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Posts Tagged ‘William the Conqueror’

 

Pope Francis with the Bones of St. Peter

Pope Francis with the Bones of St. Peter

 

I’m not Catholic, but Pope Francis is such a blessing in our times. He marked the end of the Year of Faith by making (what are believed to be) the bones of St. Peter available for public display.

“The relics, normally kept in the private chapel of the Pope’s Vatican apartments, were presented to tens of thousands of pilgrims who gathered to catch a glimpse of the relics. The eight fragments of bone between two and three centimetres (around one inch) long were displayed on an ivory bed within a bronze chest on a pedestal in St. Peter’s Square.”

http://www.ucatholic.com/news/relics-of-st-peter/

I was surprised to see saints’ bones continue to have such power in modern times.

From the article – “The bones were discovered in 1939 in an excavation of the Vatican Necropolis below the main altar at Saint Peter’s Basilica, which has been the consistent traditional burial place of the first Pope since antiquity. The excavation, ordered by Pope Pius XII, found the bones in a first century funerary wall creche, with a Greek inscription of ‘Petros eni’, or ‘Peter is here’. The bones were found wrapped in purple and gold threaded cloth.”

It made me think of our ancestor William the Bastard’s treachery with Harold Godwinson, his contender for Edward the Confessor’s throne. (Later Saint Edward the Confessor.)

William the conqueror from Beayeux Tapestry
There was no oath more binding than one on saints’ bones and William played it.

Simon Schama’s video on Edward the Confessor and William the Bastard – later Conqueror – tells the story better than I can.

If you have time, I urge you to enjoy the whole video. If not, start at 14:24
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8dTIrzuoiA

 

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Micki Suzanne LeCronier (C)

On my last trip to the library, I checked out “Life in a Medieval Castle” by Joseph & Frances Gies. I expected details on things I’d heard – like the contents of privies at upper levels of castles were emptied into the moats below; or that the ladies kept lap dogs to help keep them warm as cold radiated off the stone walls and floors.

Imagine my delight to have the book hit the ground running with our ancestor William the Conqueror’s attack on England. After the Battle of Hastings, he didn’t target London – he worked his way around by ravaging the countryside. Unlike Normandy, England didn’t have essential fortresses and castles. The English had nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

By the time he reached London, city leaders were ready to give it up.

Once he had his throne, he needed to rule with an iron fist. Early in his “career” – at around 19 years of age – William had achieved something that had never been done; he centralized control of castles in Normandy.

Well, he didn’t have fortresses in England. That had to change.

Between 1066 and 1068, William launched a campaign of territorial acquisition that involved building 78 castles – including the Tower of London.  He put Gundulf, his new Bishop of Rochester in charge of building the White Tower of London. Norman masons were employed, some of the stone was imported from Normandy and it took 20 years to build. The medieval fortress was a marvel of its time, with walls 90’ tall and 15’ deep.  

Down the line, the White Tower would receive needed upgrades from other royal ancestors.

William’s son, King Henry Beauclerc was unusual in that he was happily married to his beloved Scottish Queen Matilda. During his long absences she dedicated herself to the completion of the royal apartments in the tower.  

King John Plantagenet sometimes stayed there and is believed to have introduced exotic animals, especially lions. (The Plantagenet coat of arms was three lions.)

Henry III added two waterfront towers and spent time there. In 1283, he was forced to retreat to the Tower and noticed – with alarm – that it was not as secure as it should have been. He built massive curtain walls on three sides, added nine towers and surrounded it all with a moat 150’ wide and 10’ deep. 

Edward Longshanks, King of England, Hammer of the Scots, built tower lodgings that included two beautiful rooms – a great hall and a private chamber with a real lavatory – the only one in the tower.

Edward II was more queen than king; his people weren’t upset because he was gay, they hated that he granted extravagant royal favors to his lover. He wound up spending a lot of time hiding in the tower.

His son Edward III kicked butt; he imprisoned the kings of Scotland and France in the tower, giving them accommodations and amenities suitable to their rank.  

