murreyandblue

A great WordPress.com site

Archive for the month “July, 2017”

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.

The Battle Of Shrewsbury, 1403

In order to appease (as he hoped) the Percy family Henry IV granted them all those parts of southern Scotland that they could conquer. Despite advice from Northumberland that royal assistance was not needed he set out in the summer of 1403 to march to the borders with a small army to support their siege of Cocklaws Castle.

On reaching the Midlands, Henry received news that the Percys were in revolt; after some initial hesitation he summoned the levies of several counties to his banner and force marched to Shrewsbury, arriving there just before the rebels.

At Shrewsbury was Henry’s son the Prince of Wales, who was responsible for defending the English marches from Owain Glyndwr. The Prince, who was aged about 16, had until recently enjoyed the advice and support of Hotspur’s uncle, Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester, a very experienced soldier who had served John of Gaunt and been steward of Richard II’s household. However, Worcester had deserted, taking with him more than half the Prince’s men. Unfortunately it does not appear how many men we are talking about – the state of royal finances was such that it was probably hundreds rather than thousands.

Hotspur had come south to Chester with an advance guard of two hundred men, presumably mounted. These included the Scottish Earl of Douglas, captured at Homildon the previous year, but now an ally. At Chester he denounced Henry IV as “Henry of Lancaster” and proclaimed Richard II, whom he promised would appear at a rendezvous at Sandiway in a few days. This was sufficient to raise a considerable army in Cheshire itself. It is likely that other recruits came from Flint and other parts of North East Wales and from Shropshire. To these of course were added Worcester’s contribution. Northumberland remained in the North. Either he genuinely fell ill, or he was blocked by Ralph Neville, Earl of Westmorland, or he simply moved too slowly.

Hotspur’s strategy is not clear. Glyndwr, with whom he was presumably in alliance, was many days march away in the south west of Wales. The most likely explanation is that he decided to seize Shrewsbury, which could then have served as a gateway to England for Welsh forces. There is also reason to believe that Hotspur expected reinforcement (that he did not receive) from various English peers. (The chronicler Hardyng reports that some years later Henry IV discovered a casket of letters sent by his nobles to Hotspur at this time. ) After the battle the Duke of York and others were accused of complicity, but absolved from blame by Henry himself. The men of Chester mustered at Sandiway as promised, but needless to say, Richard II did not join them.

It’s a straight road from Sandiway, through Tarporley and Whitchurch to Shrewsbury. Arriving on the outskirts Hotspur realised that Henry IV had forestalled him.

Hotspur chose a good defensive position about three miles north of the town. The ground sloped slightly upwards towards the north, meaning that the King’s men would have to advance uphill against some of the finest archers in England. There were also a number of small ponds, complicating offensive movement.

The sizes of the forces are not known; one source says that there were 20,000 dead. This is obviously absurd. Nevertheless everyone seems agreed that it was an exceptionally hard fought battle, and there were significant casualties

A guesstimate of mine would be that Hotspur had around 5000 men and the King a few more, maybe 7000. By and large the Percy army would be of better quality – more “professional” because it recruited from areas noted for warriors. Many of the King’s men would be amateur county levies from relatively peaceful shires.

Hotspur’s principal known commanders were his uncle, Worcester, and the Earl of Douglas. These were both experienced warriors, particularly Worcester. The important Cheshire knights, Vernon and Venables seem to have been next in rank.

As far as men of rank were concerned, apart from himself Henry IV’s most experienced commander by far was the renegade Scot George Dunbar, the Scottish Earl of March, a personal enemy of Douglas. The Prince of Wales and the earls of Kent, Arundel, Stafford and Warwick were all inexperienced young men in their teens and early twenties.

The Earl of Stafford was the husband of Henry’s cousin, Anne of Gloucester. Just prior to the battle he was created Constable of England (replacing Northumberland) and given command of the van.

The likely line up of the royal army being:

Prince of Wales     King         Stafford

(Left)                    (Centre)      (Right)

The battle opened with the traditional exchange of arrows, the shooting of the men of Cheshire being particularly devastating. Stafford was killed very early in the battle and the Prince was severely wounded in the face – though he continued to fight after treatment.

