Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Medieval Italy - The Queen of Naples

Robert the Wise
The Kingdom of Naples
Born in March 1328 Joanna was the fourth child of Charles, Duke of Calabria and his second wife Marie de Valois. Three siblings predeceased her; Eloisa who lived 10-11 months in 1325, Maria who was born in 1326 and died sometime in 1328 and Charles Martel who lived eight days in April 1327. A second Maria followed in May 1329, born posthumously after the death of her father on 9th November 1328.

Joanna’s father was the son of King Robert the Wise of Naples and Charles was his father’s heir. The kingdom of Naples[i] stretched from the Apennines to Calabria. Naples had been a papal fief since Charles of Anjou conquered it using papal funds. In a contract dated November 1265 Charles and his heirs had to pay the papal treasury eight thousand ounces of gold[ii] annually and a white horse every three years.

The kingdom of Naples was seen to have just laws and with a stable currency and secure roads, hostels for travelling merchants, tournaments for the nobility the kingdom was attractive to those searching for stability. Robert’s court attracted Petrarch who sought Robert’s literary approval. Petrarch wrote of him;
‘Who in Italy, and indeed throughout Europe is more outstanding than Robert?’[iii]
and there was also Boccaccio[iv] who preferred to live in
‘Happy, peaceful, generous and magnificent Naples with its one monarch’[v]
as opposed to his native Florence.
Charles had been a high spirited teenager and Robert had employed one Eleazar to tutor his son. Charles was given the dukedom of Calabria in his early twenties and in 1322 was entrusted with dislodging the current Aragonese king of Sicily Frederick III. Like the several attempts that Robert had made, Charles was unsuccessful but he acquitted himself with honour on the battlefield and made his name as a soldier.
When Charles’ first wife Catherine of Hapsburg, daughter of Albert I of Germany, died childless in 1323, Robert sent Eleazar to help negotiate the marriage with Marie. The fifteen year old Marie married the 26 year old Charles in 1324.
Italian Politics
In 1326 at the age of 28 Charles was employed by the ruling Guelph[vi] Florentines to defend the city against the Lord of neighbouring Lucca, the Ghibelline[vii] Castruccio Castracani. The Florentines were prepared to pay Charles two hundred thousand gold florins[viii] and give him control of Florence.
Charles and his wife Marie moved their court to Florence, where his rule was not universally popular. Charles spent twice the allocated monies which caused upset, although his supporters claimed that the arrival of the court meant an increase in business for tailors and cloth merchants if no-one else. The wives of the Florentine burghers and merchants were quick to follow the fashions worn by Marie and her ladies;
‘In the year 1326….the Duke of Calabria, at the petition which the ladies of Florence made to the duchess his wife, restored to the said ladies a certain unbecoming and disreputable ornament of thick tresses of white and yellow silk which they wore about their faces instead of their hair.’[ix]
Joanna was born in or en route to Florence and when the family returned to Naples in 1328 Marie was again pregnant.
The Invasion of the Holy Roman Emperor
Louis of Bavaria
The Ghibellines invited the Holy Roman Emperor, Louis of Bavaria[x], to invade Italy. Louis, who had been refused his coronation as emperor[xi] by Pope John XXII, decided to invade the kingdom of Naples in return for Robert’s temerity in sending Charles to Florence, thus upsetting the balance of power in the region.
Louis formed an alliance with Frederick III of Sicily, one of the most inveterate foes of the Neapolitans. Louis attacked from the north and Frederick attacked from the south. Louis’ advance down through Italy was unimpeded as most city states were happy to pay tribute to be left alone. The Ghibelline cities of Milan, Verona, Ferrara and Mantua threw open their gates to the imperial forces and were rewarded with imperial titles.
Louis entered Rome in January 1328 and was crowned by one of his supporters, Sciara Colonna. It was at this point that Robert called Charles home. Florence was left to the care of a Viceroy and a standing army of 100,000 men.
From Avignon[xii] Pope John issued a bull denouncing Louis’ coronation and deposing him. In return Louis deposed the pope and set up one of his choosing. Louis stayed in Rome and had himself re-crowned by his new pope Nicholas V on Whit Sunday.
‘The installation of the anti-pope was a miscalculation of the first order and helped John XXII to a cheap victory.’[xiii]
The magnificent coronation ceremony cost so much Louis was unable to pay his soldiers. Consequently, when the citizens of Rome rebelled in August 1328 Louis was forced to retreat to Germany.
Even so disaster struck the Neapolitan royal family; Charles died suddenly in November 1328, from a fever brought on by over-exertion in Charles’ favourite sport, falconry. This left the infant Joanna as Robert’s heir. Two years later in 1330 she was given homage by the members of her grandfather’s court as his heir; a ceremony that her great-uncle Philip and aunt Catherine de Valois[xiv] refused to attend.
A Tumultuous Childhood
Castel Nuovo
Joanna lived at her grandparents’ court at Castel Nuovo from the age of five. Her grandmother Queen Sancia was Robert’s second wife[xv]. Robert’s first wife, and mother of his sons[xvi], Yolande was the daughter of the King of Aragon, Peter III. Castel Nuovo became a centre of a ‘spiritual’ movement; Franciscans flocked to Naples. The queen’s brother, a friar James of Majorca begged on the streets of the old town.
One of the most important persons during Joanna’s childhood was her nurse Philippa, who had been a wet nurse working for Joanna’s paternal grandmother Yolande. Before she died in 1332 Marie made Philippa guardian of Joanna and Philippa’s husband[xvii] was made Robert’s Seneschal. Boccaccio was distinctly unimpressed;
‘What a ridiculous thing to see an African from a slave prison, standing before Robert, the king, performing royal service for the young nobleman, governing the court and making laws for those in power!’[xviii]
Sancia of Majorca
The ultra-religious and ascetic Sancia undertook responsibility for Joanna and Maria’s education after Marie’s death. Sancia’s influence was diluted by the other members of the royal entourage. There were plenty of relatives who all too ready for political intrigue and infighting; the ambitious focussed their intrigues on Joanna, the power to come. But Boccaccio claimed that;
‘Nothing serious, arduous or great was accomplished unless it was approved by Robert, Philippa or Sancia.’[xix]
Also living in Naples, although she held a separate court, was Catherine of Valois, married to Robert’s younger brother Philip of Taranto. By 1332 Catherine was widowed; she was the titular empress of the Latin Empire of Constantinople[xx]. Catherine, eager to make good her claim to her inheritance for her three sons Robert, Louis and Philip, had a court of her own close to Castel Nuovo. Catherine enjoyed earthly pleasures and had a string of lovers including Niccolo Acciaiuoli, a Florentine banker.
Catherine was arrogant and as such offended her brother-in-law John of Durazzo and his second wife Agnes de PĂ©rigord who also had three sons; Charles, Louis and Robert. The rivalry between the two women deepened when John died and his eldest son, the 13 year old Charles became Duke of Durazzo[xxi]. Agnes was ambitious for her sons and felt very deeply the difference between their ranks and those of their cousins.
Chronicles – Froissart, Penguin Classics 1968
The Holy Roman Empire – Friedrich Heer, Phoenix 1995
Joanna – Nancy Goldstone, Phoenix 2010
Absolute Monarchs – John Julius Norwich, Random House 2011
A Distant Mirror – Barbara Tuchman, MacMillan London Ltd 1989

[i] Often called the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies as Charles of Anjou, the founder of this branch of the Angevin dynasty, had captured Sicily and reigned as its king until thrown out after the Sicilian vespers. Thereafter he and his heirs claimed Sicily as part of their titular heritage
[ii] Later reduced to seven thousand ounces of gold
[iii] Joanna - Petrarch
[v] A Distant Mirror - Tuchman
[vi] A political party favouring the pope
[vii] The opposing party favouring the Holy Roman Emperor
[viii] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £140,700,000.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £5,184,000,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £38,770,000,000.00
[ix] Joanna - Goldstone
[x] Also known as Ludwig
[xi] The Holy Roman Emperor was crowned by the pope in Rome, following an election as King of the Romans. Louis had seized his title as King of the Romans by force after an opponent, with an equal number of votes, disputed the results.
[xii] Where he was residing as a result of the dispute between the popes and the king of France
[xiii] The Holy Roman Empire - Heer
[xiv] Marie’s older sister
[xv] Sancia petitioned the pope several times for the dissolution of her marriage to Robert because she wished to be a nun, one of the Poor Clares; an ambition that was thwarted until the last year of her life when she was a widow
[xvi] Their second child Louis, died at the age of 9
[xvii] An Ethiopian former slave
[xviii] Joanna - Goldstone
[xix] Ibid
[xx] A state founded during the Fourth Crusade on lands captured from the Byzantines
[xxi] Who was to marry Joanna’s sister Marie

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Tudor England - The Importance of Being Thomas VII

Princess Mary
The Birth of a Princess

Three months later Anne presented Henry, not with the longed for son, but another daughter; the princess Elizabeth. Elizabeth was christened on 10th September. Thomas carried the train of his granddaughter’s baptismal gown and George was one of those carrying the canopy of estate above Elizabeth’s head.

