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Now a lost north-of-the-border king….

james-i-of-scotland

Well, we had Richard III, then they sought Henry I…and now it’s James I of Scotland. I wonder how many others will soon be on the list?

According to this article :

“A plan to search for the tomb of a Scottish king buried in Perth nearly 600 years ago has been unveiled.

“It will be part of a project to create a major visitor attraction in the city using virtual reality to tell the story of James I and the Stewart monarchs.

“James I was assassinated in Perth in 1437 and later buried at the Charterhouse monastery.

“But the priory was destroyed in the reformation 100 years later and no-one is sure of the grave’s exact location.

“The monastery where he was buried was built on his orders and was part of his great plans for Perth.

“Historians believe he wanted to create a complex on the scale of Westminster and move St Andrews University to the city to compete with Oxford.

“Dr Lucy Dean, from the University of the Highlands and Islands, told BBC Scotland: “Thirteen out of 18 of James’ parliaments take place in Perth. He is centralising his government here.

“I’m not sure whether Perth would have been the capital but it was definitely in the running for being the capital. [His] murder halted that idea in its tracks.”

“James I was assassinated on 4 February 1437 while he was in the royal apartments at the Blackfriars monastery in Perth.

“After a group of 30 conspirators were let into the building he tried to hide in a sewer, but he was trapped and killed by Sir Robert Graham.

“A pub and sheltered housing accommodation now stands on the site of his death.

“The area where he died is marked with a stone monument.

“Archaeologist David Bowler, who explored the site in the 1980s, said he was “very excited” by the plans to find the king’s tomb.

” ‘It’s something we’ve all been thinking about in Perth for many, many years,’ he said.

” ‘We’ve all known about the Carthusian friary and we want to know a bit more about where it is.’

“Leaders of this project, which also includes a “virtual museum” depicting Medieval Perth, hope the city could benefit from the discovery of the tomb in the same way Leicester did when Richard III’s remains were found.

“Richard Oram, professor of Medieval history at the University of Stirling, said: ‘If we were to actually locate where the royal tomb was within this complex – we saw what that did to Leicester with the rediscovery of Richard III.

” ‘A lot more people know Richard III than James I but we’re looking to try and change that. So if we were successful that would be a huge added bonus to the project.’ ”

There is more to be read here.

I’m Henry I, I am?

r-6242797-1422183744-7972-jpegThere is some news from Reading, where Henry I is being sought under a car park. The GPR results are in and the Abbey seems to have been located

You can hear more from the Kingfinder-General here as well, after eleven minutes, or here after forty-four.

Empress Matilda-Should She Be Listed as an English Monarch?

One of the most fascinating (and bloody) periods of English history is The Anarchy, when Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I (he who might well be found sometime soon in the ruins of Reading Abbey) fought her cousin Stephen of Blois (thought to be in Faversham Abbey) for the English throne. Battles raged across the land and barons, without permission, threw up adulterine castles everywhere and lived lawlessly. The times were so turbulent that it was said ‘Christ and His Saints slept.’

Matilda’s forces captured Stephen in 1141 and she came very close to being crowned, but violent crowds of Stephen’s supporters on the way to London stopped the Coronation from taking place. Then her biggest supporter, her half-brother Robert of Gloucester was captured at Winchester, and the only way to free him was to trade Stephen’s freedom for Robert’s.

In 1148, Matilda retreated from England for good and left the fighting to her son, Henry FitzEmpress, the son of Geoffrey Plantagenet–the future Henry II. In 1153 Henry and Stephen came to an agreement after the Siege of Wallingford, in which Henry was declared Stephen’s heir as the latter’s eldest son Eustace had died. The next year, Stephen died and Henry took the throne.

Matilda is generally not listed as one of the rulers of England but some believe that she should be. Although never crowned, she was Henry I’s heir and before the High Altar of All Saints, Northampton, Henry rallied his barons to swear loyalty to her and to support her claim to the throne. They swore at the time, but as often happened in the Middle Ages, the oaths were quickly broken once Henry died. The idea of a female ruler was not a popular one, although there was no legal impediment to it, as England, unlike France, did not have a Salic Law.

Many sources list Edward V, Jane and Edward VIII as monarchs of England, despite the fact that they were never crowned and their legitimacy to the position was disputed–so, if that is considered correct, why then is the Empress Matilda excluded from the list, as designated heir to Henry I?

Matilda is, of course ancestor to the line of Plantagenet kings that followed on from her son, and through her maternal side, they also have a line of descent from both King Malcolm of Scotland and the royal House of Wessex via St Margaret. Both claimants were, therefore, among Richard III’s ancestors.parents_of_henry_ii

 

An interesting post on the subject of Matilda from the FB page ‘House of Plantagenet History & Geneology’ :https://www.facebook.com/groups/41546823396/permalink/10154937093853397/

More exciting finds under a car park….!

coventry-wall

 

Car parks have become Aladdin’s caves for archaeology and things as wonderful as the remains of Richard III. Coventry’s lost history is now coming to light. Be patient with the Coventry Telegraph site, I found it as much a pain for ads and slowness as the Leicester Mercury!

Merton Priory

Thanks to Dave Perry for drawing our attention to this video. Merton Priory was built in 1117 and dissolved in 1538 but plans are afoot to conserve its remains and renew the Chapter House.m1

THE LOST CITY OF TRELLECH-FOUND

Once upon a time, back in the  Middle Ages, a large, thriving Welsh city existed between Monmouth and the village of Trellech. Its size was astounding for the day—it had 10,000 inhabitants (for comparison London had 40,000.) Another 10,000 souls may have lived in a shanty town along its edges.

What makes Trellech’s size particularly startling is that it reached this number in a mere 25 years, meaning that vast numbers of people must have been flooding into the area. This was undoubtedly something to do with the powerful de Clare lords, who held the local lands and used Trellech for smelting iron for their personal army.

Then…something happened. It possibly began with a  devastating raid over poaching deer, which destroyed a large portion of the town.  Then the Black Death roared in during the 1300’s, causing the population to drop dramatically. More trouble followed in the early 15th century when Owain Glyndwr was on the rampage in those debatable borderlands. By the time of the Civil War, the city had been completely abandoned, and soon nature reclaimed what was once its own, and grass grew over the walls of once mighty Trellech.

By modern times, it was mainly known through a few medieval documents and in local legend, its precise location lost and subject to much speculation, with many believing it was sited under the modern village of Trellech.

No one seemed terribly interested in definitively locating it and finding out if it was as extensive and important as claimed, although some earlier surveys were indicative. But then an enthusiastic young archaeologist, intrigued by the story of the lost city,  decided to use his life savings to buy the fields where folklore said Trellech stood.

And it turned out,  when the trenches were dug, that legend, this time, was correct.

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4083716/History-fan-spends-32-000-life-savings-buying-field-digs-discover-lost-medieval-city.html

trell

http://www.lostcityoftrellech.co.uk/

 

The project is ongoing, so if anyone is in the area and wishes to join in this summer, there are details in the second link.

Besides the archaeological site of the city, the nearby village of Trellech is itself worth a visit, with its Holy Well dedicated to saint Anne, the Grade I Church of Saint Nicholas, a castle motte called the Tump, a 16th C pub, and three enormous Bronze Age standing stones (Harold’s Stones) which are aligned on the Midwinter sunset.

 

 

Knitting with a 14th-century goodwife….

textiles-and-clothing

Textiles and Clothing 1150-1450 by Elisabeth Crowfoot, Frances Pritchard and Kay Staniland, published by Boydell Press, in association with the Museum of London. ISBN 978-1-84385-239-3 (First published in 1992 and reprinted numerous times since then, lastly in paperback in 2016, which is the version I have.)

Before I proceed, I will say that among the sites that provided contributions to this work is Baynard’s Castle (excavated in 1972), which was, of course, a very important residence of the House of York. The book’s coverage ends at 1450, but I am sure the site will still be of interest to those of the murrey-and-blue persuasion.

baynards-castle

The sites covered are mostly along the northern bank of the Thames, in the old city, and were excavated over a period of about twenty years. Archaeologists have discovered all sorts of clothing and textiles that speak of their owners’ status. The list of finds includes “knitting, tapestries, silk hair-nets and elaborately patterned oriental, Islamic and Italian fabrics….beautifully made buttons, buttonholes and edgings which display superb craftsmanship and a high level of needlework skills.”

I purchased the book because it was referred to when I was reading something else, and I am very glad to possess it. The intricate detail and beautiful illustrations are breathtaking. There are some astonishing reconstructions of complicated designs, built up from small fragments. They reveal some exquisitely delicate, decorative silks, brocades and other fine fabrics. At Baynard’s Castle, the most exotic piece retrieved was a Chinese twill damask woven from silk. Oh, to know to whom that belonged!

The samples of knitting are almost moving. There it is, good old stocking stitch, exactly as we knit it now. Looking at the fragments, the medieval period melds with the present, as if there were no intervening centuries. I felt I could sit amicably side by side with a 14th-century goodwife, our needles tapping away…producing the same result. Perhaps she would knit one of a pair of gloves, and I the other. I know, the weaving and other handcrafts are still the same as well, but it was the knitting that touched me.

If I have a criticism, it is that I would have liked more colour photographs. Determining the details of various forms of warp and weft is not always easy when shown in grayscale. At least, maybe they are to someone with weaving experience, but not to someone who seldom ventured beyond knitting.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Textiles-Clothing-c-1150-1450-Medieval-Excavations/dp/1843832399/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1485971343&sr=1-1&keywords=textiles+1150

(Please note that the book to which the above link takes you is illustrated with an earlier cover than the one which will arrive, which has the cover pictured at the top of this page.)

The real site of the Battle of Barnet…?

site-of-battle-of-barnet

The excellent BBC series Digging for Britain, Series 5, the episode concerning the east of Britain, presented by the equally excellent Dr Alice Roberts, contained a section on the Battle of Barnet, 1471.

Why is it that an accepted site for a battle so often proves to be the wrong one? Bosworth is a prime example, of course, but it seems the Battle of Barnet was another. Apparently it has always been thought that the battle took place where the town of Barnet is now, yet there was never any proof. So the discovery of some 15th-century cannon balls in fields outside the town had the local detectors out in force.

Accounts of the battle describe it as having taken place in a hollow in the landscape, and the area of the fields fitted the bill. Standing in the middle and panning his camera around in a circle, one of the searchers showed how the land rose gradually all around. He and his fellows searched and searched, only finding things that might have had nothing to do with the battle, but then (in a style that brought Time Team to life again!) right at the eleventh hour a final detector happened upon something more substantial. They did not know if it was from horse harness or perhaps male clothing, although it was a little heavy for that.

battle-of-barnet

Various other finds convinced them they had found the true site of the battle. But it seemed curious that Edward IV, arriving on the scene with his battle at the end of the day, should choose to place himself in a dip. Surely that would be inviting trouble? Especially as he did not know exactly where the Lancastrian army was situated. But, the Lancastrians didn’t know the exact whereabouts of the Yorkists.

Battle commenced in at dawn, in fog, with the Earl of Warwick, in command of the Lancastrians, firing his cannon where he thought the Yorkists were. But he couldn’t see them because they were low down, and his cannon balls went harmlessly over their heads. Edward, on the other hand, kept his cannon silent, in order not to give his position away.

It became a bloody affair, with the Lancastrians mistaking one of their own, the Earl of Oxford, whose badge was a star, for Edward IV, whose badge was the sun in splendour.  Warwick was killed in the rout that followed.

So, was Edward IV a brilliant tactician in choosing the site he did? Or was it pure chance? We will never know.

See this previous post or this one.

Go here to see some of the programme itself.

An interesting discussion about medieval bones, including Richard’s….

bones-talk

Elena Haymond is an anthropology instructor at Riverland Community College,  and teeth are her special area of research within the field of osteoarchaeology. But in this talk she speaks of Richard’s remains in general, and how they have disproved Shakespeare’s portrait of him.

http://www.austindailyherald.com/2017/01/bare-bone-details-study-of-bones-enriches-the-understanding-of-people-cultures/

A MEMENTO MORI BEAD FROM GLOUCESTER

Recently excavations at Gloucester cathedral have unearthed some exciting new finds. Perhaps the most intriguing was a ‘Janus’ Bead of the 15th c., so-called because it is ‘two faced’ like the God Janus, with one face gazing forward and the other backward. What makes this one even more interesting, is that it is also a ‘Memento Mori’ item, with a skull on one side and a living man’s face on the other.

‘Memento Mori’ jewellery was quite common in the Middle Ages and later transformed into what was known as mourning jewellery (ie the Whitby jets items of the Victorians.).  In one of Richard III’s portraits he appears to be wearing a Memento Mori ring with a skull image. A three-faced bead not unlike the one from Gloucester, but made on the Continent, is in the Victoria and Albert Museum. In the case of the single bead from Gloucester, it appears to have originally belonged to a set of Rosary beads. Momento Mori images were not, of course, restricted to adornment but  were also found in art and on tombs–effigies that show both the deceased and/or a decaying corpse are quite common from the later medieval period. Edward IV apparently wanted such an effigy upon his grave but it was never made.

The image on the bead from Gloucester is of a man wearing headgear that indicates high status,  and may be meant to be a depiction of the  the bead’s owner.

 

http://www.borderarchaeology.com/results-are-back-find-out-more-about-our

 

beads

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