Pontefract Castle – January

25/1/1140On 25th January 1140, ‘Archbishop’ Thurstan of York, fulfilling his vow to enter the Cluniac order of monks, took his vows at the Priory of St John, Pontefract which had been founded by Robert de Lacy in 1090.
1/1/1216On 1st January 1216, King John was at Pontefract on his northern ‘crusade’ to revenge himself against the northern barons (of Magna Carta) and Alexander II, King of Scotland, who had sided with the rebels. The king forced John de Lacy and another member of the 25 (Magna Carta) rebel barons, Roger de Montbegon to submit. John de Lacy stated: 'If I have sworn an oath to the King's enemies, then I will not hold to it, nor will I adhere in any way to the charter of liberties which the lord king has granted in common to the barons of England and which the lord pope has annulled'. This threat came soon after the king had persuaded William d’Aubigny’s (another rebel baron) garrison at Belvoir to surrender on pain of starvation and two days before York’s terrified citizens had offered the king £1000 (£1.95 million in today's money) to avoid its ransacking.
4/1/1296On 4th January 1296, Sir Henry de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, sailed from Plymouth, as commander of an English relief force for Gascony under Edmund, Earl of Lancaster. Henry was appointed Lieutenant in Aquitaine (king’s representative) under contract for 2000 marks (£1.8 million in today's money) per year. The sizeable English force included twenty-five barons, one thousand horses and ten thousand infantrymen. After the Earl of Lancaster’s death from illness on the 5th June 1296, de Lacy took sole charge of the relief forces. After mixed fortunes (and particularly the defeat and heavy casualties sustained at Bellegarde), de Lacy spent Christmas 1296 in Bayonne, returning to England around Easter 1297. He was later, in March 1299, given relief from all his debts to the Crown on account of his service in Gascony.
14/1/1236On 14th January 1236, John de Lacy, Baron of Pontefract and Constable of Chester, was present at the marriage of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence, acting, in many ways, as an officer holding back the crowds.
25/1/1205On 25th January 1205, Roger de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, was a witness of letters patent and close authorising King John’s officials to retain and destroy false coins. There was widespread concern during this part of the king’s reign regarding the quality of coinage in circulation and the debasing of the currency particularly given King John’s persistent demands for funds regarding his foreign campaigns, castle repairs, garrisons’ reinforcements etc.
25/1/1277On 25th January 1277, Sir Henry de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, was with Edward I at Worcester preparing for a military campaign in Wales against the 'rebel' leader, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. By the end of this month, at Oswestry, Henry arrived with a notable company of seven barons, twenty-five knights, sixty-eight troopers and one hundred plus lances. By 1st July, prior to the main, impending campaign, Sir Henry had helped King Edward receive the homage of five Welsh rulers and in early September was with the king helping to capture Anglesey.
25/1/1278On 25th January 1278, Sir Henry de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, was authorised by Edward I to travel to Brabant to arrange the future marriage of his daughter, Margaret, to John, heir to the Duke of Brabant.
28/1/1237On 28th January 1237, John de Lacy, Baron of Pontefract, was with Henry III at Westminster, for the first confirmation of the 1225 issue of Magna Carta. Henry, as often throughout his reign, was in desperate need of funds and sought permission from his magnates and prelates for a ‘thirtieth’ (tax on the value of people’s moveable goods).
30/1/1297On 30th January 1297, Sir Henry de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, and his army had been ambushed by the French en route from Bayonne to Bonnegarde trying to bring provisions to the besieged bastide, in Edward I’s attempts to reclaim Gascony. Many infantry were killed and several knights taken prisoner, including John of St John, Lieutenant of Aquitaine.
1/1/1318On 1st January 1318, Thomas of Lancaster, lord of Pontefract, was licensed to hold lands in Yorkshire and North Wales for the life of de Warenne, Earl of Surrey and owner of Sandal Castle, who was given permission to enfeoff Lancaster with lands in East Anglia. The terms of the first licence were a modification of the original agreement: Lancaster gained the Yorkshire lands for de Warenne’s life only and not in fee as before. In return for these concessions, Lancaster was allowed to grant to the de Warenne, for life, lands and rents to the annual value of 1,000 marks (£635,000 in today’s money) Somerset, Dorset, and Wiltshire. The charter for this was drawn up on 13th March 1319 at Pontefract and was later confirmed by Edward II.
6/1/1367Richard II and Anna's coronationOn 6th January 1367, Richard II was born 1367 in Bordeaux. His father was Edward the Black Prince and his mother Joan the 4th Countess of Kent. Richard died  in 1400 whilst imprisoned at Pontefract Castle, aged 33.
