Book Corner: The Black Prince by Michael Jones

As a child he was given his own suit of armour; in 1346, at the age of 16, he helped defeat the French at Crécy; and in 1356 he captured the King of France at Poitiers. For the chronicler Jean Froissart, ‘He was the flower of all chivalry’; for the Chandos Herald, who fought with him, he was ‘the embodiment of all valour’. Edward of Woodstock, eldest son and heir of Edward III of England, better known as ‘the Black Prince’, was England’s pre-eminent military leader during the first phase of the Hundred Years War.

Michael Jones uses contemporary chronicles and documentary material, including the Prince’s own letters and those of his closest followers, to tell the tale of an authentic English hero and to paint a memorable portrait of warfare and society in the tumultuous fourteenth century.

The Black Prince by Michael Jones is a wonderful, comprehensive biography of one of the most controversial chivalric figures of history. At first sight Edward of Woodstock, oldest son of Edward III, appears to have been born for war. His childhood, education and experience were all geared to him following in his father’s footsteps and waging war on France. Michael Jones, however, looks deeper into this enigmatic prince; and finds a prince who did, in fact, build his household, his career, indeed almost every aspect of his life, around success on the battlefield; but he was also a pleasure-loving Prince and one of the few from his time who married for love.

Tomb of the Black Prince, Canterbury Cathedral

This biography is a fascinating read from the very first words. Michael Jones has a knack of drawing the reader in. He is so invested in his subject and has such a natural enthusiasm that it is impossible to put the book down. Every aspect of the Black Prince’s life is discussed, explained and analysed, revealing the Prince, the son, the husband, father and the soldier behind the armour.

The Prince’s martial exploits were the stuff of legend in his own lifetime. On 26 August 1346, at the age of sixteen, he fought heroically with his father in an army that crushed the French at Crécy. Ten years later, on 19 September 1356, by now a commander in his own right, he turned the tales on his numerically superior opponent, capturing King John II of France in battle at Poitiers, one of the great English victories of the Hundred Years War. In 1362, he became prince of Aquitaine, holding a magnificent court at Bordeaux that mesmerised the brave but unruly Gascon nobility and drew them like moths to the flame of his cause.

Michael Jones has an easy way of writing and addressing his readers without being condescending or too high brow. He presents his subject in a balanced, analytical manner but it is hard not to admire this English prince who became one of his country’s greatest heroes – even in his own lifetime. The author does not shy away, however, from the controversial aspects of the Black Prince’s military career, placing the chevauchée across France firmly in its historical context and presenting the true facts to the sack of Limoges, where he is accused of killing 3,000 citizens, a crime that has been highly exaggerated and which the Black Prince certainly does not deserve to have attached to his name.

The Black Prince is a fascinating insight into the greatest king England never had. It is also a portrait of the times in which he lived. Michael Jones does not present the Prince as living in a bubble and makes certain of highlighting the influences and people around him. These are discussed in great detail, from his loyal retainers, soldiers who were pardoned for crimes in England so they could fight abroad, to his extravagances and money woes. An interesting aspect of the book deals with the extent of his father’s influence on his career and decisions. The Black Prince’s life was, as with most Princes of royal blood, to a great extent dictated by the king, Edward III and the greater needs of England. Thus painting a portrait of a man who was guided by duty and responsibility throughout his life and career.

… in his prime, the Black Prince created a world of heroic enchantment for those around him, one that did not simply depend on personal charm and bravery. He won over the tough and independent-minded, both in Cheshire and in Gascony, not so much by living a chivalric life as by fully embodying it.

Making use of primary sources, Michael Jones has recreated every aspect of the Black Prince’s life – and death – from his early childhood, through his martial training and experiences, his marriage to Joan of Kent, to his not-always-successful rule in Aquitaine, the birth of his sons and campaigns on behalf of Pedro the Cruel in Spain and finally to his tragic early death. This very personal account of the Black Prince’s life and achievements, successes and failures, draws from the great  chroniclers of the day, from the likes of Froissart and the Chandos Herald; giving the reader a full and accurate picture of the Prince and the man, from friends and enemies alike.

The achievements of Edward, the lLack Prince, suspended above his tomb in Canterbury Cathedral

The Black Prince is at its best when presenting the Prince as a man, discussing his reputation as an exemplar of chivalry, a general without peer and, alongside his wife, the most glamorous couple of their time. It paints a picture of a prince who appreciates the value of pomp and ceremony as a diplomatic tool.

In short, this book is a must for any lover of the era or the man. A thorough account of the Black Prince’s life, Michael Jones does not shy away from criticising his subject, but does not attempt to impose 21st century values on a 14th century prince. Enjoyable, entertaining and engaging, this new biography is a wonderful insight into a world now lost and a man who never achieved his destiny – to be king.

“This Prince was one of the greatest and best knights ever seen.”

 

*

The Black Prince by Michael Jones is available from Amazon.

Michael Jones is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and member of the British Commission for Military History. He works as a writer, battlefield tour guide and media presenter. He is the author of Bosworth 1485: Psychology of a Battle, 24 Hours at Agincourt and co-author, with Philippa Gregory and David Baldwin, of The Women of the Cousins’ War; and, with Philippa Langley, of The King’s Grave: The Search for Richard III. He lives in South London.

*

Photos of the Black Prince’s tomb in Canterbury Cathedral ©2015 Sharon Bennett Connolly.

*

My book, Heroines of the Medieval World, looking into the lives of some of the most fascinating women from medieval history, will be published by Amberley on 15th September, 2017. It is now available for pre-order in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon UK and worldwide from Book Depository. It will be available from Amazon US from 1 May 2018.

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter.

*

©2017 Sharon Bennett Connolly

‘Fair Rosamund’

Fair Rosamund by John William Waterhouse

The story of Rosamund de Clifford is shrouded in more legends than most medieval lives. After Eleanor of Aquitaine, she is the woman most associated with Henry II, king of England. In historical fiction, she is the woman who claimed his heart and stole him away from his queen. But who was she? How much of her story is real, how much is fantasy?

Rosamund de Clifford was probably born around 1140. She was the daughter of Walter de Clifford, a lord on the Welsh Marches, and his wife Margaret de Tosny. We know nothing of her childhood, she may have been educated at Godstow Abbey, but it is not certain; nor is when she actually met the king. The rest of her life is made of rumour and gossip.

