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Archive for the month “Jan, 2015”

Henry VII and his monkey of a monkey….

(c) Palace of Westminster; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation Henry VII and his pet monkey

Henry VII and his monkey of a monkey . . . . 

The above drawing (partially coloured by me) is of unknown origin, but I like it because it shows Henry’s pet monkey. I don’t know what its name was, or even if it had one, but in my next Cicely books he is called Crumplin. This is a fond way of referring to someone who is small of stature and perhaps a little crooked – not as in lawbreaker, but in appearance. The monkey also appears in the above painting, by Frank Cadogan Cowper, of Erasmus and Sir Thomas More meeting Henry’s children.

My fictional Henry gives his monkey the name Crumplin, as a sly dig at Richard III, who, apparently, was sometimes fondly referred to by it. I understand that the supposed tomb of Richard’s little son at Sheriff Hutton was, and still is, referred to as ‘Little Crumplin’, the inference being that the boy’s father, Richard, was ‘Big’ Crumplin. Whatever the truth, the nickname was not meant unpleasantly, certainly not in Yorkshire, where Richard was particularly loved. However, it was not fond or a compliment when used by Henry Tudor for his monkey.

So, fictional name or not, for the sake of argument, let’s call the little creature Crumplin. Henry was apparently very fond of it, and laughed at its antics, even if no none else did. If the above illustrations are to be believed, it had a handler who carried it behind the king and it was often with Henry. But they aren’t pictures from the period, so must be taken with a pinch of salt.

I am told that Henry carried a dreaded notebook with him at all times, in which he jotted down who had said what, and when they were unwise enough to say it. Henry has a book in the drawing, and while it looks more like a Book of Hours, I can imagine it was this omnipresent notebook, to which he was apt to refer in order to be sure of his facts when he wished to haul someone over the coals. Or, perhaps, to praise them, although the fact that it was dreaded suggests not. That notebook was definitely feared and hated. If he had it in his hand when he entered a room, hearts would sink in unison.

There is a story that one day, when Henry was not present, Crumplin was particularly naughty and drove the attendants to distraction. He was roundly scolded, which he did not like at all. So, what did he do? He found the notebook on a table, Henry having left it there in error, and tore it to shreds! Henry wasn’t pleased, but everyone else was delighted. And relieved. I imagine Crumplin was forgiven a lot of monkey sins after that.

No doubt a new notebook was soon in Henry’s hand, but at least his courtiers enjoyed a little respite.

Saving The Prince of Wales

henry the fifthbradmore's extractorOne of the most intriguing stories of the English medieval ages – and like most good stories this one is upfront and personal – involves Prince Hal (the future Henry the Fifth) and the Battle of Shrewbury that took place on July 21, 1403.  For whatever reason, this particular story is overlooked in Shakespeare and completely ignored in the poet Robert Nye’s great novel “Falstaff.”  The tale involves a highly bloody battle fought by King Henry IV against the legendary rebel Henry “Hotspur” Percy and the usual warlike nobles and the brave sixteen year old Prince of Wales.  The main instrument of destruction in the battle was the vicious long bow that caused soldiers to “fall like leaves in autumn” and “so fast and thick that it seemed to the beholders like a thick cloud, for the sun, which at that time was bright and clear then lost its brightness so thick were the arrows.”  So thick in fact, that later on in this brutal episode, Hotspur was killed by merely thrusting back his visor for a moment and took a direct hit to his face.  This was the bloody act which led to the end of the battle and victory for Henry IV.  The estimates were that 3,200 men died and 3,000 more were injured.

Prince Hal was luckier than Hotspur – although, he too, took an arrow to the face.  The arrow, called a bod or bodkin, was designed to penetrate mail and armor.  Happily, it was a narrower type of weapon than the broadmore which was a far more destructive arrow.  The bodkin struck Prince Hal on the left side of his face, next to his nose, boring into the back bone of his skull six inches deep.  With typical English bravado that always seemed to reach magical proportions in medieval wartime, Prince Hal determined to continue fighting, despite the long wood shaft protruding from his face.  It is possible that this particular arrow ricocheted and its speed was cut considerably.  In any case, The Prince, or someone else, pulled out the wooden shaft but the wound made by the lodged arrowhead began to fester and he was eventually evacuated to Kenilworth Castle.  Barber surgeons tried various methods but could not help the young man.

