Wednesday, January 30, 2008

William Marshal's horses

Having watched the Timewatch programme on William Marshal on January 19th, or rather a sketchy account of William Marshal's career as a tourney knight, I was surprised that not more was said about his horses. Without a horse (or three) a nobleman making his way in the tourneys was somewhat stumped after all.
I thought I'd fill in a few gaps left by the programme and post a little bit about William's horses as described in the Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal, with a few introductory comments and observations.

William's family were royal Marshal's, hence the name. It derives from Marescallus, roughly translating as Horsemaster and way, way back they were head stable boys. By the beginning of the twelfth century, The Marshal was the Constable's deputy and his job was still fairly hands on and more wide ranging by this time than stable duties. He had such tasks as keeping order around the King's person and checking via his subordinate ushers, those who were admitted into the royal presence - you might say his department supplied the doormen and bouncers of the Middle Ages! He was responsible for getting the show on the road when the court moved from one place to the other. The Marshal had to hire the carts and arrange for accommodation at the arrival end of matters. He was responsible for the kennels, the mews - and the stables of course, where his career originally started. Each lord's son who was knighted by the king, was expected to pay the Marshal some sort of horsey due, depending on purse and status. The fee might be anything from a saddle to a palfrey (a high status riding horse). In times of war, the Marshal was also due any pied (black and white) horses that were captured from the enemy. The reason for this has been lost in obscurity, but perhaps it had to do with the fanciest horses making a show.
As horse masters and soldiers who had to be constantly on the move, the Marshals were horsemen both by aptitude and training. They would know a good animal when they saw it, and how to obtain the best from it.

