The History of Richards Castle
The history of Richards Castle is inseparable from the history of border warfare between the English and the Welsh. The castle was a part of the English system of defences against Welsh attacks which occurred at frequent intervals and were devastating in their effects.
Welsh border families were continually raiding across the border and English lands in the Marches became impossible to farm. These waste lands were occupied by the Welsh who then attacked the next line of English lands. The result was a gradual moving of the boundary between the countries further east.
From 1039 the situation on the border deteriorated when the Welsh acquired new and more capable leaders. The border problem was no longer a mere nuisance but became a matter of urgent action.
A Mercian army under the command of the Earl of Mercia's brother, Edwin, was surprised crossing a river and was heavily defeated, the Mercians losing a lot of men. A peace treaty was negotiated between the Earl of Mercia and the Welsh prince, Gruffydd ap Llewellyn, in which both parties agreed never to violate the border between Wales and Mercia. A marriage was arranged between Prince Gruffydd and Edith, the young daughter of the Earl of Mercia. From that time Mercia would never cooperate with English government plans to invade Wales and would never permit an English army to cross Mercia to attack the Welsh.
After 1039 Welsh attacks were directed at English defences in Herefordshire and Gkoucestershire, and they were uncomfortably successful. The Welsh always withdrew into their mountains before English counterattacks could be mounted.
Richards Castle was part of the English response to this Welsh aggression.
By 1044, after a long campaign, he had dislodged from the kingdom of Deheubarth in the south, King Hywel ap Edwin and his successor Gruffydd ap Rhydderch ap Iestyn. Gruffydd ap Rhydderch was, in English eyes, the least desirable of the two Gruffydds. In 1046 Earl Swein, leading an English army, assisted Gruffydd ap Llewelyn to resist Gruffydd ap Rhydderch's attempt to recover Deheubarth.
Gruffydd ap Rhydderch counter-attacked and in 1047 seems to have ambushed Gryffudd ap Llewelyn and restored himself to Deheubarth, driving his rival back to his Northern kingdom. In 1049 Gruffydd ap Rhydderch with the assistance of Danish pirates, attacked Gwent Is Coed which was ruled by Cadwgan of the house of Morgannwg. Gruffydd's momentum carried him over the English border on the West bank of the River Severn. An English army, led by Aldred, bishop of Worcester attempted to block Gruffydd ap Rhydderch's advance into England, but was defeated.
This reverse led to a new frontier policy on the part of the English king, Edward the Confessor. Edward's nephew, Earl Ralf of Mantes, nicknamed "the Timid" was appointed Earl of Hereford and other Frenchmen, such as Osbern Pentecost and Richard Scrope, were stationed along the frontier. Castles were erected in Hereford and Ewyas, and Richard Scrope built, in 1051, the castle that was named after him, at a point where the counties of Hereford and Shropshire met the border with Wales.
The posting of Richard Scrope to this point on the border was a political move by the English government. The defence sector for which he was responsible lay between the Earldom of Mercia and the Earldom of Hereford. In theory he was defending Worcester. However, in addition to his defence duties he was appointed sheriff of Shropshire which was a part of the earldom of Mercia.
The sheriff was the king's lieutenant in the county and customary law obliged the men of Shropshire to follow the sheriff if he should lead an army into Wales. No doubt the aim of the English government was to bypass the earl and the Mercian treaty with Wales. There is no record that Richard Scrope ever raised an army in Shropshire.
In 1052 Gruffydd ap Llewelyn, moving down the Golden Valley from the north, attacked Herefordshire and, overcoming the border defences, reached Leominster, before withdrawing with his booty. Richards Castle, on the southern boundary of Mercia, was not attacked.
In 1053 Gruffydd ap Rhydderch attacked England reaching King Edward's manor of Westbury on Severn, in Gloucestershire. The English leaders, furious at the depradations of Rhys the brother of Gruffydd ap Rhydderch put a price on his head, and within a few days Rhys's head was delivered into English hands. In 1055 the English destroyed Gruffydd ap Rhydderch for similar crimes. Thereafter, Gruffydd ap Llewelyn was in sole possession of Wales.
In 1055 Earl Algar, son of Earl Leofric of Mercia, was banished by King Edward after failing to answer charges of questionable loyalty, probably revolving around the Mercian treaty with the Welsh. He turned to his brother in law, Gruffydd ap Llewelyn, for help. The Welsh army attacked Hereford, routed an English army under Earl Ralf, sacked the city and plundered the Cathedral.
The English response was to invade Wales with another army under Harold Godwinsson, the best general England possessed. Gruffydd and Algar avoided a battle, and eventually negotiated with Earl Harold, with the result that Earl Algar was reinstated to his earldom of East Anglia.
In 1056, Leofgar, the soldier-bishop of Hereford invaded Wales and attacked Gruffydd ap Llewelyn near Glasbury. The bishop was no match for Gruffydd and was defeated and killed. There followed another negotiation, resulting in an agreement between King Edward and Gruffydd ap Llewelyn. Gruffydd was allowed to keep all his conquests and was recognised as an under-king with the title of King of the West Britons.
It is possible that Walter Map's popular story of the meeting of the two kings on the Severn between Beachley and Aust refers to this occasion. The place was the traditional ferry crossing, not far from Gloucester.
According to the story, there was a dispute over which king should cross the river to meet the other. Gruffydd claimed he was the senior king, Edward that they were equals. Gruffydd argued that his people had conquered the whole of England with Cornwall, Scotland (or Ireland), and Wales from the giants, and that he was their direct descendant. Edward retorted that his predecessors had obtained England from its conquerors.
In the end Edward embarked and set off to meet Gruffydd. The Welsh prince, overcome by this humility, threw off his ceremonial mantle and plunged into the water to greet him and apologise. He carried Edward to land on his shoulders, set him on his mantle, and with joined hands did him homage.
The arguments attributed to the kings do not ring true and may have been an illustration of Map's view of their characters: Gruffydd boastfully claiming precedence, Edward modestly accepting equality. However that may be, the peace, wrote Map, this peace so admirably begun, did not last very long.
In the Autumn of 1057 Earl Leofric died. Alfgar, who had been re-instated in East Anglia, was allowed to succeed his father in Mercia. Almost immediately, however, he was expelled and outlawed on a charge of treason, again associated with the treaty between Mercia and Wales. He went to his brother in law, the King of Wales.
In 1057 Earl Ralf died and responsiblity for the defence of the border of Herefordshire and Gloucestershire with Wales passed to the house of Godwin. This family was wiped out in 1066 leaving Richard Scrope as the longest serving Marcher lord.
Earl Alfgar in exiled in 1058, predictably obtained help from King Gruffydd to regain his position in England. The alliance of the Welsh with the Mercians, based on family connections, was stronger than the Welsh treaty with King Edward.
Around 1058-60 Richard Scrope's son, Osbern FitzRichard, married Princess Nesta, the eldest of the two daughters of King Gruffydd. This marriage put the Scropes in alliance with both the King of Wales and the Earl of Mercia.
Sometime around this date Richard Scrope himself married the widow of Alwin the sheriff of Warwickshire. There was one child of the marriage, a boy also called Richard, and known as Richard the Child or Richard le Puer / Poer, from whom the Power family originates.
In 1062 Earl Alfgar of Mercia was dead. His son and successor, Earl Edwin, was too young and inexperienced to stand between England and Wales. King Gruffydd again attacked England causing considerable devastation. Earls Harold and Tostig pursued him into Wales and destroyed his power base in Gwynedd. On the run from the English he was murdered by his Welsh enemies. His kingdom of Wales was dismembered into principalities and was never again united and independent.
From that time the initiative passed to the English and the Normans. Wales was under constant attack and was progressively dismembered. Richards Castle became less important as the battleline moved westward. Ultimately it suffered the fate of all defensive works that no longer serve a purpose. It was abandoned, and is now a ruin overgrown with weeds.
The military obligations of the Scropes continued, however, and they fought in Anglo-Norman armies in Wales. The last of this family was killed in 1196 fighting the Welsh at Radnor, less than 20 miles from Richards Castle.
