Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Siege of Framlingham Castle

Being an author with several works in the pipeline at various stages, I find myself with a dilemma. Do I talk about the work in progress - Empress Matilda and Adeliza of Louvain? Do I post about The Scarlet Lion which is about to be published in the USA on the first of March, and for which I have a blog tour organised? Or do I discuss aspects of my forthcoming new UK release To Defy A King?
Today I have opted for the third choice. I recently talked about Adeliza of Louvain and the blog tour will present all sorts of information about The Scarlet Lion. So it's about time that research from To Defy a King had a few mentions.

When I was writing The Scarlet Lion, I knew that the Bigod family had defied King John and that for a time they sat on the opposite side of the line to their Marshal relatives by marriage. What I hadn't known was that their great castle at Framlingham was besieged by King John in the early spring of 1216. This siege forms a very powerful and significant moment in To Defy A King, despite the fact that it only lasted for three days.
To all intents and purposes, Framlingham castle should have been capable of resisting attack for a considerable time. It was a brand new, magnificent, state of the art castle. Building work had begun in 1189 when Roger Bigod II became Earl of Norfolk as Richard I took the throne. Before that, the old castle had been no more than a manorial hall after its defences were razed by Henry II following the rebellion of 1173 when the Hugh Bigod the first earl had defied him. It took Hugh's son, Roger Bigod II, 16 years to restore the family to favour and regain the title of earl that his father had thrown away. To mark the upturn in his fortunes and to reflect the restored power of the family, Roger II embarked on building a castle worthy of his status.
The new Framlingham was built in the shape of a large, irregular shell keep on a mound, flanked by two baileys and surrounded by a moat. The keep boasted thirteen towers, each one seven and a half feet thick. They were open at the back and without proper floors, having instead, simple wooden gangways. These could be removed in times of danger, thus isolating each tower. If an enemy force reached the wall walk, they would be unable to progress further. Each tower was crowned by a fighting gallery reached by ladder from the wall walk. The towers were so arranged that anyone gaining the inner ward, would be slaughtered in a hail of archers' crossfire. It was formidable. Roger and his family lived in comfort in a great hall built in the inner bailey, but there were soldier's dwellings, guardrooms and latrines in some of the towers.
In times of turbulence, Roger Bigod II rebelled against King John somewhere prior to the signing of the Magna Carta in June 1215, but probably not that much before it. In 1213 John had visited the castle and stayed the night, and everything had been on good terms then. In early 1216, John was in the Eastern Counties dealing with his rebel barons and on March 12th arrived in person before the walls of Framlingham to demand its surrender.
Roger Bigod was not in residence to answer that demand. In all likelihood he was in London with the other rebel barons because later in the month his bowmen and hunters were permitted to go to London and join him there. The castle was held in his absence by one of his vassals and hereditory constable into the bargain, William Lenveise. Lenveise had at his disposal 26 knights, 20 serjeants, 7 crossbowmen, and one chaplain. (we even know their names - see end of the post). R. Allen Brown in his paper on Framlingham castle 'Framlingham Castle and Bigod 1154-1216' suggests that the garrison numbers were larger than the peacetime norm and were at wartime strength. He also remarks upon the crossbowmen (ballistarii) because they were a comparatively recent and effective component of garrison warfare and were much used by both Richard I and John. They also cost a lot of money to hire. To have all this lot in the keep, hints at being prepared for war. However, the Castle surrendered almost immediately and was taken into custody by the king. Why Framlingham didn't put up any resistance is open to conjecture and something I address in To Defy A King. There are several reasons/theories that might explain the rapid capitulation, not least John's massive success at taking Rochester Castle from the rebels, a keep that had been thought to be impregnable. At that point, John's campaign was rolling along very successfully and perhaps the Bigods thought to mitigate the damage later. It has also been suggested that because the castle was so recently under construction, it wasn't fully complete. I have another notion about why they yielded the keep without too much opposition, but you'll have to read the novel to find out. It would be a spoiler to tell you now!
One of the fall outs from the capitulation of the castle, was that John demanded hostages, and one of them was young Roger Bigod, grandson of Roger II and one day to be Earl of Norfolk, but at this point, just a small boy of 6 years old. Was he in the castle when it yielded? It seems very likely. I suspect his mother, Mahelt Marshal, the central female figure in To Defy A King, was there too, but that her husband Hugh, eldest son of Roger II was probably in London with his father.
Little Roger was taken to Norwich and held there. A month later, he was brought to the King at Sandwich by the King's notorious mercenary captain Faulkes de Breaute. For part of the time he was also held in the custody of his uncle, William Longespee, Earl of Salisbury.
The rebellion ended in the later summer 1217 following the Battle of Sandwich and the departure of the Dauphin Louis from English shores. The Bigods returned to loyal service to the crown - at that point in the capable hands of the regent William Marshal, little Roger's maternal grandsire. Framlingham castle was returned to them - probably in the autumn of 1217, but the official notice went out in April of the following year. It is the one and only time that the castle has been beseiged. it is ironic that the only time its formidable defences were threatened, those inside yielded without offering any sort of opposition.

Names of the garrison (always useful if you're a novelist looking for names correct for the period).

Landholding Knights.

