Catherine of Valois, the youngest daughter of King Charles VI of France and King Henry V, the eldest son of Henry IV were married in the June of 1420. Eighteen months later, on the 6th of December 1421 St Nicholas's Day, Catherine gave birth to Henry of Windsor, a second joyous event of 1421 that had followed her coronation in Westminster Abbey the previous February.
Henry's arrival in the world was assisted by the presence of 'Our Lords foreskin' a relic known as the Silver Jewel that was brought over from France in time for his birth at Windsor Castle. The heir to the throne was born while his father was in France besieging the town of Meaux and it was there that Henry V heard of the arrival of his son. A story originating from the Tudor period suggests that Henry considered having his son born at Windsor was a bad omen, and indeed it seems that he was right to be concerned, for the hero of Agincourt was dead at the age of 36 the following August. Henry V's death from dysentery left his baby son to succeed to the English throne at just nine months old, the poor child would inherit the French throne on the death of his maternal grandfather Charles VI only two months later.
Henry V's last will and testament was thought lost but it turned up in 1978 at Eton College. In this document Henry had instructed that his younger brother Humphrey of Gloucester should be the baby's principal guardian and his uncle Thomas Beaufort was to have governance of the 'child's person.' Henry other brother, John, Duke of Bedford was instructed by Henry on his deathbed with the charge of the new kings French domain, however as history tells us there would be trouble ahead!
Henry, as we all know, turned out to be a shy, quiet and passive boy who disliked warfare and violence and who eventually succumbed to mental illness the poor soul would be completely unaware of all that was going on around him, he would be unable to stand, walk or move without help and in 1454 when he was presented with his newborn son all he managed was to raise and lower his eyes.
Henry VI was not suited for kingship and it has been suggested that he was not suited for marriage either. I think that he was just not a match for a strong and aggressive woman as his queen Margaret of Anjou most certainly was, we can only wonder what would have happened if he had been matched with a less fiery mate, one who was more in tune with him and prepared to listen to reason. But as we known that was not the case.
King Henry VI's first reign over England lasted from 1422 until 1461 and his second, after his restoration, from 1470 to 1471. Henry VI's time as monarch saw an England under a weak rule and this would bring about the period known as the Wars of the Roses and from mothers liaison, with the son of a Welsh publican, the mighty Tudor dynasty would spring.
In the first week of October in 1470, in what is now known as the Readeption of Henry VI, Henry was released from the Tower of London.
It was on this day, the 13th October, the feast day of the Translation of St Edward, that Henry headed to St Paul's Cathedral, accompanied by Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick and John de Vere Earl of Oxford.
The restoration of Henry VI writes historian Paul Kendall was nothing more than
"a Neville regime in a Lancastirian costume."
Five months later Edward IV returned and taking back his crown returned Henry to the Tower of London.
After eight years of marriage, on the 13th October 1453, Margaret of Anjou finally gave birth to an heir to the throne of England. Her child was a boy who she named Edward after Edward the Confessor on whose feast day her baby was born, a joyous occasion for the whole of the country you would think, alas it was not to be.
At the time of Edward's birth his father, Henry VI, was ill, his fragile mental state meant that over the previous four months he had been completely unaware of all that was going on around him, he was unable to stand, walk or move without help and when he was presented with his new born son all he managed was to raise and lower his eyes. By the end of December 1454 the king had regained his scenes and he was finally able to acknowledge his fifteen month old son. However, in a letter from the Milanese Ambassador to the Duke of Milan it states that when Henry talked of his son he said that he must be the son of the Holy Spirit - did Henry consider himself incapable of fathering a child or was he just praising god for this his most wonderful gift?
Margaret of Anjou was described as beautiful and "already a woman: passionate, proud and strong willed" and Henry was seen as an innocent - there are stories that he was shocked and disgusted at the sight of bare chested dancing girls and naked men bathing when he visited the City of Bath. With descriptions such as these it's not unreasonable that history has suggested that the sudden arrival of a child after eight years of marriage was down to Margaret's adultery, for there were rumours in court that Edward was illegitimate.
A women not conceiving in the first years of a marriage isn't uncommon and the cause could be any number of things, one being Henry himself with his pious and saintly ways, after all he was no Henry I ! However, in the first few weeks of January 1453 Margaret and Henry were at Greenwich, they were there to confer knighthoods on Henry's half brothers Edmund and Jasper Tudor and at the same time create them Earls of Richmond and Pembroke. If they were together it was highly likely that Edward was conceived at the time.