Edward the Confessor was the son and eventual heir of King Ethelred the Unready. In 980 the Danes under Canute invaded England and after Ethelred's death on 1016 Canute became King of England.
The Danish Conquest of England
King Ethelred's sons, Alfred and Edward, fled to their mother's family in Normandy and were raised in the Norman court. During the time of Prince Edward's exile in Normandy he met Richard Scrope and the two became good friends.
Richard Scrope accompanied Edward the Confessor to England in 1041, and Edward became king of England in 1042.
Edward the Confessor
Between 1042 and 1051 Richard Scrope was a member of the king's housecarls, the king's personal bodyguard. Richard Scrope is addressed in two Worcester writs, dated c1062, and in one, King Edward calls him "my housecarl". The duties of the bodyguard covered both peace and war. At that time assassinations were frequent, usually accomplished by poison or by knifing while drinking. The king's brother, Alfred, was murdered by poison.
After the Conquest Richard Scrope served the new rulers of England. Richard Scrope was a witness to a charter by William I to the Bishop of Worcester, dated 1067, re the grant of the vill of Cullacliffe. Richard fought Edric the Wild, an English lord who continued to oppose the Normans, but his efforts appear to have been half-hearted, possibly because of a pre-conquest family relationship or friendship. The family of Savage who held land from the fitzRichards may have been descendants of Edric.
Richard Scrope had at least four sons, Osbern, William, Richard and Thurstan. The children of Richard Scrope were born in the period 1030 to 1040. At the time of the Conquest the four sons of Richard Scrope would have been between the ages of 25 and 35 and old enough to hold land in their own right. Osbern FitzRichard, who is believed to have been the eldest, certainly held land before the Conquest.
Generally, Richard Scrope seems to have been reluctant to fight either the English rebels or the Welsh, which made him useless as a soldier to the Normans. King William assigned Ralph de Mortimer to the border in 1074, possibly to strengthen an unreliable defence.
As a result the fitzScrope family reoriented away from the Welsh border while still retaining the overlordship of their border lands. Richard the son of Richard Scrope let his border lands to tenants and moved to the south of England. Thurstan Fitz Richard moved to the Midlands. William FitzRichard moved to Gloucestershire.
Only Osbern seems to have remained on the border, probably safer with his Welsh relations than with his Norman neighbours. His son and successor, Hugh fitzOsbern, appears to have resided in Pulford in Cheshire, another border castle, and in Ormesby in Lincolnshire. The last FitzScrope Marcher lord, Hugh de Say II, was killed in a battle with the Welsh in 1196, and the connection of the FitzScrope family with the Welsh border, covering a period of 145 years, finally ended.
At the time of the Domesday survey in 1086 the grandsons of Richard Scrope are found to be holding lands in England. Hugh, the son of Osbern FitzRichard, was an extensive landholder at this time. He must therefore have been considerably older than the minimum legal age for holding land which was 21. Hugh fitzOsbern almost certainly was born by 1060. The grandchildren of Richard would have been born from 1050 to 1075.
Richard Scrope was almost certainly dead by 1071. In 1071 he was at least 65 years old and may have died a natural death. The age of Richard Scrope in 1071 is against a theory of death in battle.
1. The Family in France
2. English History
3. Welsh History
The Danish Conquest of England
In 980 there began a new series of Danish invasions which ended in the Danish conquest of the whole land. In 1016 the Danish king, Canute, became king of England. Thereafter, England was deeply divided between the Old English and the Anglo-Danes, who had the support of the kings of Denmark and Norway. Only Mercia retained its Old English character, being ruled by an Earl of the Old English stock.
King Canute died at Shaftesbury on 12 November, 1035, aged about 40. Harthacnut, Canute's son by Emma, was ruling Denmark, but queen Emma, on Canute's death, claimed the English throne for him. The rival claimant was Harold Harefoot, Canute's illegitimate son by Alfgifu, daughter of earl Alfhelm of Northampton and countess Wulfrun.
