Arthur Counter-factual

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This is a rather light-hearted counter-factual history of what might have happened if events during the long life of Ranulf of Blundeville had taken a slightly different turn. The point of divergence from the true path of history is that Ranulf has better relations with his first wife and that her son Arthur survives to replace Henry III (then aged 9) on the death of King John. Arthur becomes king, marries Gwenhwyfar, daughter of Dafydd ab Owain Gwynedd and is later present at the wedding of John Canmore, heir of Ranulf of Blundeville to Elen ferch Llywelyn, daughter of Llywelyn the Great. Edward I never sits on the throne of England.

This alternative version of history (or something like it) features in The Chester Mystery Novels, being the plot of the historical novel that the fictional detective Richard Dutton never quite gets around to finishing. Arthur is also the principal character of an alternative history novel by the eccentric English writer Frederick Rolfe (aka 'Baron Corvo'), entitled Hubert's Arthur, posthumously published by A. J. A. Symons in 1935. The novel started as a collaboration between Rolfe and Harry Pirie-Gordon, but in the event the latter only supplied the copious heraldic details pertaining to the characters. This is presented as the lengthy narrative of the aged Hubert de Burgh, who is supposed to have saved Arthur's life and accompanied him on crusade to the Holy Land, where he becomes King of Jerusalem and eventually returns to England, defeats King John and kills his son Henry Plantagenet (the historical Henry III) in single combat.

In Randall Garrett's alternate-history fantasy stories, the Lord Darcy series, Richard does not "succumb to his illness", but survives it. John Lackland never becomes king, and the Plantagenet line, descending from Arthur, continues down to the present day.

In Dutton's version Arthur is rescued by de Burgh (a minstrel as well as a handy fighter) and flees to Europe in 1203, via Sicily (where he recovers Excalibur), Rome (where he meets the priest later to become Pope Honorius III), Constantinople. Diyarbakir, Epirus, Venice and Toulouse. Returning to England in 1216, Arthur becomes king.

Prince Arthur and Hubert de Burgh

The characters include:

