Pontefract Castle – February

2/2/1141On 2nd February 1141, Ilbert de Lacy was captured along with King Stephen and other leading magnates, at the Battle of Lincoln. Ilbert,  Baron of Pontefract, died following his capture, possibly from his wounds. Ilbert was the eldest son of Robert de Lacy and Maud de Perche, and Ilbert, with his father, supported the claims  of Robert Curthouse - eldest son of William the Conqueror - to the throne of England against those of the younger brother, Henry I. Upon Henry’s succession, the de Lacy’s were dispossessed of all their estates and Robert and Ilbert were banished from England. Allowed to return from exile, and a few years later with their lands and titles returned, Ilbert would be a key supporter of King Stephen during the Anarchy. It is interesting to note the connection once again between the castles of Pontefract and Sandal, with both  de Lacy of Pontefract and de Warenne of Sandal, supporting King Stephen.
5/2/1140On 5th February 1140, the aged ‘Archbishop’ Thurstan of York died, having entered the Priory of St John, Pontefract (which had been founded by Robert de Lacy in 1090) only eleven days before.
1/2/1221In early February 1221, John de Lacy, Baron of Pontefract, on the orders of Henry III, assisted in the siege of Skipton Castle, following the rebellion of William de Forz, Earl of Aumale. De Forz surrendered to the king through the mediation of the Archbishop of York, Walter de Gray.
5/2/1292On 5th February 1292, Sir Henry de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, was made Joint Commissioner for the Armament of the Kingdom by Edward I.
7/2/1249On 7th February 1249, the Henry III Fine Rolls recorded: ’The prior of Pontefract gives the king 100s (nearly £9000 in today’s money) for having a charter to have a market and fair.’
11/2/1225On 11th February 1225, John de Lacy, Baron of Pontefract, was a witness to the definitive reissue of Magna Carta by Henry III.
13/2/1255On 13th February 1255, Sir Edmund de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, was awarded additional estates in Penwortham and Kirkby, Lancashire, roughly between existing de Lacy lands of Halton and Clitheroe.
1/2/1301On 1st February 1301, Sir Henry de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, was given the custody of Corfe Castle after his return from his ambassadorial mission to the papal curia. De Lacy had been somewhat successful in helping Edward’s finances by securing the pope’s 10% tax (intended to ‘recover’ the kingdom of Sicily) on English churches for three years with half the profits going to the king.
1/2/1327On 1st February 1327, the Honours of the Castles of Pontefract and Clitheroe were given to Edward II's wife Queen Isabella. She was obliged to give Pontefract to Edward III's wife Queen Philippa in 1330.
2/2/1387On 2nd February 1387, John of Gaunt’s, lord of Pontefract, daughter, Philippa was married to King John of Portugal in Oporto, thereby putatively extending Gaunt’s dynastic influence.
3/2/1320After failing to attend a parliament at York called by the king for the 20th January, Thomas of Lancaster meanwhile probably remained at Pontefract. He was certainly there on 3rd February, 25th April, 10th August, and 9th October 1320, and it is a telling mark of his isolation during this period that the wardrobe books record no payments for messengers passing between King and Earl. In contrast, Edward had written to him at least five times between the raising of the siege of Berwick in September 1319 and January 1320.
3/2/1327On 3rd February 1327, Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster (grandson of Henry III), proposed to Edward III’s first parliament that his executed brother, Thomas should be pardoned for his opposition to Edward’s father and that he (Henry) should be granted the Lancastrian ‘inheritance’. Edward returned the earldom of Lancaster, including Pontefract Castle, to him and also appointed him head of the regency council, composed of twelve or fourteen men as Edward was under age. It has been argued that Thomas of Lancaster's condemnation and execution under martial law, done in a time of peace, was murder as it was against Magna Carta.
3/2/1399John of GauntOn 3rd of February 1399, John of Gaunt died of natural causes aged 58. He was the fourth son of Edward III, uncle to Richard II and as the founder of the royal house of Lancaster it would be his descendants who would ascend to the throne after his death. Pontefract Castle was his personal residence and he did a great deal of work rebuilding and improving the towers. He owned over 30 castles but Pontefract was his favourite. The image is a late-fourteenth century portrait which also displays John of Gaunt's coat of arms.
4/2/1319On 4th February 1319, both Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, lord of Pontefract, and his brother, Henry, were in York to witness a charter of Edward II.
4/2/1397On 4th February 1397, Richard II granted John of Gaunt’s (lord of Pontefract) wish to have his four Beaufort children (John, Henry, Thomas and Joan) legitimised. Richard stated: ‘by the plenitude of our royal power, and with the assent of Parliament,…….’ the children were legitimate and able to inherit ‘whatsoever honours, dignities, pre-eminencies, status, ranks and offices, public and private, perpetual and temporal, feudal and noble there may be….as fully, freely and lawfully as if you had been born in lawful wedlock.’