Anne’s paternal aunts, Anne Shelton and Alice Clere, were appointed to take charge of Princess Mary’s household. Anne was unkind to the young princess, harping on about her half-sister Elizabeth’s superior status, while Alice allegedly treated their charge less unkindly.

When Henry was undertaking the process to disinherit Mary Anne Shelton informed her charge that the king did not care what she did;

‘And if I were in the King’s place I would kick you out of the King’s house for your disobedience.’[i]

Anne also claimed that Henry was planning to behead his daughter for failing to take the oath agreeing that the young Elizabeth was to take Mary’s place as the heir to the throne. Anne’s bullying had its effect; Mary became ill, but even so would not agree to take the oath.

The Enchantment Fails

Edward Seymour
The enchantment wrought by Anne was fast disappearing and Henry, disappointed in the sex of his heir and Anne’s miscarriage in the late summer of 1534 , was soon looking around for a new love and in the September found her in one of Anne’s ladies; the young Jane Seymour, the daughter of Sir John Seymour of Wolf Hall[ii]. Jane, like Anne, refused Henry’s advances and the gifts and honours bestowed upon her and her family, especially her brother Edward[iii], grew in splendour the longer Henry was thwarted.

Anne was becoming a termagant; nothing could be better used to destroy any love that Henry, a man notorious for his foul temper, felt for his new wife. When Anne discovered that Henry was flirting with one of her ladies and threw a tantrum Henry told her to put up with it.

In October 1535 Anne fell pregnant again and Henry was solicitous in public, but the Bishop of Tarbes, a visitor to the court, observed;

‘The King’s love for his wife is less than it has been, and diminishes every day because he has new amours.’[iv]

 Anne knew about Jane and the knowledge fed her depression.

The  Second Fall of Mary Boleyn

Viscount Lisle
Sometime in 1534[v] Mary Boleyn, by now pregnant, married William Stafford; Stafford was a second son and a common soldier; no match for the queen’s sister. Stafford transferred to working at the Calais garrison under the command of Arthur Plantagenet, Viscount Lisle[vi], the king’s uncle. Stafford’s move came after attending in the king’s train on his 1532 visit to France with Anne. Mary had failed to request permission from her father and from Henry.

Thomas was angered by this second marriage of his eldest daughter’s, as was her uncle Norfolk. Once Thomas realised that Mary’s child had been conceived out of wedlock he cut off her allowance. And he and Anne persuaded Henry to banish Mary from court. Mary wrote to Cromwell begging him to intercede with her sister and brother-in-law and also her parents;

‘Also I beseech you, good Master Secretary, pray my Lord my father and my Lady my mother to be good to us and to let us have their blessings, and my husband their goodwill; and I will never desire more of them.’[vii]

It would appear that Mary then moved to live in Calais with her new husband.

The Fall of Anne Boleyn

In early 1536 Thomas was loaning monies to the value of £400[viii] to Lord Henry Daubeny[ix]. A correspondent of Viscount Lisle wrote;

‘I have inquired of my Lord Daubeny’s demeanour as secretly as I can……I have perfect knowledge that he hath made shift with my Lord of Wiltshire for four hundred pounds.’[x]

Clearly, whatever other storm clouds were on the horizon, Thomas’s financial affairs were still in good order. 

Thomas Cromwell
But on 29th January Anne gave birth to a still-born son; her last hope. Cromwell was instructed to look for grounds for a second divorce. It was not until 24th April 1536 that a secret commission headed by Cromwell and Anne’s uncle Norfolk started work to find fault with the queen to enable Henry to divorce her and marry Jane.

It took the Commission a whole week to draw up a list of Anne’s alleged lovers; first and foremost was her brother George closely followed by Mark Smeaton a court musician, Sir Henry Norris[xi] a courtier, Sir Francis Weston a Gentleman of the Privy Chamber and William Brereton[xii] a Groom of the Privy Chamber.

Within the month Anne was on trial for treason; she was taken to the Tower in the first week of May and and placed in the care of her paternal aunts, Anne Shelton and Alice Clere, who were there to spy on her and report to the Commission.

On 12th May Norris, Smeaton, Brereton and Weston were tried and condemned[xiii]. On 17 May 1536, George and his fellow accused were executed for treason, and all George’s titles were forfeited[xiv].  After her husband's execution, George’s wife was absent from court for several months. She was negotiating with Thomas; he eventually allocated her a pension of £100[xv].  Anne went to the block on 19th. Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn retired to Hever and Thomas was replaced as Lord Privy Seal by Cromwell;

The Downward Trajectory

Pilgrim's banner
Thomas suffered a final indignity as the claims of Piers Butler to the Earldom of Ormond were recognized and he was styled earl of Ormond from 22 January 1538. There were two earls of Ormond in the Kingdom until Thomas’s death on 12 March 1539.

