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A Weir(d) Myth-take: The Legend of Joan of York

After the time of long barrenness,

God first send Anne, which signifyth grace,

In token that at her heart’s heaviness,

He as for barrenness would from them chase.

Harry, Edward, Edmund, each in his place

Succeeded; and after twain daughter came

Elizabeth and Margaret, and afterwards William.

John after William next born was,

Which both be passed to God’s grace:

George was next, and after Thomas.

Born was, which son after did pace.

By the path of death into the heavenly place

Richard liveth yet; but the last of all

Was Ursula, to Him who God’s list call.

Above is the section of the famous Clare Roll where the children of Richard Duke of York and his wife Cecily Neville are all, quite clearly, listed.

 However, you could be forgiven in thinking that there was another York child who mysteriously got left off the list—a daughter called Joan. The eldest daughter of the Duke and his wife, no less.

A number of sites on the internet, both informational and genealogical,  firmly state Joan of York was Richard and Cecily’s firstborn child, a short-lived daughter named after her maternal grandmother, Joan Beaufort. Several books have appeared that mention Joan, mostly notably one by Alison Weir and a later one by Amy Licence. A birthdate of 1438 has appeared for the mysterious Joan, and York was posited as her birthplace.

 So what is the truth about this putative daughter? The truth is, it would seem—Joan of York never existed, and not only that, her ‘birth’ only took  place in the later 20th c!

The first mention of her was in Weir’s book Britain’s Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy. Now Alison Weir is a hugely well-known popular ‘historian’ and many of her acolytes believe her research is impeccable, and henceforth the misinformation about Joan passed, without being questioned,  into general ‘knowledge’ and remained undisputed for a considerable amount of time.

 Apparently, the unfortunate error occurred when erroneous information was gleaned from a 1960’s geneaology chart. I am quite stunned the author used the reference without any additional verification, since it is well-known that some compilers of family trees frequently hove in ‘ancestors’ such as King Arthur , Ivar the Boneless, Jabba the Hutt and any other number of unlikely figures. (In fairness to Alison Weir, she has now admitted that Joan’s existence is doubtful and will be removing her from future editions of the book. Whether Ms Licence will also remove references to Joan from her works is at present unknown.)

 It is quite mystifying why anyone would doubt the veracity of the  Clare Rolls (or the other medieval documents that published a similar list) especially when it was specifically stated that Anne was the first child, born after ‘long barrenness’, and all the other  short-lived York children such as Henry  and Thomas were accounted for.

 What is striking and of interest to me in particular is how such errors can be quickly accepted as canon without question. At least the odd myth that Richard III had seven, yes, seven, bastards, (also, I believe, included in an edition of Alison Weir’s Complete Genealogy book) including Tudor poet Stephen Hawes, whose only connection with Richard seems to be in a vintage novel, never seemed to gain much if any credence. (Richard surely has enough myth and rumour surrounding him without adding additional dubious stories.)

 So hopefully Joan of York, the girl who never existed, will finally be laid to rest, alongside many of the other myths  that have attached themselves to Richard and his family over the years…

 

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The architects who have refurbished the great hall at Leicester Castle….

Maber Architects

An architects practice has celebrated the tenth anniversary of its Leicester office with a VIP tour of one of their latest projects in the city – the restoration and refurbishment of the Great Hall of Leicester Castle.

Its city office is in De Montfort Street.

The firm’s roots go back more than 30 years, and it employs 70 people across five offices in the Midlands and London.

Since the Leicester office opened in 2007, it has grown to employ 10 people and has been responsible for some of Leicester’s best known buildings and architectural projects.

Maber director Ian Harris, who heads the Leicester office, said: “Two huge reasons for our success are long-term relationships with clients and the talent of our people, so it was great to bring everyone together to celebrate in an amazing space.”

The newly-refurbished Great Hall is thought to be the largest medieval hall of its kind in Europe.

Ian said converting it into a new Business School for De Montfort University brought together a wide range of the practice’s skills, including architecture, interior design, landscape design and conservation.

Part of the hall, once used as a Crown Court, retains the Gothic Victorian furniture, including the judge’s chair, dock and jury benches, which must rank it as one of the most unusual university teaching spaces in the world.

Some of Maber’s other major Leicester projects have included:

• The King Richard III Visitor Centre in the city centre, a £4 million project designed to tell the story of “the king in the car park”.

• The Summit, a £13 million, 12,200 sq m student residential space with a 22-storey tower that has created a new landmark at the western gateway to the city.

• New Walk Museum’s new entrance and spiral staircase, featuring a design inspired by ammonites

• Charnwood Primary School for Leicester City Council – an award-winning design that complements the traditional architecture of the existing Victorian school buildings.

See: http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/news/business/maber-architects-celebrate-10th-anniversary-753489

There’s more at http://www.dmu.ac.uk/about-dmu/news/2017/june/lovingly-refurbished-leicester-castle-shines-for-visitors.aspx

Tales of a Ricardian Traveler: A Visit to King’s Cliffe Church and its Fotheringhay Artifacts

Although the entire eastern portion of St Mary and All Saints Church in Fotheringhay was demolished in 1573, it is still possible to see original woodwork and painted glass from the Yorkist Age.

RICARDIAN LOONS

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

My husband and I had the good fortune to spend two weeks in England and Wales in October, 2017. I had been asked to moderate a conference about Richard III and 15th century warfare at the Leicester Guildhall, sponsored by the Richard III Foundation. During our stay in Leicester, we drove into Northamptonshire in order to explore a small parish church at King’s Cliffe that purported to have a number of objects from Richard III’s birthplace of Fotheringhay. What we discovered surpassed all our expectations.

Scene of Destruction: St Mary and All Saints Church

Like many tales of discovery, this one begins with a tale of loss. The year was 1566. Queen Elizabeth I was on progress through her realm, having already occupied the throne for 8 years. Her itinerary took her to Fotheringhay Castle, a short distance from the parish church…

View original post 1,638 more words

KING RICHARD III’S EPITAPH

 

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A digital reconstruction of Richard’s tomb in Greyfriars with the epitaph.  De Montfort University.

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A digital reconstruction of what Richard’s Tomb may have looked like with the epitaph De Montfort University

 

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The tomb for which Henry Tudor paid the sum of 10 pounds 1 shilling in 1495

IMG_4403.jpgA digital view of Greyfriars with Leicester Cathedral shown in the background and now the site of King Richard’s reburial.  De Montfort University.

It is very well known that the winner gets to write the history.  That’s bad enough but they also, unfortunately, get to write the epitaph too.  According to Buck, Richard had an epitaph which is now lost but the text of which he published in his History of the Life and Reigne of Richard the Third, published in 1647.  The full details of Buck’s claim etc., can be found in John Ashdown-Hill’s article The Epitaph of King Richard III (Ricardian 2008, vol.18).  According to Buck the said epitaph, which was in Latin, translated as:

I, here whom the earth encloses under various coloured marble,

Was justly called Richard III.

I was Protector of my country, an uncle ruling on behalf of his nephew.

I held the British kingdoms by broken faith,

Then for just sixty days less two

And for two summers, I held my sceptres

Fighting Bravely in war, deserted by the English

I succumbed to you, King Henry VII,

But you yourself, piously, at your expense, thus honour my bones

And you cause a former king to be revered with the honour of a king

When in twice five years less four

Three hundred five-year periods of our salvation have passed

And eleven days before the Kalends of September

I surrendered to the red rose the power it desired

Whoever you are, pray for my offences

That my punishment may be lessened by your prayers.

I leave it to you dear reader, to decide whether this is true and honest translation of such an epitaph if there ever one existed.   It seems, as John Ashdown-Hill concludes in his article ‘less hostile’ than would have expected from Henry Tudor  – had he merely ‘mellowed as time passed’ or did he have another motive?   Its  a mystery as is so much from that period.  For anyone interested in reading Ashdown-Hill’s article in full, here is a link:

Art, Passion and Power: The Story of the Royal Collection

Andrew Graham-Dixon has been on our screens for almost a quarter of a century; – he is tall, slightly grey, drawls a little and is an excellent art historian. His latest series tells the story of the Royal art collection – from Henry VIII and Holbein, Charles I and van Dyck, the Protectorate selling the collection off but Charles II rebuilding it, William III, the “I hate all boets and bainters” years of George II, George III’s careful acquisitions, George IV and Brighton, Prince Albert and the (profitable) Great Exhibition funding many London colleges, right up to the present day with Queen Mary and her dolls’ houses. Sadly, it says little about the pre-1509 era, although there is or was surely something from then in the collection.

If you cannot access the iPlayer for geographic reasons, or are too late, all four parts should now be on YouTube OneTube.

The Madness of King Richard III

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Playwright Alan Bennett

A while back, Sunday, December 3rd, 2017, to be exact,  I was looking through The New York Times Book Review section when I came across playwright Alan Bennett’s new book called “Keeping On Keeping On.”  It was a mildly interesting review of his diary (ODD SPOILER ALERT:  he once shared the same doctor as Sylvia Plath) until I got to this:  “He’s so upset at what the Richard III Society has done to an old church that he rips down their banner and ‘would have burned it, had I had a match.'”   Brow knitted, I wondered:  what have those wild-eyed, tweedy academic types been up to this time??

Well, a brief Google search provided a hint in yet another book review, this time from the London Review of Books.  In published excerpts from 2014, Bennett dismisses the significance of finding Richard the Third’s remains although admitting that the reconstructed head looks astonishingly like his famed portrait.  Comparing Ricardians to those who believe Edward DeVere was a genius while William Shakespeare nothing more than the dim-bulb son of a rural glove-maker, he goes on to say this:

“Just east of Leeds and not far from Towton and its bloody battlefield is Lead Church, a medieval cell of a chapel which possibly served as a refuge or a dressing station after the battle in 1461.  I have known the chapel since I was a boy when I used to go out there on my bike.  It stands in the middle of a field, the grass grazed by sheep right up to the south door and has latterly been in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust.  It was untouched as late as 2000 when it figured in an article I wrote for The World of Interiors.  However, calling there a few years ago we found that the grass outside the south door had been replaced or supplemented by a patio not even in York stone but in some fake composition.  Inside, draped in front of the altar was a gaudy banner advertising the Richard III Society.  This I rolled up and had I had the means would have destroyed.  I wrote to the CCT, who generally do a decent job but was told the patio had been there for many years.  It hadn’t and I suspect the culprits were the Richard III Society, who see the church as a Yorkist site…”

loyalty binds

Gaudy?

According to Mr. Bennett, not only have Ricardians managed to rehabilitate the name of the last Yorkist king but apparently have gone into the concrete, paving and masonry business! Of course, he offers no proof that the Society had anything to do with building a bad-taste deck on the back of a medieval church but when it comes to the world of denialists, I suppose any insult will do.*  Luckily for them, while we Ricardian hard hats may be expert at mixing concrete along with our metaphors, we no longer prepare “Chicago overcoats” or cement shoes for those who have differing opinions…

construction

A Ricardian on lunch break?  I think not!

 

 

*The website of St. Mary Lead reports only that it received a grant from The Richard the Third Society for renovations.  It says nothing about the Society directing or instructing or approving the work.

The wrong Philippa for Reading….!

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Reading in Berkshire is apparently famous for, among other things, five varieties of potato. Nine other items for which Reading is renowned are listed here, and I presume that eight of them are correct. But the last one definitely is NOT! I quote:

“Philippa Gregory, the woman who found the body of Richard III under a car park in Leicester, believes the grave of Henry I is also under a car park in Reading.”

Um, Philippa Who? Rather a boo-boo, methinks.

PS: The error has now been corrected, but I promise that the wrong Philippa was indeed there originally!

A MAN WHO WOULD BE KING: THE DUKE OF BUCKINGHAM AND RICHARD III

The Duke of Buckingham is rather a ‘dark horse’ figure in the history of Richard III. No one knows for sure why he  aided Richard to take the throne only to turn upon him in rebellion a few months later. Simplistic ideas such as ‘he repented of his ways after the princes were murdered’ don’t stand scrutiny, especially when he was the first one to suggest that Edward V be housed in the Tower, and also  when the number of documents naming him as their potential killer (if indeed they were killed at all) is taken into account. Whatever happened to Edward IV’s sons, no doubt Buckingham knew…

A MAN WHO WOULD BE KING by J.P. Reedman  is a new novel written from Buckingham’s first person perspective. He is certainly no ‘hero’ and the character flaws that appear even in cotemporary accounts are visible, but the addition of wry humour makes the character palatable to the reader, even amusing in his pomposity. His life is covered from his birth at Abergavenny Castle in Wales to his death on the scaffold in Salisbury. Essentially it shows what must have been the life of many a young noble in this period–a childhood full of deaths and seperations and disappointment–which was later reflected in his emerging character.

The ancestry and background of the Staffords was heavily researched for the novel too, and it becomes very clear how ‘Lancastrian’ they were. Not only did Buckingham’s grandfather die attempting to protect Henry VI in his tent as the Battle of Northampton, but his mother was Margaret Beaufort, daughter of Edmund Duke of Somerset who was killed at St Albans. The other Margaret Beaufort, Henry Tudor’s mother, was Buckingham’s aunt by marriage. Several other uncles on the Beaufort side lost their lives at Tewkesbury, fighting for Lancaster.

Henry, called Harry in the novel, is intensely proud of his heritage, harkening back tiomes and time against to his ancestry from Thomas of Woodstock, youngest son of Edward III–who seems, from the descriptions to be similar in temperament to Buckingham, being named in one popular history as the ‘Bully of Woodstock.’  Buckingham also had a copy of the document legitimising the Beauforts–only it was the early document without the addenda barring them from the throne. Between owning that and applying to wear the Arms of Thomas of Woodstock unquartered, it seemed Harry Stafford was very aware of his royal lineage. (This awareness and the classic ‘Stafford personality’ brought his son Edward to doom in the reign of Henry VIII.)

In the novel, Harry meets Richard  intermittently over the years (I have come to believe they knew each other more than what is sometimes suggested by both fiction and some historians, although they do not appear to have been close friends) and attempts from the start to use him to gain favour with Edward, who never gave Buckingham any high positions save one–High Steward at George of Clarence’s trial. He begins a subtle manipulation, which changes entirely in its focus when Edward dies suddenly in 1483.

 

 

 

INVESTIGATIONS AT MORTIMER’S CROSS

The Battle of Mortimer’s Cross took place on February 2, 1461. Here, in a Herefordshire field, 18 year old  Edward earl of March, gazed up and saw the phenomena known as the Parhelion, the three suns, rising in the sky. His men were frightened but Edward turned the situation to his advantage, telling his army of approx 5000 that the three suns represented the Trinity and were an indication that God was on his side.

Edward’s remit was to defeat the Lancastrian forces of Jasper and Owen Tudor, and thus keep them from joining with the main Lancastrian army of Queen Margaret. Owen Tudor tried to encircle the Yorkist forces with his battalion but he was driven back and routed; when this occurred, Jasper Tudor’s centre also collapsed. The Lancastrians were chased as far as Hereford, where Owen Tudor was captured and beheaded in the town square.

One month later, Edward entered London and was declared Edward IV of England.

Despite the importance of this battle of the Wars of the Roses, it seems there has been little archaeology done on the battlefield. As with so many of these medieval battles, even the exact location of the fighting is debatable. (Some say it took place in the valley with the river Lugg at Edward’s rear, but Gregory’s Chronicle describes a ‘fair plain.)

However, some of these mysteries may well be resolved in the near future. The Heritage Lottery Fund has granted £84,000 to investigate the battlefield, which may contain the mass graves of fallen soldiers.

 

 

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The Last Plantagenet by Bob Ferdinand

Poet Bob Ferdinand wrote this sonnet about Richard and entered it into the Nebraska Shakespeare Sonnet Contest last summer, winning second prize (should have been first!)

Graham Turner painting of Richard III at Bosworth killing William Brandon

The Battle of Bosworth by artist Graham Turner, copyright Graham Turner. N.B. Prints and cards of this and many other Ricardian scenes are available – click on the picture above 

The Last Plantagenet

In August, at late Summer’s teeming height,
The last Plantagenet rode forth one day
Defying Fortune, rising to the fight
And risking all in battle’s bloodied fray.

He stood resolved which course he must pursue
To stem the sham of Richmond’s royal claim
A final thrust could see the battle through
To ride straight for The Tudor was his aim.

Surrounded by the pride of England’s might
With heart set high he charged the foe pell-mell
Within the deepest folds of battle’s fright
King Richard strove- he sought, he fought, he fell.

A King he lived and died, without regret-
On Bosworth Field the Sun in Splendor set.

© Bob Ferdinand

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