4/2/1399On 4th February 1399, after the death of John of Gaunt, lord of Pontefract, the dukedom of Lancaster passed to his son, Henry Bolingbroke (later that year becoming Henry IV).
5/2/1311Henry de Lacy, Baron of Pontefract, died on 5th February 1311 at Lincoln’s Inn in the City of London. He had been Chief Councillor to Edward I and appointed Protector of the Realm whilst Edward was engaged in military campaigns against the Scots and, similarly, Regent of the Kingdom during Edward II’s absence in Scotland. Henry had been a moderating influence on baronial opposition to Edward II leaving the Earl of Lancaster as leader of the Ordainers who sought major reforms to the king’s household and powers and exile of Piers Gaveston. Henry was buried in Old St Paul's Cathedral; unfortunately, his tomb and the cathedral were destroyed in the great fire of London 1666. Upon Henry's death, his daughter, Alice de Lacy, inherited a sizeable fortune worth 10,000 marks or £6,666. 13. 4d (£6.3 million in today's money) as Henry’s lands and accumulated revenues were estimated at their height to be in the region of £3500 (£3.3 million in today’s money) per annum.  His daughter Alice had previously married Thomas of Lancaster and this had significant political repercussions as he then inherited the de Lacy estates and fortune (except the castle and honour of Halton) through his wife and, effectively, on Henry’s death, Thomas became the second wealthiest earl in the country behind the earldom of Cornwall. This date was also when Pontefract Castle became part of the Duchy of Lancaster which had been created as an inheritance in 1265 by Henry III for his youngest son, Edmund, who assumed the title Earl of Lancaster in 1267.
5/2/1327On 5th February 1327, the executed Thomas, Earl of Lancaster’s, lord of Pontefract, Inquisition Post Mortem (local inquiries into valuable properties, in order to discover what income and rights were due to the crown and who the heir should be) was ordered, four days after the coronation of King Edward III.
5/2/1381On 5th February 1381, a thirteen-years-old Henry of Lancaster, Earl of Derby (later Henry IV), son of John of Gaunt, lord of Pontefract, married his eleven-years-old second cousin, Mary de Bohun, younger daughter and co-heir of the late Earl of Hereford at Rochford in Essex. By virtue of this union, Henry had not only a vast Lancastrian inheritance to come, including the earldoms of Leicester, Lincoln, Richmond and the dukedom of Lancaster but also a large portion of the earldoms of Hereford, Essex and Northampton. Chronicler Jean Froissart believed that Gaunt had abducted Mary from his brother Thomas of Woodstock’s keeping as Thomas and his wife, Eleanor, Mary’s elder sister, were said to be intent on ‘forcing’ Mary into service as a nun, thereby claiming the full de Bohun inheritance.
5/2/1397On 5th February 1397, John of Gaunt, lord of Pontefract, interrogated Thomas Haxey, a clerk of the Commons, in the White Chamber at Westminster, before condemning him to death as a traitor. Haxey had been nominated by the Speaker of the House, John Bussey, as having criticised Richard II’s excessive household expenditure in a bill he had formulated; to which the king took enormous offence. Albeit Haxey was pardoned by the king after representations by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the affair illustrated Richard’s volatile nature and Gaunt’s unwillingness to confront the king over a blatant injustice, particularly as he had only recently gained legitimization of his Beaufort children by Richard.
6/2/1310On 6th February 1310, Sir Henry de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, was made Steward of the Manor of Brunne (Bourne Castle), Lincolnshire.
7/2/1308On 7th February 1308, Henry of Lancaster, brother to Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, lord of Pontefract, who was to succeed to Thomas’s lands and titles some years after Thomas’s execution, was In Dover to greet his cousin, Edward II, and niece, Isabella of France, on their arrival in England after their marriage on 25th January.
7/2/1310Parliament had been summoned for 8th February 1310, but the barons refused to come as long as Piers Gaveston remained with the king; if they had to come, they threatened to appear in arms for their own safety. Edward II prohibited such acts in writs sent on the 7th February 1310 to the Earls of Lancaster (later lord of Pontefract), Pembroke, Hereford, and Warwick. On 7th February, when the writs were issued, Lancaster was on his manor of Higham in Northamptonshire. The distrustful Earls were assured of their own safety and told that Gloucester, Warenne (of Sandal Castle), Lincoln (lord of Pontefract), and Richmond had been appointed to keep the peace in London and to settle any quarrels which might arise during the parliament. This assembly finally met on 27th February, after Gaveston had been sent away by Edward.
