Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Its 1086 The Time of the Domesday Book

It's 1086 and Judheal of Totnes, a Breton knight, lords it over four of the five manors of my ancestors.  

Life for my Meavy ancestors in the centuries between their  beginnings as an isolated Dumnonii tribe and the invasion of the Normans would not have changed at all, it was still a hard and meager existence. They would still have hunted and farmed and defended what was theirs, the only difference during those years was who they defended their property from. The Meavy’s may not have heard of the kings who sat on the throne of England, but by the time the Domesday commissioners arrived at the doors they might not have known who William the Conqueror was but they would certainly know exactly what he wanted. 

Soon after Hastings the new Norman king was quick to realise the importance of securing the West Country, the first step in achieving this was to take Exeter, the fourth largest city in the country.  This town was still controlled by the Godwin family. Harold’s son had fled to Ireland but his mother, Gytha, who still lived within the city walls held out against the Norman forces during William’s return to Normandy, however on his return to England he made Exeter his first port of call. Exeter’s city walls withstood an eighteen month winter siege, many of the Norman soldiers succumbed to the cold, eventually though Exeter fell and Gytha escaped with her granddaughters to island of Flatholme in the Bristol Channel. There is no mention of Harold's son’s at the Siege of Exeter and it may well be that they were already in Ireland. Gytha’s stand at Exeter in 1068 wasn’t the last effort by the Godwins to take back some control of their father's country. Inevitably though, Devon would submit to Norman control, but before that Harold’s sons would give the invaders a run for their money. 

The story of my Devon ancestors, the Meavys continues on my website

Annulment of the Marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine

​On the 25th July 1137 Eleanor of Aquitaine married the son of Louis VI of France, and on Christmas Day 1137 she was queen of France.  An intelligent and feisty woman, Eleanor is said to have to have arrived at the cathedral town of Vezelay dressed like an Amazon galloping through the crowds on a white horse, urging men to join the crusades. She also had every intention to go herself, accompanied by three hundred of her ladies dressed in armor and carrying lances. 

My blog continues on my website


Thursday, 16 March 2017

Anne Neville

​I am always a little sad when it comes round to the 16th March, and the anniversary of the death of Anne Neville. This is because it is so difficult to find facts about her other than she was the wife of Richard III, daughter of the King Maker, an heiress to a vast estate and dead at twenty-eight under a solar eclipse.

​If I cannot find the real Anne Neville in words, then I can find her in art, and Edwin Austin Abbey's 1896 painting Richard Duke of Gloucester and Lady Anne does just that.

My blog on Anne Neville continues on my website at


John Beaufort

John Beaufort was highly regarded and gave good service to the crown. He was a diplomat and performed a number of official roles. He escorted his niece Blanche to Cologne for her marriage, and Joan of Navarre from Brittany into England for her marriage to the king. Regardless of his royal position he had little to show for it, there were no estates or money to inherit, andwhat land he held was granted by Richard II and Henry IV. His only real claim to fame was that he was the first of the Beaufort's, a family base born. 

My blog continues on my website at http://meanderingthroughtime.weebly.com/history-blog/death-of-john-beaufort

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Battle of Empringham or Losecoat Field

The Battle of Losecoat Field, which took place on the 12th March 1470, occurred ten years after Edward IV had brought the Lancastrian's to their knees at Towton, even so, Edward was still concerned with Lancastrian plots, he was, it seems, blind to the fact that Richard Earl of Warwick was cunning and we can be sure that Warwick was clever enough not to be seen to be involved in plotting the downfall of the House of York.

This battle, also known as the Battle of Empringham, was not simply a matter of York verses Lancaster. The situation was complex and confusing and involved minor rebellions, local land disputes and Warwick's machinations. My blog on this battle continues on my website at


Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots

Mary, Queen of Scots was executed on the 8th February 1587.

Seven day earlier, William Davison, Elizabeth I's secretary, was asked by the queen to bring Mary's death warrant in order that she could sign it. Elizabeth handed it back to Davison for safe keeping. However, contrary to her order the warrant found its way into the hands of William Cecil. Cecil was quick to act upon Elizabeth's wishes stated within the warrant....
“repaire to our Castle of Fotheringhaye where the said Queene of Scottes is in custodie of our right trustie servant and Counsellor Sir Amyas Poulet Knight, and then taking her into your charge to cause by your commandment execution to be done upon her person”.
It is clear that Elizabeth certainly had some doubts about Mary's execution. Although there is no evidence, it is probable that William Cecil and Francis Walsingham used their positions to influence the Privy Council to convince the queen Mary's death was necessary, and her Parliament to get the warrant approved.

My blog on the death of Mary, Queen of Scots continues on my website

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The Family of Meavy in Pre Conquest England

The second chapter of my family history of the family of Meavy, from Meavy in Devon is completed. It deals with the family in preconquest England under the reign of King Canute and Edward the Confessor. 

Photograph Credit John Stickland 

Life for my ancestors, during what is known as the Dark Ages, was nothing more than a struggle to survive, the ‘family’ known as Meavy would be oblivious to the changes that were taking place in distant parts of Devon, let alone England itself.

By 878, the kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England had fallen into the hands of the Viking invaders, it was King Alfred’s kingdom of Wessex that stood alone. One story that sums up England's position at this point in time, is the tale of King Alfred burning the cakes of some poor peasant woman who left him in charge. It is unlikely that this event ever happened, but as a tale it shows quite clearly the danger that England's last kingdom faced, and how much responsibility was placed on Alfred’s head. In reality, by the May of 878 Alfred’s Wessex was secured, and after years of fending off the Viking invaders King Alfred finally struck a deal with the Scandinavians following his famous victory at the Battle of Edington in Wiltshire.  Not only did he gain some control of these marauding Vikings, but he paved the way for the future unity of England. Soon after the Viking defeat, Alfred encouraged the Viking leader Guthrum to convert to Christianity. Guthrum’s baptism is said to have taken place at Wedmore and where, it is also said, a formal treaty, sometimes called the Treaty of Wedmore, was signed. However, historians think that this may have occurred else where and that the passing of time has merged the two events into one. Regardless of this, under this ‘treaty’ the vikings agreed to leave Wessex in peace and return to East Anglia to the area we know now as Danelaw. Cessation of violence did not happen immediately, there were sporadic attacks in the West Country, such as two attacks in 997, one at Lydford and one at Tavistock where its abbey was burnt to the ground.

The raid on Tavistock Abbey in 997, was one of the last recorded raids on Devon, previous attacks took place in 918, 977 and 988, however it is probable that there were other smaller raids that went undocumented.  Steep Holm, an island in the Bristol Channel, may well have been used as a base for attacks to the mainland during the winter months, the Danes using the island to over winter in preference to returning home. The raid at Tavistock is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, from this we can visulise how horrendous these attacks were. 

“The Danes went around Devonshire into the mouth of the Severn and there ravaged in Cornwall, Wales and Devon. Then they put into Watchet and did much evil by burning and slaughtering. After that they went around Land's End again on the south side and went into the mouth of the Tamar, continuing up until they came to Lydford, burning or killing each thing they met - they burnt down Ordulf's monastery at Tavistock and brought with them to their ships indescribable plunder.'

My story contiues on my website: http://meanderingthroughtime.weebly.com/meavy-pre-conquest.html