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.
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.
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.
Thanks to the contemporaneous accounts given by Croyland (1) and the Acts of Court (2) we have a good insight into the events that followed, almost immediately, the death of Queen Anne i.e. the rumours that Richard, in his eagerness to marry his niece, hastened the death of his wife with the aid of poison – his denial, made publically, ‘in a loud and distinct voice’ (3) in the Great Hall of the Priory of the Knights Hospitaller of St John, Clerkenwell – pushed to it by Sir Richard Ratcliffe and William Catesby, although Croyland adds, rather slyly, it was not what he really wished himself..and there is no need to go into all the detail here as it is well known.
The Gate House of the Priory of the Knights Hospitaller of St John at Clerkenwell.
I would have thought, hopefully , that nowadays, the idea that Richard could have poisoned Anne is now perceived as ridiculous, a complete and utter nonsense. However, not entirely so. Indeed Prof Hicks in his biography of Anne – Anne Neville Queen to Richard lll (“The first time in ages that a publisher has sent me a book that I actually want to read” opines David Starkey – well he would wouldn’t he?) wrote, in a chapter headed ‘Past her Sell By Date’ that ‘she was unwell, languishing and died, unattended and indeed unregretted by her husband”(4). What? Anne the Queen, dying a lonely death, cruelly neglected by her uncaring husband? – its a Scandal!. And where was Richard at that desperately sad time? One way to find out..check Rhoda Edwards wonderful little book – The Itinerary of King Richard lll 1483 – 1485(5). And there we have it..the truth of the matter. From the onset of Anne’s fatal illness, not long after Christmas 1484 to her death on Wednesday 16 March 1485, Richard never left the Palace of Westminster, where she lay dying, except for a total of ll days when he was at Windsor.
I would say that there could be no stronger indication than this, that, yes, Richard did love his wife and was loyal to her to the end. He could have gone elsewhere, made his excuses, got away from it all but he didn’t. He stayed with her until the day she died – finally leaving Westminster on Thursday 12 April – never to return. Five months later, he too was dead. Clearly he gave to Anne the loyalty that he was to find so disastrously lacking in others to himself. But then again, this was a man whose motto was Loyaltie me Lie.
For those of you who enjoy reading Ricardian fiction, there is a new Ricardian author to savour. N.S. Rose (Natalie) has based her first novel, ‘Bearnshaw – Legend of the Whyte Doe’ on a Lancashire folk tale: Legend of Bearnshaw Tower/The Milk White Doe’. Born in the Peak District and raised in the Pennines, Natalie now farms beef and sheep in Yorkshire with her husband and brother-in-law. The countryside of her upbringing and subsequent move near to the unique and beautiful city of York inspired the ‘Bearnshaw’ fictional series.
Ms Rose weaves fact and fiction skilfully as she takes the reader on an exploration of the Bearnshaw family and their fortunes during the turbulent period of history now known as the Wars of the Roses and it is certainly a charming and original take on those times.
The leading protagonist of this first book is Sibyl Bearnshaw, a young woman whose mother died and whose father indulged her, allowing her more freedom than the average woman of this age. However, as she matures, she must marry and her prospective husband is not to her liking. She also has a younger brother to look out for and whenshe meets the new, young Yorkist king, Edward, she forms a plan…
I won’t spoil the story by revealing any more, but I found it a great story and very moving. Richard is not involved in the story but he plays a greater role in the second part (see below). To buy a Kindle download or a print copy, click on the picture below.
Natalie’s follow-up novel, ‘Bearnshaw II: The Triumph of the Red Dragon’ begins several years later, when Sibyl’s son, Edmund, aged nine, is rapidly growing into a man. He never knew his mother, Sibyl, but he knows his father, King Edward, who arranges for him to be accepted into the household of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, where he immediately makes an enemy. We follow his life and career as he becomes a man and his character matures and learns. He is a sympathetic and attractive protagonist (although, unlike his mother, Sibyl, he is not based on a real person). Richard himself is shown as a just and kindly Lord and, later, King. I will just warn you that the author’s portrayal of the Battle of Bosworth and its aftermath is one of the most poignant I have read, and I’ve read a few!
The second book is available in print if you click on the picture below, or on Kindle here: Kindle
Look very carefully, I will say this only once. There IS a little article in among all the darned adverts!
Helen Cox is to give a talk on whether Richard was a hero or a villain. It is always difficult where he is concerned, because whenever he is described as the boy’s uncle, the uninitated (and set-in-concrete traditionalists) envisage a much older, untrustworthy man, who’d been around the royal block a good few times and knew how to bend every rule in sight. An undoubtedly wicked man. Something along the lines of the troublesome uncles around the boy-king Richard II. John of Gaunt was not wicked, but was always suspected of planning to steal the throne for himself. Shakespeare depicts Richard III as this stereotype.
But Richard III didn’t fit the criteria, because he was honourable, and apart from anything else he was a young man. Yet because of the Bard and the repulsive Tudors, it is the sterotype of him that always surges to the fore.
Not long into the final episode of Lucy Worsley’s wonderful series about British History’s Greatest Fibs, the one about India, the British Empire’s Jewel in the Crown, she makes the astonishing statement that Britain’s first arrival in the then Calcutta was not in the Victorian era, but in 1619 by ‘buccaneers’ of the East India Company . Well yes, I hear you say. It’s true, so what’s the point?
The point in this case is that 1619 was declared to be in the reign of Elizabeth I. Really? Well that redoubtable monarch died in 1603.
Come now, Lucy! And you a historian!!!!!
Beneath that grim exterior, I always knew there was a glamorous Henry VII trying to get out. Cloth of gold and ermine were all very well, but needed to adorn gorgeous gowns of the feminine variety. I always suspected that he sometimes wore a frock, and that he wanted to fling aside his dull wig and let his long golden locks tumble free. Not that he ever let his Lady Mother find out, of course…
Car parks have become Aladdin’s caves for archaeology and things as wonderful as the remains of Richard III. Coventry’s lost history is now coming to light. Be patient with the Coventry Telegraph site, I found it as much a pain for ads and slowness as the Leicester Mercury!
Anyway, given the fact that Henry VII, whether Tudor, Beaufort or Swynford, is not descended from Blanche, Duchess of Lancaster in suo jure but from her husband’s mistress and later wife, Katherine de Roet, he wasn’t a true lineal Lancastrian. Carson has listed thirty individuals, some mentioned here, who were alive on 22 August 1485 and were descended from Blanche, therefore having better claims than Henry.
Now duRose mentions that Henry VII was descended from Blanche’s paternal aunt, therefore he was a lineal Lancastrian. This is actually true but very counter-productive. As you can see below, Blanche had no brothers but an elder sister, whose only child died in infancy. Her father, Henry of Grosmont, had no brothers but five sisters, one of whom was a prioress but the other four all had issue and descendants alive in 1485.
You can see quite clearly that Henry’s ancestress was Mary, the youngest of the quintet. Eleanor, the fourth sister, leads to Richard III et al whilst there are three lines to John Howard, Duke of Norfolk and a lot of other famous people are listed.
Here is the evidence that there are now HUNDREDS of people with a better lineal Lancastrian claim than Henry VII in 1485.