Pontefract Castle – December

DateEvent
1/12/1135In December 1135, William Maltravers was murdered at Pontefract by a knight called Paganus, one of Pontefract estate’s retinue. Maltravers had succeeded Hugh de Laval in 1131 to the fief of Pontefract and Clitheroe, even marrying his widow. Robert de Lacy (son and heir of Pontefract Castle’s founder) had forfeited the Honour of Pontefract in 1108 due to his support of Robert Curthose, exiled and imprisoned elder brother of Henry I. Robert de Lacy’s (died 1129) son, Ilbert, was granted Maltraver’s share of the Honour of Pontefract and also received a royal pardon by King Stephen for his men’s role in Maltravers’ death. Ilbert gained the possession of 40 knights’ fees out of 60 which comprised the estate with Laval’s son, Guy, inheriting the remainder. On Ilbert’s death in 1141, William de Roumare, Earl of Lincoln, was also holder of the Honour of Pontefract between 1141-46 before it reverted to the de Lacys.
DateEvent
3/12/1293On 3rd December 1293, Sir Henry de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, was granted more markets and fairs and the rights of free warren (exemption from penalties for killing game within ‘royal’ areas) in many of his demesne lands including Knottingley, Ouston, Campsall, Thorner, Altofts, Seacroft, Shadwell and Roundhay.
10/12/1297On 10th December 1297, John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey and owner of Sandal Castle, was made Captain, North of Trent, and against the Scots by Edward I.
23/12/1252On 23rd December 1252, Peter of Chester (or Peter of Lascy, illegitimate son of John de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, Constable of Chester and Earl of Lincoln) was called a kinsman of the Earl of Lincoln in a mandate by Pope Innocent IV to the Bishop of London to grant him dispensation to hold benefices (a church appointment for which property and income are provided in respect of pastoral duties) in plurality to the value of £100 a year (£165,000 in today’s money).
23/12/1256On 23rd December 1256, a covenant was agreed between Sir Edmund de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, and Sir William Longspee, Earl of Salisbury, for a marriage between Henry, Edmund’s heir and Margaret, William’s daughter, with a stipulation that if Henry were to die “before contracting the said marriage, then John, the younger son of Edmund shall be married to her”.
25/12/1249On Christmas Day 1249 (other dates quoted are 19th December and the following 6th January), Henry de Lacy, the greatest and last of the (male) de Lacy baronial family, was born. He succeeded his father, Edmund, as a minor in 1258, inheriting the titles Baron of Pontefract, Baron of Halton and hereditary Constable of Chester.  He became 3rd Earl of Lincoln (from 1266) and 1st Lord of Denbigh (from 1282). As a ward to large estates, he was educated at the court of Henry III. He inherited the title of Earl of Lincoln from his paternal grandmother around 1266. He served Edward I as a soldier and diplomat in Wales, Scotland and France becoming commander of the English forces in Gascony in 1296. He was one of the 21 Lords Ordainers appointed in 1311 seeking to curtail the powers of Edward II. His only daughter and heiress, Alice de Lacy, married Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster.    
25/12/1277On 25th December 1277, Sir Henry de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, was with Edward I at Westminster when the defeated Welsh 'rebel' leader, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, paid formal homage to the king.
25/12/1281Alice de Lacy was born at Denbigh Castle on 25th Dec 1281. She was fourth countess of Lincoln, fifth countess of Salisbury and daughter of Henry de Lacy Baron of Pontefract. Her mother was Margaret Longespée, 4th Countess of Salisbury and the great-granddaughter of an illegitimate son of Henry II of England, William Longespée (Longsword), whose nickname became his surname.
26/12/1292On 26th December 1292, Sir Henry de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, was at Newcastle with Edward I when John Balliol (now king of Scotland) paid formal homage to Edward as overlord of Scotland.
26/12/1298On 26th December 1298, Sir Henry de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, headed a commission (in the king’s stead) hearing an appeal brought by Landus Bouacursi against two merchants accused of counterfeiting the king’s great and privy seal (the seal of Prince Edward, the king’s son) and plotting to poison Edward I and the prince.
