Shropshire's Secrets

 

 

The Shropshire Outlaw

 

 

ccording to most sources, Whittington Castle was built by Roger de Montgomery. The first member of the Peverel family to be associated with it is generally believed to be William Peverel, son of Ranulf Peverel, during the reign of Henry I. If this is so, why does Fulk le Fitz Warine mention a Payn Peverel? The answer is, "I don't know!" The only explanation is in Fulk le Fitz Warine which says that after Payn's death, William Peverel, his sister's son took over Payn's inheritance.

At some point, a knight by the name of Guarin de Metz married into the Peverel family. The date is difficult to estimate, and even the events leading up to the marriage are difficult to verify. However, the story is worthy of repeat.

Circa 1120-1135. After the death of Payn in the reign of Henry I, his lands passed to William, the son of Payn's sister. He extended his lands and built a castle called White Tower which is recognised as Whittington, near Oswestry. (The remains which stand today are only a part of the original castle, representing the outer bailey and gatehouse.)
William Peverel had two nieces, Eleyne and Melette. Melette was the younger and more beautiful. She was also a 'bit of a handful'. Many sought her, but none won her. In desperation, her uncle asked her what she wanted in a man.
"Sire", she said, "no knight is there in all the world that I would take for the sake of riches and the honour of his lands, but if ever I take such a one, he shall be handsome, and courteous, and accomplished, and the most valiant of his order in all Christendom. Of riches I make no account, for truly can I say that he is rich who has that which his heart desires."

Poor old Uncle William! What could he do? Well, in true Hollywood style, he organised a tournament and invited the bravest and most eligible knights in the land. He even offered Whittington Castle as a dowry. But unlike Hollywood style tournaments, it seems that the first day was something of a free-for-all, and only those left standing went on to the tournament proper. Owen, Prince of Wales, came with two hundred knights, so did Eneas, son of the King of Scotland. The Duke of Burgundy had three hundred, Ydromor, the son of the King of Galloway came with one hundred and fifty. Guarin (Warine) de Metz, cousin of the Duke of Brittany, came with ten sons of the Duke and just one hundred knights.
By day two, Melette was rooting for Guarin and sent him her glove and prayed for him to defend her. His answer was that he 'would do what in him lay.'.
Needless to say, he won, and Guarin de Metz took the fair Melette as his bride, together with the White Tower and its lands.
Incidentally, Glyn Burgess, in his book Two Medieval Outlaws, questions this episode, but I have included it because ALL good family histories need a bit of romance and chivalry. whether it can be proved as true, or not.

Melette and Guarin had a son who has passed into history as Fulk Fitz Warine, and it must be remembered, right from the start, that he could claim descendancy from the Peverel's, who claimed the connection, by marriage with Cyngen (850 AD), and it was Cyngen who claimed descendancy, through Cynddylan, from Vortigern and his marriage to the daughter of the Roman Emperor Magnus Maximus.
It must also be remembered that, in the early days of the Roman Empire, the Emperor was head of both state and church.
Yet again, it must be remembered that the Songs of Llywarch Hen also tell of the King of Powys, Cynddylan calling a meeting of the clergy and instructing them to hide or preserve a number of religious relics (which may or may not have included the Marian Chalice and/or items left here by Joseph of Arimathea) when the Saxons invaded in the seventh century.
Whether you believe it or not, you have to admit that such a story would be passed with great pride from father (or mother) to son.

At an early age Fulk was sent to the castle of Joce de Dynan for his education. Joce de Dynan had two daughters, Hawyse and Sybille, Hawyse, the younger, being about the same age as Fulk.
Sir Joce had obtained his lands after the death of Roger de Montgomery. These lands included the castle at Dynan (Ludlow) and the country around which included much of Corve Dale.
But Corve Dale was not then a peaceful part of Shropshire, as there was continual strife between Joce de Dynan and his neighbour, Sir Walter de Lacy.

