College of St George Archives Blog

College of St George Archives

Posts Tagged ‘Edward III’

William Edington, statute writer

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

October this year marks the 650th anniversary of the death of William Edington, Bishop of Winchester. A financially astute servant of King Edward III, Edington served as Keeper of the Wardrobe, Treasurer and Chancellor throughout his career, arranging the kingdom’s finances to enable the king to pursue the costly Hundred Years War.

To find his significance in the history of the College of St George we must look back to our College Statutes. Amongst the oldest records relating to the College, these were first produced in 1352, four years after the College was founded by Edward III. The oldest surviving copy is on a vellum roll in the St George’s Chapel Archives, dating from the late-fourteenth or early-fifteenth century [SGC XI.D.20].

The College statutes were written by William Edington and Simon Islip, the Archbishop of Canterbury. They were entrusted with the work by Pope Clement VI, who stated in a papal bull issued on 30 November 1350 [SGC PB.3] that he fully approved and supported Edward III’s intention to found a college of canons, priests, clerks and Poor Knights at Windsor for the salvation of his soul and other people’s. Clement VI confirmed his confidence in Edington’s and Islip’s mindfulness of God and so granted to them the authority to order and enact statutes for the College and to appoint its first members.

The statutes that Edington and Islip produced covered a wide range of subjects in meticulous detail; everything that they considered important for the successful operation of the College and of St George’s Chapel. There are instructions about each member of the College, from the Dean (then known as the Warden) to the boy choristers: where they are to live and how often they are expected to attend services in St George’s Chapel, how much they should be paid and the penalty if they did not fulfil their obligations. For example, each Poor Knight was to receive 40 pence in sterling silver a year, plus 12 pence for every day he was resident at Windsor. If a Poor Knight was not in residence then his money for that day would be distributed among those who were. A Poor Knight was obliged to attend four services each day: two masses, evensong and compline, and to say one hundred and fifty salutations to the Virgin Mary, interspersed with fifteen recitations of the Lord’s Prayer, at each.

To ensure sound religious practice and financial management rules were provided about which people the Dean and Canons must keep in their prayers, about the duties of the different offices to be held by the Canons of the College and about how to invest any money that the College had left over at the end of a year. The statutes go into detail about the behaviour and appearance of members of the College – canons, vicars and clerks were discouraged from frequenting “taverns and suspicious places” and could be suspended from entering the quire for appearing too often in unclean or ridiculous attire. To maintain both the peace and the reputation of the College, anyone proven to be a defamer, grumbler and sower of discord was to be expelled.

Following Edington’s death, which is believed to have fallen on 6th or 7th October 1366, a tomb bearing his effigy was erected to commemorate him in the nave of Winchester Cathedral. Our statutes form another lasting memorial to his life and work as, with the addition of a number of supplemental charters to make them workable in the modern era, they are still in effect for the governance of the College of St George today.

Kate McQuillian, Assistant Archivist

The 670th anniversary of the Battle of Crécy

Friday, August 26th, 2016

670 years ago today, on 26 August 1346, one of the most significant victories in English military history took place – the Battle of Crécy – where, against the odds, Edward III’s army defeated the forces of Philip VI of France. The battle formed part of the long running dispute between England and France, later known as the Hundred Years War, which had been instigated by the founder of St George’s College, Edward III, to assert his claim to the French throne. Following the victory, the English forces were able to capture the strategically advantageous city of Calais from their weakened opponents within a year.

Despite its importance to Edward III’s campaign, not many reports have survived from Crécy. The fullest and most contemporary account now known was produced by an Italian, Giovanni Villani, sometime before 1348.(1) Edward III is reported to have chosen a stand at Crécy to confront the French army who were pursuing him. Villani states that while the French had 12,000 knights and almost numberless men at arms, the English had just 4,000 knights and 30,000 English and Welsh bowmen. These numbers are almost certainly greatly exaggerated, but they do give an idea of the relative sizes of the two armies. The English king used his position and small numbers to the best possible advantage, ordering that the carts carrying their provisions should be arranged to protect the English forces and leave only a small area in which the troops could engage. Combined with the (in)famous longbows, this strategy rendered large parts of the French army useless: their hired Genoese crossbowmen did not have enough range to out-shoot the English while armoured and horsed French knights could be brought down from a distance, thereafter becoming obstacles for their own men. Such tactics were considered ‘un-knightly’ by the French and much scorned by their chroniclers.