27/12/1252On 27th December 1252, Edmund de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, was knighted by Henry III.
28/12/1292On 28th December 1292, Sir Henry de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, received confirmation of the restoration of the castle, town and honour of Pontefract, earlier surrendered to the Crown as part of the marriage arrangements of his daughter, Alice, to Thomas, Earl of Lancaster.
29/12/1277It is surmised that Edmund of Lancaster and Blanche of Artois’ eldest child, Thomas (later Earl of Lancaster and lord of Pontefract) was born on or around 29th December 1277, his name indicating a reference to Thomas Beckett’s murder on this date, one hundred and seven years before.
31/12/1215On 31st December 1215, King John granted John de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, conducts to last a year from the following 2nd January; the very generous terms probably acknowledging de Lacy’s significance to the rebel cause. De Lacy was to surrender Pontefract to the king two days later after mediation by the Earl of Chester.
DateEvent
6/12/1399RichardII_abdicationIn early December 1399, Richard II arrived at Pontefract Castle as a prisoner. He was sent from Leeds Castle in Kent disguised as a forester. It may not be a coincidence that Richard was sent to Pontefract as Edward II had beheaded his cousin, Thomas of Lancaster, there in March 1322 for a plot against the king. It could have been a reminder that unlike Thomas of Lancaster, Henry IV had won his power struggle against the king and also of the significance of Pontefract as a bastion of Henry's Northern hegemony.
11/12/1336On 11th December 1336, Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster and later lord of Pontefract, was created Joint Commissioner for the Defence of the Realm by Edward III.
12/12/1387On 12th December 1387, John of Gaunt’s (lord of Pontefract) son, Henry, Earl of Derby (later Henry IV) along with Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham, joined the rebel Lords Appellant at Huntingdon to confront Robert de Vere’s royal army. De Vere had been instructed by Richard II to raise an army in the earldom/county of Cheshire to help defeat the rebel lords: Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester; Richard FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel and Surrey; Thomas de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. Derby was not only protecting his father’s interests as Richard had threatened to murder him but probably also feared Gloucester’s latent ambitions for the Crown. The ‘pro-Lancastrian’ Knighton Chronicle gave Derby a prominent role in the resulting campaign.
17/12/1399On 17th December 1399 ringleaders of a plot to kill Henry IV at Windsor during New Year celebrations and restore former king Richard II (held prisoner at Pontefract Castle) to the throne, met at Abbey House in Westminster. The plotters included: the Earls of Salisbury, Huntingdon, Kent, Rutland; Barons Despenser and Lumley; possibly Edward of Norwich, ex-Duke of Aumale; and Sir Thomas Blount and Sir Bernard Brocas.
20/12/1312On 20th December 1312, a ‘treaty of peace’ was cobbled together, under the auspices of envoys from the pope and French court, between Edward II and the earls responsible for the death of Piers Gaveston. The Earls of Lancaster (lord of Pontefract) and Warwick were to submit to the king’s grace and return to him jewels and horses seized by Lancaster when Edward and Gaveston fled Newcastle. Edward would reciprocate by setting aside his bitterness at Gaveston’s demise.
23/12/1313Edward II’s reaction to Robert the Bruce’ Scottish advances in the winter of 1313 events came unusually quickly. As early as 28th November 1313, he had promised to have an army at Berwick before the following midsummer, and on 23rd December 1313 writs were issued for an assembly there on 10th June 1314. Thomas of Lancaster (lord of Pontefract), and the Earls of Warwick, Arundel, and Surrey (owner of Sandal Castle) refused to serve, since the summons had not been decided on in parliament as the Ordinances (article 9) decreed, and was therefore null.
24/12/1358On 24th December 1358, John of Gaunt, future lord of Pontefract, spent Christmas at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, with his brother Lionel, and Lionel’s wife Elizabeth de Burgh, Countess of Ulster. Geoffrey Chaucer (author of ‘Canterbury Tales’) was employed by Elizabeth, at this time, as a page.