Hugh de Braham
Robert FitzOsbert
Reginald de Pirho
Simon Bigod
William de Pischal
Thomas de Braham
Thoms de Lungeville
Turgis de Chesney
William Lenveise (the constable)
Roger de Braham
Mendricus de Gruvill
William de Heingham
Roger Bacon
Michael de Bavent
Reinerus de Burg
Walter de Cadom
Bartholomew Brito
Ralph Canutus
Nicholas de Selton

Sergeants holding land in Norfolk and Suffolk (note the Norse names)

Rogerus Anketil
William Siward
Anketill de Stanham
John Augustin
William Lenebaud
Ralph Storcheveill
Alanus Pistor
Wydo Fabr
Ralph de Flay
Peter Medicus
Stephen de Chesnet
Theobald de Culfhie
Gervase de Bradeford
Richard le Man

Landless Knights

William de Verdun
William FitzWalter
Geoffrey de Gruvilles
William de Burnavill
John Lenveise
Robert Lenveise

Landless Sergeants

Robert Cusin
William de Buningworth
Humphrey le Curt
William de Chesnet
Warn de Butel
William Bachelor

Henry de Grusvilles
Constantin de Morant
Nicholas Peche


Hugh le Cannis
John le Fouter
Bascelin de Charun
Nicholas le Lorimer
Robert Russel
Roger de Seintliz
Herveus Curee

Richard the clerk.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Obit Monday - For Jasper

Usually I talk about medieval history, historical fiction or my writing as it pertains to both, but today I want to honour a family member who has been with me and my husband since my early writing career, but today passed away. I am fine with it, so please you don't have to offer condolences, but I wanted to dedicate this blog post to Jasper.

When we moved house in in 1992 to a village setting within sight of the countryside, we decided that we wanted to share it with a cat and began looking round for a likely candidate. We have a rescue shelter just up the road, so we went for a look to see what they had.
We had initially thought of obtaining a kitten (as many do), but the shelter had none at the time, but a large population of cats. There was a magnificent marmalade tabby called Garfield whom we rather liked, but then another one caught my eye. He was a tabby too, but with darker markings. If his colours were confectionary, then he was bitter chocolate, pale fudge and caramel toffee, with a discreet little white bib on his chest. What made us choose him above Garfield, who was looking very disgruntled, and some of the others lurking at the backs of their pens, was Jasper's utter friendliness. He was rubbing against the bars of his cage, vibrating from the strength of his purr, and his tail straight up in the air like a poker. When brought out for a looksee, the friendliness expanded and blossomed. He went to everyone, expecting the best from them, and giving of his own. The staff told us he was approximately two years old. He had been picked up as a stray, living off the scraps outside a fish and chip shop. Most of his life he was still very partial to chips - and curry sauce!
So that was that. Decision made. Jasper came to join us in the summer of 1992. He leaves us in the late winter of 2010, and there is a hole where he has dwelt, but one lined with joyful memories.
His favourite trick as young cat full of beans, was to go down the avenue to the next turning and hide behind a large plane tree at the junction. There he would lie in wait for passers by on their daily business and then spring out on them with a triumphant 'worra worra worra!' like Tigger in Winnie the Poo. He would bat their ankles (claws sheathed) and then gallop off with his tail on high and canted to one side. Another of his favourite wheezes was to go in people's houses if they left a door open - which could be dangerous. Like the time he strolled into a house where an Alsation dog lived. Fortunately the dog was out on its walk with the neighbour's husband. When the lady of the house emerged from the kitchen, she was highly surprised to see Jasper walking down her stairs after giving himself a thorough tour of her rooms! Another time, he was discovered asleep in someone's airing cupboard! He had to be kept in whenever we had deliveries because he would be off clambering into the vans to investigate. He nearly got driven away by the French polisher man when we had an Edwardian table restored! Down the long years of his life, he had a couple of brushes with death. He was knocked over about a year after we had him. We didn't see the accident, just found him unconscious by the side of the road when we went looking after he didn't return at meal-time (something he never missed). Astonishingly he recovered completely from that one. After a week of staggering around with concussion and what must have been the mother of all headaches, he was as right as rain. Aged 14, he ate a blue-tit and contracted salmonella poisoning that put him in vet hospital for several days while he was re-hydrated and pumped with antibiotics. But he pulled through and it was back to business as usual.
Jasper coped beautifully with the introduction of another cat into the house when he was six. He was the kind of animal who loved everyone at first sight, even curling up to sleep with the neighbour's moggy on sunny afternoons in the garden. Dottie, our second cat was sadly not as amenable to affection and preferred to hiss and spit at Jasper rather than be a companion as we'd hoped, but he still tried to wash her and be friends. The dog he coped with too, barely turning a hair at the introduction of a boisterous puppy into his world. They got on well - within their parameters.
We lost Dottie in the autumn of 2009 - she was only 13, but she had never been robust like Jasper. He continued on, but we had noticed him becoming increasingly frail, and this last couple of weeks, he had suddenly developed severe fluid retention, was barely eating and although still alert, life was obviously becoming a struggle. The mind was still willing, but the body was no longer responding.
I am deeply sad that Jasper has gone. When I was writing, he would sleep in the basket behind my chair, or doze in the garden on a sunny day while I checked notes. Before his arthritis got too bad, he would sometimes accompany me and the dog on an evening stroll round the block. He was a real character with a kind, fun-loving personality (unless you happened to be a blue-tit!) A real gentleman even to the end.
Hale and farewell, my beautiful cat. Jasper: Circa 1990 - Feb 8 2010