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Sept 2013 052

Many Kinds of Silence

MKOS cover 22 Sept-page-0- the lost years of William Shakespeare.

When William Shakespeare leaves his home in Stratford in the company of a Catholic priest he knows that he is walking into danger, but the vast libraries held in the name of God are enough to tempt him to risk his life in the pursuit of knowledge. However, the capture and death of his mentor, Edmund Campion, and his return to Stratford set William on an altogether different path. Marriage to Anne Hathaway means he must turn his back on the priesthood, but there are other ways for a clever and charming young man to be of use to the faith.

Many Kinds of Silence traces the story of a young William Shakespeare and his patron, Ferdinando Stanley, and reveals how religion, science and choosing in whom to place your trust meant the difference between life and death in Elizabethan England.

Now available as paperback and ebook for kindle.

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Read the first chapter

 

The Circle of Fortune  

The_Circle_of_Fortun_Cover_for_Kindle

is now available as an ebook and a paperback.

When Roger Mortimer escapes from the Tower of London, Alicia de Lacy and her husband, Eble le Strange, support his campaign to rid England of Edward II and his hated favourite, Hugh le Despenser. But as Mortimer’s power increases he becomes as corrupt as his predecessors, and Alicia and Eble are forced to decide where their loyalties really lie.

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 Favoured Beyond Fortune

BookCoverPreview

Alicia de Lacy was one of the richest noblewomen in England. But  lost everything when her husband, Thomas of Lancaster, led a rebellion against King Edward II.  

Everything except the love of one man.

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The ebook is now available from Amazon UK, Amazon.com and other Amazon sites. Paperback also available.

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By Loyalty Bound is now available as an ebook and a hardcover book from Pen and Sword Fiction 

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Watch the book trailer 

Still not convinced? Read the first chapter here

When 17 year old Richard, Duke of Gloucester, defies his elder brother, Edward IV, and 

BLB book jacket jpegrides to Hornby Castle in the north of Lancashire to help James and Robert Harrington defend their birthright against Sir Thomas Stanley, he engenders a chain of events that will have repercussions for years to come. His fight for justice for the Harringtons and his relationship with Anne Harrington, whose wardship has been given to Thomas Stanley, cause a rift between the two men that will never be healed, and which will lead to Richard being betrayed when he most needs Stanley’s support.

By Loyalty Bound tells the story of defiant Anne Harrington, the woman who would later become mistress to the enigmatic Richard as a consequence of his involvement in the trials of her family. With her father and grandfather killed fighting for the Yorkists at Wakefield in 1460, Hornby Castle falls to her as an inheritance at the tender age of five years old. When her ward-ship is handed over to Thomas Stanley by the king himself, Anne’s uncles and the influence they might otherwise have wielded are virtually cut off. The story traces the Harringtons fight to keep possession of their ancestral home, the support given to them by Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and Richard’s tumultuous and beguiling relationship with Anne as she is forced into a marriage arranged for her by her guardian, a man who has objectives beyond the determination to secure her future happiness. 

Here is the cover for the hardback edition. Out now!

BLB hardback cover

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An Honourable Estate is based on the legend of Mab’s Cross at Wigan and is available as a paperback and an ebook.

 

England 1315

Famine and unrest spread across the country and when Sir William Bradshaigh joins Adam Banastre’s rebellion against their overlord, the Earl of Lancaster, things do not go to plan.  

Sir William is lucky to escape with his life after a battle at Preston and, as a wanted man, has no choice but to become an outlaw.  Meanwhile, the lands at Haigh are forfeit to the king and are given to Sir Peter Lymesey for a year and a day, and Lady Mabel Bradshaigh must make a hard choice if she is to protect her children and herself.

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The novel has its own page on the website here: http://elizabethashworth.com/an-honourable-estate/ where you can read more about the historical background to the story and follow the reviews.

You can also visit The Honourable Estate facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/AnHonourableEstate

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My first novel, The de Lacy Inheritance, was published by Myrmidon Books in 2010.  It was followed by a large print edition from Ulverscroft and an audiobook version from  ISIS Soundings.  The printed books and the audiobook are all available for sale or from your local library.