10/1/1321The siege of royalist Tickhill Castle (whose constable was William de Aune) by Thomas of Lancaster, lord of Pontefract, in his rebellion against Edward II, provoked Edward to crush Lancaster finally. The siege had begun by 10th January 1321 and news of it was evidently brought to the king at Gloucester for, in the ten days that he was there, preparations were put in hand for a full-scale campaign. Lancaster's siege was ultimately unsuccessful. A file of twenty letters under the privy and secret seals, dating from 14th September 1320 to 11th March 1322, shows the King constantly pressing Aune for news, enjoining the strictest secrecy, urging him to fortify his castle, and asking for full reports on the comings and goings of the barons in Yorkshire.
13/1/1396John of Gaunt was one of the great custodians of Pontefract castle and when his second wife, Constance of Castile, died on 24th March 1394, he was now free to marry his long-standing mistress, Katherine Swynford (sister-in-law of Chaucer), on 13th January 1396. John and Katherine had had four children - the Beauforts - who would become the ancestors of the great Tudor dynasty through their great granddaughter Margaret Beaufort and her marriage to Edmund Tudor. Edmund was the son of Catherine de Valois, the former queen of Henry V and her second husband, Owen Tudor. Margaret and Edmund's son, Henry Tudor, would defeat Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 to become Henry VII.
15/1/1322By mid January 1322, Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March and a key ally of Thomas of Lancaster, surrendered to Edward II at Shrewsbury. Mortimer’s faith in Lancaster had been destroyed by the failure of Thomas to leave his northern fortress at Pontefract  during the Despenser War. Support for Lancaster was ebbing away, and as Edward II began to march north, Lancaster would try to reach his northern fortress at Dunstanburgh, only to be surrounded and defeated at the Battle of Boroughbridge on the 16th March 1322.
20/1/1307On 20th January 1307, Henry de Lacy, lord of Pontefract, was one of two Commissioners to open parliament in Carlisle.
23/1/1396John of GauntIn January 1396, John Of Gaunt was newly-married to his mistress, Katherine Swynford. The Duke and Duchess made a short trip to the North before facing the court. Possibly, John wanted to 'test the water' by taking Katherine on a tour of his domains and by the 23rd January, they were lodged at Pontefract Castle. The royal lodgings were in the turreted trefoil donjon which John had heightened 20 years earlier. The couple would have resided in great luxury as John had lavished huge sums of money on his castle. The image is of John of Gaunt.
31/1/1308On 31st January 1308, Sir Henry de Lacy, lord of Pontefract and senior earl, was one of the principal signatories to the Boulogne Agreement. This document sought to assert the signatories’ duty to guard the king’s honour and rights of the Crown and redress any wrongs that had been committed against such and the people. Its successor (introduced into parliament by Henry de Lacy) Boulogne Declaration’s three articles in April 1308, invoked the “doctrine of capacities” stipulating that the subjects of the realm owed allegiance to the Crown not to the person of the king. Any abuse of the king’s position should be corrected by his subjects. Piers Gaveston, Edward II’s court favourite, was also implicitly attacked in the document (with his removal tacitly suggested) and the king was obliged to adhere to his coronation oath.
6/1/1400According to a French text, ‘The Betrayal and Death of Richard II’, on 6th January 1400, Sir Piers Exton (or Bucton or Buxton) with the knowledge of Charles VI of France, was commanded by Henry IV ‘to go and deliver (Richard) straightaway from this world’ at Pontefract Castle. It seems that Bucton was only to kill Richard if he fell into rebel hands as Richard’s death is most probably six weeks later.
6/1/1400Richard of Bordeaux, the former King Richard II, turned 33 years old in prison at Pontefract on 6th January 1400.
8/1/1400On 8th January 1400, a plot was intended by the Earls of Salisbury, Huntingdon, Rutland and Kent and the Lord Despenser to seize Henry IV and his sons and arrange for Richard II's release from imprisonment at Pontefract Castle. The Earl of Salisbury was lynched at Cirencester for his attempt to reinstate Richard II. Lord Despenser managed to escape to Bristol but was murdered on the 15th January. The Earl of Huntingdon was seized at Pleshey in Essex and beheaded for his role in the attempted coup.
10/1/1425On 10th January 1425, Robert Waterton, Constable of Pontefract Castle, wrote his will only seven days before his death. It included a bequest of 24 marks (nearly £19,000 in today's money) a year for three chaplains to pray for three souls in addition to his own: his wife, Henry IV and, surprisingly, the soul of Richard II. No mention was made of Henry V.
17/1/1425On 17th January 1425, Robert Waterton, Steward and Constable of Pontefract Castle and Master Forester, who had had custody of Richard II, Charles, Duke of Orleans, Jean I, Duke of Bourbon, James I of Scotland and the son of the Earl of Athol died at Methley. In addition, he was at various times Constable at Tickhill and Donnington castles, Henry IV’s Master of Horse, chief steward of the northern areas of the Duchy of Lancaster (later chamberlain) and Sheriff of Lincolnshire. He was one of the executors of Henry IV’s will. His military and diplomatic skills were evidenced by his part in quelling the Percy ‘revolts’ of 1403 and 1408 and negotiations with ambassadors from France.