One of several theories about Edward III’s reasons for founding the chivalric company, later known as the Order of the Garter, in 1348, was to reward those who had served him well in France and to secure their future loyalty. Of the twenty five men usually considered ‘Founder Knights’ of the Garter, well over half had been present that day at Crécy and many of them also at the successful siege of Calais which followed.

Notable among these was Edward III’s eldest son, ‘the Black Prince’, who at just sixteen years old commanded one of the three divisions of the English troops. He was supported in this by Sir Bartholomew Burghersh, Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, and Sir John Chandos, who would all become Founder Knights. Meanwhile, Sir James Audley, Sir Reginald Cobham, Sir John Lisle, Sir John Grey and Sir John Beauchamp fought in the king’s retinue, Beauchamp carrying the Royal Standard.

However, not all those gave distinguished service at Crécy, and other battles in the Hundred Years War, were chosen as ‘Founder Knights’. Some were appointed later in the 1340s and 1350s, notably Sir William FitzWaryn, Earl of Northampton, William de Bohun and Sir Thomas Ughtred. Meanwhile, Richard FitzAlan, the Earl of Arundel, who had been given command of one of the three divisions of the English army at Crécy, never rose to the distinction of Garter Knight, although he lived for nearly thirty years after the company had come into being. The early development of the Order of the Garter is lost in obscurity and this apparent omission, along with many other details, may never be fully understood.

Kate McQuillian, Assistant Archivist

(1) A detailed analysis of this and other accounts can be found in Barber, R., Edward III and the Triumph of England (London, 2013).

A king five years ahead of schedule?

Monday, July 18th, 2016

On my third day of work experience at the College of St George’s archives on a two-week attachment, I was asked to catalogue the digital photographs which record the various sections of the ‘Tables’ of the Knights of the Garter, which hang in the Deanery at St George’s Chapel.

The ‘Tables’ are large hinged panels displaying the coats of arms of every individual appointed to the Order of the Garter since its foundation, arranged according to the reign during which they were appointed. They were moved from the main part of the Deanery to a room known as Mr Dean’s Upper Hall (later the library) in the 1920s by Dean Albert Victor Baillie, who feared their former position left them vulnerable to damage or theft.

Testing carried out on the paint and woodwork of the panels in the early 2000s suggests that these panels date from the seventeenth century, and indeed the central decorative panel is painted with the initials CR, presumably for Charles Rex, one of the two Charleses to reign during that century. There is strong documentary evidence that panels similar to these existed as early as 1400, but what became of those is unknown.

While examining the photographs, I noticed in one image from the collection an inscription which caused me something of a conundrum. I understood that it related to Edward III – Edwardus tertius – but some of the numbers did not add up.

The inscription surrounding Edward III’s coat of arms appeared to read ‘Began to Reigne Jan ye 25. In 1322 And He Reigned 1 years & 5 mon.’ This was very suspicious as the reign of Edward III is well documented as having begun on 25 January 1327, when he was crowned at the age of fourteen after his father was deposed by the Queen and the Earl of March. He reigned for a little over fifty years before dying in June 1377.

Fortunately, closer examination of the photograph showed one perceived mistake was just a mis-reading on my part. The painter had mixed Arabic numbers and Roman numerals and what had looked at first glance like a 1 was in fact an L – the Roman numeral for fifty.

Even so, Edward III’s date of coronation has indisputably been painted on the panel as 25 January 1322, when we know that it was 1327. Surely there was a reason why?

There was no answer to this question – it seems that the painter had simply included the wrong date. It leads to an interesting thought on how even those employed by the highest in society to work on material relating to kings and queens can make slips of the pen – or paintbrush – and how one must always keep an open mind when looking at any historical evidence.

Stuart Hemsley, work experience student, St George’s Chapel Archives

Conservator’s eye view: wax seals

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

The Medieval Seals at St George’s Chapel Archives or a Geek’s blog

My background has been rich in the conservation and restoration of many historical artefacts mostly on paper and parchment, books and paintings and in the service of the most prestigious of clients. But rarely have I encountered wax seals, those mostly little red things hanging from the bottom of documents, so my introduction to them four years ago by the gracious Librarian & Archivist, Dr Clare Rider at St George’s Chapel Archives was met with not a little apprehension. Since then I have offered my voluntary service on Tuesdays to help clean, repair, survey and protect some 2,000 plus fascinating medieval wax seals. When I relate what I have been up to for the past four years to some of my family and all of my friends I am met with a glazing-of-the-eyes and pathetic attempts to suppress their yawns. I have morphed into, not a Navy Seal, but a Geek Seal and very proud of it I am too! So let me try to explain what treasures we have at St George’s Chapel Archives and to begin with a short background to the subject.