29/12/1318On 29th December 1318, John de Bulmer made the following declaration at Pontefract: ‘ Know all men that I, John de Bulmer of Wrelton, have granted, released, and entirely quitclaimed for myself and my heirs to the noble Thomas, Earl of Lancaster and Leicester, Steward of England, his heirs and assigns, all the right and claim that I have or in anyway could have in the bailiwick and forestership of the forest of Pickering together with the land of Lockton, which Walter Boye, my great-grandfather, once held, that is to say whatever descended or could descend to me by right of inheritance on the death of the said Walter and of Helen his daughter and coheiress, mother of Roger de Wrelton, to have and to hold to the Earl, his heirs and assigns, of the chief Lordships of the fee for ever; with clause of warranty.’
30/12/1387On 30th December 1387, the Lords Appellant, including John of Gaunt’s (lord of Pontefract) son, Henry, Earl of Derby (later Henry IV), entered the Tower of London with a bodyguard of 500 armed men and confronted Richard II (who was to die at Pontefract Castle just over twelve years later). Probably accusing him of treachery and showing him letters found in Robert de Vere’s baggage appealing for French help, Richard apologised. Different sources suggest it was demanded of Richard that his five key advisers be arrested or that he must attend a meeting at Westminster the next day with failure to do so meaning he would be deposed. After being rebuked for his misrule, the Whalley Abbey Chronicle recorded Richard being deposed for three days but reinstated as Derby and Gloucester could not agree on which of them should replace him.
DateEvent
1/12/1488After withdrawing  Richard III's Pontefract's Charter on his accession, Henry VII issued a virtually identical one for the town in his capacity as Duke of Lancaster on 1st December 1488. He confirmed to the comburgesses the right to choose the town's mayor.
4/12/1423On 4th December 1423, another treaty was agreed for the liberation of James I, King of Scotland, who was imprisoned for a time at Pontefract Castle. Hostages of Thomas, Earl of Moray, Alexander, Earl of Crawford and 19 others were demanded.
7/12/1419On 7th December 1419, Charles, Duke of Orleans, a prisoner at Pontefract Castle since June 1417, was given over to the custody of Sir Nicholas Montgomery at Tutbury Castle, Staffordshire.
13/12/1419On 13th December 1419 (St Lucy’s Day), according to Walter Bower’s ‘Scotichronicon’, Richard II died at Stirling Castle. Although supposedly dying at Pontefract Castle nearly twenty years earlier, a self-called Richard II appeared in Scotland in 1402 having been liberated from there, he claimed, and a body-double buried in his place. Some sources claim that he was found in the Western Isles, serving in the kitchen of the Lord of the Isles and recognised by Donald of the Isles’ fool who had served at the English court and/or Margery Bisset who had seen Richard on his Irish campaigns. ‘Richard’ (The ‘Mammet’/puppet) was sent with Montgomery of Ardrossan to King Robert III who placed him in the care of Sir David Fleming of Cumbernauld and then the Duke of Albany, King Robert’s younger brother and effective ruler of Scotland. He was given a small allowance, housed in Stirling Castle and word spread that he would soon invade England to regain his throne. The mastermind behind the so-called Richard II, William Serle, a chamber varlet from Richard II’s court, who had led the murder of the Duke of Gloucester on the king’s orders in 1397, was executed at Tyburn in 1404. He confessed to forging letters with Richard’s personal seal from Scotland to make the ‘Mammet’ seem a more plausible pretender. Acutely conscious of ‘Richard’ being a focus for rebellion and/or invasion, particularly by the Scots, against him, Henry IV named the pretender as Thomas Warde of Trumpington.
15/12/1461After the accession of Edward IV, and on succeeding to his father’s possessions, Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, became the Chief Steward and Constable of the Honour of Pontefract on 15th December 1461.
