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The Castle of Leicester and St Mary De Castro

Leicester Castle

leics castle

Leicester Castle as it appeared in 1483

 

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The Castle gardens

Since 2015 going to Leicester is the equivalent of going to visit the tomb of the last Plantagenet King who died in battle: Richard III. Everything there speaks of him from the Visitor Centre named after him, to The Last Plantagenet Pub not to mention attractions and shops that display his portrait or sell items with the name of the king. Of course, the Medieval Cathedral where the warrior king was buried in 2015 is the most visited place in Leicester but if you go there, don’t forget to pay a visit to the remains of Leicester’s Castle and its church St Mary De Castro. It is difficult today to imagine how the Castle could be at the time of Richard III but it is still there indeed even in a different shape. 

IMG_2840The Castle was probably built immediately after the Norman Conquest so around 1070. The Governor  at that time was Hugh de Grantmensil one of the companions of William the Conqueror. The Castle was the favourite residence of John of Gaunt, first Duke of Lancaster and the fourth son of Edward III. From the north end of the hall, it was possible to access the lord’s private apartments whilst from the south end there was access to a kitchen above an undercoft called John of Gaunt’s cellar where beverage and food were stored. Some people erroneously think it was a dungeon. 

The castle today looks totally different. What remains are the Castle’s Mound (Motte) located between Castle View and Castle Gardens. The Motte was originally 30-40 feet Prince Rupehigh topped with a timber tower. Unfortunately no buildings survived  and the motte was lowered in Victorian times to form a bowling green.

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The Castle House

The Great Hall is the oldest surviving aisled and bay divided timber hall in Britain. Even though the exterior is Victorian, the building still retains some of its original 12th century timber posts. The criminal court in the castle’s Great Hall was the scene of Leicester’s “Green Bicycle Murder” trial 1919 so exactly 100 years ago.

Other things are still visible of the ancient castle. The wall, the remains of the castle especially the Turret Gateway also known as Prince Rupert’s Gateway, the Castle Gardens (once used for public executions) the Castle House and the stunning church of St Mary De Castro.

St Mary De Castro

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St Mary De Castro

Close where the Castle stood, there is an ancient church called St Mary De Castro. It is a very special place especially for Ricardians. In this church Geoffrey Chaucer married her second wife, Philippa de Roet and 44 people were knighted in just one day among them Henry VI and Richard Plantagenet Duke of York, Richard III’s father. He was just 15 years old. However, the most famous event to be remembered today is that it is said that Richard III worshipped there before leaving for Bosworth and prepared himself for his last battle.

St Mary De Castro means St Mary of the Castle. It was built in 1107 after Henry I gave the

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The Chapel in St Mary De Castro ground to Robert de Beaumont 1st Earl of Leicester. It was the chapel of the castle and a place of worship within the bailey of the castle. It is assumed but there is no proof of evidence, that Ethelfleda, daughter of King Alfred the Great, had founded a church on the very spot where today is St Mary. It also seems that there was a college of priests called the College of St Mary De Castro founded before the Norman Conquest.

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The tower of St Mary was built not beside the church but inside of it so visitors can see 3 sides of it while still in church. The medieval spire, rebuilt in 1783 was declared dangerous in 2013. Following the unsuccessful attempt to raise money to save it, it was demolished in 2014. The church’s structure is quite odd because in ancient times there were two churches. One was the mentioned chapel of the castle, the other a church for common people. This explains why there are two sedilias and two piscinas both from medieval times.

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Henry VI and Richard III

Curiosities

It is said that King Richard III’s mistreated body was brought to this church to be washed before being displayed for the world to see he was actually dead. Considering the evident haste he was buried in and the lack of respect showed by the Tudors, it is unlikely this ever happened.

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The Nave of the Church

Philippa de Roet, Chaucer’s wife, was the lady-in-waiting of Philippa of Hainault one of Richard III’s ancestors.

In this church Edward of Lancaster and John of Lancaster are buried. Both died in infancy.

 

 

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Another Howard riddle

It is widely known that Elizabeth I was the only English monarch to be descended from John, 1st Duke of Norfolk, as her grandmother was a Howard, his granddaughter. There is a British monarch who can trace their maternal ancestry to this dynastic founder – Elizabeth II, who also shares the “Treetops” coincidence with her namesake.
Here is the evidence …

Illustrations of Stafford Castle….

Stafford Castle

I fear the exhibition in question was in 2017, but the website is interesting because if you go down to the second appearance of the above illustration of Stafford Castle, you will find that you can go through a number of scenes of the castle. Worth a look.

Down with Reggie Bray: hooray for Francis Lovell….!

Well, here are two stories from two English villages. Firstly, the present Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, will be at St Mary’s Parish Church at Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire, to mark its 800th anniversary. Unfortunately, the Bray part of the village’s name comes from Reggie Bray, upon whose memory we, er, frown. Reggie, of course, is one of a number of men at Bosworth Field who laid claim to having found the crown of Richard III and placed it on Henry Tudor’s undeserving, usurping head. If all these men were telling the truth, I think there must have been a very undignified scrum to grab the crown, which hitherto had graced the brow of the true King of England. However, methinks some porkies were told…it was probably Tudor himself who scrambled around on hands and knees, looking for the crown to which he he had no honourable right whatsoever.

To read about the royal visit to Eaton Bray, please  click here.

However, there is also news about a much more agreeable gentleman from the past, Francis Lovell, whose family name attaches to an Oxfordshire village, Minster Lovell. Unlike Bray, he was true to Richard III throughout, and now there is a new book out about him:-

“….’Dynasty and Disappearance: Francis Lovell, Richard III and The Tudors’ takes place at the Old Swan hotel in Minster Lovell on Saturday from 10am to 4pm.

“….Author Steve David will launch his first ever book published on Francis Lovell, an ally of Richard III in the War of the Roses, and part of the family that gave the village its name.

“….The book argues that Mr Lovell returned to his ancestral home in the village and hid from Henry VII after the Battle of Stoke in 1487.”

I’m not sure Viscount Sir Francis would have appreciated being demoted to mere gentleman! However, it’s always hooray for him, and bah, humbug, to Reggie Bray!

To read more about the new book, please go to this article.

It’s a wonder anyone survived medieval battles….!

 

The title above says it all. Go to this article and see what I mean. With such weapons being wielded on all sides, how on earth did anything—man or horse—emerge still standing? I don’t think we should be in any doubt at all that by going to battle, all men knew they were putting their lives at a very real risk indeed.

Unless, like Henry VII, they always skulked around at the back, well protected (Bosworth), or indeed arrived too late to take part anyway (Stoke Field or Blackheath). There was nothing brave about him.

A spook at Berkeley? Or a trick of the light….?

With drones in the news a lot of late, concerning their interference at airports, perhaps we should remember that they do have some very useful attributes. Especially such things as flying around ancient monuments and giving splendidly detailed views.

There have long been photographs, recordings and so on that claim to be evidence of supernatural events, but I have not seen drone footage that claims to show a knight on horseback galloping across the courtyard of Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire.

I have to say that the blurred image on the footage shown here does show a motion that seems to me to be appropriate for a man on horseback, but is that what the image actually is? A spook? Or a trick of the light?

You decide, ladies and gentlemen.

A house that has been loved back to life, twice. . . .

There are so many wonderful old buildings nestling away in the British countryside. We are so lucky to still have them.

Beautiful 15th-century Great Chalfield Manor in Wiltshire was “loved back to life by an Edwardian engineer, Robert Fuller, and his scholarly architect, Sir Harold Brakspear”.

Now it has been rescued again. “. . . Great Chalfield had just been through a major restoration under the hands of the owner Robert Fuller and the architect Sir Harold Brakspear, with another architect, C. H. Biddulph-Pinchard, still at work on the back. It says much for both the scholarship and the visual sensitivity of these men that the spell in which this sleeping beauty had been wrapped since Great Chalfield’s decline as a gentleman’s seat was not broken…”

To read about it, go here, which also shows some wonderful photographs of both interior and exterior.

Crusaders came from all over, and were led by Richard III….?

 

Taken from the link below

Well, when we think of the Romans, we now know they came from every corner of Europe and even the Middle East, but do we always think of Crusaders as being so diverse? This is an interesting article, and worth reading.

Except….Richard III led the Third Crusade? One lives and learns. I’ll warrant Richard would have been as surprised as me to learn of this particular exploit!

Raedwald again

Basil Brown’s work at Sutton Hoo, on secondment from Ipswich Museum, began in summer 1938 and reached “Mound One” today in 1939. In time, he explored the many mounds on that site, one of which probably includes the remains of Raedwald, King of East Anglia to about 624 and Bretwalda of England from 616. Raedwald, of the Wuffing dynasty, was a Christian convert and his collateral descendants fed into the House of Wessex and their successors from 1154.

Here are some pictures from The Cricketers, Ipswich, about Raedwald, his family and his times:

The Cycle of the Months frescoes at Buonconsiglio Castle, Trento….

“….The Buonconsiglio Castle (Trento, Italy) is the largest and most important monumental complex of the Trentino Alto Adige region. It was the residence of the prince-bishops of Trento from the 13th century to the end of the 18th century, and is composed of a series of buildings of different eras,enclosed by walls and positioned slightly higher than the city. Castelvecchiois the oldest nucleus, dominated by an imposing cylindrical tower; the Magno Palazzo is the 16th century expansion in the Italian Renaissance-style as commissioned by the Prince-Bishop and Cardinal Bernardo Cles (1485-1539); the Baroque-style Giunta Albertiana dates from the end of the 17th centuryAt the extreme south of the complex is the Torre Aquila, within which is conserved the famous Cycle of the Months, one of the most fascinating secular pictorial cycles of the late Middle Ages….”

It is the Cycle of the Months that fascinate me. Each illustration is a superb illustration of life at the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries. So please go here and look at all twelve months.

 

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