Four wax seals attached by parchment tongues to a deed from 1530

A seal attached to a legal document is a device for authenticating the document. It may be attached by a tag (a strip of parchment threaded through slits made in the folded foot of the document) a tongue (a strip cut laterally across the foot of the document with the seal attached at the end) or a cord (made from wool, silk and often plaited, threaded through the foot of the document) or applied directly onto the document. Most early seals are made of coloured beeswax, although some are left uncoloured and they generally have an impression stamped into them, though again, some are just wax blobs. The impression is created by a hand-engraved matrix or die, which in principle is the personal property of its user, i.e. the person accepting responsibility for what the document says. In England prior to the early 11th century the solemn grants of lands and rights bore no seal and their authority was written and signed by eminent witnesses along with the sign of the cross for sacred and divine significance. The earliest English documents known to be authenticated by attached seals are the writs of Edward the Confessor (1042-66). This is possibly the period when wax or metal seals were introduced as a permanent form of document authentication in England.

Whilst there are many thousands of medieval wax seals, some broken but many intact, within the archives of British libraries and institutions there are sadly very few of the matrices remaining. This is a pity because the study of the subject is enhanced if a well impressed seal has its matching ‘partner’ complete, like two hands coming together in prayer. Nevertheless, the real importance is the document together with its attached seal. The matrix would have been engraved and made by hand, some of the best were done by gold or silversmiths, and the materials used were copper alloy, gilt or silver and most had a handle made of metal or wood which would be held and pressed into the soft wax. Some smaller seals were made of precious metals in the form of a signet ring.

The front of King Edward III's Great Seal from 1333

The reverse of King Edward III's Great Seal from 1333

The broad categories seals and their respective documents take are as follows:

  • Royal seals or Great Seals (very often double-sided);
  • Aristocratic and heraldic seals;
  • Secular clergy seals, e.g. Bishop’s seals of dignity;
  • Personal seals (mostly un-heraldic);
  • Seals of corporate bodies, e.g. monastic and town seals

My four years of experience at St George’s Chapel Archives has enabled me to experience all of these categories, but the overriding majority of seals here are personal seals, belonging to the seal owning public. The great spread of personal seals in the 12th/13th centuries and after reached out to virtually all landholders, from the largest to the smallest. It seems that virtually no one, including villeins, such as tenant farmers, was denied the use of a seal to authenticate a legal document – either their own or a borrowed seal. Therefore the plethora and complexity of designs and motifs impressed into the wax for us to study today is astounding. The collection of personal seals at St George’s Chapel Archives is no exception.

A seal depicting a grotesque head. Sketch by Peter Eley.

A seal depicting a phoenix rising from the ashes. Sketch by Peter Eley.

A seal depicting a two-faced man. Sketch by Peter Eley.

Peter Eley, Library and Archives volunteer

Isabella: capricious child and Garter Lady

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

As we know, the Order of the Garter, founded in 1348, remained an exclusive male preserve until the late 20th century.  However, in the 14th and 15th centuries, there were more than seventy ladies who were granted Garter robes and so have come to be known as Ladies of the Garter.  Most were either daughters or wives of Garter knights, and in some cases both.  The last of the medieval ladies to be so honoured was Elizabeth Tudor (died 1495), daughter of Henry VII.  After her death, no more Garter ladies appear in the records until the 20th century, when Queen Alexandra was declared a Lady of the Order by special statute in 1901.

One of the earliest Garter ladies was Isabella, eldest daughter of Edward III (1312-77) and Philippa of Hainault (c.1310-1369).  She was born at Woodstock Palace, Oxfordshire, on 16 June 1332, the second of the ten surviving children of the royal couple.   Isabella was to be her parents’ favourite child and they spoilt her accordingly.  As a baby, she slept in a gilded cradle lined with taffeta and covered with a fur blanket.  Her gowns were made of imported Italian silk embroidered with jewels.   She and her siblings had a whole retinue of servants to attend to all their needs – a personal chaplain, musicians, grooms, clerks, butlers and cooks.  Isabella was later lavished with lands and money.  Such over-indulgence led her to become capricious and extravagant.

