Pontefract Castle – February

2/2/1141On 2nd February 1141, Ilbert de Lacy is 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.
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.
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.
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.
4/2/1399On 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 SealHenry de Lacy, Baron of Pontefract, died on 5th February 1311 at Lincoln’s Inn in the City of London and was buried in St Dunstan's Chapel in St Paul's Cathedral. His monument was destroyed during the Great Fire of London in 1666 (the image of his tomb below was drawn by Wenceslaus Hollar in 1656). 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. 
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 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.
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.
13/2/1385Around 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’    
27/2/1394Thomas 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 minute of the meeting implied that Richard was to be ‘disposed of’.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
19/2/1624In the February Happy Parliament 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.
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.
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.