It was from there that a message was sent to the surgeon/metal worker and jeweler, John Bradmore, who was currently imprisoned in the county of Oxford on a charge of counterfeiting coin.  Many surgeons at this time were metalworkers, trained to make their own medical instruments.  Dr. Bradmore also seemed have run a side line in jewelry-making and perhaps counterfeiting the King’s treasury.  In any case, he was soon released from prison and dispatched to Kenilworth to see the young Prince.

It is then that Dr. Bradmore’s medical book “Philomena,” written in Latin and eventually translated into Middle English later in the 15th century, takes over the story.  Once arriving at the castle, the good doctor examined the patient and proceeded to create an instrument for removing the arrowhead.  (This can be seen in the recreation at the top of the page.)

“First, I made small probes from the pith of an elder, well-dried and well-stitched in purified linen.  These probes were infused with rose honey and after that, I made larger and longer probes and so continued to always enlarge these probes until I had the width and depth of the wound as I wished it.  And after the wound was enlarged and deep enough so that the probes reached the bottom of the wound, I prepared some little tongs, small and hollow, and with the width of an arrow.  A screw ran through the middle of the tongs, whose ends were well-rounded both on the inside and outside and even the end of the screw which was entered into the middle was well-rounded overall in the way of a screw, so that it should grip better and more strongly.  I put these tongs in at an angle in the same way as the arrow had first entered, then placed the screw in the centre and finally the tongs entered the socket of the arrowhead.  Then by moving it to and fro, little by little (with the help of God) I extracted the arrowhead.  Many gentlemen and servants of the aforesaid prince were standing by and all gave thanks to God.  And then I cleansed the wound with a syringe (squirtillo) full of white wine and then placed in new probes made of wads of flax soaked in a cleansing ointment.”

The cleansing ointment appeared to be made of flour, barley, honey and flax.  This procedure was repeated for the next twenty days.  Each time, the probe became smaller and smaller until the wound naturally closed.  Prince Hal’s recovery period took perhaps a year and we do not know whether any opiate was given to the young man.  Some historians place this incident in the life of the King as a turning point that changed a young wastrel given to wine, women and bad companions to a cold, aloof King, who although seriously pious, was ruthless towards his enemies.  Some writers question whether this personality change could have been caused by an impairment of his temporal lobe due to his battlefield injury.  Another outcome of this terrible wound is that Henry would never have a portrait painted in anything but profile – the left side of his face being badly disfigured by scarring.

For his unique services, Bradmore was paid an annuity of ten sovereigns a year and continued in the King’s service (such as devising and delivering medication) while also covering other duties for the Kingdom.  If indeed he was guilty of counterfeiting, let’s hope that his annuity was sufficient to cure him of this small failing on his part!

Many thanks to the following articles:

“Prince Hal’s Head-Wound:  Cause and Effect” by Michael Livingston; Medievalist.Net.

Bows, Blades and Battles – Another Arrow Which Changed History? By Ken Goodman

Infospigot: The Chronicles “Further Inquiries into the Process of Extraction.”

Will the real Harry Stafford stand up please…?

Cousins - Richard III and Harry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham

I recently posted a picture I’d made of Henry “Harry” Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, armoured and mounted, being thwarted by the flooded River Severn, and thus unable to complete whatever his intention was in the autumn of 1483.

We all know he wanted to crowbar his cousin, Richard III, from the throne, but to what end? To try for the vacant position himself? Or was there something else going on that we don’t know about? Maybe he thought Henry Tudor & Co were going to help him to the crown? Perhaps he was going to help put Henry Tudor on the throne?

Hmm, hardly the latter, I think. Buckingham had a far better claim to the crown of England than Henry. Alas, we will never know the full facts. Shortly after the Severn fiasco, his treasonous head was parted from the rest of him, and he disappears from history.

It was commented about my Severn picture that he was in full armour, visor lowered, and therefore completely hidden. Well, yes, that’s true, but then Harry Stafford was a hidden man. He suddenly burst on the scene in 1483, like a firework, to support Richard III, proceeded to betray him, even though Richard showed him great favour, and was promptly convicted of rebellion and treason. The firework fizzled out immediately afterwards in Salisbury. Serves him right.

The portrait of him that is usually found shows a rather plump, disagreeable man who looks much older than Harry’s twenty-eight years and two months. However, variations on the same portrait turn up for his son, Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham. Which duke it actually portrays I do not know. Or, of course, they could have been like peas from the same pod. Mix and match portraits.

All of which leaves me curious to know what Harry really did look like. Here is my version of him. No doubt others will not agree, but I want to ‘picture’ him in my mind’s eye, and take away the anonymity of the mounted knight in armour by the Severn.

So, this is how I imagine Harry to have been. Proud, fashionable, arrogant, with a dashing attitude and rather sensuous features. I feel he would have been blond—dark honey colour—and his eyes blue. That said, that other likeness might have been spot-on. Did he possess great charm? Yes. Was he trustworthy? NEVER! A snake of the first water!

Poor Richard. He would be double-crossed again and again, until finally . . . at Bosworth. And he was an infinitely better man than all the vipers around him.

PS – The background drawing is by Herbert Railton of The Coronation Chair. In Richard’s time the chair did not have the “lion” feet it has now, so I found a more suitable representation. The picture of Richard is taken from Edmund Blair Leighton’s “The Call to Arms” and is much altered. “Harry” is from a Rogier van der Weyden portrait of an unknown gentleman.

PPS – Yes, I admit it, I love doing these pictures. Any excuse, and I’ll post one.

Religious and personal symbolism in Richard III’s jewellery

An excellent blog from Josephine Josepha Wilkinson:
http://josepha-josephine-wilkinson.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/religious-and-personal-symbolism-in.html?spref=fb

DUKE RICHARD OF YORK (1) : the man who would be king

On the 10th of October 1460, Richard Plantagenet 3rd duke of York walked into Westminster Hall wearing the full arms of England undifferenced. After a moment, he put his hand on the empty throne. When asked if he wished to see the king, he replied “I know of no one in the realm who would not more fitly come to me than I to him”. With those words, he declared to all those present that duke Richard had finally renounced his allegiance to king Henry VI and claimed the English crown by right of strict inheritance. York’s motive has puzzled historians ever since. Was it really his ‘natural disposition’ to champion the public interest, or was it the notion that he was the rightful king all along that stirred his ambition? This is the first of three essays in which I hope to explore that question from a personal perspective. I should add for the avoidance of doubt, that I have no intention of considering the validity duke Richard’s title: that is for another time. Neither is this a potted biography; I have included a few details of what I believe are some relevant friction points in his life for purely contextual reasons.

Background

Richard of York was the only son of Richard Earl of Cambridge, a Yorkist who was executed for plotting the overthrow of the Lancastrian Henry V. He was also the nephew of a Yorkist. His maternal uncle was Edmund Mortimer, earl of March, who, arguably, had a superior title to the crown than the king. Richard himself became the Lancastrian government’s severest critic.  In the circumstances, it’s easy to overlook the fact (as some historians do) that whilst he was born into a Yorkist family and died pursuing his Yorkist birthright, he was actually raised a Lancastrian.

The execution of his father in 1415 left the infant Richard in a perilous situation. As the orphan of a traitor he could expect little favour from the king. Furthermore, the death of his paternal uncle Edward 2nd duke of York at Agincourt left him without any obvious relative to take interest in his welfare. Fortunately the king treated young Richard fairly. Perhaps it was the memory of Edward’s loyal service and sacrifice that softened Henry’s attitude towards a Yorkist brat: who knows? In any event he was made a royal ward and allowed to succeed to the duchy of York, an inheritance that protected him from the full effect of his father’s attainder. Richard was given into the custody of Sir Robert Waterton, a stern and devoted Lancastrian, under whose tutelage he remained until 1423. In that year Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland — another Lancastrian adherent — purchased Richard’s wardship for 3000 marks. The high price reflected Yorks potential as a royal duke and the only heir to the vast Mortimer inheritance.

By 1424 Richard was betrothed to Cecily Neville who was Westmorland’s daughter by Joan Beaufort: she was nine and he was thirteen. It was a prestigious match and a lucrative one for the Neville’s. It was also a useful union from the king’s perspective. York was the heir to Edmund Mortimer; he would inherit Mortimer’s vast estates and his title to the throne. Lancastrian concerns about York’s title were never far from the surface throughout his minority. It represented an implied threat to the Lancastrian dynasty, which could not be ignored. One way to neutralize this threat was to attach him to a staunchly Lancastrian family and draw him ever closer into their affinity. York was knighted in 1426; two years later he took up residence in the royal household. In 1430, he and his retinue (twelve lances and thirty-six archers) accompanied the king on his coronation expedition to France. In 1432 whilst still a minor he was granted the livery of his estates. The ultimate accolade came the next year when Richard was made a knight of the Order of the Garter, a mark of royal favour and surety to his loyalty. Richard of York was raised to be a useful Lancastrian peer and he seems to have concurred with that for most of his life.

The king’s Lieutenant General in Normandy

His first experience of the vicissitudes of public service occurred between 1436 and 1445, during which time he served two tours as Lieutenant General for Normandy. It was his experiences and achievements during these tours that confirmed his Lancastrian loyalty whilst indicating his eventual Yorkist destiny. His appointment in 1436 was in succession to John duke of Bedford whose death the previous year had triggered a crisis.   York’s brief was simple: to provide good government, to preserve the military status quo and not to make any permanent decisions. The appointment was for one year only, until the king reached his majority and made a permanent appointment. Despite his inexperience, Richard’s performance was creditable. He worked well with John Talbot who drove the French from northern Normandy and he did useful work addressing the grievances of his subjects where he could. By the end of his tenure in 1437 the military situation was slightly better; Normandy was returned to English authority and he had done nothing to limit the king’s future freedom of action. The English conquests in France were regarded as the legitimisation of the Lancastrian dynasty; York, by his service had acknowledged that legitimacy.

He was sent to Normandy again 1440, arriving by the summer of 1441. The English situation remained critical and the resources insufficient. The task was still to maintain the status quo. The only things that had changed were York’s powers and the English policy. York had been given the full military and civil powers of a governor but now the king’s peace policy was official and York was expected to fight a holding campaign that would encourage the French to the negotiating table. The peace policy was remarkably divisive in England and I will deal separately with its ramifications for York.

In a brilliant opening campaign York and Talbot drove the French back to Paris, almost capturing Charles VII. Unfortunately, without a substantial reinforcement of men and material Normandy continued to be vulnerable. The English could not sustain their effort and by the spring of 1442 the French had recovered the lost ground. The ultimate humiliation occurred in the autumn of 1442, when York was commanded to ‘sue for peace’. It was part of the king’s increasingly desperate search for peace in the face of a disintegrating military situation, especially in the south. In the circumstances, Normandy was considered expendable. The following month, Talbot’s failure to re-take Dieppe was the nadir of York’s governance. Eventually, York managed to achieve a stalemate of sorts. This was due to a relaxation of pressure by the French who had their own reasons for engaging in peace talks with the English.

In April 1443 the Garter King of Arms visited York, he told him of the Council’s new plan. The Council were “aware of the threat to Normandy and Gascony had appointed John Beaufort duke of Somerset to lead an army via Cherbourg and south of the Loire and give battle to the French.” At Somerset’s request Garter emphasised that this expedition was not detrimental to Yorks command in Normandy.