To complicate matters, Isabella became a pawn in the dynastic marriage game, going through several failed marriage proposals.  When she was aged just three, her father tried to arrange a marriage for her with Pedro of Castile, the heir to the Castilian throne.  Doubtless he had diplomatic gain in mind, but the negotiations came to nothing.  In 1351, when she was nineteen, Isabella was due to sail to Gascony to marry a Frenchman, but just before the departure time, she changed her mind and the marriage was called off.  Edward III does not appear to have been angry with his favourite daughter though.  Some years later he granted her an annuity of 1000 marks, and in 1359, lent her a further 1000 marks to redeem jewels she had pawned.

Dark-haired and dark-eyed, though of a sallow complexion, Isabella entered her thirties without a husband, which was unusual for a royal princess at this time.  Then she fell in love with a French nobleman, Enguerrand de Coucy (c.1340-1397), who was seven years her junior.  They were married at Windsor on 27 July 1365, and went on to have two daughters, Philippa and Mary (also known as Marie).  Enguerrand, who had formerly been a hostage of the English, was now very much in royal favour, and was created a Knight of the Garter and Earl of Bedford in 1366.  Isabella herself was granted Garter robes in 1376, 1377 and 1377.

As a Frenchman, Enguerrand was conscious of his conflicting national loyalties, and seems to have spent much time away from Isabella, engaged in fighting in Italy and France.  Towards the end of her life, Isabella was living in England with her younger daughter Philippa (who later married the Earl of Oxford).  She died sometime before 4 May 1379, aged forty-six, and was buried in the Greyfriars Church, Newgate, in London.

Simon Harrison  (Archives volunteer)

Thomas Holland, Founder Knight

Saturday, March 14th, 2009
Arms of Thomas Hollard, 1st Earl of Kent

Arms of Thomas Hollard, 1st Earl of Kent

Thomas Holland, afterwards 1st Earl of Kent, was one of the founder knights of the Most Noble Order of the Garter.

Born around 1314, he fought many times in France during the Hundred Years War, including at the Battle of Sluys and the Siege of Tournai, and was in chief command of the vanguard at the battle of Crécy under the Black Prince. His military achievements meant that he was given important commands including the Captaincy of Calais Castle, guardianship of the Duke of Brittany during his minority, and in September 1360 his most important post yet, that of Edward III’s Captain and Lieutenant in Normandy and France.

In 1340 he had secretly married Edward III’s cousin Joan, the “Fair Maid of Kent”. While he was away fighting, she was forced by her family to marry the better connected William Montagu, Earl of Salisbury. On Thomas’ return, the first marriage was revealed, and the Pope ordered Joan to return to Thomas. This she did, and they had four children together. In 1361, after Thomas’ death, Joan married the Black Prince, and gave birth to a son who would become Richard II.

This image comes from a notebook by Henry Emlyn, architect and supervisor of George III’s restoration of the Chapel [SGC M.172]. Dating from around 1785, this page shows the arms of the Holland family, azure powdered with fleur-de-lis and a lion rampant argent. The crest of the hart lodged, or lying down, and ducally gorged comes from the arms of Joan of Kent.

Eleanor (Assistant Archivist)

Spoils of war – the Cross Gneth

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

The ‘Cross Gneth’ or ‘Croes Naid’ was a relic said to be a piece of the True Cross. It had belonged to the native Prince of North Wales and formed part of the spoils given over to Edward I at the close of the campaign against Llewellyn and the Welsh in 1283.

The relic was first taken to Westminster Abbey and later in the reign of Edward II it was kept in the Tower of London. Soon after the foundation of the Order of the Garter, Edward III gave the cross to the College of St George, Windsor Castle, to be displayed in St George’s Chapel.

It came to be regarded as the Chapel’s chief relic and remained the focus for pilgrimage and devotion for over 200 years. However, although it was listed in the 1534 inventory of the treasures of the Chapel made in the reign of Henry VIII, it seems to have been confiscated by Order of the Privy Council under Edward VI.

In the easternmost bay of the south aisle of the Choir is a carved and painted boss which represents Edward IV and Richard Beauchamp, Bishop of Salisbury 1450-81, Dean of Windsor 1477-81 and Chancellor of the Garter kneeling on either side of a Celtic cross which stands on a small mound: this is the ‘Cross Gneth’ or ‘Croes Naid’. In addition, one of the carved angels surrounding the east window holds a Celtic cross and a further coloured boss in the Nave also depicts a Celtic cross.

