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Richard III, Henry VII, north, south…and a soupçon of Robin Hood….

Picture this, as Blondie once sang:-

“…[In 1486] many of the southern nobility and prominent gentry of the kingdom accompanied Henry VII on what an attendant herald described as the first progress of his reign. This took them to Nottingham and then after Easter onwards toward York.

royal progress

A royal progress (not in England, clearly)

“And by the wayside in barnesdale, a littil beyond Robin Hoddez stone, therle of Northumreland with a right a great and noble company, mete and yave his attendaunce upon the kiing – that is to say with xxxiii knightes of his feed men, beside esquires and yeomen. (BL, Cotton Julius B.XII, fo 10. An edition of this text is being prepared by Emma Cavell for the Richard III and Yorkist History Trust.)

“The herald knew that this was a tense political moment, for there had been risings in Yorkshire, whence, as the nervous author of the second continuation of the Croyland Chronicle was shortly to remark, all evil rose. The earl of Northumberland, who had only three months earlier been released from prison, was still on probation. He and his feed men had stood, although they had not been engaged, on Richard III’s side at Bosworth Field the previous August. Was there something pre-planned and stage-managed about the earl and his meyney [sic] coming to ‘submit’ and welcome his king at Robin Hood’s Stone, just as Robin Hood in the story had been pardoned and welcomed into the king’s service in Barnsdale? Or was the detail added by the herald himself, who was struck by the manner in which life on this royal progress seemed to have imitated art?

“Southerners, heralds, East Anglian gentry, or college bursars, were neither ignorant of what the north was really like, nor unaware that the Robin Hood stories were set in an imaginary north. The portrayal of the north as wild and unruly, and its inhabitants as savages, was, by the fifteenth century, a well-established literary convention. It was a convention, moreover, which could be called upon quit shamelessly for political propaganda when it suited governments so to do.”

thus

“…with Henry VII responding in 1489 to a localised tax revolt in the North Riding of Yorkshire (which had also led to the death of the Earl of Northumberland) with the claim that the rebels were intending to ‘rob, despoil and destroy all the south parts of his realm’. Men and women, one is supposed to believe, were lying awake at night in fear of these wild savages from the north. (See A.J. Pollard North, South and Richard III)

Northumberland's signature

Durham Cathedral, Northumberland’s place of burial. Plus his Garter stall plate and signature.

“There can be no doubting that a distinction was made conventionally between the north and south countries. By the fifteenth century the dividing line had broadly settled on the river Trent, especially as far as administrative boundaries were concerned…” (End of quote from Imagining Robin Hood: The Late Medieval Stories in Historical Context by A.J. Pollard. The illustrations are my inclusion.)

We have heard much about Richard III being mistrusted in the south, and of resentment of his appointments of his faithful northerners to plum positions. Was this true? Pollard says that the ‘portrayal of the north as wild and unruly, and its inhabitants as savages, was, by the fifteenth century, a well-established literary convention’. Literary, not literal. Did the south really fear its northern neighbours? Was that the reason for some of the defections from ‘northerner’ Richard at Bosworth?

If so, how clever of Henry VII to call upon the widespread love of the entire English people for their mythical hero, Robin Hood. There, on the Great North Road, by Robin’s stone, the forgiven Earl of Northumberland is received back into the favour of his king.

Robin Hood and Lionheart

Mind you, I do not see Henry Percy as Robin Hood. Nor was Henry Tudor a Lionheart. Cravenheart, more like, for he cowered away at the two battles in which he was in any way physically involved. But he was a brilliant manipulator. It’s written all over his portraits!

Henry VII - manipulator

Henry VII, Master Manipulator

PS. Regarding Robin Hood’s Stone: “A landmark named ‘the Stone of Robert Hode’…was located in the Barnsdale area, and once stood on the eastern side of the Great North Road, a mile south of Barnsdale Bar.”  From http://www.yorkshireguides.com/wentbridge.html

 

 

Here’s one that wasn’t made in Dundee …

Henri IV that is. We have written about him before but, this time, we even have a recording of the facial reconstruction process.

Richard III, courtesy of Dundee University….

Dundee University - Richard III

This portrait of Richard, commissioned in 2015 by Dundee University, somehow escaped my notice at the time. At least, I really do not recall it, which is a shame, because it’s rather good

And to see a fuller version of the portrait, as well as more information, go here.

ST MARY’S CHURCH, FAIRFORD: ROYAL PORTRAITS

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St Mary’s, Fairford, Gloucestershire.  ‘A complete and perfect Perpendicular church’  and famous for it fine collection of medieval glass.

Described in Betjeman’s Best British Churches as ‘a complete and perfect Perpendicular’ church(1) this beautiful wool church was rebuilt by John Tame, a wool merchant from Gloucester , in the late 15th Century to replace a much older church.  The tower had already been rebuilt by Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick and Lord of the manor around 1430.  St Mary’s possesses a complete set of medieval stained glass, amongst the finest in England and it is this glass that I want to focus on now.  The glass was made between 1500 and 1517 and, other than the west window, which was severely damaged in a storm in 1703 and later restored, the glass has somehow miraculously survived, although how this has happened remains a mystery.  It has been suggested it has survived because of the royal portraits contained in them. The windows are thought to have been a gift from Henry Vll himself.  It should be remembered that when Henry had the young Edward Earl of Warwick executed in 1499 he seized his estates which included Fairford.  It has also been suggested that Henry may have then given the manor to Prince Arthur whose badge of ostrich feathers and motto appear in some of the windows and one of the portraits is thought to have been modelled up his wife, Katherine of Aragon.  Thirty years after Arthur’s death Henry Vlll presented Fairford manor to Katherine of  Aragon after he had divested her of her title of queen.  The portraits are mostly members of the Tudor royal family and influential people in the Tudor court  although one of them is thought to be of a Plantagenet, that of Henry’s brother-in-law, the young Edward of Westminster, one of the ‘princes in the Tower’   Other portraits were modelled on Henry himself, obviously, his wife Elizabeth of York, Catherine of Aragon, Prince Arthur, Henry’s  daughters Mary and Margaret and a young Henry Vlll and last but not least Margaret Beaufort (2)   I also think its possible that one of them is based on Richard lll, but that is purely my own speculation.

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Nave, north aisle, north Window.  The figure of the Queen of Sheba is believed to be a likeness of Elizabeth of York

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Chancel, north chapel, Lady Chapel, North window.  Jesus as a small boy in the temple modelled on a young Henry Vlll possibly.

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Holbein’s sketch of Henry Vlll as a child to compare IMG_3802.JPG

Nave,north aisle, west window.  The figure of Solomon is thought to have been modelled on Edward of Westminster, one of the ‘princes in the Tower’ and brother to Elizabeth of York

 

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Nave, north aisle, west window.  Could this figure be Morton? It has been described as Wolsey but I disagree.  

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A wooden boss on the roof of Bere Regis church thought to represent Morton in comparison.

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Chancel, south chapel, Corpus Christi Chapel, east window.  This version of the Virgin Mary is believed to have been modelled on Mary Tudor, Henry Vll’s daughter.   See picture below to compare likenesses.

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A portrait of Mary Tudor to compare to her likeness in the above portrait of her at Fairford.

 

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Nave, West Window.  The figure with the crown is thought to be that of Henry Vll entering Heaven.

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Chancel, north chapel, Lady Chapel, north window.  The Magus is believed to have been modelled on Prince Arthur.

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Chancel, north chapel, Lady Chapel, north window.  Two royal likenesses here.  It it thought that the Virgin Mary was modelled after Catherine of Aragon while that of the attendant with the doves is modelled on Margaret Tudor, Henry Vll’s daughter.  Could the lady in red be modelled on Margaret Beaufort?

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Two kings here..Henry Vl on the left and Henry Vll on the right.

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Purely my speculation here but could the warrior holding the severed head be a Tudor representation of King Richard lll?  For surely one shoulder has been depicted higher than the other one! 

I am  indepted to the excellent Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi  online for these images

(1) Sir John Betjeman, updated by Richard Surman, Betjeman’s Best British Churches p.270

(2) Sir Nickolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England, Gloucestershire 1. The Cotswolds, p367 

Richard, the Stanleys and the Harringtons….

Joseph Mallord William Turner - Ingleborough from the Terrace of Hornby Castle

Joseph Mallord Turner – Ingleborough from the terrace of Hornby Castle

Well, I always knew the Stanley brothers were sh-1-ts (yes, I’m being relatively polite – that is a 1 not an i) and this article (link below) confirms my opinion. No doubt a lot of you will already know the story of the Harringtons’ struggle against the thieving self-interest of the Stanley brothers, Thomas and William, who wanted everything, especially the Harringtons’ seat of Hornby Castle in Lancashire. But Edward IV intervened and settled in favour of the Stanleys, presumably because he wanted their support. He granted Thomas Stanley the custody and marriages of the two Harrington heiresses. So Richard wasn’t able to save the family from the Stanleys,  but it certainly aroused the latter’s ire.hornbycastlelancashire_large

Many of you will also have read this 2010 article or Hipshon’s book, but in case you haven’t, it is very informative. This bitter quarrel, and Richard’s support for the Harringtons, which was renewed when he became king, probably is behind the treachery at Bosworth. Nothing to do with Henry Tudor and Margaret Beaufort, but everything to do with an overwhelming desire to be avenged on Richard for backing the Harringtons. The Stanleys bore an almighty grudge, but hid it behind apparent new allegiance to Henry Tudor. My opinion, of course.

Footnote: The events described above, i.e. Richard coming out in favour of the Harringtons in the 1460s, came to a head only a week or so after an earlier instance of Thomas Stanley’s propensity for treachery against England’s reigning king, this time Edward IV, and it was Richard who exposed him. Edward must have regretted deciding in Stanley’s favour. I will describe it all in an article scheduled for the day after tomorrow.

The monarchs of Bradford City Hall….

Bradford City Hall

The exterior of Bradford City Hall is adorned with sculptural interpretations of the kings of England. There are forty of them, from William I to Queen Victoria. The website indicated below gives a brief description of each one.

So, let us examine the likeness and description of the four kings of concern to us, Henry VI, Edward IV, Richard III and Henry VII. Please note, there was no Edward V, but then, I suppose he was never crowned, so never officially became king.

We’ll begin with Henry VI, who appears to be beloved of Bradford pigeons.

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King Henry VI (1422-1461, 1470-1471). The statue shows an austere figure in tight-fitting clothes under a dressing-gown like outer robe, one hand holding a sceptre, the other hand on his hip. His crown looks more like a mitre. The focus of the piece seems mainly on his long right leg.”

To be sure, those knee breeches look more late 18th/early 19th century than 15th. The barely-tied dressing robe and awkward leg rather complete the likeness of Lord Byron. Austere? No. Possessed of that purposeful chin? Not according to his portraits. And the pose is more vigorous than poor Henry was in his entire unhappy life!

Next we have a fine figure of Edward IV.

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King Edward IV (1461-1470, 1471-1483). The king is shown in plate armour, but has none of the muscularity of the statue of Henry V. One hand rests on the pommel of his sword, the other holds perhaps a scroll. The face is round and not youthful, and he wears no helm, suggesting he is posed in armour rather than likely to fight in it. He does not wear his crown either; it is on a tasselled cushion on a pedestal half behind him; the decoration of the pedestal with a carved olive branch indicates his peaceful rather than warlike intent.”

He is in armour, but has Beethoven’s head., and looks far too old to be Edward when he was able to squeeze glamorously into any armour. Because, as a young king, he was glamorous. As for being peaceful and unlikely to fight in armour, Edward may have gone to seed latterly, but had been one heck of a warrior. So we can dispense with the olive branch!

Now we come to Richard III and his description.

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“King Richard III (1483-1485). Another statue which stands out in quality. He is shown looking downward, wearing a short tunic above and hose on his legs, and a short robe with fur edging. His left hand is almost clenched, and with his right one he is about to draw his sword, which hangs behind him. There is an emphasis on the muscles of his legs and breadth of his raised forearm to indicate his powerful physique, and coupled with the frowning expression, indicates a forceful king.”

Well, those Tudor bloomers don’t look right at all! The sculptor had the Bard’s Richard in mind, methinks. Nor does the San Andreas Fault forehead look right. If he screwed up his face like that all the time, I imagine he’d have a permanent headache. And I’m sorry, but he’s holding the sword in his left hand, while his right hand is in something resembling a fist. As for the powerful physique, well, we all know Richard was a slender man. Yes, he probably had powerful legs, but not as if he’d been on steroids. His legs had to be strong because when wearing armour in battles or jousts, he had to be able to clench his legs to stay on his horse while wielding a sword, lance or battle-axe. Puny legs wouldn’t have been much use. Was he a forceful man? No, he was far too lenient and trusting, and it cost him his life.

Now for Henry VII, who (heh, heh, heh) is covered in green mould!

Bradford HVII

“Henry Tudor (King Henry VII, 1485-1509). The sculptor has chosen to depict the king as a man of peace and religion, wearing long tunic and robe, holding sceptre and orb, the latter with a prominent cross on top. His expression is bleak, more so than his painted portraits would suggest, his face leathery, and on his head is a soft cap rather than a crown, though a heavy chain with medallion hangs prominently on his breast. Henry Tudor was particularly beloved by the Welsh, and there is a statue of him in Cardiff City Hall by Ernest Gillick. That statue is in full plate armour, and depicts a purposeful man striding to meet, or make, his own fate.”

Yes, the bleak and leathery face might do, especially toward the end of his life. A man of peace? Maybe…but only after he’d gone to war by invading England with a French army, killed Richard III through vile treachery and then plonked his scrawny Welsh posterior on the usurped throne. I’m glad to say that, thanks to the remaining Yorkists, it was a long time before his posterior could unclench! A very long time.

If you’d like to see the other thirty-six  monarchs, please go to http://www.speel.me.uk/sculptplaces/bradfordcityhall.htm Or visit Bradford City Hall, of course.

 

 

A tale of John of Gaunt and two sisters….

Chaucer_BellScott - reading to Philippa and Katherine with Gaunt

The above painting by William Bell Scott depicts Chaucer reading to an aging John of Gaunt. The ladies are the two men’s wives, Philippa and Katherine, born de Roët.

Everyone knows that John of Gaunt (1340-1399) had three wives, the last of whom was Katherine Swynford (nee de Roët, 1350-1403), who had been his children’s governess. She then became his mistress (during his second marriage to Costanza of Castile) and finally, in 1396, his third duchess. The last move, was very unpopular at the time, for it was felt Gaunt, a king’s son, had demeaned himself by marrying well below his station…and that she had reached up well above hers.

John of Gaunt

Katherine, married at twelve to a Lincolnshire knight, Sir Hugh Swynford, had a sister, Philippa (c. 1346–c. 1387) who was a damoiselle of the queen, and who by the end of 1366 had been married to Geoffrey Chaucer. Yes, the Geoffrey Chaucer, who was a very close friend of John of Gaunt. Was the Chaucer marriage a love match? After all, at the time he was a mere squire, whereas she was relatively highborn, the daughter of a prominent Hainault family of rich landowners, or so I understand the de Roët sisters’ background to be. The Chaucer union is subject to a lot of speculation.

Let us go back before 1366, before Philippa became Geoffrey’s bride. John of Gaunt is renowned for his interesting private life, as described above, and seems to have been a Plantagenet charmer par excellence. By inheriting the huge wealth and status of the Duchy of Lancaster (through his first wife, Blanche) he was the richest, most influential man in England, especially when his father, Edward III, began to descend into senility. Gaunt had an eye for a beautiful woman, and the suggestion is that the de Roët sisters were both beautiful. I don’t know if they warranted the description, but I doubt very much that they were plain, stodgy dumplings. Men like Gaunt are not drawn to the nondescript.

So, Katherine Swynford was governess to his daughters. At this time her sister Philippa was unmarried, and also the queen’s lady. The queen, another Philippa, was from Hainault too, so I imagine this was a very good reason to have Philippa de Roët close to her. And then there was John of Gaunt, master seducer. The suspicion is that his eye fell upon Philippa first. It wasn’t the done thing to deflower unmarried ladies, and maybe this precluded such an affair in his eyes, except that there are suspicious signs that he broke the rule.

John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford

He was not a dishonourable man, and took his responsibilities seriously. Dates fit for him to have bedded Philippa and got her in the family way. In September 1366, before leaving for a campaign in Spain, Gaunt granted Philippa a lifetime annuity. It was very generous, and surely he had no reason for doing such a thing. Some present-day thinking is that Gaunt protected her by paying his good friend Chaucer a great deal to marry her. She was to give birth to a daughter, Elizabeth, the appropriate number of months later. Elizabeth would become a nun and enter the prestigious royal Abbey of Barking.

BarkingAbbey-1500- royal abbey

For the rest of his life, Gaunt was especially kind to Elizabeth, who might well have been his daughter. His particular favour to her suggests he knew she was. There were also more gifts, opportunities and annuities to the Chaucers.

Was Gaunt Katherine Swynford’s lover at the same time he was bedding Philippa? That we’ll never know, just as we will never know the truth about his dealings with the latter. All those gifts and favours are suspicious though. Why would Gaunt bestow such bounty upon Philippa? Why continue to be so concerned about her? She was by then a married women. Did the affair continue after she became Chaucer’s wife? Was Chaucer a complacent husband, paid well enough to say nothing and just let his wife get on with it?

Chaucer

Or, as some of you will no doubt tell me, Gaunt did no such thing. The Chaucer marriage was a love match and Gaunt was merely a generous lord. Possibly. Possibly, too, Elizabeth Chaucer was of royal blood.

 

 

Edward III, slanting eyes and the legend of Melusine…

Melusine

These days, any mention of Melusine might conjure thoughts of Jacquetta of Luxemburg, Elizabeth Woodville, witchcraft and the like. But the story of Melusine was around before then.

On browsing through John Gardner’s Life and Times of Chaucer, I came upon the following anecdote, which begins with Gardner’s rather precise description of Edward himself:

“He was a handsome, fair man with a curly brown beard, gentle eyes and mouth, the eyes just perceptibly slanted like the eyes of all his sons. He was no ordinary mortal, one could see at a glance, and he liked to support the impression with a story…

“…Some hour hundred years ago, Edward III told his friends, the founder of his line, Count Fulke the Black, ruler of Anjou [Fulke III, 970–1040, ancestor of Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou] traveled to a distant land and returned with a bride whose beauty was unsurpassed in all the world. The four children she bore him were brilliant and handsome, like all Plantagenet sons and daughters after them, but they carried also a darker heritage. She kept it secret for many years, living a life more secluded than a nun’s. Then one day the count demanded that his wife accompany him to Mass, a thing she’d repeatedly refused to do. She did so this time, pale and trembling. When the priest raised the Host, the countess let out an unearthly shriek, rose into the air, flew out of the chapel window, and was never seen again. The truth was out. She was Melusine, daughter of the Devil!…

“…By the time Chaucer knew him, Edward III at least half believed the story…”

Fulke the Black of Anjou

Fulke III (the Black) Count of Anjou 970–1040

A quick look on the internet soon reveals this story to be widespread, although not necessarily in connection with Edward. Our House of Plantagenet was descended from the children Melusine left behind. Or so Edward III apparently believed.

Two things arouse my interest. Firstly that Edward liked to repeat the devilish tale to his friends, and secondly that he and his sons had perceptibly slanting eyes. Are we to think the eyes came from the Devil, via Melusine? I for one have never heard of this trait in Edward and his sons. Has anyone else? Although, on reflection, there is one monarch who fits this bill, Edward’s grandson, Richard II.

Gilt-Bronze Tomb Effigy of Richard II, Westminster Abbey

 

 

 

 

 

Swords associated (one way or another) with Richard III….

Richard at Bosworth

The sword was a vital weapon in the medieval period (as can be seen in the hand-to-hand combat in the illustration of Bosworth above) and there would not have been a knight, lord, magnate or king who did not possess a minimum of one. Most would have had a number. We will never know how many swords Richard III possessed, but as far as I am concerned, there are five swords I associate with him…and one of these may have been made for his son. These swords are not all real weapons, some are from art. Only the first actual sword in the following list could have belonged to Richard himself, and of this, only part may remain of the original, as he presented it to the City of Gloucester in 1483.

Mourning Sword, Gloucester

Mourning Sword of Gloucester

This was on display at the recent Richard III Exhibition in Gloucester. Tradition says that it is Richard III’s own personal sword, given to the Mayor of Gloucester during Richard’s 1483 visit. The silver decoration is in the Elizabethan style, and says ‘Francisco me fecit’. A bladesmith of that name was working in Toledo in the 1570s, which means that these elements of the sword post-date Richard’s period. But if you look closely at the handle you will see there is an iron core beneath the silverwork. This may be what remains of the sword given by Richard. I am not sure why it is called the Mourning Sword, which we also described here.

