Tuesday, 24 February 2015

With All For All: The Life of Simon de Montfort. Interview with Darren Baker

In January 1265, Simon de Montfort summoned a Parliament in the name of the Young King’s nephew, Henry III, that has been long recognized as a prototype for the institution today. Many historians are apt to disagree, but celebrations are already underway to mark the 750th anniversary of that event. According to the author of a new biography on Montfort, it’s right that they do, because his contribution to political reform in England was immense and incomparable for centuries to come. We have asked Darren Baker to drop by and share a few of his thoughts on him.

I am honoured to welcome Darren Baker to our humble abode to talk about his recently released biography of Simon de Montfort. Thank you for accepting my invitation. Could you tell us why Simon de Montfort? Do you remember the first time you saw his name?

Thanks for having me here. It’s an honour for me as well to be in the realm of the Young King, whom I met for the first time in Thomas Costain’s books on the Plantagenets. My lifelong fascination with Simon de Montfort began in these same books, although I remember seeing his name for the first time in another book as a young boy. There was something about this king being defeated and captured by his French brother-in-law that caught my imagination. I could probably point it out to you on the page if you showed me the book today, it’s stuck with me that long.

If I am correct, you have been researching Simon for several years now. When exactly did you start thinking about writing his biography?

There had been no new biography of him in twenty years and nearly all of them take a generally hostile view anyway. So I set out to write the biography I wanted to read. It’s certainly no whitewash, just looking at the same events from a different angle with a bit more cross-current of information. I gave myself nine months to write it and actually made that deadline with two days to spare.

                                   Darren Baker  in front of the Lewes Memorial

What have you learned about him over the years of your research in addition to his contribution to the development of Parliament? Could you tell us a few words about Simon himself?

I had to learn more about the two pivotal events in his life, the Albigensian crusade of his childhood and Henry’s entire reign. I suppose not surprisingly, I came away from the first with a much better opinion of his father than historians generally have, and in the case of Henry, I grew to respect him because he was a better man at heart than most other medieval English monarchs. He seems to be all but forgotten by the British public today, probably for no other reason than he was no warrior king like Richard I, Edwards I and III, and Henry V, and yet everywhere today you see more of his legacy than all of them put together. As for the kind of man Simon was, we don’t know what he looked like, we can just go by the very general description of one chronicler that he was tall in body and handsome in face. Another one noted he had a courteous and pleasant way of speaking. Put these two together and I don’t see the modern tendency to portray him as grasping, harsh and imperious. But there has always been this natural inclination, even in his own day, to see him like his father, who was not afraid to employ fire and sword against the Albigensian heretics. It’s probably fair to say he had a breadth of personal qualities, both good and bad, that made him stand out amongst the average nobleman of that era.

This roll of the genealogical line shows Simon and Eleanor's children in the bottom row: Henry, Simon, Amaury, Guy, Richard and Eleanor

Simon and Eleanor's marriage must have been a love match. What do we know about Simon’s relationship with his wife and children?

It was certainly a love match in the sense they had to be married in secret. They were lucky her brother was the type to fall for such romances and so lent them his support. Of course, they had their trials like any marriage. On one occasion they were upbraided by a friend, she for what he called marital insubordination and Simon for his temper. They had financial troubles and it seems he at least was plagued at sometime or other by the fact that she had broken her vow of chastity for him. Whether he actually seduced her, as Henry later charged, we’ll never know for sure. Both had phenomenal energy and were supreme organizers, and for whatever friction was caused by having similar high-strung temperaments, they made a formidable team. He stood up for her against the likes of the Marshal family and her own half-brothers, and she stood by him through all the troubles ahead with her brother. They doted on their children, but were not uncritical, and they in turn remained steadfastly loyal to the end, something many historians don’t necessarily see in a positive light.

                   The ruins of Odiham Castle, where Simon and Eleanor saw each other for the last time.

Simon and Henry III were brothers-in-law. Was the animosity between them purely political or did it touch the “personal” side as well?

You get the feeling they became great friends after Simon’s arrival at court. They were about the same age, were devoted to religion and learning, and Henry was enamored of French culture, which also helps explain why he couldn’t get enough of his wife’s family. Montfort certainly stuck by him during the rebellion of Richard Marshal in 1234 and through all the grumbling that accompanied the arrival of the Savoyards two years later. Allowing his sister Eleanor to marry him was the greatest testament to their friendship, and yet it was in tatters within two years, all because Henry got the feeling that Simon had used him and in the end was more trouble than he was worth. Their relationship never recovered, but with Eleanor in the middle, they had no choice but to deal with each other.

                                                                             Henry III enthroned, flanked by Westminster Abbey and church bells. 

Could you remind us what exactly Henry III did or did not do to find himself opposed by his disgruntled barons?

