| ~ Alice De Laci to John of Gaunt~
De Laci was the heiress of the honours
of Pontefract and Clitheroe. Her betrothal
in 1292 and marriage in 1294 ensured that these properties
passed to her husband Thomas Plantagenet, who eventually
became an earl in five counties, Lancaster, Leicester,
Derby, Lincoln and Salisbury [Wiltshire]. This gave
Thomas tremendous military power in the North, which
he used to challenge Edward II. Alice was barely nine years
of age in 1294 when her father, Henry De Laci, gave her away.
In this short period of time Edward I made John II Balliol King
of of Scotland who occupied the position from 1292 to1296, rather
than ruling. John Balliol* married Isabel de Warrene, daughter
of John the 7th earl of Warrene lord of the manor of Wakefield
and Sandal Magna, Conisbrough and Lewes. As such Isabel 'ruled' with
her vassal husband as Queen of Scotland.* John Balliol
probably met his future wife whilst waiting at Sandal
Castle to invade Scotland.
Henry de Laci became a close confidant of Edward
I and in 1278 received the
earldom of Lincoln and Lordship of the
honour of Pontefract. In 1272 Edward I granted
the right for Henry to hold a market at Almondbury
on each Monday. Henry died on 5th February 1311
and was buried at Old St. Paul's, London.
Old St. Paul's 1314-1315 [Ann. Paul. p. 277.]
Henry de Laci
Created 3rd Earl of Lincoln
in his line in 1257 [b 1249? d.
1311]. He commanded a division in the Welsh wars in
1276 and was joint Lieutenant of England whilst Edward
I was in France . During 1296-8 he commanded the
English army in France and in 1307 accompanied Edward I on
his final campaign in Scotland. He was also present at Edward
I's death. In 1310 he became one of the "Lord's Ordainers"
which restricted Edward II's powers. Henry also acted as The
Guardian of the Kingdom whilst Edward II was at war in Scotland.
Henry De Lacy was
Lord of Pontefract which included 'Barnsdale' and Blackburnshire
until his death on the 5th February 1311, after which the lands
came to Thomas Earl of Lancaster through his marriage to Alice
Henry's residence in London was in Shoe
Lane, Holborn, which runs into Fleet Street and the Temple
area. Running west off Shoe Lane was a 'Robin Hood's Court'
[now a lost name]. Further west lies Lincoln's Inn Courts, named
after the 3rd earl and about 200 yards north west of Shoe lane is
Leather Lane in North Holborn which has a 'Robin Hood Yard' coming off
Henry had two sons and two daughters, the first three children
pre-deceased him. The only
surviving child was his youngest daughter Alice.
Alice inherited the de Laci estates and succeeded her
mother as Countess of Lincoln on the 5th February 1311
having already entered into a marriage contract
at the age of nine in 1294 with Thomas Plantagenet,
later Earl of Lancaster, Leicester, Derby, Lincoln
As a consequence of her marriage
Alice also became Countess of Lancaster and
Thomas inherited the de Laci estates.
Thomas was the grandson of Henry
III and cousin to Edward II.
His father, Edmund Crouchback, the first earl
of Lancaster was thus brother to Edward I.
By 1312 Gaveston, Edward II's favorite, had been executed on
Thomas of Lancaster's lands. Gaveston
had long been a thorn in Thomas's side after
Thomas lost in a joust and Gaveston had derided him with
the nick-names, 'The Fiddler', and 'The Churl'. No doubt these
were a references to Thomas's perceived political abilities,
his musical leanings and his Northern manners. In 1317, it was alleged
by Thomas that his wife Alice had been abducted
forcibly from her castle at Canford Magna near Wimborne,
Dorset. This was carried out by the men of
John 8th Earl Warrene of Lewes, Sandal Magna
probably with the connivance
II. Alice had inherited Canford castle through her mother Margaret
Longespee. The Warrene side of the arguement suggests she had been
adulterous with Eubulo Le Strange, John De Warrene's squire, whom she
eventually married. Secondly, before 10th November 1324, Alice was taken
to earl Warrene's castle at Reigate in Surrey under the guard of Richard
De St. Martin a retainer of Warrene. This gave rise to a private
war between Warrene and Lancaster which appears to have continued for
at least 25 years between barons in the honour of Ponterfract and those
in Warrene's former manor of Wakefield, the so called 'Elland Feud'.
John de Warrene surrendered Wakefield, his other northern manors and
those in North Wales to Thomas earl of Lancaster in 1318. This gave Thomas
even more influence in the North, particularly Yorkshire. Eventually,
Edward II patched up earl Warrene's and Thomas's disagreements but
this lasted no more than five years when Thomas was captured at Boroughbridge
and executed. After the death of Eubolo in 1335, Alice married for a
third time before 23rd March 1336 to Hugh De Freyne, baron Freyne [d.1336/7].
