Friday, 19 June 2015

Magna Carta, Birth at Paris and One Cold-Blooded Murder

Wonderful news to share! Henry the Young King Blog has reached 90,000 page views today. Thank you, dear readers! I promise to do my best to keep the posts coming. Now, a few words about June anniversaries. 

As we all know this year and this week in particular, Henry the Young King's youngest brother John or rather the document he so reluctantly put his seal to in 1215, takes centre stage. 800 years ago, on 15th June, the king was brought to Runnymede, about 20 miles west of London, to ratify Magna Carta, one of the most important documents in the history of the world. Of course, neither John nor his barons could know what their proceedings taken that day would mean to the development of modern democracy. I had occasion to see the place itself during my trip to England - nothing revealed what momentous event occured there in the dim and distant past. As we can read on the official website of The Magna Carta Trust, the Great Charter of Liberty not only "put limits on the power of the crown for the first time, but laid the foundations for modern freedom", becoming the basis for the U.S. Bill of Rights, the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the long run - we must agree - the "bad" King John wasn't that bad. There would be no Magna Carta without him and his flaws :-) Visit the Trust's website here to read fascinating articles published to commemorate the anniversary. 

                      
                         

Magna Carta's 800th anniversary certainly is an occasion to celebrate, but let us not forget about other important events. On 19 June 1177, for instance, the only child of Henry the Young King and Marguerite of France was born at Paris, at the court of its grandfather, Louis VII (1120-1180). It should have been an occasion for rejoicing, but instead the young parents were stricken with grief, for, according to the English sources, 'the young queen was delivered of a still-born son' (Howden). The French, however, claimed that the child lived long enough to be baptized and named William, and I assume they were right. After all the child was born in their realm. We can only speculate what course history might have taken had baby William survived. Certainly he would have been his father's pride and joy and future heir.

William was born and passed away 21 years after his paternal uncle and namesake, the eldest child of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, William (b. 17 August 1153), who died, aged three, in June 1156. The same month William's aunt, Henry II and Eleanor's eldest daughter, Matilda [future Duchess of Saxony and Bavaria], was born at London. These two events and Queen Eleanor's stay in England were illustrated in the Sheriffs of London's accounts at Michaelmas. The following entry can be found there: £40 for the Queen's corrody; £24 for corrody of Henry, the king's son, his sister and his aunt; and £7 for wine; and£6. 6s. for further corrody of the same persons, supplied by hand of Ralph of Hastings (Eyton).

c.1 June 1183. Leading a military campaign against his younger brother Richard, Henry the Young King with his routiers pillaged the shrine of St Amadour at Rocamadour, carrying a rich booty and the holy sword of Roland, 
Durendal. He did this in order to pay off his mercenaries.

1 June 1191. Death of Philip, count of Flanders, at the siege of Acre. Philip was an important person in Henry the Young King's life. Relative and fellow patron of the tournaments, together with his younger brother Matthew [of Boulogne] they were Henry's chief allies in the Great Revolt of 1173-74.

3 June 1162. Consecration of Henry's tutor, Thomas Becket as the Archbishop of Canterbury. Henry had been placed in Becket's household sometime before or in 1162 only to be removed as a sign of his father's growing displeasure towards his former chancellor in October 1163.

5 June 1170. Prince Henry set off for the coast (probably Barfleur) from Caen to cross to England where he was to be crowned in Becket's absence. He was accompanied by Richard, Archdeacon of Poitiers (who had been sent to Caen to bring the prince) and the bishops of Bayeux and Seez. c.8 June one of Becket's partisans, named Amicus, wrote a letter to Becket, who was at Sens, informing him that the coronation was to take place on “Sunday next” and that the Pope's letters forbidding the coronation never reached the persons they were addressed to.

11 June 1183. Saturday. The feast day of St Barnabas the Apostle. 
Death of Henry the Young King, aged twenty-eight, at Martel.

14 June 1170. Coronation of Henry at Westminster Abbey by Roger of Pont-l'Eveque, the Archbishop of York. Since then the prince was to be called the Young King in order to distinguish him from his father. A day after Henry's coronation, on 15 June, William I of Scotland and his brother, David [Earl of Huntigdon], did homage to the young king.

