Thursday, 28 June 2012

James, Duke of Monmouth

A young James Duke of Monmouth

James Crofts, later known as the Duke of Monmouth was the bastard son of Charles II and his first known Mistress Lucy Walter. He was born on 9th April 1649, and would go down in history as the man who would lose his head for rebelling against his uncle. Now then, I will be the first to admit that I have a little bit of a thing for Monmouth - and yes it may have something to do with his rather handsome portrait, and the fact I have a thing for blokes in periwigs. It may also have something to do with the fact that his sheer character intrigues me - the eldest bastard child of Charles II and a young man who believed wholeheartedly that his mother and his father were married and thus that he was the true heir to the English throne. That, and and he was an exceptional soldier and the people loved him.

However, I won't be writing about Monmouth's early life spent overseas. Even though a lot of stuff happened when he was a child, a lot more happened when he had grown up and moved back to England to live with his father at court. I will briefly mention however that in 1658 the young lad was kidnapped by his fathers men (because he believed Lucy wasn't treating him right!) and taken to Paris where he lived with Lord Crofts - and James ended up taking the name Crofts until he was made Duke of Monmouth by his father in 1663.

James Duke of Monmouth by William Wissing

James was just 14 years old when his father made him Duke of Monmouth and he was also given the titles of Earl of Doncaster and Baron Scott of Tyndale. Later that year he was also made a Knight of the Garter. Not bad for a 14 year old! Not only that but in April 1663 he married to Anne Scott, a rather wealthy heiress. The day after the marriage they were both created Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch, Earl and Countess of Dalkeith and Lord and Lady Scott of Whitchester.

As I have already briefly mentioned, Monmouth was an exceptionally popular young man. The reason for this was simple - as the son of Charles II he was a Protestant, and the people did not want their next King to be Catholic. James Duke of York, Charles' brother and heir to the throne, was leaning towards the Catholic faith. James would later openly convert and it was not a popular decision. James and his Uncle would never have an easy relationship and it would sadly end in disaster for poor James.

James Duke of York at the National Maritime Museum

Despite this, from the age of 16 Monmouth served in the military under the command of his Uncle and it was this that ultimately put the barrier up between the two of them. Monmouth took part in the Second Dutch War serving under his uncle and in 1666 ended up taking command of a troop of horse. In 1668 he was made Commander of Charles II's own troop of Horse Guards, and then in 1672 went over to France as head of a troop of 6000 men and served as part of the French Army - the men went over as payment to France for their help in the Third Dutch War, and it was his experiences in these campaigns which made him one of the finest soldiers of his period. It's no wonder he had such confidence when he turned against his uncle later on!

In 1674, James was created Master of the Horse and Charles ordered that all miitary orders be given to Monmouth first for examination which gave him effective command over the entire army. Is it any wonder that the Duke of York began to get a little irate with all the favours being shown to Monmouth?

Throughout all of this, the succession was the utmost thought in people's minds. Charles II had been unable to produce a legitimate heir with his wife Catherine of Braganza, yet had fathered a number of bastards with his mistresses. James Duke of York was Charles' heir, but York was unpopular and Parliament thought it would be fun to try and pass a bill blocking his succession to the throne. Alas Parliament failed and Charles insisted that his brother was his heir. Yet Monmouth had this deep seated belief that he was Charles' legitimate child, that his mother and father had been married (though is this likely? Due to the lack of evidence we will never know but I personally like to think so!) and that he should be the legitimate heir. Even then there was no evidence to support this claim, despite rumours of an exisiting marriage certificate. "The Power & The Passion" starring Rufus Sewell shows Charles as burning the marriage certificate - did this happen? Was it hidden and found later? There are rumours from the living relatives of Monmouth but really we can never be sure.

1683 saw a plot uncovered to assassinate both Charles and James Duke of York, known as the Popish Rye House Plot, arranged by a man by the name of Titus Oates. The plot alas came to nothing (again, shown brilliantly in the Power & The Passion!) but poor Monmouth was implicated in the plot and ended up being sent into exile in Holland!

Following his banishment in 1683, Charles never saw his eldest son again.

Charles II

Charles II died on 6th February 1685, having converted to Catholicism on his death bed. And due to Charles having no legitimate heirs, his brother James ascended to the throne and became James II. Monmouth, still believing that his parents had been legally married and that he was the legitimate heir, decideed it would be fun to come back to England and lead a rebellion against his uncle. After he landed in Lyme Regis in the July of 1685, Monmouth declared himself as King at various points along the way including Axminster and Taunton. And he was popular so many did not try to stop him, even going so far as to shout crys of "A MONMOUTH! A MONMOUTH!" after him. 6th July 1685 saw the Battle of Sedgemoor in which Monmouth found himself up against his Uncle's armies. Monmouth was defeated and made his way to Ringwood in Hampshire, where he was captured.

Of course there were a few skirmishes a long the way and I will always remember the story of how Monmouth and his compatriots stayed at the George Inn at Norton St Philip in the West Country during the rebellion. I was told the story of the rebellion one evening on the way home from an archaeological dig, and it stuck with me.

The George Inn: Norton St Phillip

I was also told the story of Monmouth's execution on that same car journey, which has haunted me ever since. But it comes later...

After being captured at Ringwood, Monmouth never stood trial for the crimes he committed against his uncle. He was condemned by act of attainder. He was automatically found guilty of high treason and would be beheaded, his lands and titles would become forfeit.

Monmouth's execution

On 15th July 1685, James Duke of Monmouth was executed on Tower Hill for leading the rebellion against James II. His executioner was the infamous Jack Ketch. Upon the scaffold, Monmouth felt the edge of the axe and asked if it was sharp enough - his good friend having been executed by Ketch and it being botched - and he gave Ketch a bag of coins to encourage his good work. The coins did not help. Ketch botched the execution.

The first blow did not sever Monmouth's head, and it is said Monmouth looked at Ketch in shock. 5 blows later and Monmouth was only just dead, and Ketch ended up removing Monmouth's head with a butchers knife.

Monmouth's story always brings a tear to my eye. I don't know why, I just feel a certain affinity with him. His story is so sad - he was loved by his father but suffered because of his own blind belief. He lead a remarkable life, but again let his beliefs bring him down. Part of me wishes that his rebellion in the west country had succeeded, and I don't know why but I think that he would have made a great King. But alas, we cannot change history and who knows what might have been should he succeeded. But Monmouth's story is so gripping and so sad, I always feel a pang of pain when I think of the fate he suffered.

A MONMOUTH!


Further reading


Coward, B, 2012, The Stuart Age: England 1603-1714 (Fourth Edition), Pearson: Harlow
Fraser, A, 1979. King Charles II, Butler & Tanner: Frome
Harris, T, 2006, Restoration: Charles II and his Kingdoms, Penguin: London
Watson, J.N.P, 1979, Captain General & Rebel Chief: The Life of James Duke of Monmouth,:George Allen & Unwin: London

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Winchester Cathedral


So yesterday after work I took myself off to Winchester to meet up with an old friend from University, and to have a wander around the Cathedral. It was absolutely fantastic to meet up with my friend and we had a few pints in one of the oldest pubs in Winchester, The Eclipse. This pub was the site of Lady Alice Lisle's imprisonment after her apparent involvement in hiding John Hicks, a dissenting minister and man who sides with Monmouth after the Monmouth rebellion. She was also executed outside the pub after being found guilty. The poor woman was in her 70's. It is said that her ghost haunts the upstairs corridor of the pub, leading to the women's toilets and I have to say it is a very very creepy corridor!


After a few pints we went and had a quick cuppa in the Cathedral cafe before I took myself off into the cathedral. It has been a good few years since I've been in there but it holds a very special place in my heart. I won't spend ages writing about the cathedral because I could probably write a book on it. My main interest is the Cathedral's links to the English Civil War - when the Parliamentarian troops took Winchester they burst into the Cathedral, smashed windows with the bones of the great people buried there, stole great treasures and desecrated the church. You can still see damage from this, particularly in the two statues that flank the great doors.

