Gruffudd ap Llywelyn: the unwanted son

Gruffudd was born to the royal princes of Gwynedd, but as an illegitimate son, he would see his inheritance snatched away. But, although he would never be Prince of Wales himself, his legacy lies in his son.

Details about Gruffudd’s early life are missing from history. We know that his mother was Tangwystl (b c1182), the daughter of Llywarch Goch Lord of Rhos. It is possibly that she had as many as five children[i]  with Gruffudd’s father Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, Prince of Gwynedd, despite never marrying him. At least one of his sisters, Gwladus Ddu[ii], is thought to have been older than him and it is likely that he was the youngest of the children born sometime between 1195 and 1205. His mother is recorded as dying from a fall during pregnancy that caused a fatal bleed whilst other historians have concluded that Tangwystl died in childbirth.

King John
King John

For the first few years of Gruffudd’s life, his illegitimacy remained irrelevant. The principles of primogeniture were still forming in Welsh law and Gruffudd was fully entitled to be his father’s heir, even if further, legitimate children were born. This came a step closer in 1206 when Llywelyn married Joan, the illegitimate daughter of King John of England, but it is likely that there were still no children in 1211 when Gruffudd was accepted by the English to act as hostage to ensure Llywelyn’s good behaviour.

Gruffudd remained in England until freed under the terms of the Magna Carta in 1215, by which time a legitimate son, Dafydd, had been born to his father and Joan. What the eldest boy made of it we cannot know, but by May 1220 it was clear that Gruffudd was no longer his father’s heir. Over the next nine years, Llywelyn continued to ensure that it was Dafydd that would succeed him, including having Joan declared legitimate in 1226 by Pope Honorius III and having the boy pay homage to King Henry III in London in 1229.

Gruffudd was not totally forgotten, but his life had now taken a very different turn. He was given lands in Meirionnydd and Ardudwy but after a quarrel with his father, during which war was only averted after clerical intervention, Llewelyn reversed the decision and removed them from him in 1221.

Gruffudd ap Llewelyn
Llewelyn ap Iorwerth and his two sons, Gruffudd and Ddafydd

He made a good marriage to Senana ferch Caradog the daughter of the Lord of Anglesey, and their first child Margred was probably born around the same time as the loss of his lands. By 1223 he was entrusted by his father to lead an army against William Marshall, the English Earl of Pembroke, but their relationship had unravelled again by 1228 and, unable to accept his father’s plan for the succession, Gruffudd was imprisoned for six years.

Criccieth Castle
By Dee Harding - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Perhaps Llywelyn thought that the matter of the succession was settled when he released Gruffudd in 1234 and returned him to his lands, but Gruffudd remained popular with the Welsh lords who saw no reason to change Wales’ laws of succession and preferred the mab y Gymraes (the Welshwoman’s son) to the half-English Dafydd. When Llywelyn suffered a stroke in 1237 and was unable to rule, Dafydd saw his chance, stripping his brother of his lands and imprisoning him and his son Owain in Criccieth Castle[iii].

There was one last glimmer of hope for Gruffudd. Dafydd became Prince of Gwynedd in April 1240 but in August 1241 he was forced to submit to Henry III when, in a deal with Gruffudd’s supporters (including his wife who paid 600 marks and gave custody of her two youngest sons as surety), the English king invaded on Gruffudd’s behalf.

Or so they thought.

Henry immediately reneged on his deal and instead insisted that Gruffudd and his son be handed over to him. Gruffudd would never know freedom again. In August 1241 he and his three sons, Owain, Dafydd and Rhodri, were all taken to the Tower of London where Senana was allowed to visit. Only Llewelyn ap Gruffudd remained free. Henry’s intention was to use Gruffudd against Dafydd should the Prince of Gwynedd step out of line.

Gruffudd was treated well and provided with half a mark a day for his keep, but on 1 March 1244, after two-and-a-half years as a prisoner of the English king, he made an attempt to escape. How well thought out the plan was and how he intended to get back to Wales is unclear; unfortunately for Gruffudd he never made it further than the Tower. Using his bed linen as a rope he attempted to climb down from the top of the Tower, but it snapped under his weight and he fell, breaking his neck.

Gruffudd ap Llewelyn
Gruffudd ap Llewelyn falling to his death
Llewelyn ap Gruffudd
Gruffudd's son Llywelyn ap Gruffudd

If his son Llewelyn ap Gruffudd held any grudges against his uncle Dafydd ap Llewelyn then he quickly put them aside. Gruffudd’s death left Henry III without a card to play and in 1245 Dafydd rose up against the English king with Llewelyn in support. Owain, the eldest son, was freed from the Tower but stayed in England, leaving Llewelyn to seize the throne when Dafydd died in 1246.

A hundred years earlier and Gruffudd would probably have become Prince of Gwynedd. It was his misfortune to have a half-English half-brother and a father who stuck doggedly to his decision to secure a political alliance with England. Gruffudd could have built himself a life under his brother’s rule, but it’s hard to settle for second best when you know what could have been.


[i] how many children Llywelyn had and with whom is still debated.

[ii] Gwladus Ddu is now thought to be the child of Joan and not Tangwystl.

[iii] There is still some doubt as to whether the imprisonment happened in 1239 or 1240.

Further Reading

Jones Pierce, Thomas. Graffudd ap Llewelyn. Dictionary of Welsh Biography. Retrieved 1 March 2022. 

Kramer, Kyra. The Death of Gruffudd ap Llewelyn Fawr

Smith, JB. Llewelyn ap Gruffudd. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 1 March 2022.

Tout, TF (revised by A. D. Carr). Gruffudd ap Llewelyn. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 1 March 2022.