William Marshal's first association with warhorses begins early in the Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal - and rather unfortunately for him. During the battle for Drincourt, he was involved in some heavy street fighting and surrounded by a gang of Flemish soldiers who tried to tear him down off his mount. One of them had lodged a hooked pole in the hauberk at William's shoulder.
'More than thirteen of them formed a band to knock him off his horse, but he held on by the breast piece of its harness. His spurred his horse on and they tugged and by using force tore through thirteen links on his hauberk....' William managed to fight his way out of the situation but 'as he departed from them, it was on a horse which had the worst of it, for it was wounded in many places and from the wounds the blood streamed from its body; such a loss of blood so impaired it that its death was inevitable.'
Thus the Marshal's war horse was a victim of the street fighting and its loss a source of financial embarrassment to the Marshal. As a green youngster he was not canny enough to realise that he should have held for ransom the men he had downed in the battle.
Once peace had been restored, the Marshal could have gone tourneying to win money and renown, but he didn't have a destrier on which to do so. 'The Marshal was much displeased and greatly dismayed, for all he had was his palfrey now that his fine horse had died from the wounds it had received as he rode it. William was reduced to selling one of the cloaks he had at his knighting for twenty two shillings in Angevin currency. This was apparently sufficient to buy a rouncy - 'un rocin' - a common all purpose riding mount, which he turned into a pack horse (somer, or sumpter) for carrying his arms. Rounceys were of less quality and value. You never see a rouncey being offered as a gift, bribe, or payment in the pipe rolls of the period but palfreys are a frequent item.
News then came to the Tancarville household about a great tourney to be held between Sainte-Jamme and Valennes. William was despondent because he had no warhorse. His lord promised him one, but when it came to sharing out the horses available to the Tancarville knights, William was last in line and had to have the destrier that no one wanted. It was 'strong, fine and well-proportioned, very lively, swift and powerful, fine and valuable. However it had a flaw that was a terrible drawback. The horse was 'so wild that it could not be tamed. The Marshal mounted it. Not once did he use his elbows; instead he pricked it with his spurs, and the horse, flying faster than a hawk, bounded forwards. At the point where it should have been reined in, it turned out that it pulled incredibly hard. Never had it had a master able to make it pull less, even if he had fifteen reins to restrain it. The Marshal gave the matter some thought and came up with a brilliant scheme: He left out the bridle at least three fingers' lengths from the bit and so released the lock of the bit that it went down into its mouth and so it had far less to bite on than was usual. For no amount of gold or riches could he have reined it in any other way.... The horse was so improved by this new bridle that he could have been ridden round in half an acre of land as if he were the tamest on earth.' We know from the description of the tourney in which they then fought, that the horse's name was Blancart. I'm not up on Old French, but this suggests to me that the horse was perhaps a grey. Horses seem generally to be named for their colour, their markings, or their owner or place of origin. It's also interesting to see that a landless knight's lord would provide that knight with arms and equipment as a matter of largesse and honour should the circumstances require. Obviously in quiet times, said knight was expected to fend for himself, even if that involved selling his best cloak to buy a horse.
William duly took Blancart onto the tourney circuit and was soon making a name for himself.
It would seem that horses from Lombardy, an area of Northern Italy, were particularly prized and are one of the types mentioned by name. Obviously they were immediately recogniseable on the tourney field. 'He swiftly stretched out his hand towards a horse from Lombardy, and its rider was not sufficiently bold as to dare to defend it.' William took the horse off him and gave it into the custody of his squire.
A short while after this incident, William joined the entourage of his uncle Patrick, Earl of Salisbury, who was acting as a governor of Poitou. While escorting Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine between one castle and another, the company was set upon by their enemies, the de Lusignans. Patrick called for his warhorse because at the time of the attack he was 'quite unarmed and riding his palfrey.' (showing that warhorses were not used by lords and knights as general riding beasts). Unfortunately, while trying to mount his destrier, he was struck from behind and killed. William himself, although fully armed and riding his warhorse, was little more fortunate and lost yet another horse in battle as the Lusignans killed it under him. (I so hope it wasn't Blancart!).
Having been ransomed from his predicament by Eleanor of Aquitaine, William joined the royal household as tutor in chivalry to Henry and Eleanor's eldest son, The Young King and from that position in society, set out to tourney with a joyous vengeance. 'Then you would have seen many kinds of banner and flag fall and slide into the mud, and many a horse, both piebald and bay, fleeing riderless over the field. Those most able to take full advantage made gains and captured horses.' What happened to these horses? The Histoire doesn't say, but I would make an educated guess that they were either kept, sold on, or ransomed back to their owners. One of the main methods of capturing a knight in the tourney appears to have been by seizing his bridle and dragging him by main force out of the tourney, then forcing him to yield.
There's an amusing tale about a tournament at Eu. The knight Matthew de Walincourt approached on a fast galloping horse and William rode to engage him. De Walincourt was knocked from his mount and William 'quickly took his horse's bridle and rode off towards the men on his side.' De Walincourt was somewhat upset at this turn of events and protested to the Young King, who told William to return the horse as a mark of courtesy. William did so. However, later in the day, he encountered de Walincourt again. The latter had upped the ante and put on better equipment but that still didn't prevent William from knocking him off his mount and taking the horse a second time. 'So now the Marshal had a very good deal, for he had won the horse twice in a single day.' De Walincourt again protested to the Young King, who at first thought that William had ignored his order to restore the horse. 'He thought it very wrong of him to have waited so long to do so.' William explained that he'd taken the horse off de Walincourt not once, but twice. He also said he wasn't going to return the horse because de Walincourt had once taken a horse off William at at tourney when he was a raw youngster and had refused to give it back even when asked to do so by men of higher rank than William. De Walincourt replied that William had been of little esteem at the time and that was why he'd not cared to give him back his horse. At which remark, William effectively said tit for tat, and who was esteemed now? His retort evinced great mirth from those listening in.
From mention of other incidents in the Histoire, it becomes evident that a good destrier in the late twelfth century would cost around forty pounds and that a beast of less worthy calibre put up for quick sale would cost around fourteen. As seen above, a common hack could be bought for 22 shillings Angevin.
Horse thieving was a hazard of the day - both for the owner and the thief! An incident is reported where William had gone to the lodging of Count Theobald of Champagne one night during a tourney gathering. He was riding on 'a tall and valuable horse' which was stolen by a thief from outside the lodging. The hue and cry was raised and William went in pursuit of his mount and the thief. Having caught up with them, he recovered his horse and gave the thief a beating for the deed - and a bad enough one at that to cause the man to lose the sight of an eye. However, when others wanted to hang the man, William said that he had had enough of a lesson.
The attrition rate for warhorses would be interesting to know. As above mentioned, we know of two that William lost in battle. Further on in the Histoire, William killed Richard the Lion-Heart's destrier under him with a single lance thrust. On another occasion, William was engaged in an assault on Montmirail. 'those standing on the bridge gave him a rough reception: they pointed their lances in his direction and all together, stuck them in his horse's chest, but thanks to the power of and providence of God, the hoofs of the horse switched position, with those at the back now at the front, and it came down the slope of the bridge, so that no harm befell the Marshal.' His squire, John of Earley, who had charge of William's horse, 'on removing its coat, he could see the incisions and wounds made by the lances. He said to his lord the Marshal: 'Your horse is wounded.' The Marshal came to look and together they found seven wounds on the horse's body, made by the steel-tipped lances. There were wounds to the shoulders, neck and chest, but the Marshal was in no way concerned by this for he saw the horse would make a good recovery.' One wonders how many warhorses an active tourney knight and warrior went through in a lifetime! William Marshal certainly seems to have had his share. When he went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, he left his two most valuable warhorses with King Henry as a surety against his return. Whether they were waiting for him on his return, the Histoire doesn't say.
Of William's later career and relationship with his horses, the Histoire says little, but from the first part at least, the reader can glean some useful insights into the importance and standing of the destrier in a knight's life. Clearly there were top class mounts that fetched a premium price, just as there were less exalted beasts. Without a destrier, a tourney knight was stymied and in case of disaster it was better to have at least two or three - and preferably a Lombard!

