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If you have watched …

… Channel Five’s http://www.channel5.com/show/secrets-of-great-british-castles, let me reassure you of something.

There really was a king named Richard III and Dan Jones has simply forgotten to mention him.

Episode 2 was about Cardiff Castle, where Richard and Anne have a window devoted to them (seasons-greetings-2016-a-2).

Episode 3 was about the structure at York, or Clifford’s Tower as it is now called, which Richard frequented during his dozen years as Lord President of the Council of the North, whilst the city walls had borne the detached heads of his uncle, father (the Duke of York) and brother. Then again, “King Richard, late mercifully reigning upon us was, through grete treason, piteously slane and murdred to the grete hevynesse of this citie”., as their macebearer John Spooner recorded soon after Bosworth.

So Richard played a very real part in the history of both cities.

There have been a few interesting parts to this series – the “Black Dinner” with James II and the Douglases at Edinburgh Castle, Curthose held and Llewellyn Bren executed at Cardiff, the witchcraft charges against Joan of Navarre and Eleanor Cobham at Leeds, John starving various enemies to death at Lancaster and elsewhere, together with Robert Aske’s execution and Margaret Clitherow’s death in York, although Henry of Huntingdon could have been mentioned in conjunction with the latter. There has, however, been too much posing by Jones in his leather jacket, T-shirt and jeans firing arrows and trying on armour as the camera focussed on the other historians, includding Hutton, Morris and Capwell being older than him, together with too much dramatisatisation of Jones’ tendentious interpretation of events. The myth of Catherine de Valois and Owain Tudor, from the Leeds episode, is another case in point.

It isn’t that difficult to make a favourable reference to Richard III, surely? Then again, given what Jones has said about John and Edward II, perhaps it is better this way.cliffordstower

Edgar the Aetheling: Failure or Survivor?

Giaconda's Blog

edgar-the-aetheling-1

You could argue that Edgar was set up to fail from the start. As the last male heir of the ancient royal House of Cerdic of Wessex; Edgar had the bloodline but little else to support his claim to the English throne when his great uncle, Edward the Confessor, died in January 1066.

edgar-2 Edgar’s father, Edward the Exile who raised his children in Hungary for some time

His father, Edward the Exile, had mysteriously died shortly after being recalled to court by Edward the Confessor, to be his heir thus leaving Edgar’s claim unprotected by a strong male relative at the tender age of 6. His mother, Agatha, may have been related to the German Emperor but was far from assistance and before long would be surrounded by powerful men who were all set to devour each other in a violent contest of military strength in order to lay hands…

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More reburials based around Richard’s service at Leicester….

anglo-saxon-reburials

Richard III’s reburial service is to be adapted for more reburials, this time of Anglo-Saxon Christians-men, women and children-found at Kirkleatham, have been laid to rest at St Cuthbert’s, Redcar.

http://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/anglo-saxon-christians-reburied-redcar-12218102

 

A beautiful cover for a beautiful king….?

richard II

This likeness of Richard II is from the cover of the Penguin Monarchs edition on this fascinating king, written by Laura Ashe. (Penguin Monarchs: Richard II – A Brittle Glory by Laura Ashe. http://tinyurl.com/zbur7aw)  The reviews and comments at Amazon are mixed – the commenters even have a little spat. I  will purchase it because I am always eager to add more of Richard II to my personal library. He and Richard III vie for supremacy on that battle-shelf, I assure you.

My personal preference is for larger, more detailed biographies, which this book does not purport to be. One commenter at Amazon complains that it is very small, but it is intended to be a concise description of Richard’s life and reign. 

Whatever the contents, the cover illustration is breathtakingly beautiful. They say Richard was indeed handsome to the point of beauty, as some of his portraiture hints. While I accept that this present picture is modern, it just goes to show how, with a little tweaking of the known facts, a talented artist can turn a suggestion of the possible Richard into something which may be very close indeed to the real man. Too romantic? No. If a man was described as handsome to the point of beauty, then he must have been quite something to see. I doubt if Richard II ever walked into a crowded room unnoticed! Even wearing an old cloak and no headgear.

Of the three Richards of England, I am drawn to the second and third, both of whom are monarchs I believe to have been maligned. Oh, ‘maligned’ is a word all too often applied to Richard III, but I think Richard II deserves it too. Yes, he was guilty of a great deal of which he is accused, but at the same time, he was beset by uncles and nobles from the moment he became a child-king. If he grew up as damaged goods, it’s hardly surprising. 

