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How Richard III changed Leicester….

Was it really only five years ago? Sometimes it seems like forever. And for me, the most affecting thing is still seeing Richard’s Book of Hours, which is thought to have been with him in his tent at Bosworth. I confess I had tears in my eyes. It just seemed so very personal to him. One of the prayers inside it reads: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, deign to free me, your servant King Richard, from every tribulation, sorrow and trouble in which I am placed…’  Yes, he was thrust into these tribulations, he didn’t seek them, and he paid a terrible price for shouldering the burden.

The day of his reinterment in Leicester Cathedral was truly momentous, as you’ll read here here

The discovery of Richard’s remains has made such a difference to Leicester. And rightly so. The city has taken him to its heart.

News from around the tomb….

We remember the tragic helicopter accident that cost the life of much-loved former chairman of Leicester City Football Club Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. What with the discovery of Richard III’s remains and the club’s surge in victories, it was a truly devastating blow.

He donated toward Richard’s reinterment in Leicester Cathedral, and now, thanks to his foundation, the revamp of Leicester Cathedral itself is to receive £800K. He was, and remains, a true friend of Leicester.

From here :-

“….A charity foundation named after Leicester City’s former chairman is donating £800,000 towards the restoration of the city’s cathedral.

“….Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was killed in a helicopter crash near the football stadium in October last year.

“….After his death the football club renamed its existing Leicester City Foxes Foundation after him….”

Margaret Beaufort married John of Gaunt….!

 

wood carving of Sir Christopher Urswick in Urswick School’s musuem

I always thought Starkey was a waspish prig (his public opinion of those who support Richard III is just as derogatory!) but having read this article, I think he’s slap-dash as well. Certainly he can’t be checking what goes out to herald the latest of his lectures – this one will no doubt manage to be another anti-Richard diatribe. It’s based around Christopher Urswick, and here’s a quote from the above link:-

“Born in Furness, Cumbria, in 1448 Christopher Urswick had a remarkable life….He was a priest but and [sic] became a confessor of Margaret Beaufort. She had married King Edward III’s son, John of Gaunt, when she was just 13. Not long after she gave birth to his child, Henry, she was widowed.”

I had no idea that Margaret and her son were that old…or that such an extra skeleton lurked in their capacious cupboard. Henry VII would have been cock-a-hoop to claim Gaunt as his father! But I wonder if Gaunt was aware of this extra wife and son?

Visit to Rayleigh and Hadleigh – 20th July 2019

via Visit to Rayleigh and Hadleigh – 20th July 2019

Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Kingmaker and Richard II: the eyes have it….!

Well, I have to say that the above carving is very startling. It is believed to be of Eleanor of Aquitaine, and has just been discovered at Bradwell Abbey, Milton Keynes. There is nothing in this article to say why they are so certain it’s Eleanor, but they seem in no doubt.

The first thing that occurred to me, however, was that the eyes reminded me very forcibly of the carving of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, the “Kingmaker”, as a mourner on the tomb of his father-in-law, Richard Beauchamp, 13th Earl of Warwick.

There is also a likeness of the Beauchamp tomb of the Kingmaker’s sister, Cecily Neville, Duchess of Warwick, and she too has these striking eyes. I’m told by a friend that in his biography of the Kingmaker, Professor Pollard decided there had been a real attempt to create a true likeness, so I imagine that these eyes must indeed be a trait in the Neville family.

There is an odd little story about Edward III, in which he apparently gave credence to the story of his family being descended from Melusine, the Devil’s daughter. The king claimed that the House of Plantagenet was descended from Melusine, and that slanting eyes appeared to be evidence of this. There is one member of that house who definitely had slanting eyes, Richard II.

So, where did those eyes originate? Or was it all mere coincidence that the likes of Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Kingmaker and Richard II appear to have shared such a memorable feature?

From Sir Simon Burley to Leadenhall, and a renowned gander named Old Tom….!

When looking for information about a residence associated with the ill-fated Sir Simon Burley (executed by the Lords Appellant in 1388) I had cause to investigate the properties around London’s Leadenhall Market. It seems Leadenhall stems from a mansion on the site, owned at the beginning of the 14th century by Sir Hugh Neville, which had a lead roof, and was thus called Leaden Hall/Leadenhall.

Anyway, Sir Simon and his brother possessed a residential property in the grounds of Leadenhall mansion. But that is by the by, because the search lead me to the fascinating 19th-century tale of a gander called Old Tom. If you want to read about this valorous bird, who survived to the age of 37 in a market where poultry was sold (!) go to this article.

He passed away of natural causes on 19th March 1835, and his obituary was published in The Times:-

In memory of Old Tom the Gander.
Obit 19th March, 1835, aetat, 37 years, 9 months, and 6 days.

‘This famous gander, while in stubble,
Fed freely, without care or trouble:
Grew fat with corn and sitting still,
And scarce could cross the barn-door sill:
And seldom waddled forth to cool
His belly in the neighbouring pool.
Transplanted to another scene,
He stalk’d in state o’er Calais-green,
With full five hundred geese behind,
To his superior care consign’d,
Whom readily he would engage
To lead in march ten miles a-stage.
Thus a decoy he lived and died,
The chief of geese, the poulterer’s pride.’

And he has a bar named after him!

Leprechauns were named by the Romans….?

There is a new dictionary of the medieval Irish language, contained in 23 volumes, see here. That’s a LOT of words! But one affects me more than all the others. It seems that “leprechaun” is not native Irish. It’s Roman. Oh, no. I wish they hadn’t discovered this, because as far as I’m concerned, leprechauns are Irish through and through!

To read more, go here.

A tale of monarchs and national anthems

Anyone who has watched a Scottish rugby or association football match will be familiar with the Corries’ folk song O Flower of Scotland, which is played before their matches. The second line of the chorus (“Proud Edward’s army”) refers to Edward II, defeated at Bannockburn so that he never actually ruled Scotland although he may have technically been their King by marriage. I have chosen Barbara Dickson’s version.

The Netherlands’ national anthem, the Wilhelminus, is named after William the Silent, a Protestant monarch assassinated in 1584 during an ongoing independence war against the Spanish forces. Paradoxically, perhaps, it is sung lustily among a sea of orange flags at football internationals.

Can you think of any other monarchs mentioned in anthems?

A book to avoid if you uphold the truth about Richard III….

from the Rous Roll

When we buy a non-fiction book (in our case usually something to do with Richard III and the medieval period) we anticipate its arrival with some relish. This is how I felt when, after reading many praises for Peter Ackroyd’s History of England, I decided to buy Volume I online.

It arrived this morning, and I leafed eagerly through the pages, to get a feel of it before reading it properly…but when I came to Illustration 49 (of 51) it was an image of Richard III from the Rous Roll – just him, taken from the image above. Then I read the caption: “Richard III standing on a white boar; the white boar was his personal badge or ‘livery badge’. It may derive from the Latin name of York, Eboracum, since he was known as Richard of York.”

Um…oh no he wasn’t, Mr Ackroyd. His father was Richard of York, and so was his nephew, Richard of Shrewsbury, who was created Duke of York and became one of the boys in the Tower. Richard was always Richard of Gloucester, and then Richard III.

As you can imagine, my heart sank and my hackles began to rise as I sensed that I’d purchased a real turkey. I have indeed, because Peter Ackroyd goes on to relate in full the version of events according to the Sainted More, strawberries, withered arm and all. The murder of the boys in the Tower is taken for granted, but the possibility of Henry VII being responsible is “essentially a fancy”. Oh, right. Why, may I ask? Because his tricky, grasping, dishonest hands were suddenly lily-white? No, according to Ackroyd: “There can be little doubt that the two boys were murdered on the express or implicit order of Richard III.” Clearly this author has inside information that has been hidden from everyone else.

And there’s more: “There had been usurpers before, wading through gore, but Richard III was the first usurper who had not taken the precaution of winning a military victory; he claimed the crown through the clandestine killing of two boys rather than through might on the battlefield.” Really? Methinks Mr Ackroyd is too accustomed to composing eyecatching blurbs!

And Richard “set up a ‘council in the north’ to consolidate his power in that region. Excuse me? Richard was consolidating his own power? Um, where was Edward IV while all this was going on? Or was Richard now ‘king of the north’, and a law unto himself?

And Richard contemplated marrying Elizabeth of York…at least, he would have done if he’d been able to get away with it. No mention at all of the important Portuguese negotiation for both his own marriage and that of his niece. Indeed no, the only reason Richard didn’t rush her to the marriage bed was because he would not have been “able to marry the girl whose brothers he had destroyed”.

Polydore Vergil “states that Richard III was now ’vexed, wrested and tormented in mind with fear almost perpetually’.” In fact, Ackroyd is prepared to judge Richard solely on the traditional stories, which were (sorry to repeat it again) the work of the victor at Bosworth, in whose interest it was to blacken Richard’s name and memory as much as he possibly could. Henry VII was surely the best spreader of fake news in history!

Oh, and Richard was “buried without ceremony in a stone coffin. The coffin was later used as a horse trough and the bones scattered”. Really? No wonder Ackroyd thinks Henry VII was the best thing for England, they share a liking for telling stories!

The copyright for this abominable work of fiction is 2011. Oh, dear, a year later and Richard himself was able to refute claims of hideous deformity and being chucked in the Soar (Ackroyd missed that one, by the way.)

There are many other points in this book with which anyone of common sense will disagree. Those who have really studied Richard III, will know that he has indeed been cruelly maligned by history. He did not do all those things of which he was accused…and if he had Hastings executed without delay, you can bet your bottom dollar it was for a damned good reason. Richard didn’t execute people left, right and centre…there are quite a few he should have topped, but he was lenient! Which makes him a black-hearted, villainous monster, of course.

Anyway, I regret being swayed into buying this book. It is nothing but traditionalist garbage! I hardly dare turn its pages to my other favourite king, Richard II. No doubt Henry Bolingbroke gets the laurels and is patted on the head for having that other Richard murdered. Ah, but that’s different. It was OK to kill Richard II. So, in 1399 there was a Richard usurped by a Lancastrian Henry, and then another such thieving Lancastrian Henry happened along in 1485. Neither of the Richards (both married to Annes, by the way) usurped anything, but they both get the blame for everything.

Desperately Seeking Wolsey….

The discovery in Leicester of the remains of Richard III was surely one of the greatest such event, and since then there have been increased attempts to locate other great figures from our past. Leicester has at least one other such person just waiting to be found, but as yet he’s proving elusive. The location of Cardinal Wolsey’s burial has been a matter of debate for some time now, and this blog has mentioned it at least twice, as well as the angels made for his tomb.

Over the past five hundred years there have been a number of attempts to find the man whose humble beginnings as an innkeeper’s son did not prevent him from rising to be one of the highest and most influential figures in Tudor England. It’s hard to even imagine what Leicester Abbey looked like at the time of his interment, let alone where in its footprint the great cardinal might be lying.

An artist impression of Leicester Abbey in its heyday. John Finnie

Now there has been another article about his missing tomb, but I’m afraid that if he really did look like his awful statue, I’d rather they didn’t find him! He’s enough to give children nightmares.

The Abbey Park statute of Cardinal Wolsey who died at Leicester Abbey in 1530 (Image: Will Johnston)

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