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A magnificent demonstration of ingratitude

In a magnificent demonstration of ingratitude, within 4 days of the relief of the Castle, Nicholaa’s position of Sheriff of Lincolnshire was given to the king’s uncle William Longspée, Earl of Salisbury, who took control of the city and seized the castle.

Not one to give up easily Nicholaa travelled to court to remind the king’s regents of her services, and request her rights be restored to her. A compromise was reached whereby Salisbury remained as Sheriff of the County, while Nicholaa held the city and the castle.

Magna_Carta_(British_Library_Cotton_MS_Augustus_II.106)
Magna Carta
Nicholaa’s granddaughter and heiress, Idonea – daughter of Nicholaa’s eldest son Richard – was married to Salisbury’s son, William II Longspée; the couple inherited the de la Haye and Camville lands on Nicholaa’s death. The settlement was not ideal, however, and some wrangling seems to have continued until Salisbury’s death in 1226.

A staunchly independent woman, she issued some 25 surviving charters in her name. She made grants to various religious houses, including Lincoln Cathedral, and even secured a royal grant for a weekly market on one of her properties.

A most able adversary for some of the greatest military minds of the time, and a loyal supporter of King John, she was unique among her peers. Although praised by the chroniclers, they seemed to find difficulty in describing a woman who acted in such a fashion; the Dunstable annals refer to her as a ‘noble woman’, saying she acted ‘manfully’. One cannot fail to feel admiration for a woman who managed to hold her own in a man’s world, who fought for her castle and her home in a time when women had so little say over their own lives – and at such an advanced age. Her bravery and tenacity saved Henry III’s throne.

Lincoln castle gatehouse

Nicholaa de la Haye and Matilda of Laxton

The First Baron’s War took place from 1215 to 1217. It began because English Barons were angry with King John due to his failed wars overseas, the taxes he demanded to pay for them, and his repudiation of the 1215 Magna Carta. The Barons made the move to invite a French Prince and army to England to take the throne. This led to war and put them on the opposite side to some notable historical figures, including Nicholaa de la Haye and Matilda of Laxton.

England at War

During the war Lincoln and Laxton became vital locations for the loyalists. If they had been lost to the French, the whole war could have been over. Luckily, the incredible leadership skills of Nicholaa de la Haye and Matilda of Laxton prevented this. The latter even dealt with efforts by High Sheriff of Nottingham Philip Marc to take over control of the forests that were Matilda’s domain.

Working Together

One of the keys to victory in the war against the French was how Nicholaa and Matilda worked together. While Nicholaa held Lincoln Castle against the besieging army, including their siege engines, Matilda and her Saxons were the eyes and ears for the loyalists. They were a scouts, keeping an eye on French movements and looking out for English reinforcements. In addition, they kept access to the castle open during the siege. This ultimately allowed the English army to relieve the castle and break the siege.

Laxton

The little known village of Laxton, in Nottinghamshire, lies within sight of the great Cathedral of Lincoln. This proximity is why it had such an important part to play in the Battle for England during the Wars of the Magna Carta. The village was also home to Matilda of Laxton, one of history’s most impressive but lesser known leaders.

The amazing thing about Matilda is she was very successful as Constable and Keeper of the King’s Forest of Sherwood. She also went beyond her duty to provide valuable support to Nicholaa de la Haye, Constable of Lincoln Castle during its siege in 1217.

Saxon

Laxton is at present part of the Crown Estates. It is also the last remaining example of a Saxon strip farm left in England. A Bailiff has the task of managing it, presiding over a Manorial Court. This is fantastic because it preserves the culture. In addition, it honours the Saxons that fought with Matilda to defend England from the French.

Below is a representation of the castle.

Laxton Castle

Reproduced by kind permission of Nottinghamshire Libraries.

Resting Places

If you are interested, you can visit the resting places of Nicholaa de la Haye and Matilda of Laxton.

Nicholaa de la Haye

Nicholaa’s tomb is in the church of St Michael, Swaton, Lincolnshire.

Matilda of Laxton

Matilda is buried in the church of SS Peter and Paul, Old Brampton, Chesterfield. Her tomb cover is on display inside the church.

Details of the battle as well as the siege of Lincoln, with the cooperation between Matilda and Nicholaa, can be found in the two Wars of the Magna Carta books by Austin Hernon. You can also learn more by following this link.