While reading Terry Jones‘s Who Killed Chaucer? I came upon a truly astonishing sentence. So astonishing that I have to share it with you. “…Henry VII, mysteriously, paid half a mark to a friend for eating coal…”
Well, I find that hard to believe. No, no, not the bit about the coal – the fact that Old Miseryguts had a friend !!! 😂
The illustration above has been tweaked a little by me – to make him look less grim, of course. But apologies to the artist. (The original is below.)
This article is from 2015, but I’ve only just seen it. Amazingly, Richard III doesn’t even get a mention among the “worst kings in history”! So, either the list compiler slipped up, or they’ve finally realised he was one of the good guys!
Oh, and no question who took first place! Rightly so.
Recently I came across an interesting article on Royal Central listing all the Queens who had anniversaries relevant to June-births, deaths, coronations, marriages and the start of their reigns. However, I did notice a couple of things in it that I would query–an error and an omission.
First the error. The article mentions that Elizabeth Woodville, who died on June 8, 1492, having been packed off to Bermondsey Abbey, was the first ‘non-royal’ Queen of England. In fact, she was not. Most of the Queens were not themselves royal but children of the nobility–the daughters of Counts and Earls. Elizabeth’s father was not titled at the time of her birth, so she was neither a princess nor of the nobility, but she did actually have some royal English ancestry through her mother, Jacquette of Luxembourg, daughter of Peter, Count of St Pol, who was descended on her father’s side from Henry III via his daughter Beatrice of England, and on her maternal side from King John via his daughter Eleanor of England.
The omission is Lady Eleanor Talbot, the probable first wife of marry-secretly-in-haste Edward IV who died died sometime in June 1468. Even if you don’t believe in the pre-contract, despite considerable circumstantial evidence including Edward mysteriously paying for repairs of the church in the village where Lady Eleanor held the manor and handing out loaves of bread to each villager, she should have been mentioned even if only as a ‘disputed’ consort.
If Lord Guildford Dudley, husband of the short-reigning Jane (Grey) can get a mention as ‘disputed’ on the Wiki entry about Consorts, Eleanor, I think, deserves at least that much! (Sudeley Castle, which has connections to Lady Eleanor through her Boteler marriage has now embraced her story and has a display about her–hurrah!)
There are other ‘disputed’ consorts later in history, of course, as listed comprehensively in John Ashdown-Hill’s book Royal Marriage Secrets, and even other bigamous marriages. Most interestingly, perhaps, is the second wedding of Henry VIII, Edward’s think-alike grandson, to Anne Boleyn–he “married” her in a secret ceremony BEFORE his annulment from Katherine of Aragon was finalised… (And people still somehow imagine Edward couldn’t possibly have done much the same?)
A caricature is putting the face of a joke on the body of a truth–Joseph Conrad
If Joseph Conrad was correct (and I believe he was), whatever could someone in the late 15th c have been trying to tell us about Henry VII in this amusing manuscript doodle? Especially as it came from the Archbishop’s Register of the diocese of York.
That nose! That pinched expression! Is the King depicted trying to smell out someone’s hard earned money? Did a scribe in York not think terribly much of the new Tudor king?
And, just for fun, here’s a more recent (early 20th c?) cartoon of Henry chowing down with good old Bishop Morton (by then Archbishop of Canterbury), as they devise the idea of Morton’s Fork…
“….The Medieval Free Company is a group of families and individuals who all share a common interest in medieval history. We specialise in the recreation of the lifestyle of a group of mercenaries during the Wars of the Roses period. Everything within the camp is recreated, through research, with as much historical accuracy as possible using materials and methods that would have been available at the time. Our focus is on authentic living history camps and archery with traditional English longbow….”
They are living history, and among their fixtures this summer, on 1st/2nd August, Lammastide, they are re-enacting the Battle of Evesham at which Simon de Montfort was defeated in 1265. The anniversary event will take place at Evesham Crown Meadow, Abbey Road, WR11 Evesham.
Definitely one to put in your diary!
The above was written some months ago, before all the Covid 19 restrictions, so it’s best to check that the event is still scheduled. It may be one for next year!