Alice died without issue from any of her marriages on the 2nd of October
1348 at her Castle of [Old] Bolingbroke, Lincolnshire and was buried
at Barlings Abbey in the same county although Alison Weir incorrectly
gives this as Birling, Kent.9[p77]
Differences of opinion also arose between Edward II and Thomas
and these culminated in a rebellion in
the north by Thomas. After his defeat at
the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322, Thomas was captured and
taken to the great hall at Pontefract where he was
tried and sentenced to death. Thomas was beheaded, as
fitted a member of the royal line, at Pontefract, but
Edward II was already unpopular with noble and commoner
alike and this led to Thomas being deified, some monks
calling him a 'saint'.
The Two Henry's of the Honour of Pontefract
From what we have determined so far [see Skelbrooke],
the earlier verses of the Geste appear to have been broadly
compiled or completed somewhere between:
a) The start of Edward III's* reign 
when Stephen's father received his lands back,
Stephen marrying in August of that year and
b) The appearance of Piers Plowman
*who was under the influence of
his mother Queen Isabella and her paramour, Roger de Mortimer
of Wigmore, who had been supported by Stephen's father.
under Thomas Plantagenet, earl of Lancaster and importantly,
lord of Pontefract.
This period lies within the lives of Henry Plantagenet the 3rd Earl of Lancaster, his son, Henry Plantagenet
of Grosmont to Blanche daughter of
Henry of Grosmont and her husband, John of Gaunt.
|Henry Plantagenet [later third Earl of Lancaster]
came of age.
|Edward II on a progress
of the North.
|Edward III's reign begins
Marriage of Stephen II Le Waleys
and Annora De Umfreville after his father receives back his lands
and has a 2000 mark fine cancelled.
|Henry Plantagenet third Earl
of Lancaster became blind. His son Henry of Grosmont replaced him at court.
The young King Edward captured
his mother and lover at Nottingham Castle. Henry De Faucumberg is replaced
as the sheriff of Notts. and Derbs.
|Le Waleys family lose their lands which are
given to Humphrey De Bohun.
When Henry the third earl of Lancaster
died, Henry of Grosmont [above] succeeded to his
father's estates at age 45.
|Death of Stephen II Le Waleys of Burghwallis
Marriage of Robert De Swillington
and Annora Le Waleys [24th Dec]
Birth of Blanche Plantagenet
|Henry of Grosmont Duke of Lancaster died.
|John of Gaunt
married Blanche Plantagenet and gained the honour of Pontefract.
|Blanche died aged
29 from the Black Death, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a poem in her
|A small reference
is made to the tales of Robin Hood in Wm. Langland's' Piers
|Henry of Bolingbroke
[later Henry IV] came of age.
|Sir Robert De Swillington
died, steward to John of Gaunt at Pontefract Castle.
|John of Gaunt
A brief examination
of at least two of these Plantagenet lives, lords of the honour
of Pontefract, probably sets the background for the compiler
of the Geste, who we suspect to
be Stephen II Le Waleys of Burghwallis.
Henry Plantagenet, 3rd
Earl of Lancaster and Earl of Leicester [b1281 d.1345].
Early in his career, Henry was summoned to parliament about
the year1299 at which time he is described as being of the Lancaster
estates, which included Pontefract. The following year saw him involved
in the seige of Caerlaverock After the Lancastrian rebellion was
crushed in 1322, Henry became a figurehead for the rebels and for a
time lived as a fugitive.8 p.108
Between March 1322 and November 1323 contrariants from
the Battle of Boroughbridge who had escaped are thought to have been
hiding as outlaws throughout Yorkshire and particularly the Barnsdale
area. Here they could make a dishonest living from the commercial and
ecclesiastical traffic which moved north and south along one of
England's major arterial roads. This traffic seems unabated, even
today. Henry was Thomas's, the Earl of Lancaster's brother, but he had
not been involved with the rebellion and thus succeeded to the
confiscated lands, now regranted by Edward II. These lands included
the manor of Wakefield, Sandal Castle, Conisbrough Castle and the
honour of Pickering. By loyalty to the king's cause, or at least
by retaining neutrality, he had been invested by 1324 as
the earl of Leicester. As the reign of Edward II gradually unfolded, it
was obvious that the barons were becoming displeased with their
king. Because of the perceived unsavoury lifestyle of Edward II, the
'Lords Ordainers', a committee of twenty-one , was established,
led by Henry Plantagenet, earl of Lincoln. This committee drew up,
by 1311, forty-one articles known as the Ordinances to
try to control the king. As a member of this committee Henry was one
of the main forces behind the removal of Edward II from the throne. In 1327 after Edward II's abdication
in favour of his son, Edward II was placed in the custody of
Henry of Lancaster at Henry's castle of Kenilworth. Two months later, Mortimer
fearing that Henry was planning to rebel, the king was moved to his final
place of imprisonment in Berkeley Castle. Phillips and Keatman, without
following it up, suggest that Henry earl of Leicester was a model for
the ballad character Sir Richard at the Lee. This was because he was
a noble surrounded by contrariants and was often described as 'a gentle
and courteous knight' almost the same wording as is used in the
Geste to descibe Sir Richard at the Lee.