The de Lacy Inheritance is set in Lancashire and Cheshire.

When Richard Fitz-Eustace returns from the crusade suffering from leprosy he resolves to live as a hermit and seek forgiveness for his sins. But first he must fulfil an obligation to his grandmother.  He must seek her kinsman, Robert de Lacy, and ask his consideration of her claim to his estates. Meanwhile, Richard’s sister, Johanna is distraught. The fate of her brother has done more than leave her bereft. Her mother has contrived a marriage for her and without Richard’s protection there seems little she can do to prevent it. 

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If you’ve read the book, why not take the quiz at Goodreads - http://www.goodreads.com/trivia/work/5478660

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The Murdered Heir of Elizabeth I

Elizabeth1

Queen Elizabeth I

The question of who was to follow the reign of the childless Elizabeth I became more pertinent as the queen grew older and it was apparent that she would never marry and have a child of her own. It was a question that was on the minds of many people both in England and abroad, although open discussion of the matter was not tolerated by the queen who refused to name an heir.

The succession from Henry VII can be traced through his son, Henry VIII and his children – Edward, Mary and Elizabeth – each of whom became monarch in turn. None had children and so the heir to Elizabeth was not clear, but the nearest lines of succession were through the sisters of Henry VIII – Margaret of Scotland and Mary, Queen of France.

Mary, Queen of Scots was the granddaughter of Margaret Tudor, the elder of Henry VIII’s sisters. She claimed that she was the legitimate heir to Elizabeth I although Elizabeth refused to name her as such and when she was found to have been involved with a plot to assassinate the queen she was found guilty of treason and executed at Fotheringhay Castle in 1587. However her son, James VI of Scotland became King James I of England after Elizabeth’s death although some people thought that the son of a traitor should not have been king and that the descendants of Mary Tudor should have taken the throne instead.

Mary Tudor was first married to King Louis of France, but on his death she secretly married the man she was in love with – Charles Brandon. Mary and Charles had three surviving children -  Henry, Frances and Eleanor. Henry died young, which left the two daughters to carry the line of succession. Frances was the mother of Lady Jane Grey, the nine days’ queen. Eleanor married Henry Clifford, 2nd Earl of Cumberland and their only surviving child, a daughter, Margaret, married Henry Stanley, 4th Earl of Derby. Margaret was seen by some as the rightful heir to Elizabeth I, however,  in 1597 she was placed under house arrest after being accused of using sorcery to predict when the queen would die. (Those of you familiar with the story of the Duke of Clarence in the reign of Edward IV may see some parallels here.) It was also known that she kept the Catholic faith and if there was one thing that Elizabeth and her advisors wanted to avoid, it was a succession that would result in the country’s return to Catholicism.

Fernando_Stanley

Ferdinando Stanley

However, her eldest surviving son, Ferdinando Stanley, had been brought up at court and seems to have been groomed as the natural successor to the queen even though he was never officially named as heir. The only problem was that many of the queen’s advisors were concerned that he might also be a secret Catholic – and it seems that Catholics abroad harboured the same suspicions because they sent Richard Hesketh to offer support and an army to Ferdinando should he wish to take the throne by force. After listening carefully to the offer and riding with Hesketh to London, it seems that Ferdinando eventually rejected the opportunity and handed Hesketh over to Elizabeth’s ministers. He must have thought that this act would confirm his loyalty to the queen, but matters did not work out as he had hoped. Questions were raised about how long it had taken him to reject the offer, suspicion fell on him and he found himself out of favour and denied several roles, such as the Lord Chamberlain of Chester, that he thought were his by right. He is quoted as saying that he was ‘crossed in court and crossed in his country’. It was not long after this that he died in mysterious circumstances. Although his doctor said that there was no doubt that he had been poisoned, the official verdict was returned as ‘death by witchcraft’. The Catholics were widely blamed for his death as it was said that he had been warned by them that he could not live if he rejected their offer. But the question remains as to what part Elizabeth’s ministers played in the matter. Who killed Ferdinando Stanley and why remains a mystery to this day.