Henry had been stung badly by the Marshal rebellion and later by all the antagonism created by Simon and Eleanor’s secret wedding. We can see from that point on he was eager to create a court of his own making, mainly dominated by his wife’s family from Savoy and later by his own half-brothers from Lusignan. He dismissed the great officers of state and consulted his English magnates only when he needed money for his misadventures. They naturally resented all his favoritism for these foreigners and refused him one tax after another, so Henry turned to more devious methods to get the money, namely by exploiting Jewish finance and putting pressure on his sheriffs to collect more in fines, fees and rents than was justifiable. By the time the barons had enough of his relatives in 1258, so did the whole realm with his reign in general.

What turn might history have taken had Lord Edward stayed in Simon’s custody?

Montfort had made Edward’s release conditioned on moving him out of his lordship of Cheshire and installing his own son in his place. His reason was to keep Edward and his Marcher friends from teaming up in the future, which is exactly what happened after he escaped. Montfort knew his nephew well enough to know he would never abide by the loss of Cheshire or his scheme to impose constitutional controls on his future reign. His only hope was to keep him under closely supervised parole even after his official release long enough for the arrangements of his government to sink in among all the parties concerned, even if that took years. In the end, the treachery of the Clare family changed everything in a matter of months.

                            Simon turned Kenilworth Castle into a nearly impregnable fortress. It was the last holdout of the the Montfortians.

What did Simon's death at Evesham mean for his family? We know that his eldest son Henry perished with him, but his other children and Eleanor? What happened to them?

Eleanor held on to Dover while she sent her sons Amaury and Richard ahead to France, then followed them over with her daughter Eleanor. She died ten years later in a nunnery founded by her husband’s sister. The oldest surviving son Simon, whose tardiness had contributed as much to his father’s defeat as Edward’s generalship, held out until the end of the year. By that time Henry had stripped the family of the earldom of Leicester and given it to his son Edmund. He offered the younger Simon some form of compensation, but Henry and Edward’s promises were so worthless by that point that he felt it was better to escape to France. The fourth son Guy had been wounded at Evesham and was still in prison when he too escaped the following year, in 1266. Louis and Margaret of France tried to reconcile the two families, but Henry only pretended to go along, so the Montfort boys moved on. Richard went south to campaign and disappeared from the records. Guy achieved the most notoriety when he threw away a promising marriage and military career by murdering his cousin Henry of Almain in Italy with the help of his brother Simon, who died later that year. Guy served only the most meager of sentences for this act of vengeance, an indication that continental Europe thought the English royal family had it coming for the desecration of Simon’s body at Evesham. Guy went back to campaigning, was captured, and died in prison. Edward got his own revenge by capturing Amaury and Eleanor as they sailed to Wales with the intention of her marrying Prince Llywelyn. He kept Amaury in prison for six years before releasing and deporting him. He had the most colorful career of the lot and died sometime around 1300. Eleanor was allowed to marry Llywelyn, but she subsequently died in childbirth in 1282, and her child was whisked away to live her entire life in a nunnery after Edward’s Marchers killed Llywelyn. She died in 1337, the last British Montfort of that line. Guy left behind two daughters in Italy.

Do you think Henry and Edward found it difficult to blot out the memory of Simon from the social consciousness of the nation?

Most definitely. They had to pass statutes preventing people from going to his shrine at Evesham or even talking about the miracles to be had there. Edward rarely failed in anything he took in hand and within ten years he managed to shut down the cult. To do that, however, he had to put aside his own personal bitterness and reach out to the surviving Montfortians and adopt several of the precedents set by Simon during his rule. But of course there was little he could do about Simon’s impact on the lower rungs of society, about all the songs and tales that continued to flourish into the next century. One wonders what he might have thought of his own son Edward sitting down one night as king and being entertained by a redheaded woman named Alice singing, not about the great Hammer of the Scots, but about Simon de Montfort.

                                                                The memorial to Montfort marks where his remains were interred at Evesham Abbey.

What about Simon's legacy in England?

If most people recognize the name at all, it has something to do with Parliament, even if there is nothing around the houses of Parliament to indicate it. The Victorians erected a statue of Richard the Lionheart there instead, probably for no better reason than they liked his name and he represented the idea of raw British might. There is also the problem of Montfort’s order for the Jews of Leicester to leave just after he was given seisin in 1231. The case itself is very complicated and we can no more expect the people of the Middle Ages to understand our condemnation of religious intolerance than we can understand their use of torture in judicial proceedings. But there will always be that ill-informed politician ready to dip back into the past in order to cast the first stone.

How would you encourage readers to approach your book?