Kathryn Warner has been Edward II’s main chronicler for a few years now, writing about the King himself, his times, his great-grandson Richard II, several other relatives the roots of the “Wars of the Roses”. This book is about Edward’s daughter-in-law, although he tried a little to prevent his eldest son’s marriage during his own reign and apparent lifespan.
However, Edward III did marry Philippa of Hainault and the marriage lasted for over forty years, during which time they had twelve children. Edward and their sons, particularly their eldest Edward the “Black Prince“, played a full part in victories at Crecy and Neville’s Cross. In a parallel with Richard III and his siblings, a thirteenth child, one “Thomas of Windsor”, has been added by modern writers serving as posthumous surrogate mothers, although not the same writer who gave Richard an elder sister, “Joan”, and added an “Edward” to Mary de Bohun’s sextet of children by the future Henry IV.
This is one of the relative few biographies I have purchased of a royal woman and feels very much like another one in particular. The first chapter, just like Ashdown-Hill’s best tome, explores the subject’s family in great detail but, unlike Eleanor and Paul Johnson’s Elizabeth I, Philippa of Hainault becomes pregnant regularly and has children, their ages are regularly mentioned and she, with Edward, formulates marriage plans for them, not all of which come to fruition.
This is a fascinating book, delineating a veritable matriach. As for our subtitle, peruse the above map. Hainault is on the eastern loop of the Central line, near Newbury Park. Elephant and Castle, on the Northern Line and near the Thames, is reputedly named after Edward II’s mother, although probably in error.
Last night I cheered myself up by watching the PBS documentary The Mystery of the Black Death. No, that opening sentence was facetious, because I have to say that the programme was actually very interesting. And rather uncanny in that it was stated the pestilence started in Italy, then Spain, and then gradually spread through the rest of Europe. Eerily familiar in present circumstances, right?
This documentary traced the progress and symptoms of the Great Pestilence, which has traditionally been identified as bubonic plague. No! Bubonic plague didn’t follow the same pattern as the Great Pestilence (not named the Black Death until later on). The buboes of bubonic plague were absent in all contemporaneous descriptions of what struck Europe in 1347/51. And rats couldn’t have been to blame because there weren’t any at that period.
Well, there were a few, of course, but nothing like the teeming hordes we all envisage. There are small hints of this ratless society, e.g. the fact that dovecotes were built with “nesting” spaces going right down to the ground. This wouldn’t have happened had rats been much in evidence. Rats climb, yes, but medieval people wouldn’t have made it so inviting and easy by providing rat feasts at ground level.
Another indication was that although owls eat rats, no rat bones have been found in the regurgitated pellets of medieval owls. Loads of mouse bones, and so on, but no rats. Why not? Presumably because there were no rats to eat.
So the programme delved into what else other disease it might have been. It concluded that the Black Death was spread by human touch, not rats or fleas, and that it was mostly likely something closely related to ebola.
Whether you agree with the reasoning or not, the programme is very interesting, and I recommend it. But not if you’re squeamish!
If you cannot receive PBS UK, you can see more here.
The article that prompts this post is the first of three concerning the history of the House of Lancaster. There are some sweeping statements that are eminently challengeable, but then it’s Lancastrian about Lancastrians, so bias is bound to be present.
The first Lancastrian monarch usurped the throne of his first cousin, Richard II, whom he then had murdered, and he had to justify this dreadful act for the rest of his life. There was, of course, a later Henry (VII) who represented the House of Lancaster and killed the incumbent king, Richard III by treachery in battle. So Lancastrian Henrys seemed to specialise in taking thrones by ridding themselves of the Richards who were already the anointed kings. Biased? Moi? Well, it goes with the territory if you happen to support the other side.
The article claims that Richard II and his cousin, Henry (to be IV) formed a “strong bond” as boys. Well, they were first cousins, but I don’t think they were ever that close. Henry was forever being held up as a shining example of manly strengths and virtues etc, whereas Richard was “…pampered…the coming saviour…compared himself to Christ…had a mean streak…[and] ever inflating ego”. Furthermore “…whilst Richard swanned about court with his young councillors pandering too him, Henry Bolingbroke was fighting in tournaments, learning the art of war, building his prestige”.
Right, well that’s Richard neatly encapsulated as a self-centred weirdo par excellence!
Apparently “Within four years of his reign thousands of angry peasants, led by the rebel leader Wat Tyler, stormed London.” This was Richard’s fault? No, he was a boy of fourteen, it was the magnates and royal advisers who were in charge. Especially Henry’s father, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, who was loathed across the land. But mustn’t mentioned that.
Anyway, this is a flavour of the article, which goes on to rip Richard apart while raising Henry on an ever higher pedestal. Like Richard III, Richard II is almost always bad-mouthed by historians, but I don’t think he was the dangerous, tyrannical prat he’s made out to be. On the contrary, there was far more to him than meets the casual eye, and his motives have been misunderstood. He tried hard to change the status quo in England, but in the end he failed. And he deserves better than this pro-Lancastrian article.
One thing. A typo, I trust. “Henry was popular, a military leader and willing to listen to the ascent of parliament, he was everything Richard wasn’t.” One wonders exactly how high Parliament ascended….
They say every writer should find a niche. Unfortunately, certain ‘popular historians’ seem to have leapt onto ‘gimmicks’ than a niche and write all or most of their books in similar vein, often to the detriment of their work and a growing lack of credibility with each further tome.
A trend amongst several notable authors seems to be the cynical and sarcastic slagging off of the historical figures they write about, most likely to stir up controversy in the hopes of making sales—who knows? Any sense of being non-partisan or unbiased is thrown out the window pretty much on page 1.
‘Jack of All Trades’ history writer Desmond Seward (Demon Sewer? Dismal Sewage?) is a prime offender. Most of us will remember Demon’s jaw-dropping book on Richard III, titled, so menacingly…’The Black Legend’. (Oooh, shades of Sauron and Mordor!) Without tramping over old turf, this totally unbiased (choke) book contains such wonderful remarks as (paraphrasing here), ‘If he was two fingers shorter than Richard, Von Poppelau must have been a dwarf…’ In his updated version of the same tired tosh he chides Ricardians for seeking the truth about Richard because “…the White Legend continues to appeal to every Anglo-Saxon lover of a lost cause and, in particular, to lady novelists.” (Very odd application of ‘Anglo Saxon’ as well as showing an unpleasant Starkey-esque strain of sexism.) He also is a true believer in the words of the sainted Thomas More because he was, after all, a SAINT, so presumably infallible—yes, the ‘saint’ who burned people at the stake and poetically wrote long insulting tracts containing multiple references to faeces. True story. What a scholar. What a charmer.
Recently Sewer returned to the Wars of the Roses period with a new book, THE LAST WHITE ROSE, and continued in the same vein, with a combination of vitriol and errors. Edmund de la Pole was apparently haughty, pompous and unintelligent (the latter deduced apparently from his bad handwriting!) John, Duke of Suffolk was called a nonentity and given the wrong date of death. John of Lincoln was saupposedly devious, and even accused of abducting the young, hapless Lambert Simnel from his family! (Sewer appears to believe there really WAS a child ridiculously named after a cake, even although the surname is rarer than a blue moon and there is no record of any family by that name). Worst of all, however, is a supposed quote from Croyland about Elizabeth of Suffolk, complete with page number. It does not exist in Croyland, if anywhere at all, yet is masquerading as a quote from a primary source!!
I haven’t read all of Demon Sewer’s books, needless to say, but some of the customer reviews are noteworthy and often rather hilarious. Apparently any strong women in history are described as ‘viragos’ or worse. In his Eleanor of Aquitaine bio, not only does he seem to dislike Eleanor herself, he has a bit of a fixation with Richard the Lionheart’s homosexuality. Which is a bit odd, as there is no actual evidence that Lionheart WAS homosexual, and that theory of the mid-20th century is pretty much discredited today. In fact, there is some evidence that Lionheart, in his misspent youth, ravished his enemy’s wives and then gave them to his men!
Perhaps the funniest error Dismal made, though, was found in one of his other books, The King over the Water, which is about the Jacobites. Apparently, he wrote that the maternal grandparents of Lord Derwentwater were Charles II and Moll Flanders. MOLL FLANDERS? She is a character in a novel by Daniel Defoe!
Maybe Dismal should write a book on Moll next. Non-fiction, of course.
A Demon Sewer and…Desmond Seward. Purportedly…but might not be….