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Book Review: The Black Prince

Black Prince CoverMichael Jones’s most recent book retells the story of Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales, who is better known today as the Black Prince. Raised to be a warrior in the mould of his father, King Edward III, the Prince ‘won his spurs’ in battle at the tender age of sixteen. At Crécy he commanded a hard-pressed division of the English army, and thereafter his life was dominated by conflict with France. By the age of twenty-six, when he won a spectacular victory at the Battle of Poitiers, he had established himself as one of the greatest soldiers of his time. The Prince also caused a stir when he appears to have married for love, choosing as his bride the beautiful Joan of Kent. (Evidently he was willing to overlook Joan’s controversial past.) Continue reading Book Review: The Black Prince

The Lacock Cup

During a recent trip to London I visited the Medieval Europe gallery at the British Museum – I thoroughly recommend it. I was particularly glad to see the Fishpool Hoard at last (even though a couple of items are currently on loan elsewhere). I was also very taken with the Tring Tiles and a striking morse from Warden Abbey. Another object that caught my eye was the Lacock Cup: a rare and precious survival with a long and intriguing story. Continue reading The Lacock Cup

James IV of Scotland, the Pilgrim King

James IV was one of Scotland’s most colourful kings, who lived life to the full. He sought glory through the pursuit of warfare, although this ultimately led to disaster; he was killed by the English at the Battle of Flodden, in 1513, when he was still only forty. In spite of the awful end to his reign, several modern historians have presented him as an effective ruler – not least because he offered more than military leadership. He was assiduous in the exercise of justice; he lived up to late-medieval ideals of kingship through his interest in learning and patronage of the arts; he excelled in the management of his fractious nobility, many of whom eventually followed him to the death. James also conformed to contemporary expectations in his personal brand of piety, which he expressed most notably through pilgrimage. Continue reading James IV of Scotland, the Pilgrim King

A Brief History of Conisbrough Castle

I grew up in Doncaster: perhaps not the most obvious place to inspire a budding medieval historian. Yet in fact the town has a rich history, and in the wider Doncaster area there are still quite a number of medieval buildings. These include a castle at Tickhill and several wonderful churches. (My personal favourite is quirky little St Oswald’s in Kirk Sandall.) However Doncaster’s most significant medieval building is surely Conisbrough Castle, which dominates the skyline for miles around. It is probably best known for its connection with Sir Walter Scott, whose famous novel Ivanhoe was apparently inspired by the castle, although of course it does have a much longer story. Continue reading A Brief History of Conisbrough Castle

The Siege of Caerlaverock Castle

Edward I was one of England’s most formidable kings – he is respected by historians for his legal reforms as well as his wars – but he is remembered rather differently in Scotland. In the last years of his reign he waged a series of bloody campaigns, seeking to impose his rule over the Scots by force of arms. In 1298 he won a crushing victory at the Battle of Falkirk, avenging an English defeat at Stirling Bridge, although this failed to bring him the ultimate outcome he craved. Thereafter the conflict became a war of attrition, as many Scots continued with dogged opposition.

In the summer of 1300 Edward summoned an army to assemble at Carlisle. The plan was to establish English control in the south-west of Scotland – traditionally a volatile region which was then proving especially troublesome. There was a centre of Scottish resistance at Caerlaverock Castle (to the south-east of Dumfries), whose garrison enjoyed regular skirmishes with English forces. Continue reading The Siege of Caerlaverock Castle