28/12/1460Sandal_Castle_panorama On the morning of 28th December 1460, a Lancastrian army of 15,000 set out from Pontefract Castle marching the nine miles south west to fields and woods surrounding Sandal Castle in preparation for the upcoming Battle of Wakefield. The leaders of the Lancastrian force included the Duke of Somerset, Lord Clifford, Earls of Wiltshire and Devon, Lord Roos, Lord Dacre, and the Earl of Northumberland. The centre of the Lancastrian army, led by Duke of Somerset and the Earl of Northumberland, was drawn up on Wakefield Green on the open ground to the north of the Castle between the castle itself and the town of Wakefield. The left wing of the Lancastrian army, under the Earl of Wiltshire and Andrew Trollope, was hidden in the woods to the east, whereas the right wing under Lord Clifford was drawn up resting near the River Calder. The castle could not hold the whole of the Yorkist forces, so those that weren't absent on foraging duties would have taken up a position on the flat ground to the north of the castle.
31/12/1460On 31st December 1460, following the Yorkist defeat at Sandal the previous day, prisoners including the Earl of Salisbury, Sir Ralf Stanley, Walter Limbrick, John Harrow, and Captain Hanson were brought to Pontefract Castle. The Earl of Salisbury was to be spared for a huge ransom; however, he along with other prisoners were probably beheaded by common people of Pontefract who 'loved him not'.
DateEvent
2/12/1536On 2nd December 1536 (to 4th December), a Pilgrims’ Council was convened at Pontefract (probably at the Priory) to draw up articles to lay before Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk, to resolve the demands of the Pilgrims of Grace. These included a return to papal obedience and the summoning of a parliament free from royal influence. Norfolk was to make vague promises to the rebels and offer a full pardon on 6th December.
5/12/1503On 5th December 1503, George Stanley, 9th Baron Strange, died at St Paul’s Wharf, London, allegedly of poison following a banquet. In 1485, he held the offices of Constables of Pontefract and Knaresborough Castles. He was the eldest son of Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby, and his first wife Eleanor, sister of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick; thereby, related maternally to both Anne Neville and Richard III. George Stanley was held as surety by Richard III for his father’s behaviour before/during the Battle of Bosworth and Thomas Stanley is reputed to have exclaimed “I have other sons” and was not of a mind to join the king during the battle. Richard is also claimed to have ordered George Stanley’s murder on the field at Bosworth but relented. By his father’s second marriage to Lady Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, George became stepbrother to her son, Henry Tudor, later Henry VII, helping him win the effective last battle of the Wars of The Roses at Stoke Field on the 16th June 1487.
7/12/1536On 7th December 1536, Robert Aske addressed about three thousand rebels of the Pilgrimage of Grace at the market cross in Pontefract stating that terms had been agreed to their demands and free pardons granted. Unfortunately, later whilst at the Doncaster meeting with the Duke of Norfolk, Aske was informed that Lord Lumley (now in command at Pontefract) warned that the rebels were suspicious of the terms of the agreement and demanded to see the King’s pardon under seal. Aske returned immediately to Pontefract to assure his fellow Pilgrims that the terms were authentic and perfectly satisfactory.
8/12/1536On 8th December 1536, about three thousand rebels of the Pilgrimage of Grace assembled at St Thomas’s Hill, Pontefract, to hear the King’s pardon, brought by Lancaster Herald, read out, after which they dispersed to their homes and Aske and the other captains of the Pilgrimage rode to Doncaster to the Duke of Norfolk to relate the latest situation. This assembly concluded the following day.
9/12/1595On 9th December 1595, the earliest recorded performance of Shakespeare’s ‘the Tragedie of King Richard the Second’ (Pontefract Castle’s most famous prisoner) was made in Canon Row, London, at the home of Sir Edward Hoby. The play was performed at the Globe on 12th June 1631. Richard’s (dubiously violent) death is described in Act V, Scene V after Exton had presaged his murder on Henry IV’s orders: “And speaking it, he wistly look’d on me, And who should say, ‘I would thou wert the man That would divorce this terror from my heart;’ Meaning the king at Pomfret. Come, let’s go: I am the king’s friend, and will rid his foe.”
15/12/1527In December 1527, the Earl of Northumberland wrote to Thomas Wolsey, Lord High Chancellor, after visiting Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Somerset and Richmond, and illegitimate son of Henry VIII, at Pontefract Castle that ‘he was well received that his dulled wit cannot disclose how much he was gratified with the Duke’s good qualities.’
