Sunday, August 31, 2008

Joan of Navarre

Over the weekend (in between the excitement of using my big hole puncher), I finished Witch Queen by Maureen Peters. Witch Queen is about Joan of Navarre, who married the widowed Henry IV and thus became his queen and the stepmother to his children, including the future Henry V.

Witch Queen follows Joan from her childhood with her depraved father, nicknamed Charles the Bad, who forces young Joan to learn the ways of witchcraft. It follows Joan through her two marriages to the Duke of Brittany and to Henry IV, her imprisonment by Henry V on trumped-up charges of sorcery, and her release several years later. An epilogue follows Joan into her old age.

Those expecting a novel about witchcraft should look elsewhere, as Joan uses her powers only on one occasion, early in her life. Her main interest, which deepens as she ages, is in keeping her income secure, and it is her refusal to lend Henry V money that leads to the charges against her. Joan's increasing avarice, in fact, makes her a less attractive heroine as the novel goes on, though Peters manages to keep the reader from losing all sympathy for her.

There are some nice moments in this novel, such as the scene where Joan encounters an old admirer and finds, to her chagrin, that he no longer carries a torch for her. All in all, it's a quick and enjoyable read.

Having finished the novel, I was interested in learning more about the historical Joan of Navarre, who was indeed accused by Henry V of witchcraft in 1419. Henry V never proved the charges, and most historians, including Henry V's biographer Christopher Allmand, believe that they were a pretext for the cash-strapped Henry to seize Joan's revenues. (Tensions between England and Brittany, where Joan's son from her first marriage ruled, probably didn't help either.)

Peters portrays Joan's imprisonment as being a spartan one, but this was hardly the case. A.R. Myers in his article "The Captivity of a Royal Witch" notes that Joan was provided with a large household, rich clothing, and varied foods and wines. She received illustrious visitors, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Winchester, and her stepson the Duke of Gloucester. One visitor, Thomas, Lord Camoys, stayed for a whopping nine months during 1420-21. One wonders if Camoys, a widower who returned for a brief visit in February 1421 before his death in March that same year, was a special friend of Joan's. Myers also notes that Joan was appointed a Portuguese physician and was allowed to buy medicines.

Noting that Joan was never tried for witchcraft, Myers suggests a reasonable explanation: if Joan were tried and acquitted, she would have to be freed and given back her income; if she were found guilty, she would have to be punished, which the king may have been reluctant to do. Keeping Joan imprisoned without trial allowed the government to enjoy her income while keeping her in comfort at the same time.

Six weeks before his own death in 1422, Henry ordered that Joan be released and her dower restored. Her last years were comfortable and uneventful. She appears to have been on good terms with Henry VI, who gave her a fine tablet of gold in 1437 and saw to it that she received a state funeral when she died that same year, aged sixty-nine. She was buried beside Henry IV. It seems unlikely that Henry VI would have treated Joan with such respect had he believed the witchcraft charges against her to have substance.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Swinging Susan

Last night, very unusually, I was alone for the evening, since hubby and the kids were out of town. So how did I spend my evening as a bachelorette, you might wonder? Pick one:

a) Had a raucous night out with the girls.
b) Drank a bottle of wine and gave myself blond highlights.
c) Got a whole bunch of writing done.
d) Fiddled around with the DVD player connection, then got out my great big hole puncher and put some of my research materials into nice blue binders.

D. This is really pathetic, folks. Maybe someone needs to do an intervention.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

This and That

First, as some of the readers of this blog may have frequented the Historical bulletin board, which has been down since Friday, I wanted to let you know that the moderators of that board (including me) have started a new site, Historical Fiction Online. It has all of the features that people enjoyed on the old site, and we'll be adding more. It's one of the friendliest sites on the web for discussing historical fiction and related topics, so stop on by and sign up!

Second, a couple of weeks ago, I was delighted to get a review copy of Sharon Penman's Devil's Brood in the mail. I finished reading it last week, and I recommend it heartily. Penman does a remarkable job of bringing Henry, Eleanor, and their sons, a flawed bunch if ever there was one, to sympathetic life.