8/2/1321On 8th February 1321, Edward II wrote to Thomas of Lancaster, lord of Pontefract, recounting the crimes which the rebels had committed and warning him not to receive the Marchers, who had retired from Gloucester and publicly declared that they were about to join Lancaster and that he would help them. Lancaster’s reply to the king’s demand, preserved by the Meaux chronicler, probably arrived within the next few days. He answered arrogantly that he had drawn no rebels to himself nor was he accustomed to nourish such men, but if he knew where they could be found he would kill them or expel them from the kingdom. Plainly, neither party contemplated any sort of peaceful settlement, and between 7th and 18th February writs were issued by Edward for the assembly of a large army at Coventry on 28th February.
8/2/1322On 8th February 1322, Edward II wrote to Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, lord of Pontefract, stating that he ‘wished to continue and augment his affection to the earl’ and ordered him not to act in accordance with the Contrariants (the king’s baronial enemies). Edward claimed these rivals ‘have publicly boasted that they were going to the earl, and that they would draw him to them in the aforesaid excesses and that they were sure of this.’ The ‘excesses’ were namely burning and despoiling royal towns and castles.
12/2/1301On 12th February 1301, a group of English barons wrote to Pope Boniface VIII promoting Edward I’s claims to overlordship of Scotland thereby repudiating the Pope’s own claims to such. Thomas, Earl of Lancaster and his brother, Henry, were named second and tenth respectively on the list of barons.
12/2/1322On February 12th 1322, Thomas Earl of Lancaster was declared a rebel by Edward II. The Earls of Kent and Surrey were sent to pursue and arrest him and lay siege to Pontefract Castle.
13/2/1333On 13th February 1333, Edward III issued a brief dated at Pontefract to the King’s Treasurer, the Barons of the Exchequer and their Chamberlains stating (as per the records of Merton Priory) that upon the marriage of his sister Eleanor of Woodstock and Count Reginald of Guelderland ‘certain prelates and religious, had in subvention of the great cost thereof, promised to pay him certain sums of money. The King, wishing that such money, which they themselves had conceded to him, be raised, for the purpose, as promised, enclosed a schedule, and commanded that they require and raise the said sums from the said prelates and religious, and cause the same to be received into his Treasury.’
13/2/1385Around 13th and 14th February 1385, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, fled to Pontefract Castle to avoid being arraigned for treason by Richard II. Richard had intended to ‘dispose’ of the duke either (according to differing sources) at a great council at Waltham or a tournament to be held at Westminster. Worsening relations between Richard II and his uncle (over the duke’s wealth, influence etc) had been stoked by a Carmelite friar, John Latimer, informing Richard the previous year that the duke was plotting his death, with Richard reluctantly (then) retracting Gaunt’s immediate execution.
14/2/1367On 14th February 1367, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and lord of Pontefract, together with Sir John Chandos, led the Black Prince’s vanguard across the Pyrenees through the pass of Roncesvalles. The 17 miles’ (27 km) crossing had to be made in the nine available hours of daylight with a climb of over 4,000 ft (1,220 metres) in full military equipment and fast-changing, winter weather. The Black Prince’s section of his army could not attempt the crossing for a further six days, with the main body of the army reaching Pamplona, the capital of the kingdom of Navarre on 23rd February.
14/2/1382On 14th February 1382, John of Gaunt, lord of Pontefract, granted Katherine Swynford full ownership of the property she inhabited. Gaunt and Katherine were not to marry for another fourteen years. When this marriage finally occurred, Froissart was to record that high-born ladies of the court snubbed Katherine, feeling Gaunt had ‘disgraced himself by thus marrying his concubine’.
15/2/1379In February 1379, after intermittent aggression from the Scots across the Scottish borders, John of Gaunt, lord of Pontefract, was appointed Lieutenant over the Marches towards Scotland, by Richard II.
17/2/1342On 17th February 1342, Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster and later lord of Pontefract, was made Warden of the castle, town and commote of Camarthen and the lordship of Cantremaur with the Forests by Edward III.
18/2/1386On 18th February 1386, Pope Urban VI’s proclamation that John of Gaunt’s, lord of Pontefract, invasion of Castile (the kingdom claimed by virtue of Gaunt’s wife, Constance, as ‘rightful Queen of Castile’) was a Crusade, was announced in St Paul’s Cathedral. King John of Castile backed Urban’s papal rival ‘antipope’ Clement VII.
19/2/1377On 19th February 1377, John of Gaunt, lord of Pontefract, tried to get the Lord Mayor of London replaced by a more pliable official with resulting riots in the capital. On this day also, John Wycliffe, supposedly a protegé of Gaunt and popular due to his attacks upon clerical wealth and pluralism, was summoned before an ecclesiastical tribunal in St Paul’s Cathedral to answer charges of unorthodox writings. Gaunt, Lord Percy and others accompanied him to give support. Gaunt’s interference with religious legal rights caused an angry mob to march to his Savoy palace in defence of their Bishop (Courtenay). Gaunt then drew up orders to curtail the liberties of London.