16/12/1570On 16th December 1570, Francis Mallett, Dean of Lincoln, died at Normanton (6 miles from Pontefract). During Edward VI’s reign, Mallett was principal chaplain and almoner of Princess Mary (from 1544), the future Mary I. To take this position, he had left the employment of Queen Consort, Katherine Parr. He had also been chaplain to Thomas Cranmer in the mid-1530s and to Thomas Cromwell in 1538. He had been Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge in 1536 and 1540 and was appointed to the seventh stall in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle in 1543, holding it until 1570. Mallett was imprisoned in the Tower of London for celebrating Mass for Mary at Beaulieu in May 1551. Mary, as queen, made him Dean of Lincoln in 1554 and also Lord High Almoner.
22/12/1550On 22nd December 1550, Richard of Eastwell, possible illegitimate son of Richard III (or Duke of Gloucester at the child’s conception) and half-brother of Richard’s other known illegitimate children, John of Pontefract, and Katherine Plantagenet, was buried at St Mary’s Church, Eastwell in Kent. Parish records note: ‘Rychard Plantagenet was buryed on the 22. daye of December, anno ut supra. Ex registro de Eastwell, sub anno 1550.’ Eastwell was said to have been boarded with a schoolmaster when growing up and visited four times a year by an unknown gentleman who paid for his upkeep. He claimed that on the evening before the Battle of Bosworth he had been taken to Richard III’s tent, informed that he was the king’s son and told to watch the battle from a safe vantage point. The king then told the boy that, if he won, he would acknowledge him as his son. If he lost, he told the boy to conceal his identity permanently. Eastwell was employed by Sir Thomas Moyle, the lord of the manor at Eastwell, as a gardener and bricklayer; in the rest hour, whilst the other workers talked and threw dice, he would sit apart and read a book in Latin. He was given a house on the grounds, a building called "Plantagenet Cottage" which still stands on the site and a well in Eastwell Park still bears his name.
25/12/1526On 25th December 1526, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Somerset and Richmond, and illegitimate son of Henry VIII, was with his household at Pontefract Castle. The Council informed Thomas Wolsey, Lord High Chancellor, that henry had ‘kept a right honourable Christmas…..with numbers of worshipful persons have come to visit him.’
DateEvent
2/12/1644On 2nd December 1644, Parliamentarian Lord Fairfax wrote that although he was being urged to put pressure on Newark, all his resources were being deployed to contain the garrisons of Pontefract and Knaresborough. It is noteworthy that four days later, the (Parliamentary) Committee of Both Kingdoms recommended the foundation of an army of 22,000 men under a central commander, comprising eleven regiments of horse, each 600 strong, one regiment of dragoons, 1,000 strong and twelve regiments of foot 1,200 strong. This was to be the New Model Army.
4/12/1648Major John LambertOn 4th December 1648, Major General Lambert was appointed to the chief command of the besieging Parliamentary forces (at Pontefract Castle), which numbered about 5,000 men.
7/12/1628On 7th December 1628, Sir Patience Warde, later to be MP for Pontefract in 1678 and 1680, was baptized at Pontefract. Warde was Lord Mayor of London in 1681 and his portrait is in the Hall of The Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors, London, one of the 110 livery companies of the City of London.
7/12/1642On 7th December 1642, the Marquess of Newcastle, having routed a Parliamentary force under Lord Fairfax at Tadcaster, occupied Pontefract.
8/12/1658On 8th December 1658, Nathan Drake, diarist of the sieges of Pontefract Castle during the Civil War, died at Pontefract and was buried in the parish church the following day.
14/12/1648On 14th December 1648, lines of encirclement were drawn around the castle by the Parliamentary forces and were around 3,300 yards in length. These consisted of two earthen ramparts and a ditch, and there were also 14 redoubts with guards commanding every approach to the castle.
15/12/1642In December 1642, after Charles I had raised the royal standard at Nottingham on 22nd August that year, effectively starting the English Civil War, Colonel Sir Richard Lowther, a former MP from Ingleton in North Yorkshire, seized Pontefract Castle for the Royalists. This followed Royalist general’s, Marquess of Newcastle, driving out of Parliamentary forces from Tadcaster, less than twenty miles away. Pontefract was a strategic location from which to control the surrounding countryside and Lowther sallied forth during the early stages of the war to attack Leeds and Bradford.