Enid (Assistant Archivist)

Edward III’s sword

Friday, January 30th, 2009
The sword of King Edward III

The sword of King Edward III

The two-handed sword of Edward III which can be seen in the Chapel hanging in the South Quire Aisle is an impressive reminder of the founder of the College and the Order of the Garter. 6 foot 8 inches long and made to be carried in battle, it formed part of the knightly achievements which would have been offered to the Dean and Canons on his death.

The earliest record of the sword appears in an Inventory of all the Vestments, Ornaments etc of the Chapel, taken in the 8th year of King Richard II [1384], and held in the Bodleian Library. The entry reads:

Gladii cum Galeis

249. Item [iij gladij quorum] vnus Edwardi Regis…

(Translated, Swords with helmets; Item [3 swords of which] one is King Edward’s …)

The sword hangs by a portrait of the King, carrying it piercing the crowns of Scotland and France. The accounts of 1615 [SGC XV.59.32] read “2s 6d – To Noke, for making cleane the Twoe hande Sworde whiche hangith by K: Edward the 3: picture”.

The sword and portrait have clearly been displayed together in the Chapel for almost 400 years.

Eleanor (Assistant Archivist)

St George and the chapel

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

There are many mysteries surrounding the identity of St George, but the most commonly believed is that he was a soldier in the Roman Army, part of the imperial guard of Emperor Diocletian. In 302 AD, Diocletian ordered that every Christian in the army be arrested and sacrificed to the pagan gods. George refused to renounce his faith, and was eventually martyred. He was buried in Lydda, in modern day Israel.

Stories of St George were brought back by the Crusaders in the 12th century, and during the reign of Edward III, he became venerated as the patron saint of England. When Edward founded the College in 1348, he dedicated the chapel to St George, the Virgin Mary and St Edward.

The College held several relics reputed to be from St George, including an arm, two fingers, a piece of his skull, and his heart. The latter was given by Emperor Sigismund on his creation as a Garter Knight in 1416. It was housed in a special monstrance which is described in the College inventory of 1534:

Item a monstrans of sylver gylt and seynt George is heart stondyng in golde closyd in byrall yn the myddst yn the Vpper parte the image off the crucyfyx, vnder that the image off our Lady and the image off our Savyoure.

Eleanor (Assistant Archivist)

Two Ships and a Last of Herrings

Friday, January 16th, 2009
A ship graffito

A ship graffito

A royal castle in Berkshire may not seem the most likely place to find images of medieval ships but two such examples exist within the walls of Windsor Castle. The first, perhaps better described as existing on the walls of Windsor Castle, is believed to date from the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century. The image takes the form of a graffito or wall-drawing and may be a rare depiction of a balinger. Similar to a barge and carrying both oars and sails, such vessels were a common feature of medieval coastal shipping.

The second image is a seal in the Archives attached to a document dated 1 April 1352 [SGC XV.55.59]. The double sided seal is made of green wax and is that of Yarmouth Borough. It shows men sailing a ship, two in the rigging and a third at the tiller. Maritime historians have long since found the image of interest due to the clear depiction of a ‘bowline led from the sail to the bow-spirit end’ [The Society of Friends of St George’s annual report, 1951].

Men sailing a ship on the seal of the Borough of Yarmouth

Men sailing a ship on the seal of the Borough of Yarmouth

The document to which the seal is attached is no less interesting and contains evidence of an unusual payment made by Yarmouth to the College of St George. Persuaded by Edward III, and apparently through a devotion to the Dean and College of St George, the Bailiffs and Commonalty of Great Yarmouth granted a last of red herrings, to be presented dry and cleaned, every St Andrew’s Day. This was a considerable gift when one considers that a ‘last’ contained between 10,000 and 13,200 fish. In the 17th century Canon Evans depicted a rather less pious explanation to the document. It seems likely that the annual payment was a punishment on the town for the murder of a Yarmouth magistrate. The payment continued for an extraordinary period of time. By 1718 the quality of herrings was such that the College began accepting money instead. It was only in 1867 when the Ecclesiastical Commissioners took control of the College’s property that the town quietly stopped the payment.

Richard (Assistant Archivist)