Sortly after Canute's burial in the Old Minster at Winchester, the Witan met at Oxford to consider the succession to the throne, and it split into two parties. Earl Leofric of Mercia, and almost all the thegns north of the Thames favoured Harold. Earl Godwin of Wessex supported the absent Harthacnut. Harold Harefoot became king, de facto at first, and later fully recognised. On March 17, 1040, Harold Harefoot died, and the crown passed to Harthacnut, the last son of king Canute.
Edward returned to England in 1041, after an exile of 25 years, at the invitation of Harthacnut. He was at least 36 years old. An explanation was advanced by William of Poitiers. Harthacnut was a dying man and for this reason summoned Edward to England. Edward, later known as the Confessor, brought with him a number of friends and relatives. One of these friends, described by writers of the time as a favourite of King Edward the Confessor, was Richard Scrope.
On 8 June, 1042, king Harthacnut died at Lambeth. As Harthacanut died without an heir, the Council of England invited Edward, a prince of the old English line, to assume the throne.
According to the Malmesbury Chronicle, earl Godwin of Wessex got Edward recognised as king in a council held at Gillingham. Edward was crowned at Winchester on Easter Day (3 April) 1043. There was a price for Godwin's support. King Edward married earl Godwin's daughter, Edith, on Wednesday, 23 January, 1045.
Edward the Confessor
In 1002 King Athelred of England married Emma, daughter of Richard I, Count of Normandy, (942- 996), and sister to the ruling count, Richard II. Edward, the first recorded child of Athelred's second marriage (to Emma), was born about 1005 in Islip in Oxfordshire, a place which his mother gave him as a birthday gift.
The earliest date that a child could have been born to Emma is Christmas, 1002. The first mention of Edward's existence is in two charters dated 1005. In that year he was listed as seventh in succession to the throne. No charters exist for the year 1003, and those of 1004 do not mention him, which makes it likely that he was born in 1005.
By 1016, when King Athelred died, Edward was third in the line of succession. By 1017 when Athelred's successor King Edmund Ironside was dead and Eadwig executed, Edward and his younger brother Alfred were the sole surviving sons of king Athelred.
In 1017 Edward's mother, Emma, married Canute, who had established himself as king of England by force of arms, and so for the second time became queen of England. Edward, the legitimate heir, aged about 11 years, went into exile in Normandy in November, 1016, where the Norman dukes were his cousins.
William Calculus, monk of Jumieges, stated that Edward and Alfred were educated in the Norman ducal hall, a statement repeated by William of Poitiers, archdeacon of Lisieux. Edward appears as a witness to a few of the later charters of Duke Robert, and one of his son and successor, William the Bastard, which indicates that he was a member of the Norman court. Edward also knew king Henry I of France and may have visited the French court.
Uncles and first cousins of Edward included Alan III, count of Brittany, Eon de Porhoet, Count of Penthievre, Gilbert, count of Brionne, Robert, archbishop of Rouen and count of Evreux, William, count of Eu, Mauger, count of Corbeil, Aelis, married to the count of Burgundy, and Eleanor, married to the count of Flanders. Edward had more continental relatives than English. Both Richard Scrope and Duke William of Normandy married daughters of the House of Flanders, so they were all related by marriage.
Later writers asserted that Edward was accompanied to England by a household. He took his sister's son, Ralf, later earl Ralf of Hereford, with him, showing that he had kept in touch with her and her husband, the count of Mantes. He gave land in England to Bretons, such as Ralf the Staller, and Robert FitzWymarch. Richard Scrope, described as a friend of Edward, also accompanied him to England.
England in the Time of King Edward
Edward summoned his council to meet in London a week before mid-Lent, 1055. At this council Earl Alfgar of East Anglia was outlawed. According to the Abingdon (c) version of the Chronicle, which was hostile to the House of Godwin, Alfgar was innocent of crime. According to the Northern (d) version he had committed hardly any wrong. According to the St.Augustine's (e) version Alfgar was charged with being a traitor to the king and all the people in the country, a charge which he had involuntarily admitted in the council. His punishment proves that his father Leofric, now an old man, was without much power, and that the queen's party was ruthless.
Part of Alfgar's earldom was taken away and entrusted to Gyrth, the next son of Earl Godwin to be approaching manhood. Alfgar was expelled from England and went to Ireland and Wales.
