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Archive for the month “February, 2017”

How to build a medieval castle….

secrets-of-the-castle

If you have not seen the BBC documentary series “Secrets of the Castle”, please give it a whirl. It is about a 20-year project in Burgundy to build/rebuild a medieval castle, using all the materials and skills that would have been available to the original castle-builders. It is being repeated on the Yesterday channel at the moment.

Some of the techniques are absolutely astonishing. The human treadmill on top of a tower raises enormous weights of stone. Ingenious. Many details of medieval life are brought vividly to life, including the women’s tasks in the home. The cooking is simple but nourishing.  Thoroughly recommended viewing for anyone interested in those centuries.

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WHERE KINGS ONCE RELAXED(AND WHERE YOU CAN STAY TOO)

Recently Leicester has revamped one of its hotels to include a Richard III room. If you are on the road in the Midlands, perhaps visiting Nottingham Castle  (where Richard spent considerable time during his short reign and which is currently undergoing a rehaul of visitor facilities that should hopefully see more mention of Richard) another interesting place to consider staying is Bestwood Lodge, now a Best Western Hotel, which lies in Arnold,  just 4 miles outside Nottingham city centre.

An eerie Gothic Victorian structure, looking for all the world like something straight out of an Agatha Christie mystery novel, Bestwood stands in the middle of parkland with miles of walks radiating out from it.  Haunting and atmospheric, with tiled floors, spindly turrets, mock medieval statuary, ornate open fireplaces, and a rising central cupola, it has rooms dedicated to several of the kings who once stayed in the now-vanished royal hunting lodge lying buried deep beneath its foundations.

Richard III is one of the kings who visited Bestwood, and besides having a room named after him, he also is remembered in an ornamental plaque affixed to the wall in the ‘great hall’. It was at Bestwood, where Richard had retired to hunt in the forest, that he received the news that Henry Tudor and his forces had landed at Milford Haven.

A cross in the grounds near to the Lodge recounts the medieval history of Bestwood on its base:

BESTWOOD WAS FORMERLY A ROYAL RESIDENCE MUCH RESORTED TO BY THE EARLY ENGLISH KINGS FOR HUNTING IN SHERWOOD FOREST,/ EDWARD III, BY HIS LETTERS PATENT, DATED AT HIS PARK OF BESTWOOD 1st SEPTEMBER 37.E.3 (1364) PARDONED AND RELEASED CERTAIN/ RENTS ISSUING OUT OF “LINDEBY HAY AND BULLWELL RISE, TO THE PRIORY OF NEWSTEDE.” AND IN THE INQUISITION TAKEN AT St./ JOHN’S HOUSE, NOTTINGHAM.” THE FOURTH OF THE NONES OF JULY IN 35 HENRY III” (1251) BEFORE GEOFFREY LANGLEY, JUSTICE OF/ THE FOREST, IT IS CALLED A “HAY OR PARK OF OUR LORD THE KING WHEREIN NO MAN COMMONS” AND EARLIER STILL, KING HENRY 1st/ GRANTED TO THE PRIORY OF LENTON TO HAVE “TWO CARTS TO FETCH DEAD WOOD AND HEATH OUT OF BESCWOOD”. HENRY II, ABOUT 1160/ GRANTED THE CONVENT TO HAVE EVERY DAY “TWO CARTS OF THREE CARRETTS TO BRING THEM DEAD WOOD OR HEATH, AS MUCH AS THEY/ SHOULD NEED FOR THEIR OWN USE.” IN AUGUST 1485, ACCORDING TO THE “YORK CITY RECORDERS”, RICHARD III WAS AT BESKWOOD/ FOR THE PURPOSE OF HUNTING WHEN HE HEARD OF THE NEAR APPROACH OF HIS RIVAL HENRY TUDOR, AFTERWARDS HENRY VII./ THOROTON, WHO WROTE IN THE YEAR 1677, SAYS, IT, BESKWOOD HATH A VERY FAIR LODGE IN IT, AND IN RESPECT TO THE/ PLEASANT SITUATION OF THE PLACE, AND CONVENIENCY OF HUNTING AND PLEASURE THIS PARK AND LODGE HATH, FOR THESE MANY/ YEARS, BEEN THE DESIRE AND ACHIEVEMENT OF GREAT MEN.

Bestwood is also supposed to be haunted—but not by Richard. Rather, it is the mistress of Charles II, Nell Gwyn, who floats unseen through the hotel leaving behind the scent of fresh orange peel…

http://www.bestwoodlodgehotel.co.uk/information/history/

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Knitting with a 14th-century goodwife….

textiles-and-clothing

Textiles and Clothing 1150-1450 by Elisabeth Crowfoot, Frances Pritchard and Kay Staniland, published by Boydell Press, in association with the Museum of London. ISBN 978-1-84385-239-3 (First published in 1992 and reprinted numerous times since then, lastly in paperback in 2016, which is the version I have.)

Before I proceed, I will say that among the sites that provided contributions to this work is Baynard’s Castle (excavated in 1972), which was, of course, a very important residence of the House of York. The book’s coverage ends at 1450, but I am sure the site will still be of interest to those of the murrey-and-blue persuasion.

baynards-castle

The sites covered are mostly along the northern bank of the Thames, in the old city, and were excavated over a period of about twenty years. Archaeologists have discovered all sorts of clothing and textiles that speak of their owners’ status. The list of finds includes “knitting, tapestries, silk hair-nets and elaborately patterned oriental, Islamic and Italian fabrics….beautifully made buttons, buttonholes and edgings which display superb craftsmanship and a high level of needlework skills.”

I purchased the book because it was referred to when I was reading something else, and I am very glad to possess it. The intricate detail and beautiful illustrations are breathtaking. There are some astonishing reconstructions of complicated designs, built up from small fragments. They reveal some exquisitely delicate, decorative silks, brocades and other fine fabrics. At Baynard’s Castle, the most exotic piece retrieved was a Chinese twill damask woven from silk. Oh, to know to whom that belonged!

The samples of knitting are almost moving. There it is, good old stocking stitch, exactly as we knit it now. Looking at the fragments, the medieval period melds with the present, as if there were no intervening centuries. I felt I could sit amicably side by side with a 14th-century goodwife, our needles tapping away…producing the same result. Perhaps she would knit one of a pair of gloves, and I the other. I know, the weaving and other handcrafts are still the same as well, but it was the knitting that touched me.

If I have a criticism, it is that I would have liked more colour photographs. Determining the details of various forms of warp and weft is not always easy when shown in grayscale. At least, maybe they are to someone with weaving experience, but not to someone who seldom ventured beyond knitting.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Textiles-Clothing-c-1150-1450-Medieval-Excavations/dp/1843832399/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1485971343&sr=1-1&keywords=textiles+1150

(Please note that the book to which the above link takes you is illustrated with an earlier cover than the one which will arrive, which has the cover pictured at the top of this page.)

Gloves? Or bare hands….?

enforcer

BBC TWO: Henry VIII’s Enforcer: The Rise and Fall of Thomas Cromwell, information concerning which will be found here.

This programme is very interesting, and I recommend it, but it’s not the content that has prompted me to write this, rather the treatment of an ancient copy of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “History of the Kings of Britain”.

I have commented before that some ancient books and papers are treated as if they will shatter if someone breathes upon them, while others – in this case a really old copy of Geoffrey of Monmouth – are almost manhandled. Diarmaid MacCulloch, professor of the history of the church at Oxford, was, I thought, rather enthusiastically bare-handed with the precious pages.

Why no white gloves and bated breath? What, exactly, makes the difference between gloves and no gloves? It seems to me that not so long ago, they were worn every time. But not now.

Aha, puzzle no more. The British Library has already answered my question here! So many apologies to the good professor!

 

white-glove

 

Richard III and Dr Who together beneath one roof….?

belmont-hotel-leicester

The Belmont Hotel in Leicester has rooms to acknowledge the city’s claims to fame, including a Space Room, because of the National Space Centre and the university’s successful developments in space research since the 1960s. Former Dr Who, Colin Baker, came to advertise the new room. Possibly without the aid of the Tardis, but one can never be sure. He may even know Richard.

Another room is planned for Leicester City Football Club’s triumph in the 2o16 season, but for Ricardians, the main news will be that there is also a room to commemorate the discovery of Richard III!

http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/doctor-who-adds-star-quality-to-hotel-s-new-space-room/story-30097471-detail/story.html

There is more concerning Dr Who and Richard III at :-

https://murreyandblue.wordpress.com/2017/03/04/the-doctor-at-bosworth/

George III revealed

This documentary, presented by Robert Hardman of the Daily Mail, unveils some of our longest-serving King’sgeorgeiii secrets, such as a draft abdication letter after American independence was achieved. It also discusses his health issues in greater detail. Until recently, it was thought that he suffered from porphyria, a physical disease that Mary Stuart carried to her descendants but now it appears that he was afflicted by some form of insanity and was aware of it in the early stages. Hardman tells us that George, as a prolific writer, is likely to have appreciated the many scientific and georgetechtechnological advances that followed his reign.

We are also told how, at the onset of his reign, he micro-managed his royal duties, possibly wearing out his formidable mind. Just like Henry VI, George III had an early attack, in 1782 when his favourite son died and the letter was drafted, but recovered within months, only to lose that mind irrevocably at a later stage. Fortunately, George had several adultoldgeorgeiii sons, the eldest of which could serve as Regent, whilst he stumbled around unaware, either mentally or visually, of his granddaughter Charlotte’s death in childbirth or of her cousin’s birth. At least he knew about the “discovery” of Australia.

Here  is a link to the recently released “Georgian Papers Online”, now part of the Royal Collection and here is Hardman’s original article.

Views of Framlingham

This has to be one of every Ricardian’s favourite sites and now this article explains how a documentary about a certain song came to be made there, greatly featuring the town and some local students.students

Here is the official video.

The real site of the Battle of Barnet…?

site-of-battle-of-barnet

The excellent BBC series Digging for Britain, Series 5, the episode concerning the east of Britain, presented by the equally excellent Dr Alice Roberts, contained a section on the Battle of Barnet, 1471.

Why is it that an accepted site for a battle so often proves to be the wrong one? Bosworth is a prime example, of course, but it seems the Battle of Barnet was another. Apparently it has always been thought that the battle took place where the town of Barnet is now, yet there was never any proof. So the discovery of some 15th-century cannon balls in fields outside the town had the local detectors out in force.

Accounts of the battle describe it as having taken place in a hollow in the landscape, and the area of the fields fitted the bill. Standing in the middle and panning his camera around in a circle, one of the searchers showed how the land rose gradually all around. He and his fellows searched and searched, only finding things that might have had nothing to do with the battle, but then (in a style that brought Time Team to life again!) right at the eleventh hour a final detector happened upon something more substantial. They did not know if it was from horse harness or perhaps male clothing, although it was a little heavy for that.

battle-of-barnet

Various other finds convinced them they had found the true site of the battle. But it seemed curious that Edward IV, arriving on the scene with his battle at the end of the day, should choose to place himself in a dip. Surely that would be inviting trouble? Especially as he did not know exactly where the Lancastrian army was situated. But, the Lancastrians didn’t know the exact whereabouts of the Yorkists.

Battle commenced in at dawn, in fog, with the Earl of Warwick, in command of the Lancastrians, firing his cannon where he thought the Yorkists were. But he couldn’t see them because they were low down, and his cannon balls went harmlessly over their heads. Edward, on the other hand, kept his cannon silent, in order not to give his position away.

It became a bloody affair, with the Lancastrians mistaking one of their own, the Earl of Oxford, whose badge was a star, for Edward IV, whose badge was the sun in splendour.  Warwick was killed in the rout that followed.

So, was Edward IV a brilliant tactician in choosing the site he did? Or was it pure chance? We will never know.

See this previous post or this one.

Go here to see some of the programme itself.

What if…?

Having a little trawl around the internet, I came across this page which I hadn’t seen before. It is an alternative history, wondering ‘What if Richard III had won the Battle of Bosworth?’ It is only short, but refreshing to read about his victory for a change!

Richard's at Sudeley soon

What did Richard III sound like….?

dr-shaw-and-richard-accent

Back in 2013, Dr Philip Shaw of Leicester University gave a demonstration of how Richard might have spoken, putting into the spoken word two of Richard’s personal letters. He concluded that from Richard’s spelling, he would have sounded as if he came from the West Midlands – Dudley, Birmingham, Ludlow, or thereabouts.

This sample of Dr Shaw’s “Richard” is in circulation again (which I know courtesy of Jenny Mcfie – thank you, Jenny), so maybe those who have not heard it before would like to hear it now:-

http://www.itv.com/news/update/2013-02-05/richard-iii-had-a-west-midlands-accent/

Listening to him is very strange indeed. Today’s royalty and aristocrats all sound the same. Juicy fruit from the same superior plum tree. But back then it seems they were identifiable by the place they came from. As we all were and mostly still are. Richard spent a lot of his childhood in Ludlow Castle, hence the Ludlow-area accent. So, did Edward and George sound like that too? But what did Henry VII sound like? Any lingering Welsh from his first fourteen years? And what of Anne Neville, Elizabeth Woodville and Margaret Beaufort? Fascinating thoughts. I’d love to know what Warwick the Kingmaker had to say for himself.

One last thought about Richard. As he spent most of his adult life in the north, did he end up with a Yorkshire accent? We will never know, of course.

Go back further and they all sounded French anyway.

Where’s that danged time machine when we need it?

 

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