Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pillar of Eliseg: Archaeologists dig beneath 9th Century monument

UPDATE TO THIS STORY, SEPTEMBER 2012http://www.projecteliseg.org/?page_id=1003

BBC News story July 19, 2010
Pillar of Eliseg
The Pillar of Eliseg was moved to the site of a burial mound in the 18th Century

Archaeologists start excavations on a suspected ancient burial site to try to understand the significance of a Llangollen landmark on which it stands.
But the team will have to work carefully because the 9th Century Pillar of Eliseg, a Cadw-protected ancient monument, stands directly on top of the barrow - burial mound - and the archaeologists can't disturb it.
Medieval archaeology Professor Nancy Edwards, from Bangor University, says it is the first time the site has been dug since 1773 when, it is believed, a skeleton was unearthed.
"We are trying to date the barrow in its broader archaeological context," she said, as the site could date back to the Bronze Age.
The history behind the monument and why it was erected on the mound is not yet understood.
The earliest known picture of the pillar, dated 1797, courtesy Llangollen Museum
The earliest known picture of the pillar, dated 1797,
courtesy Llangollen Museum

However, separate work has been carried out to try to decipher original and additional faded inscriptions by experts from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW).
It was originally a cross made to commemorate an early medieval leader, Eliseg (or Elisedd).
Today, only the shaft of the cross remains and its inscription, which was already almost illegible when the antiquary Edward Lhuyd tried to transcribe it in 1696, has disappeared.
Some of the 18th Century inscription added to the cross by Trevor Lloyd of Trevor Hall, who then owned the land, has since been discerned by the experts, but that didn't reveal any more about its history.
Joining Prof Edwards on-site for the dig will be colleagues from the University of Chester and with help from Llangollen Museum.
The plan is to open one small trench within the barrow and three others in close proximity within the field which is owned by a private landowner.
Dai Morgan Evans, visiting professor in archaeology at Chester University, is looking forward to the dig.
Valle Crucis Abbey
Valle Crucis Abbey, courtesy Tony Gaynor
He told the Leader newspaper that Trevor Lloyd, the 17th Century landowner, could have added to the inscription to imply he was related to the Welsh king named on the inscription and those in the burial below.
During the dig, David Crane and Sue Evans from Llangollen Museum plan to give daily updates via the museum's Facebook page, along with members of the dig team.
And the public will be allowed on-site during an open day (31 July), between 11am-3pm.

This is how I connect to Welsh princes:
…Cynan, King of Powys
…Salyf Sarff Cedau
…Mael Mynan
…Brochwel II of Powys
…Cadel II, Prince of Powys, ruled 804-829
…Cadel III, Prince of Powys m. daughter of Howel
…Uriel, son of Elidur, son of Roderick Melwynog King of Gwynedd, (Uriel m. Nest daughter of Cadel III)
Mervyn Verch, Prince of Gwynedd
…Rhodri Mawr ap Mervyn m. Angharad

                                                                 /Llywarch Ap Elidir
                                                             /Dwywg Ap Llywarch
                                                     /Gwair Ap Dwywg
                                             /Tegid Ap Gwair
                                     /Alewyn Ap Tegid
                             /Sandde Ap Alewyn
                     /Elidir Ap Sandde
             /Gwriad "Of Man" Ap Elidir b: 0738 d: 0825
     /Mervyn Frych "the Freckl" Ap Gwriad b: 0764
     |       |               /Brochwell II Ap Elisse (Eliseg) Eliseg was gggf of Rhodri
     |       |       /Cadell II Ap Brodwell b: ? 0725 d: ABT 0809
     |       \Nest Verch Cadell b: 0742
Rhodri Mawr "The Great" Ap Mervyn b: 0789 d: 0878
     |                               /Cadwalladr "The Great" Ap Cadwallon b: 0615
     |                       /Idwal Iwrch Ap Cadwaladr b: ABT 0664
     |               /Rhodri Molwynog Ap Idwal b: 0690
     |               |       \Agatha de Bretagne b: ABT 0685
     |       /Cynan Dindaethwy Ap Rhodri b: 0745
     \Esyllt Verch Cynan b: 0770
             \Matilda of Flint

…Anarawd ap Rhodri
…Idwal Foel ap Anarawd (Idwal the Bald)
…Iago, Prince of Gwynedd
…Cynan ap Iago m. Ragnaillt, the daughter of Olaf of Dublin, son of King Sigtrygg Silkbeard and a member of the Hiberno-Norse dynasty.
…Gruffydd ap Cynan, King of Gwynedd, m. Angharad ferch Owain, was the daughter of
…Owain ab Edwin
…Owain Gwynedd, king of Gwynedd, m. Gwladys (Gladys) ferch Llywarch
…Iorwerth Drwyndwn m. Marared ferch Madog
…Llywelyn ab Iorwerth, the Great, Prince of Wales, 1173-1240, m. Joan, Lady of Wales/Joan Plantagenet, daughter of King John and Isabella of Angouleme

both of Llywelyn's daughters are my ancestors:
1. Elen ferch Llywelyn (c.1207–1253) married Sir Robert de Quincy
2. Gwladus Ddu (c.1206–1251), m. Ralph de Mortimer of Wigmore and had several sons

I descend through both Elen and Gwladus, and possibly other children of Llywelyn. Many of his children married into Marcher families who were my ancestors.

Another link to Eliseg's Pillar: http://www.castlewales.com/eliseg.html 


If you enjoy life sketches, anecdotes, and historical details like these, you can find them in the book Effigy Hunter, by Christy K Robinson. It's available in print from CreateSpace, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The establishment vs the individual: Mary Barrett Dyer, hanged June 1, 1660

CRIME AND CONVIVIALITY: THE SOCIAL SPACE OF "The sentence was passed upon you; you must return to the prison and there remain until tomorrow at nine o'clock; then from thence you must go to the gallows, and there be hanged till you are dead." ~Gov John Endicott, Massachusetts Bay Colony--said to Mary Barrett Dyer, my ancestor, May 31, 1660, 350 years ago. 

And on June 1, 1660, Mary was taken from the jailhouse to the gallows on Boston Common. So that the large crowd of onlookers would not be able to hear her voice, drummers accompanied the militia as she walked the mile to the gallows where she died.

Mary Dyer was banished from Boston for her religious beliefs, but kept returning under conviction that she must speak what God revealed to her. The first occasion was as an Antinomian in 1638. The Puritans who governed Massachusetts Bay Colony were themselves refugees from the Anglican repression of Calvinism. They believed that civil and religious government were one fabric, and based their civil laws upon the Ten Commandments. They believed also that they were special and chosen of God, and that their piety and strict adherence to the Law proved to each other and to God that they were, indeed, predestined for eternal salvation. 

This may seem foreign to contemporary Protestants and evangelicals who believe that salvation is only by God’s gift—grace—to anyone and everyone who accepts the gift. But there are many people and groups today who say that yes, they’re saved by grace, but because they love the Lord who saves them, they must “prove” their love by keeping the law of the Old Testament. They misunderstand Jesus’ statement, “If you love me, keep my commands,” because it’s taken out of context. Jesus’ command (not the Ten Commandments) in that context is simply to love one another as he loves us. 

Antinomians believed that the Bible’s entire Old Testament law (nomos in Greek) was made null and void when Jesus died on the cross. There was no distinction between the ceremonial regulations (sacrifices and rituals, clean/unclean activities and foods) and the moral law (Ten Commandments). Nomos meant the entire kit and caboodle. 

As believers in Jesus, Christians are no longer under the covenant of keeping the Law, Antinomians believed.

“For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” Romans 6:14

“But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” Romans 7:6

“Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:2

“By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.” Hebrews 8:13

 So if we don’t keep the old Law any more, are we free to participate in chaos, and do as we please, hurting ourselves and others? No, says Paul the apostle. Now we are accountable directly to God himself, subject to the new Law he writes on our minds and hearts (conscience). We have lists in the New Testament of behaviors and attitudes which will keep us from intimacy with God, and keep us from entering his kingdom: murder, fornication and adultery (sex outside marriage), theft, lying, gossip and slander, dishonoring our parents, greed, drunkenness, and others.

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts [direct revelation or Inner Light]: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest [there goes the theory of the Elect]. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” Hebrews 8:10-12

Here is where Mary Dyer and other Antinomians based their beliefs that the old Law was obsolete and useless, and the new Law was personally and directly revealed to them by the Holy Spirit. In later years, when Mary espoused the Quaker beliefs, direct revelation was called the Inner Light. 

