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Category: Almost Kings

  1. Almost Kings - William Adelin

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    Born on 5 August 1103 William Adelin would have been the first Anglo-Norman King, reflecting the changes in English society since the Conquest. While his father was King Henry I of England, the youngest son of William the Conqueror, his mother was Matilda (formerly Edith) of Scotland. Her mother had been a granddaughter of the old Anglo-Saxon kings, and had married King Malcolm III of Scotland in 1070. William Adelin might even have had a claim on the Scottish throne if he had survived.

    William AdelinWilliam’s Anglo-Saxon credentials were further enhanced by his birthplace, the old capital of Winchester, and his epithet. “Adelin” was a Normanised version of the old Anglo-Saxon word “Aetheling”, the name given to the heir to the throne. However his first name still indicated his father’s Norman origins.

    At the time of his birth William had one older sister, also called Matilda. While King Henry had a large brood of illegitimate children, William and his sister were the only two legitimate children from his marriage. Whether this was by choice (some chroniclers claimed that the Queen was so pious she requested a celibate marriage after the birth of an heir) or through bad luck is unknown. But William seems to have been a healthy child so there was no need for his parents to worry too much.

    Queen Matilda had received an excellent education at the convents of Romsey and Wilton and led a cultured, sophisticated court with her husband. She would have ensured that both her children received a good education themselves, although Princess Matilda was sent off to Germany at the age of six to await the crown of Holy Roman Empress. Details on William’s education are unknown, but he would have been expected to learn Latin and French. One small glimpse of family life can be seen in 1114 when Queen Matilda took her son to visit the newly founded Merton Priory. When Henry left England to visit Normandy in 1116 he left his wife as Regent, and charters from this time were also witnessed by William, suggesting that Matilda was helping her son learn the ropes through her supervision.

    William’s mother Queen Matilda died in 1118. As William was now fifteen Henry appointed him regent, albeit with a council of advisors, during his absences. He also had a political role to play in alliances. Normandy’s long-term dispute with neighbouring Anjou frequently broke in to periods of war. In an attempt to secure Anjou’s loyalty William had been betrothed to Matilda of Anjou, the daughter of the Count, in 1113. The pair married six years later in 1119. Little is recorded of their relationship, but presumably they were happy together as after William’s early death Matilda refused to remarry, and joined a convent instead.

    Following his wedding William spent a year with his father, travelling around Normandy and learning how to keep the peace in a region known for discontent and rebellion. In 1120 he became the nominal Duke of Normandy in order to pay homage for the Duchy to King Louis VI of France (Henry felt that as King it was beneath him to pay homage for anything). However, he never formally wielded power in the Duchy. However he was starting to be named as “king designate”, suggesting that to the chroniclers at least he was being lined up for some kind of dual-kingship system similar to that in France. The French monarchy tended to crown the heir during the lifetime of the father, it might have been Henry's intention to do the same.

    Having lived a relatively healthy life until that point there was no reason to think that William would not become King William III. However the “White Ship Disaster” led to the death of William and several of his illegitimate half-siblings. William had managed to make it to the safety of the medieval equivalent of a lifeboat. But an attempt to rescue his drowning half-sister led to his boat being capsized and the heir to the throne drowned with the rest. His wife had been in a different ship otherwise she probably would have died too.

    William’s death left his father with no legitimate male heir. Henry married a second time, to Adeliza of Louvain, but they had no children together. When Henry I died in 1135 the country was up for grabs and was claimed by both William’s sister, Empress Matilda, and their cousin Stephen of Blois.


    Last month's Almost King was Frederick, Prince of Wales.