The plan was for Somerset to seek out and defeat Charles VII and his main force. This was a fundamental change of policy from a defensive war to an aggressive one. Given its inevitable impact on York’s mission, it important to understand the circumstances.   The Council’s realisation that they could not afford to defend Normandy and Gascony, coupled with French intransigence, had prompted this volte-face. The concept of a single force organised and equipped to find and defeat the enemy’s main force was militarily sound; if successful, it promised decisive results. However, there were risks if — as was the case here — it was an all or nothing gamble. It was important to stop Charles VII ranging throughout France at will demonstrating that he was the actual king of all France. It was also an opportunity to relieve Gascony and provide a shield for York in Normandy.

Another factor that may have affected the Council’s thinking was their disappointment at York’s performance. The view in London was that despite the men, money and material invested in Normandy, York ‘had done precious little’ since 1441’. It’s difficult to know what York thought about this since he showed no outward animosity.   Doubtless he was worried about the possible impact of Somerset’s expedition on his own mission, particularly if king Charles VII moved north, as was his intention. Somerset was bound to follow, which could result in him intruding into Normandy, with the inevitable confusion about who was in command. If York knew of the criticisms of him at home, he might well have been resentful, and doubtless anxious about his own position if Somerset was successful.

Historians seem mostly concerned about how all this affected York’s relationship with Somerset. It is possible that it heralded the irreconcilable differences between York and the Beaufort’s that were to bedevil the future. The general opinion of John Beaufort was poor; he was not admired for either his military or his personal qualities and we have no reason to doubt that York shared that opinion.   Nonetheless, we cannot date the breach from this time. Even if York was resentful we have no reason to believe that he was anymore resentful of the Beaufort’s than any other member of the Council.

The expedition was a military and diplomatic disaster. Somerset dragged his heels getting started; he attacked the Bretons instead of the French (The Bretons were England’s allies.). He sacked the Breton town of La Guerche and, according to duke Francis of Brittany, acted like a ‘conqueror’. Once the Council had managed to smooth over the diplomatic furore, Somerset was commanded to desist from attacking the king’s friends.

Somerset’s stupidity didn’t just provide Charles VII with a good laugh; more seriously, it reduced the English options and levers for securing peace on their terms. The unpopular William De le Pole, 1st duke of Suffolk had the unenviable task of securing a favourable peace from a position of weakness.   Suffolk was well aware of the problems and the risk to his reputation if things went wrong. He demurred, pointing out his unsuitability for such a task. His objection, however, was overruled; he had to go.   Fortuitously, duke Francis of Brittany was still prepared to act as an intermediary between Henry and Charles, which alleviated Suffolk’s problems to some degree. Also, it also suited Charles’ purpose at this time to make peace with the English, due to his own domestic problems.

Margaret of Anjou

No one knows who suggested that Henry VI should marry Margaret, the daughter of Renee duke of Anjou, Lorraine and Bar. Discussions had been taking place for some time without progress and it is possible Margaret was first mentioned then. It is also possible that the idea came from the French who understood the benefits of such a match. From the English perspective the benefits were not so obvious. Margaret was only a junior royal (she was niece to the French queen); furthermore, she was not an heiress and came with a small dowry. She was also an inconsequential match for the king in diplomatic terms. The marriage secured with major territorial concessions from the English and only a two-year truce. The reaction in England was likely to be anxious at best and hostile at worst.

As the king’s leading advisor Suffolk was committed to peace. A tougher envoy less dedicated to peace may have been able to drive a harder bargain than a limited truce, the loss of Anjou and Maine, and the miserly dowry given for the future queen of England. Suffolk was right to warn the king about his unsuitability for this task. Following the truce, York was supernumerary in Normandy. All he had to do were routine administration and the settlement of his own affairs. In the summer of 1445 he was recalled from Normand never to return.

At this stage, York seemed to support the king’s desire for peace, and also his proposed marriage to Margaret of Anjou. In fact the duke tried hard to secure a suitable marriage for his own son Edward. He was negotiating for the hand of Joanna a daughter of Charles VII. It suited Charles’ purpose to engage in discussions with York (Although, he suggested that his daughter Madeleine was a more suitable match.) and they seemed to be going positively until York’s recall to England. If a suitable marriage could be arranged, it would place the duke’s family closer to the French throne than the king. He was still keen on the idea even after his return to England and intended to raise the issue with Henry. However, nothing came of it.