In 1055 Earl Algar, son of Earl Leofric of Mercia, was banished by King Edward after failing to answer charges of questionable loyalty, probably revolving around the Mercian treaty with the Welsh. He turned to his brother in law, Gruffydd ap Llewelyn, for help. The Welsh army attacked Hereford, routed an English army under Earl Ralf, sacked the city and plundered the Cathedral. The English response was to invade Wales with another army under Harold Godwinsson, the best general England possessed. Gruffydd and Algar avoided a battle, and eventually negotiated with Earl Harold, with the result that Earl Algar was reinstated to his earldom of East Anglia.
In the Autumn of 1057 Earl Leofric died. Alfgar, who had been re-instated in East Anglia, was allowed to succeed his father in Mercia. Almost immediately, however, he was expelled and outlawed on a charge of treason. In 1058 Alfgar returned with the help of Gruffydd.
Earl Alfgar is not heard of again after the summer of 1062. Possibly it is because there is no annal for this year that we are ignorant of his fate.
Earl Edwin succeeded to the earldom of Mercia probably in 1062. He took no recorded part in the Welsh wars of 1063 and is not mentioned in the Chronicle before the autumn of 1065.
2. The Background History to Anglo-Welsh Relations
The English invaded Britain in the 5th century and by the 7th century they were firmly established in the Severn valley which runs parallel with the present border between England and Wales. To the west lay the mountains of Wales. The English, an agricultural nation, had no use for mountainous country and would not fight for it. However, there was no peace between the Welsh and the English. There was continuous border warfare and raiding of border lands by the Welsh.
In the mid-11th century the major Welsh figure was Gruffydd ap Llewelyn ap Seisill, ruler of Gwynedd from 1039 and of Powys probably from the same date.
King Gruffydd was descended from Magnus Maximus and Maelgwn, who ruled Gwynedd in the 6th century. Rhodri Mawr, Prince of Gwynedd, was killed by Vikings in 878, and was succeeded by his sons, Anarawad and Cadell. Cadell's son, Hywel Dda (Howel the Good) died in 950, and was succeeded by his son, Owain, and his grandson, Maredudd ap Owain, (986-999), Prince of Dyfedd and Gwynedd. Maredudd's daughter married Llewelyn ap Seisil, who was Prince of Gwynedd (1018-1023). He appears to have been succeeded by his son Gruffydd in 1039. The intervening gap may be accounted for by assuming Gruffydd was under age at his father's death. Gruffydd was the sole native prince to rule all of Wales.
Gruffydd, in 1039, attacked a Mercian army at Rhyd y Groes ar Hafren, a ford near Welshpool, and there killed Edwin, brother of Earl Leofric of Mercia. A peace was negotiated between the Welsh and the Mercians and Edith, daughter of Earl Leofric, was married to Gruffydd. A consequence of this treaty was that border between Wales and Mercia, extending down from Chester to the southern limits of Shropshire, was never crossed by a Welsh army. Instead, all future Welsh attacks were aimed at Herefordshire and Gloucestershire in the south.
In 1053 King Edward was forced to discharge and deport Frenchmen who had been giving offence in England and Osbern Pentecost and Hugh the Castellan went north to Scotland to join Macbeth. Richard Scrope remained at his post on the border. He had not, it seems, upset any of the English leaders.
Earl Alfgar was again exiled in 1058 and predictably obtained help from King Gruffydd to regain his position in England. The alliance of the Welsh with the Mercians, based on family connections, was stronger than the Welsh treaty with King Edward. It worked two ways. English attacks on Wales through Mercia were discouraged, and the Welsh never attacked Mercia. Instead, Mercia and Wales fought together in alliance. King Edward could not place his trust in either. In 1062 Earl Alfgar of Mercia was dead. His son and successor, Earl Edwin, was too young and inexperienced to stand between England and Wales. King Gruffydd again attacked England causing considerable devastation. Earls Harold and Tostig pursued him into Wales and destroyed his power base in Gwynedd. On the run from the English he was murdered by his Welsh enemies. His kingdom of Wales was dismembered into principalities and was never again united and independent.