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HENRY AND EDWARD SOMERSET, MARQUISES OF
WATCHED you yesterday on the platform of N- station, as you two boys examined the engine of the train by which your father was to leave us for his holiday; and seeing how interested you appeared to be in the construction of a locomotive, I thought to myself that probably neither of you connected steam engines with the 'fireside tales' that you are hearing about Castles and their Heroes.
And yet between the two subjects there is a link, since to the former owner of one old fortress we owe the first idea, if not the actual invention, of an engine that raised water by steam.
Edward, Marquis of Worcester, was a celebrated
projector of inventions, and he is to be one of our heroes of Raglan Castle.
This nobleman lived in the time of Charles the First; but I must tell you something about the long line of ancestors from whom he was descended.
The first of the family was the illegitimate son of John of Gaunt, whose mother, Catherine Swinford, had been governess to his daughters, and whom, on the death of his second wife, John of Gaunt married.
John Beaufort, named after his birthplace, the Castle of Beaufort, in Anjou, was made legitimate by an Act of Parliament in the reign of King Richard the Second, in 1396, and created Earl of Somerset.
This was a ceremony that appears to have been performed with great pomp and state, the Lord Chancellor announcing the honour in Parliament, and the new-made earl being brought in between two other peers, in 'a vesture of honour; his sword (with the pomel gilt) carried before him.' After his charter of nobility had been duly read, he was girt with his sword and placed between the two noblemen who had introduced him.
Nor did the honours lavished on Sir John Beaufort end there. An old writer tells us that on St. Michael's day, which happened to fall on the following Saturday, he was created Marquis of Dorset, and again girded in Parliament with a sword, and crowned with a circle round his head.
The king appears to have also made him Marquis of Somerset, though he was always called Marquis of Dorset ; and, among other dignities conferred on him, he was made Constable of Dover Castle, and Warden of the Cinque Ports. During Richard the Second's reign, his honours and possessions continued to increase, and he was likewise made Admiral of the King's Fleet, 'both to the north and westwards.' All these favours were doubtless given to him owing to his father's influence over the king; but after 'time-honoured Lancaster's' death, in 1399, Lord Dorset was accused of having been one of the murderers of his uncle, the Duke of Gloucester, and his title of Marquis of Dorset was made void by the authority of Parliament.
He was, however, restored to the dignity later, in Henry the Fourth's reign, and died a very rich man, if one can judge by the long list of possessions
bequeathed by him to his brother, Cardinal Beaufort, who was styled 'the rich Bishop of Winchester,' on account of the munificence of his gifts to that place.
This famous cardinal was, as you have read in English history, one of the most conspicuous characters in Henry the Sixth's reign, and was thought to have conspired with Margaret of Anjou to murder the Duke of Gloucester, though he only survived him but a few months.
On the cardinal's death-bed, so little had his ambitious schemes and plottings prepared him for death, he is said to have exclaimed that he would give all his wealth for a few years more of life; and in Shakespeare's play of Henry the Sixth, the poet has made him say to that monarch on his death-bed:
'If thou be'st death, I'll give thee England's treasure, Enough to purchase such another island,
So thou wilt let me live, and feel no pain.'
Their sister, Joan, became queen of Scotland through the cardinal's influence; and she, too, realized that to be illustrious and great in position is not to be necessarily always happy; and she lived to see James the First, her husband, cruelly murdered
in her presence, whilst she was heroically endeavouring to defend him, by throwing herself between him and his assassins, being herself wounded in the attempt.
A good, pious, and learned lady was the greatgrand-daughter of the first Sir John Beaufort, Margaret, mother of Henry the Seventh, and whose tomb you have seen in Westminster Abbey. When Catherine Swinford's children were legitimatized, their exclusion from the right of inheritance to the throne was accidentally omitted; but Henry the Fourth had the words 'exceptâ dignitate regnis' inserted in their new patent of nobility.
The powerful family of the De Clares seem to have originally owned Raglan, at least the estate of the town and castle of Raglan, Earl Strong-bow giving it, in the thirteenth century, to one Sir Walter Bloet, by whose descendant, Elizabeth, heiress of Sir John Bloet, it passed into the Berkeley family. This was in the reign of Henry the Second. But other authorities state that in Richard the Second's reign it belonged to Sir John Morley, by the marriage of whose daughter it passed into the Herbert family.