  2. Almost Kings - Frederick, Prince of Wales

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    Unless he thought about changing his name, as later Kings did on accession, then Britain could have had it's first King Fred in the 17th century. On his birth in 1707 the idea that the Electors of Hanover would become Kings of Great Britain was becoming more obvious. Queen Anne had no surviving children, and Frederick's great-grandmother Sophia was Anne's nearest Protestant relative. Frederick in a white wig with a tan coat and blue sash

    When Frederick's grandfather George became King in 1714 it signified the start of immense changes in the young prince's life. Not only did his grandfather travel to Britain to take up his place as King, but Frederick's parents (George, now Prince of Wales, and Caroline of Ansbach) were summoned to take up their place in court too. However Hanover still needed a figurehead, so Frederick was left behind in the care of his great-uncle Ernest Augustus. At this point Frederick was George and Caroline's only son, his three sisters all accompanied their parents to Britain. Separating a child from his family for fourteen years was not the best way to create positive family feeling.

    In many ways though it helped shelter Frederick from the worst actions of his grandfather. When Caroline gave birth to a second son, another George, an incident at the baby's baptism led to the King banishing his son and daughter-in-law from court, while simultaneously seizing custody of their children. Baby George only lived for three months, but the three princesses were handed over to the care of the Duchess of Portland. At least Frederick was spared the sight of his parents being forced from court, but the King also banned them from visiting their eldest son in Hanover. They were also refused any influence over his education or future. At the age of 16 he was the figure of the first serious marriage negotiations for his future Queen. King George had identified a Princess of Prussia as a suitable consort for his grandson, but again his parents were banned from having any influence in the choice or negotiations. The King also issued a series of new titles to his grandson, including Duke of Edinburgh, which made Prince George suspicious that his father would bypass him in the succession and elevate Frederick to King.

    When King George I died in 1727 it seemed to be time at last for a proper family reunion. Frederick was now 21 years old, still unmarried as the Prussian negotiations were trailing on (and ultimately failed). The geographical distance and lack of communication between parents and child meant that the new King and Queen were ambivalent, even hostile, to their eldest son. They preferred the son they had been allowed to keep, Prince William, and viewed Frederick with distrust. He was the enduring symbol of his grandfather's behaviour and actions, and all the anger they felt towards the dead King was now turned on their eldest son.

    Prince Frederick finally arrived in England in December 1727, having missed his father's coronation. Although he behaved impeccably in the company of his parents, at night he took up a variety of mistresses. He was reportedly part of a group of young courtiers who ran through London's streets, smashing the windows of houses. He quickly became good friends with Lord John Hervey, the pair spent a lot of time together and shared a mistress, Anne Vane. Hervey was bisexual, married to Mary Leppell, he had affairs with multiple women and had a ten year relationship with Lord Stephen “Ste” Fox. His relationship with Ste only ended when the other man married. How far Hervey and Frederick's relationship went is still debated, not helped by the fact that Hervey's grandson destroyed a series of letters between Hervey and Frederick. But ultimately the pair fell out over Anne Vane. Hervey instead became close friends with Queen Caroline and continued to encourage the family's hatred of their eldest son. Frederick in a blue and gold coat and a fur-lined red robe of state

    In 1736 Frederick's future was finally settled with a proposal to marry Princess Augusta of Saxe-Coburg. The choice was made by his father, and Frederick simply replied that he was content to marry as his father directed. In reality he was heavily in debt and hoped that a marriage would lead to Parliament granting him an additional allowance. Princess Augusta was seventeen, didn't speak English, and was was married to the Prince less than two weeks after she set foot in England. She reportedly spent the first weeks of her marriage still playing with her childhood dolls, which had been in her trousseau.

    Not only did Frederick struggle to get the extra money but his relationship with his parents grew worse. He consistently opposed his father's policies, encouraging his friends to vote against the bills that were favoured by the King. He also manipulated his wife in to snubbing his family. Caroline simply remarked that she pitied the poor woman. By 1737 Augusta was pregnant with her first child. The pair were staying at Hampton Court Palace when she went in to labour in July 1737. Determined to avoid his parents having any control over the birth, Frederick risked the life of his wife and child by carrying her to their carriage and having her driven back to St James' Palace. A baby girl, Princess Augusta, was born on a tablecloth. There wasn't even a bed ready for the labouring princess. Frederick also used the opporunity of his expanding family to go to the House of Commons requesting a greater allowance. The King was furious that his finances might be publically examined, and although Frederick ultimately lost the vote the couple were banned from court. They eventually set up their own establishment at Leicester House, causing huge problems for courtiers who wanted to keep the favour of the current King without risking the displeasure of the future one.

