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.


Misfit said...

You have just stirred the pot - I can't wait. Is. It. May. Yet?

Svea Love said...

Great post...I hope it does not take to long for a U.S. release of "To Defy a King"!

In the meantime I am very excited to be reading "The Scarlet Lion" after receiving an ARC from Sourcebooks :)

Carla said...

How interesting! I didn't know Framlingham had been besieged, much less that it surrendered without much of a fight. It looks near enough impregnable. I'll be interested to see your take on the story behind that!

Do you suppose that 'Peter Medicus' could have been a doctor?

Libs said...

It really makes me feel for all those mothers who had their young boys taken from them as hostages. It seems to have happened to almost every generation.

Miss Moppet said...

I remember the detail that the towers could be isolated from The Time of Singing but it's very interesting to know how it was done.

Love the Akashic snippet too!

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

Misfit - only 3 months to go!
Muse in the Fog. I think To Defy a King is coming to the USA in paperback in spring 2011 - so it will actually be out in paperback in the USA ahead of the UK publication in paperback! Hope you enjoy The Scarlet Lion.
Carla - Yes, I wonder that too. Although he's listed as a sergeant. Perhaps he was their field surgeon so to speak! I found it fascinating to see the survival of Norse names such as Anketil and Siward in an East Anglian context. The legacy of the Danelaw was still very much there in the early 13thC
Libs, yes, I agree with you. Very distressing. Refusing to give them up was not really an option either - witness the case of Maude de Braose who ended up starved to death in a dungeon with her son. She had initially refused to hand him over as a hostage to King John, accusing John of having murdered his own nephew. The latter is part of why she was hunted down, but the refusal would have counted too.
Miss Moppet. Re the Akashic detail.
I wanted to put a relevant snippet in but had to choose carefully so as not to post an inadvertant spoiler. What I found out from the Akashic records about the circumstances surrounding the siege made perfect sense and enriched what I knew from a conventional historical context.

Joyce Moore said...

Enjoyed your post, and the 13th c. names. My 2010 Oct. release is 13th c. and even though it's set in France, names for the fictional characters took time to find because certain names were so popular, and you can't have three 'Louis's in the same novel. I finally got The Greatest Knight from our library. It had a waiting list, and I can't wait to sit down and open it.

Nadine, Chewy and Lilibell said...

I'm definitely not waiting for it to be released in the US....2011 is just way too long to wait. I'm going to pre-order it through Amazon UK!!

Bearded Lady said...

Your next book sounds fabulous. And I love the cover. Hats off to your designer.

Let me know if you are doing any blog tours. I would love to feature your book over at The Raucous Royals.


Jules Frusher said...

There's one of those open backed towers at Chepstow castle too - and I had always wondered at the purpose (not having been bothered to go and look it up at the time) - so it was great to get an idea of how they worked.

Those hostage situations were fairly common during the period, but it must have brought back some bad feelings for the Mahelt, knowing her family's history - especially as John didn't particularly have the best reputation for leniency.

Re Rochester and John - there has been a film made about this event which should be coming out this year. It is called Ironclad. See here for details:

And I'm really looking forward to the book coming out - I should have finished your other ones by then.

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

Bearded Lady, I will certainly give my publishers a heads up re your blog - thanks.

Jules, Yes, I saw the synopsis for Ironclad somewhere else recently. Appears to have sod all to do with real history, but that's the way of most historical films isn't it? William Marshal wasn't there at the siege of Rochester, and if he had been, he would have been fighting for King John, not against him!

Anonymous said...

I've worked on my American roots for years but just recentely started looking further back to my immigrant ancestor's British families. Three weeks ago I found quite a long line and among them the Marshal and Bigod families. Having never heard of these people my googling brought me to a lot of information including your work, Ms. Chadwick Chadwick. I first read The Scarlett Lion, just finished For The King's Favour and now starting The Greatest Knight. I realize that these books are historical fiction but it is so enjoyable being able to blend two of my favorite things...reading historical fiction and genealogy. I am newly hooked on your books and told my daughter about them. She has recently moved to England and will be sure to see some of the places written about.
Strangely enough my grandfather's first and middle names were William Marshall.
I look forward to reading more of your work. Thank you for such enjoyment!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post! I was just doing some rewrites to a section of my manuscript which takes place in Framlingham castle. I was glad to see that my own research matched what you mentioned. By the way, do you think the castle walls appeared lighter when first constructed than they do today? I read that fact somewhere and now I cannot seem to find that info again to check its validity.

Thanks also for the names...always need one in my pocket.

I look forward to May!