So who is Lord Cristian Gilleson – Born Friday June Seventeenth 1239 – Died ?

We first meet Cristian Gilleson in Chapter One of “The King’s Jew” – as a famous knight, companion to a dead King (Edward the First) and aged 68 – a good age for a medieval warrior who has lived in dangerous times, fought many battles and now must last one more night in Westminster Abbey. But what made him the man he is? What exactly set him apart from the men who ruled and lorded it over the masses in thirteenth century England?

Cosmati floor in Westminster Abbey upon which Cristian walked
Cosmati floor in Westminster Abbey upon which Cristian walked

The next time he appears is in the arms of his dead mother as a new-born mewling baby in chapter eleven.

How did he get his name?

Well Alain, the monk / scribe to the Lord of Longhurst saw to it that he was baptised and gave him the name Cristian so as to ensure he was just that – a Christian – in the hope that the crime perpetrated by Cristian’s father could be washed away by dedicating another soul to his Christian God.

Medieval interior of peasant's dwelling
Medieval interior of peasant’s dwelling

Was Cristian a bad child?

Remember these events took place over seven hundred years ago and there was a totally different concept of the word ‘child’ in those days. Children were chattels; an addition to the workforce if you were of peasant stock and a trainee man of violence if you were in the knightly class and in those early days Cristian was a peasant.

Yet the first time he meets the future King Edward, when they are both just six, Cristian is embroiled in a fight with the local village bully and his friends. Knives are drawn – yes at that age! – and Cristian, with the help of young Edward, prevails.

Medieval children playing 'piggy back'
Medieval children playing ‘piggy back’

How did Cristian cope with the transition from the village of Longhurst to being at the court of King Henry III and companion to young Edward?

Cristian had always been a thoughtful child. Constantly seeking answers to questions that assailed his young mind. Because the local priest had tutored him in reading and writing he was actually better at it than Prince Edward. Indeed at one stage Cristian writes a fairer hand than the Prince but Edward counters this by saying that a future King has no need to write as he will have people to do that for him! – In which he was quite right by-the way (and a future king doesn’t want inky fingers does he?)

Cristian not only learned etiquette but also the art of war and defence from the incomparable Bartholomew Pecche who tutored both boys in the use of arms. This culminated in Edward and Cristian’s journey to take part in the crusades.

The crusades
The crusades

So what does Cristian Gilleson look like?

I’m sure you, dear reader, are aware that King Edward the First was also known as ‘Longshanks’(long  legged – hence the term ‘shank’s pony’ to walk) as he was over six foot tall. Cristian and Edward were not only born on the same day but were also the same size so Cristian’s public persona was one of power and strength. Add to that the black hair and dark complexion of his mother (you’ll have to read the book for if I tell you more it may spoil the tale) and you’d know not to get on the wrong side of Gilleson.

What differentiated Cristian from his peers?

Mainly the accident of his birth (can’t say any more about that here) and his sense of ‘fair play’ and desire for learning about other cultures and ideas. He always champions the underdog. He has a questing mind (hence his ground-breaking conversations with the Jew, Yehuda ben Moshe) and a love of knowledge, yet cross Cristian and you will make an implacable enemy!

OK, the main reason he has enemies is because of his care and concern for the Jewish community. The Jews suffered greatly in medieval England and were constantly being taxed and persecuted.

Both King Henry III and his son Edward raised money from the Jews (indeed the Jew belonged to the Royal Family. Even though Cristian was companion and friend to Edward he tried to curtail some of Edward’s harsher edicts and he had to do this in a very roundabout way or lose the ear of the king. As it was, many other highborn people sensed Cristian’s agenda and whispered invective in Edward’s ear. Fortunately Edward regarded Cristian as his one true and loyal servant and (in many ways) ignored the rumours from his other courtiers.

Medieval Jews being attacked - note the yellow badges they had to wear
Medieval Jews being attacked – note the yellow badges they had to wear

Which historical person hated Cristian with a vengeance?

I’m not giving too much away here – but the culprit was Gilbert de Clare. Their paths first crossed when Cristian was fifteen and Gilbert just twelve. This meeting, which was to have such far-reaching consequences, took place in Bordeaux when Cristian caught Gilbert beating up a young Jewish boy (I’d better not say any more – for the boy is pivotal to the plot). I don’t like Gilbert the Seventh Earl of Gloucester for he was a duplicitous person who thought only of himself. Suffice to say that’s enough on the subject of Gilbert here.

Stained glass image of Gilbert
Stained glass image of Gilbert

Can a medieval fighting man ever find true love?

For those who have read “The King’s Jew” you already have the answer and know how Cristian met a precocious girl child who vowed to marry him one day. Naturally, Cristian being a male of the species, it took him a while to realise what love was all about but once the lady had made her mind up he was reeled in like a lamb to the slaughter. Indeed, King Edward who married a thirteen year old girl when he was just fifteen was also in love and it broke his heart when his Queen Eleanor died. The results of which can be seen to this day in the form of the surviving Eleanor Crosses in England

Cristian's true love?
Cristian’s true love?

A man of his time?

Most definitely but I would say Cristian was more a man ‘ahead of his time’. It was only after finishing the books that I realised Cristian was almost a medieval Oscar Schindler in that he tried to save people from annihilation and walked the dangerous line between two implacable forces that opposed him (the church and his enemies).

Why the question mark at the end of the opening line?

You’ll maybe find the answer to this at the end of book three. After all, I’ve told you just a few snippets about the famous Lord Cristian Gilleson except the date of his death. Did he escape his enemies and spend the rest of his life with a certain lady? Or was he cut down in a bloody battle inside Westminster Abbey?  The final book three should be available at the end of this year.

WANT THE BOOK?

http://bit.ly/1yop3AK

OR HERE http://www.amazon.co.uk/KINGS-JEW-Book1-Changeling-Sept-ebook/dp/B00OAAI2WY

Other links – Yehuda ben Moshe – you can check on Yehuda at this link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yehuda_ben_Moshe

Gilbert de Clare – learn more about Gilbert here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilbert_de_Clare,_7th_Earl_of_Gloucester

Eleanor Crosses – learn more here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleanor_cross

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Medieval Dodge City – the ‘Badlands’’ of the English / Welsh border.

The ‘lost’ town of Kenfig.

Kenfig is here
Kenfig is here

Over 800 years ago Kenfig was a successful port founded by the Anglo-Norman’s on the Welsh coast to establish a dominant economic and military stronghold.

One of the main characters in ‘The King’s Jew’ (book one) first appears in the novel in chapter 55 – see below –and it is then that ‘Kenfig’ is first mentioned.  LINK http://bit.ly/1yop3AK

Extract from Chapter fifty-five of “The King’s Jew” – Book One. The first time ‘Kenfig’ is mentioned.

Saturday February 24th 1263.

Feast day of St Mathew (Matthias)

Hebrew: 13th Adar 5023.

Afternoon. Longhurst Castle.

….

A command rang out and the men under the blackbird banner halted.

The tall man on the huge horse rode slowly forward and stopped before Mathew asking, “Cristian of Longhurst?”

Mathew laughed and indicating Cristian replied, “This is Lord Cristian of Longhurst and I am the man who guards his back so state your business to my master.”

Though the stranger was tall he was also young, not much older than Cristian. He looked weary and his clothing was worn and ripped in places. Even the cloak around his shoulders seemed threadbare but the sword and scabbard shone bright and the silver accoutrements on his horse gleamed softly in the winter sun.

‘This is a man of action not fashion,’ thought Cristian and took an instant liking to the fellow.

“Lord Cristian,” the man inclined his head, “I come from Prince Edward with letters for you.”

“Is Edward still in France?” asked Cristian.

“No, lord, his ships and men docked in the port of Dover earlier today. My craft arrived at Lymington this morning and after disembarking I came straight to find you. Prince Edward commends himself to you and asks that I and my companions may serve you.”

Cristian was aghast. How could he afford to pay this man and his men in addition to his other commitments?

“This is all rather sudden and just who are you anyway?”

“I am a landless knight. My name is Sir William of Kenfig. My father was a knight. He died by the hand of Hywel ap Meredith twenty years ago when the Welsh attacked Kenfig Castle. I like not the Welsh, duplicitous bastards that they are. I have spent the last few years tourneying abroad and it was there I met your Lord Edward.”

As Cristian talked with Sir William, Mathew signalled his outriders to draw closer to the visitors. None of the newcomers seemed hostile as they quietly sat their horses waiting for their leader to conclude his business.

Extract ends.

Writers are often asked – “Which came first – the research or the story?” Well in this case Kenfig came before the character of William. I came across Kenfig whilst researching the medieval Welsh borderland and (fortunately for me) William of Kenfig came into my mind as the book progressed. But what of Kenfig eh?

Kenfig now
Kenfig now

The founding of Kenfig is obviously shrouded in the mists of time but it appears to have been founded around 1140 by Robert, Earl of Gloucester. At that time the Norman conquest of England was more or less complete, but the Normans were meeting stiff resistance in Wales. Earl Robert was the illegitimate son of King Henry I. Among his possessions he held the Lordship of Glamorgan. The castle and town of Kenfig were therefore founded in order to establish greater control over the local people and in particular to secure the crossing of the River Kenfig. The town began as a small community within the outer defences of the castle, but soon developed towards the south west in the direction of the sea.

The isolated remains of Kenfig castle
The isolated remains of Kenfig castle

Kenfig was attacked many times. In 1167, much of the town outside the castle walls was destroyed by fire. Further incidents occurred over the next twenty years. Indeed there is a statement in the Annals of Margam Abbey asserting that the town was burnt in 1185, but “had not been burned for a year or more”.

In 1232 the people of Kenfig had to sustain a major assault by a neighbouring Welsh leader, Morgan Gam, and there were further attacks in 1242 and 1243 led by Morgan’s cousin, Hywel ap Meredith.

Kenfig castle 2
Kenfig castle 2

In 1232 the chronicler of Margam Abbey noted that at Easter the people of Kenfig received warning of an impending attack and so they were able to lead their cattle to a place of safety. Morgan Gam’s men rushed into the town and attacked the donjon. They met with stiff resistance and a bloody battle ensued. The men within the donjon defended bravely and Morgan was compelled to retreat and return to the mountains.

Remains of Margam Abbey
Remains of Margam Abbey

It is easy to think that such attacks were inspired by the idea of Welsh nationalism but the reality of the situation was that many of these attacks were motivated by the most basic of needs: food, clothing, weapons and livestock.  Relatively speaking, the burgesses in the town led comfortable lives while the people outside – the people of the ‘Welshry’ – were largely impoverished; they were literally fighting for their lives and the safety of their families.

castle_354x266

Thus in 1243, the town was burned again, this time by Howell ap Meredith. In 1295 a rebellion touched much of Wales and that rebellion reached Kenfig culminating in the destruction of the town.

