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A SAINT’S SHRINE IN OXFORD

Oxford’s Christ Church Cathedral lies in the precincts of  the college of the same name. Originally it was the church of St Frideswide’s priory, and contained a shrine bearing the saint’s relics. This shrine was destroyed in the reformation but has since been pieced together as much as possible. The remains include some rare carvings of the ‘natural world’ including heads wreathed in foliage which may  represent Frideswide and her nuns. Next to the shrine is what is called a ‘watching chamber’, where someone would keep watch over the gold and jewels that decorated the saint’s shrine. The watching chamber was built in the late 15th or early 16th century, possibly  by none other than the infamous Bishop John Morton…

Frideswide was a particularly venerated in the Oxford area, and  one of Francis Lovell’s sisters bears her name.

The church also contains several notable medieval burials, including the beautiful tomb of Elizabeth de Montfort (died 1354), Baroness Montacute, an ancestor of  Richard Neville–Warwick the Kingmaker. Bright colours remain on the  tomb-chest even today–although the faces were all smashed off the carved weepers during the Reformation. The numerous weepers once depicted Elizabeth’s children.The remains of a chantry chapel with a painted vaulted ceiling extends from  the Baroness’tomb.

There is also the effigy of an enormous knight whose identity is not known for certain–it is given as Sir Henry de Bathe or Sir George Nowers,  a companion of the Black Prince who died in 1425. (It is more likely to be the latter. )Whoever it was, the armour detail is very fine and the skeleton within was about 6ft 8!

 

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Edward IV and Elizabeth Wydeville

(This letter, of which a version was published in the September 2018 Bulletin, was in response to Bryan Dunleavy’s article about Edward IV and Elizabeth Wydville.)

The article in the latest Ricardian Bulletin by Bryan Dunleavy is interesting, and also provocative, given that the bulk of readers of the publication are, by definition, Ricardians.

However Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth was conceived and performed, there is no doubt it was irregular, and so subject to a presumption of bad faith. If Edward wanted the establish the legitimacy of his children securely, the readiest way would have been to follow the example of his own grandparents, Richard of Conisbrough and Anne Mortimer, who secured a Papal Dispensation in 1408 to regularise their secret marriage. (Richard and Anne were about as poor as two noble persons could be, but they still went to the trouble and expense.)

Of course it may be that Edward was well aware that the Pope had no power to dispense bigamy. If you reject that possibility, then one has to say that he behaved irresponsibly as a man of property, let alone a sovereign.

I suspect that like many wealthy and powerful people, even in our own times, Edward simply believed he was untouchable.

Incidentally, how did Edward and Elizabeth manage to avoid procreation between their “marriage” and her coronation, nearly thirteen months later on Ascension Day? If, as Mr. Dunleavy said, “one can only conclude that this was deliberate”, perhaps Edward frequented his nearest apothecary or a dispenser (Despencer?) in a tavern?

Joan of Arc trained in Scotland….?

French-rooster

“…an illiterate shepherdess girl who claimed that voices from God were instructing her to take charge of her nation’s army and lead it to victory…Legend states that Joan came to Scotland to be trained in the art of warfare in a remote stretch of Argyll…”

The above is taken from this lengthy and informative article about Joan of Arc. The Scots, of course, were always ready to help anyone who was opposed to the English, so I am quite prepared to believe they welcomed Joan in this way. She apparently “hand selected Scottish bodyguards from the Stuart, Kennedy and Hay Clans, [and] in 1429 [Joan] asked Hamish Power, (French name: Heuves Polnoir), a Scotsman living in Tours, France, to design her standard. and pennon.” More, “The Scots wore the Fleur-de-Lys on their left breast to show their allegiance to France.”

So I think we can take Scottish collaboration with the French as a done deal.

The article also deals a great deal with the Templars, superstition, the Church, roosters (national symbol of France) that still roam free, signs in the sky and so on. There is too much to comment on here, so better you read it all for yourselves. And draw your own conclusions.

Joan of Arc's battle standard

How did the Black Prince’s funeral procession cross the River Darent….?

Dartford - medieval map

Does anyone out there know the answer to a puzzle that has cropped up in my research? Watling Street, the Roman road, was the main route between London and Canterbury, Dover, etc. This made it very important. Watling Street passed through Dartford, crossing over the tidal River Darent. But wait, there wasn’t a bridge there until the reign of Henry VI. There was a ferry. Does this mean that before then, every traveller on the road, royalty and all, had to use the ferry? The river was tidal, so did they have to wait for suitable water for the ferry to cross? I can’t see that wading across at low water would be advisable in all that mud…and certainly not for the royal hearse drawn by twelve horses that passed through Dartford in 1376! It all seems very unsatisfactory for one of the main roads in the land. And very undignified for the great Edward of Woodstock, known to us as the Black Prince, who was being mourned throughout the realm.

Yes, I know there were  other rivers to cross elsewhere in England, and other ferries instead of bridges, but I am concerned with this road, river and ferry.

In September 1376, the prince’s great funeral procession went through Dartford on its way to Canterbury. Depending on the size of the ferry, such a vast cavalcade would have taken ages to cross. Granted, Dartford was probably the first overnight halt out of London for this ponderous cavalcade, but even so, the bridgeless Darent must have caused a bottleneck second to none.

Researching (meaning my way of researching, which is pretty amateur) Edward of Woodstock’s funeral has produced only what he instructed in his will. Plus I know how long it took, i.e. arriving in Canterbury on the fourth day after setting out. But then, full stop. Oh, there is more available about the actual arrival at journey’s end, but that is not the part of the proceedings with which I am concerned. The actual mechanics of the first three days of the journey, if covered by anyone, have eluded me.

And when the funeral cortege halted, would the prince’s coffin be placed overnight in Holy Trinity church, which is right next to the Darent crossing? Or would it stop on the northern outskirts of the town, where there was a royal palace/house, with appropriate land/space for all the people and horses? Or was it a mix of both – the prince in the church, everyone and everything else in the royal house? To say nothing of filling up the rest of the town as well. Dartford must have bulged at the seams. All the royal family, all the higher nobility, lots of lower nobility, the denizens of Parliament, priests, and all sorts of other Toms, Dicks and Harrys.

Oh, questions, questions! I want to be accurate in a description of all this, and would love someone to “conjure” an earlier bridge into existence. A vain hope, I fear.

So, if anyone knows anything at all, please let me know.

Anne of Brittany’s heart has been stolen; literally….

Anne of Brittany

At least the word “presumed” has been allowed in! It introduces an element of doubt about Richard III. Which is better than nothing.

I hope this relic is returned to where it belongs. This sort of thievery is despicable.

Footnote: I am delighted to be able to report that since I wrote this article, the stolen treasure has now been found. See here.

The nun and the abbey chaplain lived happily ever after….or did they?

Romsey Abbey - 16th century abbess

16th-century abbess of Romsey Abbey

 

The following is an extract from https://www.britainexpress.com/attraction-articles.htm?article=20 and concerns the fate of the nuns of Romsey Abbey after the reformation:-

“. . .What happened to the nuns after the abbey was dissolved? We don’t know, with one notable exception. One of the nuns was Jane Wadham, a cousin of Jane Seymour, Henry’s third queen. Wadham married John Foster, the last abbey chaplain and former steward. Henry VIII objected, but Jane countered, claiming that she had been forced to become a nun at a young age, against her will, and thus her vows were void. The daughter of John Foster and Jane Wadham married Sir William Fleming of Broadlands, a former abbey property and later home of the Mountbattens. . .”

Now, call me old-fashioned, but I’m sure I spy a thwarted love that had been in existence before Henry VIII happened along and changed everything! I hope so, and that they were very happily married. Celibacy is all very well if one is content with such a situation, but when contentment is replaced by human love and desire (as distinct from religious love) the resultant unhappiness must be a dreadful thing.

