was during a retreat from Winchester in the same year that Robert of Gloucester was captured by the army of Queen Matilda and William of Ypres. This led to an exchange of prisoners - Stephen for Robert. Stephen had spent some months under guard after the Battle of Lincoln and this action restored Stephen to the throne.

Matilda died at Hedingham Castle, Essex, in 1152 and was buried at Faversham Abbey, which she and Stephen had founded.

It would be easy to speculate that Stephen must have badly missed his loyal wife and her support in his last two years as king. The death of his son Eustace in 1153 proved to be the last straw, and Stephen accepted the Treaty of Wallingford (also called Treaty of Westminster), whereby he would rule unchallenged until his death and accept Henry as his heir.

• A Note About Mary (Marie) of Boulogne and her family:

Mary (Marie) of Boulogne (1136 – 1182)
Mary had apparently been placed in a convent at an early age but after the death of her brother William in 1159 she became the heiress to Boulogne. Forced to leave the convent, Mary was married to Matthew of Alsace who was the second son of Thierry, Count of Flanders and Sibylla of Anjou. Although they ruled Boulogne together, unsurprisingly perhaps the marriage was troubled and after their divorce in 1170 Mary entered St Austrebert, Montreuil and became a nun for the second time. The marriage however did produce two daughters, Ida, who inherited Boulogne after her father's death in 1173, and Mathilde, who was married to Henry I, Duke of Brabant in 1179.

Ida of Boulogne c.1160 – 1216, Countess of Boulogne
Ida was married firstly to Count Gerard III of Guelders and then Berthold IV of Zähringen. Both marriages were brief and ended with the men's deaths. By her third husband, Count Renaud de Dammartin, Ida had one daughter, Matilda II of Boulogne. Matilda (also known as Mahaut or Mathilde, Maud de Dammartin) married Philippe Hurepel, Count of Clermont-en-Beauvais, an illegitimate son of King Philip II of France, who died in 1235. In 1238 she married Afonso, the younger brother of King Sancho II of Portugal. He became King Afonso III in 1248. This marriage did not produce any children and he divorced Matilda in 1253.

Matilde of Flanders 1170–1210, Duchess of Brabant
Matilde was only nine years old when she married Henry I, Duke of Brabant in 1179. In due course they went on to have six children including a daughter, Adelaide, who inherited Boulogne after the death of Matilda II in 1260. Adelaide was at that time the widow of William X of Auvergne and their son, Robert of Auvergne, eventually succeeded his mother in Boulogne.

06 July 2010

Biographies: Henry I, Edith of Scotland (Matilda) and Adelica of Louvain

• Henry I - Edith of Scotland (Matilda) and Adelica of Louvain

Henry I, Beauclerc
Reign: 1100-1135
Birth: c.1067-68, Selby, Yorkshire, England
Death: 1 December 1135, Saint Denis en Lyons
Burial: Reading Abbey
Father: William I the Conqueror, King of England
Mother: Matilda of Flanders
Marriage: (1) 1100, Westminster Abbey, London - Edith (Matilda) of Scotland
infant, possibly named Richard
William, Duke of Normandy (died 1120)
Matilda, The Empress
Marriage: (2) 1122, Westminster Abbey, London - Adelica of Louvain
No children
Other Notable Children:
Robert, Earl of Gloucester - illegitimate son to a Welsh gentlewoman

NOTES: Deposed his brother Robert in 1106 in the Battle of Tinchebrai and became both Duke of Normandy and King of England as his father had been. His addition to the administrative system was the Court of the Exchequer, for the better collecting of taxes. The chief administrator of the new court was the Justiciar, who became the chief minister of the realm. During Henry's reign this was Roger, Bishop of Salisbury.

• Warfare between Henry I and Robert Curthose, according to Wace: Warfare between Henry I and Robert Curthose

Henry lost his son and heir, William, in the White Ship disaster on 25th November 1120. With no children forthcoming from his second marriage to Adelica of Louvain, despite the fact that he had fathered numerous illegitimate children, Henry took the unprecedented step of nominating his only surviving legitimate child, daughter Matilda, as his heir. In 1127/8 he married Matilda to Geoffrey of Anjou in order to secure peace between England, Normandy, and Anjou. However, it was an unpopular move amongst the barons and clergy.

The month of December marks the death of King Henry I in 1135, supposedly to a 'surfeit of lampreys'. His death also marks the beginnings of events that would lead to nearly 20 years of civil war for England. On hearing the news of his uncle's death Stephen of Blois, Count of Mortain and Boulogne, Henry's favourite nephew, promptly sailed to England and convinced the clergy to crown him King of England. It is said that Stephen's clever brother Henry, Bishop of Winchester and later Papal Legate, also played a large part in the negotiations of the usurpation of the crown. Matilda and Geoffrey, bided their time and firstly secured Anjou and then Normandy, but finally in 1139 with her half brother Robert of Gloucester as her main supporter, she invaded England in an attempt to regain her inheritance.

