Posts Tagged ‘Margaret of Anjou’
Source: ODNB on Margaret of Anjou
Tags: Margaret of Anjou
A while ago I had a chance to visit Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire, where the mother of Richard III, Cecily Neville duchess of York, had resided for a long period. So I told my Ricardian friends that I would be going to pop in on Cecily for a coffee.
I arrived in Berkhamsted coming from St Albans, parked in a car park next to the High Street and asked a lady, who was at the same time at the ticket dispenser as I was, for directions to the castle. Very soon there was a whole group of extremely friendly and helpful ladies who were in giving me directions – and as it turned out they were spot on. If there were nothing else to mention about Berkhamstead – and there is plenty – the friendliness and helpfulness encountered here was wonderful.
My first stop were the ruins of the castle, one of the best surviving motte and bailey castles in the UK. Entering by what used to be the South Gatehouse, you can walk along the top of the ramparts, offering spectacular views of its extent and surving flint rubble walls.
In 1066, after being victorious at the Battle of Hastings, William of Normandy granted the manor and honour of Berkhamsted to his half-brother, Robert of Mortain, who built an earthwork castle.
By the beginning of the 12th century it was in the king’s control. Henry II gave it to his chancellors, among them Thomas Becket from 1155 to 1165. Thomas Becket is credited with beginning to rebuild the castle in masonry, a process that continued for the next two centuries.
In the second half of the 13th century Berkhamsted was the favourite residence of Richard of Cornwall , younger brother of Henry III. He built a three-storey tower in 1254, but unfortunately very little survives of this. He died at the castle in 1272. His son Edmund had established a deer park here by 1280.
Today only ruins remain of what must have been a very substantial castle in its prime. Apparently it had two complete moats and a ditch on the west side. The foundations of the circular keep, 18m in diameter, are still there. Inside the keep there was a well, which can still be seen. In the bailey used to be the kitchens and brewhouse, indicated by hearths in the thick walls.
Margaret of Anjou acquired the castle in 1448, who gave it 11 years later to her son Edward. In 1469, Edward IV granted Berkhamsted to his mother Cecily, who lived here until her death in 1495. Her son Richard III visited her at the castle on 17 May 1485, three months before his death at the battle of Bosworth. After Cecily’s death the castle fell into disrepair and the ruins were used as building material for other buildings.
I made my way back to the High Street, which formed the centre of the medieval town. The medieval town was situated some distance from the castle. While the castle’s position was determined by strategic considerations, the town developed along the trade route of the Roman Akeman Street, today’s High Street. Akeman Street was the main highway from London to Aylesbury.
In a prominent position is a half-timbered building with a sign saying that this was Dean Incent’s house. This house used to belong to Robert Incent, who was duchess Cecily’s secretary. His son John, was dean of St Paul’s and the founder of Berkhamsted School. The south-west wing dates from the 15th century, which would have been to Robert Incent and his wife Katherine. The building was altered and added to during later centuries.
A bit further down the street on the opposite side is St Peter’s Church, the second largest church in the county. It is not known when exactly building of the church began, presumably some time after the town received burghal rights in 1156 from Henry II. When holding Berkhamsted Castle, Cecily also held the advowson of this parish church. And although she is buried next to her husband at Fotheringhay, she also remembered St Peter’s in her will: “Also I geve to the parishe church of Much Barkehampstede a coope of blewe bawdekyn, the orffreys embrawdered”.
On a pillar in St John’s Chantry there are brasses for Robert and Katherine Incent. Robert died in 1485 of the sweating sickness, and is remembered as “late suant to the nobel pryncess Cecyle duchesse of Yorke & mother unto the worthy kyng Edward and Richard the thyrde”. Katherine died in 1520.
Having concluded my look around Berkhamsted, I even got my coffee, in a nice café in the High Street.
Goodall, John, The English Castle: 1066-1650. Paul Mellon Centre BA, 2011. ISBN 9780300110586, p.189
Rowe, Anne, “Berkhamsted”, in: Rowe, Anne, Medieval Parks of Hertfordshire. University of Hertfordshire Press, 2009. ISBN 9781905313488, pp.62-67
Sherwood, Jennifer, ‘Influences on the growth and development of medieval and early modern Berkhamsted’, in: A County of Small Towns: The development of Hertfordshire’s urban landscape to 1800, ed. by Terry Slater & Nigel Goose. University of Hertfordshire Press, 2008. ISBN 9781905313440, pp.221-248
‘Berkhamsted Castle: The remains of a great castle used by many kings and queens’, The Chilterns. URL: http://www.chilternsaonb.org/ccbmaps/1318/137/berkhamsted-castle.html Date accessed: 17 July 2010
‘Berkhamsted Motte and Bailey Castle’, Heritage Gateway. URL: http://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=MHT39&resourceID=1008 Date accessed: 22 Feb 2011
‘Berkhamsted: Places of Historical Interest’, Dacorum Borough Council. URL: http://www.dacorum.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=3192 Date accessed: 22 Feb 2011
‘Berkhampstead St Peter: Introduction, honour, manor and castle’, A History of the County of Hertford: volume 2 (1908), pp. 162-171. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=43265 Date accessed: 30 April 2011
‘Inscriptions in St Peter’s Berkhamsted’, The Parish Church of St Peter, Great Berkhamsted. URL: http://www.stpetersberkhamsted.org.uk/information/inscriptions-inside.htm Date accessed: 23 Jan 2013
Higginbotham, Susan, ‘The Will of Cecily, Duchess of York’, Medieval Woman (29 July 2010). URL: http://susandhigginbotham.blogspot.com/2010/07/will-of-cecily-duchess-of-york.html Date accessed: 30 July 2010
Birth of Edward of Lancaster, only son of King Henry VI of England and Margaret of Anjou, at Westminster. He was the Lancastrian Prince of Wales. He was baptised on 14 October by William Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester.