    Queen Caroline's death in November 1737 could have brought the family closer together. But she refused to see her eldest son one last time, or offer him any forgiveness. Instead father and son tended to try and avoid each other. Hostesses were careful to ensure that both men would not be present at the same party at the same time. At one point George appealed to Frederick to help save Robert Walpole from being dismissed in 1742, but the prince refused. He was also resentful that his father refused to call him to any military role during the Jacobite Rebellion. Instead Frederick was a devoted father and paid close attention to the education of his children. He personally drafted a work on good government for his eldest son, Prince George. The children were all granted space in the garden that they were expected to tend themselves, and they were encouraged to play various sports outdoors as well. The Prince of Wales was also known for his taste in art and patronage of both painters and writers. He is also credited with increasing the interest in cricket, a game that he played and supported financially. 

    Sadly though Frederick managed to maintain the Hanover family's dislike of the heir. Prince George was the eldest but his brother Edward was the favourite of both parents. George was naturally shy and lacked self confidence, but his parents seem to viewed it as laziness. Frederick in particular found his quiet eldest son quite exasperating. But the paper he wrote on good government for his son shows the concern that he had for the boy's future. Perhaps if he had become King he would have been keen to train his son in the role of Prince of Wales better than his own father.

    Frederick himself never got his chance to enact his ideas for governing a country. In March 1751 he suddenly fell ill, possibly with pneumonia. Although he appeared to be improving a sudden coughing fit one evening suddenly proved fatal. He died in the arms of one of his servants from what's now believed to be a pulmonary embolism. Princess Augusta was pregnant with their daughter, Princess Caroline Matilda, their ninth child. His dedicated wife burned his private papers shortly after his death, ensuring that any incriminating letters or writings were destroyed.

    Frederick's death led to only the second time in English history that a grandson inherited the throne, when Prince George finally became King George III in October 1760. The first of course had been King Richard II, who had been deposed. Although George faced huge problems during his reign he at least didn't face the same fate as Richard.


     

    Last month's Almost King was Edward, the Black Prince

    Unless he thought about changing his name, as later Kings did on accession, then Britain could have had it's first King Fred in the 17th century. On his birth in 1707 the idea that the Electors of Hanover would become Kings of Great Britain was becoming more obvious. Queen Anne had no surviving children, and Frederick's great-grandmother Sophia was Anne's nearest Protestant relative.

    When Frederick's grandfather George became King in 1714 it signified the start of immense changes in the young prince's life. Not only did his grandfather travel to Britain to take up his place as King, but Frederick's parents (George, now Prince of Wales, and Caroline of Ansbach) were summoned to take up their place in court too. However Hanover still needed a figurehead, so Frederick was left behind in the care of his great-uncle Ernest Augustus. At this point Frederick was George and Caroline's only son, his three sisters all accompanied their parents to Britain. Separating a child from his family for fourteen years was not the best way to create positive family feeling.

    In many ways though it helped shelter Frederick from the worst actions of his grandfather. When Caroline gave birth to a second son, another George, an incident at the baby's baptism led to the King banishing his son and daughter-in-law from court, while simultaneously seizing custody of their children. Baby George only lived for three months, but the three princesses were handed over to the care of the Duchess of Portland. At least Frederick was spared the sight of his parents being forced from court, but the King also banned them from visiting their eldest son in Hanover. They were also refused any influence over his education or future. At the age of 16 he was the figure of the first serious marriage negotiations for his future Queen. King George had identified a Princess of Prussia as a suitable consort for his grandson, but again his parents were banned from having any influence in the choice or negotiations. The King also issued a series of new titles to his grandson, including Duke of Edinburgh, which made Prince George suspicious that his father would bypass him in the succession and elevate Frederick to King.