Hotspur and Douglas led an attack on the royal standard. Their objective was simply to kill the King. Fighting around Henry was bitter, and his standard bearer, Sir Walter Blount, was killed. It is known that Henry himself was engaged personally in the fighting.

Hotspur’s men thought that they were winning. A cry of “Henry Percy -King” rose from them. But then Hotspur was struck down – possibly by a stray arrow and the cry changed to “Henry Percy – dead”. The rebels routed off the field, pursued for miles by relentless royalists.

Worcester was taken alive, and executed next day in the town of Shrewsbury. As were Vernon and Venables. Douglas was treated as a POW and eventually allowed to return to Scotland. Northumberland was tried, but eventually released having been found guilty only of ‘trespass’ by Parliament – he was to rebel again, and be killed in battle like his son. (Henry was careful never to give another political opponent a Parliamentary trial.)

One King’s side many knighthoods were given, and there were also grants of confiscated lands. Edmund Earl of Kent was apparently created a KG on the field, a distinction so unusual that it suggests some act of exceptional personal bravery.

While on a Cheshire road, Richard, Duke of Gloucester happened upon the retainers of Thomas, Lord Stanley….

knights ambushed on road

In my other article about Richard’s support for the Harringtons of Lancashire against Thomas, Lord Stanley, * I promised to write more about Stanley’s treachery and thirst for revenge on Richard. Other events happened at around the same time as the Harrington/Stanley quarrels, indeed the two are contiguous, and this time Richard was responsible for Thomas Stanley coming off worse.

At the end of the 1460s Richard took the side of the Harrington family against Stanley, who was trying to crush them and steal their property, especially Hornby Castle in Lancashire, which he particularly coveted. Edward IV decided in the Stanleys’ favour, even though the Harringtons had been staunchly Yorkist, and Stanley was…anyone’s guess, but beneath it all I suppose he was Lancastrian. No, he was a Stanleyite, only interested in his own wealth and advancement, and he didn’t care how he went about it. He must have felt smug and vindicated when Edward decided in his favour, but he wouldn’t forget Richard’s opposition.

hornbycastlelancashire_large

On 12th March 1470, a battle was fought at Empingham in Lincolnshire. Well, just over the county border in Rutland. It was to be known to posterity as the Battle of Losecoat Field. Hostilities first stirred when Lord Welles, a Lancastrian, plundered the manor of Sir Thomas Burgh, Edward IV’s Master of the Horse. Things went from bad to worse, and soon the countryside was in uproar.

The bare bones of it are that Edward’s disgruntled brother, George, Duke of Clarence, deserted him to support the Earl of Warwick, who was (at this time) on the Lancastrian side. It is believed that Warwick and Clarence were behind the uprising which they intended to exploit to bring Edward down and (Clarence hoped) put him on the throne instead. But Edward moved swiftly, and took his well-trained army, complete with formidable hardware, to confront the much larger army of rebels that consisted of a rabble of common men. Faced with such royal discipline and fire-power, the ragtag rebels fled, casting off its coats as it went. Thus the Battle of Empingham became known as the Battle of Losecoat Field.

The battle is commemorated in the hall of Oakham Castle, where there is a display of horseshoes, the oldest of which was presented by Edward after the battle. At the time it had the king’s coat of arms on the top and also the Rose of York on a red background.

Warwick and Clarence made themselves scarce, riding for Manchester, where they intended to join forces with—guess who?—Lord Stanley! At this point, however, Edward did not know of Stanley’s duplicity. Richard did, however, having found out purely by chance.

Richard, seventeen at the time, had been holding Wales for the king, and on hearing of Clarence and Warwick’s treachery, he set out with a small, hastily collected force, intending to give his support to Edward. I will now let Paul Murray Kendall take up the story:-

“…he [Richard] headed north on the Hereford to Shrewsbury road. As he was riding through Cheshire, Richard suddenly found his way blocked by followers of Lord Stanley. He scattered them and moved on warily, dispatching a warning to the king of Stanley’s hostility.