20/2/1351On 20th February 1351, the Calendar of Close Rolls, Edward III, recorded at Westminster: ‘Simon, prior of Pontefract acknowledges for himself and convent that they owe to Henry, earl of Lancaster £ 66. 13s. 4d. (£65,000 in today’s money); to be levied, in default of payment, of their lands and chattels and ecclesiastical goods in the county of York.’ As at this time, Henry of Grosmont was 1st Duke of Lancaster and was the son of Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster, who had died in 1345, this could have been an outstanding debt to the family estate.
20/2/1375On 20th February 1375, John of Gaunt, lord of Pontefract, was made Chief Plenipotentiary to the (peace) Congress of Bruges, by Edward III, which was due to open on 11th March to try and achieve a truce during the Hundred Years’ War between England and France.
20/2/1377On 20th February 1377, John of Gaunt’s, lord of Pontefract, retainers, Lords Fitzwalter and Brian, reported that Gaunt’s ally, Lord Percy, had arrested a Londoner for insulting the duke. After storming Percy’s house and freeing the accused, an angry mob sought a fleeing Gaunt as he made his way to Princess Joan’s residence at Kennington across the Thames. Placards were erected alleging Gaunt was a changeling and not the son of Queen Philippa. An ailing Edward III told London to build a celebratory pillar to Gaunt in Cheapside, honouring him, and hold an apologetic procession to St Paul’s, with all senior city officials replaced.
20/2/1398On 20th February 1398, John of Gaunt was at Pontefract Castle on his way north to treat for peace with the Scots, at the request of Richard II. John had not been in good health prior to this but had obviously improved and he may have left Katherine Swynford at Pontefract as it is unlikely he would have taken her to Scotland given the lawlessness of the Border regions. Richard II had been at odds with the Scots since the English invasion of 1385, which was, in part, a retaliation for a French army arriving in Scotland the previous summer. The invasion came to nothing and with dwindling crown funds, Richard was never in a position to mount a further campaign. Whilst Richard was away on a campaign in Ireland in 1399, he would be deposed by Henry Bolingbroke.
22/2/1392On 22nd February 1392, John of Gaunt, lord of Pontefract, was made Lieutenant in the Parts of Picardy and also Chief Commissioner to France by Richard II.
23/2/1313After seizing many of Edward II’s valuable belongings (jewels, horses etc) in May 1312 in Newcastle when the king, Queen Isabella and Piers Gaveston had fled south to Scarborough, Thomas of Lancaster, lord of Pontefract, returned them on 23rd February 1313. The jewels were taken from Sir Robert Clifford’s London house in the presence of the king and Lancaster, and delivered into the Tower, where they were received by Sandale, the acting treasurer.
23/2/1331On 23rd February 1331, Henry, 3rd Earl of Lancaster, brother of the executed’ traitor’ Thomas, Earl of Lancaster and lord of Pontefract, arrived in Paris as one of the envoys (others being the Bishops of Worcester and Norwich and Hugh Audley and Henry Percy) sent by Edward III to negotiate with Philip VI of France to ‘treat of the mutual debts of the two kings…and of all matters in dispute’. A treaty was signed on 9th March. Strangely, Henry was never accredited in the records of these events.
24/2/1327On 24th February 1327, after Edward III had been deposed, Archbishop William Melton of York wrote to Pope John XXII asking that the reports of miracles wrought at Thomas, Earl of Lancaster’s tomb in Pontefract might be enquired into in order for his canonization.
24/2/1367On 24th February 1367, Thomas Swynford was born at Lincoln, the son of Hugh and Katherine Swynford. Thomas would be the primary gaoler at Pontefract, attributed by many chroniclers and historians as being instrumental in the starvation and ultimate death of Richard II at Pontefract Castle in February 1400.
24/2/1385On 24th February 1385, the ‘Westminster Chronicle’ recorded John of Gaunt, lord of Pontefract, arriving at Richard II’s country retreat of Sheen Palace and confronting the king, ordering him to dismiss his ‘evil councillors’ who had planned to murder Gaunt. Albeit Richard promised reform, Gaunt fearfully left for Hertford Castle, with Princess Joan, Richard’s mother, later visiting Gaunt to get him to come to court.