In May of 1326, John de
Warrene, Henry's neighbour in Yorkshire, who had previously
held the manor of Wakefield , regained his lands from Edward II.
Warrene was to lose his lands again under Edward III but again was
regranted them in 1334. In 1326 Henry supported Queen Isabella, who
had returned to England from France. Henry pursued and captured Edward
at Neath, imprisonment and death followed at Berkeley Castle in September
1327. Isabella and Mortimer had Prince Edward installed as King Edward
III, whereupon Henry now regained for his family the Lancaster estates.
These estates included the Honour of Pontefract previously lost by his
brother Thomas, Henry was then made guardian of the young Edward III.
From 1324 until his death in 1345 Henry the 3rd earl occupied the
title and position of Lord High Steward of England, serving both
Edward II and Edward III although from about the year 1330 Henry became
blind and was replaced at court by his son.
Henry Plantagenet of Grosmont
[b.1300 d.1361] succeeded his father Henry the 3rd earl in
1345, inheriting the Honour of Pontefract amongst other lands.
If his father had been busy, Henry of Grosmont was even more
involved in the Scottish campaigns, French Wars and diplomacy with
the King of Castile and Leon. In the year of his succession he was summoned
on the 11th June to set out for Gascony [Gascogne] from Southampton with
men-at-arms and archers. In 1337 he had been made Earl of Derby and by
1352 his valiant efforts in war had secured himself the heady title of
Duke of Lancaster. Edward III had him installed as
one of the first of twenty-six knights of the Garter at St. George's
Chapel, Windsor Castle. Henry of Grosmont died of the Great
Plague or Pestilence on 24th March, 1361
which had appeared in England about 1348.
Henry of Grosmont produced two daughters, Maud and Blanche.
The eldest, Maud, died without issue. The second, Blanche Plantagenet,
married John of Gaunt (Ghent),
earl of Richmond, duke of Lancaster [d. February 1399]. The poem,
The Book of the Duchesse, written by
Chaucer is believed to have been written for Blanche,
John of Gaunt's first wife. Through Blanche, John's
pedigree produced the Lancastrian line, whilst his
two brothers led to the line of Yorkists both of
which collided during the 'War of the Roses'. John's
third wife, Katherine Swynford [nee Roet] was the sister
to Philippa Roet who married Geoffrey Chaucer, the poet.
It is believed that Chaucer was invited by John of Gaunt
to Pontefract Castle on a number of occasions between 1396,
the year of John's marriage to Katherine Swynford and John's
death in 1399. If the legend of Robyn Hode of Barnsdale
were already airborne then Chaucer's passage through Barnsdale
would have been of consequence. See text
file of John of Gaunt's descendants.
John of Gaunt produced a son, Henry
Bolingbroke, later Henry IV, (born 1366
at Bolingbroke in Lincolnshire) who inherited
the de Laci estates. see William de
Dronsfield, esquire to Lord Bolingbroke
Henry Bolingbroke deposed his cousin
Richard II, son of Edward the Black Prince, and
assumed the crown in 1399 as Henry IV, the first
Lancastrian king. Richard II was imprisoned
first at Pickering Castle and ostensibly murdered
in Pontefract Castle by starvation, as with Edward
II, no marks would be left on the body as evidence of
the motives behind his death..
Bolingbroke, later Henry IV, was
the first king to be crowned using the English
language.The great plague had decimated the priesthood
and aristocrats did not have sufficient latin
teachers for their children, English became the
lingua franca by the end of the 1300's, spurred on
by Chaucer's writings.