But back to the Puritans: If you destroy the foundation of their belief, the Law, there is nothing left to hold onto, because faith in God’s grace is not enough security. You just cannot have people running around doing as they please, excusing themselves by saying that God told them to do this or that. There needs to be a structure! There’s nothing that distinguishes the law-keepers from the Catholic or apostate-Protestant herds. The entire multibillion-dollar institution crashes. The worldwide "we're the exclusive Remnant/Elect of God, and only we will be saved" thing is gone. They can't handle it spiritually, emotionally, or intellectually. They also can’t handle it financially. The Massachusetts Bay Colony was a business venture, chartered by King Charles I.

I understand, in a way. When you've believed wholeheartedly in God’s will, that this promise or this distinctive is a special gift to you, it's part of your very fabric. Pull some threads or cut a hole, and it's not salvageable. It’s too difficult, and maybe even too late in life, to start all over and learn everything new, especially when you’ve been “right.” How does one hold one's head up with constituents, parishioners, faith adherents? There’s no putting new wine into an old wineskin or patching a cotton tear with wool. What about prophesied end-time events? We’ve been denying ourselves and living a hard life, and these unworthy people get to waltz into heaven while we trudge there? What about judgment (who flies and who fries)? What if we stop observing a law-decreed Sabbath on Saturday or Sunday--and start trusting in God for complete rest from our strivings and a sabbath-rest that blesses us today and every day? What will distinguish us, the Remnant and the Elect, from the unwashed and uncouth? We’d have to go out of business, retrain every pastor, retool every institution from preschool through university and seminary, and worst of all, change the minds and hearts of those who have believed what they were taught for generations. It’s unthinkable! 

Puritans were so sure they were “right” that there was no room for dissent. (This from reformers and dissenters to the Church of England!) There was no agreeing to disagree. There was only consensus—agreeing to agree. And if, after being shown your errors in theology and behavior, you didn’t agree, you’d be punished. The church/state government, and all of society, was in danger of collapse if people just did and believed as they wanted. 

In 1637-38, Mary and William Dyer and 75 other families followed Anne Hutchinson in the Antinomian Controversy, and were disfellowshipped (excommunicated or disfranchised) from the Puritan congregations of Boston.

They moved to Rhode Island and founded two communities, Portsmouth and Newport, under extremely primitive conditions. They built homes and planted farms and worshiped according to conscience. Four years later, Massachusetts Governor Winthrop sent a manuscript to England that was published as a lurid and vicious description of Mary’s stillborn anencephalic baby, and Anne Hutchinson's hydatidiform mole pregnancy, and called them monsters, proof of their heresy in 1637-38. (It was a Winthrop PR campaign to show his awesomeness and worthiness to be the governor of the colony.) 

In 1652, Mary traveled back to England and stayed for five years. She followed the doctrines of George Fox, founder of the Quaker (Religious Society of Friends) movement, and sailed back to Rhode Island via Boston Harbor in 1657. She and her friends were arrested from shipboard and taken to prison, where they stayed for several months. Their crime: being Quakers, when the colony, now governed by John Endicott, had ruled that Quakers would be imprisoned and banished—after having been dragged behind a wagon and scourged, and losing their ears. One of Mary’s shipmates, a woman, was stripped to the waist and scourged, and another was sent back to England, but Mary was released to her husband in Rhode Island as a professional courtesy because he was a government official—and not a Quaker. 

Mary returned to Massachusetts in 1658 to visit her imprisoned Quaker friends and was expelled. She preached in New Haven, Connecticut, and was arrested and expelled from that colony. In 1659, she learned that two Quaker men had been imprisoned in Boston, and she walked through the forest on Indian trails to visit and comfort them in prison. She was arrested again, and tried in Governor Endicott’s court. Mary was convicted and actually sent to the gallows. Her friends were hanged before she was placed in the noose with a cloth over her face—but was reprieved on condition she would not return to Boston. She actually seemed disappointed in the reprieve and "rescue" by her husband and eldest son, as she was protesting religious repression and willing to die with her Quaker colleagues. She was admonished not to return upon pain of death. 

After six months of preaching to the Indians and Quakers of Long Island and Connecticut, she went back to Boston without telling her husband or six children who lived in Rhode Island. Her Quaker brothers and sisters were being tortured and their property confiscated. She went directly to the jail and asked to speak to the prisoners. She was arrested, jailed for more than a month, convicted again, and hanged on June 1, 1660. 

