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Father of a Queen: Thomas Boleyn

Two miles from Edenbridge in Kent  lies the small but attractive castle of Hever. Originally built in 1270, it was taken over 1462 by Geoffrey Bullen (or Boleyn) younger brother of Thomas Boleyn , Master of Gonville Hall, a constituent college of Cambridge. Geoffrey had a son called William and he in turn fathered Thomas Boleyn, who was probably born at Hever.

Thomas inherited the castle in 1505 and lived there with his wife, Elizabeth Howard, daughter of Thomas Howard Duke of Norfolk and his wife, Elizabeth Tilney (making her the granddaughter of John Howard who fought for Richard III at Bosworth.) At  Hever,  Thomas and Elizabeth had five children, two daughters, Mary and Anne, and three sons, Thomas, Henry and George, although two sons died young, and the last was eventually executed by Henry VIII.

Thomas is sometimes seen a ruthless social climber willing to do anything to further his ambitions through his daughters (and so he might have been), but he was also quite a notable person before  his daughter Anne became involved with Henry VIII. He had escorted Mary Tudor to her wedding to James IV of Scotland and was created a Knight of the Bath at Henry VIII’s Coronation, long before Anne and Henry’s relationship. He also became Sheriff of Kent twice and served as an occasional foreign ambassador. He was made Lord Privy Seal during Henry’s marriage to Anne, but upon her fall and execution, this position was stripped from him, and he died in disgrace in 1538.

He was buried in St Peter’s church in Hever, in a Purbeck marble chest tomb which has upon it one of the finest Tudor era brasses in  existence. On the brass, still bright and unworn, Thomas wears his Garter robes and regalia, and a falcon, crest of the Boleyn family, is carved above his right shoulder. Near his tomb is the grave of one of his sons, Henry, who died in infancy—a humble brass cross on the floor marks the spot. Both lie in the Boleyn chantry, near an unusual feature for any church—a fireplace—which was added in sometime during the Tudor period.

(The church also contains another beautiful medieval brass well worth viewing, that of Margaret Cheyne, who died in 1419. It shows great detail of Margaret’s dress and headgear, and two winged angels hover at her shoulders.)

It is worth noting that the  pleasant old inn across the road from St Peters, now called The Henry VIII, was originally called The Bull, a play on the name Bullen/Boleyn. Later, local folklore says, it was changed to ‘The Bull and the Butcher’ in reference to Henry’s execution of Anne.

An interesting view on Thomas Boleyn, whose character has been increasing damned in fiction and TV/Film: https://www.theanneboleynfiles.com/in-defence-of-thomas-boleyn-father-of-anne-boleyn/

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Medieval Hygiene: Practices of the middle ages.

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A link to an interesting article on medieval hygiene touching on chamberpots and privies, the usefulness of nosegays, laundry and makeup among other things.

 

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow–Henry VIII’s Beard

Recently I came across a portrait of Henry VIII that I had not seen before–certainly it is one of the lesser known ones.

Ar first glance, the painting appears to be of a youth, pudgy-faced and beardless (with some similarities to portraits of Edward IV around the tip of the nose, eyes and mouth)–however, a bit of  research shows that Henry was not a young boy, but in fact around thirty five, when this miniature was painted by Lucas Horenbout. This was around the time Henry was enamoured with Anne Boleyn–so it is possoble he shaved the beard off to impress her!

Apparently Henry was frequently clean shaven, despite his most famous portraits showing him bearded.  His beard when it grew in was described as ‘golden’ and he seemed to have taken that as a compliment and a good match to his kingliness–however, Katherine of Aragon hated her husband’s facial hair with a passion and frequently begged him to shave it off…which, on occasion, he dutifully did. (At that point in his life,  Henry clearly preferred lopping off facial hair to lopping off a wife’s head.)

Henry was also rumoured to have decreed a ‘beard tax’ in 1535 (although the evidence for this is rather scanty…just like some beards). The wealthier and higher status you were, the more you paid to have a beard–which promptly turned facial hair into a much-desired status symbol. If Henry didn’t in fact implement this tax, his daughter Elizabeth certainly did–any beard which had more than two weeks growth was  to be taxed.

The hipsters of today would be horrified.

https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/420010/henry-viii-1491-1547

 

 

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The site of Richard’s Augustinian friary in York gets a makeover….!

House of Trembling Madness

“The Georgian townhouse is steeped in history and is the former site of St Augustine’s Friary, where Richard III stayed when he was Duke of Gloucester.”

I imagine the name The House of Trembling Madness is very well known in York, but it was certainly new to me. New to Richard as well, I would think! One wonders what he would make of the new purpose of the site of St Augustine’s Friary.

One also wonders how he’d react to the eye-catching tee-shirt on the left of the above picture! Not exactly late-15th century style, methinks. More comfortable, though. Just the thing for a stroll on the moors around Middleham at the end of a busy week being Lord of the North.