“Richard’s intervention had come at an opportune moment. Lord Stanley, who was married to Warwick’s sister, had given Warwick and Clarence assurances that he would support them. As they moved northward, temporizing with the King, Stanley, at Manchester, was gathering his retainers. At almost the same time he learned that Warwick and Clarence were galloping westward from Chesterfield, expecting him to succour them. Stanley’s nerve deserted him. He sent messengers riding in hot haste: one, to Clarence and Warwick with word that he was unable to help them; the other, to the King, protesting righteously that the Duke of Gloucester had attacked his people. Abandoning all hope of raising a following, Clarence and Warwick wheeled about and fled south.

“By this time King Edward, discerning the true state of affairs, had sent word to Richard thanking him for his prompt action and requesting him to stay his march. [Richard went to his Harrington friends at Hornby Castle, where he was on 26th March.] Lord Stanley [was ordered by Edward] to disband his retainers and keep the peace. On March 25, at York, Edward commanded proclamation to be made that no man was to stir up trouble because of ‘any matter of variance late fallen between his right entirely beloved brother, the Duke of Gloucester and Lord Stanley’. Two or three days later Richard received commissions to array the men of Gloucestershire and Hereford in order to join the King in the pursuit of his rebels.”

Clarence and Warwick, with their wives, managed to escape to France, where they were given a warm welcome by the officers of Louis XI. They would return to invade England the following year. Warwick would die at the Battle of Barnet, and Clarence would sneak back into Edward’s good books and fight for him at the Battle of Tewkesbury.

So, within a very short space of time Thomas Stanley garnered two very strong reasons to resent Richard, who in the future, as Richard III, would again show support for the Harringtons. Were Thomas and his brother William men to bear grudges? Oh, yes. They waited until August 1485, Bosworth, and exacted full revenge. Thomas remained inactive in the battle (if he was there at all), while William pitched in on the side of Henry Tudor.

As I said in my article on the Harringtons’ quarrel with the Stanleys, I think the outcome of Bosworth had much more to do with the past and bruised Stanley egos, than with Henry Tudor, Margaret Beaufort et al. Thomas and William Stanley merely concealed their real motivation behind a screen of new allegiance to Henry.

* This ‘previous’ article has been moved, and now follows on 22nd July 2017. Sorry for the mix-up.

Thomas, Lord Stanley

Thomas, Lord Stanley

A History Walk in Wiltshire

Sometimes, in this very old country of ours,  even a simple afternoon’s walk out along the river  can come up with some rewarding historical data relating to the Middle Ages and the Wars of the Roses period. Recently I went for a walk near the Wiltshire Avon, from Figheldean to Netheravon, taking in  two little-known rural medieval churches, which proved to be of some interest.

At the Church of St Michaels and All Angels, where the worn effigies of two unknown 13thc knights lie in the porch, having been brought there from a now-lost nearby church or chapel, the advowsen was held in 1485-1487 by Francis Stourton. Stourton was the son of John Stourton who attended Richard III’s Parliament when attainders were passed on the Duke of Buckingham’s rebels. Unfortunately for Baron Stourton, his brother–in-law, Sir William Berkeley, had actually joined the Duke’s Rebellion. Richard said he would pardon Berkeley as long as John Stourton came up with a bond of 1000 marks. He agreed to pay the bond–but unfortunately, ungrateful William Berkeley promptly shot off to Brittany to join Henry Tudor, leaving Baron Stourton with a hefty bill. In-laws, eh?

One of the local manors, Alton Magna, also happened to belong at one time to the Earl of Warwick, Richard Neville. It is not certain  how he aquired it, as it had descended with the Honour of Leicester from Simon de Montfort, to Henry Duke of Lancaster, Henry’s daughter Maud, then her sister Blanche, the wife of John of Gaunt. When Blanche’s son became Henry IV in 1399 the honour of Leicester passed to the Crown.

Going along a pleasant leafy back road from Figheldean church, the traveller eventually comes to the village of Netheravon. Its church of All Saints has some similarities architectural qualities to that in Figheldean, including a very tall, stark tower. There was probably a Saxon  church originally  on site, and there is  visible Norman work that survives, including a carving of beasts on the capital of an exterior pillar.