Rosamund’s father served Henry II on campaign in Wales in the 1160s. It is possible that the king first met the young woman on a visit to de Clifford’s residence of Bredelais during the campaign. Some theories have Henry’s affair with Rosamund starting around 1165, the first Christmas that Henry spent apart from his queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor held her Christmas court at Angers while Henry was at Oxford. Henry had a tendency to be constantly on the move and it was unusual for him to be so immobile, which has led to suspicions that this was when his love affair with Rosamund began. However, there is evidence that Henry may also have been nursing some sort of injury, which would also curtail his movements.

Henry and Eleanor were to have one more child, John, born at Christmas 1166, which suggests the Christmas 1165 separation was more due to the logistics of ruling large domains than it was to Henry finding love elsewhere. However, there is a later story of Eleanor intending to have her lying in at the royal palace of Woodstock, only to find Rosamund in residence on her arrival and quickly relocating to Oxford to give birth.

Henry and Eleanor holding court

Henry was never a faithful husband and was known to have several illegitimate children, including William Longspée and Geoffrey, Archbishop of York. He numbered among his conquests Rohese, a daughter of the prominent de Clare family and Ida de Tosny, who later married Hugh Bigod, earl of Norfolk, and was mother of Longspée. If Henry and Rosamund did begin their relationship in the mid-1160s, they did a marvellous job of keeping the affair secret, as it was not made public until 1174.

Henry’s relationship with his queen soured considerably in the early 1170s with Eleanor taking the side of their sons and joining them in open rebellion in 1172-73. Henry managed to crush the rebellion and forgave his sons, but he was not so lenient with Eleanor. In 1174 he escorted her to England and installed her in Old Sarum, condemning her to what would be 15 years of imprisonment; she would only be released when her favourite son, Richard I, ascended the throne in 1189.

In the same year as Eleanor’s imprisonment, Henry ‘s relationship with Rosamund became common knowledge. She resided at the royal palace of Woodstock in Oxfordshire, which was extensively refurbished in the early 1170s. It was said that ‘King Henry had made for her a house of wonderful workmanship, a labyrinth of Daedelian design.’¹ There was said to be a labyrinth, a secret bower where Henry and Rosamund met and a well where Rosamund bathed. Rosamund’s Well can still be seen today in the grounds of Blenheim Palace, which now stands where Woodstock once stood.

Although it has come down through legend as a great love story, nothing is known of Rosamund’s feelings towards Henry, nor whether she any any say in her position as teh king’s mistress. The chroniclers of the time, of course, painted her as the fallen woman, a seductress and adulteress. They crated puns derived from her name; Rosamund, or rosa mundi meaning the rose of the world became rosa immunda – the unclean rose – and rosa immundi – the unchaste rose.

The ruins of Godstow Abbey

That poor Rosamund was blamed for Henry’s infidelity was a sign of the times; women were the daughters of Eve, temptation for honourable men who had no power to resist them. Rosamund’s early death was seen as a just punishment for her lascivious lifestyle. Rosamund ended her relationship with Henry in 1175/6 and withdrew to Godstow Abbey. It seems likely that she was already ill when she entered the priory and she died in 1176. Henry paid for a lavish tomb within the convent church, at which the nuns left floral tributes on a daily basis. In the years following Rosamund’s death, Henry endowed the convent with 2 churches at Wycombe and Bloxham, new buildings and substantial amounts of building materials. Rosamund’s father, Walter, granted the abbey mills and a meadow, for the souls of his wife and daughter.

Unfortunately, however, Rosamund was not allowed to rest in peace. In 1190 when  the saintly Bishop Hugh of Lincoln visited Godstow he was horrified that Rosamund’s tomb had a place of honour within the church and ordered her remains to be removed. The tomb was resited in the nun’s chapter house, with an accompanying inscription admonishing her lifestyle:

This tomb doth here enclose the world’s most beauteous Rose,

Rose passing sweet erewhile, now nought but odour vile.²

 

Eleanor prepares to poison Rosamund by Evelyn De Morgan

Rosamund’s early death – she was still only in her 30s – inspired legends of revenge; Eleanor has been variously accused of stabbing her in her bath and poisoning her. In one extravagant version, Rosamund was hidden in her secret bower within a maze but, with the help of a silken thread, a jealous Eleanor still found her and stabbed her while she bathed. In another the discarded queen forced Rosamund to drink from a poison cup. Of course, a closely guarded prisoner in Old Sarum or at Winchester as she was, it was impossible for Eleanor to do any such thing. But it makes for a good story!

Rosamund’s relationship with Henry probably lasted no more than 10 years and possibly as little as 3 years. She may have seen little of Henry in that time, as he was a constantly on the move and only spent a little over 3 of those 10 years in England in total. It is possible that Rosamund sometimes travelled with him, discreetly, although this seems unlikely given that no one knew of her until after Eleanor’s rebellion and imprisonment. There are some theories that suggest Henry had lost interest in Rosamund even before her death, and that was the reason for her retirement to Godstow. Although his lavish endowment of the Abbey may argue otherwise, Hnery is said to have turned his attentions too his son Richard’s fiancée, Princess Alys, sister of Philip II of France.

Perhaps the truth of Rosamund’s story matters less than the legend and romance that has grown up around it. Maybe the story of unrequited love, secret trysts and hidden bowers are just as important to history than the sordid truth a woman seduced by a king with little say in the direction of her own life, denied husband, children and a future.

Maybe the romance is what makes the story more palatable.

The Ballad of Fair Rosamund

The Flower of the World

 

When as king Henry ruled this land,

The second of that name,

Besides the queene, he dearly loved

A faire and comely dame

 

Most peerless was her beautye founde,

Her favour, and her face;

A sweeter creature in this worlde

Could never prince embrace.

 

Her crisped lockes like threads of golds

Appeared to each man’s sight;

Her sparkling eyes, like Orient pearles,

Did cast a heavenlye light.

 

The blood within her crystal cheeks

Did such a colour drive,

As though the lillye and the rose

For mastership did strive.