Thus began the years of 'The Anarchy' between the supporters of Stephen and Matilda, which only ended in 1153 with the Treaty of Wallingford (also called Treaty of Westminster) when Stephen agreed to have Matilda's son Henry as his heir.

Edith of Scotland (Matilda)
Born: c.1080 Dunfermline, Scotland
Died: 1 May 1118, Westminster Palace
Burial: Westminster Abbey
Father: Malcolm III of Scotland
Mother: Saint Margaret of Scotland
Marriage: Henry I

NOTES: Edith of Scotland (Matilda) - first wife and Queen consort of Henry I - and through her mother descended from Edmund Ironside and thus Alfred the Great. Her name was changed from Edith to Matilda after her marriage to Henry.

When Matilda was about six years old she and her sister Mary were sent to Romsey where their aunt Cristina was Abbess. Matilda and Henry seem to have known each another for some time before their marriage, but because she had spent so much of her life in a nunnery there was some controversy over whether or not she had been veiled as a nun, so Henry sought permission for the marriage from Archbishop Anselm of Canterbury. Anselm called a council of bishops of the realm, at which Matilda testified that she had never taken holy vows. The council gave their permission for the marriage, which took place in November 1100 at Westminster Abbey.

As Queen, Matilda accompanied her husband in his travels and served in a vice regal capacity when Henry was away from court. Her court was based in Westminster and was filled with musicians and poets, and she was renowned for her devotion to religion and the poor. She also administered extensive dower properties and was known as a patron of the arts. England and Scotland became politically closer during this marriage, during which time three of her brothers served as kings of Scotland and were unusually friendly to England during this period.

Matilda died on 1 May 1118 at Westminster Palace, so she did not live to see her only son William perish in the White Ship disaster in 1120, and was buried at Westminster Abbey. After her death she was remembered by her subjects as "Matilda the Good Queen" and "Matilda of Blessed Memory".

Adelica of Louvain (Adeliza of Leuven)
Born: c.1103
Died: 23 April 1151, Affligem Abbey, Brabant
Burial: Affligem Abbey, Brabant
Father: Godfrey I of Leuven
Mother: Countess Ida of Namur
Marriage: Henry I

NOTES: Adelica of Louvain - Queen consort of the Kingdom of England from 1122 to 1135, second wife of Henry I - married Henry in February 1122, supposedly chosen due to his desire for a male heir. However, no children were born during this marriage.

Adelica did not play a big part in the public life of the realm during her time as queen consort, but she did her leave a mark as a patron of literature and several works including a bestiary by Philip de Thaon were dedicated to her.

After Henry I died on 1 December 1135 Adelica retired to the monastery of Wilton near Salisbury for a period of time, but before 1139 she married William d'Aubigny, who had been one of Henry's chief advisors. She brought to the marriage a Queen's dowry including the castle of Arundel, and Stephen of England created d'Aubigny Earl of Arundel and Earl of Lincoln. Her husband was a staunch supporter of Stephen during the civil war, but when Empress Matilda landed in England in 1139 Adelica received her as a guest of the former Queen.

In a very ironic twist, this second marriage produced 7 children who survived until adulthood:
Reynor d'Aubigny
Henry d'Aubigny
Alice, Countess of Eu
Olivia d'Aubigny
Agatha d'Aubigny
William d'Aubigny, 2nd Earl of Arundel
Geoffrey d'Aubigny

One of Adelica's brothers, Joscelyn de Louvain, to whom she was very close, came to England and married Agnes de Percy, heiress of the Percy family. His children took their name from their mother's lineage, and their descendants include the medieval Earls of Northumberland. Adelica also became an active patron of the church during her second marriage and gave property to Reading Abbey in honour of her former husband and to several other smaller foundations.

Adelica spent her final years in the abbey of Affligem which she richly rewarded with landed estates and after her death was buried in the abbey church next to her father, Duke Godfrey I of Leuven.

* Footnote: William d'Aubigny, 2nd Earl of Arundel - father to William d'Aubigny, 3rd Earl of Arundel who was one of the twenty five guarantors of the Magna Carta.

• Henry I according to Orderic Vitalis: Henry I

05 July 2010

Biographies: William II

• William II

William II, Rufus
Reign: 1087-1100
Birth: 1056/1060, Normandy, France
Death: 2 August 1100, New Forest
Burial: Winchester Cathedral
Father: William I the Conqueror, King of England
Mother: Matilda of Flanders

NOTES: William was educated under the watchful eye of Lanfranc. His chief adviser as King was Ranulf Flambard. William was an effective soldier and a ruthless ruler. His reign is marked by long and difficult struggles with the Church. He sought to bring the Welsh marches and the Northern counties under English control but wasn't entirely successful. He was killed in an accident in the New Forest while hunting with Walter Tyrell when a stray arrow pierced him in the heart. William Rufus did not marry and it is not easy to form a completely accurate picture of his character as most contemporary chroniclers were unsympathetic toward him due to his troubled relations with the Church.

• William II according to Peter of Blois: William Rufus

04 July 2010

Biographies: William I and Matilda of Flanders

• William the Conqueror - Matilda of Flanders

William I, the Conqueror
Reign: 1066-1087
Birth: 1027/1028, Falaise, Normandy, France
Death: 7 September 1087, Rouen, France
Burial: St Stephen Abbey, Caen, Normandy
Father: Duke Robert of Normandy
Mother: Herleva (Arlette)
Marriage: 1053 - Matilda of Flanders
Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy
William II Rufus, King of England
Cecilia (or Cecily), Abbess of Holy Trinity, Caen
Adeliza (or Alice)
Alison (or Ali)
Adela, m. Stephen, Count of Blois
Constance, m. Alan IV Fergent, Duke of Brittany
Henry I Beauclerc, King of England and Duke of Normandy

NOTES: Duke William of Normandy. William was the illegitimate son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy and Herleva or Arlette, a tanner's daughter, and sometimes called "William the Bastard". He was the first Norman King of England. On 28th September 1066 William secured the sanction of Pope Alexander II for a Norman invasion of England. He was victorious at The Battle of Hastings on 14th October 1066 and by 1070 the Norman conquest of England was complete. The Normans introduced into England their system of land tenure based on military service. They were administrators rather than legislators, and the whole system of Saxon local government - the counties, sheriffs, and courts - survived. Norman and Saxon institutions were blended. The smooth working of the feudal system depended on a king's ability to control his vassals. William was astute in his selections and to further strengthen his position he distributed their estates over various parts of the kingdom so that there was no great concentration of power. The only exception to this measure was along the unsettled borders of Wales and Scotland. It was the 'Marcher Lords' who posed the biggest danger to royal authority and after the revolt of the Earl of Hereford William exacted an oath which made each tenant directly responsible to the king. This was a severe restriction of the powers of his tenants in chief. In addition the chief clergymen of the church were almost entirely replaced by Normans. For example, Lanfranc replaced the English Archbishop of Canterbury and under him a great period of building began. William ordered the compilation of the 'Domesday Book' in 1086, a detailed survey of all the manors of England showing who held them, their size, number of villeins, amount of stock and value.

William the Conqueror died at The Convent of St Gervais near Rouen in 1087. It's been stated that he died as a result of injuries he sustained when he was either thrown hard against the pommel of his saddle or from being thrown from his horse. His burial was just as marred by strife as his coronation 21 years before in December 1066. Apparently his stone tomb had been made too small to fit his body, requiring it to be ineptly squashed into the chamber. William was buried in the Abbaye aux Hommes, which he had founded, in Caen, Normandy. His grave was defiled and his bones scattered in the mid 1500's and again during the French Revolution - a rather inglorious end for William the Conqueror.

Matilda of Flanders
Born: c.1031
Died: 1083
Burial: l'Abbaye aux Dames, Caen, Normandy
Father: Baldwin V, Count of Flanders
Mother: Adela Capet, daughter of Robert II of France
Marriage: William I the Conqueror

NOTES: Matilda of Flanders, Queen consort of England and wife of William I the Conqueror, was a seventh generation direct descendant of Alfred the Great and her marriage to William strengthened his claim to the throne.

Matilda was said to be diminutive, perhaps only approximately 5 feet tall, but it seems she was a feisty person. According to legend, she told the representative of William Duke of Normandy who had come asking for her hand that she was far too high born to consider marrying a bastard. Apparently William himself sought her out and roughed her up. There are several versions of the story:
1. William rode from Normandy to Bruges and found Matilda on her way to church. He dragged her off her horse by her long braids, threw her down in the street, and then rode off.
2. William rode to her father Baldwin's home in Lille, threw Matilda to the ground by the braids, and then violently shook or hit her before leaving.
Whatever the real story may be, Matilda decided to marry William. A papal ban on the grounds of consanguinity did not dissuade either, and they were married in 1053 and Matilda bore him eleven children.

During the time William was preparing to invade England Matilda outfitted a ship called the Mora out of her own money and gave it to him, and at one time it was thought that she was involved in the creation of the Bayeux Tapestry but it's now believed that it was commissioned by William's half brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux. She died in 1083 and was buried at l'Abbaye aux Dames, which she had founded, in Caen.

• The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: William I

Biographies: Harold II

• Harold - Edith Swan-neck and Ealdgyth

Harold II
Reign: 1066
Birth: c.1022
Death: 14 October 1066, Hastings, Sussex
Burial: uncertain, possibly Bosham or Waltham Abbey
Father: Godwin, Earl of Wessex
Mother: Gytha
Marriage: Edith Swan-neck and c.1065 Ealdgyth

NOTES: King Harold came to the English throne by election via the Witan after the death of Edward The Confessor in January 1066 and was about 44 or 45 years old at the time of his death at the Battle of Hastings in October 1066. There is a tradition that Harold's mistress Edith Swan-neck sought out his body and took it to Waltham Abbey for burial. Harold and Edith lived together for many years and she had borne him children including a daughter Gytha, named after Harold's mother, who sought refuge abroad after the Conquest and eventually married Vladimir Monomakh, Grand Duke of Kiev. In 1065 Harold married Ealdgyth, the widow of Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, King of Gwynedd and Powys, and daughter of Alfgar, Earl of Mercia. She bore him at least one son, Harold, whose fate is uncertain. Interestingly, Harold had led successful military campaigns against the Welsh. Note that there is also much confusion between Ealdgyth and Edith Swan-neck. His most well known battle victory is most probably that of the Battle of Stamford Bridge against the forces of Harold Hardrada of Norway and his half brother Tostig which immediately preceded the Battle of Hastings in September 1066.