King James I

King Charles I


Musket hole in the cape of James I, some nasty parliamentarian obviously took umbrage to the statue and thought it would be fun to shoot it.

As well as this, as you head up towards the altar, hidden away on one of the columns is a tiny brass plaque:


The picture isn't very clear because I couldn't get my camera to work properly. This brass is a memorial to Colonel John Boles who was killed in action at the Battle of Alton in 1643 - the plaque incorrectly dates his death to 1641 and also calls him Richard who was actually his brother! The brass reads:

For this renowned Martialist Richard Boles of the Right Worshipful Family of the Boles in Linckhorne Shire, Collonell of a Ridgment of Foot of 1300, who for his gracious King Charles the First did wounders at the battle of Edge-hill. His last action to omit all others, was at Alton, in this county of Suthampton was surprised by five or six thousand of the Rebels; which caused him, there quartered, to fly to the church with near four-score of his Men, who there fought them six or seven hours; And then the Rebells breaking in upon him, He slew with his Sword six or seven of them. And this was slain himself, with sixty of his men about him. 1641.

His gracious sovereign hearing of his Death gave him his high Commendation, in that passionate Expression,

"Bring me a Mourning Scarf, I have lost one of the best Commanders in the Kingdome"

Alton will tell you of that famous Fight
Which this man made, and bade this world good night
His vitrtuous Life fear'd not Mortalyte;
His body must, his ventues cannot die
Because his Blood was there so nobly spent:
This is his Tombe, that Church his Monument.

Richardus Boles Wiltoniensis in Art. Mag
Composuit posuitq: Doleus
An Sni 1689

The plaque always brings a tear to my eye, despite it showing the wrong name and date. But it's OK, because it was erected in 1689 so I can guess I can forgive them. They were probably too busy partying to care too much about it.

As I was wandering around the Cathedral as well, I came across a statue of a rather dashing Restoration gentleman in a periwig:


I couldn't read the writing underneath that said who he was, so I stopped a bloke in monks robes - he probably wasn't a monk, but they looked like monks robes - and asked him. He tried to read it and said he couldn't make out the name but that he had been a soldier. Now this morning, as I was looking through my various books on the English Civil War in Winchester I discovered that this rather dashing man was Sir John Clobury who died in 1687. He was a soldier who payed close attention to literature and claimed to help General Monke restore the Monarchy is 1660! I knew there was a reason I liked the statue!!

Of course there is a lot more in the Cathedral than Seventeenth Century awesomeness and I took so many photographs it in unreal. Here are just a few of them.

I am always stunned when I see these medieval wall paintings - they are apparently one of the finest examples in England. They date from the 12th Century but were covered yup in the 13th Century but a new layer of plaster. They were discovered by a fall of plaster in the 19th Century but it's only since the 20th Century that they were able to be fully restored.

Bishop Fox's tomb and Chantry Chapel


Cardinal Beaufort's Tomb


Beautiful medieval floor tiles. We found very similar ones at the Mary Magdalene Leper Hospital on the outskirts of Winchester when I took part in a dig there.

The shrine of St Swithun. This memorial stands on the site of the original shrine that was destroyed by Henry VIII and his commissioners in 1538. St Swithun was an Anglo Saxon bishop of Winchester and subsequently became the city's Patron Saint. AND THERE IS STILL A ST SWITHUN'S DAY!!! It is said that on his day (15th July) whatever the weather is, it will stay like that for 40 days!


A random statue of Joan of Arc

The heart burial of Bishop Aymer de Valance


Tomb of Bishop Gardiner, that slimy bloke from The Tudors - not the actor but the actual Bishop who was a bit of a nasty piece of work. The cadaver shown here is really unsettling, it has worms and stuff carved into it...

I thought I'd take a picture of the info board...

This building kept making me stop and have 17th Century feels

STOP GIVING ME ALL THESE FEELS

Isn't it just breathtaking?

Tomb of the famous William Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester until his death in 1404. He made many of the alterations that we see in the building today.


Very out of focus photo of a rather beautiful ceiling

And that was that, after spending a good few hours wandering around and having too many feels at all the Seventeenth Century stuff as well as getting too many feels about the earlier stuff (especially Henry VIII destroying the Shrine, that nasty man!), I was ushered out as they began to close. 

I haven't gone into the history of the building itself because that is a different post for a different day. But the building has lasted for many many hundreds of years and seen so much. Every time I visit I see something new, and it always takes my breath away. Winchester Cathedral has to be one of my favourite places in the entire world.

Further Reading

Friday, 22 June 2012

A Quick Catch Up - Various Historical Ramblings

It's been a while since I've sat down and written a proper blog about anything. I blame work. No really I do. Also I blame the fact that I've been busy working away at editing my book, which I am slightly behind on because of said work. But never mind. I shall pick the manuscript back up tomorrow evening and try not to drown it in my English Civil War/Stuart family tears.

If I'm perfectly honest I don't even know why I'm sitting here typing this because it will most likely have nothing to do with anything remotely historical whatsoever. I suppose I just felt like checking in with you all and saying hello. Oh, and telling you what historical shenanigans I've been up to this past week - wait, didn't I just say this would have nothing historical? Oh well.

So, on Thursday 14th I wrote that whole post on the death of Juan Borgia, and after I saw the lovely David Oakes tweet about it being the 515th Anniversary of Juan's death I may have, sort of, tweeted him about the piece I wrote. And a couple of days later, as I switched on tweetdeck a little thing popped up in my mentions list. I may have sat there in shock for a good few minutes before squealing at my partner: OH MY GOD DAVID OAKES RETWEETED MY JUAN POST. HE MUST HAVE READ IT AND LIKED IT!!!! Yeah, I may have gotten a little bit overexcited, I'm not sorry one bit.


It's probably not very clear in the screen shot but it says "retweeted by David_Oakes". Now for those of you who don't know, or who haven't seen Showtime's "The Borgia's", David Oakes plays Juan Borgia, second son of Rodrigo Borgia - or as he is more often known "Alexander VI". Now then I won't spoil season 2 for those who haven't seen it, but let's just say that David did an utterly astounding job portraying the history of Juan, despite the inaccuracies of the time lines etc. I found myself in floods of tears seeing Juan's downward spiral, yet at the same time I loved his sass. Honestly, if you haven't seen The Borgias, please do check it out because it is fantastic, albeit not hugely accurate. But hey, it is entertainment after all, and very well done entertainment!!

I may have gone a little bit mad on books this past week. A few weeks ago I went on a bit of a spree buying a ton of books on Minette Stuart, just because I love her and all, and I may have ended up buying a few more than I should have...


The two lying cover up are two that I brought myself on Tuesday from a bookshop when I was on the way back from the hospital. I felt like cheering myself up after a diagnosis of Coeliac disease (I'm not going to go into it too it here as y'know this is a history blog and all but let's just say that things weren't entirely clear from the doctor and they said it was "mild" and I had to cut down on my gluten intake and it runs hand in hand with my type 1 diabetes. Excellent. They didn't tell me that changing my diet to mainly gluten free would really play around with my blood sugars, but still, different story for a different day) and I ended up spending £35 on two books. BUT IT WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT! The books spine up are mainly all on Minette, except the two on the left which are dedicated to my favourite couple in history; Charles I and Henrietta Maria, and the biggest bad ass woman on the planet Caterina Sforza!


And then yesterday, this little beauty arrived! I'm not going to lie, but I have a bit of a thing for the Earl of Rochester aka John Wilmot aka the man who wrote the most obscene play of the Seventeenth Century. Have any of you seen The Libertine with Johnny Depp? If not, why not? I ADORE IT SO MUCH! I also adore Rochester. The other day I sat down and read his entire obscene play in a matter of hours, and I loved every minute of it. And no, not because if was Seventeenth Century pornography...but because I thought it was freaking hilarious and also provided an excellent commentary to Rochester's feelings on the court of Charles II. Does that sound a bit presumptuous? Maybe. I'm not sorry.

Tomorrow I'm planning on visiting Winchester when I finish work. I went to University in that gorgeous city and haven't been since my graduation. It's going to be amazing to get back there. The town has such a magical quality for me, mainly for its history. The city has been there for centuries, and even has an Iron Age hill fort on its outskirts. I have many fond memories of St Catherine's Hill, particularly sitting up there one very cold November evening watching various firework displays. My main interest in the city lies in its ties to the English Civil War - the city itself changed hands many sides during the War (which is worth a blog post on its own), and the Cathedral shows a lot of English Civil War damage in the interior, caused by Parliamentarian Soldiers. Not only that but the famous Round Table, hung in the Great Hall of Winchester Cathedral, also suffered Parliamentarian vandalism after they burst into the Hall and shot at the table with their muskets! My main plan tomorrow is to have a slow wander around the Cathedral and soak in its atmosphere - I adore the place and find it very peaceful, plus the history held in the building helps. I also have a plan to light a candle for a close friend of mine who recently passed away. There are two statues by the entrance of James I and Charles I both of which have musket damage which I am particularly interested in revisiting. And for those Tudor fans, Stephen Gardiner Bishop of Winchester is also buried within the walls. I will return with lots of pictures. I should also hopefully be meeting up with an old friend from Uni for pints which is always fun!

And if I'm honest there hasn't been much historical fun going on for this past week. I still blame work. I've mainly been reading a book that is so far from history based you wouldn't even believe it. For anyone who cares, I've been reading "Let's Pretend This Never Happened" by Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess and it has to be one of the best non history books I've ever read. It's not often an autobiography has me laughing so hard that tears run down my face, but this book was fantastic. Not only that but between the hilarity there were also some very serious moments that provided a very stark insight into mental illness. It is a fantastic book, very funny and very very frank. I would recommend it to anyone, whether they are into this type of book or not. I've also been working my way through "Restoration London" by Liza Picard which reads like a more serious version of Ian Mortimer's "A Visitor's Guide to Medieval England" and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I am learning so much more about what the normal citizens of London in the 1660's would have lived like and it is rather nice coming at the era from the "bottom up" as it were...

And my old A-Level teacher would be so proud of me for using the term "bottom up" in a sentence about history.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

"Monsieur Is A Villain!"


Phillipe Duc D'Orleans

"Monsieur is a villain!" These are the words that Charles II is said to have shouted when he received the news of his sisters death. But why did he say those words? Rumours came from the French Court that Madame, Minette, had been poisoned by her husband Phillipe; and in a fit of grief and rage at the thought of this Charles locked himself away in his bedroom for 5 days.


Henrietta Anne "Minette" Stuart by Sir Peter Lely

So far, I haven't read too much about Minette and her life. But yesterday I finished the fantastic "My Dearest Minette" by Ruth Norrington and from reading it I have developed an immense dislike for Phillipe Duc d'Orleans, more commonly known as Monsieur.

Minette married Phillipe on 30th March 1661 but the marriage was not a happy one. It became more and more evident towards the end of Minette's life, especially when Monsieur began to spend more and more time with his favourite, the Chevalier de Lorraine. Monsieur and Lorraine were inseparable, and Monsieur ended up falling head over heels in love with him. It is said that the two were also sexually involved with each other, and Monsieur rather enjoyed showing his favourite off in front of his wife, and the court.


Phillipe, Chevalier De Lorraine

The relationship between the two men is what finally ruined the relationship between Minette and Monsieur. Previous to Lorraine showing up, Monsieur seems to have been at least a little bit interested in Minette, even doting on her in the first year of their marriage. But Monsieur would soon begin to show his true colours, becoming increasingly jealous of Minette and any relationships she developed with others. He believed that Minette was having an affair with Louis XIV, even going so far as to complain to his mother Queen Anne of Austria who reprimanded both Louis and Minette. It was also said that Minette began an affair with Phillipe's old lover the Comte De Guiche which sparked more jealousy from Monsieur. Not only that, but when Charles II sent his illegitimate son James, Duke of Monmouth, over to France in 1668; Phillipe began to grow very jealous of all the time that Minette was spending closeted away with her nephew. And Lorraine began to fan the flames, rumours sparking that something was going on between Minette and Monmouth. When Minette complained of Monsieur's behaviour towards her, his jealousy and his anger, Louis XIV reprimanded his brother and in anger Monsieur took Minette away from the court.

It is the events of 1669-70 that really made me dislike Monsieur. This ended up being the final year of Minette's life, and Monsieur's treatment of her just got worse and worse. After Madame de St. Chaumont was dismissed from court (she had been the governess of her children), Monsieur had his way in appointing her replacement. Minette wanted her friend Madame de La Fayette as the new governess but Monsieur appointed one of his minions, the Marechale de Clerembault. And at this point Lorraine began publicly bragging that he was the one responsible for getting rid of all of Minette's friends, and began to spread rumours that a divorce was on the cards for the couple. After Monsieur went to the King to beg that Lorraine be given the lands of a recently passed away friend, of which the King refused, Monsieur lost his temper. He ended up telling Lorraine what the King had said about him - that he was not a fit person to hold Church benefices - Lorraine made offensive remarks about the King. Of course at the French court news spread quickly and the news reached the King, who promptly dismissed the Chevalier in disgrace. Monsieur blamed his wife and began acting terribly towards her, even though she had very little to do with it. He refused to sleep with her, which of course caused huge scandal at court, and the two barely spoke. Was there violence? So far I have read nothing to suggest this but that's not to say there was none. And as the two spent their time away from court at Villers-Cotterets, Monsieur refused to return to court unless his favourite was restored. He was eventually persuaded to return, and Minette had a huge part to play in the negotiations between France and England.


Minette as Minerva, holding a portrait of Monsieur by Antoine Mathieu

When they returned, everyone noticed how pale and unwell Minette looked.

It was vitally important that Minette visit England to secure the secret treaty between the two countries and when it was mentioned to Monsieur he lost his temper, saying he would never let her go. Charles of course resented this behaviour hugely and his feelings were reported to Louis by the French Ambassador. It was the Ambassadors brother Jean Baptiste who persuaded Monsieur to let her go for a short visit as long as he went with her. Monsieur begrudgingly allowed her three days, but then began making a fuss and saying that he should go with her - Charles was the man to come up with best excuse to keep Monsieur out of England; it would be unseemly for Monsieur to go to England unless James Duke of York could visit the French King at the same time. Was it a coincidence that James could not go? Probably not.

When Minette returned to France on 3rd June (meeting with her husband on 18th June at St Germain - her journey had taken over two weeks!), relations with her husband were still very strained. When Minette met her husband and the King at St Germaine, he sulkily refused the offer for he and his wife to go and stay at Versailles. Upon her return she apparently looked stunningly beautiful but in reality she was very unwell and spent the day of her arrival in bed at St Germaine. Despite being most graciously received by the King, Monsieur really ruined her happiness by constantly reminding her that with her influence with the King, she could very easily get Lorraine recalled from his exile. And when, after the couple and their children had removed to St Cloud, they were invited to Versailles Monsieur yet again began to get exceptionally jealous. The reason for this one was that Minette became involved in a secret conference with the King to discuss the treaty she had been to England for. When Monsieur entered the room, they broke off their conversation and refused to continue it whilst he was there. And at dinner that evening a member of the court infuriated Monsieur by mentioning how attentive Monmouth had been to Minette during his visit. Not only that but Monsieur was starting to turn his eldest daughter against Minette, teaching her to hate her mother. Minette was of course deeply unhappy with this, and her health was failing fast.

In the June of 1670, Minette began to complain of searing pains in her side and people began to comment on how unwell she looked, including Monsieur! The next day she asked for some chicory water, which she had been drinking in the warm evenings since her return to St Cloud. As soon as she drank it she gave a cry and collapsed. Her maids put her to bed, and people began to talk of the water being poisoned. The pains in her stomach got worse and a doctor was called, who diagnosed Colic and said she would recover. But Minette knew she was dying as she called for Monsieur and said to him:

"Alas Monsieur, you have long since ceased to love me, but you have been unjust to me. I never wronged you."

It was suggested, by Monsieur, that to prove the water had not been poisoned that they should give some to the dog. Two of Minette's maids offered to taste it, as did Monsieur however it must be noted that they did not drink out of the same cup as Minette had, it was missing. When it was found it had been thrown into a fire to clean it. When Monsieur finally realised his wife was dying, he appeared very upset and rounded on the doctor, blaming him for his incompetence. But as Monsieur sat with her, she found his lamentations too much and sent him away again. Was he putting it on? And at three o clock in the morning on 30th June, Minette passed away.

The death certificate was signed after a post mortem was performed, the cause of death being stated as "cholera morbis", but the English doctors were not entirely satisfied with that, saying that the junior doctor who performed the post mortem was incompetent and it seemed as if he were covering up the truth. The post mortem however did not stop the rumours that flooded France and England - that she had been poisoned by the Chevalier Lorraine and his cronies. Monsieur however was not blamed for it. After her death, many confirmed that Minette had been poisoned, including Monsieur's second wife. Louis never believed that Monsieur had any part in it however, saying that if it were the case he would never allow Monsieur to marry again. It was the Orleans Maitre d'Hotel that said she had been poisoned but not by Monsieur. It had been Lorraine who hatched the plot in Italy with two of his friends who were living in the household of Monsieur. However, Louis tried hard to keep the poison theory hushed up, it was a politically sensitive time and even went so far as to recall Lorraine from his exile and allow him to live back in Monsieur's household. And despite the grief that wracked the French Royal Family, Monsieur's grief was incredibly superficial - he ended up dressing himself and his children in preposterous mourning clothes.

And as mentioned at the start of this post, when Charles II heard of his sisters death he cried, "Monsieur is a Villain" and locked himself away for 5 days in his grief, unable to bear the thought that his dearest Minette had been poisoned by her husband.

Whilst I do not believe that Monsieur had a hand in his wife's death, he certainly treated her terribly during her life. His showing off of his favourites and having open affairs with them was despicable, and more so when Lorraine began to use his place with Monsieur to try and ruin Minette, Monsieur did nothing to stop it. Indeed it seems to me that he encouraged it. Is it any wonder that Minette ended up sinking into sadness and illness that everyone commented on? The story of Minette's relationship with her husband makes me feel so sad, she did not deserve to be treated so badly by her husband. And from the little reading I have done on Minette, I have begun to dislike Monsieur hugely...and it's not often I feel so strongly about people from history (except for Oliver Cromwell, because well...he deserves it). I fully intend to do more reading in and around Minette's life, although I doubt very much my feelings on her nasty piece of work husband will change.

Further reading

Bevan, B, 1979, Charles II's Minette, Ascent Books: London
Norrington, R, 1996, My Dearest Minette, Peter Own Publishers: London

Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Death of Juan Borgia


David Oakes as Juan Borgia in "The Borgias"

I have mentioned the death of Juan Borgia very briefly in passing when I was writing about the life of his brother Cesare. And due to the rather epic amount of Juan Borgia feels I am having today, I thought I would write about it in a little more detail. Or, at least, as much detail as I can fathom from the little evidence at my disposal. It's not that there's a huge lack of evidence, it's just that it's mostly rumours that have been written down and passed through the years. ANYWAY, the reason for my wanting to write about this today is that it is the 515th anniversary of Juan Borgia's death.


A man said to be Juan Borgia by unknown

On 14th June 1497, just one week after being given the Duchy of Benevento and the cities of Terracina and Pontecorvo, Juan Borgia went missing. The story goes that on that very same afternoon, he and Cesare had eaten supper with their mother Vanozza in her country villa at Monte Martino dei Monti and they returned as night was falling. As they reached the bridge leading to the Castel Sant Angelo, Juan told his brother that he would leave him there as he needed to go somewhere on his own. Despite protestations that the streets of Rome were too dangerous for a man who had as many enemies as Juan did, all Juan would do is send a groom back to his rooms to fetch his light armour, and that he would meet the groom at the Piazza Judea. And as Cesare, and his cousin also named Juan Borgia (the younger) took their leave, Juan turned his mule towards the Ghetto. As he rode away, a masked man appeared behind him and they rode off together.

According to Hibbert, in his wonderful biography "The Borgias & Their Enemies", less than an hour after Juan had dismissed the groom, the poor boy was attacked and horrifically wounded. He was discovered lying in a pool of blood and dragged into a nearby house. The owner of the house was apparently so frightened that she refused to report what had happened until the following day. Although according to Bradford in her authoritative biography "Cesare Borgia: His Life & Times", the groom was attacked on his way to fetch Juan's armour, but the wounds were mild and so he arrived at the Piazza to wait for his master, and so returned to the Palace thinking that Juan had spent the night with a woman as he so often did. At any rate, Juan's disappearance was not reported until the next day but the Pope, Juan and Cesare's father, was not overly worried. After all Juan was known for his amours. But as the day wore on and Juan still did not appear he began to panic, he sent for Cesare and demanded to know where Juan was. Cesare told his father what he had heard from the groom. And Pope Alexander, mad with terror, demanded a search to be made.

On the 16th, huge enquiries began to be made when Giorgio Schiavi reported that he had seen a body being thrown into the Tiber by two men. He was asked why he had not reported it sooner and Schiavi retorted that he saw bodies being thrown into the river all the time, "In the course of my life, on various nights, I have seen more than a hundred bodies thrown into the river right at this spot, and never heard of anyone troubling himself about them." (Bradford 1976, 63). Following the report, all the boatmen of Rome were ordered to search the river and promised a reward. Around midday a fisherman brought up the body of a young man, fully clothed, with his gloves still on and a purse hung from his belt carrying 30 ducats. He was covered in stab wounds, 9 counted in total across his neck, head, body and legs...

It was Juan Borgia.


David Oakes as Juan Borgia in "The Borgias"

Juan's body was taken to the Castel Sant Angelo where he was cleaned up and dressed in military uniform. He was then taken to the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo. The procession was lead by over 100 torchbearers and members of his household. According to one observer at the funeral, Juan looked even more handsome in death than he had in life.

Understandably, Alexander VI was distraught and apparently shut himself up for many days, refusing to eat or drink. After he had recovered a little, he made a solemn announcement on 19th June, announcing his son's death:

"The Duke of Gandia is dead. A greater calamity could not have befallen us for we bore him unbounded affection. Life has lost all interest for us. It must be that God punishes us for our sins, for the Duke has done nothing to deserve so terrible a fate."

Rumours of course flew around Rome following the event and many suspects were named - Giovanni Sforza out of resentment over Lucrezia, Jofre who was immensely jealous of Juan and his own wife Sancia and the Duke of Urbino who had the motive of revenge for his imprisonment during the Orsini war. Rumours also spread that Cesare had been the one who orchestrated the murder. But within a week, the search for his murderer was called off. Had Alexander learnt the truth? Suspicion at first rested on the Sforza family due to bad blood between the families due to the issue of Lucrezia's divorce from Giovanni. The most likely perpetrators were the Orsini's as they had the strongest motive for a vendetta against him - he had headed the Borgia attack against them in the previous winter, and he had been the one who their lands had been intended for. The family also held the pope responsible for the death of their leader Virginio in the dungeons of the Castel Sant Angelo.

Had the murder been planned? Had he been tempted by the promise of a lady? Indeed his mule was found wandering by the house of the father of a lady who he had been hugely in love with. The Orsini's even had links with the family of this lady and her father.

The rumours that Cesare had taken part in the murder did not surface until almost a year later in Venice where many friends of the Orsini family lived. The rumour also began to gain momentum in 1500 in a Venetian ambassadors report when Cesare was known to be guilty of at least one murder. Indeed his brothers widow Maria Enriquez seemed to believe it as did the King and Queen of Spain.

It must be noted however that there were no witnesses to Juan's murder and so we will never, ever know who killed him. The rumour has come to us through the years that Cesare was responsible and in the latest episode of "The Borgias" we see Cesare stabbing his brother and throwing him into the Tiber. However there is no proof of this. There are many who could be implicated in his murder, and yet without solid proof all that can be given is accusations - maybe the Sforza's did it, maybe the Orsini family or maybe even Cesare. At any rate, 515 years ago Juan Borgia was murdered - he who was Gonfalonier of the Papal armies and the apple of his fathers eye. Alexander VI rested all his dynastic hopes on Juan, and after his murder was understandably distraught. In history, from what I've read, Juan was not guilty of huge atrocities or even massive rumours of incest and murder like his brother had been, and no one deserves such a horrid death.

Rest in peace Juan Borgia, I raise a glass of red wine to you tonight.

Recommended Reading
Bouchard, J & Parker, G, 1963, At The Court of the Borgia, The Folio Society: London
Bradford, S, 1976, Cesare Borgia, His Life & Times, Butler & Tanner: London
Hibbert, C, 2009, The Borgias and Their Enemies, Mariner Books: New York

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

My Dearest Minette


You all know how much I adore Charles II. Sometimes I may even consider myself his number 1 fan...did I just admit that? I regret nothing whatsoever. And during my reading of Charlie's life I found myself struck by the close relationship he had with his sister Henrietta, Duchesse d'Orleans, or Minette as he so playfully called her. And so after doing a bit of reading around, finding references to Minette in various biographies of Charles, I decided I wanted to find out a little bit more about this fascinating woman. So I asked around on twitter to get some recommendations, and took myself off to Amazon.

I may have gotten a little bit overexcited when this one fell through my letter box the other day, and I began reading it right away. Though I've been trying to take it slowly as I'm trying to work my way through Lucy Worsley's "Cavalier" at the same time. This has become my before bed book, and as I read I quite often find myself so moved at how tender and loving these two siblings were to each other. They joke with each other, tell each other both bad news and good, talk politics, and always end on the sweetest of sentences.

Letter from Minette to Charles

I won't go too much into Minette's life on this post as I want to do a bit more reading about her before I start doing any sort of serious pieces on her. But through reading her letters to her brother I am struck by a bold woman, who loved her brother so much, who was kind, and a woman who always had the best interests of her home country at heart. She may have married into France, but she certainly worked very hard to get that famous alliance between Louis XIV and her brother! Of course Charles' foreign policy deserves a post all of it's own.

Letter from Charles to Minette

I must say that reading the letters between these two have opened up so many doors for me in my love of the Seventeenth Century, thanks to reading their own words it is much easier to get a sense of how they would have been feeling when certain events happened, the worry when sickness struck. It is eye opening, and I wish more than anything I could get my hands on the original documents and look at the beautiful handwriting of Charles and his sister. One day, one day. Until then, I am going to read more about the lovely Minette, because she has stolen my heart almost as much as her brother has done. And I need to know more.

Henrietta Anne Stuart, Duchesse d'Orleans by an unknown artist

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Cesare Borgia Part 5: Downfall & Death


Cesare Borgia leaving the Vatican by Giuseppe Lorenzo Gatteri.

It seems that we have come to the end of my series on the lovely Cesare Borgia, and I hope through my posts that people have been able to see that he wasn't inherently evil. You will notice that in the series I made barely any mention of the incest rumour and that is because it is deserving of a post all its own. If I'm honest when reading around Cesare I found very little mention of these rumours anyway, but they do deserve a post of their own. Today however I will concentrate on the last years of his life, and how from 1503 everything went downhill for him.

It was 1503 when Cesare started to lose his grip. And the reason for this was very simple: the death of his father, as he would not longer have Papal patronage which is what got him his power in the first place. On Saturday 12th August 1503, after eating, Pope Alexander VI fell gravely unwell being seized with a fever and vomiting that lasted throughout the night and beyond. On the same day, Cesare fell ill with the same symptoms.Johann Buchard, Alexander's master of ceremonies, records the sickness in detail:

On Saturday morning, August 12th, the pope felt unwell and at about three o'clock in the afternoon he became feverish. Fourteen ounces of blood were taken from him three days later and tertiary fever set in. Early on August 17th, he was given some medicine, but he worsened and at about six o'clock on the following morning, he made confession to Don Pietro Gamboa, the bishop of Carinola, who then celebrated Mass in His Holiness's presence. After he had made his own communion, he gave the pope the Host as he sat in his bed and then completed the Mass...At the hour of Vespers he was given Extreme Unction by the Bishop of Carinola, and he expired in the presence of the datary, the bishop and the attendants standing by. Don Cesare, who was also unwell at the time, sent Michelotto with a large number of retainers to close all the doors that gave access to the pope's room...At four o'clock in the afternoon they opened the doors and proclaimed that the pope was dead...Throughout the whole of the pope's illness, Don Cesare never visited his father, nor again after his death, whilst His Holiness for his part never once made the slightest reference to Cesare or Lucrezia (Buchard, J, 1963, 220-221)


Alexander VI by Pinturiccio

Cesare had the same sickness, but was treated much more dramatically than his father. On 15th August they submerged Cesare in a big oil jar filled with ice cold water, which made the skin peel from his body with the shock. The next day it was reported that Cesare was in danger of losing his life, probably as a result of the ice bath. It was reported by Guistinian that Cesare suffered from strange fits and delusions. But despite being so unwell, Cesare still sent reassuring words to his domain in the Romagna. By the time Alexander had died on 18th August, Cesare was well on his way to recovery. He was weak and exhausted but recovered just in time to save himself from ruin. As mentioned by Buchard, he sent Micheletto to close off his fathers rooms and removed over 200,000 ducats worth of items. Did Cesare mourn his father? Almost certainly, they had worked together for so long and were indispensable to each other. In fact they had been working hard in the 5 years since Cesare first took up the sword to secure Cesare's position before Alexander should die. And when he spoke to Machiavelli, just two months after his fathers death, Cesare made the point that he had thought about everything that could happen when his father died. Except for just one thing, the possibility that when the pope did die, he would also be at deaths door. Twenty four hours after his fathers death, he had a massive relapse and rumours spread that he was dying, and his enemies were waiting with baited breath for the news that he had passed away. But despite the relapse, he had a good handle on the situation and was still the strong man in Rome. He had troops and money whereas the Cardinals had neither, and he also held the Castel Sant Angelo. The college of Cardinal's however, said they did not feel safe enough to vote on the new Pope if Cesare and his troops were still in Rome. Cesare played for time, and on 30th August agreement was reached, he would leave Rome on the condition that the College would reconfirm him as Gonfalonier, his safety was guaranteed, Venice would not molest his states and that they would write to his cities in the Romagna urging that they stay allied to him.

On 2nd September Cesare left Rome accompanied by his family, all his baggage and a lot of women. As he was still weak he rode in a litter. And as he left, after having made a secret agreement with the French in which the French would protect him and his family, safeguard his states and help him get back what he had lost in return for Cesare serving the King of France against any power and place all of his forces at the King's disposal; he knew that everything was hanging on the upcoming papal election. But Cesare's Spanish Cardinal's would prove exceptionally useful, and Alexander's nephew Piccolomini was elected as Pius III. The news wasn't too bad for Cesare who had been waiting at Nepi for the news, but it wasn't good either. Pius was a decrepit old man and everyone knew he wouldn't last long. Yet Pius didn't entirely trust Cesare, and whilst he did issue some briefs in his favour, he told Giustinian that he would give him no more help, saying that he knew Cesare would come to a bad end. And at the same time Cesare didn't fully trust Pius, and he wasn't fooled by Pius' outward show of goodwill and he knew, thanks to his insiders at the Roman court, that Pius seemed to secretly desire Cesare's downfall. And so Cesare resolved to return to Rome, arriving back on 3rd October. It was widely believed that he was dying and many were disappointed when he returned as confidant and active as he had ever been. And on 8th October, he was granted the title of Gonfalonier, despite the fact that Della Rovere had raged at Pius for allowing Cesare to return.

