De Lacy links to the throne of England

This the last of the articles on the Lords of the Manor of Ightenhill. We have seen how the de Lacy Lords and first of the members of the royal family, to whom the de Lacy estates passed in 1311 when the last of the de Lacy earls, Henry II, died.

The man who succeeded him was Thomas of Lancaster, a minor royal but a great baron, who married Earl Henry’s daughter, Alice de Lacy. I do not think I mentioned it but Thomas’s marriage to Alice was not a success. We know Thomas had at least two illegitimate sons and, on one occasion, Alice was abducted by a knight acting for Earl John de Warenne, who had a neighbouring estate to the de Lacy’ in Conisborough in what is now South Yorkshire.

The story of this abduction might be interesting but it does not concern us here. I have my own theories about it but what we have to address is the peculiar circumstances Thomas of Lancaster found himself in when his marriage finally broke up.

Alice was Earl Henry’s sole heir. The earldom of Lincoln, and all its property, had been vested in her. Similarly, the earldom of Salisbury had come to Earl Henry late in his life. When he died, his inquisition post mortem (an assessment of his property) called him Earl of Salisbury. Therefore Alice was heir to this great earldom as well.

In his lifetime, Henry enjoyed the earldom of Lincoln, as of right, but the earldom of Salisbury was held in the right of his wife. We are not sure of her name but she was called Margaret or Alice. When the daughter, Alice, succeeded she was the Countess of Lincoln in her own right but was not Countess of Salisbury while he mother was alive.

There is a problem here in that we do not know when Alice’s mother died. However, it was agreed that, on the marriage of Earl Thomas (he was already an earl three times over) the right of his father Lincoln should go to the earl. Thomas also got Salisbury, so he ended up an earl five times over! They were great earldoms as well so it is not surprising he became one of the leading barons during the reign of Edward II.

This king came to the throne in 1307 but his reign is marked by a series of disasters for England. He lost ground in France, was defeated at Bannockburn in Scotland and had to face almost unparalleled trouble in the north of England. It seems unlikely, given what we know about the two men, that one of Edward II’s very few successes was against Earl Thomas, his own cousin.

We saw that Thomas was defeated at the battle of Boroughbridge in 1322 and was beheaded at the behest of an unforgiving king. It was after this, in 1323, Edward II came to Ightenhill. We do not know, for sure, why he came. It might have been as a consequence of the battle which had taken place the year before, but a young friend of mine, Mathew Wall, a Burnley historian now living in Cyprus, suggests Edward came to the manor house at Ightenhill to assess what might be done to bring an end to the civil strife taking place all over the north of England, but particularly in the North-West.

We have not got space to go into detail on the lawlessness of the north of England at this time. The catalyst was Edward II’s defeat at Boroughbridge in 1314. We have seen even Earl Thomas failed to deal with it and that, because of this, he was removed from power at the centre of government. What can be said is that one of the factors which led to Boroughbridge was the failure of the crown to bring peace to the north of the country.

From our point of view, the important thing is the king’s visit to Ightenhill. We know a little more about the manor house as records survive of some repairs which might have been carried out because the king was expected. After all, at this time, the manor house was his. When Thomas was executed, it was as a traitor, and all of Thomas’s vast wealth was surrendered to Edward, who, no doubt, wanted to keep it for himself as long as possible. The reason for this was that, while the property was in the king’s hands, he benefitted from its revenues.

When the king arrived, he found extensive refurbishment had been carried out to his manor house. There is a reference, in the document of 1323, to “the king’s chamber”. Of course, it was his chamber. Edward was Lord of the Manor. We don’t know what improvements were made to the king’s chamber, as the reference is to work carried out “under the king’s chamber”, but, whatever it was, a number of oak trees were felled for the work and were cut and shaped for use in the ground floor of the building.

There is also mention of repair work at the bake house, the repair of the stables and making a new chimney for which Roger the Mason was paid £5 14d 6d (£5.72p), a tidy sum in those days. Mr Bennett, Burnley’s historian, is of the opinion the chimney was really a large kitchen range (used to roasting and baking) such as the one that can still be seen at Towneley Hall.

Edward II was in possession of the estate of Thomas Earl of Lancaster until his own death in 1327. Thomas may have been beheaded but there are quite early references for a much more painful death for the king. In 1327, he was deposed by his wife, Queen Isabella of France and her ally, Roger Mortimer, but he died in mysterious circumstances at Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire.

It could be the king was “smothered to death”, as one historian put it, but others have claimed the king was killed when a red hot poker was driven into his backside. No one knows what really happened but it has been claimed both methods would have ensured there was no visible mark on the king’s body when the time came for burial. It was customary for the body of a king to be displayed to show he was really dead.

As Edward III, who was a minor at the time, mounted the throne it was decided Earl Thomas’s estates should be returned to his family. His younger brother, Henry, who had survived the disaster that had befallen Earl Thomas in 1322, succeeded to the earldom of Lancaster, which he held until 1341. He was succeeded by Henry Grosmont, son of Earl Henry, who was made Duke of Lancaster, and, from 1362 to 1399, one of the great figures of the Middle Ages, John of Gaunt, held the estate.

John was the fourth son of Edward III. In 1359 he married his cousin, Duke Henry’s daughter, Blanche, and became Duke of Lancaster, in the right of his wife, in 1362. However, Blanche died in 1369 and John married Constance of Castile, through whom he had a claim to the Castilian throne. This was unfulfilled and when she died, John married Catherine Swynford, from whom the Tudor monarchs are descended.

The reason for mentioning this is that, when John of Gaunt died, in 1399, he was succeeded by his son, known to us as Henry of Bolingbrook. It was he who, also in 1399, seized the throne from Richard II, making himself, King of England, as Henry IV.

Strictly, none of the blood of the de Lacy family, or so little of it that it did not count, passed to the Lancaster dynasty that was founded by Henry IV but their property did and it remained in the crown’s hands until 1660 when Charles II passed Ightenhill on to General Monck, the man who had made it possible for Charles to return to England as king. Monck, became the Duke of Albermarle.

The story of the de Lacys, the kings of England and their connections with Ightenhill, ends here but if you want to know more about this subject Ightenhill Parish Council has published two booklets. The first is entitled “The Manor House at Ightenhill” and is the consequence of the co-operation of the parish council and St Mary Magdalene’s RC School. A copy of this booklet will be delivered free to each household in Ightenhill in the next few weeks.

The second booklet is going to the printers soon. It is entitled “De Lacy’s and Kings: The Lords of the Manor of Ightenhill”. If you want a copy, contact any Ightenhill Parish Councillor or Roger Frost on 01282 435863 or at [email protected]

Unfortunately, we cannot tell you what the booklet will cost but prices will be kept down so it has the widest audience possible. This is the intention of the Heritage Lottery Fund which has financed the whole of the project.