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400 buildings were lost in the Great Fire of London….

Nonsuch House, London Bridge

(following this post about mediaeval London and this one that refers to the fire)

Nonsuch House was a “wildly eccentric, gaudily painted, meticulously carved Renaissance palace…the jewel in the crown of London Bridge. Made entirely from wood it was prefabricated in Holland and erected in 1577-79, replacing the medieval drawbridge gate. At four storeys it was the biggest building on the bridge, straddling the whole street and lurching over the Thames, affording its illustrious occupants spectacular views of the metropolis. Its tulip-bulb cupolas were admired from miles around and there was truly nonsuch like this architectural mongrel anywhere else in London.

“The fire only consumed a modern block of houses at the northern end of London Bridge, separated from the rest by a gap, and so Nonsuch House, built on the 7th and 8th arches from the Southwark end, happily survived – only to be dismantled with the rest of the houses a hundred years later.”

Thus the article below describes the amazing confection that was Nonsuch House.  It did well not to be destroyed between 2-5 September 1666, when the Great Fire of London robbed posterity of some four hundred wonderful buildings. It lasted another century, but many fine, historic buildings came to grief, and the article describes and illustrates a number of them.

This is also well worth a read!

Hostile Historians and Uppity Authors: Never the Twain Shall Meet?

You would have had to have been locked a dark dungeon in the Tower not to have noticed that there is a new TV series out based on a Philippa Gregory bestseller. THE WHITE PRINCESS has hit the screens in the US (no dates for the UK this time; the BBC bailed after The White Queen.) In both book and series, the ravishing Elizabeth of York, here called Lizzie for short (an anachronism right there–girls called Elizabeth were normally called Bess or Bessy, with Lizzie not appearing for several hundred years) fights for the honour of the fallen House of York against the husband she loathes but has been forced to marry, the new King Henry Tudor (here anachronistically bearded and impossibly attractive) and his sinister, lurking mother, Margaret Beaufort (Catelyn Stark in a late medieval version of a Mickey Mouse hat.) The first episode has a brief flash back to Lizzie’s pre-Bosworth on-the-battlefield fling with Uncle Richard, and then much time is spent bemoaning the untimely death of her lost lover and fighting against the dastardly machinations of Henry and his mummy. And then, eventually, Lizzie and Henry fall in lurrrrve.

Now much of this scenario is fantasy, pleasing to neither the Tudorites, who frequently moan that ‘Philippa Gregory is anti-Tudor!’ because, amongst other things, she didn’t make the Henry-Elizabeth alliance an immediate Mills and Boon romance, and equally TWP is not admired by the Ricardians because of Gregory’s overblown use of the discredited idea of an affair between Elizabeth and Richard III, when it is known from existing state documents in Portugal that he planned to marry Joanna of Portugal and at the same time have Elizabeth wed Duke Manuel of Beja.  Certainly it is true that Richard had to deny in public that he wished to marry Elizabeth, but it genuinely appears that this so-called proposed marriage was nothing more than gossip, much of it deliberately malicious, and the other possibly arising from pure misunderstanding. Why should anyone be surprised that courts were full of rumours about sex?- Look at how the modern press pairs celebrities up when they hardly even know each other!

Of course, Philippa Gregory is a fiction author so she is entitled to write whatever floats her boat. The public decides what it enjoys, and with her very hefty bank balance and millions of sales under her belt, people obviously enjoy her writing, accurate in historical content or not. Witchy Woodvilles, whistling down stormwinds isn’t exactly my thing, nor is the repetition of words/phrases and names that seem to be her trademark style, but clearly  the easy to read, first person, female format appeals to many readers.

However, the problem seem to be of late that Ms Gregory has assumed the designation of ‘historian’ in interviews and documentaries, and this self-appointment  has irked a few familiar faces, including the eminently irkable David Starkey and highly successful historical fiction author Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall. Doctor Gregory, as many of her fans call her, indeed has a doctorate …but it is not in history, medieval, Tudor or otherwise. Rather, it is in literature. Certainly many laymen have great knowledge of history and have come up with new discoveries and theories missed totally by accredited historians, but the problem seems to be when the lines of fiction/non-fiction blur due to the author’s own self-promotion and self-accreditation.  This is clear from the comments on the webpages dedicated to the new White Princess series; many viewers/readers are convinced that every word of the novel and the prequels  (and their tv versions) is true because the author ‘researches everything SO thoroughly and is a historian.’

