Sir Marmaduke de Thweng: An Apology
In my introduction to the new edition of John Lucas’s ‘History of Warton Parish’ I suggested that some readers might be put off the book by the author’s obsession with the family trees of long-dead aristocrats.
Such roll-calls – I wrote, rather flippantly – were ‘enlivened only by the inclusion of names with a comedic quality reminiscent of ‘Monty Python’. Names like Marmaduke de Thweng, I suggested.
My broader point was that the genealogy of aristocrats is much less interesting than other parts of Lucas’s book – his descriptions of everyday life in eighteenth century Warton parish, for example.
I still believe that. But I’ve now read more about Sir Marmaduke and he was clearly a brave and important – if rather unfortunate – English knight. Also, mocking his name was a pretty cheap shot. So I’d like to apologise.
Here are a couple of highlights from his life.
1) The Battle of Stirling Bridge, 1297
At Stirling Bridge the wily William Wallace managed to lure more than 100 heavily armoured English knights across the river and on to boggy ground where they floundered in the marsh. Many were slaughtered. Only Sir Marmaduke managed to fight his way back across the bridge. As a reward for his heroism, he was given the keys to Stirling Castle. However, the castle was captured almost immediately by the Scots and the unlucky Sir Marmaduke was imprisoned.
2) Bannockburn, 1314
After the English were (again) defeated by the Scots, rather than fleeing, Sir Marmaduke is said to have wandered over the battlefield in search of Robert the Bruce so that he could surrender in person to the Scottish King. The Bruce recognised Sir Marmaduke and released him without ransom on condition he attend the Scot’s victory banquet…not the most comfortable social engagement.
Sir Marmaduke’s personal connection with Warton was pretty remote. He was born in North Yorkshire and spent much of his life on military campaigns in France and Scotland when not at Court. In about 1297, says Lucas, he gave his son William lands in “Helsington, Kirkby in Kendal, Warton, Kerneford and Six other Towns.” It’s possible that the family built Warton’s Old Rectory, which still stands today. The de Thwengs seem to have held their local lands until 1375. Sir Marmaduke had died in 1323 and was buried at Gisborough Priory, about 9 miles south of Middlesborough. I shall pay him a visit one of these days.
Meanwhile, I was fascinated to discover that his coat of arms (above right) features three sprightly green Poppinjays, or parrots. Not to be confused with the much rarer and less vivacious Norwegian Blue variety.