    When King George I died in 1727 it seemed to be time at last for a proper family reunion. Frederick was now 21 years old, still unmarried as the Prussian negotiations were trailing on (and ultimately failed). The geographical distance and lack of communication between parents and child meant that the new King and Queen were ambivalent, even hostile, to their eldest son. They preferred the son they had been allowed to keep, Prince William, and viewed Frederick with distrust. He was the enduring symbol of his grandfather's behaviour and actions, and all the anger they felt towards the dead King was now turned on their eldest son.

    Prince Frederick finally arrived in England in December 1727, having missed his father's coronation. Although he behaved impeccably in the company of his parents, at night he took up a variety of mistresses. He was reportedly part of a group of young courtiers who ran through London's streets, smashing the windows of houses. He quickly became good friends with Lord John Hervey, the pair spent a lot of time together and shared a mistress, Anne Vane. Hervey was bisexual, married to Mary Leppell, he had affairs with multiple women and had a ten year relationship with Lord Stephen “Ste” Fox. His relationship with Ste only ended when the other man married. How far Hervey and Frederick's relationship went is still debated, not helped by the fact that Hervey's grandson destroyed a series of letters between Hervey and Frederick. But ultimately the pair fell out over Anne Vane. Hervey instead became close friends with Queen Caroline and continued to encourage the family's hatred of their eldest son.

    In 1736 Frederick's future was finally settled with a proposal to marry Princess Augusta of Saxe-Coburg. The choice was made by his father, and Frederick simply replied that he was content to marry as his father directed. In reality he was heavily in debt and hoped that a marriage would lead to Parliament granting him an additional allowance. Princess Augusta was seventeen, didn't speak English, and was was married to the Prince less than two weeks after she set foot in England. She reportedly spent the first weeks of her marriage still playing with her childhood dolls, which had been in her trousseau.

    Not only did Frederick struggle to get the extra money but his relationship with his parents grew worse. He consistently opposed his father's policies, encouraging his friends to vote against the bills that were favoured by the King. He also manipulated his wife in to snubbing his family. Caroline simply remarked that she pitied the poor woman. By 1737 Augusta was pregnant with her first child. The pair were staying at Hampton Court Palace when she went in to labour in July 1737. Determined to avoid his parents having any control over the birth, Frederick risked the life of his wife and child by carrying her to their carriage and having her driven back to St James' Palace. A baby girl, Princess Augusta, was born on a tablecloth. There wasn't even a bed ready for the labouring princess. Frederick also used the opporunity of his expanding family to go to the House of Commons requesting a greater allowance. The King was furious that his finances might be publically examined, and although Frederick ultimately lost the vote the couple were banned from court. They eventually set up their own establishment at Leicester House, causing huge problems for courtiers who wanted to keep the favour of the current King without risking the displeasure of the future one.

    Queen Caroline's death in November 1737 could have brought the family closer together. But she refused to see her eldest son one last time, or offer him any forgiveness. Instead father and son tended to try and avoid each other. Hostesses were careful to ensure that both men would not be present at the same party at the same time. At one point George appealed to Frederick to help save Robert Walpole from being dismissed in 1742, but the prince refused. He was also resentful that his father refused to call him to any military role during the Jacobite Rebellion. Instead Frederick was a devoted father and paid close attention to the education of his children. He personally drafted a work on good government for his eldest son, Prince George. The children were all granted space in the garden that they were expected to tend themselves, and they were encouraged to play various sports outdoors as well. The Prince of Wales was also known for his taste in art and patronage of both painters and writers. He is also credited with increasing the interest in cricket, a game that he played and supported financially.

    Sadly though Frederick managed to maintain the Hanover family's dislike of the heir. Prince George was the eldest but his brother Edward was the favourite of both parents. George was naturally shy and lacked self confidence, but his parents seem to viewed it as laziness. Frederick in particular found his quiet eldest son quite exasperating. But the paper he wrote on good government for his son shows the concern that he had for the boy's future. Perhaps if he had become King he would have been keen to train his son in the role of Prince of Wales better than his own father.

