Monday, March 8, 2010

{11} John Plantagenet (1266-1271), Firstborn Son of Edward I

Edward I/Eleanor of Castile impalement
[Image from a window in the Great Hall of Hampton Court Palace]
For Lord Edward and his wife Eleanor of Castile, the Barons' War of 1264 to 1265 was the greatest dynastic challenge they would ever face. Edward was a hostage of Simon de Montfort, the leader of the baronial opposition, for an entire year, from the battle of Lewes in May 1264, until he managed to make his escape at Hereford in May 1265. Eleanor had been ordered to go to Westminster with the couple's only child, a two-year-old daughter Katherine, who died there in September 1264. Eleanor then gave birth in January 1265 (so conceived at Windsor Castle shortly before the Battle of Lewes) to another daughter, Joan, who lived only a short while. If Edward had died before the couple was reunited, Eleanor would have been a childless widow, with no landed income and her fate in the hands of the crippled Plantagenet dynasty, reduced to puppets of Montfort and the barons.

The battle of Evesham was a decisive victory for Lord Edward, but it wasn't the final one. Resistance to royal administrative and military authority continued throughout the kingdom. The prince and his wife were reunited in September 1265, likely at Winchester, where a parliament had been summoned to deal with the lands and widows of the rebel barons who had been killed and captured at Evesham. In October, the English queen, Edward's mother Eleanor of Provence, made a triumphant return to England in the company of the papal legate, and Dover Castle surrendered to Edward. By Christmas of that year, Eleanor of Castile would be certain she was carrying another child. Lord Edward spent that holiday in the fens and marshes of north Lincolnshire, where the slain Simon de Montfort's son, Simon de Montfort the younger, was holding out with a baronial force on the Isle of Axholme. They came to terms on Christmas Day [*1].
Kenilworth Castle in the 13th-century
[Artist: Ivan Lapper, created for English Heritage guidebook]
In the spring, Eleanor retreated to Windsor Castle to await her lying in, while Edward dealt successfully with baronial resistance in Kent and Hampshire. By far the strongest strategic point that was refusing to surrender to royal authority was Montfort's chief administrative seat, Kenilworth Castle. Forces led by Edward's younger brother Lord Edmund, had laid siege to the castle for months, in the largest such operation to have occurred so far on English soil. But the rebel garrison, secure in the castle's strength, continued to hold out. In May 1266, Lord Edward joined his brother at Kenilworth to oversee the siege [*2].
St John the Baptist Feast Day
[Image from early-13th-century psalter, Arundel 157]

The Church had long ago combined pagan celebrations marking the beginning of summer with the Nativity of St. John the Baptist on June 24th. It was one of the most important festivals of the medieval calendar, during which no one, from nobleman to serf, was allowed to work. Huge bonfires were lit on the eve of St. John, for the greater the light of the fire, the greater the harvest. Burning wheels were guided down hills by industrious lads, and if they extinguished in a body of water, rather than burning out beforehand, it was another blessing for the harvest. Dancing and singing accompanied the bonfires, and leaping over one as it burned low was thought to bring good luck. No less than three masses were celebrated on the feast day - it was regarded as a time for cleansing one's soul. Though secluded far from the public eye in a private chamber at Windsor for her lying in and unable to participate in the celebration, Eleanor must still have observed the fires from a distance and overheard the merriment. Another resident of Windsor unable to celebrate personally was Robert Ferrers, Earl of Derby. He had refused to submit to royal authority after Evesham, was captured just a few weeks previous by a royal force led by Edward's first cousin Henry of Almain, and had been taken as a prisoner to Windsor Castle [*3]. Lord Edward and the soldiers surrounding Kenilworth Castle would have kept the festival more guardedly, but still have celebrated. Shortly afterwards, King Henry III himself joined the siege of Kenilworth and the process of negotiation with the rebel garrison inside began again in earnest.
Norman Gate of Windsor Castle
A few weeks later at Windsor, during the night between the 13th and 14th of July 1266, Eleanor gave birth to a healthy son. He was christened John in honor of St. John the Baptist [*4], though the name also served to symbolically underscore the victory of the Plantagenets over the barons by harking back to King John, and reinforcing the fact that his direct bloodline still was blessed and in charge. News of little John's birth was greeted ecstatically throughout the kingdom. Henry III rewarded the messenger who brought "the delightful news" with an annual income of £20 [*5], while Walter Giffard, Bishop of Bath and Wells, whose parents had raised Lord Edward, would reward the messenger (Eleanor of Castile's clerk, William, rector of Gattington) who brought him the news with forty shillings a year [*6]. But the biggest celebration of John's birth was held in London. The Londoners had much to make up for to the Plantagenets. They had strongly supported Simon de Montfort, had pelted the barge of Queen Eleanor of Provence, and had opposed the King and Lord Edward at the battle of Lewes. After Evesham, Henry III arrested the delegation of forty Londoners led by the mayor that came to him at Windsor, and the mayor and four others were given over to Edward as hostages. A large number of forfeited London properties was made over to Lord Edward's knights and close adherents. It wasn't until January 1266 that a formal royal pardon was issued to Londoners, in return for a fine of the staggering sum of 20,000 marks [*7].