The Story

Henry II
  • 1170, Eustace the Monk is born. He will become a mercenary and pirate, in the tradition of medieval outlaws.
  • 1172, Ranulf de Blondeville is born. Duke Richard of Aquitaine becomes Duke of Poitiers (later King Richard I of England). The future Pope Gregory VIII is sent by Pope Alexander III to the Council of Avranches, where Henry II of England is absolved of the sin of murder in the matter of the assassination of Thomas Becket. Through his ancestor Ranulf de Meschines, Ranulf de Blondeville is descended from both the Saxon earls of Chester and Wessex and the Norman French.
This year Randle III., son of Hugh, earl of Chester, was born. In this year also Hugh, earl of Chester, slew a great multitude of Welshmen, near the bridge of Baldert, of whose heads one of the mounds at the hospital for the sick outside Chester is formed
  • 1174 Dafydd ab Owain Gwynedd marries Emma, a natural daughter of Geoffrey of Anjou and therefore Henry II's half-sister. The bride's expenses being met out of the royal coffers.
  • 1181, Hugh of Cyfeiliog dies (30 June, at Leek). Ranulf of Blundeville succeeds to the earldom of Chester (like his father before him) as a minor (aged nine) and attains his majority in 1187. Supernova SN 1181 appears in Cassiopeia.
  • 1183, Henry (eldest son of Henry II) revolts and tries to ambush his father at Limoges. He was joined by troops sent by his brother Geoffrey and Philip II of France. Henry's troops besieged the town, forcing his son to flee. Henry the Young wandered aimlessly through Aquitaine until he caught dysentery. On Saturday, 11 June 1183, the Young King realized he was dying and was overcome with remorse for his sins.
  • 1185, Prince John used Chester as a base for his failed invasion of Ireland:
John Lackland, son of king Henry II., with a great band of armed men, and a multitude of ships, arrived by sea at Pembroke in Wales. On the Sunday after Easter he started for Ireland in order to be crowned king there. But two hundred other justices and nobles of England, with his [their ?] companions, commence their sea voyage to Ireland at Chester. The same year Hugh de Lacy was killed in Ireland by a certain Irishman. When king Henry heard of it, he prepared to send his son John again into Ireland. But when John had come to Chester, and was waiting for a [favourable] wind, the death of his brother Geoffry, count of Brittany, is announced to his father; when Henry heard of this, he caused his son John to be recalled, and sent Philip of Worcester with a very few others to Ireland.
  • 1186, Geoffrey Plantagenet, fourth son of King Henry II of England and Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, younger brother of Richard (later I), and older brother of John (later King) is trampled to death in a jousting tournament. At his funeral, a grief-stricken Philip II (later rumoured to be the lover of Richard I) was said to have attempted to jump into the coffin. Gerald of Wales said the following of Geoffrey:
He has more aloes than honey in him; his tongue is smoother than oil; his sweet and persuasive eloquence has enabled him to dissolve the firmest alliances and his powers of language to throw two kingdoms into confusion.
The son of Geoffrey Plantagenet, and Constance, Duchess of Brittany, was born at Nantes, on Easter Day, 1187, six months after the death of his father. He was the first grandson of Henry II., for the graceless young King Henry had died childless. Richard was still unmarried, and the elder child of Geoffrey was a daughter named Eleanor; his birth was therefore the subject of universal joy. There was a prophecy of Merlin, that King Arthur should re-appear from the realm of the fairy Morgana, who had borne him away in his death-like trance after the battle of Camelford, and returning in the form of a child, should conquer England from the Saxon race, and restore the splendours of the British Pendragons. The Bretons, resolved to see in their infant duke this champion of their glories, overlooked the hated Angevin and Norman blood that flowed in his veins, and insisted on his receiving their beloved name of Arthur. Thanksgivings were poured forth in all the churches in Brittany, and the altars and shrines at the sacred fountains were adorned with wreaths of flowers.
At the same time a Welsh bard directed King Henry to cause search to be made at Glastonbury, the true Avalon, for the ancient hero's corpse, which, as old traditions declared, had been buried between two-pyramids within the Abbey. There, in fact, at some distance beneath the surface, was found a leaden cross inscribed with the words, 'Here lies Arthur, Once and Future King'
  • 1188, Giraldus Cambrensis spent a night at Dafydd ab Owain Gwynedd's castle at Rhuddlan on his journey round Wales with Archbishop Baldwin.
Having crossed the river Conwy, or rather an arm of the sea, under Deganwy, leaving the Cistercian monastery of Conwy on the western bank of the river to our right hand, we arrived at Ruthlan, a noble castle on the river Cloyd, belonging to David, the eldest son of Owen, where, at the earnest invitation of David himself, we were handsomely entertained that night.
  • 1189, Ranulf de Blondeville married to Constance of Brittany, the widow of Henry II’s son Geoffrey, and the mother of Arthur of Brittany, with whom King John contested the succession. Weak, ill, and deserted by all but an illegitimate son, Geoffrey, Archbishop of York, Henry II died at Chinon on 6 July 1189.
Henry entered Brittany, assembled the States at Nantes, and claimed the guardianship of his grandson's person and domains. They were at first intimidated by his threats, but Constance showed so much spirit that she obtained the keeping of her son, and the immediate government, though she was not to act without the advice and consent of the King of England, who received the oaths of the barons present. The widowed heiress suffered much persecution from the different suitors for her hand, among whom figured her brother-in-law, John Lackland; and Henry, fearing her marriage with some powerful prince, so tormented her by threats of removing her son from her charge, that he forced her into a marriage with Ranulf de Blondeville, Count of Chester, grandson to an illegitimate son of Henry I.