24/1/1537On 24th January 1537, after Lord Darcy (Constable of Pontefract Castle during the Pilgrimage of Grace) had written to Henry VIII asking to be excused from a summons to attend court because of illness and infirmity, the king wrote to him thanking him for his services and ordered him to victual the castle secretly in case of further uprisings in view of the Beverley ‘disturbances’. Preparations were made for the Lord Admiral to take over Pontefract from Darcy and Sir Richard Tempest to cede Sandal Castle to Sir Henry Saville.
25/1/1537On 25th January 1537, Henry VIII wrote to the Earl of Shrewsbury concerning the new Bigod uprising, following the Pilgrimage of Grace, in North Yorkshire, and the Earl’s health. In the letter, he also declared that so long as Lord Darcy did his duty regarding preventing further troubles in and around Pontefract and holding the castle, the king would regard him with as much favour as if the rebellion had never happened.
28/1/1569On 28th January 1569, Mary, Queen of Scots was lodged at Pontefract Castle, travelling between Wetherby and her intermediate prison at Rotherham. She had been forced to abdicate in July 1567 and flee south to seek the protection of her cousin Elizabeth I. After an inconclusive inquiry/conference ordered by Elizabeth into Mary’s guilt/involvement in Lord Darnley’s murder, Mary was placed in the custody of the Earl of Shrewsbury at Tutbury Castle on the 3rd February 1569 and held in captivity in various locations for the next eighteen years until her execution at Fotheringhay Castle on the 8th February 1587.
29/1/1537On 29th January 1537, on receipt of the king’s orders to hold Pontefract Castle with his two sons (in the aftermath of the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion), Lord Darcy, at Templehurst, wrote to his son, Sir George Darcy (in reply to Sir George’s queries), to say that, as ‘all was quiet’ at that time, he would not make preparations until his son had seen the king’s letter and the Duke of Norfolk’s expected arrival in five days’ time.
30/1/1537On 30th January 1537, Sir George Darcy wrote to his father in Templehurst, in reply to his letter of the previous day, stating that the situation in the country, in the aftermath of the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion, was far from peaceful and he could not afford to await the Duke of Norfolk’s arrival before preparing Pontefract Castle.
10/1/1649On 10th January 1649, after Oliver Cromwell had written the previous November to the Committee of the Lords and Commons, regarding Pontefract Castle’s situation and request for his besieging forces of further arms and ordnance, ‘six good battering guns, of no less calibre than demi-cannons, with match, powder, bullets and three of the biggest mortars, with shells’ plus other materiel arrived.
15/1/1645In January 1645, Colonel William ‘Blowface’ Forbes of the besieging Parliamentary forces around Pontefract Castle was injured. A Parliamentarian newspaper reported: ‘Pontefract Castle is still closely besieged by the L Fairfax his forces: Sir Thomas Fairfax was lately in great danger of being shot by a canon (sic) bullet from the castle which came between him and the Colonel Forbes; the waft of it feld Sir Thomas to the ground and spoyled one side of the Colonel’s face and eyes. Our forces are in great probability of taking it and will be able no doubt speedily to requite those in the castle for their obstinacy and insolency.’ Soon after recovering, Forbes married Mary, a woman twenty years his junior and the daughter of Pontefract’s former Royalist governor, Sir John Redman.
16/1/1645On 16th January 1645, Nathan Drake's detailed accounts of the siege of Pontefract Castle recorded that when the besieged heard that the besiegers were about to plant their ordnance 'against the Piper Tower and betwixt that and the Round Tower, where there was a hollow place all the way down to the well, the gentlemen and souldyers fell all upon carrying of earth and rubbish, and so filled up the place in a little space, and we rammed up the way that passed through Piper Tower, with earth four or five yards thick. The beseeged playd 1 cannon into the closes below the Towne amongst the cutters up of clothes, but what was killed is not knowne, but they came there no more.'
17/1/1645Cannon Balls found at the castleOn this day in 1645, the first serious action of the first siege at Pontefract Castle began. Parliamentarian gun batteries started an intense bombardment of the castle. Cannon fire lasted five days and in this time 1367 shots were fired at the defenders. Here is a photo of two of the cannon balls found over 360 years later, still lodged in the castle walls!
19/1/1645On 19th January 1645, Nathan Drake recorded that the  Piper Tower was beaten down by the besiegers 'about 9 of the clock, there having beene 71 shott made that morning, before it fell'.
23/1/1600On 23rd January 1600, Alexander Keirincx, a Flemish landscape artist, was born in Antwerp. He was commissioned by Charles I of England (probably to note the king’s visit to Scotland in 1639) to paint a series of ten or more paintings of royal castles and places in England and Scotland and it is believed his depiction of the grandeur of Pontefract Castle was done in 1640. He died in Amsterdam on 7th October 1652.