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CARDINAL JOHN MORTON’S TOMB CHAPEL OF LADY UNDERCROFT CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL.

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On Friday 13th June 1483 Cardinal Morton, along with others, was arrested at the Tower of London.  It is well documented the role Morton played in the downfall of Richard lll.  Morton was Richard’s arch enemy and his deviousness, cunning and powers of manipulation being  well known,  there is no need to go into them here in detail,  only to recap briefly on his enforced stay at Brecknock castle where he latched on to the flawed Buckingham’s shallow and vainglorious character (what were you thinking of Richard?!)  inveigling him to rebel and  desert Richard, a  result of the ensuing rebellion being that Buckingham was swiftly defeated,  captured and ignominiously executed, while he, Morton, legged it to the Fens and his ‘see of Ely, where he found both money and friends’ (1)   It should be noted that Margaret Beaufort’s estate at Collyweston was but  a short distance of 40 miles  from Ely.     Morton then  ‘sailed into  Flanders, where he remained,   doing good service to the the  Earl of Richmond until the scheme at Brecknock had been realised and the Earl had become king of England’ (2 ).  As Bishop of Ely Morton would have been very conscious of the sanctity of the Coronation ceremony  but this did in no way deter him from playing a prominent role in the betrayal of King Richard.  How he came to terms with his treachery is difficult to understand,  and is of course something we will never know,  but manage he did somehow and the rest is history.

His achievements are likewise well known and numerous,  including “Tudor” promoting him to the see of Canterbury and  Lord Chancellor in 1487,  eventually prevailing on the Pope to make him a cardinal  , the conceiving of the infamous Morton’s Fork – although to be fair some attribute this to Bishop Fox (3) – and his patronage of the young Thomas More who served in his household as a page.  Morton was without doubt an enormous influence in poisoning the young More against Richard.  More  later went on to write his ‘History’ which has proven to be extremely  damaging to Richard’s memory as it is oft quoted by ‘historians’ who should know better.  It is believed by some that it was in fact Morton who was the original  author including the late Professor A F  Pollard who opined Morton wrote a latin version which More translated later  into English (4).

It is easy to imagine, as he lay dying, after achieving what was a good age in those harsh times, that Morton felt rather pleased with himself for had he not been instrumental in achieving practically the impossible?..the slaughter of a rightful king and replacing him with someone with very tenuous claims to the throne.  He had already made elaborate plans for where he wanted to be buried.in the Chapel of our Lady in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral beneath the pavement of the western bay.

‘He had chosen the spot himself as a quiet and retired one, “non in tumultu sed in secreto subterraneoque loco in criptis nuncupato, lapide duntaxat coopertus marmoreo coran Imagine Beatissime Virgin Marie, quam ex intimo diligebat sepulture locum elegit ubi ipsius corpus felicissimum jam quiescit” ‘ (5)

Which translates as he  had chosen for his burial ‘not an ostentatious place but rather a secret one with a simple marble cover before an image of the most blessed Virgin Mary., whom he held in very high esteem and where his most fortunate body might rest in peace’

A splendid  altar tomb/cenotaph  was built nearby which incorporated Morton’s rebus of a bird (a mort) and a barrel (a tun), and the Tudor badges of  portcullis and rose.  And here he was laid to rest.

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Morton’s rebus, a bird (a mort) and a barrel (a tun)

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Morton’s  altar tomb/cenotaph in the western bay of the chapel

IMG_3631.JPGAlabaster figure of Morton on his tomb/cenotaph

However, this is where his plans finally went awry.   The crypt became a ‘repository for scaffolding poles and building material, and rendered unfit for sacred purposes’ (6)

 

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Turner’s painting of the Crypt in the 18th century showing Morton’s Tomb/Cenotaph amid building rubble