For those interested in knowing more about the warhorse in William Marshal's period, the most useful book for a starter is The Medieval Warhorse from Byzantium to the Crusades by Ann Hyland, published by Alan Sutton ISBN 0 86299 983 9

My own research for this piece was mostly carried out using the Anglo Norman Text Society's translation of the Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal. isbn 0 905474 42 2
For the details on the Marshalsea I referenced The Bigod Earls of Norfolk in the thirteenth Century by Marc Morris, published by Boydell ISBN 1843831643
Also re the Marshalsea I referenced the Constitutio Domus Regis in Oxford Medieval Texts OUP ISBN 0 19 822268 8

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A few more photos: Apologies for strange formatting!

Here are a few more photos from my Norfolk research visit. For some reason the formatting won't let me publish more than a handful at a time. The first is a photograph of the interior of Framlingham Castle. The wall on the right in the shade with the two narrow Norman chimneys and window holes is where Roger and Ida's first home was - the old hall, with the chapel adjoining where the figures are. If you check back in my archieves, you can see an artist's impression of this hall. url here.

The second picture shows the other side of the ward and the site of Roger and Ida's new hall, completed circa 1200 (he started building 1189/1190) The remnant of that hall is the building at the end of the row looking to the right with a white left side and blue door.

The third picture shows the mere, looking from the wall walk near Roger's new hall. In his day, it would have been a much larger spread out marsh.

The Bigod family had important sea-faring connections. They owned among other coastal villages Cromer, Hunstanton, Yarmouth and Ipswich. This photograph was taken on the way to Cromer for afternoon tea. I've used sea imagery in the novel for some of Roger's traits, and I get the impression he enjoyed his coastal territories and was a good sailor (unlike William Marshal!)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Family Crisis: Timewatch: Norfolk

I'm covering several bases in this blog.
First to say I might be a bit sporadic posting for a while but will try to keep posting on a regular basis. My mother in law is severely disabled i.e. she cannot cope on her own. Her main carer, my father in law was taken to hospital last night after a fall. My schedule is going to have to be rearranged as we work round this, so online time will be one of the casualties. For readers awaiting the new novel - don't worry. It's on track and will be delivered on time!

Timewatch. I've said quite a lot about it on the BBC2 Timewatch forum, although you'll need to scroll around a bit as the new posts are about their latest episode.
I feel the programme was reasonable entertainment for those who knew nothing or were generally interested, but very frustrating for viewers in the know or with an interest in The Marshal. It was mostly about the tournament and William Marshal was obviously a convenient peg on which to hang the subject rather than being a subject in his own right - so a massively missed opportunity. Professor Crouch and Juliet Barker knew their stuff and mostly I enjoyed the 'talking heads' section, although Saul David goes to knightschool was not as edifying. I was surprised to see one of the producers telling the forum that Geoffrey, son of King Henry II, had been killed at a siege by a crossbow bolt. (thus confusing him with his brother Richard the Lionheart) and the same again when the Grand Master of the Temple Church thought he might have 3 sons of William Marshal among the effigies. Actually there are 2. You'd think the custodian would know. Then again see an earlier blog of mine:
Verdict - Interesting in a general sort of way but but rather uneven on its subject matter and could have been better presented and scripted.

My next main blog piece, inspired by thoughts while watching the programme, will be about the warhorses of William Marshal and co. (they barely got a mention)

Finally I said I'd post some photos of my research photos and inspirations to my blog, so here they are to entertain during what I hope won't be too long an absence.

p.s. The formatting on the blog post has decided to play up, and will only let me post 4 photographs at the moment.... one of those days I suspect! Apologies
The pictures are of Framlingham Castle, Castle Acre, some blind arcading at Wymondham Abbey and the Prior's house at Castle Acre Priory.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

William Marshal. The Greatest Knight: Timewatch Reminder

A reminder that the Timewatch programme about William Marshal - The Greatest Knight - is on BBC2 on Saturday at 8.10pm if you're in the UK!

The write up sounds as if it might be a bit 'boy's own' adventure without the budget, but it will be interesting to see how much of the essence of the great man - the Winston Churchill of his day - they actually manage to capture. I've just listened to the audio clip. Hmmm.... a lot about tournaments and warfare etc but very, very little about the Marshal himself. I really, really hope the programme focuses on the all round achievements of this remarkable, charismatic personality and doesn't just concentrate on the prowess of his lance. There was so much more to William Marshal than that. You can listen to the audio clip here:
There was a comment made that knights didn't have particular well developed leg muscles.. I don't know how true this is in an archaelogical context, but it seems to me that your legs would have to do a lot of work on the tourney field keeping you in the saddle. They wouldn't just be extraneous appendages. I'd be interested to know from a more informed viewpoint than that of the audio commentators.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Next Lot of Research Books

Here is the next chunk of research books I've used to help me write THE TIME OF SINGING.
These are the more general ones involving politics and aspects of Medieval life. I've not listed them all, I'd still be here this time next week, but here's a cross-section selection. (try saying that 3 times fast!)
The picture is from The Castle Story by Sheila Sancha. It's a fabulous resource detailing the history of castle building throughout the Middle Ages. I particularly like it for its clear diagrams and reconstruction illustrations which have really helped me get a grasp on how things might have looked. If you click on the picture, it should enlarge to give you a good idea of how Framlingham Castle looked before my hero, Roger Bigod, rebuilt it when he was finally granted the earldom in 1189.

Also for the story of Framlingham Castle, I used a detailed article in Castles Conquests and Charters: The Collected Papers of R.Allen Brown published by Boydell.

English Heritage's guidebook to Framlingham Castle

Norman Stone Castles (1) The British Isles 1066-1216 by Christopher Gravell, illustrated by Adam Hook, Osprey Publishing. Fortress series. Has a good diagram of Framlingham's curtain wall and how it worked in defending the castle

The Building of Orford Castle - a translation from the Pipe rolls 1163 - 78 translation by Valerie Potter.

The Birth of the English Common Law by R.C. Caenegem - Cambridge University Press

English Justice between the Norman Conquest and the Great Charter 1066-1215 by Doris M. Stenton

England Under the Norman and Angevin Kings by Robert Bartlett

The City of London from Prehistoric Times to 1520: edited by Mary Lobel (maps)

Survey of Medieval Winchester vols 1 and 2 by Derek Keane

Old London Bridge Lost and Found by Bruce Watson - Museum of London

England Without Richard 1189-1199 by John. T. Appleby

The Medieval Garden by Sylvia Landsberg

Tournament by David Crouch

Armies and Warfare in the Middle Ages: The English Experience by Michael Prestwich

The Sword in the Age of Chivalry by Ewart Oakeshott

Cogs, Caravels and Galleons: The Sailing Ship 1000 - 1650 - Conway's History of the Ship

Sexuality in Medieval Europe: doing unto others by Ruth Mazo Karras

The Plantagenet Empire 1154-1224 by Martin Aurell

Next time, for a finale, I'll post a few pictures from my own gallery of photographs I have used to inform and inspire me.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Continuing the Research Books

Next up as promised, here is the list of my primary source research books used in the writing of THE TIME OF SINGING. I don't read Latin, but I can have a good guess at some of the gist when it isn't in translation - although obviously it's a boon when a translation is available. All of the below material is from sources around at the same time as my characters, so I feel they give me an immediate handle into their world and one that I can interpret for myself at first hand, rather than have it go through the filter of later opinion.

Not in any order:
Jocelin of Brakelond: Chronicle of the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds.
Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal, vols 1 and 2 - Anglo Norman Text Society
Richard FitzNigel - Dialogus de Scaccario - Oxford Medieval texts
Constitutio Domus Regis - Oxford Medieval Texts
The Treatise on the Laws and Customs of the Realm of England Commonly Called Glanvill - edited and translated by G.D.G. Hall - Oxford Medieval Texts
The Church Historians of England vol 1V part 1. The Chronicles of Melrose and Jordan Fantosme's Chronicle
The Great Roll of the Pipe for the 9th Year of Richard I. Click on the picture below for a larger image and you should be able to see an example of the pleas my hero Roger Bigod was hearing in Yorkshire in this period during his term as a royal justice on the itinerant circuit.

Feet of Fines for the 7th and 8th years of the Reign of Richard I - Pipe Roll Society

Feet of Fines for Norfolk and Suffolk 1199 - 1215
Pipe Roll Society

Court, Household and Itinerary of Henry II - collated and translated by the Rev. R. W. Eyton.

Roger of Wendover's Flowers of History volume 2 part 1. 1170 - 1215 AD

That's about it I think, although there may be one or two others lurking in forgotten corners. Next time round I'll list the political and social history sources that haven't fitted into these first two categories.

Friday, January 04, 2008

New Year, New Title, and grubbing among the tomes

First of all A Happy New Year to everyone and hope that it's a good one!

For me the first of January was deadline time to have a title for the work in progress. For the last year it's been known as Roger and Ida - the names of the protagonists, but obviously that's not what it's going to be called when it arrives in bookseller's catalogues. I had made a few suggestions to my publisher but there was nothing we could agree on. Finally, over the Christmas break, I got out my bible and headed off to the work of Ecclesiasts, Proverbs and the Song of Solomon to see if there was anything there that would fit. Eureka there was. Roger and Ida I now hereby officially name THE TIME OF SINGING. This comes from the lines:

'My beloved speaks and says to me:
'Arise my love, my fair one,
and come away;
for lo, the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth
the time of singing has come.'

Isn't that just beautiful? I have always loved the song of Solomon. It's a beautiful poem. The quote is very appropriate to the novel because when Roger first sets eyes on Ida she is singing, and she loves music. Gardens and orchards feature quite a lot in the novel too. There's also a line from the poem that says: 'Your flowing locks are like purple; a king is held captive in the tresses.' Since Ida had an affair with King Henry II before she married Roger Bigod, I felt that this line was synchronicity. I had been let to the right place and I am relieved to have a title to take the novel forward.

I thought I'd begin listing the research books I've been using to write THE TIME OF SINGING.
Perhaps a handful at a time. They won't be in any sort of order - just as they are assembled on the shelf above my PC at the moment. I have an extensive research library but the books I know I'm going to need to refer to, I pull out of the stacks and keep close.

Obviously biographies of the most important personages are important.
The main ones I have used - other than checking out the Dictionary of National biography online are:

The Bigod Family: an investigation into their lands and activities 1086-1306 by Susan Atkin (PHD thesis)
Henry II by W. L. Warren
King John by W. L. Warren
Eleanor of Acquitaine by Marion Meade
Eleanor: April Queen of Aquitaine by Douglas Boyd
Eleanor of Acquitaine and the Four Kings by Amy Kelly
Richard I by John Gillingham
The Bigod Earls of Norfolk in the Thirteenth Century by Marc Morris
William Marshal, Knighthood War and Chivarly 1147-1219
Who's Who in Medieval England by Christopher Tyerman

Next up in a few days the primary sources: