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Digging up London’s surrounding ditch….

London Ditch at the end of the 16th century

We all know that medieval London was surrounded by great city walls, a lot of which dated from Roman times, and that there was a wide ditch outside the wall, to add to the capital’s defences. It gradually became silted up, and although it was dredged and cleared several times, it was encroached upon by building and eventually disappeared altogether.

In 2015 the ditch was investigated in the area of the street still called Minories, a name received from the Franciscan Abbey of St Clare, where the Minoresses were to be found. The abbey was the resort of many a highborn lady who wished, for various reasons, to retreat from the world. It was not a bare living, by any means, for many of them were in luxury, with their ladies-in-waiting and other necessities. And an occasional man was to live there as well, for instance the abbey’s Great House was the residence of Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, who was murdered in Calais in 1397.

These ruins are of the second incarnation of the abbey, the first having been destroyed by fire in the early 16th century.

The abbey was outside Aldgate, amid a few houses and a lot of farms and fields, and was separated from the city wall by the great ditch. It is here that the archaeological digging and excavations went on. To learn more, go here

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Wander the streets of London in 1520….

Finding the original town plans of London, before the Great Fire of 1666, is always intriguing, and very rewarding indeed for those of us who love all things medieval. So, in this respect, I welcome the Tudors. I already have books of London maps, published by the London Topographical Society, of our capital in the Elizabethan, Georgian and Regency periods, and very detailed and rewarding they are.

But now I find that the British Historic Towns Atlas, in association with the London Topographical Society, publishes foldable maps, in the same form as Ordnance Survey Landranger maps, and so on. Intrigued, I purchased the Tudor map of London, which reveals the city in about 1520, which is much closer in time to the reigns of Richard III and Henry VII. It is a very beautiful thing, and led me to browse the streets just for the sake of it.

If you go to their website you will find their range of maps, but most, if not all, are later than Tudor. Mostly 19th century, in fact, as York, which dates from 1850. Bristol is a series of detailed chronicological articles available on line. You will have to delve through the website in the hope of finding what you want.

But the 1520 map of “Tudor” London is excellent. I recommend it.

A narrow escape from Richard III….

Cothele

Ambling around the internet, I came upon the following. This passage is from The Sporting Review, ed. by ‘Craven’, edited by John William Carleton and contains a delightful description of what it was like for early tourists to sail down the River Tamar and visit the sights along the way. I have taken this particular passage because of the anecdote/legend that appears at the end, concerning Sir Richard Edgecumbe/Edgcumbe.

“. . . .The Tamar now becomes most interesting, winding along like a gigantic snake, every turn bringing some picturesque village or ancient mansion in sight; the lofty hills on either side covered with foliage, amidst which we saw the gothic pinnacles of Pentillie Castle. Every minute brings some fresh object of beauty, until we reach the noble woods of Cothele: here we landed at the Lime-kilns, and soon found a shaky nook, where we partook of our luncheon; then with renewed strength we set off on foot for Cothele House.

“Its embattled walls and massive arched doorways give it the appearance of a feudal castle. It was built by Sir Richard Edgcumbe in the early part of the reign of Henry Vii. The Earl of Mount Edgecumbe, to whom it now belongs, most kindly allows visitors to see the interior, with its antique furniture that has remained untouched for centuries.

“We entered under a massive arched-doorway, and found ourselves in a large court surrounded by buildings; from this we passed into the hall, where we felt as if we had left these modern times, and been carried back to the days of feudalism. The walls are hung with every kind of ancient arms—coats of mail, shields, helmets, gauntlets, arquebuses, bows and arrows, spears, swords, etc. At the upper end of the hall is the figure of a warrior armed cap-à-pie.

“We next visited the dining-room, hung with tapestry. Well could we picture the good old hospitality of those bygone times, when the table groaned beneath barons of beef and haunches of venison, and in the huge open hearth blazed piles of wood, while tankards of Burgundy and loyal toasts passed around. Alas! For these degenerate days of dinners à la Russe, and thin French wines, which cool instead of warm the heart of man.

“The chapel inspected, we ascended the broad oak staircase, which polished floor rendered the ascent rather perilous; on the walls were portraits of many of the ancestors of the Edgecumbes, but time has nearly obliterated their features. We were shown the room where Charles II. Passed several nights. Nearly all the rooms are hung with tapestry.

“After spending some time in visiting all the nooks and corners of this interesting olf house, we bid it adieu, and passed down an avenue of chestnuts to the river’s bank, where stands a gothic chapel almost concealed in the thick woods by which it is surrounded; it was built by Sir Richard Edgecumbe, who was comptroller of the household of Henry VII. There is an inscription on the walls from Carew’s Survey, which explains the reason for its erection.

Cothele - Sir Richard Edgecumbe's Chapel

Sir Richard Edgecumbe’s chapel in the woods at Cothele.

“ ‘Sir Richard Edgcumbe was driven to hide himself in those thick woods which overlook the river, at that time being suspected of favouring the Earl of Richmond’s party against King Richard III. He was hotly pursued and narrowly searched for, which extremity taught him a sudden policy—to put a stone in his cap and tumble same into the water, while these rangers were fast on his heels; who looking down after the noise, and seeing his cap swimming thereon, supposed that he had desperately drowned himself, gave over their further hunting, and left him liberty to shift away and ship over into Brittaine, for a grateful remembrance of which delivery he afterwards builded in the place of his lurking a chapel.’ ”

Tomb of Sir Richard Edgecumbe, d. 1489 - Morlaix

Tomb of Sir Richard Edgecombe, died 1489 – Morlaix

A 17th-century ring found beside Loch Lomond…

Colman ring discovered in mud of Loch Lomond

Yes, 17th century, in spite of this headline elsewhere, it is this to which I am drawing your attention. The headline says the ring is 15th-century, which I suppose it might be, if it was 200 years old when it was lost, but examination seems to confirm that it is 250 years old, and therefore of the 17th century.

The lady who found it was the same one who discovered the gold coin on the battlefield at Bosworth, so she seems to have a magic touch.

The text of the article is as follows:

“An amateur metal detectorist found a 17th-century gold ring in Scotland, believed to have belonged to one of King Charles II’s courtiers, who was gruesomely executed after being framed for treason.

“Edward Colman, who worked for the king, was hung, drawn, and quartered {drawn, hanged and quartered} in 1678 after he was falsely accused of participating in a Catholic plot to kill Charles II. The conspiracy was fabricated by an Anglican minister, Titus Oates, now remembered as “Titus the Liar.”

“Nearly 350 years after Colman’s death, treasure hunter Michelle Vall from Blackpool unearthed the perfectly preserved signet ring from several inches of mud in Loch Lomond, where she was vacationing. The ring is emblazoned with the coat of arms of the Colman family and was most likely brought to Scotland in 1673 when Colman worked as a secretary for Mary of Modena, the wife of James II.

Loch Lomond

“According to the Daily Mailthe ring could be worth £10,000 ($11,000), and the school teacher says she did a celebratory dance when she stumbled across the valuable artefact. The provenance was identified by auctioneers Dix Noonan Webb, who researched the origins of the ring’s coat of arms.

“The ring has been designated as a treasure by the Scottish Treasure Trove and will be transferred to a museum in accordance with Scottish law governing historically significant items. Vall is expected to split an unspecified reward with the owner of the land on which she discovered the ring.

“ ‘The ring was only six inches underground,” she told the British tabloid newspaper. “Obviously at the time I didn’t know what it was, but to find gold is rare for us detectorists.’

“Vall is an experienced treasure hunter. In 2017, she found a gold coin dropped by one of King Richard III’s troops during the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, which was valued at £40,000 ($51,000).”

Medieval fun at the feast….

 

The above scene is one of my favourites. Modern, but a wonderful take on a medieval feast. The details are exquisite—think Bruegel—and very funny, although juggling with chicks is probably not to modern taste.

I don’t know where it comes from.

An Honest Bed: The Scene of Life and Death in Late Medieval England.

IMG_5582.jpg

Death bed of Richard Whittington…London 1442-1443.

IMG_5580.JPG

A link to an interesting article covering all things about the medieval bed including childbed, deathbed and much, much  more …

 

 

Was there another reason why Margaret Beaufort had only one child….?

No, this post is NOT about Game of Thrones, but has been provoked by an article that, in general, is indeed about the goings-on of the above TV drama. This article attracted my attention because of the third of the quoted paragraphs below. But it is advisable to read all the quotes, for the background information.

“….Before the Middle Ages, abortions were allowed because they weren’t really considered abortions. From a medieval perspective, without a soul there was no human life, and souls weren’t understood to develop until sometime between four and 17 weeks.

“Because of this, women held quite a lot of control over their early pregnancies. We might note how this attitude accommodated the high rate of miscarriage in the first trimester, especially before modern nutrition and medicine. A lot can go wrong all on its own in those early weeks, and medieval midwifery and medical science left it to a woman and her advisers to decide how she wanted to handle that risky time. An abortion after the period in which souls were considered to develop was considered sinful, and might or might not be criminal, depending on where one lived, though prosecutions in the Middle Ages were rare.

“We may see the result of such family planning in the life of a famous medieval queen mother, Margaret Beaufort. Married and cohabiting at an unusually young age for an Englishwoman, Beaufort bore the future King Henry VII when she was just 13 and the delivery nearly killed her. Often widowed, Beaufort married twice more but never had another child. It is entirely possible that she sustained such significant injuries and scarring during her first delivery that she was unable to conceive or carry to term again. But it is equally possible that she or her medical advisers were convinced that it was harmful for her to try to carry another child to term, and so took precautions to ensure that she did not…”

Now you see why I have posted this. I have always accepted that Margaret Beaufort simply couldn’t conceive again. But what if she knew it would probably be fatal if she did? What if she took contraceptive action, such as it was in the 15th century?

Does this later case explain Henry Pole the Younger’s fate?

In the years from 1518, before he left England again in 1536, Reginald Pole occupied a number of ecclesiastical ranks, including that of Dean of Exeter. During the early 1530s, just as Henry VIII sought his first annulment, Eustace Chapuys was pressing Reginald to marry Princess Mary, the cousin he eventually served from Lambeth Palace. By the end of 1536, Reginald was created a Cardinal and was under holy orders, whether he had been earlier or not. The plot that he, together with his brothers Henry Lord Montagu and Sir Geoffrey, is supposed to have launched against Henry VIII needed a credible marital candidate or two for Mary. This, as we have pointed out before, meant Henry Pole the Younger, Montagu’s son, and Edward Courtenay, son of the Marquis of Exeter. Either or both of these teenage boys could have been viewed, by Henry VIII, as threats so both were consigned to the Tower. Pole was never seen after 1542, whilst Courtenay was only released in 1553.

Reginald Pole, as a Cardinal, was bound by clerical celibacy but could this be reversed? Not if this later case is anything to go by, although Phillip II, Mary’s eventual husband and Catherine of Aragon’s great-nephew, had a hand in it: Sebastian, the young King of Portugal died without issue at the 1578 battle of Alcacer Quibir and only his great-uncle Henry, Manuel of Beja’s son, remained from the legitimate House of Aviz, that almost provided spouses for Richard III and Elizabeth of York in the previous century. Henry, however was a Cardinal and Gregory XIII, at Phillip’s behest, would not release him from his vows. Henry ruled alone for nearly a year and a half before dying on his 68th birthday. The strongest claimant to succeed him was … Phillip II, who ruled Portugal, followed by his son and grandson, for a total of sixty years, although Antonio, a Prior and Sebastian’s illegitimate cousin, tried to reign.

This explains the various claimants, including the House of Braganza, which supplied Charles II‘s wife.

Shakespeare theatre producer discovers he is related to First Folio publisher….

Discovering one’s illustrious ancestors appears to be quite the thing these days, and now we have someone who is descended from the man responsible for publishing Shakespeare’s First Folio.

“….A theatre producer who has brought the Elizabethan era to York City Centre and Blenheim Palace has discovered that he is related to the man who published Shakespeare’s First Folio.

“….James Cundall MBE, the founder of the new Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre is staging four of the poet’s plays in the grounds of the Oxfordshire country home and near the 13th Century Clifford’s Tower, York this Summer….”

To read more, go to this Telegraph article.

If Edward IV didn’t dispose of Henry Holand, 3rd Duke of Exeter, who did….?

I must state from the outset that I could not find any contemporary likenesses of Henry Holand, so the above is of him as played by an actor unknown to me.

The life of Henry Holand, 3rd Duke of Exeter—*actually 4th Duke, by my calculations, see below—has never been of particular interest to me, but I did think that he was murdered at sea, and his body dumped in the water. It was believed that as he was a tiresome Lancastrian, he fell victim to Yorkist retribution. Specifically, the retribution of his former brother-in-law, Edward IV. At least, that was my impression. Apart from that, I also understood that Henry Holand was a very unpleasant person.

Henry Holand’s coat of arms
Tower of London by Wenceslaus Hollar

Henry was born in the Tower of London on 27th June, 1430. At his baptism he was carried from the Tower to Coldharbour, and then taken by barge to St. Stephen’s Westminster, where he was christened. (I mention this because we all know Coldharbour, and its Ricardian connections.)

Coldharbour
Anne of York

Henry Holand married Anne of York, who was born in 1439 at Fotheringhay. She was the elder sister of Kings Edward IV and Richard III, and it was her mitochondrial DNA that proved the remains discovered in Leicester were those of Richard III.

When Henry was aged 19, in 1449, he became 3rd Duke of Exeter and Lord High Admiral. The Holands had started as Ricardians—Richard II—but had then Lancastrian supporters of Henry IV. Henry Hoiland supported Lancastrian Henry VI when the Yorkist Edward IV came to the throne. The duke was thus attainted after the Battle of Towton on 29th March 1461, and fled to exile in Scotland.

The Lancastrians were routed at the Battle of Towton

His estates had been forfeited, but Holand regained many of them when Henry VI was returned briefly to the throne. But then the estates were forfeit again when Edward IV surged back to power.

Meanwhile, Holand’s wife had managed to obtain all his estates for herself. Such are the perks of being Edward IV’s sister. An Act of Parliament passed in 1464 meant that “such gifts and grants that the king made to Anne, his sister, wife of Henry, Duke of Exeter, were to all intents good in law to the only use of the said Anne.” (Tower Records). Edward granted her the Holand castles, manors, etc. in Wales, Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Wilts to herself for life, with the remainder to her daughter by the Duke of Exeter.

Henry Holand returned to England in 1469, still supporting Lancaster, and was wounded at the Battle of Warwick.

Reenactment of the Battle of Warwick, 1469

Then, on 14th April, 1471, he fought at the Battle of Barnet, at which the Lancastrians were beaten, and the great Earl of Warwick, the “Kingmaker”, was killed.

Sir James Ramsey, in his book, Lancaster and York, vol. ii, p. 370, states that Henry Holand was in the Tower of London until June of 1475. On 21st June, 1471, a bill of 6s. 8d. was paid to William Sayer, purveyor to the Tower of London to feed “Henry, called Duke of Exeter”, for seven days from 26th May, and again 6s. 8d. for the week beginning 31st May. Rymer, vol. xi, p. 713. 

Anne of York and Sir Thomas St Leger

Henry Holand and Anne had parted in 1464, and were divorced on 11th December, 1467. They had one child, a daughter, also named Anne. Then the Duchess Anne married Yorkist Sir Thomas St Leger in 1474-ish. Another daughter was born of this second match, on 14th January, 1476, and they called her Anne as well! So, we have Anne of York, Lady Anne Holand and Lady Anne St Leger.

On learning that his wife was pregnant, St Leger engineered a legal settlement that would enable his child, Anne St Leger, to inherit everything in the event of his wife’s death and the death (without issue) of Lady Anne Holand. I’ll bet Henry Holand appreciated that!

Henry must have been a brooding presence for his ex-wife. In 1475, around the time that she realised she was expecting St Leger’s child, Henry Holand had redeemed himself enough with Edward IV to volunteer (and be accepted) by that king for an expedition/invasion of France. This venture began at around the time Anne realised she was expecting St Leger’s child.

Edward IV’s fleet leaving for France

It was on the return voyage from France that Henry’s body was found bobbing in the Channel (or on the beach at Dover, according to another version).

Dover in the 16th century

Everyone scratched their heads and spread innocent hands as to what had befallen him. Edward IV may or may not have had a tiresome Lancastrian eliminated—he wasn’t above such things—but there was someone else with a good reason to dispose of Henry Holand.

Thomas St Leger was also on the expedition to France, and had been prominent in the proceedings. “St Leger played a key role in ending the Hundred Years’ War when he signed the Treaty of Picquigny with Louis XI on 29 August 1475.” At this time he knew he was to be a father, and had accomplished the settlement that could so greatly benefit his child’s future. Thanks to his foresight, little Anne St Leger might one day inherit the entire Holand fortune!

Edward IV and King Louis of France meet prior to the signing of the Treaty of Picquigny, which effectively bought Edward off.

But while Henry Holand was still alive, there was a chance he’d return to complete favour, remarry and produce more legitimate offspring. Perhaps male. And that the king might decide he should have his inheritance back. The way politics were at that time, heaven knows who might occupy the throne? Another Lancastrian, perchance? Oh, no, I don’t think Thomas would have relished that scenario. So, as the English forces were returning to England from France, St Leger could have found an opportunity to see that Henry Holand was despatched to the hereafter. Heave-ho, over the side you go!

Well, that’s my theory. Far-fetched? I don’t think so. It’s a possible explanation for Henry’s immersion in the Channel.

Yes, there were others who loathed the very sight of Henry Holand, a man who seems to have signally lacked the famous Holand charm. But St Leger’s situation was different. He had a very personal reason to want Holand out of the way for good and all. Of course, let it not be forgotten that St Leger himself would one day become a treacherous brother-in-law. In 1483 he rebelled against Richard III, and paid the price. 

Here is another link https://thehistoryjar.com/2017/02/07/duke-of-exeter-was-he-murdered-or-did-he-slip/ that will take you to a version of Henry Holand’s life and rather dodgy demise. And another, that tells the story from Anne’s perspective. https://rebeccastarrbrown.com/2018/03/03/the-divorce-of-anne-of-york-duchess-of-exeter/

By a curious coincidence, just after writing this post, I happened upon the following https://twitter.com/liz_lizanderson/status/1016611053394976768, which shows part of the wheatear badge of Henry Holand, as found by “mudlarks” on the Thames foreshore.

*And I haven’t forgotten the asterisk at the beginning of this post. Why do I regard Henry Holland as the 4th Duke of Exeter? Because it is my belief that his grandfather’s (John Holand, 1st Duke of Exeter, d. January 1400) eldest son, Sir Richard Holand, who died at the end of 1400, survived the 1st Duke’s death long enough to be considered of age, and had thus inherited the right to his father’s titles—as much as Edward IV’s eldest son was Edward V! I know the 1st ~Duke had been demoted and attainted at the time of his death, but the title was resurrected and then given to his second son, another John. I still think this would have made the 2nd Duke actually the 3rd. OK, so I’m an amateur and don’t know what I’m talking about!

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