A Flash of Scarlet Part X

The Chalais conspiracy, also known as the Affair of the Dames, increased Richelieu’s determination to crush the nobles and make the King supreme. To this end, he created two new edicts. The first, destroyed all feudal strongholds in Brittany and then all over France not needed for the defence of province or kingdom. Naturally, the peasant population was more than happy to help in smashing gates and tearing down walls six feet thick which had threatened their liberty for centuries, a signal perhaps of the revolution to come years later.

The other edict forbade dueling, previously ignored by the nobles who continued fighting day and night over the merest quibble. Richelieu brought royal authority forward once more. The penalty was death. In the face of this,  Francois de Montmorency, Duc de Bouteville, a famed duellist who was banned from France, undertook a duel with the Baron de Beuvron. It was a triple duel and both the principals survived but one of the adversaries was killed. Beauvron escaped to England but Bouteville stopped overnight on the way to Lorraine. The dead man’s mother arrested them. (note that you could make a citizen’s arrest at this time). The two were brought back and imprisoned in the Bastille until a short trial took place where both were sentenced to death. At the Place de Greve amid the voices of a public outcry, the two were beheaded. Paris watched in terror and disbelief at the power and relentless action of the Cardinal.

These executions were followed by another tragedy, the death of Gaston’s wife Marie de Bourbon,  after childbirth. The moment had been so awaited, joyfully by Gaston and his wife and trepidatiously by the King and Queen. A boy would be heir to the throne. However, a girl was born, Anne Marie Louis,  who would become the famed “Grand Mademoiselle”. The death of Marie once again released the young Gaston to his wild ways. He was only nineteen years old. Louis attempted to interest him in “the hunt” but that was not to Gaston’s taste, he was a Parisian. Then Louis bought Richelieu’s house at Limours for him to redecorate, a favorite pastime of royalty.

About this time, the threat of war with England began to raise it’s head. Richelieu had ignored the several pin-pricks thrown at him by Charles I, who was not happy with his new wife’s French retinue and replaced them with people he thought were more trustworthy. The English supported the Huguenots and the Cardinal was not yet ready to deal with that situation but found himself having no choice. Many people supported the idea of war against France, in order to rid themselves of him, Buckingham had not ceased his anger and ambition and there were quarrels and piracy on both sides of the sea. Enemies rose up, both Catholic and Protestant, Soubise in England, Rohan in Languedoc, Charles of Lorraine (influenced by the crafty Madame de Chevreuse), the Duke of Savoy and the Comte de Soissons, the duchess, Isabel of the Low Countries (the Dutch Republic) was trying to get Spain on England’s side. Richelieu did not trust the Spanish ambassador, Olivares. He knew an English victory would leave France divided and vulnerable against the rest of Europe.

In the winter of 1627,  England prepared her ships for war, her destination, La Rochelle. The islands of Ré and Oleron were the main defenders of La Rochelle. Louise had built new forts there since the last Huguenot revolt. That allowed Richelieu to divert his attention to the massive amount of letter writing he would have to do to mobilize the coast for attack, many of which can still be read today. The peasants must not be molested, many of them neighbors from his old Luçon days, just up the coast. Some of his letters, addressed to the Rochelaise, assure them that the preparations are for their own good and that as long as they are co-operative, they will have nothing to fear. While the funerals of Bouteville and Madame were carried on in Paris, ships were sailing from Portsmouth for the French coast.

As Louis travelled down to the west coast, Gaston was appointed lieutenant-general of the armies in Poitou. Later in the year, the Prince de Condé  and the Duc de Montmorency would  check Henri de Rohan in Languedoc.  By then, the English were blocking the Isle de Ré. The Huguenots had admitted the Duc de Soubise to the city showing their intentions although that may not have been the wish of all of her citizens. This lack of cohesiveness became a threat to the country and Richelieu, pushed on by the annihilistic Condé, was set to crush the rebels. Meanwhile, Louis had become so ill that he was forced to stop his travels to Orléans. Then he received word that the Marquis de Toiras was blockaded in on the fort of Saint-Martin by the Duke of Buckingham. This forced the Cardinal into a position he was not fully prepared for, having always worked under the King in matters of war.  As he sat by Louis’ bedside hour after hour, his mind raced with military matters and of how to relieve the isle from the threat of starvation.

