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The Crown Jewels of East Anglia?

Picture: Birmingham Museums Trust

This excellent EADT article suggests that a horde found near Tamworth about ten years ago included some crown jewels worn by Anna* or Onna, the (Wuffing) King of East Anglia and nephew of Raedwald. He is likely to have died in a 653/4 battle near Blythburgh, along with his Bishop, Thomas, fighting against Penda’s pagan Mercians. Tamworth is, of course, in Mercia and parts of the treasure can be seen there: in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery as well as the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent. All five of Anna’s children, including Ethelreda (Audrey) and Jurmin, his only son who died in the same battle.

* Male, despite his name, as were the C16 French warrior Anne de Montmorency and the historian Sharon Turner.

An Easter exhibition

From Saturday to Easter Monday, the Richard III Visitor Centrekinglego1JPG will have a special interactive exhibition for children, including the chance to build the King from Lego bricks or to illustrate him in other ways.


The Court of Requests and Thomas Seckford

In 1484, King Richard III created a minor equity court to deal with minor disputes in equity; these are disputes where the harshness of common law would be acknowledged by those appointed by the Crown. Equity courts were mostly seen as the Lord Chancellor’s remit, and the split of the Chancery Courts from the Curia Regis happened in the mid-fourteenth century. By the time of King Richard III, the Chancery Court had become backlogged from cases pleading the harshness of the common law, and the Court of Requests was no doubt and attempt to remove minor equity cases from the backlog and free up court time – Richard’s attempt at reducing bureaucracy and better administration.

So successful was the Court of Requests that it survived Richard’s reign, and was formalised by the Privy Council of Henry “Tudor”, the usurper. It was a popular court, because the cost of cases was relatively low and justice was swifter than the common law courts, which would ultimately prove its undoing.

Two Masters of Requests Ordinary were appointed by Henry VIII, and another two Masters of Requests Extraordinary were appointed by Elizabeth I. One of these was Thomas Seckford, of Woodbridge in Suffolk.

Thomas was an influential man, even before Elizabeth appointed him to the Court of Requests in 1558. He was MP for Ripon in November 1554, just months after his Grey cousins were executed, and was then elected MP for Orford (a fishing village on the Suffolk Coast which had two MPs despite only having a handful of residents) in 1555 and again in 1558. He was MP for Ipswich in 1559 and for Suffolk in 1571. Seckford Hall, (right) near Woodbridge, is known to have hosted Elizabeth’s court as she progressed, and was built in 1530 as the Seckford Family home; it is now a hotel, while a golf club sits within what was once its grounds. The A12 Martlesham bypass sweeps across the Finn Valley in front of the hall, giving wonderful views to motorists but somewhat destroying the character and appearance of the building and grounds. As an interesting side note, the hotel contains furniture from Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, including (allegedly) the chair Henry the Usurper died on.

Thomas Seckford commissioned Christophe Saxton to create the first surveyed atlas of the realm, which Elizabeth granted him a patent for its sole publication for ten years. This made him an even wealthier man and he added to his estates Clerkenwell, endowing the Seckford Almshouses with income from Clerkenwell. His wealth also led to the establishment of a free school, Woodbridge School, which is a minor public school. His wealth still helps young and old in Woodbridge today.

The Court of Requests fell foul of the common law courts at the end of the 16th century. Angry that business deserted them in favour of the more efficient Court of Requests, the common law courts overturned a number of decisions of the Requests Court, and banned them from imprisoning people; ultimately this was to prove their undoing, and the English Civil War, which led to the invalidation of the Privy Seal, was the final death of the Court, set up all those years before by King Richard for the better delivery of justice.

Thomas Seckford (left) died in January 1587, although we are not sure exactly when, whilst in his early seventies. His mother was Margaret Wingfield, relating him to both the de la Pole and Brandon families, and her mother was an Audley. In fact, Thomas could claim double descent from Edward I, through Joan of Acre, as well as many other great mediaeval magnates, including Edmund “Crouchback”. At his death, Thomas Seckford remained without issue, just like his fellow long-term royal servant Henry Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon. I need hardly add that Huntingdon was his cousin.

Thetford Priory

We can recommend this piece, by Professor David Gill of the University of Suffolk, with several superb images of the original burial sites of the first two Howard Dukes of Norfolk. Both were probably transferred to St. Michael’s Church, Framlingham, at the Reformation

The Grundisburgh martyr

Today in 1558, Alice Driver and Alexander Gooch were burned on the Cornhill in Ipswich. Her trial record, particularly her testimony, shows that Alice Driver freely admitted not sharing certain Roman Catholic beliefs and this was sufficient to convict her. Both are commemorated on this monument in Christchurch Park (left) and Driver by a road in her home village.

