Welcome to the 1oth article in the “Celebrating Women” Series for Women’s History Month! It’s the first time I’ve coordinated an author guest article series to celebrate women in history or women making history! Thank you to Elizabeth Ashworth for offering the 10th article in this series. If you’d like to continue on with the tour, which runs March 19-31, 2014, follow along each day on the main blog or head to this blog page, Women in History, which will be updated daily with the scheduled link.
Alice de Lacy – the maligned countess
by historical author Elizabeth Ashworth
Alice de Lacy was one of the wealthiest and most important noblewomen in England during the early 14th century. She could easily have become queen. But hardly anyone has heard of her, because she lost everything – her wealth, her titles, her status and her reputation – simply because she was a woman.
Alice de Lacy was the daughter of Henry de Lacy, Earl of Lincoln, and Margaret Longespee, Countess of Salisbury. After a childhood accident left her brother, Edmund, dead Alice became the only surviving heir of Henry and Margaret, and, as a daughter, it was important that she made a good marriage. Her father made an agreement with the king, Edward I, that Alice should be married to his nephew, Thomas. As part of the agreement, Henry gave all his lands to the king and was re-granted them for his lifetime, after which they would pass to Thomas and Alice and their heirs. It must have seemed the ideal solution to Henry. He must have hoped that Alice would bear sons who, although they would not have the de Lacy name, would carry his bloodline and his fortune into the future and be a part of the extended royal family.
However, things not go according to plan. The marriage was not a happy one. It appears that Alice and Thomas hated one another. Alice bore no children and after the death of Henry de Lacy, Thomas sent his wife to Pickering Castle to live alone whilst he fathered at least two sons with a mistress back at Pontefract Castle, which had been the de Lacy stronghold and Alice’s home.
When Thomas fell out with his cousin, Edward II, and led a rebellion he was defeated at the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322. As a traitor, he was executed and all his lands and castles were seized by the king. Alice was made to sign over all her possessions too – even the ones she had inherited from her mother which had never belonged to Thomas. She was left with very little except a manor in Lincolnshire where she was sent to live.
Having lost her wealth and her titles, Alice also suffered the indignity of losing her reputation. Whilst her husband is never criticised for his mistresses, chroniclers and even present day historians have called Alice a ‘wanton woman’, ‘the foulest whore’, ‘disgraceful’, and ‘a woman of notoriously bad character’. The reason for this tirade against her is that she fell in love, and may have had a relationship, with her second husband, Eble le Strange, whilst Thomas was still alive.
History judges men and women very differently. Thomas, who had many mistresses, was adored as a saint after his death. Alice, who fell in love with a man she married and remained faithful to is called appalling names.
The reason I wrote my novel, Favoured Beyond Fortune, was to tell Alice de Lacy’s story and try to reclaim her reputation from historians who repeat the accusations against her without ever making a proper study of her life. Alice is a much maligned character and she deserves better.
Elizabeth Ashworth, Biography~
Elizabeth Ashworth is an author based in Lancashire. She writes fiction and non-fiction books as well as short stories and articles.
Her first historical novel The de Lacy Inheritance was published by Myrmidon Books in June 2010 and her second novel An Honourable Estate is available as an ebook and a paperback, along with its very own short prequel The Lady of Haigh.
Her third novel, By Loyalty Bound, which tells the story of the mistress of Richard III was published in July 2013 by Pen and Sword Fiction. Her fourth novel, Favoured Beyond Fortune, which tells the story of Alicia de Lacy is available now as an e-book.
You can find her on Facebook and her Twitter is @elizashworth. Her website is: www.elizabethashworth.com.
Favoured Beyond Fortune, Synopsis~
- File Size: 676 KB
- Print Length: 214 pages
- Publisher: AWES Books (March 8, 2014)
‘He is rich who has that which is heart desires’
She was one of the richest noblewomen in England. But Alicia de Lacy lost everything when her husband, Thomas of Lancaster, led a rebellion against King Edward II.
Everything except the love of one man.
Read an excerpt here: http://elizabethashworth.com/novels/favoured-beyond-fortune/
See her Pinterest Board on the de Lacy family: http://www.pinterest.com/ElizAshworth/the-history-of-the-de-lacy-family/
One response to “Celebrating Women Series: Elizabeth Ashworth on Alice de Lacy”
Of course, a time-honored way to attack a female political enemy was to question her virtue. Excellent post.