MARRY INTO THE GAUNT AND EARL OF HUNTINGDON LINES
of the descendants of John of Gaunt13 finds
that his daughter, Elizabeth, by his first wife, Blanche
Plantagenet of Lancaster, married John Holland,
earl of Huntingdon and 1st Duke of Exeter. Their son
John earl of Huntingdon and 2nd duke of Exeter married Anne
Montague. Their daughter Anne Holland [b~1414] married John
Neville [died 1461 at Towton] whose son Ralph Neville became the
3rd earl of Westmorland, he married Margaret Booth who produced
a son, [Sir] Ralph Neville d.v.p of measles who married Mary
Paston of Paston, Norfolk.
It has been
mentioned earlier that Sir John Paston senior's
letter to his younger son [According to J.C.
Holt also to his brother William Paston] dated
16th April 1473, stated that John's servant
had deserted him after he had kept him [in his household]
for three years 'to pleye Seynt Jorge and Robyn Hod
and the Shryff of Notyngham' and this servant
had then 'goon into Bernysdale'.15
Letter from John
Paston Senior to his son John Paston junior 1473
No mor, but I have ben and
ame troblyd with myn over large and curteys delyng with my servants,
and now with ther onkynd nesse; Plattyng, yowr men wolde
thys daye byd me ffar well to to morrow at Dover, notwithstandyng
Thryston yowr other man is ffrom me, and John Myryell, and
W. Woode whyche promysed yow and Dawbeney, God have hys sowle,
at Castre, that iff ye wolde take hym in to be ageyn with me,
that then he wold never goo ffro me, and ther uppon I have kepyd hym
thys iij. yer to pleye Seynt Jorge and Robyn Hod and the Shryff off
Notyngham, and now when I wolde have good horse he is goon into Bernysdale,
and I withowt a keeper.
John Paston snr»==Margaret Mauteby
Sir William Paston====Anne Beaufort»
descendant of John
Sir John Paston » John Paston Margery==Richard
Elizabeth=== Sir John
the elder , dsp
the younger. ***
» Died of the Plague, not
married, produced an illegitimate daughter.
* Descended from the Holland earls of Huntingdon
to the Savile/Butler line of Skelbrooke, Barnsdale
Letter to Lord FitzWalter, he married
^ The surname Bruce occurs in Anthony Munday's
Sir John Paston Senior and his bailiff or estate
manager, Richard Calle, were both arrested for suspected foul
play in relation to the will of a John Falstaff. This brought
these two into conflict with the sheriff of Norfolk, from whom Sir John wished to be released.
From above we note the determination of a Paston
player to go to 'Bernysdale' which may indicate that this
servant of the Paston's had left the Paston's without notice or could
find another venue for his talents in the Savile lands of the
honour of Pontefract or /additionally he wished to visit the
countryside of the heroic characters he played in the primeval
ballad "A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode".The Paston's were patrons
of minstrels and balladeers, probably retaining
them in their households, and were obviously familiar
with the Robyn Hode ballads so far developed,
albeit the letter above was written some
one hundred and seventy years after Robert III Butler's
death. Recent findings indicate that the copy of
Robin Hood and the Potter in Cambridge
University Library, another early ballad printed about
1520, belonged to John Paston's bailliff, Richard
Calle. Calle had married Margery Paston a daughter of
John Paston senior in 1469. A complex set of circumstances
surrounds the family and its involvement as patrons
to the arts of minstrelsy and balladry. We might
ask here whether the playwright Anthony Munday garnered the
idea of the 'Earl of Huntingdon' from the Hollands and 'Lord FitzWalter'
from Robert Radcliffe, baron and Lord FitzWalter, 1st Earl
of Sussex from such sources which were closely
allied to the Pastons support for minstrelsy.
Robert Radcliffe also married Margaret Stanley whose mother,
Anne Hastings, was the sister to George Hastings, created 1st earl
of Huntingdon in his line by Henry VIII. Radcliffe was a correspondent
of the Paston's in the second half of the 1400's who later, in 1495,
was beheaded by Henry VII .