25/2/1308Curtana, sword of Edward the ConfessorOn 25th February 1308, Henry de Lacy, 3rd Earl of Lincoln and Lord of Pontefract, held aloft one of the Swords of State at the coronation of Edward II in Westminster Abbey. Thomas of Lancaster, the king's cousin, carried the ceremonial  'Curtana' (the Sword of Justice or Mercy) at the ceremony, which was reputed to be  the sword of Edward the Confessor. Controversially, Piers Gaveston carried the crown of St Edward the Confessor and at the post-coronation feast arrived dressed in purple, a colour reserved for the monarch only. Such was the discord within the royal court that The Chronicle of Lanercost records that on this date: ‘The people of the country and the leading men complained loudly at his coronation against the aforesaid Piers, and unanimously wished that he should be deprived of his earldom; but this the king obstinately refused. The murmurs increased from day to day, and engrossed the lips and ears of all men, nor was there one who had a good word either for the king or for Piers. The chief men agreed unanimously in strongly demanding that Piers should be sent back into exile, foremost among them being the noble Earl of Lincoln and the young Earl of Gloucester, whose sister, however, Piers had received in marriage by the king's gift.’    
27/2/1321On 27th February 1321, Edward II received a letter, warning him that Thomas of Lancaster, lord of Pontefract, had met with nobles (including John Mowbray, prospective heir to Gower; Earl of Hereford; Roger Mortimer of Chirk; Roger Mortimer of Wigmore; Hugh Audley; Roger Damory; Roger Clifford; John Giffard; John Hastings of Abergavenny; Humphrey de Bohun; Maurice Berkeley senior and his sons Maurice Berkeley junior and Thomas Berkeley; his son-in-law John Maltravers and John Charlton, Edward’s former chamberlain) and that they had already formed a plan whereby they would bring disturbances to the Welsh Marches. Lancaster proved a willing ally and figurehead for the barons. He hated the influence at court of the Despensers and for some time there had been bad blood between him and Hugh senior: ‘for it was the wish of the earl of Lancaster that they should not only rise against the son, but destroy the father along with the son’.
27/2/1394Thomas Swynford, the son of Hugh and Katherine Swynford (third wife of John of Gaunt) and later gaoler of Richard II at Pontefract Castle, was required on this date to provide proof of age at Lincoln to be able to lay claim to his inheritance. The evidence would be provided sometime after 22nd June 1394 after which Thomas took possession of his manors, although he would be often absent in the service of the House of Lancaster. Thomas would become a key supporter of Henry Bolingbroke in his successful attempt to usurp Richard II.
28/2/1313By the end of February 1313, Thomas of Lancaster had finally agreed to return to King Edward II, the jewels - including a golden cup which was a gift from his mother, and four great rubies, an emerald and a huge diamond - which Piers Gaveston had been carrying when he was captured at Scarborough. But this did not stop the arguing between Edward and Lancaster, whilst the Scots continued to take advantage by raiding south as far as Yorkshire, but never, interestingly, threatening Lancaster’s castle at Pontefract,
28/2/1327Edward_III_of_England_(Order_of_the_Garter)Edward III wrote to the Pope (John XXII) on three occasions requesting Thomas of Lancaster's canonization, the first of which was on 28th February. Why he did this is unclear, especially as Lancaster was a man convicted of treason against his father. It could be he bowed to strong public feeling, given that he was only fifteen at the time of the first petition.
1/2/1419On 1st February 1419, Robert Waterton, Constable of Pontefract Castle, took charge of Arthur de Richemont, brother of John V, Duke of Brittany, who had been captured at Agincourt. Arthur was released by the English in 1420 and later became Duke of Touraine, Constable of France (fighting alongside Joan of Arc) and, briefly, Duke of Brittany.
1/2/1456At the beginning of February 1456, Richard Duke of York’s second Protectorate was coming to an end. When Henry Bolingbroke had become Henry IV in 1399, one of the uses the Lancastrian kings put their private estates to was the endowment of their queens. Consequently, Margaret of Anjou held great swathes of the Duchy of Lancaster including Pontefract Castle. With the ending of Richard Duke of York’s second Protectorate, Margaret was in a position to continue this trend. This led to a tension-filled stalemate in the summer of 1456 with John Bocking reporting in June that ‘My lord of York is at Sandal still and waits on the queen, and she upon him’. This endowment to the Lancastrian queens would explain why Pontefract was a Lancastrian stronghold, but Sandal a Yorkist fortress, given its importance to Richard as his northern base.
1/2/1463In early February 1463, the remains of Lord Salisbury and his second son, Thomas, both killed at or soon after the Battle of Wakefield, left Pontefract for Bisham Abbey on the borders of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. Their funeral was a joint one with Alice Montagu, Countess of Salisbury who had died the previous December.
3/2/1455On 3rd February 1455, Henry VI ordered the release of the Duke of Exeter from Pontefract Castle. Lord Salisbury, Chancellor and constable of the castle ignored the order and was relieved of his chancellorship on the 9th March. Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury, ordered Exeter’s release on pain of an exorbitant fine.
