Gerald Fitz Gerald, the 11th Earl of Kildare died on the 16th November 1585, his life can be viewed through the fall out of the failed Kildare rebellion of 1534.
At just twelve, Gerald Fitz Gerald had received the Earldom of Kildare following the aforementioned unsuccessful rebellion against King Henry VIII by the Silken Thomas, the 10th Earl of Kildare. Silken Thomas was Fitz Gerald's half-brother, he and his uncles James, Oliver, Richard, John and Walter Fitz Gerald, the sons of the 8th Earl of Kildare by Elizabeth St John were all hanged in the first week of February 1537 at Tyburn. At this time Fitz Gerald was raised under the guardianship of his aunt. He later fled to Belgium and Italy returning only after the death of Henry VIII.
Fitz Gerald himself had been accused of treason numerous times and had been twice imprisoned in the Tower of London, he had survived Henry VIII's attempt to capture him and lived through the reign of Edward VI and Mary and was fortunate to have the favour of Elizabeth. He died in London at the age of sixty, Mabel, Countess of Kildare lived for another twenty-five years.
Fitz Gerald first came to my notice as the husband of Mabel Browne, the great great granddaughter of my ancestor Thomas Browne. Mabel, according to tradition met Fitz Gerald at a masked ball and she immediately fell in love with him, and why wouldn't she, he could speak at least two languages, was highly intelligent, and a man who had used his time wisely, he learned and experienced much while in exile. Fitz Gerald also dabbled in alchemy, this 'hobby' caused concern to those less enlighted and just like his father and his father before him, he was quick-tempered, clever and charismatic.
12th November in 1035 the death of King Cnut.
Edmund Ironside had fought a number of battles against the Danish army, but they ended in his defeat on the 18th October 1016 at the Battle of Assandun in Essex, the signing of a peace treaty gave Edmund control of lands south of the River Thames and Cnut ruled north of the Thames. On Edmund's death, despite leaving two sons, Cnut gained control of all of England.
Taking the English throne was the very beginning of a conquest that saw Cnut rule most of Northern Europe, by the time of his death he controlled England, Denmark, Norway and parts of Sweden, yet the one event he is only ever remembered for is his attempt at controlling an incoming tide, Cnut probably didn’t paddle in the sea but what he is thought to have said was:
“Let all inhabiting the world know the power of kings to be empty and worthless and that there is no other king worthy of the name but He at whose will heaven earth, sea obey by the eternal laws.”
Not the words of arrogant and powerful foreign invader, just man suggesting that kings were human.
Cnut controlled much of Scandinavia, under his rule Viking raids on England’s coastline lessened, the economy improved, and by marrying Emma, Ethelred the Unready’s Norman widow, he consolidated his power. He was king of England from 1018 until 1035.
Cnut died at Shaftesbury in Dorset and was buried in the Old Minster, Winchester. During the English Civil war, the mortuary chest in which his bones were placed was ransacked, his remains were scattered on the floor and mixed with those of other English kings.
All the bones were eventually gathered and replaced in chests - but not necessarily in the right order!
On the 9th November in 1841 Edward VII, son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert was born at Buckingham Palace, he would
turn out to be a better king than everybody thought he would be, J B Priestley wrote of him:
"He had a tremendous zest for pleasure but he also had a real sense of duty."
Edward life has been compared to that of Henry V, it was Benjamin Disraeli who seems to be the first to say so. In 1883 speaking to fellow guests at a country house he stated
"in the big voice of Henry V - to whom I mentally compare him - only he didn't say such clever things"
and Jane Ridley in her biography suggests that he even had his own Falstaff in Daisy Warwick, she rejected him when he came to the throne just as he Prince Hal abandoned Falstaff.
The self-indulgence of his younger days has also not gone unnoticed when comparing him with that of the 15th-century king.
By the time both Henry V and Edward VII were kings of England they were popular with their people, and certainly, Edward brought his England out of the darkness into the light. Many may argue that Henry V did just the same, however, I feel that that point is debatable.
Jane Ridley's The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince was published by in 2013
Fry’s Island or De Montfort Island, can be found in River Thames just above Caversham Lock at Reading, in Berkshire. The island is best known as the location of a duel, or trial by combat, between Robert de Montfort and Henry of Essex, the standard bearer to Henry II that took place in 1163.
According to W.M. Childs in his 1905 book The Story of the Town of Reading, a quarrel arose when Henry of Essex allegedly dropped the standard and cried out falsely that the King has been slain, an act of a coward according to de Montfort.
Both men were taken to the island, where Robert of Montfort
"thundered on him manfully with hard and frequent strokes."
Henry was injured and presumed dead and taken away by the monks of Reading for burial. However, Henry was alive. He recovered from his wounds and became a monk himself.
This rather amusing scene depicts Tintagel Castle in Cornwall. Looking over its ramparts is a very angry Ingraine, the wife of Gwrlais the Duke of Cornwall.
