A number of medieval treasures, including the Middleham Jewel, are to go on permanent display at the Yorkshire Museum in York to tell how the city once ruled the North of England, and will be unveiled today.
A number of medieval treasures, including the Middleham Jewel, are to go on permanent display at the Yorkshire Museum in York to tell how the city once ruled the North of England, and will be unveiled today.
The painted tapestry below is from Rothley Chapel in Leicestershire.
Strangely, since the article that prompts me now (see link below) was written in 2012, no one appears to have noticed the great likeness of the depicted English king to Richard III. At least, if they have, I don’t know of it. It’s Richard, even to his clothes. Clearly, he has been based on the famous portrait in the National Portrait Gallery.
But clearly too, the Templars were no longer a huge force in Richard’s time. Nor is the royal banner appropriate to the 15th century, when the English kings also laid claim to the crown of France. (To read more about Rothley Temple, which is now part of the Rothley Court Hotel, there is an informative article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rothley_Temple and another at http://knightstemplarvault.com/rothley-chapel/. There is more again, with many illustrations, at http://www.rothleyparishcouncil.org.uk/rothley-temple-and-the-chapel-of.html.)
So let’s consider the De Castro Code article for a moment. It’s a very interesting and clever allusion to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, and to conspiracy theories in general. I love a good conspiracy theory, from the so-called fraud of the moon landings to whether Hitler lived on in South America after World War II. I’m not saying I believe them, just that they fascinate me. So do not even mention Rennes le Château or pirates’ buried treasure at Oak Island. Or Atlantis being in Antarctica or a real flying saucer being captured at Roswell and kept at Area 51. All juicy stuff, and eminently readable.
In the case of the illustration at the beginning of what I now write, it appears to depict Richard III with Templar knights, the conspiracy is referred at (very neatly and appropriately) as The De Castro Code. (St Mary de Castro is a church in Leicester) Dan Brown’s world-selling novel concerned a theory that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, and founded the Merovingian dynasty of French kings. With the Norman Conquest of 1066, families with Merovingian blood came over to England. They were the de Beaumonts and the de Montforts. Leicester first Norman earl, Robert de Beaumont, married a lady of undoubted Merovingin descent, so that their son, Robert le Bossu (who built Leicester Abbey), became the first truly Merovingian earl.
This Merovingian line only died out when Simon de Montfort was killed in 1265. So for 200 years, Leicester was a Merovingian stronghold in England, with rulers who claimed divine descent. Well, I doubt they promoted such a claim at the time, for it would have brought the wrath of Holy Church down upon them, and the awful fate that would entail. An English king was hardly likely to defend nobles who boasted such a claim. Anyway, the upshot of all this is that the Merovingians were also in England. Specifically Leicester. What might this imply – if they were indeed of divine descent?
So, what is the artist saying? Was he an early Ricardian, pointing out on the q.t. that Richard was as betrayed and defamed as the Templars had been? After all, the Stanleys betrayed him on the battlefield, and the Tudors defamed him at every whipstitch.
Or… Might there be a hint that Richard had Merovingian blood in his veins? That would mean Edward IV and George of Clarence had as well, of course, but the artist seems concerned only with Richard.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have not covered everything from the article, such as all the other similarities with The Da Vinci Code’s conclusions (St Mary de Castro even has a window depicting the Last Supper, and a possible Mary Magdalene), nor have I wondered about the Templar connection with the similarly named Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, but I leave you to cogitate this most puzzling of new Ricardian mysteries….
The following link takes you to the original article. http://www.thiswasleicestershire.co.uk/2012/11/the-de-castro-code.html
Postscript: I have been reminded (by Christine Smart – thank you, Christine!) that in the spring of 1484, the Silesian ambassador had a conversation with Richard, in which the latter expressed a desire to go on a Crusade. http://staffblogs.le.ac.uk/crusading/2014/03/20/a-crusading-richard-iii/ This may well be the inspiration for the painting. But it cannot be said for certain. An element of mystery still remains.
Another Postscript: While examining a Google image of the Rothley Temple painted tapestry—more information about which is infuriatingly elusive—I wondered if it was possible the unknown artist had signed it somewhere. All the usual places proved negative, but then I spotted something which looks like a signature to me, but can’t be made out because the resolution of the illustration is too poor. I have indicated its whereabouts in the illustration below. Opinions please? A larger version of the picture is at the beginning of this post.
Anne Montgomery nee Darcy. One of the much respected Ladies of the Minories from the window of Holy Trinity Church, Long Melford, Suffolk.
Shakespeare said ‘all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players’. Following on from that if we may be allowed to say that the Wars of the Roses were a stage then surely some of the saddest players on it were the ladies of the Minories – the widows, mothers, sisters and daughters of some of the main players of that tragic and violent period who survived their menfolk but in what must have been difficult and sometimes straightened circumstances. I have here leaned heavily on W E Hampton’s excellent article, the Ladies of the Minories (1)
The Abbey of the Minoresses of St Clare without Aldgate was founded by Edmund Crouchback Duke of Lancaster and his wife, Blanche of Navarre, in 1293 for the nuns that Blanche had brought to England with her. Surviving until 1539 the abbey, which was very large, was surrendered by the last abbess, Dame Elizabeth Savage, to Henry Vlll. The abbey had already suffered what must have been a catastrophic loss in 1515 when 27 nuns and other lay people i.e. servants died of the plague (2)
Edmund Crouchback, illustrations of his tomb in Westminster Abbey by Stothard from Monumental Effigies of Great Britain 1832
According to Edward Tomlinson who wrote A History of the Minories there is an old manuscript in British Museum ‘which appers to have escaped the notice of any historian’ which states that Edmund’s ‘hart ys buryed at the North end of the high Awter in the mynorysse And his body ys buryed at Westminster in the Abbey’. This manuscript which is probably a transcript from a register kept in the Abbey contains ‘the names of all p sones beyng of Nobull Blode whiche be buryed wthin the Monastorye of the mynnorysse’. The names of these illustrious burials are too numerous to name here but a few..
Dame Elizabeth Countess of Clare
Dame Isabel daughter of Tomas of Woodstock Duke of Gloucester
Margaret Countess of Shrewsbury daughter of Humphgrey Duke of Buckingham
Agnes Countess of Pembroke
Eleanor Scrope wife to Lord Scrope and Daughter of Raufe/Ralph Neville
Edmunde De La Pole and Margaret his wife
Elizabeth de la Pole, Edmund’s daughter (3).
Among those burials I am focusing here on those from the turbulent period of the Wars of Roses and the fall of the House of York..
I shall start with one of the leading ladies of this little band, Elizabeth Mowbray nee Talbot, Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. Elizabeth was the daughter of John Talbot lst Earl of Shrewsbury and sister to another lady of great importance from the period, Eleanor Butler. Mother to the tragic Anne Mowbray child bride to Richard of Shrewsbury, Edward IV’s youngest son. Elizabeth lived in the Great House within the Close for which she paid a rent of 10 pounds. Elizabeth it will be remembered, on the sudden unexpected death of her husband was forced soon after to take a diminished dower in order to augment the revenue of her young son-in-law. Frustratingly Elizabeth’s thoughts on this were, as far as is known, never recorded. The marriage of her daughter Anne to the youngest son of Edward IV and Elizabeth Wydeville, whose own marriage had ruined her sister, Eleanor, ensured that the vast Mowbray estates would pass to Richard if it should come to pass that her daughter died, which as it transpired is exactly what happened. Anne died shortly before her 9th birthday at Greenwich one of her mother-in-law’s favorite homes. Anne was buried in Westminster Abbey but her body was removed from there in 1502 when the chapel she was buried in was demolished to make way for Henry Tudor’s grandiose new chapel. Anne was returned to her mother at the Minories and buried there – ‘Dame Anne Duches of yorke doughter to lord moumbray Duke of Norfolke ys buried yn the sayed Quere’ (4)
Elizabeth Mowbray, nee Talbot, Duchess of Norfolk as depicted in the window of Holy Trinity Church, Long Melford, Suffolk.
Although the glory days must have been over for Elizabeth with the demise of her husband – her retirement to the Minories would have been a serious case of downsizing – a look at her will tells us that she had not lost absolutely everything as did her daughter’s mother in law, Elizabeth Wydville, whose pitiful will tells us that she was left more or less destitute. Ah well Karma is a bitch as they say.
Jane Talbot, sister-in-law to the above, having married Sir Humphrey Talbot. Humphrey was the son of John Talbot by his second wife Margaret who was a daughter of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick. Jane’s interesting will which left numerous bequests especially to her servants also requested that ‘I Dame Jane Talbott, wedowe late the Wif of sir Humfrey Talbott knyght… my body to be buried within the inner choer of the churche of the Mynores withoute Algate of London nygh the place and sepulture where the body of Maistres Anne Mongomery late the wif of John Mongomery Squyer restity and ys buried within the same quere’.
Anne Montgomery widow of John Montgomery who was executed in 1462, brother of Sir Thomas Montgomery, Sir James Tyrell was her nephew. Anne was clearly a person much revered. As well as Jane Talbot, Elizabeth Mowbray also requested to be buried close to her in her will made 6 November 1506 – ‘And my body to be buried in the Nonnes qwere of the Minorsesses without Alegate of London nyghe vnto the place Wher Anne Montgomery lyeth buried’.
Mary Tyrell. According to Hampton ‘Almost certainly one of the sisters of Sir James Tyrell – probably the youngest – and therefore a niece of Anne Montgomery (5 )
Elizabeth Brackenbury. Daughter to the loyal Sir Robert Brackenbury, Richard III’s Constable of the Tower, who died with his king at Bosworth. Hampton mentions that Elizabeth”s poverty was clear in her will of 1504 and that she found shelter under the wings of the Talbots and requested in her will that her debts to Elizabeth were to be paid – ‘I Elizabeth Brakkynbury..beyng of goode and hole mind’ – all such money ‘as my lady’s grace of Norff’ to whom I am most specially bounde’ had paid, or was charged with, for Elizabeth ‘of her charitie’ was to be repaid (6). Hampton also adds that there was some connection between Sir Robert and Sir Thomas Montgomery which could partly explain his daugher’s connection to these ladies, although it is not certainl if Brackenbury’s daughter was an inmate at the time of Anne Montgomery’s tenancy at the Minories.
Hampton wrote ‘All of these ladies, with the possible exception of Jane Talbot had suffered great loss, but it would perhaps be unwise to to think too much of them as sheltering in the Minories, where life may not have been too severe. They may as Dr Tudor-Craig suggests have gathered around the Duchess yet Anne Montgomery’s influence may have been greater spiritually’.
While some ladies had been most grieviously injured by Edward IV and his Wydeville wife – i.e. the shabby way Elizabeth Mowbray was forced to augment the revenue of her small son-in-law, the betrayal of her sister, Eleanor, the executions of William Tyrell and John Montgomery, further injury was inflicted by Henry Vll with the unjust attainder of Sir Robert Brackenbury and the execution and attainder of Sir James Tyrell.
Wynegaerde’s Panorama of London (1543) in which the Minories can be seen just above and to the left of the White Tower/Tower of London. . Note the close proximity of the scaffold on Tower Hill, shown to to the left of the Minories.
Doubtless they were great comforters of each other and it is very easy to imagine them being of a great solace to Elizabeth Mowbray when her daughter’s remains were returned to her.
The beginning of the end for the once grand Minories came when the last abbess, Dame Elizabeth Salvage surrendered the abbey to Henry Tudor Jnr in 1539. Stowe describes how in place of ‘this house of nuns is now built divers fair and large storehouses for armour and habiliments of war, with divers workhouses serving to the same purpose’ although there is ‘a small parish church for inhabitants of the close, called St Trinities’ (7) Some of the abbey walls survived until a fire in 1797. Around 1566 the parishioners came into possession of what had once been the Minories church but was now the parish church and set about ‘renovating’ it. This involved the removal and destruction of ancient monuments and the adding of a steeple. Finally around 1705 , having surived the Great Fire of 1666, begun the final destruction of the fabric of the ancient church and the rebuilding of a new one although the medieval northern wall was retained.
Diagram of the 18th century Holy Trinity church showing the north 13th Century retained. This wall managed to survive the fire and bombs until clearance of the site in 1956-58.
The remains of the abbey after the fire in 1796
Another print showing the abbey remains after the 1796 fire.
It would have been about this time that the building of new burial vaults was begun and in the process of which, the ‘greater part of the ground beneath the parish church must have been evacuated which would have not been achieved without the unfortunate removal of the remains of those, who in the past centuries, would have been buried there’ (8). Alas!
The 18th century church was finally destroyed after being bombed during the war. But that is not the end of the story of our intrepid band of Minory ladies or indeed the Minories itself, for in 1964 the remains of Elizabeth’s daughter, Anne Mowbray were discovered by an excavator driver in a vaulted burial chamber of the Minories which had somehow been, fortunately, overlooked. Anne was once again reinterred in Westminster Abbey as close to her original burial place as possible…but, that dear reader is another story.
18th century Holy Trinity Church prior to its destruction by a bomb. It was in the excavation of this area after the war that Anne Mowbray’s remains were discovered in a vault.
Holy Trinity Church looking slightly less stark in this painting,1881, artist unknown.
The area now covering where once stood the Abbey of St Clare (The Minories). Such is progress.
1. The Ladies of the Minories, W E Hampton, Richard lll Crown and People p195-201
2. A Survey of London Written in the year 1599. John Stowe pp 122.1233.
3. A History of the Minories pp68.69 Edward Murrey Tomlinson M.A
4. Ibid p 69.
5. The Ladies of the Minories W E Hampton, Richard lll Crown and People p.19
6. Ibid p.198
7. A Survey of London Written in the year 1599. John Stowe p.128.
8. A History of the Minories p 299 Edward Murrey Tomlinson
Philippa Langley has recently been on the road with ‘The Missing Princes Project’ making inquiries in Lincolnshire as to any local legends or folklore (such stories can often hold a tiny grain of folk memory) relating to King Richard or the two boys.
Interestingly, author Sandra Heath Wilson in her novels has the princes hidden at Friskney, which is in Lincolnshire. There is more to her choice of location than a random place name chosen by an author ( but I will leave Sandra to do the telling, if she wishes to reveal!)
During Philippa’s recent talk, it was also mentioned that Richard, as Duke of Gloucester, overruled the choice of a mayor in Grimsby during 1474, and replaced the incumbent with his choice, Robert More. An unusual tidbit, as we do not generally think of Richard as being ‘active’ in this area of Britain. Where was this More in 1483 or 84?
Several legends from different parts of the country seem to be emerging. Could this be because one or both of the princes were frequently moved to different locations, perhaps remote and unlikely ones, to avoid detection or possible rescue? Although mostly held in Sarum, Eleanor of Aquitaine was moved to other castles during her imprisonment; even more frequently shunted about was the unfortunate Eleanor, Fair Maid of Brittany, first prisoner of King John and then his son Henry III. Her exact whereabouts were hard to trace throughout her long years of imprisonment, though we know she may have been at Corfe castle and she definitely spent some time at Gloucester. It was only when she was too old to bear children and was allowed to enter a convent that her location became generally known. Later on, Mary Queen of Scots had many different places of imprisonment before her final date with destiny at Fotheringhay.
Another intriguing site I stumbled upon is that of Coldridge, a small village in Devon. In the church is a chantry chapel to one John Evans, who was keeper of the park and yeoman of the crown. Beyond that, nothing is known of his origin, although his name appears to be Welsh. Evans leased the local manor from Thomas Grey, Marquis of Dorset, the half brother to the princes, in the reign of Henry VII. In his own chapel, Evans lies in effigy, gazing towards a particularly rare stained glass window depicting Edward V with the crown suspended over his head as a symbol to acknowledge he was never crowned. Some guidebooks wrongly describe this glass as being of Edward VI, Henry VIII’s son, but it is clearly from an earlier period by clothes and hair, and then there is the matter of the crown. Although not confirmed, some sources state that Evans, whoever he was, attended the funeral of Henry VIII’s first son, Henry, which is intriguing indeed.
(There is also a fragmentary section of a scowling man’s face just below the glass of Edward V, which has been thought to represent an evil Richard, but that is possibly a more recent attribution, and it may have been part of another scene completely unrelated to the Edward V one.)
Postscript from viscountessw (Sandra Heath Wilson):- I lighted on Friskney in Lincolnshire for two reasons. Firstly, research revealed it to have been held by the Earl of Lincoln, and secondly it was occupied by the Kymbe family, one of whom, Thomas, became the third husband of Cicely/Cecily, younger sister of Elizabeth of York. This marriage was apparently a love match – if it wasn’t, I can’t think why she would have risked losing everything in order to make such a “low” marriage.
Recently I came across a portrait of Henry VIII that I had not seen before–certainly it is one of the lesser known ones.
Ar first glance, the painting appears to be of a youth, pudgy-faced and beardless (with some similarities to portraits of Edward IV around the tip of the nose, eyes and mouth)–however, a bit of research shows that Henry was not a young boy, but in fact around thirty five, when this miniature was painted by Lucas Horenbout. This was around the time Henry was enamoured with Anne Boleyn–so it is possoble he shaved the beard off to impress her!
Apparently Henry was frequently clean shaven, despite his most famous portraits showing him bearded. His beard when it grew in was described as ‘golden’ and he seemed to have taken that as a compliment and a good match to his kingliness–however, Katherine of Aragon hated her husband’s facial hair with a passion and frequently begged him to shave it off…which, on occasion, he dutifully did. (At that point in his life, Henry clearly preferred lopping off facial hair to lopping off a wife’s head.)
Henry was also rumoured to have decreed a ‘beard tax’ in 1535 (although the evidence for this is rather scanty…just like some beards). The wealthier and higher status you were, the more you paid to have a beard–which promptly turned facial hair into a much-desired status symbol. If Henry didn’t in fact implement this tax, his daughter Elizabeth certainly did–any beard which had more than two weeks growth was to be taxed.
The hipsters of today would be horrified.
On 8th June 1376, Edward, the Black Prince, died. From then until 29th September his body lay in state in Westminster Hall, and then was taken to Canterbury Cathedral to be buried on 5th October at Canterbury Cathedral.
His passing was greatly mourned through the land, and lamented because the elderly monarch, Edward III, was no longer the man he had once been, and the new heir was a little boy, the eventual Richard II. Not a satisfactory situation, with the prospect of a minority rule, with all the dreadful prospects that entailed.
No one knows why Prince Edward was nicknamed the Black Prince (or when) but if something said at the time, by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Simon Sudbury, can be taken at face value, it wasn’t because the Black Prince was of dark colouring. Sudbury said that although Edward was dead, he had left behind a fair son, his very image, as heir apparent. Right, before you all rush to draw my attention to the ambivalence of the word “fair”, let me point out that I did mention something about “face value”. So, if Sudbury was speaking of colouring, and linking father with son (Richard II), dark doesn’t enter into it. We all know Richard II was fair, as in blond, with a complexion that flushed easily.
Edward was idolized in his lifetime, and there was really only one thing that has always marred and dogged (blackened?)his reputation. That was at the sack of Limoges on 19th September 1370, when Edward was the ruler of Aquitaine. He is accused of ordering the slaughter of 3,000 inhabitants, and has always been vilified for this. Yet in every other way he was lauded and admired.
However, it now seems that new evidence has come to light in France, from a French chronicle, that it wasn’t the English who committed the massacre, but the French themselves, who were enraged because Limoges supported the English.
This new information has been brought to light in Black Prince, a new biography by Michael Jones. To read more about the discovery (and decide whether or not to spend the published price of £30 to read the book itself – cheaper elsewhere, e.g. Amazon) please go here.
Now, having said all that, I am pleased that new sources do appear from time to time, no matter how many centuries pass. So I have not given up hope that old documents, chronicles and rolls will turn up out of nowhere, proving that Richard III wasn’t guilty of all the crimes of which he’s accused. Not least the murder of his nephews. It’s waiting somewhere, folks. Don’t despair!
Richard’s coins are, inevitably, rare. He didn’t reign long enough for there to be all that many. However, one of his “long cross pennies” is up for auction, and can be viewed from noon, Monday, 4th September 2017, at the Emmanuel Centre, 9-23 Marsham Street, Westminster, London SW1P 3DW.
Cheque books and plastic at the ready, ladies and gentlemen? At the very least, scuttle along there and take a peek.
Unlocking the secrets of the Black Prince’s effigy
A team of scientists and art historians has been attempting to unravel some of the mysteries surrounding the Black Prince’s tomb. In this short video you can find out what they were up to and what they are hoping to discover.
This investigation is one of a number of research papers and talks that are being prepared for The Black Prince: Man, Mortality & Myth conference on 16 and 17 November 2017. You can find out more about the conference here: https://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/whats-on/event/blackprinceconference/
There will also be a free #YoungFutures conference in the build up to the event for 16-25 year olds. For more information visit: https://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/whats-on/event/youngfutures2017/
St Mary’s Church at Redgrave is hosting the event, called ‘People Power’, on September 30 from 10.30am-4pm, which will be led by lecturer Tania Harrington.
June Shepherd, workshop organiser, said it would be the latest in a popular series of study days the church has run since 2007, covering everything from Richard III to First World War airmail.
She said: “From the start our team aimed at providing history lovers with something more meaty than an evening lecture, yet not as involving as a several-month course.
“An added interest is that the study days all take place inside a beautiful building which is itself historically important.”
Cost is £18, including a light lunch. To book, send SAE to Mrs J. Shepherd, Barn View, Chapel Lane, Botesdale IP22 1DT, with cheques made out to Redgrave Church Heritage Trust.