Traditions of Lancashire

” She ‘s over the muir,

An’ over the border,
An’ ower the blue hills far awa’ :

With her callant, I trow,

On his saddle-bow,
While the mist-wreaths around them fa’.”

THE main facts of the following narrative, lying scattered through a
wide field of barren inquiry, the author has been at considerable pains
to collect and arrange in a continuous narrative.

Little needs be said by way of introduction, the traditions here inter-
woven with the general history being mostly of a trivial nature, and not
at all interfering with the facts developed by the historians and rhymers
who have illustrated the annals of the house of Stanley. These accounts,
exaggerated and distorted as they inevitably must have been, may yet,
in the absence of more authentic testimony, afford a pretty accurate
glimpse at the real nature of those events, however they may have been
disguised by fiction and misstatement. Where tradition is our only
guide we must follow implicitly, satisfied that her taper was lighted at
the torch of Truth, though it may gleam doubtfully and partially
through the mists and errors of succeeding ages.

One source from whence we have derived some information, though
well known to the comparative few who have explored these by-paths
of history, may not be thought uninteresting to the general reader,
especially as it is connected with the most eventful portion of our

An ancient metrical account of the Stanleys, Earls of Derby, is con-


tained in some uncouth rhymes, written about the year 1562, by Thomas
Stanley, Bishop of Sodor and Man,* and son of that Sir Edward
Stanley, who, for his valour at Flodden, was created Lord Monteagle.
There are two copies of these verses in the British Museum : one
amongst Cole’s papers (vol. xxix. page 104), and the other in the
Harleian MSS. (541). Mr Cole prefaces his transcript with the follow-
ing notice : ” The History of the family of Stanley, Earls of Derby,
wrote in verse about the reign of King Henry the Eighth from a MS.
now in possession of Lady Margaret Stanley, copied for me by a person
who has made many mistakes, and sent to me by my friend Mr Allen,
Rector of Tarporley, in 1758. W. Cole.”

The MS. formerly belonged to Sir John Crewe, of Utkinton, and was
given by Mr Ardern, in 1757, to Lady Margaret Stanley.

The commencement of this metrical history is occupied in dilating
upon the pleasure resulting from such an undertaking ; and although
the flow of the verse is not of remarkable smoothness, yet it hardly
furnishes an apology for Seacome’s mistake, who, in his ” History of
the House of Stanley,” printed the first fifty lines as prose. The
reverend versifier rehearses how Stanley sprang from Audley, and then
shows the manner in which his ancestors became possessors of Stourton
and Hooton. He dwells upon the joust betwixt the Admiral of
Hainault and Sir John Stanley, the second brother of the house of
Stanley of Hooton.t Then follows the account, more particularly
developed in our own story, of the adventures and moving accidents
which have been liberally used to adorn the “Garland ” of his descend-
ant William, Earl of Derby. ” For many generations this was the
recognised chronicle of the family, until, in the time of James the First,
a clergyman of Chester translated the rhymes of the Bishop into
English, carefully retaining the mistakes of the original, and adding
long and dull disquisitions of his own.”

IN the days of our valiant King Edward, while the fame of
Cressy and Poictiers was fresh and stirring in all true and
loyal hearts, while the monarchs of two powerful kingdoms

* “Thomas Stanley, Bishop of Man, was a cadet of the noble family of the Stan-
leys, Earls of Derby ; and, after he had spent some time in this and another univer-
sity abroad, returned to his native country (Lancashire), became rector of Winwick
and Wigan therein ; as also of Badsworth, in the diocese of York, and dignified in
the church. At length, upon the vacancy of the see of the Isle of Man, he was made
bishop thereof, but when, I cannot justly say ; because he seems to have been bishop
in the beginning of King Edward VI., and was really bishop of that place before the
death of Dr Man, whom I have before mentioned under the year 1556. This Thomas
Stanley paid his last debt to nature in the latter end of 1570, having had the charac-
ter when young of a tolerable poet of his time.” Wood’s Athena Oxonienses.

t This extract is from an interesting pamphlet, printed for private circulation only,
by Thomas Heywood, Esq. of Manchester, entitled, ” The Earls of Derby, and the
Verse Writers and Poets of the i6th and i7th Centuries.” 1825.


were held captive in these realms, lived a worthy knight, of
whom we had a brief notice in the preceding narrative. Sir
Thomas Lathom of Lathom was a nobleman of great wealth
and possessions. According to the Calendarium Rotulorum
from the Charter Rolls in the Tower, he held lands, besides,
in Knouselegh, Childewall, Roby, and Aulusargh. In Liverpool,
he was proprietor of the tower, a structure of but little note
until rebuilt and fortified by Sir John Stanley during his govern-
ment in Ireland, of which we shall have more to say anon.

Sir Thomas married, in the year 1343, the youngest daughter
of Sir Hamon Massey of Dunham Massey, in the adjoining
county of Chester. Twelve years had since that period elapsed
at the time when our story begins ; and though earnestly desir-
ing male issue, that his name and race might be perpetuated,
yet was the sole fruit of their union hitherto a daughter, named
Isabel, then just entering on her tenth year. Her winning and
surpassing comeliness proved no solace to his disappointment.
He grew moodish and melancholy in the midst of his vast
wealth ; apprehending the utter extinction of his name, and
the intrusion of a stranger on his birthright. Hopeless of other
issue by his own lady, he had recourse to unlawful means for
this purpose, which procured for him a sore chastisement in
the end, as our narrative will show.