He decided to use his own money in aid of the war and to send provisions by small boat to Ré. Then he invoked the treaty with Spain to gain aid but that country would not participate until the outcome was more assured. In October, Louis recovered and the two joined the army at La Rochelle where they were able to drive Buckingham back to England.

Louis and Richelieu at La Rochelle

Louis XIII and Richelieu at La Rochelle




Victorian Workhouse Webinar


I have just attended a webinar from The National Archives in London entitled “Why Did the Victorians Fear the Workhouse”. The Presenter was Paul Carter the Principal Specialist in modern domestic records. He has a particular interest in poor law records.For this they use software called Blackboard Collaborator. Ear plugs are needed for the audio. You can see film of the presenter on the top left corner and a display board on the right with diagrams etc. On the bottom left there is a message box where you can ask questions. Paul was very approachable and knew his records. You are sent instructions before hand on how to connect to the webinar and it will be reposted on the website at the National Archives.

I wanted to know if Agnes, my great aunt, wife of Alex Fraser, Master of the South Dublin workhouse would have been compelled to be Matron since her husband was Master. It just didn’t seem possible that she could do that and raise a large family. Also, I hadn’t read anything in the memoirs about her actually working there, just some memories of having Christmas teas etc.

The answer was yes with the idea that she might be able to carry on if he died with the help of another man they would hire (This sounded like it was a common scenario). That didn’t happen in Agnes’s case, she apparently had to leave when Alex died. Whether we will ever find out why, I don’t know. BUT again another example of how amazing Agnes was. Matron of the workhouse, mother of 8 children, one of whom was lost in her last pregnancy, adoptive mother to her sister’s 3 children and hostess to an open house for all her family. And she lived to be 104 years old!

The webinar was brief but full of useful information, the diagrams giving us examples of what we might find in the records. This was related to English records but gave me an idea of where I might look in Ireland. The sure answer to my question would be to find the employment registers for the South Dublin Workhouse.

This was an interesting experience! Oh yes, I had to be ready by 8 a.m. because they started at 4 p.m. their time. That took a little figuring.


But I Digress!

I confess, it is hard to focus on academia when the sun is shining after the usual long, dreary winter. I am still on Edward 1 by Michael Prestwich and after waiting for weeks got another book referred to by Prestwich which was “King Henry III and the Lord Edward by F.M. Powicke. Sadly (or not) that is an inter-library loan which gives me about a week to read it . Not happening.  I have however, read the last chapter in that book  which is the Epilogue:Edward I.

One thing that becomes clear when you venture into these books is that the English language was not used in the same way even 50 years ago as it is today. For example “the kings wardrobe”. Not what you think, it was basically the accounting office of the king’s household during Edward’s time. Inside of that was the provision of all things personal  to the king including his armies. From these accounts, historians attempt to piece together the lives of the royal families. Later, the kings wardrobe would come under the exchequers office.

Another linguistic term commonly used by historians is “seems to have” a rather elusive term politely exonerating them from any mistaken conclusions you might come to. You might say that there are linguistic conventions used by that profession.However, I do enjoy reading the English language as it was meant to be spoken, politely and with a natural flow to it. You may even expand your vocabulary as you go. To which end I always keep my tablet with me so that I can look up words I don’t understand or try to research people and places connected with King Edward. I end up on many adventures this way.

Upon reading that Edward started to build an Abbey in Cheshire I thought I would look for images of it on Google and I was off! Edward had made a vow as a young man to build an abbey if he was saved from a storm at sea. He chose Darnhall, Cheshire, initially but the people were not happy at all with this decision. Also, the site was too small for what he had planned. So a new site was chosen at Over, a few miles away and named Vale Abbey. Everything went swimmingly at first but then, Edward started to run out of money because of his war with the Welsh and the massive castle building projects he had going on there. He eventually abandoned the plan for Vale Abbey taking a good part of the masons with him.