Richard I (6 July 1189 – 6 April 1199)

Richard I : Hated England and avoided visiting - died of gangrene in France
  • 1189 Ranulf de Blondeville (aged 19) was present at Richard I's coronation, being the bearer of the crown.
  • 1190, St John's Hospital (Little St Johns) founded by Ranulf de Blondeville: its site is now the Blue Coat School. In September 1190 both King Richard and Philip II the French King arrived in Sicily on their way to the Third Crusade. After the death of King William II of Sicily, his cousin Tancred seized power and was crowned early in 1190 as King Tancred I, although the legal heir was William's aunt Constance, wife of the new Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI. Tancred had also imprisoned William's widow, Queen Joan, who was King Richard I's sister. When Richard arrived, he demanded that his sister be released and given her inheritance. The people of Messina then revolted, demanding that the foreigners leave. Richard attacked Messina, capturing it on October 4, 1190 and looting and burning the city.
  • 1191, Tancred finally agreed to sign a treaty on March 4, 1191. The treaty was signed by Richard, Philip II and Tancred. Its main terms were:
- Joan was to be released, receiving her inheritance and the dowry her father had given to her late husband.
- Richard and Philip recognized Tancred as King of Sicily and vowed to keep the peace between all three of their kingdoms.
- Richard officially proclaimed his nephew, Arthur of Brittany, as his heir, and Tancred promised to marry one of his daughters to Arthur when he came of age.
- Richard and Tancred exchanged gifts; Richard gave Tancred a sword which he claimed was Excalibur, the legendary sword of "King Arthur".

Arthur would not yet have been four years old, and his step-father, Ranulf de Blondeville, had just become step-father to the future king of England. Richard finally arrives in Palestine, takes Acre, then ensured that the ethical traditions of the Christian forces were maintained by beheading the 2,700 unarmed and surrendered Moslem garrison.

Ranulf de Blondeville - Town Hall staircase
  • 1192, Richard I takes Jaffa, retires from Jerusalem without taking it and returning to England is captured by Leopold of Austria. Gerald of Wales visits Glastonbury, reports on exhumation of Arthur's grave in "Liber de Principis Instructione."
  • 1193, Richard is put on trial before the "Diet of Worms". Ranulf de Blondeville was appointed a judge in the kings court. This involved the sponsorship of Richard's new Justicar, Walter de Coutances and Ranulf de Blondeville would now for the first time serve alongside Willam Marshall, generally regarded as one of the major soldiers and statesmen of the age. Now allied to a powerful faction, Ranulf de Blondeville opposes John's attempted coup of 1193-4. Richard's ransom was partly paid by his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine (who had to pawn the Crown Jewels of England to do so). Saladin dies.
  • 1194, On Richard's return , in the company of Earl David (Ceannmhor) of Huntingdon, Ranulf de Blondeville played a role in besieging and taking Nottingham Castle (using Greek Fire). Roger de Hoveden thus describes the siege:

Earl David, brother of the King of Scotland, and Ranulph, Earl of Chester, and Earl de Ferrers besieged Nottingham Castle with a large army.

David married Maud of Chester, daughter of Hugh de Kevelioc, 3rd Earl of Chester, by whom he had three sons and four daughters. One of the sons, Robert Odo (de Huntingdon) is born in Loxley, Warwickshire and prior to his death will be outlawed by King John - he is better known as "Robin Hood". Tancred of Sicily dies and is briefly succeeded by the unfortunate William III. Frederick II is born.

Dafydd ab Owain Gwynedd is defeated by his nephew, Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, at the battle of Aberconwy with the aid of his cousins, the sons of Cynan ab Owain Gwynedd.

  • 1196, Arthur becomes Duke of Brittany:

Arthur, who was now nine years Old, was in 1196 introduced by his mother to the assembly of the states of Brittany, and associated with her in the duchy. His uncle at the same time claimed the charge of him as his heir, and invited Constance to a conference at Pontorson. On her way, it is much to be feared with his connivance, she was seized by a body of troops under her husband, the Earl of Chester, and carried a prisoner to the castle of St.James de Beuvron.