8/2/1400On or around 8th February 1400, whilst imprisoned at Pontefract Castle, ex-king Richard II’s fate was considered after Henry IV had thwarted a plot (the Epiphany Rising or Revolt of the Earls as it became known) to kill Henry and his four sons and to release Richard led by the earls of Salisbury, Huntingdon, Rutland and Kent and Lord Despenser. The minutes of the meeting implied that Richard was to be ‘disposed of’.
12/2/1424On 12th February 1424, the prisoner James I of Scotland and Joan Beaufort were married at Bishop Henry Beaumont’s (Joan’s uncle) Winchester Palace, London. James later claimed in a poem ‘Kingis Quair’ that he had been captivated by seeing her walking in the gardens of the tower where he was being held. The political reality of their union was more to do with a promise that James could return to Scotland after being held prisoner by the English for nearly twenty years and that Henry VI’s government could avert Scottish military support to the Dauphin of France and receive £40,000 (£40 million in today’s money) for James’ expenses whilst imprisoned. James had been held for the latter part of his captivity at Pontefract Castle and Joan Beaufort was the granddaughter of John of Gaunt, lord of Pontefract, by Katherine Swynford. James was allowed to return to Scotland in April 1424 with Joan as his Queen.
14/2/1400Richard II (now referred to as Sir Richard of Bordeaux) died age 33 at Pontefract Castle on or around the 14th February 1400. On the 17th, a payment of £80 (£90,000 in today's money) was made to William Pampilion to go to the town and transport the body of Richard to London. Various theories surround the cause of Richard's death including a combination of his grief and voluntary abstinence leading to self-starvation, deliberate starvation by his gaolers and foul play (as per Shakespeare). No marks of violence were found on the remains of Richard's body when it was exhumed in the nineteenth century. The painting is of Richard II at Westminster Abbey.
21/2/1478On 21st February 1478, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, steward of the Duchy of Lancaster north of Trent with official residence at Pontefract Castle, was given the office of Great Chamberlain giving him authority over the Palace of Westminster. This office, in addition to his position as Lord High Admiral and Lord High Constable meant Richard now held three of the nine great offices of State, confirming his wide-ranging influence in national affairs.
29/2/1484On 29th February 1484, Katherine Plantagenet, illegitimate daughter of Richard III (or Duke of Gloucester at the child’s conception) and half-sister of Richard’s other known illegitimate child, John of Pountfreit (Pontefract) was covenanted by William Herbert, Earl of Huntingdon, ‘to take to wife Dame Katherine Plantagenet, daughter to the King, before Michaelmas of that year’. It is surmised that Richard III’s mistress, and Katherine’s mother, was Katherine Haute, wife of James Haute whose own mother Joan Woodville was cousin to ex-queen Elizabeth Woodville. On the orders of Henry VII, Katharine was, some sources suggest, arrested at Raglan Castle immediately after the Battle of Stoke Field in June 1487 and apparently died prior to her cousin Elizabeth of York's coronation on 25 November 1487.
4/2/1537On 4th February 1537, the Duke of Norfolk arrived at Pontefract Castle, in the aftermath of the Pilgrimage of Grace. Ironically, as the environs around Pontefract were now in good order, Lord Darcy, now at Pontefract, was then in the unenviable position of answering why he had failed to ‘keep the peace’ during the first rising. A family dispute with his son, Sir George Darcy, over controlling and defending the castle was resolved by Norfolk in favour of Lord Darcy but Sir George was to be ready to assist his father with all his forces at an hour’s warning. Norfolk ruefully remarked ‘I pray God the father be as good in heart as the son, which by the proof only I shall believe’.
8/2/1526On 8th February 1526, Dr Magnus wrote to Cardinal Wolsey from Pontefract saying that a servant of James V of Scotland had recently arrived there bringing a letter from his master, another from the queen dowager, the king’s mother  'conteynnyng boothe onn effecte and purpose That I wolde doo so myche as to send to the said kyngges grace three or foure couple of houndes mete for hunting of the haire fox and other gretter game and also a couple of lyam hounds being suche as wolde ride behynde men on horseback’
10/2/1537On 10th February 1537, Lord Darcy wrote to Robert Aske, ex-leader of the Pilgrimage of Grace, requiring him to give to the bearer, in secret, all the arrows, bows and spears taken from Pontefract Castle during the uprising. This secretive action by Darcy (constable of the castle during the rebellion), although open to misinterpretation, was necessary in order to refortify Pontefract as per the king’s orders.
11/2/1527On 11th February 1527, Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Somerset and Richmond, and illegitimate son of Henry VIII, wrote to King James V of Scotland from Pontefract Castle. Henry and James were cousins (James being the son of Henry VIII’s elder sister, Margaret) with James having inherited the throne at the age of seventeen months after the death of his father at Flodden Field. Henry believed James wanted ‘three or four couple of hounds for hunting the fox’ and sent him 'ten couple that he has tried’ plus Nicholas Eton, Henry’s yeoman of the hunt, who was to remain in Scotland a month ‘to show the mode of hunting’. James thanked his cousin ‘for his honest present’ sending Henry ‘two brace of hounds for deer and smaller beasts…..and some of the best red hawks in the realm’ for hawking.'