In the illustration there is trickery afoot, Merlin has used his magic to aid Uther Pendragon's entry into the castle. Pendragon has had his eye on the beautiful Ingraine for ages and had every intention of having his wicked way with her!
Poor Ingraine has realised that Merlin has changed Pendragon's appearance and has enabled him to take the form of Gwrlais. When Ingraine sleeps with her husband that night she is in fact really being ravaged by Uther Pendragon - the cad!
Ingraine becomes pregnant and later the legendary King Arthur is born.
Henry Percy, first Earl of Northumberland was, according to Shakespeare:
"the ladder upon which the mounting Bolingbroke ascends the throne.”
This statement reflects the rise of the Percy family during the reign of Richard II and the subsequent usurpation of the throne by Henry Bolingbroke.
Henry Percy was born on this very day, the 10th November in 1341/2.
The first two decades of Percy's life were unremarkable, however the twenty years following his father's death lead Percy to great heights of power and influence, not only in his own stamping ground but in the country as a whole. Henry Percy headed a family that included his sons Henry 'Hotspur' and Thomas, all three were guardians of the English boarder with Scotland. As Lords of the North, and as the previous statement states, they were involved in the future Henry IV taking the crown of England. However, siding with Henry had its problems, and the Percy's would soon regret helping Bolingbroke take his seat on the throne of England.
We cannot think of the Percy family without considering the part they played in the Wars of the Roses. Many believe that the First Battle of St Albans, in 1455, was as much about the ongoing squabble between the Percy's and their nemesis the Neville's, as it was about the wider squabble, that of the House of York and Lancaster. It cannot be doubted that this battle, for the individual members of these two northern families, was very personal, each trying to destroy the other under the guise of a greater cause.
The origins of Percy/Neville squabble had it roots in land, or the loss of it, bitterness turned to anger, discussion to litigation, skirmishes into outright warfare that initiated 'the beginning of the greatest sorrows in England."
Henry Percy died a traitor at Bramham Moor, the last battle of the Percy's rebellion, on the 19 February 1408 and as was the norm for a traitor, his head was decapitated and sent to London, placed for all to see on London Bridge, it was reunited with his quartered remains and eventually buried in York Minster.
On this day the death of Robert, Earl of Gloucester the illegitimate son of Henry I and a chief supporter of his half-sister Matilda during the Anarchy.
Robert of Gloucester was a proposed candidate for the throne of England. In the Gesta Stephani it is written:
"Among others came Robert, Earl of Gloucester, son of King Henry, but a bastard, a man of proved talent and admirable wisdom. When he was advised, as the story went, to claim the throne on his father's death, deterred by sounder advice he by no means asserted, saying it was fairer to yield it to his sister's son than presumptuously to arrogate it to himself."
But because of his illegitimacy, he was ruled out, however, in 1139 Matilda was heading for England to enforce her right to the throne of England. On the death of her father Matilda was in Anjou with her husband, but on hearing that Stephen had usurped the throne she left there for Normandy. She, along with Gloucester, set out for England.
On the 2nd February 1141 Ranulf, Earl of Chester seized control of Lincoln Castle and fortified it against attack, the people of Lincoln appealed to the King for help. Stephen responded, riding to Lincoln at the head of his army, it is said that he placed his bowmen and siege machines on the west front of Lincoln Cathedral, which faces the castle across Castle Hill, but soon after the arrival of Stephen, Gloucester came to Matilda’s aid. The inhabitants of the city joined Stephen's forces against Gloucester's army, but the royal army was overwhelmed. The city itself suffered for its support of King Stephen many of its inhabitants killed by the victorious army under Gloucester. Eventually, the King was taken prisoner imprisoned at Bristol.
Six months later the tables were turned and Gloucester was himself captured after a standoff at Winchester and was imprisoned. Matilda later escaped from her guards at Devizes by disguising herself as a corpse and being carried out for burial.
Robert of Gloucester died five years later at Bristol Castle, the very castle in which the king was held. He was buried in the St James' Priory, Bristol, which he had founded.
A year later, following Gloucester's death, Matilda and her son Henry, the future Henry II returned to Normandy.
Roger Mortimer was a member of a powerful Mortimer family whose established their great dynasty in the Welsh Marches. They were granted lands in Herefordshire and Shropshire at the conquest of England and by the fourteenth century, they were honoured with the title of Earls of March.
For eight months following the Battle of Lewes Edward, heir to the English throne, was being held captive as a hostage by rebel leader Simon de Montfort. It was Roger Mortimer, deploying a plan of action created by his wife Maud, who rescued Edward enabling him to retake the rebel-held towns of Worcester and Gloucester.
Roger Mortimer would go on to assist Henry III in the final victory over barons in 1265 at the Battle of Evesham, it would be Mortimer who would strike the blow that ended the life of the aforementioned Simon de Montfort.
