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THE DARRELLS OF LITTLECOTE

Littlecote House in Wiltshire, now a Warner’s hotel (those with very long memories might remember it as a sort of theme park/tourist attraction in the 1980’s) is considered to be one of England’s most haunted houses. Amongst the many spooks that haunt its halls is a burning baby, said to be the spirit of  a child murdered by Wild William Darrell, the master of the house in the 1570’s, who supposedly threw an  illegitimate infant into the fire directly after its birth. (He was later said to have been killed by falling off his horse when the baby’s apparition appeared before him–he then became a ghost himself.)

Whether any part of the legend is true or not (and there’s some evidences parts of it are), there were certainly Darrells living at Littlecote house long before Wild William or the Tudor/Elizabeth mansion we see today–back in the late medieval period.

One of its residents at that period was Margaret Beaufort. No, not THAT Margaret Beaufort but the ‘other one’, who also had a notorious son called Henry. She was the mother of Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. Daughter of Edmund Beaufort, second Duke of Somerset and Lady Eleanor Beauchamp, Margaret first married Humphrey Earl of Stafford, son of the first Duke of Buckingham (also called Humphrey) and produced Henry and another son (Humphrey again!), whose ultimate fate is unknown. (He was taken into Elizabeth Woodville’s household and made a Knight of the Bath at the same time as Henry but references to him vanish after that–presumably he died young.)

Humphrey Stafford was badly wounded at the first battle of  St Albans and never seemed to fully recover. He died a few years  after the battle, possibly of plague, possibly through effects of his injuries, making Henry the heir to his grandfather’s title at the tender age of 4/5.

Margaret soon remarried,  to Richard Darrell of Littlecote. They had one daughter, Margaret (Henry Stafford’s half-sister), who married James Tuchet, 7th Baron Audley. James was one of the commanders in the Cornish rebellion against Henry VII in 1497. He was captured, along with the other leaders of the rebellion, and executed on Tower Hill on June 28.

Although now a hotel, Littlecote House still allows non-residential visitors to look around the gardens, several of the interior rooms rooms, and visit the amazing Roman mosaic that lies within its grounds. Look for the sign that says ‘day parking’ and park there for access.

 

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New theories DO turn up, so there’s hope for some Ricardian mysteries….

Another new theory about the fate of Jimmy Hoffa has raised its head. Hoffa’s disappearance in a Michigan parking lot forty-two years ago has always been a mystery. “. Hoffa was a Detroit labor union leader and activist who was well known for his involvement in the Teamsters’ Union as well as the criminal charges that he faced while president of the organization. ” He was also mixed up in the Mob and various other extremely dubious matters. In short, he was very well known and equally as notorious. Then, he simply disappeared, apparently from the face of the earth.

A new theory seeks to explain what might have happened. Read about it here.

Followers of the case, or mob afficionados, will know there are more theories as to Hoffa’s disappearance, and indeed more books for sale than you can throw a stick at.  He went into hiding.  The union had him killed because he threatened to talk.  The mob had him offed because he threatened to reveal their shady dealings with Teamster pension funds.   For years, the most popular theory was that he was buried underneath the Meadowlands Football stadium in New Jersey, but this has been disproven as the above linked story indicates.  

So despite many concerted attempts by law enforcement and cold case amateurs alike, we still don’t know.  

Which inevitably brings us to similar Ricardian “cold cases”.  The boys in the Tower are usually the first to spring to mind. They too seem to have simply disappeared without trace. And then there’s Richard’s last will and testament, which he must have had drawn up before Bosworth, if not well before even that. It disappeared. Whodunnit? No, I won’t mention the word T-d-r! There are other mysteries, of course. What happened to Francis Lovell? He too seems to have simply vanished from the records. What was Buckingham’s real purpose in rebelling against Richard? His own ambitions? We don’t know. And where did Richard’s crown go after being found at Bosworth? Maybe the latter is known, but not to me. I know there are many, many more unknowns from Richard’s life.

So, all in all, some new theories about these Ricardian mysteries are eagerly awaited. They all happened a lot longer than forty-two years ago, of course, but is there a statute of limitation on these things?

A Grey Day

The Grey family, originally from Northumberland, are a consistent feature of English history from the Southampton plot of 1415 to Monmouth’s rebellion nearly three centuries later.

Sir Thomas Grey (1384-1415) of Castle Heaton was a soldier and one of the three principals in the Southampton plot against Henry V, revealed to him by Edmund Mortimer, 5th Earl of March, at Portchester Castle. His connection to the House of York was that a marriage had been arranged between his son and Isabel, the (very) young daughter of Richard of Conisbrough, Earl of Cambridge. The betrothal was cancelled as one of the consequences of the plot’s failure. It may have been related to Grey’s purchase of the Yorkist lordship of Tyndale. (The sale of which demonstrates how relatively hard-up the second Duke of York was at this time.)

Sir John Grey of Groby (1432-61) was the son of Edward Grey, Baron Ferrers of Groby and a grandson of the third Baron Grey of Ruthin . Married to Elizabeth Wydeville, by whom he had two sons, he fought for Henry VI at the Second Battle of St. Albans and was killed there.

 

Lady Jane Grey (1537-54) was the daughter of Henry Grey, who had become Duke of Suffolk on his marriage to Frances Brandon, Henry being Sir John’s

great-grandson. Edward VI had named Jane as his heir and her father, together with John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland and Archbishop Cranmer sought to implement this on  Edward’s 1553 death, contrary to Henry VIII’s succession legislation. She married Northumberland’s son Lord Guildford Dudley and planned to create him Duke of Clarence but their coup was thwarted and the principals imprisoned. Wyatt rose in early 1554, apparently in favour of the Grey-Dudley faction, so Jane, her husband, father and father-in-law were beheaded close to the St. Albans anniversary. This “Streatham portrait” is possibly a retrospective of Jane, having been painted years after her death. She was also the great-niece of Viscount Grane, formerly Deputy of Ireland, who was beheaded in July 1541.

Ford Grey, Earl of Tankerville (1655-1701) was also Viscount Glendale and Baron Grey of Werke. As a veteran of the Rye House Plot, he escaped from the Tower and joined the Duke of Monmouth in exile before joining the Duke’s rebellion two years later. At Sedgemoor, he led the rebel cavalry but was captured, whereupon he gave evidence against his co-commanders and his attainder was reversed in 1686. Within another nine years, he was appointed to William III’s Privy Council and served in several other offices.

This genealogy connects Sir Thomas to Henry Grey Duke of Suffolk, Lady Jane Grey’s father, through his Mowbray brother-in-law. This shows Tankerville’s male line descent from Sir Thomas’ grandfather.

Who’s buried where in Westminster Abbey….

Plan of Henry VII's Chapel, Westminster Abbey

 

Well, if you have the stamina, here’s a link that will tell you all about who’s buried where in Westminster Abbey. Including, of course, that urn, which a later dynasty decided should be in Henry VII’s chapel. Hmm. Wouldn’t you think it should have been at Windsor, alongside the boy’s father, Edward IV? But then, that wouldn’t suit the Tudor propaganda, which the Stuarts were clearly keen to perpetuate.

I have now acquired a copy of Memorials of Westminster Abbey by Dean Stanley, published by John Murray, which is filled to the brim with detailed information, dates, people and events in the abbey. A wonderful book, if a little disapproving and traditionalist about Richard III. Still, the rest of the book makes up for this failing! Well, just about.

This link should perhaps be read in conjunction with this and this by sparkypus.

 

The architects who have refurbished the great hall at Leicester Castle….

Maber Architects

An architects practice has celebrated the tenth anniversary of its Leicester office with a VIP tour of one of their latest projects in the city – the restoration and refurbishment of the Great Hall of Leicester Castle.

Its city office is in De Montfort Street.

The firm’s roots go back more than 30 years, and it employs 70 people across five offices in the Midlands and London.

Since the Leicester office opened in 2007, it has grown to employ 10 people and has been responsible for some of Leicester’s best known buildings and architectural projects.

Maber director Ian Harris, who heads the Leicester office, said: “Two huge reasons for our success are long-term relationships with clients and the talent of our people, so it was great to bring everyone together to celebrate in an amazing space.”

The newly-refurbished Great Hall is thought to be the largest medieval hall of its kind in Europe.

Ian said converting it into a new Business School for De Montfort University brought together a wide range of the practice’s skills, including architecture, interior design, landscape design and conservation.

Part of the hall, once used as a Crown Court, retains the Gothic Victorian furniture, including the judge’s chair, dock and jury benches, which must rank it as one of the most unusual university teaching spaces in the world.

Some of Maber’s other major Leicester projects have included:

• The King Richard III Visitor Centre in the city centre, a £4 million project designed to tell the story of “the king in the car park”.

• The Summit, a £13 million, 12,200 sq m student residential space with a 22-storey tower that has created a new landmark at the western gateway to the city.

• New Walk Museum’s new entrance and spiral staircase, featuring a design inspired by ammonites

• Charnwood Primary School for Leicester City Council – an award-winning design that complements the traditional architecture of the existing Victorian school buildings.

See: http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/news/business/maber-architects-celebrate-10th-anniversary-753489

There’s more at http://www.dmu.ac.uk/about-dmu/news/2017/june/lovingly-refurbished-leicester-castle-shines-for-visitors.aspx

Tales of a Ricardian Traveler: A Visit to King’s Cliffe Church and its Fotheringhay Artifacts

Although the entire eastern portion of St Mary and All Saints Church in Fotheringhay was demolished in 1573, it is still possible to see original woodwork and painted glass from the Yorkist Age.

RICARDIAN LOONS

Lady on Horseback Lady on Horseback, mid-15th c., British Museum

My husband and I had the good fortune to spend two weeks in England and Wales in October, 2017. I had been asked to moderate a conference about Richard III and 15th century warfare at the Leicester Guildhall, sponsored by the Richard III Foundation. During our stay in Leicester, we drove into Northamptonshire in order to explore a small parish church at King’s Cliffe that purported to have a number of objects from Richard III’s birthplace of Fotheringhay. What we discovered surpassed all our expectations.

Scene of Destruction: St Mary and All Saints Church

Like many tales of discovery, this one begins with a tale of loss. The year was 1566. Queen Elizabeth I was on progress through her realm, having already occupied the throne for 8 years. Her itinerary took her to Fotheringhay Castle, a short distance from the parish church…

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KING RICHARD III’S EPITAPH

 

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A digital reconstruction of Richard’s tomb in Greyfriars with the epitaph.  De Montfort University.

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A digital reconstruction of what Richard’s Tomb may have looked like with the epitaph De Montfort University

 

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The tomb for which Henry Tudor paid the sum of 10 pounds 1 shilling in 1495

IMG_4403.jpgA digital view of Greyfriars with Leicester Cathedral shown in the background and now the site of King Richard’s reburial.  De Montfort University.

It is very well known that the winner gets to write the history.  That’s bad enough but they also, unfortunately, get to write the epitaph too.  According to Buck, Richard had an epitaph which is now lost but the text of which he published in his History of the Life and Reigne of Richard the Third, published in 1647.  The full details of Buck’s claim etc., can be found in John Ashdown-Hill’s article The Epitaph of King Richard III (Ricardian 2008, vol.18).  According to Buck the said epitaph, which was in Latin, translated as:

I, here whom the earth encloses under various coloured marble,

Was justly called Richard III.

I was Protector of my country, an uncle ruling on behalf of his nephew.

I held the British kingdoms by broken faith,

Then for just sixty days less two

And for two summers, I held my sceptres

Fighting Bravely in war, deserted by the English

I succumbed to you, King Henry VII,

But you yourself, piously, at your expense, thus honour my bones

And you cause a former king to be revered with the honour of a king

When in twice five years less four

Three hundred five-year periods of our salvation have passed

And eleven days before the Kalends of September

I surrendered to the red rose the power it desired

Whoever you are, pray for my offences

That my punishment may be lessened by your prayers.