Another view of Kenfig castle
Another view of Kenfig castle

For two hundred years between the middle of the twelfth century and the middle of the fourteenth century the town of Kenfig was a thriving community although subject to the violence of the times. Then the sand started to arrive and within another one hundred years Kenfig became a ghost town.

In those days a community could only survive if their fields were productive and able to sustain livestock – once the insidious sand took hold it was uneconomic to remain in the area. People moved away so the income from taxes and tithes diminished and we are now left with an area totally covered in sand dunes.

Even this representation has been covered by the sand
Even this representation has been covered by the sand

Kenfig is now a special site and visited by many yet none of the visitors have seen the ghost of William of Kenfig or the burial place of his father. At least William lives on in ‘The King’s Jew’  which can be viewed here

http://bit.ly/1yop3AK

Medieval Justice – In the time of King Edward the First – a brief outline.

Here comes the Judge!

Most medieval communities did have a judge and jury system, though hearings were much speedier than today’s lengthy, made-for-TV affairs, generally lasting less than a half-hour. If the judge so chose, he (and it was always ‘he’) could ask a few simple questions and deliver a verdict himself without ever consulting anybody else.

Boys will be Boys.

Medieval villages and towns grouped youngster together by age. The oldest child would be responsible for the younger ones and if anyone committed an offence or a social faux pas they could be punished by the ‘leader’ without recourse to the village elders. But along with leadership came responsibility for if the ‘leader’ let someone get away with it then they would be punished as well.

The main protagonist in The King’s Jew grew up in such a village. Longhurst by name LINK to BOOK 

http://bit.ly/1yop3AK

Hue and Cry.

Earlier medieval communities had much more social responsibility than today, in fact. If one member of a village claimed they’d been wronged, he or she would raise a “Hue and Cry” and every resident had to join in the hunt and persecution of the criminal or else they would all be held responsible.

By the Statute of Winchester of 1285, 13 Edw. I cc. 1 and 4, it was provided that anyone, either a constable or a private citizen, who witnessed a crime shall make hue and cry, and that the hue and cry must be kept up against the fleeing criminal from town to town and from county to county, until the felon is apprehended and delivered to the sheriff.

The Church.

The pious Middle Ages were serious about their religious offenses, and each town’s church generally ran its own kind of court to investigate everything from bad attendance to heresy. However, the church was also a place where criminals could avoid sentencing or punishment. The concept of sanctuary was well known in medieval times and let offenders escape the law. But woe to those who stepped outside church property.

Beaulieu Abbey - the remains

In the novel “The King’s Jew” Cristian Gilleson and Mathew ride through the vast holdings of BEAULIEU ABBEY to meet his father. Being approached by mounted men Cristian is informed that the Abbey grounds are the haunt of ‘dangerous’ men for ‘they dwelt there in sanctuary from the law of the land’.

Church_Sanctuary

Three strikes and you’re out.

Criminals who committed lesser offenses were often subject to a policy of three strikes and you’re out-literally. Rather than killing them off or letting them clog up prisons, repeat offenders were often simply banished from the town and not allowed back. Humane and cost efficient eh? Pity the folks in the next village though!

Movie myths.

Hollywood would have us believe that medieval evil-doers were killed on a whim and often in public squares for everything from slapping a soldier to stealing the king’s chickens. In truth, capital punishment was sentenced only in the most serious of cases, which included murder, treason and arson. Hanging was the punishment of choice.

Hanging

“The criminal condemned to be hanged was generally taken to the place of execution sitting or standing in a wagon*, with his back to the horses. When the criminal arrived at the place of execution the noose was placed around his neck from which he was suspended and thereby strangled to death. When the words “shall be hung until death doth ensue” are to be found in a sentence, it must not be supposed that they were used merely as a form, for in certain cases the judge ordered that the sentence should be only carried out as far as would prove to the culprit the awful sensation of hanging. In such cases, the victim was simply suspended by ropes passing under the arm-pits, a kind of exhibition which was not free from danger when it was too prolonged, for the weight of the body so tightened the rope round the chest that the circulation might be stopped. Many culprits, after hanging thus an hour, when brought down, were dead, or only survived this painful process a short time.”

In the novel – only one person is hanged – you’ll have to read it to find out who and why! LINK to BOOK

http://bit.ly/1yop3AK

Was the King above the law?

edward_1

Well, kind of. While medieval nobles did enjoy certain privileges when it came to bending laws or decreeing new ones to serve their purposes, most European countries had legislation preventing their kings and queens from completely running amok. England’s Magna Carta, which limited the monarchy’s financial powers among other things, is just one example. But then again the King and his nobles could only be tried by their peers and thus got away with a lot of misdemeanours. Nothing changes eh?

Off with his head?

Beheading-was swift and painless, as long as the axe was sharp! It was considered a “privilege” to die that way and was reserved mainly for members of the nobility, rarely commoners. Treason was their crime of choice and the beheading usually took place inside private castle walls.

A burning issue.

Though a few pagan “witches”- as presumed by their persecutors- were certainly tried and burned at the stake during medieval times, it is only during the Reformation period (circa 1550) that this practice really took off. Still, even at the height of hysteria, witches in England were rarely burned. They were usually hanged instead.

What’s this ear?

Mutilation, like the severing of an ear or hand, was occasionally used as a punishment against those who’d committed serious crimes, especially in larger towns. More often, though, medieval law enforcement simply used the prospect of losing bodily bits and pieces as an empty threat, rarely actually carrying out the deed (one wonders how long it took criminals to figure that out?).

MEDIEVAL JUSTICE AND THE JUDICIARY

MEDIEVAL JUSTICE AND THE JUDICIARY

My latest novel “The King’s Jew” (Book One) Available here http://bit.ly/1yop3AK has, as one of its central characters King Edward the First (1239 to 1307) who made many changes to English law.

When you see a judge or magistrate sitting in a modern court, you are actually looking at the result of 1,000 years of legal evolution.

Scales of Justice

TRIAL BY ORDEAL

Justice for the Anglo-Saxons and even after the Norman invasion of 1066 was a combination of local and royal government. Local courts were presided over by a lord or one of his stewards. The King’s court – the Curia Regis – was, initially at least, presided over by the King himself.

Nowadays going on trial in an English and Welsh court is not exactly a comfortable experience. But it’s far better than trial by ordeal, used until almost the end of the 12th century to determine guilt or innocence in criminal cases.

Under this system, the accused would be forced to pick up a red hot bar of iron, pluck a stone out of a cauldron of boiling water, or something equally painful and dangerous.

If their hand had begun to heal after three days they were considered to have God on their side, thus proving their innocence. The number of ‘not guilty’ verdicts recorded by this system is not known.

Another, extremely popular ‘ordeal’ involved water; the accused would be tied up and thrown into a lake or other body of water. If innocent, he or she would sink.

Water-ordeal

There were two problems with this method, which was often used to try suspected witches: the accused was tied right thumb to left toe, left thumb to right toe, which made it almost impossible to sink; and opinion is divided as to whether those who did sink were fished out afterwards.

William II (1087-1100) eventually banned trial by ordeal – reportedly because 50 men accused of killing his deer had passed the test – and it was condemned by the Church in 1216.

FIGHTING FOR FREEDOM?

Criminal and civil disputes could also be decided by trial by combat, with a win held to prove either innocence or the right to whatever property was being disputed. Either side could employ their own champions, so the system wasn’t perhaps as fair as it might be.

Trial by combat gradually fell into disuse for civil cases, although it wasn’t until someone involved in a dispute in 1818 tried to insist on it that it was realised this was still, technically, an option. Trial by combat was quickly banned, forcing litigants to rely on more conventional routes.

THE EARLIEST JUDGES.

During this period judges gradually gained independence from the monarch and the government. The very first judges, back in the 12th century, were court officials who had particular experience in advising the King on the settlement of disputes. From that group evolved the justices in eyre, (An Eyre or Iter was the name of a circuit traveled by an itinerant justice in medieval England (a Justice in Eyre), or the circuit court he presided over who possessed a mixed administrative and judicial jurisdiction).

The Justices in Eyre were not, to put it mildly, popular. In fact, they came to be regarded as instruments of oppression.

The seeds of the modern justice system were sown by Henry II (1154-1189), who established a jury of 12 local knights to settle disputes over the ownership of land. When Henry came to the throne, there were just 18 judges in the country – compared to more than 40,000 today.

In 1178, Henry II first chose five members of his personal household – two clergy and three lay – “to hear all the complaints of the realm and to do right”.

Trial

This, supervised by the King and “wise men” of the realm, was the origin of the Court of Common Pleas.

Eventually, a new permanent court, the Court of the King’s Bench, evolved, and judicial proceedings before the King came to be seen as separate from proceedings before the King’s Council.

SEEDS OF CHANGE.

In 1166, Henry issued a Declaration at the Assize of Clarendon (an assize was an early form of the King´s Council; the term later became the name for a sitting of a court).

The Assize of Clarendon ordered the remaining non-King’s Bench judges to travel the country – which was divided into different circuits – deciding cases.

To do this, they would use the laws made by the judges in Westminster, a change that meant many local customs were replaced by new national laws. These national laws applied to everyone and so were common to all. Even today, we know them as the ‘common law’.

The system of judges sitting in London while others travelled round the country became known as the ‘assizes system’. Incredibly, it survived until 1971.

Changes evolved slowly; even in the middle of the 14th century, under Edward III, there could be close collaboration between the Court of King’s Bench and the King’s Council. A third common law court of justice, the Court of Exchequer, eventually emerged as the financial business of the Royal Household was split off to a specialist group of officials.

THE FIRST PROFESSIONAL JUDGES AND MAGISTRATES.

Martin de Pateshull, Archdeacon of Norfolk and Dean of St Paul’s, became a Justice of the bench in 1217. By the time he died in 1229 he was known as one of the finest lawyers in England; even 60 years after his death, his judgments were being searched for precedents. He also had  a license from the king to keep fifty hogs in Windsor forest (perks of the job eh?)

Like Martin, many judges of this era were members of the clergy – although this did not necessarily mean they were parish priests, performing services, weddings and christenings. In an era when the church was rich and the King poor, joining the clergy was often just seen as a sensible means of support.

By the middle of the 13th century, knights had begun to join clerics on the bench. The first professional judges were appointed from the order of serjents-at-law. These were advocates who practised in the Court of Common Pleas. Lawrence de Brok, a serjeant, became a judge in 1268, starting the tradition, which lasted until 1875, of serjeants being the group from which judges were chosen.

This was important, because it meant that the judiciary now had real professional experience of the law before moving on to the bench.

Over the years, serjeants were overtaken in popularity by barristers and solicitors, and even today, these are the groups from which the judiciary is appointed.

JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE.

During this era bribes and payments were common, but even so, in the middle of the 13th century the judiciary was openly accused of corruption.

In 1346, judges were obliged to swear that “they would in no way accept gift or reward from any party in litigation before them or give advice to any man, great or small, in any action to which the King was a party himself”.

Judicial salaries were also increased, so as to make them less dependent on other forms of income.

This didn’t always help: in 1350 the Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, William de Thorpe, was sentenced to death for bribery (he was later pardoned, but demoted – lucky he wasn’t a peasant!).

THE MAGISTRATES COURTS.

Meanwhile, a new type of court began to evolve – that which we now recognise as the magistrates’ court. Magistrates’ courts hark back to the Anglo-Saxon moot court and the manorial court, but their official birth came in 1285, during the reign of Edward I, when ‘good and lawful men’ were commissioned to keep the King’s peace.

From that point, and continuing today, Justices of the Peace have undertaken the majority of the judicial work carried out in England and Wales (today, about 95 per cent of criminal cases are dealt with by magistrates).

KING EDWARD THE FIRST (Reigned from 1272 to 1307) played an important part in organising the judiciary but at the same time ensured that his status and income were increased. No point in being a King if you can’t turn it to your advantage is there?

Certain legal aspects are dealt with in “The King’s Jew” though not in such depth as detailed above. The main thing is that even in law the King could be the final arbiter of who inherited what and who married who.

Any questions – just ask and here’s a link for those who wish to know more but within the context of an Historical Fiction novel. http://bit.ly/1yop3AK

Vikings Invade British Isles – The Battle of Largs (Tuesday 2 October 1263).

In Book Two of “The King’s Jew” http://authl.it/2m5 a new character is introduced in chapter one. His name is Cathal and he is (allegedly) a hermit. Cathal plays an important (though secondary) part in the plot of the book. Yet I needed some background information as to his past life before he became a follower of Lord Cristian Gilleson (my main protagonist). It was then that I stumbled across the last Viking invasion of the British Isles (see below). Thus Cathal arrived with the invading forces, was captured and eventually meets Cristian two years later (1265). Very little (indeed hardly any) of the battle of Largs is mentioned in “The King’s Jew” but it seems only fair that I share this information with those of you who were unaware of this last battle of the Vikings on our Sceptered Isle.

Norwegian realm in 1263

The Battle of Largs (Tuesday 2 October 1263) was an indecisive engagement between the kingdoms of Norway and Scotland near Largs, Scotland. The conflict formed part of the Norwegian expedition in which Magnus Haakonsson, King of Norway attempted to reassert Norwegian sovereignty over the western seaboard of Scotland.

Since the beginning of the 12th century this region had lain within the Norwegian realm, ruled by magnates who recognised the overlordship of the Kings of Norway. However, in the mid-13th century, two Scottish kings, Alexander II and his son Alexander III, attempted to incorporate the region into their own realm.

Following failed attempts to purchase the islands from the Norwegian king, the Scots launched military operations. Hakon responded by leading a massive fleet from Norway, which reached the Hebrides in the summer of 1263. By the end of September, Hakon’s fleet occupied the Firth of Clyde, and when negotiations between the kingdoms broke down, he brought the bulk of his fleet to anchor off The Cumbraes.

On the night of 30 September, during a bout of particularly stormy weather, several Norwegian vessels were driven aground on the Ayrshire coast, near the present-day town of Largs.

640px-Battle_of_Largs_(map_02)

On 2 October, while the Norwegians were salvaging their vessels, the main Scottish army arrived on the scene. Composed of infantry and cavalry, the Scottish force was commanded by Alexander of Dundonald, Steward of Scotland.

The Norwegians were gathered in two groups: the larger main force on the beach and a small contingent atop a nearby mound. The advance of the Scots threatened to divide the Norwegian forces, so the contingent upon the mound ran to re-join their comrades on the beach below.

Seeing them running from the mound, the Norwegians on the beach believed they were retreating, and fled back towards the ships. Fierce fighting took place on the beach, and the Scots took up a position on the mound formerly held by the Norwegians.

Late in the day, after several hours of skirmishing, the Norwegians were able to recapture the mound. The Scots withdrew from the scene and the Norwegians were able to re-board their ships. They returned the next morning to collect their dead.

The weather was deteriorating, and Haakonsson’s demoralised forces turned for home. Hakon’s campaign had failed to maintain Norwegian overlordship of the seaboard, and his native magnates, left to fend for themselves, were soon forced to submit to the Scots.

The Scots invaded and conquered the Isle of Man the following year, which was, with the whole of the Western Isles, then annexed to the Crown of Scotland.

Three years after the battle, with the conclusion of the Treaty of Perth, Magnus Haakonsson King of Norway ceded Scotland’s western seaboard to Alexander III, and thus the centuries-old territorial dispute between the consolidating kingdoms was at last settled.

And that was the last time the ‘Vikings’ invaded the British Isles.

You can view “The King’s Jew” here

http://www.amazon.co.uk/KINGS-JEW-Book1-Changeling-Sept-ebook/dp/B00OAAI2WY

The protagonists: –

Magnus Haakonsson (Old Norse: Magnús Hákonarson, Norwegian: Magnus Håkonsson; 1 May 1238 – 9 May 1280) was King of Norway (as Magnus VI) from 1263 to 1280 (junior king from 1257). One of his greatest achievements was his modernisation and nationalisation of the Norwegian law-code, after which he is known as Magnus the Law-mender (Old Norse: Magnús lagabœtir, Norwegian: Magnus Lagabøte). He was the first Norwegian monarch known to personally have used an ordinal number, although originally counting himself as “IV”.

Alexander III (Medieval Gaelic: Alaxandair mac Alaxandair; Modern Gaelic: Alasdair mac Alasdair) (4 September 1241 – 19 March 1286) was King of Scots from 1249 to his death.

Seal of Alexander III, King_of_Scots_(seal)

Alexander Stewart (1214–1283), also known as Alexander of Dundonald, was 4th hereditary High Steward of Scotland from his father’s death in 1246. A son of Walter Stewart, 3rd High Steward of Scotland by his wife Bethóc, daughter of Gille Críst, Earl of Angus, Alexander is said to have accompanied Louis IX of France on the Seventh Crusade (1248–1254). In 1255 he was one of the councillors of King Alexander III.

Simon de Montfort’s rash decision

A brief observation on just why support for Simon de Montfort’s de facto rule of England failed even though he basically had the King, Henry the Third, in his power after the battle of Lewes and his son, the future Edward the First under ‘house arrest’.
The main economy of England was based on landholdings – the more land you held the more powerful you were.
A King ruled by the consent of his Baron’s his main duty to keep the realm and all those living therein safe.
Here’s how Montfort stepped over the line. Ready?
He made Edward give up not only the many demesnes he already owned but also any estates he may inherit from his father. Montfort wanted those holdings to be given / signed over to his sons.
Now here’s the problem – if Henry died then Edward would inherit the crown. But what use is an impoverished King with no land – no wealth – no POWER? The simple answer is such a King wouldn’t be worth a carrot!
And – if such a situation did come about then Montfort’s family would usurp the King and rule as King’s themselves.
The Barons who had initially sided with Montfort saw this as a threat not only to the monarchy but the status quo in general and so they changed sides leaving Montfort still holding King Henry but when Edward escaped his clutches the die was cast and the end game played out at Evesham.
Maedieval Evesham Abbey
Montfort reached for the stars and found only the bloody ground of Green Hill on August fourth 1265. Most of these points are covered in my book “The King’s Jew”. You can see it here http://bit.ly/1yop3AK

The Battle of Evesham – August 4th 1265

I was having a discussion with some people on the European Medieval History Facebook Site

https://www.facebook.com/groups/315780238566948/permalink/638240132987622/

Some very knowledgeable people on there. So I offered to make my chapters concerning that terrible day for their consideration. Remember I’m a writer of Historical Fiction (I prefer the word ‘Faction’ as in Fact joined with fiction = faction). I researched this extensively from many different sources but the truth of the matter can never be easily defined. At the start of this piece you will meet two unnamed individuals. I was criticized at one stage for not giving names to these people – yet their anonymity is deliberate for they represent the anonymous majority who suffered at the hands of the high and mighty. I thought it right and fitting that among the Kings and baron’s the ‘little people should be remembered. So come and join me on a rainy day seven hundred and fifty years ago when the balance of power in England was decided.

 

Book One of “The King’s Jew”

http://authl.it/2m5

Chapter Fifty-nine.

Tuesday August 4th 1265

Feast day of Saint Molua.

Hebrew: 21st day of Av 5025

The Abbey town of Evesham. Early morning.

The crowd swarmed out from Evesham and the Abbey grounds, soldiers and peasants pressed together tightly like a flock of sheep.

The boy’s grubby hand clutched the hem of the threadbare woollen cloak in front of him. He was too small to see over the milling throng so he focused on the man pulling him along, following this way and that as the press of men swayed and moved in their eagerness to reach the Green Field.

The cloak stopped and the boy collided with the broad-shouldered man wearing it. The massive figure turned and they both struggled to avoid being swept along.

They were like two boulders, one huge the other small, in the midst of the torrent of humanity sweeping around them. The bearded, matted-haired man hefted his long-handled axe, moving it from one shoulder to the other and spoke to the youth who had dogged his steps for so long.

“Go home to your mother.”

“Please, father, let me come.”

“You are too young. I tell you, one last time, go home. This is man’s work.”

The youth was small and slim and a good foot shorter than his father who stood over six feet tall.

The boy had tears in his eyes.

“I can fight. I have my blade. Let me come with you.”

The man lowered his axe and bent down to touch his son’s head.

“I know your fear. You think your father will suffer harm. Have I ever been beaten in a fight? Can any man in Evesham cut down trees as swiftly? Who in this town can drink with me till dawn? No man has ever bested me. Well?”

“No but …”

“You will do as you are told.”

The son looked up and saw the confidence in his father’s blue eyes. He noted the old pieces of chain mail, the quilted vest beneath and the battered basinet on his head that might afford some semblance of protection. The short sword and dagger at his hip along with the axe his only weapons. His father had been away with Earl Montfort’s army for many weeks and had only returned home the night before and now he was leaving again.

The father proffered the axe to his son.

“Hold this for me,” he said as he removed the clasp from his cloak, took it off with a flourish and held it out to the lad.

“Take this. I must move freely today. Look after it. Go on, take it.”

The axe was pulled roughly from the boy’s hand and replaced with the rolled cloth which the boy draped over his thin shoulders just as someone knocked him from his feet and by the time he had picked himself up his father had disappeared, swept away with the multitude preparing to fight Lord Edward if, and when, his army appeared.

A voice in the crowd cried out for a lost father and a boy with tears in his eyes allowed himself to be borne along by the throng, for where they went his father would be and he loved his father beyond life itself.

 

******

 

Lined up outside the great Abbey church attended by squires and ostlers stood the steeds of Simon de Montfort’s trusted men. The horses stamped and pawed the ground. They had not been fed this morning and were unsettled. The noise, clatter and excitement of men readying themselves for battle seemed to affect the fiery beasts as they champed at the bit ready for action. Captains and sergeants stood nervously awaiting their master’s orders.

A fully-armed knight limped up the steps and entered the Abbey church; his squire followed clasping his master’s helm close to his chest.

Inside, Earl Simon de Montfort knelt with head bowed before the altar. His confessor and friend, Walter de Cantelupe, Bishop of Worcester, had said his final prayers for success in the coming confrontation and blessed all those Lords, knights, servants and squires who attended this final service.

De Montfort, being a few years short of his sixtieth birthday, rose slowly to his feet and turned to the man standing slightly behind and to his right.

“Well, dear brother-in-law, it seems our time has come. I trust you are ready for the fray?”

Slightly smaller than de Montfort, the man nervously clasped his hands together as he looked with frightened eyes at the Earl.

“You do not expect me to take to the field with you?  I will not bear arms against my son.”

“You will do as I say, and remember well why we have come to this. Somewhere, not far away, your son lurks with his army and would do us harm. You will ride with me today and I will keep you safe within the circle of my bodyguards. If I fall, you fall with me.”

“I am your King, your prisoner. You cannot force me to fight with you.”

“No, my Lord King, you are not a prisoner. I do but keep you safe from the jaws of your marauding son, Lord Edward and his royalist traitors.”

King Henry III turned away with a snort of disgust as the sound of Sir Hugh Despenser’s mailed feet echoed on the stone slabs for all there present had grown quiet listening to the exchange between Earl and King. A shuffling of feet and nervous coughs reflected the unease of some of the watching men.

Montfort turned to Despenser, greeting him with a shake of the head and a slight smile.

“Has Edward’s army been sighted, Sir Hugh?”

“Not yet, my Lord Earl, but we know he has left Worcester and can only pray that your son, young Simon, can bring his men to us forthwith. I fear time is no friend to our cause.”

Montfort looked around the church and beckoned his most trusted men to come closer. They formed a circle around their Lord as King Henry wrung his hands together in fear of what was to come.

Montfort’s squire began to tighten the straps on his master’s mail, pulling here, cinching in there as his Lord spoke.

“Balliol, you will escort the King, stay close to him and see he wears my colours. I would not have Henry shirk from his destiny. If I am to die this day I would have my ‘family’ with me.”

“This is wrong,” gasped the King.

“It is as wrong as your lust for power,” growled Montfort, “If you had obeyed our baron’s laws and done all that you promised then this moment would not have come. For a King to rule his people he must have their interests at heart. Your only interest is yourself and that pup you call son. Go get him ready Balliol.”

Montfort then addressed Sir Hugh, “My lord Despenser I ask that you do not join us on the march today. Your age precludes such a venture. As Justiciar of England your counsel is wise and of great value to us. I would not see such wisdom fall beneath an enemy’s sword.”

Despenser drew himself to full height and shook his head beneath the metal ventails and padding.

“My Earl, we have travelled the same path for too long and, with respect, you carry more years than I. Let it be as it was in the beginning of this noble venture for today we shall all drink from the same cup no matter how bitter the contents.”

“Go to then, see to your men,” whispered Montfort. “Arnold du Bois, where are you?”

Du Bois limped forward supported by his squire.

“Here my Lord.”

“We have been friends for many years, Arnold, and you are not fit to fight or ride with me this day. I order you, as you love me, to depart this place. Go back to your lands and heal your wounds. We will meet another day.”

Du Bois bowed stiffly and, assisted by his squire and one of his captains, made his way slowly down the aisle. Pausing, he turned back to face De Montfort saying,

“I will pray for you and your cause. Farewell, old friend.”

Bishop Cantelupe grasped Peter de Montfort by his arm. Cantelupe was seventy years old and Peter, though only ten-years younger, was his nephew.

“You have words for me, uncle?” said Peter.

“I do and I will keep them brief. Stay close to your Lord. You carry the same name though not the same blood. If it were in my power I would ride with Earl Montfort. Alas I can only pray for you all and, if God hears my prayers and the entreaties of others, you will all join with our Earl’s son’s army and defeat these royalists who do sign terms of peace they never mean to uphold. Beware of false Gods and false vows for the world is full of such abomination. I will meet with you all soon at Kenilworth Castle.”

Bishop Cantelupe blessed his nephew one last time, made a perfunctory bow to King Henry, and then hurried off to the sacristy.

Simon de Montfort’s gaze swept round his assembled men. Most looked him in the eye and he took comfort in their allegiance. Some kept their heads down, shuffling mailed feet, nervously adjusting belts and weapons looking anywhere except at their Lord.

‘Some of you will fail me this day,’ thought de Montfort, ‘and others will do just enough. I pray the many will help me in my hour of need.’ A vision of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane flew unbidden into de Montfort’s troubled mind. ‘Am I to be betrayed?’ he asked himself.

Knowing such thoughts must not be spoken he smiled at his assembled men thinking; ‘They must see me confident and ready this day. In me lies their hope and safety.’

“You have your orders gentlemen. We march to Kenilworth. I will lead with our Welsh troops and mounted knights. If that dog Edward is sighted we will destroy him and his army. Our spies tell me he is riding hard from Worcester. You have your orders?”

A great cry of affirmation rang round the church and Simon de Montfort walked slowly towards the door, his men following and shouting words of encouragement to each other.

Guy de Balliol ushered a frightened and trembling King toward the door. Henry would have given up his crown to escape the horrors he could see looming in his mind’s eye. But something stayed his hand. After all, was he not anointed and appointed by God? God’s do not let Kings fall in battle. Do they? Balliol urged him on.

As De Montfort and his men climbed onto their horses the noise around the Abbey reached a crescendo that rolled far from the Abbey walls to be taken up by the army of soldiers, retainers, camp followers and especially the Welsh auxiliaries who danced from one leg to another in anticipation of battle and booty yet to come. More than a few of De Montfort’s men looked at these Welsh mercenaries with suspicion and hatred. These wild men from the hills owed allegiance to no-one but their own Lord, Llewellyn ap Gruffydd. He had sent these foot soldiers and they were a long way from home.

A horseman, scattering all before him, rode towards De Montfort whose guard formed a protective ring round him for this man was helmeted and ready for battle.

De Montfort raised a hand in greeting thinking; ‘Do they not recognise my eldest son?’

Henry de Montfort drew close to his father and leaned towards him, their heads almost touching as Henry spoke; his words sounded hollow from within the helm but his father heard him clear enough,

“Father, your men have been hard pressed for many weeks. They have not slept nor eaten properly for three days. Even our horses are exhausted.  Would it not be better to make a stand here in the church and the tower? They are strong and easily defended. Wait until my brother comes to our aid. Let your army recovered its strength, I beg you.”

Only Montfort’s closest men heard the exchange and some nodded in agreement thinking this was wise council indeed.

Montfort grasped his son’s arm and, still with their heads touching, spoke words that only his son could hear,

“No, my son. I am a knight, an Earl and my place is on the field of battle. Churches and towers are for priests and bell ringers. Throughout this day never forget my love for you and your dear mother.”

Henry de Montfort wished he could embrace his father but snorting horses and eager men precluded such examples of fealty and love. Bowing his head and raising his arm he manoeuvred his horse slowly backward, all the time staring into his father’s grim eyes. He took his place within Montfort’s bodyguard and the horses began to move slowly out from the yard towards the Abbey gates. The sound of cheering grew ever louder.

 

 

Chapter Sixty.

Same day

A mile away, a great throng of almost eleven-thousand men stood below the reverse slope of the Green Hill. It was a testament to the discipline of Lord Edward, his captains and advisors, that only a low murmuring echoed round the valley that hid them from the view of any Montfortian spies.

Cristian moved his steed closer to his friend but was thrust back by the arrival of Gilbert de Clare and his retainers. De Clare acted as if Cristian were a peasant and not Lord Edward’s long-time companion. Cristian detested the man and the feeling was mutual. He hated his arrogance and the fact that De Clare had once allied himself to Simon de Montfort and now brought his men over to Lord Edward’s banner. He was also complicit in a recent massacre of Jews in Canterbury. De Clare stared at Cristian with his usual look of disdain as the object of his rancor stared calmly back, his face as inscrutable as ever.

Earl Mortimer edged his horse through the press and now De Clare joined him as Lord Edward turned in his saddle to view his now silent host gathering around him.

A horseman came galloping down the hill towards the army and the skirmishers opened to let him through. His horse sweated and snorted as he made his way towards the commanders. Cristian urged his mount forward to meet the rider.

It was Mathew, his close friend and advisor.

“What news?” asked Cristian.

“Send him direct to me,” ordered the harsh voice of De Clare. “Meddle not in this venture, Gilleson.”

Mathew hesitated and looked to Cristian for guidance.

“Go, Mathew, report to the turncoat,” was Cristian’s quiet remark and he followed his man towards Edward where Earl Mortimer was in full flow.

“The bastard would serve his men well if he fled or surrendered,” muttered Roger Mortimer. “Though I would prefer him to come out and fight, if only for the pleasure of spitting him on my lance.”

Mathew sat quietly in his saddle. He would speak when commanded and not before.

“Well. Spit it out, what is my uncle doing?” demanded Edward. “Will he fight or flee?”

“His men leave the town and Abbey even now my Lord. The Welsh are at his front and his horsemen do prepare themselves behind. My informer says that Earl Montfort …”

“He is no Earl of mine,” snarled Edward.

“Beg pardon my Lord. His chosen men and guards are preparing to leave the precincts. They will make for Kenilworth to meet the army of his son.”

“How sweet is retribution on mine enemies,” laughed Edward. “He has no knowledge of our defeat of that illustrious son of his. He knows not that we sent him running for sanctuary in his great castle dressed only in his nightshirt and leaving many of his men dead in the field.”

These words resulted in a low rumble of satisfaction from the captains of war as Edward continued, “We shall have good sport this morning. Mortimer?”

“Yes Lord?”

“I will take the centre ground and you will keep your men to my right. De Clare?”

“Aye Lord.”

“You will move your battle to my left. Now listen and listen well all of you. I will move forward slowly over the brow of the hill. My outriders will carry the captured colours of De Montfort’s son before us. Let them think that succour is in their grasp, eh? If, and I mean, if, my uncle Montfort wishes to give battle let him think only my force is present here on this Green Hill.

“If he comes to us do not move forward until I command you. Then you, Mortimer will lead your men and attack their left flank and De Clare the same on the right. We will have the bear in a trap of our choosing, and geld the bastard beast.

“One thing more, I have bestowed the gift of knighthood on these men here,” Edward indicated a group of ten young men, “Mortimer you will make it your duty to ensure these men do attack and kill the traitor Montfort. Waste no time on minions, for our men will clear them from the field, just kill the traitor. Is that clear?”

Heads nodded agreement and with an inclination of his head Edward sent a message to Cristian.

Twenty-years these two had lived their lives close together, like peas in a pod they felt the mood and thoughts of the other and Cristian knew exactly what to do.

“Mathew,” he commanded, “to me.”

Expertly manoeuvring his horse slowly backward Mathew looked with expectation at the young Lord and leaning forward intently received Cristian’s orders.

“Take three men and lie low on the brow of the hill. Signal when the enemy come forward and when they do ensure you come back to me swift as an arrows flight. I would not have you caught between walls of steel never to return. You are no longer a young man, and I need you at my manor of Longhurst.”

Mathew laughed, picked three others and his final words to Cristian before he put spurs to his horse were, “I will see you after the battle Lord. In a tavern or in Hell, it is no matter to me.”

 

 

Chapter Sixty-one.

Same Day

A man stands atop the tower of Evesham Abbey. He has good eyes. He pays attention to detail. He has to. He is Earl De Montfort’s barber and has never, in all his years, caused one drop of his master’s blood to flow. He loves his Lord better than his own son and, literally, knows every hair on his head and face.

Below him he sees the milling throng of the army as they move out towards Kenilworth and safety. A mighty fortress is Kenilworth, and garrisoned by the Earl’s son. If only that golden boy could be here now with his army to support his father then they would put an end to Edward’s reign of terror and restore the balance of power.

Drums beat, clarions blow and a tangible quickening of the host below him takes place. A frisson of fear and excitement spreads through the army.

Horsemen begin to leave the Abbey yards and trot out into the lower fields. Foot soldiers part to allow these great men and their beasts to pass through.

Unseen by the watcher in the tower, Simon de Montfort moves toward the Abbey gates to join his men. Sir Guy de Balliol, commands the leading knights. He carries Earl Montfort’s standard proudly and with reverence. Supporters cheer and shout encouragement. Horses prance and rear. Alas disaster strikes. The flag is held too high and the pole shatters against the gateway arch, the standard falling beneath the hooves of horses to be trampled underfoot.

The barber does not hear his master’s cry of anguish, “God help us now!” Nor see the fear in King Henry’s eyes as he looks to Balliol for deliverance, for escape, for help and kindness. Balliol’s face is a mask of stone. A horse is spurred to him. He grasps a new standard. Puts thoughts of witchcraft and omens to the back of his mind. His Earl will save the day or die in the attempt.

 

***

 

A crow sweeps down then wheels above the tower. It draws the watcher’s eye toward the top of Green Hill. Something approaches, small and wavering in the early morning gloom. ‘Could it be?’ The barber strains, he stares and glowers at the line of banners now peeping over the brow. ‘Is it?’ They grow larger. ‘Praise be!’ The banners and standards of Simon de Montfort’s son; the army is saved. He shouts in triumph to those below and jubilation abounds.

Simon de Montfort raises his eyes to heaven. Whispers a silent prayer as King Henry crosses himself and Balliol grips his standard tighter.

The crow screams a warning. The barber looks again to the standards on the hill. They are listless now, not waving like before. The sky begins to darken and one giant flag now flies alone. It is Prince Edward’s colours. ‘We are undone,’ thinks the barber and rushes down to spread the dreadful news.

 

***

 

Earl Montfort has a strong heart. He is brave and will not run. He has God on his side. He sees the enemy up on the hill. Edward’s flag goads him, mocks him.

Orders have been issued. The men will obey. He has one last duty. It is hard to keep a clear mind in the midst of all the noise and confusion of horses, shouts, profanities and mayhem. Close to the town brook he gathers men dear to him and speaks:

“Fair Lords, there are many among you who are young with children and wives. You have only to cross the bridge to escape from the great peril that is to come. I will not think ill of you. Stay or go, it is all the same to me.”

He holds back a tear; this man of war, for nobody turns their horse or steps away. He signals his squire who comes and fastens the great helm tight. Now it will be easy. This is a day for men to live or die. There is purity in violence and destruction. He has been schooled for this day. It is as natural for him as birthing is to a woman.

His plan is simple and direct. Attack.

 

 

Chapter Sixty-two.

Same Day

“Let them come. Let them die. Kill all the traitors. No quarter. No mercy. Death is my gift this day,” snarls Edward.

His bodyguard move to shield him, they will guard this prince with their lives. Edward tries to push his way through. He will not hide behind others; it is not in his nature to shirk danger. Cristian stays with his friend and watches the galloping rush come ever onward.

The clarions call, drums beat and Mortimer’s battle group moves in good order to the East with his left flank almost on the Avon’s edge. De Clare’s men do the same on the right, almost touching the Worcester road. As De Montfort’s horses come ever closer they do not realise they are hurtling into death’s welcoming embrace.

Captains and sergeants urge their men to stand fast; they see Montfort’s Welshmen straggling towards them behind their master’s brave dash.

Closer comes the enemy, yelling and screaming defiance. Already, the laden steeds sweat and foam. They are trained for this work. They think it a game. Three ranks, twenty horses abreast, shoulder to shoulder bearing steel tipped death. The riders’ a solid wall, knee to knee. They are a bulwark of flesh and weapons of death in a mad stampede of hatred. They cut through a group of foot soldiers sending them spinning, shattered and wailing to the earth, to be trampled underfoot by hard unfeeling hooves.

Simon de Montfort is in the foremost line, Edward’s ranks to his left and right are of no consequence to him. He will break through his nephew’s army in one fast decisive rush. If he can capture Edward his enemies will surrender. He does not know of Edward’s orders. There will be no prisoners today, only the dead.

The lines meet, horses scream and fall taking riders down with them. The bravest rush onward and men are speared and lances show no regard for man or beast in this great clash of arms. Some of De Montfort’s riders break to left and right for they see a gap and would avoid the press of bodies before them. They are eager to break the enemy’s will.

They force their way through the first five ranks of Edward’s army. The young Prince has not expected this mighty rush and his centre is pushed back. Swords are drawn now. Maces flail, swinging in bloody arcs, penetrating mail, buckling tight-gripped shields. There are many men crawling, screaming on the bloodied ground.

Edward’s men are pushed back even further. De Montfort’s riders are among the lightly armed foot soldiers and these men are no match for mounted knights. They are cut down without compunction. De Montfort’s charge runs out of impetus. His men are wheeling their horses and slashing at the manic men below them. The initiative is lost.

Now Edward’s picked men begin to force their way through the press towards Simon de Montfort. It is a bloody business, but a purse of gold is offered for whoever takes the traitor’s life.

Too late de Montfort realises the danger and breaks off the attack. Savagely he pulls his horse round shouting to his diminished company to draw back; back behind his army’s men-at-arms.

Cristian has been busy. It would be easier if he could look out for himself but Edward continues to press his horse into the fray and, as always, Cristian wards off his enemies. Two enemy riders come close behind his Prince but turn away as Cristian moves towards them.

Earls’ Mortimer and De Clare have been manoeuvring their battle formations down the slope to left and right like a net waiting for the fish to come.

Many of De Montfort’s bravest knights are dead and the remainder urge tired horses back down Green Hill. They do not notice the net tightening around them, or that their Welsh force has already run from the fight only to be trapped by the Avon’s banks. They have a choice; drowning or the sword as they frenziedly try to push back through Mortimer’s ranks.

Too late Montfort’s knights realise the danger. They can move neither forward or back for his army still moves up the hill, the press of men making retreat impossible unless he turns on his own soldiers.

De Montfort’s army loses cohesion. The front ranks move backward as they see Edward’s army coming towards them and the rear ranks suddenly realise the cause is lost and break to left and right in their haste to escape.

Inexorably the trap is closed as Edward’s army press in from front, left and right. De Montfort’s army is surrounded now and men begin to throw down their weapons expecting the rules of chivalry to save their lives. The slaughter begins. Montfort’s men look on in horror. War is not supposed to be like this. Honourable defeat and surrender are the rules of this game. Alas, for them there are no rules on Saint Molua’s day.

 

******

 

Hidden by the banks of the river Avon, a boy seeks his father. He covers his ears to shield them from the manic din as all around him turns to chaos. Frightened men rush towards him in their haste to escape the enemy. They run along the riverside seeking a place to cross. In their fear the youngster is invisible to them for he poses no threat as they jerk this way and that like hares running from the hound that would tear them to pieces without a second thought. Edward’s knight’s ride around the flanks of Montfort’s doomed host, pressing them ever inwards onto their compatriots. The army, now a rabble, being herded ever closer together, concentrated like beasts in a pen for slaughter.

De Montfort’s riders gather round him protectively. He eschews their aid, not realising how desperate his situation for he only sees what is happening in glimpses of those nearest him, his vision limited by the slit in his helm. He dare not think of defeat as long as he can strike the nearest enemy down.

 

******

 

The boy is up now. Crouching, he rushes onto the field of blood. His father is here somewhere. He must help him. A mounted man swings down at him with a war hammer. He misses and his horse carries him onward to another victim. The boy moves swiftly, his breath issuing in ragged gasps at the horror around him.

Some men, a few, manage to escape these mounted warriors and seek refuge at the water’s edge. Others, the many, are pushed back into the heaving mass of confusion that the baron’s army has become.

Montfort’s forces begin to haemorrhage, to melt away as those in the rear ranks run for the safety of the village and Abbey grounds. They leave a trail of weapons amidst the dead. Wounded men cry out as they crawl on blood slicked grass seeking sanctuary, an end to their agony.

But something is amiss. The sky darkens. The sun has turned its face from this field of woe. Black clouds loom overhead, turn day to night. The heavens open and rain sheets down like bitter tears onto the heaving mass below.

Simon de Montfort’s bodyguard are being chopped down one by one as his assassins press ever closer to their purse of gold. De Montfort cries out in exasperation, he is weary and the rain limits his vision. Horses skid and slip on the wet ground. Two more of Montfort’s men are down and the Earl hears a terrible cry. No matter the noise of steel on mail, or the screams and cursing of desperate men, Montfort hears the death cry of his youngest son, Henry. Inside his helm Montfort weeps salty tears that mingle with the dripping rain and sweat.

Cristian’s horse slips, crashes to the ground with a piercing shriek. He is out of the saddle before the horse hits the ground. He will fight on foot now; others must look out for Edward.

It is hard to move amidst this press of bodies. A figure looms before him, signals. It is Mathew, his chosen man, his captain. Mathew has deliberately dismounted to help his Lord. A movement of the arm signifies grateful thanks.

Lord Edward’s men wear a red cross on their garb. Crosses originally daubed with animal blood on scraps of cloth. Blood and rain make it hard to tell friend from foe.