Third, I'm eagerly waiting for August to get through so I can get Michelle Moran's new novel, due in mid-September, and Philippa Gregory's, also due in mid-September. Roll on, fall!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Manly Matters

As eagerly anticipated, no doubt, by female readers of this blog, here's an item from Edward IV's last Parliament, that of 1483, in which Parliament took a firm stand against firm--no, I'm not going there. Not at all.

And that it be ordained and enacted by the said authority that no one below the estate of lord shall wear . . . any gown or cloak unless it is of such length that, when he stands upright, it covers his genitals and buttocks, upon pain of forfeiting 20s. to your highness for each offence; and the same execution, process and judgment shall be had in this matter as is ordained for the foregoing. [The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, ed. by C. Given Wilson et al., Scholarly Digital Editions]

As anyone who's sat on a beach and witnessed 300 pounds of man tucked into a piece of spandex best suited for 180 pounds of man will agree, this legislation clearly was valuable. Note, however, that lords were excepted. Whether Parliament decided that lordly assets were more pleasing to the eye than nonlordly ones, or whether it was concerned that the lords would rise up in anger against a threat to their ordained right to show off their nether regions, or whether the cloth lobby had a hand in the legislation, is a matter I'll have to leave to the scholars among us.

Which brings us to Richard III. (This blog always brings us to Richard III, doesn't it?) This being the man's death anniversary, I promised myself I'd write only nice things about him today, even in my novel in progress, where today I promise he's going to say strictly things like, "Nice weather we're having, Buckingham," and, "I do so regret that the Nasty Woodvilles killed my brother Clarence." However, there's an illustration in a manuscript presented to Edward IV by Jean de Waurin that shows a Knight of the Garter in a rather short surcoat, which from the rear view would appear not to leave too much to the imagination if the knight were to bend over. Sir Short Surcoat has been identified by some historians as being the future Richard III (the king on the throne being Edward IV and the kneeling figure being Waurin). The last time I saw this issue being discussed on a Internet forum, it degenerated into a rather unseemly debate about the posteriors of the various Knights of the Garter during the first part of Edward IV's reign, with Richard III's supporters arguing (if I recall correctly) that only William, Lord Hastings, would favor such a revealing garment. What cheek.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Checkers: The Root of All Evil

As my work-in-progress approaches the death of George, Duke of Clarence, I had a look last night at the Parliament rolls for the 1478 session at which he was condemned. There's actually very little about Clarence in them, perhaps because there was plenty of other business to occupy Parliament, such as this little gem:

the commons assembled in this present parliament pray, that where according to the laws of this land no person should play any unlawful games such as dice, quoits, football and similar games, but that every strong and able bodied person should practise archery because the defence of this land relies heavily on archers; contrary to which laws the said games and several newly invented games called closh, kayles, half-bowl, hand-in and hand-out, and checker-board are played daily in various parts of this land both by persons of good repute and those of lesser estate, not virtuously-disposed, who fear neither to offend God by not attending divine service on holy days, nor to break the laws of this land, to their own impoverishment, and by their wicked incitement and encouragement they induce others to play such games so that they are completely stripped of their possessions and impoverished, setting a pernicious example to many of your lieges, if such unprofitable games are allowed to continue for long, because by such means many different murders, robberies and other most heinous felonies are frequently committed and perpetrated in various parts of this land . . .[The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, ed. by C. Given Wilson et al., Scholarly Digital Editions]

Does this sound like a fifteenth-century version of Reefer Madness, or what? This wasn't the first time, of course, that medieval English kings had outlawed games that supposedly distracted men from practicing archery; Edward III, for instance, had cracked down hard on football, obviously without long-lasting success.

Unfortunately, Edward IV may have had a closh-player lurking in his own household: his queen, Elizabeth Woodville. (Naturally, if there was trouble, the Woodvilles were going to be in the thick of it.) In 1472, a foreign observer caught the queen playing at marbles, and her ladies at a game of closheys (similar to ninepins). Ivory closheys, no less. Whether Elizabeth and her ladies were forced to find more respectable occupations after the 1478 edict, or whether the king looked the other way when the women got out the closheys, is, sadly, lost in the fog of history.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Tudor Tidbit

Those of you who have seen the first season of “The Tudors” will recall William Compton as the handsome young courtier who has an affair with the even more handsome young composer Thomas Tallis. As nice as the two young men look together, this affair appears to be entirely the producers’ invention: Compton was much older than Tallis, who did not come to Henry VIII’s court until 1543, well after Compton’s death in 1528. (Compton died of sweating sickness; the series did get his illness right.)

In fact, if William Compton had an extramarital liaison, it appears to have been with a lady: Anne, daughter to the second Duke of Buckingham. Anne and her siblings are on my mind these days, for their father, the hero of my novel in progress (that’s right, the hero!), having been married since the age of nine, is finally getting around to fathering his children.

Both Anne and her older sister, Elizabeth, were married and serving as ladies in waiting to Catherine of Aragon in 1510, when, according to a foreign observer, William Compton began making advances to Anne. Gossip had it that he was acting on the behalf of Henry VIII himself, whose eye might have been roving, given that Catherine was pregnant with the couple’s short-lived son. Elizabeth informed her brother Edward, the third Duke of Buckingham, who caught the couple in Anne’s chamber. (Precisely what the couple was doing is unrecorded.) After bellowing, “Women of the Stafford family are no game for Comptons, no, nor for Tudors either,” Edward notified Anne’s husband, George, Lord Hastings, who hauled her off to a convent. Compton, meanwhile, went to his friend the king, who berated Buckingham. The furious duke left court, and Elizabeth, who by now may have wished she had kept her mouth shut, was herself sent from court.

All of this seems to have blown over pretty quickly, and it’s unclear just what was going on between Anne and William Compton at the time. As Barbara J. Harris points out in English Aristocratic Women: 1450-1550 (an excellent book, by the way), there clearly was some sort of relationship between the pair. Cardinal Wolsey, as legate, noted that Compton had taken the sacrament as proof that he had not committed adultery with Anne. Despite this, Compton left Anne land in his will dated 1523, which, as Harris notes, was highly unusual for a man to do for a woman who was not a close relation, and ordered that masses be said for her soul. Whatever explanation Anne gave to her husband for this relationship, it must have been a good one, for Hastings (the grandson of the William Hastings executed by the future Richard III) appears to have born a great deal of affection toward Anne. In a letter quoted by Harris, he wrote, “with all my whole heart, I recommend me unto you as he that is most glad to hear that you be merry and in good health,” and in his will he treated her most generously and named her as one of his executors. The couple, who were married in 1509, had a large family, and whatever happened in 1510, it did not harm Hastings’ career at court, since he was made an earl in 1529 and continued to serve Henry VIII until Hastings died in 1544.

P.S. When I changed computers and entered Vista land, I lost the ability to use my old website software, so I've been reworking my website using some new software. I took the opportunity to freshen up my home page--what do you think?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Elizabeth Woodville's Sisters

Of Elizabeth Woodville’s many siblings, the most shadowy, unsurprisingly, are her sisters. Nothing is known about their personalities and very little about their lives, save for genealogical details, which has not stopped the queen’s detractors from characterizing them en masse as greedy, scheming, and unprincipled. Here’s what is known about the queen’s siblings:

