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A Medieval Almshouse–with a Hidden Treasure

Sherborne is a pretty little town with a ruined castle, interesting buildings including, an abbey, and a medieval almshouse. All are well worth a visit but the 15th century almshouse is of particular note as it is still in use in its original function. As the buildings are  residential, the Almshouse is not generally open to the public but the chapel  and adjacent room can be viewed on certain summer afternoons for a small fee (although due to the current pandemic it may be a long time before it opens to the public  again.)

The Almshouse first began as a House of Mercy in 1406, but what we see today is  from the New Foundation of 1437, where a house was built to Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist. A licence was obtained from King Henry VI with the assistance of Robert Neville, Bishop  of Salisbury (a brother of Cecily Neville, mother to Edward IV and Richard III.) Robert owned the manor of Sherborne at the time, hence his  interest in the charitable project.

The licence granted by Henry gave the House the rights to hold the property, and permission for the use of a seal for an almshouse containing ‘poor, feeble and impotent’ men and women. To assist these aged tenants‘ needs was chaplain and a housewife‘ were obtained. A prior was appointed from the  residents too oversee the running of the house. The cleaning lady was paid  quarterly and got a new gown and hood thrown into the bargain every year. The tenants themselves received white, woolen, hooded gowns and food to the cost of ten shillings served twice a day–‘reasonable drinking’ was also permitted in the evenings! If times were hard, however, the residents were initially allowed to beg out in the town streets, although later this practice was forbidden.

A facsimile of the Almshouse  licence  hangs on a  wall inside the inside the building. Written in English, it is sealed by Robert Neville, Humphrey Strafford of Hooke, and others donors who gave sumptuous gifts, including a local lady called Margaret Goffe who gifted the Julian Inn. Below the facsimile lies the house’s original money coffer with its five sturdy locks–all five key-holders had to gather in order to open the chest, so there was no chance of anyone with light fingers dipping into the community’s funds!

During the Reformation, the little house‘s existence was threatened since it  was deemed  a place  used for ‘superstitious’ rites. However, in the end it was not destroyed or sold off due to it being a charity run by lay persons.

 What is particularly interesting about the Almshouse is its ‘little secret’, hidden from the later Tudor era right down to modern times. Secreted  away in one of the rooms was a stunning medieval triptych painting crafted in around 1480. Due to having been folded up and kept in a dark place, it has retained its medieval colours in full glorious vibrancy. Lazarus  rises from the dead; a sinister Satan is cast out of a dumb man; the son of the widow of Nain and the daughter of Jairus rise again, and Bartimaeus is healed of his ills.

The Triptych  is now restored to a position of prominence in the little chapel, overlooking by 15thc stained glass depicting the Virgin and Child, John the Baptist and John the Evangelist.

We know who it isn’t …

… but this lady in her thirties died far more recently near Norwich Cathedral …

CARICATURE OF A KING

A caricature is putting the face of a joke on the body of a truth–Joseph Conrad
If Joseph Conrad was correct (and I believe he was), whatever could someone in the late 15th c have been trying to tell us about Henry VII in this amusing manuscript doodle? Especially as it came from  the Archbishop’s Register of the diocese of York.

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That nose! That pinched  expression! Is the King depicted trying to smell out someone’s hard earned money? Did a scribe in York not think  terribly much of the new Tudor king?

And, just for fun,  here’s a more recent (early 20th c?) cartoon of Henry chowing down with good old Bishop Morton (by then  Archbishop of Canterbury), as they devise the idea of Morton’s Fork…

Henry VII taking a Chop with the Archbishop of Canterbury

 

What was a Mattins of Notre Dame….?

from the British Library

When my research unearthed a will in which the lady left her “Mattins of Notre Dame” to her daughter, I had pause to halt. I’m not well versed in such matters, and had no idea what, exactly, a Mattins of Notre Dame was. I did know, of course “….the canonical hours of Matins (after midnight), Lauds (before dawn), Prime (at daybreak), Terce (mid-morning), Sext (midday), None (afternoon), Vespers (sunset) and Compline (before bed)….” But Matins could hardly be left to someone in a will! So what was the item in question?

Poking around on Google led me to this British Library site . As the link tells you, it concerns books, mainly medieval prayer-books. Books of Hours.

So was the Mattins of Notre Dame simply a Book of Hours? Or was it a very specific Book of Hours? If anyone knows the answer, please say!

Westminster Abbey is biased because of those Tudors….!

Ten facts about Westminster Abbey? Well yes, this article does indeed provide such a list, but I do have to find fault with some of its statements. For instance, the Boys in the Urn were probably murdered by Richard’s henchmen.

With luck that urn will one day fall off its plinth and break – then the contents can be examined properly. What’s the betting that the evidence will reveal (a) Roman remains, or (b) a cow’s shin bone, a pig’s jaw and various other animal bits, courtesy of the Stuarts? Whatever, it WON’T show the remains of the boys in question.

As for their deaths at the hands of anyone to do with Richard III…well, prove it. If the remains are Roman, then he couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with it. If most of the bones are indeed animal and from any handy human remains found in the Stuart period, then Richard can’t have had anything to do with that either. We don’t even know if the boys were killed at all. There’s no evidence. It’s just convenient to follow the Tudor clarions and blame Richard for everything. The original wicked uncle!

If he was guilty of anything, I hope it was something like a particularly painful ulcer on Henry VII’s scrawny backside. He was indeed to blame for many unpleasant things. As was the whole of his House. Compared with them, Richard III was a pussycat.

Then I must also object to the following: “…The most influential kings and queens in English history have elaborate tombs at the heart of Westminster Abbey….” Does this mean that anyone who isn’t buried there isn’t of sufficient conseqence or influence? Really?

So, the first Lancastrian king (and usurper) Henry IV, had to go to Canterbury because he wasn’t worthy of Westminster? Um, methinks Henry IV chose to go to Canterbury because he was sucking up to Becket. King John may not have been an all round good egg, but he lies at Worcester. Edward II is at Gloucester. Henry II is in France. Richard I is also somewhere in France…anywhere, so long as it’s not England! Let’s face it, he hardly knew what the place looked like. He stayed away but bled the country dry in order to finance his endless thirst for crusades, and yet eyes still go all dewy when he’s mentioned. Ah, our great and noble warrior king. Yuk.

No doubt there are others who escape my memory at the moment – obviously this blank in my grey cells is due to their absence from Westminster’s sacred portals. Anyway, we’re to think that these monarchs were too insignificant enough for Westminster?

Aha, is the anti-Richard III stance due to the abbey being in a miff about him being laid to rest in Leicester? Does Westminster resent all the interest and income he’s brought to that abbey? If Henry VII’s spirit still rattles around the place, it will have been wailing and shaking its chains in anguish to think that Leicester is benefiting. Henry always clawed all the money he could, whether it was his to claw or not. Scrooge personified.

It was all very well to say at the time that there wasn’t any room for him at Westminster, but maybe the fact is that too many darned Tudors are cluttering up the place. If you want to make the most of the all-too-prevalent fashion for grovelling around anything to do with that House, then a much finer king like Richard is obviously incompatible. He just wouldn’t fit – a little like Gulliver in Lilliputania. Well, he may not have reigned for long before being treasonously murdered, but in that brief time he did a great deal of good for the people of England.

His reward throughout history has been to have Tudor lies about him believed. Past historians have fallen for the propaganda hook, line and sinker. Thank you More. Thank you, Shakespeare. Above all, thank you Henry VII – I cordially hope you did indeed have an abscess on your posterior and that it hurt like Hell every time you sat down!

Well, I’ve huffed and puffed my outrage for long enough, but think I’ve nailed why Westminster Abbey can’t help but suggest that Richard had his nephews murdered! The place is too darned Tudor!

 

The church of St Martin-cum-Gregory

IMG_20191126_122508If you go to York and enter Micklegate Bar heading towards the City Centre, you will see a wonderful medieval gem on your right, the church of St Martin-cum-Gregory, of which Richard III was patron (below left). Its name is due to the fact that the present church is the result of two different churches’ fusion, St Martin and St Gregory. In the Middle Ages, York was a city with many churches but, at some point, especially after the Great Plague, the population was slashed and, as a consequence, many of them became redundant; St Gregory on Burton Lane was one of them. In addition to the reduction of the population, after the Reformation, St Martin was scheduled for closure but in 1585 it was decided to knock down St Gregory and to merge the two parishes. The nave of St Martin-cum-Gregory church was built in the 13th century while the side aisles were possibly added at the beginning of the 14th century, the chancel in the 15th century.IMG_20191126_123143

In 1565, the Lord Mayor had given 100 marks to buy three bells. The original steeple had to be removed as it was dangerous and it was rebuilt in 1677. Three years later, a clock and a dial were added. Due to the fact that the tower was made of bricks, the result is a strange combination of different styles. The upper part of the tower was added in the 19th century.