THE ROYAL BLOODED PASTONS MARRY INTO THE SAVILES
In the Spring of 1452
Henry VI's wife Margaret of Anjou, who at
the time was aged about 22 years, visited the Paston family
at Norwich whilst on a progress of the country. Margaret's
father was Rene the titular King of Sicily. Rene did not
possess much landed property but he was widely known as
"The King of the Troubadours". This suggests that Margaret,
by association, would have had an interest in minstrelsy
in England. After visiting the Paston's Margaret moved
onto Wallingford, Essex where she met with Geoffrey Chaucer's
By the late 1400's
Elizabeth Paston of Paston, Norfolk, married
Sir John Savile of Thornhill, Yorkshire. As
Joseph Hunter remarked, "The most splendid marriage of any
of the earlier Saviles, as the son [Henry] was thus a partaker
of royal blood". Until now this connection between the Savile-Butler
clan and the Paston's seems to have gone unnoticed by Robyn
Hode researchers. The importance of this filial connection
lies in the opportunity such a conduit offered for the spread of
the Robyn Hode ballad[s] from Yorkshire into the
English county of Norfolk. Elizabeth Paston's marriage to John
Savile, sheriff of Yorkshire, thus brought royal blood to the
Saviles. This descended from Edward III's son, John of Gaunt
[Plantagenet], who had married thirdly Katherine Swynford, sister
in law to Geoffrey Chaucer. From the Gaunt - Swynford union descended
the Beaufort lines which were forfeited from the crown but produced
Anne Beaufort who married William Paston, the father of the above
Elizabeth Paston. The other Beaufort line was legitimised over
King Richard III Plantagenet in 1485 at Bosworth Field by Henry
Tudor [later the Henry VII of England]. With the Savile marriage
would come family traditions of balladry and minstrelsy, their
stories of Margaret De Savile, the prioress of Kirklees, the
Church at York and fanciful stories of their cousin, Robert III
Butler of Skelbrooke.
Today Rouge Croix
Pursuivant, Henry Bedingfield, retains the name
THE RADCLIFFES MARRY INTO THE SAVILES
De Radcliffe of Radcliffe Tower, Radcliffe, Lancashire,
daughter of Sir John Radcliffe, had married into
a branch of the Saviles of Elland and Thornhill when she
married a John Savile [d.1405]. This branch of John Savile
paralleled that of his brother, Henry Savile until the former
line became extinct about 1412. This Radcliffe family had
its own strong links to the honour of Pontefract with their lands
lying within the De Laci lands of Blackburnshire. They also had
strong connections with balladry, for the family tales found in
the ballad "Lady Isabella's Tragedy" [c.f. the "Eland Tragedy"] tell
of the dead John Radcliffe's second wife treating his brother's
children poorly after they had been adopted by John. The ballad
tells of Ellen Radcliffe being killed and baked in a pie by Isabella
the wicked step-mother. This ensured that such tales were known and
present in the subsequent Savile households. We know John Radcliffe
of Radcliffe Tower was related to Robert Radcliffe, Lord FitzWalter
for after John's nephew, also a John Radcliffe, died in 1513 the lands
in Lancashire passed in 1518 to Robert Radcliffe, Lord FitzWalter. There
were therefore islands of creativity for Munday to work upon here in
the family traditions of the Saviles, Pastons and Radcliffes.
for the Paston, Savile, Plantagenet-Beaufort, Radcliffe
and Tudor lines.
Robyn Hode and the honour of Pontefract
The Liberty of Leicester [Sussex] passed, upon
the death of Simon De Montfort earl of Leicester
in 1265 to Edmund Crouchback [d.1296], earl
of Lancaster and brother of Edward I, which then passed
to Edmund's son, Thomas who took homage from his tenants
in 1297 gained the Liberty of his lands in 1296.1
[p 53] Thus in 1296 when Gilbert Robynhod
was recorded as a tenant of Fletching in Sussex, the Liberty
was held either by Thomas or by Thomas's father, Edmund Crouchback
who died in that year. This may indicate
that the earliest Robyn Hode 'ballad'
or more strictly the narrative, was not only in the
household of De Laci but also in the Plantagenet family
branches. We might also speculate that the narrative was
also in the households of Edward I [d. 1307] and subsequently
Edward II [d. 1327], III [d.1377] and John of Gaunt [d.1399].
This should not be too surprising given that John Montague,
a courtesan during Edward III's dotage and the time of John of
Gaunt, is believed by some to have written some of the early
narratives [possibly 'Robin Hood and the Monk'. However this ballad
was not printed until about 1450, well before Montague's time at court.
John of Gaunt was no evader of the arts, for he kept literary
company with Geoffrey Chaucer who was John's sister in
law's husband. We might pose the question, was Gilbert Robynhod
['Gilbert of the white hand'?] a minstrel member of Stephen I
Le Waleys household, for another branch of the Le Waleys family is
also found at Glynde Place, East Sussex in the 1200's.
In Northern England, we see the narrative
of A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode
and the legend of 'Robyn Hode' developing. We might
consider that the young Alice de Laci married in
1294 would have been aware of the plight of the yeoman*
Robert Butler a descendant of Hugh Pincerna, Butler to her
grandfather, John De Laci at Pontefract Castle. Her similar
age would make her impressionable and could have left an indelible
mark on her psyche as the cruelty of his death became apparent.