MKOS cover 22 Sept-page-0

 

You can read more about Ferdinando Stanley, his mysterious death and his links with William Shakespeare in my new novel – Many Kinds of Silence. Out in paperback and also available as an ebook for Kindle. (For Amazon.com)

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The Lost Years of William Shakespeare

It is common knowledge that William Shakespeare was born in Stratford upon Avon in William_ShakespeareWarwickshire. You can visit his birthplace there on Henley Street. I think many people also know that his father was John Shakespeare, who worked as a glover, and his mother was Mary Arden. When Shakespeare was a boy, he would have attended the local grammar school and at the age of nineteen he was married to Anne Hathaway. But from his youth in Stratford until he became well known as a playwright in London, there is a gap that is often referred to as the ‘lost years’ when no one knows for certain where he was and what he was doing.

He may have lived and worked in Stratford until he left for London, but there is a tantalising claim from Ben Jonson that Shakespeare ‘understood Latin pretty well, for he had, in his younger years, been a schoolmaster in the country’. The story that he had once been a schoolmaster came from John Aubrey who heard it from William Beeston, who was the son of Christopher Beeston, an actor who was a contemporary of Shakespeare’s. It isn’t exactly proof, but it may have some credibility. Sadly, there is no trace of Shakespeare as a schoolmaster but in some places, particularly in Lancashire it was well known that many families employed unlicensed schoolmasters to teach their children, the reason being that those families were secret Catholics and wanted their children to be instructed by Catholic teachers.

Living in Lancashire, I’ve long been aware of the claims of two historic houses in the area to have a connection with William Shakespeare. The first is Hoghton Tower, a striking P1030398house that lies between Preston and Blackburn, which has been the home of the Hoghton family since the Norman Conquest. Their Shakespeare connection is based on an item in the will of Alexander Hoghton, written in 1581 that refers to a ‘William Shakeshaft’. The will asks that Sir Thomas Hesketh takes William Shakeshaft and Fulke Gillom ‘into his service or help them to some good master’. This follows the bequest of some musical instruments and play clothes and could indicate that Shakeshaft and Gillom were players, but their trade is not specified.. Whether ‘Shakeshaft’ and ‘Shakespeare’ could be the same person is debatable, but there is another, perhaps more compelling link between William Shakespeare, Hoghton Tower and the Heskeths of Rufford Old Hall.

Rufford Old Hall 007

In 1580, the Jesuit priest, Edmund Campion, visited Lapworth Park in Warwickshire, home of the Catesbys. He was looking for young men from the area to join his mission as subseminarians. It is fairly certain that the Shakespeares were secret Catholics as a copy of the Borromeo Testament, an affirmation of the Catholic faith, signed by John Shakespeare was found hidden in the roof of the house on Henley Street in 1757. Also, William Shakespeare’s teacher at the Stratford grammar school was John Cottam. He came from Lancashire and his brother Thomas was a priest. I’m sure that the clever and talented William was just the sort of boy that Campion was seeking to join his mission, and if William had gone with Campion they would have ridden north to Hoghton Tower where Campion is known to have stayed in 1581.

After the arrest of Edmund Campion and the death, shortly afterwards, of Alexander Hoghton, it is possible that Shakespeare moved on to Rufford Old Hall, the home of the Catholic Hesketh family. The Heskeths certainly had a troupe of players and William may have performed in their great hall maybe using the huge carved screen that still stands Rufford Old Hall screen 004there as a prop.

The other Lancashire link is that Rufford is not far from Lathom, the home of Lord Strange. Lord Strange, Ferdinando Stanley, is recorded as visiting Rufford to watch a performance and as Shakespeare has connections with Lord Strange’s Men it may be that he joined them from Rufford, perhaps with the recommendation of Sir Thomas Hesketh. It may all seem like too much speculation but it’s interesting that Shakespeare’s financial backer at the Globe was a man named Thomas Savage, who came from Rufford and whose wife was a Hesketh.