 The slab covering the tomb was eventually broken and smashed and the remains in their cere cloth  revealed   Over a period of time these were gradually stolen until none were left except his skull which a Ralph Sheldon rescued in 1670 leaving it to his niece on  his death.    Eventually the head  found a final resting place  at Stonyhurst College, where  it still is to this very day.  The head was  recently loaned to an exhibition on the life of  Thomas More in Washington DC (7).   It is both ironic and just that the king that Morton callously betrayed,  and whose remains were given a cut-price burial in Leicester,  have now been reburied with the honour that he deserved,  while all that remains of Morton is his head in a box in a cupboard.   As they say man makes plans and the Gods laugh…

As a footnote to this story in my delving around I think I may have come across a ‘secret’ portrait of Morton in the wonderful medieval windows of St Mary’s Church, Fairford, Gloucestershire.  These windows have survived it is believed because they show hidden portraits of the Tudor royal family and important members of Henry Vll’s court.  One portrait is described as being that of Wolsey…but I believe this is erroneous..why would Wolsey’s portrait being included with those of Henry Vll and his family including Henry Vlll as a child.  I have since compared it with that of the wooden bosses thought to represent Morton at Bere Regis Church.  I show them here for comparison.  Any thoughts?

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The portrait in the nave of St Mary’s Church described as being of Wolsey? But could it possibly be Morton?  

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One of the bosses on the roof of Bere Regis Church thought to represent Morton for comparison.

(1) R L Woodhouse The Life of John Morton Archbishop of Canterbury p.75

(2) Ibid

(3) W E Hampton Memorials of the Wars of the Roses p96.

( 4) A F Pollard Luminarium Encyclopedia.  On line article.

(5) C Eveleigh Woodruff.M.A. The Chapel of our Lady in the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral p. 158.

(6) Ibid

(7) I am most grateful for this information kindly given to me by Mr J Reed,  Assistant Curator of the  College Collections and Museum by the Association, Stonyhurst College.

Blanche Mortimer – The Grandison Monument

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In the chancel of the church of St Bartholomew,  Much Marcle, Herefordshire can be found one of the most beautiful tombs chests in England, that of Blanche Mortimer, Lady Grandison.  I happened by chance on this lovely monument  some years ago.  I stood there entranced, unwilling to leave.  Blanche’s tomb has been described by Nikolaus Pevsner as follows “The head is strikingly beautiful, eyes closed and lips slightly parted.  Beautiful hands with long fingers..moreover the most surprising demonstration of realism in the way of her long skirt hangs down over the tomb chest”.   Simon Jenkins in his book “England’s Thousand Best Churches describes the monument as “An image as lovely as any bequeathed by a medieval church….the effigy might be the original for Sleeping Beauty’.    English Heritage describe it as one of the finest of its date in England.

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Close up of the attention to detail in the tightly buttoned sleeves of Blanche’s gown.

Blanche was born around 1316, dying in 1347 and  was the youngest daughter of the lst  Earl of March, Roger Mortimer who rebelled against King Edward ll.  He and Queen Isabella were lovers and probably arranged the murder of Edward.   Roger, was eventually overthrown by Edward’s son, Edward III and executed, but that is another story.    Blanche was married to Peter Grandison.   He is not buried besides her but lies in Hereford Cathedral.  Little is knows of their relationship but the meticulous  care, craftsmanship and attention to detailed  lavished on the design  and building of the tomb would indicate that Peter Grandison loved and missed his wife. And there, atop her tomb, lies Blanche to this day.  Her face, serene and lovely, her long gown hanging down gracefully in folds over the front of the tomb chest and her hands, beautifully carved, hold her rosary, although alas her little dog is missing his head.

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The tomb chest with its displays of the  Mortimer blue and gold  heraldic badge and the Grandison badge of blue, red and gold.

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Blanche’s husband, Peter Grandison’s  tomb in Hereford Cathedral

But that is not the end of the story for Blanche.  For  while the monument was being restored, Blanche’s lead coffin was found resting within the tomb chest.    This was most unusual as it has been thought that tomb chest monuments were built on top of or nearby where the dedicatee had been buried beneath the church floor or in a vault.  It is now known, through this discovery that some coffins were  placed inside the tomb chest itself.  After the restoration was completed, led by sculpture conservator Michael Eastham, the coffin was returned to the tomb chest with new steel supports to provide future protection.  The lead coffin was briefly examined but the decision was made not to disturb it.

 

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Blanche’s lead coffin

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Blanche’s effigy prior to replacement on top of the tomb chest.

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St Bartholomew’s very own ‘Sleeping Beauty’

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Blanche’s effigy after renovation..her little dog, although damaged,  still lying at her feet..

And so we leave Blanche and her little dog..serene and lovely..truly St Bartholomew’s very own sleeping beauty.

 

The Battle of Barnet was a real Game of Thrones….!

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Things are afoot in Barnet to make more of their famous 15th-century battle, which they rightly regard as a real “Game of Thrones” because it featured three kings: Edward IV, Henry VI and the future Richard III.

 

Great St Mary’s Church, Cambridge and its Royal Patrons

Giaconda's Blog

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In the very heart of historic Cambridge, stands a tall and elegant late Perpendicular Gothic church, sandwiched between the colleges and market square.

The church of St Mary the Virgin has stood on the site since 1205; the first recorded rector being Thomas de Chiveley who was appointed in the reign of King John.

The church was burnt to the ground in 1290. The local Jewish population were blamed for this unfortunate event and were punished by shutting down their synagogue. After the rebuilding of the church it was re-named Great St Mary’s, to differentiate it from Little St Mary’s in 1351.

King Edward III was a benefactor of the church at this time, along with his re-founding of King’s Hall in Cambridge which was later assimilated into Trinity College during the reign of King Henry VIII.

dscf3096 Arms of King Edward III and his sons over the gateway to Trinity College…

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Some historical figures of Ipswich

Mid Anglia Group, Richard III Society

Terry Hunt of the EADT writes here about some famous pechaucerople with Ipswich links: Chaucer (as an ancestor of Richard’s brother-in-law) and Wolsey (Richard’s contemporary) are obvious cases, as is Dickens. He doesn’t mention Thomas Cromwell (after whom the Square is named) but he does mention Charlie Chaplin, whose grandparents lived here.

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Two suns over Gloucester….

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The above is not a picture of the event I saw, but resembles it.

At around 2.30 in the afternoon of Sunday, 11th December 2016, driving home after being out with my family for lunch at the Hatherley Manor Hotel near Gloucester, my sister-in-law and I saw a two-sun parhelion.

It is the first time I have seen a ‘sun dog’, and even though the sky was one of broken clouds,  the two suns were still  unmistakable. It was like the picture above, except the left sun was smaller. If only I’d had my camera! But even if I had, the lane was winding, narrow and high-hedged, and not at all suitable for stopping. By the time we reached a sensible place to park, the second sun had gone.

While it was there, it was breathtaking to see. I can imagine the effect three such suns would have had at Mortimer’s Cross. Edward IV was very smart to convince his men that it was a sign of God’s approval for his cause! Some say the ‘sun in splendour’ was already his badge, some that he adopted it after his victory at Mortimer’s Cross. Either way, that day was truly momentous.

Of course, others will say the parhelion story is just a myth. I hope not, and much prefer it to have been true.

 

Livery colours, badges, and the Battle of Barnet…

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Once again, I have been rambling around the internet, seeking information about livery colours. In the process I came upon the following site, which has an abundance of interesting information about many aspects of the medieval period.

http://history.stackexchange.com/questions/13103/whose-colors-coat-of-arms-did-men-of-arms-wear-in-a-feudal-army-14th-century

The link deals with one area of interest, but the main site covers a lot more. One passage on this page particularly caught my attention, because it mentions livery colours and badges, and describes why the Lancastrians lost the Battle of Barnet. Yes, we all know Barnet was to do with confusing Edward IV’s Sun in Splendour with the Earl of Oxford’s Star, but I found this extract particularly clear and interesting.

