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Archive for the month “August, 2015”

Obsessed? Not much

Cover of John Ashdown-Hill booklet

The title of this 2004 booklet, may be familiar to those who follow Cairo affairs. Some people cannot even be original, even when trying to explain away the author’s discoveries and expertise.

Something strange at Hadleigh Castle in Essex, once held by Richard’s father….

Hadleigh Castle and the anomaly

Hadleigh Castle in Essex was a favourite with both Edward II and Edward III. It eventually came down through some names of great interest to Ricardians . . .Richard, Duke of York (Richard’s father), Edmund Tudor (Henry VII’s father) and Edward IV (Richard’s elder brother), who gave it to his queen, Elizabeth Woodville. The castle and its newer counterpart in Kent, Queenborough Castle, were formidable guardians of the approaches to London. Now only picturesque ruins, perched on a rocky height above the estuary, Hadleigh’s more recent claim to fame is that it is adjacent to the venue of the mountain-biking competition for the 2012 Olympic Games.

I have been researching the castle and surrounding area as it was during the reigns of Richard II and Henry IV, and while browsing around online, going here, there and everywhere in search of those all-important snippets that an author of historical fiction is always hoping to run to ground, I came upon an anomaly. Well, I do not know what it is, so ‘anomaly is as good a name as any, I think.

It came to light on Google Maps, specifically at

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.5436974,0.6130895,925m/data=!3m1!1e3

which shows Hadleigh to be on a ‘tongue’ of green land that is actually a saddleback of higher ground above the marshes and saltings of Benfleet Creek and the Thames Estuary. I was startled to find something on the southern slope below the castle. It looks like . . . a huge pavement? Certainly remains of some sort. It’s clear in the above picture. You can home in much more satisfactorily, of course, using the link. And if you go over to Google Earth, it’s visible in even more detail.

The thing is…what is it? A ghostly image that has somehow found its way into the system? I don’t mean that literally, of course, more that it is probably a photographic glitch. In other words, it looks as if it shouldn’t be there. But there it is. At least, it is in the latest aerial photographs by Google. You can look at previous photographs, using a facility on Google Earth, but none of them shows this strange formation.

Does anyone have the answer?

THE TOMB OF THOMAS COCKAYNE, YORKIST

DSCF1250

In my many travels I once came upon a very fine effigy in Youlgrave Parish church, high in the Derbyshire Peak District. Exquisitely carved from alabaster, with great attention paid to detail, it shows the small figure (only about three or four feet long, crafted in such a manner because Thomas died before his father) of a young man with shoulder length hair and a moustache— wearing plate armour and, most interestingly, a Yorkist collar of suns and roses. Even more interestingly, the date of the effigy was 1488, three years after Richard III’s death at Bosworth and in a time, presumably, when it would not be particularly politic to be seen supporting the ruined House of York, especially as Stoke Field had only been fought the year before.
The Cockayne family appear to have been quite notable in the Peak district and not always in a good way. Initially at least, they also appear to have been Lancastrian and in the service of the Duchy of Lancaster. The earlier Cockayne tombs in Ashbourne church clearly show Lancastrian collars.
John Cockayne, who lived a long life into the early 16th C, despite having a propensity for raiding and violence, was the father of Thomas. John had a reputation for brawling since at least 1449, when he and a gang of ‘bully boys’ would attack their neighbours, the Okeovers and the Bassets. With one Nicholas Longford, he even raided the manor of Elvaston, not far out of Derby, in 1454.
By the time Edward IV came to the throne in 1461, John Cockayne was still rampaging out of control, leading a band of marauders through the wild countryside of the Peak. Orders were sent for his arrest on at least two occasions.
He seems to have suffered no punishment however, and eventually his exploits ceased. Possibly, he began to support the House of York at this time.
His son Thomas seems to have taken after his father in personality and been rather fractious. Born in 1451, he married a woman called Agnes Barlow and had several children with her. He was killed at the age of 37 after a fierce quarrel and subsequent duel with his friend, Thomas Burdett, at Polesworth, Warwickshire. (Some say the death was accidental; that Thomas stumbled and fell onto his friend’s blade.) His body was returned to Youlgrave for burial. At least one source refers to Thomas Cockayne as being a ‘staunch Yorkist’, along with his brother in law, Robert Barlow.
However, the effigy of Sir Henry Pierrepoint at Holme Pierrepoint also wears a Yorkist collar, and yet he supported Henry Tudor at Bosworth and thereafter. Perhaps his loyalty was with Elizabeth of York, and this may have been the same with Thomas Cockayne. However, it must have taken some courage or foolhardiness to wear such an obvious emblem in a time that was still unsettled, and I wonder how it would have been viewed had Thomas lived some ten years longer into the time of Perkin Warbeck’s arrival?

Building plans near a church at Sheriff Hutton, which is much associated with Richard III….

Sheriff Hutton protest

Is it right or wrong to build modern homes adjoining Sheriff Hutton’s ancient church? I can’t help thinking that more suitable land could be found elsewhere. Our places of beauty and heritage are disappearing fast. We should value and protect them.

http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/13600276.Protest_about_village_home_plans/

Signs of the Times (4)

1.William Hastings

First of all you can see that this is quite a flowing signature with a lot of nice curves, not many ‘angry’ sharp top angles to the letters. This shows he was generally an affable, non-violent person, at least while he was writing this. His middle zone seems the most dominant – as many of these signatures have been – showing his concern with material things, prestige, self-importance and living in the moment.

Hastings sigLooking at the lower zone, he has quite an elaborate curl on the ‘g’, with the curl turning back to the left, in contrast to the ‘y’ which curls to the right. This suggests he might have ‘swung both ways’ when it came to sexual partners, which is possible considering his reputation for debauchery at the time. Note the phallic symbol in the ‘h’, indicating inability to keep within the sexual norms of his society.

In general the signature is legible with a slant to the right, indicating sociability.

His upper zone is pretty small, showing he wasn’t concerned with intellectual matters , nor was he a dreamer.

The end downward stroke, which doesn’t seem to represent any particular letter, suggests a dagger to me, perhaps the cause of his downfall.

  1. Anne Neville

I was quite surprised that Anne’s signature is not particularly legible (although not as illegible as Margaret Beaufort’s for instance), but perhaps it’s not surprising that she might feel the need to hide herself away, after some of the experiences she had (married young, widowed, hidden away by George, etc). She would not have revealed her true feelings easily. It seems to me her first name is easier to read than the surname (which I think is Warwick rather than Neville, though I could be wrong) and I take this to mean that she reveals more to those who know her better and more familiarly, as many people do.

She has a normal lower zone, showing a balanced and healthy sex life.

Anne and Richard sigHowever can you see the similarities between hers and Richard’s signature, that suggest to me they were compatible and on the same wavelength?. They both have balanced zones – pretty equal in size – showing well-balanced personalities.

They also both have upright letters, which show a need for control and particularly self-control. They are of similar size, his slightly larger, which would not be surprising considering that men were dominant in those times. It shows that he considered her to be more or less his equal and reveals his respect for her. Compare the signatures of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York where his dwarfs hers. Who do you think was the dominant personality here?

Henry and Eliz sigs3. Anthony Woodville

Well, this is a mess! As most of it is in upper case letters, it is hard to judge the zones so well, but can you see he has extended the vertical stroke of the ‘l’s so they are higher than the rest. He was meant to be an intellectual and well-read man, but his writing suggests to me that he wanted to be perceived as such more than actually being so, because the ‘l’s should not be taller and are therefore forced. But I could be judging him a bit harshly. His signature is not as clear as Richard’s or Clarence’s or Hastings’, but is decipherable more than Margaret Beaufort’s. There are no lower zone letters, but the upper and middle zones are more or less equal in his signature, so I think he was more intelligent than his sister, Elizabeth.

Rivers sig Rivers sig 2

There are no communication letters here but the ‘v’ and ‘s’ on the end are closed (when they needn’t be) suggesting a secretive nature.

The first example, with motto, looks very controlled to me and as I believe it was written when he was awaiting execution, it is understandable that he would be desperately trying to hold onto his emotions. The upper case letters support this conclusion.

The right hand signature is all over the place as regards slant, showing an unpredictable and mercurial personality.

He underlines the left hand one in a flamboyant way which suggests he wants attention – perhaps he doesn’t like to think of himself being forgotten after his death. The ‘x’s in the underline show his preoccupation with his demise.

  1. Thomas Grey

This is the signature of the son of Elizabeth. The zones are quite well balanced and the letters are upright, showing strong control over his emotions. The communication letter ‘o’ is open at the top, suggesting he was a big talker and couldn’t keep a confidence.

Thoams Grey sig

The letter ‘s’ (or ‘f’ as it appears) spans all three zones, but the upper zone is broken – perhaps he had a headache or an injury, but the signature as a whole is messy, suggesting he was also untidy. The ‘t’s are crossed very firmly and the cross stroke extends far to the right, showing ambition.

5. Edward V

This is the signature of Edward which appears alongside those of Richard and Buckingham. It is spidery and childlike, although legible. There is no curl in his lower zone which is perfectly to be expected as he was only 12 at the time.

The writing looks a bit shaky, suggesting he was nervous (understandable given the circumstances) or possibly unwell. The downward-pointing  cross stroke of the ‘t’ in quintus could show a control freak, but I think it also suggests a depressed or pessimistic nature, but that could be because his father had just died.

Ed V sigIt is interesting that the tops of the letters are more rounded than the lower edges. I don’t know what this means for sure but my intuition suggests he would have appeared softer and more easygoing on the surface than he was underneath – a hidden ruthless side. This is reinforced by the open bottomed ‘a’, which shows he could verbally argue his case – eat you up and spit you out – and wasn’t above using deception to achieve this. And see the dot of the ‘i’ which is more of a dash or a slashing stroke. This shows frustration and irritability.

  1. Henry VI

Henry VI was a weak king, as we know. We can see in his signature that there is a softness to his nature and that the very large upper zone shows he was intelligent but can also mean a dreamer or someone who has his head in the clouds. He had his head in heaven!

Henry VI sigThe upper and lower zones are roughly equal, showing he had a normal attitude to sex, perhaps surprisingly. However, his middle zone is the smallest which indicates he wasn’t concerned with everyday life, material possessions or his appearance.

It is upright, showing that he had strong control over his emotions and he was not at all deceptive.

Unfortunately it is the only sample I could find, and there isn’t really much else to glean from it.

  1. John Howard, Duke of Norfolk

‘Jocky’ of Norfolk, well, it looks first of all as if it is sloping slightly upwards, suggesting optimism and an upbeat nature. The slant varies, showing a changeable character.

The middle zone is most prominent, indicating the need for outward trappings of success, material possessions, as in many of the other hands I have looked at.

Norfolk sigLook at the wide open ‘o’s, especially the first! I wouldn’t trust him with a secret, I would think he could be indiscreet and a big talker.

There are a combination of rounded and sharp strokes showing he could be kind and thoughtful, but also hard and stern when needed.

I wouldn’t think he was particularly intellectual, nor was he very sensual, but that could have been his age – I don’t know how old he was when this was written.

There are a few resentment strokes on the beginning of the ‘n’ and ‘r’, which might refer to his resentment at having to wait for his rightful title of the Dukedom of Norfolk under Edward. Obviously he has it here as that’s the name he signs. His signature is neither very obscure nor very clear, suggesting he could dissemble if required.

I get the impression of a person who was quite modest in himself, shown by the small initial ‘j’ and ‘n’ of Norfolk.

  1. John de Vere, Earl of Oxford

Here is a signature from the Earl of Oxford, the nemesis of the Yorks, out to get revenge for the death of his father.

It is absolutely clear and easy to read, and seems to have been done with control and care. And look at the sweet little flower – but what is that loopy thing below it? Could it be a phallic symbol? This shows the willingness or need to break social taboos. Possibly gay? It would have been a big taboo in those days.

The zones are even, showing a well-balanced personality, which is quite surprising considering his reputation. However it could be seen as too perfect, which can show deception – a person disguising their natural way of writing and wanting to appear perfect.

Oxford sig

It is quite rounded and flowing and quite upright. This means he was sociable and unwarlike for the times – I think he was pushed into the whole war thing and he would have preferred a peaceful life. But the heavy line of the ‘f’ look like a dagger, so he could have been violent when needed. The lines through the ‘O’ , obliterating the clarity of the ‘O’ could show a forked-tongued liar – notice the extra little line in the second ‘o’ too.

9.Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey

Well this is a flamboyant signature! This is Jocky Howard’s son, Surrey.

Surrey sigIt is large and suggests the writer wants to be noticed, likes attention. The middle zone is huge, showing a preoccupation with himself and his immediate needs, outward show and possessions. The signature as a whole is huge, compared to the writing above. In fact when you look at the writing, the upper zone is more emphasised, showing he was quite intelligent, but didn’t show it to everyone, perhaps wanting to fit in with the court life where show and prestige was everything. I think this shows the writer felt inferior and is putting on a show of confidence – the whole thing screams over-compensation.

There are resentment strokes and angularity suggesting frustration and a temper.

Look at the lower zone – either this is another sign that the Earl of Surrey is overcompensating or he is gay – the tail of the ‘y’ goes way over to the left, suggesting the latter, as does the little flower sign.

Not sure what those unnecessary two dots are between the ‘T’ and ‘h’ but it could be another cry for attention.

  1. James Tyrell

I really like this signature. Tyrell was one of Richard’s men who was rewarded by him for unknown services and who was tortured and executed by Henry VII. Here the signature suggests a very optimistic and positive person – very sociable. See how the writing slants to the right and slopes up? Also there is not much space between the two names, suggesting he liked to be in the company of others.

.Tyrell sig

The signature is well balanced and has equal sized zones. It is also fairly clear and easy to read, showing a lack of dissimulation. However, the ‘a’ shows he could keep a secret when needed and the line through the two ‘l’s at the end look like eyes to me. Was he one of Richard’s spies?

Now, I have been thinking about the proliferation of phallic symbols in many of these signatures and the conclusion I have come to is that they were probably not overly perverted or sex mad (with a few notable exceptions!), but that they may have felt guilty about their sexual feelings because of the strict doctrines of the church in regard to these matters. So crossing the boundaries of the sexual norm of the times, might only have been ogling women, visiting prostitutes or an affair or two. I’ll leave that to you to decide.

  1. Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick

Finally, let us look at Richard Neville’s signature. The first thing I notice is that it is hard to read and slopes uphill more than any of the others. I think he was the eternal optimist and supremely confident in himself that things would work out for him.

Warwick sigIt is a firm and confident signature and this mirrors the man himself. He was certainly capable of deception as he pretended to be supporting Edward and was actually plotting against him – we can tell this because his writing is also deceptive with it being difficult to decipher. And his closed ‘a’ shows he can keep his mouth closed.

The varied slant of the letters shows another volatile, changeable character and the hard down strokes reveal he had a bad temper at times.

See the definite resentment stroke on the ‘R’ – he was certainly experiencing resentment here.

There is the ubiquitous phallic symbol, and we know he did have an illegitimate daughter. However do you see the break in the loop of the ‘y’ and also in the loop in the little logo thingy at the end? This shows there was a trauma of some kind, either physical or emotional regarding his sexual organs, sex life or lower body. We do not know if this was the case, but we do know that Warwick had no sons, so he may have felt subconsciously that he was inadequate in some way because of this. Both sexes can have this – for example a woman can show this sign if she has had a hysterectomy or has lost a lover. (In fact Henry VII has breaks in his lower loops as well).

I think, like Edward, he was also a ‘boob’ man – the rounded part of the underline and the shape of the letters above it suggest that.

What about the little end doodle? Well, it might be a device or coat f arms badge, or perhaps it is the crown that wasn’t his but that he bestowed on two kings, as Kingmaker. 😉

  1. Francis Lovell

Richard’s best friend – I found this after I had posted the draft so I had to include him!

Well, the zones are of equal height, which shows he was a well-balanced guy emotionally. He has a legible, clear signature – no deception there, and his communication letters, ‘a’ and ‘o’ are also clear, well-formed and closed normally, meaning he was a good communicator and could be trusted to keep a confidence.

Lovell sigYou can see there is a mixture of angular letters and rounded ones, showing he could have a tough side as well as a softer one. There are some heavy downward strokes on the first letters ‘ff’ which shows he could have a temper at times.

The slant is just slightly to the right, which indicates he was fairly sociable, and likewise the two names are close together, suggesting he enjoyed the company of others.

I’m not sure what the final letter/squiggle is nor the extra thing in the middle joining the ‘s’. These extra unnecessary bits might mean he was a bit obsessive compulsive. I would think that both he and Richard were tidy and neat, so this might have spilled over into OCD.

These analyses are, as I said before, just for fun and of course I am a little biased, I have to confess. Also, most of my subjects here are confined to just one signature, which is limiting and cannot be relied upon to be as accurate as if there were more samples.

However, on the whole, do you notice how much more well-balanced, rounded and ‘normal’ Richard’s and his friends’ signatures were, in comparison to most of the others?

Richard’s act lost in flame….

Tommy Cooper

Tommy Cooper

Here’s how to gloss over the important facts! This is an item in the Leicester Mercury online:- http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/Richard-s-act-lost-flame/story-27617629-detail/story.html

It says: Richard’s act lost in flame.
(by Leicester Mercury/ posted: August 17, 2015.

“According to Nigel Cawthorne’s book on The Strange Laws of Old England, Richard III signed an Act bastardising all the children of his brother, Edward IV.
“It was never repealed. Instead it was ripped from the files of the Chancery and burned, on the advice of all judges of England, so ‘no memory might remain of it.”

So, Richard just upped one day and made his nieces and nephews illegitimate, and the judges of England promptly upped, ripped and burned it????? Just like that, as Tommy Cooper might have said? It’s like having Chapter One, and then turning the page to find “The End”!

Richard’s Back Now!

As an osteopath, Richard’s spinal condition is of considerable interest to me. I have several patients who have different types and degrees of scolioses, but none who has one anything quite like Richard’s! His scoliosis was severe enough that, had he been alive today, he would probably have had an operation to correct it. Dominic Smee, who is Richard’s ‘body double’, is unusual in that he hasn’t had this operation, which is why it was so interesting to see the documentary he starred in where he trained to perform the feats of battle and fighting that Richard would have done.

But you might be wondering what an operation to correct such a scoliosis would involve. So here are some photos showing (1) a spine where I have attempted to recreate Richard’s condition (not very well, but you get the idea!), (2) another spine showing the metal work involved in the correction of a spinal scoliosis and (3) a close up of said metal work.

1.Spinal scoliosis

2.Corrected Scoliosis3. Close up of metalwork

As you can see, it is quite an invasive and extensive operation. It leaves extensive scarring and can fail or break inside the body, and nothing can be done if this happens. I wonder whether Richard would have opted to have it had he been born in modern times. There is one Royal example of a scoliosis sufferer who DID have the operation , very successfully, Princess Eugenie, daughter of the current Duke of York.  Here is a link where she describes her experience of spinal surgery: Princess Eugenie’s Story

Other alternatives include a brace which must be worn almost constantly, and this doesn’t correct the scoliosis, it just tries to prevent it worsening.

There are non-invasive treatments which can help to control the progression of scoliosis and which are most effective if started before the condition worsens. These include exercises and manual therapy (e.g. osteopathy, physio).

Body of Evidence

“Body of Evidence” was the title of a talk given by Dominic Smee, Richard’s “body double”, at Leicester University earlier this year. Until recently, one of the great mysteries surrounding the last Plantagenet king was the contradiction between the severity of his supposed deformities and his reputation as a soldier, praised amongst others by his brother Edward IV, who was himself considered a paragon of military prowess. Some historians suspected that his deformities were exaggerated or even completely invented by his political enemies, pointing to the fact that reports about them only began to surface after his death, while others argued that it was his military reputation which was exaggerated and that his contemporaries were simply too scared to mention his deformities during his lifetime.

The finding of Richard’s skeleton with its severe scoliosis has reignited the debate. As Philippa Langley succinctly put it when first setting eyes on the royal remains: “How do you fit armour on that?” This was the question scientists and historians tried to answer by dressing scoliosis sufferer Dominic in medieval armour and putting him through his paces. The results were presented in the TV documentary “Richard III – The New Evidence” (published in the US as “Secrets of the Dead – Resurrecting Richard III”) – at least, some of them. The purpose of Dominic’s talk at Leicester University was to reveal, based on photos, videos and personal anecdotes, what the producers had chosen to exclude.

The scoliosis and its effects (or not)

He began by showing an x-ray of his scoliosis, which is identical to Richard’s in terms of angle and rib rotation, except that Richard’s scoliosis starts from the 4th vertebra whereas Dominic’s starts from the 3rd vertebra. This means that he has slightly less mobility in his hips than Richard while Richard would instead have had slightly less mobility in his right shoulder. Given how dramatic the curvature looked on the x-ray, it was startling how little it seemed to affect Dominic as he moved around the auditorium and under a t-shirt and light jacket it was all but invisible.

He explained that due to the sideways curvature of his spine the lung capacity on his left side is reduced, but the right side is normal and while he tires more easily than a person without scoliosis, it is not a big issue. The documentary shows him struggling for breath on a treadmill, but at that point he had already been running for 20 minutes. According to his orthopaedic surgeon his other internal organs, such as his heart, are not affected by the scoliosis, which was a key reason why Dominic decided not to have corrective surgery.

There has been much speculation about Richard being in pain and the impact this may have had on him physically and psychologically, but Dominic didn’t experience any pain during his teens and now, in his late twenties, only gets muscle cramps in cold weather conditions or when lifting something heavy, though not enough to need pain killers. He described the pain from a trapped nerve as 10-20 times worse. Unlike Richard he doesn’t have arthritis in his spine, so he was unable to comment on its effect, but this may have been a relatively recent development for the king, who was 32 years old at the time of his death. He would have also been training for armed combat since childhood, which would have strengthened his muscles and helped to support his back.

By contrast, aside from a spell of karate in his teens Dominic led a sedentary lifestyle, so he had to start his knightly training from scratch at age 26. He estimated that he received 40 hours of horse training and 32 hours of weapons training over three months, at an average of two lessons per week, to prepare him for the challenges that were thrown at him in the documentary. The producers actually had a stand-in on hand, but Dominic did so well that they decided to use him all the way.

Customising the armour and unseen research

Because of the sideways curvature of his spine Dominic’s rib cage rests on his hip, so regular armour causes his ribs to rub against the plate, restricting his breathing. The custom-made asymmetrical cuirass, created by Swedish armourer Per Lillelund Jensen from CK45 spring steel, the closest modern equivalent to medieval armour steel, accommodates the curvature and rests on his shoulders instead of his waist. At 62 pounds total weight his armour is also lighter than average to allow for greater agility and to minimise the impact of the asymmetrical weight distribution on his horse. Dominic had brought the cuirass along to the talk and despite the slightly uneven shoulders, which would normally be concealed by the shoulder pauldrons, it looked remarkably “normal”.

1) and 2) Dominic in full armour, and 3) the custom-made cuirass

Dominic gave due credit to his teachers, Dave Rawlings of the London Longsword Academy and Dominic Sewell of Historic Equitation, as he described how he started out learning sword moves from Hans Talhoffer’s medieval fencing manual, but then moved on to other weapons as Richard would have also learned to fight with battle axe and lance, how he and his horse learnt to deal with the asymmetrical weight distribution and how they discovered that the medieval saddle supported his back.

He also revealed that they choreographed a number of scenarios to explore how Richard may have died, both on foot and sitting on a vaulting horse, to see how long he could have defended himself against a group of halberdeers. Another experiment involved a reenactor hitting the top of a sallet with a pole axe, which created a similar imprint in the polystyrene head underneath as the wound on top of Richard’s skull because, due to the gap between sallet and skull, the weapon couldn’t penetrate fully, possibly confirming that “the stroke his Basnett to his head vntill his braines came out with blood”[1]. Most intriguingly Toby Capwell, Curator of Arms and Armour at the Wallace Collection and the man who got Dominic involved in the documentary, reenacted Richard’s last cavalry charge to see if he could have covered the 800 or so yards distance in time to kill Henry Tudor before he was attacked by Stanley’s men. Dominic didn’t specify how they worked out the available timespan, but in an interview with Jon Snow of Channel 4 Dr Capwell stated that, if Richard hadn’t killed the standard bearer but gone straight for Tudor, the charge may well have succeeded. Sadly none of this made it into the documentary, except for a snippet that shows Dominic playing dead on the floor. As he pointed out, this too was part of the choreography – he hadn’t collapsed from exhaustion.

Unseen challenges

What also wasn’t shown in the documentary was that, due to time and financial constraints, only the cuirass and leg armour, which were so comfortable that Dominic was able to ride a bicylce in them, were custom made. The sallet, shoulder pauldrons, gauntlets and arming doublet were borrowed from fellow re-enactors and the Royal Armoury, which led to unforeseen complications.

Dominic described wearing a sallet as similar to looking through a letterbox: he could only see his horse’s ears and the tip of his lance, all sounds were muffled except the wind whistling around his head and to take his battle axe out of his belt with gauntlet-clad hands, use it and put it back he had to rely on muscle memory. However, the sallet he wore in the programme was too big and the first time he galloped towards the quintain it slid down until it covered his eyes, so he had to pad out his coif to hold it in place. Similarly, the arming doublet didn’t take account of his scoliosis, so it too had to be padded to keep the armour from sliding or rubbing. The symmetrical shoulder pauldrons kept catching on his asymmetrical cuirass, reflecting his shoulder blades catching on his rib cage underneath, so every time he lifted the lance he had to deliberately push up the pauldrons, which should have risen automatically as he lifted his arms had they fit correctly. He had to try and hold reins and weapons without being able to close his hands because the gauntlets didn’t fit. And while the high-backed medieval saddle helped his posture, it wasn’t designed to interact with his custom-made armour so the culet, a piece of armour that’s meant to protect the rider’s bum from weapons while on horseback, was instead driven into Dominic’s bum. Imagine galloping through a field wearing ill fitting plate armour and trying to hit a target with a weapon you’re unable to grip properly – after only 40 hours of training!

The real Richard

Although Dominic didn’t say it, it seems clear that the documentary was edited to emphasise his physical limitations, for example filming him when he was out of breath or playing dead, while glossing over the shortcomings he overcame, such as ill fitting armour and lack of experience (not to mention interpreting the isotope analysis as evidence of a “dissolute” lifestyle). Of course, if Dominic’s achievements were even more impressive than they appear in the programme – he spent up to 11 hours a day on horseback – then it should be even less surprising that Richard, with his greater experience and custom-made armour, was able to earn a reputation as a competent warrior.

To explore how and to what extent these “limitations” can be further compensated Dominic has set up the Dominic Smee Armour Fund to raise money for a fully customised suit of armour. He has already added a new piece to his collection: an asymmetrical arming doublet curtesy of Ninya Mikhaila of The Tudor Tailor, which fits under his asymmetrical cuirass without the need for padding. He is also writing a book about his scoliosis and how his attitude has changed from previously ignoring it to now accepting it. As he commented at the end of the talk, the biggest surprise for him was finding out how much he is actually able to do.

I would recommend Dominic’s talks to anyone who is interested in Richard III. He’s an engaging speaker who, despite his different background, is in the unique position of being able to offer insights based on first hand experience. “Body of Evidence” added many new details to my understanding of the historical Richard and I look forward to any new information Dominic’s research may reveal.

[1] The Song of Ladye Bessiye

Sources:

Dominic Smee: “Body of Evidence”, Leicester University, 21 March 2015

The Dominic Smee Armour Fund

Richard’s first resting place

… was the Newarke Church in the 1331 Hospital of the Annunciation, in which he laid from August 22-25 1485: Click here

The Earl at the time was Henry, grandson of Edmund Crouchback,

This is the Hawthorn Building of de Montfort University, on the same site today:

HawthornBuilding

Not as high as many neighbouring buildings, the ten-storey Fletcher for example, but it remains stylish and imposing – the second stage of Richard’s posthumous journey from Bosworth to the Greyfriars, part of which forms his new home at St. Martin’s Cathedral.

Here is a 3D representation of the church, as created by de Montfort themselves:
http://www.dmu.ac.uk/about-dmu/news/2015/august/first-3d-model-of-church-where-remains-of-richard-iii-laid-were-laid-created-by-dmu.aspx

Was William Stanley Misunderstood?

I have enjoyed reading the books of Richard Unwin about Richard III from the point of view of Laurence the Armourer and was intrigued by his theory that William Stanley was not a traitor, or at least not in the way we might think.

Think about the battle – William Stanley and his men are off to one side, watching the proceedings. He has already been declared a traitor by Richard, so he obviously must be hoping for a victory for Henry or he can look forward to a nasty end. Presumably, Richard’s loyal household knights also know this and are expecting him to turn traitor to his king by supporting Henry.

Then Richard does his dramatic and courageous charge – Stanley sees him and his men getting right into the enemy’s midst and killing many of them. He might or might not have been close enough to see John Cheney, Henry’s giant bodyguard, unhorsed by Richard but he must have seen Henry’s standard fall when Richard killed his standard bearer, William Brandon. Put yourself in his shoes. We know the Stanleys were notorious for changing sides when it suited them. Wouldn’t this be the perfect time to charge in on Richard’s side in the hope of avoiding being executed after the battle? But Richard’s men would have thought that he was coming in on Henry’s side, because of his already being attainted for treason and this could have caused the two forces to fight amongst themselves. We know this could happen, as it had done at Barnet when the Star banner of Oxford was mistaken for the Sun in Splendour banner of Edward in the fog.

It sounds plausible to me. What do you think?

Coat of Arms of Sir William Stanley

“Coat of arms of Sir William Stanley, KG” by Rs-nourse – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Coat_of_arms_of_Sir_William_Stanley,_KG.png#/media/File:Coat_of_arms_of_Sir_William_Stanley,_KG.png

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