Through his helm Cristian sees De Montfort surrounded and with a deep gash in his neck, the result of a lucky thrust with a lance. He fights on desperately but his time has come. Now dragged from his horse his enemies move in close. Lances jab; men dismount. Blows rain like the blacksmith’s hammer onto his twitching body.

Three paces away Cristian sees a man chopping at a figure on the ground. The prostrate form raises a un-gauntleted hand to beg for mercy. Cristian sees the colours on the man’s surcoat; three lions. It is King Henry. Summoning Mathew they rush over just as the soldier raises his weapon for a final stroke. Mathew barges into the man pushing him away and Cristian looks down as Henry shouts,

“I am Henry of Winchester. Do not kill me.”

Cristian stoops to help his King rise and Mathew guards their backs until more of Cristian’s men appear. The King is led away from the field crying like a baby.

The rain has ceased. The sun bursts through. The bloodletting continues.

Cristian can see that the destruction of Montfort is complete. His head is raised high on the point of a lance. What Cristian cannot see is the terrible mutilation of his body taking place amongst the dancing butchers.

Looking round he orientates himself. Over there is his Prince, Lord Edward, safe and sound. To the left, the river and down below him streaming away from the battle the Earl’s demoralised, beaten army being hotly pursued by Edward’s troops. The murder will carry on a while longer.

Cristian waves to Mathew. It is time for them to leave this field of despair, to allow others the thrill of meting out death. Mathew runs to gather a wandering mount for his master as suddenly danger threatens.

A wounded man, growling and swearing, breaks from the massed men and makes straight for Cristian. His axe whistles through the air to the place where Cristian’s head had been just a second before and glides harmlessly away pulling the man off balance so great was his wish to kill, to inflict grievous harm on those who had cut him.

This soldier is slow to recover, almost falling to the sodden ground. He grinds his teeth in exasperation as he tries to swing his weapon one more time. Too late, too slow, his time has come as Cristian’s sword smashes down on his unprotected neck. The man falls. He looks puzzled. This was not foretold by the wise woman of Evesham.

‘A waste’ thinks Cristian but then seemingly from nowhere a child appears. He is screaming, crying out for his father. The dying axe-man looks to the boy and mouths something. His last words are unheard on this field of bloodlust and madness but cause Cristian to break years of training and pause.

The child, the boy, throws himself at him. There is no need for this. The youth deserves life. He should not be here. The battle’s outcome is plain for all to see as the Royal troops continue their slaughter of Simon de Montfort’s dwindling supporters.

Men continue to throw their weapons down, pleading, crying for quarter, for mercy. No mercy on the field this day. Lord Edward’s orders are followed to the letter. Accept no surrender, take no prisoners. There was one rule. Kill the traitors who had taken the Holy body of King Henry III captive. De Montfort had usurped the rule of the King but, far worse, he had flown in the face of the rules of God.

Yet this child fights on. The recklessness and immortality of youth is about to be tested. Cristian knows full well that there is only one outcome. Yet again, he stays his arm.

Sensing his hesitation the youngster dashes in, left-handed. Feints to the right then moves swiftly left.  His blade cuts through Cristian’s side and man and boy look shocked for the merest of moments.

Suddenly the noise and madness of thousands of men hacking, stabbing, gauging and wrestling each other disappears. The world moves slowly, time stops.

Cristian sees a flock of starlings appear, weaving and dancing in the hot air rising from the murderous crowd below. He wonders if these landless birds laugh at the foolishness of men. A body crashes into him from behind and he is jolted back to reality. He has a task and it isn’t just to stay alive in this mad throng, it is to kill, for only by killing will he live.

The boy has to die. It is nothing personal. Two people meet in battle but only one will walk away. Cristian is twenty-six and in his prime, the boy fifteen, sixteen at most. Cristian had taken life at that age. Now he will despatch the boy. He feels no pain from his wound as he parries an ineffectual thrust. Neither does it hurt as he raises his sword to bring it down towards the lad’s left arm, suddenly changing the direction of his swing outward then inward to slice deep into his enemy’s thigh. The boy falls to one knee, screaming in pain and fright. His high-pitched keening suddenly ceases as Cristian’s blade cuts into his head. He falls as dead as dead can be to the bloody churned up ground.

For a moment Cristian notices the rain has ceased, then the mad melee closes around him and the boy is forgotten. In Evesham a woman waits. She will wait forever for her husband and son to walk back into her life.

 

***

 

Lord Edward stands amongst his victorious captains. His eagle eyes survey the scene below as the slaughter continues. Not content with cutting down the enemy in the field, Edward’s men follow the fleeing rabble into the town. There is nowhere to hide. Nobody is safe. Villagers and soldiers look the same to trained killers. If the peasants harboured the enemies of the King, were they not themselves enemies and deserving death?

“Shall I bring our men to heel, my Lord?” asks Mortimer.

Edward is breathing hard, lips curled back in a snarl of hatred. He is pleased his father has been restored to him with only minor wounds. He is incensed that anyone had the temerity to lay hands on the anointed of God. God is not here but Edward is and Edward will play the part of a vengeful God.

“Kill them all,” he shouts. “Follow them into the church; send them to hell as they invoke the sanctuary of Our Lord God. Kill them all.”

Mortimer says nothing. Stands quietly, it was he brought down Simon de Montfort. They had been friends’ once, yet different paths lead to unknown places. Montfort is dead, long live Mortimer.

Edward’s personal physician has been summoned and attends the King who, now he is safe, regains his composure though his right hand shakes and will do so for many weeks to come.

Edward walks to his father, they embrace. Many times they have argued in the past but today is a day for reconciliation, for trust.

King Henry looks up at his son’s tousled hair, his rain and sweat-slicked brow, puts out a hand to touch the man who once was a boy and who will be King.

“Edward, my son, is it really finished? Is this the end of these troublesome Barons?”

“No, father, we still have many enemies to best but we have cut off the head and the body will soon fall.”

Still the noise of battle sweeps over the Green Field mingling with screams from the town.

Cristian and Mathew ride up to the group. King Henry looks up and forces a smile.

“This is the man who saved me,” he says pointing to Cristian. “Like father like son he came to my aide at the appointed time. Dismount, sir, that I may show my gratitude.”

Edward cocks his head to one side; he looks puzzled as Cristian slides from his tired horse, handing the reins to Mathew.

“My Lord King,” winces Cristian making a painful bow.

“Edward, your sword,” demands Henry.

“You are not going to cut off his head are you father?” laughs Edward.

“Kneel,” commands the King.

Cristian goes down on one knee in this muddy, bloody field and with bowed head receives the gift of knighthood from a grateful Sovereign.

“Arise, Sir Cristian,” says Henry, “and we thank God for your timely aid on this day of days. I will talk with you on the morrow.”

Edward and Mortimer look on in wonder; they are pleased the day has ended so well. Edward embraces Cristian and looks deep into his eyes saying, “The village boy from Longhurst. You have been raised high my dear friend, now to horse, there is much left undone.”

De Clare appears. He sees the tableau before him and this elevation of his enemy, Cristian, to knighthood angers him.  With a muttered oath he spits on the ground and rides off in pursuit of blood; anybody’s blood! He will have Cristian’s head one day; the bastard upstart Jew lover!

 

Footnote – Just to say that Gilbert De Clare and Cristian Gilleson have issues between them that go back many years – it’s in the book! http://authl.it/2m5

Gilbert de Clare

The ‘murder’ of Evesham (4 August 1265)

Contemporary chroniclers referred to this battle as ‘a murder’ because the future Edward the First set aside the rules of chivalry and ordered that knights and lords who opposed him were to be slaughtered. No quarter was allowed.

BatEvesham

The Battle of Evesham was part of that period of instability and civil conflict which characterised the years 1258-1267, and which later became known as the Barons’ Wars. Simon de Montfort’s victory over Henry III and his son Prince Edward at Lewes in May 1264 did not bring lasting peace. Simon’s government was threatened by rebellion on the Welsh marches, by the defection of his own followers, and by the escape from captivity of Prince Edward. (You can read about Edward’s escape in my book).

 

After his escape from Hereford on 28 May 1265, Edward lost no time in coming to a military arrangement with Gilbert de Clare (Gilbert is the ‘baddie’ in The King’s Jew – a duplicitous scheming self-serving arrogant man!) de Montfort’s erstwhile ally, and with William de Valence and John de Warenne. Assembling a considerable army, Edward and Clare moved against de Montfort at Hereford, seeking to block his passage eastwards across the River Severn. Edward first took Worcester and then advanced on Gloucester, capturing the town, but not at first the castle, in the second week of June. Thus denied his preferred route across the Severn, Simon struck south to Monmouth with the eventual hope of crossing the river at Bristol. Frustrated by the destruction of much of the shipping required for his army to cross the Severn, de Montfort returned to Hereford. There the strategic situation began to swing in his favour for his son, Simon, was advancing west from London with an army which threatened Edward and Clare’s freedom of movement on the east bank of the Severn.

 

Although young Simon’s progress was hesitant as he moved first to Winchester, then to Oxford and Northampton, he had reached Kenilworth by the end of July. His manoeuvres had succeeded in relieving the pressure on his father for Edward had been forced to look to the defence of Worcester. Edward was also now the potential victim of a pincer movement as young Simon advanced on Worcester from Kenilworth, and de Montfort advanced from Hereford. To forestall this possibility Edward feinted towards Shrewsbury with a mounted force, and then fell upon young Simon’s army in its tents at Kenilworth at dawn on 2 August.

Edward’s victory was short and sharp and for the moment the ability of Simon’s army to participate in the campaign was disrupted. Simon had part of his army safely within the castle and these troops survived the attack of Edward’s lightly equipped force with little difficulty. We do not know, however, how large was Simon’s remaining force. Returning in triumph to Worcester, Edward prepared to deal with de Montfort who was now once more on the east bank of the Severn and who, by the morning of 4 August, had reached Evesham.

If you want to read more of the actual battle of Evesham it is covered in Chapters Fifty-nine to sixty-four in Book One of “The King’s Jew”

 

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Did Jews and Christians interact in thirteenth century Europe?

The simple answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no’. In this extract from The King’s Jew – Book One we see young Cristian Gilleson visiting the monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña near Burgos in Castile. I have researched this extensively. Here you will meet Yehuda ben Moshe, a real person and a Jew. This piece gives an insight into the life of a Jew of high status at the court of King Alfonso X. I hope you get the ‘feel’ of the times. In the following chapter (not shown here) Sir Alan la Zouche, a great knight of the time, treats Yehuda the Jew with contempt instead of courteously like our young hero Cristian Gilleson. A classic case of ‘different strokes for different folks”.

 

Alfonso X

Thursday. 22nd October 1254.