Here is the passage, which I have broken up into smaller paragraphs, to make it easier to read:-

“Referring to the Black Book of Edward IV – it’s drawn from his own household accounts, so the limits to the retainers allowed are the limits Edward himself set. Remember that Edward had only managed to get, hold, then regain the throne by force-of-arms but he was very well aware that the nobles had their own retainers and that it was possible to lose the throne again. Warwick had a huge number of retainers, well into the hundreds. The limitations on the numbers of retainers were an attempt to control the issue of lords having private armies as large as they could afford and attacking each other if they disagreed with something.

“As for colours – lords had their own livery. For example, the House of York, in the person of the Duke of York (father to Edward IV and Richard III) used murray (a sort of deep burgundy-red) and blue. There might also be a sigil and a coat-of-arms. Richard III’s personal emblem was the White Boar, but his brother Edward’s was the “Sunne in Splendor” – a sort of star-burst. The lord himself would use his colours and his sigil. His employed retainers – the men employed directly by himself to be his armsmen – would probably wear his colours – so for example, a heavy padded jacket made up of four sections of cloth in two of the lord’s colours, with the diagonal-opposites being in matching colours. They would also likely wear his sigil (eg White Boar) sewn onto their breast. During battle, they would start grouped together under a banner displaying the colours and/or the sigil.

“However, over time, the lower lords didn’t always have a standing army – it was expensive. So they would either hire professional arms-men when they needed them or they would gather (volunteers or strong-armed) peasants in from the villages they controlled. These peasants would have an arming/padded jack (heavyly padded jacket) if they were lucky. They would be very unlikely to have the lord’s colours. So in a small skirmish between two small lords, you have your two sigil banners and other than that, very little way of telling who fought for whom. In larger battles, you might have a mix of peasants in their own gear/mercs who might have put the sigil on for ease and would have decent gear/liveried retainers. Where your higher lord needs back-up (perhaps to bring his own strength up to a level required by HIS higher lord), he will send to the lower lords to provide their men. So you have groups of peasants under their manorial lord’s banner standing in larger groups headed by the liveried retainers of the upper lord under HIS banner with the upper lord’s own peasants in the mix.

“Most Middle Ages battles were bloody messes, in part because of the difficulty in determining friend and foe. Not helped by confusion over banners: at the Battle of Barnet (wars of the Roses) in poor weather, the Earl of Oxford’s men (Lancastrian) attacked the men of Lord Hastings (York) and chased them off the field. In the time it took Oxford to get his men back under control, the battle-line veered around. As he returned, he unknowingly came up behind his own side, right behind the position held by John Montagu. Montagu’s men mistook Oxford’s banner of a “streaming star” for Edward IV’s “Sunne in Splendor” and attacked Oxford. As Montagu had been on Edward’s side at one point, Oxford’s men assumed Montagu had turned sides again. They called “treason” and panic spread through the Lancastrian side. Edward attacked, Montagu was killed and the Lancastrians were utterly defeated, including the death of Montagu’s older brother the famous Earl of Warwick.

“This defeat, with the deaths of the two brothers, led almost directly to the following defeat of the Lancastrian Prince Edward and the death of Henry VI, leaving the future Henry VII as the only Lancastrian with any chance of the throne. So the fact that English troops fought without any ready identifiers, and the fact that knowing your enemy very often relied on whether or not you recognised their badge, had a very large bearing on the rulership of England. Had Edward IV lost at Barnet, Henry VI would probably have been put back on the throne and Henry VII would perhaps never have ruled, as Henry VI had a son and heir.”

The saga of how I eventually acquired The Complete Armory by Sir Bernard Burke….

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The above illustration is actually of Sir Bernard Burke dressed as Ulster King of Arms for a fancy dress ‘do’, but he really was Ulster King of Arms!

I recently posted about Anne Neville sharing a white boar badge with Richard, see this post , although hers was muzzled and chained. Or so is claimed in a tome entitled The General Armory by Sir Bernard Burke, C.B., LL.D. Ulster King at Arms. At the time I did not possess The General Armory, and came upon the reference in another work, but I was interested enough to acquire the Burke book. Eventually.

