Mistress of the Monarchy: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster by Alison Weir

  77 Excerpta Historica; Foedera

  78 Bolingbroke Castle remains to this day the property of the Duchy of Lancaster; it was maintained as a royal castle until the sixteenth century, but thereafter fell into decay. The walls and towers were largely destroyed by the Parliamentarians in 1643, and the gateway collapsed in 1815. The remaining walls and mounds have recently undergone excavation, which revealed some buried stonework, and partial restoration. These ruins are located off an unclassified road in the village of Old Bolingbroke.

  79 Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem; Calendar of Close Rolls

  80 Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem; John of Gaunt’s Register

  81 Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem

  82 Jones, Major, Varley and Johnson; Jones, Stocker and Vince; also the works on Lincoln listed under note 46.

  83 Cole

  84 Froissart

  85 Chandos Herald; Froissart

  86 Some historians place Henry’s birth in the spring of 1366, but that was when his brother John was born; and on June 1, 1367, we find Edward III rewarding one Ingel-ram Falconer for delivering letters from Duchess Blanche in which she announced Henry’s arrival, while on July 14 the King also rewarded Blanche, widow of Sir Robert Bertram, for bringing him news of the birth. Goodman, John of Gaunt; Exchequer Records, E. 43, E. 403.

  87 It was worn by Henry V at Agincourt in 1415, and is now one of the most precious gems in the Imperial State Crown.

  88 Froissart; Russell; Foedera; Exchequer Records, E. 403; Chancery Records, C. 53

  89 He would appear to have reached the age of twenty- one by July 8, 1389 (Pearsall).

  90 Williams; Krauss, Three Chaucer Studies; Delany; Howard

  91 John of Gaunt’s Register; Williams; Gardner

  92 Perry; Loftus and Chettle

  93 Manly; Kelly

  94 Kelly; Perry; Christopherson

  95 Crow and Olsen. It is sometimes claimed that Geoffrey Chaucer never even bore arms; they were not generally granted to merchants until the mid- fifteenth century, and the arms sometimes attributed to his father, John Chaucer, are probably spurious. But a seal used by Thomas Chaucer at Ewelme in 1409, which bears the legend [G]HOFRAI CHAVCIER, has a shield displaying a bend entire, an unbroken diagonal stripe across a field. These are not the arms customarily used by Thomas Chaucer, whose shield sported a bend countercharged in red and silver, with the disposition of colors in each half of the field and at each end of the bend itself, reversed on the other. It is this latter shield that appears on later portraits of Geoffrey, including those at Harvard University and in the National Portrait Gallery, and on his sixteenth- century tomb in Westminster Abbey. There can be little doubt, therefore, that these were his arms, that the chargings on the seal are an early version, somewhat worn and obliterated, and that Thomas, who used the same arms, was Geoffrey’s son. This is borne out by Thomas once signing himself “son of Geoffrey Chaucer,” and being described as such by the fifteenth- century Oxford theologian Thomas Gascoigne, who was personally acquainted with him.

  There are also several instances in this period of men choosing to display their mother’s arms rather than their father’s, if the mother was of higher rank. The arms of Maud Burghersh were more prestigious than any Chaucer could have borne, for she came from a prominent baronial family. And of course Geoffrey Chaucer must have been only one among many male relatives whose arms do not appear on the tomb. As Martin Ruud says, Thomas Chaucer was a snob, not a bastard.

  It has also been pointed out that there is no record of Thomas Chaucer ever claiming the property in Hainault he inherited from his mother, as Thomas Swynford did in 1411; this too has been seen as evidence of bastardy. But it is worth mentioning that we similarly lack any record of Walter de Roët or his sisters inheriting those lands, or of the date of death of Paon de Roët, who left them to his children. We only know of the existence of such an inheritance through Thomas Swynford’s claim, and only because it was contested. A reasonable conclusion is that the records relating to this inheritance, which cannot have been substantial, have simply been lost, so perhaps Thomas Chaucer did get his share. See, for example, Thomas’s seal in Cotton ms. Julius, BL. Cvii, f.153; Exchequer records, E. 164; Leese; Howard; Ruud. 96

  96 John of Gaunt’s Register; Leese; Pearsall


  1 Cartulaire des Comtes de Hainaut

  2 Register of Thomas Appleby; Palmer, “Historical Context…”

  3 John of Gaunt’s Register

  4 Sloane ms. 82, f. 5; Harleian mss.; Lane

  5 Goodman, John of Gaunt; Register of Thomas Appleby. I am indebted to Professor Goodman for sending me the latter reference.

  6 Froissart, Le Joli Buisson de Jonece

  7 Register of Thomas Appleby. There is other evidence that Blanche died in 1368. Dr. J.J.N. Palmer cites a letter John of Gaunt wrote in France on August 17, 1369, in which the duke asks that his cousin, Blanche Mowbray, Lady Poynings, be invited to attend the obit to mark the first anniversary of the duchess’s death; there is also a letter of December 1368 from Louis de Male, Count of Flanders, to Queen Philippa, rejecting a proposal that John of Gaunt marry his daughter Margaret, so Blanche was dead by then, which is why there is no record that she was issued with the customary new robes at Christmas 1368, nor with mourning garments for Queen Philippa the following year. Palmer, “Historical Context…;” John of Gaunt’s Register; Brewer. Stow also gives Blanche’s date of death as 1368.

  8 Walsingham, Gesta Abbatum …; Silva- Vigier. Later, John of Gaunt would donate two pieces of expensive gold cloth to the abbey “for the soul of Blanche his wife, whose body lay here one night.”

  9 Dugdale, History of St. Paul’s Cathedral

  10 Stow, London; Webster

  11 She was the niece of Henry, Duke of Lancaster, being the daughter of his sister Eleanor, who married Richard FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel.

  12 John of Gaunt’s Register

  13 Ibid.

  14 Brewer; Pearsall; Perry; Galway

  15 Brewer

  16 Stone, introduction to Chaucer, Love Visions

  17 Pearsall

  18 Goodman, John of Gaunt; Silva- Vigier; Palmer, “Historical Context…”

  19 Brewer

  20 Froissart

  21 Exchequer Records, E. 403

  22 On November 28, 1368, Philippa had been listed as one of thirteen damoiselles of the Queen who were to be given new robes for Christmas; as a member of the King’s household, Geoffrey Chaucer also received such robes. Pearsall.

  23 Froissart

  24 Froissart, Le Joli Buisson de Jonece

  25 Brewer; Pearsall; Perry; Galway; Exchequer Records, E. 101

  26 Testamenta Eboracensia

  27 John of Gaunt’s Register; Duchy of Lancaster Records, DL. 28. Over the years, there are numerous references to the annual obits in John of Gaunt’s Register and the Receiver-General’s accounts for the Duchy of Lancaster, further proof of John’s enduring devotion to Blanche’s memory.

  28 Bruce

  29 Cole

  30 Froissart

  31 John of Gaunt’s Register; Exchequer Records, E. 101

  32 Froissart

  33 John of Gaunt’s Register

  34 Froissart

  35 The palace was damaged by fires in 1597 and 1704, and completely demolished in 1800.

  36 Froissart; Gardner

  37 Froissart

  38 Ibid.

  39 Armitage- Smith

  40 Additional ms. 12531, fol. 10, detached leaf

  41 Froissart also says that the marriage took place at St. André- de- Cubzac, just north of Bordeaux, while Sandford, writing in the late seventeenth century, claims they were married in the Abbey of St. Andrew in Bordeaux.

  42 John of Gaunt’s Register

  43 Testamenta Eboracensis

  44 Goodman, John of Gaunt

  45 John of Gaunt’s Register

  46 Ibid.; Froissart

  47 John of Gaun
t’s Register; Exeter Cathedral Archives

  48 John of Gaunt’s Register; Goodman, John of Gaunt

  49 Froissart

  50 John of Gaunt’s Register

  51 Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem; Calendar of Close Rolls; Richardson

  52 It has been erroneously claimed that he was buried in Spratton Church, Northamptonshire, but the fine effigy of a knight that lies there in fact graces the tomb of another retainer of John of Gaunt, Hugh’s kinsman Sir John Swynford, Lord of Spratton, who died in 1372. Displayed on this effigy is the earliest- known representation of a collar with the famous Lancastrian SS links. Goodman, John of Gaunt; Gardner; Victoria County History: Northamptonshire.

  53 Norris

  54 Brewer; John of Gaunt’s Register

  55 Brewer

  56 Walsingham

  57 See Holmes, The Good Parliament, for example.

  58 Gardner

  59 Emerson

  60 Anonimalle Chronicle

  61 John of Gaunt’s Register

  62 Ibid. Philippa and Elizabeth were given gold filets set with balas rubies to wear on their heads, and their robes were lavishly embroidered with pearls and trimmed with furs.

  63 Ibid.

  64 Ibid.

  65 Ibid.

  66 Calendar of Patent Rolls; Complete Peerage

  67 Goodman, Wars of the Roses

  68 Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers

  69 The Monk of Evesham corroborates the theory that the affair began only after John had married Constance.

  70 Walsingham; Percy ms.; Armitage- Smith. The late fifteenth-/early sixteenth- century Percy ms. 78 at Alnwick Castle claims that John of Gaunt begot John Beaufort “in the days of the Lady Blanche, his first wife.”

  71 Lord Berners, in his sixteenth- century translation of Froissart, says that Katherine “was concubine to the Duke in his other wives’ days.”

  72 Original Letters; English Historical Documents, vol. IV

  73 Froissart

  74 John of Gaunt’s Register

  75 Lopes

  76 Froissart

  77 John of Gaunt’s Register

  78 See, for example, Roger Joy.

  79 Calendar of Close Rolls

  80 John of Gaunt’s Register

  81 Ibid.

  82 Calendar of Inquisitions Post Mortem; Calendar of Patent Rolls

  83 Ibid.

  84 Calendar of Patent Rolls

  85 John of Gaunt’s Register

  86 Duchy of Lancaster Records, DL. 29

  87 John of Gaunt’s Register

  88 Ibid.

  89 Exchequer Records, E. 403

  90 John of Gaunt’s Register

  91 John of Gaunt’s Register; Goodman, John of Gaunt

  92 Knighton

  93 Packe. According to Froissart, Constance’s sister Isabella was “young and beautiful,” but there the similarity to Constance ended, for Isabella was a lively, flighty girl, worldly rather than devout, with loose morals. In years to come her name would become a byword for scandal at court, for her extramarital affairs were notorious. Nevertheless, the legitimacy of the three children she bore her husband was never called into question. Armitage-Smith; Goodman, John of Gaunt; Howard; Silva- Vigier.

  94 John of Gaunt’s Register

  95 Both Armitage- Smith and Lucraft place his birth date in 1373.

  96 Froissart

  97 Ibid.

  98 Walsingham, Ypodigma Neustriae. Since 1689, Beaufort has been called Monmorency-sur-Aube.

  99 Duchy of Lancaster Records, DL. 27; Froissart

  100 Goodman, Katherine Swynford; Jones and Underwood

  101 By Sandford, for example

  102 Armitage- Smith; Jones and Underwood. Professor Goodman has an interesting theory that the Beauforts were in fact surnamed in honor of Roger de Beaufort, brother of the last Avignon Pope, Gregory XI (Pierre Roger de Beaufort). Roger came from a prominent Provençal family and had been a prisoner of John of Gaunt, held in honorable custody at Kenilworth Castle, since 1370. In 1377 he stood godfather there to the son of his custodian, Sir John Deyncourt. Beaufort was a chivalrous knight, and he and his brother the Pope were highly regarded by the duke, which has prompted Professor Goodman to suggest that John may have wished to compliment Beaufort by naming his children by Katherine after him, and that this may also have been an attempt to hide their paternity. Of course, Beaufort could have been complicit in this matter, but it was hardly complimentary of John to name his bastards after the Pope’s brother, and—even more insultingly—thereby imply that Beaufort had fathered them. Goodman, Katherine Swynford.


  1 Howard

  2 Knighton

  3 Troilus and Criseyde

  4 Anonimalle Chronicle

  5 Thynne

  6 See Chapter 8.

  7 For late medieval attitudes to sex and morality, see, for example, Given- Wilson and Curteis; Goodman, Honourable Lady; Gardner; Silva- Vigier.

  8 John of Gaunt’s Register

  9 Ibid.

  10 Ibid.; Brewer

  11 John of Gaunt’s Register

  12 Letters of Mediaeval Women

  13 John of Gaunt’s Register. Lady Wake had been born Alice FitzAlan, daughter of the Earl of Arundel, and she was a niece of Henry, Duke of Lancaster, a cousin to Duchess Blanche, and married to Thomas Holland, eldest son of Princess Joan. Thus, she was eminently suited, through her connections alone, to look after the Lancastrian children.

  14 Ibid.

  15 Ibid.; Bruce

  16 John of Gaunt’s Register

  17 Ibid; Goodman, John of Gaunt. Tutbury Castle is now an extensive ruin, having been largely slighted by Cromwell’s troops in the civil war. Three towers remain, as does John of Gaunt’s gateway, but most of the other buildings are fifteenth century or later.

  18 Chute

  19 Goodman, Honourable Lady. For the governess’s role, see Goodman, Honourable Lady, John of Gaunt; Lucraft, “Missing from History;” Chute; Lewis, Cult of St. Katherine; Tilbury.

  20 John of Gaunt’s Register

  21 Ibid.

  22 Ibid.

  23 Ibid.

  24 Ibid.

  25 Ibid.

  26 Pearsall

  27 John of Gaunt’s Register; Rotuli Parliamentorum

  28 For the chevauchée of 1373, see, for example, Goodman, John of Gaunt; Froissart; Armitage- Smith; Delachenal; Holmes; Sherborne.

  29 Froissart

  30 For a reassessment of the campaign, see Palmer; Les Grandes Chroniques France.

  31 Walsingham; Eulogium; Russell; Froissart

  32 Calendar of Entries in the Papal Registers

  33 John of Gaunt’s Register. On June 18, while still at the Savoy, John ordered six cartloads of alabaster from the quarry at Tutbury for two effigies to be placed on the tomb being built to the memory of “the Lady Blanche, formerly our consort,” in St. Paul’s; already he had decided that he wished to spend eternity by the side of his first wife. Another mention of the tomb appears on December 4 of that year in the accounts for Blanche’s obit, and in January 1375 the duke paid Henry Yevele, the foremost master mason of the day, for his work on it, yet to be completed; Yevele was also working at the Savoy at this time. In 1376-77, Yevele was contracted to supply a tomb chest of Purbeck marble to accommodate the bodies of Blanche and, in time, her husband, and was paid £108 (£29,036) in part payment for it. The alabaster effigies were later painted, and an iron screen placed about the chantry. Given the expertise, time, and money—in total £486 (£205,139)—that were lavished on the tomb, it must have been magnificent indeed. It was, wrote the chronicler Monk of St. Denis, “an incomparable sepulchre.” John of Gaunt’s Register; Harvey, Henry Yevele; Duchy of Lancaster Records, DL. 28.

  34 Lettenhove, introduction to Froissart

  35 Armitage-Smith; Goodman, John of Gaunt; Rose; John of Gaunt’s Register

  36 Perroy; Holmes; Goodman, John of Gaunt

  37 John of Ga
unt’s Register; Duchy of Lancaster Records, DL. 42

  38 Crow and Olsen; Pearsall

  39 Coleman

  40 John of Gaunt’s Register

  41 For this obit, see Lewis, “The Anniversary Service;” Webster

  42 John of Gaunt’s Register; Silva-Vigier

  43 Silva-Vigier

  44 John of Gaunt’s Register

  45 Roger Joy

  46 John of Gaunt’s Register

  47 Ibid.

  48 Ibid.

  49 Ibid.; Kirby. She was paid 100 marks (£11,944) per annum to house him and his attendants.

  50 John of Gaunt’s Register

  51 Ibid.

  52 Ibid.

  53 Ibid.

  54 Ibid. There is no evidence to support the recent theory identifying Blanche Swynford with John of Gaunt’s bastard daughter Blanche, who married Sir Thomas Morieux in 1381 (see Chapter 6). Froissart states that Marie de St. Hilaire was Blanche Morieux’s mother, and as he was in Queen Philippa’s household in the early 1360s, he was in a position to know that, for Marie was one of her damoiselles and his countrywoman. Had Blanche Swynford lived, she would probably have married Robert Deyncourt, but there is no record of that marriage actually taking place.

  55 Ibid.

  56 Ibid.

  57 Foedera; Armitage- Smith

  58 John of Gaunt’s Register

  59 Ibid.

  60 Ibid.

  61 Ibid.

  62 Ibid.

  63 For Katherine Swynford’s connections with Boston, see principally Thompson; Cook, Boston.

  64 Calendar of Escheat Rolls

  65 Ibid.

  66 Jones and Underwood

  67 In medieval times there was no rule about the use of such marks for younger sons: It was only around 1500 that John Writhe, Garter King of Arms, invented a cadency system to indicate a son’s place in the family, whereby a crescent signified a second son. That rule cannot be applied to fourteenth- century heraldry, but Sandford was clearly following a well- established tradition that Henry was the second male Beaufort.

  68 John of Gaunt’s Register

  69 Records of the Borough of Leicester

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