17 June 1128. Wedding of Henry the Young King's paternal grandparents, Empress Matilda and Geoffrey of Anjou, later known as le Bel, at Le Mans.

18 June 1178. Sunday. Death of Martin, Prior of Vigeois, at Limoges. On the same day Geoffrey of Breuil succeeded to the priorate. Geoffrey's Chronicon Lemovicense was to become the main source describing Henry the Young King's death at Martel in June 1183.

29 June 1173. Philip, count of Flanders attacked Normandy and took the castle and town of Albemarle. Earl William of Albemarle surrendered also his other castles and was taken prisoner (Eyton). The Great Revolt began in earnest. 

c. 30 June 1182. The feast day of St Martial. Henry the Young King was at St Martial, Limoges, where he “was received with a procession, and he gave a pallium of silk woven with gold thread” (Itier). He might have attended mass celebrated by Theobald, abbot of Cluny. It was probably then when he met the discontented Poitevan barons, who asked him for help in waging war against their duke, Henry's younger brother, Richard [later Lionheart].

Lastly, let us not forget what sad loss Henry the Young King's great-great-nephew, King Edward II (1307-1327), suffered on 19 June 1312. On that day, his beloved Piers Gaveston - "Perrot" as he was called - was taken to the Blacklow Hill, on the earl of Lancaster's lands, and executed or rather murdered there in cold blood, his body and severed head left on the spot. My friend Anerje runs a blog dedicated to Piers here. Highly recommendable.
























Sunday, 14 June 2015

Much Ado About... Coronation

14 June 1170 saw a new king of England crowned at Westminster Abbey with all the pomp and ceremony of a royal coronation. Later the coronation was to be found illegal by many an important personages, but at the time nothing could spoil the day for fifteen-year-old Prince Henry who from now on would be called Henry the Young King to distinguish him from his father, Henry II of England. I wrote about the event itself and the commotion it caused here. Today, let me just remind that Henry (b. 28 February 1155) was not meant to be king. The crown was to go to his elder brother, William (b.17 August 1153). Unfortunately, William became seriously ill and died, aged three, the only child of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, who failed to survive infancy. Upon his untimely passing, Henry, the second in line, became his father’s heir and from 1170 a co-king of England. Pity that only in name. Had his father been more  eager to share power and responsibilty with him, the history might have taken a different course. 



Speaking of which, I was delighted to come across a fascinating interview with Thomas Asbridge, historian and writer, known for both the BBC documentary (I had a small input in) and latest book on Henry's most loyal companion, William Marshal. The Tudor fans must forgive me, but I skipped the interview on Henry VIII and only listened to the one devoted to Henry the Young King. What I heard made me think that if not good, at least better times are coming for England's forgotten king. Find out what makes me think so here. Mr Asbridge mentions Professor Matthew Strickland's articles on Henry and the biography he is currently working on, so I guess he knows what he is talking about :-)

Thursday, 11 June 2015

St Barnabas' Day, 1183: Death of Henry the Young King

All those, who saw you, Bretons and Irishmen, Englishmen and Normans, Aquitainians and Gascons, should be sad… And Poitou suffers, and Maine, and Tours. As far as Compiegne let France weep without ceasing, and Flanders from Ghent as far as Wissant. Even the Germans weep!... When the Lorraines and the Brabancons go tourneying, they will mourn because they don’t see you! (Bertran de Born bemoaning the Young King's death)

832 years ago today, Henry, the young king of England, aged twenty-eight (born on 28 February 1155), died at Martel, Limousin. In the closing days of May he had contracted dysentery, called "bloody flux" and did not survive its merciless attack. Henry had been co-king of England since 1170, when his father, King Henry II, had him crowned at Westminster Abbey. Unfortunately the elder king was unwilling to share power and responsibilty with his eldest son and heir, thus pushing the latter to rebel against him first in 1173, then ten years later, in 1183. I am still working on a detailed account of Henry's 1183 campaign. It should be ready soon. In the meantime, let me re-post the tribute to the Young King I wrote two years ago to commemorate his untimely passing.


