Fotheringhay Castle October 1452.
The Duchess of York – aka the Rose of Raby – was not feeling very rose-like. Unsurprising, as she had been pregnant for two whole years. I mean, you know how big some women get after nine months, so after two years she was big. With a capital B. And awkward, and uncomfortable, and all the rest of it. She was also bored with receiving the physicians and midwives who had travelled from all over Christendom to inspect her. Because you see, the word had got around. No one had ever known a woman be pregnant for two years before. Some thought it impossible. But here she was.
It was all the more amazing in that Thomas of York – who had sadly died – had been born in either 1450 or 1451. No one could quite remember when, not even the Duchess. But somehow this other baby had remained in her womb and continued to grow. Eventually a particularly learned physician – a Saracen with a beard and a crescent on his robes – suggested that maybe this new child was a sort of twin who had somehow been retained. However, he admitted he had not seen anything like it, not even in Damascus.
The Duchess was beyond caring. Anyway, to cut a long story short, the labour eventually began. And it went on a long, long time. It was lucky that the Saracen doctor was handy, as they ended up having to cut poor Duchess Cecily open, and usually when they did this in those days the mother was already dead. And if not she soon would be. But so skilled was the doctor that not only did Cecily live, she survived until she was quite old. What’s more, her husband was even able to persuade her to have another child, a daughter called Ursula, who only stayed in the womb for the usual nine months. What marvellous chaps these Saracen physicians were!
Anyway, to return to the baby of 2nd October 1452 – he had a full set of hair and a full set of teeth. And the women crowded round the bed, who were all capable of foreseeing the future, said that he was going to bite the world. And when the Countess of Warwick – who was there in her role as amateur midwife – opened the baby’s fist, she found that he was clutching a little silver dagger, which he’d be using to stab his mother for the past two years. No wonder she’d had such an uncomfortable pregnancy!
So they took him along to the big church next to the castle, and baptised him with the name of Richard. This was his father’s name, and they chose it because he looked just like the Duke of York, which none of the other children did, as they took after their mother’s side, the big blond Nevilles. Because of course no Plantagenet had ever been big, or blond, in all the years since 1154. York was a bit shorter than most Nevilles and had darkish hair.
Naturally, he peed in the font. The baby that is, not the Duke of York. Luckily the Duke was the patron of the church, so none of the priests made a big fuss. Instead they went off to the castle in procession and had a big feast, with boars’ heads and stuff. And people threw bones over their shoulders and spat on the floor.
The Duchess had hers on a tray, as she was still a bit sore.
(Reblogged from Greyhounds and Fetterlocks)