Unlike those of her younger sisters, Jacquetta Woodville’s marriage owed nothing to her sister Elizabeth’s match with the king. Jacquetta had married John Strange, 8th Lord Strange of Knokyn, by March 27, 1450, when the manor of Midlyngton in Oxford was granted to the couple by John’s mother, Elizabeth (Calendar of Patent Rolls). Since Jacquetta’s parents had married around 1437, Jacquetta, who was apparently younger than Elizabeth Woodville and Anthony Woodville, was still a child at the time of her marriage, as was her husband, said to have been five or more at the time of his father’s death in 1449. John outlived Jacquetta, having remarried before his death on October 16, 1479. They had one daughter, Joan, said to be 16 or more at the time of her father’s death. Joan married George Stanley, son of the Thomas Stanley who is notorious for having helped Henry Tudor win the Battle of Bosworth. George is best known for being taken in custody by Richard III before the battle of Bosworth to ensure (unsuccessfully) the loyalty of Thomas Stanley. Joan and George’s son, Thomas, became the second Earl of Derby in 1504, having succeeded to the title of his grandfather Thomas Stanley.

Jacquetta Woodville and John Strange are commemorated in a memorial brass at St. John the Baptist Church in Hillingdon, a picture of which can be seen here.

Anne Woodville married William Bourchier, eldest son of the Earl of Essex, by August 1467, when they are recorded as receiving lands worth a hundred pounds a year. Anne is one of the rare cases where we get a glimpse of Elizabeth’s sisters at court: she served as one of the queen’s ladies in waiting and was paid forty pounds a year for her services. How long she was at court is uncertain, as the queen’s household records only cover the period from 1466-67.

William Bourchier, who must have been considerably older than Anne, predeceased his father, dying sometime between February 12, 1483, when he was placed on a commission of the peace, and April 4, 1483, when his father the earl died, close to eighty years of age. William and Anne’s son, Henry, born in 1472, became the second Earl of Essex at age eleven. Interestingly, some sources have young Henry taking part in Richard III’s coronation a few months later, bearing gilt spurs in the procession. (Incidentally, Henry Bourchier’s daughter, Anne, married William Parr, whose sister Katherine was Henry VIII’s sixth wife.)

In addition to Henry, Earl of Essex, Anne and William had two daughters, the first being Cecily, who married John Devereux, 8th Baron Ferrers of Chartley (b. 1463). She died in 1493. The other daughter, Isabel, seems to have never married. In her will, dated October 10, 1500, and proven May 14, 1501, she described herself only as “daughter to William Bourchier” and asked to be buried at Whittington College, London, the burial place of her sister. She left monetary bequests to her brother Henry and to her half brother, Richard Grey.

Following William’s death, Anne subsequently married George Grey, the second Earl of Kent. She died on July 30, 1489, survived by a son, Richard Grey, who succeeded George Grey as the third Earl of Kent when George died in 1503. Richard Grey was a wastrel who had dissipated his inheritance by the time he died in 1524.

A number of sources report that Anne was married a third time to Edward Wingfield, but this appears somewhat doubtful to me. Richard Grey, Earl of Kent, who was described as “25 or more” at his father’s death in 1503, may not have been quite this old at the time, but he certainly seems to have been an adult, who sat on a commission of gaol delivery in 1502 and who was given license to enter his lands in 1504. He was made a Knight of the Garter in 1505. With a son this old, it seems that Anne, who was not widowed from her first husband until 1483, would have had no time to squeeze in a marriage to Edward Wingfield, who in any case was alive and active after Anne’s death in 1489. The only scenario I can think of that would allow both marriages would have been for Anne to marry one man and then have the marriage annulled before marrying the other, but this seems rather unlikely since no source mentions such an occurrence. Perhaps Anne is being confused with her sister Katherine, who married Richard Wingfield, Edward Wingfield’s younger brother.

In September 1466, Mary wed young William Herbert at Windsor Castle. William Herbert, born around 1454 or 1455, was the eldest son of William Herbert, a Welsh baron and a strong ally of Edward IV who for a time had young Henry Tudor in his custody. The marriage indenture had been entered into on March 20, 1466. The elder Herbert was created Earl of Pembroke in 1468, but had little time to enjoy his title; he was murdered by the Earl of Warwick’s troops the following year, shortly before two of his Woodville in-laws, Mary’s father and her brother John, met the same fate. Mary’s husband thus became the second Earl of Pembroke, but he never enjoyed the prominence of his father. Like another Woodville in-law, the Duke of Buckingham, he had no role of importance in Edward IV’s reign. It has been suggested that he may have suffered from ill health. In 1479, he exchanged his earldom of Pembroke, which was bestowed upon the Prince of Wales for that of Huntingdon.

Mary, meanwhile, bore William one daughter, Elizabeth, who was described as “16 or more” in 1492, putting her birth date at about 1476. Her date of death is usually given as 1481. In his 1483 will, William (who died in 1490) asked to be buried at Tintern Abbey “where my deare and best beloved wife resteth buried.” In 1484, however, he married Katherine, Richard III’s out-of-wedlock daughter, whom he seems to have outlived. According to the Complete Peerage, he was buried at Tintern Abbey.

William and Mary’s daughter, Elizabeth, married Charles Somerset, the out-of-wedlock child of Henry, Duke of Somerset (d. 1464). As a Beaufort who had been in exile with Henry Tudor, Somerset naturally did well under Henry VII’s reign, being made the first Earl of Worcester.

Margaret Woodville was the first of the queen’s sisters to marry after Elizabeth’s marriage to Edward IV was made public. Her marriage to Thomas Fitzalan (b. 1450), known later as Lord Maltravers, took place in October 1464, just weeks after Edward had surprised his council with news of his own marriage. Thomas’s father lived to be 71, dying in December 1487, so he did not succeed to his earldom until 1488. Both men were present at Richard III’s coronation, though they also turned up for Tudor events during the next reign.

Lord and Lady Maltravers assisted at the christening of Edward IV and Elizabeth’s youngest daughter, Bridget, in 1480. They were the parents of several children. Their son William, born around 1476, succeeded to his father’s earldom after Thomas’s death in 1524. Their daughter Joan married George Neville, 3rd Lord Abergavenny. Another daughter, Margaret, married John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, who died rebelling against Henry VII at Stoke Field. This daughter was still alive in 1524, when her father bequeathed her a ring.

Margaret Woodville died before March 6, 1491, and was buried at Arundel. Her husband lived until October 25, 1524, having never remarried. He specified that he be buried at Arundel, “where my Lady my wife doth lie.”

Joan Woodville (also known, peculiarly, as Eleanor) married Anthony Grey, son of Edmund, Lord Grey of Ruthin. Edmund had turned traitor to the Lancastrian cause at Northampton and was created Earl of Kent on May 30, 1465. Anthony Grey, who was knighted on the eve of Elizabeth Woodville’s coronation, married Joan around this time. Anthony Grey died childless in 1480, predeceasing his father, who died in 1490. Anthony’s younger brother, George, who had married the widowed Mary Woodville, Joan’s sister, became the second Earl of Kent.

Joan was dead by 1492, when a postmortem inquisition on her brother Richard was taken.

The best known of Elizabeth Woodville’s sisters is Katherine, who with her marriage to Henry, Duke of Buckingham became the highest ranking of the girls—except, of course, for her sister the queen. Katherine was probably the youngest of the girls; her brother Richard’s postmortem inquisition places her birthdate at about 1458. She had married her husband by the time of Elizabeth’s coronation in 1465, for she is named in a description of the event as the younger Duchess of Buckingham. She and her nine-year-old husband were carried at the coronation by squires. No other duke or duchess is referred to as being carried in this manner, so it’s reasonable to assume that this was due to the youth of the Buckinghams. Following her marriage, Katherine was raised in the queen’s household, where her husband and his brother also resided.

After the execution of her first husband in 1483, Katherine married Jasper Tudor, uncle to Henry VII, shortly before November 7, 1485. She married her third husband, Richard Wingfield, without royal license in early 1496 and died just over a year later on May 18, 1497.