In 1828, the church-wardens and parishioners requested that the butter market, built for the second time in 1778, (the first one dating back to medieval times, had been blown away) be demolished and (sadly) this request was granted. The excuse was that for years no butter had been there and that the place had become an assembly point for riotous people. It had been used to view, search, measure, mark and seal the butter, that afterwards was sold elsewhere, even in London. The market was held every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, a place that today we would have greatly appreciated visiting.IMG_20191126_123138

St Martin-cum-Gregory is famous for its wonderful medieval stained glass and it is surrounded by a graveyard. The roof in the nave was panelled with beautiful sculptured bosses located at the angles of the intersections. In the west end of the steeple it is possible to see the remnants of a Roman family funereal monument.

Recently, the church, belonging to the parish of Micklegate along with Holy Trinity of Micklegate (to distinguish it from Holy Trinity in Goodramgate and the Methodist Church in Monk Gate) and the other parish church of St Mary Bishophill Junior, became surplus to needs and were closed.

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In 2008, due to the beauty of its stained glass, it was reopened as the Stained Glass Centre. Many workshops take place there in summer and currently there is a plan to open the church to the public so it can be visited and appreciated again all the year round. This plan was set up in the hope of giving Micklegate the role it had had before, that of being one of the most interesting and visited areas in York.

 

An almost-king born in Jericho….?

Well, according to the Romford Recorder Henry VIII very nearly gave us Henry IX. This would have been his illegitimate son Henry Fitzroy, born to the king’s mistress Elizabeth Blount.

Henry Fitzroy is not fiction, but was born in 1519 in the Jericho Priory (see above image) at Blackmore, ten miles north of Romford. The above article states that at one point Henry VIII seriously considered making the illegitimate Henry Fitzroy his heir, brushing aside any legitimate female children the king had. This would have been Mary I, of course, and then Elizabeth I. But Henry Fitzroy died young, and then eventually Henry VIII sired Edward VI on Jane Seymour. Problem solved. For the time being at least, because Edward would also die young and Mary and Elizabeth would eventually reign anyway.

Well, I suppose that Henry VIII would only have been following in Tudor family footsteps…after all his father declared the illegitimate Elizabeth of York legitimate in order to marry her! So why not declare Henry Fitzroy legitimate in order to secure the succession in the male line? The Tudors were a little comme ci comme ça when it came to such inconvenient things.

The only surviving remains of a member of the Kentish Royal House, and of one of the earliest Anglo-Saxon saints….?

 

taken from the article indicated below

Well, I was watching TV news—the bit where they review the newspapers—and had to laugh (with the reviewers) when they came across the headline “Remains of the Deity”. Brilliant. I’ve since Googled the phrase and the newspaper wasn’t the first to use it, but it was certainly the first time I’d heard it.

Anyway, the story is about the remains of an early English saint being found in the wall of a church in Kent.

This article in the Daily Mail is filled with interesting photographs of the work that’s being done in the Church of St Mary and St Eanswythe in Folkestone, Kent, of which town she is the patron saint. She was also a Kentish Royal Saint and granddaughter of the Anglo-Saxon King Ethelbert.

“….The remarkable discovery was revealed at a special event at the church this evening to mark the start of British Science Week 2020. Dr Andrew Richardson, FSA, from the Canterbury Archaeological Trust, said: ‘This locally-based community partnership has produced a stunning result of national importance.

“….’It now looks highly probable that we have the only surviving remains of a member of the Kentish royal house, and of one of the earliest Anglo-Saxon saints….”

If the remains are indeed those of the saint, it’s exciting to think what further research can be done. Are they too old to produce the sort of information we were able to learn about Richard III?

Elizabeth Wydeville…Serial Killer?

IMG_6008.JPGElizabeth Wydeville The Royal Window Canterbury Cathedral.