PS. Alas, there was not a happy ending for Jane Wadham and John Foster:-

Romsey Abbey - Jane Wadham

The above is an extract from https://archive.org/details/recordsofromseya00live, where you will find more about Jane Wadham and John Foster in pp 255-257.

 

The meaning of Michaelmas….

The following article is taken from this article by Ben Johnson:

St Michael

St Michael

“Michaelmas, or the Feast of Michael and All Angels, is celebrated on 29th September. As it falls near the equinox, the day is associated with the beginning of autumn and the shortening of days; in England, it is one of the “quarter days”.

There are traditionally four “quarter days” in a year (Lady Day – 25th March), Midsummer (24th June), Michaelmas (29th September) and Christmas (25th December). They are spaced three months apart, on religious festivals, usually close to the solstices or equinoxes. They were the four dates on which servants were hired, rents due or leases begun. It used to be said that harvest had to be completed by Michaelmas, almost like the marking of the end of the productive season and the beginning of the new cycle of farming. It was the time at which new servants were hired or land was exchanged and debts were paid. This is how it came to be for Michaelmas to be the time for electing magistrates and also the beginning of legal and university terms.

“St Michael is one of the principal angelic warriors, protector against the dark of the night and the Archangel who fought against Satan and his evil angels. As Michaelmas is the time that the darker nights and colder days begin – the edge into winter – the celebration of Michaelmas is associated with encouraging protection during these dark months. It was believed that negative forces were stronger in darkness and so families would require stronger defences during the later months of the year.

“Traditionally, in the British Isles, a well fattened goose, fed on the stubble from the fields after the harvest, is eaten to protect against financial need in the family for the next year; and as the saying goes:

‘Eat a goose on Michaelmas Day,
Want not for money all the year.’

“Sometimes the day was also known as “Goose Day” and goose fairs were held. Even now, the famous Nottingham Goose Fair is still held on or around the 3rd of October. Part of the reason goose is eaten is that it was said that when Queen Elizabeth I heard of the defeat of the Armada, she was dining on goose and resolved to eat it on Michaelmas Day. Others followed suit. It could also have developed through the role of Michaelmas Day as the debts were due; tenants requiring a delay in payment may have tried to persuade their landlords with gifts of geese!

“In Scotland, St Michael’s Bannock, or Struan Micheil (a large scone-like cake) is also created. This used to be made from cereals grown on the family’s land during the year, representing the fruits of the fields, and is cooked on a lamb skin, representing the fruit of the flocks. The cereals are also moistened with sheep’s milk, as sheep are deemed the most sacred of animals. As the Struan is created by the eldest daughter of the family, the following is said:

‘Progeny and prosperity of family, Mystery of Michael, Protection of the Trinity.’

“Through the celebration of the day in this way, the prosperity and wealth of the family is supported for the coming year. The custom of celebrating Michaelmas Day as the last day of harvest was broken when Henry VIII split from the Catholic Church; instead, it is Harvest Festival that is celebrated now.

“St Michael is also the patron saint of horses and horsemen. This could explain one of the ancient Scottish traditions that used to be practiced on Michaelmas Day. Horse racing competitions in the local communities would be held and small prizes won. However, with a twist, it was the only time at which a neighbour’s horse could be taken lawfully the night before and ridden for the entirety of the day, as long as the animal was returned safely!

“In British folklore, Old Michaelmas Day, 10th October, is the last day that blackberries should be picked. It is said that on this day, when Lucifer was expelled from Heaven, he fell from the skies, straight onto a blackberry bush. He then cursed the fruit, scorched them with his fiery breath, spat and stamped on them and made them unfit for consumption! And so the Irish proverb goes:

‘On Michaelmas Day the devil puts his foot on blackberries’

Michaelmas Daisy

“The Michaelmas Daisy, which flowers late in the growing season between late August and early October, provides colour and warmth to gardens at a time when the majority of flowers are coming to an end. As suggested by the saying below, the daisy is probably associated with this celebration because, as mentioned previously, St Michael is celebrated as a protector from darkness and evil, just as the daisy fights against the advancing gloom of Autumn and Winter.