Yet people did not want Cesare there and as Pius grew unwell it was clear that Cesare was surrounded by enemies. There was one incident in October in which the Orsini broke into his home at the Borgo and he was forced to flee to the Vatican for his own safety. Just two days later on 17th October, Pius died. His reign had been just twenty three days long. This was timely for Cesare who, in the Vatican, had a clutch of cardinals at his disposal. But despite him tying to play as pope maker, in reality there was no question of a Spanish or French pope, everyone agreed it should be an Italian. And the elected ended up being Giuliano Della Rovere. This proved a problem for Cesare as news of his flight into the Vatican had filtered out, weakening the resolve of his allies. And so his states in the Romagna began to fall. This forced him to face up to reality and he signed an agreement with Della Rovere in which Cesare agreed to support him and have his cardinals vote for him in conclave. In return Cesare would retain his title of Gonfalonier. And on 1st November, Della Rovere became Pope Julius II. Did Cesare do right in this? There really wasn't much else that he could do, he knew Della Rovere was the most likely man to be elected and thought it sensible to get promises out of him before elected. Cesare was now a guest in a home where he had once ruled, the rest of his family were far away; he was alone. And Julius would be the man who would play a huge part in Cesare's downfall.


Pope Julius II by unknown

Cesare made plans to go to the Romagna again, it had become a near obsession as his states began to revolt. He wanted them back, and Julius encouraged him in this. Cesare's problem was that he had lost his confidence, he was no longer so certain of himself and he had become prone to fits of hysterical anger. It was almost as if he knew he was losing his grip on what was his. On the 14th November, Cesare received news that Florence had refused his troops safe conduct through their lands, and he realised that actually the Pope was working against him. On 19th November he left Rome for Ostia, blindly following the path that he had originally intended when he really should have waited. It seems as though he didn't really know what else to do. And on 20th, news reached Rome of the surrender of Faenza - a messenger was sent to Cesare on 21st ordering him not to leave. Cesare refused, throwing Julius into a huge fit of rage and another messenger was sent ordering Cesare's arrest. Cesare was back in Rome by 29th and kept under guard in his old apartments. And on 1st December he received news that Michelotto had been captured near Arezzo. This was the blow that shattered Cesare's will to resist. He was later moved to the Torre Borgia, and imprisoned in the same room that Alfonso of Aragon had been strangled on his orders. Yet it was in that room that he regained some of his mental balance, and his ability to stay calm impressed his enemies. Two days after he was placed in the Torre, his Spanish cardinals went to the pope to try and obtain his release, but Julius refused until an agreement was reached on 18th January 1504 that Cesare would order the cessation of his castles and security of his goods. His cardinals also received permission from the Pope to allow Cesare to travel to Ostia in the company of Bernardino Carvajal. Once in Ostia though he was confined even more rigorously. But Carvajal released Cesare without permission from Julius, arranging a ship to take him to Naples. However on 24thn May as he prepared to leave Naples, he was arrested again and found himself back behind bars where he kept on refusing to surrender his last castle at Forli. But the castle was surrendered on 11th August, and a few days later Cesare found himself on a ship bound for Spain. When he arrived, he was locked in the fortress of Chinchilla, high in the Valencian mountains from where he attempted to escape. One account says that he attacked one of his guards whilst being shown local landmarks from the walls, whilst another says that he used the age old method of knotting bedsheets together and trying to climb from the window. This is probably the true story, and it is said that his sheets broke and he fell, fracturing his shoulder. After this he was kept a much closer eye on.

At some point in 1505 Cesare was transferred to La Mota, at the Medina Del Campo in Castille. And on 25th October, Cesare escaped. Three men waited beneath the keep and a rope was let down from Cesare's window. Cesare's servant left first, but fell and severely hurt himself. By the time Cesare began to descend, the alarm had been sounded and the rope cut from above. Cesare fell a long way and after he landed was unable to stand, so he was carried to a waiting horse. There was no time to save the servant however, who was found by guards and executed on the spot. At this point Cesare was unconscious and had to be supported by his companions. They went to Villalon where Cesare recovered for a month  and at the end of November Cesare rode for Navarre. When he arrived, he joined up with King Jean of Navarre where he would play his part in bringing the infant Charles V to be recognised ruler of Castille.

In February of 1507, Cesare once more took to the field of battle where he besieged the castle of Larriaga. In the first week of March Cesare joined up with Jean at Viana. The weather made a turn for the worse and Cesare did not believe an attack would happen, so he withdrew his sentinels to the town. This was the opportunity the enemy had been waiting for. As the alarm was raised in the town and confusion reigned, Cesare dressed quickly in light armour. And as Cesare rode ahead of his soldiers, now aware of the attack, he outdistanced them and did not realise he was alone. Three men ambushed Cesare as he rode forward, and as Cesare rose his arm to attack, one of the men (named Ximenes Garcia) speared him with a lance under his arm, where his armour did not protect him. He was mortally wounded, but fought desperately until he was overcome by the men stabbing him from all sides. The men then stripped him of his armour, leaving him naked and bleeding. In a small gesture, one of the men covered his genitals with a stone. It was the twelfth of March, and Cesare Borgia, Il Valentino, was dead at the age of just thirty one.

The men had no idea that the man they had killed was Cesare Borgia, and it was not discovered until Cesare's squire Juanito was shown his armour. The boy burst into tears.

Cesare was buried in the small chapel of Santa Maria in Viana, with a simple inscription on his elaborate marble tomb: "Here, in a scant piece of earth, lies he whom all the world feared". However in 1537 the Bishop of Calahorra ordered the tomb be destroyed and the remains placed in unconsecrated ground. But in 2007, the archbishop of Pamplona allowed his remains to be moved back inside the church.

Cesare Borgia really was a remarkable man. He has been vilified for centuries, been made out to be inherently evil but in reality he had a massive sense of purpose, an iron will to achieve and the ability to sacrifice what he had to to get what he needed. He had a lust for power, that much is true and was ruthless and often amoral but he was a brilliant man, and an exceptional commander. In my opinion Cesare wasn't evil, he just knew what he wanted and how to get it done. Even if getting things done meant that amoral decisions had to be made, he would do it anyway. He had a fantastic mind, and is a man that I look up to hugely. Whilst it is true that he did commit murder, i.e. of his sisters second husband, I don't for a minute believe he is responsible for all the deaths that people said he was. Nor do I believe that he was involved incestuously with his sister. In the end, like so many brilliant people in history, he has been vilified and made out to be evil but we cannot place our twenty first century morals on a man who lived over 500 years ago. I doubt very much that Cesare will ever be thought of as a good guy, and as long as misconceptions about him are considered to be truth then people will keep believing them. And I don't think that will ever go away.


Further reading

Bradford, S, 1976, Cesare Borgia: His Life & Times, Butler & Tanner: London
Bradford, S, 2005, Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love and Death in Renaissance Italy, Penguin: London
Hibbert, C, 2008, The Borgias & Their Enemies, Mariner: New York (originally published 1924)
Strathern, P, 2010, The Artist, The Philosopher and the Warrior, Vintage: London

Monday, 4 June 2012

Cesare Borgia Part 4: Taking the Romagna


Francois Arnaud as Cesare in "The Borgias"

If I'm honest, I was never expecting my Cesare series to go over so many posts. But it seems my favourite Renaissance man did a lot of stuff. So much stuff in fact that even all these posts couldn't cover it all! And I could probably write an entire library on Cesare Borgia! Last time I wrote about Cesare's departure from the church into the life of a soldier, and his marriage to Charlotte D'Albret in France. Today we pick up in 1499, after he left with Louis XII and helped take over Milan.

Louis rode into Milan on 6th October 1499 with Cesare at his side. It had by all accounts been an easy victory and Ludovico (Il Moro Sforza) had fled his city in September. In fact as Louis made his way towards Milan, taking over the various duchy's, the Lords joined up with him with no qualms...just as they had when Charles VIII had invaded five years previously. And it was at this point when Pope Alexander VI decided it was time for Cesare to get his hands on his own Italian state in the north of Italy. The Romagna was to be Cesare's, and so Cesare set out to take the Romagna. The Romagna, although technically under Papal rule was fiercely independent and the various rulers were petty and cruel. And these rulers were apostolic vicars or Lieutenants of the Church which meant they had to pay a yearly sum (known as the Census) to the Pope. According to Machiavelli; "Before those lords who ruled it were driven out by Pope Alexander VI, the Romagna was a nursery of all the worst crimes". And as you can see from Machiavelli, the Pope decided to kick these vicars out, leaving everything for his son! The announcement made in the October sent many of the ruling lords running for protection and Lucrezia's ex husband Giovanni fled from Pesaro to Venice looking for help. But alas Venice was more than happy to give Pesaro to the Borgias if it meant saving Rimini and Faenza! Caterina Sforza of Forli sent pleas for help to Florence, but Florence decided to remain neutral not wanting to offend Louis and so abandoned her to her fate.