Copyright: Samantha Arrowsmith Greenhare History 1 March 2022


How Anne Hyde changed the course of British history

Had Anne Hyde lived beyond 13 March 1671 she would have been Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland, and yet she remains relatively forgotten, lost amongst the more famous Stuart consorts. Married to James, duke of York, the younger brother of Charles II, she did not live to see him become king, but her influence had already set him on a path to disaster.

The gentleman's daughter

Anne was born on 12 March 1637 near Windsor, the eldest daughter of a country lawyer, Sir Edward Hyde. In the turbulent politics of the War of the Three Kingdoms that saw king pitted against Parliament, the family’s fortunes shifted with that of the royal family. 

Anne Hyde
Edward Hyde, Anne's father

Although Anne’s father had initially begun his parliamentary life as a critic of the king, he gradually changed his stance and his elevation to Chancellor of the Exchequer and member of Charles I’s Privy Council in 1643 aligned the family with the king for better or worse.

By 1645 it was worse and when Hyde left Oxford in March it would be another three years before Anne would see him again. First he fled to Jersey with the Prince of Wales, where he stayed for two years despite the prince moving on to Paris after two months. In September 1648, he re-joined the prince, now King Charles II, in The Hague but it was June 1649 before Anne and her family joined him, meeting him at Antwerp as he was on his way back to Paris.

Anne lived in Antwerp until the end of 1651 at which point she moved to Breda, and by 1655 she had been appointed as a maid of honour to Mary, the Princess of Orange and Charles II’s younger sister. Despite the honour, Anne’s father opposed the move: he was fully aware of the licentious nature of the court and how vulnerable his seventeen-year-old  daughter would be to the temptations she now faced on a daily basis.

Anne was popular at the court. Although not considered a great beauty, numerous contemporaries describe her as having ‘a great deal of wit’ and she was well liked by Mary. Exiles from England filled the Dutch court and contemporary letters, including one by the king himself, named several contenders for Anne’s affections, including Sir Spencer Compton, the son of the Earl of Northampton. Her own aunt, Barbara Ailesbury, joked that the ‘unkind gerle hath robed me of all my Gallants’ and the Memoirs of the Count of Grammont (written by the Count’s brother-in-law, Anthony Hamilton) recalled that ‘there were none at the court of Holland who eclipsed her…’

Anne Hyde
Mary, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange

It would not be long, it seemed, before Anne would catch herself a husband far above the aspirations of a gentleman’s daughter.

The loss of a foreign alliance

That husband would be James, duke of York, who, as Charles’ heir, held a special place at court, even if that court was in exile. Although he was a notorious womanizer like his brother, it was expected that his marriage, when it happened, would be to the benefit on England.

‘The duke of York has married…an English miss…

James duke of York husband of Anne Hyde
James, duke of York, around the time of his marriage to Anne c 1660

Anne first met James in 1656 when she accompanied the Princess of Orange to Paris to visit the Dowager Queen Henrietta Maria. The queen’s dislike of the Hyde family was so fervent that not only had she opposed Anne’s appointment as a maid of honour, but Anne’s father informed Lady Stanhope on 16 July 1659 that he had tried to persuade Anne not to go to Paris because of it. James was entranced by her luscious chestnut hair, voluptuous figure, wit and intellect and there is little doubt that he attempted to seduce her, but opinion is divided as to whether Anne submitted. It is possible that they became lovers as early as 1656 with their relationship continuing in secret for the next three years via his occasional visits to his sister’s court in The Hague, but it is more likely that it wasn’t until 1659 that their affair began.

Charles had already had an illegitimate son in 1649 with his mistress Lucy Walter, and then a daughter in 1651 with Elizabeth Boyle, but both had known their place and although Charles acknowledged the children, there was never any thought of marriage. James, however, decided to do things differently, perhaps due to the influence Anne had over him. Sometime in November 1659 the duke entered into an agreement to marry Anne, which, being consensual on both sides and witnessed, was legally binding.

When the Restoration returned Charles to the throne six months later in May 1660 it was already too late for James to go back. Anne had become pregnant sometime in January 1660 and she was beginning to show. There is doubt around when James told his brother what he had done, but it was not received well. Initially, Charles refused to give his consent, her father (now the Earl of Clarendon and thinking of the damage it would do to his reputation) urged the king to imprison her, and James waivered. However, when it became clear that the duke was trapped, Charles tried to find the positives of the situation, telling Clarendon that she was:

Charles II brother-in-law of Anne Hyde
Charles II

‘a Woman of a great Wit and excellent parts, and would have a great power with his brother, and that he knew she had an entire obedience for him her Father, who he knew would always give her good counsel by which he was confident that naughty people which had too much credit with his brother and which had so often misled him, would be no more able to corrupt him, but that she would prevent all ill and unreasonable attempts, and therefore he again confessed that he was glad of it.’

As a result, Anne and James were married on 3 September 1660 at her father’s house in the Strand with only the chaplain and two witnesses present. But that was not the end of it.

Henrietta Maria
Henrietta Maria, Dowager Queen of England c1650

Anne gave birth on 22 October, being forced to defend that the child was James’. In November the Queen Mother made a dash from France to try and persuade her son to renounce the marriage, questioning Anne’s honour in a letter to her sister, the Duchess of Savoy:

‘To crown my misfortunes, the Duke of York has married without my knowledge, or that of the king, his brother, an English miss who was with child before her marriage. God grant that it may be by him. A girl who will abandon herself to a prince will abandon herself to another. I leave for England to-morrow to try and marry my son the king and unmarry the other.’

The Princess of Orange continued her opposition until her sudden death from smallpox on 24 December 1660 and, to aid his escape, several friends embarked on painting Anne as a whore who they had all slept with. According to the memoirs of Anne’s father, one of them, Sir Charles Berkeley, claimed ‘that he was bound in conscience to preserve him from taking to wife a woman so wholly unworthy of him; that he himself had lain with her; and that for his sake he would be content to marry her, though he knew well the familiarity the Duke had with her.’ James waivered again, but by December the marriage was public and there was no going back.