Ceremonial Sword of State for the Prince of Wales

“Though the blade of the above sword was made in Germany, its pommel and hilt are English. Its ornamentation indicates it was meant for the Prince of Wales: its engraved hilt shows the Royal arms of England being held aloft by two angels above the arms of Wales and Cornwall; the opposite has the arms of the Earldoms of March and Chester. This double edged sword was thus not meant for battle, but would have been carried before the Prince during ceremonial processions, such as when he was invested with his title.” Two Princes also held the title of Earl of Chester in the late 15th century. Edward IV’s oldest son, also named Edward…and Richard III’s son Edward… The above photograph is from the British Museum and you can see some very detailed photographs of this ceremonial sword here.

 

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Broken Sword Portrait

Not my favourite Richard portrait by any means, and certainly not my favourite sword because, being broken, it bestows an entirely false impression of the man himself – “…A broken sword can be interpreted as symbolic of failure; in a regal portrait, as symbolic of prematurely ended reign by violence, battle, deposition and usurpation…” The only reason Richard “failed” was because he was betrayed, not because of any shortcomings on his part. Just think, a few more yards and he’d have extinguished Henry Tudor! If only he had! As for usurpation, well we all know who did that, and it wasn’t Richard!

Damage to Richard's sword - statue in Leicester

Sword held by Richard’s Statue in Leicester

From the Leicester Mercury. A council spokesman said: “We became aware of the damage to the Richard III statue early last week and are liaising with specialist companies to investigate the best way of repairing it. “The joint at the hilt of the sword has been bent. We do not yet know the extent or cause of the damage. A detailed survey will be carried out later this week, but it is likely that the damage will cost several thousand pounds to put right. “In the meantime, the statue will be fenced off as a safety precaution.” There will always be morons around who think such criminal damage is funny.

From Rous

My fifth and final sword is from Rous. As you see, the illustration depicts Richard in full armour, holding a sword that seems to be half his height in length. He may have been a slightly built man, but he was master of the sword (and every other weapon a knight needed to use). This little picture rather brings the fighting Richard to life for me.

Well, that’s five swords. Would anyone add more?

 

 

 

INSIDE THE MEDIEVAL MIND: THE WALL PAINTINGS OF NETHER WALLOP

In the small quaint Hampshire village of Nether Wallop, filming location for the BBC’s MISS MARPLE, stands St Andrew’s church, a medieval establishment built on Saxon foundations. From the exterior it looks rather ordinary (save for the strange funerary pyramid in its grounds!) but inside is a glory of wall-paintings dating from the Saxon era to the 15th century.

The Saxon paintings are of the Winchester School, usually only seen in illuminations, and are exceeding rare, unique in the country as being the only wall paintings of this date in situ. Angels frolic over the chancel arch, the survivors of a grander mural which culminated at the centre with Christ in Majesty. (Jesus has now vanished, unfortunately,  leaving just the angels on the sides of the arch.)

Along the rest of the church walls are further paintings from the early to mid-15th century, an eroded St Nicholas of Myrna and a wonderfully  vivid depicture of St George slaying a dragon to rescue the  Princess Cleodolinda. The dragon and George do battle below a tall tower, watched by a well preserved King and Queen, the King looking pleased at George’s prowess and the Queen slightly concerned!

Just down from them is a slightly patchy though very large  figure which gives an insight into medieval religious thought in the 1400’s. It depicts the legends of the Sabbath Breakers and the woes you will bring upon Christ and yourself if you do not rest on the Sabbath as God decreed! Christ’s leg is showed being wounded by an axe and a knife; there are also depictions of other tools of the trade from the 15thc including scales and a quern, among others less discernable.

All or some of the 15thc  wall paintings may have been comissioned by Mary or Maria Gore, an Abbess of Amesbury in Wiltshire. Her brass lies on the floor in the centre of the nave and is a rarity in itself–the only brass of an Abbess  still existing in England.

 

MISS MARPLE

 

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