That which keeps people out can also keep people in. Several of our Tudor era WYATT ancestors would be imprisoned there. Sir Thomas Wyatt the Poet was sent there twice and made it out alive.

His friend – lover? – his wife’s second cousin had a big history with the Tower. Anne Boleyn had her spectacular coronation at the Tower’s Great Hall; she was later imprisoned and beheaded there.

The poet’s son, Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger, was equally unfortunate. After the death of Henry VIII’s son, Lady Jane Grey was hastily put on the throne. She ruled for less than two weeks before being overthrown by Mary. Young Sir Tom had been part of the movement to put Jane on the throne, but he managed to convince Queen Mary of his loyalty.  

Lady Jane was spared for a while. She had two things in her favor. She was Mary’s cousin and Mary realized she had been a powerless victim. Mary treated Jane with kindness. Jane was given decent lodging at the tower and allowed to roam the queen’s gardens. Mary even gave her a generous allowance.  All was well for a time.

Young Thomas and his Protestant friends watched the queen passively until Mary made it clear she intended to marry Felipe of Spain – described on a Wyatt family site as “that other gloomy bigot.”

Young Tom despised Spanish influence. He accepted an invitation by Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon, to rise up against Mary.  Thomas held a meeting at Allington and managed to raise 4,000 men. They marched on London in late January, 1554, but the English people rose in support of Henry’s oldest daughter.  The rebellion failed and Thomas was imprisoned in the Tower. They tortured him hoping he would give up the goods on Mary’s half-sister Elizabeth.

Wyatt’s Rebellion caused serious repercussions. Mary knew Jane was innocent, but a queen’s gotta do what a queen’s gotta do. She needed to make examples of Lady Jane and her husband Guilford Dudley.

On February 12, 1554, Lady Jane’s husband was taken from the tower and beheaded in public at Tower Hill.  Jane watched in tears as Guilford passed below her window to the tower. That same day Mary had Jane taken to The Tower Green, within the Tower.  

This account of her execution – and the photo I used for this blog – is from Wikipedia: “The executioner asked her forgiveness, and she gave it. She pleaded the axeman, ‘I pray you dispatch me quickly’. Referring to her head, she asked, ‘Will you take it off before I lay me down?’ and the axeman answered, ‘No, madam’. She then blindfolded herself. Jane had resolved to go to her death with dignity, but once blindfolded, failing to find the block with her hands, began to panic and cried, ‘What shall I do? Where is it?’ An unknown hand, possibly Feckenham’s, then helped her find her way and retain her dignity at the end. With her head on the block, Jane spoke the last words of Jesus as recounted by Luke: “Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit!” 

Mary condemned our ancestor, Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger, to a traitor’s death on April 11, 1554. He used his scaffold speech to exonerate Elizabeth and some say he may have saved her life. In the face of a violent death he said: 

“And whereas it is said and whistled abroad that I should accuse my lady Elizabeth’s grace and my lord Courtenay; it is not so, good people. For I assure you neither they nor any other now in yonder hold or durance was privy of my rising or commotion before I began. As I have declared no less to the queen’s council. And this is most true.”

Wyatt’s head was severed, his body was quartered and his bowels and genitals burned. His head and body quarters were parboiled and nailed up. His head was placed on a post – and later stolen.

Mary didn’t stop at that. She confiscated his estates and titles, causing severe hardships for his widow and children.

Bloody Mary installed Elizabeth in the Tower.

In the years to come, a grateful Queen Elizabeth would not forget Wyatt’s loyalty.

OK, NOW HERE’S THE COOL PART.

I thought to myself our history is tied to that tower, so I went on Netflix just poking around to see what they had. (Subscriptions run around $10/month and you have access to many productions that are available for immediate viewing online.)

I have truly enjoyed “The Tower”, a U.K. production. 

The sections are not very well named, just be patient with it. It talks about MANY of the things I mention here – I put them in italics so you could decide if they might be worth your time. 

This British production even goes into the exact location where our relative Anne Boleyn was actually beheaded; apparently the plaques aren’t to be trusted.

There is too much to describe in detail. Just enjoy. 

http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/The_Tower/70067615?trkid=2431210

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Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger

Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger

I apologize for the lapses between blogs, I am deep into my research. These blogs are previews of my book as a work in progress.  This is very difficult work, so please honor my copyright – mickisuzanne©

Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger made history by affecting the lives of three queens. He threatened one, hastened the death of the second and quite possibly saved the third.

Thomas Wyatt the Younger was born in 1521 at the Wyatt family home – Allington Castle.

Young Tom’s father – Sir Thomas Wyatt the Poet, a.k.a. Thomas the Elder

History describes Sir Thomas Wyatt the Poet as friend and diplomat of Henry VIII. He also had very close ties to his father Henry’s dearest friends – Sir Thomas More and Cromwell. Tom is best remembered for being in love with Anne Boleyn. He wisely stepped aside when Henry VIII expressed interest.

When Henry lost interest, young Tom’s Aunt Mary accompanied Anne to the scaffold; Anne gave Mary her prayer book and whispered her last words for Henry. Anne accepted her fate with grace and forgiveness.  

Young Tom’s mother – Lady Elizabeth Brooke

Lady Elizabeth Brooke was a woman whose pedigree was vastly superior to her husband’s. She descended from William the Conqueror, the dukes of Normandy and the epic Vikings of legend who preceded them. He was the third generation of Wyatts to live in the castle once owned by William’s half-brother Bishop Odo.

Elizabeth was a descendant of John of Gaunt, Plantagenet duke – as were Henry VIII and Queen Katherine of Aragon.  Most royal houses of Europe are connected through this line.

Most notably for her times, Elizabeth’s husband was in love with her second-cousin Anne.  Tom Senior was not alone in his indiscretions, Elizabeth is said to have lived with another man, although it was never proven. Elizabeth’s husband filed for separation on grounds of adultery in 1525. While that type of blatant immorality was a disgrace among common folk, it was acceptable among the nobles.

It’s even said that Henry VIII was eyeing Elizabeth as a potential sixth wife.

Young Tom’s Grandfather – Sir Henry Wyatt Knight

The Wyatt family’s fate was tied to their relationships with the crown.  It was as it had been for generations.

Young Tom’s grandfather, Sir Henry Wyatt Knight, had loyally helped Henry Tudor wrest the crown from the notoriously evil Richard III. He had even endured two years of torture, including the infamous rack.  Henry was steadfast through all of it. According to tradition, Richard III lamented that his own servants “had not such fidelity.”

When Henry finally vanquished Richard at Bosworth, one of the first things he did was release his friend. Then it’s said he told Henry Wyatt “Study to serve me and I will study to enrich you.” And that’s exactly what happened.  One of his most important purchases was Allington Castle, which was in need of restoration.

I will talk about Sir Henry Wyatt in another post. I’m trying to remain invisible throughout this book-writing process, but at this point I have to say that the pitifully unattractive Sir Henry is my favorite ancestor. Well, some of that probably has to do with “the barnacles” – a medieval torture that nearly twisted your upper lip off your face. That and the rack – two tortures he’s said to have endured.   

Henry nearly died in prison. Have you heard the legend of the cat? While imprisoned by Richard III, he was befriended a cat who eventually brought him birds that were cooked by a “compassionate jailer.” He was essentially starving, so the cat saved his life. After that, Henry would “ever make much of cats”.

Henry suffered medieval torture on behalf of Henry Tudor and was generously rewarded for his loyalty and ongoing service for the rest of his life.

When Henry VII died, the gratitude and riches continued to flow through his son. Henry VII had named Wyatt his son’s guardian and upon Henry VIII’s coronation, Wyatt was created Knight of the Bath. 

My impression is that his son Sir Thomas the Poet was frivolous and overly romantic; and that his son, Thomas the Younger was the typical over privileged rebellious kid there for a time; but he finally leaned to righteous causes as an adult.

Thomas Wyatt the Younger

Like his father before him, Young Tom grew up in Allington castle. At 15 he was appointed Esquire of the Body to Henry VIII, and Joint Constable of Conysborough Castle in Yorkshire, a post that was previously held by both his father and grandfather.

His grandfather died when he was 15 years of age. I haven’t done the research yet, but it’s possible Henry had more influence on young Tom than his father. Henry was old and tired by then, while Sir Thomas was still traveling on behalf of the king.

Thomas the Elder died “on the king’s business” when Young Tom was 21; he inherited substantial properties, including Allington and Boxley in Kent. His father was a bit of a gambler and a rogue, so some of the lands went to payment of debt.

In the 1540s Tom served in the wars against France and was given command of his own troops. In 1547 he was knighted. Henry VIII died that same year, but there was little drama as his crown passed seamlessly to his 15-year-old son, Edward VI. Protestants guided the court and all was well – until the young king got sick. Some say he had TB – others suspect his death was hastened by the Duke of Northumberland who “had an agenda”.

Edward had two older sisters. Mary, Catholic daughter of Katherine of Aragon, was a pious pain in the ass. The protestant Elizabeth was daughter of that whore Anne Boleyn; Edward loved her dearly.

Before his death, Henry VIII had recorded an Act of Succession that preserved his daughters’ access to the throne – but John Dudley, 1st Duke of Northumberland had a better idea. He wanted more power. He convinced the young king to exclude both sisters from the line of succession and replace them with his son’s 16 year old wife, the Lady Jane Grey.

Jane’s pedigree was questionable. She was the granddaughter of Henry VIII’s younger sister Mary Tudor, Queen of France.  She was also Mary’s cousin.

Edward died at 15 of a pulmonary infection – poison – or some combination of the two. Lady Jane Grey ruled for less than two weeks before being overthrown by Mary. Young Tom had been part of the movement to put Jane on the throne, but he managed to convince Mary of his loyalty.  

Jane was also spared … for a time. She had two things in her favor. She was Mary’s cousin and Mary realized she had been a powerless victim. Mary had played that role most of her life. Only now she finally had the power she dreamed of. Power to right personal wrongs and return the country to the true religion; Catholicism.

She treated her cousin with kindness. Jane was given decent lodging at the tower and allowed to roam the queen’s gardens. Mary even gave her a generous allowance.  All was well for a time.

Thomas and his Protestant friends watched passively until Mary made it clear she intended to marry Felipe of Spain – described on a Wyatt family site as “that other gloomy bigot.”

The combination of Roman Catholic AND flesh and blood Spanish influence in England was just too much for some.  Understand that Mary’s grandparents were behind Spain’s bloody inquisition.

Young Tom accepted an invitation by Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon, to rise up against Mary.  Thomas held a meeting at Allington and ultimately managed to raise 4000 men. They marched on London in late January, 1554, but the English people rose in support of Henry’s oldest daughter.  The rebellion failed and Thomas was imprisoned.

Some say his wife, Jane Hawte, was told Thomas would be spared if he would implicate Elizabeth; he refused. He was sentenced to a traitor’s death on 4/11/1554. He used to scaffold speech to exonerate Elizabeth and some say he may have saved her life. In the face of a violent death he said: 

“And whereas it is said and whistled abroad that I should accuse my lady Elizabeth’s grace and my lord Courtenay; it is not so, good people. For I assure you neither they nor any other now in yonder hold or durance was privy of my rising or commotion before I began. As I have declared no less to the queen’s council. And this is most true.”

In the years to come, Elizabeth would not forget his loyalty.

Wyatt’s head was severed, his body was quartered and his bowels and genitals burned. His head and body quarters were parboiled and nailed up. His head was placed on a post – and later stolen.

Mary didn’t stop at that. She confiscated his estates and titles, causing severe hardships for his widow and children

Shortly thereafter Wyatt’s Rebellion caused the death of Lady Jane Grey. Mary knew Jane was innocent, but she took advice from Charles V of Spain. She made an example of Lady Jane and her husband Guilford Dudley.

Lady Jane’s husband was taken from the tower and beheaded in public at Tower Hill. Despite the fact that theirs was an arranged political marriage, Jane watched in tears as Guilford passed below her window to the tower.

Mary had Jane taken to The Tower Green, within the Tower. This private execution was seen as a gesture of respect.

This account of her execution is from Wikipedia: “The executioner asked her forgiveness, and she gave it. She pleaded the axeman, ‘I pray you dispatch me quickly’. Referring to her head, she asked, ‘Will you take it off before I lay me down?’ and the axeman answered, ‘No, madam’. She then blindfolded herself. Jane had resolved to go to her death with dignity, but once blindfolded, failing to find the block with her hands, began to panic and cried, ‘What shall I do? Where is it?’ An unknown hand, possibly Feckenham’s, then helped her find her way and retain her dignity at the end. With her head on the block, Jane spoke the last words of Jesus as recounted by Luke: “Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit!” 
 
With Thomas, Guilford and Jane gone, Mary still had to decide what to do with that other threat; Elizabeth. 

***
Please contact me if you find any flaws in my research. Thanks so much – Micki.

 

 

 

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King Edward I of England, a.k.a. St. Edward the Confessor

King Edward I of England, a.k.a. St. Edward the Confessor

This is an informal update.
I just got back from the library. I have a shiny new library card and enough reading material to keep me out of trouble for a few days.

 

I am so hooked on working on this book. Every door I open opens three more. I was going to “head of the line” in Wyatt ancestry and damned if our first DOCUMENTED ancestor wasn’t Captain Guyot – who ran the fleet for William the Conqueror – who also was an ancestor through Sir Thomas Wyatt’s wife Elizabeth Brooke – whose pedigree goes further back than that.

Then I innocently lost focus due to overlap, wandered off into the world of what was and what if. Like our times, history is not black and white. Writers always had an agenda and you hope to find the truth somewhere in the middle. 

William the Conqueror was William the Bastard before he got to conquering. While researching him I discovered his father’s cousin (?) was then king of England – Edward I who would later be known as “Saint Edward the Confessor.”

What opposites.

Then I read some of Ed’s stuff. I don’t think he wanted that job, it sounds like he just wanted to go off and join a monastery.  Historians make him sound like the wimp king who gave up England to the Normans, while the Catholic church  pegs him as saint.

Did Ed have an arrangement with his wife that they would be celibate due to extreme piousness – or did he hate her because her family killed members of his family?? For most couples, that would be a dealbreaker.

And somewhere along the line Ed promised William he would succeed him to the throne if he (Ed) didn’t have heirs. ?? It didn’t sound like he had PLANS to have heirs. 

And I wondered why the saint was trying to help the bastard when I discovered that William spent his childhood dodging assassins. In one case, as a child, another boy he was sleeping with was stabbed in a case of mistaken identity. Poor kid – talk about post-traumatic stress syndrome.

I would have had a soft spot for him – or at least cut him some slack. Plus the young man was a relative on Ed’s mom’s side. Plus William grew up being called the bastard. (I kept thinking Johnny Cash’s “Boy Named Sue” – I grew up quick and I grew up mean, my fists got hard and my wits got keen ….”)

History has an account of him cutting off the hands and feet of some burghers who made the mistake of mocking. 

And poor Ed – he’s got various sides breathing down his neck and all he wants to do is realize his life’s dream – construction of Westminster Abbey.  Then he goes and has a stroke or hemorrhage in November of 1065. He misses consecration of his beloved edifice.   

Turns out by Christmas Ed was alternately delirious/comatose and was “said” to have given his throne to Harold of Somethingorever just before he died on January 4. 

King Harold was crowned (at Westminster no less) on January 6.

Who gives their throne to Harold? Bill and two other guys were furious and all hell broke loose. 

After requesting directions to books on William the Conqueror and St. Edward the Confessor, I asked the librarians where I could find books on Westminster Abbey; they looked at me like I must have been out in the parking area smoking weed. 

It is just amazing. It’s SO much fun, completely addictive.

I apologize for feeding this blog in bits and pieces, but that’s just how it’s going at this point. My next few posts will be about Bill and Ed.

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