James’ rashness was to have enormous consequences. Charles’ foreign policy revolved around appeasing the French and even his own marriage to the Catholic Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza, was at the behest of the French king. Cash-strapped, envious of Louis XIV’s autonomy and beholden to his generosity, Charles had expected that James’ position on the marriage market would help him secure financial independence from parliament and grow England and Scotland’s place on a global stage. Charles may have used James to forge a stronger alliance with France, or, in order to appease Parliament after the disappointment of his own Catholic marriage, to a Protestant princess.

Instead, James had tied himself to an unnoteworthy English nobody who offered nothing to Charles or his security.

Anne Hyde and James Stuart
James and Anne by Sir Peter Lely,1660s

Tragedy and betrayal

Anne’s marriage began with tragedy when the child she had been carrying at her wedding died of smallpox in May 1661 aged 7 months old. She was also finding it difficult to gain respect at court with Samuel Pepys recording that same year that ‘The Duke of Yorke lately matched to my Lord Chancellor’s daughter, which doth not please many.’

‘The Duke of Yorke lately matched to my Lord Chancellor’s daughter, which doth not please many.’

Anne was, however, resilient. She was noted for her intelligence and astuteness, and the wit that had made her popular in The Hague did not desert her, winning her the friendship of the king. Like it or not, Anne was the duchess of York and she made sure that she took her place. Perhaps James was biased when he said that ‘her want of birth was made up by endowments, and her carriage afterwards became her acquired dignity’, but the French Ambassador, Le Comte de Cominges, agreed, reporting on 7 August 1664 that Anne:

 ‘…is as worthy a woman…as I have met in my life, and she upholds with as much courage, cleverness and energy the dignity to which she has been called, as if she were of the blood of the kings…’.

Anne Hyde

Pepys took a different view although his reliability is debatable. He never seems to mention her without some cutting remark and on 24 June 1667 he reported that:

‘…besides the death of the two Princes lately, the family is in horrible disorder by being in debt by spending above 60,000l. per. annum, when he hath not 40,000l.: that the Duchesse is not only the proudest woman in the world, but the most expensefull; and that the Duke of York’s marriage with her hath undone the kingdom, by making the Chancellor [Anne’s father] so great above reach, who otherwise would have been but an ordinary man, to have been dealt with by other people; and he would have been careful of managing things well, for fear of being called to account; whereas, now he is secure, and hath let things run to rack, as they now appear.’

Anne’s intellect was never in doubt and was something she was particularly keen to draw attention to. The historian Sandra Sullivan has shown how Anne used her portraits to emphasis ‘her beautiful hair, the power of her hands and … the power of her intellect, since in holding a book in a society where literacy was restricted to an elite, books were not only symbols of the contemplative life, but symbols of power.’

Anne Hyde

What she expected of her marriage remains a mystery. They still seemed to be affectionate in 1663 when Pepys witnessed them at the theatre on 5 January 1663 showing ‘…some impertinent and, methought, unnatural dalliances there, before the world, such as kissing, and leaning upon one another.’ However, the historian Allan Fea believed that this was a case of over-acting by the pair to try and fool the court into believing that they were still in love.

Arabella Churchill
Arabella Churchill, James' long-term mistress

If she had also expected fidelity then she was quickly disappointed. Almost as soon as they were married James began a year-long affair with one of her maids of honour, Goditha Price, as well as with Anne Carnegie, countess of Southesk. More would follow and in 1665 he began a 13-year-long relationship with Arabella Churchill which would produce four children, including two sons, all of whom lived to adulthood.

This must have been particularly painful for Anne. Of the eight pregnancies she had over the 11 years of her marriage, only two children survived to adulthood, both girls. In 1667 she witnessed the death of her two sons, James duke of Cambridge and Charles duke of Kendal, within a month of each other.

1668 saw a rapid decline in Anne’s health which coincided with the birth of Arabella Churchill’s first child. Lady Chaworth informed Lord Roos on 5 May 1668 that Anne ‘breaks out so ill of her face visibly and of her leg again as people talke – that she was yesterday blooded and kept her bed’. Most damagingly, Anne began to over-eat, causing her to put on a huge amount of weight. In his poem Last Instructions to a Painter Andrew Marvell cruelly wrote of her:

Paint her with oyster lip and breath of fame
Wide mouth that ‘sparagus may well proclaim
With Chanc’llors belly and so large a rump,
There (not behind the coach) her pages jump.

Lady Chaworth wrote again in March 1669 that rumours were circulating that the duchess had been behind a break-in of the duke’s closet in order to find love letters, but she declared that the idea was foolish as ‘alas she is both to [sic] wise, and to [sic] much indisposed to be so curious, being all this time broken out in several places of her face and body, and now in phisick that she is not seene.’

It seems probable that Anne was suffering from depression brought on by her husband’s infidelities, the death of her children, her inability to bear an heir and her wrestling with her conscience over her faith. Life at court was taking its toll on her mentally and the constant pregnancies on her physically.

Despite their lack of children, James did not seek to divorce her. Perhaps this was more to do with his transition to the Catholic faith than because of a sense of loyalty to his wife, but whatever the reason, the lack of a Protestant male heir would change the course of history.

James Duke of Cambridge
Anne's son, James, duke of Cambridge. He died just short of his fourth birthday

 Her daughters were both raised as Protestants on order of the king and it is logical that the same policy would also have applied to a boy. A Protestant son would have eased the need for James’ deposition but even if he had been removed, the Glorious Revolution under the leadership of William of Orange would not have occurred. No William and Mary; no Queen Anne; no Hanoverian dynasty; no Queen Victoria.

Anne Hyde, James, Anne and Mary
Anne with her only two children to survive to adulthood - Mary and Anne. Both would become queen.

Anne's conversion to the Catholic faith

Anne’s most serious effect on James, and the one she had the most control over was in religion.