    Frederick himself never got his chance to enact his ideas for governing a country. In March 1751 he suddenly fell ill, possibly with pneumonia. Although he appeared to be improving a sudden coughing fit one evening suddenly proved fatal. He died in the arms of one of his servants from what's now believed to be a pulmonary embolism. Princess Augusta was pregnant with their daughter, Princess Caroline Matilda, their ninth child. His dedicated wife burned his private papers shortly after his death, which some historians have speculated could have included love letters to Lord Hervey, and plans for what to do in the event of the death of the King.

    Frederick's death led to only the second time in English history that a grandson inherited the throne, when Prince George finally became King George III in October 1760.


    Last month's Almost King was Edward, the Black Prince.

     

  3. Almost Kings - Edward, the Black Prince

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    One of the most famous losses to the English throne, Edward the Black Prince was extremely popular for most of his life, but ended it a sick, bitter man.

    Born in 1330 Prince Edward was just what the royal family needed. His father, King Edward III, was a puppet king controlled by his mother Isabella of France and her lover Roger Mortimer. Baby Edward was barely four months old before his father led a daring plot, arrested Roger Mortimer and had Isabella put under house arrest. Mortimer was executed and King Edward III now ruled in his own right. Edward the Black Prince

    His family were very close, a fact that is primarily attributed to his mother. Queen Philippa had her children all raised in the same royal nursery together, along with a selection of children and infants from noble families. Other children raised alongside the Royal family included Blanche of Lancaster, who married Edward's brother John of Gaunt, and Joan of Kent.

    At the age of thirteen Edward was officially named as Prince of Wales, and acted as a "symbolic regent" in England while his father was off on military campaigns. He was granted extensive estates in Cornwall, Wales and Chester, which gave him an income suitable for the household of the heir to the throne. As a teenager his father also began to include him in the numerous battles that were fought in France. He helped win victory at the Battle of Crécy, and was part of the naval Battle of Winchelsea, which helped him gain fame as a great leader and future warrior-king. He developed a reputation as a brave prince, talented military commander and a model of chivalry, as well as an excellent jouster taking part in tournaments as an adult. To many at the time he was the epitome of what one expected from a king-in-waiting, and the bonus was that it came without any of the family troubles that Henry II had faced with his brood of sons.

    But in 1361 Edward caused a bit of a scandal by marrying Joan of Kent. Not only did they reportedly not ask King Edward's permission to marry, but Joan was a widow with several children. As the heir to the throne Prince Edward was expected to marry a foreign princess, not an English lady with four children to her name. After a more public wedding ceremony the couple moved to Gascony, where Joan gave birth to Edward of Angouleme and Richard of Bordeaux.

    Sadly for Prince Edward his later years saw the shine of glory wear off as England lost numerous military campaigns, and he developed more of a reputation for brutality. He was persuaded to help King Pedro of Castile regain his throne in 1366, and left Gascony at the head of an army in early 1367. Although they were successful, and Pedro was back on his throne by April 1367, the Prince was ultimately betrayed by his ally. Pedro consistently evaded repaying the English their share of the costs of the campaign (Pedro himself had paid for very little, most of the financial burden had been taken on by the Prince). While waiting in Valladolid for the promised money the English soldiers contracted dysentery. The Prince himself fell dangerously ill and never fully recovered. Eventually they returned to Gascony and Aquitaine, having never been repaid by Pedro. Prince Edward had to raise taxes in Aquitaine as he was now facing serious financial problems. This led to problems in the area as the people saw no reason why they should pay the cost of Pedro's broken promises.

    Naturally the problems in Aquitaine meant that the French could take advantage of English weakness in the region, and they pressed their advantage. When the town of Limoges surrendered to the French after a siege, the Prince was furious. The English retook the town, and on Prince Edward's orders the people of Limoges were slaughtered. Although Edward had taken part in similar actions in the past, it was this in particular that permanently tainted the memory of him.

