Saturday, 30 November 2013


The family prospered under Henry I – William Boterel took to wife one of the king’s mistresses to save further hassle with her sister – another mistress. They also did well under Stephen, although not all Boterels fought on the same side in the civil war.

There was more royal mistress trouble under Henry II. The king was married to the formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine, but fell in love with the fair Rosamund. His queen was furious and would have killed her if she could have found her. Again the monarch sought the help of the Boterels.

Ralph de Botrel, son of Peter who had defended Wallingford during the civil war, was enfeoffed by Lord d'Oilly at Stonesfield, Oxfordshire with 1 knight's fee - that is enough land to support himself and his retainers (about 600 acres) in return for giving 40 days military service per annum. But the king had just fallen in love with Rosamund and needed to hide her somewhere. The royal estates at Woodstock in Oxfordshire, next to Stonesfield were ideal.

But Rosamund found them too small so, with Ralph’s agreement, Henry swapped Stonesfield for another manor with d’Oilly, who gave Ralph a manor at Wednesbury, Staffordshire, in 1164 instead – an equivalent knight’s fee.  Fairly secluded, Woodstock would now make an ideal place to hide Rosamund.  Ralph also owed a nominal fee of £1 to the crown, but never paid.

But trouble came two years later.  The queen decided to have John, her last child, at Woodstock.  Learning that Rosamund was at Woodstock, she flew into a rage and had to give birth at Beaumont Palace instead.  For the rest of her life, she sought to have Rosamund killed.  She never forgave her husband, and in 1173 supported her sons in their rebellion against Henry.  A redoubtable warrior, Henry soon suppressed the rebellion, imprisoned his wife for years, and in revenge publicly acknowledged Rosamund.  The queen was incandescent.  Problems in his dominions in Normandy had in fact kept Henry away from Rosamund for most of the time.  She became known as ‘one of the most neglected concubines in history’.

By 1174, Rosamund found she could not stand the heat, so and entered a nunnery in 1176.  Henry moved on to Alais, princess of France and his son’s fianc√©e!  Rosamund died soon after.  The rumour was that the queen had finally poisoned her.  But Eleanor was in prison, so could not have done it herself.  Rosa mundi, ‘Rose of the World’, quite the opposite in character to the queen, was the love of Henry’s life.
On her tomb could be read:- ‘Hic jacet in tumba Rosamundi non Rosamunda, Non redolet sed olet, quae redolere solet’.  Here in the tomb lies the rose of the world, not a pure rose; she who used to smell sweet, still smells - but not sweet." 

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