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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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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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The Court of Requests and Thomas Seckford

In 1484, King Richard III created a minor equity court to deal with minor disputes in equity; these are disputes where the harshness of common law would be acknowledged by those appointed by the Crown. Equity courts were mostly seen as the Lord Chancellor’s remit, and the split of the Chancery Courts from the Curia Regis happened in the mid-fourteenth century. By the time of King Richard III, the Chancery Court had become backlogged from cases pleading the harshness of the common law, and the Court of Requests was no doubt and attempt to remove minor equity cases from the backlog and free up court time – Richard’s attempt at reducing bureaucracy and better administration.

So successful was the Court of Requests that it survived Richard’s reign, and was formalised by the Privy Council of Henry “Tudor”, the usurper. It was a popular court, because the cost of cases was relatively low and justice was swifter than the common law courts, which would ultimately prove its undoing.

Two Masters of Requests Ordinary were appointed by Henry VIII, and another two Masters of Requests Extraordinary were appointed by Elizabeth I. One of these was Thomas Seckford, of Woodbridge in Suffolk.

Thomas was an influential man, even before Elizabeth appointed him to the Court of Requests in 1558. He was MP for Ripon in November 1554, just months after his Grey cousins were executed, and was then elected MP for Orford (a fishing village on the Suffolk Coast which had two MPs despite only having a handful of residents) in 1555 and again in 1558. He was MP for Ipswich in 1559 and for Suffolk in 1571. Seckford Hall, (right) near Woodbridge, is known to have hosted Elizabeth’s court as she progressed, and was built in 1530 as the Seckford Family home; it is now a hotel, while a golf club sits within what was once its grounds. The A12 Martlesham bypass sweeps across the Finn Valley in front of the hall, giving wonderful views to motorists but somewhat destroying the character and appearance of the building and grounds. As an interesting side note, the hotel contains furniture from Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, including (allegedly) the chair Henry the Usurper died on.

Thomas Seckford commissioned Christophe Saxton to create the first surveyed atlas of the realm, which Elizabeth granted him a patent for its sole publication for ten years. This made him an even wealthier man and he added to his estates Clerkenwell, endowing the Seckford Almshouses with income from Clerkenwell. His wealth also led to the establishment of a free school, Woodbridge School, which is a minor public school. His wealth still helps young and old in Woodbridge today.

The Court of Requests fell foul of the common law courts at the end of the 16th century. Angry that business deserted them in favour of the more efficient Court of Requests, the common law courts overturned a number of decisions of the Requests Court, and banned them from imprisoning people; ultimately this was to prove their undoing, and the English Civil War, which led to the invalidation of the Privy Seal, was the final death of the Court, set up all those years before by King Richard for the better delivery of justice.

Thomas Seckford (left) died in January 1587, although we are not sure exactly when, whilst in his early seventies. His mother was Margaret Wingfield, relating him to both the de la Pole and Brandon families, and her mother was an Audley. In fact, Thomas could claim double descent from Edward I, through Joan of Acre, as well as many other great mediaeval magnates, including Edmund “Crouchback”. At his death, Thomas Seckford remained without issue, just like his fellow long-term royal servant Henry Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon. I need hardly add that Huntingdon was his cousin.

Walk This Way!

Picture of people in medieval dress

Apparently it has been discovered that up until 1500 approximately, people walked differently! Have a look at this article and watch the video – it is fascinating and I bet you can’t resist trying it for yourself. They say it improves posture and strengthens the calf muscles. I think it looks rather elegant!

 

 

Image credit: By Paul Mercuri [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A Bayeux Tapestry replica comes to Woodbridge

This EADT article explains how, with help from the writers Michael Linton and Charlie Haylock, together with the Mayor and themselves, have ensured that a metal replica of the tapestry will be on show in Woodbridge for two months:image (2)image (3)

Tales of a Ricardian Traveler – Gruyères Castle

If we thought that Richard III had a horrific end to his life, just take a look at the death of Charles the Bold.

RICARDIAN LOONS

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

It is tempting to think that the British Isles contain all the sites associated with Richard III’s life. Of course, that’s not true. Richard lived abroad twice, first in 1461 and again in 1470-1. On both occasions, he had fled England in order to save his life and wound up living in lands controlled by the Duke of Burgundy.  The Duke, a descendant of a junior branch of the French royal house of Valois, maintained the most glamorous and sophisticated court in all of Europe.  So powerful were the Valois-Burgundian dukes that when Edward IV became king, he betrothed his sister Margaret to the heir of that duchy.

Charles the Bold Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy (1433-1477). His third marriage was to Margaret of York, Edward IV’s and Richard III’s sister. He would be the last of the Valois dukes of Burgundy.

Margaret’s intended husband…

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Don’t believe his latest statue, the real Henry VII was cuddly…!

Henry's statue at Pembroke

(Photograph from https://henrytudorsociety.com/2016/01/16/henry-tudor-statue-campaign-marquette-unveiled/)

The statue that was eventually decided on for Henry VII at Pembroke was hardly flattering, but then silk purses cannot be fashioned from sows’ ears. Making him sweet and appealing was clearly a task too far. So I have decided to redress the balance, and show you that Henry was sweet and appealing! Well, everything below his neck can be thus described. I fear there was absolutely no way of doing anything about that face!!!!

King Henry the Hook

(NB. The “gnome” photograph is not mine. I claim only the tweaking with the head. I do not know the identity of the photographer.)

 

 

 

 

Henry Tudor Sailed the Oceans Blue?

In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Henry Tudor Sailed the Oceans Blue?

 No, no, we all know that’s NOT the way the rhyme goes…however, apparently, some publishers do not know the difference between the English king and the explorer Christopher Columbus. A picture of Henry VII, labelled as Columbus, recently appeared in a child’s history textbook (see link below)!

https://www.facebook.com/thetudortutor/posts/10156783704920299

 

(above, Henry and Columbus, not exactly looking like they were seperated at birth. Similar taste in hats, maybe?)

Henry, however, did have a slight connection to Columbus. In 1489, Columbus’ brother Bartholomew made his way to England seeking funding for Christopher’s voyages. On the way, he was attacked by pirates and arrived in England in a poverty-stricken state. He was not received terribly well by Henry, and it was soon clear that not one solitary penny was forthcoming.  Bartholomew tried the French king next —still no joy. Then he went to Spain….and the rest is history.

Later, Henry did decide he better get ‘with it’ and do some new world exploration to keep up with Ferdinand and Isabella. 1497, he hired the Venetian John Cabot to go to the New World. Cabot made his first landing at (disputably)  Cape Bonavista in Newfoundland, Canada.

 Upon his return to England,  Henry was not exactly forthcoming with lavish payment—Cabot got a rather  paltry £10.00. Now Henry DID have other things on his mind at that time—namely Perkin Warbeck. Once he dealt with that little problem, he gave Cabot a monetary

 

 increase…of £2.00. Later, he did give him a somewhat more substantial but not overly generous pension of £20.00 a year, with the stipulation he made more voyages and tried to do some trading with the natives while he was at it.

Cabot did return to North America but he found no natives, only the remains of a burnt out fire and a stone tool.

Right: Jim Dale, who played Christopher Columbus in the eponymous quincentenary Carry On. (and now that I think of it, maybe there IS a resemblance in the pic on the right??)

 

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Medieval treasures, including the Middleham Jewel, to be on permanent display in York….

York Medieval Display

A number of medieval treasures, including the Middleham Jewel, are to go on permanent display at the Yorkshire Museum in York to tell how the city once ruled the North of England, and will be unveiled today.

Richard visits Ireland….

Galway - Richard

Richard’s gone to Galway! Lucky man. No wonder he’s smiling. Well, it’s The ‘Richard III Discovered’ Exhibition that’s gone, but he’s there in spirit, I’m sure.

http://www.advertiser.ie/galway/article/96655/hail-the-king-science-and-technology-festival-brings-richard-iii-saga-to-galway

http://www.advertiser.ie/galway/article/96630/long-dead-english-king-to-finally-make-royal-visit-to-galway

 

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