Under these circumstances would not an author be encouraged to
write a play, such as the primeval Geste, as
a memorial to this cruel early death?*Yeomen came
from landed families, if not landed they would
have expectations, yeoman service was not
menial [1, p123]
Chaucer and the honour
There is a likely borrowing of Chaucer's taken
from the a Robyn Hode proverb
and used in his Troilus
Robyn Hode Proverb
Troilus and Criseyde [~1382]
And many talk of Robin Hood,
And never shot his bow
.....Such like folk, I
love but nothing of him know;
talk, but never bent his bow.
[3, p20] cites Ritson who noted
that the 'Saynt Charyte' of the Geste is also found
in Chaucer's Somnour's Tale :
Geste of Robyn Hode
The Somnour's Tale
| "Lat me go,"
than sayd the sherif,
I woll be thy best frende
ever yet had ye.'
In charitree y-thanked be our lord.
Now Thomas ,
help, for seinte Charitee
A Somnor or
Summoner was one who summond miscreants before an
ecclesiastical court. The Sumnor in this case was operating
Robyn Hode, the valetti
of King Edward II's chamber, Chaucer
in 1367, was described as a yeoman or valetti*
of King Edward III's chamber, before he achieved
the status of 'squire' or an armigerous 'gentleman'.
Geoffrey first served as a page in the household of Elizabeth
de Burgh, Countess of Ulster, later becoming a Valet of the
King's Chamber3 [p.88] * 'Dilectus vallectus noster' [our beloved yeoman or
In his Prologue to the Canterbury
Tales Chaucer described the knight's yeoman
The Knight's yeoman,
valetti or Franklin.
And he was clad in
coat and hood of green;
a sheaf of peacock arrows
bright and keen
Under his belt he bore full thriftily;
Well could he dress his tackle yeomanly:
His arrows drooped nought with feathers low,
and in his hand he bore a mighty bow.
A not-heed* had he, with a brown visage.
Of woodcraft well could he all the usage.
Upon his arm he bore a gay bracer,
And by his side a sword and buckler,
And on that other side a gay dagger,
Harnessed well, and sharp as point of spear;
A Christopher on his breast of silver sheen.
A horn he bore, the baldric was of green;
A forester was he, soothly as I guess.
|The modified woodcut
above was used by Richard Pynson for Chaucer's
yeoman, Canterbury Tales, 1491,
and also in the Chepman and Myllar Prints for their version
of the Geste, 1508.
In the 1300's, the
monks at St. John's Priory, Pontefract were cultivating
the root of a Mediterranean plant, liquorice. Liquorice
is found as a native plant of Spain. It was John
of Gaunt who may have returned with the herb to England
in the1360's. Chaucer knew of this plant, probably from
his visit[s] to Pontefract for he mentions liquorice
in his poems as being used to sweeten the breath.
to the tale of Sir Topas :
herbes great and small,
and the setewall,*
to put in ale,
it be moist+ or stale,
Or for to
lay in coffer.
*valerian, + new.
They fetch'd him first the sweete wine,
eke in a maseline,*
spicery; of maple wood
that was full fine,
and eke cumin,
that is trie.+
*drinking-bowl + refined
And he himself
was sweet as is the root
or any setewall.
and bookes great and small,
belonging to his art,
stones, layed fair apart
couched at his bedde's head,
y-cover'd with a falding red.
above there lay a gay psalt'ry
he made at nightes melody,
that all the chamber rang:
ad virginem he sang.
that he sung the kinge's note;
blessed was his merry throat.
this sweete clerk his time spent
friendes finding and his rent.
he chewed grains and liquorice he,
sweet, ere he had combed his hair.
tongue a true lovebare,
thought he to be gracious.
withouten any company,
y-dight* with herbes swoot,
And he himself
was sweet as is the root
or any setewall.
industry in Pontefract still continues its activity
today with the production of 'Pomfret cakes' using
extract from Spain, probably the best hard liquoice ever
For the 'Merrie England' of the
1300's some have also attributed the introduction
of Morris* [Moorish or Morisco] dancing into
England to John of Gaunt. John had a strong association
with Spanish Aquitane from 1366 when he went to join
his elder brother Edward 'The Black Prince" fighting
in northern Spain. During this time he was married to his
second wife, Constance [Constanza] of Castile and Leon. Constance's
sister, Isabella married John's younger brother, Edmund de Langley
who by 1385 was created Duke of York by Richard II. Edmund held thev
manor of Wakefield with Sandal Castle, Wark in Northumberland and
Fotheringay Castle.*A dance performed in ostentatious
costumes, usually representing characters from the
Robin Hood tradition such as Maid Marion and Friar Tuck.
There is a high probability
that John of Gaunt introduced bull running to Tutbury.
This version required minstrels to chase the bull across
the nearby river Dove. The idea seems rooted in the primeval
bull fights or even the bull runs of Pamplona [St. Fermin].
We know that the San Fermin Festival was already in existence
for it is mentioned in the 1200's and 1300's as being run on 10th
October each year. Pamplona lay in Navarre to the east of the Castillian
territory of John's wife, Constance of Castile. The Spanish
Constance lived part of her life at Tutbury and for a while kept
her court here.
of Gaunt established a Court of Minstrels at Tutbury
in Staffordshire in 1381.[11,12] Such
a location will cause the Robyn Hode researcher to recall
that the Tutbury area is another claimant for the legendary
hero. According to Beryl Platts, Ranulf De Blondeville, earl
of Chester was given Robert FitzOdo's lands in Warwickshire whilst
Ranulf held Tutbury and Chartley Castles in Staffordshire near
the manor of Loxley [Park]. Platts suggested that Robert FitzOdo
[Eudo] held land at Hilderstone in Staffordshire in 1138 or 1166
and later aquired Loxley in Staffordshire. Not far away is the
town of Huntington, perhaps after its name-sake in Huntingdonshire
from its proximity to good hunting land, in this case, Cannock
Chase then a forest. It was Ranulf who rebuilt and held Chartley castle
and occupied Tutbury Castle in Staffordshire. Between these two
fortresses lay a manor called Loxley in the county of Staffordshire.
Later the De Ferrers family, earls of Derby, held Tutbury. According
to one local oral tradition and ballad, Robin Hood married Clorinda,
a sheperdess at Tutbury. This ballad by the King of the Fiddlers,
described how Robin met Clorinda, Queen of the Shepherds, in Needwood
Forest and travelled to Tutbury where they were soon wed. It is
likely that this ballad actually sprang from a May Day celebration
perhaps as early as John of Gaunt's time.
The Tutbury Minstrel Court had an
elected 'King of the Fiddlers' [King of the Minstrels]
who held court and presided over the craft guilds in the
five counties of the Midlands [Notts., Derbs., Staffs.,
Leics. and Northants.].
the honour of Tutbury had been forfeited by Robert
De Ferrers 6th Earl of Derby to Edmund
Crouchback Plantagenet, the second son of
Henry III and brother to Edward I. Robert De Ferrers
had been unable to raise £50,000 in silver to recover
his lands and title and was outlawed shortly after
1264. Robert's son, Thomas, by Alice De Leak [Leke] became
Lord of Loxley, Staffordshire. It is often stated that Tutbury
then passed through to Edmund's great grand-daughter Blanche
Plantagenet [d.1329] who as we have shown
above, married John of Gaunt. John encouraged
the court of the ageing Edward III to
become a breeding ground for romantic ballads including those of
Robin Hood. However, what the histories rarely point out is that there
was an interim period of twenty-six years, glossed over.
This period in question occurs when Thomas the 2nd earl of Lancaster
held the honour of Tutbury from the time his father Edmund 1st earl
of Lancaster died in 1296 until Thomas's untimely execution in 1322 at
Pontefract. Thomas was a royal family embarrassment for he turned upon
the main royal line [Edward II]. But his family connexion did not save
him and he paid the ultimate price. This terminating branch line of the
royal Plantagenets is often overlooked or ignored by royal historians
for it seemingly produced no further consequences.
The De Ferrers had held the office of escheators
for Tutbury and this office passed on the marriage
of Isabel De Ferrers of Warton, Staffordshire to
Nicholas Agard of Tutbury, who also now held the earldom of
Derby. The earldom of Derby was finally absorbed into
the Crown by right of the earls & dukes of Lancaster. The
office was carried through to Dorothy Agard who was married,
in 1647, to John Stanhope of Elvaston, Derbyshire. John became
the escheator for Tutbury which carried as its symbol, a hunting
John of Gaunt returned
to England in 1396 with a troupe of Moorish dancers
from Spain and it is thought that their dances were combined
with the English Fool's Dance to produce the Morris
Dance. After his marriage to Constance of Castile, the red
lion and the three ostrich feathers on John's coat of arms
were worn by the Morris dancers and Robin Hood in the May
Morris dancing was introduced even earlier by the
Spanish, Eleanor of Castile, Queen to Edward I. The
dances were certainly common in the 1300's when they
accompanied village merry-making. The Moors are cast
as men with blackened faces [using burnt Spanish cork] and
the Morris dancers represented King Charlemagne's men
fighting the Islamic Moors who penetrated into Spain, from
Morocco, in the 700's :
"The dance varies
from village to village, each town doing their
own unique rendition of the dance with little in common
between them save for a similarity in costumes and
props. In some villages, it's an exhibition only with
only a handful of dancers. In other villages, it's participatory
with literally hundreds of dancers joining in.
