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Windsor Castle
Late Medieval Fall & Rise

Many important scenes in Richard II's life are laid in Windsor Castle. Two deputations waited upon him here with a list of their grievances. In 1390, he appointed Sir Geoffrey Chaucer, the poet, to superintend repairs in the chapel. The great dispute between Henry Bolingbroke, the last Knight of the Garter admitted by Edward III, and the Duke of Norfolk, took place at Windsor Castle, where, in the courtyard, King Richard sat on a platform and gave judgment between the two, sentencing Bolingbroke to ten years' exile and banishing Norfolk for life. It was at Windsor that Richard bade a last farewell to his child-queen, Isabella of France, then eleven years of age. The scene is touchingly described by a contemporary chronicler, who states that the King and Queen walked hand in hand from the castle to the Lower Court, and entered the Deanery, passing thence into the chapel. After chanting a collect, Richard took his Queen into his arms, and kissing her twelve or thirteen times, said sorrowfully, "Adieu, ma chère, until we meet again, I commend me to you." Then the Queen began to weep, saying to the King,
"Alas! My lord, will you leave me here?" The Royal pair then partook of comfits and wine in the Deanery, the King kissing his Queen many times and lifting her in his arms. "And by Our Lady, I never saw so great a lord," continues the chronicler, "make so much of nor show such great affection to a lady as did King Richard to his Queen. Great pity was it that they separated, for never saw they each other more." After Richard's deposition and death, Isabella was detained by Henry IV, who would have married her to his madcap son, Prince Hal. Eventually, however, she married the Duc D'Orleans, this time choosing a husband much younger than herself.

A conspiracy against Henry IV came to a head at Windsor, when the Duke of Exeter seized and searched the castle. Henry, however, had had timely warning, and had fled. "He rode to London and made him strong to ride on his enemies," and crushed the rebellion. The castle, during this reign, held two unfortunate young prisoners, the Earl of March, whose only fault was his descent from an elder son of Edward III, Henry himself being descended from a younger branch; the other was one of the most unfortunate of the hapless house of Stuart, Prince James (later James I) of Scotland. The King, his father, had sent him to France to complete his education. Henry, however, fearful of an alliance between France and Scotland, seized the Prince's vessel and sent James to Windsor, declaring jocularly that England possessed good French teachers. Henry kept his word and the young prince received a good education. He seems in every respect to have been treated as suited his rank and was allowed plenty of freedom, sharing in all the festivities of the court. From his tower window, he beheld and fell in love with the fair Jane Beaufort, the King's niece, whom he eventually married. It was in the castle that he composed "The King's Quair" about his love for her. James' return to Scotland marked the beginning of a sad and gloomy reign, and he was assassinated by his unruly nobles in 1437, to whom he had made himself odious by trying to curb their power.

In 1416, the Emperor Sigismund was present at the feast of St. George, bringing, as an offering, the heart of St. George, which remained in the chapel till the Reformation. Whilst King Henry V was besieging Meaux, he heard of the birth of his son. "But when he heard reported the places of his nativity, were it that he, warned by some prophesy, or had some fore-knowledge, or else judged himself of his son's fortune, he said unto the Lord FitzHugh, his trusty chamberlain, these words, "My Lord, I, Henry, born at Monmouth, shall small time reign and much get, and Henry, born at Windsor, shall long reign and all lose; but as God will, so be it."" Although this unfortunate Henry (VI) of Windsor spent all his early years at his birthplace, the castle fell into a very neglected condition. Upon his marriage, with Margaret of Anjou, some necessary repairs were made for her reception and, during his illness in 1453, Henry lived here again.

Edward IV was the first monarch interred at Windsor, where his little daughter, Mary, and his brother, George of Clarence, supposed to have been drowned in a cask of wine, had been buried before him. In 1484, the remains of Henry VI were removed from Chertsey Abbey and interred beside those of his rival. In 1789, some workmen came across the lead coffin of Edward IV. On opening it the entire skeleton was found, measuring 6 feet 31½ inches in length. A lock of brown hair taken from the coffin is in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. A bone of the leg was publicly sold by auction with the museum of a private collector at the end of the nineteenth century, but is understood to have been taken back to Windsor.

Part 5: Tudor Popularity

Edited from PH Ditchfield's "Bygone Berkshire" (1896)


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