Saturday, 11 June 1183. Martel. The spring in the valley of the Dordogne lazily drifts into summer. A young man, with a sapphire ring fervently pressed to his lips, lies dying in the house of Etienne Fabri’s. He finds himself far from his family, among ‘quite barbarous people’ in Gascony, with only a few faithful companions at his side. That young man happens to be the King of England’s son and heir. Contemporary chroniclers refer to him either as Young Henry, Henry the Younger, the Young King or Henry III. He does not know that since he is destined to predecease his father, his name will vanish somewhere in a dim and distant… future, almost utterly lost to posterity.
                                                          
Ironically, it is Henry’s untimely passing - the best documented moment of his life - that he is mainly remembered for. Additionally, the actions surrounding his death serve as an invaluable source of information concerning the rituals performed at the twelfth-century deathbed. From his example we can learn a lot about medieval ways to ensure the soul's safe passage to heaven. Henry the Young King, ‘his life suddenly cut off like a thread’, died ‘in the flower of his youth’, aged twenty-eight, in the region called Turenne in Gascony, at Martel, on Saturday, the feast day of St Barnabas the Apostle. 

Let me take a closer look at the events preceding the Young King’s death on the 11th of June: In the opening months of 1183 Henry was busily occupied with wresting control of the Duchy of Aquitaine from his younger brother Richard. With Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany, another younger brother, and an ardent support of Poitevan barons discontent with Richard’s iron rule, the Young King was desperate to win a portion of the family domains for himself. He stood in opposition not only to Richard, who at that time was facing a formidable French-Burgundian-Toulousain coalition backing up the Young King and his rebels, but also to his father king Henry II of England, who hastened to Richard’s rescue. It was the second time that Henry took up arms against his father, the King. The underlying cause of this revolt was the same as in 1173: he did not want to be a king only in name. In 1170 his father had him crowned a king-associate of England, but in reality, the Young King had no land of his own and no power to rule, the great number of his charters from that period being only either homologues or confirmations of his father’s charters, and his household consisting of the officials of his father’s choosing. In fact, his younger brothers, Richard, Duke of Aquitaine and Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany enjoyed more real power than he, the eldest one. Thus, in taking over Aquitaine, Richard’s maternal inheritance, the Young King saw his chance of gaining real authority and financial independence. With his mighty allies he might have achieved this very goal had he not contracted bloody flux (dysentery) and died on 11 June, aged 28, his passing stirring up the outpouring of universal grief as he was the only member of his family popular in his lifetime. Matthew Strickland in his ‘On the Instruction of a Prince: The Upbringing of Henry, the Young King’ makes an interesting observation, namely ‘while Richard I’s death provoked  the outpouring of grief for the loss of the champion of  Christendom, it is worth remembering that had it been Richard who had died in 1183, he would have left a reputation as a harsh, even tyrannical ruler, as much as that of a fine warrior’.

In a letter of consolation addressed to Queen Eleanor, the Young King’s mother, a royal official, Peter of Blois, expressed his conviction that Young Henry ‘was translated from shadows to light, from prison to kingdom, from mortality to life, from exile to fatherland’. The Young King himself, as he lay dying in Etienne Fabri’s Maison, was not so sure about his future whereabouts. Shortly before he fell ill he had not only betrayed his father, but he had also pillaged the most sacred shrines in Western France (St Martial near Limoges, Grandmont and St Amadour at Rocamadour) in order to pay off his mercenaries. Small wonder he was now trembling with fear at the very thought of facing his Maker. Taking into account the mechanisms working in the twelfth-century mind, he must have believed himself a condemned criminal, and his illness a divine punishment. For this reason he sought rescue in all possible ways of repentance. On 7 June, when it was already clear that he was not going to survive, he prostrated himself naked on the floor, and before the crucifix confessed his sins to Gerald, Bishop of Cahors. As death drew near he had a hair shirt put on him and asked to be dragged out of bed by a noose wound round his neck. ‘By this cord,’ he said, ‘do I deliver myself, an unworthy, culpable, and guilty sinner, unto you, the ministers of God, beseeching that our Lord Jesus Christ, who remitted his sins to the thief when confessing upon the cross, will, through your prayers, and through his ineffable mercy, have compassion upon my most wretched soul!’ According to his wishes, he was then placed on a bed of ashes on the floor, with stones under his head and his feet, ‘in the manner which St Martin prescribed for monks’. On 11 June, surrounded by churchmen, with Bernard, Bishop of Agen administering the last rites, he confessed again, first privately, then in public. There was one more thing troubling the Young King in the last hours of his life: some time before, he had taken the cross. Now regretting the lightness he had done it with, he committed his crusader’s cloak to William Marshal, asking his friend and most faithful companion to take it to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, in his stead. He also sent word to his father, begging him to come so that he could ask his forgiveness, but the king, suspecting another trap (earlier in the spring he narrowly escaped death while trying to negotiate with his sons), refused to come, instead sending a letter and a sapphire ring as a token of forgiveness. The Young King dictated a reply asking, in the words of the twenty-fifth Psalm (verse 7), ‘do not remember the sins and offences of my youth, but remember me in thy unfailing love’. Then in an equally poignant gesture, he kissed the ring and, furnished with the viaticum of the most holy Body and Blood of the Lord, he died.