• The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: The years 1052-1069

03 July 2010

Arms and Armour: Anglo-Norman Warfare

This section of the blog consists of notes on:

• Sword, Lance, and Battleaxe
• The Destrier
• Anglo-Norman warfare

• Sword, Lance, and Battleaxe

General information and images of the type of Arms and Amour used in the Medieval period.

The sword and scabbard on the left has a brazil nut pommel, a large spatulate cross and the blade has a large central fuller.

In the middle is the so called 'Temple Pyx' of gilt bronze c.1140-50. It was probably originally part of a reliquary casket, and this fragment shows three mail clad knights with long gowns of cloth underneath their hauberks together with their familiar Norman kite shape shields with umbos.

The grip of the sword on the right is bound with red and yellow silk, the pommel is bronze and the cross iron. The belt fittings on the scabbard are of buckskin.

Left: a Viking sword c.1000 found in the River Thames, London. It's blade is inlaid in iron with the maker's name, INGELRI.
Middle: medieval spear and lance heads excavated in London.
Right: Viking age spearheads and broad axe heads found in the River Thames, near London Bridge. Battleaxes such as these were capable of severing a man's head from his shoulders.

Left: Scandinavian c.850-950. The hilt is overlaid with latten decoration incorporating the letters HLITER.
Middle: German 11th century.
Right: southern European 12th century.
All from the Wallace Collection

The Construction of Mail:

A theoretical sequence of medieval mail manufacture, since no original tools survive. Drawn soft iron wire wrapped around an iron mandrel is cut into links with a cold chisel. Alternatively a simple punch and former may have been used to form the rings. Another tool simultaneously flattens and shapes the end of each link. A third tool pierced each with a slot. Wedge shaped rivets were probably cut from a flat metal strip, and the mail assembled, four links through every one. The raised rivet heads faced out. The mail was case hardened or if mild steel, quench hardened.

Detail of a German riveted mail shirt showing the brass ring stamped 'Bernart Couwein'. The diameter of each link is 1cm, and the shirt weighs approximately 9kg.

A fifteenth century mailmaker. Over 30,000 links were needed to make one mail shirt.

Acknowledgement & Recommendation:
"Arms & Amour of the Medieval Knight" - David Edge & John Miles Paddock. For anyone who is interested in finding out more about arms and armour in the medieval period I particularly recommend the aforementioned book. I found it a great introduction to both medieval warfare and the development of the equipment used in each century. It is very informative, easy to read, contains lots excellent of images, and is very nicely presented.

• The Magnificent Destrier

Sometimes forgotten in discussions of the medieval knight, I've included in the arms and armour section information about the magnificent destriers and the equipment knights used with them. Destrier doesn't refer to a breed, but to a type of horse: the finest and strongest warhorse, which were usually stallions, bred and raised for the needs of war.

The Bayeux Tapestry clearly shows that the war horses used by the Norman knights were all stallions and also the type of saddle used. This was secured by a single breastband and girth and had an upright bow in front with an equally high cantle behind, both curling outwards. It had long stirrup leathers giving a deep straight-legged seat, so that the knight was virtually standing in the saddle, enabling him to use it as a fighting platform both to take his weight and hold him securely in place while delivering or receiving blows. The Tapestry also shows mounted knights wearing spurs.

10th or 11th century iron stirrup overlaid with bronze, incised and pointille decoration, and an 11th century style prick spur.

• Anglo-Norman warfare

Articles on Anglo-Norman Warfare and Gesta Stephani and Primary Sources on Anglo-Norman Warfare:

Anglo-Norman Warfare courtesy of De Re Militari: The Society for Medieval Military History

Interested in Castle Warfare? The following links provide some fascinating insights into castle warfare from the Gesta Stephani, written in the time of King Stephen.
Castle Warfare in the Gesta Stephani
The Siege of Bristol and other matters from the Gesta Stephani

Please note the acknowledgements and notes at the bottom of each article. Gesta Stephani, edited and translated by K.R.Potter (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978)

If you are interested in the medieval tournament the following link Tournaments at the Dawn of the Age of Chivalry provides some great information on the development of the tournament in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the era from William the Conqueror to Richard I.

02 July 2010

Life in Medieval England

This section of the blog consists of:

• Daily Life - 3 parts
• Fun Stuff ~ Quizzes
• Image Gallery - which can now be found *Here*

• Fun Stuff ~ Quizzes

To conclude this section of the blog I've decided to post a couple of quick quizzes for readers to play around with before I get back into the more serious stuff such as Anglo-Norman Warfare, the Biographies, and an indepth look at the reign of King Stephen. Enjoy!

