Maud offended the highest power in the land, and paid the ultimate price in a truly horrible way.
Maud de Braose
Maud was born Maud de St. Valéry in France in about 1155. As was a woman’s lot in life, she was married off at a young age (11 in fact) to William de Braose, 4th Lord of Bramber.
When King John (also known as Prince John in the Robin Hood tales) came to the throne, following the death of Richard the Lion Heart, William de Braose became a great favourite of his, and he and his wife moved to England to be a part of his Court. For his loyalty to the King he was awarded the title and estates of Lord of Limerick in Ireland.
Rocking the Boat
William trusted Maud so much that he put her in charge of Hay Castle while he was on campaign. This is a huge thing for those times, with women not generally having any power when it came to such matters. His trust was well rewarded when in 1198 Maud defended another estate of theirs, Painscastle in Wales, against a massive Welsh attack. Maud was successful in holding off the enemy forces for three weeks until English reinforcements arrived. Over a thousand Welsh soldiers were killed in this siege, and the castle was then known as “Matilda’s Castle” by the locals.
King John had quite a bad reign. He was prejudiced against to begin with, as his brother was well loved by the English people, even though he left the country in tremendous debt when he died. He was also untrusted by his barons, and was the reason for the Magna Carta’s creation, the first document forced onto a King of England by a group of his subjects, in an attempt to limit his powers by law and protect their privileges. He also had a bad habit of killing his hostages, including his young nephew Arthur.
It is said that Maud, being the loud, outspoken individual that she was, did not hide her displeasure at the King and his ways. It is also said that the King found out what Maud had been saying, very indiscreetly, and fell out with Maud’s husband William over it.
Trouble with the King
Well... Maud was having none of that! She knew that being a hostage to the King meant nothing, and your life and health was not assured, so she answered the King’s messenger, saying she would not give her sons as hostage, as the King had the unsavoury habit of murdering people.
To say they King was angry is an understatement. How dare a woman speak to him in such a way, and defy his edict! His first act was to confiscate all property belonging to the de Braose’s, and also ordered all of the family captured.
The family had been warned that this was going to happen and fled to Ireland, but King John was one step ahead of them and sent forces in pursuit, which ended with Maud and her son William being captured by the King’s forces. They returned to England in chains, and were imprisoned in Windsor Castle.
They did not remain in Windsor Castle for long. They were soon transferred to Corfe Castle in Dorset, at which time they were locked in a dungeon and (so urban legend says) the door was bricked over. They were quickly forgotten.
Both Maud and her son William starved to death. When their bodies were eventually recovered, it was found that Maud had taken a bite out of her son William’s cheek and eaten it, so crazed with starvation must she have been.
What a truly horrible way to die! All for simply speaking her mind.
On a side note, Maud’s husband William fled England and lived the rest of his life in exile.
Put together by Ashley Hall 2013