In that neighbourhood dwelt a comely maiden, the only
daughter of a substantial yeoman, of the name of Oskatell.
This damsel, pleasing the amorous fancy of Sir Thomas, fell an
easy prey to his arts and persuasions. Though concealed from
her friends, their too frequent intercourse at length became
visible in the birth of a son, greatly to the joy of the father, who
meditated nothing less than to adopt this illegitimate babe for
the perpetuation of his name. Yet were there preliminaries of
no mean importance to be adjusted, as all men who have wives
may well conceive. The lady of Lathom must first be con-
sulted ; but probabilities were strongly against the supposition
that she would tamely submit to this infringement on the rights
of her child by the interposition of a bastard. Nay, she had
beforetime hinted that some individual of the name, of moderate
wealth and good breeding, might in time be found for a suitable
alliance. Still, the success of his scheme was an object that lay-
deeply at his heart, and he grew more and more anxious and
perplexed. One evening, as he wandered out disconsolately in the


company of an old and trusty servant, to whom he had imparted
the secret, they came to a desert place in the park, nigh to
where a pair of eagles had from time immemorial built their
nests. A project struck him which promised fair to realise his
wishes. After a multitude of schemes subservient to the main
purpose had been thrown out and abandoned, the whole plot
was finally unfolded in the following manner :

A message was conveyed to the mother overnight, that be-
times on the following morning the babe, richly clad, should
be held in readiness, and a trusty servant would forthwith
convey him to the hall. She was peremptorily forbidden to
follow ; and in her great joy at this announcement, naturally
supposing that a more favourable posture of affairs had arisen
between Sir Thomas and his lady on the subject, she cheer-
fully consented to this unexpected deprivation, confident that
it was to the furthering of her child’s welfare and advance-
ment. The infant, smiling, and unconscious of the change,
was taken from his mother’s lap, his swaddling clothes carefully
folded together, and committed to the care of the aged

Little was the anxious mother aware of the great peril he
had to undergo ere the goal which bounded her anticipations
was won.

It was the soft twilight of a summer’s morning, and the
little birds had begun to chirp their matins, and the lark to
brush the dew from her speckled breast, waiting for the first
gaze of the sun. The old man pressed the infant closer to his
bosom as he drew nigh to the steep acclivity, the solitary dwell-
ing of the eagle. He kissed the babe ; then looking round,
fearful of intruders, he laid the wicker cradle at the foot of the
precipice, and sprang into a dark thicket close by, as if to
watch for the descent of the rapacious bird.

Leaving the child, we turn to Sir Thomas, who on that
morning, as was his wont, together with his dame, awoke be-
times, but he was sooner astir and more anxious and bustling
than usual. Their custom was, awaking with the sun, to begin
the day with a quiet stroll about the grounds ; and on this
eventful morning their walk chanced happily towards the
eagle’s nest. Being something farther and more out of their
common track, it was noticed good-humouredly by the lady,
who seemed to possess a more than ordinary portion of hilarity


on the occasion. Evidently under some exciting influence, their
walk was unconsciously protracted.

In a gloomy dell, not far from the eyrie, Sir Thomas stood
still, in the attitude of listening. The lady, too, was silent
and alarmed, but no intimation of danger was visible. Her
own senses, though, seemed to gather acuteness, a circum-
stance by no means rare in the vicinity of an unusually timid
and listening companion, who braces our perceptions to the
tension of his own. Soon, however, the short and feeble cry
of the babe was heard, when the knight sprang forward, feign-
ing great astonishment at the discovery. Evidently dropped
from the talons of the bird, it was looked upon as a special
gift of Providence, a deposit direct from the skies ; to have re-
jected which would have been a heinous offence, and an un-
lawful contravention of the designs of the Giver. Accordingly,
the infant was taken home and carefully nursed, being baptized
by the name of Oskatell.

The good lady became surprisingly enamoured of the little
foundling, believing his adoption was dictated by the will of
Heaven ; and to this decision its father readily acceded. Sir
Thomas, to give the greater sanction to this supposed miracle,
as well as to remove all suspicion of fraud from the prying eyes
of a censorious world, assumed for his crest an eagle on the
wing, proper, looking round as though for something she had

The child grew in years and stature, being liberally furnished
in all things according with the dignity he was destined to
receive. Sir Thomas purposed the sharing of his wealth equally
between his children, a measure which had the entire concur-
rence of Lady de Lathom. Though younger by some years,
Oskatell was generally considered by the world as the future
husband of Isabella ; but Sir Thomas, aware of danger on this
head, early impressed them with some notion of consanguinity,
and intimated the impossibility of their union. This prohibition,
settling on a womanish fancy, might naturally have been ex-
pected to operate in a manner the reverse of his intention. Yet
we do not find from history that Isabella ever cherished for
him any other sentiments than those arising from a sisterly re-

Growing up to man’s estate, he sought the court of King
Edward, where, though of a peaceable temper, his soul was


stirred to participate in the gallant feats incident to that scene
of martial enterprise.

Isabella was now in the full summer, or, it might be, ripen-
ing into the rich autumn of her beauty. Her father would by
no means have permitted her union save with one of the highest
rank, to which her gentle blood and princely inheritance en-
titled her. And though not a few hitherto, of noble birth and
endowments, had sought the honour of her alliance, yet her
heart was untouched, and in the end her suitors forbore their

All the country was now mightily roused with the news of
the French champion who, together with sundry of his com-
panions in arms, had challenged the English nation to match
them with the like number at a solemn joust and tourney, and
of the great gallantry and personal accomplishments of Sir
John, then Captain Stanley, who had first taken up the gauntlet
in his country’s behalf. The lists were prepared. The meet-
ing, by the king’s command, was appointed to be holden at
Winchester, where the royal court was expected to witness this
splendid achievement. Oskatell, returning home, strongly
importuned his sister to accompany him to the show, it . being
then deemed a pleasant recreation for many a fair and delicate
maiden to view their champions hack and hew each other
without mercy. Isabella, unceasingly urged to this excursion,
at length set out for the city of Winchester, followed by a
numerous train of attendants, where, in due time, they arrived,
mingling in the bustle and dissipation incident to these fes-

Young Stanley was the second son of Sir William Stanley,
Lord of Stanley and Stourton. As a younger branch of the
house, he commenced his career, it is said, under the command
of his relative Lord Audley ; but this appears something doubt-
ful. The battle of Poictiers, in which Captain Stanley is said
to have been, was fought in 1357 ; and here he must have
battled in petticoats, seeing that his father was but married 26
Edward III., and, consequently, making due allowance for ac-
cidents and irregularities, young Stanley, as the second son,
could not then have proceeded beyond his third year ! a pre-
cocity unprecedented, we believe, even in the annals of that
fighting era. The conflicting statements we meet with about
this time, both traditionary and recorded, we cannot attempt to


reconcile. Sufficient information happily exists, however, on
which no doubt arises ; and by the aid of that we proceed with
our narrative.