The church was a prebendal church and one of the prebendaries in the 15th c happened to be Thomas Rotherham,who was first Bishop of Rochester, then Bishop of Lincoln and finally Archbishop of York. He was Keeper of the Privy Seal for King Edward IV and was appointed Lord Chancellor. When Edward died, Rotherham unlawfully handed the Great Seal to Elizabeth Woodville, and hence lost his position as Chancellor. He was present at the council meeting where Lord Hastings was arrested and then executed, and was himself arrested as part of the conspiracy. He went to the Tower, but not for very long; he was soon released and continued to be a player on the scene.

  As at Figheldean, the manor of Netheravon was held by the Duchy of Lancaster, first half of it, then eventually the whole. At one point one of the halves was held by the notorious Hugh Depenser the Elder and his family during  the reign of Edward II.  Upon their downfall, Queen Isabella was granted the estate  for life.  However, when her son, Edward III, captured her and Roger Mortimer at Nottingham in 1330, Edward gave the estate to Edward de Bohun. Later, through Mary, wife of Henry IV, it became part of the Duchy of Lancaster. Other local Despenser lands went to the Earl of Salisbury, which may be how Richard Neville came to own a manor in Figheldean.

Several local estates were also held by Sir William Beauchamp, husband to Elizabeth, suo jure Baronness St Amand; upon his death she held them jointly with her next husband, Sir Roger Tocotes. Sir Roger was a local landowner and sheriff who served George of Clarence for a while, but ended up as one of Buckingham’s rebels.

There is one other interesting feature of Netheravon. As you pass down the lane near the church, you will see the name ‘Beaufort’ clearly affixed  to a gate. The large, rather sombre mansion in the next field was owned by the Dukes of Beaufort -although not in medieval times, but rather from the middle of the 18th century, when the surname (Beaufort) and title (Somerset)  were reversed. Their stately pile, built by one Henry Somerset,  stands close to a Roman villa and is likely on the site of the medieval manor house of the Cormayles family.

 

 

TEN OF THE BEST MEDIEVAL ABBEYS IN BRITAIN.

We have lost so much over the centuries down to warfare, fire, wanton and quite senseless destruction.  Perhaps the most grievous loss has been that of our once magnificent Abbeys , which even in their ruinous states are still capable of moving us by their heartbreaking beauty, captured here in stunning and evocative photography Enjoy and maybe weep!

Note for my Ricardian friends.  It will be remembered  Rievaulx Abbey  has  been suggested as the possible burial place of Edward of Middleham, Richard and Anne’s small son,  being within easy reach of Middleham.

 

 

The Windsor centenary

Today in 1917, the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was renamed the House of Windsor, at the behest georgevof George V and his advisors. There has been a series on Channel Five about it, focussed on the Castle and Great Park, whilst rather too gossiply and less historical than it could have been, was highly informative, with some facts about Windsor in past centuries. A series on Channel Four has been somewhat more impressive.

Interestingly, both programmes were launched in February and not July, which would have been more logical.

Is Francis Lovell lying at rest in Gedling church….?

possible resting place of Francis Lovell - All Hallows, Gedling

There is a theory that Francis Lovell, on fleeing the battlefield at East Stoke in 1487, met with some mishap and ended up buried in the Church of All Hallows, Gedling in Nottinghamshire. Stoke Bardolph Castle (now gone) not far from Gedling, was the seat of the Bardolph family, of whom his mother, Jane, was a member. She still lived there at the time, and maybe he was trying to reach her.*

Gedling, Stoke Bardolph and East Stoke

The ferry at Fiskerton

Francis may have tried to cross the River Trent, which is adjacent to Stoke Field, at a place called Fiskerton, where the water is shallow, especially in summer.

What may have led to his death is not known. He may have been badly wounded during the battle. Whatever, he could well be the anonymous 15th-century knight buried under an alabaster slab at the south end of the altar-table in All Hallows. Or he may not be, of course. I must not lose sight of the fact that this is all supposition.

gedling-church-plan

The theory about Francis first turned up in the Transactions of the Thoroton Society: “A few lines in black wax constitute the remains of an inscription and effigy of a knight of the 15th century. The late Mr. Lawson Lowe, of Chepstow, said in December, 1882, that when he visited the church in 1865, the date could be made out, and he thought the effigy might be that of a knight who fought at the battle of Stoke, near Newark, in 1487.”