At this stage Cesare was just twenty four years old and it was to be his first military experience. He wouldn't be going it alone either. He himself would command 100 french troops, but shared the command with other seasoned French captains. And he was confidant that taking both Forli and Imola would be easy. For one thing, the ruling family of Imola and Forli had made themselves very unpopular for their cruelty and Cesare knew their citizens weren't likely to lay down their lives to defend them. Also their ruler was a woman...Caterina Sforza! But she was no ordinary woman - incredibly beautiful and exceptionally courageous, she had more military experience coming from the Sforza family than many of the young men she would face. After the death of Sixtus IV, the uncle of her first husband, she had held the Castel Sant Angelo in the violent days that followed, and would stride the battlements with a steel corslet over her dress. And in 1488 when the citizens of Forli had threatened to murder her children it is said she lifted her skirts and cried, "Look, I have the mould to make more!"And in times of war she wore a full suit of armour like that of a man, except for the curved breastplate to accommodate her bosom. Cesare would have his work cut out.


Gina McKee as Caterina Sforza in "The Borgias"


Caterina Sforza by Lorenzo Di Credi

Caterina's position was precarious, as Cesare knew very well. But she was not someone to underestimate. So much so that even before he reached Imola, he had to turn back and ride quickly to Rome having heard that Caterina had attempted to assassinate the Pope. Plague had been raging in Forli and so Caterina took a cloth that had been wrapped around a corpse for several days, this impregnated with the disease. She sent the cloth in a tube containing apparent letters of surrender. Unfortunately the messenger she deployed was employed by the Vatican also, and he confided the plot to another servant. Both men were arrested and thrown into the Castel Sant Angelo where they were tortured and confessed. Cesare arrived on 18th November to check on his father and confer for a few days before riding north again.

Cesare was right in his predictions, taking Imola and Forli was easy. Caterina's plot amounted to nothing and her citizens offered themselves up to Cesare before his troops even began to make their way into the city of Imola. He took Imola properly on 27th November. On 15th December he left for Forli, which he entered on 17th December. And again the citizens yielded. The only problem left for Cesare after entering Forli was Caterina herself, who had holed herself up in the citadel. At Christmas, Cesare made a personal attempt to draw her out, riding up to the ramparts to speak with her. She would have none of it however, and according to a report from a Venetian ambassador, tried to trap him by luring him onto the drawbridge and raising it! A personal war had begun. On 10th January Cesare set up his siege guns which, it is said, he took personal charge over day and night; and by 12th January 1500 a breach had been opened in the wall. Cesare's troops stormed through and vicious hand to hand fighting ensued. Caterina was seized by a Swiss constable who was eager to get his hands on the ransom money. Cesare then rode to the keep and emerged several hours later with Caterina and taken through to the town to where Cesare was lodged. She was to be taken to Rome and held as a...guest...of the Borgia family.

Following Caterina's imprisonment, rumours were yet again beginning to spread. Many said that he abused her and raped her, although there are also reports at the time that mention nothing of any abuse. Other reports said that he kept her in his room and the two of them had the 'pleasure' of each other. Is this likely? We will never know, but it cannot be ruled out that he raped her due to his cruel streak.

On 26th January, Cesare headed to Pesaro. As previously noted Giovanni Sforza had already fled the castle, but on the way he received news that Ludovico was marching on the town of Como. His army was also shaken with the recall of his French troops, and left with only 1500 men he had no hope. And so he left a small garrison of troops to look after the Romagna and headed to Rome, with Caterina with him. He was back in Rome in the last week of February, slap bank in the middle of Carnival, and he made a triumphant entry with thousands of his men dressed in beautiful livery. Cesare himself simply wore black, with just the gold collar of the Order of St Michael on his cloak. This is the Cesare that came to be famous, the Cesare who dressed in black and reflected his own personality. There was a stark difference in him from when he left Rome 18 months previously dressed in brightly coloured silks! The Pope was delighted with Cesare, and during Cesare's formal papal welcome was unable to contain his joy, hugging his son close. He even greeted Caterina warmly, giving her a comfortable prison in the Belvedere Villa in the Vatican.Whilst in Rome, Cesare's victory in the Romagna was celebrated and on 29th March 1500 he was given the offices of Gonfalonier and Captain General of the Church. As well as this, when Alexander created new cardinals it gave him enough money to give to Cesare so he could hire condottieri and resume his career in the Romagna.

However he stayed in Rome in the summer of 1500, where he took a mistress by the name of Fiametta De'Michelis. This lady was a rich courtesan who owed three houses in the city and was exceptionally well educated. And during the summer he took part in feats that amazed the people of Rome such as taking part in a bull fight, killing 7 bulls and fighting them on horseback in the Spanish style. During this summer there was also a nasty accident at the Vatican, when a storm hit making a chimney collapse and the roof fall in. Three men died, but the Pope was saved by a fallen beam that protected him from the masonry. Just over 2 weeks later, Lucrezia's second husband Alfonso was attacked as he crossed the piazza of St Peter and badly wounded. He was taken into the Vatican where he was looked after by Lucrezia, and he began to recover. But on 18th August Micheletto burst into the room and took hold of Alfonso's uncle and the envoy of Naples, binding their hands. Lucrezia asked what was going on and Micheletto replied that he was obeying orders, but if she wanted to she could go to the Pope and obtain their release. So off she an, and when she returned with the Pope was barred entry to the room, the guard announcing that Alfonso was dead. Micheletto told the story that Alfonso had stood up and collapsed from his head wound, spilling much blood and dying. This was untrue, and Buchard wrote that Alfonso had been strangled by Micheletto.


Alfonso of Aragon, aged 7, by Pinturicchio

It was said afterwards that this murder was ordered by Cesare, for political reasons, to show people that the Borgias now worked with France. Yet Cesare had no need to show it this way. Lucrezia was so in love with Alfonso, and Cesare was exceptionally close to his sister (which is where the incest rumours come from, more on that in another post), so could he have ordered the murder due to his jealousy of Alfonso? To me, this is the most likely explanation - that Cesare saw Alfonso as a threat to himself and his relationship with his sister, as well as for complex political reasons. Following this, Cesare became known as the "terrible" Valentino, and he now had a reputation for ruthlessness. After the incident any murder of importance was attributed to Cesare, and the rumour resurfaced that he had killed his own brother.

Five days after Alfonso's death, Louis XII arrived in Rome. It was time for him to take up his military standard again. And his reputation would proceed him, making him one of the most feared military commanders in Italy. Yet he would also prove to be an extremely gifted military leader, who used his head in difficult situations. By 1507 Cesare would be dead, but his accomplishments would go down in history.


Further reading

Bradford, S, 1976, Cesare Borgia: His Life & Times, Butler & Tanner: London
Bradford, S, 2005, Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love and Death in Renaissance Italy, Penguin: London
Hibbert, C, 2008, The Borgias & Their Enemies, Mariner: New York (originally published 1924)
Strathern, P, 2010, The Artist, The Philosopher and the Warrior, Vintage: London

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Charles I & Henrietta Maria: A Love Story


Charles I and Henrietta by Mytens

The love story between Charles I and Henrietta Maria is the stuff of legend. As we wander around the great Royal Palaces in London, the couple gaze down at us from portraits, and you can just tell that these two were very much in love. Despite their differences in the early part of their marriages, despite their differences in religion they ended up falling very much in love with each other. That's not to say their marriage was easy, far from it, but their story is so sad and never fails to bring a tear to my eye.

