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Surviving Regalia of King Richard III’s and Queen Anne’s Coronation

(by Annette Carson)

The Ampulla and Coronation Spoon

Perhaps because they are not immediately recognizable as such, these are the oldest items in the coronation regalia and the only two that escaped the systematic destruction of royal regalia and crown jewels after the execution of Charles I. The holy oil (chrism) is poured from the beak of the golden eagle into the spoon and applied to the monarch’s head, breast and palms.

The Coronation Spoon is first recorded in 1349 as preserved among St Edward’s Regalia in Westminster Abbey. Already at this date it is described as a spoon of ‘antique forme’. Stylistically it seems to relate to the 12th century and was possibly supplied to Henry II or Richard I. It is therefore a remarkable survival – the only piece of royal goldsmiths’ work to survive from that century. The small pearls were added to its decoration by King Charles II.

It is unclear from the 1349 inventory whether the spoon at this date was part of the chapel plate. Its length, and the division of the bowl into two lobes, suggest that it always had a ceremonial purpose, and its presence among the regalia means that it has always been associated with coronations. One suggestion is that the divided bowl was designed in this fashion so that the archbishop might dip two fingertips into the holy oil. Hence it may well have been with this spoon that Richard and Anne were anointed in 1483.

The Ampulla is more difficult to date, its antiquity being less obvious at first sight since it has been subjected to frequent redecoration. Its feathering is characteristic 17th-century work, but when the head is removed the comparatively crude threading of the screw at the neck shows that the vessel is far older, and could have been the golden eagle used for the first time at the coronation of Henry IV in 1399. If so, it was this Ampulla which Richard III conveyed to Westminster Abbey the day after his own coronation: ‘an egle of gold garnysshed with perles and precious stones in which is closed the precious relique called the ampulle … to abide and remayne after his decesse within the forsaid monastery among the regalies now beyng in the said monastery for evermore’. By the king’s orders this holy object was to be available for delivery to him whenever he should ask for it.

Information taken from publications by H.M. Government and the Royal Collections Trust (and see Royal Collection website). N.B. Miniature reproductions of these items are commercially available.

A Medieval Almshouse–with a Hidden Treasure

Sherborne is a pretty little town with a ruined castle, interesting buildings including, an abbey, and a medieval almshouse. All are well worth a visit but the 15th century almshouse is of particular note as it is still in use in its original function. As the buildings are  residential, the Almshouse is not generally open to the public but the chapel  and adjacent room can be viewed on certain summer afternoons for a small fee (although due to the current pandemic it may be a long time before it opens to the public  again.)

The Almshouse first began as a House of Mercy in 1406, but what we see today is  from the New Foundation of 1437, where a house was built to Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist. A licence was obtained from King Henry VI with the assistance of Robert Neville, Bishop  of Salisbury (a brother of Cecily Neville, mother to Edward IV and Richard III.) Robert owned the manor of Sherborne at the time, hence his  interest in the charitable project.

The licence granted by Henry gave the House the rights to hold the property, and permission for the use of a seal for an almshouse containing ‘poor, feeble and impotent’ men and women. To assist these aged tenants‘ needs was chaplain and a housewife‘ were obtained. A prior was appointed from the  residents too oversee the running of the house. The cleaning lady was paid  quarterly and got a new gown and hood thrown into the bargain every year. The tenants themselves received white, woolen, hooded gowns and food to the cost of ten shillings served twice a day–‘reasonable drinking’ was also permitted in the evenings! If times were hard, however, the residents were initially allowed to beg out in the town streets, although later this practice was forbidden.

A facsimile of the Almshouse  licence  hangs on a  wall inside the inside the building. Written in English, it is sealed by Robert Neville, Humphrey Strafford of Hooke, and others donors who gave sumptuous gifts, including a local lady called Margaret Goffe who gifted the Julian Inn. Below the facsimile lies the house’s original money coffer with its five sturdy locks–all five key-holders had to gather in order to open the chest, so there was no chance of anyone with light fingers dipping into the community’s funds!

During the Reformation, the little house‘s existence was threatened since it  was deemed  a place  used for ‘superstitious’ rites. However, in the end it was not destroyed or sold off due to it being a charity run by lay persons.

 What is particularly interesting about the Almshouse is its ‘little secret’, hidden from the later Tudor era right down to modern times. Secreted  away in one of the rooms was a stunning medieval triptych painting crafted in around 1480. Due to having been folded up and kept in a dark place, it has retained its medieval colours in full glorious vibrancy. Lazarus  rises from the dead; a sinister Satan is cast out of a dumb man; the son of the widow of Nain and the daughter of Jairus rise again, and Bartimaeus is healed of his ills.

The Triptych  is now restored to a position of prominence in the little chapel, overlooking by 15thc stained glass depicting the Virgin and Child, John the Baptist and John the Evangelist.

A hitherto unknown fact about Henry VII….!

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.)

 

CARICATURE OF A KING

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.

henrycartoon

 

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…

Henry VII taking a Chop with the Archbishop of Canterbury

 

HENRY “TUDOR” IN THE 21ST CENTURY?

With advanced computer technology, more artists and other interested people are doing their own ‘facial reconstructions’ of famous historical figures, often giving them modern hair styles and clothes to let people see how they might have looked if they lived in the present day.

The following article has 30 such images, and is interesting because not only does it have the usual ‘Henry VIII and his wives’,  but also Henry VII, who normally gets rather forgotten about as far as the Tudors go, being generally deemed the ‘boring one.’ (Penny-pinching is not nearly so exciting as enmasse head-chopping, after all.)

If you read the article, don’t forget to scroll down to the comments under Henry’s pic–some are hilarious!tudorrecon

HISTORICAL FIGURES RECREATED article

 

 

A STRANGE PORTRAIT OF ELIZABETH WOODVILLE

Recently I came across a Victorian piece of art by Ford Madox Brown which is supposed to depict Elizabeth Woodville first appearing before Edward IV with her two small children. It’s rather odd piece and not particularly flattering–I am guessing that the artist was not a Woodville fan? Here, a rather plain-looking Liz W. has  a simpering, slightly smug  expression and is rolling her eyes upwards (perhaps batting her eyelashes at Edward.)

It is, shall we say, not a good look.

Even more perplexing is the fact, she seems to have THREE children rather  than two–and the one crammed in the middle is a rather sinister, saturnine boy with a widow’s peak, who resembles a young Dracula, or Eddie Munster from the Munsters TV series!

I am not surprised that this painting is not more well-known!

 

madox_brown_lady_grey_451

Wells Cathedral, in glorious Medieval Technicolor…!

 

from the BBC

We’re often told that the medieval period was one of bright colours. The interiors of castles and great houses were painted with vivid scenes, and the churches and cathedrals were brilliantly decorated. It’s one thing to know this, but quite another to actually see what it might have been like. The above illustration of Wells Cathedral shows how it might have appeared prior to the 14th/15th century addition of the two West Front towers we know today and that Stillington would have seen. It really is quite incredible.

The picture below is how Turner saw the cathedral in 1795, after Monmouth’s rebels stripped it of lead for ammunition, when it was more or less as we see it now.

 

An early 17th-century view of Windsor Castle….

taken from Wikipedia

The image above is not one that I’ve seen before – but that’s just me, no doubt you all recognise it. It’s from the Album amicorum of “a man named Michael van Meer, who seems to have lived in Hamburg and travelled to London around 1614–15”. Unlike imagined reconstructions, this drawing was made of the castle as it was the day van Meer viewed it.

To read more go to this article.

Below is another of van Meer’s works from the same album, this time of a ferry crossing in front of London Bridge, this time taken from this collection.

Edward IV and…Richard III….?

 

Edward IV (left) and Richard III (right)

I really can’t imagine why anyone would carve Richard III (above right) looking like this. To me it’s just a head. I can more accept the image on the left as being Edward IV. Both are figures on corbels at either end of the chancel arch in St Mary’s Church, Barnard Castle.

Richard was slender and skinny – in this carving he looks rather bulgy. I know the artist wasn’t a Leonardo da Vinci, but I have to wonder if it’s really meant to be Richard at all. After all, the image on the left does indeed look (to me) like Edward.

But it’s all in the eye of the beholder….

Anyway, to read much more about what’s going on at St Mary’s, which has received a £400,000 grant for repairs that will begin in April, go to this aticle

The Devonshire Tapestries showing scenes of medieval hunting….

 

The Devonshire Hunting Tapestry: Boar and Bear Hunt, 1425-1430,
probably made in Arras, France. Museum no. T.204-1957.
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The four 15th-century Devonshire Tapestries, which depict a Boar and Bear Hunt, a Swan and Otter Hunt, a Deer Hunt and a Falconry Hunt, were accepted by HM Government in lieu of tax payable on the estate of the 10th Duke of Devonshire and allocated to the Victoria and Albert Museum.

To see the Boar and Bear Hunt, go to https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/the-devonshire-hunting-tapestries-boar-and-bear-hunt/hwFmCcIwXAxYCw

For the Swan and Otter Hunt, go to https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/the-devonshire-hunting-tapestries-swan-and-otter-hunt/XgGfQdqOEsjN1A?hl=en

For the Deer Hunt, go to https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Deer_Hunt,_V%26A_Museum.jpg

For the Falconry tapestry, go to http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O94142/falconry-tapestry-unknown/

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