    Now a sick man who was unable to sit on a horse, Edward's shining reputation for chivalry and an unblemished military record was quickly being forgotten. The prince was in no fit state to try and bring Aquitaine back under control, and so he and Joan arranged to return to England. Their son and heir Edward of Angouleme died shortly before they left, there wasn't even time for the grieving parents to bury their own child.

    On his return to England the Black Prince was largely confined to his bed, occasionally being carried to parliament in a litter. He eventually died on 8 June 1376, a year before his own father, leaving his second son Richard of Bordeaux to become King Richard II in 1377.


    Last month's Almost King was Eustace of Boulogne!

  4. Almost Kings - Eustace of Boulogne

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    At his birth Eustace of Boulogne couldn't have hoped to become anything more than a nobleman, like his father and grandfather. He was due to inherit his mother's county of Boulogne, Stephen himself was a younger brother who had married the heiress Matilda of Boulogne, and had taken title Count of Boulogne through her. As the eldest son Eustace could look forward to becoming Count Eustace of Boulogne in the future. But in infancy he gained a new title and new future – Prince Eustace, heir to the English throne. King Stephen

    On the death of King Henry I of England, Eustace's father Stephen (pictured right) rushed to claim the vacant throne. There had been many years of confusion over whether Henry would name his nephew Stephen (Stephen's mother was Henry's sister Adela), or his daughter Empress Matilda. But when he died Matilda was in Normandy, heavily pregnant and unable to travel far. Stephen seized the opportunity, in much the same way that Henry had many years ago, and secured the treasury and the throne within weeks of the King's death.

    What followed was a period of civil war known as The Anarchy, and as he grew up Eustace had a role to play helping his father. He attended his mother's coronation in 1136 and settled with the court in England, where two of his younger siblings died in relatively quick succession. In 1137 he was in France, where he paid homage to King Louis for his father's lands in Normandy, on King Stephen's behalf. He was back in France again in 1140, this time with his mother, for his betrothal to Louis' daughter Constance. Queen Matilda had played a role in negotiating the marriage, it was only right that she attend the ceremony.

    In 1147 Eustace was officially knighted by his father, and began to play a greater role in the civil war, taking part in battles and sieges around the country. When his rival, Henry Plantagenet, arrived to campaign in England in 1149 Eustace was ready. The pair and their forces were engaged in several small skirmishes around the south west of England, and Eustace reportedly even came close to capturing his rival, but Henry managed to elude him. People were looking to Henry as the next king, as the son of Empress Matilda and grandson of Henry I it was felt that he had a stronger claim than Eustace. They didn't want a woman ruling, but they didn't mind her son.

    To shore up support and legitimacy for their son, Stephen and Matilda tried to arrange for him to be crowned as King while Stephen was alive. This was common in France, but not in England. Even then it might have been possible were it not for the Pope forbidding the Archbishop of Canterbury from carrying out the ceremony. The best Eustace could get an oath swearing ceremony in 1152, during which a number of nobles gave their allegiance to their future king. Several weeks later Queen Matilda died suddenly at Headingham Castle, and Stephen and Eustace both lost their greatest supporter.

    Eustace himself didn't have long to live either. In August 1153 he led a small party on a raid at Bury St Edmunds, where they stole a selection of treasure and other goods from the churches. On the journey home Eustace suddenly took ill and died. It was considered by some at the time to be divine vengeance for his attack on the churches, others claimed that he died of rage after being consistently refused his own coronation. Whatever the cause his death led to King Stephen effectively giving up. Although he had another son still living he came to an agreement with Henry that he would now be his heir.

    Eustace was buried near his mother in Faversham in Kent. The family tomb was desecrated during the Reformation, and his remains were lost.

     


    Last month's Almost King was Arthur of Brittany!

     

  5. Almost Kings - Arthur of Brittany

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    A potential King Arthur of England, young Arthur of Brittany was the son of Duke Geoffrey of Brittany and his wife Constance, and thus had Royal blood in his veins. Geoffrey was the son of King Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine, while Constance was descended from Scottish kings. Geoffrey died a few months before Arthur's birth, leaving Constance to protect both their son and the Duchy of Brittany. As the grandson of Henry II, baby Arthur was also a potential claimant to the English throne.