Stanley, according to some, having been a great traveller,
had improved himself diligently in the art of war ; and, as the
old chronicles quaintly relate, ” he visited most of the courts
of Europe, even as far as Constantinople ; wherein he made
such advances in the school of Mars, that his superior skill in
arms was generally applauded in every country he passed
through.” So distinguished and widely-extended a reputation
for bravery could not fail to provoke the pride and envy of all
Christendom, whereupon the young Admiral of Hainault, one
of the bravest men of his time, together with divers gentlemen
of the French court, defied the whole kingdom to a passage of
arms, the result of which challenge has been shown.

Great was the confluence and resort to the city of Winchester,
it being noised abroad as though the king would distinguish the
affray by his presence ; wondrous the stir and bustle of the
soldiers, guards, and attendants, with hordes of idlers and
hangers-on, from the vast array of knights and nobles, who came
either to see or to share in the approaching trial. The splendid
banners, the heraldic pomp and barbaric grandeur of their re-
tinues, augmenting with every fresh arrival, made the streets
one ever-moving pageant for many days before the conflict
began. Isabella had full leisure to observe, from her own
lattice, the gay and costly garniture, and the glittering appoint-
ments of the warriors, with the pageants and puerile diversions
suited to the taste and capacity of the ignorant crowds by which
they were followed. The king’s mummers were arrived, to-
gether with many other marvels in the shape of puppet-shows
and “motions” enacting the “old vice ; ” Jonas and the whale,
Nineveh, the Creation, and a thousand unintelligible but equally
gratifying and instructive devices ; one of which, we are told,
was ” four giants, a unicorn, a camel, an ass, a dragon, a
hobby-horse, and sixteen naked boys ! ”

The crowds attracted by these spectacles were immense, and
the city nigh choked with the torrents that set in from every

From the windows of the houses, where lodged the knights
appointed to the encounter, hung their several coats, richly em-
blazoned, rousing forth many a shout and hurrah, as one and


another symbol was recognised to be the badge of some favourite
chief; but more than all, was the young Stanley’s escutcheon
favoured by the fickle breath of popular opinion, which made
it needful that a double guard should be mounted near his
dwelling, a precaution, moreover, rendered needful by the
many tumults among the different partisans and retainers, not
always ending without bloodshed. The arrival of the king,
however, soon changed the current of the wondering multitude.
Edward was now in his sixty-fourth year, and the fiftieth of his
reign. Though the decline of his life did not correspond with
the splendid and noisy scenes which had illustrated the earlier
periods of his history, yet he still manifested the same restless
and undaunted spirit, ever considered as the prevailing attribute
of his character. Towards the close of his career he had the
mortification to endure the loss of his foreign possessions, hav-
ing been baffled in every attempt to defend them. He felt, too,
the decay of his authority at home, from the inconstancy and
discontents of his subjects. Though his earlier years had been
spent amid the din and tumult of war and the business of the
camp, yet was he, at this period, almost wholly given up to plea-
sure and the grossest of sensual indulgences. Alice Pierce, to
whom he was immoderately attached, had gained an ascendancy
over him so dangerous that the parliament remonstrated, with
a courage and firmness worthy of a more enlightened era, and in
the end he was obliged to remove her from court. Sometimes
the spirit of his youth awoke ; the glory of past ages was stirred
up within him ; and, like the aged war-horse neighing to the
shrill note of the trumpet, he greeted the approaching tournament
with something of his wonted ardour, though now but an ex-
piring flash, brightening a moment ere it was extinguished.

The day rose calm and unclouded. The thin haze of the
morning had disappeared, and an atmosphere of more than
common brilliancy succeeded. Through a great part of the
preceding night the armourers had been busily employed alter-
ing and refitting the equipments, and the dawn had already
commenced ere their labours were suspended. The lists were
carefully scrutinised, and all chance of foul play averted. The
priests, too, had blessed the armour and weapons from magic
spells and ” foul negromancie.”

The barriers were built of stout boards, firmly riveted to-
gether ; the royal pavilion being on the southern side, richly


canopied and embroidered with costly devices. Galleries were
provided for the nobles, not a few of whom, with their courtly
dames, were expected to be present.

The lists were sixty paces in length and forty in breadth be-
tween the platforms on which the knights’ tents were erected.
The ground within was made hard and level, the loose stones
and other impediments being carefully removed. There were
two entrances, east and west, well guarded and strongly fenced
with wooden bars about seven feet high, so that a horse might
not leap over. The tents of the warriors were fancifully deco-
rated, every one having his shield newly emblazoned and hung
out in front, where the pages and esquires watched, guarding
vigilantly these sacred treasures. Nothing was heard but the
hoarse call of the trumpet, the clank of mail, and the prancing
of horses, pawing and eager for the battle.

Long before the appointed hour the whole city was in motion.
Isabella, too, whose bright eyes had not closed since the first
gleam had visited her chamber, was early astir. An ugly dream,
it is said, troubled her. Though of ripe years, yet, as we
have noticed before, love had not yet aimed his malicious shafts
at her bosom, nor even tightened his bowstring as she tripped by,
defying his power ; so that the dream, which in others would
appear but as the overflowing of a youthful and ardent imagina-
tion, seemed to her altogether novel and unaccountable, raising
up new faculties, and endowing her with a train of feelings
heretofore unknown. No wonder that her looks were betrayers :
her whole deportment manifested some hidden power control-
ling her high spirit, insomuch that her favourite maiden was fain
to abate her morning gossip ; yet Isabella was not averse to
speech, though the words seemed to linger heavily on her
tongue, losing that lightness and exuberance which betokens
the mind free from care and oppression.

She had dreamed that in her own wild woods a knight ac-
costed her : she attempted to fly, but was withheld by some
secret influence. He raised his visor, smiling as he bent his
knee in token of homage. He was a stranger. Grasping her
hand, she felt the cold hard pressure of his gauntlet. She awoke,
and sure enough there was the impression as of some mailed
hand upon her delicate fingers ! While marvelling at this
strange adventure, a deep slumber again overpowered her, when
a graceful cavalier, unarmed, was at her side. He raised her


hand to his lips, and her whole soul responded to the touch.
He was about to speak, when her father suddenly appeared,
with a dark and forbidding aspect. He began to chide, and
the stranger, with a glance she could not erase from her recol-
lection, disappeared. It was this glance which subdued her
proud spirit to its influence. Her maidenly apprehensions be-
came aroused ; she attempted, but in vain, to drive away the
intruder : the vision haunted her deeply too deeply for her
repose ! Marks of some outward impression were yet visible
on her hand, whether from causes less occult than the moving
phantasma of the mind, is a question that would resist all our
powers of solution. In a mood thus admirably fitted for the
encountering of some marvellous adventure, did she mount her
little white palfrey, all pranked out and caparisoned for the

Followed by a train of some length, with Oskatell by her
side, the daughter of the house of Lathom allured the eyes of
not a few as she passed on. Many a stately knight bent his
head, and many an inquiry was directed to the esquires and
attendants as she drew near.

The; scene of this renowned combat was a spacious plain
below the city, on the opposite side of the river Itchen. The
chalky cliffs, which obtained for it the name of Caer Gwint, or
the White City, were studded with gay and anxious multitudes,
whose hopes and fears have long been swept off by the waves
of passing generations.

Winchester being one of the fixed markets or staples for wool
appointed by King Edward, the city had risen in power and
affluence above its neighbours. Yet the plague, by which it
was almost depopulated some years before, had considerably
abated its magnificence. But the favour of royalty still clung
to it, and Arthur’s ” Round Table ” attested its early claims, to
this distinguishing character a monarch’s residence. The
castle, where the Round Table is still shown, was then a build-
ing of great strength, and, enlivened by the king’s presence, dis-
played many a staff and pennon from its stately battlements.

Isabella passed by the fortress just as the trumpets announced
the near approach of the king down the covered way. The
chains of the drawbridge were lowered, and presently issued
forth the armed retinue of the monarch. Isabella and her train
were obliged to remain awhile as idle spectators.



The king, though old and infirm, yet retained his lofty and
commanding appearance. His charger was armed with the
chanfrons and gamboised housings, having thereon the royal
arms, and proudly did the conscious beast paw and champ, as
if rejoicing under his burden.

Edward was dressed in a glittering surcoat of crimson silk,
worked with lions and fleurs-de-lis. His helmet was cylindri-
cal, surmounted by a lion as its crest. Round the rim was a
coronet of gold, worked with fleurs-de-lis and oak leaves. A
gorget and tippet covering the shoulders was fastened beneath
the chin, giving the head a stiff but imposing air of command.
He carried a short truncheon, which he wielded with great
dexterity ; yet his armour, though light and of the finest tem-
per, seemed more cumbersome to him now than in former days.

The royal standard of England, thus described, was borne
before him : It was from eight to nine yards in length, the
ground blue and red, containing, in the first division, the lion of
England imperially crowned. In chief, a coronet of crosses pater
and fleurs-de-lis, between two clouds irradiated. In base, a
cloud between two coronets. In the next. division the charges
were, in chief a coronet, in base an irradiated cloud. In the
third, the dexter chief and sinister base was likewise an irradiated
cloud; the sinister and dexter chief a coronet, as before. Motto,
” Dieu et mon droyt.” The whole of this procession was one
vast masquerade of pomp, little betokening the frailty and folly
which it enveloped. Though to all outward show fair and glis-
tening, yet was there a heavy gloom brooding over the nation.
Prince Edward, the flower of chivalry, usually called the Black
Prince, from the colour of his armour, lay then grievously sick,
and the whole hope and welfare of the land seemed to hang on
his recovery. The known ambition of John of Gaunt was a
main source of alarm and anxiety. ” Edward had, however,”
says the historian, ” declared his grandson heir and successor
to the crown, and thereby cut off all the hopes of the Duke of
Lancaster, if he ever had the temerity to entertain any.”

Not forgetting his former homage to the sex, the king’s eye
lingered on the form of Isabella, but she drew back, daunted by
the ardour of his gaze. Oskatell saw the impression she had
made, in nowise displeased, hoping some ray of royal favour
would be reflected to him from the beam that already dawned
on his companion.


We now pass on to the field, where everything was in readi-
ness for the combat. The knights had heard mass and made
confession, these being the requisite preparatives to the noble
deeds they had that day vowed to perform. The heralds had
made the usual proclamation against the use of magic, unlawful
charms, and other like devices of the devil, when a loud flourish
of trumpets announced the approach of Stanley, who first entered
the lists mounted on a grey charger furnished with the chevron,
or war-saddle, then of great use in withstanding the terrific
shock of the assailant, being high up in front, and furnished at
the back like an arm-chair. He was equipped in a full suit of
Italian armour, displaying a steel cuirass of exquisite workman-
ship, deemed at that time a novel but elegant style of defence,
and destined soon to supersede the purpoint or gamboised
work called mail. If well tempered, it was found to resist the
stroke of the lance without being either pierced or bent, nor was
it liable to be pushed through into the body, as was sometimes
the case with the ” mailles ” when the wambas or hoketon was
wanting underneath. His shield was thus marshalled : argent ;
on a bend azure, three stags’ heads cabossed. In the sinister
chief, a crescent denoted his filiation ; underneath was the
motto ” Augmenter.” The shield itself or pavise was large, made
of wood covered with skin, and surrounded with a broad rim of

He looked gracefully round, first lowering his lance in front
of the king’s , pavilion, and afterwards to the fair dames who
crowded the galleries on each side. Whether from accident or
design his eyes rested on Isabella with a strong expression of
earnestness rather than curiosity. Doubtless, the noble repre-
sentatives of the house of Lathom excited no slight interest
among the spectators, and the young hero might have formed
some yet undeveloped anticipations on this head.

She blushed deeply at this public and unexpected notice. The
recollection of her dream made the full tide of feeling set in at
once in this direction, much to her consternation and dismay ;
but when, happening to turn hastily round, a silken bandage,
loosened by the sudden movement from some part of her dress,
was carried off by the wind and deposited within the lists, she
was greatly embarrassed ; and her confusion was not a little
increased as the young gallant with great dexterity transferred
it to the point of his lance. At this choice of his ” lady love,”


a loud shout arose from the multitude ; and Isabella, now the
object of universal regard, would have retired, but that the den-
sity of the crowd, and the inconvenient structure of the building,
rendered it impossible.

Another flourish of trumpets announced the approach of the
young Admiral of Hainault. His armour was blue and white,
beautifully wrought and inlaid with silver. His steed was black,
having the suit and furniture of the war-horse complete. The
croupiere and estival, together with the chanfron, were of the
most costly description. A plume of white feathers decorated
his casque, extending his athletic form into almost gigantic pro-

The needful ceremonies were gone through ; a deep and al-
most breathless silence succeeded, like the stillness that precedes
the first swing of the storm. The trumpets sounded ; the sharp
click of the lances was heard falling into the rest ; and the first
rush was over. The noise of the shock was like the burst of
the tempest on the forest boughs. Through the dust, the horses
were seen to recoil upon their haunches ; but as it blew heavily
away, the warriors had regained their upright position, having
sustained no injury, save by the shivering of their lances with the
stroke. A loud shout of applause ensued ; and the esquires
being at hand with fresh weapons, each knight was too eager for
the fray to lose a moment in requesting the usual signal. Again
their coursers’ feet seemed to spurn the earth. At this onset
the French knight bent back in his saddle, whether from subtlety
or accident was not known, but there was a loud clamour ; and
the Frenchman, recovering himself, spurred on his steed with
great vigour, perhaps hoping to take his adversary at unawares ;
but the latter, darting aside with agility, the other’s lance ran
full against the boards, and in deep vexation he came back to
the charge.

Trembling with choler, he hardly restrained himself until the
prescribed signal ; then, as if he would make an end of his op-
ponent, he aimed his weapon with a direct thrust towards the
heart ; but Stanley, confident in his own might, was fully pre-
pared for the blow, as the event sufficiently proved ; for the
French knight was seen to reel from his saddle, the point of his
enemy’s lance being driven completely through his armour.
He rolled backwards on the ground, and so vigorous had been
the attack, that his horse’s back was broken, and they lay


together, groaning piteously, besmeared with blood and dust, to
the sore dismay of his companions. Stanley suddenly alighted,
and helped the pages to undo his armour ; but ere his beaver
could be unclasped he had fainted by loss of blood, and being
borne off the field, he shortly afterwards expired.

The king was mightily pleased with this great prowess of the
victor, insomuch that he knighted him on the spot, and, accord-
ing to the old ballad, gave him goodly manors

“For his hire,
Wing, Tring, and Iving, in Buckinghamshire.”

He had so won, likewise, on the hitherto impenetrable dispo-
sition of Isabella, that when he came to render his homage at
her feet, she trembled and could scarcely give the customary

Raising his visor, and uncovering his helmet from the grand
guard a plate protecting the left side of the face, shoulder, and
breast he made a lowly obeisance at the gate of his mistress’s
pavilion, at the same time presenting the stolen favour he had
now so nobly won. With a tremulous hand she bound it round
his arm.

” Nay, thy chaplet, lady,” shouted a score of tongues from
the inquisitive spectators. Isabella untied a rich chaplet of
goldsmith’s work, ornamented with rose-garlands, from her hair,
and threw it over his helmet. Still armed with the gauntlets,
which, either through hurry or inadvertence, he had neglected to
throw aside, as was the general courtesy for the occasion, the
knight seized her hand, and with a grasp gentle for any other
occasion, pressed it to his lips. The lady uttered a subdued
shriek, whether from pain or surprise, it boots not now to in-
quire ; mayhap, it was the remembrance of the mailed hand
she had felt in her dream, and to which her fingers, yet tingling
with the pressure, bore a sufficient testimony. Sir John bent
lowlier than before, with one hand on his breast, in token of
contrition. A thousand strange fancies, shapeless and undefined,
rushed by, as the maiden looked on the warrior. It was the
very crisis of her dream ; her heart seemed as though it would
have leapt the walls of its tenement, and she was fain to hide
her face under the folds of her mantle.

” Now, on my halidome,” said the king, ” there be two doves
whose cooing would be the better for a little honest speech.


Poor hearts ! it were a pity their tongues had bewrayed their
desire. Fitz-Walter, summon them hither.”

The blushing Isabella was conducted to the royal presence,
where the king was graciously pleased to impress a salute on
her rich and glowing cheek no mean honour from so gracious
and gallant a monarch, who, though old, was yet accounted a
mighty adept in the discernment of female beauty, he never
being known to suffer contact of the royal lip with aught but
the fairest and most comely of the sex.

” Sir John, I commend thee to thy mistress. A dainty choice.
She is ‘ The Queen of Beauty ‘ for the day, and to-night we
command your presence at the banquet.”

” My gracious liege,” said Isabella, pointing to Oskatell, ” I
have a brother ; unto his care it is but meet that I entrust
myself ; and he ”

” His person and endowments,” interrupted the king, ” are
not unknown to us. I do honour thee by ennobling him ; for
though our ladies’ brightness be all too dazzling to receive a
glory from us, yet peradventure for their sakes our courtesy is
vouchsafed. Rise, Sir Oskatell de Lathoin.”

Again a flourish of trumpets proclaimed the king’s favour,
who with many more gracious speeches won the affection of all
who heard him that day.

Several other jousts and ” gentle passages ” were held, the
success of which falling principally with the English combat-
ants, the boasting pride of France was again humbled before
the king, who seemed to renew his former victories at this
memorable ” Tourney of Winchester”

But Isabella had bartered years of repose for this brief season
of intoxicating splendour. The barbed arrow was in her heart,
and the more she struggled, the more irreclaimable it grew.
Doubtless that unlucky dream had rendered her more susceptible
to the wound.

Dreams have this operation ; and whether good or evil, they
leave an impression that no simple act of the will can efface.
It seems to be the work of a power superior to our own, for
” the less begetteth not the greater ; ” how, then, can the mind
originate a train of conceptions, or rather creations, superior to
itself above its own power to control ?

But Isabella was too much engrossed by her feelings to
attempt their solution. She lay restless on her couch, but there


was no escape. An unquenchable flame was kindled in her soul,
that not all the cool appliances of reason could subdue. To-
morrow she must depart, and that gay pageant vanish as a
dream ; and yet not like her own dream, for that was abiding
and indelible. To-morrow the brave knight must withdraw,
and the ” Queen of Beauty,” homaged for a day, give place to
another whose reign should be as brief and as unenduring. In
this distempered mood, with a heart all moved to sadness, did
the Lady Isabel pass the first hours of the following night.

Suddenly the sharp twang of a citerne was heard in the street
below her window, nothing new in these piping times of love
and minstrelsy ; but so sensitive was the ear now become to
exterior impressions, that she started, as though expecting a
salutation from the midnight rambler. Her anticipations were
in some measure realised, the minstrel pausing beneath her
lattice. A wooden balcony projected from it, concealing the
musician. Isabella threw a light mantle around her, and rous-
ing one of her maidens, she opened the window. The rich
melody came upon her senses through the balmy odour of myrtle
boughs and leaves of honeysuckle. The chords were touched
with a skilful hand, and the prelude, a wild and extempore
commentary on the ballad, was succeeded by the following
ditty :

” My ladye love, my ladye love,

The moon through the lift is breaking ;
The sky is bright, and through the night

The queen of love is waking.
Yon little star that twinkleth so,
Fluttering her bright eyes to and fro,
How doth she chide,
That thou shouldest hide,
All joyance thus forsaking.
My ladye love, my ladye love,

The moon through the lift is breaking;
The sky is bright, and through the night
The queen of love is waking.”

The singer withdrew ; and Isabella was convinced, or her
eyes were befooled by her fancy, that, as he emerged from his
concealment, his form could be none other than the one her imagi-
nation was too familiar with to mistake. He, too, had caught a
glance of the listeners, for presently a folded paper was thrown
over the balusters, and the minstrel departed. The first light that
came through the long low casements revealed all that her hopes
anticipated. The billet was from Sir John Stanley, whose


regrets, mingled with vows and protestations of love, were to
this purport, that he must needs be away before daybreak, on
urgent business from the king. He sent a sigh and a love-token,
commending himself to her best thoughts, until he should gain
his acquittance so far as to visit Lathom.

Passing over the departure, the bustle, and the weariness of
a twelve days’ journey, let us behold the maiden once more in
her pretty bower at Lathom. How changed ! The whole as-
sumed a fresh aspect, thus viewed from a different state of the
mind. Her favourite spaniel licked her hand, but she did not
notice his caresses ; all about her was as if the wand of the en-
chanter had been there, changing its image, each object calling
forth a train of sensations heretofore unknown. Even the
hangings and figured draperies wore a grim and perturbed ex-
pression ; and Jephtha’s daughter and the Queen of Sheba looked
more dismal and profuse than ever from the dusky arras.

She strayed out, as beforetime, into the woods ; but their
gloom was more intense, and the very birds seemed to grow sad
with her melancholy musings. Their song, that used to be so
sprightly, was now subdued and mournful, and all their gay and
bubbling hilarity was gone. If she wandered forth towards
evening, the owl hooted in her path, and the raven croaked
above her. She heard not the light matin of the lark. Fancy,
stimulated alone by gloomy impressions, laid hold on them only,
failing to recognise aught but its own image.

Sir Oskatell and her father had often taken counsel together
since his return. Shortly afterwards, Isabella received a sum-
mons to attend Sir Thomas in private. What was the precise
nature of that interview does not appear, save that the lady
withdrew to her chamber, and the brow of Sir Thomas was for
a long space moody and disturbed. Sir John Stanley, though
of gentle descent, was not endowed with an adequate inherit-
ance, at least for the heiress of Lathom, whose extensive pos-
sessions, though shared by Oskatell, were deemed by Sir
Thomas of sufficient magnitude to command a connection of
higher rank and importance. As a younger brother he could
have slight pretensions to patrimony, and save the manors, then
but a slender endowment, just granted by King Edward, his
profession as a soldier supplied his chief revenue. His exclusive
notice of the Lady Isabella at the tournament was quickly con-
veyed to the ear of Sir Thomas ; and, it was said, the latter


had vowed that no portion of wealth should descend to his
daughter if wedded to Sir John, but that the whole should be
settled on Sir Oskatell. ” The course of true love never did run
smooth.” That Sir John Stanley had a watchful eye at the
time to the fortune as well as to the person of Isabella, is by
some rather freely hinted. This, however, turns out to be an
unfounded calumny, as the events hereafter unfolded will abun-
dantly demonstrate.

Sir John, after vainly endeavouring to avert this cruel purpose,
and to win the old man’s favour, entered into the service of the
king. He hoped that some lucky adventure would enable him
to appear with more certainty of success the next time he played
the suitor at Lathom.

Isabella, though sorely importuned to the contrary, remained
true to her first and only attachment ; and Sir Oskatell was
likely, in the end, to gather to himself the whole of these vast
possessions. A disposition to this effect she had for some
time suspected. His conduct, too, was less kindly of late, and
he took upon himself an authority more direct and uncondi-
tional. Indeed, it seemed but too evident that Sir Oskatell was
looked upon as the ultimate possessor. The maiden pined
sorely at her lot, and lack of perpetuity in the inheritance. But
woman’s wits have compassed a sea of impossibilities, and will
ever continue irresistible until their beautiful forms shall no
longer irradiate these dull mortalities with their presence.

One day an aged minstrel craved admission. Sir Thomas
had just retired from the banquet. Isabella and the lady of
Lathom were at their usual employment in their private cham-
ber, plying the needle in ” Antres vast,” and wildernesses of
embroidery, along with the maids. The request was granted ;
soon after which an old man, bending apparently under an
accumulation of years and infirmities, entered the apartment.
There was a keen scrutinising restlessness of the eye, stealing
through the silvery locks about his brow, that but ill accorded
with his apparent decrepitude.

After a very profound obeisance, which the lady-mother
scarcely recognised, he addressed himself to his vocation. A
mighty indifferent prelude succeeded the arrangement of the
strings, then a sort of jig, accented by the toe and head of the
performer. Afterwards he broke into a wild and singular ex-
tempore, which gradually shaped itself into measure and rhythm,


at times beautifully varied, and accompanied by the voice. We
shall attempt a more modern and intelligible version of the
sentiments he expressed :



” Rich round thy brow are the clusters bright,

And thy tresses are like the plume

The plume of the raven, glossy with light,

Or the ray on the spirit’s deep gloom.

” AsI gaze, the dim echoes of years that are past

Bring their joys to my bosom in vain ;
For the chords, which their spell once o’er memory cast,
Ne’er shall waken to gladness again ! ”

” I hold these minstrels now no better than the croaking ot
your carrion crow/’ said the elder lady : ” these are not like
the songs we used to hear in hall and bower at Dunham Massey.
Then ” the old lady forgetting that her own ears had played
her false, and her relish for these dainties had departed
” Then,” raising her voice and gazing round, as past scenes
recurred to her fancy, ” how my young heart would leap at the
sound of their ditties ! and how I long to hear again ‘ Sir Ar-
moric] and the ‘ Golden Legend] and all about the lady with the
swine’s snout and the silver trough ! ”

. But Isabella heard not her mother’s reminiscences. The
minstrel engrossed her attention, absorbing her whole thoughts,
it might seem, with the display of his cunning. Her cheek was
flushed, and her lip trembled. Some mysterious faculty there
was either in the song or the performer.

Again he poured forth a strain more touching, and of ravish-
ing sweetness :



“Smile on, my love ; that’sunny smile

Is light and life and joy to thee ;
But, oh, its glance of witchery the while,
Is maddening, hopeless misery to me.

” Another bosom thou mayest bless,

Whose chords shall wake with ecstasy ;
On mine, each thrilling thought thy looks impress
Wakes but the pang of hopeless destiny.


” Smile on, my love ; that sunny smile
Is light and life and joy to thee ;


But, oh, its glance of witchery the while,
Is hopeless, maddening misery to me.”

These were burning thoughts from the bosom of age ; and
had not the old lady’s perceptions been somewhat obtuse, she
might have guessed the minstrel’s purpose. His despair was
not so utterly hopeless and without remedy as the purport of
his song seemed to forebode for the morning light saw the
bower of Isabella vacant, and her bed undisturbed. She was
then far over the blue hills into Staffordshire, where another
sun saw her the wife of Sir John Stanley ; immediately after
which they departed into Ireland.

Sir Thomas threw the reins on the neck of his choler, and, as
tradition reports, did then disinherit her for ever in favour of
Sir Oskatell. How far the latter might be privy to this resolve,
or whether Sir Thomas, goaded on aforetime to the aggran-
disement of his name, seized the present opportunity only as it
served his purpose, both history and tradition leave us without
the means of deciding. There does, however, seem reason to
suspect some unfair solicitations practised on Sir Thomas, which
subsequent occurrences strongly corroborate ; but particularly
the fact, that on his deathbed he solemnly revoked this injustice,
appointing Sir John Stanley his lawful heir, disinheriting Sir
Oskatell, save a slight provision hereafter named, and declaring
his illegitimacy. We would not lightly throw out an accusation
of this nature ; but surely an act of retribution so unsparingly
administered would not have been put in force, had not past
circumstances in some measure rendered it just.

Let us now resume our narrative from the date of the tourna-
ment ; soon after which King Edward died, and Sir John Stanley,
in the first year of his successor, Richard II., was honoured
by him with a commission to Ireland, for the purpose of assisting
in the total reduction of that unfortunate kingdom. By his
great prudence and success he brought under submission the
great rebel chiefs, to wit, O’Neal, King of Ulster ; Rotherick
O’ Connor, King of Connaught; O’Caral, King of Uriel; O’Rurick,
King of Meath ; Arthur M’Kier, King of Leinster ; and O’Brien,
King of Thomond. In the year 1379, Richard coming in person
to Ireland, these chieftains did homage to him as their sovereign
prince. For his great and eminent services on this occasion
Sir John had granted to him,’ by patent for life, the manor and
lands of Black Castle in that country.


Ten years did Sir John sojourn, by the king’s order, in this
unquiet and troublesome appendage to the English crown. And
it may be conceived that if true love had any hold on his affec-
tions, they were oft communing with Isabella, forsaken, as she
then thought, by him whom she had once too surely trusted. In
the tumult of war, and in the administration of his high office, no
doubt her gentle form would visit his spirit, and, like the star of
future promise, guide him on to his achievements.

About the year 1390, when the return of Henry Duke of
Lancaster from his banishment, without leave of the king, had
caused a sore dismay throughout the land, Richard, harassed
with the apprehension of danger, appointed Sir John Stanley
Lord Justice of Ireland for six years. He was now able, in
some measure, to confer a sufficient dignity on his beloved,
though not yet equal, in point of wealth, to the wishes of Sir
Thomas. But feeling desirous to know the state of her dis-
position towards him, he set out in disguise for Lathom, where,
as we have before stated, he so far prevailed that she became
Lady Stanley in spite of all the opposition she had endured.
Aware of the determination of her father, he deemed her love
a sufficient recompense, thus fully refuting the insinuations
that her dower had more charm for him than her person.

Returning to Ireland with his lady, they lived there happily
for some years.

When Henry of Lancaster was crowned by the title of
Henry the Fourth, Sir John being still Lord Justice of Ireland,
and holding the government there in favour of the deposed
king, the new monarch, well knowing the knight’s power, to-
gether with his skill and experience, as well in the senate as in the
field, found means to attach him to the reigning interest, and,
as a mark of signal favour, granted to him and his heirs for
ever, by letters patent, many lands there named, lying in the
westerly part of the county of Chester. Soon afterwards oc-
curred that memorable rebellion, when the Welsh blood, boiling
to a ferment by the hot appliances of one Owen Glendower, an
esquire of Wales, and in his youth a resident at the Inns of
Court in London, kindled the flames of intestine war. After he
had conspired with the Percies and their adherents, together
with a large body of the Scotch, these malcontents threatened to
overthrow the now tottering dominion of King Henry.

The most prompt measures were, however, taken to meet


this exigency, and Sir John Stanley was suddenly called out
of Ireland ; Sir William Stanley, then Lord of Stanley and
Stourton, being appointed his deputy. Sir John soon applied
himself in such earnest to the service of the king, his master,
that a large and powerful army, headed by Henry himself, to-
gether with ” Prince Harry,” his son, marched against the rebels.
Near to Shrewsbury the latter were overthrown ; Sir John, by
his great bravery and address, mainly contributing to the suc-
cess of the engagement. His presence was now become of
essential service to the king, who in consequence appointed his
second son, the Duke of Clarence who claimed the title of
Earl of Ulster in right of his wife Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
in his stead, the new governor landing at Carlingford on the 2d
August 1405.

Sir John obtained, as a favour granted but to few, and those
of the highest rank, licence from the king to fortify a spacious
house he was then building at Liverpool, the site whereof was
given by Sir Thomas Lathom, who, we may now suppose, had
in some measure swerved from his most unjust purpose, possibly
on apprehending the great honours and influence that Sir John
had already acquired without his aid or furtherance. This plot
of land, it was said, contained 650 square yards, which he held
together with several burgage houses and lands in that town.

He had full licence to build a castle or house of strength,
embattled and machicolated, with tenellare, or loop-holes in the
walls, and other warlike devices, which no subject could under-
take without special leave from the king.

The Isle of Man was at this time, by Northumberland’s
rebellion, forfeit to the crown. Sir John the same year obtained
a grant of it for life, and in the year following a re-grant to
himself and his heirs for ever, with the style and title of “King
of Man.”

It were needless to enumerate all the honours and distinctions
heaped in such unwonted profusion upon our illustrious hero.
It has rarely happened that so rapid a career has met with no
reverse, for the fickle goddess mostly exalts her votaries only to
make their downfall the more terrible.

Henry dying in 1413, was succeeded by his son Henry V.,
with whom Sir John was held in equal esteem, being again
appointed to the government of Ireland ; but, landing in
Dublin, his health was now visibly on the wane. Four months


afterwards he died at Ardee, to the great grief of his family,
and the irreparable loss of the nation. He was a rare instance
wherein a courtier, through four successive reigns, carried him-
self unimpeached, and unsullied by the political vices which
were then too general to excite reproach. He was truly a
knight ” sans penr et sans reproche”

He left two sons, John and Thomas, and one daughter, whose
fortunes, at this time, we shall not attempt to follow.

Lady Stanley, his widow, returned to Liverpool with her
children, and lived there until her death, in the house built by
her husband.

Now did the beam of Sir OskatelFs favour, like an April
day, suddenly change its gaudy and suspicious brightness. Sir
Thomas, waning in years and ready to depart, began to consider
his former misdoings. His daughter and her offspring were,
by the laws of nature, justly entitled to his possessions, which
he, reflecting on the great impiety and injustice of withholding,
bequeathed, with some exceptions, to Lady Stanley and her
heirs, revealing at the same time the fraud which he had prac-
tised, and extinguishing for ever the hopes and expectations of
Sir Oskatell. Yet was he not left entirely destitute : to him
and to his descendants were reserved, by due process of law,
the manors of Irlam and Urmston, near Manchester, with divers
other valuable inheritances. At the same time was given to
him the signet of his arms, with the crest assumed for his sake,
an eagle regardant, proper. It was only subsequent to the
supplanting of Sir Oskatell that his rivals took the present
crest, ” The Eagle and Child” where the eagle is represented as
having secured his prey, in token of their triumph over the
foundling, whom he is preparing to devour. This crest, with
the motto ” SANS CHANGER,” the descendants of Sir John
Stanley, the present Earls of Derby, continue to hold : the
foregoing narrative showing faithfully the origin of that singular

The most dangerous woman in the world

The Treasure of Trencavel

List of Characters

Table Of Contents



List of Places

Table of Contents

Pseudo History


Extract from The Prisoner of Foix--Chapter 43 -The EntranceNo need to buy a Kindle. Read it on your computer or tablet

John Stanley-26th April 1355


'Looks like we are going to see a bit of excitement, John. The Captain tried to get an agreement from the Prince that if there is surf running across the channel to Arcachon we will turn back to Bordeaux, but the Prince would hear none of it. Instead, he has offered to provide insurance for all three ships. If they are damaged or sunk, the owners will be compensated and every sailor who makes the passage will be given a bounty payment. What none of this seems to take into account is that if we sink in rough, fast-flowing waters we might all drown.'

John raised his eyebrows. 'But that is what we are going to do?'

'Yes, despite the fact that surf running accross the entrance is not uncommon and the deep water channel moves continually. In the end, the Prince attacked their captains on their weakest point, their professional pride! He threw down the gauntlet. He offered to take the Sally first through the channel, and to take control during the passage.' He raised his brow. 'We are going into the Bay of Arcachon, come what may! '

Extract from The Eagle of Carcassone -- Chapter 24-- A Real GoddessNo need to buy a Kindle. Read it on your computer or tablet

John Stanley - 22 July 1355

An hour later John walked with Ximene close to the river along the valley below St Feriole. It was the very essence of a summer’s day. The sun was fierce but in the shadow of the trees, it was cool and fragrant. The trees and shrubs along the riverbank hid their progress, from the Château, from St Feriole.

Eventually they reached a point where John thought it was safe to emerge from cover. To his satisfaction the stream extended into a pool with a sandy beach, shaded by trees. Where the stream entered the pool there was a flat grassy area, almost circular. Behind this, the bulk of two mountain ridges provided a splendid backdrop. He looked around once more ‘Not just a good training ground but a great training ground. If the Greek heroes knew about this they might be tempted to join me, to train with me’

Ximene laughed out loud. He turned to look at her. She had removed her outer clothes and was wearing a white chemise, cut short so that it barely reached her knees. Around her waist, she wore a plaited leather belt, obviously fashioned from the multitude of leather straps to be found in the tackle room.

She ran her hands down over her breasts. ‘When you were unconscious I heard you muttering about gods and goddesses, so  I have decided that from now on, for you, I will be the goddess.’

The Prisoner of FoixVol 1 of the series—The Treasure of Trencavel

Aquitaine, an English possession, is in crisis. It is under threat from neighbouring nations and internal dissension.

The Black Prince, King Edward III’s eldest son has been given the task of taking command in Aquitaine.

Suddenly there is an opportunity. Ximene Trencavel is the heiress to the lands of Occitan, to the east of Aquitaine: lands controlled by the Franks. Ximene wants independence, both for herself and for Occitan.

A union between Aquitaine and Occitan would be mutually beneficial. The Black Prince undertakes a secret journey to meet Ximene to negotiate a marriage contract. It is, however, a marriage neither of them really wants.

Meanwhile, the  Franks plot to murder Ximene to prevent ,not just the marriage, but any kind of union between England and Occitan.

The Eagle Of CarcassonneVol II of the series—The Treasure of Trencavel

The loose alliance between Ximene Trencavel and the Black Prince is under threat.

The Prince invades Occitan, to show his support for Ximene but it becomes an invasion which creates more problems than it solves.

The Prince has fallen hopelessly in love with Joan of Kent and Joan is now determined to marry him and become the next Queen of England.

Joan is therefore  determined to convince Ximene that she should not marry the Prince.

Part of her strategy is to encourage Ximene’s relationship with John Stanley—one of the Princes bodyguards—not an easy task as both John and Ximene have doubts about their compatibility.

However, John is grievously injured in a battle and Ximene commits herself to nurse him back to health.