From this has developed the possibility that it is Francis Lovell who lies there. You can read more here, here or here.

I have a vague connection with Gedling church, having attended the nearby grammar school, Carlton le Willows, in 1958-60. In the summer of 1960, after our ‘O’ levels, little trips were arranged, one of which was to the church. I remember climbing the very worn steps in the tower, right to the top. The view was great, but I’m not good with heights, and while it was easy enough to climb, the angle of the worn steps was against me on the way down. The steps were very steep as well, and it was a l-o-n-g way down. Horrible. My legs shook for days afterwards, and I vowed never to climb a church tower again. It is a vow I’ve kept.

view from gedling church

The view from Gedling church tower

To think that I was in the very church where Francis Lovell may be buried….

 

francislovellgarterarms

* There seems some doubt about whether or not Lovell’s mother was still alive in 1487, the consensus being that she was not. So I must adjust my statement above, and wonder if, her death notwithstanding, Lovell may still have turned to Stoke Bardolph as a possibly friendly temporary refuge.

 

 

 

The little chapel in Westminster Abbey, beloved of Richard II….

CHAPEL OF OUR LADY OF THE PEW. Doorway from N. ambulatory

Chapel of Our Lady of the Pew, Westminster Abbey, opposite Tomb of Edward the Confessor

Tucked away off the north ambulatory of Westminster Abbey, so small it doesn’t seem possible it’s anything more than an entrance to the adjacent Chapel of St John the Baptist (which is also known as the Chapel of St Erasmus) is the Chapel of Our Lady of the Pew. The original entrance to the St John the Baptist chapel was closed in 1524 to accommodate the tomb of Bishop Ruthall, and a way was knocked through from the tiny Chapel of Our Lady of the Pew instead.

It is situated opposite the Shrine of St Edward the Confessor, and is only 5’ square, so strictly standing room only. But there was once an important royal worshipper who went there alone. King Richard II knelt in prayer there, in front of the beautiful Wilton Diptych, which was kept on a ledge in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary. [Not the statue that is there now—the first image of the Virgin Mary was presented by Mary, Countess of Pembroke, who died 1377. The hooks and outline of this image still remain.]

OL_of_Pew

It is said that as a boy, Richard prayed here before riding out to face the Peasants’ Revolt at Mile End. As a man, he knelt to pray for the soul of his dearly missed wife, Queen Anne of Bohemia. And he would have been there countless times afterward.

The chapel has been described thus: “The vaulting has red stars on a white ground with a roof boss depicting the Assumption of the Virgin, who is dressed in red. The ribs have barber pole bands and rosettes and the walls are diapered over with pine-shaped designs, on each of which is a fleur de lys. This was a popular design in the late 14th century. The antlers and head of a white hart, a badge of Richard II, can still be made out.”

The name Our Lady of the Pew might have been taken from the French Notre-Dame-du-Puy, or, alternatively, from the original meaning of “pew”, a small enclosure. At the beginning of the reign of Richard II the chapel was even smaller than now! Little more than 4’ 9”.

There was at one time no access from the Chapel of Our Lady of the Pew into the Baptist’s chapel, but the two were probably joined by an aperture through the party wall to afford Richard II a view of the services held in the Baptist’s chapel. It must have been almost claustrophobic for him, but also how very private. He used it for his own personal devotions, and although it has been altered since his day, it somehow retains a sense of him.

Chapel St John Baptist, Westminster Abbey, showing narrow doorway knocked through from the Chapel of Our Lady of the Pew

Chapel of St John the Baptist, Westminster Abbey, showing in the centre the narrow doorway knocked through from the Chapel of Our Lady of the Pew

Looking into the Chapel of Our Lady of the Pew  from the Baptist’s chapel, showing how very small it is. To the left, beyond the niche in the wall, is the way out into the ambulatory.

You will find a great deal more about this little chapel in Fourteenth Century England, Volume 3 by Chris Given-Wilson.