These executions happened only thirteen days before both Mary I and Cardinal Pole died and the next monarch repealed de heretico comburendo, the law under which Driver and Gooch were put to death, such that it was last used in Canterbury on the 15th of that month. For comparison, the third Duke of Norfolk was scheduled for beheading in January 1547 but reprieved when Henry VIII died a few hours earlier.

Red Rose Chain presents… Shakespeare’s Richard III


Yes, it’s Shakespeare. Yes, it’s a travesty of history. But Joanna Carrick is a terrific director, and Red Rose Chain a terrific company of actors. Buy your tickets soon!

Shakespeare’s Richard III

Russell & Rotherham, Lord Chancellors of King Richard III

Archbishop of York, Thomas Rotherham, Richard's second Lord Chancellor.

Archbishop of York, Thomas Rotherham, Richard’s second Lord Chancellor.

The office of Lord Chancellor is one of the oldest of the Great Offices of State, second in rank only to the Lord High Steward. It dates from Herfast, the first Lord Chancellor of England, appointed in 1068 by King William I, Duke of Normandy.

King Richard III had two Lord Chancellors, John Russell and Thomas Rotherham. Intriguingly Thomas Rotherham, his second Lord Chancellor, was appointed shortly before his death despite an earlier betrayal in which Rotherham handed the Great Seal to Elisabeth Woodville rather than to Richard.

Thomas Rotherham, born in the town of that name, went to Eton and Kings College, Cambridge. He studied Divinity and was a Fellow of King’s. He lectured in Grammar, Theology & Philosophy. Appointed Bishop of Rochester in 1468, Lincoln in 1472 and then Archbishop of York in 1480, Rotherham was Ambassador to France in 1468, joint Ambassador to Burgundy in 1471 and was appointed Lord Chancellor by Edward IV in 1474.

Why start with Rotherham? He was, after all, Richard’s second Lord Chancellor. Perhaps because his relationship with Richard, and his subsequent reappointment as Lord Chancellor on 29th July 1485, is fascinating.

Rotherham, you see, knew Elizabeth Woodville from his time as chaplain to John de Vere, Earl of Oxford. From before she met Edward IV. He was appointed Lord Chancellor, after a series of rapid promotions, by Edward IV, in 1474. The Lord Chancellor is traditionally the keeper of the Great Seal; when Edward died, Rotherham refused to hand over the Great Seal to Richard as Lord Protector, instead handing it to Elizabeth Woodville. Rotherham was stripped of his office and imprisoned in the Tower of London; accused of being a part of the Hastings conspiracy. This all happened before Richard became King Richard III on 26th June 1483, so while Rotherham was well known to Richard as Lord Chancellor to his older brother Edward IV, he was not Richard’s Lord Chancellor until the very end of his reign.

Rotherham was replaced by John Russell, whose career mimicked Rotherham’s in so many ways. A student at Winchester College, Russell went to New College, Oxford, before entering Royal Service. Russell was sent to treat with Charles the Bold in 1467, when Rotherham was made Keeper of the Privy Seal. Russell was made Keeper of the Privy Seal in 1474, when Rotherham became Lord Chancellor. Russell was made Bishop of Rochester in 1476, and then when Rotherham became Archbishop of York in 1480, Russell became Bishop of Lincoln.

When Richard, Duke of Gloucester, Lord Protector, asked John Russell to be Lord Chancellor, he was reported to be reluctant. However the sources for this are even more interesting than the suggestion; given Rotherham had just been arrested and imprisoned, it makes sense for Russell to be nervous at taking the job, especially as he had followed Rotherham’s career thus far. What makes the source so interesting is that it was the Croyland Chronicle.

The Croyland Chronicle, as Ricardians will know, was written at Croyland Abbey, in Lincolnshire, between 655 and 1486. The last section, from 1459 to 1486, was written in April 1486, after the crowning of the usurper Henry (who called himself Henry VII). It was therefore clearly going to be influenced by a desire not to incense the power of the throne. In as much as Shakespeare, several decades later, wrote propaganda to please the “Tudor” dynasty, Croyland was never going to be pro Richard.

Nobody knows who wrote the relevant passages of Croyland. But one of the suspects is none other than John Russell, Bishop of Lincoln. Which would certainly explain why Croyland says Russell was reluctant to take on a post he held for almost the entirety of Richard’s reign – he would want to ingratiate himself with the new regime, by saying he was never really one of Richard’s courtiers, that he was never really against Elizabeth Woodville, the Dowager Queen, who was suddenly mother-in-law to the Queen, Elizabeth of York.

Russell was appointed as Lord Chancellor on 13th May 1483 by Richard as Lord Protector. He had been a close advisor of Edward IV and was executor of his will. Richard dismissed him as Lord Chancellor on 29th July 1485, replacing him with none other than Rotherham. Eight days later the usurper landed at Milford Haven. The events of August 1485 are well enough documented elsewhere.


The story doesn’t quite end there, however. Rotherham, Lord Chancellor once more when Henry stole the throne, was dismissed by Henry and replaced by the Bishop of Winchester, John Alcock, who served as Lord Chancellor for two years and became one of Henry’s closest advisors. Alcock had been a close advisor of both Edward IV and Richard III; while he was arrested by the latter at Stony Stratford, he was soon forgiven and returned to the Council. Alcock is worthy of note because he had been tutor to Edward IV’s son, Edward. Yet he was happy to work alongside Richard III, even after the boys disappeared. Had Richard been guilty of the crime with which the “Tudors” do most to blacken his name, that of killing his nephews, does anyone think that John Alcock would have happily sat alongside him at Council meetings?

Evidence suggests Bury St Edmunds had a key role in Magna Carta

Magna-Carta-front-coverA fascinating new book reveals evidence that Bury St Edmunds played a more crucial role in the build up to the sealing of Magna Carta than anyone previously thought, according to one of the UK’s leading historians.

David Carpenter, Professor of Medieval History of King’s College, London, says research for his book, Magna Carta, has revealed new evidence which not only proves that the meeting of rebellious barons did take place in the town’s Abbey in 1214 – but also much earlier than previously suggested.

This argument has never been presented before.

Professor Carpenter, who is one of UK’s leading authorities on the revolutionary 1215 document, is also one of a team of prominent historians working on the national three-year Magna Carta Project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Magna Carta, published by Penguin Classics shortly, is set to become a standard text for students of the Charter, which is recognised around the world as the cornerstone of British constitutional liberty.

Professor Carpenter will be presenting some of his ground-breaking research during a forthcoming visit to the Moyse’s Hall Museum, in Bury St Edmunds, on January 17.

Professor Carpenter says: “New facts have come to light which not only vindicate the idea of a large meeting of barons in Bury in 1214, but also that the meeting happened a month earlier than previously thought.

“Some historians, including luminaries such as J.C. Holt, had grave reservations about this meeting even happening but the new evidence proves not only that it did, but also that it took place on October 15, and not November 20, as has been previously suggested.

“Upon learning of the meeting on his return from a campaign in France, King John made a dramatic dash to Bury on November 4, in an attempt to reassert his authority over the town. At the meeting, the barons had sworn to impose their programme on him, if necessary by force.

“Less than a month later, he granted Freedom of Election to the Church, which was a major concession, prompted by his alarm. This was the crucial decision which, the following year, led to Magna Carta.

“This chronology would indicate the Bury meeting played a much more crucial role in the build up to the revolt, which led to the eventual sealing of the Magna Carta.”

Bury St Edmunds has cherished the connection with the Magna Carta for centuries and is reflected in the borough’s motto: Sacrarium Regis, Cunabula Legis (Shrine of the King, Cradle of the Law).

Its role has also been commemorated in a series of pageants in 1907, 1959, and 1970 and is continuing with town’s Heritage Lottery Funded Magna Carta 800 celebrations.

PM David Cameron recently called for the 800th anniversary of the Charter to be used as an opportunity for every child to learn about “the foundation of all our laws and principles”.

Magna Carta celebrations will be held nationwide throughout 2015, with special commemorative £2 coins due to be released later in the year by the Royal Mint.

Lance Alexander, St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s Heritage Operations Manager, said: “We are delighted to welcome such an eminent historian to the town and its museum.

“His ground-breaking work is based upon a lifetime’s research into the Magna Carta and he has now provided us with a compelling new argument and important new text, which are both hugely significant and exciting for the town.

“The book signing and talk will launch our Magna Carta 2015 celebrations which also include an exhibition of the previous historic pageants, later in the year.

“We are very much looking forward to his visit.”

Professor David Carpenter will visit Moyse’s Hall Museum between 2-4pm on January 17 to sign copies of his new book, Magna Carta. The 594-page book, published by Penguin Classics, is priced at £10.99.

There are 45 places for his evening talk at the museum from 6.30pm-8pm. Tickets cost £3 per head, and includes refreshments. To book visit

People can purchase copies of Magna Carta during the event.

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