The abandoned monks did everything to finish the building but just couldn’t do it so it was abandoned for 10 years until another prince Edward, the Black Prince, decided he would help them. THEN a hurricane struck and the nave was swept down. Finally, under Richard II it was agreed that the building could be finished but only on a much smaller scale.

However, that really is where the story starts because…the monks were NOT nice people! They became landowners when they were given the abbey and were harsh to their tenants. No one liked them. Discipline became lax and corruptness took hold, ending with one of the abbots being hacked to death for an alleged rape. One of the avenging group was a vicar. This is not my image of a vicar!

After much lawlessness and being taken under “royal supervision” (which apparently did not work, can you guess why?) the governing body of the Cistercians thought they might take a look and decided that the place was “damnable and sinister”. Things settled down for awhile. Eventually, the Abbey was dissolved under Henry VIII and passed through many hands, changing all the while, until very little of the original was left. Today it is home to a private golf club. And that about states it, all that history, the toil and strife of so many, the connection with royalty, is now a golf club.

And that is what happens when you go off searching for things! By the way, did you know that Edwards first language was French, his second Latin? How did he rule a country like that?

Graham Border Marriages 1596

By coincidence, I visited the National Archives at Kew, England website looking for the rolls Marc Morris talks about in his book, A Great and Terrible King, and was waylaid. I came across a section on Marriage Across the Border which has a scan of a genealogy made for Lord Burghley in 1596 of the Graham clan of Netherby, Cumberland. I immediately wanted to see if there were any Clark/Graham marriages (you may remember that my 3X great grandmother, Jane Graham married Henry Clark) on the document but guess what? It wouldn’t enlarge enough for me to make out that ridiculous quill pen writing of the day. I went to print it and it wouldn’t print the image although the option was there. So, no go. I have contacted the Archives to see if anything can be done. My Graham records only go back to the early 18th century. I sometimes think it would take 10 lifetimes to sort out our life in Britain, never mind when they finally came over to Canada! Will advise.

A Little Knowledge

A little knowledge goes a long way. To that effect, I am currently attempting to read “Edward I: A Great and Terrible King” by Marc Morris. It is the latest on the great king (debatable in some circles, of course).Here is the compeIling cover.

EdwardI say attempting because I am trying to read it on a Kobo Touch reader (a gift)  which for me is turning out to be a pain. Like so much other technology, the boon of it is accompanied by a few banes. Firstly, the main reason I am reading on a reader is because, living in Canada, it is virtually impossible to find that book and many other historical books from the UK. If you do, you may pay an exhorbitant price. This one and one of the researched books in it, Edward I by Professor Michael Prestwich, cannot even be found in the public libraries here. Fortunately, I have been able to find Prestwich’s book at Google Books.One sometimes gets the feeling that in this modern age an item must have a high level of commercialism to be obtained. If you are looking at purchasing the item from abroad, you might be looking at up to and beyond 80$C. Such is the price of being a “history buff”.

The alternate offered by our good friends at Amazon.com is the digital format which I purchased. It was not compatible with the Kobo Reader. So I had to refund that (which I may say, they were very accommodating about) and repurchase ( for a few dollars more) from the Kobo store. Of course, if I had wanted, I could have read the book on my desktop Kindle but of course, you do not get portability. After trial and error, I got the book onto the reader and have been attempting to read it since. The book itself, is very readable and presents an interesting and easy to follow history of Edward’s reign. However, the screen is small and not all that responsive. The pagination of digital books is per chapter e.g. p.26 of 235. I find navigating this reader really stiff and not an experience you can relax with. Straight reading yes but navigating no. To that effect, I have ordered the actual book through Amazon.ca . It is only paperback and costs 30$ C. We will see what happens. After all, an actual book is portable too and won’t get lost if a machine goes down. I will report back when I finally get the book read.