The pair first met in Paris in 1623 when Charles was travelling to Spain with the Duke of Buckingham to discuss a possible marriage to the Spanish Infanta. Whilst travelling Charles saw the young Henrietta Maria at a French Court entertainment. The visit ended badly however, despite it being a rather romantic gesture for Charles. The Duke of Buckingham argued with the Spanish King's chief minister Charles attempted to see the Infanta alone and was warned off by the Queen to said his suite was useless and the Infanta herself Dona Maria was disgusted at the prospect of marrying a heretic (the Spaniards were devout Catholics). And so upon his return to England, Charles began to look elsewhere for a bridge, and feelers began to be put out in France. Buckingham sent an emissary to Paris who received an interview with the Queen Mother, Marie De Medici. The emissary was sent back with a purse full of gold and an optimistic report. And in January 1624 King Louis of France sent King James I a present of falcons, huntsmen and horses. Things were looking up. In February 1624 the first official approach to the marriage was sent to France with a man by the name of Henry Rich, Viscount Kensington. He described Henrietta in a letter to Buckingham as a "lovely, sweet young creature".

On the 11th May 1625 Henrietta Maria De Bourbon was married by proxy to the recently ascended Charles I of England on a special stage built at the doorway of Notre Dame. This was a catholic ceremony, as Henrietta was a devout catholic. However part of the marriage treaty said that even though Charles would allow Catholics in his country, he would remain protestant and so when Henrietta arrived in England, they would be married in a protestant ceremony. The Duke of Buckingham stood in as Charles' proxy bridegroom. Sadly the relations between Henrietta and Buckingham were not the greatest, and after the wedding they managed to fall out over Cardinal Barbarini when Henrietta decided to go and meet the Cardinal when Buckingham had come to call on her. She said it was a courtesy due to him being the Pope's representative. Buckingham was also getting rather irate with the length of time it was taking Henrietta to get ready to depart France for England. She ended up leaving Paris in June of 1625, arriving in Dover on Sunday 12th June. Hasty messengers were sent to King Charles to tell him that his bride had arrived in England. He arrived at 10am on the Monday morning while Henrietta was still at breakfast. She fell to her knees, speaking to him in French, and he raised her and covered her in kissing. They then retired for an hour into a private room - what did Henrietta think of this twenty four year old man, his stiff and awkward manner and a stammer that gave him difficulty in speaking. After they reappeared and Henrietta introduced her servants for him they had some dinner and set out for Canterbury. It was here that the couple had their first quarrel. This was caused by Madame St Georges who followed Henrietta into the carriage and sat down with her. Charles may have been unaware that this lady was Henrietta's maid of honour and was expected to stay close but in any case he had planned to give Buckingham's mother and sister the honour of sitting with them and so ordered her out. Henrietta protested, loudly but Charles was unmoved by her tears and wouldn't give way until the French ambassadors stepped in and made the point that she was alone and thus clung to St Georges. Henrietta resented the fact that Charles gave way to her ambassadors instead of her and Charles never forgave St Georges.

At Canterbury, the couple were married in person at St Augustine's Church on 13th June, following which they spent their wedding night at Lord Wotton's house. The next morning Charles apparently appeared very jovial whilst Henrietta was said to be very sad. Henrietta's religion also forbade her from being crowned in an Anglican service and when she suggested being crowned by a Catholic this did not go down well with Charles and his court. Instead she had to watch from a distance as her husband was crowed, and the fact that she was never crowned Queen of England went down rather badly with the citizens of London.


Henrietta Maria by Van Dyke

Following their marriage, Charles liked to call Henrietta just simply Maria, whilst the people called her Queen Mary, a stark comparison to Charles' catholic grandmother Mary Queen of Scots. Henrietta was a devout Catholic, and rather unapologetic about it. In fact the entire retinue she brought from France were catholic and it caused some consternation with her husband. So much so that in June 1626 Charles had them removed from her service. This did not help the arguments between the couple, and their early years of marriage were fraught with arguments and disagreements.

But following the assassination of Buckingham in 1628, relations between husband and wife began to improve. Buckingham had been Charles' best friend and a royal favourite, and now that his beloved "Steenie" was gone, he transferred his love for the man onto his wife. The two ended up falling head over heels in love with each other, had a grand total of 9 children together (some of whom sadly died) and stuck together through the turbulent years of Civil War. Even when apart, they would write letters to each other professing their love.

When Civil War broke out in 1642, Henrietta was at the Hague raising money for the Royalist cause, even gong so far as to sell her Crown Jewell's, but this proved difficult as many of the larger pieces were considered too expensive to sell. And many were put off in case Parliament said that she had sold them illegally. Whilst she was successful in selling the smaller pieces, press back in England made out she was doing so to buy guns for a religious conflict which only increased her unpopularity. In February 1643 she managed to make it back to England, her fleet avoiding parliamentarian navy and landing in Yorkshire. She and her party took refuge in the town but Parliament began bombarding it and they took refuge in some nearby fields - Henrietta then defiantly returned to the little house for her dog who had been left behind. She spent the next year with her husband, after meeting up with him at Kineton before leaving her at Abingdon in 1644. It was the last time they would ever see each other.


Charles I and Henrietta Maria by Van Dyke

In 1646 Henrietta settled in Paris whilst her husband continued fighting, after taking shelter with the Scottish and in July her son, Prince Charles joined her. Whilst in France she sent letters to her husband asking him to set up a Presbyterian government in England to get the Scots help, and was incredibly anxious about him, and she was horrified when Charles refused the peace offered to him by Parliament. The second civil war in 1648 did not last long however and ended up with Charles being captured by Parliament.

On January 30th 1649, Charles I was executed on a scaffold outside the Banqueting House, London, accused of high treason. News of his death sent Henrietta into deep mourning, and she wore black for the rest of her life. She was no longer Queen of England, but Queen Mother to the young King Charles II. During the continued exile of her son, she began to concentrate more on her faith and her children, particularly little Minette - she took her faith so seriously that she tried to convert both Princes, York and Gloucester to convert. These attempts obviously angered Charles II who was determined to remain protestant and this brothers and heirs should also.


Henrietta, Duchesse De Orleons aka Minette

When Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, Henrietta Maria returned in the October, partly due to the fact that her other son James Duke of York had gotten Anne Hyde pregnant and James was proposing marriage. Henrietta was incensed at this news, she despised Clarendon and did not want Anne as a daughter in law - her son should, after all, be marrying into royalty! However Charles II ended up agreeing to the match and there was nothing she could do, or say, to stop it. Charles gave into her possession Somerset House where she lived, and a generous pension although she still was not very popular among the people and described as a "plain old woman". After going to France to see her daughter Minette married to The Duke of Orleons' in 1661 she intended to spend the rest of her life in England, this was not to be however and by 1665 she was very very unwell and blamed her illness on the English Weather. And so she returned to France where in 1669, after seeing the birth of her granddaughter she died at the Chateau De' Colombes in Paris after taking laudanum to help her sleep. Her doctors had previously said that her illness, although painful, would not prove fatal. That night she realised that, despite having felt better during the day, sleep wasn't going to come naturally and so she asked for the laudanum. She fell into a drugged sleep which she did not wake from, and died on 10th September 1669 between three and four o clock in the morning.

She was buried in the Cathedral at St Denis, given all of the pomp that a daughter of France deserved.

The story of Henrietta and Charles never fails to bring a tear to my eye. Despite their early differences they really did love each other, and after she was widowed she stayed perpetually in mourning. She supported her husband through the English Civil War, helped him, stayed true to him and remained loyal to the Royalist cause. She wasn't popular, especially with Parliament, but to her it didn't matter. She stuck by her husband through thick and thin, loved her children and fought to help bring about her son's restoration. She was a woman to be reckoned with, with so many layers and facets of her personality. Henrietta Maria has to be one of my favourite Stuart Queen's, because quite frankly, she was a bit of a bad ass.

Further Reading


Plowden, A, 2001, Henrietta Maria: Charles I's Indomitable Queen, Sutton Publishing: Gloucester