Assessment of York’s achievement

It is difficult to assess York’s performance objectively as contemporary opinions were often biased. One contemporary domestic commentator thought he was “ impressionable and ineffective”. A foreign chronicler writing after York’s death considered he was an effective, determined and honourable governor. According to PA Johnson, York’s biographer, he left Normandy “…very much as he found it. In a rough and ready way it could be defended. In a rough and ready way it was governable”.

We need not be too critical of him. He was given essentially defensive missions with insufficient resources, some of which he lost for Somerset’s ruinous expedition. As governor of Normandy York did what he was instructed to do. When he left it was defensible. It was not as defensible as he or others would have liked, and he could possibly have done more; however, his efforts were undermined by some hare-brained policies from Westminster. He also displayed the positive side of his character: a genuine concern for the welfare of those he governed and personal courage: moral and physical.

York was about to set out on a new chapter in his life, which would transform him from a loyal, dutiful Lancastrian into a rebel Lancastrian.

To be continued…

Another very interesting WordPress blog…

Sevenstarwheel

I have just found a very interesting site at https://sevenstarwheel.wordpress.com/. It belongs to a lady who makes 15th-century clothes by studying the old illustrations. It’s packed full of photographs and old pictures, and a LOT of information about the fashions. She is very talented and tells her stories very well. Worth a really good look.

What if?…

Portrait of King Richard III

King Richard III

I am nearly finished writing my first novel (about Richard of course!) and there is a section where the question “What if Richard III had won the battle of Bosworth?” is asked.

We know that he nearly reached Henry ‘Tudor’ and so it isn’t too farfetched to imagine the result if he had killed Henry.

Would he have executed the Stanleys? What about Northumberland?

And Rhys Ap Thomas who allowed Henry to enter the country over his ‘bellie’? Would Richard have become more ruthless?

Would England have remained a Catholic country? Would Richard have invaded France, as the French also supported ‘Tudor’? Would he have gone on a crusade?

It is known that Christopher Columbus’ brother, Bartholomew, came to England in 1489 to request funds to fund his brother’s venture to the New World and was refused by Henry. Would Richard have acted any differently?

Would he have married Joana of Portugal? Would she have agreed to the match, since she had previously refused other suitors?

What would Richard have done regarding York Minster, as he was planning a chantry chapel there? If he built this, would he have moved Anne’s body (and his son, Edward’s) there, using it as a family mausoleum?

What other laws would he have brought in? Would he have moved his court to the North? How would he have behaved towards the Scots?

If the ‘Princes’ had not been killed in the Tower, but moved, as many of us think, what would have happened to them later?

What sort of king would he have been? (I think I can guess what most of our readers will say to this!)

Discuss! Please leave your comments below!

Ghosts of the Roses….

Ghosts of Bosworth against a Modern Sky

There is an article by Kelly Fitzgerald at http://sunnesandroses.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/the-sunne-in-splendour-part-2.html, concerning the three suns that were seen in the sky before the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross in 1460. It was a natural phenomenon—a parhelion—but was clearly not recognised as such by those who saw it. They believed it was an omen.

So, what about supernatural phenomena connected to the Wars of the Roses, as distinct from natural? Things that would not have been seen and experienced at the time, but which are “seen” now? The thought intrigued me, so I have had a little (very little, so do not imagine me poring over it all for hours on end) poke around with Google, to see what paranormal things I could find. The Ghosts of the Roses, I thought.

My discoveries are not in chronological order, just jotted as I found them, which is why the very last battle of the Roses happens to come first.  Stoke Field was fought in 1487, and ended with the rout of the Yorkist army of John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln, and Francis Lovell. Among his soldiers were many Irishmen, who were ferocious fighters but ill clad and ill equipped against a well-trained, fully armed foe. The battle took place by the River Trent in Nottinghamshire, and it seems the fleeing, naked ghosts of these unfortunate men are still seen on the banks of the river near the scene of the conflict.

The ghost of Margaret of Anjou is pretty busy. I have found her at Owlpen Manor and Bloody Meadow in Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, and Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland. No doubt she makes appearances elsewhere too.

