Royal Central is lucky enough to have writers and contributors from many different cities- not just in the United Kingdom – but from all over the world. In this series of blogs I will be looking at the Royal Connections of different cities. Do you know the royal connection of your city?
The first part of this blog will focus on my home city, Coventry.
The first chronicled event of Royal history in Coventry took place in 1016 when King Canute and his army of Danes were destroying many towns and villages in the county of Warwickshire in their bid to take over England. Upon reaching the settlement of Coventry they destroyed the Saxon nunnery that was situated there, it was on the remains of this nunnery that Leofric, Earl of Mercia and his Wife Lady Godiva were given permission by King Canute to rebuild and found a Benedictine Monastery in 1043 dedicated to St Mary. Leofric had been appointed an Earl by Canute himself and was one of the three most powerful men in the country.
Coventry Castle was originally built towards the end of the 11th century but was however razed to the ground in the 12th Century. When it was rebuilt in 1137 by the 2nd Earl of Chester, it successfully held back King Stephen and his forces during the civil war known as ‘The Anarchy’. When the 2nd Earl of Chester was succeeded by his son Hugh de Kevelioc, he too held off the forces of the King, this time King Henry II, from the castle. Henry had sent a much stronger force to Coventry than King Stephen had which certainly severely damaged the castle therefore over the years that followed, the castle fell into disuse and eventually disappeared. From the 13th century the Manor House at Chelyesmore took its place as the earl’s residence.
Over the next two hundred years or so the growing importance of Coventry was reflected in the number of Royal visits it received, so much so it was granted a city charter by King Edward III in 1345, bequeathing Coventry with the rights of self government such as the privilege of electing a Mayor. In 1398 King Richard II gathered all nobility of the Realm at Gosford Green in Coventry to witness the combat between the future King Henry IV and Thomas de Mowbray, hostility between the two dukes had been growing for some time and the only solution the King could see that would end their quarrelling was that they should settle their differences in battle. The battle did not however go ahead and the two were exiled to avoid bloodshed.
On more than one occasion, Coventry has briefly been the Capital of England. In 1404 King Henry IV summoned a parliament in Coventry as he needed the money to fight a rebellion, it was wealthy cities such as Coventry who lent him this money. It was not only Henry IV who sought money from Coventry, King’s Henry V and VI took money from the city to meet the expense of their war with France. The Wars of the Roses actually saw the Royal Court moved to Coventry at the orders of Margaret of Anjou and on several occasions parliament was held in Coventry although this would come to an end when King Edward IV ascended the Throne.
During the English Reformation and the dissolution of the monasteries under King Henry VIII, Coventry’s famous monastery was destroyed along with all other religious houses in the city. The majority of Coventry’s population though appeared to favour the new Protestant religion and, when under the reign of Queen Mary I, an attempt was made to restore the authority of the Roman Catholic religion, the people of Coventry suffered punishments rather than forsake their beliefs. Other Tudor monarchs with a connection to Coventry include Queen Elizabeth I, who stayed at the Whitefriars as a guest of John Hale in 1565 and Mary Queen of Scots who was detained at St Mary’s Hall at the request of Queen Elizabeth.
When King James I made a visit to the city in 1617, a magnificent banquet was prepared in his honour. Relations, however, between the reigning Monarch and Coventry were to deteriorate later when protests were made against the King’s request for a considerable contribution of ‘Ship Money’ in 1635. When the English Civil War broke out between King Charles I and Parliament, Coventry became a stronghold of the Parliamentarian forces. Many attempts were made by Royalists to attack the city, each time they were unable to breech the city walls and in August 1642 the King made an unsuccessful attempt to take the town, he appeared at the city gates with 6000 horse troops but was strongly beaten back by the Coventry garrison and townspeople. Coventry was used to confine the Royalist prisoners and it is widely believed that the phrase ‘Sent to Coventry’ may have grown out of the hostile attitude of the residents of the city to the troops billeted there or to the prisoners held in the Church of St John the Baptist. After the restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 King Charles II, in revenge for Coventry’s support of the Parliamentarian’s, ordered the city walls to be demolished. When King James II visited in 1687, he received an amazing reception in a show of loyalty to the Crown from the people of Coventry however within two years after the Glorious Revolution, the same people were joyous at the beginning of the reign of King William and Queen Mary.
In 1830 the future Queen Victoria visited the nearby Leamington Spa and was granted a Royal prefix in 1838 by the Queen, the Queen visited the town again in 1858 and a statue of the Queen was almost destroyed by the Luftwaffe during the second world war.
Construction of a new council house in Coventry began in 1913 but was delayed during the First World War, it was completed in 1917 but was not officially opened until 11th June 1920 by the Duke of York (future King George VI). After the destruction of Coventry at the hands of the Nazi’s on 14th/15th November 1940, King George VI made his second visit to the city, on the day after the intense all night raid, the King insisted that he visit the City and that is exactly what he did. The King’s visit to the war torn city did exactly what it was supposed to do, boost morale, the people of Coventry once more found the determination to start rebuilding their lives… and their city.
In 1948, HRH Princess Elizabeth officially reopened the new Broadgate in the city centre of Coventry. Elizabeth returned as Queen in 1956 to lay the foundation stone of the new Coventry Cathedral which is situated right next to the ruins of the old one. The Queen returned in the year 2000 for the Home Front Service of Thanksgiving and Dedication in the cathedral for which she laid the first stone. The Queen was joined by the Duke of Edinburgh and was accompanied by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Coventry.
Other members of the Royal Family to visit Coventry include Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and the Princess Royal.
So there you have it, these are my Royal Connections, be sure to look out for even more cities in this series of blogs, you never know, your home town might even be featured.