Transcript for MB8

Ok, so sorry about last week, I was distracted by the intricacies of the life and environment of your great late medieval house. Unfortunately it is you, not I, who has suffered for this, and we have another episode of domesticity ahead. However, the response on the Facebook site to my diss’ing of Woking was impressive, along with some truly dreadful puns of which all should be ashamed. Jim who lived there even managed to envy Guildford, impressive, and someone described it as a Woking Nightmare. None of these comments were remotely Woke, and I distance myself from them.

I think I mentioned last week that the household maintained by Margaret and Stafford was substantial, around 40 to 50. We have a record of many of the names through the accounts as it appens, but of the names that survive, there is one particularly worth mentioning, that of Reginald Bray. Reginald was a son of Worcestershire, but we know almost nothing of his life until he entered the household of Margaret in 1465. He quickly made himself indispensable; he managed Margaret’s estates, not just Woking, carried out dangerous missions on her behalf; in 1471 as England and Wales were in flames, he travelled up to Kendell in Cumbria to resolve legal problems to do with Margaret’s estates; he was to be her co-conspirator in the murky days of Richard III. He quickly became her receiver General, her right hand man, and would stay with her for over 30 years, and become her friend. In 1485, his competence would earn him promotion at the hands of the new king which took him away from Margaret’s side, though not necessarily from her employment on occasions. Well before this, Reginald had married Katherine Hussey. Co Heir of Nicholas, victualler of Calais; Katherine herself would also work in Margaret’s household, as well as bringing considerable wealth with her to the marriage. His competence in the employ of Henry VII and the influence Margaret’s advocacy gave him led Reginald to membership of the Knights of the Garter in 1501, and a powerful member of the king’s inner council. He left very little personal impressions or contribution to the arts or architecture; maybe it’s due to historical survival, but he left something of a blank when he died in 1503 in terms of legacy; he leaves an impression of being the ultimate bureaucrat, or functionary effective but a bit faceless. Katherine outlived him by 5 years. And I’d like to add at this point that for English of a certain age it’s almost impossible not to call him Reggie, and sing a song called Reggie Bousenquet. Didn’t I do well.

Now we know that Margaret’s marriage was not the result of long country walks hand in hand, gathering bouquets of sweet smelling country flowers  or dances at glittering balls, as most of ours were, or even a shared fish supper with curry sauce at the Balaka on  Saturday night. It was instead a question of who was available at short notice before she was sold to highest bidder, a question of security. But as luck would have it, Margaret and Stafford appear to have fallen on their feet, and they got on pretty well; obviously, at this distance it’s a bit difficult to tell, they left no billet doux; and there is much confusion that despite this apparent lovie dovie stuff, Margaret would not put Stafford’s emblem, the Stafford tied knot, on her tomb. I know a joke about a knot. I’ll leave it to the end. But the thing is that they spent a lot of time together, and that was not necessarily normal for noble couples; in 1467 for example, they went together on a circuit of Margaret’s properties in the South West; Margaret was to show a close interest in managing her estates personally throughout her life. And here they rode with an extensive household of 45, so they would have made a grand entourage. Furthermore, the accounts show that Margaret was fully involved in the business of the Woking estates – she’d sign accounts on Stafford’s behalf, and they’d agree accounts between them. The interests in her estates extended to that favourite activity of the landed medieval magnate; buying property close to their lands, amalgamating and rationalising as they could, working to recover and maximise their rights against their fellow landowners through the modern battlefield of the lawcourts.

Stafford was not one of Edward IV’s inner circle; but on occasion he’d be summoned to London for an event or council, such as that at Mortlake in 1467, and Margaret would often go with him. And although Stafford was peripheral at court, we don’t get much impression that he was seething with frustrated ambition, and in fact Stafford was frequently ill, of what we do not know, and may not have welcomed many gruelling visits to London. But even if not in the King’s premier league, Margaret was now connected to powerful and influential people, and we see some of them visiting Woking Palace; Stafford’s younger brother John, Henry the Duke of Buckingham, the earl of Essex, and even the ABC.

Margaret put down roots, establishing close relationships in the nearest largest town, in this case Guildford the Enviable; they supported local merchants in the foundation of a chantry, and of course took on local suppliers as well as getting higher luxury items from London.

