Ludlow Castle

Castle Keep Ludlow
Ludlow Castle

I’ve been researching the de Lacy family for a while now, although my main interest has been the descendants of Ilbert de Lacy. But a recent visit to Shropshire meant that I could visit Ludlow Castle which was one of the main possessions of his brother, Walter de Lacy.

The deep well is now covered for safety.

Walter de Lacy was given lands in Herefordshire. Who gifted the lands to him is subject to debate, but he received them either by direct grant from King William or from  William Fitz Osbern, with whom he appears to have fought during the Conquest. His main residence was at Weobley and the lands he owned in this area became the honour of Weobley.  The lands he received around the south of Shropshire appear to have been given to him later by the Earl of Shrewsbury, Roger de Montgomery. These lands included Ludlow and the castle was the administrative centre. It occupies a defensive position, against the Welsh, on high ground between the Rivers Teme and Corve. It was built from locally quarried stone and supplied with water from a deep well in the inner bailey that was sunk to the level of the River Teme.

The Keep

Although I’ve seen lots of photos of Ludlow, my recent visit was the first time I have actually been there. It is better preserved than Pontefract Castle and from the oldest buildings in the inner bailey to the later additions there is a lot to see.

The oldest parts of the castle were probably built around 1075. Unlike the castle at Weobley, where only a mound now remains, Ludlow Castle thrived in the following years. It was further developed by Walter’s sons – Roger and Hugh. Roger rebelled against William II (William Rufus) and was dispossessed and sent into exile, but his younger brother was allowed to inherit the de Lacy lands, although Ludlow Castle was confiscated from Hugh by Henry II to curb his power in the Marches. Further troubles followed during the reign of King John and after the death of Hugh’s son, another Walter, the lands passed to his daughters, Maud and Margery, whose deaths ended the direct line of this branch of the de Lacy family.

The steps (not original) to the Great Hall

On the death of Maud in 1304, the castle passed into the ownership of her second husband, Geoffrey de Geneville, who undertook the rebuilding if the inner bailey and the Great Hall.

Round Chapel Ludlow Castle
The chapel of St Mary Magdalene.

Geoffrey’s eldest granddaughter Joan married Roger Mortimer in 1301 and Ludlow Castle passed to his ownership. If you’ve read my novel The Circle of Fortune, you’ll already know something about him. It was here, at Ludlow Castle, that he built a chapel dedicated to St Peter in the outer bailey, to fulfil his vow that he would honour the saint on whose day he escaped from the Tower of London.

In 1425, Ludlow Castle was inherited by Richard, Duke of York and became an important site during the Wars of the Roses. When Richard’s son, Edward became king in 1461, Ludlow Castle became part of the royal estates. He made it the seat of the newly created Council in the Marches of Wales and it became the home of his young sons Prince Edward and Prince Richard. When news reached Ludlow of the unexpected death of Edward IV, the new king and his household set out for London to take possession of the throne. They had arranged to meet the young king’s uncle, Richard, at Stony Stratford so that he could ride into London with them, but the story is complex, depending whose opinion you believe, and the eventual result was that Edward V was never crowned and his uncle became Richard III. No one is sure what happened to Edward and  Richard, who have become known as the Princes in the Tower.

This is the tower where Prince Arthur died.

Richard III was defeated at the Battle of Bosworth just three years later and the first born son of the victor, Henry VII, was named Arthur. With his Welsh roots, Henry Tudor must have wanted to fulfil the legend of the ‘once and future king’. But it was not to be. Henry VII granted Ludlow Castle to Arthur as a residence, but shortly after his marriage to Katharine of Aragon, Arthur was taken ill at Ludlow and died, leaving his younger brother Henry to marry his widow and take his place on the throne as Henry VIII.

In later years Mary Tudor, the daughter of Katherine of Aragon, lived at Ludlow Castle for a time, overseeing the Council of the Marches. During the reign of Elizabeth I, Sir Henry Sidney was appointed President of the Council and  many repairs and additions were made, including the porter’s lodge and prison in the outer bailey. He also built family apartments between the Great Hall and Mortimer’s Tower – and it is his coat of arms that you can see above the gatehouse.


The future Charles I was declared Prince of Wales in the castle in 1616 and during the Civil War, Ludlow and the surrounding area supported the Royalists, but after a siege the castle was surrendered to the Parliamentarian Army in 1646. The castle became abandoned in the years that followed, with everything of value taken away. It fell into disrepair and in 1704 there was a proposal by William Gower to demolish it and create a residential square on the site. Despite plans by various people over the years to restore the castle and turn it into a private home it seems that the expense involved was always too much and the ruins became a tourist attraction. Ludlow Castle is now owned by the Earl of Powis and attracts many visitors to both the remains and to the many events held in the grounds.

The outer bailey is used for various events throughout the year.

As I walked around on a beautiful sunny day, I reflected on how often Ludlow Castle features in the novels I’ve written. Not as a major setting, but often there in the background. I’m glad I managed to visit it, at last and it’s reminded me that I ought to do more research into this branch of the de Lacy family.












The Battle of Wakefield 1460


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Although By Loyalty Bound opens in 1470, it is the events that took place ten years earlier  at the Battle of Wakefield that led to the Harrington family losing their castle and lands at Hornby in Lancashire.

The Battle of Wakefield, fought on 30th December 1460, between the Lancastrian and Yorkist claimants to the throne of England was the fourth in a series of battles that are now known as the Wars of the Roses.

King Henry VI
King Henry VI

The Lancastrian king, Henry VI, suffered from a mental illness and for fourteen months from the end of 1453, Richard, Duke of York, ruled as Lord Protector. Then in January 1455, Henry made a recovery and everything changed. The Duke of York’s enemies were once again in control and war broke out between the opposing houses of York and Lancaster.

Richard, Duke of York believed that his claim to the

Richard, Duke of York
Richard, Duke of York

throne surpassed that of Henry’s and he wanted to be king. He took a major step towards achieving his ambition when his forces overcame the Lancastrians at the Battle of St Albans and he resumed his protectorate.   But in 1456, King Henry, probably under instruction from his wife Margaret of Anjou, claimed back his throne, telling parliament that he was well enough to rule.  

The Duke of York retreated north to Sandal Castle. His supporters also left London: Richard Neville, the Earl of Salisbury, returned to Middleham Castle in North Yorkshire and Salisbury’s son, the Earl of Warwick, returned to his position as Captain of Calais. However, the Lancastrian nobles brought charges of treason against the Yorkists and this led to the Battle of Blore Heath. It was a Yorkist victory, but the Lancastrians followed the Duke of York back to his castle at Ludlow. There was more fighting at Ludford Bridge. The Lancastrian army was victorious and the Duke of York was forced to flee to Ireland with his second son, Edmund, whilst his eldest son, Edward, escaped to Calais with Salisbury and Warwick.

But the Yorkists did not accept defeat. The Earl of Warwick led an invasion force and fought the Lancastrians at the Battle of Northampton. The Yorkists won and King Henry was once again taken into their protection. The Duke of York returned from Ireland, thinking to take the throne, but found he did not have enough support from the lords. Eventually, both the Lords and the Commons acknowledged the Duke of York’s superior claim to the throne through his descent from Edward III, and on 24th October 1460, Parliament passed the Act of Accord in which it was agreed that Henry would remain king until his death and then the crown would pass to York and his heirs.

King Henry’s wife, Margaret of Anjou, was not happy with this arrangement as it meant that her son, Prince Edward, was removed from the line of succession.  She began to gather supporters in Wales and Scotland and across the north.  Northern lords including Henry Percy, the Earl of Northumberland and Lord Clifford of Skipton Castle began to gather armies and marched to surround York’s castles at Pontefract and Sandal.

The Duke of York, sent his eldest son, Edward, to put down a rebellion in Wales and with his second son, Edmund, managed to reach Sandal Castle on 21st December 1460. It was poorly prepared as the constable had been prevented from collecting supplies by the presence of the Lancastrian army. The Yorks spent Christmas under siege with their food supplies dwindling.

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The remains of Sandal Castle

On 30th December a foraging party was sent out to find food, and although a truce had been agreed over the Christmas period, it came under attack from Lancastrian forces. Watching from the castle, the Duke of York saw another force join the fray and, thinking that it was reinforcements led by Lord John Neville, he gathered his available troops and led them out of the castle to join the fighting. Amongst the men who rode with York were his son Edmund, Sir Thomas Harrington, an experienced retainer of the Neville family and his son, John Harrington.

As they fought, more and more Lancastrians arrived and it became obvious that the Yorkists were surrounded and would be defeated. The Duke of York, put his young son Edmund into the care of his tutor, Sir Robert Aspall, and told them to flee the battlefield. Lord Clifford saw them leave. He followed them as far as Wakefield Bridge where he killed them both. The Duke of York was unhorsed, received a sword wound to his knee and was hacked to death. Half the Yorkist army, almost 3000 men were killed, including Sir Thomas Harrington whose son, John Harrington, died later from his wounds – a turn of events that would lose the family their castle at Hornby.

The Earl of Salisbury was taken to Pontefract Castle and executed. The dead were also taken to Pontefract and the heads of Richard, Duke of York, his sixteen year old son, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, and Sir Thomas Harrington were hacked from their bodies and taken to York where they were displayed on spikes on Micklegate Bar.

Richard of York gave battle in vain
It was the defeat at Wakefield that is thought to have given rise to the saying ‘Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain’.

The brutal slaughter of the Yorkist nobles, rather than holding them for ransom as was the usual practice, resulting in the uncompromising killing of as many Lancastrians as possible at the Battle of Towton, 1461, by the Duke of York’s eldest son, Edward. That battle resulted in him taking the crown as Edward IV, but a rebellion by the Earl of Warwick, who had done so much to support the Yorkists, meant that the wars went on and on.  It was not until Richard III’s defeat at Bosworth at 1485 that the beginning of the Tudor dynasty brought them to a close.

George, Duke of Clarence

On this day, 18th February 1478, George, Duke of Clarence, younger brother of King Edward IV and older brother of Richard III, was executed for treason.  Rumour persists that he was drowned in a butt of malmsey wine. 

George, Duke of Clarence

George was the fourth son of Richard, Duke of York, and Cecily Neville.  He was born in Dublin in 1449, during the time that his father was lieutenant there.

After Richard, Duke of York, was killed at Wakefield in 1460, along with his second son Edmund, it was his eldest son, Edward, who managed to take the throne in 1461.  This made George, as the next surviving brother, the heir to the throne.  He was knighted and created a duke, taking the title of Clarence as a reminder of the hereditary claim of the house of York to the throne of England.

George wanted to marry Isabel Neville, the daughter of the Earl of Warwick, but King Edward objected, probably hoping to arrange a marriage for his brother that was diplomatically advantageous to himself. However, George went ahead and married Isabel anyway with the encouragement of her father who fomented a rebellion against the king and promised George that he could take the crown in his place.  But the plot failed and the rebels were forced to flee abroad.  Warwick allied himself with Queen Margaret of Anjou, the wife of the deposed king Henry VI who was locked up in the Tower of London.  Their invasion was successful and Henry was put back on the throne.  However, this left George without the promised crown and he decided that his best option was to make peace with his brother Edward.  George fought for the Yorkists at the battles of Barnet and Tewksbury and helped his brother to be restored as King Edward IV.  But now Edward had a son of his own and George was no longer next in line to the throne.

Arguments followed about the inheritance of the Neville lands, especially when his younger brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, expressed a wish to marry Anne Neville, the sister of George’s wife Isabel.  George hid Anne, who was the widow of the defeated Prince of Wales, from Richard and the rows that the brothers had at court concerning their shares of the Neville inheritance became so volatile that in a letter to his wife John Paston remarked that men were threatening to wear their harness (armour) to court.  He also writes in a letter to John Paston III ‘Yesterday the King, the Queen and my lords of Clarence and Gloucester went to the pardon at Sheen; men say they were not all in charity with one another. What will befall men cannot say. The king entreats my Lord of Clarence for my Lord of Gloucester; and, it is said, he answers that he (Gloucester) may have my Lady, his sister-in-law, but they will part with no livelode, as he says; so what will fall I cannot say…’

Eventually Richard did marry Anne and the Neville lands were shared between the brothers.  George was appointed chamberlain of England and councillor of Edward, Prince of Wales, who had supplanted him as heir.  He attended the council, parliament and state ceremonies and headed one of the largest retinues on Edward’s invasion of France in 1475.

He and Isabel had four children, two of whom lived. But when Isabel died shortly after giving birth to their last child, who also died, George accused her attendant, Ankarette Twynho, of poisoning her.  He had the woman brought to him from her home in Dorset to his castle at Warwick, conducted a ‘trial’, found her guilty and had her hanged.

Following this, his relationship with the king deteriorated for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the main one was that when George asked to marry Mary, the daughter of the late Charles, Duke of Burgundy, Edward refused.  Perhaps he feared that such an alliance would give George too much power.  In response, George complained in private about his brother and became so hostile that the only contact between them was by angry notes sent via messengers.

When George’s retainer Thomas Burdet and two astrologers supposedly cast the king’s horoscope they were convicted of treason and executed.  George questioned the justice of this and consequently found himself in court accused over the Twynho affair, of railing against the king and of claiming to be the Lancastrian heir.  He was allowed no defence and was sentenced to death for treason.

Some historians blame the king’s wider family, the relatives of his queen, for plotting against Clarence.  Others question the motives of his younger brother Richard who would never have become king had George lived.  But Richard probably had no thought of ever becoming king at this point in time and other sources claim that he pleaded for his brother’s life.

George, Duke of Clarence, was executed privately in the Tower of London. There are no recorded details of his death but a story was told at the time that he had been drowned in malmsey. 

A body, with the head intact, was later exhumed from the Tower of London and taken to lie with the remains of his wife, Isabel, at Tewkesbury Abbey.  It would be interesting to see if any DNA could be extracted from those bones and compared with the DNA recently taken from the newly discovered remains of his younger brother Richard.  If there was a match it would rule out a beheading, although it would not prove the truth of the story of the malmsey wine.

Further Reading: M.A. Hicks, False, Fleeting, Perjur’d Clarence: George Duke of Clarence 1449-78 (Gloucester, 1980)

 *If you’re interested in stories about the Wars of the Roses, don’t miss my new novel: By Loyalty Bound – the story of the mistress of Richard III