We definitely do have set beliefs about medieval horses, mostly incorrect. Just because we see illustrations of medieval lords riding what look like ponies too small for them, we think it must be the fault of the illustrator. But no, for journeys they really did have small trotting horses that could keep going on and on and on, with a swift steady gait that was comfortable for both horse and rider. To our modern eyes it looks a little silly, but they knew what they were doing.
It’s the same with similar illustrations that show them riding with straight legs, especially knights in armour etc. But that was the way they rode, and very sensible it was too, enabling them to “stand” in the stirrups with great ease.
As you can no doubt tell, I’m not a rider, and can only describe what I see, but if you go to this video you’ll see someone who definitely knows it all telling you about medieval horses. Thoroughly recommended.
Here is an illustration that perplexed me when I came upon it at The writing at the top says “Henry, by the grace of God, King of England”…but which Henry? By the clothes, it has to be VI, VII or VIII. I think.
Then it was pointed out to me that there’s a Tudor rose on the canopy, which eliminates Henry VI, leaving Henrys VII and VIII.
I have to say that the chap under the canopy looks miserable enough to only be Henry VII. I mean, did that man ever smile? But I couldn’t be sure. I asked about it on my Facebook page, and opinion seemed to be split. After all, in our minds Henry VIII is always that tall, monstrous figure painted by Hans Holbein the Younger. He was born like that!
His weasel-faced father, on the other hand, was just plain skin and bone, full stop. Something grim to frighten the horses.
Then my stalwart daughter came up with the goods. Believe it or not, the picture that started this is of Henry VIII. It’s to be found here, which describes the illustration as “King Henry VIII in Procession from Westminster Abbey for the State Opening of Parliament, 4th February 1512. 17th-century copy of 16th-century original (MS Ash Rolls 45 MRM Bodl lib)”.
So it’s a picture of Bluff King Hal, aged not yet twenty-one, looking like his odious father in a wig!
Portrait of Maximilian I, from the workshop or a follower of Albrecht Dürer.
Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519) is one of those larger-than-life historical figures. Straddling the medieval and Renaissance eras, he worked tirelessly and spent a vast fortune to establish the Habsburgs as one of Europe’s dominant ruling families. In England, the House of York considered him a vital ally to the interests of English territories and trade on the continent.
In 1484, Maximilian’s envoy asked Richard III to send him 6,000 archers to strengthen that alliance, calling the English king ‘that prince of all Christian princes’ ‘of very great and excellent virtues’ to whom Maximilian had ‘most love and affection, and with whom he desires most to ally and confederate himself’. Expressing no consternation over the deposition of Edward V or the disappearance of the ‘princes in the Tower’, and perhaps believing they were still…
This article is about George Easton, the jeweller who created Richard III’s crown (see above) for the funeral and reinterment at Leicester. And he did so with the assistance of John Ashdown-Hill, although John’s name isn’t mentioned.
George’s business is called Danegeld: “….A land tax in Anglo-Saxon England might not sound the most glamorous starting point for a brand, but it’s where George Easton found the name for his intriguing label Danegeld….”
From a studio in the summerhouse in his garden, he has produced (among many other things) Viking armbands, Art Deco brooches and jewels for films such as The Hobbit, Beowulf and The Crown. His work is brilliant and much sought after.
One of his particularly important and famous projects was Richard III’s gold-plated funeral crown which was “….enamelled with white roses, and had rubies and sapphires to represent the livery colours of the House of York…”
During the medieval period it was common for hollow beeswax votive offerings to be made in the hope of spiritual assistance in healing or at least minimizing an injury or ailment. In Exeter Cathedral, these were hung above the tomb of Bishop Edmund Lacy (c. 1370-1455), but there were other cathedrals and churches where they were placed.
It was thought that none of these delicate items had survived, but then, in a Luftwaffe raid in May 1942, the cathedral was bombed, and when the damage was being cleared up, all sorts of things were found on top of the bishop’s tomb: “….pieces of glass, oyster shells, splinters of stone and over a thousand curious wax objects….” These curious wax objects were the votive offerings.
Formed as fingers, heads, hands, feet and even whole figures, they are wonderfully preserved and very detailed. To read more about them, go to the Cathedral website and medievalart.co.uk. There are more sites too, of course.
At York Minster there is a window known as the St William Window, which shows just such an offering (a rather large leg) being submitted to St William of York, who was canonised in 1227. The window is close to his shrine.
There is something that has always puzzled me about Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales: if there were up to thirty pilgrims (which is what’s reckoned) how on earth could one of them (at a time)tell a tale that the other twenty-nine could hear?
In the text Chaucer has his pilgrims point out places they’re passing, so it would seem the stories were being told as they rode along. But someone at the back of the cavalcade couldn’t possibly hear someone at the front. Could they? I can only conclude that the tale-telling went on when they halted at the wayside, or stayed somewhere overnight.
Even today, we associate certain colours with certain things, e.g. white for chastity, black for mourning and red protects against evil. Back in the medieval period many more colours had meanngs at different times of the year – well, the Church does now as then, of course, but I mean for people in general.
With that in mind, when I look at the famous tapestry above, I wonder if these ladies and gentlemen have chosen their clothes with particular regard to the colour? Might they be conveying subtle messages to one another?
If you go to this article you can find an interesting list of what various colours signified during the Medieval and Renaissance period.
“….Benyngton (Simon de), draper.—To be buried in S. John’s Chapel, to the south of the chancel of the church of S. Laurence in Old Jewry, near Idonia his late wife. To Idonia his present wife he leaves lands and tenements in the parishes of S. Laurence aforesaid and S. Mary de Aldermanbury for life; remainder to the church of S. Laurence for the maintenance of chantries therein for the good of his soul, the souls of his wives, of Roger his father and Cecilia his mother, John de Abyndon, and others. In default of the vicar and parishioners of S. Laurence aforesaid providing the chantry priest, the aforesaid lands, tenements, and rents are to go to the Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty of the City of London for the time being, for the maintenance of a chantry in Guildhall Chapel. To the Master and Brethren of the house or hospital of S. Thomas de Acon, near the Conduit of London, a certain quitrent for the maintenance of a chantry in the church of S. Thomas aforesaid, at the altar of S. Mary in gysma, for the good of his soul, the souls of John de Abyndon, late draper, Idonia, wife of the same, John their son, and others; similar remainder to the foregoing in case of default. Dated London, 14 October, 42 Edward III. [A.D. 1368]….”
In his book The Black Death in London, Barney Sloane says “….the altar of St Mary in Gysma (in childbirth), probably situated in the Lady Chapel in the priory of St Thomas Acon….” Was the priory at the hospital in Cheapside? Or elsewhere. If elsewhere, the only one I can find from that time was in Kilkenny, which I somehow doubt would have caught the attention of Simon Benyngton, mercer of London.
I’d never heard of St Mary in Gysma before. It means St Mary in Childbirth, and at that time, with the pestilence recurring it’s likely many women died in childbed, and their babies with them. I decided I ‘d like to bring this information into my wip, so the search was on for more information. But first I had to find out about the apparently very English Knights of St Thomas of Acon, for this altar was located in their church.
This section from Rocque’s Map has been taken from here, together with the passages:
“….Look to the southern end, and to the right of Ironmonger Lane is a block of building and the abbreviation “Cha” for Chapel – this is the area where Thomas a Becket was born and also the site of the Hospital of St Thomas of Acon….
“….The hospital was built on land purchased from the Becket family. The name Acon is the anglicised version of Acre (now part of Israel), and dates from the Third Crusade between 1189 and 1191, and possibly originates from an order of monks / knights formed during the Crusade and the siege of Acre….”
“…In Rocque’s map, you can see that the Mercers’ Hall is also shown where the hospital was located….
“….The Mercers’ Company represented the interest of merchants who traded in materials such as wool, linens and silks and it was the Mercers who became patrons of the Hospital of St Thomas of Acon, and used the hospital’s chapel as a ceremonial meeting site from when the chapel was built in the 13th century in 1248….”
Well, after floundering around for some precise information about who, what, where,why and when, I finally reached this British History online piece , which commences:-
“….This entry concerns the house where Thomas Becket, the martyred archbishop of Canterbury, was born; the hospital of St. Thomas of Acre, which was established on the site of the house and was then extended over several neighbouring properties; the hall and chapel of the Mercers’ Company, which were first set up within the church of the hospital; the rebuilding of the hall and chapel in the early 16th century; and the site of the dissolved hospital, part of which after the Great Fire came to be occupied by the third hall and chapel of the Mercers’ Company….
“….On the street frontage the property corresponded to nos. 85-6 Cheapside in 1858….”
If you read the above article, you will find the following, which concerns the chapel to which Simon Benyngton referred in his 1368 will:-
“….The choir, which was presumably between the high altar and the nave, is first mentioned in 1372. There are several references to the Lady Chapel, presumably to the E. of the choir, where the altar of St. Mary in childbirth (in gisina), mentioned in 1368, was probably located. 20
20 Cal Wills ii, pp. 149, 548; MC, Reg of Writings i, ff. 13, 80; PRO, PROB11/24, f. 22r-v.
There is much much more information in the article, but my concern is the late 14th century, and so my requirements are limited to that period only.
I tell you now that Google Search insisted on asking me if I meant “St Mary in Gym”. Well, I can’t quite see Our Lady working out, even if Google can!
Anyway, unless someone out there knows better, I will have my fictitious character (who has suffered miscarriages) go to the Lady Chapel of the Hospital of St Thomas of Acon in Cheapside, to pray at the altar of St Mary in Gysma.
Mary of York Royal Window, Northwest Transept, Canterbury Cathedral
Mary Plantagenet or Mary of York was the second daughter of King Edward IV and Elizabeth Wydville. She was born at Windsor Castle in August 1467 and died at her mother’s favourite palace of Greenwich 23 May 1482 aged just 14 years. Strangely enough another royal child, even younger than Mary, Anne Mowbray Duchess of Norfolk, her sister in law – being the child bride of her brother Richard of Shrewsbury – had also died at Greenwich just six months earlier on 9th November 1481. Even at a time when child mortality was high it must have been heart rending to have 2 deaths so close together for the royal household and by horrible coincidence in the same royal apartments. Elizabeth Wydeville’s whereabouts at that time are unknown so its impossible to say if she was at Greenwich at the time of Mary’s death although it is known that her father had visited Canterbury on the 17th May and was back in London on the 23rd and thus it is possible he may, perhaps accompanied by the queen, have seen his daughter as she lay dying (1).
A print by an unknown artist now in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich depicting the Palace c 1487.
A view of Greenwich Palace from a print published by the Society of Antiquaries 1767
The Royal Window, Canterbury Cathedral. Elizabeth Wydeville and her daughters. Mary is shown as the last figure on the right hand side.
The cause of death of neither of the girls is known. While Anne’s body had been taken by barge to her burial place in Westminster Abbey Mary’s was taken by stages to St Georges Chapel, Windsor, where she was interred next to her 2 year old brother George who had died in March 1479 possibly of the plague. Several Wydeville ladies were among the mourners including Jane, Lady Grey of Ruthin, sister to the queen and Jacquetta, another sister’s daughter, Joan Lady Strange, wife of George Stanley. Another niece, Lady ‘Dame’ Katherine Grey, possibly the daughter of Jane Wydeville was also present. Dinner for the funeral group was at the palace after which Mary’s body was taken from Greenwich parish church where it had been taken and begun its last sad journey to Windsor (2).
Over time the exact location of the graves became forgotten and lost but in 1810 during the course of building work their coffins were discovered in the area known then as Wolsey’s Chapel and now as the Albert Memorial Chapel. These were easily identifiable because George’s lead coffin was inscribed with “serenissimus princeps Georgius filiustercius Christianissimi principis Edvardi iiij” and it was known that Mary had been laidto rest alongside her little brother – her funeral accounts tell us that she was “buried by my Lorde George, her brother”. When Mary’s coffin was examined she was found wrapped in numerous folds of strong cerecloth (waxed cloth used for wrapping a corpse) closely packed with cords ( 3)
Mary and George were then reburied in the small vault close to their father’s. Their mother’s remains, a skull and pile of bones found lying on top of Edward’s coffin along with the remains of her cheap wooden coffin had disappeared between the time of Edward’s vault being discovered and resealed in 1789 (4). Edward’s remains had been thoroughly poked about and no doubt Elizabeth’s were appropriated by the dreaded Georgian souvenir collector along with numerous locks of Edward’s hair. A slab was already in place with their names on it as mistakenly it was believed they had already been buried close to their father in the small vault adjoining his.
St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Yorkist Mauseoleum photo @Roger Simon
Its not surprising that little is known about Mary of York a child of 14 who was hardly here ere she was gone. She was mentioned along with her sister Elizabeth in the will her father made prior to leaving for France in 1475 – ‘Item we wil that oure doughtre Elizabeth have x ml marc towards her marriage and that oure doughtre Marie have also to her mariage x ml marc , soo that they bee gouverned and rieuled in thair mariages by oure derrest wiff the Quene and by oure said son the Princeif Godfortune him to comme to age of discrecion’ but ‘if either of oure said doughtres doo marie thaim silf without such advys and assent soo as they bee therby disparaged, as God forbede, that then she soo marieing her silf have noo paiement of her said x ml marc, but that it bee emploied by oure Executours towards the hasty paiement of oure debtes and restitucions as is expressed in this oure last Will’ (5). Ah man makes plans while the gods laugh as they say for we all know how differently things panned out. However its rather gratifying to know, at a time when so many ancient and royal remains have been lost that at least Edward has two of his children with him.
Mary of York ‘Royal Window’ Canterbury Cathedral
If you enjoyed this post you might be interested in my post on Mary’s parents at
The Royal Funerals of the House of York at Windsor p58 Anne E Sutton & Livia Visser-Fuchs
D. & S. Lysons, Magna Britannia, vol. I, pt. I, Berkshire (reprint of an 1806 publication), p. 471
Elizabeth had requested a modest funeral and that is exactly what she got. Even the herald reporting on the funeral was shocked The Royal Funerals of the House of York at Windsor p68 Anne E Sutton & Livia Visser-Fuchs
Excerpta Historica : Illustrations of English History p369 edited Samuel Bentley