To honor the birth of the newest Plantagenet, the Londoners called a holiday and held a procession, terminating at the shrine of St. Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey, where offerings were made. Henry III also insured that Eleanor of Castile's churching ceremony, held thirty to forty days after John's birth, took place at the shrine of his patron saint [*8]. The Plantagenets were again a blessed dynasty, further demonstrated when the rebel garrison at Kenilworth, which was beset by hunger and cold as much as by the royal forces surrounding the castle, finally surrendered in mid-December 1266. The stench in the castle was so great, that the royalist besiegers were almost overcome when they finally entered it [*9].

Wallingford Castle remains
As the only child of his parents and a future king of England, John was set up in his own household at Windsor Castle, just as his father Lord Edward had been soon after his own birth. He was joined there by a younger brother Henry in 1268, and a younger sister Eleanor in 1269. It was Windsor where John spent the majority of his short life. In August 1270, a month after his fourth birthday, the young prince saw his parents for the final time, just prior to their departure from England for a Crusade to the Holy Land. By that point King Henry III was in such poor health that Lord Edward entrusted the care of his children to his uncle, Richard of Cornwall, instead, with the provision that if anything happened to Richard, the children would be put under the care of his son and heir, Edward's trusted cousin Henry of Almain. Richard of Cornwall moved the children from Windsor to his favorite residence and chief administrative seat, Wallingford Castle. Here young John would spend his final months. His fifth birthday on July 13th was no doubt a subdued affair, for Richard of Cornwall would still be in mourning over the murder on the continent, four months previous on March 13th, of his son Henry of Almain by two of the surviving sons of Simon de Montfort.

The five-year-old prince, whose birth had been so celebrated, died at Wallingford Castle three weeks later, on the night of the Invention of St. Stephen (3rd of August) 1271 [*10]. The outpouring of grief over the death of the handsome child was as widespread as the outpouring of joy had been at his birth [*11]. Richard of Cornwall oversaw the funeral arrangements, and five days later, on the 8th of August 1271, young John was buried in Westminster Abbey on the north side of the rebuilt shrine of St. Edward the Confessor [*12], the completion of which had been celebrated by Henry III in a grand ceremony on the saint's feast day three years previous, 13 October 1269.

News of their eldest child's death didn't reach Lord Edward and Eleanor until the autumn of 1272, after they had completed their Crusade, and were wintering at the court of Edward's uncle Charles of Anjou, King of Sicily, at Trapani. In November, the couple received the news of the death of Edward's father King Henry III. A story, which historian John Carmi Parsons, deduces is apocryphal, sprang up about the surprise of King Charles to find Edward extremely upset by the death of his father and unconcerned at the death of his son John, with Edward explaining that it was easy to beget sons but a father was irreplaceable [*13]. It may well have a grain of truth to it, however. One's father symbolizes the past, and one's son the future. The loss of both in such a close timeframe is a reminder of the importance of the present. Edward was now King of England. The past could not be undone, but the future, with the potential for further children, was in the hands of himself, those of his wife, and those, as always in medieval theology, of God.
Westminster Abbey Tomb thought to contain
the remains of the young Plantagenets,
children of Henry III & Edward I

A beautiful little tomb in Westminster Abbey, inlaid with Italian mosaic tiles, that lies between the chapels of St. Edmund and St. Benedict, is thought to have been made for John by his father Edward I. It is without inscription and is said to now contain the bones of all the children of Henry III and Edward I (nine in total) that were buried in the Abbey [*14].