Nine months later Edward was born into a country that was in the midst of a power struggle that his father's weak rule had brought about. The bouts of insanity, the escalating squabble between Edmund Beaufort and Richard Duke of York and his mother's fierce determination to keep control of Henry's throne, so Edward could inherit, would add to the England's troubles.
Ironically, Margaret's resoluteness to see Edward wear the crown would eventually lead to his early death.
The Wakefield Tower is the second largest in the Tower of London, it was built between 1220 and 1240 by King Henry III, within this tower was the monarch's private room.
King Henry VI, was held prisoner in this tower by Edward IV, and was said to have been murdered whilst praying in the oratory of the tower on this night of the 21st May 1471.
Henry VI was born on the 6th of December 1421 and was the founder of Eton College and Kings College Cambridge. Most, if not all, of English colleges celebrate Founders Day and Eton have been celebrating the birth of Henry VI since 1905 when two boys laid a bouquet of white lilies on Henry's tomb. By 1947 King's College Cambridge were given permission to join the ceremony.
Since then Kings Collage lay white roses in purple ribbons alongside the Eton lilies in pale blue ribbons on the spot where Henry VI is said to have been met his death.
17th February 1461
With his father and brothers deaths at Wakefield avenged, Edward, Earl of March's forces made their way to join the forces of Richard Neville in an attempt to prevent Margaret of Anjou claiming back her husband and London itself.
With hindsight, Warwick should not have taken Henry VI along with him on his march northwards, he should have left him in London guarded by William Bonville and Thomas Kyriell, the two men who were responsible for him at St Alban’s, but he didn’t. The reason for this, it has been suggested, was that Warwick was overly confident, and considered himself invincible, perhaps he even thought that the meeting between his forces and that of Margaret's was a forgone conclusion, a win for the Yorkist.
Warwick was hoping to block Margaret’s way along the northern route to St Albans, but this backfired and her troops approached by the north west route. The clash of York and Lancaster took place on the 17th of February 1461, at St Albans, but this time, unlike the previous battle, the result was not a victory for York but a Lancastrian victory. By the end of the day and dusk had settled, Richard Neville’s Yorkist force had been defeated, the king was lost and both Bonville and Kyriell had lost their heads in what Cornish antiquarian, A L Rowse, calls the blooding of Edward of Lancaster, the Prince of Wales.
Including Bonville and Kyriell, lying among those who perished at St Albans was Robert Poynings and John Grey of Groby in Leicestershire. It was John's son Richard who would be executed at Pontifract in 1483, and his widow, Elizabeth, would make an adventurous marriage that would bring this family more wealth and power than they ever dreamed of, but it will also bring the Yorkist dynasty to its knees.
On the 12th October 1459 the Yorkist army regrouped at Ludford Bridge following their victory at Blore Heath less than a
month earlier. Discouraged by the size of Henry VI's army, the Yorkist retreated finding themselves opposite the Lancastrians across the River Teme. During the night many of York's army deserted, followed by a retreat the next morning, many of York's men following the traitor Andrew Trollope who had decided to switch sides.
The Battle of Ludford Bridge saw no noble deaths (because there was no battle), but as you can imagine with such a large desertion in the Yorkist ranks the victors of the 'battle' were the Lancastrians.
THE ROLL OF THE PARLIAMENT HELD AT COVENTRY, IN THE THIRTY-EIGHTH YEAR OF THE REIGN OF KING
HENRY, THE SIXTH SINCE THE CONQUEST.
Encampment at Ludford
And on the Friday, the vigil of the feast of the translation of St Edward, king and confessor, in the thirty-eighth year of your most noble reign, at Ludford in the county of Hereford, in the fields of the same, the said Richard, duke of York, Edward, Earl of March, Richard, Earl of Warwick, Richard, earl of Salisbury, Edmund, earl of Rutland, John Clinton, Lord Clinton, John Wenlock, knight, James Pickering, knight, the said John Conyers and Thomas Parre, knights, John Bourchier and Edward Bourchier, esquires, nephews of the said duke of York, Thomas Colt, late of London, gentleman, John Clay, late of Cheshunt
in the county of Hertford, esquire, Roger Eyton, late of Shrewsbury in Shropshire, esquire, and Robert Boulde, brother to Henry Boulde, knight, with other knights and people whom they had blinded and brought together by wages, promises and other carefully calculated methods, brought certain persons before the people to swear that you were dead, causing mass to be
said and attending it, all to make the people less afraid to give battle.
The King's Preparations
After making a speech to all the lords, knights and nobles in your host in so witty, so knightly, so manly and so cheering a style, with such a princely bearing and assured manner, in which the lords and people took such joy and comfort that their
only desire was to hasten the fulfilment of your courageous knightly wish; because the ways were obstructed and narrow, and blocked by water, it was nevertheless nearly evening before you could take up a suitable position for battle, display your banners, place your divisions and pitch your tents. They being in the same fields on the same day and place, traitorously placed their troops, fortified their chosen ground, set carts with guns in front of their troops, made skirmishes and laid their ambushes there to take your army unawares.
The Duke of York Gives Battle
And they, intending the destruction of your most noble person, on the same Friday and in the same town, falsely and traitorously raised war against you in the field there, and fired their said guns then and there, and fired at your most royal person, as well as at your lords and people then and there with you. But God, in whose hands are the hearts of kings, caused it to be known that they whose hearts and desires were only intent on untruth, falseness and cruelty, under the sly pretence of a feigned zeal for justice, meant the greatest falseness and treason, and the most immoderate greed which ever was wrought in any realm: in that Robert Radcliffe, one of the fellowship of the said duke of York and the earls of Warwick and Salisbury, confessed at the point of death that they would have translated both the crown of England and the duchy of Lancaster at their will and pleasure.
The Said Duke and Earls Fled into Wales
But Almighty God, who sees into the hearts of people and from whom nothing is hidden, suddenly struck the hearts of the
said duke of York and earls from that most presumptuous pride into the most shameful cowardice imaginable, so that at
about midnight that night they stole away from the field, under the pretence that they wished to refresh themselves awhile in the town of Ludlow, leaving their standards and banners displayed directly opposite your positions, and fled out of the town unarmed with a few persons to Wales; realising that the hearts of your people raised by them, blinded by them previously,
had for the most part been converted by God's inspiration to repent and humbly submit themselves to you, and ask your
grace, which most of them did; to whom you freely imparted your grace, at the reverence of Our Lord and St Edward. But, sovereign lord, it must not be thought that had it been at all possible they would have wished anything other than to accomplish their cruel, malicious and traitorous intention, to the complete destruction of your most royal person. And furthermore to demonstrate the continuance of their most detestable fixed traitorous purpose and desire against you,
sovereign lord, andyour royal majesty, and the weal of your realm and subjects, some of them have arrived in your town of Calais, whereby the town is in danger, as are the goods of all your merchants of the staple there.
It was on the 4th July 1459 that Thomas Vaughan, Alice, wife of Richard of Salisbury and William Oldhall, according the the November Parliament heard in Coventry, imagined and compassed the death of Henry VI.
"And forasmoch as Aleyse the wyf of the seid Richard erle of Salesbury, the first day of August, the yere of youre moost
noble reigne .xxxvij. th , at Middelham in youre shire of York, and William Oldhall knyght, and Thomas Vaghan late of
London squier, at London, in the parissh of Seint Jame at Garlikhithe, in the warde of Quenehithe, the fourth day of Jule, the same yere, falsely and traiterously ymagyned and compassed the deth and fynall destruccion of you, soverayne lord;
and in accomplisshment and executyng therof, the seid Aleise, at Middelham aforeseid the seid first day of August,
and the seid William Oldhall and Thomas Vaghan, at London, in the seid parissh and warde, the seid fourth day of
Jule,[col. b] traiterously labored, abetted, procured, stered and provoked the seid duc of York, and the seid erles of
Warrewyk and Salesbury, to doo the seid tresons, rebellions, gaderynges, ridynges and reryng of werre ayenst youre
moost roiall persone, at the seid toune of Blore and Ludeford: to ordeyne and establissh, by the seid auctorite, that the
same Aleise, William Oldhall and Thomas Vaghan for the same be reputed, taken, demed, adjugged and
atteinted of high treson."
As chaos engulfed the streets of London in the summer of 1450, William Ayscough, Bishop of Salisbury was a frightened man, most probably believing that the mob who had plotted his death at the beginning of the year would now put their plans into action.
The death in the February of Adam Moleyns, murdered on a beach at Portsmouth and the murder three months later of William de la Pole off the coast at Dover must have playing on Ayscough's mind, and with Jack Cade's rebel's drawing ever closer, Asycough left the city heading for his home in Dorset.
William Ayscough, along with Moleyn's had been a royal councilor and in his capacity as Henry VI's confessor, had been one of a few men who had been close to the king. However, he did himself no flavours by suggesting (allegedly) to Henry that he abstain from having sex with the queen. This of course was taken as jeopardising the succession, and seeing that there was no Lancastrian heir and that Richard, Duke of York was hovering in the wings it was certainly a risky thing to say.
Asycough's movements after leaving London are not documented and the reason he was taking mass at the priory church
in Edington in Wiltshire on the 29th of June is unclear, but its likely that it was a stopping point on his southwards journey home to Sherborne.
Maybe he thought that he would be safe, but he was far from it.
Ayscough's fears that he too would die at the hands of a mob turned into reality when he was killed by the people of
Edington parish while at mass in the church of that forms part of the Bonhommes Priory.
Of Ayscough's death the Chronicles of England states
'William Ascoghe, bisshop of Salisbury was slayn of his owen parisshens and peple . . . aftir that he hadde saide
Mass, and was draw from the auter and lad up to an hill the beside, to his awbe and his stole aboute his necke; and their
they slow him horribly, thair fader and thair bisshoppe and spoillid him unto the nakid skyn, and rente his blody shirte
in to pecis.'
You have to wonder if some of the men who died in the turmoil that engulfed the country in 1450 were all bad, Ayscouth it seems
'concerned himself regularly with diocesan affairs and the maintenance of orthodoxy'
It is thought that Ayscough was buried where he was slain, less than a mile where King Alfred fought Guthram at the Battle of Edington in 878.
(My photographs of Edington Church and the fields that surround it were taken in 2014 when my daughter lived in Bratton, Edington's neigbouring village.)
It was towards the end of June in 1450 that London was about to be plunged into turmoil and whose streets would run red with blood.
This conflict came to be known as Cade’s Rebellion and it was one of the most important uprisings to take place in England since the Peasants Revolt some sixty-nine years earlier. Cade’s attempted to come to some sort of agreement along the diplomatic route when he presented, prior to the uprising, Fifteen Articles of Complaint, of which author Michael Miller writes.
“They were an eloquent and detailed description of the people's feelings at the time, and showed a great ability of expression. Alienation of the Crown's property and the half-hearted enforcement of Resumption Statutes lead to the natural corollaries that the Crown could not pay its debts, and the enrichment of the undeserving had made them arrogant and tyrannical.The overbearing attitude of the King's favourites, and their corrupt ways, was insufferable”
But these were dismissed and battle commenced.
The taking of London, was a success for Cade, his forces had stormed the Tower of London, but had failed to take control of it. By the first week of July a number of important kings men were executed and by 5th the rebels left the city threatening to return the following day. Later pardons were offered and Cade and his men began their return journey home.
Henry and his court learnt nothing from Cade's rebellion, and Miller rather amusingly writes:
‘King Henry VI and his Court, for want of anything constructive to do, went on Royal Progresses through the Midlands’
Who loves jelly?
I know I do, strawberry is my favourite flavour and always in the shape of a rabbit.
During the Wars of the Roses there were no blue plastic moulds like the one from my childhood, only pottery or metal ones.
At Henry VI's coronation in Westminster Hall in 1429, his personal badge of an
'antelope with a crowne about his necke with a chayne of golde'
decorated the top of a white jelly or leach as it was then known.
According to Elias Ashmole's History of the Noble Order of the Garter published in London in 1672, a dinner held at St George's Hall in Windsor Castle, jellies were served at the very end of the meal. Surviving records state that these jellies were in the shape of animals and castles. A lovely gilded rosewater leche, just like the image seen below, was consumed at a Garter Feast in 1520.
In Tudor times another jelly, known as Jely Ypocras was served just before the second course, it is thought that it was made by turning
'the spiced wine hypocras into a jelly with isinglass, hartshorn, calves feet or ivory shavings.'
No recipe has survived, but food historians think that this was how this jelly was made.
I think I will give it a miss thank you!
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