Cristian had hardly seen Edward since entering Burgos castle; the final preparations for Edward’s knighting seemed to take up so much time, with rehearsals and lessons and the memorising of sacred words. Cristian was happy to be left to his own devices and had wandered around breathing in the atmosphere of this strange land and today had ridden out from Burgos with the justice of Chester and of the four cantrefs in North Wales, Sir Alan la Zouche.

They made an unlikely couple; the great knight and the much younger Cristian, yet Sir Alan had taken an interest in the youth and, even though he was to officiate at Edward’s knighting ceremony, Sir Alan had felt the need for change and time away from the general hubbub and frenzy at the castle.

The pair had left Burgos in the early morning with a retinue of two men-at-arms and a servant for the ride to the monastery of San Pedro de Cardeña, the last resting place for over one-hundred-and-fifty years of Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar the Castilian nobleman and military leader, known as El Cid by the Moors and El Campeador by Christians. Sir Alan looked upon this visit as a pilgrimage undertaken by one warrior to salute and honour another, and he extolled the virtues of the great military man at every turning on the trail explaining to Cristian the eminence of the Cid and that his wife Doña Jimena was buried with him, as well as a separate memorial for Babieca the Cid’s favourite horse that lived to a ripe old age of forty summers. Cristian listened with awe to the tales of this remarkable man and by the time they reached the Benedictine monastery had decided to live his life as bravely and honourably as the Cid.

Cristian left Alan la Zouche talking with the Abbot and made his way to the Romanesque tower that housed the library on its top floor. He noticed two splendid horses tethered at the East side of the cloister and wondered why they were there, unattended and not housed in the stables. One was a fine grey with expensive accoutrements, it gazed at Cristian as he passed, the other was smaller, a servant’s mount, the owners nowhere to be seen. Puzzled, Cristian walked on to the tower.

Opening the door he encountered a black-robed monk, who pushed past him in obvious haste, closing the door behind him. When almost at the top of the winding steps Cristian heard a noise below as the outer door opened and then the sound of footsteps climbing towards him, he paused, was somebody following him and if so who? He pushed on silently and entered the library proper, closing the door as quietly as its warped timbers allowed he silently secreted himself behind a shelf of books. The person climbing the steps now stood without the library door, all was quiet, and then a cough and the door slowly scraped open. Cristian leant his back hard against the stone wall and stilled his breath as he heard soft footsteps approaching the middle of the room. Then; a low, throaty, chuckle,

“I trust the book you require is in the right place? If you cannot find what you seek you need but ask for I know every record stored here and would be happy to assist.”

Cristian quickly plucked a book from the shelf, opened it and walked out from his hiding place, with what he hoped was a nonchalant expression on his face, to see a man dressed in fine clothes observing him with an amused smile.

“You are interested in the writings of Adelard of Bath? Your kinsman I believe. You are English, yes?”

Cristian had never heard of Adelard of Bath, he looked down at the book in his hands and, with a sheepish frown, slowly turned it the right way round.

That chuckle again; “A wondrous piece of work ‘De Eodem et Diverso’ written over two-hundred years ago.”

Cristian looked at the book again, “On the same and different,” he replied, “though I must admit I have never heard of Adelard before this day.”

“Refreshingly honest, and your Latin is good, for an Englishman. I am here for another of his works, ‘Questiones Naturales,’ it deals with his experiences in Antioch and bears facts on meteorology I would confirm for a piece I am occupied with. Adelard studied with the Benedictines in the Cathedral at Bath and his works have followed the monks wherever they go. It seems they have finally found you master…?”

“Cristian. I am Cristian Gilleson, and you?”

“Oh, I am many things to many people but to you I am Yehuda ben Moshe.”

As Cristian considered this man he became confused; one moment Yehuda looked young and in his prime, but his face was ingrained with wisdom far beyond his years and as he moved about the library, in and out of the sun-dappled shadows, he suddenly seemed old, yet his face was imbued with the eagerness of youth.

Cristian bowed to him and retraced his steps to replace the book on the shelf. When he emerged it was to see Yehuda sat at a desk littered with writing paraphernalia; vellum, inks, knives for sharpening quills and pots of sand to soak up any extraneous ink.  Yehuda motioned to a stool by his side,

“Come join me and tell me of your great town of London, for I have never visited there. Is it as filthy as men say? Do you really slaughter animals in the street outside your King’s palace? Do dragons roam in faraway mountains and devour the flesh of virgins? Indeed, are there any virgins left in London?”

This last part was accompanied by a wry smile and Cristian knew he was being teased. He sat down.

“How did you know I am English?”

“Apart from your strange accent and clothes you mean? I have seen you at Burgos Castle, I was on the battlements beside my King when your royal party rode through the town, up the hill and entered. I watched your noble Earls, Knights and Prince smiling as they entered the gate. Your Prince looked like the cat that got the cream so eager was he to lay claim to the lovely Eleanor.”

“You have met Eleanor? What is she like; will she make a good Queen for my Lord Edward?”

“Met her? I schooled her and can vouch for her intellect and learning without any qualms. She is a lovely child and I trust Lord Edward will bind himself close to her throughout their lives together.

“But you; you are an enigma to me. I have seen you with these men of England, you are companion to Edward yet, cuckoo-like, you skirt around the others. You visit the armoury and the library with equal measure, you engage with the high-born yet often have a good word for the servants, you ride like a man and fuss over Edward like a girl. What are you Cristian Gilleson?”

Cristian was taken aback by Yehuda’s subtle, erudite observations.

“Why say you I am like the cuckoo?”

“Simply put, it is because you are with these people but not of them. It is as if your mother laid you down in a different bed and you have been nurtured by strangers not of your clan or tribe. I have a feeling you will have to elbow some men aside and send them crashing to the ground below for there is only room in your nest for one, perhaps two if you stay with the Prince Edward.”

Cristian felt he was being read like an open book by this Yehuda, but, for some unknown reason, he took no offence,

“Who do you serve at Burgos?”

“My first master is the One True God; my earthly master is King Alphonso.”

“How do you serve him?”

“I praise God every day. As for the King, I translate manuscripts for him, from Arabic to Latin and from Latin to Castilian or, often, Arabic to Castilian. Do not look so surprised master Cristian, I do not undertake the task by myself, and there are many of us that deem it an honour to carry out the wishes of our enlightened King, for only in this way can we disseminate knowledge that would otherwise be lost to us, for the Arab physicians and astronomers were indeed wise men.”

Yehuda picked up a sheet of vellum; passed it to Cristian asking,

“What do you see there?”

Cristian looked at the page; it was blank as was his face.

“Nothing, There is nothing written here.”

“Why?”

“It has been scraped clean so it can be re-used.”

“Ask yourself this; what wisdom has been removed from our sight? Knowledge and learning has been eradicated so that some trainee scribe may practice his letters. It makes me want to shout out to the heavens above and weep salty tears at this desecration I see so often in your Christian places. Knowledge is power and there you sit unaware of what is lost to us. Ah well; pay no heed to the ranting’s of a humble man of letters for you are not to blame for this sacrilege we see before us.”

“You are not a Christian then?”

Yehuda’s face broke into a wide smile,

“No, master Cristian, I am a Jew, un-recanted, unashamed and thankful I dwell not on England’s shores. Why, only last year your King Henry ruled the Jew could only live in certain towns and so yet another exodus took place as my tribe left one village and town to take up residence in another. The Jew in England is merely a chattel of King Henry. Will there be no end to our persecution and wandering?”

“Yet you serve King Alphonso?”

“Alphonso is an enlightened King. He realises the worth of a man is more important than the man’s beliefs or religion. It has not always been so, but we now live a good life and a far better one than our brothers and sisters in your land.

“I see your companion lingered long at the tomb of the Cid. He has knowledge of his deeds?”

“Yes, he came to pay homage as one Knight to another. Was this Cid indeed such a great man as the legends would have us believe?”

“That and more; he fought the Moors and respected Jew and Christian alike. Well mostly.”

“You say that with caution, Yehuda. Did you really live in peace in the Cid’s time?”

“Let me tell you a tale of the Cid and his dealings with the tribe of Israel. It came to pass that the Cid was forced to take his army away very quickly and he had not the money to pay his vast host to hand. So he did what many Christians do in such circumstances; he sought a loan from the Jew. He arrived at the house of a moneylender with a huge chest, bound with iron and closed with three great locks. The Jew asked him just what was in the chest and the Cid replied it was full of gold cups, candlesticks, plate and jewelled cups of great worth, silver and precious metals. The Jew called three of his retainers to lift the chest and they could hardly move it, so heavy it was. The Cid said he needed money quickly and he would leave the chest with the Jew as surety if he would give him gold and silver in return for to pay his men and keep them fed and armed in the field. The Jew agreed and piled gold upon gold onto a blanket until the Cid said it was sufficient, though the contents of the chest were worth much more. There was just one proviso; the chest must not be opened for a year-and-a- day and if the Cid did not redeem the loan within that time the Jew could keep the chest and all its contents. The deal was done, a bargain struck and hands shaken; the Cid left with his gold. He returned before the agreed day to find the Jew had opened the chest to check on his investment only to find it filled with the sands of the river. The Jew reproached the Cid for his cunning and the Cid smiled into his face and declared the deal default for the chest had been opened before the appointed day and thus the Cid owed the Jew not one penny piece. Yes, Cristian, we lived in peace in the Cid’s time but still we were treated badly. Enough of this, shall we join the monks in the refectory for our meal and we can continue our talk.”

 

Medieval Knighting Ceremony of Edward the First

I researched high and low in order to get the ‘feel’ and splendor of the ancient ceremony of knighthood. Some ancients tracts say ‘this’ and others say ‘that’. By judicious study I feel I came up with the correct ‘feel’ for the subject and below is an extract from The King’s Jew – Book One when Edward is received into the order of Knights by Alfonso X at Burgos. As far as I can ascertain this is a pretty definitive version and I hope it gives an insight into the pomp and splendor of the day as our ‘hero’ Cristian Gilleson, companion to Edward witnesses the event from start to finish. To see more about the book please click here

http://bit.ly/1yop3AK

Sunday. 1st November 1254.

All Saint’s Day

Hebrew: 19th Heshvan 5015.

Burgos. Castile Spain

With luck things would soon take a change for the better for today was the most important day in Edward’s life; he was to be initiated into the ranks of knighthood by Eleanor’s half-brother, King Alfonso X of Castile and perhaps then Edward would remember he was a man and stop acting like a love-sick youth.

The morning had started with a frenzy of activity, a far cry from the previous night which had been spent in prayer and contemplation – except for the times when Bartholomew Pecche and other notable Lords had left Edward to his own devices during which time Edward had sneaked off to the chamber of his new wife, not the slightest bit embarrassed by the coy glances of Eleanor’s handmaidens as he sought entry to his young bride, only to be hustled back a half hour later by a concerned Cristian – the Prince was supposed to be meditating on the duties and responsibilities of Knighthood, not snatching kisses from a girl.