 

Of coursMKOS cover 22 Sept-page-0e, no one will ever know the full story, which is why I wrote my own version of events that are possible, but ultimately fictional. My new novel Many Kinds of Silence follows the ‘lost years’ of William Shakespeare from Stratford to London with a short sojourn in rural Lancashire.

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Denbigh Castle

P1030122Denbigh Castle in north Wales is one of the fortresses built after Edward I’s subjugation of the Welsh. The hilltop site was previously a stronghold of the Welsh and Dafydd ap Gruffudd had a palace here, but it was destroyed when Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, built his castle in 1282.

The castle has a striking triple towered gatehouse, P1030068probably designed by Master James of St George. As I approached the ruins I heard the sound of the portcullis being raised and horses hooves echoing across the drawbridge. It wasn’t psychic powers, but a recording and a hidden sensor, and although it was entertaining at first, it did become annoying after a while as more and more visitors approached. More interesting for me was the carved figure, headless now, seated above the gateway. Is this Henry de Lacy? I think so.

It was here in the castle well that Henry’s eldest son, Edmund de Lacy, is said to have drowned. It’s a deep well and although there is no water in it now, it’s easy to imagine how dangerous it must have been. P1030118

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Denbigh was built in two phases. The first phase during 1282 to 1284 was the constructionP1030107 of the outer walls which also surrounded the town for defensive purposes. But rebellion by the Welsh halted the work and it was not until 1295 that the bulk of the castle, including the towers, was begun.

Climbing up onto the wall walk, the strategic position of the castle is obvious as you look down over the town and across the Vale of Clwyd. No one could have approached this fortress without being seen.

 

 

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The building work went on until the beginning of the 14th century and it isn’t clear if it wasP1030110 completed by the death of Henry de Lacy in 1311. Because of the death of his son, Edmund, the castle passed into the possession of Henry’s daughter Alicia and her husband, Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, but after Lancaster’s rebellion against Edward II, the castle was taken from Alicia and given to Hugh le Despenser. Even when Despenser was replaced by Roger Mortimer, Denbigh was still withheld from Alicia and it was not until after Edward III took his throne that the castle was returned to her.

You can read more about Alicia’s fight for the return of her lands in my novel The Circle of Fortune.

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Tell Them Of Us

Back in 1996 my late father tried to discover more about the men whose names were on P1020934the Memorial Board that had once been in the mission church of St Chad at Pleckgate, Blackburn, where for some years he had been the Reader-in-Charge.

The names are now displayed on a modern board in St Gabriel’s Church, Brownhill, Blackburn, although, sadly, I have been unable to locate the original board which can be seen on this photo on the left hand side of the far wall.

My father prepared a short booklet called Tell Them of Us in which he recorded some briefP1020935 information about the men from cuttings held at Blackburn Library.

To mark the beginning of the First World War I have created a site at: www.tellthemofus.wordpress.com with more information about the men who gave their lives.

They include Richard Barnes and James Ward, who were both employed at Roe Lee Mills and whose regimental numbers in the Lancashire Fusiliers are consecutive. They must have gone to join up together and they both died within days of one another and are buried in Belgium.

There is also young Albert Shipley who enlisted at the outbreak of war in August 1914. The census gives his date of birth as 1898, which means he was just sixteen years old. He lied about his age as the Ploegsteert Memorial in Belgium gives his age at death in 1915 as 19 years old. He was just 17. His body was never found and he has no known grave.

How exciting it must have seemed to those men in their teens and twenties who had P1020915probably known nothing but work in the mills since they were 13 years old. It must have seemed a way of getting away from the tedious heat and noise of the machinery in the mill sheds; a way to see more of the world. How proud they must have felt as they swore the oath to defend king and country and signed their papers. But they exchanged it for the horror of battles like the Somme; for blood and mud and death as they fought for their country.

