Pontefract Castle – December

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’s (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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'.
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.”
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.
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'.
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.
27/12/1721On 27th December 1721, Thomas Fermor, 2nd Baron Leominster, was created Earl of Pomfret. In 1727, he was made Master of the Horse to Caroline, queen consort of George II.
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.