[*1] Michael Prestwich, Edward I (Yale English Monarchs Series, 1988), pp. 54-55.
[*2] Ibid, p. 56.
[*3] John R. Maddicott, "Ferrers, Robert de, sixth earl of Derby (c.1239–1279)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004). His career will be looked at more fully when I get to Henry Ferrers, 3rd Lord Ferrers of Groby.
[*4] Liber de Antiquis Legibus: Cronica Maiorum et Vicecomitum Londoniarum, edited by Thomas Stapleton, Camden Society Volume 34 (1846), p. 87. The full entry reads, “Eodem anno, ij idus Julii, de nocte, uxor Domini Edwardi peperit filium suum primogenitum apud Windleshores; quibus rumoribus auditus Cives Londoniarum fecerunt proclamare in Civitate, quod in crastino /tota communa solempnizassent nullum opus servile faciendo pre gaudio nativitatis dicti pueri. Unde factum est, quod illa die, omnibus seldis et schopis clausis, omnes viri et mulieres, tam clerici quam laici, pede et equo perrexerunt apud Westmonasterium, gratias agentes Deo pro nativitate pueri et orantes pro salute sua. Et per vicos Civitatis tripudium ducentes et cantilenas facientes pre gaudio, sicut solet fieri annuatim in festo Sancti Johannis Baptiste; cui vero puero impositum est nomen Johannes.”
[*5] Calendar of Patent Rolls 1258-1266 (1910), p. 617. The full entry, dated at Kenilworth 21 July 1266, reads, “Grant to John Ferre, for the delightful news which he brought to the king of the birth of John son of Edward the king’s son, that the king will assign to him 20l. yearly of land out of the first escheats, as soon as an opportunity offer.”
[*6] The Register of Walter Giffard, Lord Archbishop of York 1266-1279, edited by William Brown, Surtees Society Volume 109 (1904), p. 101.
[*7] Prestwich, Edward I, p. 54.
[*8] John Carmi Parsons, Eleanor of Castile: Queen and Society in Thirteenth-Century England (1995), pp. 25, 264 n. 51.
[*9] Prestwich, Edward I, p. 57.
John Carmi Parsons, “The Year of Eleanor of Castile’s Birth and Her Children by Edward I”, Mediaeval Studies, Volume 46 (1984), pp. 258-259.
[*11] Prestwich, Edward I, p. 126.
[*12] Liber de Antiquis Legibus, p. 141. The full entry reads, "Hoc anno obiit Johannes, primogenitus Domini Edwardi, puer etate quinque annorum et non plene quatuor septimanarum. Cujus corpus in Ecclesia Westmonasterii, ex opposito basilice Sancti Edwardi in parte aquilonali datum est sepulture viij die mensis Augusti.”
[*13] Parsons, Eleanor of Castile.
[*14] Barbara Hervey, Westminster Abbey and its Estates in the Middle Ages (1977), pp. 374-375. She cites "Tombs of Royal Babies in Westminster Abbey" a 1953 article by J.D. Tanner in the Journal of the British Archaeological Association as her source.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

{10} Joan Plantagenet (b/d. 1265), Second Child of Edward I

Royal arms of England
in the 13th-century
The first child of Edward I and Eleanor of Castile to appear by name in a record is a daughter named Katherine. This daughter's death in infancy (or as a toddler) in 1264 was (presumably) followed months later by the birth of another daughter, Joan. Other than her name, the only certain fact we have about her is that she had a tomb in Westminster Abbey prior to the autumn of 1265. We know this from an entry in the Close Rolls, dated 7 September 1265 at Marlborough Castle. Henry III ordered a gold cloth for the tomb of his granddaughter "Johanne filie Edwardi", recently dead (”nuper defuncte”) [*1].

