Wednesday, 18 September 2013

A crown fit for a Princess, Margaret of York's coronet

A recent visit to the Cathedral Treasury of Aachen has given me some additional information about a little object which has been in the possession of the Treasury for nearly 640 years. It is the coronet of a Duchess of Burgundy, Margaret of York, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of York, Richard Plantagenet and Cecily Neville and sister to the Kings Edward IV and Richard III.

Shortly after her marriage to Charles the Bold in 1468, Margaret of York commissioned Dialogue de la duchesse de Bourgogne à Jésus Christ  from her almoner Nicolas Finet. The illustration, above right, is taken from this book.

Margaret's coronet is said to be the only medieval British royal crown still surviving. This, however, is not true, there is another crown  worn by Blanche, daughter of Henry IV, at her marriage to Louis III, the Elector Palatine, in 1402, and still exists in Munich. Naturally this fact does not make Margaret’s crown any less valuable and interesting.
There is a possibility that Margaret wore her crown already in 1461 at the coronation of her brother Edward IV when she was 15 years of age and that it was adjusted for her in 1468 when she wore it at her wedding to Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, on 3 July in Damme, near Bruges. It is very notable that this crown is incredibly small, with a diameter across the base of just under five inches, and a maximum height of just over five inches. The size does not make it any less splendid than it is. Between each rose appear letters covered with transparent green, white and red enamel forming the name Margarit(a) de (Y)o(r)k and the initials C and M adjoined with a knot appear  repeatedly. The white rose of York with a diamond wreath in the front, corresponds with the enamelled coat of arms bearing the arms of Burgundy,  France and England quarterly, which symbolises the marriage. Furthermore the circlet is made of gilded silver, ornamented with precious stones;  a diamond cross,  adorned with two edgings of pearls and surmounted by eight large fleurons; the one in the front is quadrifoliate (4 leaves)with a large ruby in a claw setting and mounted on a white rose, the other seven quinquifoliate (5 leaves) ornamented with pearls and sapphires. Below this is a small gold rose ornamented with emeralds.

There is also a leather case for the coronet, the sides ornamented with a design of dragons and gothic foliage pressed into the leather. On top are the arms of Burgundy impaling England and France quarterly. The arms are surrounded by flints, the emblem of the Order of the Golden Fleece. Around the edge are again the initials C and M joined by knots, and, repeated five times, ‘Bien en Avienie’, ‘May good come of it’ the motto of Margaret of York.

So how did Margaret's crown ended up in Aachen? It is known that Margaret travelled to Aachen on a few occasions and it is recorded that she spent some time here on 22 July 1474 and that either on this occasion or another, she donated her crown to the admired statue of the Virgin Mary of the cathedral. A child-sized crown was also constructed for the Christ Child. This, unfortunately, does not exist any longer. Up until now, the crown serves as jewellery during the procession with relics.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Katherine Woodville, Duchess of Buckingham and Bedford

Today, 18 May, we commemorate the death of Katherine Woodville, who died on this day in 1497.
She was the wife of Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford and Earl of Pembroke and Sir Richard Wingfield and around 40 when she passed away. She was a sister to Queen Elizabeth Woodville and, out of, probably, 13 children, she was very likely the youngest daughter of Jacquetta of Luxembourg and Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers.

                                             Katherine's sister Queen Elizabeth Woodville

Katherine married three times, first when still a child, somewhere in 1465, to Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, with whom she had 4 children. The oldest, Edward, was born in 1478, who would succeed his father as Duke of Buckingham, followed by Elizabeth, Henry, Humphrey (who died young) and Anne.

                              Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, Katherine's oldest son

Eventhough fruitfull, the marriage was, according to Dominic Mancini, an observer of English affairs during this time, claimed to be unhappy. Mancini declared that Henry Stafford “had his own reasons for detesting the queen’s kin; for, when he was younger, he had been forced to wed the queen’s sister, whom he scorned to wed on account of her humble origin.”
Katherine's life changed drastically in 1483 when, Buckingham being, along with Richard Duke of Gloucester, responsible for the death of Katherine's brother and nephew, Anthony Woodville and Richard Grey, changed side again when Gloucester had seized the crown as King Richard III and rebelled against the monarch he first had given all of his support. As a result Buckingham was executed on 2 November. Just-widowed Katherine found herself in a difficult situation, with four very young children.

Anthony Woodville, 2nd Earl Rivers, Katherine's brother who was executed by beheading at Pontefract Castle on 25 June 1483

But two years later, when Henry Tudor became King she was soon, on 7 November 1485, married to the King's uncle, Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford and Earl of Pembroke, who was aroung 20 years her senior. Together they would spend much of their ten years ahead of them together at their Manor at Thornbury. Jasper and Katherine's marriage was a one of strategic benefits and whether they were happy together is unknown.
It is rumoured that the couple had a still born son in 1490.

Victorian stained glass image of Katherine and Jasper at Cardiff Castle

On 15 December Katherine's husband, Jasper Tudor made his will at their manor at Thornbury, mentioning his wife only briefly, nearly at the end of his will: ''I will that my lady my wife and all other persons have such dues as shall be thought to them appertaining by right law and conscience." Jasper died 6 days later, on 21 December 1495, being in his mid-60's.
Jasper's will and the fact that Katherine, who was now in her late 30's, very hastily remarried to a man, twelve years her junior, without a royal license, indicates a not very close relationship to her former husband and perhaps she even had an affair with young Wingfield before Jasper's death. King Henry VII fined the couple two thousand pounds for their presumption. Katherine would have probably known Richard Wingfield for some time; Wingfield’s mother was connected to Anthony Woodville’s second wife Mary and two of Richard’s brothers, and perhaps Richard himself, had served in Katherine’s household. Katherine's 3rd marriage wasn't, unlike her previous two marriages, of any strategic benefit for her and likely this final matrimony was one made for love.
Unfortunately for Katherine she was unable to enjoy her marriage for very long. Barely one year after, she died of unknown cause. Her burialplace is unknown. She did not have any surviving children from either Jasper Tudor or Richard Wingfield. Wingfield did remarry and had many children with his second wife Bridget Wiltshire. In his will in 1525 Wingfield requested masses to be said for Katherine’s soul.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Birth of the Tudor Dynasty January 28th 1457

After having been a widow for closely three months, thirteen year old Margaret Beaufort and her unborn child were thought not to survive this childbirth. But when, on the winter morning of January 28th 1457, Margaret had been in labour for too long, she finally gave birth to a tiny little boy at his uncle’s castle of Pembroke, probably in the now so-called Henry VII Tower.

The story goes that baby Henry, or Owen as how he was called for many years by the Welsh, was conceived at Jasper Tudor’s Caldicot Castle when the just married Edmund Tudor Earl of Richmond and Margaret Beaufort spent some ‘’quality’’ time together.
Ironically Edmund died precisely at his 1st wedding anniversary on November 1st (0r the 3rd)1456 and so would not live to see his son. Edmund left his young wife and unborn child to the care of his brother Jasper who took his place as a father. Edmund’s legacy lived on and would exceed every expectation he might have had for his child. It would take nearly 3 decades to accomplish the unthinkable.
The future Henry VII and with him the Tudor Dynasty was born, today 556 years ago.


For more about Edmund Tudor’s death you can see my previous post.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Duke of York's role in Edmund Tudor's death

As King Henry VI's Uterine brothers Jasper and Edmund Tudor were also on very good terms with Richard Duke of York, even this good that both brothers were likely to be arrested for treason when they jointed York to London in January 1454 during King Henry VI's insanity. They even supported York at the council meeting when he received protectorship during the King's illness and not even the 1st Battle of St. Albans seemed to have changed their support to York.
During York’s brief protectorate attempts to discipline Griffith ap Nicholas in South-West Wales failed but when Edmund did succeed in this four months after York had lost his protectorship a second time, it was a great embarrassment to York. The significance of the whole campaign centered on York’s determination to assert his control over the government by acting as the legitimate constable of the castles and neutralizing potentially dangerous rivals in the principality. At this point Edmund seems to be a rival. In April York’s men, Sir Walter Devereux and his son-in-law Sir William Herbert, decided to make their move by gathering a force of about 2000 men from around Herefordshire and causing for many local skirmishes which escalated in June when an attempt was made for an invasion on Kenilworth, with affirmed intensions to kill the King.
From there William Herbert, Walter Devereux and members of the Vaughan family joined their forces, proceeding their attentions on asserting York’s authority  and directed for West Wales, for Carmarthen Castle, for Edmund.  They immediately seized the castle and took Edmund prison. From there, they went on to other places in West-Wales, re-establishing York’s authority after he earlier had lost  those in Westminster.  It is not clear at all why William Herbert changed side at the first place, for at first he appears to be on very good terms with both Edmund and his younger brother Jasper, A phrase from a contemporary poem composed by Lewys Glyn Cothi in 1452 in praise of William Herbert also suggests this:

                 ...If Jasper was being pounded,

                 he’d [=William] pound through a thousand men.

                 The nobleman’s full of sincerity

                 (that will serve him well);

                 Gwilym [=William] is true and skilled

                 for one God before everything else,

                 also for the Crown, kindly eagle,

                 and above for the earl of Pembroke and his men.
Unfortunately Edmund would not be able to demonstrate more of his abilities in Wales, for he died at Carmarthen on 1 November 1456. Although suggested is the plague for a possible cause of death, an ample possibility, although there is no exact proof, is that Edmund’s sudden death so soon after the events of that summer, which was clearly a great shock and gives inevitable suspicion of violence or neglect during his imprisonment, is that Edmund suffered from wounds caused by opposing the force led by agents of the Duke of York.
Attempts to condemn the Deveraux-Herbert upheavals happened on 15 February 1457 at a Great Council, which opened at Coventry and closed some time before 14 March. Unfortunately there are no contemporary accounts of this council that survives but there is still the preface of 1459's act of attainder of the Duke and his followers. According to the preamble, the chancellor made divers rehearsals to the Duke of York which the Duke of Buckingham, on behalf of all the lords present, stated that the Duke of York could only lean on the King’s grace. Going on demanding York should be punished, should there be any repeat, but the preamble does not say of what. The document of the indictments makes no direct accusations to York which makes it difficult to directly blame him for Edmund’s death, even though Herbert and Devereux had to appear before the oyer and terminer sitting at Hereford from 2 to 7 April.  For Herbert and Devereux the legal process went on for a few months and at the end it is difficult to see why King Henry responded to these men like he did, Herbert received a general pardon but Devereux was imprisoned and York received different modest gestures of reconciliations.