Tag Archives: Henry III

Robbing Peter to pay Paul (Westminster Abbey)

On this day in 1540, the Abbey Church of St Peter Westminster was made a Cathedral with its own See.   Not long afterwards, it was incorporated into the Diocese of London, and much of its estate was sold off to pay for repairs to St Paul’s – hence the expression, “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.  It is now a “Royal Peculiar”.

The abbey was originally founded, as the Benedictine monastery of St Peter, by the Bishop of London, Dunstan, under the Saxon King Edgar, in 960, on what was then Thorney Island – according to legend, on the site of a church founded by Sebert in around 604 (the same year that St Paul’s was founded).  It was rebuilt under Edward, “The Confessor”, in the years up to 1065, rebuilt again,  in the Early Gothic style, under Henry III, in the mid thirteenth century, and extended, in the Late Gothic style, under a succession of kings, including Henry VII, in the late fourteenth to early sixteenth (in part by the master mason Henry Yevele).

1 - Henry III's thirteenth-century north entrance with Rose Window

3 - Henry III's thirteenth-century Chapter House (left) and Henry VII's early sixteenth-century Lady Chapel (right).JPG

4 - Henry VII's early sixteenth-century Lady Chapel

5 - Wonderful grotesques on Henry VII's early sixteenth-century Lady Chapel  .JPG

The present structure is essentially surviving thirteenth- to sixteenth- century,

 

6 - Hawksmoor's eighteenth-century west towers.jpg

7 - Twentieth-century martyrs' memorial

although with some eighteenth-century additions in the form of  the west towers,  by Hawksmoor, and some twentieth-century  additions and restorations.

There are a great many important monuments in the interior, including those of no fewer than seventeen monarchs.  An equally large number of important state occasions have been held in the abbey, including all of the Coronations since that of the first Norman King, William I, the Conqueror, in 1066.  The fore-runner of Parliament, the “Great Council”, first met in the Chapter House here in 1257, only later moving to nearby Westminster Hall.

5 - Wonderful grotesques on Henry VII's early sixteenth-century Lady Chapel  .JPG

The end of the First Barons’ War (1217)

HENRYIII

The First Barons’ War ended on this day in 1217.  The war had broken out in  1215, when it became clear that King  John  had no intention of abiding  by the terms of the Magna Carta.   When John died in 1216, the barons  refused to recognise his son Henry III as King, and instead supported  the rival claim to the title of the French King Philippe II’s son Louis, also known as the Dauphin (*).  The Dauphin and barons  then suffered a heavy military defeat at the Battle of Lincoln in 1217, after which they were forced to retreat to their power-base in London, there  to await reinforcements from France, which in the event never arrived, the transporting  fleet  being intercepted en route (**).  There, the  Dauphin   agreed to  relinquish  his claim to England and end the war, by signing the so-called Treaty of Lambeth, brokered by William Marshall, later in 1217.  In exchange, the barons and people were given back the liberties that had been taken away under John’s unjust rule.

(*) Henry III had actually already been crowned – in Gloucester – late the previous year.  He would go on to be crowned again  in Westminster in 1220.

(**) Incidentally, two prominent Londoners were captured at the battle, namely  the aforementioned Robert FitzWalter, formerly of Baynard’s Castle, and Richard de Montfichet, of Montfichet’s Tower, both of which  had been demolished on John’s orders after the baronial conspiracy of 1212, in which FitzWalter had been implicated.

The elephant that never remembered (Groundhog Day, 1255)

The elephant that never remembered.jpg.jpg

On this day in 1255 Louis IX of France presented to Henry III one of the wonders of the age, an African elephant, to exhibit in the Royal Menagerie in the Tower of London.  Surviving records indicate that transporting the elephant to the Tower cost £6 17s 5d; building  a special house for it there,  measuring 40’  long by 20’ wide, more than £22; and keeping it for the nine months between December 1255 and September 1256, £24 14s 3½d – and all this at a time when a knight could live comfortably for a year on £15.

The elephant even had its own keeper, one Henri(cus) de Flor.  Unfortunately, it appears that he gave it  red wine to drink, a surfeit of which eventually killed it, in 1257.  The poor creature was buried in the Tower in 1258.  A   request was later made for its bones  to be dug up and given to the Sacrist of Westminster Abbey “for doing with them what the king had instructed him”.   Sadly, there is no surviving record of what became of this request!

The menagerie was eventually closed down in the nineteenth century by the then Constable of the Tower, the Duke of Wellington, who did not want it interfering with military matters any longer.  The animals were rehomed in  Regent’s Park, in what was to become the zoo there.