13/2/1542Catherine HowardOn 13th February 1542, Catherine Howard, fifth wife of Henry VIII, was beheaded at the Tower of London following her infidelity with Thomas Culpeper, and for other indiscretions. The liaison between Catherine and Thomas was supposedly 'discovered' at Pontefract Castle on 23rd August 1541. The painting could be of Catherine Howard by Hans Holbein the Younger. (there is no absolute proof it is Catherine, being the only contemporary painting of her we have that claims this provenance).
25/2/1537On 25th February 1537, Sir Arthur Darcy (Lord Darcy’s son) returned to Pontefract and wrote to Baron Thomas Cromwell, Lord Privy Seal, informing him that the surrounding area was now quiet after the disturbances of the Pilgrimage of Grace. He stated that his father, Lord Darcy, was in the castle and attendant upon the King’s command but ‘his disease grows upon him and he desires licence to withdraw and live with a small company till he be out of debt’.
2/2/1626Charles IOn 2nd February 1626, Charles I was crowned King of England which would ultimately lead to the English Civil War and the besieging of Pontefract Castle in December 1644. The image is a painting of Charles I by Anthony van Dyck, 1633.
2/2/1649On 2nd February 1649, after the execution of Charles I on 30th January 1649, the besieged Pontefract garrison immediately declared his son as Charles II with ‘siege coins’ struck in his name and likeness and used to pay its troops, buy and sell food within the castle and reward people gathering food outside. The coins’ legend (the motto of the town) ‘POST MORTEM PATRIS PRO FILIO’ ('After the death of the father for the son') clearly indicates the garrison’s loyalties. The earliest siege coins were made on a flange, cut by hand from silver plate or pewter, bearing the initials of the castle and the Latin legend ‘DUM SPIRO SPERO’ ('Whilst I Live I Hope'); ominous in that Charles I had already been captured and imprisoned at that time.
3/2/1649On 3rd February 1649, after the execution of Charles I and during Pontefract Castle’s last desperate holding-out against reinforced Parliamentary besiegers, a heavy bombardment commenced.
3/2/1649On 3rd February 1649, Cornet John Baynes wrote to Parliamentarian Captain Adam Baynes in London: ‘ COUSIN..That the king is executed is good news to us; only some few honest men, and all the Cavaleirs bemoan him. They of this Castle do us daily some harm…All our guns are not yet in a capacity of battering; only one or two play now and then at the battlements. The rogues within have no shells for their mortar-piece, but yesterday they shot out of the same piece a very great stone, which fell into the next chamber to the Major-0General’s but hurt none….’
3/2/1649On 3rd February 1649, lawyer Thomas Margetts wrote from Pontefract to Captain Baynes (Parliamentary army officer and later MP for Leeds during the Commonwealth, being the city’s first MP) concerning the third siege of Royalist Pontefract Castle by the Parliamentarians: ‘ Little news here. Malignants talk much of the King’s death: well affected are well satisfied. Malignants plot privately to relieve this Castle, and are gathered together in woods as we are informed, but we have sent Parties to apprehend and prevent them. The enemy hold out resolutely in hopes of relief, but I believe would come to fair terms for they would have another summons. The Major- General hath now done disbanding…. Yesterday the enemy sallied forth to beat us out of our Trenches near Swillington tower, killed us one man and were beaten in again. Our mortar pieces have made some work among them….They have heard of the King’s death, and seem to be more resolute upon it, but I believe it will make some of them slink.’
7/2/1645On 7th February 1645, Parliamentarian commander Lord Fairfax sent a thousand of his cavalry across the Pennines to assist in the siege of Chester with about half of these forces, under Sir Henry Constable and Colonel Sir Thomas Norcliffe, from Pontefract. Fairfax was relieved somewhat to lose such men that he could not pay for their services. However, the Pontefract besiegers were reinforced with around 250 infantry.  
8/2/1696On 8th February 1696, orders were received to raise recruits for Thomas Farrington’s Regiment with one company rendezvousing at Wakefield and one at Pontefract along with companies at seven other locations in the North. At this period Regiments were called after their Colonel, to wit, ‘Farrington's Regiment’; when on parade, they appear to have taken precedence according to the seniority of their respective Colonels. For this year the Regiment ranked 46th, and in 1698 as the 28th Regiment of Foot.
10/2/1649On 10th February 1649, , it was reported by The Parliament Committee for Advance of Money (set up in November 1642, and ceasing in 1656, to produce voluntary loans and subsequently compulsory assessments for the fight against Charles I and from 1645 to uncover the concealed resources of Royalist ‘delinquents’) that Lady Savile, widow of Sir William Savile of Thornhill, ‘sent 12 and Lady Hutton (widow of Sir Richard Hutton) 8 men and horses to Pontefract Castle to the King and that Captain John Hopton was in Pontefract Castle against Parliament.’ Later recordings showed Lady Savile as having ‘got 20 cases of pistols, made at Newark, to raise the siege of Pontefract Castle, and had ordered 20 more.’
10/2/1649On 10th February 1649, Parliament’s newspaper The Kingdome’s Faithfull and Impartial Scout (February 2 to 9 1649) gave a contemporary account of obtaining Pontefract siege money: ‘ Munday, Feb 5. The Intelligence from Pontefract is this: the besieged have lately made two sallies forth, but repulsed without any great losse to us; in the last they killed but one man of ours, and we took two of theirs prisoners, one of which had a small parcel of silver in his pocket, somewhat square; on one side thereof was stampt a castle with P.O.  (sic) for Pontefract, on the other side was the crown with C.R. on each side of it (sic). These pieces they made of plate which they get out of the country, and pass among them for coyn. They cry they will have a king whatever it cost them.’ No coin is known to have been in existence during Pontefract Castle’s first siege of 1644-45 albeit Sir Gervase Cutler had brought in a quantity of silver for such purposes.
19/2/1624In the February 'Happy Parliament' (Faelix Parliamentum as referred to by Sir Edward Coke due to the three previous acrimonious parliaments) of 1624, the borough of Pontefract was represented by Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford and later Lord Deputy of Ireland, President of the Council of the North and Lieutenant General of Charles I’s forces. Sitting from 19th February to 29th May 1624 and with repeated prorogations thereafter, the fourth and last Parliament of James I was dissolved on the king's death on 27th March 1625.
20/2/1645On 20th February 1645, Nathan Drake, diarist, recorded: ‘…one of our men was shott throrough both the Cheekes in the barbican but not kild..’
20/2/1676On 20th February 1676, Charles II granted a new charter to the borough of Pontefract which confirmed all the rights, privileges and immunities of former charters excepting the election of Town Clerk and Recorder which he reserved for himself and successors. The town’s mayor could nominate them but only under royal mandate. Two new fairs were also granted within the town; one on the Saturday next following the Thursday next before the purification of the blessed Virgin Mary; the other upon the Saturday next following the Wednesday next after the feast of St Hilary. The buying and selling of all manner of beasts, cattle, wares and merchandizes were authorised.
21/2/1609On 21st February 1609, John Bramall, later archbishop of Armagh, who had been baptised at Pontefract in 1594, his father being Peter Bramhall of Carleton near Pontefract, was admitted to Sidney Sussex College Cambridge, at not yet fifteen years old.
24/2/1645On 24th February 1645, Nathan Drake, diarist, recorded: '..the beseegers kild one of our men in the barbican being shott thorow the head with a muskitt bullitt and Captin Smith had his lippe Cut wth a stone wch was broke with a muskitt bullitt, but very little hurt..’
24/2/1649On 24th February 1649, Thomas Margetts wrote to Parliamentarian Captain Adam Baynes in London from Pontefract: ‘We perceive there are long demurs in the execution of Justice upon the rest of the great and notorious offenders….These parts are yet quiet, and we hope will be kept so till this Castle be taken…we hope will not be long……Besides the standing army, I think …it would much conduce to the preservation of the peace of this nation if an act of Parliament were past for the calling in and seizing on of all malignants’ arms, and for the preventing and punishing all disaffected priests that, in their preaching, meddle with civil affairs, thereby stirring up and provoking the people to contention, division, parties, and factions, and so demonstrating themselves the greatest…..Incendiaries of the people…’
26/2/1682On 26th February 1682, physician, political theorist and antiquarian Nathaniel Johnston first met antiquarian Ralph Thoresby at Pontefract where Johnston had his medical practice.
28/2/1645On 28th February 1645, Nathan Drake, diarist, recorded: 'the beseegers fired Elizabeth Cattell’s howse & the howses below Munkhill, and…the besieged shot 4 Cannon into the Markitt place & is thought did great execution. That night the beseegers tooke away all their Cannon & marched over Ferry brigge…………having shott 1406 Cannon against the Castle’ .
18/2/1881On 18th February 1881, the ‘Bradford Daily Telegraph’ reported that: ‘On Wednesday morning, about twenty-four yards of the south boundary wall of Pontefract Castle grounds fell bringing down along with it some scores of tons of soil.’
5/2/1941On 5th February 1941, Pontefract Corporation approved £513 (nearly £27,000 in today's money) for the adaptation of the refreshment room at Pontefract Castle into a mortuary for civilians killed during World War II.