Anyway, the strength of the cover art for this book arrested my attention, and it will soon be on my shelf. As an author myself, I know the value of a good cover. It is a fact that a lousy one can demolish the chances of an excellent book. With this, Laura Ashe must surely have a winner. I do hope so. When I have read it, I will report my findings! 

The brilliant artwork is by ANNA+ELENA=BALBUSSO ART, http://www.balbusso.com/ and I have to say that I would LOVE to see Richard III given the Balbusso treatment!!!

PS: A week later. I have now received and read this book, and my first impression—literally—was that they’d skimped on the dust cover. It only encloses the bottom three-quarters of the white cloth book, leaving the top quarter without anything. White? Dirt? I can see future second-hand copies turning up with bikini lines. Commenters on Amazon have also complained about the book’s small size, both in inches and pages, and it is true. It is more like a school text book than one of the larger biographies to which I am partial, but at the same time it gets to the nitty-gritty of Richard’s character and the problems that resulted from it. 

In Chapter One, I read “The book is arranged by four locations, each both real and imagined: parliament, battlefield, city, shrine.” The court is not included because it is considered in the context of these stated four locations. Richard’s story is revealed mostly through contemporary chronicles and eye-witness accounts. 

He was undoubtedly convinced that he was monarch by divine right, and any insult was taken to heart…and remembered for a long time. He was a Plantagenet elephant, and thought ahead, being prepared to wait for his revenge. It was also his preference for peace over war, which didn’t go down well with his martially-minded aristocracy, with whom he clashed time and again. Fatally. His defiance took the form of extravagance of almost mythical proportions, favourites and caprice, and his word was worthless because he would never abide by it. In the end he was taken down, as modern parlance has it.  Unfortunately, it was the House of Lancaster that did it.

His conduct, and the consequent usurpation of Henry IV, sowed the seeds of the Wars of the Roses, and although I will always find Richard II engrossing, I also want to shake him. But if I had laid a hand on the royal person, I’d have been for the chop, quick as a wink. It is a fact, though, that someone should have shaken him, (perhaps a holy hand reaching down from the heavens, for he would have understood that!) Richard was not a fool or a bad king, he simply rebelled against everything that happened to him in childhood and continued throughout his adult life. And when Richard II kicked up a storm, he did it in Cinemascope and Technicolor. 

All in all, I think Laura Ashe has written a very informative, easy-to-read account of Richard II, the man and his reign. I am not at all sorry to have purchased it, and I recommend it to anyone who seeks to be introduced to this strangely enigmatic king. But I do wish the cover had enclosed the whole book! Are Allen Lane (subsidiary of Penguin) on an economy drive??? Messing with covers is an ominous sign, in my experience.

However, the cover art is every bit as gorgeous as I thought before buying, but why did they have to cut corners…er, tops? 

Note: The Penguin Monarchs edition about Richard III (by Rosemary Horrox) will be published next year. No date as yet.

 

A great review of Henry III: Son of Magna Carta.

https://mattlewisauthor.wordpress.com/2016/11/24/book-review-henry-iii-son-of-magna-carta-by-matthew-lewis/

Shakespeare’s … Father

This interesting article shows how John Shakespeare, as Bailiff of Stratford-upon-Avon, was forced to paint over some mediaeval murals. As a clue to what really happened, remember that Michael Wood thinks both John and William Shakespeare to have been Catholics.

Let me reassure you that Henry VIII wasn’t still King sixteen years after he died, nor was William Shakespeare born thirty-eight years after he died – and long after his father died. The murals are so truly stunning that they are worthwhile despite the errata.3aae9bf400000578-3964086-the_colourful_murals_thought_to_be_some_of_the_finest_in_europe_-m-46_1479900631120

Another Anglo-Saxon find?

This Cambridge article reveals s0003598x16001861_figaba little about the possible early Christian burial site near Sutton Hoo, first discovered nearly eighty years ago and which probably contains Richard’s collateral ancestor Raedwald.

Those mysterious children’s coffins in Edward IV’s tomb….

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The following is courtesy of my good friend Eileen Bates, whose hard work has unveiled the truth about Edward IV’s tomb and those mysterious children’s coffins at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Could they be those of the boys in the Tower?

section-from-the-plan-of-grave-stones-of-st-georges-chapel-1789

The above is a Section from the Plan of Grave Stones of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, 1789. Edward’s tomb and the presumed vault containing his son George can be clearly seen on the right. This is the largest version of this plan that I have been able to find.