The name Joan is significant. It had been previously used by the Plantagenets - Henry II and King John had each given it to a daughter - but not for a generation, with both of those royal Joans dead before Lord Edward had even been born. Rather, it was a name chosen to emphasize the ancestry of Eleanor of Castile, specifically to honor her mother Jeanne (the French form of Joan), dowager Queen of Castile and countess of Ponthieu in her own right. For it was to her mother that Eleanor likely owed the adult, sexually active relationship she now shared with her husband. Historian John Carmi Parsons argued in a 1984 article that the baby born to Eleanor of Castile in January 1265 (see below) was the daughter Joan whose tomb her grandfather the king ordered a cloth for in September 1265. There is no definitive evidence to prove Parsons' theory, but it is certainly a reasonable one, and the post is written under the assumption that he is correct.

Every inch a queen, Jeanne de Dammartin, maternal grandmother to the newborn Joan Plantagenet, was a strong-willed woman and a force to be reckoned with in her own right in the mid-thirteenth-century. As granddaughter of the famous Alice of France, who was such a beauty that Henry II took her as his mistress even though she was betrothed to his son Richard the Lionheart, Jeanne apparently inherited some of her grandmother’s looks, and was herself thought a great beauty [*2]. By the 1230s, she was certainly in line to inherit her grandmother’s territory, Ponthieu, a small, but well-located county in northern France, bordering Normandy. Its principal town was Abbeville, on the river Somme, a few miles from the channel coast. Jeanne’s ancestor Hugues d’Abbeville founded the dynasty of the counts of Ponthieu in the tenth century. It’s strategic location made its comital family one enmeshed in the great dynastic rivalry between the royal families of France (the Capets) and of England (the Plantagenets).
Royal arms of Castile
in the 13th-century

Normandy, the original duchy that had spawned the English royals, had been lost to them in 1204, when it was seized from King John by Philip II of France. In 1235, Henry III and his council saw a way to regain a foothold near the duchy through an alliance with the Dammartins: the king would marry young Jeanne. This of course was unacceptable to the queen regent of France, Blanche of Castile, who put pressure on Jeanne’s father Simon de Dammartin to cease the marriage negotiations in November 1235. Instead, Jeanne, through the arrangement of Queen Blanche, married Ferdinand III of Castile in 1237 [*2], and succeeded to Ponthieu at her mother’s death in 1251. At her husband's death in 1252, Jeanne was attractive woman in her early thirties, a queen and a countess, who was not about to meekly obey her stepson, Castile’s new king Alfonso X, only a year or two her junior. When he withheld her rights in lands that her husband had granted her, she threw her support behind the rebellion of another stepson, Henry of Castile, also denied lands by the new king. This led to a scandal and to rumors of an affair between the dowager queen and disgruntled prince. Queen Jeanne left Castile never to return, in August 1254, pointedly two months before the wedding ceremony of her daughter Eleanor. She was on her way back to Ponthieu, and stopped at Henry III’s court in Bordeaux in Aquitaine, to meet with the English king, queen and Lord Edward, her soon-to-be son-in-law [*3]. She clearly was determined to form a relationship with the Plantagenets on her own terms, independent of the Castilian royal family and court. For their part, the English royals were only too happy to have direct access to Ponthieu through Queen Jeanne and not have to negotiate with the king of Castile over the strategically important county.

Henry III, King of England
Eleanor of Castile bade goodbye to her mother in August 1254 as a twelve-year-old bride-to-be, and did not see her again until March 1260, when she was a nineteen-year-old wife. She accompanied her royal in-laws across the Channel in November 1259 while Lord Edward remained in England. Henry III was negotiating a final peace with the French and marrying his younger daughter Beatrice to the heir of the duke of Brittany [*4]. It was during this trip that the king received rumors that Lord Edward was rising in rebellion against him back in England. Eleanor would have had much to consult about with her mother. She had not yet borne a child with her husband, and likely was being ignored by the young prince, who was cutting his military chops, spending money he didn’t have, and trying hard to develop a political identity for himself independent of his father. Perhaps Edward did not know how to fit his foreign wife into these activities, perhaps his household knights and political allies were distrustful of her and plotted to keep the young Plantagenet couple apart [*5], perhaps Eleanor was supportive of her in-laws and frowned on her husband’s move against them. Whatever the causes, the marriage seems to have hit a rocky point: the couple was not together.

Countess Jeanne no doubt gave her daughter much advice that spring. In 1260, the former queen took a second husband, the widower knight Jean I, seigneur of Falvy, a member of the family of Nesle. He was either her age or a couple years younger, and though of the Ponthevin nobility, was not her equal in status [*6]. The marriage was certainly one that the Countess Jeanne, about age forty, chose for herself. Eleanor’s mother was not the type of lady to piously retire from the pleasures of the world, and her advice to her daughter would not be to leave everything to the hand of God. Eleanor needed to step out of the shadow of her royal in-laws and assert herself within her marriage. The quickest way to the heart of a twenty-one year-old man, even a prince, was through his loins. If he was avoiding her bed, she needed to do everything possible to entice him back into it. An important way to do that would be to show Lord Edward that she supported him in his political maneuvers, and indeed could help him with them through her own contacts.
Henry III and Eleanor of Provence crossing the English Channel
[Image from Historia Anglorum by Matthew Paris, mid-13th-century]
Eleanor returned to England with the king and queen late in April 1260. Henry III and Lord Edward were reconciled in May, and that summer likely saw Eleanor putting her mother’s advice to work. She helped arrange a marriage for Geoffrey de Lusignan, the uncle to whom Edward had grown the closest, to her cousin Jeanne of Châtelleraut. She accompanied Edward when he left England in November 1260 for Gascony, stopping in Paris to meet with Edward’s uncles and witness the marriage she had helped to arrange [*7]. Eleanor's active participation in the politics of her husband paid off dynastically a year or so later in the birth of the couple's first child, a daughter whom they named Katherine, after the youngest daughter of the king and queen, who had died in 1257 at age three. Sadly, Eleanor of Castile's firstborn suffered a similar early death when she died in September 1264 at the age of two or three. By that point, Simon de Montfort and the barons, who had rebelled against the king earlier that year, held the entire royal family in captivity, save for Eleanor of Provence, who had managed to flee to the continent. Lord Edward was being held in Wallingford Castle, while Eleanor of Castile had been ordered to Westminster Palace by Montfort, and it was there that her young daughter died.

Eleanor’s only consolation was the fact that she was pregnant with another child, knowledge of which would have reached Henry III and Simon de Montfort, perhaps even the captive Lord Edward, by the time of Katherine’s death. Preparations for Eleanor’s confinement were underway on 7 December 1264 at Westminster Palace [*8]. Henry III spent Christmas at Woodstock, and Lord Edward at Kenilworth Castle, the chief administrative seat of Simon de Montfort, where he had to endure a magnificent celebration thrown by his captor [*9]. Eleanor, still in mourning for Katherine and removed from the royal family, awaited her labour. It came at some point shortly after the New Year. The exact date is not known. There is record of payment on 25 January for medicines for Eleanor’s use, and record of her churching (the purification ceremony a woman underwent 30 to 40 days after having given birth) being imminent on 3 February [*8].
Edward I and Eleanor of Castile, from a
13th-century illuminated manuscript

The only record of Eleanor’s January 1265 birth are administrative: the preparations for her lying in, the medicine she received, and of her churching. No chronicle mentions it, and considering that Simon de Montfort’s Parliament was assembling in January 1265 to convene on the 25th, it is odd that the birth of a child, an heir to the captive Lord Edward whose release was one of the leading items on the Parliament’s agenda [*10], went unmentioned. There is no record of celebration, or of a messenger being rewarded for delivering news of the birth. No subsequent administrative record exists that mentions the name, or even existence, of a child in 1265, save Henry III’s ordering of a gold cloth for the tomb of Joan in September. There is no record of burial expenses at Westminster Abbey for any child after Katherine in October 1264, nor mention of any child in record until John in July 1266, and only one child (John) is mentioned in household expenses in July 1267 [*11]. This leads to the conclusion that the birth in January 1265 was of an infant who died shortly afterwards. Eleanor certainly had enough stress during that Christmas season to cause a difficult birth. Eleanor's isolation from the royal family meant that the choice of name for her newborn daughter was hers to make, and that she chose Joan, the name of her own mother, rather than a Plantagenet name like Eleanor or Margaret, indicates how uncertain even she was of the future of the dynasty.

