Through my gateway ancestor Barbara Aubrey (1637 – 1711) I’ve traced the Stradling branch of my family tree back to Sir John d’Estratlinges, born c1240 in Strättligen, Kingdom of Arles, Switzerland. He married a niece of Otho de Grandson and they produced a son, my direct ancestor Peter de Stratelinges, before her premature death. Later, in 1284, Sir John married Mathilda de Wauton, but the marriage produced no children.
Strättligen consisted of villages in the possession of the von Strättligen noble family, named after their home castle of Strättligburg. This family, my ancestors, ruled over much of western Bernese Oberland. Strättligburg was destroyed by the Bernese in 1332 and later generations of the Strättligens lost most of their possessions.
On 20 May 1290, Edward I granted Sir John d’Estratlinges a charter for a weekly market and an annual two-day fair for the Feasts of Saint Peter and Paul, which occurred on 29 June. The fair was held at Sir John’s Little Wellsbourne Manor.
On 3 July 1290, before his departure to Palestine, Sir Otho divided his Irish lands amongst three of his living nephews, including Sir John. Sir Otho’s charter, witnessed by many nobles, granted Sir John the following:
Castle and Town of Kilfekle
Land of Muskerye
Manor of Kilsilam
Town of Clummele
On 4 May 1292, Henry de Foun quitclaimed a third of the following to Sir John de Strattelinges:
In Warwickshire: 36 messuages, 9 carucates, 9 virgates of land, 3 mills, 7 acres of wood, 15 acres of meadow, plus £51 10s of rent in Walton Deyuile, Walton Maudut, Wellsbourne, Lokesleye, Hunstanescote, Tysho and Ouer Pylardyngton.
In Oxfordshire: 1 messuage, 2 carucates of land, 1 mill, 5 acres of meadow plus £7 rent in Alkington.
In Gloucsestershire: 1 messuage and 4 virgates of land in Shenington.
Because his marriage to Mathilda produced no heir, all the de Wauton estates remained with her when she remarried. Subsequently, they were withheld from Sir John’s son, Sir Peter.
Sir John died c1294. A trusted servant of Edward I, the king cleared all of Sir John’s debts post mortem, ‘in consideration of John’s good service to him.’ Two points to note here: 1. If I had been alive at the time I would have been an opponent of Edward I, and therefore my ancestor Sir John, because of the king’s oppression of the Welsh people. 2. Even privileged nobles like Sir John ran up considerable debts. An example:
On 3 February 1294, John de Stratelinges, deceased, acknowledged in chancery that he owed Henry de Podio of Lucca and his merchants the considerable sum of £200. Edward I covered that debt.
Sir Peter de Stratelinges, son of Sir John, was born c1260 in Strättligen. He travelled to England with his father and in c1290 married Joan de Hawey, heiress of her brother, Thomas de Hawey. Their marriage produced two children: John Stradling and my direct ancestor Edward Stradling.
Sir Peter was governor of Neath Castle, Glamorgan, Wales. Through his wife’s inheritence, after her brother’s early death, he also obtained the following de Hawey estates:
St. Donat’s Manor, Glamorgan, Wales
Combe Hawey Manor, Somerset, England
Compton Hawey Manor, Somerset, England
Compton Hawey Manor, Dorset, England
In July 1297 Sir Peter was governor of Neath Castle when the king mandated ‘Peter de Straddeleye’ to deliver the castle to Walter Hakelute, ‘with its armour, victuals and other goods.’
On 1 April 1298 at Westminster, Sir Peter was nominated as attorney for the following men, who were out of the country tending to the king’s affairs:
- Otto de Grandson, who had gone to the Court of Rome.
- Peter de Stanye (d’Estavayer), who was ‘staying beyond the seas.’
- Aymo de Carto, provost of Beverley, who had also gone to the Court of Rome.
As attorney, Sir Peter spent a considerable amount of time in Ireland, up to three years, overseeing his nominators’ affairs. He died c1300 possibly in Ireland. By this time he had acquired lands in Ireland through inheritance.