1139. Whittington Castle held for the Empress Matilda against King Stephen.

Circa 1145-1160. By the time Fulk was eighteen, things had come to a head, and one summer's day Walter de Lacy attacked Dynan (Ludlow) Castle. At first he was repelled and forced to retreat. Joce de Dynan gave chase and caught up with de Lacy on the road towards Bromfield. But de Lacy was joined by some of his men and Joce de Dynan was in danger of loosing his life.
All this was seen from the walls of the Castle, and Fulk was one of those watching. Armed with only a Danish axe and mounted on a pack-horse he rode to the rescue. Despite his lack of skill, he killed two of de Lacy's men. The third, Sir Arnald de Lys, already wounded, surrendered and this was soon followed by the surrender of de Lacy himself.
For his part in saving the life of Sir Joce, Fulk was given the hand of his daughter, Hawyse.

Sir Walter and Sir Arnald were imprisoned in Pendover tower in the castle. Although they were prisoners, they were well-treated and Joce de Dynan's wife and daughters, together with their maids, often visited them.
Now, Sir Arnald was a young handsome bachelor and he soon attracted the attention of Marion de la Bruere, chief serving-woman to the Lady of the castle. To cut a long story short, she fell for his smooth tongue and helped the two prisoners escape. Their departure did not seem to have upset Sir Joce who was probably wondering what he was to do with his prisoners in any case.

During a subsequent absence of Sir Joce, his castle was guarded by thirty hired knights and seventy fighting men. Also left behind was Marion de la Bruere, who feigned illness so that she would not have to travel. When her master left, Marion sent word to Sir Arnald de Lys, reminding him of his promise of marriage. He sent a message back saying he would help her escape from the castle. But his intentions were far from honourable and he arrived at Ludlow with an attack force. Marion let him into the castle. But while they were celebrating their togetherness, in whatever manner was appropriate in those days, a hundred well-armed men scaled the walls in the same way that Sir Arnald had and 'many a sheet that was white at even, was all reddened with blood.'
When Marion realised she had been betrayed, she killed Sir Arnald and then threw herself to death from a window.
The next day, Sir Walter de Lacy raised his banner from the tower where he had once been prisoner. 'But the town, and all that was therein was burnt to ashes.'
We do not have verifiable records of these events but they are related in an old minstrel's tale and it is said that the ghostly figure of a beautiful young lady still appears on dark nights to haunt the castle ruins.

1146. Death of Guarin de Metz.

1154 - 1189. Reign of Henry II. During this period, Fulk II, (born 1170) son of Fulk & Hawyse, was brought up at the court of King Henry in the company of the King's sons, and may well have been of similar age to the King's youngest son, John.
In later history, there is a lot of bad blood between Fulk and John, and the reason for this is given in Fulk le Fitz Warine as follows:
"And it chanced on a day that John and Fulk were alone in a chamber playing chess. John seized the chessboard and gave Fulk a heavy blow. Fulk felt himself hurt, and he raised his foot and kicked John in the chest, so that his head struck against the wall, and he became all powerless and fell own senseless. Fulk was sore afraid, and he rubbed the ears of John, and he recovered from his faintness and went to the King, his father, and made sore complaint. And the King said, "Silence, fellow, you are ever quarrelling. If Fulk has done by you aught but what is good, it must needs have been by your own desert." And he called his master, and caused him to beat him soundly and well, because of his complaint.
And John was sore and angered against Fulk, so that never after could he bear good-will towards him.'

In 1160, Henry II gave Fulk I the task of arming and provisioning Dover Castle. Henry's high esteem of Fulk I and his son reinforces the theory that the Fitz Warines had been supporters of Matilda during the reign of King Stephen. But in 1164, (for reasons I do not know) Whittington Castle was granted to Geoffrey de Vere.
The following year it was granted to Roger de Powys.

1189 - 1199. Reign of Richard I.
During this period, Richard I treated the five sons of Fulk I as favourites. The five sons were Fulk II, Philip the Red, William, John and Alan, and, together with their cousin Baldwin de Hodnet, they are recorded as being knights of strength, goodness and courage.
(During the period that Richard I was on his Crusade, it is recorded in Fulk le Fitz Warine that Fulk (II) was placed in charge of the whole March.)

Circa 1197 Fulk Fitz Warine II became lord of Whittington (White Town) on the death of his father.