She had been raised a staunch Protestant, described by her tutor, Dean Morley, as ‘devout and charitable as ever I knew any of her age and sex’, but by the age of twelve she was already beginning to question her faith. Various reasons for her conversion have been offered, from the need to regain her husband’s affection to the influence of Queen Catherine, but ultimately, the decision seems to have been a personal choice and one that coincided with the decline in her health. By 1669 she had converted and in August 1670 she was formally received into the Catholic church although it was kept secret on order of the king.

James duke of York, husband of Anne Hyde
James, duke of York

The consequences of this action were considerable. Anne was known to be strong willed and determined and long before 1669 James had developed a reputation for being influenced by her. Samuel Pepys wrote on 30 October 1668 that he and Thomas Povey had agreed ‘that the Duke of York, in all things but in his cod-piece, is led by the nose by his wife’ and even the king was said to have joked that James was a hen-pecked husband. She was far more intelligent than James and she had read, questioned and reasoned her way to her conversion, writing in August 1670 that:

‘I only in short say this for the changing of my Religion, which I take God to Witness I would never have done if I had thought it possible to save my Soul otherwise.’ 

It seems only logical that she would then use those same arguments to convert her husband to save his soul, which he finally did sometime in 1669, although he did not reveal the fact until forced to by the 1673 Test Act.

Several historians have also taken this view. Murice Ashley believed she was responsible as did John Miller and John Callow. It is impossible to say that James would not have converted without Anne’s influence as he had shown interest in Catholicism when in exile, but he had resisted his mother’s earlier attempts to convert him and he had angrily protected his brother Henry from her when she had tried to convert him too. But if Anne’s influence was as strong as rumour said, despite his infidelity, it is likely that she had a large part to play in his final decision.

Anne Hyde
Anne at the beginning of her marriage
Anne towards the end of her life
Anne towards the end of her life

It would be a catastrophic one. James’ conversion would have huge implications on both his own future and that of the three kingdoms. Although his succession as king on Charles’ death was peaceful, it did not last, and James’ attempts to move both court and parliament towards Catholicism led to the Glorious Revolution, his deposition and, ultimately, the end of the Stuart dynasty (when his daughter Anne finally died childless in 1714). Anne Hyde had again changed history. Had James never married her, had she not converted, had she not influenced him, then his own conversion was not guaranteed. A James II who had retained his Anglican faith would have changed the course of not only his own reign, but would have pathed the way to his son with his second wife becoming James III.

James II and second family
James II with his second wife, Mary of Modena, and their family in exile

Died little beloved

Anne was never well again after 1668. She continued to get pregnant and watch her children die and she continued to eat. She was pregnant for the last time in late 1670, from which she herself admitted that she never fully recovered. 

Anne Hyde

Her cause of death on 31 March 1671 aged only 34 is debated. The idea that she was suffering from breast cancer is widely quoted although there does not seem to be any contemporary evidence of it. She had dined the night before with her brother-in-law but then collapsed leading to a diagnosis of appendicitis by some historians. Lastly, there is the ongoing illness that had affected her face and legs and may have led to her ultimate demise.

Whatever the cause, Anne’s body doesn’t seem to have been treated well, being ‘tost and flung about and every one did what they would with that stately carcase.’ 

Gilbert Burnet, the biased Anglican Bishop of Salisbury, claimed that she ‘died little beloved. Haughtiness gained many enemies…[her] change of religion made her friends think her death a blessing at that time.’

Although her friend and nurse, Margaret Blagge, recorded that ‘none remembered her after one weeke [sic], none sorry for her…’, Anne’s influence on history is significant. How James’ life would have turned out without her is another ‘what-if’ of history, but she had such a huge impact on his availability to make alliances, his inability to have a living Protestant male heir and his change in faith, that history would certainly not have been the same without her.

Mary II
Anne's eldest daughter, Mary II
Queen Anne
Anne's youngest daughter, Queen Anne

Further reading

Abernathy, Susan. Anne Hyde, Duchess of York. 11 January 2019.

Earle, Peter. The Life and Times of James II. Book Club Associates, London, 1984.

Fea, Allan. James II and his wives. Methuen and Co, London, 1908.

Hamilton, Anthony. Memoirs of the Count of Grammont.

Henslowe, JR. Anne Hyde Duchess of York. T W Laurie, London, 1915.

Melville, Lewis. The Windsor Beauties: ladies of the court of Charles II (revised edition). Victorian Heritage Press, USA, 2005.

Miller, John. Anne (née Anne Hyde), Duchess of York. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 15 February 2022.

Pepys, Samuel. The Diary of Samuel Pepys. 1893 edition.

Speck, WA. James II and VII. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 15 February 2022.

Sullivan, Sandra Jean. ‘Representations of Mary of Modena, Duchess, Queen Consort and Exile: Images and Texts’. Unpublished PhD thesis, University College London, 2008.

Zuvich, Andrea. Anne Hyde – the commoner that became a duchess. 12 March 2013.

Copyright: Samantha Arrowsmith Green Hare 16 February 2022


Charles III or George VII – a brief history of regnal names

When you have been known by your family and the world as Charles for 73 years, why would you suddenly want to change it so late on in life? For the Prince of Wales, this is not a hypothetical question. New monarchs will make one of the most important decisions of their reign at the very beginning: what regnal name will they and their legacy be known as? With his mother now 95, it is a question which is also becoming more pertinent and may need an answer soon. Will he be Charles III?

There was a time when a monarch’s regnal name did not vary from their birth name. It was a given that William of Normandy would be called William I and that James VI would keep his Scottish name when he became King of England, even if he adopted a new regnal number.

William I
William I
James VI and I regnal
James VI and I

When Edward I named his eldest son John, he did so with the full intention that he would become King John II. There was no negative connotations with the name then as there is now to make him think that his son would  change his name on accession. Similarly, Henry VII carefully named his firstborn, fully expecting that he would become King Arthur I. 

Edward I and his children including John and Alphonso

Names have been given to heirs which would have greatly widened the variety if they had lived. Edward III’s third son was heir apparent for 9 years and would have become King Alphonso I. Had Edward II died in childhood like his older four brothers we would have had a King Thomas I. If Henry IV hadn’t usurped the throne, Richard II would have been succeeded by King Edmund I. There was also nearly a King Frederick I (known colloquially as Fred) and a Queen Charlotte I.

regnal names
Princess Charlotte
regnal names
Frederick, Prince of Wales

The tradition of automatically accepting the birth name as the regnal name changed with Queen Victoria, or rather, Alexandrina Victoria of Kent, who opted to take her second name as her regnal moniker when she became queen in 1837. One reason may have been because she was never actually meant to be called Alexandrina. Her parents had proposed Victoire Georgiana Alexandrina Charlotte Augusta but the final decision lay with the Prince Regent. He immediately objected to Georgiana due to its placement before Alexandrina which was being given in honour of the Russian Tsar. He then left the parents waiting until the christening before he gave a pronouncement on the other names, and then only reluctantly. Brusquely, he agreed to Alexandrina first and then, when the baby’s mother began crying, ‘Give her the mother’s name also, then, but it cannot precede that of the emperor.’ It was hardly an auspicious start and although they at first called her ‘Drina’ she became known as Victoria from about the age of four.

There was talk that she should change her name to something other than Victoria when she became queen – Elizabeth and Charlotte were suggested by Parliament in 1831, but Victoria decreed she wanted to keep her own name.

regnal names
Queen Victoria with her son Albert, the future Edward VII

Two other kings have followed her example – her son and great-grandson. Coincidently, or maybe not, both were called Albert. The first chose the very traditional English name, Edward, to become Edward VII, although there had also been an Anglo-Saxon king with that name. It tied this very German family to the deep roots of the English nation. If Victoria had intended for him to carry his father’s name to the throne as Albert I, she would not have been not amused (sorry, couldn’t resist!). Edward proclaimed:

‘I have resolved to be known by the name of Edward, which has been borne by six of my ancestors. In doing so I do not undervalue the name of Albert, which I inherited from my ever-to-be-lamented, great and wise father, who by universal consent, is, I think, deservedly known by the name of Albert the Good, and I desire that his name should stand alone.’

Thirty-five years later Albert, duke of York, made the same decision, choosing to be named George in honour of his father, George V.

So what about Charles, Prince of Wales? After so many years as Charles there is a lot to be gained by keeping the name. For one, there would be a sense of continuation if he stayed by the name we all know, at a time when the country will be in the process of such huge change. But Charles has always said that he sees the roles of Prince of Wales and King as very distinct entities and so a change of name might be just the thing to reflect that. Besides, would we all get a bit confused if we start having to call him something else?

It’s also been suggested that his causes might suffer if they are no longer identified with Charles, but his passion is so public that it is unlikely that people will suddenly stop recognising his support if he answers to another name. It’s also possible that some of those causes might retain their connection with the designation of the Prince of Wales through William rather than transferring to the king.

regnal name
By Dan Marsh - Flickr: Prince Charles (derivate by crop), CC BY-SA 2.0,

The most obvious reason why he might change his name is because of the legacy of its previous incumbents. Charles I lost his crown and his head during the War of the Three Kingdoms/English Civil War, and, given some of the problems that the family have been facing over the last few years, he might not want to give anyone ideas. But, as The Guardian reported, a lot of people won’t be familiar with the history, whilst others won’t necessarily marry one man’s fate with another.

Charles I
Charles Stuart who styled himself Charles III

There is, of course, one other motive for choosing not to be known as Charles III – it has already been taken. Charles Stuart, grandson of the ousted James II, claimed the throne and title until his death in 1788. It was never acknowledged, and you wont find him called it in any history book, but the current Charles might want to stay clear of the name all the same.

Philip, Arthur and George are seen as the most likely contenders for an alternative. George VII will probably have it in honour of his grandfather, although Prince Philip’s death might make him stop and think for a bit. But he can chose any name he wants – so maybe there is still a chance of us getting a King Alphonso I after all.

Green Hare History Blog


The prisoners of Pevensey Castle

Built as a roman fort, by the fifteenth century Pevensey Castle was being used as a state prison. We look at some of the most important prisoners who were kept there.

On the East Sussex coast sits the ruins of one of England’s least well-known and yet most significant castles. Once perched on a peninsula surrounded by sea and salt marches, it was one of several Saxon Shore forts built around AD290 possibly by one of the two self-proclaimed Emperors of Britain, Carausius and Allectus, as a defence against a counter attack by the government in Rome. It now lies a mile from the coastline but still retains some of its original Roman walls, a rarity in England.

pevensey castle
Lieven Smitsderivative work: Hchc2009 (talk) CC BY-SA 3.0,

It was known by the Romans as Anderida, but at some time after their withdrawal it became linked with a Saxon resident named Pefen and adopted the name Pefen meaning River of Pefen.

In 1066 William of Normandy chose Pevensey Bay as the place to land and launch his invasion of England and it would be the site of the first Norman castle in the country, built within the Roman walls. Over the centuries, ownership passed between the crown, its allies and its enemies, and it took on new strategic importance, remaining a key coastal defence until the sea began to recede around 1300.

In 1394 Sir John Pelham become its Constable, holding it for the Lancastrian cause during Henry Bolingbroke’s invasion. Henry IV personally addressed him as his ‘dear esquire’ and awarded his unshakable loyalty with various grants and ceremonial honours and by making him one of the five executors of his will.

He also entrusted him with some particularly important prisoners: a duke, earl, king and witch.

