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Conisbrough and Sandal, two castles of interest to the House of York….

Impression of the Black Prince and Edward III at Conisbrough

Sandal Castle in about 1300

Sandal in about 1300

Yorkshire is obviously of great interest to Ricardians, as it is to those who are generally interested in the county. You will all find something to educate and entertain you at the midgleywebpages.com site, which traces the origins of the Yorkshire name Midgley.

However there are two pages that I think may be of particular consequence to Ricardians. These concern the castles of Conisbrough and Sandal, both of which have important links to the House of York. Conisbrough was the second residence Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, whose son, Richard of Conisbrough lived there. Richard’s son, also named Richard, became the 3rd Duke of York, father of Edward IV and Richard III. Sandal Castle was the scene of the Battle of Wakefield, at which Richard, 3rd Duke of York, met his end.

Both articles are very informative and lavishly illustrated. They are well worth a browse. 

http://midgleywebpages.com/conisbrough.html

http://midgleywebpages.com/sandal.html

 

 

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Richard III, courtesy of Dundee University….

Dundee University - Richard III

This portrait of Richard, commissioned in 2015 by Dundee University, somehow escaped my notice at the time. At least, I really do not recall it, which is a shame, because it’s rather good

And to see a fuller version of the portrait, as well as more information, go here.

A view of Richard and Leicester – all the way from Lahore….

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It is always interesting to find out how Richard’s discovery and reinterment, and the effect upon Leicester, is viewed from afar. In this case, Lahore. Mind you, I’m not sure Leicester will appreciate being situated “in the North of London”!

The Nanfans and the shadow of Raggedstone Hill….

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It was a member of the Nanfan family of Birtsmorton Court in Worcestershire (Sir Richard Nanfan, Deputy Lieutenant of Calais) who told tales to Henry VII about Sir James Tyrell giving succour to the fugitive Yorkist de la Pole brothers, Edmund and Richard. Tyrell had done this knowing full well that the elder brother, Edmund, planned to take the throne from Henry. Nanfan’s action led to Tyrell’s eventual execution, after the so-called confession that he murdered the boys in the Tower on the orders of Richard III.

However, it is not this aspect of the Nanfan family’s history that I am about to relate here, rather is it the dreadful curse that is supposed to have been cast upon one of Sir Richard’s ancestors, a Sir John Nanfan (there was more than one, and I cannot say exactly which it was).

Birtsmorton Court

The Nanfans originated in Cornwall, but occupied Birtsmorton Court for about 300 years all told. As you will see from the photograph above, the moated house has to be one of the most beautiful in the realm. Weddings are held there now, and such a spectacular setting cannot help but make it sought after. The house nestles in the eastern shadow of the Malvern Hills. Oh, how frequently we use that expression, “in the shadow of”. It generally means nothing sinister, but in the case of the Nanfans of Birtsmorton, it  had supposedly fatal consequences.

North-west of Birtsmorton, just a little closer to the hills, is Little Malvern Priory, and it was one of the monks from here who cursed the Nanfans. It began when Sir John Nanfan enclosed land on Raggedstone Hill (one of the spine of the Malvern Hills that can be seen from three counties – see photograph at the top of this page) that the priory believed was its property, not his. One November day, Sir John found one of the monks on this disputed land and ordered him away. The monk stoutly insisted that the land didn’t belong to the Nanfans, and that if Sir John persisted in trying to steal it, God’s wrath would descend upon him.

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The summit of Raggedstone Hill showing how it deserves its name. Photograph from geography.org.uk

Well, Sir John wasn’t going to be spoken to like that, and told the monk what he could do with his threats. The monk calmly excommunicated him and warned that whenever the shadow of Raggedstone Hill fell upon Birtsmorton Court, the oldest son of the family would die within a year. Perhaps it was no coincidence that the shadow fell thus that very day. Nor was it a coincidence that Sir John’s son and heir died in the allotted time.

Supposedly the shadow of the hill can only fall on the house on a certain November day, and if the sun isn’t shining at the time, i.e. is hidden by cloud, no prophesy can come true.

According to the legend, Nanfan heirs did indeed die within a year of Birtsmorton Court being darkened by the shadow of the hill. Roy Palmer, in Herefordshire Folklore, lists that one fell from a horse, another was a casualty in the Civil War (the only royalist to die in a skirmish in the Leadon Valley), and yet another died in a duel after the Restoration. When the elder branch of the Nanfans withered, the malediction transferred to a junior branch, and so on.

It has to be conceded that the Nanfans do not have the legend to themselves. Another version is that it was the Druids who from the hilltop cursed the Romans down below.Duids cursing the Romans

Is any of it true? Well, there will be some incident at the heart of it, a confrontation, and maybe someone wished something nasty on someone else, but that will be the end of it. I do not believe in curses. Um, well, not really….

 

Whose spirit might be wandering Middleham Castle….?

St Columba may have been the founder of Iona, but he (apparently) had some rather odd views, including the need to banish women and cows from the island. He said—”Where there is a cow there is a woman, and where there is a woman there is mischief.” Like far too many men of God, his antipathy toward women was ridiculous. It wasn’t the fault of women, it was the fault of men who obviously could not be guaranteed to keep their base urges under control. But, blame the women. It’s easier. And keep them out of the Church, so you can keep blaming them for everything. Pathetic.

But I digress. St Columba’s views on women are not why I am writing this article, rather it is something else he apparently did. Today, while I was passing the time waiting for an appointment, I browsed through the Encyclopaedia of Superstitions by Edwin and Mona A Radford, and came across the following passage, which, rather strangely, comes under the heading of Christening!

“…St Columba, founder of Iona, buried one of his monks alive under the foundations of the new Abbey. It is true that reports state that the monk, Oran, consented to die. That, at least, is how O’Donnell attempts to gloss over the story in his Lives of the Saints. There is little doubt, however, that the ambitious Colomba meant the foundations of the Abbey to stand, and immolated the monk…”

“…Baring-Gould finds an origin in the period, in heathen times, when every house, castle and bridge had provision made to give each its presiding, protective spirit. This may, and possibly did, grow out of the earlier pagan idea of a sacrifice associated with the beginning of every work of importance. Thus the sacrifice was buried under the foundations…”

“…It may be that this explains ghost-haunted houses—the protective spirit of the sacrifice on its patrols…”

“…When, in 1885, Helsworthy parish church was restored, the south-west angle of the wall was taken down. In it, embedded in mortar and stone was the skeleton of a man who had obviously been buried, hurriedly, alive. There was no sign of an orthodox tomb…”

Holsworthy

Holsworthy Parish Church, Devon

So, St Colomba and the builders of Helsworthy (which I think must be Holsworthy in Devon) parish church appear to have thought nothing of burying someone alive in order to protect a building. This does not seem very Christian. In fact, it is a shocking practice. Yes, yes, in times gone by things were different, but murder is murder, no matter how you dress it up, and I wonder if St Columba, that holy man of God, would have been so keen if he were expected to be the victim? I’d hazard not. He would have had too much of God’s work to do, right?

Columba lived in the 6th century, but Holsworthy church dates from the mid-13th century, well within the medieval period. Were human sacrifices still being made at that time? And for a church? If so, how long did the practice continue? And if it applied to important building works, e.g. churches, castles and bridges, how many human remains might yet be found beneath such foundations?

Depending upon whether or not one believes in ghosts and hauntings, is it really possible that many of our great buildings and ancient bridges are built upon sacrificial victims? Were the medieval ruling classes still so superstitious that they could set aside their Christian beliefs and keep quiet so that some poor so-and-so could be buried alive? Or was it something the more gullible builders did on the quiet? I cannot, for example, envisage Richard III sanctioning a human sacrifice before the building of the chapel for the dead of Towton!

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And what of the supposed ghost of Middleham Castle? People like to think it is Richard, wandering his old home again…but what if it isn’t Richard at all? What if it’s a victim of human sacrifice who was robbed of his life when the castle was first built, to ensure the castle’s security and longevity and to protect the place forever more?

There are other churches, other castles and other bridges…and other ghosts?

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Old London Bridge was supposedly built on human sacrifice

 

 

Why Castle Isabel became Castle Philipp….

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There are numerous castles in the Welsh Marches. I was going to say countless, but I’m sure someone will have counted to the very last motte. Among the lesser known is Shrawardine (pronounced Shray-den), in Shropshire, not far from Shrewsbury. What remains of it overlooks the River Severn, and as there was another fortification of some sort on the other bank, at Little Shrawardine, it is believed they guarded a crossing of some sort.

It is not known when there was first a castle at Shrawardine, but it is mentioned in 1165, and it led a chequered life until 1244, when it came into the hands of the Fitzalan family, Earls of Arundel. The castle was rebuilt under John Fitzalan, the seventh earl, who renamed it Castle Isabel, after his wife, Isabel d’Aubigny.

Thus it remained until the eleventh earl, Richard Fitzalan (beheaded 1397) married the young widow, Philippa Mortimer, Countess of Pembroke. It would seem he doted on her, for he too rebuilt and refurbished Shrawardine castle (his most important castle in the Welsh Marches – his main residence was Arundel in Sussex) and changed its name to Castle Philipp.

A romantic lot, these Fitzalan men? Well, I can’t imagine why either earl would rename a castle after his wife unless he loved her. If they felt nothing, the castle would have remained plain Shrawardine throughout.[1]

[1]See Lords and Lordship by R.R. Davies, p. 87. “…Richard, earl of Arundel (d.1397), renamed Shrawardine castle (Shropshire) Castle Philippa in honour of his wife, Philippa Mortimer, and doubtless transformed it to suit her tastes and needs…” I have seen it named Castle Philipp, Chastel Philipp and Castle Philippa and several other variations.

To read more, although not about Richard and Philippa, because for a long time, although it was known there was a Castle Philipp, it was not known it was Shrawardine, please see: http://www.castlewales.com/shraw.html and http://www.cpat.org.uk/projects/longer/shraward/shraward.htm and http://castlefacts.info/castledetails/castleDetails3?uin=13187

 

 

Black Vaughan of Hergest Court in Herefordshire….

 

Hergest Court, showing water in which the ghost of Black Vaughan is supposedly trapped - photograph from Google

Hergest Court, showing the pool in which the ghost of Black Vaughan is supposedly trapped beneath a stone – photograph from Google.

Thomas Vaughan ap Rosser was born in 1400, and nicknamed ‘Black’ Vaughan because of his black hair; or perhaps because of his black nature. No one knows which. His main residence was Hergest Court, near Kington in Herefordshire, and his wife was Ellen Gethin of Llanbister, Radnorshire. She was, from all accounts, a formidable woman, maybe even prepared to dress as a man in order to take part in an archery contest. Her purpose was not to aim at the target, but at the heart of the cousin who had killed her young brother. True? Who knows?

Thomas Vaughan had interests in the Stafford lordships of Huntington, Brecon and Hay, and in 1461 Edward IV appointed him receiver of Brecon, Hay, and Huntington during the minority of Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham. Thomas supported Edward in the Wars of the Roses, but while marching toward Banbury in 1469, to aid the Yorkist cause at the Battle of Edgecote, he was captured by the Lancastrians.

Battle of Edgecote - from YouTube link below

You can see an interesting animation of the Battle of Edgecote here  – from which the above illustration is taken.

The Lancastrians took Thomas to Pontefract and beheaded him. His body was returned to Kington, to the church of St Mary, on the hill above the village. In due course Ellen joined him there, and their alabaster effigies still adorn their tomb.

Thomas 'Black' Vaughan and his wife, Ellen Gethin - The Terrible

Thomas ‘Black’ Vaughan and his wife, Ellen Gethin, known as ‘The Terrible’.

There is some doubt about which Thomas Vaughan is actually meant in this story. Maybe Black Vaughan died actually during the Battle of Edgecote, and wasn’t captured or executed in Pontefract. Indeed, some sources claim that the Thomas Vaughan of this story was the traitor, Sir Thomas, who in early 1483 turned upon the Lord Protector, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, in the attempt by the Woodvilles to deny Richard his rights by seizing the person of the boy king, Edward V, and having him crowned. Thus they, not Richard, would be in charge of the realm. This Sir Thomas was indeed executed at Pontefract. And rightly so.