Despite the offences of his youth, he died a good death, having gone to ‘extremes of self-abasement and penitence’ to atone for his sins. Thanks to the fact that the Young King ‘packed as much repentance into his deathbed as he could’, we can learn a lot about the rituals surrounding medieval passing. What happened after 11 June is enough for another story, for scarcely ever in history did a royal body encounter as many adventures after death as the body of Henry the Young King did on its way north from Martel to Rouen. I am going to discuss its ups and downs in another post. 


Sources:

The Annals of Roger de Hoveden, Vol. II translated by Henry T. Riley, Esq. London, 1853.

Ralph of Diceto Images of History, in the Plantagenet Chronicles, ed. by Dr. Elizabeth Hallam. London, 2002.

Roger of Wendover’s Flowers of History Vol. II translated by J. A. Giles

Strickland, Matthew. “On the Instruction of a Prince: the Upbringing of Henry, the Young King” in Henry II: New Interpretations. Ed. Christopher Harper-Bill and Nicholas Vincent. Woodbridge, 2007.

Crouch, David. William Marshal. Court Career and Chivalry in the Angevin Empire 1147-1219Harlow, 1990.

Evans, Michael. Death of Kings: Royal Death in Medieval EnglandLondon, 2007.

Crouch, David. “The Culture of Death in the Anglo-Norman World” in Anglo-Norman Political Culture and the 12th-century Renaissance Ed. by C. Warren Hollister. Woodbridge, 1997.

Gillingham, John. The Angevin EmpireLondon, 1984.



Saturday, 6 June 2015

7 June 1183: 'Have Compassion upon My Most Wretched Soul!’

In the opening months of 1183 Henry was busily occupied with wresting control of the Duchy of Aquitaine from his younger brother Richard. With Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany, another younger brother, and an ardent support of Poitevan barons discontent with Richard’s iron rule, the Young King was desperate to win a portion of the family domains for himself. He stood in opposition not only to Richard, who at that time was facing a formidable French-Burgundian-Toulousain coalition backing up the Young King, but also to his father king Henry II of England, who hastened to Richard’s rescue. It was the second time that Henry took up arms against his father, the King. The underlying cause of this revolt was the same as in 1173: he did not want to be a king only in name. In 1170 his father had him crowned a king-associate of England, but in reality, the Young King had no land of his own and no power to rule, the great number of his charters from that period being only either homologues or confirmations of his father’s charters, and his household consisting of the officials of his father’s choosing. In fact, his younger brothers, Richard, Duke of Aquitaine and Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany enjoyed more real power than he, the eldest one. Thus, in taking over Aquitaine, Richard’s maternal inheritance, the Young King saw his chance of gaining real authority and financial independence. With his mighty allies he might have achieved this very goal had he not contracted bloody flux (dysentery). On 26 May, in the town of Uzerche, he suffered from - as it may seem - the first bout of illness, but he quickly came to himself. In fact he was well enough to pillage the shrine of St Amadour at Rocamadour. 