The duke: Edward, duke of York (1405)

Edward was the grandson of Edward III through his fourth surviving son, Edmund of Langley, duke of York. Edward was a close supporter and friend of his cousin, Richard II, from whom he received numerous titles, grants and land, including the dukedom of Aumale in 1397. When Richard and their mutual cousin Henry Bolingbroke fell out, Edward supported the king and did well from Bolingbroke’s exile from England in 1398, when he received lands which were part of the Lancastrian inheritance. He was with the king in Ireland when Bolingbroke invaded and has been identified as responsible for advising Richard to split the army, an action which helped bring about his downfall. The king’s army collapsed around him – Edmund of Langley, who had been left in charge of England, surrendered to Henry and Edward soon followed his father’s example and deserted Richard.

Portrait by Edward Harding in 1793, after a fifteenth-century original in the chronicle of Jean Creton (Harley MS 1319 fol. 57)

Although he spent a short period in the Tower of London and lost his Aumale title, Edward was spared Richard’s fate, who was removed from power and assassinated shortly afterwards. The new Henry IV was prepared to accept Edward’s allegiance and allowed him to succeeded his father to become the 2nd duke of York in 1402.

However, it was not long until Edward fell into trouble again with his royal cousin. Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March, had once been the heir presumptive to Richard II and he and his brother Roger were kept in close custody by Henry IV at Windsor Castle. In a scheme known as the Tripartite Indenture, their uncle, Sir Edmund Mortimer, was part of a plot to overthrow Henry IV and divide England and Wales between himself, Owain Glyndŵr and Henry Percy, the Earl of Northumberland. As part of the plan, Edmund and Roger were freed on 13 February 1405 but they were quickly discovered on their way to Wales. Party to the abduction was York’s sister, Constance, the Countess of Gloucester, who soon accused her brother of being involved. At first he denied it but later admitted that he had known about the plot. Henry took decisive action and Edward was arrested and sent to Pevensey Castle.

Edward was held prisoner for seventeen weeks, kept in the better parts of the castle rather than the flooded dungeons. Sir John’s loyalty to the king never flinched, but he did help Edward to deliver personal letters to the king, enabling him to petition for his release. The relationship would last, with York making Pelham a trustee of his estates and, in 1412, delegating him part of the lordship of Tynedale and Wark. In 1415 York gave Pelham freehold of his London residence and took his illegitimate son with him on the French campaign. Evidence in Edward’s will also indicates that he formed a bond with another gaoler, Thomas Playsted who was left a gift ‘for the kindness he showed me when I was in ward at Pevensey’.

pevensey castle Britain
By Barbara van Cleve - CC BY-SA 3.0,

Edward was able to rebuild his relationship with the king and on 8 December 1405 he was restored to his lands with Pelham being rewarded (and compensated) by receipt of the Chief Stewardship of the duchy of Lancaster’s southern estates.

York’s loyalty did not waiver again although his younger brother Richard, earl of Cambridge, was beheaded on 5 August 1415 for his part in the Southampton plot to overthrow Henry V. Ironically, York died a hero at the Battle of Agincourt on 25 October 1415.

The Duke of York was also lost,
For his king, no foot would he flee
Til his bascinet to his brain was bent.

The earl: Edmund, earl of March (1406-1409)

Edmund was only thirteen at the time of the Tripartite Indenture when he and his brother were abducted from Windsor Castle and the event threw the boys back into the spotlight.

Edmund was descended from Edward III through his second surviving son Lionel, duke of Clarence, and, as such, was a better claimant to the throne than Henry IV who was descended from Edward III’s third surviving son, John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster. However, Edmund’s claim was through a female line, giving Henry the edge. But Henry could not ignore the young March and his brother, and he had them kept in the custody of Sir Hugh Waterton who was created Governor of them and the king’s children, John and Philippa, in July 1402.

Edward III and his eldest son, Edward of Woodstock

On 1 February 1406 the boys were transferred to Pevensey Castle under the guardianship of Sir John who received an allowance of 500 marks a year from the March estate for their upkeep. On 1 February 1409 they were transferred to the custody of the Prince of Wales, but their time in Sir John’s care created a lasting bond; March would later make Pelham a trustee of his estates and would accept a life annuity from him for his Sussex properties at Drayton and Chichester.

Edmund would find a more stable life under Henry V. Although he upset the king with his choice of bride, he remained one of his most trusted councillors, accompanying him to France and never making any assertion to the throne. He carried the sceptre at Queen Catherine’s coronation and became part of Henry VI’s regency council. He died aged 33 of the plague in Ireland.

The king: James I of Scotland (1415)

James I of Scotland. 16th century painting

On 22 March 1406, the eleven-year-old James, heir apparant of Scotland, was taken prisoner by English pirates whilst trying to reach France. His elder brother David had been murdered and his uncle, the Duke of Albany, had his eyes on the throne, so the king had sent James away on the pretence of furthering his education, though Henry IV joked:

‘Of course, if the Scots had been our friends, they would have sent the young man to me for his education, as I know the French language.’

Within weeks of being in England, James’ father died and, now king, the boy was far too valuable to send back to his own kingdom. For the next 18 years, James remained a hostage in England although, after a period in the Tower of London, he retained his own household of Scottish nobles and continued to communicate with Scotland through ambassadors. 

His uncle was in no rush to have him freed, refusing to pay the ransom the English king had set despite arranging for his own son’s ransom to be paid in 1415. His expenses were paid for by the English king and his education fostered a love of sports, music and poetry, inspiring him to write The King’s Quire. On reaching maturity he became part of Henry IV’s court, living between Windsor and London.

Henry IV’s death in 1413 changed James’ position at court. With a deep suspicion of his Scottish prisoners and a need to assert his authority in his new kingdom, Henry V moved the Scottish king to the Tower of London on the very first day of his reign.