So far Morris’s slant on Edward is a sympathetic one. He amply backs up the reasons for Edward’s behavior but in a very political sense, as in a monarch trying to unite a country and dealing with the various forces that threaten that aim. I discovered that it would have been good to have some previous understanding of medieval warfare and the situation in Europe at the time. Ultimately, though one realizes that it was about land, ownership and power and the enslavement of the lower classes by their own as well as foreign kings. One is mesmerized by the strength of character and intelligence displayed by Edward, in spite of the cruel way he gained control of a nation.

Of course, there is little to no actual evidence such as personal letters etc. to inform us of Edward’s personal life. Much of that comes from the financial and legal documents left behind. From these, authors follow his movements and activities and naturally make deductions. Of course, we also find something of the life of his wife Eleanor, and what her character was like. What kind of woman follows her husband on crusade and bears a child in a tent outside a half built castle? That is for another day. I will advise when the actual book gets here, one with actual pagination.


Inspiration and Incentive

What is the relevance of family history? Part of it is simply finding the names of your ancestors listed in connection with the main players and events in history. My maternal grandmothers name was Jane Gartshore Smith. Her parents were Marion Reid Gartshore and James Smith .These names were found in Kirkintilloch, Dunbartonshire, a place with some historical connection to Charles I, Bonny Prince Charlie and Robert the Bruce.

Kirkintilloch and Glasgow

Kirkintilloch and Glasgow

The name Gartshore (in the form Galfrud) was found on a charter of exgambion (land grant) from Alexander II and was written about in a book by Thomas Watson called “Kirkintilloch, Town and Parish” (1894).

Gartshore Land Grant

Gartshore Land Grant

Later on in the book he quotes :

Gartshore and King Charles I

Gartshore and King Charles I

I have not researched these families intensively yet but I did have an experience with a lady  who is related to the Gartshore family that came to Canada around 1800. They were an educated family of engineers and one of them, John Gartshore became well known in Canada for supplying steam driven pumping engines to the old Hamilton Waterworks. We have the same ancestors up to a certain period but then my “Two Brother” theory kicks in. That is based on the concept that every family will have two brothers who part ways and the fortunes of their families differ accordingly, either up or down. If you would like to read about the above John you will find a paper on him by his descendants here.  The Gartshore estate in Kirkintilloch passed into the hands of a Murray who took the name of Gartshore but it is now basically a pile of rubble.

What happened to my family up to 1800 I will have to find out. As far as I can tell they were miners and then iron-workers. As I say my grandmother was the first over in 1913. Her family were a direct product of the Industrial Revolution. Glasgow was the archetypal city of that era, calling herself “The Second City of the Empire”.

Watson also writes about James Smith as being one of the Covenanters,who is buried at the Martyr’s Stone outside of Kirkintilloch.

Martyrs Stone t.wat.

Martyr's Stone

Martyr's Stone (fjstuart)

Martyr’s Stone (fjstuart)

The two were found unarmed and made an example of but gave up their lives willingly.

The  MacDowall clan were part of the rising against Robert the Bruce.Their kin, the MacDougall’s were in possession of the Brooch of Lorn, said to be torn off of the Bruce’s cloak when they ambushed him at the Battle of Dalrigh. Today there is some question as to the authenticity of the brooch but it has been legend for many years. William McDowell was my 2nd great grandfather. His family went to Ulster during the Plantation of Ireland.

On the flip-side, my maiden name is Beauchamp. That side of the family is French-Canadian. William de Beauchamp, the Earl of Warwick, was Edward I’s best friend and lead military commander against the Welsh . There is a long history of chivalry and crusades in that family and a Coat of Arms.

Beauchamp Coat of Arms

Beauchamp Coat of Arms

Which would you rather, a colorful history or a page of names and dates? How much is YOUR ancestors life worth?







Bruce’s Choice

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries . . . 