Quiz No. 1

Test your knowledge of the late Saxon/Norman period:

1. Alfred the Great reigned from:
a. 791-820
b. 871-900
c. 659-679

2. Along with feudalism, the Normans bought to Britain a particular style of architecture best described as:
a. Early English Gothic - flying buttresses
b. Concentric castle building - curtain walls and barbicans
c. Romanesque - chevron and beakhead ornamentation

3. Edward the Confessor founded Westminster Abbey in:
a. 1042
b. 1141
c. 1045

4. The compilation of the 'Doomsday Book' took place in:
a. 1086
b. 1082
c. 1126

5. Who ruled the House of Wessex in the years between 940-946:
a. Edgar
b. Edmund I
c. Ethelred II

Quiz No. 2

The House of Normandy:

1. Duke William of Normandy was also known as:
a. The Bastard
b. Curtmantle
c. Longshanks

2. His son was known as William Rufus because:
a. he often wore a red cloak
b. of his ruddy complexion
c. he liked to hunt red deer in Nottingham Forest

3. King Stephen, the last of the Norman Kings, ruled England during the years:
a. 1035-54
b. 1135-54
c. 1126-54

4. Geoffrey of Anjou, husband of The Empress Matilda, founded the Plantagenet family name when he chose the planta genista as his emblem - this was:
a. a sprig of yellow broom flower
b. a sprig from a young oak tree
c. a sprig of heather

5. Henry II ruled England between:
a. 1054-89
b. 1154-89
c. 1135-89

Quiz No. 3

The Saxon and Norman era:

1. A 'Who am I?' question. It has been said my marriage got off to a somewhat stormy, violent start but it proved sound and 11 children were produced from it. I died in 1083 and was buried at l'Abbaye aux Dames which I had founded.
a. Eleanor of Aquitane
b. Matilda of Flanders
c. Margaret of Anjou

2. Many fine words have been spoken of this member of the House of Wessex who ruled during the years 871AD-900AD.
a. Athelstan
b. Edward, the Martyr
c. Alfred, the Great

3. This former Queen wed William d'Aubigny in 1139, and unlike her previous marriage which failed to produce any children, this second marriage produced 7 children who survived until adulthood.
a. Matilda of Boulogne
b. Adelica of Louvain (Adeliza of Leuven)
c. Adela, Countess of Blois

4. This man was the mainstay of The Empress Matilda's campaigns to wrest the English crown from Stephen of Blois.
a. Robert of Gloucester
b. William of Anjou
c. Robert of Leicester

5. History often applies the moniker of 'The Unready' to this sovereign's name.
a. Edmund I
b. Egbert
c. Ethelred II

Now of course you didn't cheat LOL! Here are the answers:

Life in Medieval England

• Daily Life - Part III

General Information

The Often Thorny Subject of Marriage and Dowry:

Anglo-Saxon marriage customs allowed that not only did women have rights covered in legislation, and were able to own property and lands, but that the husband was to pay "morgengifu" ('morning gift') in money or land to the woman herself, and she would have personal control over it to give away, sell or bequeath as she chose.

This of course all changed after the advent of the Norman Conquest in 1066, bringing with it the customs and laws of the Normans, and indeed there was great change in the rights and status of women. For those of high ranking birth especially, marriage was most often arranged by the woman's family or by the powerful, sometimes by the monarch himself, purely for political or personal gain, or in some cases as a reward to a favourite or for loyal services rendered. Women had a very limited share in feudal land owning, the husband owned everything, and Canon Law stated that no married woman could make a valid will without her husband's consent. Children were married at a young age, with the age of valid consent for girls being 12 years. Some young daughters were placed in an abbey and 'took the veil'. It was also fairly common for women to become nuns after the death of their husband. The only women with relative freedom to do what they wanted were rich widows. Some noble women were named heir to titles and estates, but it was still expected that a marriage would take place even for these women.

In fairness though, it would seem that this arrangement was sometimes just as distasteful to the husband, especially if he had no regard for the chosen woman.

Church and Daily Life:

Church and daily life were very closely tied together, and even the King was expected to attend chapel services. Indeed many Norman Keeps had a chapel, the best example of which is St John the Evangelist in White Tower, London.

A Book of Hours, an illuminated book of prayers, texts, and psalms become the one of most common type of medieval illuminated manuscript. Some ladies of high ranking households also had a prie-dieu in their living quarters or solar. A prie-dieu (French: literally, "pray God") is a type of prayer desk mainly intended for private devotional use, but they can also often be found in churches of the European continent. It is a small ornamental wooden desk furnished with a sloping shelf for books, and a cushioned pad on which to kneel. Sometimes a prie-dieu consisted only of the sloped shelf for books without the kneeler, or instead of the sloping shelf a padded arm rest was provided.

Medieval Literature:

The Middle Ages saw the beginnings of a rebirth in literature. Early medieval books were painstakingly hand copied and illustrated by monks. Paper was a rarity, with vellum, made from calf's skin, and parchment, made from lamb's skin, were the media of choice for writing. Students learning to write used wooden tablets covered in green or black wax. Most books during this era were bound with plain wooden boards, or with simple tooled leather for more expensive volumes.

Language also saw further development during the Middle Ages. Capital and lowercase letters were developed with rules for each. Books were treasures and were rarely shown openly in a library, but rather kept safely under lock and key. Indeed, some people might have been tempted to rent out their books, while for others desperate for cash a book was a valuable item that could be pawned.

In addition, wandering scholars and poets travelling to the Crusades learned of new writing styles. Courtly Love spawned interest in romantic prose. Troubadours sang in medieval courtyards about epic battles involving Roland, Arthur, and Charlemagne.

Some Literary Works:

Anthology of Old English Poetry:
The Exeter Book, also known as the Codex Exoniensis, which dates to the tenth century, is an anthology of Anglo-Saxon poetry, and one of the four major Anglo-Saxon literature codices. It was donated to the library of Exeter Cathedral by Leofric, the first bishop of Exeter, and is the largest known collection of Old English literature that exists today. Proposed dates of authorship range from 960AD to 990AD. However, the Book's heritage becomes traceable around 1050 when Leofric was made Bishop at Exeter. Among the treasures which he is recorded to have bestowed upon the then impoverished monastery is one described as "mycel englisc boc be gehwilcum þingum on leoðwisan geworht" - that is: "a large English book of poetic works". This book has been widely assumed to be the Exeter Codex as it survives today.

A Link which includes further information and images of the text:
The Exeter Anthology of Old English Poetry

Romance Genre and the Song of Roland:
As a literary genre, romance or chivalric romance refers to a style of heroic prose and verse narrative current in Europe from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Romances often drew on the legends and fairy tales and traditional tales about Charlemagne and Roland or King Arthur.

The Song of Roland (La Chanson de Roland) is the oldest remaining major work of French literature. It exists in various different manuscript versions, which testify to its enormous and enduring popularity in the twelfth to fourteenth centuries. The oldest of these versions is the one in the Oxford manuscript, which contains a text of some 4,004 lines (the number varies slightly in different modern editions) and is usually dated to the middle of the twelfth century, ie. between 1140 and 1170. The epic poem is the first and most outstanding example of the chanson de geste, a literary form that flourished between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries and celebrated the legendary deeds of a hero.

The Song of Roland

The Lais of Marie de France:
These are a series of twelve short narrative Breton lais written by the poet Marie de France in the late twelfth century. They are short, narrative poems that are notable for their celebration of love and in general focus on glorifying the concept of courtly love through the adventures of their main characters. Two of Marie's lais "Lanval" and "Chevrefoil" mention King Arthur and his Knights. Very little is known about Marie herself but it is thought she was born in France and wrote in England and was probably a contemporary of Chrétien de Troyes.

Harley 978, a thirteenth century manuscript housed in the British Library, preserves all twelve lais. The manuscript also includes a 56 line prologue in which Marie writes that she was inspired by the example of the ancient Greeks and Romans to create something that would be both entertaining and morally instructive, and she also states her desire to preserve for posterity the tales that she has heard.

The Lais of Marie de France

Medieval Clothing and Jewellery:

The following links provide some very interesting information and images about medieval jewellery and clothing. They include information about the materials used, styles, and the social and economic value of jewellery items, as well as the garments worn by both men and women.

Medieval Jewelry and Clothing.
"Wool is the whole wealth of my people"
Fashion - Saxon and Medieval
Hullwebs - daily life, marriage, and family
Anglo-Saxon Women 410AD to 1066

For women in particular, spinning and weaving, needlework and tapestry, and the preparation of 'Simples', homemade herbal remedies for various ailments, were common pursuits.

01 July 2010

Life in Medieval England

• Daily Life - Part II

Life in the Great Hall

In the early medieval period the centre of life in castles was the Great Hall which was a huge multipurpose room built on the second floor. Medieval feasts, wedding celebrations, holiday festivities such as feast days, and receiving visiting nobles, would all take place in the castle's Great Hall. Elaborate tapestries and silks often lined the walls and while Middle Age castles could be rather dark, the largest windows would be found here. Small wooden or stone benches were often placed underneath these windows so guests could enjoy the view.

Great Hall furnishings could be sparse, but they were very practical. Long wooden tables and benches would be covered with white linen during feasts, but could be taken apart easily for dancing and entertainment. The lord and his family were seated at a table on a raised wooden or stone dais at the far end of the hall. There were no chimneys, and the fireplace was in the middle of the hall. Smoke escaped by the way of louvers in the roof, or at least in theory. It was not unusual for guests to sleep in the hall after a night of merrymaking.

The food at the lord's table was as full of variety as the peasant's was sparse. Meat, fish, pastries, cabbage, turnips, onions, carrots, beans, and peas were common, as well as fresh bread, stews, cheese and eggs, and fruit, desserts and tarts. At a feast spitted boar, roast swan, or peacock might be added. Beer, wine, cider, mead, juices and mulberry and blackberry wines were all drinks of choice in preference to water which was considered suspect and not as good for the digestion. Ale, which was thin, weak, and drunk soon after brewing, was the most common drink. Fruit juices and honey were the only sweeteners, and spices were almost unknown until after the Crusades. Meat was cut with small personal daggers and all eating was done with the fingers from trenchers, which were a flat, dry bread. One trencher and one drinking cup was shared by two people. Scraps were often thrown on the floor for the dogs to finish.

