Sunday, January 27, 2013

Love Castles? Must See These!

I have a passion for Medieval history, and that includes castles.  Want to know more than just 'oh, that is a pretty castle'? Curious about how people lived in their castles, what they did while they were there? Have an itch to know how castles were built?

Philip Davis has had a life-long passion for castles, and he has created the most comprehensive website on castles I have found.

See GATEHOUSE for answers to your questions about castles: who made them, how they were constructed, who tore them down, who rebuilt them; what archeological investigation has found at individual sites; where exactly they are located and so much more. Gatehouse is deep and extensive for factual information, including a comprehensive list of licenses to crenelate. Images of castles are from a bird's eye view. [For photographs of castles, see other websites such as Wikipedia or Castles of Wales, etc.]

Among the most exciting discoveries I have made in my investigations is that many of our ancestors were not only warriors, they were statesmen. They were not only capable of besieging a castle, they were capable of building one. The narrow view of the Medieval knight as a brutal and ignorant fighter who knows how to do only one thing is proven wrong over and over again, in the multitude of records showing how they built, they protected, they preserved.

Below is a modern picture of the remaining shell keep of Cardiff Castle, Wales, which was rebuilt in stone circa 1136 by Sir Robert earl of Gloucester, my 25th times great-grandfather.

Photograph by Jvhertum 1 Dec 2012, from Wikimedia at
 Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Thursday, January 24, 2013

So Many Questions - so little Time

While putting together  a book about Magna Carta and our ancestors who were there, I have discovered great websites with information I can glean for the book.  The challenge is that no one place has all the information I want. So I wrote a page of questions that I'd like to answer about each baron.  After I wrote out the questions, I realized how much I have learned from reading books and websites. A year ago, I would not have even known what questions to ask.

Magna Carta Ancestors biography Questions -
What is fealty?

Name, date born, whether eldest son or inherited unexpectedly.
Shield and blazon
Titles (inherited or granted or acquired through marriage)
Whether a Marcher Lord
Castles and locations w/pictures and/or descriptions

Whether disseized of their titles and lands or reinstated
Whether went on Crusade
Whether a sheriff or a justice/judge
Marriage.  If widowed, wife’s activities/remarriage/nunnery.  Children.
Statesman; Warrior; Builder; Courtier; ?
How many knights/fees?     How many acres/manors?

Whether granted a license to crenelate their fortified manor or castle
Whether on river or bay
Whether granted exclusive import/export rights to X (wine, wool, or ?)
Abbeys or priories (hospitals, or ?)  they Established or supported
Rights to hold fairs (when, where)
Rights and offices of forests:
(example) from Many Mini Biographies - 8/22/1198, Confirmation by Richard I of his permission to Alan Bassetto hunt foxes, hares, and wild cats. (S) Pipe Roll Society, V10, 1888, P30.
Military campaigns
If they were sent on diplomatic missions
Whether active in Magna Carta; Oxford Provisions; etc.
Whether they were subsequently excommunicated for it and if restored?
When died and how. Where Buried.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Baker's Dozen and Both Sides of the War

While extending one of the branches of our family tree that I had not quite finished, I came across another Magna Carta Surety ancestor.  This makes thirteen - a baker's dozen - of our ancestors who represented Magna Carta and a rule of law.

John FitzRobert, Sheriff of Norfolk, Suffolk, Northumberland; Governor of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, was born before 1191, and died circa 20 February 1241.

His blazon is:  Or two chevrons gules

According to the Baronial Order of Magna Charta, there are only seventeen (out of the twenty-five) surety barons who have descendants past the fourth generation, meaning there are only four more with whom we might possibly connect. 

Searching the  Preamble of Magna Carta, I have found five of the "illustrious men" mentioned by King John are our ancestors:  "William Marshal, earl of Pembroke; William, earl of Salisbury [William Longespee, who was half-brother of King John]; William, earl of Arundel; Hubert de Burgh; and Alan Basset. The men in this list are the ones who were considered royalists, the ones who stood with King John on his side of the field at Runnymede.  Many of them are known to have had strong sympathies with the 'rebel barons' and to have favored Magna Carta. They advised King John to sign it.

King John is also an ancestor, the twenty-fifth times great-grandfather of Leo.