By February 1415 he was at Pevensey Castle under Sir John’s custody, who received a grant of £700 on 22 February 1415 for the care of his royal prisoner. James remained in Sussex for just under a year and there is no reason to suggest that Sir John did not treat him as well as he had treated his other political prisoners.

pevensey castle
By Prioryman - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

James was moved on to other castles and in 1420, thanks to Henry’s interests in France, his importance grew. He crossed the Channel to France with Henry V, was a prominent guest at Catherine of France’s coronation as Queen of England on 23 February 1421 and escorted Henry’s body back from France in September 1422.

His ransom was finally paid in 1424 and after marrying the woman who had inspired his poetry, Joan Beaufort, he returned to Scotland. Unfortunately, life there would not end well. Having learnt his method of kingship in England, the Scottish nobles were resistant and he was assassinated in 1437, reportedly stabbed ‘to upwards of 30 wounds, some of which went through his heart’.

The witch: Joan of Navarre, Dowager Queen of England (1419-1420)

tomb of Henry IV and Joan
Tomb of Henry IV and Joan of Navarre By Ken Eckert - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Pevensey Castle had formed part of the queen’s dowery for much of the 13th century, but when Joan of Navarre arrived there on 15 December 1419 she did so not as a guest but as a prisoner accused of ‘compassing the death and destruction of our lord the king [Henry V] in the most treasonable and horrible manner that could be devised’. She had been accused of being a witch.

It was not an accusation that was made lightly, nor one that was received without a great deal of concern. Even by the turbulent standards of the medieval period, her sudden arrest signified a remarkable fall from grace for a woman who was the daughter of the King of Navarre, mother of the Duke of Brittany, wife of one King of England and step-mother to another.

Joan came to England and married Henry IV on 7 February 1403. The union is generally accepted as a love match, with the two having become acquainted during Henry’s time in Brittany where Joan was the wife of the duke, John IV. On John’s death Joan served as regent for her ten-year-old son, but gave up the position to marry the King of England. The marriage was happy and although they did not have any children of their own, she had a good reputation with her stepchildren including the Prince of Wales, who often called her ‘his dearest mother’. In 1415, now as Henry V, he even trusted her to act as his regent in England whilst he was in France.

By 1419 their relationship had changed. It is possible that the imprisonment of her son, Arthur of Brittany, had soured their bond, but the accusation of sorcery by her personal confessor, Friar Randolph in August 1419 was still unexpected.

What really lay behind the accusation was that Joan was a woman of considerable wealth at a time when the king was a man in need of money. Henry IV had granted his queen a dowry of £6500 per year, a huge increase of £2000 to what was usual, including the wealthy manors of Leeds, Havering and Nottingham. The moment that the arrest was made on 29 September 1419 Joan’s lands were forfeited to the crown and a new stream of income became available to the king.

pevensey castle
By Michael Coppins CC BY-SA 4.0,

We know that throughout her imprisonment Joan was treated well and that she was allowed to bring her own servants and entertain guests, including her youngest stepson Humphrey, duke of Gloucester. She was moved from Pevensey on 8 March 1420 and taken on to Leeds Castle in Kent where she spent most of the rest of her imprisonment. She was never charged, a sure sign that no one ever really took the accusation seriously, and was finally released in July 1422, with the king, wishing to clear his conscious, ordering that ‘as ye will appear before God for us in this case to restore the queen wholly of her dower’. Henry died six weeks later and Joan returned to a quiet life, dying at Havering on 10 June 1437.

No longer at the forefront of England’s sea defences, Pevensey found a new purpose under the Lancastrian kings. With their loyal servant, Sir John Pelham, in charge they knew that the castle was a safe and impenetrable location for the state’s most valuable and politically sensitive prisoners.

Want to visit Pevensey Castle?

Main photograph by By Prioryman (talk) CC BY-SA 3.0,



Ignatius Sancho (c1729-1780): composer, writer, mentor and friend

When a two year old boy named Ignatius Sancho arrived in England in 1731, an orphan and a slave, it would have been hard for anyone to have imagined that we would still be talking about him nearly 300 years later.

Yet that small boy was to make a mark on history, not just because he was the first man of African descent to vote in a British election, but because, as the historian Françoise Le Jeune has said, he was ‘a compliant man, having assimilated the keys of success in eighteenth-century England’.

So what did it take for an African man to make a success of his life in eighteenth-century England?

A bit of luck

One cannot completely ignore the luck that the young, uneducated Sancho had in meeting the philanthropic John, duke of Montagu when he was still a boy. Later, Sancho would describe his life prior to this meeting as ‘…unlucky, as I was placed in a family who judged ignorance the best and only security for obedience’. Montagu changed all of that, and Sancho’s visits to the duke’s library allowed him to immerse himself in the music, poetry, theatre, literature and art that would mould his future.

The duke’s interest in Sancho was, to some extent, self-serving; he had made it his mission to prove that African men were just as capable and intelligent as their European cousins, and Sancho was not the first young black boy that the duke had assisted. He was, however, one of his most successful, teaching himself not only to read and write, but also the etiquette skills that would serve him well later in life.

Was Sancho simply part of an experiment? Perhaps, but the relationship that developed between the English nobleman and the African slave was much more than that of patron and protégé and lasted for the rest of Montagu’s life and beyond. That achievement relied on a great deal more than luck.

John Montagu (1690-1749), 2nd Duke of Montagu

Toeing the line

Without question, Sancho knew when and how to show deference. The Georgian society in which he existed was prejudiced not only along racial grounds, but also on class, and they expected reverence from anyone from a lower social order. His acquaintance with the duchesses of Queensbury and Northumberland would certainly have revolved around his ability to be deferential and would not have lasted had he not been. Only John, duke of Montagu, would have appreciated the young Sancho for his ‘native frankness of manner’.

