Our reports are  written as usual by our Secretary Penny Lawton.




An article in a local newspaper reminded us of an old, local scandal. Chartley Castle stands on the North side of the A518 between Stafford and Uttoxeter. The present castle (now a ruin) was built by Ranulph de Blundeville, 6th Earl of Chester[1], c. 1220. It subsequently passed to the Ferrers, Earls of Derby and remained with them until 1453 when it was inherited by Anne de Ferrers, wife of Walter Devereux.



Walter Devereux, 8th baron Ferrers of Chartley, de jure uxor. Died 22 Aug, 1485, Bosworth.

After Walter's death the castle was abandoned as a residence and a moated and battlemented timber residence, known as Chartley Manor, was built nearby.

John Devereux, son of Walter and Anne de Ferrers, 9th baron Ferrers of Chartley.

Walter Devereux, son of John, 10th baron Ferrers of Chartley. Died 1558

Richard Devereux, son of Walter, born 1512, died 1547, before his father.

Walter Devereux, son of Richard, 11th baron Ferrers of Chartley and 1st Earl of Essex.

                        married Lettice Knollys

Robert Devereux, son of Walter and Lettice, 12th baron Ferrers of Chartley and 2nd Earl of Essex.


The old scandal concerned Lettice Knollys, wife of Walter Devereux 11th baron Ferrers of Chartley, 1st Earl of Essex and Robert Dudley Earl of Leicester, one of Elizabeth I's favourites and from 1559, a leading member her of Privy Council. Lettice was cousin to the Queen through her mother, Catherine Carey, the daughter of Sir William Carey and Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I's mother.


Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester had the reputation of a womaniser and worse, a murderer. In 1560, the year after his appointment to the Privy Council, his first wife, Amy Robsart, died after falling downstairs and the gossip was that her husband, Robert had either pushed her himself or arranged for someone elso to do so because his ambition was to marry the Queen.


In 1573, Walter Devereux. 1st Earl of Essex, left for Ireland where he spent two years. Lettice was friendly with Robert Dudley and probably attracted to him, however it very doubtful that she would have gone so far as was alleged of her in a pamphlet published in 1584, entitled "Leicester's Commonwealth". Its purpose was to "bring down the government" that surrounded the Queen by particularly attacking Leicester. who was one of her leading councillors.


According to the pamphlet, "Essex [Devereux] was coming home [from Ireland] to revenge himself upon my Lord Leicester for getting his wife with child in his absence .... My Lord Leicester hearing thereof wanted not a friend or two to accompany the deputy ... and so he died in the way of an extreme flux."

According to the pamphlet, Lettice had become desperate on hearing of her husband's imminent return as she was again pregnant by Leicester and so she had an abortion. The pamphlet is wrong on several points: Essex's return from Ireland had nothing to do with Lettice and Leicester but because he was pretty well bankrupt. Neither did he die on the way but having sorted his affairs in England, returned to Dublin and it was there that he died of the "flux". There were rumours of poison but it was quite likely to be dysentry, a major killer of armies on campaign. The pamphlet was banned but Lettice's reputation was tarnished.


Lettice and Robert Dudley were secretly married in 1578.



Walter Devereux's two years in Ireland were not a success. At the outset in August 1573 he had been so over-confident of success that he had mortgaged most of his English and Welsh property to finance the expedition; in return, the Queen had agreed to grant him most of Antrim and pay half of the cost of the thousand soldiers he took with him. Devereux's actions in Ireland were ill advised and counter-productive. Having received a cautious submission from Brian, chief of the Clandeboye, Devereux promptly offended him by taking ten thousand of Brian's cattle into custody at Carrickfergus, only for Brian to bribe the guards and retrieve his cattle just a fortnight later. By November Devereux was complaining to the Queen of desertions both by gentlemen,

"wanting the resolute minds to endure a year or two of travail in this waste country" and the common hired soldiers who "mislike of their pay".


Devereux was given the title of governor of Ulster but his neither his fortunes nor his judgement improved. He hanged some Devon men for attempting to deserrt; wreaked havoc on  the followers and lands of Turlough Luineach; slaughtered a band of O'Neils who had been taking refuge and burned down all the corn in the Blackwater and Clougher valleys. He ended the year with an act of treachery and cruelty: in October 1574, he apparently made peace with Brian who then invited him and his principle followers to a feast at Belfast castle, where,

"as they were agreeably drinking and making merry, Brian, his brother and his wife were seized upon by the Earl and all his people put unsparingly to the sword, men, women, youths and maidens, in Brian's own presence. Brian was afterward sent to Dublin, together with his wife and brother, where they were cut in quarters, such was the end of their feast."


The following summer he authorised a further act of barbarity and betrayal. Under his command, "Sorley Boy" MacDonnell was attacked and driven to take refuge in his castle on Rathin island, together with many of the women and children of his clan. After four days of bombardment and without water, they surrendered, on condition their lives were spared. According to Sydney, the English soldiers, "much stirred with the loss of their fellows that were slain and desirous of revenge, made request to have the killing of them which they did all  ... There were slain that came out of the castle of all sorts 200 ... they be occupied still in killing and have slain that they have found hidden in caves and the cliffs of the sea to the number of 300 or 400 more."


Queen Elizabeth seems to have withdrawn her support for Essex, though more from lack of any tangible or lasting success than purturbation at his cruelty. She granted him the title of Earl Marshal of Irelandand Devereux retired to Dublin where he died, probably of dysentry, at the age of 36. His son, Robert, 2nd Earl of Essex, also served in Ireland: his expedition was a total failure.



English presence in Ireland has its origins in a dispute between Dermot MacMurrough king of Leinster and Tiernan O'Rourke king of Breifne. In 1152 MacMurrough raided O'Rourke's stronghold and made off with O'Rourke's wife, Dervorgilla and his cattle. It was fourteen years before O'Rouke got his revenge because MacMurrough was allied to the "high king", Muirchertach but when Muirchertach captured and blinded the Ulaidh king, Eochaid MacDonleavy his action turned many of his supporters against him and he was killed in a skirmish. This gave O'Rourke the opportunity for his long awaited revenge by enlisting the support of Rory O'Connor, king of Connacht for a punitive expedition in which he was joined by the king of Meath and the Dublin Norse. They invaded Leinster and MacMurrough fled to Bristol, which had strong trading links with Leinster and where he was well known and well regarded. The reeve of Bristol, Robert Fitzharding, advised MacMurrough to seek help from Henry II.


Henry had briefly considered annexation of Ireland shortly after coming to the throne at the age of 21, (he was crowned 19 Dec. 1154) but his mother, Matilda, advised against it, pointing out that Henry had more than enough to do restoring order to his already wide dominions, following the long years of the "anarchy", that resulted from her own struggle with Stephen of Blois. However, influential churchmen, led by John of Salisbury were eager to bring the Celtic church of Ireland into the "obedience" of Rome and persuaded the Pope Adrian IV,  to grant Ireland to Henry, "in virtue of the long-established right, reputed to derive from the donation of Constantine, whereby all islands are considered to belong to the Roman Church." - the papal bull "Laudabiliter", 1155.

[Laudabiliter satis et fructuose de glorioso nomine propagando in terres ...]


Matilda was right, Henry II did indeed have more than enough to deal with and so he did nothing about Ireland for more than ten years. When MacMurrough found him he was still too busy dealing with a baronial revolt in his French dominions, to help MacMurrough personally but gave him permission to seek support from his barons. The greatest of those whom MacMurrough recruited to his cause was Richard FitzGilbert de Clare, Lord of Striguil (Monmouth), better known as "Strongbow", to whom MacMurrough promised his daughter and heiress, Aoife,  in marriage. Between 1169 and 1171, Waterford and Dublin were taken, Rory O'Connor put to flight, Leinster restored to MacMurrough and Meath also conquered by the Normans.


Then, in 1171, MacMurrough unexpectedly died leaving "Strongbow", king of Leinster. Henry II could not tolerate one of his own vassals becoming an independent king in Ireland and so in October that year he arrived in Ireland with a force so overwhelming that no resistance was offered. He then set about establishing the Norman / Angevin presence there with his characteristic vigour, expressed in motte and bailey castles, Norman legal framework and jurisdiction and re-organisation of the Irish church to bring it into conformity to Rome. The legitimacy, even the actual existence, of the "Laudabiliter", has subsequently been much debated.


[1]    Wikipedia article on Chartley Castle wrongly calls him 4th earl of Chester. He was the 4th called Ranulph, so sometimes referred to as Ranulph IV, 6th Earl of Chester.

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