During the short weeks or months that the infant Joan lived, her parents remained forcibly separated. April 1265 marked one year since the young Plantagenet couple had seen each other, and they were in dire straits. Lord Edward was still a prisoner of his uncle Montfort, and he and Henry III were amongst the army being taken by Montfort to Gloucester [*10]. Back in London, Eleanor was forced to borrow £40 from Hugh le Despenser, the Justiciar of England appointed by Montfort, just to meet her expenses [*12]. The 23-year-old princess was in a precarious position dynastically. If God chose to take her husband, as he had taken their two daughters, she could expect little in the way of sustenance from Montfort or the captive Plantagenets. The best she could hope for would be to be sent to her mother’s court in Ponthieu, a penniless widow. The worst would be for her to be a prize awarded in marriage to one of Montfort’s ambitious sons or another of his baronial supporters. Her days in the spring of 1265 were likely spent in prayer. If so, it paid off. A miracle occurred.

On Thursday, 28 May 1265, Lord Edward, accompanied by his cousin Henry de Montfort, Thomas de Clare, and some others of his captors, went out riding from Hereford, where Montfort and his army were headquartered, ... and escaped, making his way to Wigmore Castle, the chief seat of powerful Marcher Lord Roger Mortimer [*13]. The tide had turned. Over the next two months, the Marcher Lords, and other barons disaffected by the greed of Montfort and his sons, rallied to Edward’s banner, and began scoring military victories against the baronial forces. The decisive blow was dealt on the morning of August 5th, when battle was joined at Evesham in Worcestershire. Edward and his forces were triumphant, Montfort was killed, and the captivity of Henry III finally ended. When the king gave the order on September 7th for a gold cloth to be placed on the Westminster Abbey tomb of his granddaughter Joan, he did so as a free ruler.
Battle of Evesham
Since Lord Edward moved northward to Chester immediately after Evesham, it was likely not until September at Winchester, where Parliament had been summoned to meet, that he and Eleanor of Castile were reunited. It was no doubt emotional. They had suffered enforced separation for seventeen months, the death of their firstborn daughter, plus the death of their second child, the daughter Joan whom her father Lord Edward had never even seen. They had endured great travails, and triumphed over them. Ten months later, God sent them a blessing - a healthy son and heir.

[*1] Calendar of Close Rolls [CCR] 1264-1268 (1937), pp. 71-72. The full entry reads, “De panno ad aurum ad tumbam Johanne filie Edwardi.--Mandatum est Ricardo de Ewell’, emptori garderobe regis, quod provideat de uno bono et pulcro panno ad aurum ad cooperiendum inde tumbam Johanne, filie Edwardi, primogeniti regis, nuper defuncte et in ecclesia Westmonasterii sepulte. Et hoc nullo modo omittat. Teste rege apud Merleberg vij. die Septembris.”
[*2] John Carmi Parsons, Eleanor of Castile: Queen and Society in Thirteenth-Century England (1995), pp. 8-9.
[*3] Ibid., p. 16.
[*4] Ibid., pp. 17, 263 n. 33.[*5] Ibid., p. 21; Michael Prestwich, Edward I (Yale English Monarchs Series, 1988), pp. 32-33.
[*6] For genealogical details of the Nesle family, see William Mendel Newman, Les seigneurs de Nesle en Picardie (XIIe-XIIIe siècle), leurs chartes et leur histoire; étude sur la noblesse régionale ecclésiastique et laïque (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1971). Falvy’s mother died by May 1223. Jeanne de Dammartin was born between 1215 and 1220. See also John Carmi Parsons, “The Beginnings of English Administration in Ponthieu: An Unnoticed Document of 1280”, Mediaeval Studies, Volume 50 (1988), pp. 371-403.
[*7] Prestwich, pp. 34-35; Parsons, Eleanor of Castile, pp. 22-23, 263 n. 44.
[*8] John Carmi Parsons, “The Year of Eleanor of Castile’s Birth and Her Children by Edward I”, Medieval Studies, Volume 46 (1984), p. 258.
[*9] H.W. Ridgeway, "Henry III (1207-1272)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004).
[*10] John R. Maddicott, "Montfort, Simon de, eighth earl of Leicester (c.1208–1265)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004).
Parsons, “The Year of Eleanor of Castile’s Birth and Her Children by Edward I”, pp. 258-259.
[*12] Parsons, Eleanor of Castile, pp. 24, 264 n. 50.
[*13] Prestwich, p. 49.