Yes,  this is a serious question.  After reading several of the late John Ashdown-Hill’s books, particularly his last one, Elizabeth Widville Lady Grey, I think it’s time to give it some serious thought.  Although prima facie it may appear absurd, after all we are talking about a real actual Queen, not a monster from a Grimms’ fairy story, I think it may be worthwhile to give some actual consideration to this question and its  plausibility.

 

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Edward IV, the Royal Window Canterbury Cathedral.  Did a careless remark made to his wife unwittingly bring about the death of Desmond?

Lets take a look at the first death that Elizabeth has been associated with – that of Thomas Fitzgerald Earl of Desmond.  The first port of call for anyone interested in this would be the excellent in-depth  article co-written by Annette Carson and the late historian John Ashdown-Hill both of whom were heavily involved with the discovery of King Richard IIIs remains in Leicester.  Here is the article.

Their assessment goes very deep but to give a brief summary – Desmond was executed on the 15th February 1468 by his successor John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, a man known for his cruel, sadistic nature and dubbed The Butcher of England by his contemporaries.   The execution was immediately followed by  armed rebellion, the Earl’s elder sons ‘raised their standards and drew their swords to avenge their father’s murder ‘ swiftly followed by  King Edward, both alarmed and displeased in equal measures,  promising  that if the Desmonds laid their arms down they would be pardoned. Edward also assured them that he had neither ordered the execution or had any knowledge of it whatsoever. This begs the question if it was not Edward,  who gave Tiptoft the go ahead to execute Desmond  – as well as it is said his two small sons? This was swiftly followed by extremely  generous grants to James, Desmond’s oldest son,  despite the Act of Attainder against his father.  Included in these grants was ‘the palatinate of Kerry, together with the town and castle of Dungarvan.  This grant may be thought to signify that in Edward’s view an injustice had been done’. This was as well as an ‘extraordinary priviledge’ – that of the Desmonds being free to choose not to appear in person before Edward’s deputy or the council in Ireland but to be able to send a representative instead. Clearly Edward had grasped that the Desmonds were, understandably, extremely wary of putting themselves in the hands of the Anglo Irish authorities.

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Richard Duke of York.  His wise and just reputation in Ireland survived long after his death.  

Various explanations  have been given as to why Tiptoft had Desmond executed.  It was given out that he had been guilty of ‘horrible treasons and felonies as well as alliance, fosterage and alterage with enemies of the king, as in giving them harness and armour and supporting them against the faithful subjects of the king’ as well as the ludicrous charge of plotting to make himself King of Ireland,

Upon Tiptoft’s arrival in Ireland in  September 1467 he had initially co-operated with Desmond and other Irish lords.  This was unsurprising as Edward IV was on extremely friendly terms with the Irish lords.    This friendship carried over from his father, Richard Duke of Yorks time in Ireland where he had been held in high regard and in fact Desmond’s father, James, had been George Duke of Clarence’s godfather.   However on the opening of Parliament on the 4th February a bill was immediately brought forward  attainting Desmond and others including his brother in law, the Earl of Kildare. Desmond was removed from the Dominican friary at Drogheda on the 14th February and swiftly executed. The others managed somehow to avoid arrest and execution until Edward, finding out what had occurred, pardoned them. This also adds to the strength of the theory that the execution had been carried out without Edward’s knowledge. This might be a good place to mention that Desmond had indeed been in England around the time of Edward’s ‘marriage’ to Elizabeth  and when much chatter was going on regarding her unsuitability as a royal bride.  There is a surviving 16th century account of Edward while  having an amicable chat with Desmond, asked him what his thoughts were regarding Edward’s choice of bride.  It is said that Desmond at first wisely held back but pushed by Edward did admit that it was thought widely that the King had made a misalliance.  This was relayed, foolishly by Edward to his new bride, perhaps  oblivious in those early days of  her capabilities. A spiteful, vindictive Elizabeth had stolen the seal from her husband’s purse as he slept and had written to Tiptoft instructing him to get rid of Desmond.  This begs the question of whether Tiptoft himself may have been unaware that the order did not emanate directly from the King.  The rest is history and a dark and terrible day at Drogheda.