    Of course Arthur's position in relation to England would have been made highly unlikely if King Richard I had had a son or two. But Richard's marriage to Berengaria of Navarre was childless. However Arthur's claim was unfavourable as he was being raised in Brittany by his mother Constance, who was disliked by Eleanor of Aquitaine and who may have been hostile towards her husband's family. Arthur-of-Brittany

    Regardless of Constance's mutual dislike of her in-laws, Arthur was still a nephew of the King of England. Richard even arranged a marriage for Arthur to the daughter of Tancred of Sicily, which came to nothing but does show the influence that the extended family could have over the boy's life. Arthur's older sister Eleanor was also briefly considered as a potential bride for the heir to the French throne as part of an alliance between Richard and King Philip, but again it never came to fruition.

    After several years considering naming John as his heir, or naming Arthur, King Richard began to lean more towards Arthur. In 1196 he named Arthur officially and requested that the boy be sent to him so he could be raised by his Plantagenet family. But on the journey Arthur's mother Constance was captured and imprisoned by her husband, and Arthur was secretly taken to the French court and placed in the custody of King Philip.

    Despite being raised as a French pawn it may have been that Arthur would have remained as Richard's heir, were it not for his uncle's untimely death. Richard was shot by an arrow during a siege in 1199 and the wound soon turned gangrenous. With his mother at his side as witness Richard named his brother John as heir on his deathbed, not Arthur. It may be that Eleanor persuaded him to do so, or it might have been down to the fact that John was a grown man while Arthur was only twelve years old. Richard's deathbed wishes were not enough to stop King Philip, who immediately proclaimed Arthur as the real heir to the Angevin Empire.

    Anjou, Maine and Touraine all declared for Arthur, leading to war in the region as John and Eleanor fought to hang on to the counties. Arthur witnessed several sieges on his behalf, but as John started to gain the upper hand he was moved back to Paris. King Philip treated the boy as a treasured companion for his son and heir Louis and had him educated to the same high standard. But Arthur wasn't the grateful subject that Philip believed him to be. Concern grew that Philip intend to claim Anjou, Maine and Touraine for himself and exclude Arthur from gaining control when he came of age. Instead Arthur fled to the court of King John, once more accompanied by his mother Constance.

    It was not a situation that ended well. Suspicious of John as well as Philip, Arthur and Constance never saw John. When their intermediaries failed to negotiate a favourable audience with John they fled straight back to a very angry Philip. Arthur was virtually excluded from the peace talks that followed. It was agreed that he would do homage to John for Brittany, and Philip and John settled various territorial claims between them, as well as arranging a marriage between one of John's nieces in Castile and Philip's eldest son Louis. Arthur would shine in the tournament thrown to celebrate the marriage a year later.

    Arthur's greatest ally, his mother Constance, died in September 1201 in childbirth, possibly after delivering twins. In recent years Constance had leaned more towards Arthur's paternal family, but without her advice and influence he moved back towards the French court. Encouraged by King Philip he led an invasion against Poitou. His forces even managed to besiege Eleanor of Aquitaine in the Château de Mirabeau in July 1202, but John quickly marched on Mirabeau. Arthur and his forces were taken unawares. Eleanor was freed and Arthur was captured and imprisoned at the Château de Falaise.

    Arthur's ultimate fate is unknown, all that is known is that he was never seen again after 1203. One account is that King John ordered for Arthur to be physically mutilated in some way, either castrated or blinded, and that after his captors refused to carry the act out they killed in fear of what John would do to them for disobeying him. Other accounts state that John himself killed the young man in a drunken rage and had the body thrown in to the Seine. Like the Princes in the Tower several centuries later Arthur's final resting place was never revealed. His older sister Eleanor, also reportedly captured at Mirabeau, would live in to her late fifties and died in captivity in England during the reign of Henry III.

     


    Last month's Almost King was Henry the Young King.