On 13 December 1470 he was married to Anne Neville, who was 14 at the time, as part of an agreement between his mother, Margaret of Anjou, and Anne’s father, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (“The Kingmaker”) to return Henry VI to the throne. Edward fell at the Battle of Tewkesbury on 4 May 1471.
The picture shows the Palace of Westminster, how it supposedly looked in the 16th century.
As the red rose on the cover indicates this novel is about a Lancastrian queen: Margaret of Anjou, the queen of Henry VI. Susan Higginbotham narrates Margaret’s life against the backdrop of the earlier part of the Wars of the Roses through the eyes of a variety of Lancastrian witnesses, often Margaret herself, but for scenes where she was not present she uses others, for instance William de la Pole or Henry Beaufort as well as Margaret’s husband and son.
Clearly, Susan sits on the opposite side of the fence when it comes to the conflict between the House of York and the House of Lancaster. While it initially came as a bit of a shock to see our Yorkist heroes described in a fairly negative light, this is a positive and necessary experience as it forces us to re-evaluate our preconceived ideas. We need to remember that all too often our views of medieval persons are based on prejudice, so in order to come to a more balanced understanding it is necessary to be jolted out of our complacency every now and then.
Susan’s The Queen of Last Hopes offers us the opportunity to meet Margaret of Anjou as a real person we can sympathise with. She is not a one-dimensional saint, nor is she the one-dimensional villain we encounter so often in Ricardian fiction. Her actions are well-motivated by her feelings for her husband, her son and their rights.
The book is based on impeccable historical research, which is also reflected by the Author’s Note at the end. While I was disappointed by the only appearance of Richard of Gloucester, in which he is committing one of the killings he gets traditionally blamed for, she does explain in the Notes that there is no proof for this.
I still prefer my roses white, but can only recommend this book. It is an enjoyable read and will prevent tunnel-vision.
Francis Leary, The Golden Longing, published by James Murray, 1960 (no ISBN)
The most striking feature of the book is the mix of facts with fiction for dramatic purposes. A reader unfamiliar with the dramatis personae could have a difficult time distinguishing between the two although from time to time, Leary provides footnotes for some of his statements.
He had no liking for the medieval period, and there is rather too much emphasis on blood and death – the least attractive feature of the book. Read the rest of this entry »
Recently I had the pleasure to attend the Special Interest Weekend on ‘Blood and Roses: England 1450 – 1485′, which took place at Christ Church College Oxford from 24 to 27 March 2011. This is the eighth Special Interest Weekend Christ Church is hosting, past events included a variety of topics.
A group of overseas Ricardians – US, Canada and Australia – who had arrived early, met on the Wednesday evening prior to the official start for a highly enjoyable pub crawl and dinner at The Trout. A big thank-you goes to Dave for organising this. It was great that Christine, a Ricardian from Stroud in Gloucestershire, could join us for the evening. Wherever Ricardians meet you can be sure they will have a lot to talk about and enjoy themselves. Read the rest of this entry »
Cerne Abbas is a small village in central Dorset. In 1998 it had a population of 780, that had fallen to 732 by 2001. The peace of such a small settlement could have been why it was voted Britain’s Most Desirable Village in 2001. (As my mother’s family comes from Cerne, it has always been a most desirable place for me!)
From earliest times, Cerne Abbey, founded in AD 987, was the cornerstone around which the village grew. The Domesday Book (1087) tells there was enough cultivated land for 20 ploughs and 26 villeins. The Abbey remained the focal point of the area for over 500 years until Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 brought about its surrender. Most of the buildings were destroyed, but the Abbot’s Porch and the Guesthouse still remain, as does St Augustine’s Well, blessed allegedly by the saint himself. The parish today is centred on St Mary’s Church which was built in the late 13th century by the Abbey for the local people. Read the rest of this entry »