Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Taming of the Duke

In around 1435, Henry VI’s council decided that strict measures were required for the upbringing of a royal ward. The ward was to rise between six and seven in the morning and to say prayers, and then go and wait upon the king, where he was to hear mass with him. Our young person was also to hear daily evensong. He was to go to bed no later than ten. His household had apparently recently been purged of undesirables; instead, he was to be waited upon by squires hand-picked by the king’s council, who were to encourage him to be of good rule and good governance. When he passed the king’s lodgings, he was to be in the company of at least one of the squires. Finally, if our ward fell into bad company, the ubiquitous squires were to report this, and the names of those involved, to the council.

Were the ward to prove incorrigible, the ordinances recite, the squires could ask the council to be relieved of their duties. This was not likely, the drafters continued optimistically, since the ward had already promised the king and the council to obey whatever rules were drawn up for him.

The ward in question? John Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk (1415-1461), who was about twenty at the time these ordinances were drawn up. Sadly, it’s not known what behavior on the young duke’s part prompted this concern, but as Nicholas Orme comments, such ordinances had no known precedents for individual wards and were probably drawn up because the duke had fallen into wild living with bad companions.

Norfolk’s reaction to his new regime likewise is not recorded, nor is it known whether it had the desired effect. If he chafed at these new restrictions, he at least didn’t have long to do so, for in September 1436, immediately after his twenty-first birthday, he received livery of his inheritance and thus was free to game, whore, stay up until the wee hours, skip prayers, and engage to his heart’s content in whatever other youthful folly he espoused.

Whatever success Norfolk’s attendants might have had in inculcating other virtues in him, deep-rooted loyalty does not appear to have been one of his defining qualities, though caution might have been. He seems to have avoided firm commitments to either side in the Wars of the Roses until after the Battle of Northampton, when he allied himself with the House of York. Having fought for the Yorkist side at Towton, he was earl marshal at Edward IV’s coronation in June 1461 and was amply rewarded, but he had little time to enjoy his new status, for on November 6, 1461, he died, aged forty-six. His mother, Katherine Neville, who lived into her eighties, married the twenty-year-old John Woodville in 1465, when she was a spry young thing of sixty-five or so.


Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online edition)

Nicholas Orme, “The Education of Edward V,” Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, November 1984.


Gabriele Campbell said...

Hehe, if the squires could ask to be relieved of duty, it was just a question of wearing them out. :)

Katherine took those Hollywood grannies as example, it seems. :P

Su_H said...

Excellent post, Susan I hadn't come across that info about Norfolk, and you allude to the 'abominable marriage' which so annoyed Warwick too. :-)

Kathryn Warner said...

What an interesting story! I love that he was ordered to go to bed no later than ten!

Susan Higginbotham said...

Hi, all! Gabriele, good point! Su, the ordinances are where no one would think to find them--in an article about Edward V. Alianore, yes, I have visions of the poor man begging, "Please, can I stay up until 10:30? Just for once?"

Jules Frusher said...

Great post Susan - I bet Norfolk really hated those new 'rules' lol!

Susan Higginbotham said...

Especially hearing mass with Henry VI! That must have been a long process.

Barbara Martin said...

Very interesting historical account.