Also in Tewkesbury is the spectral funeral procession of the Lancastrian Prince of Wales, Edward of Westminster, who died at or just after the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. His cortege is seen leaving the abbey every year. So it is said. I have written of this in an earlier blog. https://murreyandblue.wordpress.com/?s=just+where+might+Edward

Middleham Castle in Yorkshire is renowned as Richard III’s favourite home, and late in the 20th century three children heard the sounds of battle outside the castle, and saw a knight on horseback, who charged them. And terrified them too. 16th century music has also been heard in the castle, but distantly, and there are persistent rumours of buried treasure there. Richard’s treasure? Who knows?

In Prestbury, near Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, a messenger killed by a Lancastrian arrow is said to be seen, shining as he tries to fulfil his duty. One version of his story is that he was decapitated by a thin wire fixed at that height across his path. A nasty little trick.

St Albans in Hertfordshire was the scene of two battles in the Wars of the Roses, and, once a year, it is said the sounds of battle can still be heard. Towton has its ghosts too, although I am not sure who/what they are, just that they are.

The site of the Battle of Edgecote in 1469 is said to be haunted by the many Welshmen who lost their lives there. It is suggested they will rise again in fury if the government persists with the plan to have the new HS2 railway pass through the battlefield! A rather expensive way to find out if ghosts exist.

There is a suggestion that Philippa Langley’s strange feeling of being above Richard III’s grave in that car park in Leicester, was in fact caused by Richard’s ghost, communicating with her. Please note, I do not for a moment suggest Philippa herself claims this!

You would think that Bosworth itself would have many, many ghostly stories attached to it, but my cursory search has not turned them up. A friend of mine, Susan Kokomo Lamb, once visited the battlefield and saw ghostly men in armour at the edge of the woods on Ambion Hill. Quite a chilling experience, I imagine. She went on to write the experience into a fictional story that was really excellent.

Another story of Bosworth, not Susan’s, is of a headless man in armour who wanders a nearby town in search of his missing head. I am certain there are many more apparitions and sounds at the battle site, but those I’ve come across have mostly been fictional. If anyone out there knows of another “real” Bosworth wraith, please leave a comment below.

So, these are only initial findings, and to be honest, when it comes to ghosts, the Wars of the Roses are dwarfed by the proliferation of spooks from the period of the English Civil War. It’s astonishing how many there are for that period, indeed, it’s almost possible to think that they are in every town and square acre of the English countryside.  But clearly there is a very long list of ghostly Roses waiting to be found, and I know at least one book has been written about them in particular, although I only learned of it today, when searching for snippets to include in this blog.

Now I must return to the mystery of phenomena that can sometimes be seen in the sky, as happened at Mortimer’s Cross. A long time ago (but not 1815, I’m not that old!) I read that a ghostly re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo was seen in the skies above a Belgian town. What, I wondered, would it be like to see Bosworth in the skies over today’s Leicestershire? To watch Richard’s heroic last charge, and the despicable treachery that struck him down and handed his crown to the Tudor usurper? Observing such a thing would be a truly profound experience. And probably not one I could bear to see. I find it hard to read about Bosworth, let alone actually see it happening all over again.

The above illustration is how I imagine such a ghost re-enactment might look. Yes, the contrails have been intentionally left there, because the scene is imagined as happening today. The photograph is taken from one by Sarah-Jane Stanley Images, and the battling figures are from ‘The Battle of Bosworth’ by Philip James de Loutherbourg. Richard’s banner is one of many such photographs to be found all over the internet.

Postscript: Since writing this post I have remembered the Belgian city that was the site of the phantom Battle of Waterloo. It’s Verviers, where the news at the moment is all about anti-terrorism action. http://survincity.com/2010/02/ghostly-battle/

The other Cathedral in Leicester …

… is likely to have stood on the site of St. Nicholas’ Church, a mere quarter of a mile from St. Martin’s, which has succeeded it. As a Cathedral, it dated from about the seventh century, serving during the reigns of many of Richard III’s ancestors, but was abandoned by c.875 because of the Viking invasion. Thankfully, the building itself survives near the Jewry Wall.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/St+Nicholas+Church/@52.635001,-1.140574,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x487760e0bda297e3:0x64caee630ffa0b17?hl=en_uk

Source: Kirby, D. P. The Saxon Bishops of Leicester from University of Leicester retrieved 18 May 2013

Richard III versus Henry VII….

A king of honour Henry - Dodd, Old London Bridge 1745

No, not another story of Bosworth, or a comparison between both reigns, but rather a reluctant concession that Henry did have some merits. Please, no catcalls and brickbats, for I remain a staunch Ricardian. I will always support Richard. Hell will freeze before I desert him.

So, what are Henry’s merits? Well, maybe they would not be regarded as merits by everyone. As a writer of fiction, I have in recent years been spinning tales of both kings. We all know how spitefully Richard was treated by the Tudors, and by history in general. He was nothing like Shakespeare’s monstrosity, but a handsome, just, truly honourable prince who showed amazing courage and would have been a great monarch if he had lived.

Henry, on the other hand, was not handsome, nor an honourable prince. He wasn’t even a prince! He was an undeserving usurper who became unbelievably harsh and cruel. But . . . big but . . . how much was the fault of his hounded life as a boy and young man? The House of York wanted him because he had become the last Lancastrian heir. His claim was tenuous, and illegal, because his royal blood was Beaufort blood, and that line had been barred from the throne. Still, on the throne was where he ended up.

Writing about him, putting words and deeds in his mouth (the power of the novelist!) made me slowly begin to reassess him. Did he really want to become king? Or was he influenced by others around him, and eventually found himself on a roller-coaster from which he couldn’t fling himself to freedom without breaking his neck? Did he ever really think he’d win against Richard, who was an experienced warrior and clever commander? Henry was neither of these things, and I have no idea how much knightly training he ever received, if any. He was much more of a clerk than a fighter. He must have been terrified at Bosworth when he saw Richard thundering towards him, intent upon killing him on the spot.

But fate, and the Stanleys, saved Henry’s bacon. Poor Richard was betrayed and murdered on the field. Yes, I use the word murdered, because he didn’t die in the heat of battle, he died because he had been conspired against by those he believed were on his side. That’s murder. Regicide.

So there was Henry, wearing Richard’s bloodied crown, unable to believe what was happening. I am convinced he didn’t expect to win, no matter how thoroughly he expected the Stanleys to come over to him. Richard was not an easy man to beat, and was the rightful king, as Henry knew full well. So did everyone else, because Edward IV had married bigamously. Those who chose not to support Richard’s claim to the throne did it for their own selfish reasons, not because they believed he was in the wrong. Well, that’s my viewpoint.

Henry was immediately presented with problems. He was king by conquest, a usurper, not by blood right. His line of descent was weak to say the least, and he had to marry Elizabeth of York, the senior Yorkist princess, in order to satisfy many of his supporters. He struggled to assert himself as king before marrying her, to establish himself by his own right, not by right of her blood claim. And he held on to the throne, although I don’t think he enjoyed it very much. He overcame various pretenders, had amazing luck, and managed to stay where he was, becoming stronger by the day. It ruined his constitution and made a terrible man of him, but he was single-minded enough to hang in there until the day consumption and other ailments killed him. In agony. Much to the relief of his subjects, for he, not Richard, had become a monster and tyrant.

We will never know what Henry might have been like if left to his own devices. If he’d been able to return to Yorkist England, claim his father’s title of Earl of Richmond, and then live the life of a 15th century nobleman. Maybe he would have been horrible anyway, or maybe he would have been very different. I am inclined to think he was ruined, physically and mentally, by the cards life dealt him. The real Henry will never be known.

So, I’m afraid I have to admire him for his sheer doggedness. He took Richard’s crown and, unbelievably, he kept it. And he established his own House, and passed the crown to his son. As I said at the beginning, I am a staunch, devoted Ricardian, but I would be fibbing if I didn’t admit to admiration for Henry Tudor.

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