The stone floors in the castle's Great Hall were rarely covered with carpets. Straw and rushes were the usual coverings, but later in the Middle Ages herbs like marjoram, camomile, basil, sweet fennel, mint, germander and lavender would be added to help with the aroma. These coverings were swept regularly, but new materials would be soon added to cover up the more unattractive things which found their way onto the floor such as bones, spittle, spilt ale, dirt and grease.

The Roles of Seneschal, Marshal, and Constable:

The British scholar H.S. Bennett described the seneschal's role by saying that "the seneschal must know the size and needs of every manor; how many acres should be ploughed and how much seed will be needed. He must know all his bailiffs and reeves, how they conduct the lord's business and how they treat the peasants. He must know exactly how many penny loaves can be made from a quarter of corn, or how many cattle each pasture should support. He must for ever be on the alert lest any of the lord's franchises lapse or are usurped by others. He must think of the lord's needs, both of money and of kind, and see that they are constantly supplied. In short, he must be all knowing and he is all powerful". Steward is an alternative title for this role within a household.

In great households, the marshal was responsible for all aspects relating to horses: the care and management of all horses from the chargers to the pack horses, as well as all travel logistics. The position of marshal "horse servant" was a high one in court circles and the king's marshal was also responsible for managing many military matters. Within lower social groupings the marshal acted as a farrier. The highly skilled marshal made and fitted horseshoes, cared for the hoof, and provided general veterinary care for horses. Throughout the Middle Ages, a distinction was drawn between the marshal and the blacksmith.

The constable "count of the stable" was responsible for protection and the maintenance of order, and commanding the military component within the household. Along with marshals, the constable might also organise hastiludes and other chivalrous events.

On Horses, Riding, and Transportation:

Riding horses varied greatly in quality, size and breeding. The names of horses referred to a type of horse, rather than a breed. Many horses were described by the region where they or their immediate ancestors were foaled, by their gait eg. 'trotters' or 'amblers', or by their colouring or the name of their breeder.

The best riding horses were known as palfreys. Other riding horses were often called hackneys, from which the modern term "hack" is derived. Women sometimes rode palfreys or small quiet horses known as jennets.

Because of the necessity to ride long distances over uncertain roads, smooth gaited horses were preferred, and most ordinary riding horses were of greater value if they could do one of the smooth but ground covering four beat gaits collectively known as an amble rather than the more jarring trot.

It was common for many people including women to travel long distances, usually on horseback (or if weakened or infirm carried in a litter), and most early medieval women rode astride. The wives of nobles often accompanied their husbands on crusade or to tournaments, many women travelled for social or family engagements, and both nuns and laywomen went on pilgrimages. Women of the nobility also rode horses for sport, including when they were hunting and hawking.

It was not unheard of for women to also ride war horses and take part in warfare. For example, Empress Matilda, armed and mounted, led an army against her cousin King Stephen and his wife Matilda of Boulogne. (More to follow on the destrier, or war horse, in the Arms and Amour: Anglo-Norman Warfare section).

It was not uncommon for a girl to learn her father's trade or for a woman to share her husband's trade and many guilds also accepted the membership of widows so they might continue their husband's business. Under this system some women learnt horse related trades and there are records of women working as farriers and saddle makers. On farms where every hand was needed, excessive emphasis on division of labour wasn't practical. Women often worked alongside men on their own farms or as hired help, leading the farm horses and oxen and managing their care.

Life in Medieval England

• Daily Life - Part I

Feudalism and Medieval life

Feudalism: What does feudalism and all that it entails mean? Find out here

The social structure of the Middle Ages was organised around the system of Feudalism. In practice it meant that a country was not governed solely by the king but by individual barons, who administered their own estates, dispensed their own justice, minted their own money, levied taxes and tolls, and demanded military service from vassals. Sometimes the barons could field greater armies than the king. In theory the king was the chief feudal lord, but in reality the many individual barons were supreme in their own territory.

Feudalism was built upon a relationship of obligation and mutual service between vassals and lords. A vassal held his land, or fief, as a grant from a lord. When a vassal died, his heir was required to publicly renew his oath of fealty to his lord or suzerain. This public oath was called homage. The lord was obliged to protect the vassal, give military aid, and guard his children. If a daughter inherited, the lord arranged her marriage. If there were no heirs the lord disposed of the fief as he chose. A vassal was required to attend the lord at his court, help administer justice, and contribute money if needed. He was required to answer a summons to battle and bring an agreed upon number of fighting men. In addition he was obligated to feed and house the lord and his company when they travelled across his land.

What was life like for ordinary people under this system?