Some of these luxury items were quite clearly clothes. So when we think about Margaret Beaufort I don’t know what you focus on – accused murderer of small children maybe, something we’ll come to – but I think oh right, the famously pious Margaret Beaufort; Well I bet she went around in sackcloth and ashes, or maybe, like my father in his multi-stained gardening gear accompanied by a strong odour of creosote. Well If such was my thought, I would have been wrong, Margaret was a member of the aristocracy, and in common with most of them she liked fine things; she spent a lot of money on clothes, and indeed on jewels, and this is clearly a theme in her life. She had a status and lineage of which she was very conscious, very proud, and in a position to maintain.

She and Stafford also travelled extensively socially; they kept in touch with her mother and her family. In 1469 they toured the south extensively visiting several great parks; they hob nobbed with the Duchess of Somerset, and of course they were now closely connected to Anne Neville, the Duchess of Buckingham who was not only immensely rich with income of over £2,000 but also very well connected at court.

So, there we are, Margaret and Stafford in their rural idyll. No doubt Margaret’s thoughts constantly rested on her son of which more in a moment, but meanwhile how did they pass the time? I also tend to think of the TV adaptation of Pride and prej and this moment, of the sitting around in rooms empty of the TV or radio or video games and so on, and of Caroline Bingley inviting a terminally bored Darcy to take a room round the room, because it was sooo refreshing. But in fact it seems Margaret’s entertainments were many and various. Playing Card games figure highly in the accounts, telling us that Margaret was a keen card player. I imagine you are wondering what the accounts are doing dealing with cards, and the answer is that playing cards, at all levels of society, came check by jowl with gambling, and in the houses of the elite large sums changed hands, a trend also very evident in the royal household. She also played chess – also often accompanied by gambling, and there is evidence of a bowling alley built at Woking; imagine that, your very own personal bowling alley. Like Cards, bowling seems to have appeared in the 14th century, and was entirely unstandardised with different balls and rules; some games involved knocking down pins, others were more akin to crown bowls. The game was obviously popular; Edward III had been forced to ban it because it was putting his soldiers off practising their archery. In 1477, rather surprisingly given his fun-loving reputation, King Edward IV issued an edict against ”

bowles, closh, kayles, hand-in and hand-out”

for similar reasons. Closh is an early form of croquet. Kayles involves knocking down pins with a stick instead of a ball.

But the big one was of course hunting. Forget the idea that hunting was a male preserve, Margaret clearly loved it. In 1469 for example, they travelled to Windsor with John Stafford, and on the way took in some hunting at Henley, where ‘a buck was slain by my lord and lady’; they therefore not only hunted at Woking, but anywhere they could, visiting parks at Gifford, Odiham Midhurst and Farnham. Margaret was quite clearly hunting on horse, as well as hunting with falcons, and remember she is but 24 years old, despite everything she’s done. This is clearly a happy time in her life.

In December 1468, the happy family was given the ultimate honour, a visit by the king himself. Now if the king comes to stay you don’t just chuck him a bun and a hot water bottle, this is big time entertainment and every resource of the household was bent towards preparing a glittering feast; the very best pewter service was brought from London; Margaret bought herself a brand new purple velvet dress to meet Edward IV, for what would be the first time she’d met him. They received the king at the hunting lodge they had built in the Park close to the palace – a normal feature, incidentally, of the medieval deer park, the hunting lodge where goodies and relaxation were served to give everyone a break to the joyful the slaughter of small furry and feathered animals started over again.

The king though did not come empty handed either. This was the heyday of the gorgeously designed and furnished pavilion, large sumptuously and brightly coloured tents. Margaret and Henry had prepared – erecting an elaborate tent for the king topped with purple sarsenet, which as you’ll remember from the Thomas Gresham episode is a fine, soft silk. There were minstrels to play along as they ate and talked, to aid digestion.