20/12/1648The third siege of Pontefract Castle progressed slowly but, on 20th December 1648, £2,000 (£351,000 in today's money) was ordered to be raised 'for the relief of the forces of Pontefract and Scarborough'. On January 2nd 1649, £2,500 (£449,000 in today's money)was particularly ordered to be levied 'upon the county of Lincoln, for the relief of the forces before Pontefract'.
21/12/1648On 21st December 1648, an Order by the Committees of the Ridings recorded on behalf of Parliament: ‘Petition of Captain Francis Wilsford and eight others serving under him to the gentlemen of the Committees of the several ridings of co. York. That petitioners have been in this service before Pontefract (Castle) ever since 24 June last, and are now disbanded. Pray that they may receive a fortnight’s pay according to the last establishment, and that they will accept the same in full for their whole pay since this service.’
25/12/1644On 25th December 1644, the first siege of Pontefract Castle began. Nathan Drake, a diarist and gentleman volunteer, wrote: 'Uppon Christmas Day 25th December 1644, Pontefract Castle was besieged and the towne taken that day by the beseegers, and the beseeged played 3 cannon against them.'
28/12/1645Pontefract All Saints ChurchOn 28th December 1645, the Parliamentarians stormed and took the nearby Church of All Saints, which had been incorporated into  Pontefract Castle's defences. Eleven men and boys from the garrison were inside and escaped into the bell tower but were trapped for five days. Eventually, they cut the bell ropes, crept along the church roof at night, scrambled down the wall and escaped back to the castle, but the Parliamentarians spotted them, shooting one Royalist dead and wounding another.
DateEvent
27/12/1721On 27th December 1721, Thomas Fermor KB, 2nd Baron of Lemster (or Leominster) was made Earl of Pomfret. His grandfather, Sir William Fermor had distinguished himself during the Civil War in the Royalist cause and subsequently suffered severe financial hardship albeit Thomas’s father was elevated to the peerage in 1692. In 1727, he was made Master of the Horse to Caroline, queen consort of George II. He was one of the lords of the bedchamber and ranger of the little park at Windsor. He died on 8th July 1753.
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5/12/1863On 5th December 1863, the ‘London Evening Standard’ ran an article stating: ‘How dare the profane public pry into the mysteries of Lincoln’s Inn where Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln (and lord of Pontefract) cultivated nuts and cherries, beans and leeks and roses in his garden in Holborn.’ De Lacy died at Lincoln’s Inn, his City of London townhouse, in February 1311.
9/12/1893On 9th December 1893, ‘The Builder’ printed the tenders for Pontefract Infirmary and the successful applicants: ‘PONTEFRACT – For the erection of Infirmary, at the Workhouse Union, for the Pontefract Union Board. Mr Jno. Holmes Greaves, architect, Leeds and Pontefract. Quantities by the architect:-……..H Arnold & Son, Doncaster £5820 (accepted)…… Wood Block Flooring Nightingale & Co. Grimsby £311 (accepted) Concrete for Fireproof Floors Frankland, Leeds £509 (accepted) (Architect’s estimate for the whole of work £6850)'
14/12/1894On 14th December 1894, ‘The Telegraphic Journal and Electrical Review’ reported: ‘Proposed Electric Tramway at Pontefract. In consequence of the poor means of communication between Pontefract and Featherstone, and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company having no late train, Councillor McGowan the other night, at the Corporation’s meeting, moved that the question of providing an electric tramway between Pontefract and Featherstone be referred to the Markets and Highways Committees. He had made inquiries, and the scheme was quite feasible. The whole question of communication was referred to the committees.’
31/12/1821On 31st December 1821, Messrs Beal and Ashton ran a competitive foot-race under the auspices of the Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cheshire Pedestrians in footmanship of four miles over Pontefract race course for £100 (over £11,000 in today’s money) a side with the first two miles run in eleven minutes. The race was won by Beal who beat Ashton by about five hundred yards, with his winning time of twenty-one minutes, forty- five seconds.