More can be found about Katherine here. It should be noted once again, however, that despite primary sources that indicate that Katherine was a child at the time of her marriage to Buckingham, certain of Richard III’s supporters continue to insist that she was much older than Buckingham at the time and that the experience of being married to an adult woman (and one of lesser birth) hopelessly warped the poor boy. The prize for Katherine-bashing in nonfiction has to go to Ricardian Geoffrey Richardson, who in The Hollow Crowns writes, “A substantial difference in the ages of the bridal pair and the bitter reluctance of the groom were matters of little or no consequence. . . . The principal consequence of this ill-matched mating, which would affect the course of English history, was that Buckingham acquired an abiding hatred of the Woodvilles, verging at times on gross mental instability, perhaps madness would not be too strong a word.” Most recently, Annette Carson in Richard III: The Maligned King, while not going so far as to credit Katherine with driving Buckingham insane, adds a few misstatements of her own, writing “Edward IV had neatly pre-empted any such alliance [i.e., with the Earl of Warwick’s daughters] by purchasing Buckingham’s wardship in order for the boy to be bestowed on the Woodville clan, at the age of about eleven, as husband for the queen’s twenty-year-old sister Catherine. Young Harry’s mortification must have festered for years.” Like Richardson, Carson (who manages to get Harry’s age wrong as well as Katherine’s) cites no source for her misstatement. It should also be noted that Edward IV purchased Harry’s very valuable wardship well before he married Elizabeth Woodville; the boy had previously been in the care of the king’s sister Anne, the Duchess of Exeter. (Poor Harry is also depicted by Carson as being “kept at court tied to the queen’s skirts while she enjoyed the income from his estates.” Aside from the fact that there was not anything at all unusual or untoward in a guardian benefitting from a wealthy ward’s estates during the fifteenth century, Harry was allowed to enter his estates at age 17, years before he reached his majority.)

Instead of to these writers, the last word on Katherine should go to her third husband, a distinguished diplomat who outlived her by many years and who remarried after little more than a year of marriage to her, but whose will orders masses for the zoul of his "singular good Lady Dame Katherine.”

The Mysterious Martha
Finally, another girl is often added to the list of Woodville sisters: Martha, married to Sir John Bromley. As Brad Verity has pointed out, however, Martha is not mentioned as being a Woodville until a 1623 visitation pedigree. She is not named in a note, written in the 1580’s, that lists the offspring of Richard, Earl Rivers, and Jacquetta and their spouses, nor do she or her heirs appear in Richard Woodville’s 1492 inquisition postmortem or in a 1485 document designating inheritance rights to Edward Woodville’s annuity. It seems, then, that Martha Bromley was not a Woodville, or at least not one of the queen's sisters.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Self-Help, Medieval Style

I haven’t forgotten Lady D’s Bedside Table post, but my bedside table (actually, my chairside table) is a wee bit dull at the moment. And it’s too hot to write a serious post. So here goes. I was in the bookstore the other day (how often do I say that, by the way?) when I noticed on the shelf a self-help book called How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less. Naturally, that made me think, “Wouldn’t it be nice if they had such books in medieval England?” So hence, here’s a list of real self-help books, with their ideal readers:

Family Healing: Strategies for Hope and Understanding: Henry II
When I Say No, I Feel Guilty: Edward II
Mr. Right Is Out There: The Gay Man's Guide to Finding and Maintaining Love: Piers Gaveston
Be a Real Estate Millionaire: Secret Strategies to Lifetime Wealth Today: Hugh le Despenser the younger
Your Perfect Right: A Guide to Assertive Living: Roger Mortimer
The Dance of Intimacy: A Woman’s Guide to Courageous Acts of Change in Key Relationships: Isabella
When Parents Disagree and What You Can Do About It: Edward III
The Mystery Method: How to Get Beautiful Women Into Bed: Edward IV
How to Get Married . . . Again: Elizabeth Woodville (yes, you precontract believers can say it: Edward IV might find this one useful as well)
The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be: Richard III
Dare to Win: Henry Tudor
Saving Your Second Marriage Before It Starts: Nine Questions to Ask Before (and After) You Remarry: Henry VIII
And while we’re on the topic, I got a great chuckle out of this link when searching for titles for this post:
Got any titles to add?