Two years after the deaths of two of his children Thomas wrote to Erasmus requesting him to write a short commentary on the 23rd psalm to be dedicated to himself. Although no longer Lord Privy Seal, Thomas did retain his place on the king’s council. Two months after Anne and George’s death Thomas was helping suppress the Pilgrimage of Grace[xvi].

Prince Edward
Thomas was recorded as attending the funeral obsequies of the woman who supplanted his daughter; Jane Seymour died in childbirth on 24th October 1537, leaving Henry with his longed for son Edward. Thomas was as an agile a politician as his brother-in-law Norfolk;

‘These noblemen, we trust, will be ready to give attendance at Hampton Court, and so to Windsor:-

My Lords of Norfolk, Suffolk, Marquess [of] Dorset, Marquess [of] Exeter, the Earls of Surrey, Oxford, Rutland, Wiltshire, Sussex, Hertford, Southampton, the Lord Privy Seal, the Lord Chamberlain[xvii], if your Lordship have passed letters for them, as we trust you have.’[xviii]

Thomas then attended the christening of Prince Edward; he kept in with Cromwell and other influential politicians and attended the ceremonies of the Order of the Garter.

The Death of Doubting Thomas

Lady Margaret Douglas
Thomas’s wife Elizabeth died on 3rd April 1538 and Thomas’s younger sister Alice died in the November; Thomas now only had two siblings still alive; Anne[xix] and James[xx] and of his children only Mary was left. He had grandchildren; Anne’s daughter Elizabeth and Mary’s four children[xxi]. By the end of 1538 Thomas was being ‘well entertained’ at court; there were rumours that he was to wed Lady Margaret Douglas[xxii], the king’s niece.

While contemplating his mortality Thomas considered cutting Mary out of his will and leaving his money to his granddaughter Elizabeth. Thomas died on 12th March 1539 and was buried at Hever church. After Thomas’s death Hever Castle reverted to the Crown. Henry ordered masses to be said for Thomas’s soul. Thomas’s auditor wrote to Cromwell;

My good lord and master is dead, he made the end of a good Christian man.’[xxiii]


Thomas Cromwell – Robert Hutchinson, Phoenix 2008

Henry VIII – Robert Lacey, George Weidenfeld & Nicholson & Book Club Associates 1992

The Earlier Tudors – JD Mackie, Oxford University Press 1992

Rivals in Power – David Starkey (ed), Toucan Books 1990

Elizabeth – David Starkey, Chatto & Windus 2000

The Lisle Letters – Muriel St Clare Byrne (ed), Penguin Books Ltd 1985 1533

The Six Wives of Henry VIII – Alison Weir, Pimlico 1992

Mary Boleyn – Alison Weir, AudioGO Ltd 2012

[i] Mary Tudor - Prescott
[ii] A soldier who had served both Henry and his father, Seymour lived in the Savernake Forest
[iii] Cromwell was thrown out of his apartments at court so that Edward could be housed close to his sister
[iv] The Six Wives of Henry VIII - Weir
[v] Probably in the summer
[vi] An illegitimate son of Edward IV
[vii] Mary Boleyn - Weir
[viii] In 2013 the relative:  historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £204,300.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £6,188,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £71,670,000.00
[ix] Created Earl of Bridgewater two years later
[x] The Lisle Letters – St Clare Byrne (ed)
[xi] Anne was accused of soliciting and having sex with Norris just ONE month after the birth of Elizabeth; along with the other accusations this is extremely unlikely given the number of servants, and attendants who would be scrutinising Anne’s every move. Unlike Catherine Howard, Anne was not a stupid woman.
[xii] Anne was accused of soliciting and having sex with Brereton a mere two months after the birth of Elizabeth
[xiii] Weir claims that Thomas was ‘probably’ involved in George and Anne’s trials
[xiv] His widow Jane continued to use the title after her husband's death. Lady Rochford was herself attainted for treason and beheaded on Tower Hill on 13 February 1542 with Queen Katherine Howard, the King's fifth wife
[xv] In 2013 the relative: historic standard of living value of that income or wealth is £51,080.00 economic status value of that income or wealth is £1,547,000.00 economic power value of that income or wealth is £17,920,000.00
[xvi] An uprising in the north, protesting against the break from the Catholic Church
[xviii] Rivals in Power – Starkey (ed)
[xix] Who lived until 1555
[xx] Who died in 1561
[xxi]  His granddaughter Anne Stafford was born in 1536 and may still have been alive
[xxii] Mother of Henry Darnley, who married Mary Queen of Scots and grandmother of Arbella Stuart
[xxiii] Mary Boleyn - Weir