Look at the pictures first, because that’s what I do when I pick up a book. I actually hadn’t thought of any when I first sent the manuscript to the publisher, but they encouraged me to go scouring through several online sources and I’m quite happy with the lot we came up with. I try to make the captions as detailed as possible for that reader who has only time for a quick flip-through in the bookstore. I also had a few run-ins with my editor, who was reasonably keen to follow the rules of grammar, but I wanted to ensure that what I was doing was storytelling and not just telling a story. Because it is a great story first and foremost, and I deliberately chose an introduction that sets the tone for the conflict to come between two of the most fascinating power couples in English history: Simon and Eleanor and Henry and Eleanor.

Thank you for paying a visit to our Lesser Land and giving us the opportunity to learn more about Simon de Montfort and his legacy. Good luck with all your upcoming projects. Hodně štěstí s novou knihou. Já už se těším na čtení.

Darren Baker was born in San Diego, California, but grew up near Charleston, South Carolina. He went into the Navy after high school, serving aboard a submarine during the 1980s. He left to attend the University of Connecticut, where he took his degree in modern and classical languages. A backpacking tour behind the former Iron Curtain led him to where he lives today, in the northeast corner of the Czech Republic, making him a neighbour of mine. He stayed here because he met a young lady, who now accompanies him, along with their two children, on his medieval excursions. He is making plans to write a biography of Henry III because, like Simon, he too deserves a fair hearing from a modern audience.

You can learn more about the book from Darren Baker’s website Simon de Montfort 2014
You can also order the book from Amberley Publishing
Click here to buy the book from Amazon.com

Monday, 16 February 2015

13 February 1177: The Wedding at Palermo

Belated Happy Wedding Anniversary to Henry the Young King's youngest sister Joanna (b.1165) and William II Sicily (b. 1155) who were married with the pomp and ceremony of a royal wedding on 13 February 1177 in Palermo, probably in the beautiful Palatine Chapel comissioned by William's grandfather in Palazzo Reale.

"The city of Palermo was resplendent with the marriage celebrations of the king of Sicily and the king of England's daughter. Archbishops and bishops, counts and barons, clergy and people flocked at once to solemnize the marriage and the crowning of the new queen, and Walter archbishop of Palermo performing the marriage ceremony..." (Ralph of Diceto in Images of History)

          The Plalatine Chapel comissioned by Roger II of Sicily (photo by Urban via Wikipedia)

Joanna was born in October 1165 as the youngest daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine (1124-1204) and Henry II of England (1133-1189). At the time of her birth Eleanor was in her forties, already a mother of seven children (not to count the eldest son William, who died aged three in 1156), two by her first husband Louis VII of France (1120-1180) and five by Henry. Eleanor was to give birth to one more child, a son whom she was to name John (1166-1216). When Joanna turned three there were already plans to marry her off to William of Sicily. The latter came to the throne in 1166 upon his father's death with his mother Marguerite of Navarre (c.1128-1183) acting as regent. Sharing a common Norman ancestry and culture, the Sicilian court maintained close ties with Henry II's realm and the stage for Joanna and William's bethrothal was set as early as 1169. Not only queen regent Marguerite was in favour of the marriage, but also her influential adviser and William's confidant Vice-Chancellor Matteo d'Ajello (d.1193). However, the murder of Thomas Becket in December 1170 brought the marriage negotiations to a halt. It took Joanna's father and the pope some time to reconcile. In the meantime, the Byzantine Emperor Manuel Comnenus offered William his daughter as a future wife. Agreement was reached, but much to William's embarrassment the emperor did not keep his side of the bargain and the girl never arrived.

In 1176 William renewed negotiations with Henry II. His envoys - three prominent churchmen and the Justiciar of Sicily accompanied by the Archbishop of Rouen, who was the uncle of queen Marguerite of Navarre  - arrived in London, where on 20 May Henry "with the consent of all the bishops, earls and barons of the kingdom" agreed to give Joanna in marriage for the king of Sicily. About 31 May, so before his delegation including John, Bishop of Norwich; Paris, archdeacon of Rochester; Baldwin Bulot and Richard de Camville, left England for Sicily, the king visited Winchester where Joanna was residing at the time, perhaps to inform her in person about the agreement that had been reached. Telling proof of his fatherly love and concern. On 15 August Henry held a council there to discuss Joanna's marriage in detail.

Joanna left England for Normandy about 8 September, her escort consisting of her uncle Hamelin de Warenne [Henry II's natural brother], Richard, Archbishop of Canterbury; Rotrou, Archbishop of Rouen; Geoffrey, Bishop of Ely; Gilles, Bishop of Evreux; Henry, Bishop of Bayeux; Hugh de Bauchamp, Osbert de Camera, and Geoffrey de la Charre [Eyton, p.206]. On her journey to St Gilles she was accompanied by her brother Henry who led her through domains which were nominally his as far as Poitiers, where he entrusted her to Richard's care. Neither Henry nor Joanna could have known that they were never to see each other again.

