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One of London’s earliest imposters….?

Well, once again we have the painting of the two Princes in the Tower by Sir John Everett Millais. They look like frightened little angels, which, of course, is the traditional view of them. Nasty Uncle Richard, etc. etc. But it has never been proved that Richard did anything to them. He might even have had them taken away to safety. We will never know, and neither, it seems, did Henry VII, whose reign was blighted by fears of the return of one or both of them. And, of course, Yorkists claimants to his stolen throne did indeed turn up to make his usurper’s life difficult. The most important of these was “Perkin Warbeck”, who may or may not have been Prince Richard of York, as Ashdown-Hill’s research may answer for us soon.

Anyway, the paragraphs below are the relevant section of this article, in which Perkin is labelled as a ‘brass-necked imposter’, along with four other similar, um, frauds. Whether Perkin was an imposter or brass-necked is, as ever, in the eye of the beholder.

“….One of London’s earliest imposters emerged from the confusion surrounding what would become one of the city’s most enduring mysteries. Uncertainty has always existed over the fate of King Edward IV’s sons Edward and Richard, or the ‘Princes in the Tower’. They’d been next in line to the throne until their uncle, Richard III, declared them illegitimate and made himself king instead.

“….The boys had been living in the Tower of London but were never seen again after the summer of 1483, and it was often speculated that they had been murdered at Richard’s instructions. However, some believed it was plausible that one or both had escaped and gone into hiding elsewhere, and several years later, one person sought to capitalise on the belief in the possibility of a secret royal survivor.

“….A man named Perkin Warbeck emerged in 1490 (sic), claiming to be the younger son, Richard, and that his brother had been murdered, forcing him to go undercover for his own safety. Warbeck made a claim to the English throne and managed to convince some members of European royalty of his identity, including the future Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian I. However, his various armed attempts to progress his claim in England did not meet with success, and he was eventually captured and handed over to Henry VII in 1497.

“….Ironically, he was imprisoned in the Tower of London itself, only being released when he confessed he was not actually one of the Princes in the Tower after all. While he was still allowed to attend the royal court, he remained under guard, which led him to make a number of escape attempts. He was eventually recaptured and locked up in the Tower again, before being executed at Tyburn in 1499….”

Richard, the willow king….?

 

Another new Richard III sculpture…although this one is a very different medium, and is recognisable from the full-length statue that we all know and love. Do I like it? Well, I fear it looks a little vulnerable.

Anyway, here is a link to learn all about it: 

Maldon

Following an unsuccesful Viking raid in 924, the battle of Maldon took place in August 991 and the result was a victory for the Norse invaders. Byrthnoth, the Essex earldorman who led the Saxons that day, was among those killed and Ethelred II instituted payment of the “Danegeld” to pacify the Vikings. This Byrthnoth statue (left), consequently, is displayed and a tapestry marking the millennium is part of the Maeldune Centre, to which we shall return.

Just over a mile from the town centre is Beeleigh Abbey, where Isabel Countess of Essex (Richard’s aunt) was buried, together with her Bourchier husband and son, before they were moved to Little Easton by her grandson, then Earl of Essex, at the time of the Dissolution, as were the Mowbrays and Howards in Thetford. The Abbey is closed nowadays, although it can be viewed from the gardens, which remain open.

This Essex town, by the Blackwater Estuary and the narrower River Chelmer, lies about six miles from Witham and was previously accessible from there by train. This plaque (left) by the Moot Hall details the more recent historic buildings, many of them on the High Street. The Rose and Crown (bottom) is one of these, down the hill and still in operation as an inn today.

The Maeldune Centre itself lies at the Market Hill junction, by Coes. Across the road is a long redundant church (St. Peter’s), which was adapted by the Maldon-born Thomas Plume (1630-1704), Vicar of Greenwich and Archdeacon of Rochester, to place Maldon Grammar School on the ground floor and his extraordinary private library (below left) on the first. The school has moved on but the Plume Library, funded by the income from nearby farmland, still stands.

Here, in a structure open only eight hours a week and accessible by a spiral staircase, the books are arranged by size and are not lent but have been stored since Plume’s time and a modern volume is very occasionally added. The collection relates to Plume’s interests in theology, history, science and philosophy, as well as the Civil War that plagued his youth. Some of the leather spines on the books are disintegrating although the pages themselves are in good condition.

Plume’s collection also includes a notable range of portraits, including all the monarchs of his lifetime and others from Edward IV, but excluding Edward V, the first two “Tudors” and Jane. The portraits include other clerics, including an “unknown divine”, whilst that of Charles I was made before his beard made an appearance. Groups can visit only by appointment and the total capacity is limited to twelve, including the staff.

So, to view a good portrait of Richard III and the former burial place of his Bourchier relatives, as well as some other history, Maldon is certainly worth a day out. All Saints, the contemporary civic church, houses the remains of George Washington‘s great-grandfather.

MORE TREASURES FROM LEICESTERSHIRE: AN IRON AGE SHIELD FROM THE SOAR

Leicestershire seems to be a county that just keeps ‘giving’ to archaeologists, from the discovery of Richard III’s remains (naturally)  in 2012  to gigantic Roman structures under Leicester…and now, moving back in time, an Iron Age shield has been found in, of all places, the River Soar. (Everyone was wrong about Richard being in the Soar, but it seems a lot of other things were thrown  in its waters over the centuries!)

What makes this item unique and an extremely exciting find,  is that it is made of wood. Organics seldom survive in the archaeological record unless the conditions are perfect–and they seem to have been in this case.

The shield, which is 2300 years old, is made of hardwood, with a hazel rim and a boss of willow. At first archaeologists thought it might simply be a ‘ritual deposit’, made purely to go into the waters and never used in warfare,  as they thought such thin wood would not stand up well in battle, but experimental reproductions showed the light, bendy shield was in fact adequate at deflecting blows. It still may have gone into the water as a deliberate offering–water deposits to Chthonic gods were common in Britain from the late Bronze Age through the Iron Age.

It is interesting to note that its  shape is almost identical to that of the famous Battersea Shield, found in the river in London, only that shield is metal with exquisite enamelled designs.

IRON AGE SHIELD LEICESTERSHIRE ARTICLE    

shieldbattersea

Top-New Shield and reconstruction. Bottom-the Battersea Shield.

Handmade in Bolton

This is a short BBC4 series about the Lancashire craftsman Shaun Greenhalgh’s attempts to recreate historic artefacts using modern methods. Co-presenting with Janina Ramirez, Greenhalgh seeks authentic materials, where possible and safe, trying to put them through the right processes. Not all of these work immediately, although the end result closely resembles the original.

The episodes include a Visigoth jewelled eagle brooch, a pre-Reformation alabaster carving, a Renaissance animal plate and an Islamic rock crystal bottle. The presenters visit an eagle and Haddon Hall for their research.

Did Richard III wear the Black Prince’s Ruby at Bosworth….?

Imperial State Crown, with the Black Prince’s Ruby at the front
from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Prince%27s_Ruby

“….It is said that Henry V wore it [the Black Prince’s Ruby] in his jewel-encrusted helmet at the battle of Agincourt, and Richard III did also at the battle of Bosworth….”

I found the above sentence in a post on the British Medieval History Facebook group. How very intriguing. It’s something I had never heard before. Did Richard really wear the priceless but cursed gem at Bosworth? If so, was he (as one friend has suggested) emulating Henry V? Or even the Black Prince himself?

The ruby is actually “a magnificent 170-carat red spinel, the largest uncut spinel in the world. This particular precious stone, known as ‘the Great Imposter’, has a traceable history dating back seven centuries and is rumoured to be cursed, as its consecutive royal owners have been dogged by adversity, misfortune, tragedy or just downright bad luck.

I learn every day, because not only had I never heard the Richard-at-Bosworth story, but I didn’t know the stone was also called the Great Imposter!

One thing is certain; the ruby certainly doesn’t always mean good luck for its owner, as can be seen at here, which provides a potted history of the ruby’s progress through the centuries. Thankfully, our present queen seems to be bearing up remarkably well in spite of the supposed curse.

It didn’t bring good fortune to the Black Prince, who suffered a truly miserable demise, as did Richard II. The usurper Henry IV didn’t enjoy good health or a happy, trouble-free reign. Henry V was doing brilliantly, until his health was destroyed at an early age. Henry VI…well, he was just the wrong man in the wrong place, and not at all suited to be king. Edward IV was also doing brilliantly, until he took the eye off the ball and allowed himself to go to seed, so to speak. He died young.

Then there is poor Richard, for whom true happiness was always to be elusive. He tried hard to do the right thing, but it’s like being a present-day driver. You can do everything by the book…it’s just the other idiots on the road! Can the ruby be blamed for the deaths of Queen Anne Neville and Richard’s only legitimate son? And for the betrayal and defeat he suffered at Bosworth?

Graham Turner – my favourite image of Richard at Bosworth.
Is it possible that the jewel at the front of his helm is the famous ruby?
from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-23106651

And if the fatal gem then proceeded to Henry VII, it didn’t bring him a contented life either. Success as a king, maybe, but he was beset by foes and pretenders to his stolen throne, and I think personal happiness eluded him, especially after the death of his queen, Elizabeth of York. He died in his bed, but it was a miserable death.

The interest of this blog ends with Henry VII – well, it does for me. But the Black Prince’s Ruby has certainly brought mixed blessings to his successors.

Anyway, back to whether or not Richard could have worn it at Bosworth. Does anyone know of this story? Is it fact, or fiction? I hope someone can provide the answer.

Three dazzling treasure finds in Norfolk….!

 

How does that song go? Some guys have all the luck….? Well, a young ‘student-turned-archaeologist’ named Tom Lucking certainly does. And I’ll warrant he’s already sick of jokes about his name! Anyway, his find has now been declared treasure trove. He found the jewel, now known as the Winfarthing Pendant, near Diss. Norfolk in 2014.

To read more about this pendant, go to this article.

The Croesus-fingered Mr Lucking struck again last September, finding “a brooch dating back to between 1200 and 1300” at Wymondham, Norfolk.

To read more about his second big find, please go to this piece.

Now it seems (according to the first link above) that in 2017 a second pendant was found near the site of the Winfarthing Pendant, although not, it seems, by Mr Lucking. It has now also been declared treasure trove. I do not know who did find it, but here is a picture:-

That unicorn is really a lap dog: The secret details in 4 classic paintings revealed….

Raphael: Lady with the Unicorn

I have always been fascinated by the mysterious way great paintings evolve., and have written on the subject before. In a manner of speaking. See here 

Now I have come across a very interesting article about a missing da Vinci fresco, and four great works by da Vinci, Raphael and Boticelli: da Vinci’s Adoration of the Magi and The Annunciation, Raphael’s Lady with the Unicorn, and Botticelli’s Allegory of Spring.

It really is amazing what secrets lurk beneath the final painting!

The long-lost Walbrook makes a “reappearance”….

Having for the past few days been concerned with the course (in the 14th century) of the old Walbrook, one of London’s “lost” rivers, I was pleased to come upon this article which indicates that the lost river is being acknowledged once again. Well, naturally, it hasn’t been mislaid at all, but was covered over centuries ago and now forms part of the capital’s sewer system.

The article referred to above is not new, but was to me. For once, the dreaded modern sculpture seems to be excellent. Something novel that is visually explanatory and really does bring back to life a river that has been hidden away for years.

Now all I need to know is where it actually meandered in the 14th century. It seems it was apt to change its course from time to time….

Richard’s Boar in Lego

Following the success of the Easter Lego event in 2018, when the most famous portrait of King Richard III, the National Portrait Gallery one, was recreated using Lego bricks, Fairy Bricks were back in Leicester this Easter to build another Richard III-themed mosaic at the Richard III Visitor Centre. This year members of the public were able to help by building the boars which formed part of Richard’s coat of arms. The event began on Good Friday and concluded Easter Monday. There were even some LEGO cupcakes available in the White Boar Café.

Here is a link to the Visitor Centre’s Facebook page if you want to find out more about their activities

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