‘The Michaelmas Daisies, among dede weeds,
Bloom for St Michael’s valorous deeds.
And seems the last of flowers that stood,
Till the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude.’

(The Feast of St. Simon and Jude is 28 October)

“The act of giving a Michaelmas Daisy symbolises saying farewell, perhaps in the same way as Michaelmas Day is seen to say farewell to the productive year and welcome in the new cycle.”

 

Monologue on Richard III at Lichfield Cathedral

On Richard III’s birthday (October 2), Dr Gareth Williams, curator of the British  Museum, is going to deliver a monologue on Richard at Lichfield Cathedral. Dr Williams also is a director of research at Tutbury Castle, which has connections to both George of Clarence and Richard.

Obviously I don’t know what kind of Richard will be presented here, good, bad or indifferent…but if you don’t like the content of the monologue, the cathedral is well-worth a visit in itself. It is one of England’s oldest religious foundations but it is also the cathedral that suffered the most during the Civil War, which required much rebuilding.

The history of Lichfield Cathedral, with its three spires–the three Ladies of the Vale:

Lichfieldcath

A new interpretation of 1580s events

We all know that Mary Stuart was beheaded at Fotheringhay on 8 February 1587 and that the Spanish Armada sailed to facilitate a Catholic invasion of England in the following year, leaving Lisbon on 28 May and fighting naval battles in late July, at Plymouth and Portland. The traditional view is that Mary Stuart’s execution and Elizabeth I’s support for the revolt in the Spanish Netherlands provoked Phillip II’s wrath.

It is quite possible that this was not the case and that Phillip had

sought to overthrow his quondam sister-in-law much earlier. Mary, as the daughter of Marie de Guise and widow of Francis II was the French-backed Catholic candidate for the English throne and Franco-Spanish rivalry ensured that Phillip, great nephew of Catherine of Aragon and a Lancastrian descendant proper+, would not act in concert with any of her plots; however her death cleared the way for him, especially as the French Wars of Religion were still to resolve themselves.

We can compare this with the England of 1685-8, as William of Orange allowed the Duke of Monmouth to attempt an invasion first and only asserted his stronger semi-marital claim against James VII/II afterwards. In 1483-5, by contrast, the Duke of Buckingham was legitimately descended from Edward III when he rebelled against Richard III, only for Henry “Tudor”, of dubious lineage, to benefit.

h/t Jeanne Griffin

+ See The Wars of The Roses, Ashdown-Hill, part 4.

Richard’s chantry chapel in Shropshire….

St Mary's, Edstaston, Shropshire

12th century St Mary’s, Edstaston, Shropshire

 

 

When I recently discovered this e-theses site, I found a thesis with the self-explanatory title of Public Display and the Construction of Monarchy in Yorkist England, 1461-85, by Carolyn Anne Donohue. See this one in particular – and very informative it is too.

Then one of the notes caught my eye. It’s Note 470, on page 102, part of which reads as follows:-

“In September 1484 he {Richard III] funded the foundation of a perpetual chantry at the chapel of Hedistaston [presumably Edstaston] Shropshire with eight marks a year, to be called the chantry of King Richard III, CPR 1476-85, pp. 375, 423-25, 478. On King’s College, see Woodman, King’s College, pp. 117-20.”

The have traced the Calendar of Patent Rolls entry in question. It is dated 7th September, 1484, at Nottingham:-Hedsisaston Chantry

Now, I’ve said before and I’ll say again, that I am not a historian or even a true scholar, so I have no problem about admitting that I did not know of this chantry chapel. That he funded others in the likes of Yorkshire I can understand, but why Edstaston in Shropshire?

Does anyone know more about this?

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