No, she is a fiction writer with a long-term interest in history, using a reasonable amount of historical facts alongside some intriguing historical fictions (and of course history itself is full of myth, rumour and outright lies!) in order to make a rousing story. If Gregory is as well-versed  in history as she claims, she should be honest enough to at least admit that the affair between Richard and Elizabeth, as an example,  most likely never happened. Instead, she points selectively to anything that might ‘back up’ her book and completely ignores any evidence to the contrary. That is just self-promo and is indeed a far cry from what she herself said when TWP was still a work in progress–that of all her books it contained ‘the most fantasy.’

(That said, I don’t 100% agree with Hilary Mantel, either, who said she thought historical fiction writers should not add bibliographies into their novels as it implied they were non-fiction and the contents therefore  ‘true’. I believe a brief list should be included, in order to have the readers (hopefully) study more of the time periods involved and make up their own minds. )

So, dear viewers,  please take the White Princess with a pinch of salt – the Bosworth night fling, the rather aged and silent Francis Lovell, who now appears mysteriously in the story after being completely invisible in The White Queen, a letter of Buckingham (who is long dead) and other gaffs, along with Ms Gregory’s amazing claim in the article linked below that Richard III was ‘terrified’ of Elizabeth Woodville (Awk, say what? Why, did her weird whistling magic bother him that much?) Enjoy it, if it’s your thing, but  forget the ‘history’ part.

Fiction brings the past alive for many of us, me included, but let’s remember that’s what  it is. Fiction. However, I fear this plea will be in vain. After all, look how many people still think Shakespeare was  a historian and not a playwright!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/event/article-4406136/Historial-novelist-Philippa-Gregory.html

https://thecreationofanneboleyn.wordpress.com/2011/12/19/fact-fiction-and-philippa-gregory/

The-White-Princess-Starz

A “Legendary Ten Seconds” review

It is unlikely you will ever read another book quite like this one. Ian Churchward describes it as ‘The story of how I wrote and recorded lots of Ricardian songs’ – the term ‘Ricardian’ denoting support for King Richard III. Ian sets the scene with amusing anecdotes about his early (pre-Ricardian) music adventures with different bands, one of them having a record played on the John Peel Show in 1987.

People come to King Richard III by many different roads. For Ian, it was when his wife called him away from his music to come and watch a TV documentary. He was happily strumming guitar in the basement and was not sure he wanted to – but as he is interested in history, he decided to watch for a few minutes. He ended up watching the whole programme which was, in his words, ‘the most amazing documentary I have ever seen’. It was about the finding of King Richard’s skeleton in a Leicester carpark and it gave Ian the idea of writing a song about Richard – it was called ‘The House of York’, lamenting the treachery and Tudor lies that caused the demise of the Plantagenet dynasty. Ian and band member, Lord Zarquon, collaborated on the arrangement: acoustic guitar, mellotron flute intro, church organ sounds and drums. The words of this song (and many others that followed) are reproduced in the book.

Ian explains how King Richard has been maligned and puts the record straight about his right to take the throne, when his nephews were declared illegitimate and thus unable to accede. The book takes us through the various Ricardian-themed albums that followed the first song, the lyrics interspersed with short explanatory historical narratives.

We learn how The Legendary Ten Seconds got their name – which is so unusual that people have no trouble finding their music on the internet! The songs are best described as mediaeval English folk rock: the mood varies from catchy and singalong (The Year of Three Kings), haunting (The Boar Lay Slain) to stirring and exhilarating (White Surrey).

I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in music and in King Richard III. Buy it and sing along at a Legendary Ten Seconds gig.

Elizabeth of York and the cult of Edward of Lancaster….

Edward, Prince of Wales, the eighteen-year-old son of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou, was killed in the Battle of Tewkesbury, 4th May 1471. He became the subject of an exclusive posthumous cult.

The chronicle of Tewkesbury Abbey tells of the Prince’s death in battle and of his burial ‘in the mydste of the covent quiere in the monastery ther’; the short paragraph describing his death ends with the words ‘for whom god worketh’, a reference to miracles performed at the tomb, which is now lost. The plaque in the floor of the abbey merely marks that he rests somewhere close by. A little like the tomb of Queen Anne Neville in Westminster abbey. The quire is in the western part of the chancel, between the nave and the sanctuary, which houses the altar and tabernacle. In 1911, flowers were still being laid on the site of the grave.

