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Goodrich Castle

E could not be on the banks of the Wye without visiting Goodrich Castle, a noble and beautiful ruin with much historical interest attached to it. The general outline of this fine old fortress is a parallelogram with a round tower at each angle and a square keep in the south-west side of the enclosure.

The entrance to the castle struck us as of extraordinary strength. It is near the east angle, and is a dark vaulted avenue, of fifty feet, very carefully defended. In the old days a drawbridge had to be passed, guarded by loopholes and arrow-slits on either side. About eleven feet within the passage was a massive gate, over which were machicolations for pouring melted lead on any assailants; six feet beyond this was a portcullis, and seven feet farther a second one, the space between being protected by loopholes and machicolations. About two feet further in was another strong bate, and six feet beyond it a small door leading to a long narrow gallery in the thickness of the wall, by which access was gained to the loopholes of the eastern tower, as well as to others that commanded the brow of the steep precipice towards the north-east. 1

The keep is formed of stone taken from the Forest of Dean, and is evidently a Norman building. The two shafted windows in the keep are supposed to have been put there by the famous John Talbot, first Earl of Shrewsbury, in the reign of Henry VI. Every reader of Shakspeare will remember this scourge and terror of the French, with whose name French nurses threatened their crying children. "Talbot is coming," was a spell of power in those days, in many a French nursery and peasant's cot. TWO windows in the chapel are also thought to have been his work.

The stone excavated to form the moat was used to build the round towers, which date from the age of William de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, and may possibly have been built by him. If not of his building, they must have been erected by his widow or his son. Aymer de Valence.

To the left of the entrance to the castle is the chapel.

Adjoining it is a tall octagonal tower, called the watch tower: from this there was a covered passage along the wall, leading to the upper part of the garrison tower. The walls of this tower are eight feet thick.

On the sides of the windows are some singular carvings, said to be of the time of Richard II. The great western tower is circular outside, but octangular inside, and is of the perpendicular style of Henry V. and VI.'s time.

The Ladies' Tower was on the north, situated on the edge of a high and steep precipice, and appeared impregnable, but was taken in the civil war, and utterly destroyed.

The state apartments were between the west and the Ladies' Tower. The wall uniting the great western tower to the keep is in ruins.

Goodrich Castle

Goodrich Castle is supposed to have been built by Hugh de Lacy, who possessed the lordship of Goodrich. At his death, it became royal property, and in the reign of Henry I. it was held by William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, who paid thirty shillings annually to the crown for it - in fact, hiring it at the rate of two knights' fees.

Both of William Marshall's sons died, however, within twelve days of each other, the last expiring at Goodrich, where he had lived; and after the earl's death the king gave the constableship of the castle to William de Valence, a brave knight, who had done the Crown good service at Lewes and Evesham. He was, however, slain at Bayonne, in 1296, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. His wife, Joan, and her daughter, continued to live at the castle, and there came here, to her, a sorrowful princess to beg her aid and counsel, for they had long been dear friends, Joan de Valence and Joanna of England. This guest was the Princess Joanna, daughter of Edward I.

Joanna's hand had been the reward given by Edward to the Earl of Gloucester Gilbert de Clare, for services to himself; for it was Gloucester who rescued Prince Edward from captivity, and guarded the realm during his absence from England when he became king.

Edward therefore gave him his danghter Joanna - a very young girl - in marriage. She was a high-spirited, beautiful, wilful little creature, and had been spoiled and petted by her grandmother, Queen Joanna, of Castile, with whom she had spent the first seven years of her life. Her very mature husband continued the spoiling process, for he adored his child-wife, and she loved him. They lived alternately at his grand castles, and at their beautiful and rural home at Clerkenwell, then one of the loveliest spots in Middlesex. This happy union continued for five years; and three lovely children added to their bliss. Then the end came. The Earl of Gloucester died at his castle of Monmouth, full of years and honours, leaving to his young widow all his vast possessions and ancient titles, for which the young countess after a while did homage to her father as her feudal lord, and took the oath of allegiance to him. Then, leaving her children at Bristol Castle, under the care of persons appointed by the king, Joanna retired to Wales.

And now begins her romance. Amongst the retinue of Earl Gilbert was a "squire of low degree," named Ralph de Monthemar, a mere soldier of fortune; landless, and boasting only of the rank of gentleman. But he was brave, gentle, and very handsome. The widow of the aged Earl Gilbert retained him in her service, and soon, in the solitude of her lonely castle, grew to love her devoted squire too well. She sent him to her father's court, and begged the king to knight the young man, in reward for his faithful services. Her father complied with her request, and thus raised the squire to an equal rank with peers; for it was the creed of chivalry that a knight was a noble's equal, and doubtless the countess herself was of the same opinion. She met her young knight on his return with glad smiles, and almost immediately afterwards married him secretly. But rumours of the too great favour the countess showed to her knight reached the ears of Edward, and roused his anger. He sent his confessor to inquire into the scandals about Joanna, and meantime ordered his estreators on both sides of the Trent to take possession of the lands, goods, and chattels of the Countess of Gloucester, allowing her only a sufficient income to barely support herself and children. It is quite probable that the king believed that he would thus protect her from the snares of a fortune-hunter, as well as subdue her proud spirit, for Joanna was thus deprived of all princely state and splendour. At the same time he entered into a correspondence with Amadeus, Earl of Savoy, who had asked the hand of the widowed princess.

Joanna was in an agony of distress and perplexity when she heard that her father was arranging a marriage treaty for her; she could not marry; she was already a wedded wife, and yet she trembled at the thought of the mighty Plantagenet's wrath. In her great distress she resolved to go to the Countess of Pembroke for counsel, and ordering her servants to send her little son, Earl Gilbert, to her there, she started for Goodrich Castle.

There she received a loving welcome and tenderest sympathy, but the highminded widow of William de Valence abhorred all deceit or concealment, and persuaded Joanna to confess the whole truth at once to her father. The princess resolved to see the king and tell him herself, but first she sent on her little children to him, that the sweet babes, whom the king fondly loved, might soften his heart to herself.

The rage of Edward, when her confession was made, was furious; he ordered the instant arrest of the audacious knight, and his imprisonment in Bristol Castle. All was confusion and trouble at court. The princess, under the displeasure of the king, found few friends among the courtiers. Only one was faithful to her, and boldly interceded for her with the king. This was Anthony Beck, Bishop of Durham. At his entreaty the king consented to see Joanna, and hear her in her own defence. She showed great spirit and frankness in this interview. She urged that it was not considered ignominious or disgraceful for a great noble to wed a lowly maiden, nor did she see that her own act was more worthy of blame. It was easy enough to raise her husband - a gallant knight - to a higher rank. Her arguments, seconded gloucester.htmlby the bishop's, persuaded her father; he forgave her, and released her husband; Joanna's estates were restored to her, and Edward - who grew fond of his young son-in-lawconferred on De Monthemar the titles of Earl of Gloucester and Hereford, in right of his wife. Ralph became afterwards one of the most trusted and valiant of Edward's captains in the Scottish wars. Joanna accompanied her husband on all his military expeditions, and they lived very happily together for ten years, when Joanna died at the early age of thirty-four. She had good cause to be thankful for the wise counsel bestowed on her in the Ladies' Tower of Goodrich Castle.

On the death of Joan de Valence her title and estates passed to her son, Aymer de Valence, a tall, pale man, who was nicknamed by Edward II.'s idle favourite, Piers Gaveston. "Joseph the Jew." But the "whirligig of time brought its revenges"; for Gaveston, taken by the barons, was placed in the custody of De Valence, Earl of Pembroke, and the latter certainly made no resistance when the Earl of Warwick seized his prisoner, carried him off and beheaded him on Blacklow Hill.

Aymer de Valence was three times married, and it was of his third wife that it was written:-

"Sad Chatillon on her bridal morn,
Who wept her bleeding love;"

for Aymer was killed in the tournament held on his wedding day, in its honour. He died childless.

He had two sisters, Isabel and Joan. Joan married the Red Comyn, stabbed by Robert Bruce, and killed by Kirkpatrick, for refusing to join Bruce in his efforts to free Scotland from Edward I.

They had three children, one of them Elizabeth Comyn. She was one of the heirs of Aymer de Valence, and Goodrich Castle was her property.

Elizabeth lived at Kennington, near London, and was there seized by Edward II.'s favourites the De Spencers, and kept in captivity by them for more than a year, until by frightful menaces they compelled her to resign Goodrich Castle and her manor of Painswick, in Gloucestershire, to them; the younger De Spencer occupying the castle. When one reads of such lawless acts as these, one scarcely wonders at the barons' rebellion against the unhappy king, who so terribly expiated his mistaken choice of friends.

But the De Spencers both suffered death, and Elizabeth recovered her inheritance. She married Richard Talbot, and thus Goodrich passed into the Shrewsbury family.

Richard Talbot obtained permission from Edward III. to construct at Goodrich a dungeon for the imprisonment of offenders. It was situated at the basement of the keep, and was entered through a low, pointed arch, still remaining.

Richard Talbot served under Edward III. in his glorious French wars, with seven knights and a hundred followers. His son Gilbert also won renown in the same wars, and died, 1387.

But a much more celebrated warrior was to succeed him in 1421 - the renowned Sir John Talbot, of whom we have before spoken. This great soldier was the terror of the French for twenty-four years, and was victorious forty times.

Before he went to the French wars, he dwelt at Goodrich, and the site of a room in the keep is shown as his favourite chamber. But he was not popular in the neighbourhood, for a petition was preferred against him to the Commons, by the people of the demesne, complaining of extortions, oppressions, murders, ejections from their houses, and imprisonment for no fault in that said Goodrich dungeon, till ransom was paid for their liberty.

He was, however, if an ill neighbour (and we have only one side of the story), a matchless soldier, adored by the knighthood of England. He and his son both fell at the battle of Chatillon, disdaining to fly; succour was not sent to them by Suffolk, and they died together. Shakspeare has given a touching description of this scene, founded on the old chronicles.

Enter Talbot, wounded, supported by a Servant.

Tal. Where is my other life? - mine own is gone ;
Oh, where's young Talbot! where is valiant John?
Triumphant death, smeared with captivity,
Talbot's valour makes me smile at thee.-
When he perceived me shrink, and on my knee,
His bloody sword he brandished over me,
And, like a hungry lion, did commence
Rough deeds of rage, and stern impatience;
But when my angry guardant stood alone,
Tendering my ruin, and assailed of none,
Dizzy-eyed fury, and great rage of heart,
Suddenly made him from my side to start
Into the clust'ring battle of the French;
And in that sea of blood my boy did drench
His overmounting spirit; and there died
My Icarus, my blossom, in his pride.

Enter Soldiers, bearing the body of John Talbot.

Serv. O my dear lord, lo, where your son is borne!

Tal. Thou antick, death, which laugh'st us here to scorn,
Anon, from thy insulting tyranny,
Coupled in bonds of perpetuity,
Two Talbots, winged through the lither sky,
In thy despite, shall'scape mortality.
0 thou, whose wounds become hard - favoured death,
Speak to thy father, ere thou yield thy breath;
Brave death by speaking, whether he will or no;
Imagine him a Frenchman, and thy foe.
Poor boy! he smiles, methinks, as who should say,
Had death been French, then death had died today.
Come, come, and lay him in his father's arms:
My spirit can no longer bear these harms.
Soldiers, adieu! I have what I would have,
Now my old arms are young John Talbot's grave.

The Earl of Shrewsbury (as Talbot then was) was buried at Whitchurch, Shropshire. He was twice married. His second wife, Margaret Beauchamp, daughter of the Earl of Warwick, having a quarrel with Lord Berkeley, took up arms, surprised Berkeley Castle, and carried him and his four sons oft- to Bristol Castle, where she kept them eleven weeks until they bound themselves to pay £12,250 as their ransom.

Goodrich experienced the fate of most of the great English castles, i.e., it stood the brunt of the civil war. It was occupied by the Parliament; then garrisoned for the king by Sir Richard Lingen, and finally taken by Colonel Birch, in spite of a brave defence of eighteen weeks.

Goodrich Castle remained in the Shrewsbury family till 1616, when Elizabeth, coheir of the Talbots, took it into the Earl of Kent's family. It was sold in 1740 to Admiral Griffin, of Hadnoch, and his granddaughter succeeded to the property.

It is still one of the show-places of Herefordshire, and is now the possession of the Duke of Beaufort.

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Picturesque England - Matthew Spong 2004