Moving forward some 16 years later in 1483 we have an extant letter from Richard to his councillor the Bishop of Annaghdown in which he instructs the said Bishop to go to Desmond’s son, James,  and among other things to demonstrate  (shewe) to him that the person responsible for the murder of his father was the same person responsible for the murder of George Duke of Clarence (1).     As Carson and Ashdown-Hill point out, this is a ‘ highly significant analogy’ because, in 1483, Mancini  had written that contemporary opinion was that the person responsible for Clarence’s death was no other than Elizabeth Wydville.  Elizabeth, no doubt having discovered that her marriage to Edward was a bigamous one –  he already having a wife – namely Eleanor Butler nee Talbot – at the time of his ‘marriage’ to her,  had ‘concluded that her offspring by the king would never come to the throne, unless Clarence was removed and this she easily persuaded the king’ (1). It is highly likely that Clarence, who perhaps was of a hotheaded nature, had also become aware that Edward and Elizabeth’s marriage was null and void having been informed of this fact by Bishop Stillington.  Stillington was imprisoned and Clarence  met the same fate as Desmond – an execution regularly described by historians, of all views, as judicial murder.

IMG_2534.JPGGeorge Duke of Clarence from the Rous Roll. George was only 28 years old when he was executed in what has been described by some historians as a ‘judicial murder’

It should be remembered that shortly before his arrest Clarence had been widowed. Clarence had insisted that his wife, Isobel Neville, had been murdered – poisoned he said.  One of the acts he was accused of at his trial was of trying to remove his small son, Edward, out of England and to safety abroad. He obviously genuinely believed that Isobel had indeed been murdered, why else did he attempt to get his son out of harms way? This story has been told in many places including  Ashdown-Hill’s books, The Third Plantagenet as well as his bio of Elizabeth.  If Isobel was indeed murdered the truth has been lost with time but it can safely be said that Clarence was a victim to Elizabeth’s malice although of course Edward has to take equal blame for that. Hicks, and Thomas Penn, are among the historians who  have described Clarences’ execution as ‘judicial murder’.  Hicks in his bio on George,  states that the trial  held before a Parliament heavily packed out with Wydeville supporters was fixed. George stood not a chance and was led back to the Tower to await his fate.  He did not have to wait too long.  Penn writes ‘…his brothers life in his hands, Edward pondered the enormity of his next, irrevocable command. A week or so later, with Parliament still in session, Speaker Allington and a group of MPs walked over to the House of Lords and, with, all decorum, requested that they ask the king to get on with it‘.  Insisting that the king order his own brother’s liquidation was hardly something that Allington would have done on his own initiative. The source of the nudge could be guessed at (2).  As Penn points out Speaker Allington’s  ‘effusions about Queen Elizabeth and the little Prince of Wales were a matter of parliamentary record; the queen had awarded him handsomely appointing him one of the prince’s chancellors and chancellor of the boy’s administration’.  Thus George Duke of Clarence was toast and it appears the second victim to the malignity of the Wydeville queen. Later it was written by Virgil that Edward bitterly regretted his brother’s ‘murder’..for thus it is described by Penn… and would often whinge when asked for a favour by someone that no-one had requested a reprieve for George (not even the brothers’ mother??? Really Edward!).

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Elizabeth Wydville, The Luton Guildbook.  Cicely Neville, her mother in law is depicted behind her. Cicely’s feelings on one of her son’s bringing about the death of another son are unrecorded.

Another damning point against Elizabeth is that Richard III in the communication mentioned above, granted permission to  James, Desmond’s son to ‘pursue by means of law those whom he held responsible for his father’s death’.   Both Edward and Tiptoft were dead at this time but Elizabeth was still alive and demoted from Queen to a commoner. As it transpired James did not pursue the matter at that time and a year later it was all too late – Richard was dead and Elizabeth had been reinstated as Queen Dowager.  Further evidence regarding Elizabeth’s guilt came to light 60 years later in the 16th century in the form of a memorandum addressed by James 13th Earl of Desmond, Desmond’s grandson, to the privy council.  In an attempt to get property that had been removed from one of his ancestors returned to him James referred to the great privilege that was awarded to his earlier Desmond relatives, that of not having to appear before Anglo Irish authorities that had been granted by Edward IV because ‘the 7th Earl of Desmond had been executed because of the spite and envy of Elizabeth Wydeville”.   This memorandum also contained the earliest written account of the conversation between Edward IV and Desmond regarding Elizabeth’s suitablity as a royal consort,  the repeating of which to Elizabeth had resulted in Desmond’s murder.

It’s now not looking good for Elizabeth at this stage. There are other names, other deaths,  that begin now to  look rather suspicious. After all if Elizabeth could be involved with two deaths could there have been more?

The next deaths that need consideration are those of Eleanor Butler and her brother in law, the Mowbray Duke of Norfolk.  According to Ashdown-Hill who has researched Eleanor in depth, her death occurred while her family and protectors, particularly her sister Elizabeth Duchess of Norfolk, with whom she appears to have been close, were out of the country attending the marriage celebrations of Margaret of York to Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. This marriage had been ‘pushed forward’  by Elizabeth Wydeville (3). Of course her death may have been the result of natural causes although it’s not hard to imagine Edward and Elizabeth breathing massive sighs of relief. However karma is a bitch, as they say, and the spectre of Eleanor would later arise with tragic results and the complete fall of the House of York.

Whether Eleanor died of unnatural causes of course can now never be ascertained.   Ashdown-Hill compares her death to that of Isobel Neville in that after they first become ill it was two weeks before they died (4).  Certainly it was unexpected and must have caused shock and grief to her sister on her arrival back in England – presumably the Duchess may not have left England and her sister if she had been seriously ill and close to death.  In actual fact Eleanor died on the 30th June 1468 while Elizabeth Talbot only begun her trip back to England from Flanders on the 13th July.  Coupled with this, two of the Norfolk household were executed around this time through treasonous activity but nevertheless this must have caused disconcertment and fear to the Duke and Duchess following on so soon from Eleanor’s death. Very sadly, the Duke himself was to die suddenly and totally unexpectedly. The Duchess of Norfolk, now bereft of her husband and sister, found herself forced to agree to the marriage of her very young daughter, the Lady Anne Mowbray, to Elizabeth Wydeville’s youngest son, Richard of Shrewsbury.  This was much to her detriment being forced to accept a diminished dower in order to supplement the revenue of her young son in law.  She thereafter lived out her days in a ‘great’ house in the precincts of the Abbey of the Minoresses of St Clare without Aldgate, poorer but surrounded by loyal and loving friends most of whom had also suffered at the hands of Edward IV and the Wydevilles (5).

In summary, I’m confident that Elizabeth was deeply implicated in  the executions of Desmond, an entirely innocent man, and Clarence whom she feared because he knew or suspected the truth of her bigamous marriage.   Could there have been others? The hapless Eleanor Talbot perhaps?  Of course she was not a murderess in the sense that she actually and physically killed anyone but she did indeed ‘load the guns and let others fire the bullets’ as they say. There is little doubt that Richard Duke of Gloucester came close to being assassinated on his journey  to London and close to the stronghold of the Wydevilles at Grafton Regis, in 1483. This was down to the machinations of the Wydevilles including of course the fragrant Elizabeth who by the time he arrived in London had scarpered across the road from Westminster Palace, loaded down with royal treasure, and taken sanctuary in Westminster Abbey, a sure indication of her guilt in that plot. Richard, in his well known letter, had to send to York for reinforcements “we heartily pray you to come to us in London in all the diligence you possibly can, with as many as you can make defensibly arrayed, there to aid and assist us against the queen, her bloody adherents and affinity, who have intended and do daily intend, to murder and utterly destroy us and our cousin the Duke of Buckingham, and the old blood royal of this realm” (6).

After that dreadful day at Bosworth in August 1485, and a bit of a tedious wait, Elizabeth now found herself exulted once again this time as mother to the new Queen. She would, one have thought, reached the stage where she could at last rest on her now rather blood soaked laurels. Wrong! She was soon  found to be involved in  the Lambert Simnel plot,  which no doubt if successful would have resulted in the death of her daughter’s husband. Whether her daughter, Elizabeth of York, would have approved of this is a moot point and something we shall never know although surely she would hardly have welcomed being turfed off the throne and her children disinherited and my guess is that relationship between Elizabeth Snr and Jnr became rather frosty after that. Henry Tudor, who was many things but not a fool took the sensible  decision to have his mother in law ‘retired’ to Bermondsey Abbey, no doubt to protect her from herself but more importantly to protect himself from Elizabeth and her penchant for plots that mostly ended up with someone dead. And there at Bermondsey, a place known for disgraced queens to be sent to languish and die, she lived out her days no doubt closely watched, Karma having finally caught up with her.

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Terracotta bust of Henry VII. Elizabeth’s son-in-law.  Henry prudently had Elizabeth ‘retired’ to Bermondsey Abbey. 

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John Tiptoft Earl of Worcester.  Effigy on his tomb.  Tiptoft’s propensity for cruelty did not deter Edward from appointing him Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1467 nor did it dissuade Elizabeth to involve him in her plotting to bring about the death of Desmond.  

(1) Harleian Manuscript 433 Vol 2 pp108.9

(2) The Usurpation of Richard III Dominic Mancini. Ed. C A J  Armstrong.

(3 ) The Brothers York Thomas Penn p405

(4) Elizabeth Widville Lady Grey p87 John Ashdown Hill

(5) Ibid  p124 John Ashdown Hill.

(6) The Ladies of the Minories W E Hampton.  Article in The Ricardian 1978

(7) York Civic Records Vol.1.pp 73-4.  Richard of Gloucester letter to the city of York 10 June 1483.

 

 

 

 

The Mysterious Stone Masons of Herefordshire

Recently I had the chance to visit two of the most attractive female medieval tomb effigies I have yet encountered, both lying in their respective churches within ten miles or so of each other. Although one tomb effigy is in much better condition than the other, they are so stylistically close that it is likely they were carved by the same stonemasons or, at least, come from the same workshop.

The lady lying in the North Chapel of Ledbury’s St Michael and All Angels is a little neglected, hidden in a corner with boxes and other church items stacked in front of her, but it is well worth moving around the clutter to take a closer look. Her identity is not known (it was once thought she was one of the Audleys but that idea is now discredited) but the shields on her tomb indicate she may have been the sister of the wonderfully-named Grymbold Pauncefoot, who married into the Carew family. Lady  Pauncefoot’s  altar tomb is of late 14thc  date, with full-length effigy and a partial canopy and a row of eleven carved shields showing the arms of Carew, Pauncefoot and two Lions Passant. The lady wears a  wimple, fillet and full-length gown that flows over the edge of  the  tomb–however, at some point, sadly, her features have been defaced.

Not so the features of beautiful Blanche Mortimer who lies in perpeptual sleep in the little church of St Bartholomew  in the village of Much Marcle. Blanche was one of the children of the famous–or infamous–Roger Mortimer and his wife Joan de Geneville. She married Peter Grandison and probably lived in Much Marcle at ‘Mortimer Castle’ which stood near the church, a motte and bailey with only traces of the earthwork existing today. The Great Seal of England was handed over at Mortimer’s Castle after Edward II’s deposition in 1327, an important event that Blanche would have witnessed. Blanche and Peter had no living children  (some sources say she had a daughter Isabella, but if so, she must have died in infancy), and upon their deaths,  their lands were inherited by Peter’s brother, John Grandisson, Bishop of Exeter.

Blanche’s tomb is made of sandstone and also has a canopy and many shields bearing the Mortimer and Grandisson Arms. Like the Pauncefoot monument, her  dress is draped down over the edge of the tomb in artful folds; Blanche is also portrayed holding a rosary. Her head is covered but the unusual shape of her headdress denotes that her hair was encased in crespines on either side of her head, a fashion popular at the time. Blanche’s lead coffin still lies within the tomb–rather unusually, as most time the burials were beneath the monument.

Another stone  image probably made by the same masons as Blanche Mortimer and Lady Pauncefoot’s tombs  is in the porch at Hereford Cathedral and is of the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation. Again, the distinctive treatment of the fall of fabric is noticeable and the graceful shape of the torso is also similar to that of Blanche at Much Marcle.

The only other similar carvings in England tend to be within the Devon area–so there is some thought that Bishop John Grandisson may have either sent some of the local stonemasons to Herefordshire or imported talented local men to Exeter.

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Above images: the Pauncefoot tomb in Ledbury Church.

blanch1Blanche MortimercrespinExample of crespine headdress

 

 

 

 

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