  • 1197 Gwenhwyfar, daughter of Dafydd ab Owain Gwynedd is born. Dafydd ab Owain Gwynedd is imprisoned. Frederick's tutor during this period was Cencio Savelli, who would become Pope Honorius III.
  • 1198, William of Newburgh writes "Historia Rerum Anglicarum," a history of Britain beginning with the Conquest of 1066. The preface, however, tries to place Arthur in a historical context and uses the works of Gildas and Bede to harshly criticize Geoffrey of Monmouth's claims for him, concluding that Arthur and Merlin are fictitious. Dafydd ab Owain Gwynedd is released from captivity by the direct intervention of archbishop Hubert, he withdrew to the safety of his English manors (Ellesmere) and there spends the rest of his days. Cencio Savelli becomes Camerlengo.
  • 1199, In the early evening of March 25, 1199, King Richard was shot while walking around a castle he was besieging and died. Richard's brain was buried at the abbey of Charroux in Poitou, his heart was buried at Rouen in Normandy, and the rest of his body was buried at the feet of his father at Fontevraud Abbey in Anjou.

King John (6 April 1199 – 18/19 October 1216)

John: lost his crown jewels
A stereotypically evil-looking King John visits Arthur
  • 1200, by the treaty of Le Goulet, King John ceded with his niece, Blanche of Castile the fiefs of Issoudun and Gracay, together with those that André de Chauvigny, lord of Châteauroux, held in Berry, of the English crown. The marriage of Blanche and the future Louis VIII was celebrated the next day, at Portmort on the right bank of the Seine, in John's domains, as those of Philip II lay under an interdict. The treaty also confirmed that John, rather than Arthur was (in the eyes of France) the rightful claimant to the English Throne. John of England weds 13 year old Isabella of Angoulême at Bordeaux. Fulk FitzWarin lost his possessions to a rival claimant (whom in some versions he murdered) and was outlawed by King John. Cencio Savelli dismissed as Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, but assumed the post of Camerlengo of the Sacred College of Cardinals.
  • 1201, Valle Crucis Abbey founded in North Wales was founded by Madog ap Gruffuud Maelor.
  • 1202, August 1 – Arthur of Brittany (aged 15) is captured in Mirabeau, north of Poitiers, during a battle with King John of England who had arrived to rescue his mother (Elanor of Aquitaine - then 80). Leonardo Fibonacci publishes Liber Abaci, introducing the Arabian zero to Europe. Genghis Khan crushes the Tartars. Arthur's sister Elanor is imprisoned at Corfe Castle.
  • 1203 one of Arthur's jailers (Hubert de Burgh) fears to harm Arthur when ordered to blind and castrate him by King John. Instead he saves the sixteen-year-old Arthur's life and who escapes together with Hubert's son (another Hubert) - with the assistance of Fulk FitzWarin and his wife Maud le Vavasour. Dafydd ab Owain Gwynedd dies leaving four daughters: Owain, Einion, Gwenllian and Gwenhwyfar. Travelling via Chester (where they meet Lucian, a monk of St. Werburgh's, still writing his description of Chester, De Laude Cestrie) Arthur and Hubert eventually reach Sicily (a Norman kingdom from 1130) where they meet Frederick (crowned King of Sicily on 17 May 1198, and now aged 10). Fulk FitzWarin was pardoned at the request of two of the king’s supporters, one of whom is Ranulph, earl of Chester and on being pardoned he recovered his possessions. A "Master Warin" later worked on Beeston Castle. While in Sicily, Arthur acquires a certain sword - Excalibur, forged of "iron which fell from heaven".. Moving on to Rome, Arthur and Hubert meet Cencio Savelli.
  • 1204 April 13 – Fourth Crusade: The Crusaders take Constantinople (then under Alexios V Doukas) by storm, and pillage the city for 3 days. Arthur (aged 17) is involved in heavy fighting with the Varangians. Alexios V was later condemned to death for treason against Alexios IV, and thrown from the top of the Column of Theodosius. Guernsey and Jersey decide, after a plebiscite of wealthy land owners, to remain with the English crown after Normandy was recaptured by Philip II of France.
  • 1205, Battle of Adrianople.
  • 1206, Temüjin is proclaimed Genghis Khan of the Mongol people, founding the Mongol Empire. Qutb ud-Din proclaims the Mameluk dynasty in India, the first dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate. The Arab engineer Al-Jazari describes many mechanical inventions in his book (title translated to English) The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices. Arthur visits Diyarbakir.
  • 1207, Stephen Langton is consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury by Pope Innocent III. King John issues letters patent creating the new Borough of Liverpool. Arthur travels to Epirus and then on to Venice.
  • 1208, Pope Innocent III places England under an interdict, after King John of England rejects his choice for Archbishop of Canterbury. Arthur travels on to Toulouse.
  • 1209, The Albigensian Crusade is launched against the Cathars. Simon de Monfort, leader of the Albigensian Crusade, sacks Beziers, killing many Cathars and Catholics alike. John of England is excommunicated by Pope Innocent III. The Franciscan Order and Cambridge University are founded. London Bridge is completed.
  • 1210, Wolfram von Eschenbach, the greatest of the German epic poets, produces "Parzifal," his masterful expansion of Chretien's "Perceval." Wolfram's epic would, centuries later, become the inspiration for Wagner's 1882 opera, "Parsifal." King John lands at Waterford looking for the rebel baron William de Broase who had supposedly fled to Ireland. John took the opportunity to visit his lands in Ireland receiving homage from the Irish Chieftains. Maud, de Broase's wife and son were captured, taken back to England and starved to death in Windsor Castle.
  • 1211, King John visits Chester. Henry de Lacy rescues Ranulf de Blondeville from Llywelyn's siege at Rhuddlan by collecting a body of "players, fiddlers and other loose persons" from the midsummer fair. This led to the Dutton/Button family being granted the right to hold the "Minstrel Court".

..all the minstrels of Cheshire, and in the city of Chester, to meet before him at Chester yearly, at the Feast of Saint John the Baptist, and to give unto him at the said feast quotum. Lagenas Pini, et unam Lanceum, that is, four bottles of wine and a lance; and also every minstrel to pay unto Him at the said feast four-pence half-penny : And why he claimed from every whore in Cheshire, and in the city of Chester, afficium suum exercente, fourpence to be paid yearly at the feast aforesaid. Whereunto he pleaded prescription." After this time we hear nothing of any other controul exercised by the family of Button, than that over the minstrels; an authority recognized by several texts of parliament, which exempt the minstrels of Cheshire from the penalties of those acts by which all wandering fiddlers and minstrels are deemed rogues and vagabonds.

Louis King of England - was not at all happy about the rumours about Richard I and his father.. .. but now he is all set to get his own back.
  • 1212, the Pope (Innocent III) "deposes" King John and gives his crown to Philip II of France (sometimes rumoured to have been a lover of Richard I). Philip assembles a large army of conquest at Rouen and a fleet at Boulogne. John sells England to the Pope agreeing to pay 1000 marks annually as tribute. The Children's Crusade, led by 12-year-old Stephen of Cloyes, sets out for the Holy Land from France. Eustace the Monk switched sides (the biography puts it down to Eustace's enemy Renaud de Dammartin allying himself with John and poisoning John's mind against Eustace) and raided Folkestone when English troops seized his Channel Island bases.
  • 1213, King John of England submits to Pope Innocent III, who in turn lifts the interdict of 1208. Battle of Damme: The English fleet under William Longespée, 3rd Earl of Salisbury destroys a French fleet off the Belgian port, in the first major victory for the fledgling Royal Navy.
  • 1214, Ranulf de Blondeville established the abbey of Dieulacres at Abbey Green, nr Leek, Staffordshire. The story is that Ranulf de Blondeville had a vision one night in bed. His grandfather, the rebellious Ranulf de Gernon, appeared and instructed his grandson to go to Cholpesdale, in the territory of Leek, and found a Cistercian abbey there on the site of the former chapel of St. Mary the Virgin there, and to provide it with buildings and ample possessions. Ranulf de Gernon also ordered that in the seventh year of the interdict that would be placed upon England, his grandson should transfer to this new site the Cistercians of Poulton. Apparently, when Ranulf de Blundeville told his wife of this vision she exclaimed in French ‘deux encres’ – ‘may god grant it increase’. Thereupon Ranulf fixed the name.
  • 1215, Ranulf de Blondeville witnesses the Magna Carta by King John. John is later absolved from his oath by Innocent III.