All of this is both fine, and indeed dandy. But as I mentioned, Margaret’s thoughts must often have gone to her son Henry, far away from her in Wales with his Guardians, the Herberts. No doubt she would have written many letters, but of course it’s not the same. However, in 1467, Margaret did get to visit her lad. She and Stafford were in Devon at one of their estates, and they took the ferry to Chepstow – Nicola Tallis in her book ‘Uncrowned Queen’ tell us this costs 10 shillings, that that this is the equivalent of £321 – so just think about that before you complain about the price of ferry tickets! Having said that, the cost would have probably been for the full entourage so…maybe do complain about today’s price of ferry tickets. Anyway, they spent a week at Raglan with the Herberts and the 10 year old Henry, and I hope it was a good week, rather than an awkward one for a lad who can hardly have known his mother. At very least though, they would have left knowing that he was being well cared for.

Okally dokally, shall we return, kicking and screaming, away from all this domestic bliss, and back to the world of politics? Because we are a bit behind; I think we left the politics with the Battle of Towton in 1461 did we not, that saw the dynamic Edward firmly ensconced on the throne; the Warwick-York combo had finally won, it seemed.

However they had missed their man; Henry and Margaret of Anjou found safety under the protection of the Scots; I say safety, but of course the regent at the time, Mary of Guelders – since surprise surprise Scotland was in the grip of a minority –  made darn sure she extracted her pound of flesh – and Henry conceded Berwick as the price of his haven. However, Edward pursued him diplomatically, as he would do later with Henry Tudor, and cut a treaty with the Scots – and Henry and Margaret were out on their collective ear.

Henry made court in the North East at Bamburgh for a while, but at the Battles of Hedgely Moor and Hexham, Henry was decisively defeated, and was hunted down in Ribblesdale. In 1465, then, he made a forlorn figure as he arrived in London, shorn of kingly glory, tied to his horse. He was looked after with honour at the Tower, with Edward’s servants, but in no great estate; when he got out in 1470, it was observed that he was

‘not worschipfully arayed as a prince, and not so clenly kepte as schuld seme such a Prynce’

Even by this time, though, the partnership which had won York their throne, with the Earl of Warwick, horse murderer and kingmaker, was looking a little frayed around the edges. The problem was largely of Edward’s making. His famous ability to manage people faced a major challenge with Warwick, a man with an ego the size of Middleham Castle. Edward had met one Elizabeth Woodville, who seriously set her cap at the king under the tree at Whittlesbury, and Edward had fallen for her. She was not really suitable Queen material according to the mores of her day, however attractive her cap and the angle of its setting, and furthermore Warwick had been tramping the western world negotiating a marriage for his boss, particularly favouring an alliance with France, when at a council meeting Edward sprang the news that, ooh, hadn’t he mention it? He was getting married to Sir John Grey of Groby’s widow. No one was pleased. Warwick was apoplectic.

It’s not just that Warwick had been made to look like a right Charlie, with as much egg on him as you’d find in a Scotch Egg during lockdown. It was also that Elizabeth brought with her many relatives, and these relatives needed to be endowed with the estate befitting a member of the royal family. And so the Greys and Woodvilles both sucked up all the available patronage; and Warwick suddenly had powerful new political competition, the council table had a little less space for his elbows. Now it wasn’t only Warwick whose nose was out of joint; but ego wise, Warwick had a right honker of a hooter. It was trouble.

The bird of that trouble came home to roost. 1469 was a torrid year – rebellions in the north under the king of the North, the Percies; a rebellion involving the de vere earl of Oxford. And then a further rebellion in the North, supposedly under the leadership of one Robin of Redesdale; but don’t be fooled, this was no Robin Hood, Warwick was behind it. Just to demonstrate that Warwick was a player far more accomplished that the hapless Percies, in July 1469 came stunning news; the king’s younger brother the Duke of Clarence, that demonstrated conclusive the old adage that there is nothing more unreliable than a younger brother; he had fled secretly to France with Warwick, and married Warwick’s elder daughter, Isabel Neville. Edward was once more to fight for his throne; and Stafford and Margaret faced a hard decision – for whom would they fight? Maybe Stafford consulted his famous knot emblem, if he should happen to meet the knot in a dream somewhere, and asked the knot if he had any idea of what he should do. In return the know would have rubbed himself vigorously all over until it looked a real mess, so that he could then say that he was afraid not. And that ladies and gentlemen, is the gag I spoke of earlier. I know one about a meat and potato pie as well, but I think you have suffered enough. Anyway, thank all for listening, and for being members, and see you all next week from the next series


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