One thing puzzles me, however. If you stand outside the chapel, with your back to the shrine of the Confessor, you will see two “angels” on either side of the arched entrance. They are label- or head-stops, depicting what appear to be two young men with shields.

The one on the left seems very like Richard II, and his shield is definitely royal, with leopards and fleur-de-lis. His eyes seem like those of Richard as depicted in his tomb effigy. The one on the right has much curlier hair, but similar eyes, and I cannot place the shield he holds. I recognize it, but cannot for the life of me identify it. Can anyone help?

When the English ruled the Bastille….!

Historical reconstruction showing the moat below the walls of Paris (left), the Bastille and the Porte Saint-Antoine (right) in 1420

Historical reconstruction showing the moat below the walls of Paris (left), the Bastille and the Porte Saint-Antoine (right) in 1420

We all know about the storming of the Bastille on 14th July, 1789, resulting in the continued annual celebration of the occasion throughout France. But the Bastille was a medieval fortress, and we, the English, had a hand in its history. In fact, we were the reason it was built in the first place.

During the Hundred Years’ War, there was a perceived threat to Paris, especially from the east, where it was vulnerable to English attack. After France was defeated at the Battle of Poitiers, and King John II was captured and imprisoned in England, it was decided by the Provost of Parish, Étienne Marcel, that the Paris defences had to be considerably strengthened.

Among these new defences were two fortified gates, each flanked by high stone towers. These gateways were of a type known as a “bastille”. But the capital’s defences were still deemed unsatisfactory, and it was decided that a much larger fortification should be built to protect the city’s eastern flank at the Porte Saint-Antoine. “Work began in 1370 with another pair of towers being built behind the first bastille, followed by two towers to the north, and finally two towers to the south. The fortress was probably not finished by the time Charles V died in 1380, and was completed by his son, Charles VI. The resulting structure became known simply as the Bastille, with the eight irregularly built towers and linking curtain walls.” The whole was encircled by ditches that were syphoned from the Seine.

View of the porte Saint-Antoine and the Bastille (detail from Turgot's 1739 map of Paris)

View of the porte Saint-Antoine and the Bastille (detail from Turgot’s 1739 map of Paris)

The 15th century saw more danger from the English, culminating in the capture of Paris by Henry V of England in 1420, and the garrisoning of the Bastille. This was the state of affairs for sixteen years. The Bastille had already been used as a prison by the French, and the English continued to use it this way.

Henry V

Henry V

Paris was eventually retaken by Charles VII in 1436, but was then seized by the Burgundians in 1464. Which leads to the obvious conclusion that for all its power and strength, it was less a defender of Paris than a stronghold for its enemies!

Its eventual downfall came during the French Revolution, and it is for this that the great fortress is really known now. Of course, the sneaky English might say the French burned the place down before it was lost again to the Rostbifs across La Manche! No, no, my French friends, I’m only joking…. Happy Bastille Day!

The Storming of the Bastille - de Launay 1740-1789

The Storming of the Bastille – de Launay 1740-1789

The royal seals of Richard III….

King-John-faces-the-barons-at-the-sealing-of-Magna-Carta-2

King John faces the barons at the sealing of the Magna Carta

According to Ian Mortimer in The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England, in the fourteenth century the king’s two great seals were kept by different people; one by the chancellor for sealing Chancery documents, and the other by the treasurer for Exchequer documents. The seals were huge at 6 inches across, and the one for the Chancery used red wax, the Exchequer seal used green.

The king’s own letters were sealed with a much smaller personal seal, the privy seal. In the reign of Edward III the use of the privy seal was increasingly delegated to its keeper, who could deal with routine business as directed by the king.

The king himself had a new ‘secret seal’ or signet made, to authenticate his personal letters and directions. This is kept by his secretary and is the precursor to the seals of office held by today’s Secretaries of State.

So, by 1400 there were four royal seals in operation: the secret seal, privy seal and two versions of the great seal.

Below you will find a selection of illustrations of Richard III’s seals.

You will find out much more about the English Royal Chancery and seals here , although this stops short of the 15th century. Information about seals throughout history, and around the world, is here.

There are seals aplenty here and if you wish to know how they are cleaned, try here.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: