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RICHARD RETURNS TO THE TOWER THIS CHRISTMAS

The Tower of London is holding an event of interest to Ricardians. Between December 27 and 31, you will be able to enter King Richard III’s court as it celebrates Christmas 1484.

Court intrigue and plotting takes place amidst the pageantry, glorious costumes, and revels, all under the eye of the traditional Lord of Misrule.

Events begin at 11 A.M. with the King’s Arrival, then progress to ‘Court and Conspiracy’  at 11:30 and 14:30, and ‘The Hunt’ at 1:30 and 15:30.

http://www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/whats-on/medieval-christmas/#gs.2hY5r7sItower

It is nice to see  Richard’s reign getting some recognition, although we do not yet know  how fair a view the entertainment will take. It is too easy (or should that be lazy?) for someone au fait only with Shakespeare or bad documentaries to imagine that such a short time was spent in nothing but warfare and misery, with the Tower a sinister symbol (which it was generally not, being a royal palace, not just a place of imprisonment). Richard liked a good party!

Where another Duke of Gloucester died

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To find the incongruous ruins of this Bury St. Edmunds building, stand on Fornham Road, facing the supermarket car park with the car dealership and the bottom of Station Hill behind you then walk a few paces to the left. St. Saviour’s Hospital dates from about 1184 and was probably founded by Samson, the town’s abbot to accommodate twenty-four residents but frequently had financial problems.

In 1446/7, Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, who had been Lord Protector and Defender of the Realm to Henry VI by the same law under which Richard was to be invested, came here to await trial for treason. He died here “in suspicious circumstances” on 23 February, to be buried in St. Alban’s Abbey.

The Hospital was, predictably, dissolved in 1539 and the ruins consist of a large arch and some ground behind it, with several explanatory plaques.

Further reading: http://www.stedmundsburychronicle.co.uk/Rel-hospitals.htm

Where’s Henry?

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In life, Henry VII was renowned for fighting his battles from a deckchair, behind a pike wall with a telescope. Even some of his statues are behaving similarly now.

The best example is, or was, in Exeter. It commemorated the two sieges of the city in 1497 when the two Cornish Rebellions were kept out but proceeded towards London, the First with more success than the Second. Henry held court here for a month that autumn. The first statue stood near Eastgate until 1784 and then moved to High Street until it was destroyed during the Blitz. The 1950s fibreglass replacement, designed by Sonia Newton, was displayed at Princesshay until 2005, when a new shopping centre took priority and he is in hiding somewhere in Belle Isle.

 

The Holand Dukes rose against Richard III? Wrong!….

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For those of you who do not know, I am very fond of Dartington Hall. I read all I can about it, and its history, originally because of an intention to write about its creator, the first Holand Duke of Exeter, but now because I just plain love the place as well.

These Holand Dukes of Exeter – the first, John Holand, being the younger of Richard II’s two half-brothers through Joan of Kent – only survived for three generations, coming to an end in 1475 with the suspicious death of the third duke, the apparently unlovable Henry Holand. The duke in between, another John Holand, son of the first duke, was responsible for inventing the Duke of Exeter’s Daughter, a vile instrument of torture, a rack, which can still be seen at the Tower.  Not a legacy to commend the second duke, methinks.

I digress. Edward IV handed over Henry’ Holand’s estates to the wife from whom Holand was divorced, Edward’s eldest sister, Anne, Duchess of Exeter. Anne was by then married to Thomas St Leger, whose involvement in the Buckingham rebellion led to his execution by Richard III. This is as close as Henry Holand gets to rising against Richard III – through his ex-wife’s second husband!

Imagine my surprise then, when reading an introduction to a booklet about the hall by Anthony Emery, esteemed author of such works as ‘Greater Medieval Houses Of England and Wales 1300-1500’, to find the following statement:

“The Hall remained in the hands of the Holand family for a further 75 years [after the death of the first duke in 1400] but was forfeited to the Crown by the third generation after their unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Richard III.”

Huh? It can’t be a typo between II and III, because the Holands didn’t try to overthrow Richard II, on whose side they most definitely were, and anyway, Richard II was long gone by the time the third duke’s body washed up mysteriously on the shore at Dover. So I would like to know how Anthony Emery concludes that ‘they’ somehow rose against Richard III. They did rise against Henry IV at the end of 1399/ beginning of 1400 but came off worst – the first duke met a very sticky end at Pleshey Castle. And the third and last duke, Henry, was on the Lancastrian side at Towton, but accompanied Edward IV for the 1475 expedition to France. From which he failed to return, except as the body on the beach. He died about eight years before Richard of Gloucester became Richard III.

After Anne, Duchess of Exeter, Dartington fell to her daughter by St Leger, another Anne, who inherited Henry Holand’s estates through her mother. Well, it seems that when  the duchess died in January 1476, St Leger did all he could – ‘by seditious means as it is notoriously known’- to get reversion of his late wife’s estates, including the Holand properties, and to secure them for the other Anne, his daughter by the duchess. Emery says it all fell through when St Leger paid the price for joining Buckingham against Richard. Presumably it all then went to the Crown, because from March 1487 to 1509, it was held by Margaret Beaufort – whose coat of arms is one of those supporting the rafters of the great hall.

During the reign of Elizabeth I, Dartington was acquired by the Champernowne family, which held it for eleven generations, until in 1925 selling it to Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst, who  restored it lovingly to its present glory.

So where does Emery gets his ‘fact’ about the Holands rising against Richard III? He also makes sweeping statements and claims concerning the first duke, whom he appears to loathe as much as some historians loathe Richard, but that’s another matter.

OLD FAMILIAR FACES: THE HUNKY PUNKS OF LANGPORT

The last few times I’ve gone to visit the other half’s family in Somerset, we’ve driven through the town of  Langport, a small place  now but once an actual port and quite an important site in the Middle Ages. As we rounded the corner in the car, I kind of obliquely wondered why there was a great big portcullis painted on a wall, standing out with stark menace against the whitewash . Or why the local pub was also called ‘The Portcullis’ and had a sign depicting the same emblem.

And then the penny dropped…there  might be an association with Margaret Beaufort,  Henry Tudor’s mother.

I should have guessed already; on an earlier trip to nearby Taunton, I had noticed a stained glass window dedicated to  her wily servant, Reginald Bray, in one of the churches and thought there had to be a local connection.  As it happens, Margaret Beaufort, owned the manors of both Langport and Curry Rivel. Forget the modern portcullis emblems on wall and pub sign–original late 15th carvings of the Beaufort portcullis appear on the towers of both All Saints Church in Langport and  St Andrews in Currey Rivel.

Curious, I decided to take a walk around All Saints, which stands at the top of town, on a very steep hill, near a remaining section of Langport’s ancient town walls. It is a fine church, although now disused, and is covered by carved stone ‘hunky punks’, a local type of Somerset grotesque (they aren’t actually  gargoyles as they are not functional but are merely decorative.) The word ‘hunky punk’ is deemed to be from old English and means something similar to ‘hunkered down on haunches and squat legs.’

Going into the nave of the church, there was a Norman door remaining from an earlier church on the site…and on one wall, a rather flattering framed portrait of Margaret Beaufort ( not the usual one we are used to seeing, one in which she looks much younger). There is also some fine 15th c glass depicting several saints, possibly the finest medieval glass in Somerset.

But it was the hunky punks that intrigued me most, so it was back outside the building to look around the rear of the church…especially since I’d had a ‘tip off’ that two of the carvings were not the usual gurning goblins that danced sinisterly along the Somerset church rooflines.

Tucked out of the way, near a window, I spotted two hunky punks that didn’t quite match the mouth-pullers, wide-grinners,  and tongue-pokers  all over the rest of the church.

Do these two hunky punks look vaguely familiar to you?

 

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MONUMENTAL MOUNDS AND MOTTES

When the Normans came to England they built their stern castles upon  huge mounds that gave them clear views across the countryside from the height of the donjon or keep. For many years, it was thought these mottes were mostly of Norman date, contemporary with the castle structures,  or else were natural, glacial features utilised by the incomers.

Recently, however,  archaeologist Jim Leary, well known in the Wiltshire area for his work at Marden Henge and Avebury, has been studying these numerous round mounds in some detail and finding that many of them tell another story. Sometimes on that stretched far into the depths of time.

Marlborough mound is one example. For years, various guidebooks debated whether the enormous  hill in the grounds of Marlborough college, complete with later grotto inserted in its flank, was a Norman construction, a prehistoric earthwork,  a natural hill, or even a much more recent garden folly.

The castle, of which no stone remains above ground today, was quite prominent in the 12th century: an oath of allegiance was sworn to King John in its now-vanished hall, and Eleanor of Brittany, kept prisoner for most of her life by John and then his son, Henry III, due to her closeness to the throne, was briefly incarcerated within its walls.  Later, it became a dower property of Eleanor of Provence and a host of subsequent queens, until it finally fell into ruin, becoming completely uninhabitable by 1403. The Seymour family, who owned many local lands, ended up with it.

About five years ago, Jim Leary had some charcoal found inside the mound carbon dated. It turns out Marlborough mound, reputed in legend to be the burial place of Merlin, is a Neolithic artificial hill dating from 2400 B.C., a smaller sister to the famous, pyramid-sized Silbury Hill, which liesa few miles down the road near the stone circles of Avebury.

Now Dr Leary is working on analysing further monumental mounds, with exciting and unexpected results from the motte at Skipsea castle,  which was built in 1086 by Drogo de la Beauvriere as protection against an incursion of Danes via the North Sea.  The castle was destroyed  by the forces of Henry III in 1221, when William de Forz rebelled and was never subsequently rebuilt, with only the mound remaining today.

In the recent analysis of Skipsea, the archaeologists have found that the motte is neither Norman nor natural glacial hill (as was generally thought) but, unusually, that it is an artificial mound dating from the Iron Age. It is quite possibly a burial mound, which would make it a one of a kind in this country, since by the British Iron Age huge funerary barrows had long dropped out of fashion. It bears a marked similarity to the large German Celtic barrows, which often hold rich remains, such as those of the Hochdorf chief (also known as the Prince with the Golden Shoes, due to his blingy footwear!)

Leary and his  team have also recently surveyed Fotheringhay and Berkhamsted mottes. The study goes on….

 

https://roundmoundsproject.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/fieldwork-2015-photos/#more-359

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2016/oct/03/skipsea-castle-yorkshire-built-on-iron-age-mound

 

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A PRINCESS OF DEVON

After the battle of Bosworth, Henry VII married Edward IV’s daughter Elizabeth of York. What happened to Edward’s other daughters? Bridget, the youngest, went to a nunnery. Anne married the younger Thomas Howard (which was the marriage proposed for her by Richard III; Thomas Jr’s father Thomas still desired the marriage for his son and eventually permission was granted by Henry Tudor). Cecily’s current marriage was dissolved, and Tudor married her instead to John Welles, Margaret Beaufort’s half brother, tying her into his own family.

That only left Catherine of York.

Catherine was born in August 1479 at Eltham Palace, one of Edward’s later children. Soon after her birth Edward began to arrange a royal marriage for her to the son of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile; however, he died before the proposal was finalised.

Catherine, then a child of less than four years of age, went into sanctuary with her mother and many of her siblings, as the dramatic events of 1483 unfolded. Later, she emerged with her family in March 1484, when Richard III promised their safety, and proclaimed that Edward’s daughters would be treated as honourable kinswomen and eventually be married to gentlemen of birth, giving to each an estate valued at 200 marks. (He also gave Elizabeth Woodville 700 marks to live on, a little more  than her own son in law, Henry Tudor.)

Catherine remained unmarried during Richard’s short reign, although her sister Cecily was given to Ralph Scrope and  plans were being made for Elizabeth to marry Manuel, Duke of Beja. Under Henry Tudor, it was proposed Catherine would marry into Scottish royalty, taking the Duke of Ross, James Stewart, as her husband. Her mother, Elizabeth Woodville, would at the same time be given in marriage to the Scottish king, James III. However, when King James was killed in battle, his successor never bothered to pursue the prospective  English alliances.

So in 1495, aged around sixteen, Catherine instead married William Courtenay, son of Edward Courtenay. The Courtenay family had always been staunch Lancastrians but had not fared particularly well in the dynastic battles of the Wars of the Roses. Thomas Courtenay was taken in battle at Towton and beheaded at York, while his brother Henry was executed for treason in Salisbury marketplace in 1469. Another brother, John, was slain at Tewkesbury. Hugh Courtenay, from a junior branch of the family,  also was executed after Tewkesbury; it was his son Edward who then became Earl of Devon, and Hugh’s grandson, William, who married Catherine of York. We do not know if the marriage was a happy one, but together William and Catherine had three children.

However, things turned ugly  for the family in 1504. Henry VII found out that Courtenay had been supporting the claims to the throne of Edmund de la Pole, the last Yorkist heir.  William was attainted and thrown into the Tower of London, where he remained throughout the rest of Henry Tudor’s reign.

When Henry finally died, his son, Henry VIII, seemed ready to give his imprisoned uncle a rare second chance.  Henry was said to be very fond of Catherine from early childhood (it is claimed she loved children and played with him when at court) and he considered her his favourite aunt. He released William from the Tower and allowed him to resume his role in society, even carrying one of the swords of state at  Henry’s coronation. A year or so later,  he gave William back his title as Earl of Devon—although unfortunately William died only a month or two later, so never got to enjoy it.

Eager to avoid another arranged marriage, Catherine promptly swore an oath of chastity before the Bishop of London, and then retired to her Devon estates. She lived quietly in Tiverton Castle, and also at the remote Bickleigh castle, with its rare thatched Norman chapel.

Catherine died at Tiverton on November 15 1527, aged 48, and was buried in the parish church of St Peter, which stands by the castle ruins. Her arms are still visible above the door, amongst unusual carvings of sailing ships and monkeys. Unfortunately, the chantry dedicated to the Courtenays, which would probably have contained her tomb, no longer exists. She was perhaps fortunate not to lived have seen the execution of her only surviving son, Henry, in 1538–he was beheaded due to his correspondence with Cardinal Reginald Pole.

Catherine is presumed the last of  Edward IV’s children with Elizabeth Woodville to die, though of course without knowing the actual fate of the ‘princes’, this may not be the case!

Tiverton Castle can be visited on certain days throughout the summer, and Bickleigh Castle is now an attractive hotel. St James church in Tiverton is well worth a visit and open most days.

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St James, Tiverton

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Bickleigh Castle

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Tiverton Castle

Richard III, a book signing by Philip Photiou, and the music of the Legendary Ten Seconds, all in one occasion….

ExHere is an event to be attended if anyone possibly can. And there will be the music of the Legendary Ten Seconds to make it even better!

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Annual Re-enactment of the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross….

Croft Castle

I’m posting this courtesy of the Mortimer History Society.

“The annual re-enactment of the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross (February 1460/1) will take place on Saturday & Sunday 10th & 11th September at Croft Castle, near Yarpole, Herefordshire. Croft Castle is owned by the National Trust. Normal NT charges apply but there is no extra charge for seeing the re-enactment.

“As the organisers say…..’Join us for a living history weekend full of gunpowder, battles, archery and swordfights, bringing to life one of the most significant battles of the Wars of the Roses’.”

It sounds an excellent and exciting weekend!

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/croft-castle-and-parkland

Tales of a Ricardian Traveler – Debunking a Myth at Dartington Hall

RICARDIAN LOONS

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

Dartington Hall, near Totnes in Devon and just southeast of Dartmoor National Park, represents a uniquely British form of historical contradiction. It is both medieval, having parts of a Grade I-listed late 14th century manor house, and modern, being the current home of the Schumacher College and formerly the site of a progressive coeducational boarding school which broke all the molds of English education and even attracted the attention of MI5. Today, it operates a hotel, restaurant and conference center, and has Grade II* listed gardens.

Our visit was prompted by the prospect of staying briefly in the house built between 1388-1400 by John Holland, first earl of Huntingdon and duke of Exeter. The Holland dukes of Exeter were themselves highly controversial figures and their history is closely intertwined with that of the Houses of York and Lancaster. We didn’t…

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