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Archive for the month “May, 2019”

MARGARET BEAUFORT, THE UNKNOWN REGENT

Recently it came up on Mastermind that Margaret Beaufort was once Regent of England. This surprised me as I had not heard this fact stated before.  Digging on the internet, it turns out it is indeed true. Henry VIII was not quite of age when he ascended the throne, although he was not far off, therefore grandmother Beaufort became Regent. According to one source, Margaret’s role was more ceremonial than anything else and  young Henry’s council quickly busied themselves dismantling many of Henry VII’s policies. Empson and Dudley, a pair of unpopular ministers, were removed from their positions, soon to be executed.

Margaret’s activities concerning the Council were curtailed because, just after Henry’s Coronation on June 24, where Margaret had wept copious tears throughout the ceremony, she fell seriously ill. She had been unwell since the beginning of the year but apparently it was the eating of  a cygnet, a young swan,  that brought about her demise.  Bedridden and ailing, Margaret was given ‘waters and powders’ but the doctors’ efforts to save the 66 year old Regent were all in vain and  she died on 29 June 1509 ,with Bishop John Fisher in attendance.

Reginald Pole, George of Clarence’s grandson, stated that Margaret muttered on her deathbed that John Fisher must watch over Henry VIII  with diligence, for she feared he would  ‘turn his face from God‘.

Henry had his 18th birthday on June 28 1509; the very next day his grandmother was dead. (Henry’s  feelings are not recorded on the matter. It must have been a horrible shock, or…)

 

Margaret_Beaufort,_by_follower_of_Maynard_Waynwyk;

 

Myths about the murderous mandrake….

 

Mandrake – from Wikimedia

“….in the Mediterranean there grows a…murderous plant called the mandrake. Its roots can look bizarrely like a human body, and legend holds that it can even come in male and female form. It’s said to spring from the dripping fat and blood…of a hanged man. Dare pull it from the earth and it lets out a monstrous scream, bestowing agony and death to all those within earshot….”

Ew. But it is true that these beliefs—and many others, including that a dog had to be sacrificed in order to drag the plant from the ground!—were held of this plant, Mandragora officinarum. I have taken the above quote from this post

In ancient times, the mandrake root was used by the Greeks to produce an anaesthetic for surgery. This use was continued into the Middle Ages. The Greeks also used it as an aphrodisiac, calling it the ‘love-apple of the ancients’. It was, of course, associated with the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite. The Bible relates that to the ancient Hebrews, it was used to induce conception.

courtesy of Michael Ramstead, Fine Art Print

At her trial of 1431, Joan of Arc was accused of carrying mandrake with her as a means of controlling the minds of others. And by the 16th century, in England, mandrake was still so much in demand for its various properties, that bryony roots were being crafted to appear like mandrake, and then sold as such.

To read more of this ‘dangerous’ plant, go here

And yet it looks so innocent!

Mandragora officinarum

It’s history, Jim, but not as we know it….

Richard II

“Mad” King Richard II

OK, folks, bearing in mind that it’s from an article about Game of Thrones, here’s a portion of England’s history, both potted and potty:-

“To begin with, the House of Lannister seems to be pretty closely based on the real life House of Lancaster. To vastly simplify actual history, the War of the Roses was a struggle between the Yorks and the Lancasters over England’s throne. The Yorks/Starks were repped by white roses, while the Lancasters/Lannisters wore red roses (and yes, GRRM kept the color scheme). The whole trouble began when Henry IV, a Lancaster, led a rebellion against the “mad” king Richard II, because he’d inherited the throne ahead of his deceased older brother’s sons (and also he was boring and nobody liked him).”

“Henry IV won the crown, much to the annoyance of the Yorks, who felt that they were legally next in line to rule England. Fast forward a couple of Henrys, and the timid King Henry VI married a hot, wily French woman called Margaret of Anjou…”

Are you still with this load of codswallop? Game of Thrones is fiction, loosely based on some historic events in England, and the series is very, very successful, but if people are going to point out the “real” facts, at least get them right, for Heaven’s sake!

And for the record, the last thing either Richard II or Richard III could be charged with is being boring!

A house in Scarborough

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The King Richard III restaurant today

If you visit Scarborough Castle and go down towards the beach from there, turn your head to your right and walk along the seafront opposite the Harbour, and you will notice something singular. Among the shops, cafés and fish-and-chip restaurants, there is a house that stands out because it is the oldest in the area. It is the ‘paradise’ of Ricardians in Scarborough as it is called ‘The King Richard III’ and it is a very well maintained restaurant where you can have a delicious lunch or just a pint, inside the ancient building or  outside to enjoy the sun and the sea breeze.

 

Why was the restaurant named after the last

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The plaque outside the building

warrior king of the House of York? There is a compelling story that might give people an explanation.  In the summer of 1484, Richard III went to Scarborough, apparently for naval business. He loved Scarborough and Yorkshire in general so it is easy to imagine he enjoyed the wonderful view of the bay and the fresh, salty sea air especially after the terrible spring that had taken away his only legitimate son from him. It is said that during his stay in Scarborough, the king had chosen to stay in a house rather than in the castle and he chose the building we can still see today.

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The oldest picture taken in 1912.

The story of the building is very interesting and it is a miracle it is still there, intact, as if no time passed for it. There have been attempts to find out the history of the house from the 15th century till today, but the lack of documentation has made it impossible to trace the owner of the house during Richard’s reign. We know that it was the property of the Tindall family, who had a long history as shipbuilders, but this was in the 17th century. The first owner from the Tindall family was James and, when he died, his son lived in the house with his family. When the Tindalls moved, in 1880, the house became the property of a baker, William Purcell, who baked in the house and after this it became an engineering shop owned by Thomas Varley. The next owner was a certain Mary Forrest who stayed there until 1850. Since then, the house has had other owners, including a certain Mr John Wray, and a picture was taken in 1892 in which the plaque is still visible. There is a sign over the top with the following information: ‘Late Residence of Richard III, May 22nd 1484’.

Scarb KR House

The oldest picture taken in 1912

During the Victorian Age, they had a terrible habit of trying to modernise every ancient building, so the house was completely changed, with the bay windows removed and the stone walls plastered. The house became a grocery shop until 1905. In 1908, the house was acquired by The Seaman’s Mission Institute but, at the same time, the mission started to allow visitors to view the house for an admission fee of 2d. Possibly, this gave the new owner, Mr Booth, the idea to take advantage of the story of the king by transforming the property into a museum in 1914. Unfortunately, just a year later, Mr Booth drowned on the Lusitania and the house was bought by one of his relatives, Mr Burrows. Referring to Mrs Wharton’s drawings, Burrows was able to remove the Victorian plaster and install a replica of the original bay windows, so that the house now looks very similar to the original medieval building. Mrs Wharton’s drawings also show the so-called ‘King’s Bedchamber’ located on the second floor, the furniture inside and the decorated plastered ceiling.

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The York Rose and the bull of the Neville family

The building’s restoration was not an easy task. It started in 1915 and it was discovered that the building was larger than expected, detached, with a two-storey hall and the extended west-wing. Boarding, plaster and wallpaper were removed and many details came to life including the decorative plasterwork in the ‘King’s Bedchamber’ decorated with a geometrical multi curve and a pattern of square panels with thin ribs.  In the centre there is the York Rose, the Arms of Richard III and, at each of the four corners, the bull of the Neville family.

Stained glass KRIII

The stained glass in the restaurant

Today, the main hall is named ‘The King’s Hall’ and there is a stained glass with the symbol RIII. It is possible to see two reproductions of War of the Roses suits of armour and a panel in red with the same features as the glass. The King Richard III house is a Grade I listed building.

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The King’s Hall

It is not sure that King Richard stayed in this house because the castle is very close to it, so there shouldn’t have been any reason for the King to sleep in a normal house. Moreover, in the castle, you can see some panels with multiple choice questions. One of these asks: ‘Who was the last owner of the castle?’ and the right answer is, of course, Richard III. Where does the truth lie? My personal opinion is that the King slept in his castle and he possibly had a pint or a glass of wine in the house. One thing is certain; Richard had a particular dedication to the town of Scarborough. Had he survived Bosworth, Scarborough and its surroundings would have become an independent county, as written in a vellum document of his reign but, sadly, fate decided differently.

A New Novel of Richard III

Finally my new novel, Distant Echoes, is available on Kindle for only £2.50 ($2.99 on Amazon.com). The paperback is imminent too!

Cover of 'Distant Echoes'

It was inspired by lyrics from a song, Sheriff Hutton, by The Legendary Ten Seconds. Here is the synopsis of the story:

A new, innovative invention. The DNA of a mediaeval king. Put them together and the past comes to life!
Eve works for a software solutions company and they have a new technology that can track a subject’s DNA through time, tracing their voice vibrations. Criminals can incriminate themselves with their own words. Lost children can be found safely. And a five-hundred-year-old mystery can be solved straight from the horse’s mouth! Eve’s company tracks the notorious and controversial king, Richard III, through his life, eavesdropping on his conversations. Will they succeed in solving the enduring mystery of the Princes in the Tower?….

I wanted to find a way to include many of the previously little-known deeds and events of Richard’s life, the ones that are not so newsworthy as the ‘Princes in the Tower’, such as his laws and good judgements, his founding of Middleham College and his pious acts.

I hope you enjoy it and that, whether you do or not, you will give it a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Thank you for your support. Here is the link to its Amazon UK page: Click here

A fleeting trick of the eye….

Forensics - collage

Occasionally, an image glimpsed quickly on TV appears to be something it is not. This happened to me when I first saw the TV trailer for the series Catching History’s Criminals: the Forensics Story on the Yesterday channel.

Being inured to the old, old propaganda that Richard III was the first criminal in all Creation, predating Satan himself, the black-and-white image I glimpsed—very briefly, and then only in close-up—appeared to be the one that went the rounds when Richard’s skull was used to re-create his true appearance. The one where the skull had his NPG portrait superimposed. So, I watched the programme, fully expecting another biased item that condemned him for the boys in the Tower, etc. etc.

Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be nothing of the sort. It wasn’t even about Richard! It was about a woman, Isabella Ruxton, who was murdered in the 1930s. The picture shown was, like the one of Richard, her skull superimposed on her photograph. The pose was the same as Richard’s, but the thing that spooked me initially, was the left eye. It seemed so like Richard’s left eye in the NPG portrait that I really was convinced Isabella was Richard.

Forensics - Richard III and Isabella Ruxton

Maybe it does not seem so evident to you but, to me, that fleeting out-of-the-blue glimpse on a TV screen was very convincing.

 

Have a yummy choccy chunk of Windsor Castle….?

Oh, dear, I think I died and went to heaven, having just discovered that Cadbury made a chocolate Windsor Castle for the wedding of Harry and Meghan. For the couple who already have everything they want? No! For heaven’s sake, don’t waste it on the royals! Let this peasant get her choccy hammer out and set about acquiring some nice nibble-sized pieces.

The rest of you can get in line, folks, I’m first!!!

Read more here or see a video about it here.

Not again: “Britain’s bloody Crown” (3)

Here at Murrey and Blue, we are not in the habit of reviewing repeats, not even when we have commented on them before. This time, it is the very fact and timing of the repeat of Channel Four’s “Who killed the Princes in the Tower?”, with the ubiquitous Dan Jones, that is at issue, together with the assumptions made by Jones in the programme and even in the title. In the show, a bearded (!) Richard is shown ordering the murder of two individuals who were declared illegitimate by the Three Estates, a verdict that some of his rivals disagreed with, giving those rivals a motive he didn’t have.

The programme is the very apogee of denialism, based upon Jones’ imagination and Domenico Mancini’s wholly discredited account, presented with at least a dozen disproven “facts”, such as the definition of treason, the Constable‘s court and the boys’ “house arrest”. Mancini’s name is also wrongly rendered as “Dominic”, and Jones fails to mention that he was a spy for Angelo Cato, speaking little English. So, if you want to watch the investigation of a “crime” that may never have happened …

These assumptions include:
1) That Edward IV’s sons qualified as “Princes” – as Ashdown-Hill pointed out, their illegitimacy means that this cannot be the case.
2) That they have died – we can let him have that one!
3) That they died together – for which we have no evidence whatsoever.
4) That they died in the Tower  -again no evidence.
5) That they died in 1483 – a little suggestive evidence in one case.
6) That anyone killed them or ordered their deaths – again no evidence.
7) That Richard III was that person – again no evidence.

The timing of this repeat is also at issue because Ashdown-Hill’s discovery of the “Princes”‘ mtDNA has provided us with the opportunity to test what some people still regard as “evidence” – the remains, of whatever age, gender, era, quantity or even species, in the Westminster Abbey urn. One might argue that this repeat was scheduled “in the teeth of the evidence”.

Still, what can we expect, knowing Jones’ mentor?

Digging up Britain’s Past: By George, I think she’s got it

This second episode of this Channel Five series, presented by Alex Langlands and Helen Skelton, took us to Elsyng Palace, a North London house built by Henry VIII but with question marks about its precise venue until recently. Very unusually, the presenters clearly stated that the “King’s Great Matter” concerned not a divorce from Catherine of Aragon but an annulment (see the Shavian subtitle for my surprise), before they explained how Henry ran short of money and sought to extract it from the great monasteries, such as Rievaulx Abbey, which were thus dissolved. A visit to the Royal Mint, now at Llantrisant, showed how he debased the coinage from 92% silver to 25% and the plating over the King’s portrait wore off leaving him the moniker “Old Coppernose”.

Elsyng came into use because it was more private that Henry’s inner London palaces and because he could take his heir away from the unhealthy conditions that prevailed in the capital. In fact, Edward VI learned of his succession at Elsyng and spent his first night as King there.

A very detailed, interesting and informative thesis with a lot about Henry VI, Edward IV and Richard III…

Greyfriars, Leicester. showing probably site of Richard III’s original tomb. Drawing by University of Leicester. (not included in thesis)

There are few more fertile sources for intricate information about the medieval past (and other areas too, of course) than theses that have been published online. A prime website for these is White Rose eTheses on lineof which I have written before. I am mentioning the site again now because of finding a particularly absorbing 2016 thesis by Anna Maria Duch for her PhD at the University of York. It is titled The Royal Funerary and Burial Ceremonies of Medieval English Kings, 1216-1509 and can be found here.

It deals with all our medieval monarchs, but contains a great deal of interest to those who study the Wars of the Roses, and in particular Henry VI, Edward IV and, of course, Richard III. There is a long discussion of Richard’s motives in moving Henry VI’s remains from Chertsey, and again about whether or not he “disposed” of his nephews. The age-old question of that urn crops up as well.

Other kings aren’t neglected, I promise.

This is a book-length work, and needs close attention to be fully appreciated. A recommended read.

 

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