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Archive for the month “June, 2016”

DNA is used to determine legitimacy

220px-Maria_Anne_Fitzherbert1788http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3650613/Accountant-Buckinghamshire-beats-East-Sussex-businessman-Scottish-baron-Queen-asks-judges-rule-case.html

The Utah lawyer would, of course be wasting his time claiming the throne through George IV. Any secret marriage between that future monarch and Mrs. Fitzherbert would fail under the 1772 Royal Marriages Act. As Royal Marriage Secrets (pp.167-175) confirms, they may have had two illegitimate children but both were daughters, meaning that the lawyer’s descent would be traced through a mixed line and thus the so far unreliable nuclear DNA, unlike the male line and Y-chromosome of the Pringle Baronets.

ARTHUR AND ELEANOR-TRAGIC SIBLINGS

A tragic but  often overlooked  story of a prince and princess and a wicked uncle is that of Arthur and Eleanor of Brittany. (Two later boys who may or may not have  been killed seem to elicit much  more sympathy, probably at least in part due to  a certain  play and some maudlin Victorian art!) King John gets a bad rap (“Foul as it is, hell itself is made fouler by the presence of King John,” chronicler Matthew Paris wrote in the 1230s!),  but it is interesting that his ineptitude as a ruler seems to be treated as a far greater crime than some of his misdeeds.

Arthur was the son of Geoffrey Plantagenet, younger  brother of Richard Lionheart and  older brother to John Lackland, and his wife the heiress Constance of Brittany. Arthur did not have the best start in life being born posthumously, his father having died shortly before his birth in either an accident at a joust or from a sudden heart attack. Geoffrey was only 27 when he died and was buried in Notre Dame Cathedral  in Paris.

As Geoffrey was older than John, his child was technically in line to the throne of  England and in 1190 Richard I named the three-year-old Arthur as his heir, since he had no sons of his own. This designation  bypassed Richard’s  younger but adult brother, John. Richard  repeated the nomination of Arthur as heir in 1196, at the same time, Arthur’s mother Constance proclaimed her son as duke of Brittany.

Bad luck followed, however—Ranulf de Blondeville, Arthur’s own step-father through his mother’s remarriage,  abducted  his estranged wife Constance,  and King Richard had to advance on Brittany to free both Arthur and his mother. Constance then fled her husband and was granted an annulment.

Later, in 1199, when Richard realised he was dying after being struck by an arrow during the siege at Chalus-Chabrol,  the king  suddenly did a  hasty about-face and changed his nomination for the succession from Arthur to John—he had changed his mind on his deathbed, fearing  that the Duke of Brittany was far too young to rule a country.

John was crowned king, but the French, who preferred Arthur’s claim, rose up to support the young boy of twelve. He marched with an army to Anjou but to little effect.

In 1200, a treaty was signed between King John and Phillip II of France, which finally quashed Arthur’s claims to the throne forever.  Within a short while, the young boy and his supporters were in open rebellion, even besieging Arthur’s own grandmother, the indomitable Eleanor of Aquitaine, in her castle of Mirebeau.

John arrived at Mirebeau with an army of his own, however, and Arthur was captured and taken to the Castle of Falaise where he was placed in the care of Hubert de Burgh.  It was said that at this time John ordered that Arthur be castrated and blinded. However, de Burgh refused and kept the young prince safe.

A short while later, Arthur was taken from de Burgh’s protection at Falaise and moved on to Rouen castle…and this was where he disappeared in or around April 1203.

The Margam Chronicle states :After King John had captured Arthur and kept him alive in prison for some time, at length, in the castle of Rouen, after dinner on the Thursday before Easter, when he was drunk and possessed by the devil, he slew him with his own hand, and tying a heavy stone to the body cast it into the Seine. It was discovered by a fisherman in his net, and being dragged to the bank and recognised, was taken for secret burial, in fear of the tyrant…

   While some of the above description relating to the murder may be nothing more than monkish exaggeration, it is interesting to note that Maud de Braose,wife of William de Braose, who was working closely with John at the time of Arthur’s disappearance, dared to accuse John to his face of murdering Arthur of Brittany.

    Needless to say, making this open accusation to a man like John did not go well for Maud—or  for her son William. After fleeing to Ireland, where they were eventually captured, they were both imprisoned in a castle, mostly likely Corfe, and starved to death.  Rumours abounded that in a desperate attempt at survival Maud ate her dead son’s cheeks…

Arthur was not the only tragic child of Geoffrey and Constance who suffered at the hands of King John. He had a sister Eleanor who was so beautiful she was known as the Fair Maid of Brittany. Even though she was female and the barons were not particularly supportive of her claim, John feared her closeness to the throne and hence kept her as a prisoner, moving her from castle to castle and displaying her occasionally to prove she was still alive. Her main place of imprisonment seems to have been Corfe; she was in residence there when John starved 22 knights to death when they tried to escape the dungeons.

Although captive, she was not treated particularly badly, having several maids, decent if bland clothes, and was probably able to ride out on occasion although under close supervision.

However, her imprisonment went on for  39 years, long after John’s death and into the reign of his son Henry III, even though she had committed no crime, and had never been tried or sentenced. John had decreed upon his deathbed that she must remain imprisoned for life.

Eventually, however, after her child bearing years were over,  Henry III permitted her  to join a convent and become a nun. When she died, she was first buried in Bristol, but later, in accordance with her own final wishes,  reburied in Amesbury abbey in Wiltshire.

Her final choice of burial site is  interesting. The Abbey Church of St Mary and St Melor has an unusual dedication, seen only in one other place outside Brittany.

St Melor was a young Breton prince, who was first mutilated and then murdered by his uncle. His relics lay on the high altar in Amesbury Abbey, where they had been brought by Dark Age monks.

Choosing to be buried in a church dedicated to this martyred, murdered boy, in proximity to the remains of a saint who had died in circumstances almost identical to those of  her brother, may have been the Fair Maid of Brittany’s last act of defiance.

 

+Today Eleanor’s grave is lost, another victim of the Reformation. However, before the high altar in the church of St Mary and St Melor, geophysics have shown that two grave cuts still exist deep beneath the flagstones.

It is certainly quite possible that one of these belongs to this tragic Plantagenet princess.

P1210882        P1210907

Amesbury Abbey-high altar and corbels.

P1210903

  

  

 

 

 

Macbeth – Michael Fassbender’s flawed hero king.

Giaconda's Blog

macbeth 2

I’m always intrigued to see how a Shakespeare play will be approached, particularly when the constraints of the stage are removed and a director is given free rein to adapt and interpret through the medium of film.

I had read a few reviews of the 2015 version of Macbeth, starring Michael Fassbender in the lead role and was keen to see it.

Macbeth is not a play that I am particularly familiar with, despite studying at school. I found it a hard slog at the time and have avoided going to see it live ever since. It has always felt too dark and morbid with unsympathetic characters, motivated by greed and ambition, so I wasn’t surprised with the moodily evocative filming and all the rain or the nod to ‘Game of Thrones’ which seems to influence so much tv drama at the moment. I was ready for gratuitous throat-slitting, if…

View original post 3,857 more words

A little tale of mediaeval sleeping….

sleeping-in-the-Middle-Ages

Isn’t it strange the little stories one comes upon while researching? I was trawling through Stow’s Survey of London when I found this, concerning an incident in the Tower:-

“William Foxley slept in the tower 14 days & more without waking.

“In the yeare 1546. the 27 of April, being Tuesday in Easter weeke, William Foxley, Potmaker for the Mint in the tower of London, fell asleepe, and so continued sleeping, and could not be wakened, with pricking, cramping, or otherwise burning* whatsoeuer, till the first day of the tearme, which was full xiiii. dayes, and xv. nights, or more, for that Easter tearme beginneth not afore xvii. dayes after Easter. The cause of his thus sleeping could not be knowne, though the same were diligently searched after by the kings Phisitians, and other learned men: yea the king himselfe examining the said William Foxley, who was in all poynts found at his wakening to be as if hee had slept but one night. And he lived more then fortie yeares after in the sayde Tower, to wit, vntil the yeare of Christ, 1587, and then deceased on Wednesday in Easterweeke.”

How very odd! By the way, the king in question, Henry VIII, died less than a year after seeing William Foxley. As someone has said, imagine waking up from a deep sleep and finding Henry leaning over you! I think a heart attack would have seen poor Foxley off there and then.

* This was tried on one William Tyndale a few years earlier at the behest of the same King. It woke him up, but not for long.

More forthcoming books

http://mattlewisauthor.wordpress.com/2016/06/15/one-year-on-new-book-news/

… and we shall soon open an electrical supply store with all these plugs.

A puzzle from the reign of the Richard before ours…

knightly-duel-15717674

Here is a writer’s dilemma, concerning an incident from the reign of Richard II. So, not our Richard, but the one before him.

At Christmas 1389, which the court celebrated at Woodstock, there was a tournament. Or at least, jousting. One of those taking part was 17-year-old John Hastings, 3rd Earl of Pembroke. He was very popular, and was married to Philippa Mortimer, sister of Roger Mortimer, 4th Earl of March. She was just a month past her fourteenth birthday.

Tragedy ruined those Christmas festivities when John Hastings was killed by an opponent’s lance that slipped and pierced his groin. It was a horrible way to die, and the shocked court mourned his loss. How Philippa felt we will never know.

Right, all is clear so far, but what is not so clear is the name of the man who wielded that fateful lance. He has been identified as Sir John Des . . . but also as Sir John St John of Paulerspury, Northamptonshire and Fonmon, Glamorgan. Which one was it?

Here is information about Sir John St John: http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/…/st-john-sir-john…

And this is Sir John Des: https://faculty.nipissingu.ca/muhlberger/…/texts/histvit.htm

There are other links, of course, but I have only given one for each man. And it has to be said that Sir John St John seems to have had a pardon for the crime, but that still leaves the mysterious Sir John Des, of whose existence I have found nothing at all, except in connection with the Earl of Pembroke’s demise. That is, of course, on the understanding that Des was a stand-alone name, and wasn’t just a part of one, e.g. Sir John des Barres. Does anyone know anything about him?

And is there an absolutely incontrovertible source that proves, once and for all, which of the two gentleman it was? My instinct is with Sir John St John, but . . . .

PS: Another writer’s dilemma . . . .all those Johns!

 

Work begins in Reading

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/12/archaeologists-begin-hunt-for-remains-of-henry-i/mullaney_car_park-xlarge_trans++NJjoeBT78QIaYdkJdEY4CnGTJFJS74MYhNY6w3GNbO8

Of course, some people knew exactly where to find Richard III.

Richard’s reinterment journey remembered in Queen’s Birthday Honours….

Richard's crown

The woman who oversaw Richard’s route through Leicestershire and Leicester in 2014 has been recognized in the Queen’s birthday honours. Well done, Margaret Shutt! The following article also includes a ‘parade’ of excellent photographs from that memorable time, starting with the crown commissioned by John Ashdown-Hill.

http://www.hinckleytimes.net/news/local-news/queen-honours-hinckley-sporting-champion-11474837

Richard at Stony Stratford, 21st-century style….

Legendary Ten Seconds at Stony Stratford

There was a great concert on Sunday, 12th June at the Cock Hotel in Stony Stratford. The Legendary Ten Seconds just get better and better and were in fine feather! I don’t know the band at bottom right, but they were playing at nearby Furzton Lake!

The weather just about held off, although we were eventually treated to a monster thunderstorm. But that made no difference to the quality of the music or the pleasantly companionable atmosphere. All Ricardians together. It was good to see some old friends, and make some new ones. So a great time was had by all, and if there is another concert coming up, I’ll be there too.

Richard just HAD to be one of the seven….!

13c manuscript depicting coronation - believed Edward II

http://www.historyextra.com/article/richard-iii/7-medieval-kings-you-should-know-about

Richard HAD to be one of the seven. He may have only reigned for a couple of years, but what years they were. And if he’d won at Bosworth, what a wonderful age his reign would have been. The legislation passed at his parliament was a mere taste of what he wanted to do for England. A great king murdered by feckless traitors, who by their betrayals opened the door for the blood-stained House of “Tudor”.

Biased? Moi? Yes, of course, but that doesn’t make me wrong.

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