 

Tyndale and More – strange bedfellows….

 

Thomas More

Sir Thomas More

This link takes you to an interesting article about the fates of two great opposites, Sir Thomas More and William Tyndale. And, once again, Henry VIII’s lust for Anne Boleyn was at the heart of it.

 

The Black Prince whitened at last….?

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On 8th June 1376, Edward, the Black Prince, died. From then until 29th September his body lay in state in Westminster Hall, and then was taken to Canterbury Cathedral to be buried on 5th October at Canterbury Cathedral.

His passing was greatly mourned through the land, and lamented because the elderly monarch, Edward III, was no longer the man he had once been, and the new heir was a little boy, the eventual Richard II. Not a satisfactory situation, with the prospect of a minority rule, with all the dreadful prospects that entailed.

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No one knows why Prince Edward was nicknamed the Black Prince (or when) but if something said at the time, by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Simon Sudbury, can be taken at face value, it wasn’t because the Black Prince was of dark colouring. Sudbury said that although Edward was dead, he had left behind a fair son, his very image, as heir apparent. Right, before you all rush to draw my attention to the ambivalence of the word “fair”, let me point out that I did mention something about “face value”. So, if Sudbury was speaking of colouring, and linking father with son (Richard II), dark doesn’t enter into it. We all know Richard II was fair, as in blond, with a complexion that flushed easily.

Richard II

Richard II- Wilton Diptych

Edward was idolized in his lifetime, and there was really only one thing that has always marred and dogged (blackened?)his reputation. That was at the sack of Limoges on 19th September 1370, when Edward was the ruler of Aquitaine. He is accused of ordering the slaughter of 3,000 inhabitants, and has always been vilified for this. Yet in every other way he was lauded and admired.

Sack of Limoges - 1370

However, it now seems that new evidence has come to light in France, from a French chronicle, that it wasn’t the English who committed the massacre, but the French themselves, who were enraged because Limoges supported the English.

 

Black Prince book

This new information has been brought to light in Black Prince, a new biography by Michael Jones. To read more about the discovery (and decide whether or not to spend the published price of £30 to read the book itself – cheaper elsewhere, e.g. Amazon) please go here.

Now, having said all that, I am pleased that new sources do appear from time to time, no matter how many centuries pass. So I have not given up hope that old documents, chronicles and rolls will turn up out of nowhere, proving that Richard III wasn’t guilty of all the crimes of which he’s accused. Not least the murder of his nephews. It’s waiting somewhere, folks. Don’t despair!

When is a King not a King?

When he is a hereditary head of state under a different title, of course. There are such people around the world today but Britain had them for a few years.

The first was Oliver Cromwell, the great-great-great-nephew of Thomas Cromwell. As he was finalising the execution of Charles I in 1649, he announced that “the office of King is hereby abolished”. Four years later, he accepted the title of Lord Protector and Defender of the Realm, previously only held for three under age Kings by their closest adult male relatives, of whom Richard of Gloucester was one. When Oliver Cromwell died in 1658, he was succeeded by his son Richard, whom he had evidently nominated in advance.

This article reminds us that the three kings named Richard all died of violence or intentional neglect at an early age. Richard Cromwell, although he was only a de facto monarch for about nine months before resigning (abdicating?) but lived on until 1712 when he was eighty-five, spending all but twenty years of his retirement in his own former realm, but his royal connections may not end there. His mother was Elizabeth Bourchier and is likely to be connected to the original noble family by that name, into which Richard’s aunt had married .

GREENWICH PALACE – HUMPHREY DUKE OF GLOUCESTERS PALACE OF PLEAZANCE

Gloucester-Talbot-Shrewsbury-Book.jpegHumphrey Duke of Gloucester from the Talbot Shrewsbury Book

 

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A print by an unknown artist now in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich depicting the Palace c 1487.

Greenwich Palace, or Placentia as it is often known, was built around 1433 by Henry V’s brother, Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, who named it Bella Court after he had been granted the Manor of Greenwich by his nephew Henry Vl.  There had been   been an even older palace on  that site, perhaps dating from the reign of Edward l.  Henry lV dated his will from his ‘Manor of Greenwich January 22nd 1408′ and the palace appears to have been his favourite residence.  However, the grant in 1433 of 200 acres of land was for the purpose of enclosing it as a park.  It would seem that Humphrey was pleased with the spot because 4 years later he and his ill-fated wife, Eleanor Cobham,  obtained a similar grant and in that, licence was given for the owners to ’embattle and build with stone’ as well as ‘to enclose and make a tower and ditch within the same and a certain tower within the part to build and edify’ (1)

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Part of the drawing of Greenwich Palace by Anthony van der Wyngaerde 1558 with Duke Humphrey’s tower on top of the hill.

Accordingly soon after this  Humphrey commenced building the tower within what is now the site of the Royal Observatory which was then called Greenwich Castle,  and he likewise rebuilt the old palace on the spot where the west wing of the Royal Naval College now stands which he renamed from its agreeable situation, Pleazaunce or Placentia although this name was not commonly used until the reign of Henry Vlll.

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Another view of van der Wyngaerde’s drawing of Greenwich Palace c 1558

Upon Humphrey’s death the palace was granted to his nemesis, Margaret of Anjou.  Margaret added embellishments including terracotta tiles bearing her monogram, filled the windows with glass and built a landing stage and treasure house (2)

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A view of Greenwich Palace from a print published by the Society of Antiquaries 1767

Later Edward IV enlarged the park, stocked it with deer and bestowed it as a residence upon Elizabeth Wydeville.  Greenwich has been mentioned as one of Elizabeth’s favourite homes and it certainly crops up regularly in Edward’s itinerary (3).  A joust was held there on the occasion of Richard of Shrewsbury’s marriage to Anne Mowbray and it was there at Greenwich  on the 19th November 1481 that Anne tragically died at the age of just 8 years old and a few short months later,  Edward and Elizabeth’s own daughter,  the 15 year old Princess Mary also died on either the 20th or 23rd May 1482.  The manuscript covering Mary’s death says she died ‘in the town’  but it is probable this meant the palace and presumably she would have ‘lain in the chapel of the palace with appropriate services and perhaps the attendance of her parents'(3).  A week after her death, on the 27th May,  Mary’s body was taken to the parish church of Greenwich on the first stage of the final journey to St Georges Chapel, Windsor.  Mary may have been visited by her father,  Edward lV,  a few days before her death.  He was at Canterbury on the 17th and back in London on the 23rd which may have been the day that his daughter breathed her last so clearly if he did indeed visit he did not linger.  Numerous Wydeville ladies were conspicuous among the mourners including Jane, Lady Grey of Ruthin, sister to the queen and Jacquetta, another sister’s daugher,  Joan Lady Strange, wife of George Stanley.  Another niece, Lady ‘Dame’ Katherine Grey, possibly the daughter of Jane Wydeville was also present.  Dinner for the funeral group was at the palace after which Mary’s body was taken from the church and begun its last sad journey to Windsor.  Mary’s funeral is more than adequately covered in The Royal Funerals of the House of York at Windsor by Anne F Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs.  It may well be that sisters-in-law Anne and Mary knew each other well and that perhaps  Greenwich Palace was being used as a royal nursery in much the same way as Sheriff Hutton was later  to become, although the age gap would surely have prevented them from being actual playmates.

 

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The Royal Window, Canterbury Cathedral.  Elizabeth Wydeville and her daughters.  Mary is shown as the last figure on the right hand side.  Greenwich was one of Elizabeth’s favourite homes and where her daugher Mary died in 1482.

Greenwich Palace  conveniently came into Henry Tudor’s hands when Elizabeth Wydeville was,  ummmmm,  retired to Bermondsey Abbey on an altogether frivolous charge. It is true to say that Tudor heavily rebuilt the palace between 1498 and 1504, renaming it Placentia, (the pleasant place),  and the result of which is that any reference to Placentia usually finds it referred to as a Tudor palace but it is the earlier years of the palace with its Lancastrian and  Yorkist links that I find the most intriguing.

 

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Modern plaque commemorating the ‘building’ of Greenwich Palace by Henry Tudor.  Visitors could be forgiven for mistakenly thinking , with no mention made of the earlier palace, that Tudor was reponsible for the building of Greenwich Palace from the onset.  

Later in its long history the palace was to see many important events including the birth of Henry Vlll in 1491.  Henry jnr spared no expense in beautifying Placentia and his marriage to Katherine of Aragon was solemnised there on the 3 June 1509.  Many sumptious banquets, revels and jousts were held there – in Henry’s ‘Manor of Pleazaunce’  – and both his daughters, Mary and Elizabeth were born there.  Details of these and other less salubrious events such as the arrest of Anne Boleyn are readily available to anyone who is interested in the Tudors and their shenanigans and I will not  cover them here.  The Tudors were emulated  by the Stuarts in choosing Placentia  as a favourite residence until Charles ll,  finding the old palace greatly decayed,  ordered it to be taken down and yet another new palace to be built.  Thus Greenwich or Placentia – whichever name you prefer arose, phoenix like from the ashes and a new chapter in its long history commenced.

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As a footnote to Greenwich Palace and its rich history, much excitement has been created by the discovery by archaeologists  working on the painted hall at the Old Royal Naval College  of the discovery of two room, thought to have been used as kitchen or laundry rooms from the old palace.  One of these rooms featured a lead-glazed tiled floor and wall cavities which may have been used to store food and drink or even ‘bee boles’ which would have housed beehive baskets or ‘skeps’ during the winter when the bee colonies hibernated.

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The cavities from Greenwich Palace believed to be for storing food, drink or even ‘bee boles’.

  1. Old and New London, vol 6 p.165 Edward Walford.
  2.  The London Encyclopaedia pp 345, 346.  Edited by Weinren and Hibbert
  3.  The Private Life of Edward lV John Ashdown-Hill pp 48,49,62,63, 87, 88, 114, 115, 117, 118, 119, 155, 157, 158, 188, 189, 190,191, 192, 204, 205, 206

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE WHITE ROSE: A POEM FOR RICHARD

Several years ago I was out at Bosworth to attend an author signing with one of my favourite Ricardian authors, Sharon Penman, who wrote the mighty epic The Sunne in Splendour. We were staying in the Royal Arms at Sutton Cheney, which has a public room filled with armour, memorabilia, paintings of the battle and of Richard and Tudor (I put the latter at my back!)

Our room was in an annexe that looked out over the fields. The light was grey, heavy; the soil of the field, newly ploughed, glistening after rain, looked red. Redemore. The Red Plain. In the distance the hedges wore little crowns of mist, and a single dark-winged crow sat on the fence, its shrill cry breaking a strange stillness. A haunting place.

We went to bed. In the night we heard rain drumming on the roof. We turned over,slept.  In the early hours of the morning,  I was woken by a ruckus overhead. There was crashes and bangs as if someone, or more like multiple someones, were streaming, charging over the roof of the building. I began to fancy them as hoofbeats and laughed at myself and my infamous imagination.  It must surely be the hotel staff doing something in a room above us…but why the heck were they doing it pre-dawn when they had guests?

The sounds clattered away into nothingess. I went back to sleep. Later, when  we got up and went to pack our things in the car, I looked back towards the building.

There was no upstairs room above ours.

This poem came out of that night….

THE WHITE ROSE

I walked upon Bosworth field,
the soil red beneath my feet
as rain pelted from a stormy sky
in a grey and stony sheet

Sutton Cheney’s stolid tower
was an upturned bucket in the mist
and the whole rolling landscape
a haunted vista twilight kissed.

Why do I feel such strangling sorrow
in that lonely, empty space
where amongst the bristling hedges
the small birds dart and race

soaring like souls into a sky
unchanged by the passing years,
still on this sullen summer’s day
pouring out its bitter tears.

I found a crooked, winding path
that crossed a farmer’s land…
so plain and oh so ordinary
you might dismiss it out of hand

But I knew that here was the place
where a banner once soared on high,
and a White Boar fighting rose and fell,
a betrayed man consigned to die

So history was written
and legends false and foul were born,
birthed out of blood and treachery
on a red-tinged summer’s morn

The victor writes the pages,
speechless dead cannot defend
but I swore I would speak for him
both now and till the end.

And when I returned later
to my little rented room
at midnight I heard thunder
like a banging drum of doom

or was it something greater
that tore across the brooding sky,
passing in flashes over Bosworth…
what does it really mean to die?

Westward like winter’s geese
I saw pale horsemen flying
while the echoes of ghostly horns,
drifted outward, fading, dying….

And on the rain-bright road
its petals teared with icy rain
lay a perfect snow-white rose…
King Richard rides again.

J.P. Reedman

 

Art by Frances Quinn

Forthcoming events

Philippa Langley - 2012

“A PANEL of experts on the medieval era will gather in Teesdale for a study day next month.

“St Mary’s Parish Church, in Barnard Castle, will play host to the all-day event held by the Northern Dales Richard III Group on Saturday, October 14.

“Headed by Juliet Barker, a renowned author on medieval English tournaments and chivalry will be deliver a talk titles Knights in Shining Armour. Philippa Langley MBE, whose Looking for Richard project led to the rediscovery of Richard III’s remains in 2012, will be bringing the latest news of her project to uncover the truth about the King of England’s nephews and their disappearance.

“Dr Sandra Pendlington will explore the little-known Anglo-Scottish War of 1480-82 while Dr Katherine Wilson, of Chester University, will reveal the luxuries and stylistic trappings of continental royalty. Kim Harding, group chair, said: ‘We’re thrilled to welcome such prestigious speakers this year on medieval topics that can appeal to anyone, fascinated by history or by art or by the intriguing mysteries of Richard III’s life and reign.'”

For details and to book tickets call 01833-637018 and see here.

I am informed by my good friend Judy Thomson that for those who live in the US, there will be a similar event next spring – the 53rd International Congress on Medieval Studies, which will take place on the campus of Western Michigan University on May 10 to 13, 2018. The Congress program and registration will be available in February. See here.

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