Le Jeune has indicated incidences of where Sancho seems to sign his letters in ways that made his status obvious:

‘I am, as much as a poor African can be, sincerely Yours to command’. (4 October 1775)

Yet this letter was addressed to a close friend and godmother to his son, Lydia Leach, and is therefore not intended to display as much subservience as we may think. The majority of his letters are signed as one friend to another, without the need for deference, and the historian Vincent Carretta has noted his appeal rested in ‘the ease and respect with which he communicates with his correspondents, no matter how much they differ from him in age or social status’.

His letters also show that he had a strong patriotism for his adopted country and was very much a royalist. His career as a grocer relied heavily on Britain’s success at sea and, to some extent, the ongoing slave trade, and whilst it would be too much to say that he supported slavery, he certainly could not afford to criticise it; his customers were often rich because of the slave trade and openly criticising them or slavery would have ruined him. Instead, Sancho used his letters to compliment his customers, pass pleasantries with his friends and discuss the topics of everyday life, his most famous being his recount of the Gordon Riots in June 1780:

‘Government is sunk in lethargic stupor—anarchy reigns—when I look back to the glorious time of a George II. and a Pitt’s administration—my heart sinks at the bitter contrast. We may now say of England, as was heretofore said of Great Babylon—”the “beauty of the excellency of the Chaldees—is no more;”—the Fleet Prison, the Marshalsea, King’s- Bench, both Compters, Clerkenwell, and Tothill Fields, with Newgate, are all slung open;— Newgate partly burned, and 300 felons from thence only let loose upon the world.’

A significant symbol of his metamorphosis into an English gentleman is the portrait made of him in 1768. Painted by one of the leading portrait artists of his generation, Thomas Gainsborough, it shows Sancho posed as a respectable, educated member of the middle-classes, a far cry from the slave he had once been and the traditional image of a black man in English portraiture. Though paid for by the duke of Montagu, it was the image that Sancho wanted to portray to the world.

But can we, or should we, blame Sancho for any of this?

Ignatius Sancho
Ignatius Sancho by Thomas Gainsborough

Sancho was very much like any other man looking to make his way in eighteenth-century England. He was playing by the rules of the game in which the wealthy held all of the power, and railing against the hierarchy would get him nowhere. Yet he was very much aware of his good fortune and of the cruelty of slavery, as shown in a letter to his friend and fellow black man, Julius Soubise, in 1772:

‘Look round upon the miserable fate of almost all of our unfortunate colour. Superadded to ignorance, see slavery, and the contempt of those very wretches who roll in affluence from our labours…’

To others, however, he held his peace and rarely wrote on the topic, though his friendship with the famous author, Laurence Sterne was founded on his appeal to him to write something against slavery in order to ‘ease the yoke (perhaps) of many’.

Sancho toed the line and served his ‘betters’ with deference not only for personal gain, but also to help others. He mentored at least two black boys in London, Soubise and Charles Lincoln, plus he assisted others where he could, often begging his friends for help on their behalf:

‘A very miserable undone poor wretch, who has no portion in this world’s goods but honesty and good temper, has a child to maintain, …has applied to me. Now, my dear M____, I know you have a persuasive eloquence among the women – try your oratorical powers…Mind, we ask no money – only rags – mere literal rags.’ (17 September 1768)

It is easy to criticise Sancho for his deference, but it was an essential ingredient in his success, particularly as an African man. It enabled him to retain his position in society and to achieve far more for both himself and others than would have been possible if he had criticised the hierarchical society in which he lived.

This charming man

By the time that Sancho cast his vote in the general election of 1774, he had developed a circle of friends and acquaintances that spanned all classes of British society from servants to duchesses.

For some, the African businessman, composer and man of letters would have been no more than a curiosity; however, for others, the draw was more deeply and genuinely felt.

Sancho was intellectually interesting, attracting numerous performers, artists and literary names into his circle. As well as Sterne, he also knew the actor David Garrick, the artist John Hamilton Mortimer, the anti-slavery campaigner Jabez Fisher and the politician (and Britain’s first Foreign Secretary) Charles James Fox. Most interestingly, some of these not only showed Sancho their work, but sought his opinion on them, such as the aspiring author George Cumberland, who stated that Sancho was ‘said to be a great Judge of literary performances’. His mentorship of writer and artist John Meheux and writer John Highmore made him the eighteenth-century’s only black patron with white protégés.

Mary Churchill, duchess of Montagu

His other great attribute was that he was charismatic.

Whether it was through the threat of suicide or not, he was able to persuade Mary, duchess of Montagu, to take him into her household after the death of her husband in 1749. Although she refused at first (he was, after all, still the ‘property’ of his owners), she changed her mind and employed him as her butler, freeing him from the life of slavery. Only two years later she left him a considerable sum of money and an annuity in her will that saw him comfortably provided for; a mark of gratitude for his service, or perhaps even friendship.

John’s successor as the duke of Montagu, George Brudenell, also formed a bond with Sancho that began as servant and master and yet progressed to something more. Sancho worked as his valet from 1766 until ill-health forced his retirement in 1773, and it was the duke’s generous financial gift that allowed Sancho to elevate himself to a man of independent means, which, in turn, gave him the vote.

His deep affection for his friends and relatives is clear throughout his letters, often beginning with an outpouring of concern for the recipient’s health and ending with more than simple regards:

‘I am, with pride and delight, your true friend.’

His affection was often reciprocated, making his life in Britain successful on both a personal and professional level.

Sancho's letter announcing the death of the duke of Montagu's son and heir
Sancho's letter to his sister-in-law


Sancho began his life as a victim of the vicious slave trade, but he ended it as a business man, composer, writer and mentor in his adopted country. Throughout his life he lived with a double identity: the English gentleman reflected in Gainsborough’s famous portrait of him, but also an African man facing the prejudices of a racist society. He balanced these through luck, deference and his genuine charm, living a short but happy life among the artistic literati of London society and a wide and loving group of friends.

Further reading