There has been a story hanging around for some time now that when Edward’s vault/coffin was discovered in 1790, an adjoining vault was also discovered which contained the coffins of two children, at the time thought to be those of Edward’s children – George who died aged 2, and Mary who died aged 15.  A ledger stone was laid naming George.  A drawing/diagram that was made at that time was on St George’s timeline clearing showing the ledger stone with the inscription.  

vault-of-edward-iv 

Again, I have been unable to find a clearer version of this illustration.

In 1810, during further work being made at St George’s, the actual lead coffins of George and Mary were discovered in another part of the chapel. So, whose little coffins were in the vault beside Edward and Elizabeth?  Thus the legend was born that there were two mysterious coffins in the vault, which might, just might, belong to the missing boys in the Tower. Eileen wondered if, for example, Buckingham might have murdered the boys, and Richard (not guilty of a hand in it!) then had them buried secretly next to their father.   

The puzzle of the coffins appeared on the web page of the chapel and also an article in the Richard III Society Bulletin in September 2001, by someone who worked at the chapel in the capacity of a steward.  In the article it stated that further investigation would be made about the vault and its contents, but unfortunately this was never updated.  

Together with another friend on the RIII Society Forum, Eileen made an on-line search for the report that had been made at the time. It was found but could not be opened. Eileen then asked the St George’s Archivist directly, who kindly responded on 22nd November, 2016, to the effect that the original information on their website was inaccurate. In 1790 the report related that a vault was noticed, but not explored, and it was thought it would contain the coffins of the children, George, Duke of Bedford, and Princess Mary. But then in 1810 their coffins were discovered elsewhere in the chapel, so it was no longer possible that they lay in the vault in the North Quire Aisle, next to their parents. 

The blog posted in 2012 misinterpreted the information, and speculated that the coffins in Edward’s vault belonged to the missing boys from the Tower. This has now been corrected on the website.

So, the whole story is based on an omission.  When the secret vault was discovered it was not explored, but was believed to probably hold the remains of Edward’s children, George and Mary, who were subsequently located elsewhere  No one actually looked. If there are coffins in there next to Edward and Elizabeth, it is not known when they date from or who they are.  St George’s webpage has now been edited to reflect this.   

So, Eileen has finally solved the mystery of the coffins in the St George’s vault, that could have contained the boys in the Tower.  They are not George and Mary. In fact, no one even knows if there are coffins in there at all, because no one has ever looked. It was just taken for granted.

viscountessw: Which, of course, provides another mystery!

At the time of writing this (25th November 2016), the St George’s website appears to be down. http://www.stgeorges-windsor.org/about-st-georges/history/st-georges-timeline.html

 

As it turned out …

Last week, just hours before the actor Danny Dyer appeared on “Who do you think you are?” to reveal his descent from Thomas Cromwell and Edward III – in the latter case, via the Mortimer, Percy, Seymour (Jane’s sister), Cromwell (Thomas’ grandson Henry), Tollemache (of Helmingham hall) and Gosnold (Robert Gosnold V, 1611-58) of Otley Hall) lines – we blogged about it. It was rather a good episode, reminiscent of Frank Gardner’s episode, revealing Robert Gosnold’s service as a Cavalier officer, as well as Thomas Cromwell’s end much like Michael Stanhope’s._92420878_radiotimesddswordhi

There is, however, almost a second line of Royal descent.

John Gosnold (1528-1628 and a cousin of Bartholomew) was married to Winifred Windsor, the great-great-granddaughter of George, Duke of Clarence. They had five sons and three daughters. One of their sons was called Robert but Robert V was actually John’s great-nephew as Lucie Field’s tree suggests.

It was worth a try.

For more on Thomas Cromwell, son of a Putney brewer and secretary to Wolsey, including his impact on Ipswich and other locations, .try this excellent MacCullough documentary.

THE LOST PRIORY OF AMESBURY

The palatial 17thc mansion called Amesbury Abbey (now a private nursing home) stands in beautiful landscaped gardens near the curve of the Avon and on the edge of the Stonehenge World Heritage Landscape.

The original monastic building from which it takes its name, the Fontrevraudine Priory of Amesbury, is long gone, a victim of Henry VIII’s Reformation—not one stone remains visible above  ground (although rumours abound that a piece of external wall along the perimeter of the property might be medieval.)   However, painted tiles dating between the 12th and 15th C often turn up when the gardeners do the rose-beds, along with fragments of glass and other relevant debris. This has recently led experts to pinpoint the probable position of the vanished priory church, standing slightly north of the present house.