Through his wife’s inheritance, Sir Peter established the Stradlings in Glamorgan, my home county. Through marriage to other noble houses, they produced links to many of the castles in Glamorgan. It’s ironic that, in the past, I visited these castles without the knowledge that my ancestors used to reside there.
My direct ancestor Sir Edward Stradling was born c1295, the second son of Sir Peter de Stratelinges and Joan de Hawey. The exact location of his birthplace is unknown, but likely to be the family estates in Somerset.
When Sir Peter died, Joan married Sir John Penbrigg, who was granted wardship over Sir Peter’s estates and both young sons, Edward and his older brother, John, until they reached their twenty-first birthdays.
As an adult, Edward was Lord of St. Donats in Glamorgan, and Sheriff, Escheator, Justice of the Peace, and Knight of the Shire in Parliament for Somerset and Dorset. He rose to such prominence through his staunch support for Edward III.
Edward Stradling married Ellen, daughter and heiress of Sir Gilbert Strongbow. They produced the following children:
Edward (my direct ancestor) who married Gwenllian Berkerolles, daughter of Roger Berkerolles of East Orchard, Glamorgan.
John, who married Sarah, another daughter of Roger Berkerolles. Two bothers marrying two sisters.
When John died, c1316, Sir Edward inherited the following lands:
St Donat’s Castle, Glamorgan.
Combe Haweye, Watchet Haweye, Henley Grove by Bruton, Somerset, all of which included three messuages, a mill, five carucates, two virgates of land, thirty-one acres of meadow, and one hundred and forty-one acres of woodland.
Halsway and Coleford in Somerset.
Compton Hawey in Dorset.
Through his wife’s inheritance, he also obtained two manors in Oxfordshire.
As Lord of St. Donats, Sir Edward rose against the Crown in the Despenser War of 1321–22. The war was a baronial revolt against Edward II led by marcher lords Roger Mortimer and Humphrey de Bohun, fuelled by opposition to Hugh Despenser the Younger, the royal favourite.
The Crown arrested Sir Edward in January 1322 and seized all his lands in England and Wales. It took two years and a loyalty payment of £200 – £92,000 in today’s money – before his estates were restored.
When Edward II was deposed in 1327, Edward Stradling was knighted by Edward III. Several appointments followed, including Sheriff and Escheator of Somerset and Dorset 1343, MP for Somerset 1343, and Justice of the Peace for Somerset and Dorset 1346–47. On 11 September 1346, Sir Edward was one of three knights of Somerset at Edward III’s Westminster parliament.
Sir Edward was one of the chief patrons of Neath Abbey and on 20 October 1341 he gifted the monastery one acre of land. He died c1363, either in St Donats or Somerset.
The Strandling line continued through the second Sir Edward, born in 1318 in St Donats Castle to Sir William, born in 1365 in St. Donats, to another Sir Edward, born in 1389 in St Donats. This Sir Edward was Chamberlain and Receiver of South Wales, Sheriff of Somerset and Dorset 1424-6, Steward and Receiver of Cantreselly and Penkelly, Keeper of Carmarthenshire and Cardiganshire (appointed 22 August 1439), Constable of Taunton 1434-42, and Knight of the Sepulchre.
Already well established amongst the nobility, the Stradling’s influence increased through the deeds of the third Sir Edward. He married Jane, daughter of Cardinal Beaufort, great uncle of Henry VI. This marriage ensured that he held a powerful position within the royal court.
Administrative posts in South Wales and money followed. As with modern nobility, medieval nobility was a moneymaking-racket, a mafia, exploiting the poor. Lords and knights gave money to the Church to assuage their sins. Many lords were brutal and ruled through fear. Some, and I hope Edward was amongst them, used their positions of privilege and wealth to better their communities. For Edward these communities included parishes in Glamorgan, Somerset, Dorset and Oxfordshire. Of particular interest to me is the Stradling manor of Merthyr Mawr, a beautiful village, which is on my doorstep.
Sir Edward fought at Agincourt. He was captured by the French, and wool, a staple product of South Wales, was shipped to Brittany to defray his ransom.
In 1411, Sir Edward Stradling went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In 1452, aged sixty-three, he went on a second pilgrimage, but did not return. He died on 27 June 1452 in Jerusalem.
To be a peasant or a noble in medieval times? Although I’m descended from noble houses, my inclination is to side with the peasants. Life is hard for the poor in any age, and it was certainly hard in medieval times. Against that, the nobles had to contend with political intrigues, treachery, wars and pilgrimages, from which many did not return.
Given a choice, I think I would select a middle course, neither peasant nor noble, but an observer, a chronicler, recording my life and times. After all, through fiction, that’s what I do today.
The son of Edward Stradling and Joan Beaufort, Sir Henry (Harry) Stradling was born c1412 in St. Donats, Glamorgan. He married Elizabeth Herbert c1440 in St. Athan, Glamorgan, their marriage uniting the powerful Stradling and Herbert families. The marriage produced four children: Thomas, my direct ancestor, Charles, Elizabeth and Jane.
In 1449, Henry, his wife Elizabeth and their daughter Elizabeth, encountered a Breton pirate, Colyn Dolphyn. A native of Brittany, Colyn Dolphyn was based on Lundy, an island in the Bristol Channel. Five kilometres long and a kilometre wide Lundy was granted by Henry II to the Knights Templars in 1160. Over following centuries privateers took control of the island.
Because of the dangerous shingle banks and the fast flowing River Severn with its tidal range of 8.2 metres, the second largest in the world, ships were forced to navigate close to Lundy. This meant the island was ideally situated for pirates to prey on merchant ships and their rich cargos.
The chroniclers described Colyn Dolphyn as a tall, athletic, and mighty man, ‘like Saul in Israel’. He ‘towered head and shoulders’ above all men and was regarded as ‘a terror in South Wales’.
In 1449, Henry and his family spent a month visiting their estates in Somerset. Whenever possible, for passengers and trade, ships were the preferred mode of transport because the roads were often nothing more than dirt tracks. Therefore, Henry made the return journey by ship.
Aboard the St Barbe, Henry, his family and crew, set sail from Minehead for the Welsh coast. They encountered Colyn Dolphyn, who transferred them to his barque, the Sea Swallow. Dolphyn demanded a ransom of 1,000 marks for Henry, Elizabeth and daughter Elizabeth’s release.
The ransom was not forthcoming so over a period of two years the price went up to 2,200 marks. At that point the Stradlings were forced to sell their manors of Bassaleg and Rogerstone in South Wales, two manors in Oxfordshire and the Lordship of Sutton in Monmouthshire. With the ransom paid, Dolphyn released Henry and his family.
While the coast of South Wales is beautiful it also contains some treacherous rocks, particularly the rocks off Nash Point, Glamorgan. Several years after kidnapping the Stradlings, Colyn Dolphyn was out pirating when a storm blew up. That storm drove his ship on to Nash Rocks near Colhugh Beach.
The locals alerted Sir Henry Stradling who raised his men. They captured Colyn Dolphyn and his men, and dispensing swift justice hung them the following day.
In 1837, Taliesin Williams wrote a poem, The Doom of Colyn Dolphyn, which concluded with the following lines:
The beach they trod, destruction there,
Had stamped his footsteps ev’ry where.
Above, below, were strown along,
The fragments of a vessel strong.
Here helm and shatter’d masts were seen,
There lay the hull, the rocks between,
With upward keel and crag-rent side.
Thro’ which had pass’d the refluent tide.
And, all around, appear’d in view,
The bodies of a numerous crew.
Whose course was run, confederates sent,
Well armed on Colyn’s rescue bent.
But, ere they reach’d the rugged strand,
To ply the dirk, and light the brand.
Justice ordain’d they should abide,
The tempest’s ordeal, and they died!
Like his father, Edward, Henry Stradling visited Jerusalem, in 1475, where he became a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre. Also like his father, he died on his journey home, at Famagusta, Cyprus, in 1476.
My direct ancestor Thomas Stradling Esq was born c1454 in St Donats Castle, Glamorgan, Wales. The son of Henry Stradling and Elizabeth Herbert, Thomas married Janet Mathew c1473 in St Athan, Glamorgan. I was born in St Athan so the village is obviously special to me. Thomas fathered Edward, my direct ancestor, Henry and Jane. He died on 8 September 1480 in Cardiff, Glamorgan having secured the family estates and having served as Lieutenant of Ogmore lordship and castle.
Thomas’ son, Sir Edward Stradling, left a more indelible mark on history. Born c1473 in Merthyr Mawr, Glamorgan, a stone’s throw from my home, Sir Edward married Elizabeth Arundel in St Athan. Politically and financially this was a fine marriage for Edward, although it did end in tragedy when Elizabeth died during childbirth on 20 February 1513 at Merthyr Mawr.
After Elizabeth’s death, Edward remarried. His second wife, and my direct ancestor, was Felice aka Ffelys, daughter of John Llwyd. There is a suggestion that Felice was one of Edward’s mistresses before their marriage. Edward had a number of mistresses. We shall explore that aspect of his life shortly.
When Edward’s father, Thomas, died in 1480 Richard III placed his guardianship with Sir James Tyrrell. This lasted until Richard III’s defeat at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Sir James was Elizabeth Arundel’s uncle and he probably arranged Edward and Elizabeth’s marriage.
Medieval marriages were often political affairs with little thought given to romance. The main aims were to produce heirs and build up the family fortune. Therefore, with a lack of romance, mistresses were common. Often, knights and lords found love with these mistresses although given the circumstances the modern phrase “it’s complicated” springs to mind. Wives finding lovers was frowned upon, but human nature found its way and affairs were more common than we might suppose.
Sir Edward and Elizabeth produced six children, four sons and two daughters. With Felice, Edward produced two sons and one daughter, Elizabeth, my direct ancestor. Through various mistresses, Edward produced a further seventeen children, possibly more. At least three of these children were named Elizabeth bringing the total to four daughters named Elizabeth. Maybe Edward named them after his first wife and the repeated use of the name suggests that he held her in genuine affection?
Sir Edward owned vast swathes of land including manors, estates and castles in Glamorgan, Somerset and Dorset. Nevertheless, with over twenty children looking for an inheritance there were problems.
On 17 June 1531, the Countess of Worcester wrote to Thomas Cromwell, the King’s councillor, expressing her concerns about the Stradling claims against her husband. She described Edward Stradling’s sons as, ‘twelve brothers, most of them bastards, and they have no living but by extortion and pillaging of the King’s subjects’.
Furthermore, in 1547 Thomas Fflemyng filed an assault complaint against seven of Edward’s sons and a daughter. Around this time Elizabeth, my direct ancestor, married Sir Edmund Morgan, Baron of Machen and Tredegar, securing her future. However, for many of the Stradling offspring, particularly the bastards, banditry and extortion became a way of life.
After the Battle of the Spurs and the Siege of Tournai in 1513, one hundred men-at-arms, including Edward Stradling, were knighted by Henry VIII in the Norte Dame Cathedral of Tournai on 2 October 1513.
Sir Edward died on 8 May 1535 in St. Donats Castle. He signed his will on 27 April 1535, a clear indication that he was slipping away. He was buried in the chancel of St. Donats Church. However, Edward Stradling MP, the fifth Edward in the family, moved the bones of his grandfather Sir Edward and grandmother Elizabeth to the new Lady Chapel of St Donats.
Edward and Elizabeth might well have married for political reasons, but the family realised, maybe through family folklore and stories, that they should be together in the end.