So many never returned. It is appropriate today that we take a moment to remember them.

 

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Meet My Main Character

I was tagged for the Meet My Main Character blog hop by Sue Millard after it was begun by Debra Brown

The idea is for historical authors to introduce the main character of their novel in progress.

What is the name of your character? Is she fictional or a historic person?

My character is Alicia de Lacy and she was a real person.

When and where is the story set?

The story is set during the reigns of Edward II and Edward III. In fact, an important part of the story is the way in which Edward III comes to the throne after his father is deposed and the country is ruled by his mother, Isabella, and Roger Mortimer who is reputedly her lover. Mortimer holds all the power of a king, but when Edward turns eighteen he and his supporters decide that enough is enough.

What should we know about her?

Alice de Lacy was the daughter and only heir of Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln and Margaret Longespee, Countess of Salisbury. She was one of the wealthiest women in England, but when her husband, Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, rebelled against the king all her lands and titles were taken from her.

What is the main conflict? What messes up her life?

Her fall from wealthy countess to impoverished widow was a huge shock to Alicia. Now she wants her lands and her castles back and along with her second husband, Eble le Strange, she sets out to support the people she hopes can help her.

What is the personal goal of the character?

Alicia’s main goal is to get back the lands that are hers by right. But she also wants to redeem her reputation because she has come in for some criticism for living with Eble, a mere squire two years younger than her, before she married him.

Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

The working title is The Circle Fortune and the story will be a sequel to Favoured Beyond Fortune.

When can we expect the book to be published?

I’m hoping it will be out later this year. Meanwhile you can read the first part of Alicia’s story here: Favoured Beyond Fortune

If you leave a comment on the extract before the end of the month you’ll have the opportunity to win a free ebook copy.

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Who was Eble le Strange?

According to Dugdale the le Strange family originated from a mythical Duke of Burgundy, whose youngest son Guy made his home in England.  Although there is no credibility to this story, the family can be traced back to the twelfth century when they held land in Norfolk and Shropshire.

The le Strange family were closely associated with the Fitz Alans who became Earls of Arundel. William Fitz Alan, Lord of Oswestry was a Breton and a close ally of King Henry I who brought men he could trust from France after he experienced disloyalty from some of the original Norman lords over his right to the throne. This William died in 1160, leaving his son William as a minor and Guy le Strange was appointed as his guardian. Guy le Strange was given the lordship of Knockin in Shropshire and it is from him that Eble le Strange was descended.

 

Knockin Castle, Shropshire. Pencil and watercolour. Artist: T.F. Dukes (attrib.). Shrewsbury Museums Service (SHYMS: FA/1991/088/2)

Knockin Castle, Shropshire. Pencil and watercolour. Artist: T.F. Dukes (attrib.). Shrewsbury Museums Service (SHYMS: FA/1991/088/2)

Eble le Strange was the third son of John le Strange (V), the first Lord Strange of Knockin (sometimes spelt Knockyn) in Shropshire. John le Strange was married twice. His first wife was Alianora (Eleanor) de Monz, the daughter of Eble de Monz (a royal steward and lord of Ketton in Rutland) and Joan de Somery.(Because John witnessed some grants alongside Joan de Somery after the death of Alianora she is sometimes mistakenly taken for his wife rather than his mother-in-law). John and Alianora may have had a daughter, Hawise, who married Sir Robert de Felton. After Alianora died, John’s second wife was Maud (Walton) d’Eiville, the daughter of Roger d’Eiville of Walton d’Eiville in Warwickshire. She was the mother of Eble le Strange. Eble le Strange had two elder brothers John and Hamon who were both dead by 1322 and a sister, Elizabeth. The occurrence of Eble as a forename in the le Strange family had not occurred before and I wonder if he was named after the father of John le Strange’s first wife. Eble de Monz was still living as late as 1307 and may have been his godfather.