Mortimer later sent this gruesome trophy and other parts of de Montfort's anatomy home to Wigmore Castle as a gift for his wife. Of this event, English chronicler Robert of Gloucester wrote:
"To dam Maud the Mortimer that wel foule it ssende."
It is alleged that Lady Mortimer held feast that evening to celebrate Henry's victory and that she had Simon de Montfort's head, still attached to the point of the lance, placed on show for all to see.
Roger Mortimer would survive the years that saw the Statute of Marlborough passed and the signing of the Dictum of Kenilworth. Mortimer would also witness Henry III passing many of Simon de Montfort's ideas and changes to government although what he thought of it all goe's unrecorded.
Roger Mortimer died on this day in 1282 at the age of fifty-one. His death, it has been said, was seen by many as a major setback in the early years of Edward I's reign.
Mortimers epitaph reads:
"Here lies buried, glittering with praise, Roger the pure, Roger Mortimer the second, called Lord of Wigmore by those who held him dear. While he lived all Wales feared his power and given as a gift to him all Wales remained his. It knew his campaigns, he subjected it to torment."
Catherine of Valois, the beautiful and virtuous Kate from Shakespeare's Henry V is defined by the events of her later life, her marriage to Henry V, a suspected relationship with Edmund Beaufort, her affair with Owen Tudor and the ill-treatment of her body by diarist Samuel Pepys. However, little is known of her childhood and early life.
Catherine of Valois was born in Paris on the 27th October in 1401. She was the ninth child and the fifth daughter of King Charles VI of France and his queen, Isabella of Bavaria. Cathrine was born while France was in turmoil - the beginnings of a power struggle at home and the continuing conflict with the enemy over the sea, the English.
It is thought that Catherine had a troubled childhood and indeed she may have witnessed at first hand her father's bouts of mental illness and her mother struggling to come to terms with the situation. History tells us of the poverty ridden French court, but it doesn't tell us how it affected her, and historians differ in their view of Catherine's upbringing, some suggest that her mother was cold and cruel and openly flaunted her lovers about court, while other say that see was kind, generous and very close to all her children.
By the time Catherine was seven years old, English king Henry IV was looking for peace with France, he considered that a match between his son and a French princess would bring this about and therefore the subject was discussed on and off over the following years, eventually though Catherine was betrothed to the future Henry V.
Shakespeare writes of their meeting
"You have witchcraft in your lips, Kate: there is more eloquence in a sugar touch of them than in the tongues
of the French council, and they should sooner persuade Harry of England than a general petition of monarchs."
These sweet and seductive words to Catherine would succeed where seventy years of battling did not.
Henry and Catherine were betrothed on 21st May 1420, they were married within a few weeks and Catherine would be a widow just over fifteen months later. Catherine son from her marriage to Henry V was Henry VI, his weak rule would bring about the Wars of the Roses and from Catherine's relationship with the son of a Welsh publican the mighty Tudor dynasty sprang.
On the 15th October 1793 Marie Antoinette had been tried and found guilty on charges of treason, conspiracy and collusion with domestic and foreign enemies, a fifth charge, that of incest was dropped.
Early in the morning of the 16th, Louis XVI's queen wrote a letter to her sister, in this letter she stated that she had a clear conscience, that she loved, and was concerned for, the future of her children, the letter was taken from her but never delivered. By midday the she was climbing the steps of the scaffold. History tells us that Marie accidentally stood on the foot of her executioner and said "Pardon me, sir, I meant not to do it" but just a few minutes later, at 12.15, the much despised Marie Antoinette was dead and her body was unceremoniously thrown into an unmarked grave.
There can be no doubt that Marie Antoinette was despised and hated, to the the French people she represented the vices of wealth and greed and more importantly aristocracy and absolutism. Even her contemporary, Mary Wollstonecraft, who was an advocate of women's rights and a supporter of the French revolutionaries, places the blame squarely on queen's shoulders. Despite the passing of two centuries this view prevails, however there are those who believe that she was misunderstood and as much a victim of the revolution as the hundreds of others who went to the guillotine.
The sketch below was drawn as Marie Antoinette was paraded through the crowd on the way to her execution, you can see that she wears a white dress and that her long blonde hair has been cut - was this an attempt on the part of the revolutionaries to show how even the mighty can be toppled or an attempt by the queen herself to show that she was indeed a innocent victim.
After ten years in the workplace I became a mother to three very beautiful daughters, I was fortunate enough to have been able to stay at home and spend my time with them as they grew into the young women they are now. I am still in the position of being able to be at home and pursue all the interests I have previously mentioned. We live in a beautiful Victorian spa town with wooded walks for the dog, lovely shops and a host of lovely people, what more could I ask for.
All works © Andrea Povey 2014. Please do not reproduce without the expressed written consent of Andrea Povey.
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