Death was not the end of Black Vaughan, for he began to make his presence felt again, overturning farm wagons in broad daylight, and frightening women as they rode to market. He could even take on the form of a huge fly in order to torment horses. Once, as a bull, he entered the church during a service.

St Mary's Church, Kington, Herefordshire

St Mary’s Church, Kington, Herefordshire

In the 19th century, Kilvert was told the following story by a local man. “Twelve or thirteen ancient parsons assembled in the court of Hergest, and drew a circle, inside which they all stood with books and lighted candles, praying. The ghost was very resolute, and came among the parsons roaring like a bull. ‘Why so fierce, Mr Vaughan?’ asked one of the parsons mildly. ‘Fierce I was a man, fiercer still as a devil’, roared Vaughan, and all the candles were blown out except one, held by a very small, weak parson (also, says legend, named Vaughan). He hid the candle in his boots and so kept it alight, all the time praying hard until at length the violent spirit was quelled, and ‘brought down so small and humble that they shut him up in a snuff box’. The ghost made one humble petition—’Do not bury me beneath water’. But the parson immediately had him enclosed in a stone box, and buried him under the bed of the brooks and Hergest thenceforth was at peace.”

The Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hound of the Baskervilles

After that, so it is said, Hergest Court was haunted by a black dog that appeared every time a member of the Vaughan family was to die. (Don’t these entities always do that?) Conan Doyle visited the court, and used the black dog as a model for The Hound of the Baskervilles.

 

ST MARY’S CHURCH, FAIRFORD: ROYAL PORTRAITS

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St Mary’s, Fairford, Gloucestershire.  ‘A complete and perfect Perpendicular church’  and famous for it fine collection of medieval glass.

Described in Betjeman’s Best British Churches as ‘a complete and perfect Perpendicular’ church(1) this beautiful wool church was rebuilt by John Tame, a wool merchant from Gloucester , in the late 15th Century to replace a much older church.  The tower had already been rebuilt by Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick and Lord of the manor around 1430.  St Mary’s possesses a complete set of medieval stained glass, amongst the finest in England and it is this glass that I want to focus on now.  The glass was made between 1500 and 1517 and, other than the west window, which was severely damaged in a storm in 1703 and later restored, the glass has somehow miraculously survived, although how this has happened remains a mystery.  It has been suggested it has survived because of the royal portraits contained in them. The windows are thought to have been a gift from Henry Vll himself.  It should be remembered that when Henry had the young Edward Earl of Warwick executed in 1499 he seized his estates which included Fairford.  It has also been suggested that Henry may have then given the manor to Prince Arthur whose badge of ostrich feathers and motto appear in some of the windows and one of the portraits is thought to have been modelled up his wife, Katherine of Aragon.  Thirty years after Arthur’s death Henry Vlll presented Fairford manor to Katherine of  Aragon after he had divested her of her title of queen.  The portraits are mostly members of the Tudor royal family and influential people in the Tudor court  although one of them is thought to be of a Plantagenet, that of Henry’s brother-in-law, the young Edward of Westminster, one of the ‘princes in the Tower’   Other portraits were modelled on Henry himself, obviously, his wife Elizabeth of York, Catherine of Aragon, Prince Arthur, Henry’s  daughters Mary and Margaret and a young Henry Vlll and last but not least Margaret Beaufort (2)   I also think its possible that one of them is based on Richard lll, but that is purely my own speculation.

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Nave, north aisle, north Window.  The figure of the Queen of Sheba is believed to be a likeness of Elizabeth of York

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Chancel, north chapel, Lady Chapel, North window.  Jesus as a small boy in the temple modelled on a young Henry Vlll possibly.

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Holbein’s sketch of Henry Vlll as a child to compare IMG_3802.JPG

Nave,north aisle, west window.  The figure of Solomon is thought to have been modelled on Edward of Westminster, one of the ‘princes in the Tower’ and brother to Elizabeth of York

 

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Nave, north aisle, west window.  Could this figure be Morton? It has been described as Wolsey but I disagree.  

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A wooden boss on the roof of Bere Regis church thought to represent Morton in comparison.

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Chancel, south chapel, Corpus Christi Chapel, east window.  This version of the Virgin Mary is believed to have been modelled on Mary Tudor, Henry Vll’s daughter.   See picture below to compare likenesses.

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A portrait of Mary Tudor to compare to her likeness in the above portrait of her at Fairford.

 

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Nave, West Window.  The figure with the crown is thought to be that of Henry Vll entering Heaven.

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Chancel, north chapel, Lady Chapel, north window.  The Magus is believed to have been modelled on Prince Arthur.

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Chancel, north chapel, Lady Chapel, north window.  Two royal likenesses here.  It it thought that the Virgin Mary was modelled after Catherine of Aragon while that of the attendant with the doves is modelled on Margaret Tudor, Henry Vll’s daughter.  Could the lady in red be modelled on Margaret Beaufort?

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Two kings here..Henry Vl on the left and Henry Vll on the right.

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Purely my speculation here but could the warrior holding the severed head be a Tudor representation of King Richard lll?  For surely one shoulder has been depicted higher than the other one! 

I am  indepted to the excellent Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi  online for these images

(1) Sir John Betjeman, updated by Richard Surman, Betjeman’s Best British Churches p.270

(2) Sir Nickolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England, Gloucestershire 1. The Cotswolds, p367 

Interesting roots

“Who do you think you are?” has returned and the third episode of the new series (20 July) featured Clare Balding. After last year’s programmes , this one and this other recent one, it is no surprise that tracing this racing presenter’s royal ancestry is a little easier.

Clare’s great-grandmother was Lady Victoria (hence the middle name) Stanley, who married, secondly, Sir Malcolm Bullock. This links her to the Earls of Derby, the first of whom was that Thomas, Lord Stanley who liked watching battles, although they were not broadcast live in his time. In particular, the 17th Earl married Lady Alice Montagu, who shared “Tudor” descent such that Ferdinando (5th Earl, 1559-94) was regarded as a hypothetical Catholic claimant after Mary of Scotland’s execution. Unsurprisingly, the Derby, one of the events she has often presented, was named for an ancestor (the 12th Earl, above right) from 1780.

Additionally, her uncle is William Hastings-Bass, the 17th Earl of Huntingdon and once the Queen’s trainer, connecting her to the marriage between Francis (2nd Earl, tomb in Ashby de la Zouch to the left) and Catherine Pole, thus to George, Duke of Clarence and Edward III.

I would rather have heard the Huntingdon line mentioned than so much about her Dutch-American forebears at the end.

Richard, the Stanleys and the Harringtons….

Joseph Mallord William Turner - Ingleborough from the Terrace of Hornby Castle

Joseph Mallord Turner – Ingleborough from the terrace of Hornby Castle

Well, I always knew the Stanley brothers were sh-1-ts (yes, I’m being relatively polite – that is a 1 not an i) and this article (link below) confirms my opinion. No doubt a lot of you will already know the story of the Harringtons’ struggle against the thieving self-interest of the Stanley brothers, Thomas and William, who wanted everything, especially the Harringtons’ seat of Hornby Castle in Lancashire. But Edward IV intervened and settled in favour of the Stanleys, presumably because he wanted their support. He granted Thomas Stanley the custody and marriages of the two Harrington heiresses. So Richard wasn’t able to save the family from the Stanleys,  but it certainly aroused the latter’s ire.hornbycastlelancashire_large

Many of you will also have read this 2010 article or Hipshon’s book, but in case you haven’t, it is very informative. This bitter quarrel, and Richard’s support for the Harringtons, which was renewed when he became king, probably is behind the treachery at Bosworth. Nothing to do with Henry Tudor and Margaret Beaufort, but everything to do with an overwhelming desire to be avenged on Richard for backing the Harringtons. The Stanleys bore an almighty grudge, but hid it behind apparent new allegiance to Henry Tudor. My opinion, of course.

Footnote: The events described above, i.e. Richard coming out in favour of the Harringtons in the 1460s, came to a head only a week or so after an earlier instance of Thomas Stanley’s propensity for treachery against England’s reigning king, this time Edward IV, and it was Richard who exposed him. Edward must have regretted deciding in Stanley’s favour. I will describe it all in an article scheduled for the day after tomorrow.

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