Bartholomew Pecche’s stern visage hovered over the night’s proceedings as Edward took a ritual bath to wash away any sins he may have committed in his fifteen years on this earth. The Prince was then clothed in white garments and laid on a freshly made bed to ponder throughout the night on his knightly obligations.

As dawn spread over the hills Bishop Boniface had come to hear Edward’s final confession before the ceremonies began. Then more knights came to talk with Edward, to instil in him the gravity of the event. Cristian had sat on a chest in a corner of the room, eyes wide with wonderment and ears wide open as he stored wisdom away to use for another day; the day of his knighting whenever Edward decided that would be.

Edward looked the part, alert, freshly shaved, hair washed and cut, and anointed with sweet smelling potions that made Cristian sneeze. Servants brought breakfast of sweet spiced wines and freshly baked bread and the Prince and his advisors shared this meal then said their farewells until they met again in the Monastery of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas.

More servants enter carrying newly-made clothes and Cristian helped his friend to change into those he would wear for his ride to the monastery. When he is fully garbed Edward turns around and looks at Cristian saying,

“Well, do you approve? Am I not the best looking Prince in Burgos?”

Never being one to shrink from the truth Cristian nodded his head in agreement.

“Indeed, Lord,” he said with a mischievous grin, “but methinks you are the only Prince in Burgos.”

Edward made a move towards his friend as if he would wrestle him to the ground for his impudence but Cristian stepped nimbly away.

“Take care, my Prince. We do not want your fine clothes getting creased and torn do we?”

Edward continued his appraisal of himself and Cristian had to admit he looked magnificent in his scarlet robe draped beautifully over a white undershirt with matching black hose and shoes. Cristian knew the white shirt symbolized the hoped-for purity of Edward’s future and the scarlet symbolized the blood that he would shed for God and honour; the black hose and shoes representing the earth from which he came and the death of us all which we must prepare to face without fear.

When Edward and his party reached the castle courtyard an expectant hush descended on the assembled knights, squires, Lords and Barons assembled there. As ever Sir Bartholomew led the way and motioned Edward to a fine horse caparisoned in the colours and motifs of England and King Henry. A servant placed a padded stool on the ground but Edward leapt onto his charger effortlessly and the crowd erupted in cheers and shouts of encouragement as some of the castle workers began a slow dance accompanied by fast stamping of the feet and wild cries. Edward was just about to put spurs to his horse when Bartholomew stayed his hand and looked toward the castle entrance where a small palfrey had suddenly appeared. It was Eleanor dressed in blue, her shapely young head gilded by a fine golden circlet; she had come to escort her new husband to the ceremony and Edward was both moved and shocked by her appearance for he had no prior knowledge of it.

All the company were now mounted and four horsemen rode up, two on each side of Edward, their long lances supporting a cloth of gold that hovered above the Prince like a veil from heaven. Bartholomew raised his arm and the horses walked slowly through and out of the gates and down to the Monastery. Eleanor’s horse fell in beside Edward’s and, hand in hand they rode together towards Edward’s destiny.

All along the dusty road people sang and cheered their Princess and her husband the young Prince of England who, with God’s help, would one day be crowned King.

The monastery chapel was almost full to overflowing with the brave knights and nobles gathered to witness this holy occasion when Boniface, the overweight Savoyard Bishop of Canterbury puffed his way slowly up the altar steps dressed in his full regalia of mitre, cope and flowing robes.

Lying on the altar were the symbols of Edward’s knighthood; a beautifully wrought double-edged sword glittering and shimmering in the light streaming through the ornate window glass whose colours enhanced the majesty and power of the blade that contrasted with the dull brown leather hilt and black iron pommel.  King Henry had paid a colossal sum to provide his son with such a magnificent weapon. Next to this was an ornate full-face helm polished mirror-bright by many hours of rubbing with sharp sand by a master armourer. The helm incorporated the three lions picked out in gold atop of which was a burnished circlet of silver denoting the status of the wearer. Lying next to these precious artefacts was a casket containing a piece of the true cross, a holy relic to bear testament to the solemn nature of the proceedings and strengthen the vows and promises of the participant.

On the left of the altar table  were a pair of golden spurs, on the right a golden finely-worked chain, the links measuring a half inch wide and half as thick, beside this a plain white linen belt.

Bishop Boniface paused, bowing to the assembly as a priest took the crook from his outstretched hand. A deeper bow towards King Alfonso acknowledged him as the highest in the company after God. The bishop motioned the King to approach the altar and stand by his side then grasping the sword in both hands he held it aloft intoning a prayer.

“Grant, we beseech thee oh Lord, Your blessing on this holy sword that your servant, Edward, wishes to wear and use in your service. Bestow on him the power of your love that he may wield it righteously for the protection of your Holy church, the good of the poor, the protection of women and those too weak to take up arms on your behalf. We do pray this blade strike down your enemies bringing death and destruction to all pagans that dwell in the dark recesses hiding from your munificence. Let your hand guide his in the prosecution of his enemies and aid him in the defence of all that he holds dear. Amen.”

He placed the sword reverently on the altar and grasping the helm turned once more to face the congregation saying,

“Grant, Heavenly Father, Lord God, Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit, that this armour be strengthened by your love and protect the wearer from his enemies, both spiritual and temporal that he may overcome your foes and his own for the glory of God. Amen.”

The Bishop then nodded in the direction of Sir Bartholomew Pecche who stepped forward to address the King.

“My Lord King Alfonso, in my capacity of liege knight to my King Henry and that of my Lord Edward, I do beg the boon of knighthood for my Lord and do ask that my noble Lords and knights here present be asked to pronounce on my request.”

Alfonso gazed around the assembly,

“Is there any man here present who objects to the candidate Lord Edward of Gascony fair Prince of England?”

You could have heard a pin drop, even those gathered outside in the monastery gardens seemed to hold their breath and those stood in the knight’s chancel had ceased their restless rustlings.

Alfonso’s sharp, dark eyes looked from Bartholomew to the Bishop and thence to the assembled Lords,

“All in favour of admitting this noble Lord to our august company say aye.”

As the sounds of assent echoed round the church Sir Bartholomew hushed them all by saying,

“Summon Lord Edward to this Holy place.”

Suddenly the chapel resounded to the sound of tambourines, drums, flutes and dancers that swept into the holy place in a cacophony of noise. The ranks of the congregation parted to make way for the maelstrom of merrymaking and, following behind the gaudily dressed throng, came four squires chanting the titles held by Edward as they led him towards King Alfonso who thanked them and when the minstrels had finished their lays he dismissed them from the company.

Edward knelt before the King. Cristian, standing in the third row, realised a gulf was opening between them as his friend knelt in such splendour before him. Surely Cristian could never attain such a hallowed position.

Sir Bartholomew Pecche now stood to the left of Alfonso with the splendid sword gripped in his right hand and resting on his left forearm and declaimed on the significance of the sword,

“This double-edged sword kills and wounds with both edges, and its point can end life. The sword is your most gallant weapon; it serves in three ways just as you must do.  You will defend the church, killing and wounding those who oppose it. You must also defend the poor and weak against the powerful influence of the rich. Just as a sword pierces, likewise you must pierce the bodies of heretics and villains, attacking them without mercy wherever you find them.

“The pommel symbolizes the world, for a knight is obliged to defend his King. The guard symbolizes the cross, on which Our Redeemer died to preserve mankind, and every true knight should do likewise, braving death to preserve his brethren. Should you perish in the attempt, your soul will fly straight to heaven.”

The sword was handed reverently to Bishop Boniface who blessed it and returned it to the altar.

King Alfonso’s champion knight now stepped to the altar and turned holding the white belt, as he explained its meaning,

“This sword belt tells another story and if you deny its meaning then God will surely punish you for just as you carry your sword bound to your body, so you must be girded with chastity, keeping yourself only to your given wife; its colour, white, signifying purity and truth. Remember this always”

Cristian was convinced he saw Edward smile at the idea of keeping close to his ‘given wife’; he couldn’t keep away from her! The belt was again blessed by the Bishop.

A Gascon knight now stepped forward and retrieved the spurs from the altar. Holding one in each hand he addressed Edward.

“A knight’s golden spurs symbolize many things. By placing the precious metal at your feet, close to the earth we walk upon, you show your contempt for worldly wealth. You are duty bound to commit no evil that may bring disgrace on our knightly order. These spurs are sharp, they will goad your steed just as you must urge others towards good deeds and make yourself feared by the wicked.”

The spurs were blessed and passed to two knights from England who held them close to their chests at the altar side.

Finally William de Beauchamp stepped forward to retrieve the chain, and turning to Edward said,

“The golden chain of a knight symbolizes the chain of fealty that binds him to his King. The chain is made of the purest of all metals, gold, and is made without end symbolizing the pure and eternal nature of the bond of fealty. I and all assembled here do urge you to remember this day and these gifts and to live your life according to the Holy tenets of the Church and our sacred order of knighthood.”

King Alfonso now addressed Edward and a flash of annoyance crossed his bearded face as the sounds of song could be heard from without.

“For what purpose, Lord Edward, do you wish to join our company of knights? I command you to speak in all honesty and reflect on your reasons, for if riches, comfort and honour are your desires, then you are unworthy.”

Edward took a deep breath before replying,

“I desire to be a knight that I might serve my God, honour my King and love my Lady wife to the best of my abilities.”

A round of cheering followed this remark which Bishop Boniface silenced with a look as he signalled Edward to rise.

It was then that Edward’s new wife Eleanor walked slowly and regally through the assembly towards the candidate. She came to his side and Cristian saw such a look of love pass between the young couple that his warrior heart all but melted at the sight. Even the hardened knights of four countries could see the show of devotion in the couple. Bishop Boniface harrumphed loudly and King Alfonso smiled at the match he had made for his half-sister who he held in such high regard.

Edward turned to Eleanor and held his arms above his head as she removed the scarlet robe.  Eleanor placed upon him a herigaut of blue velvet lined with linen that signified the colour of servitude for Edward was about to become the servant of the King. Amidst much fussing and pulling accompanied by girlish giggles Edward stood newly garbed.

The four knights that had officiated then approached to place the regalia of knighthood on him and when the belt, chain, spurs and sword had all been placed on his body and Edward resumed his kneeling position King Alfonso administered the Colee by tapping him on the shoulders with the flat of his sword saying,

“In the name of God, I create thee knight. Be valiant, fearless, and loyal.”

He then struck Edward on the face and taking Edward’s two hands in his swore an oath of peace to which in reply Edward swore an oath of fealty to Alfonso.

The King then lifted Edward to his feet and bade him greet his fellow knights as an equal. A huge cheer rolled around the chapel to be taken up by the people in the corridors and all those in the monastery gardens and those without the walls. The sound echoed as far as the castle over a mile away.”

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