1199 - 1216. Reign of King John.
Soon after John came to the throne, he summoned Fulk II on some matters pertaining to the March. He informed Fulk that he was going to go to the Castle Baldwin. (Castle Baldwin is Montgomery castle. The name Baldwin, the builder of the castle, lives on in the Welsh name for Montgomery - Tre Faldwyn, Baldwin's Town.)
On John's arrival he was met by Morys, the son of Roger de Powis who had taken Whittington Castle from Fulk's father. During his time there, Morys was made a member of the King's council, and warden of the entire March. Morys took advantage of the situation and begged him to confirm by charter the right of himself and his heirs to the honour of Blancheville, as his father, Henry, had formerly confirmed it for his (Mory's) father Roger de Powys.

Although King John knew the land was rightfully Fulk's he remembered the chess incident and he gave the lands to Morys. But someone loyal to Fulk overheard the conversation and reported to Fulk. It didn't take Fulk long to come to the king to demand the return of his lands.
'Then spake Sir Morys to Sir Fulk, and said, "Sir Knight, very foolish are you to challenge my lands. If that you say you have right to White Town, you lie, and if that we were not in the presence of the King, this would I prove on your body."
And without more ado, Sir William, the brother of Fulk, sprang forward, and with his fist he struck Sir Morys between the eyes so that he became all bloody. Then said Sir Fulk to the King, "Sir King, you are my liege lord, and I am bound by fealty to you the whiles I am in your service, and as long as I hold lands of you, and you oght to maintain my rights, but you fail me in my rights and the common law. Never was he a king who, in his courts, denied the law unto his free tenants. Wherefore I relinquish my homage to you."
With these words, Fulk and his companions left as outlaws, pursued by fifteen of the King's strongest knights. - Needless to say, the pursuers came off worse than the pursued! As a result of this, Fulk Fitz Warine II and his companions were declared outlaws.

Fulk went first to Alberbury to see his mother, Dame Hawyse, and she advised him to flee the country. This he did, but in his absence, King John took all his lands. But Fulk was not a man to stay in hiding long and he returned to England, only to find that, during his absence, his mother had died.
Determined to regain what he felt was rightfully his, Fulk and his brothers, together with his cousins Audulf de Bracy (of Meole Brace) and Baldwin de Hodnet, went to Babbing Forest (Babbin's Wood, near Whittington) to spy on Morys Fitz Roger. The presence was detected by the inhabitants of Whittington castle and in an ensuing skirmish both Fulk and Morys were slightly wounded.
The incident was reported to the King and he ordered Fulk's capture, sending out a hundred knights to scour the country to seek out and capture the outlaws.

The ensuing adventures recounted in Fulk le Fitz Warine are numerous. Stories that span the length and breadth of the country, of narrow escapes, of robbing the rich and holding people to ransom. But wait a minute, those are stories told about Robin Hood! Well, Fulk Fitz Warine was a real person, and it is interesting to note that the document containing the Fitz Warine's life story pre-dates the fictional stories of Robin Hood.

Against ridiculous odds, despite injuries and near capture, Fulk, his brothers and their companions remained at large. He even had time to marry Dame Maude, a woman who the King himself wanted to marry. (Whether Fulk was smitten by her beauty or by the fact that she had title to many lands in her own right is not made clear.)

After a number of adventures that spanned the country and Europe, the action returned to Shropshire, and by infiltrating Whittington Castle, Fulk was able to discover that Sir Morys and his family were about to leave Whittington for Shrewsbury, and he ambushed him at the pass of Ness. It was here that Fulk made his ambush killing Sir Morys, fifteen knights and the four sons of Guy Fitz Candelou.

1202. Llewelyn ap Iowerth moved an army from Powys to subdue Gwenwynwyn, prince of South Powys and son of Owain Cyfeiliog (d1197), who, although related to him, was his enemy in action. In due course churchmen and monks made peace between Llewelyn and Gwenwynwyn. (Prince, Llewelyn had married Joan, daughter of Henry II and sister of King John. Llewelyn was only loyal to the King when it suited him and he was continually having his lands confiscated or restored.)
Fulk and his companions sided with Llewelyn and Gwenwynwyn, son of Owain Cyfeiliog against King John. They met King John in a battle at a place called Ffordd Gam Elen, but the outcome was inconclusive. However, for his help, Prince Llewelyn bestowed Blancheville (Whittington), together with Ystrad Marchell and Dinorben on Fulk.
Soon afterwards, Fulk attacked Ruyton (XI Towns) Castle which was held by John le Strange for the King.
The King summoned Sir John le Strange and Sir Henry de Audley (of Weston under Redcastle) and ordered them to retake Whittington. When Fulk heard of this he marched to meet the King's men, his own forces reinforced by Llewelyn's men from Wales, but in the ensuing fight, at the Pass of Myddle, he was outnumbered and was forced to retreat to Whittington.

Unable to capture or kill Fulk, the King decided on a different solution and sent a message to Llewelyn suggesting that they make peace and that Llewelyn give up Fulk. Perhaps realising that his days were numbered if he remained in England, Fulk and his companions left for France.
After his time in France, Fulk went on a voyage. The account of this is detailed in Fulk le Fitz Warine, and these adventures seem to echo some of the legends pertaining to Arthur.
On his return to England there is further conflict with King John until;

November, 1203. Fulk Fitz Warine, together with 52 of his followers were pardoned by King John. Fulk regained Whittington. Amongst those pardoned are a number with Shropshire connections; William, Philip and Ivo, brothers of Fulk; Baldwin of Hodnet, cousin and tenant of the Fitz Warines; Stephen, possibly the younger brother of Baldwin; Roger, John & Richard de Preston; Henry de Pontesbury; Philip de Hanwood; and Philip de Wem.

After his pardon, Fulk returned to his wife and family in Shropshire. It seems he then had time to reflect on his life, and conscious of his many sins he founded a priory in honour of our Lady the Virgin Mary, at Alberbury on the banks of the Severn.
Soon afterwards, his wife, Lady Matilda de Caus, died and she was buried at the priory. Lady Matilda was the granddaughter of Matilda de Caus and former wife of Theobald (d1206), brother of Hubert Walker, Archbishop of Canterbury
Later, Fulk married Lady Clarice d'Auberville.

1215. Fulk joined the baronial revolt which subsequently led to the signing of the Magna Carta.

1256. Death of Fulk Fitz Warine. He and his wife were buried at The White Abbey, Alberbury, which, according to the story Fulk le Fitz Waryn, was built as the final resting place of a Holy Relic.


Shropshire's Secrets
"And Merlin said of the future. 'In Britain the Great, a wolf will come to the White Plain. Twelve sharp teeth will he have, six below and six above. he will have so fierce a look that he will drive the leopard from out the White Plain, such great strength and virtue will he have.' But we know that Merlin said this about Fulk Fitz Warine, for each of you may be sure that in the time of King Arthur that was called the White Plain which is now called White Town. For in that country was the chapel of St. Augustine, which was fair. - There recovered King Arthur his goodness and his valour, when he had quite lost his chivalry and his virtue. From this country the wolf issued, as says the wise Merlin. And the twelve sharp teeth we have recognised from his shield. he bore a shield indented as the arbiters have devised. On the shield are twelve teeth gules and ardent. By the leopard may be recognised and well understood King John; for he bore on his shield leopards of beaten gold"

Could Merlin, like some early Nostradamus, have seen the coming of Fulk Fitz Warine? The White Plain stretched from Llangollen to Viriconium. The twelve teeth are featured in the coat of arms of the Fitz Warines. The leopards were a feature of the coat of arms of King John. Is it just a coincidence that Ddantagwyn, Arthur's Welsh name, means white teeth?
Because the Fulk le Fitz Warine was written at a time when legends about Arthur were being published at a prolific rate, it could be assumed that any connection between the Fitz Warines and Arthur were just fashionable additions by the writer. But perhaps there is a connection that has been overlooked. Could it be that the Fitz Warines, through their descent from the Peverels and their connection with the rulers of Powys, felt that they had claim to the throne of Powys? If this is true, then they would be keen to associate themselves with the legends, however bizarre, that abounded about Arthur.

And what about the claim that Fulk Fitz Warine found a holy relic in the chapel of his castle at Whittington? which Our Lord and Saviour did give into the hands of his servant Joseph (of Arimathea) If nothing else, it shows that Fulk Fitz Warine believed there was a connection between his castle. back through the ages, and Viriconium and its connections with Joseph of Arimathea.
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