Traditional costumes include
men dressed in white with colorful ribbons on
their shoulders and bells on their legs and arms to emphasize
the movement of their limbs with the ringing. They
would dance with swords and pantomine a battle against
men whose faces were blackened with burnt cork, lending
some credence to the theory that the dance originally commemorated
Charlemagne's battles against the Spanish Moors. Some
dancers wore wire frameworks around their waist, decorated
to suggest horses. The children's toy hobby-horse of
a wooden horse head on the end of stick were patterned after
this traditional morris costume."
The importance of Charlemagne or Charles
the Great to the European nobility should not
be underestimated. Under this Emperor of the Western
Holy Roman Empire and as King of the Franks, Charlemagne,
amongst other achievements, stemmed the flow of
Muslim expansion into Europe. He did this by campaigning
in Spain and establishing a military zone or frontier
between Muslim Spain and Frankish Gaul. In time, a reconquest
was undertaken spreading south from Leon and Castile into
Al-Andalus.10 The re-taking of the Iberian peninsula
was not achieved until 1492, this event and the marriage
of Philip and Isabella completely overshadowed another
event, Christopher Columbus's discovery of America, which,
because it did not show immediate lucrative rewards, was dismissed
as a rather interesting distraction.
Reconquest of Spain in the
Spain in the middle 1100's
Morris dancing often accompanied the May Games
and the gentry went a-Maying whilst the peasants
cavorted around the village maypoles.7
During the reign of Elizabeth, stories
of Robin Hood were very popular, the characters,
Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Little John and Friar Tuck would
become involved with the Morris dancing. The traditional
fool's costume was often seen, as well as multiple dancers
portraying a dragon which would often be ritually slaughtered
by the dancers.
Regarding the families of Warrene, De
Laci and Thomas Plantagenet, J.C. Holt [p.113] expresses
"All these had
minstrels in their households in 1306".
Whitsuntide1306 was significant for it was the year
that Edward I invested his son Prince Edward [later Edward
II] as a knight. Prince Edward fom his infancy had been made
the first non-Welsh Prince of Wales. This title is held today
by Prince Charles. As with Charles's investiture as the Prince
of Wales, Prince Edward's investiture as a knight was a grand
occasion attended by many nobles and minstrels alike. Some of the
minstrels were harpists, fiddlers, acrobats fencers, heralds and
messengers. Many minstrels were part of the household of the
attending nobles, being liveried, and were often identified by
their master's name. Thomas of Lancaster had his vielle player and
two trumpeters, Alice his wife brought her harpist and waferer.
John, 8th earl Warrene had Geoffrey his harpist and Countess Warrene
[Joan de Bar, relative of Prince Edward] also brought her own harpist.
Adam of Clitheroe, King Edward I's harpist was also present.1[p
Images of minstrels from the
Queen Mary's Psalter early 1300's
A 'harperer' or harpist
Lute or guitar and vielle players
bagpipe and drum
There is informed speculation and there is................
1. Holt, J.C. Robin Hood.Thames
and Hudson, 1982.
2. Bellamy, John. Robin Hood an Historical
Enquiry. Indiana Press. 1985.
3. Harris, P. Valentine. The Truth
About Robin Hood. London, 1951.
4. Chambers E.K., Sir.
English Literature at the Close of the
Middle Ages. 1945
5. Hunter, Joseph. Great Hero of the
Ancient Minstrelsy of England, Robin Hood,
6. Dobson, R.B. and Taylor, J. Rymes
of Robyn Hood. University of Pittsburgh Press.
7. Alexander, Marc. A Companion to
the Folklaw, Myths and Customs of Britain.
Sutton Publishing, 2002.
8. Phillips, G. & Keatman, M. Robin
Hood The Man Behind the Myth. Michael
O'Mara Books Ltd. 1995.
9. Weir Alison. Britain's Royal Families
: The Complete Genealogy. Pimlico. 2002.
10. Livermore, Harold. A History of Spain.
George Allen & Unwin. 1958.
History of British Music, 1967.
Dommett, Roy. What was Morris?, The [Morris
Ring] Circular, Feb 1994, 23, p 3.
13. Elton G.R.
England Under the Tudors. Methuen,
14. Weir, Alison. The Wars of the
Roses. Jonathan Cape, London. 1995, p169.
15. Butler, Lawrence. Sandal
Castle Wakefield. Wakefield Historical Publications,
Pip Wilson's Tutbury
© Copyright Tim Midgley 2006 internal links revised