The priory was originally built as a daughter house of Fontrevaud, after the town’s first abbey, founded in Saxon times by Queen Elfrida, was dissolved in 1177. The old Benedictine nuns were sent upon their way (most of them having supposedly lived scandalous lives!) and 21-24 nuns from Fontevraud in France were moved in, along with some English sisters from Worcestershire.

The early Plantagenets, who had a great affinity with Fontevraud, the final resting place of Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Richard I, greatly favoured the Amesbury daughter-house. Eleanor of Aquitaine’s foster daughter, Amiria, decided to take the veil there, and when Eleanor herself died in 1203, the prioress paid a rent from the Exchequer to the Abbess of Fontevrault to have a chaplain pray for Eleanor’s soul.

It was not all about religion. King John had rather secular dealings with the priory in 1215 when the barons were in revolt. He hid part of the royal treasury in the vaults for safekeeping.

In the reign of John’s son, Henry III, the priory seemed to come to renewed prominence. The king visited personally on several occasions and granted  the priory nuts, firewood, wine, and a communion cup.Henry’s son, Edward I kept a close connection  to the priory  and sent his daughter, Mary of Woodstock, to join the order as a young girl. Mary seemed to enjoy travelling and playing cards more than she enjoyed being a nun, however; she ran up huge gambling debts to the tune of £200 while attending her father’s court. The 7th Earl of Surrey, John de Warenne, also claimed to have had an affair with her. Her burial place is not known but it is very likely in Amesbury.

Mary’s cousin, Eleanor of Brittany also became a nun at Amesbury, but eventually she  migrated overseas to the Abbey of Fontrevrault itself, where she rose in the ranks to  become the abbess. There were a few conflicts with her cousin over the years, possibly because she disapproved of Mary’s less than nunly behaviour. Eleanor the Abbess of Fontevrault is not to be confused with an earlier Eleanor of Brittany, who willed her body to Amesbury after dying in a convent in Bristol. That Eleanor was the sister of Arthur of Brittany, most likely murdered by King John, and she was a prisoner for most of her adult life due to her closeness to the crown. Her remains might be in the older abbey (now the  parish church of St Mary and St Melor) rather than in the lost priory, as it was because of St Melor, whose life story mirrored that of her unfortunate brother, that she wished to be interred at Amesbury.

The most famous resident of Amesbury Priory was Henry III’s widow, Queen Eleanor of Provence, who was Mary and Eleanor’s grandmother. She may never have become a fully professed nun and had her own private quarters built for her use. Eleanor was a strong woman, beautiful but not popular with her English subjects, and had at one time been appointed regent of England in her husband’s absence.

Originally, Eleanor had intended to be buried next to Henry III in Westminster Abbey, when the time came. However, a problem arose. The space had been usurped by the body of Eleanor of Castile, wife to her son Edward I, who had predeceased her; so, when Eleanor died in 1291, the nuns were not quite certain what to do with the body. They waited several months for the king to arrive and decide where she would be buried. When he finally reached Amesbury, he allowed his mother to be interred before the high altar in the priory church,  with all due ceremony and many lords attending.

The last great lady of royal blood to reside in Amesbury priory was Isabel of Lancaster, daughter of Henry 3rd Earl of Lancaster. She arrived there in 1327 and ended up as prioress. She was the granddaughter of Edmund Crouchback, hence great granddaughter of Henry III and Eleanor of Provence, showing that family connections were still strong.

The priory does not feature overmuch in records after the late 1300’s, although some of the floor tiles are 15th c. It is possible it fell on hard times during this period. After the death of her husband, Margaret, Lady Hungerford, resided at the priory between 1459 and 1463. While she was there her lodgings burnt down, destroying £1000 of her personal possessions. The nuns asked that she restore the damaged buildings; the cost to her was £20. In 1463 she Margaret left the convent when her son, Robert, 3rd Baron Hungerford, was executed at Newcastle after the Battle of Hexham. The Hungerford lands were seized by Edward IV,  and divided between Richard of Gloucester and Lord Wenlock.

The priory was, naturally, dissolved in the Reformation. In 1540, it was given to Edward Seymour. A year later, the spire of the church was pulled down and the buildings roofs were torn off to take the lead.

Wind and weather soon took their toll and then later building and landscaping obliterated all that was left of this once-great religious house…which was not only a holy place, but the final resting place of a Queen.

Sources: A History of Wiltshire, Vol 3

 

TO BE CONTINUED

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