Newlywed royals toured Ipswich streets

SINCE men first settled on the banks of the Orwell, Ipswich has attracted the great and the good. Today, in the third our Heroes of History series which celebrates notable visitors to our town over the centuries, JAMES MARSTON researches royal visits - which included a royal wedding in Ipswich.

SINCE men first settled on the banks of the Orwell, Ipswich has attracted the great and the good. Today, in the third our Heroes of History series which celebrates notable visitors to our town over the centuries, JAMES MARSTON researches royal visits - which included a royal wedding in Ipswich.

WE all know the Queen visited Ipswich in 2002.

Many remember the day; if we saw her on the Waterfront, if we said 'hello' and what she said to us.

It was part of Her Majesty's Golden Jubilee tour, and a day few will ever forget.

Throughout the town's history, kings and queens, dukes and duchesses, princes and princesses have graced Ipswich with their presence. Earlier this year Prince Edward was the latest royal to visit the Suffolk Show.

However, royal visits are really nothing new. Back in medieval times Ipswich was an important trading town and port and, crucial to the economic and political power of the region. Indeed back in the 13th century, Ipswich was one of England's most important towns and even hosted a royal wedding.

Most Read

Edward I - perhaps most famous today as the English monarch featured in the blockbuster movie Braveheart - brought his daughter Katherine to the town to get married.

Philip Wise, heritage manager at Ipswich Museum, said: “At this period there were two main political factions; the King and the Bigod family. The Bigods were the Earls of Norfolk and controlled a great deal of land in Suffolk. Ipswich was one of the towns where there was tension between the King and the Bigods.

“Edward had to impose his control and he effectively took over the running of Ipswich, so it would have been his town, and that is partly why he came here in 1297.”

Edward came here with his entire court, using the visit to show his presence and demonstrate he was in charge.

Mr Wise said: “He would have administered justice. If you had a complaint against somebody, Edward would have heard the case.”

The monarchical system wasn't as settled and secure in the 13th century as it is today. Edward travelled an enormous amount because he was often fighting his enemies, particularly the Scots and Welsh.

Mr Wise said: “The king and his court were not focused on London and Westminster but moved a lot instead. I think he would either have stayed in Ipswich Castle that was here then or one of the large monastic houses that were here.

“Ipswich was a trading port and it was doing rather well in the 13th century. This period was one of the more successful periods of the town's history and there would have been several wealthy people in town.”

Ipswich was a major centre of commerce and involved in the exported wool to the 'Low Countries and Flanders' - modern day Belgium and the Netherlands.

Mr Wise added: “There were a number of friaries being established in Ipswich and this happens when a town is doing well. As a sign of their wealth, the wealthy pay to establish religious houses which fulfil an educational as well as a preaching role.

“Ipswich was therefore important enough for the King to control it, because of its port facilities as well as ensuring royal control in Suffolk.”

The wedding that took place was between Edward's daughter Elizabeth Plantagenet, who was also known as Elizabeth of Rhuddlan, after the town in north Wales where she was born.

Mr Wise said: “Elizabeth was born in 1282 so she was 15 when she got married. Her husband was even younger. He was John, Count of Holland and he was born in 1284.

“John was brought up in England at the royal court because his father had died young, possibly murdered, and he was sent to England for his own safety. He would have encountered Elizabeth and known who she was.

“Getting married at such an age was not that unusual at this time and it didn't necessarily mean the couple lived together immediately. Elizabeth didn't go to Holland until 1299.”

The marriage with Count John was as much dynastic and political. Holland had close trade links with England. The couple married at St Peter's Church, probably because it was then one of the grander churches of Ipswich.

Mr Wise said: “I doubt there are any eye witness accounts of the wedding on record, but it would have been a very public event. Kings liked to be seen by their subjects, as apart from coinage which had a rough likeness of the king, you could only see what he looked like in the flesh.

“Rather like a modern royal wedding, they would have toured through the streets but only the important people would have got into the church itself. Elizabeth would have been known to the public as she was the daughter closest in age to Edward's heir.

“It would have been a colourful event. They liked feasting and drinking much as we do today.”

Unfortunately their marriage was short lived. John died and Elizabeth was widowed at 17. It was rumoured he had been murdered.

Elizabeth came back to England and later married the Earl of Hereford.

Nearly 400 years later, after the English civil war, Ipswich was visited by Charles II. In 1668, the merry monarch was visiting his friend Leicester Devereux, Lord Hereford.

David Jones, Ipswich Museum's keeper of human history said: “Devereux was a relative of the Earl of Essex, and owned Christchurch Mansion. He was one of the nobles who had visited Charles in exile in Holland, to ask him to return to England and take the throne after the interregnum - the period when there was no king.

Mr Jones said: “Ipswich had been a strong supporter of parliament so there was also a political dimension to his visit.”

Town records show the royal coat of arms being erected again, in order to show the town's loyalty when the king arrived. Mr Jones said: “It was at about this time that the coat of arms was put on the Ancient House. Charles visited and it is known he played bowls in Christchurch Park.”

The town council footed much of the bill for the visit, and court officials demanded payments from the town. The king was also presented with wine and marzipans.

Mr Jones said: “It was an opportunity to show loyalty to the new regime.”

Ipswich Record Office in Gatacre Road holds documents relating to the visit of a third monarch - William III - to the town.

Collections manager Bridget Hanley said: “I expect there are more details relating to the visits in the national records office in London and the Royal archives in Windsor, but here in Ipswich we do have detailed records of the expenditure the town met to pay for entertainment and preparation for royal visits.”

In the 1692-1693 records of the Chamberlain of Ipswich - a town official who oversaw the town's accounts - there is a reference to William.

Bridget said: “The accounts show payments made when the king came to the town and whoever wrote the accounts has crossed out 'to' Ipswich and written 'through' so it is unlikely he ever stayed here.”

The records show significant sums were spent on food, as well as wine and entertainment for William's visit - and the records also show the names of the suppliers from across town.

Do you have links to any heroes of history that visited town? Which figure from history inspires you? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail


Tomorrow: The adventures of Nelson, Prince Albert and Lord Kitchener.

Oysters 13s 4d

Two dozen tongues 16s

A sturgeon 18s

Bread 5s 3d

12 bottles of port wine 18s

Wine £4 1s

Wine £7 18s 9d

Wine £2 18s 4d

Sweetmeats £7 15s 2d

Pipes and tobacco 5s 3d

Bell ringer 16s

In 1290, by drawing up the Edict of Expulsion, Edward I formally expelled all Jews from England.

The authorities took over 300 people to the Tower of London and executed them, while killing others in their homes. All money and property was confiscated.

In April 1660 parliament invited Charles II to return to Britain, after being exiled after the execution of his father Charles I. He arrived at Dover on May 25.

Sponsored the founding of the Royal Society in 1660 (still in existence today) to promote scientific research.

Charles was a patron of Christopher Wren in the design and rebuilding of St Paul's Cathedral, Chelsea Hospital (a refuge for old war veterans) and other London buildings.

He publicly acknowledged 14 illegitimate children by seven mistresses.

Charles died in 1685, becoming a Roman Catholic on his deathbed. He was succeeded by his brother James II.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter