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Still at it!

Here are nine “celebrity” couples who married in secret, fairly recently, but Edward IV surely couldn’t have done, according to some “historians”. Once, perhaps, but definitely not twice, no matter what a Bishop, the Three Estates and Parliament, all of whom knew him well at the time, concluded. After all, nobody else ever has.

{now read the post again from the beginning}

The Copes of Westminster Abbey….?

copes

Do not let the above title confuse you. This is not about a TV family saga miniseries, but a very interesting subject for all that.

I still like to watch the repeats of ‘Time Team’, and yesterday it was the turn of the lost sacristy of Westminster Abbey. During the course of the programme, Tony Robinson was shown the chest that contained the copes. Only two drawers were opened – one cope was rich ruby red with golden embroidery, the other was purple with silver-gilt embroidery. They were absolutely wonderful, and I so wanted the other drawers to be opened as well! But they weren’t, and I was left wondering what other joys were still hidden away. Surely too many for just the one chest.

Does anyone know if the copes can be seen? Is there, at the very least, a website where I can gaze at my leisure? And what do they call such storage cupboards/chests? I’m sure I’ve heard the name in the past, but cannot recall it now.

All you ever wanted to know about mediaeval gardens….

sarahs-snowdrops

I’m writing this in mid-February. St Valentine’s Day, to be precise, and on my Facebook page I posted the above photograph of snowdrops, taken by my daughter Sarah. Snowdrops are also known as Candlemas Bells and February Fair Maids. Well, most likely numerous other names as well, according to which part of the country you are in.

I was prompted to search around for some more information about this coolly beautiful harbinger of spring, and found this which, of course, led me to the main site from which this link is taken.

The Medieval Garden Enclosed is fair brimming with information. I found it totally engrossing, and I am sure that many of you will find the same. So if you want to know the herbs and bloom so beloved of our ancestors, I heartily recommend you pay a visit and stroll among the ancient flower beds.

A fictional treason case

In real life, there wercrowncourte no high treason cases in the United Kingdom after 1946 and no peacetime cases after 1913. However, regular viewers of Crown Court, which was shown on ITV from 1972-84, will have seen an episode in which a Congolese man was convicted and sentenced to death during that time. The episode ended before we were appraised of the prisoner’s ultimate fate but, until 1973, had a reprieve not been forthcoming, he could have chosen beheading as his mode of execution.

Here is the evocative closing theme, Peter Reno’s Distant Hills, played by the Simon Park Orchestra. There is also a snatch of “Jeremy Parsons QC” (Richard Wilson, with hair) examining a young Zoe Wannamaker in a rather less serious case. Many of the episodes are on YouTube. Does one of our readers have a link to the Congo treason affair?

Who might this Yeoman of the Crown be….?

effigy-from-thames

In the book “Imagining Robin Hood”, by A.J. Pollard, there is an illustration of a brass effigy recovered from the mud of the Thames in the 19th century, during dredging. Pollard says it “has been identified as depicting a yeoman of the crown of Edward IV, whose duties were set down in the king’s household ordinances known as ‘The Black Book’. His armour emphasises the role of the yeoman as the royal bodyguard.”

The effigy is in the possession of the Society of Antiquaries, but the commemorated yeoman cannot be identified. Wouldn’t it be good to know?

You can read about the effigy, now with the Society of Antiquaries, here.

Even more evidence of Richard III’s innocence….?

edward-v-angel-coinc

I confess to not knowing that Edward V coins had ever been minted. There doesn’t really seem to have been time to have reached that point. However, as it’s clear they were coined and distributed, I have cause to consider the implication.

We have the old, old story that Richard was a dastardly, murderous uncle who intended all along to snatch his nephew’s throne. Well, if that were so, would he really authorise the preparation and issue of coins bearing said nephew’s name? Surely he would regard it as a pointless waste of money? Cut the Edward V and go straight from Edward IV to Richard III. (Cue cunning snigger and rubbing together of evil, clawed hands.)

But no, Edward V coins were issued, and promptly. To my mind this is yet more evidence that Richard was innocent of any wickedness. He had every intention of seeing his nephew crowned, and was as shocked as everyone else when the truth about Edward IV’s dealings with Lady Eleanor Talbot came to light.

To read about the recently discovered coin, go here.

Since I originally found the newspaper article about the discovery in Tolpuddle of the Edward V Angel, I have been in touch with Susan Troxell who, in December 2015, delved into the very same point about the unlikelihood of Richard ordering the minting of such coins if he had designs upon stealing the throne. She has written a detailed and considered blog about it (being much more knowledgeable and erudite than me!) and I cannot encourage you enough to take a look. While it deepens the mystery in some ways, with boar’s head symbols appearing on some coins, in others it flings the curtains aside and lets a lot of light in!

 

 

More about the King Richard III pub….

king%20richard%20iii%20pub

Below are two links to some more information about the once doomed King Richard III public house in Leicester. The above illustration is a mock-up of its eventual new frontage.

Let’s hope that they intend to reflect the real Richard, not the Tudor/Shakespeare invention. Leicester needs to be truly proud of their good king, not do him the grave injustice of perpetuating his enemies’ propaganda.

http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/exclusive-find-out-what-will-be-on-the-menu-at-the-new-look-king-richard-iii/story-30085695-detail/story.html and http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/historic-city-pub-to-be-revived/story-30085017-detail/story.html

Medieval kings needed their queens emotionally and physically….

Royal 6.E.vi, f. 375 detail

We are always being told that medieval aristocratic marriages (and indeed most medieval marriages) were arranged and did not feature love. The object was to increase property and lands, enhance a family’s reputation and produce as many heirs as was humanly possible. I pity those women who had a child a year throughout their married life. No modern medicine should anything go wrong, just a sad demise and a husband immediately seeking a replacement.

medieval-childbed

Was it like that? Looking at records you’d certainly think so, yet there are some very famous examples of kings and magnates who fell apart when they lost their queens. I have chosen three  such men, Richard II, George of Clarence and Henry VII . Their marriages were dynastic, or at least arranged for profit, yet the brides seemed to have won these men’s hearts and dependence.

richard-ii-and-anne

Anne of Bohemia wasn’t much of a catch as far as Richard II was concerned, but he chose her over a much wealthier Visconti bride who would have brought a huge dowry and a lot of influence in Italy. Anne, on the other hand, had to be purchased from her brother! She was not a popular choice in England, but by choosing her, it’s almost as if Richard sensed she was the one for him. Yes, a fanciful notion on my part, but the pair were happy together, seemingly from the outset, and when she died he tore down the palace where she had breathed her last. It’s said he would not go anywhere he had been with her, although I think that is probably a myth. He could hardly refuse to go into Westminster Abbey, for instance.

Richard’s interests were in the arts, not warfare, and throughout his life, from being a boy king, he was surrounded my warlike barons and grasping uncles. He was, as the old song goes, “a lonely little petunia in an onion patch”. And those onions were big and generally hostile.

petunia-onion-patch

English history would have been very different if Anne had given him heirs. He certainly crumbled when she died suddenly, descending into a state that is always referred to as a tyranny. The petunia grew gigantic and poisonous, developed thorns and began to weed out the onions, spreading itself swiftly into their vacated places. But Richard went too far. His word was never to be trusted and he made some unbelievably bad decisions, so that he eventually lost his kingdom to his cousin, who became the first Lancastrian king, Henry IV. Had Anne’s gentle influence kept Richard in check? I would guess so. Without her, he went haywire.

george-and-isabel

I would also guess that Isabel Neville had the same soothing effect on George of Clarence, whose notoriously unpredictable and rash temperament eventually led to his death in the Tower, branded a traitor by his brother, Edward IV. The legend of George being drowned in a butt of malmsey may be just a legend, or it might be founded in truth. Did George have a drink problem?

He was certainly a very unhappy man, the middle brother, angry and resentful…and maybe possessed of the knowledge that his elder brother’s marriage was bigamous. That would make George the next trueborn heir to the throne. But the truth never came out, and although he’d misbehaved considerably before Isabel’s death in childbed, he certainly imploded when she was no longer there.

He had married her to get at the enormous inheritance of her father, the Earl of Warwick (whom he also hoped would help him to the throne) but Isabel proved to be good for him. Maybe you will not agree with my assessment of George, but the fact remains that he was never the same again after losing her.

henry-vii-and-elizabeth-of-york

Finally there is Henry VII. He was obliged to marry Elizabeth of York. He’d made a vow before invading England that he would unite the warring houses of York and Lancaster through marriage, and once treachery had made him king, he resented the thought of having a Yorkist bride forced upon him. He delayed as long as he could, until he was told to get on with it. So they were married. What that wedding night was like we will never know, because he was a resentful groom, and she was probably an equally resentful bride. But a son and heir was born eight months later, so they didn’t lie back to back until the morning.

Like Richard II and George of Clarence before him, Henry came to rely on Elizabeth’s gentle influence, and their marriage was certainly successful. She wasn’t the first lady of his realm, his mother had that honour, but Elizabeth was the one who shared his bed…and perhaps his confidences. The one with whom he could relax and enjoy a little welcome privacy.

When she died, he went to pieces. He shut himself away for weeks on end, broken with grief. He was never an easy man, but she had won his heart and his trust, and now he had lost her. The Henry who emerged from hiding was not the same man. All the worst aspects of his character, seemingly held in check when Elizabeth was there for him, now came to the fore with a vengeance. He was cruel, rapacious, spiteful, grasping and hated, and the populace believed he had nothing more on his mind than planning how to screw more money out of them. The royal coffers bulged. The illustration below is probably not far from the truth. He and his notorious henchmen, Empson and Dudley, putting their heads together in some new royal skulduggery or other.

king-henry-vii-of-england-with-sir-richard-empson-and-edmund-dudley-from-the-national-and

Very few mourned Henry when he finally passed away, leaving England in the tender clutches of his son and heir, Henry VIII, from whom all women should have been immunised!

Now, I do not deny that there were love matches in the medieval period—of course there were—but I do not think they were the majority. Most marriages were a case of gradual respect, affection, and if they were lucky, of love itself. I believe Richard II, George of Clarence and Henry VII loved their wives, and once those ladies had gone, the inner demons took over.

 

To eat medieval meat, or not to eat medieval meat….

It is said that eating cheese last thing at night is very bad indeed for the digestion, and will result in alternate sleeplessness or bad dreams. Well, so I have been told. I ate cheese last thing last night and slept like a log, but I woke up this morning with the odd thought about the existence of vegetarianism in English history, specifically the medieval period.

The above illustrations show what I think to be the two extremes. The knight using his knife to hack himself a goodly portion of something spit-roasted, and the elderly man being spoon fed by a woman. His wife, or nurse, perhaps?

Hermits and such persons ate no meat for ascetic reasons, and as many of them lived to a ripe old age, it clearly did them no more harm then than it does now. But did the rejection of meat spread into the population at large? I do not mean not being able to afford meat, but the decision of those who could afford it, not to eat it.

The Vegetarian Society offers a history, but it seems to leap from the likes of Pythagoras and St David, to the Renaissance. Wikipedia also has an interesting entry for the subject, and performs the same leap. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_vegetarianism#Christian_antiquity_and_Middle_Ages So, apart from religious individuals and sects, what do we know about medieval vegetarians?

I’m in the dark here, literally, because I have never heard of any prominent medieval figure who rejected meat. I cannot imagine the likes of Henry “Hotspur” Percy choosing a plate of cabbage over the large haunch of beef that sizzled as it turned upon a spit. Or William Marshal’s nose wrinkling at the thought of a nourishing mutton stew after a hard ride through a winter storm. “Nay, sir, bring me yon dish of nuts!”

Please do not think I am mocking vegetarians, because that is not so, I am merely trying to place them in the context of the rather brutal medieval world. Even if someone like Edward IV had a hankering to decline all meat, would he have dared to do so? I am quite certain that all the knights and lords around him would have seen this as a sign of weakness. A true warrior needed red meat! The last thing a king needed was to gain a reputation for “softness”. Would the treacherous Stanleys have backed Henry Tudor if they learned he felt sick at the thought of eating anything that in life had possessed four legs? I think the outcome of Bosworth would have been very different. And where would a vegetarian have been in an aristocratic society that was obsessed with hunting? The whole scenario is surely impossible to picture.

If you go to http://www.ivu.org/history/renaissance/middle-ages.html, you’ll find an interesting article on the food of our medieval forebears, including monstrous feasts held over three days in September 1465 by held at Cawood Castle by Archbishop George Neville. 2500 people to be fed over three days! And so many living creatures slaughtered for the purpose that even I, a carnivore, feel ill at the thought. I know, I know…double standards. I plead guilty. These days menus include vegetarian options, but imagine having one’s stomach turned by the thought of the slaughter, and then having to sit at the board and smile as you chewed endlessly on one small morsel of beef, trying to make it last. Or would you sneak away to the kitchen in the hope of finding something more palatable to your conscience? I imagine cheese would be acceptable…unless there were vegans back then too. That is a further consideration, of course.

So, what happened? Unless someone can tell me the facts, I must conclude that the rejection of meat was a big no-no for our forebears, unless they were sick or very old. Most lists of famous vegetarians leap from Pythagoras and a few saints to Leonardo da Vinci. What about the generations in between? Does anyone have the answer?

 

 

Snowballing, medieval style….!

snowballing-medieval-style

An unlikely scene, surely? Would medieval ladies really go out snowballing in such décolleté gowns? Can’t believe it. One of them is even bending down to present a better target.

I would be far  better wrapped, and so would all of you, I’m sure. Or do I have some very daring minxes among my lady friends?

And another thing. Just what is the golden ‘tablet’ that floats above the bending gentleman? If someone has thrown it, the fun will be over.

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