                                                          Rocamadour today (photo: Patrick Clenet)

Together with the booty he carried off a sword which was said to be Durendal, the weapon of the legendary hero, Roland. There were precious relics in its hilt: the tooth of St Peter, the blood of St Basil, hair of St Denis and a piece of the robe of the Blessed Virgin. As Emma Mason points out in "The Hero's Invincible Weapon: an Aspect of Angevin Propaganda”: 'If the Young King accepted that his booty was indeed the Durendal of Roland, then he would believe himself to be under the protection of these powerful relics. Perhaps perceiving himself as a hero-figure in his contest against his father, he might prize an object which would be widely recognized as an emotive symbol... In his looting of Rocamadour, the Young King was perhaps seeking not only material reinforcement, but also the means of projecting a charismatic image' (pp. 126-127). Looting itself certainly could not have helped him, but the sword of Roland could. Richard often employed the projection of a heroic image as a part of his military tactics. As it turned out, however, Durendal proved to be useless in protecting Henry against more dangerous foe, whose severe and full-scale attack launched from within proved fatal. Dysentery was the curse of the medieval warfare, wrecking havoc and taking its toll in the military camps. On Tuesday, the 7th of June, it was clear that the Young King was not going to survive. One can only try to imagine what scenes accompanied breaking of this sad news - Henry's household knights must have been utterly distraught. I completely disagree with the author Sharon Kay Penman, who in the King's Ransom - the novel about Henry's brother Richard I Couer de Lion - says that neither Henry II nor Henry the Young King inspired such loyalty from their men as Richard did. It is enough to read about their last hours to see they had a few absolutely loyal men with them.

                                        
                Maison Fabri, Martel, where Henry the Young King spent the last days of his life.

But back to the little town of Martel, Limousin, deep in the south of Aquitaine, where Henry just realised it was time to say "Farewell" and prepare himself to face the Maker. Taking into account the working of the twelfth-century mind, he must have believed himself a condemned criminal, and his illness a divine punishment, especially if he was the sole victim of the malady (I was unable to determine if there were others in Henry's household and troops who succumbed to it as well at the time). For this reason he sought rescue in all possible ways of repentance. After all, he had not only betrayed his father, but also pillaged the most sacred shrines in Western France (St Martial near Limoges, Grandmont and St Amadour at Rocamadour). To make amends and to show how he regretted, he prostrated himself naked on the floor, and before the crucifix confessed his sins to Gerald, Bishop of Cahors. As death drew near he had a hair shirt put on him and asked to be dragged out of bed by a noose wound round his neck. ‘By this cord,’ he was to say, ‘do I deliver myself, an unworthy, culpable, and guilty sinner, unto you, the ministers of God, beseeching that our Lord Jesus Christ, who remitted his sins to the thief when confessing upon the cross, will, through your prayers, and through his ineffable mercy, have compassion upon my most wretched soul!’ According to his wishes, he was then placed on a bed of ashes on the floor, with stones under his head and his feet, ‘in the manner which St Martin prescribed for monks’. He still had four days to live.


A detailed account of Henry's unfortunate campaign on 11 June.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

26 May 1183: Uzerche and Caen or the Sad End Is Nigh

As we know, in the spring of 1183 Henry the Young King was leading military campaign against his younger brother Richard [later Lionheart] and his father, Henry II, treading the path that was to be his last. On 26 May he was in the town of Uzerche, suffering from - as it may seem - the first bout of illness which was to kill him seventeen days later. He quickly came to himself, though, and joined forces with Hugh of Burgundy and Raymond V of Tolouse, his much-awaited allies. He could not have known that at the same time, far in the north, at Caen, the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishops of Bayeux, Evreux, Lisieux, Sees and Rochester, acting on his father’s orders, excommunicated all who “impeded the making of peace between the king and his sons”. All with the exception of the Young King. Although Henry himself avoided the severe punishment, he must have been in a poor mental and physical condition, as we can read in between the lines of Roger of Hoveden's account. 

Abbey church of St Peter and St Andrew at Uzerche (photo by Sjwells53, via Wikipedia)

Currently I am working on a longer post about Henry and his brother Geoffrey of Brittany's actions taken in the course of the afore-mentioned 1183 campaign. I am following the two of them into this terra indomita, Aquitaine, analysing their moves, step by step. I hope the post will be ready for the 7th of June, four days before the anniversary of Henry's untimely death. Using the occasion I would like to recommend a fascinating article by Professor John Gillingham, entitled "Events and Opinions: Norman & English Views on Aquitaine" in The World of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Literature and Society in Southern France between the Eleventh and  Thirteenth Centuries ed. by Marcus Bull and Catherine Leglu (The Boydell Press, 2005).  



There is one more recommendation to be made (although this author's posts need no advertising). At the Mortimer Society Conference Ms Elizabeth Chadwick gave a paper she is now sharing on her blog. The complex relationship between William Marshal and Henry's youngest brother King John is discussed in detail in it. Fascinating read. Henry and John's relationship is mentioned as well, so it is really worth reading.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

The Battle of Lincoln and Other May Anniversaries

'Lords, your sworn foes have placed themselves behind their walls. That is according to God's plan. This day he gives us great glory. It is a preliminary victory for us that the French, who always have been the first at a tournament, hide from us. Let us do the right, for God wills it'
William Marshal, the 1st Earl of Pembroke, to his men at Lincoln (The History of William Marshal in Sidney Painter, p. 216)

On Saturday 20 May 1217, Henry the Young King's one time military tutor and best friend, William Marshal, the regent of England at the time, won a decisive  and almost bloodless victory for the royalist forces at Lincoln during the First Barons' War. The leader of the French/rebel forces, Count Thomas of Perche ( the great-grandson of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine and William's own relative), the English knight Reginald Croc and unknown serjeant were the only men who perished in combat, although later the folk of the countryside slaughtered many of the fleeing infantry. Credit for injuring Louis of France's cause must be given where due - William knew how to make the most of the errors made by both the French prince and the count of Perche, he took the right decisions and justified the well-deserved reputation as a skilled battle commander and greatest knight. Although well in his sixties, he encouraged his knights and soldiers not only by word, but also by example, leading them fearlessly into battle. I wonder whether when engaged in the fight in the narrow streets of Lincoln he spared a thought for his first overlord, Henry the Young King, and the old good tourneying days - the whole affair was more like a grand tourney than a pitched battle, although, as Richard Brooks points out in his Knight Who Saved England, 'The single most decesive battle in English history, after Hastings, had been won at less cost in human life than many tournaments' (p.19)

                                                 A 13th-century depiction of the Battle of Lincoln

Here are a few more May anniversaries:

4 May 1162: Death Bishop of London, Richard II de Belmeis, who, according to Ralph of Diceto, baptised the Young King in March 1155. This, however, needs a separate post, for when Henry's christening is concerned, we have two candidates, the other one being Archbishop of Canterbury, Theobald of Bec.

8/9 May 1175: '
The two kings of England, whom the previous year the kingdom had not been big enough to contain, came together and crossed to England in a single boat on 9 May. They ate together at the normal meal times on the same table, and rested their limbs in the same bedroom...' (Ralph of Diceto in The Plantagenet Chronicles, p. 140). Henry the Young King, his father and Queen Marguerite embarked at Barfleur and landed at Portsmouth, after the father and the son were reconciled on 1 April and the younger king paid homage to the older one at Bur-le-Roi in the aftermath of the Great Revolt of 1173-74.

c. 12 May 1172: shortly after Henry II's return from Ireland, Henry the Young King, who was staying in England with his queen during his father's absence, accompanied the latter one to Portsmouth where they embarked and landed at Barfleur. By 17 May they were at Savigny, where Henry II was meeting the papal legates, Theodine and Albert, who had been sent to negotiate his absolution for Becket's murder. Because they could not come to terms, the king, and probably his son with him, left Savigny. Henry II later agreed to the legates' demands and invited them to Avranches. The Young King must have accompanied him all the time.

12 May 1191: Henry the Young King's younger brother Richard I (b. 1157) married Berengaria of Navarre (b. c.1170) in the chapel of St George at Limassol, Cyprus. Then the bride was crowned queen by John, Bishop of Evreux. Contrary to the prevailing opinion about their marriage, when Berengaria arrived in Sicily earlier in the year (at the end of March), the feeling in the crusaders' camp was that Richard loved her. If we are to believe a Norman minstrel Ambroise, who next to Roger of Hoveden was the chronicler of the Third Crusade, 'The King did love her and revere/ Since he was Count of Poitiers/ His wish had wished for her alway' (
Estoire de la Guerre Sainte in J. Gillingham Richard the Lionheart). Of course it was a very useful diplomatic marriage in the first place, for thanks to it Richard had the southern frontier of his domains secured when he was away. Plus it left his seneschals in Aquitaine with Berengaria's father as an ally, upon whom they could turn to for support should there be a rebellion during their lord's absence. 

14 May 1219: William Marshal (born c. 1147), Henry the Young King's former  head of household best friend, and loyal servant of Henry's family, died at his manor house at Caversham. More about his last days here.

18 May 1152: 
Eleanor of Aquitaine (b.1124) and Henry fitz Empress (b.1133), the future parents of  Henry the Young King, were married in the cathedral of St Pierre, Poitiers, with the match that was to result in forging the greatest empire of the 12th century-Europe. 

18 May 1175: The Council/Synod of Westminster was convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury with Henry II and Henry the Young King presiding, after the two kings returned to England "in a single boat" first time since the collapse of the Great Revolt of 1173-74.

19 May 1218: Henry the Young King's nephew, the son of Henry's sister Matilda by Henry the Lion of Saxony and Bavaria, Holy Roman Emperor Otto, died aged 43. Otto was not only one of the nephews Henry had the occasion to meet, but, he and his uncle shared the same men as chaplain - after Henry's untimely death in 1183, Gervase of Tilbury, for he was the men, joined the household of Otto, for whom he wrote his famous 
Otia Imperialia, in which we can find the lines about Henry 'Gracious to all, he was loved by all; amiable to all, he was incapable of making an enemy. He was matchless in warfare, and as he surpassed all others in the grace of his person, so he outstripped them all in valour, cordiality, and the outstanding graciousness of his manner, in his generosity and his true integrity'. 

21 May 1172: Council of Avranches (known as the Compromise of Avranches). Henry II was absolved from the murder of Thomas Becket and restored to the bosom of the Church after he released the bishops from their oath of the Constitutions of Clarendon and swore he "would abolish all the unlawful customs established during his reign". Henry the Young King swore after his father.

23 May 1183: during Henry and Geoffrey of Brittany's war against Richard (and their father) together with his knights and mercenaries, the young king seized control of his brother Richard’s castle at Aixe, hollow victory since the Duke and his soldiers had already abandoned the keep. Three days later, on

26 May 1183: during the afore-mentioned war, at Caen, the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishops of Bayeux, Evreux, Lisieux, Sees and Rochester, acting on Henry II’s orders, excommunicated all who “impeded the making of peace between the king and his sons”. All with the exception of the Young King. Henry could not have known that. He was in the town of Uzerche, suffering from- as it may seem- the first bout of illness which was to kill him seventeen days later. He quickly came to himself, though, and joined forces with Hugh of Burgundy and Raymond V of Tolouse, his much-awaited allies.

27 May 1199: Henry the Young King's youngest brother John ascended the throne and was crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey by Hubert Walter.

28 May 1159: one Geoffrey entered the monastery of St Martial at Limoges. He later became the prior and went down in history as Geoffrey of Vigeois, the author of the chronicle in which he described in detail the last days of Henry the Young King

28 May 1175: After they were reconciled Henry and his father prayed together at Canterbury, where '
the egregious martyr Thomas entertained them both equally on their pilgrimage (...) He entertained them in the same way, except that the elder king stayed up on all-night vigils, with prayer, fasting and scourhing lasting into the third day' (Ralph of Diceto in The Plantagenet Chronicles, p.140). Here I would like to recommend an interesting article by T.K. Keefe entitled 'Shrine Time: King Henry II's Visits to Thomas Becket's tomb' (in Haskins society Journal 11 (1998)), where the afore-mentioned piligrimage is described in detail.

31 May 1170: Henry the Young King's brother Richard was invested Duke of Aquitaine by Bertram, Archbishop of Bordeaux and John, Bishop of Poitiers, in the Church of St Hilary at Poitiers.

Bibliography:

Ralph of Diceto. Images of History. In The Plantagenet Chronicles, ed. Dr.Elizabeth Hallam, Greenwich Editions, 2002.