Eble le Strange probably grew up in Shropshire until he was old enough to enter the household of another family to learn to fight, read and write and wait tables. He is recorded as being a member of the household of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster in 1313 when he is included with his brother Hamon, and his cousins Fulk and Robert of Blackmere, in the pardon, granted on 16th October, to the adherents of the Earl of Lancaster for the death of Piers Gaveston. It may have been whilst he was serving in the household of Thomas of Lancaster that he first met Alice de Lacy, but when and where they met remains open to speculation as there is no evidence. But the accusations that Eble le Strange had a relationship with Alice de Lacy before the death of Thomas of Lancaster cannot be dismissed. Certainly they married as soon as they could after Thomas was executed and were married before 10th November 1324 when the Sheriff of Lincoln was ordered to pay

Lincoln Castle

Lincoln Castle

Eble and ‘Alice, daughter and heiress of Henry de Lacy, late Earl of Lincoln, now his wife’ the arrears of £20 yearly for the third part of the county of Lincoln. And looking at other payments made to them they could possibly have been married as soon as Easter 1324.

On 24th January 1326 Eble was appointed one of the four supervisors of Array in the county of Lincoln, with special powers and by a further commission he was directed, on 23rd July ‘to assist and counsel the Earl of Arundel as captain and chief supervisor of the Array in Lincolnshire’. The last mention of him during the reign of Edward II is on December 9, 1326, when he obtained letters of protection for a year – although what the protection was for is not recorded. Although he was entitled to call himself the Earl of Lincoln through his marriage to Alicia, it seems that he did not use the title and when he was called to parliament in December 1326 he was named as Ebulo le Strange and ranked with the barons. He was not even made a knight until a year after his marriage when he was made a Knight of the Bath by Edward II and received the robes of a Banneret. During the minority of Edward III when Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer were ruling England, Eble and Alicia seem to have come under suspicion of promoting rebellion and I can’t dismiss the idea that Eble may have been one of the men who helped Edward III secure his throne by overthrowing Mortimer in a midnight raid from the tunnels beneath Nottingham Castle.

Remains of Bolingbroke Castle

Remains of Bolingbroke Castle

After Edward III became king, Eble and Alice regained many of thelands that had been taken from her after Thomas of Lancaster’s defeat at Boroughbridge, including her favourite home at Bolingbroke. That Edward found Eble trustworthy and reliable is also emphasised by his being named as one of the men sent to bring Queen Isabella from Berkhampstead to Windsor for Christmas 1330.

The remains of Barlings Abbey.

The remains of Barlings Abbey.

 Eble and Alicia appear to have been happy and in the favour of the king after many difficultyears. But in 1335, Edward III invaded Scotland and, tragically, Eble died whilst on campaign. He was buried at Barlings Abbey in Lincolnshire where, later, Alicia would be buried beside him.

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The Abduction of Alice de Lacy

In May 1317, Alice de Lacy was escorted from her hunting lodge at Canford in Dorset and taken to Reigate Castle which was owned by John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey. Early historians mostly record this as an abduction, although some have noted that Alice, as ‘a wanton adulteress’, may have been running away to meet up with her lover.

Writing almost a hundred years after the event, the chronicler, Thomas of Walsingham, says that the man she left Canford with was a Richard de St Martin – a lame and hunchback knight with whom she had had ‘carnal relations’ before her marriage to Thomas, Earl of Lancaster. The fact that Alice was married to Thomas at around 13 years old would seem to imply that the story is actually nonsense, but it is one which is repeated over and over in the accounts of her life, seemingly copied from one source to another without any author stopping to think about the veracity of what they are claiming.

Walsingham wrote a lengthy and frankly bizarre account of what happened. He claims that on the Monday before the Feast of the Ascension, Alice de Lacy was abducted by a knight of the household of John Warenne. Whilst she was being taken to Reigate Castle, her abductors saw a group of men in the distance with standards and, thinking that they were soldiers sent by her husband, they abandoned Alice by a hedge and ran away. But when they realised that the ‘soldiers’ were a group of holy men making a procession around the fields, they came back to take Alice prisoner once more. It is Walsingham who names one of the abductors as Richard de St Martin and says that Alice recognised him and admitted that it was true she had known him carnally. He says that she was not abducted in fear and that ‘she, who during the while of her life had been considered the noblest of noble ladies, suddenly by a turn of the wheel of fortune, by this shame is acclaimed by the whole world to be the foulest whore.’

Although the author of The Battle Abbey Roll has seen that Walsingham’s account is flawed and says ‘Alice de Lacy was only nine years old when she became Countess of Lancaster, the allegation of a previous clandestine marriage is an absurdity’ he goes on to malign Alice’s reputation and perpetuate the myth of the ‘lame knight’ saying ‘She was a woman of notoriously bad character, repudiated by the Earl several years before his death, who ‘lived in unlawful familiarity with Eubolo Le Strange’, her second husband, long before she married him. Singular as it may appear, it seems proven that this little hunchback was a favoured lover, and that the pretended abduction was in reality concerted between them.’

Alison Weir, in her more recent publication Isabella, the She-Wolf of France, Queen of England is still repeating a version of Walsingham. She has realised that it’s improbable that Richard de St Martin was Alice’s lover, so she substitutes Eble le Strange, who became Alice’s second husband, saying that ‘Lestraunge lost no time in proclaiming to the world that he had slept with her before her marriage, and in so doing severely compromised her reputation.’ Oh dear. I had hoped that modern historians might have come nearer to the truth.

When you look at the facts, the only thing we know for sure is that Alice was taken from Canford Manor to Reigate Castle and came under the protection of John de Warenne. If it was an abduction, the reason may have been that John de Warenne was angry with Thomas of Lancaster because he had intervened and prevented Warenne’s divorce from his wife, Joan de Bar, that would have allowed him to marry his mistress and mother of his sons, Maud de Nerford. It was a divorce that the king had approved but that Thomas managed to prevent by producing a papal dispensation for the original marriage that made the divorce impossible. Warenne knew that kidnapping Alice would make Thomas very cross. And Thomas was indeed cross – not quite cross enough to demand the return of his wife, but certainly cross enough to wage war on John de Warenne, besieging his castles at Sandal and Conisbrough, and turning Maud de Nerford out of her home.

I think that Gerry Lacey in his book, The Legacy of the de Lacy, Lacey, Lacy Family, 1066-1994, also comes close to the truth when he writes that Alice left her husband because of his determination to challenge the king and that she willingly placed herself under the protection of John de Warenne. The role of Edward II in Alice’s supposed abduction is often overlooked. He was at loggerheads with his cousin, Thomas of Lancaster, and by allowing John de Warenne to take Alice under his protection he knew that he could annoy and discredit him.

Did Alice go willingly? Possibly. She had been living a separate life from Thomas since he had sent her to live at Pickering Castle in north Yorkshire following the death of her father, Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln. As she saw Thomas falling further out of favour with the king, she may have welcomed some protection from his ally, John de Warenne.

Was Warenne her lover? Although this has been suggested it’s very doubtful. John de Warenne had no interest in marrying Alice de Lacy as it’s recorded that he wanted a divorce to enable him to marry Maud de Nerford.

Did she have a pre-marital affair with the ‘lame knight’ Richard de St Martin? No. This is something concocted from the fevered imagination of Thomas of Walsingham with no basis in truth.

Was Eble le Strange her lover? I think this is likely. She certainly went on to marry him and it’s feasible that she knew him prior to her husband’s death. He was not the ‘lame knight’ of Walsingham’s story, however, and was not a member of John de Warenne’s household. He was, in fact, a member of the household of Thomas of Lancaster. Was he the man who escorted her from Canford Manor? He may have been. There is no proof, but sometimes there is an element of truth in the stories of chroniclers such as Walsingham – and I think that even though politics was the real reason behind the abduction, Alice may have been a willing participant if the man who lifted her onto his horse and took her to safety was her beloved Eble.

You can read more about the story of Alice de Lacy and Eble in my novel Favoured Beyond Fortune.

 

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