Manors rather than villages were the economic and social units of life in the early Medieval period. A manor consisted of a manor house, one or more villages, and up to several thousand acres of land divided into meadow, pasture, forest, and cultivated fields. The fields were further divided into strips - 1/3 for the lord of the manor, less for the church, and the remainder for the peasants and serfs. At least half of the working days were spent tending the land belonging to the lord and the church. Some time was also spent doing maintenance and on special tasks such as clearing land, cutting firewood, and building roads and bridges. The rest of the time the villagers were free to work their own land. A serf was bound to a lord for life and needed the lord's permission to marry. They couldn't own property or leave the land without the lord's permission. However, in theory at least a serf couldn't be displaced if the manor changed hands, nor be forced to fight, and he was entitled to the protection of the lord. Most families lived in rough huts with dirt floors and no chimneys or windows. One end of the hut was often given over to livestock. Furnishings were sparse and often consisted of little more than stools, a trestle table, and beds on the floor softened with straw or leaves. Their diet was plain and included porridge, cheese, bread, and a few home grown vegetables. Life was hard but people didn't work on Sundays or Saints Days, and they could go to nearby fairs and markets. Generally speaking, daily life was aligned very closely to the seasons eg. sowing and planting time, the harvest etc.

Notes About Medieval Celebrations:

Medieval celebrations revolved around feast days that had pagan origins and were based on ancient agricultural celebrations that marked when certain crops should be planted or harvested. They also relate to the development of the Christian Church. Below is a short list of feast days and celebrations in the yearly cycle.

* Michaelmas, 29th September - Michaelmas marked the beginning of winter and the start of the fiscal year for tradesmen. Wheat and rye were sown from Michaelmas to Christmas.

* By November, feed was often too scarce to keep animals through the winter, and became known as the "blood month" when meat was smoked, salted and cured for consumption during the long winter ahead. The month began with All Hallows (All Saints) Day, followed by St Martin's Day on 11th November.

* Winter Solstice, 21-23rd December: shortest day of the year, longest night, preparing the soil for Spring.

* Christmas or Yule: The two week period from Christmas Eve to Twelfth Day on 6th January became the longest vacation for workers. The Lord of the manor or castle often gave bonuses of food, clothing, drink and firewood to servants. Houses were decked with holly and ivy, and giant Yule logs were brought in and burned throughout the celebration. New Year's took place during this time and added to the festivities, and "First Gifts" were often exchanged on this day.

* Spring crops would be planted from the end of Christmas through Easter.

* Twelfth Night, 5th January: the end of Christmas festivities and to honour abundance and fertility for the year.

* "Plow Monday" took place the day after Epiphany, and freemen of the village would participate in a plough race to begin cultivation of the town's common plot of land. Each man would try and furrow as many lines as possible because he would be able to sow those lines during the coming year.

* Candlemas, 2nd February: the eve of Candlemas was the day on which Christmas decorations of greenery were removed from people's homes.

* Easter was another day for exchanging gifts. The castle lord would receive eggs from the villagers and in return provide servants with dinner. A lesser celebration was Hocktide, the end of the Easter week. In medieval Britain there was an egg throwing festival held in the churches at Easter. The priest would give out one hard boiled egg which was tossed around the nave of the church and the choirboy who was holding the egg when the clock struck twelve would get to keep it.

* Spring Equinox, March: beginnings and new life

* May Day: marks the end of the winter half of the year, celebrates the spring planting season. May Day, the Rogation Days, Ascension saw celebrations of love, especially on the 1st. Villagers would venture into the woods to cut wildflowers and other greenery for their homes to usher in May and hope for a fertile season.

* Pentecost, or Whitsunday: celebrated 7 weeks after Easter Sunday with a feast of the Church.

* Summer Solstice, 21-23rd June: St. John's Day 24th June, Midsummer bonfires, garlands, longest day of the year and shortest night.

* Lammas, or Feast of St Peter, 1st August: Lammas Day (loaf-mass day), the festival of the first wheat harvest of the year. On this day it was customary to bring to church a loaf made from the new crop. In many parts of England, tenants were bound to present freshly harvested wheat to their landlords on or before the first day of August. In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, where it is referred to regularly, it is called "the feast of first fruits".

* Autumn Equinox, September: end of summer and the harvest

Notes about Medieval Market Towns and Inns:

The term 'market town' is a legal term that originated during the medieval period meaning a settlement that has the right to host markets. This distinguishes a town from a village or city. Market towns were frequently located where there was ready access to transport eg. at a crossroads or close to a river ford and near castles which offered protection. As market towns developed a system was devised whereby a new market town could not be established within a certain travelling distance, usually within one days travel to and from the market, of an existing one.

Traditional market towns usually had a wide main street or central market square which provided room for traders to set up stalls and booths on market days. Sometimes a market cross was erected in the centre of town both to obtain a blessing on the trade conducted and eventually market halls were developed which included administrative quarters on the first floor above the covered market.

Medieval Inns were usually located along main roads and traditionally provided not only food, drinks, and lodgings but also stabling and fodder for a traveller's horse. Inns also acted as community gathering places and, especially in rural areas, provided a place for people to meet, socialise and exchange news.

"Whosoever shall brew ale in the town with intention of selling it must hang out a sign, otherwise he shall forfeit his ale."