Court, Household and Itinerary of King Henry II by Robert William Eyton, 1878. Internet Archive. http://archive.org/details/courthouseholdit00eyto

Strong, Roy. Coronation. From the 8th to the 21st Century. Harper Perennial, 2005.

Gillingham, John. Richard the Lionheart. Wiedenfeld and Nicolson, 1989.

“On the Instruction of a Prince: the Upbringing of Henry, the Young King” by Matthew Strickland in Henry II: New Interpretations. Ed. Christopher Harper-Bill and Nicholas Vincent. Woodbridge, 2007.

Panton, Kenneth. Historical Dictionary of the British Monarchy. Google Books.

Brooks, Richard. The Knight Who Saved England. William Marshal and the French Invasion, 1217. Osprey Publishing, 2014.

Painter, Sidney. William Marshal. Knight-Errant, Baron, and Regent of England. University of Toronto Press, 1982.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Musings on the 796th Anniversary of William Marshal's Death

By God’s sword, if all abandoned the king, do you know what I would do? I would carry him on my shoulders step by step, from island to island, from country to country, and I would not fail him not even if it meant begging my bread. (The History of William Marshal in the Platagenet Chronicles, p.323) 

Exactly 796 years ago, on 14 May 1219, William Marshal lay dying at his manor house of Caversham. He lived his life to the full, becoming the epitome of chivalry and loyalty. Never in his long and active career had he abandoned or failed the king he served, and he happened to serve five English monarchs - I am not counting King Stephen, to whom he had been handed over as a hostage at the siege of Newbury (1152) and with whom he apparently made friends. He had been with his first overlord, Henry the Young King, till the very end, promising to take his crusader cloak to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the promise he fulfilled; he had been at Chinon with King Henry II, when the latter humiliated and abandoned by all breathed his last breath; he had faithfully served King Richard I, who, among other honours, appointed him a member of a council of regency upon his departure for the Holy Land and who, already on his death-bed, designated him the custodian of the royal treasure; and William, as one of few, did not abandon the “bad” King John and the latter’s minor son in their greatest need - during the First Barons’ War and in the first years of Henry III's reign, serving as regent for the young king.

13th-century depiction by Matthew Paris of the Earl of Pembroke's coat of arms (source: Wikipedia)

I am not going to write about William's epic life with all its twists and turns, this I leave to the experts. Ms Elizabeth Chadwick not only made William proud in her two novels, The Greatest Knight and The Scarlet Lion, but also wrote about him many times on her blogHere is one of her posts. And here is the latest one about his last days. May them be the tribute to this remarkable man. 

As far as I am concerned, I just want to share my favourite excerpt of the History of William Marshal, the poem on an epic scale commissioned by William's eldest son and namesake to celebrate his late father’s epic life. We meet the Marshal in his late sixties in it, still vigorous and full of energy, fighting at the Battle of Lincoln (1217) as if he had been a young knight again.
Just a note: even on his death bed, William first and foremost thought about his household knights. On 13 May, the day before he died, when asked what to do with the rich robes which lay in his wardrobe, the Earl, ignoring his clerk Philip’s suggestion, would have them distributed to them rather than handed over to the Church. “Pentecost is at hand, and my knights ought to have their new robes. This will be the last time that I will supply them, yet you seek to prevent me from doing it” (from The History, in Painter, p.287-88).

Here are the lines that always bring a smile to my face-

Ride on!” the Marshal then said
to all his men“for you will see them
beaten in a short while.
Shame be upon the head of him who waits longer!”
The bishop said to him: “My dear lord,
listen a while to what I wish to say to you.
Wait in there for your men,
for it will be a finer and more proper thing,
and far safer, I think,
if we all rode there as a body.
That is what is fitting, I believe,
and, at the same time, our enemies will have greater fear of us
when they see us all together;
our arrival will cost them dearly.”
The truth is that the Marshal
had no inclination to accept these words of advice.
Instead, more swiftly than a merlin could fly,
he spurred on his horse,
and all those in his company
were emboldened by what they saw him do.
A young lad then said to him:
In God’s name, my dear lord, wait for us;
you haven’t got your helmet on.”