I leave it to you dear reader, to decide whether this is true and honest translation of such an epitaph if there ever one existed.   It seems, as John Ashdown-Hill concludes in his article ‘less hostile’ than would have expected from Henry Tudor  – had he merely ‘mellowed as time passed’ or did he have another motive?   Its  a mystery as is so much from that period.  For anyone interested in reading Ashdown-Hill’s article in full, here is a link:

The Madness of King Richard III

alan bennett

Playwright Alan Bennett

A while back, Sunday, December 3rd, 2017, to be exact,  I was looking through The New York Times Book Review section when I came across playwright Alan Bennett’s new book called “Keeping On Keeping On.”  It was a mildly interesting review of his diary (ODD SPOILER ALERT:  he once shared the same doctor as Sylvia Plath) until I got to this:  “He’s so upset at what the Richard III Society has done to an old church that he rips down their banner and ‘would have burned it, had I had a match.'”   Brow knitted, I wondered:  what have those wild-eyed, tweedy academic types been up to this time??

Well, a brief Google search provided a hint in yet another book review, this time from the London Review of Books.  In published excerpts from 2014, Bennett dismisses the significance of finding Richard the Third’s remains although admitting that the reconstructed head looks astonishingly like his famed portrait.  Comparing Ricardians to those who believe Edward DeVere was a genius while William Shakespeare nothing more than the dim-bulb son of a rural glove-maker, he goes on to say this:

“Just east of Leeds and not far from Towton and its bloody battlefield is Lead Church, a medieval cell of a chapel which possibly served as a refuge or a dressing station after the battle in 1461.  I have known the chapel since I was a boy when I used to go out there on my bike.  It stands in the middle of a field, the grass grazed by sheep right up to the south door and has latterly been in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.  It was untouched as late as 2000 when it figured in an article I wrote for The World of Interiors.  However, calling there a few years ago we found that the grass outside the south door had been replaced or supplemented by a patio not even in York stone but in some fake composition.  Inside, draped in front of the altar was a gaudy banner advertising the Richard III Society.  This I rolled up and had I had the means would have destroyed.  I wrote to the CCT, who generally do a decent job but was told the patio had been there for many years.  It hadn’t and I suspect the culprits were the Richard III Society, who see the church as a Yorkist site…”

loyalty binds

Gaudy?

According to Mr. Bennett, not only have Ricardians managed to rehabilitate the name of the last Yorkist king but apparently have gone into the concrete, paving and masonry business! Of course, he offers no proof that the Society had anything to do with building a bad-taste deck on the back of a medieval church but when it comes to the world of denialists, I suppose any insult will do.*  Luckily for them, while we Ricardian hard hats may be expert at mixing concrete along with our metaphors, we no longer prepare “Chicago overcoats” or cement shoes for those who have differing opinions…

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A Ricardian on lunch break?  I think not!

 

 

*The website of St. Mary Lead reports only that it received a grant from The Richard the Third Society for renovations.  It says nothing about the Society directing or instructing or approving the work.

A request for authenticity

Today in 1606, the last of the “Gunpowder Plotters”, including Guido Fawkes, were executed at Tyburn. Some had been put to death the previous day whilst others, including Robert Catesby, were shot at Holbeche House , resisting arrest, soon after the plot was discovered.
All of the executions were carried out by drawing, hanging and quartering yet the commemorations each November feature an effigy of Fawkes being burned.
The other advantages would be that the ceremony would still be practical in wet weather, that the effigy could be repaired and recycled for the following year and that small mammals such as hedgehogs would not be endangered.

St Edmund, the king under a tennis court…?

King Edmund

A wall painting at St Mary the Virgin church in Lakenheath which depicts King Edmund

“November 20 is St Edmund’s Day, the feast day of the ‘last king of East Anglia’ and – some would say – England’s proper patron saint. But where do his bones lie? Trevor Heaton explores the twists and turns of a centuries-old mystery…” Is he under a tennis court? Read on for another take on Edmund the Martyr, who was almost certainly not a Wuffing.

 

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