AbeBooks UK apparently had a number of copies for sale, but there was some disgruntlement among purchasers (among whom I numbered) that most of the offers proved to be one or other of three print-on-demand volumes, broken up into chunks of the alphabet. My copy turned out to be R-Z. Not one of the listings at AbeBooks made this clear, and customers had been bitten. But then I approached one of the sellers, Anybook Ltd, who seemed to ask more than the others, but it soon transpired that they really were offering  the complete Armory.

https://www.anybook.biz/how-it-works.php Anybooks Ltd is a clever idea. They acquire books that libraries no longer want, and sell them on to all the folk who do want them. Then a generous share of the profit goes back to the libraries. Everyone’s happy. I certainly was. And they were also very helpful and approachable, so I thoroughly recommend them to anyone interested in acquiring books.

Right, enough of that. The Armory is a very heavy work, originally published in 1884, and the author, Sir Bernard Burke,  is also of Burke’s Peerage, so I imagine he knows what he is talking about.  I say this because his statement about Anne Neville and the White Boar was challenged, many believing Boar had to be a ‘typo’ for Bear. Why? Because Burke states the White Boar , chained and muzzled in gold, was an ancient cognizance of the House of Warwick. I cannot find such a cognizance, except the Warwick Bear and Ragged Staff, which, always features a lopped tree trunk (the ragged staff) as tall as the bear. Maybe Anne chose the bear on its own and decided on white. But maybe that’s not so, and she went for a White Boar instead. I would not care to argue with Sir Bernard on a subject he clearly knew inside out. Anyway, suffice it that in The Armory, she definitely chose a muzzled, chained White BOAR.

The book (my copy of which is in excellent condition, except for the cover, which is a little shabby, as advised by Anybooks) is a vast enterprise that is a registry of armorial bearings from the earliest to the then present time (late nineteenth century). It explains heraldry, then lists all the monarchs, orders of knighthood, families and at the end supplies mottoes, and the names of those who possessed them. I have browsed through it (reading in detail would be a gigantic exercise requiring youthful eyes, gritty determination and the will to grapple with the weight) and found it fascinating. Choose any person from history, and there he or she will be, with details of arms, crests and so on.

Anyone interested in history would, I’m sure, find this work of great benefit. I recommend its acquisition…but beware the lurking trap of the three volumes of print-on-demand.

The three suns of Mortimer’s Cross…repeated in 2015….

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Thank you to the Mortimer History Society for an excellent article about the parhelion of Mortimer’s Cross in 1461….and a repeat of it in Ludlow of 2015.

http://www.mortimerhistorysociety.org.uk/index.php/parhelion

https://murreyandblue.wordpress.com/2015/01/14/ghosts-of-the-roses/

Here it is, in black and white …

Many of you will remember this post from before Christmas, about the “Lincoln Roll”, supposedly compiled for the Earl of Lincoln but clearly updated at least twenty-six years after his death, to cover his brother’s execution:
http://www.johnashdownhill.com/johns-blog/2015/12/21/the-henry-tudor-society-death-certificates

In it, you will note that Dr. Ashdown-Hill corrects a troll, who claimed that it showed Edward IV’s elder sons both died in childhood (“iunie“, which means something else), demonstrating that the Roll actually used the term “iuve” (short for “iuventute” or “in his youth”).

So what exactly is meant, in either the classical or late Mediaeval era, by “youth”? According to A Latin-English Dictionary (1868, ed W. Smith) , this is between the ages of twenty and forty, which seems reasonable. Richard of Shrewsbury, Edward IV’s middle son, the sometime Duke of York and (in jure uxoris) of Norfolk, was born on 24 August 1473. “Perkin Warbeck”, who may well have been Richard of Shrewsbury, died on 23 November 1499 at Tyburn, in the presence of several witnesses.

So the Roll, whichever de la Pole it was actually compiled for, which I think we can deduce, is wholly consistent with “Perkin” being who he claimed to be.

Juventus FC, most of whose players are aged between 20 and 40

Juventus FC, most of whose players are aged between 20 and 40

"Perkin Warbeck" who, if he was Richard of Shrewsbury, died at 26.

“Perkin Warbeck” who, if he was Richard of Shrewsbury, died at 26.

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