So wrote Shakespeare in his play Julius Caesar. He may  very well have been talking about Scotland’s heroes William Wallace and Robert Bruce. It is played out in the movie “Braveheart” when Wallace talks before the Battle of Sterling,  “. . .  Fight, and you may die. Run, and you’ll live; at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day  till that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they will never take our freedom?”  Wallace was willing to pay the price of freedom but he was not in the position of Robert Bruce, the other lead contender with Balliol for Scotland’s throne.

There was another Scottish leader, the Caledonian, Calgacus who also gave a speech to his army before he fought the Roman general Agricola. It was recorded by Tacitus, Agricola’s son-in-law. Part of it reads, “We have neither fruitful plains, nor mines, nor harbours, for the working of which we may be spared. Valour, too, and high spirit in subjects, are offensive to rulers; besides, remoteness and seclusion, while they give safety, provoke suspicion. Since then you cannot hope for quarter, take courage, I beseech you, whether it be safety or renown that you hold most precious. Under a woman’s leadership the Brigantes were able to burn a colony, to storm a camp, and had not success ended in supineness, might have thrown off the yoke. Let us, then, a fresh and unconquered people, never likely to abuse our freedom, show forthwith at the very first onset what heroes Caledonia has in reserve. ”   Tacitus’s writing makes really interesting reading, allowing for a certain natural bias. Of course, it required translation, being written in Latin. You can find a good copy here.

Whether “the Bruce” was as weak and confused as portrayed in the movie is a matter of conjecture. He was born in July, 1274 to Robert Bruce, 6th Lord of Annandale and Marjorie, Countess of Carrick. The Bruce family (formerly de Brus) were a Norman family that came to Scotland with David 1. His grandfather, Robert was claimant to the throne of Scotland during the Great Cause. The Bruce family were long-time supporters of the English crown. When Edward awarded the crown to John Balliol, Robert joined Wallace in the Scottish revolt. He became a guardian of Scotland along with John Comyn but resigned a few years later because they did not get along. He then submitted to Edward “returning to the king’s peace”. During this time the family supported the English against Wallace and he was captured and executed.

But things started to change when Robert argued with John Comyn at Greyfriars Abbey and stabbed him. This was not a good thing, his father had died and he was in line for the throne. But now he was excommunicated by the Pope, a man more powerful than Kings themselves. The Bishop of Glasgow, Robert Wishart, another key player in this drama, saw the necessity of Bruce getting to the throne and had him absolved. Robert moved quickly and was crowned King of Scotland at Scone on 25 March, 1306.

He met Edward at the Battle of Methven and was defeated. While on the run, at Strathfillian, Bruce was ambushed by the McDougalls (often joined by their relatives, the McDowalls, my ancestors). They had been on his side until he murdered John Comyn who was a relative. He barely escaped and went into hiding in Ireland. The next spring, Edward marched north again and captured his wife, daughters and sisters as well as Isabella MacDuff who had crowned him. His sister Mary and Isabella were hung in cages for four years. His brother, Neill was executed .

Robert returned in 1307, having found his strength in guerilla warfare, and defeated the English at Carrick. He went on to gain control of almost all of Scotland. Then he advanced into northern England burning every stronghold as he went. He had sent his brother Edward to Ireland to gain them as allies, but they only gained support from Ulster and Donal O’Neill. Although Edward was crowned as King of Ireland, he was killed at the Battle of Faughart in Louth. The Irish just couldn’t see where there would be a difference between being ruled by the English or the Scots.

Edward I died on the trip north to defeat the Scots in 1307.  In 1314, his son Edward II, moved north to break the siege at Stirling Castle in Edinburgh. His army was considerably larger than Bruce’s. Again, opportunity presented itself which Bruce was quick to use. The geography of the land was such that it would allow him to bring the English army into a vise-like situation, in short they would have no room to manouevre. Potholes were dug into the road which would force the army to bunch up into this position. It took two days for Robert Bruce to win the Battle of Bannockburn.  Edward was actually undone by his own wife Isabella who along with her lover, Roger Mortimer, invaded England from France and  forced him to give up the throne of England to his son, Edward III. In 1328, Edward  finally recognized the right of Bruce to the throne of Scotland and recognized Scotland’s independence.