 

Yea Rossamonde, fair Rosamonde,

Her name was called so,

To whom our queene, dame Ellinor,

Was known a deadly foe.

 

The king therefore, for her defence

Against the furious queene,

At Woodstocke builded such a bower,

The like was never seene.

 

Most curiously that bower was built

Of stone and timber strong,

An hundred and fifty doors

Did to this bower belong.

 

And they so cunningly contriv’d,

With turnings round about,

That none but with a clue of thread

Could enter in and out.³

 

*

Footnotes: ¹Polychronicon quoted in Oxforddnb.com; ² Speed quoted in Oxforddnb.com; ³Anonymous quoted in Eleanor, April Queen of Aquitaine by Douglas Boyd

Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia

Sources: Oxforddnb.com by T.A. Archer, rev by Elizabeth Hallam; Wordsworth Dictionary of British History by J.P. Kenyon; kings, Queens, Bones and Bastards by David Hilliam; England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings 1075-1225 by Robert Bartlett; King John by Marc Morris; The Devil’s Brood by Desmond Seward; The Greatest Knight by Thomas Asbridge; Eleanor, April Queen of Aquitaine by Douglas Boyd; Eleanor of Aquitaine by Alison Weir; The Plantagenet Chronicles Edited by Elizabeth Hallam.

*

My book, Heroines of the Medieval World, looking into the lives of some of the most fascinating women from medieval history, will be published by Amberley on 15th September, 2017. It is now available for pre-order in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon UK and worldwide from Book Depository. It will be available from Amazon US from 1 May 2018.

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter.

*

©2017 Sharon Bennett Connolly

Heroines of the Medieval World – the Book Cover

In just 6 weeks’ time Heroines of the Medieval World will be released.  Writing the book has been a remarkable experience. It has also been a steep learning curve – there’s a big difference between writing blog posts and writing an entire book! And there have been moments of ‘What am I doing?!’ aplenty. However, I would not have been able to do it without the help and encouragement of everyone who reads my blog posts, who gives feedback and critique. Thank you!

Writing Heroines of the Medieval World has been a wonderful adventure. From organising chapters, decided who to include and who should be left out, proof reading and choosing what pictures to include; every step of the journey has brought new challenges and experiences. From the moment I came up with the title, I knew exactly what kind of book I wanted to write. And, thanks to the fabulous people at Amberley publishing, I will soon be holding it in my hands. Heroines of the Medieval World will tell the stories of about 50 of the most incredible women of the Middle Ages, looking at how they made their mark on the world, whether it was from being a king, such as Jadwiga of Poland, a fighter like Joan of Arc, or a survivor, as with Eleanor of Aquitaine. The book looks at the women who fought, suffered, lived and loved; women who made a difference through religion, writing, ruling – be it a country or their family estates – or through their royal blood and family ties.

And every single one of them made a difference to the world around them.

Coming up with the right book cover was not easy, and I owe a huge ‘thank you’ to the cover designer at Amberley who came up with this beautiful jacket. I was so happy with it that it brought tears to my eyes. It is stunning!

And here it is:

The front cover is an Anonymous painting from c.1465, Geertruy Haeck Kneeling in Adoration Before St Agnes from the Rijksmuseum’s collection. On the back is a photograph of Roche Abbey, South Yorkshire, the final resting place of Maud Clifford, Countess of Cambridge. The photo was taken by me during a visit this Spring.

About Heroines of the Medieval World

The lives and actions of medieval women were carefully controlled and restricted by the men who ruled the homes, countries and world they lived in. It was men who fought wars, made laws and dictated religious doctrine. It was men who were taught to read, trained to rule and who were expected to fight to defend their people and country. Today, it is easy to think that all women from this era were down-beaten, retiring and obedient housewives, whose sole purpose was to give birth to children (preferably boys) and serve their husbands. Heroines of the Medieval World looks at the lives of the women – some well-known and some almost forgotten to history – who broke the mould; those who defied social norms and made their own future, consequently changing lives, society and even the course of history.

Some of the women featured you will have heard of, such as Eleanor of Aquitaine, who was not only a duchess in her own right but also Queen Consort of France through her first marriage and Queen Consort of England through her second, in addition to being a crusader, a rebel and regent of England. Then there are those who have been all but forgotten, including Nicholaa de la Haye, the remarkable woman who defended Lincoln Castle in the name of King John, and Maud de Braose, who spoke out against the same king’s excesses and whose death (or murder) was the inspiration for a clause in the Magna Carta.

Women had to walk a fine line in the Middle Ages, but many learned to survive – even flourish – in this male-dominated world. Some led armies, while others made their influence felt in more subtle ways, but all made a contribution to the medieval era and should be remembered for daring to defy and lead in a world that demanded they obey and follow.

Heroines of the Medieval World will be published by Amberley on 15th September, 2017. It is now available for pre-order in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon and worldwide from Book Depository.

*

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter.

©2017 Sharon Bennett Connolly

Book Corner: The Woman in the Shadows by Carol McGrath

Today over at The Review, you can read my thoughts on Carol McGrath’s latest novel – out this week – The Woman in the Shadows, a fabulous look into the Tudor world of Thomas Cromwell’s wife Elizabeth.

And there’s a fabulous giveaway –  a paperback copy of this new release.

Here’s a taster:

What a treat!

Carol McGrath’s latest book, The Woman in the Shadows is a fabulous fictional account of the life and times of Elizabeth Cromwell, wife of Henry VIII’s famous – some would say notorious – adviser.  It is an enjoyable, thoughtful story which gives the reader an insight into life in Tudor London, in general, and in a Tudor household in particular. Following Elizabeth from the funeral of her first husband, through her widowhood and new love and marriage with Thomas Cromwell, this is not the story of Henry VIII and the Tudor court, but of the ‘ordinary’ people without whom the Tudors would not have been able to sustain their glamorous court.

Written in colourful, vivid language that draws you in from the first page, The Woman in the Shadows is a wonderful novel, full of life and imagery. …

 

To read the full review of this fantastic novel – and to enter the prize draw and be in with a chance in this fantastic giveaway, simply visit The Review and leave a comment.

Good luck!

*

My book, Heroines of the Medieval World, looking into the lives of some of the most fascinating women from medieval history, will be published by Amberley on 15th September, 2017. It is now available for pre-order in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon and worldwide from Book Depository.

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter.

*

©2017 Sharon Bennett Connolly

Book Corner: Warriors and Kings by Martin Wall

For centuries, the Celtic peoples of Britain stood fast against invasion and oppression. Theirs is a fascinating and exciting story that includes the deeds of some of the most tenacious and heroic leaders in history – from Caratacus and Boudicca to William Wallace, Owain Glyndwr and the legendary King Arthur. What was it that gave first the Britons, and then the Welsh, this fanatical will to hold out against overwhelming odds through so many centuries?

Martin Wall explores the mythology and psychology of this unyielding and insular people; their devotion to charismatic leaders they believed to be sent from God, and their stubborn determination ‘ne’er to yield’ to oppression and injustice, whether Roman, Saxon, Norman, Viking, or later, the ravages of industrialisation. This fascinating book explores Celtic Britain from before the onslaught of the Roman Empire, through rebellion and open war, to the Act of Union passed under the Tudors and on to the Victorian era.

Warriors and Kings: The 1500-year Battle for Celtic Britain is a treasure trove of information on the history  of the Celts. Charting their progress, trials and tribulations from the time of the Romans, it provides a unique, in-depth biography of the race that once occupied Britain.

Boadicea Haranguing The Britons by John Opie.

Opening with the first Roman invasion of Britain, Martin Wall takes the reader on a journey through England through the eyes of the Celts, providing a detailed and interesting analysis of their way of life, their culture and beliefs and the key points in the history of the Celtic peoples and – by extension – Britain itself. Warriors and Kings: The 1500-year Battle for Celtic Britain gives us insight into the key characters of Celtic Britain, the heroes and the villains.

Using and analysing contemporary sources Warriors and Kings: The 1500-year Battle for Celtic Britain tells the fascinating story of Boudicca’s – ultimately doomed – rebellion. The book also discusses the existence – or not – of King Arthur, offering theories and ideas as to his identity; while leaving the reader to decide for themselves who he may have been.

The real problem which has bedevilled researchers into a ‘factual’ Arthur is that his rise to power coincided with the collapse of Roman Britain and the re-emergence or revival of Celtic culture – combined with a barbarian onslaught of unprecedented intensity from the Saxons. In times so troubled few contemporary records were kept up, but a little later, after the events but close enough to them to be reliably informed, Gildas wrote his De Excidio et conquestu Britanniae, his ‘complaining book’, about the ‘ruination of Britain’

Martin Wall has produced a book that is both enjoyable and informative, providing balanced argument and analysis of all the major events and figures of Celtic Britain. Making good use of contemporary and near-contemporary literature and archaeology, the story is re-told in a fascinating chronological narrative. Drawing on historians from earliest times, such as Tacitus and Gildas, all the way to the most recent studies, Martin Wall pulls everything together in order to tell the story.

Warriors and Kings: The 1500-year Battle for Celtic Britain charts the 1500-year-long struggle for supremacy over the island of Britain, showing how the Celts have been faced with one invasion after another. Using the battles, conflicts and invasions, we follow the fate of the Celts from the Romans, through the Dark Ages and in to the reign of King Alfred. The wonderful Aethelflaed, Lady of Mercia, and her struggle with the Vikings leads into the Norman Conquest and further erosion of Celtic traditions, with the invaders pushing inexorably westwards. There are some fascinating insights into Celtic culture and history; for example, did you know that small enclaves of Celts existed in Mercia during the 5th and 6th centuries?

By the late 570s it was clear that several powerful Anglo-Saxon kings were poised ready to move westwards. In the north, King Aethelric of Deira commenced hostilities with Rheged. A bold Anglian attack thrust right over the Pennines and at Argoed Llyfein, the forest of Leven in Cumbria, Aethelric, nicknamed the ‘Flame-bearer’ by the Celtic bards (perhaps his army had marched through the mountain passes in a night attack), was confronted on a bleak Saturday morning by the mighty Urien. The Angles were soundly beaten and Urien became a legendary Brythonic hero. This did not end the war, but intensified it until it became an epic conflict – truly worthy of poetry and legend, a contest between ‘Dark Age’ super-powers.

King Arthur and his Knights have a vision of the Holy Grail a by Evrard d’Espinques

 

Warriors and Kings: The 1500-year Battle for Celtic Britain demonstrates that, despite its name, ‘Dark Age’ Britain is anything but the unknown entity as previously thought. We have a wealth of information on people and events and Martin Wall has brought all the disparate sources – legends, chronicles and poems – together to recreate and enlighten a hitherto underexposed era of British history.

The author’s analysis is clear, concise and informative. He makes it clear where his own theories and those of other historians either agree or digress, while always being respectful. There are no footnotes, but references are included as part of the text, with a bibliography at the back of the book. The sources are assessed on an individual basis, with Martin Wall giving clear views on their veracity, bias and – sometimes – exaggeration.

For fans of Bernard Cornwell, Matthew Harffy and Annie Whitehead, this book gives the historical background to their fabulous novels, explaining the origins and times of Uhtred, Beobrand and Aethelflaed (even if Uhtred and Beobrand are fictional).

Warriors and Kings: The 1500-year Battle for Celtic Britain examines every aspect of Celitc history; their language, literature, religion and, even, warfare. It charts their story through the centuries and provides some explanation of how they disappeared into legend, their enclaves getting smaller and smaller as other tribes grew in power and influence over Britain. The book is a pleasure to read and a useful addition to any book shelf – be it a fan of King Arthur, a lover of Boudicca or a general history lover.

*

Pictures courtesy of Wikipedia

Warriors and Kings: The 1500-year Battle for Celtic Britain by Martin Wall is available from Amberley Publishing and Amazon.

*

My book, Heroines of the Medieval World, looking into the lives of some of the most fascinating women from medieval history, will be published by Amberley on 15th September, 2017. It is now available for pre-order in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon and worldwide from Book Depository.

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter.

*

©2017 Sharon Bennett Connolly

 

 

Joan Makepeace, Scotland’s Lonely Queen

Joan of the Tower, Queen of Scotland

In my research I frequently discover instances of happy medieval marriages – and even if a marriage was not based on love, it did not mean that it would not be successful. Indeed, in many such instances the young woman concerned found her own way of succeeding, whether it was through her children or the management of estates – or the fact that a lasting peace was achieved between her 2 countries.

Unfortunately for Joan of the Tower, later to be known as Joan Makepeace, her marriage achieved none of these things.

Joan was born in the Tower of London on 5 July, 1321; hence her rather dramatic name. She was the youngest of the 4 children of Edward II and his queen, Isabella of France, and had 2 older brothers and 1 sister. Her eldest brother, Edward, who was 9 years older than Joan, succeed his father as King Edward III in 1327, following Edward II’s deposition. While her 2nd brother, John of Eltham, was born in 1316 and died shortly after his 20th birthday, while campaigning against the Scots. Joan’s only sister, Eleanor of Woodstock, born in 1318, was only 3 years older than her baby sister and would go on to marry Reginald II, Count of Guelders.

Joan also had an illegitimate brother, Adam FitzRoy, a son of Edward II by an unknown woman. He was born in the early 1300s, but died whilst campaigning in Scotland with his father, in 1322.

Little Joan was named after her maternal grandmother, Queen Joan I of Navarre, wife of Philip IV of France. The king, also in London at the time of Joan’s birth, but not at the  Tower, granted an £80 respite on a £180 loan to Robert Staunton, the man who brought him news of the birth.¹ By 8th July Edward was visiting his wife and baby daughter at the Tower of London and stayed with them for several days.

Joan’s father, Edward II

As the last of the children of Edward II and Isabella, it seems likely that the royal couple’s relationship changed shortly after her birth, their marriage heading for an irretrievable breakdown that would see the king deposed in favour of his son. Edward II was well known for having favourites; the first, Sir Piers Gaveston, met a sticky end in 1312, when he was murdered by barons angry at the influence he held over the king. Isabella’s estrangement with her husband followed the rise of a new favourite, Sir Hugh le Despenser, and, by the time of Joan’s birth, his influence on the king was gaining strength and alienating powerful barons at court. In March 1322 those barons were defeated at the Battle of Boroughbridge, Yorkshire, with many prominent barons killed, including the king’s erstwhile brother-in-law Humphrey de Bohun, earl of Hereford. The leader of the insurrection, the king’s cousin Thomas, earl of Lancaster, was executed 6 days later at Pontefract Castle.

Joan was, therefore, growing up amid a period of great turmoil, not only within England, but within her own family. It is doubtful that, as she grew, she was unaware of the atmosphere, but  Isabella and Edward were both loving parents and probably tried to shield their children as much as they could, ensuring stability in their everyday lives. Joan was soon placed  in the household of her older siblings, and put into the care of Matilda Pyrie,  who had once been nurse to her older brother, John of Eltham.

Sometime before February 1325, Joan and her sister were established in their own household, under the supervision of Isabel, Lady Hastings and her husband, Ralph Monthermer. Isabel was the younger sister of Edward II’s close companion, Hugh Despenser the Younger, and this act has often been seen by historians as the king removing the children from the queen’s custody. Although it could have been a malicious act it must be remembered, however, that Ralph Monthermer was the girls’ uncle-by-marriage through his first wife, Joan of Acre, Edward II’s sister, and it was a custom of the time that aristocratic children were fostered among the wider family.

Joan’s brother Edward III

Joan and her elder sister, Eleanor, remained with Isabel even after Ralph’s death in the summer of 1325; however, the following year, they were given into the custody of Joan Jermy, sister-in-law of the king’s younger half-brother Thomas, Earl of Norfolk. Joan was the sister of Thomas’s wife, Alice Hales, and took charge of the girls’ household in January 1326, living alternately at Pleshey in Essex and Marlborough in Wiltshire.

As with all her siblings, Joan played a part in her father’s diplomatic plans; an attempt to form an alliance against France, Edward sought marriages in Spain for 3 of his 4 children. While Eleanor was to marry Alfonso XI of Castile, little Joan was proposed as the bride for the grandson of Jaime II of Aragon – the future Pedro IV – but this would come to nought.

By this time their mother, Isabella, was living at the French court, along with her eldest son, Edward, refusing to return to her husband whilst he still welcomed Hugh Despenser at his court. Within months Isabella and her companion (possibly her lover), Roger Mortimer, were to invade England and drive Edward II from his throne, putting an end to the proposed Spanish marriages. He was captured and imprisoned in Berkley Castle, forced to abdicate in favour of his eldest son, who was proclaimed King Edward III in 1327.

With her father exiled or murdered (his fate remains a bone of contention to this day), Joan became the central part of another plan – that of peace with Scotland. Isabella and her chief ally, Roger Mortimer, were now effectively ruling the kingdom for the young Edward III – still only in  his mid-teens. With the kingdom in disarray Isabella sought to end the interminable wars with Scotland, much to the young king’s disgust. Joan was offered as a bride for David, Robert the Bruce’s only son and heir, by his second wife, Elizabeth de Burgh.

David II

The 1328 Treaty of Northampton was seen as a major humiliation by Edward III – and the 16-year-old king made sure his displeasure was known. However, he was forced to sign it, agreeing to Scotland’s recognition as an independent kingdom, the return of both the Ragman Roll (a document showing the individual acts of homage by the Scottish nobility) and the Stone of Scone (the traditional stone on which Scotland’s kings were crowned and which had sat in Westminster Abbey since being brought south by Edward I) and the marriage of Bruce’s 4-year-old son, David, to his 7-year-old sister, Joan.

Although the Stone of Scone and Ragman Roll were never returned to Scotland, the marriage between Joan and David did go ahead, although with a proviso that, should the marriage not be completed within 2 months of David reaching his 14th birthday, the treaty would be declared invalid. With neither king present – with Edward III refusing to attend, Robert the Bruce did likewise, claiming illness – the children were married at Berwick-on-Tweed on 17 July 1328, in the presence of Queen Isabella. The wedding was a lavish occasion, costing the Scots king over £2500.²

Following the wedding, and nicknamed Joan Makepeace by the Scots, Joan remained in Scotland with her child-groom. With Robert the Bruce’s death the following year, and David’s accession to the throne as David II, Joan and David attained the dubious record of being the youngest married monarchs in British history. They were crowned, jointly, at Scone Abbey in Perthshire, on 24th November 1331. It was the 1st time a Scottish Queen Consort was crowned.

Virtually nothing is known of Joan’s early years in Scotland. We can, I’m sure, assume she continued her education and maybe spent some time getting to know her husband. Scotland, however, was in turmoil and Edward III was not about to let his sister’s marriage get in the way of his own ambitions for the country. Unfortunately for Joan, Edward Balliol, son of the erstwhile king, John Balliol, and Isabella de Warenne, had a strong claim to the crown and was, as opposed to her young husband, a grown man with the backing of Edward III. What followed was a tug-of-war for Scotland’s crown, lasting many years.

David II and Joan being greeted by Philip VI of France

David’s supporters suffered a heavy defeat at Halidon Hill in July 1333 and shortly after Joan, who was residing at Dumbarton at the time, and David were sent to France for their safety, where they spent the next 7 years. An ally of Scotland and first cousin of Joan’s mother, Philip VI of France gave the king and queen, and their Scottish attendants, accommodation in the famous Château Gaillard in Normandy.

Their return to Scotland, on 2nd June 1341, was greeted with widespread rejoicing that proved to be short-lived. When the French asked for help in their conflict with the English, David led his forces south. He fought valiantly in the disastrous battle at Neville’s Cross on 17th October 1346, but was captured by the English; he was escorted to a captivity in England that would last for the next 11 years, save for a short return to Scotland in 1351-2.

Joan and David’s marriage had proved to be an unhappy, loveless and childless union and, while a safe conduct was issued for Joan to visit her husband at Windsor for the St George’s Day celebrations of 1348, there is no evidence she took advantage of it. Although we know little of Joan’s movements, it seems she remained in Scotland at least some of the time, possibly held as a hostage to David’s safety by his Scottish allies. She may also have visited David in his captivity, taking it as an opportunity to visit with her own family, including her mother; Queen Isabella is said to have supported Joan financially while her husband was imprisoned, feeding and clothing her. Joan does not appear to have taken an active role in negotiations for David’s release, despite her close familial ties to the English court.

When David returned to Scotland he brought his lover, Katherine Mortimer, with him. They had met in England and it was said “The king loved her more than all other women, and on her account his queen was entirely neglected while he embraced his mistress.”³ Katherine met a grisly fate and was stabbed to death by the Earl of Atholl.

At Christmas 1357 Joan was issued with a safe conduct from Edward III “on business touching us and David” and again in May 1358 “by our licence for certain causes”.² Although the licences are understandably vague on the matter, Joan had, in fact, left David and Scotland.

Joan spent the rest of her life in England, living on a pension of £200 a year provided by her brother, Edward III. She renewed family connections and was able to visit her mother before Isabella’s death in August 1358. As Queen of Scotland, she occasionally acted on her husband’s behalf. In February 1359 David acknowledge her assistance in the respite of ransom payments granted by Edward III saying it was “at the great and diligent request and instance of our dear companion the Lady Joan his sister.”²

Little is known of Joan’s appearance or personality. Several years after her death she was described as “sweet, debonair, courteous, homely, pleasant and fair” by the chronicler Andrew of Wyntoun.² Having led an adventurous life, through no choice of her own, if unhappy in love, Joan of the Tower, Queen of Scotland, died at the age of 41 on 7th September 1362, and was buried in the Church of the Greyfriars, Newgate, in London, where her mother had been laid to rest just 4 years earlier.

Following his wife’s death David II married his lover, Margaret Drummond, the widow of Sir John Logie, but divorced her on 20th March 1370. He died, childless, at Edinburgh Castle in February 1371, aged 47, and was succeeded by the first of the Stewart kings, his nephew, Robert II, son of Robert the Bruce’s eldest daughter, Marjorie.

*

Footnotes: ¹Isabella of France: The Rebel Queen by Kathryn Warner; ² Oxforddnb.com; ³Walter Bower quoted in Oxforddnb.com

Sources: The Story of Scotland by Nigel Tranter; Brewer’s British Royalty by David Williamson; Kings & Queens of Britain by Joyce Marlow; Mammoth Book of British Kings & Queens by Mike Ashley; Oxford Companion to British History Edited by John Cannon; Britain’s Royal Families by Alison Weir; educationscotland.gov.uk/scotlandhistory; englishmonarchs.co.uk; berkshirehistory.com; thefreelancehistorywriter.com; The Perfect King by Ian Mortimer; Scotland, History of a Nation by David Ross; The Life & Times of Edward III by Paul Johnson; The Reign of Edward III by W.M. Ormrod; Isabella of France: The Rebel Queen by Kathryn Warner; Isabella and the Strange Death of Edward II by Paul Doherty; Edward II: The Unconventional King by Kathryn Warner; Oxforddnb.com.

*

My book, Heroines of the Medieval World, looking into the lives of some of the most fascinating women from medieval history, will be published by Amberley on 15th September, 2017. It is now available for pre-order in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon and worldwide from Book Depository.

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter.

*

©2017 Sharon Bennett Connolly

 

Book Corner: The Scribe’s Daughter by Stephanie Churchill

Today over at The Review, you can read my thoughts on Stephanie Churchill’s fantastic new debut novel, The Scribe’s Daughter, a fabulous adventure story that will leave you wanting more.

And there’s a fabulous giveaway –  two Kindle copies available to 2 lucky winners.

Here’s a taster:

My first thought after finishing The Scribe’s Daughter was ‘Wow!’ It is hard to believe this is a debut novel. It is so polished and intelligently written, having none of the naivety that can be found in, even, the best debut novels. I found myself picking up the book at any opportunity – every spare five minutes were spent in the world Stephanie Churchill has created. I was often reading late into the night, just to devour that little bit more of the story.
The author draws you into her world, building cities, towns, palaces and swamps from her imagination and setting them down in a medieval atmosphere from which it is impossible for the reader to escape. The language, descriptive expertise, attention to detail and wonderful use of imagery helps to create a world that surrounds and embraces the reader.

 

To read the full review of this fantastic novel – and to enter the prize draw and be in with a chance in this fantastic giveaway, simply visit The Review and leave a comment.

Good luck!

*

My book, Heroines of the Medieval World, looking into the lives of some of the most fascinating women from medieval history, will be published by Amberley on 15th September, 2017. It is now available for pre-order in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon and worldwide from Book Depository.

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter.

*

©2017 Sharon Bennett Connolly

Book Corner: Half Sick of Shadows by Richard Abbott

Today over at The Review, you can read my thoughts on Richard Abbott’s fantastic new historical fantasy novel, Half Sick of Shadows, a fabulous re-imagining of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s The Lady of Sahlott.

And there’s a fabulous giveaway! With one signed paperback copy going to a winner in the UK, or and ebook to anywhere else in the world.

Here’s a taster:

There is one great advantage to being a book reviewer; every now and then you get to read a gem of a book, one that you may never have discovered had you relied on Amazon’s reading recommendations. Half Sick of Shadows is one such treasure. This novel, inspired by Alfred Lord Tennyson’s epic poem The Lady of Shalott, is unique and engrossing from the very first page.

When trying to think of a single word that could be used to describe this novel, the only one that seemed to fit was ‘mesmerising‘.

The reader is instantly drawn into the world of the Lady, who can watch the lives and interactions of the people in the world only through the guide of a mirror. She can see the world, but is apart from it, safe in her own keep…..

 

To read the full review of this fantastic novel – and to enter the prize draw and be in with a chance in this fantastic giveaway, simply visit The Review and leave a comment.

Good luck!

*

Looking into the lives of some of the most fascinating women from medieval history, Sharon’s book, Heroines of the Medieval World, will be published by Amberley later this year and is now available for pre-order from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon.

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter.

 

*

©Sharon Bennett Connolly 2017

Book Corner: Killer of Kings by Matthew Harffy

AD 636. Anglo-Saxon Britain. A gripping, action-packed historical thriller and the fourth instalment in The Bernicia Chronicles. Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell.

Beobrand has land, men and riches. He should be content. And yet he cannot find peace until his enemies are food for the ravens. But before Beobrand can embark on his bloodfeud, King Oswald orders him southward, to escort holy men bearing sacred relics.

When Penda of Mercia marches a warhost into the southern kingdoms, Beobrand and his men are thrown into the midst of the conflict. Beobrand soon finds himself fighting for his life and his honour.

In the chaos that grips the south, dark secrets are exposed, bringing into question much that Beobrand had believed true. Can he unearth the answers and exact the vengeance he craves? Or will the blood-price prove too high, even for a warrior of his battle-fame and skill?

This series just gets better and better!

Killer of Kings by Matthew Harffy is the 4th instalment in the Bernicia Chronicles, telling the story of Beobrand Half-Hand, a young Northumbrian thegn skilled in war. And, as readers have come to expect of the author, the novel has a strong, engaging story, that sees the hero travelling the length and breadth of Saxon England, fueled by duty to his king and a desire for revenge against the man who violated his wife and has, as yet, escaped retribution. Set in East Anglia, Kent, Mercia and Northumbria (Bernicia), we see Beobrand facing enemies, both old and new.

Matthew Harffy is a great story-teller. The Bernicia Chronicles are a must-read for anyone with a love of Anglo-Saxon England. The story is fast-paced and impossible to put down. Keeping you on the edge of your seat from the opening chapter, a desperation to know what happens next will keep you reading into the early hours.

Beobrand is developing into a wonderful character; a hero always questioning himself and other people’s perceptions of him. He has a growing sense of responsibility towards his duties, his men and their families, who rely on him for protection and patronage. In Killer of Kings we see Beobrand’s past and present collide; the mysteries of his childhood are revealed, tying up some loose ends, while at the same time helping to set his course in the present and, maybe, the future.

One last look at the other woman and then Edmonda grasped his hand. Beobrand pulled her up behind him with ease.

“God bless you all,” she said, sobbing.

“Hold on to me, girl,” said Beobrand. “Tight, mind, or you’ll fall when we start to ride.”

She did not reply, but her slim arms encircled his waist.

Swinging Sceadugenga’s head around, he turned to the mounted Waelisc warrior in the white cloak.

“You say you know me,” said Beobrand. “And yet, I know you not. What is your name, Waelisc?”

The man offered him a broad smile.

“I am Gwalchmei ap Gwyar. And you have now stolen two things of mine.”

The name meant nothing to Beobrand.

“What two things? What riddle is this?” How he would love to ride the man off his horse and smash that smile from his face.

“Well, now there is that girl. But she is nothing. That however,” he said, indicating Sceadugenga, “is another matter.”

What was the man speaking of? He made no sense.

“What do you mean?” Beobrand asked, his words as sharp and cold as shards of iron.

“That fine stallion you are riding,” said Gwalchmei, “is my horse.”

The storyline follows two interesting opposing paths. With one strand being Beobrand’s mission and his return face the demons of his past. While the other follows those left behind; Rheagan, the freed slave who is his current love interest, and those left to protect and maintain Beobrand’s manor of Ubbanford … who find themselves with their own enemy to face. The contrast between the struggles of those who left to fight, and of those left at home, is stark. It serves to offer a new insight into the intertwined fates of the warriors and their families, the worries of each for the other and their interdependency.

Whether it is setting the scene in a king’s hall, a simple cottage or on a battlefield, Matthew Harffy transports the reader so that the sights, sounds and smells are so vivid it’s hard to believe they’re not real. His attention to detail serves to  paint the picture in the reader’s mind’s eye. The horrors of the battlefield are described with care and attention, with individual fights contrasting with the greater battle and individual, heroic deaths contrasting with the devastation once the battle has ended, leaving the reader exhilarated and bereft at the same time. It is not all about battles, however; even though he is a warrior, past experience has made Beobrand all-too-aware of the political consequences of war and the machinations of kings.

The Bernicia Chronicles are set in the Seventh Century, telling the story of a time even before King Alfred, when Anglo-Saxon England was made up of a number of disparate kingdoms, with kings fighting for supremacy over each other. With his exceptional knowledge of the time, Matthew Harrfy transports the reader back to this period, using his research to vividly recreate the people, buildings and landscape of the time.

Matthew Harffy has a knack of developing characters who are at once vivid, flawed, heroic and human. Each book sees Beobrand grow and mature, and carrying more scars from his experiences. The strong story lines and interesting personalities make Matthew Harffy one of the best authors of Dark Ages historical fiction of today. He is one of those authors I do not hesitate to recommend – and often. His books are fabulous, enjoyable, entertaining and true to the history of the period. The author’s descriptive skills and lively dialogue will draw you in and keep you captivated to the very end – and beyond.

 

*

About the author: Matthew Harffy grew up in Northumberland where the rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline had a huge impact on him He now lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters.

Killer of Kings, Book 4 in the Bernicia Chronicles, is now available from Amazon, Kobo, ibooks and Google Play.

*

My book, Heroines of the Medieval World, looking into the lives of some of the most fascinating women from medieval history, will be published by Amberley on 15th September, 2017. It is now available for pre-order in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon and worldwide from Book Depository.

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter.

*

©2017 Sharon Bennett Connolly

Book Corner: Mansfield Parsonage by Kyra C Kramer

Fans of Jane Austen will recognise the players and the setting – Mansfield Park has been telling the story of Fanny Price and her happily ever after for more than 200 years. But behind the scenes of Mansfield Park, there’s another story to be told.

Mary Crawford’s story.

When her widowed uncle made her home untenable, Mary made the best of things by going to live with her elder sister, Mrs Grant, in a parson’s house the country. Mansfield Parsonage was more than Mary had expected and better than she could have hoped. Gregarious and personable, Mary also embraced the inhabitants of the nearby Mansfield Park, watching the ladies set their caps for her dashing brother, Henry Crawford, and developing an attachment to Edmund Bertram and a profound affection for his cousin, Fanny Price.

Mansfield Parsonage retells the story of Mansfield Park from the perspective of Mary Crawford’s hopes and aspirations and shows how Fanny Price’s happily-ever-after came at Mary’s expense.

When I was told about the book Mansfield Parsonage: A Mansfield Park Regency Novel by Kyra C Kramer, I remember thinking ‘how brave’. Kyra Kramer has rewritten Jane Austen’s novel, Mansfield Park, but from the point of view of a different character; that of Mary Crawford as oppose to the original heroine, Fanny Price. The idea was an interesting one, but could it work?

Having opened the book with some trepidation – after all, Jane Austen is a difficult act to follow – I soon found myself drawn into this alternate view of Mansfield Park. I quickly discovered that Mansfield Parsonage: A Mansfield Park Regency Novel is an absolute delight to read. Written in the spirit of Jane Austen, Kyra Kramer; has managed to emulate the language, storyline and even the subtle nuances of the great novelist.

If you haven’t read Mansfield Park, do not worry; Kyra Kramer has cleverly blended the original novel into her new adaptation, including the politics of the time, such as war with Napoleon, the Whig and Tory parties of British politics and the slave trade. The father of Mary’s love interest, Edmund, is a slave owner in the West Indies and it is interesting to see how Mary Crawford, an opponent to slavery, reconciles her own interests in Edmund against her abhorrence of slavery.

Looking at the story from Mary Crawford’s point of view makes an interesting turnaround and provides a new and exciting story for avid Jane Austen fans. This is not a rewrite of Mansfield Park, but rather and alternative look at the same story. Mary Crawford is viewed much more sympathetically than in the original book. She comes across as  a generous, forthright girl, unaware of Fanny Price’s designs on her own love interest, Edmund, or her consequent animosity towards Miss Crawford. Indeed, Mary acts as Fanny’s champion on several occasions, much to Miss Price’s ingratitude and chagrin.

“Your cousin is very generous and tolerant of discourtesy; I am thoroughly ashamed of myself for monopolising her horse,” Mary said, as she and Edmund walked through the park toward the Grant’s home.

“If there is any creature alive who could be less offended than my cousin, I would be surprised; I am sure Miss Price does not begrudge you a loan of the mare,” Edmund assured her.

“Nevertheless, her difficulty to offend does not give me license for offence. I must be more careful to end my lesson with alacrity. It does not do to become habituated to getting one’s own way simply because someone else is too sweet natured to think ill of you for it. That is how one becomes Russian.”

Edmund laughed. “Is my cousin Poland, then?”

“I hope not. To be a battleground between Napoleon and Czar Alexander is no place for a nice young lady like Miss Price.”

“Miss Price is stronger than she appears, and more resolute than one would suspect with such a yielding temper. If she is to be Poland then she would be Poniatowski; earning admiration and respect regardless of her subjugation to France,” Edmund argues.

“That is easy for the french to say,” Miss Crawford gave Edmund a pointed look.

Mansfield Parsonage: A Mansfield Park Regency Novel is full of wonderful, vivid characters, their stories told in the best tradition of Jane Austen herself. The relationship between Mary Crawford, her brother Henry and sister Mrs Grant, is wonderfully told and their interactions are a delight to read. The central story, of Mary and Edmund’s relationship, is beautifully re-told; the little allusions to Fanny’s jealousy providing a new insight into the original heroine.

Mansfield Parsonage: A Mansfield Park Regency Novel provides us with an excellent opportunity to look at a beloved and familiar story from the viewpoint of an alternative protagonist, while not taking away from any of the major events and personalities of the original story and characters. You really feel that the author put herself into the head of Jane Austen when writing. On every page she has emulated the words and actions of the original characters with stunning accuracy.

Fans of Jane Austen can surely find nothing but pleasure in reading this wonderful novel.

*

Kyra Kramer is a medical anthropologist. historian and devoted bibliophile who lives just outside Cardiff, Wales, with her husband and three young daughters. She has a deep – nearly obsessive – love for Regency Period romances in general and Jane Austen’s work in particular. Ms Kramer has authored several history books, including The Jezebel Effect and academic essays, but  Mansfield Parsonage: A Mansfield Park Regency Novel is her first foray into fiction.

*

 My book, Heroines of the Medieval World, looking into the lives of some of the most fascinating women from medieval history, will be published by Amberley on 15th September, 2017. It is now available for pre-order in the UK from both Amberley Publishing and Amazon and worldwide from Book Depository.

You can be the first to read new articles by clicking the ‘Follow’ button, liking our Facebook page or joining me on Twitter.

*

©2017 Sharon Bennett Connolly