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Archive for the month “Apr, 2015”

The electronic Tippex floweth

It seems that a certain forum has now denied ever sharing an offensive cartoon of an eminent historian, despite the existence of communication about it. Cue the frantic scanning of three years’ output to remove any reference to it …

The Search for Ricardian Music

What is a “musical biography”? We know about operas, and their stagings as to certain persons from the past. But, what did composers write about Richard III?

Turns out, it’s rather minimal. Why this is, I don’t know. Verdi wrote about past kings of Italy and about other political dynasties, although he was always careful to disguise them. Does music not lend itself to historical expression? Is music incapable of providing a narrative?

Strangely enough, as I sat in the Church of St. James the Greater, waiting to hear the performance of the Middleham Requiem by Geoff Davidson on the 26th of March, 2015, I reflected on why there is a paucity of musical biography of kings from the Wars of the Roses in our musical canon. It would seem the fodder was there, certainly a good narrative arc, and very fascinating people to give a good aria or two.

To date, I’ve only found two compositions that relate to Richard III, both of which are tied into the Shakespearean narrative. One is by Bedrich Smetana, a Czech composer of great reknown, who composed a symphonic tone poem in 1858. It’s actually rather fantastic if you listen to it:

And, then of course, there is the music written by Sir William Walton, who wrote the cinematic music to Laurence Olivier’s Richard III.

Both are good, but there is still much room to explore the ideas that haven’t quite been given delved into. More on this later.

Coldharbour, La Tour, Pulteney’s Inn, the Manor of the Rose….


Every Ricardian knows of Coldharbour, the great riverside mansion in the city of London that Richard III turned over to the College of Heralds in 1483, which was then kicked out again by Henry VII and given to his formidable mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort (I know she wasn’t known as that by then, but it’s easier to stick to her most famous name).

Coldharbour (various spellings, too many to dwell on here) had been built by 1317, when it is recorded as being leased. Then it was purchased in the reign of Edward III by Sir John de Pulteney. The property was in the parishes of All Hallows the Great and All Hallows the Less in Dowgate Ward, with an impressive river frontage. Very desirable. Its entrance from Thames Street was through an archway beneath All Hallows the Less. This access gave rise to another name for the mansion, “La Tour”.

Pulteney’s Inn was another great London mansion. I have used this spelling of Sir John’s name, which can also be found as Poultney and a few other variants. This second property was in the parish of St. Laurence de Candelwykstrete (the name of which was changed to be named after him, St Laurence Poultney – corrupted to Pountney. This mansion also had a second name, “The Manor of the Rose”. Clearly they are separate properties in separate parishes, the only connection appearing to be good Sir John de Pulteney.

But somehow a lot of confusion has arisen, with Coldharbour being referred to as Pulteney’s Inn. Yet he lived in the real Pulteney’s Inn in the other nearby parish.  All four names appeared to have become confused, often as if they belonged to one mansion, known separately as Coldharbour, La Tour, Pulteney’s Inn and the Manor of the Rose. How has this come about? Surely not because of good Sir John? No, there is another reason for all this, and to find it we have to go back to the reign of Richard II.

In 1397 the house was the inn of John Holland I, Duke of Exeter. It was here he famously entertained his half-brother the king to a lavish dinner, prior to Richard and his powerful friends setting off to Pleshey to deal with the then Duke of Gloucester, with whom Richard was greatly displeased. Well, that is putting it mildly. I have found a specific reference (since lost) to Coldharbour being known as La Tour during Holland’s tenure.

What has this to do with Pulteney’s Inn, do I hear you ask? Well, simply that John Holland’s son, John Holland II, also Duke of Exeter, occupied Pulteney’s Inn. So, two John Hollands, both Dukes of Exeter, both in houses connected to Sir John de Pulteney. Over the years the amalgamation began, until by the time I came to check which house was which, and which one really was John Holland I’s inn, I had to wade through all four names before eventually get to the bottom of it, two houses, each with two names.

At least, I hope I have. Unless anyone knows better, it is my opinion that Coldharbour/La Tour were one house, occupied by John Holland I, and eventually given to the College of Heralds by Richard III. Pulteney’s Inn/the Manor of the Rose were also one mansion with two names, occupied at one time by John Holland II. Both mansions appeared to have been the property of Sir John de Pulteney, four times Mayor of London.

And may I add that in delving for the identification of these houses, I was helped by my good friend Eileen Bates, who knows London so very well and can find sites that would pass me by. Thank you, Eileen.

Stephen Lark’s book on the Battle of Sedgemoor….

Stephen Lark - The Battle of Sedgemoor

The Battle of Sedgemoor 1685

by Stephen Lark

(Bretwalda Battles Book 19) [Kindle Edition]


Driving the M5 today, across the Somerset Levels, it is hard to imagine what the landscape used to be like, before rhynes and ditches drained much of the water. The rhynes were there in the 17th century, but they were nowhere near as efficient as they are now, and there were still wooden ‘paths’ among the reeds on the marshes. Folk used boats and skiffs a great deal, especially where the deeply channelled marshes had not surrendered to man’s attempts to drain them.

Even now, only a year or so ago, the Levels were under water for a long period. Television reporting showed film after film of the terrible scenes of prolonged flooding, and what the local people had to suffer.

So imagine having to fight a pitched battle in such surroundings. Having to not only strike down your bitter enemies, but save yourself from drowning as well.

James, 1st Duke of Monmouth, was the illegitimate (some say legitimate) son of Charles II, at whose death, the king’s brother, James II ascended the throne. James II was a Catholic in a Protestant land, and there was great resentment in a number of quarters. Monmouth—young, handsome, popular— raised a rebellion against him. After skirmishes, the two armies finally confronted each other on Sedgemoor. The conflict started in earnest on 6th July 1685. It all went wrong for Monmouth, who fled but was finally caught. He was executed on 15th July on Tower Hill, requiring a number of blows from the infamous executioner Jack Ketch to sever his head. Ketch often botched his task, so poor Monmouth suffered at his hands.

The irony of it all is that three years later, on 30th June 1688, James II was deposed in the Glorious Revolution. Perhaps, if Monmouth had waited, his claim might have been accepted. We will never know, of course, because history unfolds and there is no folding it back again and putting it in another drawer.

This book by Stephen Lark is, as always with him, exceeding interesting and well told. If you want to know the story of Monmouth and the Battle of Sedgemoor, this is an excellent place to start. Recommended.

Review of The Mythology of Richard III by John Ashdown-Hill

I have read several of JAH’s books and always find them thoroughly researched and informative. That’s not to say that I always agree with his conclusions, but mostly I do.

His latest book concerns both the ancient myths surrounding his life, death and burial and more modern, newer myths which have begun since his remains were discovered.

He is systematic and clear in his explanations and his arguments are always logical. He also includes many photos and illustrations to clarify his points.

I am an avid reader of anything Ricardian and I thought I knew most of the mythology surrounding Richard, but there are in depth analyses of myths in this book which I had not been aware of or which give more detail with well-documented evidence.

One is the claim that Richard was not legally married to Anne Neville because of the lack of a suitable dispensation. I remember reading earlier this year, in the BBC History Magazine’s Richard III special edition, that Richard’s marriage to Anne was incestuous, by reason of his failure to obtain a dispensation to cover his 1st degree affinity to Anne (because his brother had married her sister, which made her technically, his sister too!). John Ashdown-Hill effectively disputes this and shows that the author (Hicks) was mistaken about the 1st degree affinity and that a dispensation had been received for the less serious degrees of affinity (by reason of Anne’s first marriage to Edward of Lancaster, who was distantly related to Richard). It is clearly illustrated with pedigree charts.

A second section I didn’t know about was JAH’s meticulous research into the male bearers of the same mitochondrial DNA as Richard.  This is to refute claims that the remains found were not actually Richard’s.  He researches which of them could have possibly been buried in the Greyfriars, at the same period in history, dying in battle in the same way and being of the same age at death as Richard. It must have taken an age to research all the different family lines and find out about their deaths! He sets all the information out very clearly and convincingly.

This book is a godsend for Ricardians who want evidence to refute the perpetuation of myths about Richard and I heartily recommend it.

The morphing of Richard III….

from tigerlight430 - portrait  tigerlight430 - Channel 4 reconstruction tighterlight430 - morphRichard smiling - my work

I first came upon this morphed picture of Richard way back in May 2013, or perhaps a few months earlier, and having recently seen it again, I decided to post about where I found it. While searching for as many likenesses of Richard as I could, the morph suddenly popped up on screen. It was astonishingly lifelike, and totally different from the National Portrait Gallery portrait. And yet the same, if you know what I mean. The NPG portrait had become flesh and blood.

My find was at, a site belonging to Paul Ferguson. I was eager to use the picture, but my enquiry received no reply. As it was published publicly and I couldn’t see any mention of copyright, I went ahead and used it. Eventually I twiddled it so that Richard was looking at the viewer and smiled just a little. Not everyone will like it, of course.

Since then I have learned that someone else had the same idea as Paul. Olivia Nagioff at the Society published a morph in August 2013, and compiled a brief video to show how she did it. (see and The sequence is almost eerily alive. And yet reassuring. Only Richard’s enemies would find him dark or frightening! To everyone else he was and is someone we can only admire.

Anyway, the pictures above are: The NPG portrait, the reconstruction as shown on Channel Four, then Paul’s morph. The final one, looking at you and smiling, is my twiddle.

Richard3 – a comedic adaptation of Shakespeare….


Michael Miclon, left, as Richard III and Hannah Perry as Lady Ann. Contibuted photo


“Richard3″ film to show at Johnson Hall in Gardiner

GARDINER — Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center, Water Street, will present “Richard3″ at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 18. Tickets cost $6. The new film by Michael Miclon, the executive and artistic directer of Johnson Hall, is also the screen writer, director and lead actor in Boo Dog Film’s latest production. “Richard3″ is a comedic adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Richard III. Shot on location throughout Maine, from Fort Popham in Phippsburg to the former St. Patrick’s Church in Lewiston and used only Maine actors, all of which are classically trained physical comedy stage performers. The production also included more than 300 extras from all over Maine and New Hampshire, according to a news release from the Johnson Hall.

Production on the film began in the summer of 2012. After two years of pre-production, plus a successful fundraising campaign through Kickstarter, Miclon and his team completed the film and are preparing to enter it in festivals across the country. “In June of 2013, we had the great fortune to show the first-cut version of Richard3 to a sold-out crowd of 428 people at the Emerge Film Festival,” Miclon reports. “Since then, we have been sharpening our editing knives and have prepared this third cut to show at Johnson Hall.

“Richard3″ was created with a low budget of $65,000 but it is not a low-budget film. Seasoned actors, costumers and filmmakers came together to create this project. The story of the famed hunchback maniacal king who murders his way to the top surprisingly and easily lent itself to the absurd. Adding a twist or two to the original script and trimming away some of the less essential parts of the story, they created a script that told the story and utilized everything in their performing arsenal, from improvisation to juggling.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call 582-7144.

The exposure of Edward IV’s bigamy

We know from the resulting petition from the Three Estates that this followed the testimony of Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells. So, if there was anything untoward about the process, how was this prelate rewarded by the new King?