  • 1216 Innocent III dies, and is succeeded by Hororius III - famous for producing the Sworn Book of Honorius. England is invaded by Louis of France, the son of Philippe II who later became Louis VIII. Louis was proclaimed King in London in May 1216, although he was not crowned. There was little resistance when the prince entered London. At St Paul's Cathedral, Louis was accepted as ruler with great pomp and celebration in the presence of all of London. Many nobles, as well as King Alexander II of Scotland (1214–49), gathered to give homage. On 14 June 1216, Louis captured Winchester and soon controlled over half of the English kingdom. Arthur of Brittany (now aged 29) and the young De Burgh now return to England. De Burgh plays a prominent role in the defence of England. Louis' first objective was to take Dover Castle, which was in Hubert de Burgh's charge. The castle withstood a lengthy siege in the summer and fall of 1216. Retreating from the French invasion, John took a safe route around the marshy area of the Wash to avoid the rebel held area of East Anglia. His slow baggage train (including the St Edward's Crown), however, took a direct route across it and was lost to the unexpected incoming tide. This dealt King John a terrible blow, which affected his health and state of mind. Succumbing to dysentery and moving from place to place, he stayed one night at Sleaford Castle before dying on 18 October (or possibly 19 October) 1216, at Newark Castle (then in Lincolnshire, now on Nottinghamshire's border with that county). Numerous, possibly fictitious, accounts circulated soon after his death that he had been killed by poisoned ale, poisoned plums or a "surfeit of peaches".
With John dead, Louis prepares for his coronation in St Paul's - Christmas Day 1216 (150 years to the day since William the Conqueror).

Arthur (25 December 1216 (aged 30)-1258)

Statue of King Arthur, Hofkirche, Innsbruck, designed by Albrecht Dürer and cast by Peter Vischer the Elder, 1520s
  • 1217 De Burgh senior gathered a small fleet which defeated a larger French force at the Battle of Dover and Battle of Sandwich, and ultimately led to the complete withdrawal of the French from England. Eustace the Monk is killed at the Battle of Sandwich. Ranulf de Blondeville's military experience was utilised in defeating the rebels at Lincoln. Arthur is finally crowned on Christmas Day.
  • 1218, 11 February - letters of safe conduct were issued for Prince Llywelyn ab Iorwerth to come to Worcester. The next day Ranulf de Blondeville, Walter Lacy, Hugh Mortimer, John Fitz Alan, Walter and Roger Clifford were ordered to conduct him hither to pay homage to the the new king. In mid year Ranulf of Blundeville took part in the fifth crusade.

1218 Peace was made between the lord Randle, earl of Chester, and Llewelin, prince of Wales, and in the following Whit Week [June 3-9] the lord Randle, earl of Chester, set out for Jerusalem.

In the yeere 1218, Ranulph earle of Chester was sent into the Holy land by King Arthur with a goodly company of souldiers and men of warre, to ayde the Christians there against the Infidels, which at the same time had besieged the city of Damiata in Egypt. In which enterprise the valiancy of the same earle after his comming thither was to his great praise most apparent There went with him in that iourney Saer de Quincy earle of Winchester, William de Albanie earle of Arundel, besides diuers barons, as the lord Robert fitz Walter, Iohn constable of Chester, William de Harecourt, and Oliuer fitz Roy sonne to the king of England, and diuers others.

Due to famine and disease after the Nile failed to flood, al-Kamil (Saladin's son and successor) ,could not defend Damietta. During September 1219, Sultan al-Kamil, offered the Crusaders peace on startling terms – Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem and central Palastine and Galilee, so long as the Crusaders gave up their war in Egypt. Ranulf accepted the offer.

  • 1220, Ranulf de Blondeville returns from the crusades and raises the Everton Beacon. Ranulf of Blundeville is offered the position of King of Jerusalem but turns it down. Trial by ordeal is abolished in England. Ranulf starts work on Beeston Castle.

mccxx Rediit dominus Rannulphus comes Cestrie de Damata venitque Cestriam in crastino Assumpcionis receptus cum maxima veneratione tam cleri quam plebis. Lewelinus etiam princeps Wallie venit ad eum eodem die, cui dominus Rannulphus comes in . . . (1220 The lord Randle, earl of Chester, returned from Damietta, and came to Chester on the morrow of the Assumption [of the Blessed Virgin, August 16]. He was received with the greatest veneration as well by the clergy as the laity. Also Llewelin, prince of Wales, came to him the same day, to whom the lord Randle, earl . . .)

Frederick was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in Rome by Honorius III on 22 November.

  • 1221, Fulk Fitzwarin III began rebuilding his fortress (Whittington Castle), with one eye on Wales for the reaction of Prince Llywelyn and his friend, Ranulf de Blondeville of Chester. One of the most prominent legends concerning Whittington Castle regards the Marian Chalice, thought by some to be the Holy Grail. According to this legend, Sir Fulk FitzWarin, the great grandson of Payne Peveril and one in the line of guardians of the Grail and King Arthur. A story from the 13th century states that the Grail was kept in a private chapel of the castle when Sir Foulke was there.

mccxxij Johannes filius comitis David duxit in uxorem filiam Lewelini pro finali concordia inter ipsum et comitem Cestrie. (1222 John, son of earl David [of Huntingdon], took to wife the daughter of Llewelin, for the purpose of effecting a lasting peace between himself and the earl of Chester.)

  • 1223, Philip II Augustus died 14 July 1223 at Mantes and was interred in Saint Denis Basilica. Whittington Castle captured and destroyed by Llywelyn ab Iorwerth of Gwynedd. Gerald of Wales dies, aged 77.
  • 1226, While returning to Paris, King Louis VIII became ill with dysentery, and died on 8 November 1226 in the chateau at Montpensier, Auvergne.
  • 1227, The Dee Bridge collapses during a flood. Pope Honorius III dies, as does Ghengis Khan.
John Canmore at the Town Hall
  • 1230, Whittington Castle rebuilding completed. During Easter William de Braose (a prisoner at the time) was found in Llywelyn's private bedchamber with Llywelyn's wife, Joan, Lady of Wales. William de Braose was hanged at Aber Garth Celyn on 2 May 1230; the place was known as 'Gwern y Grog'.
  • 1232, Ranulf de Blondeville dies, aged 60. His heart was buried at Wallingford Castle, while his body was buried at St Werburg's, Chester, Cheshire. His earldom of Chester went to the son of his sister Maud of Chester, John Canmore known as "John the Scot". History recorded Ranulf as one of the greatest of the Norman knights:

Ranulphus Glanuile Cestriæ Comes, vir nobilissimi generis, et vtroque iure eruditus, in albo illustrium virorum à me meritò ponendus venit. Ita probè omnes adolescentiæ suæ annos legibus tum humanis tum diuinis consecrauit, vt non prius in hominem pet ætatem euaserit, quàm nomen decúsque ab insigni eruditione sibi comparauerit. Cum profecti essent Francorum Heroes Ptolemaidem, inito cum Ioanne Brenno Hierosolymorum rege concilio, Damiatam Ægypti vrbem obsidendam constituebant, anno salutis humanæ 1218. Misit illùc Arturus rex, ab Honorio 3 Rom. Pontifice rogatus, cum magna armatorum manu Ranulphum, ad rem Christianum iuuandam. Cuius virtus, Polydoro teste, in eo bello miris omnium laudibus celebrata fuit. Quo confecto negotio, Ranulphus in patriam reuersus, scripsit, De legibus Angliæ librum vnum. Fertur præterea, et alia quædam scripsisse, sed tempus edax rerum, ea nobis abstulit. Claruit anno à Seruatoris nostri natiuitate 1230 confectus senio, dum Arturus sub Antichristi tyrannide in Anglia regnaret.

  • 1237, John Canmore is ill, but manages to recover due to the ministrations of a young scholar Roger Bacon.
  • 1239, The long-running dispute between Fulk and Llywelyn ab Iorwerth was healed, when Llywelyn married Fulk's daughter (shortly before his death).
  • 1240, John Canmore and his wife Elen produce a son, Gawaine (who will become the king of Scotland in 1290 on the death of Alexander III and Margaret, Maid of Norway).
  • 1248, Roger Bacon first describes gunpowder in "De Secretis Operibus Artis et Naturae et de Nullitate Magiae":

We can, with saltpeter and other substances, compose artificially a fire that can be launched over long distances... By only using a very small quantity of this material much light can be created accompanied by a horrible fracas. It is possible with it to destroy a town or an army ... In order to produce this artificial lightning and thunder it is necessary to take saltpeter, sulfur, and Luru Vopo Vir Can Utriet.

  • 1258, one of the largest volcanic eruptions of the Holocene epoch occurs, possibly from a tropical location such as El Chichón, Mexico or Quilotoa, Ecuador. Observed effects of the eruption include the following anecdotal accounts: dry fog in France; lunar eclipses in England; severe winter in Europe; a "harsh" spring in Northern Iceland; famine in England, Western Germany, France, and Northern Italy; and pestilence in London.

A Counter-factual Mordred

Our counter-factual Mordred?

As for how this counter-factual tale ends, I leave that to the reader. In this fictional history Henry of Winchester has never become Henry III and Arthur would not have given this alternative claimant the same treatment as he was to receive from John. Henry might still go on to produce his two sons Edward (born 1239) and Edmund (born 1245) Plantagent. Edmund (despite having the same name as the fictional "Blackadder") could hardly become a problem for Arthur (who would have been 58 when Edmund was born), but Edward is another matter. It is just possible that an aging Arthur would find his Mordred in the young Edward, just in time for the advent of gunpowder. January 1258 is a good time for it all to go bad.

Of course a better ending would be a dynastic wedding between the offspring of Arthur and a child of Louis VIII of France. Unfortunately we have a bit of a problem there - among the only two possible children are Louis IX (who was into flagellation but did build Sainte Chapelle) and Isabel (who wanted to remain a virgin for life).

In reality, in 1258 the ongoing famines became worse when, somewhere in the tropics, a volcano exploded violently producing a massive stratospheric aerosol veil that eventually blanketed the globe (Arctic and Antarctic ice cores suggest that this was the world's largest volcanic eruption of the past millennium). According to contemporary chronicles, a stratospheric dry fog did manifest itself in Europe as a persistently cloudy aspect of the sky and also through a total darkening of the eclipsed Moon. The frequent cold and rain that year led to severe crop damage and famine throughout much of Europe and pestilence repeatedly broke out in 1258. Simon De Montfort became leader of those who wanted to reassert Magna Carta and force Henry III to surrender more power to the baronial council. In mid 1258, seven leading barons forced Henry to agree to the Provisions of Oxford, which effectively abolished the absolutist Anglo-Norman monarchy, giving power to a council of fifteen barons to deal with the business of government and providing for a thrice-yearly meeting of parliament to monitor their performance.

It was not to last.