Why did Mary seem to have a death wish? She had a husband who loved her, and six children, aged 10 to 25, yet she didn’t stay with them very much during the two years before her execution, and after her five-year absence in England

Analyzing her beliefs and letters, Mary Dyer seemed to have the biblical book of Hebrews written on her heart. This passage jumped out at me today as I was researching this post. I’ve bolded the phrases that apply to Mary, and you can see how closely they align with her actions just before her arrests, imprisonments, and execution.
“Remember those earlier days after you had received the light [direct revelation of God, or the Quaker “Inner Light”] when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” Hebrews 10:32-36

 Mary joyfully accepted her martyrdom, believing that her death would so shock the system that Endicott and his court would have to back down from their repression. She died so that others could live and worship in freedom of conscience. She did not die in vain. 

The dedication on Mary's statue in Boston says "WITNESS FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM." Mary died for the basic human right to worship and express her religious beliefs as she felt called by God to do. She was the only woman hanged for religious beliefs, and only one more Quaker man was hanged after her, because of outcry in both New England and Britain over their persecution and executions. 

Massachusetts Bay Colony, like many business, political, and religious organizations, was dedicated to control of the institution (self preservation), the church, and its people en masse. Mary understood that Jesus came as a man to relate to and save the individual. She and the others died for one of the principles America holds most dear: the liberty of the individual to follow conscience.

MARY DYER ILLUMINATED, a fact-based novel by Christy K Robinson, is now available:
To learn more about the Dyers' life, join her Facebook friends.

News article from Washington Examiner, 6-1-2010 here 
Nothing in the Boston newspapers about Mary Dyer on the 350th anniversary. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Medieval News article: Charlemagne's grave

This article copied and pasted from the Medieval News page above. Charlemagne was ancestor to many European rulers and nobility, and is my ancestor, as well.

Archaeologists searching for the burial place of Charlemagne have failed to find any evidence that the body of the Carolingian emperor was placed in the atrium of Aachen Cathedral.

Andreas Schaub has led a team of archeologists for over three years in an attempt to find the exact spot within the cathedral where the medieval ruler was buried on the 28th January 814. But the dig within the atrium of the 8th century cathedral has only turned up material dating back to the 13th century.

There have been several archaeological investigations of the cathedral. Andreas Schaub noted that "since the 1980s, the theory persisted that the grave is in the atrium." With this news, focus on the whereabouts of Charlemagne will turn to the Cathedral's Court.

Charlemagne was buried in Aachen on the same day he died. Although the Carolingian emperor had previously made it known that he was to be buried near Paris, his court officials decided to bury him in Aachen because of the difficulty in transporting his body in cold weather.

The body of Charlemagne has had an eventful existence since his death. In the year 1000, Otto III had Charlemagne's vault opened. The Chronicle of Novalesia records how Otto and one of his courtiers saw when they entered the vault:

"So we went in to Charles. He did not lie, as the dead otherwise do, but sat as if he were living. He was crowned with a golden crown and held in his gloved hands a sceptre; the fingernails had penetrated through the gloves and stuck out. Above him was a canopy of limestone and marble. Entering, we broke through this. Upon our entrance, a strong smell struck us. Kneeling, we gave Emperor Charles our homage, and put in order the damage that had been done. Emperor Charles had not lost any of his members to decay, except only the tip of his nose. Emperor Otto replaced this with gold, took a tooth from Charles’s mouth, walled up the entrance to the chamber, and withdrew again."

In 1165, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa again opened the vault and placed the remains in a sculptured sarcophagus made of Parian marble, said to have been the one in which Augustus Caesar was buried. The bones lay in this until 1215, when Frederick II had them put in a casket of gold and silver. A vellum codex found interred with him was removed.

There have been eight theories about the burial place of the Carolingian ruler. "We have definitely ruled out five of these with the recent excavations," explained Cathedral architect Helmut Maintz. "But there are fortunately a few theories left, so I am not hopeless."

Sources: Earth Times, Spiegel

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Ralph Stafford: Knight, Baron, Kidnapper, Earl, Warrior, Statesman, Plague Survivor

Copyright 2010 by Christy K Robinson

This man would not have been my ancestor if he hadn't been a kidnapper. People joke that their ancestors may include horse thieves, but this man stole a human being. A teenage girl.

The author, Christy K Robinson, with a wooden
statue of Ralph Stafford, at the Stafford
Castle visitor center.
Ralph de Stafford’s genealogy is known back to about 945 in Normandy, and from Ralph to me there are 23 generations. His family owned many estates in Staffordshire after the Conquest, and his sixth great-grandfather built the first Stafford Castle before his death in 1088.

Through his son and heir Hugh Stafford, Ralph is the grandfather of Margaret Stafford Neville, countess Westmoreland, first wife of Ralph Neville; Ralph de Stafford’s Neville great-grandchildren married Scrope, Ferrers, and Percy families, among others. Margaret’s son Ralph Neville was heir to Neville titles, although most of the lands and money went to his mother-in-law, Joan Beaufort, and her children by John of Gaunt.

But the way Ralph Stafford got his heir is the most interesting thing about him!

…1301-24 September, born in Stafford, to Edmund, First Baron Stafford and his wife Margaret Bassett.
…1308-Ralph succeeded his father as Lord Stafford. His mother Margaret remarried to Thomas Pype.
…1314-1321-The Great Famine strikes northwestern Europe, killing more than 10 percent of the population. Typhoid and anthrax plagues sweep Europe in the next decades.
…1315? Along with his brothers and stepfather, Ralph joined the retinue of Ralph, 2nd Lord Bassett (his mother’s brother.)
…1326/27-Ralph married Katherine Hastang, daughter of Sir John Hastang of Chebsey, Staffordshire & his wife Eve. Katherine Hastang is my “cousin” because she’s descended from Mortimer, de Braose, and Llewellyn. http://fabpedigree.com/s043/f662009.htm Presumably she died in childbirth, as I find no mention of annulment of their marriage, and Ralph literally “takes” a new wife less than 10 years later.
Ralph Stafford and Katherine Hastang had two daughters:
…….Margaret Stafford, married Sir John of Bramshall (or Wickham) de Stafford, Knt. (Margaret Stafford-Stafford?)
…….Joan Stafford, married Sir Nicholas de Beke, Knt.

…1327- Ralph supports plot to overthrow Roger Mortimer and Queen Isabella’s regency of England. This gains support from Edward III. (Ralph and Roger will be co-grandparents in about 50 years!)
…1327- Ralph made Knight banneret, a higher rank than knight bachelor, and was fighting Scots shortly afterward.
Stafford Castle in 1100

…1332-Ralph was a commissioner of the peace in Staffordshire and had served abroad on royal business, accompanying Hugh d’Audley, ambassador to France. Four years to the Big Event.
…1332- Ralph commanded archers at the Battle of Dupplin Moor on 11 Aug 1332 and on three further Scottish campaigns.
…1336-Calendar of Patent Rolls 1334-1338, p. 283. “28 February 1336: Commission to Robert de Bousser and Adam de Everyngham to find by inquisition in the county of Essex what persons broke the close of Hugh de Audele at Thaxstede, carried away his goods and abducted Margaret his daughter; and to certify the king fully of the whole matter.”
Hugh d’Audley was not aware at that time who had abducted his daughter. It seems he didn’t find out until at least June of that year.
…1336- 6 July: Calendar of Patent Rolls 1334-1338, p. 98: The like [commission of oyer et terminer] to Richard de Wylughby, Thomas de Loveyne, Thomas Gobyon and Robert de Jedeworth, in the counties of Cambridge and Essex, on complaint by Hugh Daudele that Ralph de Stafford, Ralph son of Ralph Basset [cousin], William Corbet, John de Seyntper, Richard de Stafford [brother], John de Draycote, John de Stafford, Humphrey Hastang, James de Pype, Roger Mychel, James de Warden, Richard de Merton, Geoffrey Byroun, John Larcher, Simon de Boseworth, Robert de Rashale, Richard de Hastang, William de Hastang, John de Stafford, 'squier,' and others, broke his close at Thaxtede, carried away his goods, abducted Margaret his daughter and heir, then in his custody, and married her against his will.”
The Pypes were his step-brothers or half-brothers. Bassets were his mother’s relatives. Hastangs were his in-laws by his first wife. This raid must have been carefully planned to include more than 20 people, and to succeed in objective! I wonder if there were other potential brides considered and rejected before Ralph settled on Margaret d’Audley. Margaret had a large inheritance, and was the great-granddaughter of Edward I through her mother, Margaret de Clare (Gaveston).

…1336- Ralph married “against [her father's] will” (but what was her will?) the heiress Margaret d’Audley, aged between 14 and 18, but probably about 14 or 15 at the time of her abduction. Ralph was 34 years old, 20 years older than his kidnapped bride, and 11 years younger than his new father-in-law, Hugh d’Audley. Hugh and Margaret protested the kidnapping and marriage, but Edward III allowed it to stand, and created Hugh first Earl of Gloucester as appeasement to Hugh’s “wrath,” as some writers have called it. It seemed to be Hugh’s lifetime ambition to get his wife’s de Clare inheritance brought back to his holdings, and this was his way in. It also meant he got back what Hugh Dispenser the Younger had usurped about 15 years before.
Since Margaret d’Audley, an heiress, was so “old” to be still single, I wonder if Ralph Stafford had made an offer for Hugh’s daughter and been refused because Ralph wasn’t offering a Gloucester property in the deal, or if Ralph just swooped in when he found an opportunity. Hmmm…
…1336-November. First of five (or six or nine) children with Margaret is born, Joan Stafford (1336-1397). Oddly, Ralph named two daughters Joan! Apparently, Ralph wasted no time or opportunity to consummate the forced marriage and get his bride pregnant, because she was already four or five months gone when the complaint was issued in early July. Joan Stafford married 1: John Cherleton (B. Powis); married 2: Gilbert Talbot (3° B. Talbot) before 16 Nov 1379.
…1337-their son Ralph born (1337-1347). As a child, Ralph was contracted to marry the daughter of Henry of Grosmont, but Ralph Jr. died at about age 10.
…1337- summoned to Parliament by Writ as the 2nd Baron Stafford from 1337 to 1350.
…1338-Daughter Katherine born (1338-1361), married Sir John de Sutton, Knt., Baron of Dudley, Staffs.
…1338-Ralph accompanied Edward III to France in 1338 as an advisor.
…1340-Daughter Beatrice born (1340-1415), Married 1: Maurice Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald (2° E. Desmond) 1350; Married 2: Thomas De Ros (5º B. Ros of Hamlake) 1 Jan 1357/58.
…1341-Ralph appointed Steward of the Royal Household.
…1344-Son Hugh Stafford born (1344-1386), married Philippa Beauchamp, daughter of Thomas Beauchamp, earl of Warwick, and Katherine Mortimer.
Philippa Beauchamp was granddaughter of Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March, who her father-in-law Ralph Stafford helped to overthrow from regency, and was eventually executed horribly for treason. Hugh and Philippa's child was Margaret Stafford, who married Ralph Neville, 1st earl Westmorland. Margaret Stafford and Ralph Neville were second cousins, as both were descended from siblings Hugh d'Audley and Alice d'Audley.
…1345-Ralph resigned as Steward of the Royal Household, and became Seneschal of Aquitaine.
…1346-Ralph participated in the English victory at the Battle of Crecy. Further battles included the battle of Auberoche, the siege of Aiguillon, from where he escaped prior to its lifting, a raid on Barfleur and the English victory at the Battle of Crecy, on 26 August 1346.
…1347, November-Hugh d’Audley, earl of Gloucester, Ralph’s father-in-law, dies, dramatically increasing Stafford’s considerable wealth from his existing lands and war prizes and ransoms.
…1348-Ralph de Stafford invested as Knight of the Garter, founding member.
…1348-1350-Bubonic plague pandemic kills half to three-quarters of the population of England, alters economy forever.
…1350-5 March, Ralph created Earl of Stafford. Becomes the king's lieutenant in Gascony.
…1350 or 1351-Margaret d’Audley, Baroness Audley, Countess Stafford, dies, probably from childbirth, aged about 32 or 33; is buried with her parents at Tonbridge Priory in Essex.
“Radulphus comes Stafford et dominus de Tonebrugge” donated property to Cold Norton Priory, for the soul of “Margaretæ uxoris nostræ” [Margaret his wife], by undated charter witnessed by “Hugone de Stafford filioet hærede nostro [son and heir], Ricardo de Stafford fratre nostro [brother], Johanne de Peyto consanguineo nostro…” http://bit.ly/jAEW4a
…1361- Stafford continued to command troops and act as a royal envoy, both in France and in Ireland in 1361, accompanying Lionel of Antwerp to try and restore English control.
…1372-31 August, Ralph died at Tunbridge Castle, buried at nearby Tonbridge Priory.


If you enjoy life sketches, anecdotes, and historical details like these, you can find them in the book Effigy Hunter, by Christy K Robinson. It's available in print from CreateSpace, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon