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Richard’s hair was NOT mousy…..!

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Well, the trail to this 2015 item about the reconstruction of Richard’s head was somewhat tortuous. It started at the New York Times  which then led me to Liverpool John Moores University, and I finally fetched up at this facial reconstruction.

My quibble is: “Originally the king was thought to have dark hair and black eyes, but the new tests reveal he most likely had mousey-brown hair and blue eyes.” Black eyes? The result of a punch in the face is not what’s meant here – but who has black eyes? Unless they’re high as kites, of course. As for the “mousy-brown”. The colour shown in this illustration is a sort of dark-blond. Yes? Poor old Richard, they might have spared him the rodent label…

 

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A breathtaking masterpiece of Tudor megalomania. . . .

 

Tudor megalomania

I have been prompted to write this article after happening upon Visions on the horizon of desire: a painting of Henry VII & his family in the presence of St. George, by Margaret Milne Wood, 2001. See here.

The subject of the work is the enigmatic painted panel of Henry VII and his family (see below) that is to be found in Mary, Queen of Scots’ bedchamber at Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh. But, in passing, it also comments on Henry’s glorious chapel at Westminster Abbey, which is described in the words of my title above. “…the entire Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey is a breathtaking masterpiece of Tudor megalomania…”

Well, I have heard the chapel described many ways, but never quite like that.

Henry VII and family, Holyrood Palace

Anyway, that is by the by, because I am more concerned here with the votive altarpiece in Mary, Queen of Scots’ bedchamber. It depicts Henry VII, Elizabeth of York and all their children (dead and living), and was probably commissioned between February 1503 and January 1509, for a private chapel in Henry’s newly constructed palace of Richmond. Or alternatively, one of Richmond’s adjoining monastic foundations.

Other paintings, tapestries and so on are discussed as well, but the main focus all along is the Holyrood altarpiece. Toward the end, mention is also made of the Whitehall mural, destroyed by fire but preserved in copies, such as this below. The mural had an inscription, which began: “If you find pleasure in seeing fair pictures of heroes, Look at these!” Um, heroes? ‘Fraid not – well, not to this loyal supporter of the white rose.

The author does Richard III no favours, he’s the lustful, incestuous dragon in the altarpiece, but then she isn’t exactly complimentary about Henry VII either. You will need to persevere with the author’s long examination of Tudor art. Her descriptions of the altarpiece are lurid to the point of being purple prose, and seem to have leapt out of the pages of a 19th-century Gothic novel. A lot of it went over my lowly head, because I never seem to look at art and see what others see. And be warned, you’ll need a dictionary! And stamina.

Whitehall mural - copy by Remegius van Leemput, after Hans Holbein the Younger

Whitehall mural – copy by Remegius van Leemput, after Hans Holbein the Younger

 

 

A cursed title?

This very informative BBC documentary, presented by Dr. Bendor Grosvenor, showed how a portrait, presently on display in Glasgow, was proved to be an original Rubens.  George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, was a courtier and soldier, serving under both James VI/I and Charles I as well as being a possible partner of the former. He was assassinated in 1628 and the portrait (left) dates from about three years before this.

Villiers’ line fared no better than their predecessors in their tenure of the Buckingham title. Just as two of the three Stafford Dukes were executed and one killed at Northampton over their 67 years, Villiers’ son went into exile in France after serving in Charles II’s “CABAL” – he left no male heir and both his brothers had already died without issue. The title was recreated, with Normanby, for John Sheffield in 1703 but his male line expired in 1735 whilst Richard Grenville’s family held it, with Chandos, from 1822-89.

“Open the Box” (or urn)?

 

Now that John Ashdown-Hill’s new book (bottom left) on the Tower of London and the “Princes” has been published, we are in a position to know Edward V’s mtDNA, which he would share with his brothers and maternal cousins such as Jane or Henry Pole the Younger. Progress has been made since Moran’s appendix to The Private Life of Edward IV, which detailed potential maternal line relatives who were alive as late as 2016.

Westminster Abbey is, of course, a royal peculiar and it has hitherto proven impossible to obtain permission to access those remains – of whatever number, gender, age, era or species – that purport to be those of Edward IV’s remaining sons in the modern scientific era. They were, however, last asked in 1980 (p.185) and Richard III himself has turned up by this method.

These findings ought to be a game changer and there are more good reasons to be proceed. In 1933, the work of Jeffreys, as of Crick, Watson et al, was wholly unforeseen. Radio carbon dating was also invented after the Second World War.

 

So, with apologies to Michael Miles and Take Your Pick (below right), is it time to “open the box”?

 

The royal art of hoping to die in your bed….

A royal medieval funeral

Well, I was at a temporary loose end, pondering what to do to while away a Saturday afternoon…and what did I come up with? Why, assembling scenes of the deaths of monarchs of England. Of course. The devil makes work for idle hands, and mine were indeed idle.

So here are our kings and queens, from Edward the Confessor to Elizabeth I. The line was drawn at the Stuarts, Georgians and so on, in whom I am just not particularly interested. Some of the monarchs who did interest me were most reluctant to divulge their death, funeral or burial scenes, and for them I had to settle for tomb effigies and the like.

The only trouble is…well, when push comes to shove, so to speak…a monarch dying in a bed is, well, someone dying in a bed. It’s difficult for even the most talented artist to come up with something different. At least Elizabeth I seems to have opted for the floor at the foot of her bed, which was indeed an innovative move.

Some of the scenes are the stuff of myth or legend, for example the death of Henry VI…by a murderer who couldn’t be anyone other than Richard of Gloucester. And then there’s the death of Edward V and his brother, smothered so vilely in their beds on the orders of that same Richard. Another is the illustration of a remarkably svelte Henry VIII commending his son, Edward VI, to rule in his place. Did Henry really lose that much weight before dying?

Anyway, here goes:-

Edward the Confessor, 1042-1066, and Harold Godwinson, 1066 If Harold did indeed die in this way. The Bayeux Tapestry is certain he did. 

William the Conqueror, 1066-1087 and William Rufus, 1087-1100 

Henry I, 1100-1135, and King Stephen, 1135-1154

Empress Matilda, 1141, and Henry II, 1154-1189

 Richard I, the Lionheart, 1189-1199, and King John, 1199-1216

 Henry III, 1216-1272, and Edward I, 1272-1307

 Edward II, 1307-1327, and Edward III, 1327-1377. Was Edward II really killed in such a horrific way? And what was the truth about Alice Perrers and Edward III’s rings?

 Richard II, 1377-1399, and Henry IV, 1399-1413

Henry V, 1413-1422, and Henry VI, 1422-1461 Yes, Henry VI’s murderer just has to be Richard of Gloucester. And just look at those evil spurs! Only Beelzebub would have such things!

 Edward IV, 1461-1483, and Edward V, 1483. I won’t bother with the break in Edward IV’s reign. As for the deaths of the boys in the Tower. Well, Richard again, of course. No one else in the whole wide world had even a teensy motive for being rid of them. Right? 

Richard III, 1483-1485 – the best of them all!

Henry VII, 1485-1509 and Henry VIII, 1509-1547

Edward VI, 1547-1553, and Queen Jane Grey, 1553

Mary I, 1553-1558, and Elizabeth I, 1558-1603

The following site is also quite interesting for royal deaths and mourning:- http://www.gutenberg.org/files/44379/44379-h/44379-h.htm

 

 

Cecily Neville

As we mentioned here, Ashdown-Hill’s biography of Richard’s mother was published in April. Whilst his latest, to which we shall return later, was released today, we shall concentrate on Cecily here.

This is the book that summarises Cecily’s life by delineating her full and half-siblings, demonstrating that portraits (right) previously assumed to be of her and Richard, Duke of York, are of other people. Ashdown-Hill then lists her pregnancies and shows where each of her children were probably born – there is no mention of a Joan but there is further evidence about the birth date of the future Edward IV and Cecily’s ordeals during the first peak of the Roses battles. He deduces how much she knew and how she probably felt about Edward’s bigamy and the Wydevilles, together with the part she played, as a Dowager Duchess, in Richard III’s coronation, but also her years living under Henry VII and a “between the lines” interpretation of her will.

In all, the eighty years of Cecily’s life, survived only by two of her daughters are described in great detail in a book that demonstrates further painstaking research by an author who clearly knows even more about the fifteenth century than he did two years ago.

Now on to this one (right) …

 

Strong jaws for George and Richard…?

This is an aside really. But although this above picture of George of Clarence isn’t contemporary, I can’t help noticing that the general shape of the face, especially the jaw, is very like Richard as we now know him from the discovery in Leicester. Were these York brothers known for their strong jaws?

George’s last resting place is Tewkesbury Abbey (he held Tewkesbury at the time of his death). There are bones there, said to be George and his wife, Isabel Neville. They are in a subterranean chamber that is sometimes open to the public, and are displayed in what resembles a glass fish tank suspended on the wall.

Unfortunately, there is a strong likelihood that they are actually the remains of an older man and his wife, possibly a merchant. George and Isabel’s bones are said to have been disturbed during the time of Henry VIII. However, if the contents of this tank were to be closely examined for DNA, is there any chance that some of George still exists? If so, his DNA would surely match his brother Richard’s.

I’m not saying this would prove my observation about strong jawlines, so please don’t think it. But DNA might point to similarities between the brothers? No? Well, there’s only one way to find out if some of George (or Isabel) is still there in Tewkesbury Abbey, and that is to be allowed to open, examine and test what’s in that tank. There would be religious objections and claims of lack of respect, of course, but to be honest, I don’t see what’s respectful about a fish tank that can be gawped at by the public, as I once gawped!

There’s more about the bones in Tewkesbury at https://meanderingthroughtime.weebly.com/history-blog/-george-duke-of-clarence-a-sad-end-to-a-sorry-tale

SHW once more

Today in 1509, Margaret Beaufort died …

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Oh dear, not a handsome Stanley….!

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Memorial brasses aren’t always kind to the deceased, but this one is downright cruel. I know the man was a Stanley, but even so…well, he looks like the back end of a bus. A bow-legged bus at that. (I know buses don’t have legs, but I’m sure you know what I mean!)

 

Richard in later life….?

Richard - first result from adapting both p-ortraits

I have often wondered what Richard might have looked like had he triumphed at Bosworth and lived on into the 16th century. He would have had another queen, of course, and probably another family. . .and he would have worn clothes that we are inclined to term “Tudor”. They wouldn’t be known by that name if Richard had lived on, of course. We wouldn’t have had any Tudors. (Yippee!) Maybe Ricardian? Or Plantagenet? Perhaps not the latter, because they spanned too many earlier centuries. Ricardian would suit me just fine.

Anyway, the urge to tweak a portrait of the might-have-been Richard finally got the better of me, and here is the result. It is actually a blend of Portrait of Léon Riesener by Eugène Delacroix, and Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk by Hans Holbein the Younger.

I am not trained in using Paint Shop Pro, but self-taught by just playing with the software. There are, I know, ways of doing things that are much, much better and more efficient than my “skill”, so bear in mind that I am very much an amateur. My first effort was OK-ish, but the face ended up a little too pink, and lacking in contrast. Also he was just a little too much of a redhead. After comments about this, I tried again, just the head and shoulders. I think it’s better. The face is certainly paler, but I’m not sure the hair works. Ah well, that’s something for another time.

I don’t know if you will agree that Léon Riesener’s face resembles Richard’s. Probably you won’t, but he does to me. I hope you like the result of all the tweaking.

Head and Shoulders - 3 - grey adjusted

 

 

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