In an age when women were little more than the property of their husbands, barred from public life, and whose lives went unrecorded, Nichola de la Haye really stands out.
Nichola inherited the position of Constable of Lincoln Castle from her father Richard de la Haye, a minor Lincolnshire Lord. Her work was noticed by King John, who in 1216 made Nichola Sheriff of Lincolnshire, even though she was a woman and in her mid-sixties.
By May 1217, much of England had been taken by the combined French and rebel English forces, including the city of Lincoln, during the First Barons’ War. Only Lincoln Castle remained in support of the new King Henry III. As Constable, Nichola kept power of Lincoln Castle during months of sieges from the invading forces.
On the morning of May 20th the Second Battle of Lincoln was fought as the famous William Marshal arrived in the city with royalist forces to support the Castle. The French and rebel forces were defeated, the siege ended, and the invading forces retreated.
It was a turning point in the First Barons’ War, and meant that Prince Louis would not take the English throne.
Like his father before him, King Henry III referred to Nichola as “our beloved and faithful Nichola de la Haye”, acknowledging her role in saving his kingdom. Royalist writers noted that she was ‘a worthy lady’ deserving of God’s protection ‘in body and soul’.
Despite her bravery, Nichola lost her position of Sheriff to the Earl of Salisbury just four days after the battle and had to contend with the Earl for control of the Castle until his death in 1226.
Nichola continued to run her estates until her retirement in 1226 - issuing 25 charters and making donations to religious houses and Lincoln Cathedral.
Nichola de la Haye, described as "the woman who saved England" by historian Sharon Bennett Connolly, died in her late seventies in 1230.