At St Gilles she was welcomed by William's delegation. There were 25 galleys awaiting her. Her dowry consisted not only of fine horses and ships, but also of a golden table, 24 golden dining vessels and a silk tent of considerable size, which we know thanks to a description of the gifts her father presented her with upon her daparture and thanks to her brother Richard's list of the items that were to be restored to her by Tancred of Lecce, when the latter seized the throne after William's death. Joanna and her entourage spent Christmas of 1176 at Naples, probably due to her susceptibility to seasickness. 

                                The Palatine Chapel, detail. Thanks to Secret Italy: Italy Lifestyle Blog

When on 2 February 1177, Joanna, accompanied by Gilles, bishop of Evreux and other envoys of her father, entered Palermo by night, William and "the whole city" were waiting at the city gates to welcome her, and "lamps so many and so large, were lighted up, that the city almost seemed to be on fire, and the rays of the stars could in no way bear comparison with the brilliancy of such a light". Joanna "resplendent with regal garments" was mounted on one of the king's horses and escorted to a palace where she was to await her wedding and coronation (Howden p. 413). The girl must have been bedazzled as all members of her retinue, who gave a detailed account of their stay in Sicily upon their return to the Angevin domains. Back in England and in their continental domains her father, her captive mother, her elder brothers must have felt both pride and relief when listening to the story of her warm reception.

When Joanna and William married, she was seven months shy of her twelfth birthday and he was twenty-two, so the same age as her eldest brother Henry. Following the tradition, they were crowned king and queen shortly after they were pronounced man and wife, at the same ceremony, being William's second coronation. On their marriage William issued and executed a charter in Joanna'a favour:

"...we, William, by the favour of the Divine grace, king of Sicily, and of the dukedom of Apulia, and of the principality of Capua, do unite unto ourselves by the laws of matrimony and the bond of wedlock, with the Divine sanction and under happy auspices, the maiden Joanna, of royal blood, and the most illustrious daughter of Henry, the mighty king of the English; to the end, that her fidelity and her chaste affection may produce the blessings of the married state, and that by her a royal offspring may, by the gift of God, hereafter succeed us in the kingdom, which, both by reason of its endowment with all virtues, and of its title by birth, by the divine grace, both may and ought to be raised to the throne of this realm. But, inasmuch as it is befitting our exalted position that so noble and illustrious an alliance should be honored with a becoming dowry, by this present writing we do give, and as a dowry, do grant to the before-named queen, our most dearly beloved wife the county of Mont Saint Angelo,  the city of Siponto and the city of Vesta, with all the rightful tenements and appurtenances thereof." (Hoveden, pp. 414-415)

Joanna received the afore-mentioned lands in demanio, which meant she could keep them as long as she lived, no matter whether she was to reign or not. Those lands were to be of crucial importance in the future, as time was to show. 

God bless Roger of Hoveden for his chronicle, which is not only a treasure chest full of precious little nuggets of information,  but also archive of official documents. Roger was not a member of Joanna's entourage in 1177, but he accompanied Joanna's brother Richard I on his way to the Holy Land in 1190, keeping what can be called the official diary of the Third Crusade. Thanks to him we have a rare opportunity to read a detailed account of what befell Joanna after her husband's death. But let me post about it on 11 November, being the day William passed away in 1189.


Images of History by Ralph of Diceto in The Plantagenet Chronicles ed. by Dr Elizabeth HallamGreenwich Editions, 2002.

The Annals of Roger of Hoveden   http://archive.org/details/annalsofrogerdeh01hoveuoft

Court, Household and Itinerary of King Henry II by Robert William Eyton, 1878. Internet Archive.  https://archive.org/details/courthouseholdit00eyto

Joanna, Queen of Sicily by Dana Cushing https://www.academia.edu/

"To have and have not: the Dower of Joanna Plantagenet, Queen of Sicily (1177-1189)" by Colette Bowie in Queenship in the Mediterranean, Negotiating the role of the queen in the Medieval and early modern eras by Elena Woodacre, Google Books

Richard the Lionheart by John Gillingham,Wiedenfeld and Nicolson, 1989. 

Friday, 6 February 2015

With All For All: The Life of Simon de Montfort Blog Tour

Wonderful news for all Simon de Montfort admirers: to celebrate the publication of his new book With All For All: The Life of Simon de Montfort, author Darren Baker will be taking part in a week-long blog tour and we will have a rare honour to welcome him to our humble abode as well. Follow his progress as he discusses all things Simon de Montfort, starting on Monday 23rd February and meet him at the following blogs: 

Monday 23rd February: Launch at Medieval News featuring a video spot with Darren explaining how he came to write a book on the life of Simon de Montfort.

Tuesday 24th February: Darren will be interviewed by Kasia Ogrodnik Fujcik, the keeper of Lesser Land – find out everything you want to know about Henry III the Young King.

Wednesday 25th February: Darren will be posting a guest article about how the Montfortian struggle was viewed by the chronicler ‘The Templar of Tyre’. Hosted by John Paul Davis, author of The Gothic King: A Biography of Henry III.

Thursday 26th February: Visit The History Vault where Darren will post a guest article explaining how Montfort’s contribution to the development of Parliament was more than just summoning the burgesses in 1265.

Friday 27th February: A guest article from Darren comparing Simon de Montfort and Thomas of Lancaster, together with a competition to win a copy of the book! Hosted by Kathryn Warner, author of Edward II: The Unconventional King.

Saturday 28th February: A guest post on Sara Cockerill’s website, the author of Eleanor of Castile: The Shadow Queen. Darren will post a guest article on whether there might have ever been a King Simon.

Sunday 1st March: Montfortian scholar Kathleen Neal at Thirteenth Century England will finish off the tour with a few questions for Darren.

The best place to link the book to is The Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.com/With-All-for-All-Darren-Baker/9781445645742
For those in the UK, it is on the Amberley website: http://goo.gl/cIeAA5 and on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/All-Life-Simon-Montfort/dp/1445645742/
Out now, RRP: £20 and available in the US on 19th April 2015.

Monday, 2 February 2015

2 February 1169: Prince Henry the Seneschal

Just a short note today. 2 February 1169 must have been a very special day for young Prince Henry, the heir to the English throne and future Young King. I can imagine how extremely excited and elated he must have been, could not have slept a wink the night before probably. And little wonder, it was the first time he was to perform the duties of Senschal of France, the postion previously held by Theobald of Blois*, which his father-in-law, Louis VII of France (1120-1180) had bestowed upon him earlier in the year, in the opening days of January at the conference of Monmirail**.

Here's what Encyclopedia Britannica says about the office itself:

"Seneschal, French Sénéchal, in medieval and early modern France, a steward or principal administrator in a royal or noble household. As time went on, the office declined in importance and was often equivalent to that of a bailiff; the office and title persisted until the French Revolution." More info here.

Even if the position was only representative one, to Henry - at the time a youth twenty-six days shy of his fourteenth birthday - it would mean his first full and personal responsiblity, even if he was only to be in charge of feasting arrangements and attending his father-in-law's table. I am certain that he took on his new responsiblities seriously and did a good job that day.

Note from whom the first responsibilty came, not from Henry's father, who was to thwart power from him for many years to come, but from  King Louis, his father-in-law. You can read about Henry the Young King-Louis relations here.

* Theobald of Blois (1130-1191), the younger brother of Henri I the Liberal of Champagne, was Henry the Young King's brother- in-law, the husband of Henry's half-sister Alix (1151-1197/98), the younger of Eleanor of Aquitaine's daughters by Louis VII. The funny thing is that Theobald, before marrying Alix, was planning to capture and marry Eleanor herself, after she had been divorced from Louis in 1152.  

**  On Epiphany Day 1169 Henry the Young King's father and Louis II of France held a conference at Montmirail, a town of Maine, near to the French frontier. Henry II’s three eldest sons were there, as well as Louis’s beloved Dieu-Donne [the God given]Philip [later Augustus]. According to the treaty the English princes were to hold respectively: the young Henry Normandy, Brittany, Anjou and Maine, Richard Poitou and Guienne, Geoffrey Brittany under his brother Henry. It was also agreed that Richard would marry Alais, Louis's second daughter by his late wife Constance of Castile. Alais was the young Henry's sister-in-law. The next day saw the young Henry and Richard doing homage to Louis, as well as the papal envoys, Simon, Prior of Mont Dieu, Bernard de Corilo, Monk of Granmont and Engelbert, Prior of Val St.Pierre, delivering to king Henry the papal letter of May, 1168, in which the Pope exhorted him to reconcile with Thomas Becket, the exiled Archbishop of Canterbury. The latter appeared before the gathering, throwing himself on the king's mercy at first, but later stubbornly insisting on "certain salvos about the dignity of his Church” and the "Honour of God” (Eyton, p.119). The negotiations broke off. King Henry left the meeting angry and king Louis, so far Becket's staunch supporter, became estranged from him for a few days.


 Court, Household and Itinerary of King Henry II by Robert William Eyton, 1878. Internet Archive.  https://archive.org/details/courthouseholdit00eyto

Encyclopedia Britannica http://www.britannica.com/


Wednesday, 28 January 2015

"All Those Who Saw You..." - Henry the Young King in the Tournament World

Henry the Young King was first and foremost the champion and patron of the tournaments. And although most of the contemporary chroniclers were unanimous in finding it his unforgivable sin, he won his fame rushing all over France and participating in virtually all possible meetings. As David Crouch underlines “… the career of Henry, the eldest son of King Henry II of England, cannot be understood unless you fully appreciate how he made the international tournament circuit his very own… [because] the tournament was not just an expensive amusement. Everyone who was anyone in the western aristocracies took to the fields of northern France…” (Tournament, p.21)

Although there were single voices admitting that tournaments arose "not from animosities but solely for training and the display of prowess” (William of Newburgh ) the Church thought otherwise and was against such military contents, in which "knights waste away their patrimony, their efforts and even their life and soul, simply out of greed for empty praise and popular reputation” (Ralph Niger). This outlook prevailed of course and cast a shadow on Henry's life. The life too short to assess it properly, for before Henry had chance to prove himself worthy of his royal title his life was cut short in the flower of his youth.

The 12th century saw the rise of tournament as one of the main features of aristocratic life. One reason the aristocrates and knights were fascinated by the tournament was because they could parade their skills and thus win fame. The other was the sheer joy of participating. Of course they could also reap profit on it, especially landless knights such as William Marshal. Theologian and canon of Cirencester Alexander Nequam gives yet one more reason for organising and participating in that knightly game, namely that 'they [the knights] engage seriously in war games and occupy themselves in the image of war, in order to becomemore adept in military conflict". However, he did express his disapproval, too, writing that knights "desire to barter their lives for praise and, careless of their own souls, expose themselves to mortal danger in pursuit of vainglorious reputation". Even if that was Henry the Young King's chief motif, and he indeed sought the "vainglorious reputation' we understand why he was doing that. Bieng king only in name, he had to find some other way to win fame. Often accused of "playing at war” and participating in "mock battles”, he, as most of the young aristocrats of the 12th century, found participating in tournaments a way to make himself a "man of account”. When he was forced to spend a year in England at his father's side, learning the bisuness of kingship, he did not try to hide his impatience and discontent. He was to say:

"It should be a source of much harm to me to stay idle for so long, and I am extremely vexed by it. I am no bird to be mewed up; a young man who does not travel around could never aspire to any worthwhile thing, and he should be regarded as of no account” (The History of William Marshal)

Note what the Young King takes for "idleness”. Do not forget that taking part in tournaments was the matter of views and attitude of the entire generation of the young aristocracy, not only the Young King's fancy.

Under the year 1179* the chronicler Ralph of Diceto noted:
Young King Henry, the king's son, left England and passed three years in tournaments, spending a lot of money. While he was rushing around all France he put aside the royal majesty and was transformed from a king into a knight, carrying off victory in various meetings. His popularity made him famous...

In Diceto's words the Young King was occupied with "knightly matters until no glory was lacking to him", but what's even more interesting and surprising, according to him the old king "was happier counting up and admiring his [Henry's] victories", which stands in stark contrast to what historians usually say about Henry II's attitude towards tournamnets, namely that, just like Louis VI of France (1108-1137) earlier in the century, he regarded them as a waste of time and money, and serious threat to public order. 

Three years in tournaments! Henry, accompanied by William Marshal and his other household knights visited all the most popular sites where the knights from all over Europe met to compete and win fame in "mock" battles. If truth be told, those "mock" battles were in fact dangerous encounters, fought "for real", in which the need to present their skills often got the better of the knights and their common sense. They sometimes received serious injuries or even got killed while taking part in them, as was the case with Henry's younger brother Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany (1158-1186) or with William Marshal's son Gilbert, Earl of Pembroke (1194-1241). 

The most popular sites were the site on the border of Champagne, between Lagny-sur-Marne and Torcy, east of Paris, on the east bank of the River Marne, part of it being now occupied by Disneyland Paris; the great field between Ressons-sur-Matz and Gournay-sur-Aronde [Ressons- Gournay], Picardy, c.15 km north west of Compiegne;  the flats between Anet and Sorel-Moussel [Anet-Sorel], on the border of Normandy. Henry the Young King and the knights under his banner visited them all. It took them some time to win their first victories, but when they did they were unsurpassed. At Lagny-sur-Marne in the opening days of November 1179, for example, where in the heat of "battle" the Young King lost his helmet, but still outshone all the other participants,,who gathered to celebrate the coronation of his brother-in-law, Philippe II Capet [Auguste]. The sum Henry spent to pay off the knights under his banner on the occasion was stuggering: every knight in his service received twenty shillings a day for each man he had with him and thanks to the History of William Marshal we know that  “there were at least two hundred and more … who lived off the purse of the young King and were knights of his”.

In Elizabeth Chadwick's novel The Greatest Knight, her Henry, taking part in one of the tournaments, says: "I love this life!". Perhaps it really was as simple as that, but I do believe that a young, vigorous man with no opportunity to spend his boundless energy elsewhere - especially if his father refused to share responsibilty and power with him - via tournament could find a way to leave a mark on the world he lived in. How indelible this mark had been we can learn from a planh composed by Bertran de Born shortly after Henry's untimely death:
all those, who saw you, Bretons and Irishmen, Englishmen and Normans, Aquitainians and Gascons, should be sad… And Poitou suffers, and Maine, and Tours. As far as Compiegne let France weep without ceasing, and Flanders from Ghent as far as Wissant. Even the Germans weep!... When the Lorraines and the Brabancons go tourneying, they will mourn because they don’t see you!

Incredible, isn't it? Henry's untimely death came as a shock and left his fellow knights and all levels of society grief stricken. Count Philip of Flanders, the Young King's relative and friend and himself a great patron of tournaments, voiced the doubts that Henry's "young knights" must have harboured at the time: "Now those who are poor young knights will have to go looking for their daily bread. There will be nobody again prepared to give them horses, arms, and money, as this man gladly gave them" (The History of William Marshal). According to the author of the History of William Marshal**, 1183 was a turning point in the history of tournament. Never again knightly skills and display were to reach higher level than in Henry's lifetime. Nor no later patron as generous, open-handed and charismatic as Henry was to be found.William Marshal and his sons, from whom the author of the Histoire must have heard about the Young King's tournament exploits, were not the only ones to claim that the golden age of tournament was over when Henry died. His former chaplain, Gervase of Tilbury, said that Henry's death "was the end of everything knightly". Writing shortly after Henry's untimely passing, Bertran de Born sensed it, too:
... You were indeed the guide and father of youth. And hauberks and swords, and beautiful buckram, helmets and golfalons, doublets, and lappets and joy and love have nobody to maintain them or to bring them back. They will follow you; like all mighty honorable deeds they will disappear with you.

(from Mon chan fenis ab dol et ab maltraire)

* Henry embarked for Normandy on 19 April 1176, after having spent a year with his father in England. He stayed three years on the Continent only to return in February 1179 (just in time to celebrate his 24th birthday).

** The History of William Marshal was commissioned after William's death by his eldest son and is a treasure chest full of information not only about William himself, but also about his overlord, Henry the Young King


Otia Imperialia by Gervase of Tilbury. Fragments in “On the Instruction of a Prince: the Upbringing of Henry, the Young King” by Matthew Strickland in Henry II: New Interpretations. Ed. Christopher Harper-Bill and Nicholas Vincent. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2007

Images of History by Ralph of Diceto in The Plantagenet Chronicles ed. by Dr Elizabeth Hallam.Greenwich Editions, 2002.

The History of William Marshal, translated by S.Gregory and D. Crouch, excerpts found online

Court, Household and Itinerary of King Henry II by Robert William Eyton, 1878. Internet Archive. http://archive.org/details/courthouseholdit00eyto

The Poems of the Troubadour Bertran de Born Ed. by William D.Paden, Tilde Sankovitch and Patricia H. Stäblein. University of California Press, 1986.

Tournament by David Crouch. Hambledon Continuum, 2005.

William Marshal, Lancelot, and Arthur: Chivalry and Kingship” by Laura Ashe. In Anglo-Norman Studies XXX. Proceedings of the Battle Conference 2007 Ed. by C.P.Lewis

England Under The Norman and Angevin Kings 1075-1225 by Robert Bartlett, Clarendon Press 2000.

The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick, Time Warner Books, 2006.

Monday, 19 January 2015

‘Alas! How Chivalry Is Now Dead and Buried...' Henry the Young King Quotes

Today I would like to share with you a few Henry the Young King quotes which I find both interesting and telling. Some of them show Henry's proverbial generosity, his love for tournaments and care for his household knights, others his less praiseworthy traits. Over to you, twelfth- and thirteenth-century chroniclers :-)
"… In this man, God assembled every kind of goodness and virtue, and the gifts which fortune usually bestows on single individuals of special distinction, she exerted herself to give all together and in richer measure to this man, so as to make him worthy of all commendation..."

From Otia Imperialia by Gervase of Tilbury, Henry's former chaplain, written in the early 13th century for Henry's nephew, Otto of Brunswick, Holy Roman Emperor (p. 486-7 in The Instruction of a Prince)

                                                                 Bertran de Born (image: Wikipedia)

Gervase not only emphasizes Henry's generosity, but also praises his young lord’s good looks, describing him as “fair among the children of men… tall in stature and distinguished in appearance”, with face that “expressed merriment and mature judgment in due measure."

Gerald of Wales (c.1146-c.1223), Henry II’s protégé and court official, despite bearing grudge towards the father, about the son writes in the similar vein as Gervase of Tilbury: 

“ In peace and in private life, he was courteous, affable gentle, and amiable, kindly indulgent to those by whom he chanced to be injured, and far more disposed to forgive than to punish the offenders.”

His disposition was so good that he could never refuse to give anything that was fitting, thinking that no one ought to leave his presence sorrowful, or disappointed of his hopes”. 
Which Bertran de Born, lord of Autafort and famous bellicose troubadour, well acquainted with all three Angevin princes, Henry, Richard and Geoffrey, confirms in one of his sirventes:
"Noble hospitality and giving without fickle heart, and fair conversation and warm welcome, and a great court, well paid and well kept up, presents and gifts of arms and living without doing wrong, eating to the sound of viol and song, with many a companion bold and mighty among the best."(Mon chan fenis ab dol et ab maltraire)

“ ...wonderful as was his [Henry's] career, one thing appears almost miraculous, namely, that almost all the world attached themselves to a man who was totally without resources, either in money or territory”. 
Gerald of Wales again, who additionally gives us the opportunity to admire Henry's martial skills, comparing his young lord to the “thunderbolt winged by lightening” and giving a vivid description of Henry when in arms and war: “… no sooner was the helmet on his head than he assumed a lofty air, and became impetuous, bold and fiercer than any wild beast”, his “only desire, and the summit of his wishes” being the occasion to prove his valor and fully display his martial genius.
After this coronation and after this investiture you [Henry II] filched from your son something of his honor/ You took away from him his will, he could not get the mastery of it… A king of land without honor does not know well what to do: the young sovereign did not know it, the gentle and good”
From Chronicle of the War between the English and the Scots by Jordan Fantosme, the spiritual chancellor of the diocese of Winchester and eyewitness to the main events of the Great Revolt of 1173-74. The Chronicle was written without the benefit of hindsight of the Young King’s premature death, that is why the author does not condemn the Young Henry for his rebellion, only tries to understand his motives and explain them to the father and to Henry's contemporaries.

The next two come from The History of William Marshal. Upon William Marshal’s death, on 14 May 1219, his eldest son and namesake commissioned a poem on an epic scale to celebrate his late father’s life story. Written in Middle French and comprising 19,214 lines in rhyming couplets, the Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal is the only surviving biography of a layman of that time, and it is a treasure chest full of information concerning not only William himself, but also his young lord, Henry
"Alas! How chivalry is now dead and buried, how generosity is cast aside! And that is only right, for the leading light which used to guide them on earth is extinguished. Now those who are poor young knights will have to go looking for their daily bread. There will be nobody again prepared to give them horses, arms, and money, as this man gladly gave them."
Thanks to The History of William Marshal we get the full scale of Henry's generosity. On the occassion of the great tournament held at Lagny-sur-Marne in November 1179 he had with him more than two hundred knights and "whoever was under his command, received twenty shilings a day for each man he had with him from the moment they left their own lands, whether they were on the move or in lodgings.” One can only marvel. According to the author of the History no later patron of the tournament was as generous as Henry.
"It is true that the Young King, in castle and in town, led such a lavish life that, when it came to the end of his stay, he had no idea how to take his leave. When it came to the last day, creditors would appear, men who had supplied him with horses, garments, a nd victuals. This man is owed three hundred pounds; this one a hundred and that one two hundred.”... "My lord has no cash with him, but you shall have it within a month”.

From the above picture the young king emerges as a careless spendthrift and perennial debtor, but coming to his defence I need to point out that this particular trait of his character might have sprung from his own conviction that "he had lost a day when he had not secured the attachement of many by various acts of liberality, and bound them to him, body and soul, by multiplied favors conferred” (Gerald of Wales). The words which the author of The History of William Marshal confirms: "his [Henry's] heart was very much set on pleasing everybody, wise and foolish alike, for such was his wont that he was incapable of refusing anything to any man". He bestowed gifts and favours on his friends and household knights, which Bertarn de Born called "noble hospitality and giving without fickle heart” rather than profligacy. 


Gerald of Wales: On Henry II and his Sons, from the Topography of Ireland, chapters 49-50” from The Historical Works of Giraldus Cambrensis. Translated by Thomas Forester; revised by Thomas Wright. Etext file created for a class by Scott Mcletchie. Reproduced in Paul Hassal, ed. the Internet Medieval Source Book. Fordham University

Otia Imperialia by Gervase of Tilbury. Fragments in “On the Instruction of a Prince: the Upbringing of Henry, the Young King” by Matthew Strickland inHenry II: New Interpretations. Ed. Christopher Harper-Bill and Nicholas Vincent. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2007

The Poems of the Troubadour Bertran de Born Ed. by William D.Paden, Tilde Sankovitch and Patricia H. Stäblein. University of California Press, 1986.

Chronicle of the War Between the English and the Scots in 1173 and 1174 by Jordan Fantosme translated into English by Francisque Michel Internet Archive of American Libraries.

“William Marshal, Lancelot, and Arthur: Chivalry and Kingship” by Laura Ashe. In Anglo-Norman Studies XXX. Proceedings of the Battle Conference 2007 Ed. by C.P.Lewis