Further evidence of interest in the Prince includes an annual commemoration, bequests at his tomb, and pilgrimage to it. Queen Elizabeth of York offered, in March 1502. ‘to Prince Edward 5s’, though it was not indicated where exactly she offered them. There was a cult of the prince’s father, the saintly Henry VI, and Elizabeth offered three times at his shrine in Windsor. Henry VII must have granted his permission for these offerings.

In 1508 Edward, Duke of Buckingham (died 1521) visited the prince’s tomb in Tewkesbury. Danna Piroyansky, author of Martyrs in the Making – Political Martyrdom in Late Medieval England, considers he may have been hoping to advertise his Lancastrian connections, which made him a potential claimant to the throne, but I cannot go along with that. Advertise his closeness to the throne when Henry VII and then Henry VIII were reigning? It would amount to something close to a death wish.

To return to Prince Edward. He is believed to have fallen in battle, and the story of him being caught fleeing could be a Yorkist attempt to ridicule the Lancastrian heir’s courage, and thus contrast him unfavourably with the ‘courageous and manly’ Edward IV. It has to be considered. As does the other story that he was murdered by Richard of Gloucester to clear the way to marriage with Anne Neville, whose husband the prince was. This latter tale strikes me as another calculated Tudor fib to blacken Richard’s name.

anne_neville_and her husbands

I digress. After the battle, Edward IV attempted to check the much more important cult that swiftly arose around Henry VI, but there is no evidence that he did the same in the case of Prince Edward. Maybe because it was a number of years after Tewkesbury—1502—when his cult began to develop. And 1502 is when we have Elizabeth of York offering 5s ‘to Prince Edward’.

Now, there was more than one Prince Edward, Prince of Wales, of course. Another was the elder of Elizabeth’s two brothers, who was briefly King Edward V, and had been famously ensconced in the Tower with his younger brother. No one knows what happened to the boys, and everyone likes to blame Richard III. Failing that, they blame the Duke of Buckingham, Margaret Beaufort and Henry VII. The disappearance of Edward IV’s sons might have suited a number of people.

There is a question mark over the claimant Perkin Warbeck, who led Henry such a merry dance. Many believe he really was who he said he was, the younger boy from the Tower, Richard, Duke of York. If that is true, then what happened to the older of the boys, the lost King Edward V? If the little Duke of York had survived to manhood, why would he, not his elder brother, come back to haunt Henry VII? Maybe because Edward V—Prince Edward—died of natural causes?

Perkin Warbeck

If so, where might King/Prince Edward be buried? Presuming he died in England, of course. Perhaps a suitably secret place was one that was really quite obvious – the tomb of another Prince Edward. Elizabeth of York’s uncle and aunt, George, Duke of Clarence, and Isabel Neville, his duchess, were already buried in Tewkesbury Abbey, so the abbey may have seemed a good idea because of them as well.

Clarence House, Tewkesbury

Above is Clarence House, Tewkesbury. Might it have once had something to do with George of Clarence? He was granted Tewkesbury, had a bridge built there, and was buried in the abbey, so it is clear he had a lot to do with the town. This might have been his residence.

Would Elizabeth of York have to go to Tewkesbury in person to offer? Or could she send someone? There is no record (as far as I know) of her visiting Tewkesbury, so I think she would have delegated. Thus she could honour her lost brother right under her husband’s nose, in the guise of commemorating Edward of Lancaster.

Too far-fetched? Well, I am a novelist, but I do not see this as being so far-fetched as to be impossible. I have no doubt that those of you who think it is wildly unlikely will soon tell me so!

PS: A third Prince Edward, another Prince of Wales, was Richard III’s little son, about whose death and whereabouts there is still such a mystery. I will not pamper the novelist in me by wondering if Tewkesbury might be his resting place as well. With his uncle, George, Duke of Clarence. A temporary interment, while Richard prepared a much grander tomb for himself, his queen and his son. But then Bosworth put a stop to any plan poor widowed Richard may have had.

 

 

 

Fact: Henry Tudor raped Elizabeth of York….!

Well, I vowed to myself that I wouldn’t post anything more about The White Princess, but the articles below proved too much for me. I will isolate a small paragraph from one of them, about Emma Frost, the writer of the series:-

“In writing this scene, Frost had to make a choice between accurately depicting horrifying historical facts, and adhering to more modern concepts of consent. She chose the latter.”

The horrifying historical facts in question entail Henry VII having raped Elizabeth before they were married. More than that, in the programme he apparently repeats this exercise until she’s pregnant, just so he can be sure she’s fertile! Yes, you read that correctly. It is, apparently, an unchallenged truth that he did this. How do they know? Did he appear to them at a séance and confess?

That Philippa Gregory wrote these scenes in her book I do not challenge. It’s fiction, and as a novelist myself I know the “rules”. But for this article to then describe these rapes as historical fact is taking it too far. Henry VII is being maligned as he himself maligned Richard III. Hm. Wait a tick, is that so bad? Perhaps the rotter deserves all he gets!

But no, not even I can be comfortable with this. It is possible that Henry and Elizabeth got between the sheets before their marriage. After all she gave birth to their first son only eight months after the ceremony. However, it is also possible that Prince Arthur was premature. Either version can be applied. But getting between the sheets does not mean rape was involved. Perhaps they couldn’t stand the sight of each other but had to at least try to find some common ground. Perhaps they had too many cups of wine, and…oh, dear, they bonked! Shock! Horror! But feelings must have been running high at the time, after all that had gone before, and perhaps neither of them wished to be attracted to the other. Loathing and sexual attraction can go together far more than we like to think.

So, regarding the articles to which the following links will take you, the rape/s cannot be taken as historical fact!

http://www.refinery29.com/2017/04/149882/the-white-princess-henry-lizzie-rape-scene and http://www.glamour.com/story/the-white-princess-starz

 

Give this Knight Errant a miss….!

knight errant - wilkins

If you support Richard III and believe history has “done him wrong”, for heaven’s sake do not read The Last Knight Errant: Sir Edward Woodville and the Age of Chivalry by Christopher Wilkins.

I made the mistake, and it soon struck me that the author had learned by rote every single myth about Richard, and then served them up as fact. Although, to be fair, he does dispense with the “two years in the womb, long hair and full set of teeth at birth” yarn. We don’t have the withered arm either. I suppose even Wilkins sensed these things would be going too far. After all, he’s aiming at a modern audience, not the Tudors. I will assume that the murder of Edward of Lancaster at Tewkesbury was a crime of Richard’s that Wilkins somehow overlooked.

So, let me see. Here are some of Richard’s crimes:-

  • He murdered Henry VI.
  • He poisoned Anne in order to marry his niece.
  • Joanna of Portugal declined to marry Richard and preferred her nunnery.
  • Richard intended from the outset to be rid of his nephews.
  • His marriage was “between brother and sister-in-law” and therefore invalid. There was no dispensation applied for anyway. Thus Edward of Middleham was illegitimate.
  • Elizabeth Woodville wasn’t plotting against Richard, she was merely afraid of him.
  • Elizabeth Woodville had a nervous breakdown, which explains her agreement to let her daughters go into Richard’s care.
  • Richard bullied the old Duchess of Oxford into giving him her estates.
  • There is no evidence that Edward IV ever wanted Richard to be Protector.
  • Stillington only revealed the untrue yarn of the pre-contract because Richard promised him his bastard son could marry Elizabeth of York.
  • History has “demonstrated” Richard’s ruthlessness.

That’s enough! Too much even. A load of old tosh, I fear, and so untrue in these important areas that I doubt the author’s portrayal of that thieving traitor Sir Edward Woodville is much better, except that it will be the other swing of the pendulum, halo and all. Can’t be bothered to finish the book to find out.

By the way, the back cover blurb even refers to Richard as ‘that genius of propaganda’! Richard? Has Wilkins never noticed the suffocating blanket coverage by the Tudors? Bah! I don’t mind honest debate, and accept that not everyone believes Richard was a good man, but I do object to this tommyrot. Trotting out the Tudor fairy tales of Thomas More, Shakespeare and the like is not good scholarship!

A Guide to English Medieval Government….

Court of King's Bench - time Henry VI

Court of the King’s Bench Time of Henry VI

If, like me, you become puzzled or just downright confused by all the different offices, posts, departments and so on of English medieval government (many of which still exist today), then the site below is very helpful for clearing the confusion. After all, is it not bewildering to find that ‘in the king’s presence’ doesn’t mean he was present at all? “From the reign of Edward I, a Chief Justice of Common Pleas headed the panel of judges. Common Pleas was known contemporarily as ‘the Bench’ (banc), while King’s Bench was called ‘Coram rege’ (in the presence of the King – although the King was not actually present.)”

I recommend a dip into Medieval English Government by J.P. Somerville.

Rei(g)ned in?

I don’t know how to tell you this but Dan Jones has made further appearances on our television screens this spring. Thankfully, both C5 three-part series have featured him as a sidekick to Suzannah Lipscomb, so his prejudices against various monarchs have had little exercise.
The first of these was about Elizabeth I, featured Lily Cole so the make-up bill was probably limited to a tin or two of Cuprinol. It covered Elizabeth’s life quite well although I learned much less than their series on Henry VIII.
The second series moved on to the Great Fire of London and Jones must be annoyed that he couldn’t vent his theory that Richard III came back to life and carelessly discarded a cigarette butt. By including Rob Bell, an engineer who explained the scientific details of the fire and its effects, in the presentation team makes it much more of a team affair and there was a lot more informative detail from that momentous week. Perhaps it could have been made nine months earlier and broadcast on the 350th anniversary?

 

Jack of Lincoln, be not bold….?

800px-John_de_la_Pole,_1st_Earl_of_Lincoln_svgWe all know the couplet that was supposedly pinned to the Duke of Norfolk’s tent on the eve of Bosworth. Well, it could as easily be applied to John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln.

Jack of Lincoln, be not bold, for Dickon, thine uncle, is bought and sold.

Lincoln could  have taken the simple way out after the battle, and stayed obediently in Henry Tudor’s court, possibly enjoying great rewards for showing this new loyalty. Or so someone is claiming. I doubt if Lincoln ever had any intention of sucking up to Henry. His Yorkist blood was rich and thick, and he could never accept the new rule. He knew the Tudor axeman was honing his blade almost from the word go, and that Henry was merely biding his time for an excuse to do away with this great lord of the House of York. Lincoln bolted for Burgundy at the earliest opportunity, and returned to the Yorkist fold, which he had never really left. He was prepared to do anything to see Tudor toppled and York restored.

So how dare a modern “Tudor-Lancastrian” describe him as having thrown away a brilliant future at HT’s court by being too darned ambitious? Ambitious? Too faithful to his roots, more like. And how brilliant a future would it have been to end up on Tower Hill, with his head parted from his body?

Henry Tudor was rabidly anti-York, fearing it at every turn, as well he might. He was to systematically dispose of everyone whose blood was even vaguely York. And those he spared (due to an oath) he consigned to his monstrous son, Henry VIII, for the dirty work to be continued. I only wish Lincoln’s invasion had ended differently at Stoke Field. We’d have been spared the disgustingly bloodthirsty Tudors and their reigns of terror.

 

INSIDE THE MEDIEVAL MIND: THE WALL PAINTINGS OF NETHER WALLOP

In the small quaint Hampshire village of Nether Wallop, filming location for the BBC’s MISS MARPLE, stands St Andrew’s church, a medieval establishment built on Saxon foundations. From the exterior it looks rather ordinary (save for the strange funerary pyramid in its grounds!) but inside is a glory of wall-paintings dating from the Saxon era to the 15th century.

The Saxon paintings are of the Winchester School, usually only seen in illuminations, and are exceeding rare, unique in the country as being the only wall paintings of this date in situ. Angels frolic over the chancel arch, the survivors of a grander mural which culminated at the centre with Christ in Majesty. (Jesus has now vanished, unfortunately,  leaving just the angels on the sides of the arch.)

Along the rest of the church walls are further paintings from the early to mid-15th century, an eroded St Nicholas of Myrna and a wonderfully  vivid depicture of St George slaying a dragon to rescue the  Princess Cleodolinda. The dragon and George do battle below a tall tower, watched by a well preserved King and Queen, the King looking pleased at George’s prowess and the Queen slightly concerned!

Just down from them is a slightly patchy though very large  figure which gives an insight into medieval religious thought in the 1400’s. It depicts the legends of the Sabbath Breakers and the woes you will bring upon Christ and yourself if you do not rest on the Sabbath as God decreed! Christ’s leg is showed being wounded by an axe and a knife; there are also depictions of other tools of the trade from the 15thc including scales and a quern, among others less discernable.

All or some of the 15thc  wall paintings may have been comissioned by Mary or Maria Gore, an Abbess of Amesbury in Wiltshire. Her brass lies on the floor in the centre of the nave and is a rarity in itself–the only brass of an Abbess  still existing in England.

 

MISS MARPLE

 

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