A list of Edward IV’s council members is attached to this post but it is the clerical members that are of interest here:
Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury was elderly and unwell by summer 1483 and died in March 1486. Both Laud and Carey, who were later Bishops of Bath and Wells, were eventually translated to Canterbury and Bourchier could have been persuaded to retire in favour of Stillington – but he wasn’t.
Thomas Kempe, the long-serving Bishop of London famous to fans of 1970s children’s literature, was to die in 1489 and may also have been ill. Had Stillington been appointed in his stead, this would have been a promotion, but it didn’t happen.
Thomas Rotheram, Archbishop of York, was often out of favour and Richard may have found an excuse to deprive him. Wolsey was Bishop of Bath and Wells in the following century before becoming primate of the northern province but Stillington wasn’t to take the same journey.
John Morton, Bishop of Ely, was arrested after the Hastings plot and could easily have been deprived for treason – if Richard had wanted to behave like a Lancastrian or “Tudor”. This didn’t happen either.

In fact, Stillington was not rewarded at all by Richard III because he had only revealed a fact that he should have done – a fact that had led to the executions of two of the Duchess of Norfolk’s servants and, arguably, of the Duke of Clarence. The Bishop himself had been imprisoned for his knowledge and was to be again, only his ecclesiastical status possibly saving his life.

All that he had done was to tell the simple truth as it stood.

Dr. Ashdown-Hill Frightens the Horses…er, Denialists

prudishOne of the strangest phenomena to come out of the events of almost three weeks ago has been the continual bashing of Dr. John Ashdown-Hill by the usual group of denialists who populate the underworld of Ricardian history and rehabilitation.  As we all know, Ashdown-Hill (along with other members of the Finding Richard project and Leicester University) found the remains of the last English king to die in battle and traced his DNA to 17th generation nephew Michael Ibsen.

But all that pales in the avalanche of social media that expressed shock and dismay that he attended the reinterment in what appeared to be either a well-tailored tan or light grey suit rather than clothes of a “somber hue.”  Oh, the cries of outrage that ensued!  It was if he had shown up at the event dressed in a Zoot Suit or the ghost of Nancy Mitford had arrived with her list of Non-U items of dishabille.  Of course, it took traditional Ricardians to dig out the notes of reinterment provided by the Cathedral in which it is clearly stated that “although entirely optional, we would encourage hats for ladies and gentlemen…This is a service of reinterment.  It is not a funeral.  So whilst we would not wish to advise the congregation to wear black, you may wish to observe a dress code that reflects a reserved colour palette.”  No mention of “somber hues.”

Even today, as late as April 12th, denialists are still carrying on about his facial expressions caught on camera during the ceremony.  One would think the act of rolling one’s eyes was akin to real estate mogul Robert Durst’s embarrassing gaffe of admitting mass murder on the final episode of “The Jinx.”  In fact, we really don’t know the reason for his expression although it may have been due to mistakes made in the program.

All this is pretty funny but the outrage does get a little darker when Dr. Ashdown-Hill’s private life becomes a source of merriment – as if any of us know him personally and have any right to comment about such a subject.  The internet is a haven for the Mrs. Grundys of the world and is often in an argy-bargy over everything from the color of gold/black dresses to whether a cat is walking upstairs or downstairs but this does seem to be a bridge too far…

Poor Richard, wronged again, but SO thoughtfully….

Richard's coffin at Leicester Cathedral

Can someone tell me why this person wanted to be at the cathedral in the first place? To sneer? To feel superior? To be solely and nobly responsible for representing the ‘silent majority’? If being ‘divisive’ warrants exclusion, there are a lot of other people, not only monarchs, who should be weeded out and chucked in the composter. It would certainly clear Westminster Abbey and various other places.

This isn’t a thoughtful letter, it’s judgmental…and a load of old b-ll-cks, based on claims made against Richard by his self-interested enemies. There is no proof that he did anything wrong. There wasn’t then, and there isn’t now. So this letter-writer thinks this wronged king should be condemned on hearsay.

Perhaps I’m over-reacting, after all I have a cold and a grumpy temper to match this morning, but somehow I think that when I have shrugged off both, I’ll still view this letter in the same way.

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